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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

My soil making experiment

I love experimenting and I also love making things myself. Maybe this is why I love growing my own vegetables so much. I have been experimenting with making my own fertilizer mixes, and spent much of the winter doing research. Now I have just discovered my newest obsession, mixing my own potting soil.

I was beginning to get very tired of going to the garden center every week to buy more potting soil. I was beginning to think that maybe I should have just ordered an entire semi-truck load. Then I remembered reading somewhere about mixing your own potting soil, so I did some research got together some possible combinations and off to the store I went.

First I went to Gales Garden Center. From there I bought a monster bag of Perlite and a giant bag of Peat Moss. Then I went to Home Depot and bought some bags of Top Soil for $1.oo each and some bags of Organic Humus and Manure for not even $1.50 each.

Here is the mix that I used:
2 parts Top Soil
2 parts Peat Moss
2 parts Perlite
1 part Organic Humus and Manure

The four parts of my experimental soil mix

The finished product

I can not wait to see how this mix works out, but so far so good. One thing that I have found that seems to make this mix better than the regular soilless mix that you normally buy everywhere, is that when it is completely dried out it soaks up the water a lot better. Normally when a soilless mix is completely dried out if you water it the water just sits on top of the soil, but my mix soaks it right up with no problem. I would imagine that this could possible cause some problems if the soil remains overly wet for long periods of time, but I do not believe this will be a problem for me. I have never had a problem with anything staying too wet, but always have problems with my plants dring out, so hopefully this mix will help the problem.

If it works out for me, this mix may just be the begining, just imagine all the different types of mixes I could come up with.

My soil making experiment (part 2)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

First market of the year

Wow! I can not believe it, I just looked at my countdown to the first market of the year. I can not believe that there are only 52 days till the first market! I knew it would go fast, but I am not sure I was prepared for it to come this fast! 52 days!!!

Transplanting and nice weather to come!

Today, thanks to the help of my mom, we were able to get a lot of transplanting done. There are still things that need transplanting but we were able to catch up on a lot that needed to be done. So while we transplanted we watched episodes of "The Legend of the Seeker" (my new favorite show, I am hooked) on the computer. It can get boring transplanting for hours. Trust me it is a lot less painful if you have something to watch.

Anyhow here is what we were able to transplant today: The rest of the peppers (Fish Peppers, Sweet Red Peppers, Flavorburst Peppers, and Islander Peppers), Stevia (I did not get too many of these to germinate, not sure why, was kind of disappointed, oh well there is always next year), Mexican Sunflower Tithonia Fiesta Del Sol (miniature variety, good for pots), and Strawberry plants (these did not germinate well also, not sure why).

I still have not transplanted those poor tomato plants from my last post. But trust me they are next! I just do not like to transplant tomatoes, so I have been putting it off. There are also some flowers that will need transplanting such as dahlias, asters and strawflowers. There are some others but I can not think of what exactly they are off the top of my head.


Ok, now lets talk about the wonderful weather that is on its way starting tomorrow. I am so glad that the weather is going to be nice for awhile. There is a lot of planting that I have to do outside, so I am so glad that I should be able to get planting done this weekend. Here is what the weather is suppose to be like this week:
Thursday- Almost 60 degrees- Sunny
Friday and Saturday- High 70's- Sunny
Sunday- High 70's- Partly cloudy
Monday- 70's- chance of rain
Tuesday and Wednesday- High 60's- chance of rain

Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday sound almost perfect to me. I should be able to get a lot of work done one those days.

Monday, rain, but warm, that is ok with me as long as I can get a bunch of work done the days before, and as long as it is warm and I do not have to worry about seeds rotting, I will be happy.

Tuesday and wednesday, rain, but still not terribly cold, sounds ok to me. Besides the forecast might change by then, or I should probably say will change by then. They do not know that far ahead.

So if I can make it through tonight which will be pretty cold (30's) I should be ok. I am looking forward to the nice weather.

Hopefully this weekend I will be able to plant beets, pak choi, some kinds of lettuce, diakon radishes, kohlrabi, head lettuce, and possibly some carrots. We will see how things go. Oh, and I almost forgot I will have to transplant some onions and leeks. I am going to have to look at all my seeds to make sure I am not forgetting anything, because it sure seems like there was a lot more that I had to plant.

But for now it is time to go to sleep and rest up for all the work ahead.

Monday, April 20, 2009

More Pictures!

Have you noticed that I like to take pictures?

