Grow Better Greens Podcast

Listen to the Grow Better Greens Podcast on iTunes, where experienced gardener Jenny teaches newbie Liz how to get the most out of her salad garden. We cover when and how to plant, as well as how to care for plants that we want to harvest the most nutrients possible from. T

Preserving Greens for Future Recipes

Posted by on Oct 1, 2015 in Grow Better Greens Podcast | Comments Off on Preserving Greens for Future Recipes

In this week’s episode, we’re discussing options for preserving a bumper crop of greens for use in your future recipes. As we all well know, greens are perishable – they can wilt if you even look at them wrong. Further, sometimes, when they’re ready, they’re ready, even if you aren’t. Since they’re so delicate, traditional options for preserving greens often prove anti-climatic. But before you say “What’s the point?” hear us out – we have some tricks up our sleeve!

You can listen here or download for later:




Episode 18: Preserving Greens for Future Recipes

Are You a Prepper or Are You a Food Freak? Why Preserve Greens at All?
A Better Way to Freeze Greens
Drying Greens the Gourmet Way
A Better Way to Can – Making Leaf Concentrate
Why Do You Grow Food?

Are You a Prepper or Are You a Food Freak? Why Preserve Greens at All?

Sometimes when approaching kitchen work, especially food preservation, it’s helpful to remind yourself about why you’re making the effort in the first place. Are you putting up food for necessary calories in case of an emergency? or maybe you’re more trusting of your own food-goods over the slim pickin’s at the supermarket once winter hits?

For me, prepping for an emergency means putting my effort into preserving calories – something that greens just don’t have. I’m more interested in getting gourmet kitchen outputs from my trusted garden produce than faking it later with some shipped-from-3000-miles away stand in.

A Better Way to Freeze

Of course, regular old freezing totally works. If you blanch and freeze your greens, they’ll taste mostly like you’d expect. You’ve had frozen spinach, right?

But, as a ‘food freak’ (meaning that I’m obsessed with positive food experiences, including taste, circumstances, and atmosphere) I have a better idea for you to try in the freezer: Juiced Vegetable Sauces.

For years, I have been habitually juicing and freezing different veggie combos: carrot-basil, kale-apple-garlic, beet-ginger-beet greens, just to freeze in ice cube trays. When the time comes, I thaw my savory juice cubes and reduce them down in a sauce pan. Poured over just about any main dish, you’ll be so glad you’re not eating frozen spinach!

Drying Greens the Gourmet Way

Lots of people dry greens for a few different reasons. Us? We’re big fans of Leaf Powder.

You can check out the whole episode we did on the subject here:





The important part is how easily Leaf Powder stores (and of course all of the tasty things you can do with it!)

A Better Way to Can – Making Leaf Concentrate

So, back to are you a Prepper or a Food Freak? I can see no reason to can greens. You certainly wouldn’t be canning for calories – they have none, and what you’re left with after processing is some mighty suspicious looking brown stuff.

I say, go for nutrition instead, especially if you’re a prepper! You can get your calories elsewhere, but this is how you can supplement your nutrition with homegrown goodness: Leaf Concentrate!

Leaf Concentrate is all about nutrition. In WWII when the germans surrounded and cut-off supplies to the British, guess where people turned? Leaf Concentrate!

Less than 1% of the 350k species of flowering plants on Earth are candidates for making Leaf Concentrate, but among those that are good candidates are: kale, collards, swiss chard, mustard greens, & lambsquarters. We know those guys!

To process Leaf Concentrate, harvest and immediately grind your greens into a pulp & squeeze out juice. Better yet, use a juice press! Next, boil the juice rapidly until a curd separates – strain the curd off and eat fresh OR preserve through dehydration OR preserve with sugar or salt. You can actually make a lemonade syrup from Leaf Concentrate that will keep for 6 mos in your fridge; you can even add Vitamin c to enhance the preservation.

The best place to learn all about making Leaf Concentrate is in the book 21st Century Greens by David Kennedy. That is where all credit is due for my report on Leaf Concentrate above : )

Why Do You Grow Food?

In this section we ask our listeners to share why they are growing food. This week Micah from Ohio shares how living in Asia inspired her to grow food when she got back to the U.S !

Micah won a collection of Liz’s heirloom leafy green seeds, available on Amazon.

Thanks for reading my blog : ) I appreciate your time and wish you much success in growing healthy food!

