Baby-greens

Larger than microgreens, baby-greens are plants that have developed at least their first set of true leaves or more, but the number of species grown as baby-green is way smaller. Usually, the plants used to obtain baby-greens are lettuce and other salad greens.

Plants grown for baby-greens are started in the same way as those cultivated for adult-greens, though you will not need as much space between plants if growing exclusively for baby-greens. A growing medium that is well-drained and rich in organic matter ia a good base for most greens. Sow the seeds in large and shallow trays, with drainage holes in the bottom.

Once the seeds begin to germinate, moderate watering but do not allow plants to dry out. Once the true leaves start to form, the plants will need good amounts of water but will not tolerate drought well. Keep soil moist, but not too soggy as this will promote root rot.

Harvest your greens when they reach about 15 cm tall, use scissors to trim them back. Just grab a clump of greens with one hand and cut them off 2-3 cm above the soil line.

For a steady supply of greens, sow seeds every two weeks or so throughout the growing season. Any sunny and warm place will do. If the weather is too hot, take them away from the window and find a more sheltered place. If you have enough patience, you can get a second crop from the same set of plants, although it may not be as rich as the first harvest. For this is it better to feed your plant with an all-purpose fertilizer to help promote new growth, but always avoid applying the fertilizer directly to plant or leaves.

Baby-greens
was last modified: January 8th, 2016 by gardening

Microgreens

While sprouts are grown in a dark and wet medium, microgreens are grown in soil or soil-like materials such as peat mos and require high light levels, if possible natural sunlight, with low humidity and good air circulation.

Microgreens seeds are planted at much lower density compared to the seeds used to obtain sprouts. The time to obtain microgreens can vary from 1-2 weeks to even 4-6 weeks, depending on the variety you are using. Microgreens are ready to harvest when the leaves are fully expanded and can vary in size from 2.5 to 8 cm including the stem and leaves. They have fully developed cotyledon leaves and also may have one pair of very small, partially developed true leaves.

Smaller than baby-greens and harvested later than sprouts, microgreens have stronger flavors compared to sprouts and they can be sweet or spicy. They are also known for their wide selection of leaf shapes, textures and colors. The microgreens are nutrient-dense and make a healthy addition to salads and sandwiches.

To grow microgreens at home you will need a shallow plastic container with drainage holes, a piece of cardboard to fit into the container, some organic potting mix, and seeds. Put a layer of about 5 cm of moisten potting compost on the bottom of the container and then press it gently with the cardboard to obtain a flat, even surface. Scatter the seeds evenly over the soil and then press them lightly with the cardboard to fix them into the soil.

Add a layer of about 1 cm of fine sieved potting mix over the seeds. Place the container onto a drip tray and carefully water the seeds with a gentle shower. Put the tray on a sunny windowsill or under growing lights. Keep the soil consistently moist but drain off any excess water that collects in the drip tray after watering. The seed will germinate in 3 to 7 days depending on what type of seeds you use. 7 to 14 days after germination, depending on the variety, your microgreens should become ready to harvest.

To harvest your microgreens use a scissor and just cut them above the soil surface, excluding the roots. Use them quickly, as once you remove them from their growing medium, they will rapidly begin to elongate and lose color and flavor.

Microgreens
was last modified: January 8th, 2016 by gardening

Sprouts

Sprouting is the practice of germinating seeds. The shoots of germinated seeds are then to be eaten raw in salads and sandwiches or cooked in vegetable dishes, soups, stews, casseroles or stirfry. They are an excellent source of vitamins, minerals and proteins.

The most common types of seeds used for sprouting include: pulses (alfalfa, clover, fenugreek, lentil, pea, chickpea, mung bean and soybean), cereals (oat, wheat, corn, rice, barley and rye), pseudocereals (quinoa, amaranth and buckwheat), oilseeds (sesame, sunflower, almond, hazelnut, linseed, peanut), brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, watercress, mustard, mizuna, radish, and daikon, rocket, tatsoi, turnip), umbelliferous vegetables, used more as microgreens than sprouts (carrot, celery, fennel, parsley), allium (onion, leek, green onion), other vegetables and herbs (spinach, lettuce, milk thistle, lemon grass).

When growing edible sprouts at home, make sure to buy only seeds that are labeled for sprouting. Seed intended for sowing may be treated with chemical dressings which can be harmful if eaten. You can find seeds for sprouting in health food stores, some grocery stores and garden centers.