Just a few of my many dahlias

I think that I forgot to mention, in my post about the plants that I will have for sale this year, about my dahlias and geraniums. So I just wanted to mention that I will have many kinds of beautiful dahlias and geraniums available for sale around the start of the Valley City Market. I will be sure to post pictures once they bloom, which still will not be for awhile yet, but I guarantee that we are getting closer.

Some of my geraniums

Mixed Salad Pot

I am not sure if I mentioned this before or not but I will have available for sale a potted salad mix. This is just a sample one for me that I made up as an experiment. I wanted to find out what grows best together and taste the best together so I can make up some different combinations to sell. In each pot I plan to have a couple different kinds of lettuces, arugula, at least a couple kinds of greens and a flower that is edible and can be used in salad mixes (Nasturtium or Violas). In this pot I planted Endive, Arugula, Black-Seeded Simpson Lettuce, Red Sails Lettuce, Spinach, Salad Burnet, Corn Salad, Sorrel, and a rather large Nasturtium. Of coarse the ones that I will have for sale will probably not be quite this crowded, again this is just an experimental pot. I plan to grow these under lights indoors durning the summer. Since I will not be able to have actual lettuce available durning the summer since it is too warm and they would become bitter, I figured that I could have these available instead. So you can grow your own lettuce mix, and of coarse once you pick it it will grow back again so you should be able to get quite a few nice salads for your salad mix pot.

I also plan to have some mixed herb pots available. I am not sure yet exactly what kind of combinations I will make up, but each pot should have atleast 4 different kinds of herbs in it. I will probably make up some pots with the four kinds of basils that I will have available this year, and will most likely have some with herbs for cooking that go well together.


And here are some more pictures:

Violas and some peppers

Some of my larger Fairy Tale Eggplants

Four different kinds of Basil:
Sweet Basil, Lemon Basil, Opal Basil and Cinnamon Basil


Some of my tomatoes that are in desperate need of transplanting!

If you plant you tomatoes in flats like this, I would not suggest that you let yours get to be this size before transplanting. They will be ok though, once I get them transplanted. I just finished transplanting another flat of tomatoes yesterday, for some reason I do not like transplanting tomatoes very much. I will be very glad when they are all transplanted, which I hope will be very soon!


I just thought that I would mention that it is not positive yet but it looks like we will probably be selling at the Strongsville Farmers Market on Thursdays in addition to the Valley City Farmers Market. We are also still looking into other possible locations to add to Strongsville and Valley City. Strongsville Farmers Market does not begin until July, acutally they told me it would be the beginning of August. Which seems a little late, hopefully they made a mistake. I would like to add another location that we could sell at earlier than Strongsville, but am having trouble finding one.

I will be sure to post further information, about where we will be selling this year, when it becomes avaiable.

For now I guess I should get back to transplanting, because I have alot to do.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Looks like I am behind once again

I just realized that I am once again behind on my planting. What I am worried about is it always seems like once I get behind it is very very hard to catch up.

There are only 60 days till the first market, and this past weekend I should have planted beets, kohlrabi, and Diakon Radishes outside, and I believe there where some other things too. Inside I should have planted zinnias, a bunch of herbs and some other flowers. I am not really behind on planting the things inside but I would have liked to have planted them already. I also have tomatoes and some other things inside that I should have transplanted already.

Boy do I feel behind. How will I catch up?

I am not sure how I am going to get more stuff planted outside unless it stops raining, warms up and the ground drys up enough to get it tilled an prepared for planting. I was able to get some things planted outside when the weather was nice for a week or so. Under row cover I planted about 2 weeks ago kale, collards, some lettuce, dwarf pak choi, and ishikura scallions (long scallions). I peeked under the row cover today and it looks like the scallions, lettuce and pak choi are coming up. I did not look at the kale and collards. It was raining and muddy outside and did not feel like pulling up another row cover, and was satisfied to know that something was coming up. I will have to check those some other day, maybe when it is drier outside and not raining.

I am hoping to start my seeds inside tomorrow and hopefully get at least some of my tomatoes transplanted. I am going to have to check the weather report and see if I might be able to get some things planted outside soon. Hopefully I will. I am hoping to have a nice big selection available for the first market. So I looks like I am going to need to get to work, so I can catch up, and have everything ready in time or atleast almost everything.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Recipe: Whole Stuffed Pumpkin

Ok, I will have to admit that, for some reason, I have a hard time, finding the time to stop what I am doing to cook a good meal. Between my job, taking care of my many birds, two dogs and of course vegetables and everything involved with markets, I just have a hard time stopping myself long enough to cook. Don't get me wrong I love cooking with our vegetables, but I would really love to cook more than I do. I guess that is just something that I will have to continue to work on. That is the reason why whenever I provide recipes it is usually a link to some good recipes that I would love to try myself because it sounds good, and not a recipe that I have tried myself.