Jenny

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The Best Greens Recipe

Posted by on Sep 24, 2015 in Grow Better Greens Podcast | Comments Off on The Best Greens Recipe

In this week’s episode, we’re discussing the best greens recipe with our favorite go-to tricks in the kitchen for taking your homegrown greens from harvest all the way to restaurant-quality side dish. In fact, we’re sharing what we believe is hands-down the BEST greens recipe for all green vegetables! We definitely keep things simple for you – you may even be able to listen without pen and paper handy and still throw a tasty greens dish together tonight. Unique, flavorful, and flexible are the driving forces behind the delicious recipes we’re sharing for homegrown greens.

You can listen in here, or download for later:




The Best Greens Recipe

What Makes a Great Greens Recipe?
The Best Greens Recipe Award Goes to…
The Wonderful World of Braising
Your Greens Pie, Your Greens Way
Why Do You Grow Food?

What Makes the Best Greens Recipe?

Since we’re arguing that we have the Best Greens Recipe ever to share, we thought you might like to know how we judged the contenders. Strictly On Taste. The recipes that we’re sharing with you today are all about transforming homegrown greens into restaurant-quality, gourmet side dishes (plus one main!)

Our sole focus here, is to show you that with just a teeny bit of hands-on time and very few steps, you can create super-delicious, healthy greens. Like the kind you’d pay money for.

Also, please note that our recipes today all celebrate cooked greens. We’re both fans of the way cooked greens taste, can be comforting without being unhealthful, and are easy to digest. While we still like our salads, juices and smoothies, we’re both proud to say that we prefer cooked greens (and other cooked vegetables) most of the time.

While raw foods are very hot today (see what I did there?) they’re not known for being easy on your system. Many of us dive into a heavy-veg diet because we don’t feel well, without realizing that eating raw might provoke an unexpectedly un-healthy reaction! Big Vote for cooked food! Some of the enzymes that disappear above 188F are intended for plant use, not human use.

The Best Greens Recipe Award Goes to…

The Improver! This quick, 3-ingredient pan sauce is a winner every time, on every green vegetable. Try it on asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, as well any green you can think of. It’ also perfect on salads, as a warm vinaigrette.

Spinach, for example, is one of those greens that tastes great slightly wilted by a hot dressing, as it’s flavor easily changes for the worst when cooked. (Sorry, Liz; it’s the truth!)

Improver-7

To make The Improver, you’ll need: 2 Tbsp butter, 2 Tbsp Soy Sauce and 1 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar.

To start, brown the butter in a pan over medium heat. Your goal here is to make a traditional ‘brown butter’ – meaning that (without burning it) you want to change the butter’s color to brown, allowing the milk solids to separate. So, you’re not finished until you see solids swishing around in your pan!

Pour the butter into a heat-safe jar or dish as soon as you’re comfortable. Lastly, add the soy sauce and balsamic, and stir*. Use while hot.

*Never add the soy or vinegar to the hot butter in the pan, as it will dangerously splatter everywhere!

The Wonderful World of Braising

The best thing about braising is that it’s transformative. It softens the ‘tough’ right out of any fibrous food, like mature kale, collards, and chard. What I love the most about braising, is that it’s the ultimate ‘peasant food’. And every gourmet chef knows that those cheap, overlooked foods can often become superstars with a little TLC.

The key to a great braise is to use a shallow-lidded pan (one that leaves little space between itself and your ingredients). This is because when you braise, you’re swaddling ingredients in liquid, and you want the lid super-close so that tons of little droplets can fall right onto your food.

Two other key factors that help to build deep flavors when braising, is to to use broth (or wine) instead of water and to ‘finish’ the braise with vinegar (or another acid, like lemon). I could eat this every day. Here’s a great recipe for you to check out:

http://Bobby Flay’s Braised Kale

Your Greens Pie Your Greens Way

Arguably, this is more of a main dish, but it does come with an undeniable side of appeal. To start, I think of veggie pies and tarts as a choose-your-own-adventure; you can always find crusts and fillings that suit your current eating style.

Think buttery, olive oily, lard-y, gluten-free polenta, and even crusts made from mashed or sliced veggies.That should cover you! In terms of fillings, there are plenty of options for eggy-type quiches, ricotta, parmesan, or feta cheese pies, and of course, you can go completely vegan, as well.

The best part, especially when you add pretty vegetables like sliced tomatoes or colorful peppers, is that this time around, dinner might be pretty! Whether you prefer prim and proper or loose and rustic, pies and tarts are a great way to bring some culinary creativity to your table.