There are several ways to sprout seeds, but the most common is the method called soak-rinse-drain. The germination process takes a few days and can be easily done at home. You will need a glass jar, a screw-top ring and some cheesecloch cut to the size of the screw-top ring. If you do not have a screw-top ring, just cut the cheesecloch larger and secure it over the rim of the jar with a rubberband. Choose the seeds you want to sprout and start the process.

Thoroughly clean the jar, place the seeds you want to sprout in the bottom of the jar and cover the jar with the cheesecloch securing it in place. You will need different amount of seeds depending on what type of seeds you want to sprout. Also the time for seeds to sprout will vary according to the type of seeds you use.
Rinse the seeds with cold water and then drain, the cheesecloch will prevent the seeds from washing away. Add lukewarm water in the jar until the volume occupied by the water will be twice the volume of the seeds. Soak the seeds for 12 to 24 hours, depending on the seeds, living them at room temperature.

After soaking, drain off the water and rinse the seeds with lukewarm water then drain them thoroughly. Keep the jar at room temperature, in a dark place. Lay the jar on its side to distribute the seeds more evenly.

Keep rinsing the seeds 2-4 times a day with water at room temperature until the sprouts will have the desired length. Always make sure to drain off any excess water from the jar or else the seeds will ferment and spoil. This process will take 2 to 5 days, depending on the type of seeds you use. If you let them longer, they will begin to develop leaves. These are known as baby-greens. A popular bay-green is sunflower after 7–10 days.

When the sprouts are ready to be consumed, rinse them once again thoroughly. If you want to remove the seeds husks, just place the sprouts in a pan of water and stir gently, the husks will start to float at the surface and then you can collect and throw them.

Sprouts can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Place them in a sealed bag or a closed jar and check them from time to time. If you want to freeze the sprouts, blanch them for 3 minutes then cool them quickly in ice water. Drain and pack them in freezer bags.

Sprouts
was last modified: January 4th, 2016 by gardening

Avocado

The trees grow up to 20 m tall, having alternately arranged leaves of 12-25 cm long. The flowers are inconspicuous, greenish-yellow, 5-10 mm wide. Trees are partially self-pollinating. The fruits have a green-skinned, fleshy body and may be pear-shaped, egg-shaped, or spherical. They and are 7-20 cm long and weigh between 100-1000 grams. The fruit has a large central seed, 5-6.4 cm long.

The avocado is a climacteric fruit, like bananas, which means it matures on the tree but ripens off the tree. Avocados must be mature before picking in order to ripen properly. Once picked, avocados ripen in one to two weeks at room temperature. Avocados that fall off the tree ripen on the ground. Generally, fruits are picked once they reach maturity.

All avocado trees need to be protected from heavy frosts and strong winds. The subtropical species needs a climate without frost and with little wind because high winds reduce the humidity, dehydrate the flowers and affect pollination. When even a mild frost occurs, premature fruit drop may happen.

Avocados prefer to be planted in sunny locations that are protected from wind. They will need a well drained soil, ideally more than 1 m deep, and will not thrive in heavy clay soils for long. If you do have heavy clay soils consider planting your avocado tree in a raised bed. The raised bed should be at least half a meter above the existing level of the soil. It is also very important not to plant avocado trees too deeply. Plant them at least 3-5 cm above the existing soil level and then create a small mound around the base with a mixture of compost and well drained soil. Avocado trees are susceptible to root rot so you should avoid planting a new avocado tree in a place where an old tree had died, as the soil may be contaminated.

As most avocado trees can reach a height of more than 7 m tall when fully grown, selecting the proper place to plant your avocado tree is important for successful growing. Avocados should only be minimally pruned in order to shape and control size and this should be done after fruiting. Frequent pinching of young trees is a good method to shape the tree, rather than heavy pruning.

Do not overwater your avocado trees. Over watering trees in the ground in certain soils is often the main factor in causing root rot. Avocados prefer infrequent deep root watering. It is best to allow trees to dry out watering again. Avocados growing in containers need consistent frequent watering.

Avocado trees should be fed on a regular basis. Fertilize using well balanced citrus food. Avocado trees that have been well feed year-round are better able to deal with cold temperatures in the winter. Apply a 8-10 cm layer of mulch to avocado trees each year to help retain soil moisture and improve soil quality. Apply mulch in spring and fall under the canopy of the tree, keep it away from the trunk of the tree.

