photo credit: Dario Sabio
You plant a grapevine, keep it watered, and it gives you juicy, crisp, sweet, pop-in-your-mouth grapes... so isn't that all there is to it?
You can leave it at that, but you'll have more grapes and less disease problems if you prune it right- which can mean removing up to 80% of the plant!
Pruning helps the vine get the light it needs, better airflow (which reduces disease), increases production, and gives you a better-looking plant. See the video below to watch how to prune properly.
For those of you who like to see the science and details behind it, check out this very good slide show
about it. This one is targeted at commercial grape growers, but includes a lot of practical information for the average gardener.
Or read this short pruning summary
- less than 2 minutes to read- including categories of grapes. I discovered from this one that my Niagara grapevine, being less vigorous than many, should have 3 buds left on each spur (stub left on the main vine), rather than the 2 shown in the video below.
If you'd like to learn about all kinds of pruning for fruiting vines, shrubs, and trees, try the USU Extension Pruning handbook
. I have a hard copy of this same handout from when I took the Master Gardener course in about 1999. I pull the booklet out almost every year and learn more each time. The more I've pruned, the more I understand all of it...
Yeah, it's a motley assortment on today's post...
I get a monthly newsletter from the Utah State University Extension; I'm passing onto you a couple good resources they listed. One is a short article, “So You Want to Raise Honeybees?”
. It lists some things you may or may not know, but need to, before deciding if getting a hive is a good idea for your situation.
Another recent article is "Care and Feeding of Indoor Plants"
It's a real pity I didn't read this years ago; during at least the first decade out on my own, I killed every houseplant that had the misfortune of being in my house. There was only one exception; a ficus tree that came with my husband when we were first married. I figured that was because he got it established; he'd had it for five years already before our wedding. (Almost 18 years later, that same tree is in the corner of our dining room!)
And I can now keep a plant alive, proving I remember to water it. (But not too often- apparently I drowned the first several plants.)
What can you do in the garden now? As soon as any snow is off the ground, it's a good time to:
-prune most trees
, particularly fruit trees- you're aiming to do this after the worst of the cold is over, but before leaves come out. There is a previous post
with some excellent videos on how to prune
that bloom in the summer, like roses. They tend to be healthiest when pruned by about 1/3 each year
, though you can cut them nearly to the ground if you have to. That's a great way to get a wild bush back under control. (This trick works with overgrown lilacs, too.)
-clean and sharpen
your garden tools and mower blade
-trim and rake
out any dead annuals left over in the garden from last year.
to beds and around trees. This will help moisture stay in the ground longer, getting plants off to a healthier start.
-plan your garden
, if you haven't already. Find a garden spot that will get at least 6-8 hours of sunlight a day. Most stores have all their seed packets available by now, and remember you may already have seeds in your kitchen. Don't start seedlings indoors, though, until about six weeks before they can go outdoors.
, if you like. They take about two months to produce pods, and are hardy enough to plant right now. They'll do best in a sunny place that has some sort of shade around the roots; they stop producing if the plant gets too hot.
hardy herbs and bareroot raspberry and strawberry plants (if you're local and want any, email me!)
Related posts:How to Prune and Fertilize Fruit Trees, Shrubs, and Landscape Trees
Starting on Your Spring Garden
Start Thinking GARDEN (what seeds you may already have, how long they'll keep, when you can till, and more)
Ah, harvest time!
Our gardening days this season are numbered: according to the data at the KSL weather center, the average first frost of the fall in Riverton (they don't list South Jordan) is September 24, and the latest first frost was October 4th. So enjoy that produce while it lasts!
That first one is not necessarily a killing frost. Even if it is, there are at least two simple ways to protect your plants: cover them with a sheet, blanket, or tablecloth; or turn your sprinklers on the garden overnight. That will form a layer of ice that protects the plants from dropping below 32 degrees. The plants won't die at the freezing point. How do you know if it will freeze at your house? The rule of thumb I use is: check the temperature outside at 10pm; it will drop about ten degrees more overnight.
So- if it's 42-44 degrees at 10pm, plan on protecting any plants you want to keep growing.
Things you can do in the garden right now, besides keeping up with the tomatoes and zucchini (!):
-trim asparagus plants to the ground
-put mulch around your rhubarb (it'll come up a little earlier that way)
and don't prune or fertilize bushes or trees right now; doing that now sends the plants a message to grow new branches. Those new ones will not be tough before winter, leading to extra winter damage.