Check out the different recipes below!

Vegan Kale & Potato Tart from The Cozy Herbivore

Gluten-Free Polenta Tart With Green Garlic and Spinach from Lettys’ Kitchen/

Chard and Saffron Tart from Deborah Madison

Italian Kale Pie with Olive Oil Crust and Pancetta from Food Republic/

Why Do You Grow Food?

In this section we ask our listeners to share why they are growing food. This week Gail and the awesome children from Come and See Farm share why they grow food.

Gail and the kids won a collection of Liz’s heirloom leafy green seeds, available on Amazon.

Thanks for reading my blog : ) I appreciate your time and wish you much success in growing healthy food!

Jenny

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Planting Roots for Leafy Greens

Posted by on Sep 17, 2015 in Grow Better Greens Podcast | Comments Off on Planting Roots for Leafy Greens

In this week’s episode, we’re discussing how to harvest two different types of food from the same plant. Plenty of root vegetables can also be harvested for their leafy greens. We’ll give you the lowdown on the best root veggie ‘twofers’ to plant, how to harvest and store both their leaves and their roots, as well as some great tips for what to do with them in the kitchen.

You can listen in here, or download for later:




Planting Roots for Leafy Greens

The Lowdown on Getting Greens from Roots
Which Root Veggies Will Give Us Greens?
How to Harvest and Store Leafy Greens from Roots
Recipe Ideas for Leafy Greens
Why Do You Grow Food?


Why not plant some root veggies and harvest both the leaves and the greens? Why? Besides the obvious 2 for 1 payoff, there are a couple of other reasons to look to underground developers for their above ground greens.

For starters, some roots, like radishes are known for being ultra-quick to develop. If you need food right quick, look no further. Beyond speed, another great reason to get your greens from roots is to consider the root itself a real workhorse.

While you’re eyeing the tasty tops, the root below will be disturbing the lower layers of your soil, breaking up tough clay and opening up much-needed pathways for water, air, and your favorite soil critters.

Which Root Veggies Will Give Us Greens?

Turnips, beets, kohlrabi, radishes, & carrots are all players! If you plan to go for greens, as you do your seed shopping you can actually choose varieties that are meant to put more energy into their greens.One hint is to look for the word “Top” – Alltop Turnips, Tall Top Beets, or the word “Leaf”, like “Leaf Radishes”.

Best varieties for planting roots with leafy greens:

Turnips: Alltop, Seven Top, Topper
Beets: Lutz Green Leaf, Bull’s Blood, Early Wonder Tall Top
Radishes: Saisai Leaf, Amethyst, Scarlet Globe
Kohlrabi: Quickstar, Kolibri, Delicacy White
Carrots: no specific varieties – any carrot will do 🙂

How to Harvest and Store Leafy Greens from Roots

Like with all greens (and roots!) don’t forget that your garden is often the best storage facility you have – leaving veggies in place until you need them will offer you the best-tasting and freshest produce on your plate. Of course, as the season progresses, you’ll need to know how and when to take leaves from your plants.

As soon as the plant has at least 10-12 green leaves, that are at least 4 inches tall, you’ll know that it’s capable of parting with some. At this point, you can start taking some young leaves from each plant – no more than 1/3 apiece. Again young leaves are tender and sweet and do well raw in salads, while older greens might do better cooked.

If you’re going for just the greens, you can cut them right down with a knife, discard any wilted or funny looking ones, rinse, dry and refrigerate (best tips below). If you’re harvesting both the greens and the roots together, be sure to separate them before refrigerating, as the roots will literally suck all of the moisture from their green tops at lightning speed!

Best Ways to Store Leafy Greens:
For use the same day: trim stems and place leaves in a water-filled jar, just like a bouquet of flowers.
For use within 1-2 days: after air drying washed and spun greens on a tea towel, roll them up and place them in the fridge as is, making sure that the roll is secure.
For use within 5 days: place washed and spun or air-dried greens in a plastic zipper bag with a folded napkin or paper towel placed in the bottom.
For use within 10 days: place washed and spun or air-dried greens in a plastic or glass-lidded container with a folded napkin or paper towel placed in the bottom.

Recipe Ideas for Leafy Greens

Young tender greens are perfect for raw eating, in salads or wrapped around grains, beans or other fillings.

Older greens can become tough and fibrous, which makes them perfect for my favorite method: braising. Learn to make a dynamite braise with my recipe below.