You can grow your avocados indoor if your climate doesn’t allow you to grow it in the garden. Usually, avocados are grown from pits indoors. Remove the pit from a ripe, unrefrigerated avocado. Stab it with three or four tooth picks, about one third of the way up and then place it in a jar or vase with tepid water. The pit should split in 4-6 weeks and roots and a sprout should appear. Once the stem has grown a few cm, place it in a pot with soil. Water it every few days. As avocados grow quickly you must be ready to repot the plant several times.

The species is only partially able to self-pollinate. This limitation makes the species difficult to breed so most cultivars are propagated via grafting.

Avocados can also be propagated by seeds but it will take about 4-6 years to bear fruit. The offspring is unlikely to be identical to the parent cultivar in fruit quality so prime quality varieties are therefore propagated by grafting to rootstocks. After about a year of growing in the greenhouse, the young rootstocks are ready to be grafted. The best time to plant avocado trees is in spring or in autumn. Prepare the ground two months before planting by adding compost and well-rotted manure to avoid the delicate roots being burned.

Harvest the fruits when their skin will begin to dull. A good indicator to know that your fruits are ready is when the first fruits start to fall to the ground. It will be fully ripe two weeks later. You can harvest the other fruits progressively, as you need them.

Avocado
was last modified: November 25th, 2015 by gardening

Gardening with Herbs

Herbs come in all shapes, sizes, colors and flavors. They include plants that vary in form from creeping plants and spreading shrubs to climbing vines and towering trees. And after playing all these roles in the garden, they are very useful plants too. They are used in the kitchen, crafts room, spa and also having a long history of medicinal use. Herbs plants are useful from top to bottom. The leafy green parts of most species are used for preparing food or making tea, other produce edible flowers too. Stems of some herbs are also used, useful as grilling sticks and some herbs are grown for their flavorful roots.

Herbs are also very easy to grow plants. It doesn’t matter what climate you live in, there will always be a wide range of species and varieties that will find place in your garden, complement the landscape growing in pots and containers or adding edible beauty to your space, outdoor or indoor. Plants are categorizes by their life cycle in three categories: annuals, biennials and perennials, and herbs fill all these three categories. You will see that no matter what type of plants you want, you will always find herbs that will suit your search.

Gardening with Herbs
was last modified: November 25th, 2015 by gardening

Scales

You can always know how much of an ingredient you have bought, but when you pick it from your own garden is not always easy to estimate the quantity, so a scale is needed. A kitchen scale is good for small quantities, or you can measure them in small amounts.

If a really large quantity is need to be measured, than you can use your bathroom scale. Put the pan or any other large container on the scale, reset the scale to zero and then add the ingredients that need to be measured. Alternatively you can note the weight of the empty pan or container, add the ingredients and deduct the pan’s or container’s weight from the total.

Scales
was last modified: November 25th, 2015 by gardening

Pans

It should be made of a non-reactive material, such as stainless steel, or have a non-stick or enamel lining. Unlined copper or brass pans, or anything made of aluminium, should not be used as they will interact with your produces.

The preserving pan should be heavy and have a thick, flat bottom, so that heat is conducted evenly through the mixture in the pan and the mixture do not catch and burn.

When choosing a pan for preserving, if possible, choose one with sides that slope outwards. This will provide a larger surface area that will allow a rapid evaporation of surplus liquid and steam. For small quantities of sauce or syrup you can choose a large, non-stick frying pan or a non-reactive saucepan.

Always check for the pan inner surface to be intact, free of blemishes, pitting or any damage.

For easy handle and lifting make sure you use a pan with two handles opposite each other. This way you can safely move it from the stove to a working area.

When cooking sweetened mixtures, always make sure that the pan is not more than half full, as they can spit and splutter while boiling.

Pans
was last modified: May 23rd, 2013 by gardening

Herbs that attract wildlife

If you already have some herbs in your garden and want to add some more to attract wildlife, here is a combination of herbs for each type of winged wildlife that you might determine to visit your place.

Bees are a sign of a healthy garden, so seeing them buzzing busily from flower to flower in your garden is a good sign. They gather nectar for their honey and the same time they spread pollen and pollinate our garden plants. The herbs that bees love most include borage, chamomile, germander, hyssop, lavender, basil, lemon balm, bee balm, anise hyssop, mints, sage, savory, rosemary and thyme. They prefer flowers from sunny locations. Also they will navigate easier on single flowers as double-flower plants are harder to sip from.