One of the goals last year was to learn what "volunteer" foods there were in my yard, and learn to use them. Most people call these foods 'weeds', but that's just because they normally don't get used. The definition of a weed is just a plant in the wrong place
One unexpected side effect of this project was that I do a little less weeding, and a little more harvesting! Below are some of the 'free food' plants in my yard.
Should you want to try this at home, here are a few common-sense guidelines:
1) Eat it only after you're SURE what it is and if it's edible. Look at different photos of the plant, or have someone who knows come check it with you. I prefer to identify it from two sources, to be sure.
2) Eat only the parts you know are edible. Just because the leaves are edible doesn't mean the seeds are. Remember the potato plant: the tubers (roots) are great, but the tops are poisonous.
3) Try a little bit first, wait a while to see if you react to it. Even if it's edible, you could be allergic to it.
4) Notice where it's growing, think about if that's a problem. Plants growing alongside busy roads will most likely have picked up extra chemicals, externally as well as internally.
With all that out of the way, for additional information on the plants, try the database at Plants For A Future
and the identification handbook Common Plants of the Yard and Garden. My new favorite book is Wild Edible Plants; From Dirt to Plate, where the author, John Kallas, not only tells you what is edible, but how to prepare it.
Lambsquarter, Wild Spinach
Chenopodium album L
EXCELLENT green, fresh or cooked. I like it much better than, and have stopped planting, spinach. It belongs to the same plant family as quinoa. The leaves are a little thicker, like spinach, and have a slightly lemony/sour flavor. They don't have the tiny crystalline structure that spinach has that leaves your teeth feeling gritty. Most tender and flavorful when young.
Lactuca serriola L
Both this and Sow Thistle are good if picked really young. I've eaten them in salads. Older ones are more bitter and -surprise!- prickly.
An interesting feature of this plant is the tiny, Velcro-like hooks all over it. Because of these, the plant feels sticky. You DON'T want to chew this up fresh; it'll stick in your throat. It is supposed to be a very 'cleansing' plant; I make a sort of homemade liquid chlorophyll with it. I grab enough to pack into a tight softball-sized wad, then put it in the blender with about three cups of water. Blend until well pureed, then strain through cheesecloth or a doubled-up dishtowel. An ounce or two a day is plenty, unless you want cleaned out in a hurry!
(L.)My daughters love to nibble on the heart-shaped seed pods. Leaves are good raw or cooked, but definitely best before the plant starts to get tall. That's all I've done with the plant, though Plants For A Future lists a lot more possibilities.
Oh, you knew this one would show up on my list, right? Is there a more common yard weed?
I've NEVER thought they tasted good! Apparently that's because I've been eating them plain; the old-timers who used these as an actual vegetable dish say to sauté them with onion and bacon for best results. Leaves that have been well-watered and partly shaded seem to be the least bitter.
Common Mallow, "Cheeseweed", "Cheeseplant"
Scientific names can be hilarious! Take this one, for instance, or Tribulus terrestris(puncture vine). Anyway, I digress...
My children like the “cheesies” (round, button-shaped seeds) so much that one son transplanted some INTO his garden. All parts of this plant are edible- root, stems, leaves, and fruits (cheesies). They are pleasantly flavored, and can be used like okra to thicken things. The section on mallow, alone, in John Kallas' Wild Edible Plants is worth the price of the book!
Redstem Filaree, Storksbill, Cranesbill
A couple of the common names refer to the beak-like shape of the seed pods. This is a fairly flat-growing plant, unless there are plants close by to support it. It grows in a rosette, radiating out from the center. If you rub the plant, it smells a little like parsley. It also tastes a little like parsley. :-) I love it in salads.
Catmint/catnip, to help your get more produce from your garden..... read on!