Beet, turnip, kohlrabi, and radish greens all do well when quickly sauteed with garlic and butter/oil, as well as added herbs. You can also add your greens to quiche or frittata, make your favorite version of pesto, create a creamy ravioli or lasagna filling (I freeze both my ravioli fillings and pestos) or opt to preserve your greens for the long haul, by making a dehydrated leaf powder.

Looking to use carrot tops for greens? To dispel the myth – they are not toxic, and are even sold in bunches at markets in Europe. You can use them to make broth or add them to soups. Other recipe to try include pesto or chimichurri, or in a bean or grain salad like parsley (think tabbouleh).

Braised Restaurant Kale

If you’ve ever struggled with preparing kale in a flavorful and enjoyable way, but have tasted its amazing potential at a restaurant or hot food bar, I have a big fat secret to share with you. Having worked in restaurants there are two rules that most diners never catch on to: 1) everything is cooked in duck fat, even vegetables served to vegetarians and 2) the cup of soup is usually the same volume as the bowl, only the price is different. For shame!

But my Braised ‘Restaurant’ Kale recipe has no duck fat or any other animal fat—the secret has to do with the preparation. Before I get all caught up again in how much I love braising, let me just stress that the reason it is the best friend of the farmer (and the peasant) is that whether preparing vegetables or meat, braising refines, softens, and sweetens tough ingredients. Kale can be tough. Here’s the recipe:

1 Large bunch kale, washed & trimmed
3 cloves garlic, sliced
½ C vegetable stock and/or wine
red wine vinegar
s&p

Choose a large pan with a lid and sauté the garlic in oil over medium-high heat, stirring until soft. Raise the heat to high, add the kale leaves and ½ cup (120 ml) of vegetable stock, water and/or wine; stir and cover. Cook for about 5 minutes, remove the cover and continue cooking until the liquid evaporates. Season with salt, pepper, herbs, soy, vinegar or your favorite vinaigrette.

Why Do You Grow Food?

In this section we ask our listeners to share why they are growing food. This week May from a wonderful non profit organization in Chicago, Gardeneers tells us why she loves growing food in school gardens!

May won win a collection of Liz’s heirloom leafy green seeds, available on Amazon.

Thanks for reading our blog : ) We appreciate your time and wish you much success in growing healthy food.

Jenny

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Vegetable Garden Planning

Posted by on Sep 10, 2015 in Grow Better Greens Podcast | Comments Off on Vegetable Garden Planning

Today we’re talking about vegetable garden planning and about how to wrap up one gardening season and seamlessly start in on the next. As you tidy up your tools and try to deal with the mountain of produce you’ve harvested, now’s the time to take note of what didn’t work, what worked really well, and to hone in on those crazy ideas that passed through your brain as you were weeding. We’ll ask some probing questions to get you thinking about how you’d like things to be different next time around.

You can listen in here, or download for later:




Vegetable Garden Planning

Why Fall is the Perfect Time to Plan Next Season’s Garden
What Drives Your Decisions?
The Grocery List Method of Planning
What did you Grow that was a Disappointment?
What’s Something that you Absolutely Can’t Forget to Grow Next Year?
Is there Anything that you’d Like to Move?
How Can You Make Life Easier?
Why Do You Grow Food?

Why Fall is the Perfect Time to Plan Next Season’s Garden

For starters, all of the details should be fresh in your mind, as your hands are literally still in the dirt! Being ‘in the thick of it’ is the perfect time to account for what’s truly important and what you can allow to fall to the wayside. Months from now, when you’re deep into winter distractions, it may be harder to recall your valuable perspective!

Another reason why the end of the regular gardening season is so valuable for both planning and action, is that some improvements (or entire changes in direction) are best accomplished throughout the off-season. Whether you’re looking to implement a major makeover, or just need to remember to move perennials or to plant some spring-blooming varieties, you’ll be happy for the reminder.

As your garden starts to fill in and spring becomes summer, you’ll have a little less flexibility to accompany your decisions.

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What Drives Your Decisions?

Understanding what you’re truly after in the garden can really help you to make meaningful decisions about its design, functionality and make-up. Are you growing food to preserve as much as possible for lots of hungry mouths, to create a relaxing and stress-reducing place of beauty, to surround yourself with culinary variety that you can’t find at your local store, or perhaps even to give yourself some privacy from neighborhood noise or eyesores?