Butterflies are colorful, ephemeral and joyful creatures and they are always a welcoming presence in our gardens. These delicate creatures are attracted by a variety of flowering annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees. They like to sip the nectar from herbs like mint, catmint, marjoram, chives and thyme. As you can see, butterflies and herbs prefer the same conditions. Sunny spots in places without too much wind are their favorite places.

If you want to have butterflies in your herb garden you will have to consider their whole life cycle. Butterflies life start as a larva – a caterpillar, so you must accept them in your garden if you want to enjoy the following butterflies. Learn to identify them before you destroy any caterpillars.

In warmer areas you will be able to see hummingbirds in your garden. They dine on the nectar of many flowering herbs. Their long beaks are best suited for tubular-shaped flowers like the ones of pineapple sage, mint, hyssop, lavender and bee balm. They also prefer the red color, so try to offer them red-blooming varieties of bee balm and pineapple sage. There are also some other herbs that will attract hummingbirds to your garden: anise hyssop, catnip, comfrey and rosemary.

Herbs that attract wildlife
was last modified: November 25th, 2015 by gardening

Edible Flowers

Artichoke flower buds, Broccoli and Cauliflower flower buds, Zucchini blossoms are used cooked.

Caper flower buds are preserved salted or pickled.

Chamomile, Bergamot and Jasmine are used for tea.

Chives flowers or buds are used fresh in salads.

Borage flowers, Chrysanthemum flower, Citrus blossoms, Clover (Trifolium), Daisies (Bellis perennis quills), Honeysuckle and Lilac are used as garnish.

Dandelions leaves are used for salads, roots are roasted and grind and use as a coffee substitute, flowers are used to make jelly, petals are used as garnish, and buds are pickled.

Daylilies (Hemerocallis) buds, flowers, petals are used as garnish.

Elderflower blossoms are used for drinks, making syrup or some sort of champagne.

Hibiscus flowers are used for tea or as garnish.

Lavender flowers are used as garnish or for flavoring tea and pastry.

Nasturtium blossoms are used as garnish and seedpods are pickled as caper.

Marigolds petals with white heel removed are used as garnish.

Roses petals with white heel removed are used in tea or to make jelly, rose hips are use for syrup, tea or to make jelly.

Rocket flowers are also used in salads.

Sunflowers buds are cooked like artichoke, petals are used as garnish and seeds are eaten row or salted.

Violet leaf and flowers are used in salads, candied flowers are used for pastry decoration and for making jelly and syrup.

Zucchini flowers can be fried, stuffed, or used in salads.

Edible Flowers
was last modified: November 25th, 2015 by gardening

Onions

Bulb-onions are cool-season, frost-tolerant crop, growing best at 13-24 Celsius degrees (55-75 F). They grow well in an open site, in fertile, light and well-drained soil. Prepare the planting area in autumn by digging in a lot of well-rotted manure.

Usually the onions are grown from sets, but they can also be grown from seeds. Growing them from seeds is cheaper but slower to develop. Sets are easier to grow but you might find only certain cultivars. Either way, bulb onions require a long growing period, especially if they are grown for storage.

Sets are usually planted in early spring, at the same distances as you would keep the seedlings after thinning. Plant them in shallow furrows so that the tips protrude just above the soil. There are also autumn planting sets available.

Sow the onions in spring, when the soil is workable. Choose a firm seedbed, sow seeds very thinly 1 cm deep, in rows of 23-30 cm apart. Thin out the seedlings in stages and use them in the kitchen. For medium size onions keep a distance between them of about 4 cm and for larger onions thin seedlings to 5-10 cm apart. In colder area you can start seeds under cover starting from late winter to early spring. Sow them in seed trays or modules at 10-15 Celsius degrees (50-59 F) and harden them off when the seedlings are at the two-leaf stage and then plant them out. Also there are some cultivars that may be sown in summer or autumn to overwinter for earlier crops the next year.

 onion_seeds

Keep their beds weed-free. Having fairly shallow-roots they only need little water once established, but they will need some watering in very dry conditions.

Spring-sown bulb onions will need 12-18 weeks to mature and summer-sown onions up to 42 weeks. Consume them as needed to use fresh. For storage you should wait until the leaves have died back naturally and then uproot all the onions. Leave them in the sun to dry for about 10 days or if the weather is wet, hung them in nets to allow maximum ventilation and place them in a greenhouse. Before putting them to storage, make sure the outer skin and leaves are completely dry. Keep them at 0-7 Celsius degrees (32-45 F) and in low humidity. Never store bull-necked onions, they are the ones that need to be consumed first.

Onions
was last modified: November 26th, 2015 by gardening