Photo credit: Jennifer Benner
What can I say? --it’s been a strange year for gardening. My garden has not been completely planted yet, and a lot of what was put in, didn’t make it. We had enough rain and snow in May to hit half our precipitation average for the year. Beans and corn were planted three weeks ago; the corn came up in crooked rows (I think they got washed out a little bit), and only two of the bean plants have made an appearance. I may have to replant. The volunteer tomatoes are finally up; they were this size a month earlier last year. But they are up. That’s good. The plants that are doing well are the ones that were established before all the wet weather hit. Onions and celery overwintered, and the volunteer lettuce came up in March or April. If you’re still putting plants- or seeds- in the ground, consider companion planting. The concept is that one plant can help another. Garlic and onions tend to keep insect pests away from anything real close, and flowering plants attract pollinators. Find something that the bees like, plant it close to your vegetables or fruits, and see your production go up. The plant in my yard that always has the most bees around it is catmint (nepeta). I've been growing Walker's Low (which is named after a location, not how short the plant is- it's about 2 feet tall.) It looks similar to lavender, blooms longer, and can tolerate colder temperatures- down through USDA Zone 3. See it at http://www.finegardening.com/plantguide/nepeta-x-faassenii-walkers-... And here's a great find; a video series called "Home Grown/Home Made", produced by Fine Gardening magazine. The description is "Welcome to Homegrown/Homemade, a video series from FineGardening.com and our sister site FineCooking.com. We're following a gardener (Danielle Sherry) and a cook (Sarah Breckenridge) as they plant, maintain, harvest, store, and prepare garden vegetables". They include tomatoes, basil, squash, carrots, blueberries, potatoes, arugula, and peas. Check it out, and see what you think!
Both the red-twig dogwood, left, and pine tree, right, will benefit from pruning. There's also a rosebush behind the pine tree that needs it.
Why should you prune and fertilize?
Fertilizing right makes a huge difference in how quickly your trees grow, and how healthy they are.
Pruning also helps their health; you cut out anything broken or diseased, remove branches that rub (these would open them to more disease and breakage), helps make for strong trees (by selecting and balancing good branches with strong angles), and opens the tree up to allow more light onto the leaves and fruit/flowers, making it more productive. Some shrubs give more blossoms and better stem color (like the red-twig dogwood, above) when pruned.
Most trees handle pruning best while dormant, so right now is perfect. Fertilizing fruit trees and other fruit-bearing shrubs is best done before you see the flowers. You can still do it after, but the resulting fruit will be softer and bruise more easily. Now is a great time for this, too.
These great videos and links are from the USU Extension site. Right now is a perfect time to prune. So if you have been wondering how to really prune a fruit tree, this video's for you! § Step By Step Orchard Pruning (video) - techniques demonstrated by Matt PalmerHere is info on pruning other things:§ Pruning Landscape Trees§ 5 Minute Pruning Shrubs (video) How to Prune A Rose Bush (video) If you don't know how to choose a fertilizer, see Selecting and Using Inorganic FertilizersTo fertilize a fruit tree the simplest way, measure the width (diameter) of the trunk. You need 2-4 ounces of actual nitrogen per inch of diameter. If you have a new tree, 1" diameter trunk, let's say you'll need 2 ounces. If you have a bag of fertilizer that says 33-0-0, that means it is 33% nitrogen by weight. To get 2 ounces of nitrogen, you'll need 6 ounces of this particular fertilizer . If you have a bag of 10-10-10, you'll need 20 ounces of that one. (see the fertilizer link above.) If you already know this and want to know more, there are more details here, Fertilizing Fruit Trees. --Rhondahttp://www.theprovidenthomemaker.com
Oregano volunteer between flagstones. The garden started itself, hooray! This one needs moved since it gets tall.
Are you itching to grow a garden this year? Whether you're planning big, or starting small, here's some great information. When you buy seeds, keep any you don't use. They will be good next year if you take good care of them- cool, dry, and dark. They will last at least a few years if you store them properly. I usually get a good four or five years out of my packets. After that, not as many of the seeds germinate. Edibles look good in your flower beds! Planting a few of those in existing beds is an easy way to get started.
For more information, click on this link,Gardening 101:
-choosing a garden spot
-preparing your soil
-saving seeds you grow
-when to plant them
-an area-specific freeze chart for SLC, Utah (USDA Zone 5)
See Gardening On A Dime for some cheap ways to help you garden.
To get a chart showing what you can do each month in your garden, see Glover Nursery's excellent month-by-month planting guide.
Flour Tortillas- makes 12
3 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
about 1 cup warm water
The simple instructions: mix dry ingredients, add water and knead til smooth. Form 12 balls, let rest covered, flatten with hands, roll thin, and cook in a hot pan, flipping once. Cover with a kitchen towel.