Adding to your personalized perspective is a once-over of next year’s plans. Are you hosting a special event that you’d like to create an atmosphere for or harvest a menu from? Do you have a home business that would benefit from a landscaped spot for meeting clients? Perhaps creating a spot for a treatment table, a backdrop for taking portraits, or a comfortable sitting area is in order.

So now’s a great time to look around and decide which gaps need filling, whether they be physical spots that would benefit from a tall or wide planting, or maybe just ‘gaps’ on your shopping list, such as new veggie plantings that you’re eager to try.

The Grocery List Method of Planning

One really great way to get a handle on planning for next year is to start with creating a typical shopping list. Again, here’s where understanding your motivations will really come in handy. Likewise, the list that you draft can help you to understand your motivations!

Some of us are on a mission to save money at the market. If this is you, think about what produce items you end up spending the most on – can those be grown and preserved and crossed off your list permanently? Others, myself included, find themselves surrounded by such a lack of variety, that it feels good to have access right at home to foods that have disappeared from produce bins (think hot peppers, meaty tomatoes, and homegrown sweet corn – all of which can be frozen).

Another motivator is the mistrust that some of us feel when facing our food supply. How much care was really given to how this food was grown and the quality of the soil? You might already know that what you grow at home is nutritionally far superior to anything that you can buy.

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What did you Grow that was a Disappointment?

Now is certainly the right time to have that realistic heart-to-heart with yourself about where you’re wasting your time and effort. The end of the season is the perfect time to face up to what just didn’t work out.

For me, this list includes my beloved red peppers. Homegrown, sweet, crunchy and juicy, fully-ripened red peppers are pretty much tops for me. But they take forever in my zone 4 Vermont garden! For years I thought this was okay – of course I could wait for my favorites, even if I was only ever getting a small amount per plant. But now I’m not so sure…

Because I’m surrounded by several organic farms with dawn-to-dusk farmstands selling sweet and delicious red peppers, can’t I just buy them in and use the entire row that I’ve dedicated to peppers for growing something more productive and more in line with my values? Like, beans or potatoes!

What’s Something that you Absolutely Can’t Forget to Grow Next Year?

Here’s where you get to remind yourself of all the times that you ran out to the garden to harvest…wait, you never planted what you went out there for! Or you did, but not enough of it! Imagine you, all of the ingredients on hand for a beautiful Caprese salad and oops…no basil this year!

Cilantro, parsnips, marshmallow root

For example, this year I moved my entire garden around – as in, entire beds of soil moved from one spot to another. I had been enjoying self-seeding cilantro and dill for several years, but this year, they never popped. So, guess what’s on the top of my garden-planning list for next year – reestablishing both cilantro and dill! And maybe some more calendula.

Further, this year I took a break from growing white potatoes and frankly, I missed them. 2016 – potatoes!

Is there Anything that you’d Like to Move?

Did something grow taller or shorter than you thought? Was something special crowded out by another plant? Now’s your time to make notes all about how you’d like to rearrange the garden. Remember that perennials (established plants that reemerge each season) want to be dug up and moved before they fill out with leaves. Knowing what wants to be where way ahead of next season is vital!

How Can You Make Things Easier?

Lastly, just as a general gift to myself, I like to choose one area each year where I can create some ease in the garden. By figuring out what I found to be overly-difficult or demanding, I can usually craft a solution so that I don’t have to spend next season as bummed out around that task as I was this year.

A great example is automating your watering system. Investing in soaker hoses (or drip tape, or irrigation systems) and timers is like having a part-time employee to stand there and water while you do whatever else needs doing. Or, better yet, while you enjoy some free time all to yourself.

Why Do You Grow Food?

In this section we ask our listeners to share why they are growing food. This week we ask Laura from Lodi, CA why she loves growing food.

Laura won a collection of Liz’s heirloom leafy green seeds, available on Amazon.

Thanks for reading our blog : ) I appreciate your time and wish you much success in growing healthy food!

Jenny

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Natural Garden Clean Up: What to Keep, What to Pull

Posted by on Sep 3, 2015 in Grow Better Greens Podcast | Comments Off on Natural Garden Clean Up: What to Keep, What to Pull

In Episode 14, we’re talking natural garden clean up. More specifically, we’re discussing transitioning your Summer garden into a Fall Garden in a way that mimics nature. We’ll also go over Garden Clean-up, and which plants to intentionally keep around. We’ll talk about why you might want to pull certain plants to make room for a whole new crop, while intentionally leaving a few to flower, just so that they can reward you with perfectly-timed greens next spring. And we’ll also remind you of which plants should stay put so that they can fully ripen (and maybe even sweeten) at the hand of cooler temps.