Anyhow, after all that rambling on and on and on (for some reason I like to do that), I will get to the actual point. I just thought that I would share with you a recipe that I have actually tried myself and that I liked very much. This winter I had a lot of pie pumpkins stored away in the basement. Last year we had a horrible pumpkin year and actually harvested only a few pumpkins that were not of the best quality. So I ended up getting a whole bunch from our friends over at The Apple Cabin in Lodi. I just had to have some for pumpkin pie and other things. I came across this recipe when I was trying to find new different things to do with the pumpkins. What do you know I am rambling on and on again, anyhow here is the recipe.

Whole Stuffed Pumpkin
1 small pumpkin
1 lb. Italian Sausage
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
1 egg beaten
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 tsp. salt

Cut the top of the pumpkin off and scoop out seeds, or cut pumpkin in half and scoop out seeds. Place the pumpkin in a large kettle and cover with boiling water. Simmer 30 minutes or until tender. Meanwhile saute sausage until browned, and onions, celery, and mushrooms, cook till mostly done. Combine egg, sour cream and salt. Mix with meat. Fill well drained pumpkin. Bake at 350 degrees approximately 30 minutes.

I wish I would have taken a picture but I did not. Oh well, maybe next time. I liked this recipe because it is something to do with pumpkin and winter squash that can be an entire meal, and does not involve a bag of brown sugar and stick of butter. Don't get me wrong, I love winter squash with lots and lots of brown sugar and butter. It is just something different for a change.


I hope everyone has a wonderful, Happy Easter!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Some of the new vegetables for this year

I just thought that I would take the time to share couple of the new and unusual things that we will be growing this year, that I am particularly excited about. But do not worry these are not the only new things we will be growing this year, there are many, many more.

Chinese Red Noodle Long Bean
This is a red/purple yard long heirloom bean. These beans should be great for those that love to make stir fry, because they are best sauteed, rather than boiled. They are also suppose to keep most of their red/purple color when cooked, unlike most purple beans that change to green when they are cooked. So they should add a wonderful red/purple color to your stir fry. These yard long beans are also suppose to have a taste very different from that of your regular green bean, so they should be very interesting and I can't wait to see how they turn out, they definitely sound good to me.

Here is a link to some pictures on Davesgarden.com of this beautiful yard long bean.

Armenian Cucumber
This is one of the many new varieties of cucumbers that we will be trying for the first time this year. I am particularly interested in how this one will turn out, because it is suppose to love hot summer weather. It is called a cucumber but is actually a type of melon. Since it is a melon it should be able to tolerate the heat better than cucumbers do. We always have a hard time getting our cucumber to survive the heat of the middle of summer. That is why I decided to give this cucumber a try.

Here is a link to some pictures at picsearch.com of Armenian Cucumber.

Mexican Sour Gherkin Cucumber
This is a very tiny heirloom cucumber. One of the main reasons why I decided to grow this cucumber was because I thought this would be something good to add to my salad mixes. Since they are so small (around the size of a quarter), I figured I could just throw a bunch in my bagged salad mixes, since they do not need to be cut. Besides adding them to a salad they are suppose to be good pickled, or just simply as is, for a snack. The inside should have a cucumber flavor but the skin has a unique lemon flavor. Should be interesting, right?

Here is a link to some pictures on davesgarden.com of this cute little cucumber.
Link to the story Mother Earth News did on Mexican Sour Gherkin Cucumber (Mouse Melons).


Yesterday winter returned briefly, when it snowed for the majority of the day :( I am not sure exactly how much snow we got, but I know it was at least 3 inches, probably more. It felt like the middle of winter all over again. But the good news is today spring was back, and all the snow melted :) So I feel better again! Lets just hope that the snow stays away for good until the end of the year, when we start winter all over again :( But lets not think of that, lets all think spring (and summer)!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April- Vegetable of the Month- Beets

I have decided to have a different topic of the month each month. This month there will be a vegetable of the month (beets), but sometimes I will have and herb of the month, flower of the month, a particular variety of the month and sometimes maybe even item of the month. I will share with you my knowledge of the vegetable, flower or herb, how to cook with it, its health benefits, how it is grown, and any other interesting info about the particular topic.