If you want more details: Stir together flour, baking powder, and salt. Gradually stir in the water, then mix with your hands until it holds together. If it's very tough, add another teaspoon or two of water. If too sticky, add a little flour. Knead until smooth. Divide into 12 balls. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp cloth and let rest 10-15 minutes to let the gluten relax. Flatten a ball with your hands until it's about 4 inches across, then roll with a rolling pin, working from center out, until very thin and about 9 inches across. It helps to use very little flour on the counter and a little more on the top of the tortilla so the rolling pin doesn't stick. Cook over med-hi heat in an ungreased skillet. When top is covered in blisters, flip it over and cook until the other side bubbles up too. The blisters should be golden brown. Each side should take a minute or less. When each tortilla is done, put it in a plastic bag or on a plate; cover with a towel to keep them warm and moist.
If you're saving them for the next day, they stay soft but not soggy in a plastic bag with a paper napkin inside to absorb the excess moisture.
To make tortilla chips, cut into triangles and deep fry, or spray with Pam and bake at 375 degrees for about 7-10 minutes, until crisp.
Make tortilla bowls by either baking or frying, too. Baking- drape over an upside-down ovensafe bowl, spray or brush lightly with oil, bake until golden. Frying- make a few holes around the bottom of an empty 10-oz soup can, heat oil 2" deep to 375 degrees, put a tortilla on the hot oil, and immediately press down on it with the soup can. Cook about 30 seconds or until crisp. Lift out, draining off extra oil. Set on paper towels.
Simple Gluten-Free Tortillas-makes 8
2 cups oat flour (I use whole oat grouts, and grind them into flour with my wheat mill. You can also use rolled oats and grind them in a blender)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2-3/4 cup warm water (using warm or hot water allows the oats to act 'glutinous', no xantham gum needed.)
Mix dry ingredients. Add water slowly and mix evenly with a fork til moistened. Gather dough into a ball, adding more water if needed. For pliable tortillas, I've found it's important for the balls to be moist(not sticky once kneaded, though). Knead well. Split into 8 sections, then form balls with each section. Cover for 10 min. You may want to cover with moist towel to keep them moist.
Shape into tortillas 7 - 8 inches diameter. Cook on hot griddle or medium-high heat frying pan(heat these first), for 1 -2 min per side. Stack on plate and cover with a dish towel. Serve warm. These will toughen quickly when reheated.
The basic recipe can also be rolled out and baked for crackers. For more details on that, go to http://wheatdairyeggnutfree.blogspot.com/search/label/Tortillas%20and%20Crackers
Little purple pansies...
Did you know that both the flowers and leaves are edible? They're nice in a salad.
Hey, it’s that time again- the snow has melted, the soil is drying, and some things can be planted! Depending on where in the yard your garden is, it may be dry enough to till, at least as soon as yesterday's rain dries up. A way to tell is- walk on it or stick a shovel in it. If big chunks stick to your shoe or shovel, it’s not ready. If you tilled now you’d compact the soil and have big hard lumps all over. My garden area used to be a sandbox, so it has good drainage-- yes, I had to add a bunch of good stuff to it!--, and it was absolutely beautiful tilling condition this week, at least until it rained. Early season crops that can be planted outdoors now include potatoes, peas, lettuce, spinach, broccoli, cabbage, kale, radishes, onions, asparagus, and rhubarb. Most of the nurseries, both big-box and local- now have seed potatoes, asparagus, rhubarb, onion sets, and bare-root berries (strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries) and fruit trees waiting for you. For a GREAT information sheet you can print out, listing when to plant different seeds here on the Wasatch Front (USDA Zone 5), go to http://extension.usu.edu/files/publications/publication/Horticulture_Garden_2009-01pr.pdf If you live elsewhere, look up your state's extension office- they'll likely have a list for your area. For a list of what you can plant without having to go buy seeds, see my blog post, More Seeds From Your Kitchen.
Next week I’ll send “Gardening 101”, info on finding a good spot for your garden, how to prepare the soil, and when to plant what.
After the recipes is a condensed version of an essay, "The Proper Role of Government", that President Benson wrote while an apostle. It is classic, timely, and every American, LDS or not, would be better off reading it. Please look it over. I know the principles in it are true.
Honey Butter (simplest version)
8 oz. (2 sticks) butter, softened
8 oz. (3/4 c.) honey, room temperature
A tiny bit of salt and vanilla is good, too. Stir or whip until all smooth. Whipping it will give you a fluffier texture. Refrigerate.
This kind sometimes separates. Just stir it again to recombine. Or to keep it from separating, add either ½ c. powdered sugar or one egg yolk. The Lion House recipe calls for the egg yolk. It makes it silky-smooth, too. Make sure to use an egg with no cracks, then wash and dry it well before using in the recipe. Then using it raw will be safe.