You can listen in here, or download for later:




Natural Garden Clean Up

Do I Still Have Time to Plant a Fall Garden?
Which Plants Should I Pull?
How Do I Clean Up My Garden?
Why Would I Want to Keep Some Plants in, Even if they Don’t Taste Good Anymore?
Fall Gardening Supplies to Have on Hand
Why do You Grow Food?

Do I Still Have Time to Plant a Fall Garden?

Yes! For most of us, there are still plenty of days ahead to grow cool weather plants: beets, carrots, turnips, radishes, cutting celery, and greens galore are all possibilities.

Some of the crops we choose will actually thrive with these cooler temperatures, and with a bit of extra protection they may even allow you to continue your harvests as they lie dormant into the winter months. These include: hearty greens like kale, måche and arugula, as well as carrots, parsnips and some onions.

Other Fall greens and root crops will thrive during the lighter part of the cold weather, but will fade fast at the first site of a hard frost or frozen ground. Radishes,beets and potatoes will all turn mushy while some lettuces, chards, and spinaches will become sad, floppy and discolored.

So, you can choose your varieties depending upon how soon you’ll be facing a cold snap (get out your crystal ball!)and/or how long you’d like for the harvest to continue. We let you know which supplies to have on hand for season extension below.)

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Which Plants Should I Pull?

This is the heartbreaking part. At some point, all gardeners, even those of us with huge hearts and a great love for plants, have to come to terms with our role as the Grim Reaper.

If you’d like to make room for Fall crops or (maybe even a nutritional cover crop to improve your soil), you’ll have to recognize that the shining stars of your garden are fading out whether you like it or not. Cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes and eggplants all need sunlight (and warmth) to produce and ripen.

If you don’t pull them now, you can definitely expect to notice that they cannot keep up their former pace. Now’s a great time to make your final harvest – tomatoes and some peppers can be frozen whole in plastic bags for later uses and pickles and relishes can be made (time allowing!)

Drying chile peppers in a dehydrator, as well as creating leaf powders from aging greens and other ‘delicacies’ is another great option for preserving your big haul.

You can also place unripe and underripe produce in a brown paper bag (some folks add a banana to speed things up); I’ve even hung whole plants upside down to get them to ripen indoors.

How Do I Clean Up My Garden?

Remember, in the garden, clean means ‘tidy’ more than ‘sanitize’. However, now’s a great time to take full stock about the overall health of your garden.

All healthy plant material can be composted; you can either add it to your composting system, or you can throw it into any pathways you may have to decompose and rebuild those soils. If you have no plans for the beds until next year, feel free to let them stay put and act as mulch.

Any plants that look like they may be suffering from an unsightly disease (as opposed to being wilted and yellowed from lack of water, being stepped on, or being strangled/crushed by a neighboring plant) should be tossed into garbage bags. This can help to prevent disease from lingering from season to season.

Garden clean up also means collecting hoses and cleaning off structures, so that you’re able to reuse them without much hassle net year. Many hoses, including soaker hoses, won’t recover from the freezing and thawing that can occur over the winter.

This is also a terrific time to take a soil sample!

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Why Would I Want to Keep Some Plants, Even if They Don’t Taste Good Anymore?

There’s a strong argument for not pulling certain plants.

For example, sometimes you want them to reproduce (go to seed) before they leave, so that the next generation will sprout right there in the same spot, just for you. Another reason to keep plants in place is that the cool weather actually helps them to express their very best qualities.

Like Winter squashes, the gourd below won’t be properly ‘cured’ (dried and ready for use) until after their stems die off and turn hard, dry and cork-like. This process occurs after the plant gets the message weather-wise that there’s no more time for making babies – it’s time to grow the ones you’ve got, big and strong!

Allowing lettuce, spinach and other greens to produce seeds, will mean that they’ll be sprinkled all around. Best of all, you can count on them to sprout when the conditions are just right – no judging on your part. My mother-in-law has been doing this for many years with a bed of garlic, as well.

Fall Gardening Supplies to Have on Hand

One of the best tools to have on hand if you’d like to extend the gardening season into Fall is called Floating Row Cover. The lightweight version helps to keep hungry flea beetles and cabbage moths at bay – which is of greater and greater importance as their other sources of food all begin to disappear!

Row cover (also known as garden fabric, remay, and agribon), is put directly on top of your seed beds, as soon as you sow your seeds. You can also drape them over bendable wire hoops to create yourself a tunnel.