So for this month the vegetable of the month is Beets:
  • This year we will be growing the flowing varieties of beets:
Forono Beet: This will be our first year growing this variety. It is a red colored beet with a cylindrical shape. Which means that it has a long shape compared to the common round beets that you usually see. I wanted to grow this variety because I think these would be very easy to slice, and could get many more slices from these compared to the normal kinds.

Perfected Detroit Beets: This is an improved variety of Detroit Dark Red Beets. This is the kind that we have usually grown in the past. Very good variety of beet!

Detroit Dark Red: We wanted to try the common variety this year just to see how in compares to the improved version.

I am also thinking about growing another type of beet that is entirely different from the traditional dark red beets, maybe a golden beet, white or Chioggia (striped beet). It all depends on if I will have the room to add another variety. We will see.

I did pick up a packet of golden beets from the garden center the other day (you know what happens when I go there, I buy everything, I just can't control myself). There where not too many seeds in the package but I figured, why not give them a try to see what they are like. If I like them this year I can order a large pack next year. So I should have a very limited supply of golden beets available probably in the middle of the season.
  • We usually have beets available the whole market season. This is one of the few vegetables that can be grown for most of the season. We usually make continuous planting throughout the our whole season. I does pretty well in most conditions, and is not very demanding.
  • Cooking Beets: We have a lot of customers that like beets and would like to buy some of our beets, but do not know how to cook them. So last year I typed up instructions on how to cook beets, and had them available for anyone who asked how to prepare them. So here are my instructions on how to cook beets:
Rinse off beets. Leave on roots and remove all except 1-2 inches of the tops. Cover with water, and boil covered for approximately 40 to 50 minutes or until tender when pricked with a knife. (Cooking time will depend on size of beets, larger beets will take longer to cook then smaller ones.) When done place beets in cool water until you are able to handle them. While they are still warm, the skins should slide off easily, by rubbing them off with your hands. Beware of the red from beets, can stain easily. Beets can also be cooked the same way in a pressure cooker, which will cut the cooking time in half.

Here is a great link with lots and lots of recipes for beets: Just Vegetable Recipes

  • Using Beet Tops: Make sure you keep your beet tops, because that make a very good cooked green. We use to just throw ours out, until one day our neighbor found out and yelled at us for doing so! We once used ours to make stuffed shells instead of using spinach since we did not have any spinach at that time but had beet greens. It was very good and I wish I had written down the recipe so that I could share it with you, but I didn't. I will have to make it again and make sure I write it down this time and take pictures. You can use the tops like you would other cooked greens, and can be substituted for spinach in many recipes.
I plan to use beet top greens during the summer in my bagged salad mix, since it is a green that can be grown when it is warm, in the middle of the summer. Most lettuces will blot (or go to seed) and become bitter when it gets too warm, but beet greens will be fine in the heat. My summer greens mix can be used for either a salad or as cooked greens, which ever you prefer. Some other greens that may be included in the mix are collards, baby swiss chard, kale, arugula and possibly some others.
  • Storing Beets: I have found that the best way to store beets is in a bag in one of your fridge. If you leave the in the open (not in a bag) they may not even last a week before becoming soft. I put mine in a regular plastic shopping bag. You can usually keep the tops on for at least a week (check on it regularly), if you are going to store the beets for longer than that you should remove the tops, since they will not last as long as the beets themselves. You can always remove the tops and keep them separate from the beets in case the start to go bad and you do not notice, this way your beets will be fine. The beets themselves can last for months is stored properly, jus about as long as carrots, which also can be stored for a long time.
  • Beets Health Facts: Beets are a very healthy vegetable and can benefit your health in many ways. They have been said to help prevent birth defects, heart disease, and some types of cancer.
These are just some of the good websites that I have found that explain health benefits of beets:
Nutrition Facts Analysis for Cooked Beets- From NutritionData.com
Nutrition Facts Analysis for Cooked Beet Greens- From NutritionData.com
The World's Healthiest Foods- Lot of good info here.
RawVeg.Info- Lists the different health benefits of beets, and gives links to read more about each benefit.
How Stuff Works calls beets a "Natural Weight Loss Food", read more about at this link.
The Many Health Benefits of Beets- Good site that describes each way that beets can help your health

There are so many more sites that explain the benefits of beets that I just couldn't list them all!

So as you can see beets are a very healthy vegetable. I makes a great side dish, and addition to almost any meal. It is a dual purpose vegetable because you can both the greens and the actual beet root. And as I have already mentioned it can be grown anytime throughout the growing season, so we should have them available at every market.