Tuesday, 02 August 2016 00:00

I have two types of cucumbers growing in my yard, and one variety was getting quite large but not turning green. They looked very pale, and didn't seem to be ripening. I finally checked the seed packet, and eureka! The variety is called "Silver Slicer," and the skins are a pale yellow color when ripe. They are available from Uprising Seeds. So, how do they taste? They have a tough skin and a "pale" cucumber taste. I think they will be excellent in my veggie pasta salad with a bit of vinegar and olive oil.

Saturday, 16 July 2016 00:00

It is a great and promising time to grow organic vegetables, and with the prospering of urban farmers, there is no telling how advanced home+grown vegetable gardens can become.  Vegetables can add color to the garden and make it more beautiful. With a beautiful garden year-round, you can welcome in birds, butterflies, hummingbirds, wasps, bees, or any insect that can pollinate the garden. It takes a little time to wait for your crops, but it’s worth the wait.  If you haven’t tried gardening because you didn’t have space, we’ve got a solution for you.  Using a new approach called container gardening, you can grow edible crops in just about any situation.

When gardening in small spaces, there are some tips to keep in mind to increase your chances of success.  Use containers that are appropriately sized for your intended crop.  You can use pots or planters of any size, depending on what you plan to grow. Planters should be of reasonable size, and should never drown out the plants. Containers can be placed in a variety of locations—for example, window boxes, balconies, decks, steps, or any place in your yard that has the proper sun exposure. 

Planning a garden should take into consideration your weather and climate. The soil that is good for planting vegetables should be moist, and should be mixed with sand to make it easier to plant and grow. You can take advantage of organic fertilizers and backyard- or locally-produced compost when preparing your soil.  Good news!  Container gardening can be virtually weed-free, so no need to dig or till in a garden.  This makes container gardening easy and fun for anyone, young or old.

With container gardening, it is usually unnecessary to protect your garden against unwanted guests such as slugs, moths, gophers, or even snakes.  If your garden is growing in a window box, or elevated from a ground location, its height protects it naturally from critters such as gophers and rabbits. To maintain the organic nature of your crops, if you must spray, avoid using lethal pesticides.  Try one of the many organic pesticides, or make your own from the recipes for homemade organic pesticides available on the Internet. 

When growing vegetables, there needs to be a suitable amount of sun or shade. Vegetables that grow well in equal amounts of shade and the sun include carrots, tomatoes, potatoes, and even corn. The golden rule is to have six hours of sun and six or more hours of shade. Southern and western exposures are usually the sunniest.  For shade, use locations with eastern and northern exposures. Some vegetables prosper with full sun, full shade, or a combination of both.

Locate your planters where you have easy access to water, as some plants will need water every day when the weather is hot and dry.  Collecting and gathering rainwater in a bucket, as opposed to using regular tap water, is always wise, since gardens can thrive on rainwater alone. The summer heat can be harsh on vegetables, but it also benefits the vegetables’ growth. There are more vitamins in your garden if it is planted in the right-sized container, and has the appropriate amount of shade, sun, or fertilizer. 

Growing your own vegetables in small spaces is great fun, good exercise, a way to eat more nutritiously, and an experience that is well worth the time.  

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Tuesday, 03 May 2016 00:00

In the fall of 2015, the residents of Kailash Ecovillage decided to remove four parking spaces and put in a garden in front of a row of apartments. A swale was added, as well as a few plants to get the garden started. It is now spring, and this garden is looking lovely. Take a look at the updated photos below and a video of the Depave process.

  

   

 

 

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Sunday, 13 March 2016 00:00

With spring upon us, my mind turns to all things green. One of the highlights each year is the abundant and versatile garlic scape. While the last few articles I wrote on unusual edibles focused on unusual or little known plants, in this case the plant is a staple of almost every household. However, when most people see this portion of the plant, they are at a loss as to what to do with it.

Garlic scapes are the flower stem and bud of the garlic plant. These are removed as part of the process of growing garlic, to encourage the bulb to grow larger. Traditionally, these were often thrown away, but more and more often, they are making their way into farmers markets, and even some grocery stores, and onto kitchen tables.

Of course, the first question is always what to do with them. After all, the long, green curly stalks look nothing like garlic—if anything, they appear more similar to chives or green onions. But the truth is, almost anywhere you might use garlic, you can use garlic scapes. However, there are a few things that you will want to keep in mind.  Probably the most notable is that garlic scapes are far milder than the garlic bulb when cooked. So, if you are going for a really intense garlic flavor, it is best to keep the scapes raw. Personally, I also find that the scapes have a much nuttier flavor when cooked than garlic bulbs. Also, they can maintain a dense texture instead of readily softening, which can enhance a dish, as long as you are planning for it.
One of the most common, and very tasty, uses for garlic scapes is a garlic scape pesto. You can use your favorite pesto recipe, and simply sub out the basil for garlic scapes. Of course, you can get extra creative and maybe use walnuts instead of pine nuts, or a different hard cheese or even a different oil. Don’t be afraid to play around with it until you find the right flavor pairings for your palate. Honestly, I think one of my favorite springtime dishes is garlic scape pesto over fresh pasta and spring peas. All the flavors are so bright and fresh, it tastes of green in the best kind of way.

Garlic scapes are also great in dressings, dips, compound butter, pickled, or used as a garnish. My husband loves to put garlic scapes into his dressed-up ramen soup. While it really is a great item to pair with or enhance other dishes, it can still stand on its own. Once you start grilling, try adding them to the rest of the veggies on the grill. A couple of char marks, a dash of salt and some olive oil, and they are ready for the plate. They can also be a great part of any garlic soup recipe (for the true garlic fanatics, myself included). I had one of my all-time favorite garlic scape-centric recipes once when I was out at a local farm-to-table-style restaurant. The chef made tempura-style garlic scapes with a dill yogurt dipping sauce that was like a no-guilt indulgence bursting with spring flavors.

If you are craving the abundance of spring as much as I am, don’t be afraid to try something new, or maybe something old, in a new way. With a little creativity and an open mind, you just might find a new seasonal staple.