Row covers can protect your plants against more than just insects – bunnies, deer, and pet chickens will also be dissuaded!

One thing that lightweight row cover can’t do is to protect your plants from freezing temps as winter approaches. As soon as the first heavy frost sets in, you’ll need to switch over to a thicker fabric, sometimes called Garden Quilt. While this version helps to protect against bitter cold, it does block the 40% of the available light – so there’s no reason to put it on prematurely!

Why Do You Grow Food?

In this section we ask our listeners to share why they are growing food. This week we ask Joel from Georgia why he loves growing food.

Joel won a collection of Liz’s heirloom leafy green seeds, available on Amazon.

Thanks for reading our blog : ) We appreciate your time and wish you much success in growing healthy food!

Jenny

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Soil Minerals AS Pest Control

Posted by on Aug 27, 2015 in Grow Better Greens Podcast | Comments Off on Soil Minerals AS Pest Control

In Episode 13, we’re picking up where we left off in Episode 12 with Natural Pest Control, and doing a deep dive into using Soil Minerals to manage pests and disease in the garden. Also known as Nutrient Dense Growing, using raw soil minerals has a two-part pay off; not only will you reduce the number of bugs and molds munching on your plants, but you’ll also be putting more nutrients per calorie into each and every fruit. So, join us as we discuss this up and coming, beyond organic gardening technique.

You can listen in here, or download for later:




Soil Minerals AS Pest Control
How Using Soil Minerals as Pest Control is Different than Other Techniques
Basic Theory of Soil Minerals
Garden Pests and Plant Phases of Expression
How to Mind YOUR Minerals
Why Do You Grow Food?

How Using Soil Minerals as Pest Control is Different than Other Techniques

There are a few key ways in which using soil minerals as a pest control strategy is pretty far removed from the manner in which most of us have been fighting back in the garden. For starters, the main event – the application of the minerals themselves, is a bit of a one-shot deal each season.

In an effort to limit and/or prevent the arrival of pests altogether, we’re delivering the first punch before we sow seeds or set plants. Based upon the results of a specialty soil test, we’ll be crafting a personalized mineral blend for our own gardens, which we’ll turn into the soil before the growing season begins. We’re being proactive and preventative instead of reactive!

This is like taking a daily vitamin, or maybe even a deeper dose of full-throttle vitamin therapy, instead of relying on powerful, damaging drugs as soon as sickness arrives.

Secondly, using soil minerals (also called nutrient dense gardening) recognizes the presence of pests and disease as a symptom of a greater nutritional issue. Our efforts in giving our soils ‘makeovers’ with minerals, is a longterm strategy that considers the root of the problem. So, instead of spinning round and round on the hamster wheel of symptoms, we’re taking a giant step backwards to look at why the symptoms might be arriving in the first place.

The third way that soil minerals offer us a different relationship to pest management is that they allow our actions to be targeted, personalized, and quantifiable. This is because every home gardener’s recipe is based upon a value that acknowledges the amount of nutrients their soil can personally hold onto.

Total Exchange Capacity, or how many positively charges ions a soil can hold, varies from garden to garden. Yours and mine are different, without a doubt! Establishing this number is the backbone to creating a mineral blend that will address nutrient deficiencies while avoiding the creation of excesses and will make sure that you’re using any available space for elements that will help your plants thrive.

You can find out more about Total Exchange Capacity in the video below:

Basic Theory of Soil Minerals

The basic theory behind controlling nutrient levels in your soil, is to make sure that you’re saving some space for important trace minerals to come into play. On a very fundamental level, there are two kinds of nutrients; macronutrients and micronutrients.

Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, and Sodium are the macronutrients and the thing to know about them is that if you give an inch, they will take a mile. If you’re not paying attention, it’s really easy for your entire Exchange Capacity to be taken up by macronutrients, without leaving any room for those vitally important micronutrients, aka trace minerals.

Although only teeny, tiny amounts are needed, when trace minerals like zinc, copper, boron and iron are ‘activated’, amazing things can occur in both human and plant health. Usually, with sick, pest-ridden home gardens there are one of two ‘states of malnutrition’ that they fall into:

In the first category are soils so lacking in nutrients altogether that the plants growing there are never able to become strong enough to defend themselves. These soils are are underfed.

In the second category are soils that definitely have nutrients present, but due to certain excesses, valuable space is being taken away from powerful nutrients that could affect change. Until the excesses subside, the game-changing nutrients that could help are useless. These soils are unbalanced.



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With this second, unbalanced scenario in mind, soil mineral gardeners know that many symptoms can lead you on a wild goose chase. Googling why a leaf is yellow, wilted, curled, spotted or the like may tell you which nutrient the plant isn’t absorbing, but it can’t tell you why it isn’t being absorbed.

For example, one season I had a bad case of Blossom End Rot on my tomatoes. The internet was aglow with advice to put more calcium in my soil in order to rectify the problem. But you can read my article below, all about how and why boron actually saved the day and why calcium would have made everything much worse:

What’s Your Scarcest Soil Resource? How I Cured My Blossom End Rot Without Calcium…

Another reason that nutrient dense growers turn to soil minerals, is that they may help to make plants inedible to bugs.

Garden Pests and Plant Phases of Expression

Ok, here’s where the rubber really meets the road. In order to fight back against pests and disease, we can use soil minerals to make our plants inedible to bugs (as well as fungi and bacteria). Said differently, we can use nutrition to help our plants reach different life stages where they express different complete compounds.

Essentially, as our plants grow and fulfill their life’s work of offering ideal reproductions of themselves to the gene pool, they reach mini milestones along the way. First, if all goes well, they will create complete carbohydrates in their leaves.

This is known as the First Phase of Plant Expression.

In order to accomplish this task, they’ll need proper nutrition (access, delivery and absorption of everything they need) from the soil system. The most interesting part about their goal of expressing this complete carbohydrate (at least from our perspectives) is that as soon as that happens, there’s a list of garden pests that will no longer be able to digest our plant’s leaves.

Pretty cool, right? At this very first stage of plant expression, we can say goodbye to soil-borne pathogens, such as Fusarium wilt, Verticillium wilt, and Altemaria, because not a one of those has a digestive tract that can manage carbs. Boom – a whole list of pests knocked off without a single spray or sprinkle!

If your plants are healthy enough, you can starve out entire pest populations.

On the flipside of our celebration is the idea that if we’re seeing evidence of any of these soil borne pathogens, we can be pretty sure that we’ve got some soil nutrition work ahead of us. Not only are we likely to pull our hair out with the pest war in the garden, but we’re also growing pretty low-quality food.

In fact, we’re growing Bug Food. Not People Food.

In the second phase, our plants will express complete proteins. With this momentous event we can say goodbye to those damaging larval insects, such as the Corn Earworm, Cabbage Looper, and Leaf Miner.

You can check out all four Phases of Plant Expression below, with their corresponding pest-removal lists. These ideas, by the way, were written about earlier in the 20th Century, by Francis Chaboussou, a French Argronomist.

Phase 1: carbs eliminate soil-borne pathogens: Fusarium wilt, Verticillium wilt, Alternaria (fungus)
Phase 2: proteins corn earworm, cabbage looper, leaf miner
Phase 3: lipids (shiny leaves) Mildews & Blights. Where I want to be.
Phase 4: phytoalexins Japanese Beetles, Cucumber Beetles, Flea Beetles – learn about controlling beetles with bug vacuum or a row cover in Episode 12…

Is it possible to get to Phase 4? Maybe not in today’s world with Earth being sick. But using this roadmap, you can get to Phases 1 & 2, which are magnificent when compared to the more common disease-ridden garden or farm that most of us do battle with.



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How to Mind YOUR Minerals

The basic process for testing and amending your soil with soil minerals happens in three parts. First, you’ll need to send a soil sample to a specialty lab that will test your soil, your Total Exchange Capacity, and your trace minerals.

Next, you’ll plug your results into an online calculator that will transform your results into a streamlined recipe for the exact minerals that you need, in their correct weights.

Lastly, you need a little bit of knowledge, and that’s where we come in. If you purchase your soil test through us, we’ll be there for the hand-holding, filling in the gaps with how-to videos, a field-by-field soil results glossary and more.

Although steps one and two are great if you’re a professional soil analyst, the combo isn’t so easy to navigate for the layperson. You can see how Mind Your Minerals solves that problem for you by clicking here.

Why Do You Grow Food?

In this section we ask our listeners to share why they are growing food. This week Bree Hester of BakedBree.com shares why she loves growing food!

You can record YOUR answer here

Bree won a collection of Liz’s heirloom leafy green seeds, available on Amazon.

Thanks for reading my blog : ) I appreciate your time and wish you much success in growing healthy food!

Jenny

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