Canadian White Honey
3 lbs (1 qt.) honey warmed just till softened
2 (7-oz.) jars marshmallow cream
1 cube softened butter or margarine
Combine all and whip until blended. Makes about 2 quarts.
To make true creamed honey, (which is EASY, just takes time for it to sit) see the page at http://www.betterbee.com/resources/creamedhoney.html
The Proper Role of Government
by The Honorable Ezra Taft Benson (excerpts)
Former Secretary of Agriculture to President Eisenhower
Published in 1968
see full text at http://www.bigeye.com/The_Proper_Role_of_Government.htm
THE MOST IMPORTANT FUNCTION OF GOVERNMENT It is generally agreed that the most important single function of government is to secure the rights and freedoms of individual citizens. But, what are those rights? And what is their source? Until these questions are answered there is little likelihood that we can correctly determine how government can best secure them. Thomas Paine, back in the days of the American Revolution, explained that:
"Rights are not gifts from one man to another, nor from one class of men to another… It is impossible to discover any origin of rights otherwise than in the origin of man." (P.P.N.S., p. 134)
Starting at the foundation of the pyramid, let us first consider the origin of those freedoms we have come to know are human rights. There are only two possible sources. Rights are either God-given as part of the Divine Plan, or they are granted by government as part of the political plan. Reason, necessity, tradition and religious convictions all lead me to accept the divine origin of these rights. If we accept the premise that human rights are granted by government, then we must be willing to accept the corollary that they can be denied by government. I, for one, shall never accept that premise. As the French political economist, Frederick Bastiat, phrased it so succinctly, "Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place." (The Law, p.6)
A FORMULA FOR PROSPERITY
1. Economic security for all is impossible without widespread abundance.
2. Abundance is impossible without industrious and efficient production.
3. Such production is impossible without energetic, willing and eager labor.
4. This is not possible without incentive.
5. Of all forms of incentive – the freedom to attain a reward for one’s labors is the most sustaining for most people. Sometimes called THE PROFIT MOTIVE, it is simply the right to plan and to earn and to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
6. This profit motive DIMINISHES as government controls, regulations and taxes INCREASE to deny the fruits of success to those who produce.
7. Therefore, any attempt THROUGH GOVERNMENTAL INTERVENTION to redistribute the material rewards of labor can only result in the eventual destruction of the productive base of society, without which real abundance and security for more than the ruling elite is quite impossible.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE NEEDY? On the surface this may sound heartless and insensitive to the needs of those less fortunate individuals who are found in any society, no matter how affluent. "What about the lame, the sick and the destitute? Is an often-voice question. Most other countries in the world have attempted to use the power of government to meet this need. Yet, in every case, the improvement has been marginal at best and has resulted in the long run creating more misery, more poverty, and certainly less freedom than when government first stepped in.
THE BETTER WAY By comparison, America traditionally has followed Jefferson’s advice of relying on individual action and charity. The result is that the United States has fewer cases of genuine hardship per capita than any other country in the entire world or throughout all history. Even during the depression of the 1930’s, Americans ate and lived better than most people in other countries do today.
FIFTEEN PRINCIPLES WHICH MAKE FOR GOOD AND PROPER GOVERNMENT
(1) I believe that no people can maintain freedom unless their political institutions are founded upon faith in God and belief in the existence of moral law.
(2) I believe that God has endowed men with certain unalienable rights as set forth in the Declaration of Independence and that no legislature and no majority, however great, may morally limit or destroy these; that the sole function of government is to protect life, liberty, and property and anything more than this is usurpation and oppression.
(3) I believe that the Constitution of the United States was prepared and adopted by men acting under inspiration from Almighty God; that it is a solemn compact between the peoples of the States of this nation which all officers of government are under duty to obey; that the eternal moral laws expressed therein must be adhered to or individual liberty will perish.
(4) I believe it a violation of the Constitution for government to deprive the individual of either life, liberty, or property except for these purposes:
(a) Punish crime and provide for the administration of justice;
(b) Protect the right and control of private property;
(c) Wage defensive war and provide for the nation’s defense;
(d) Compel each one who enjoys the protection of government to bear his fair share of the burden of performing the above functions.
(5) I hold that the Constitution denies government the power to take from the individual either his life, liberty, or property except in accordance with moral law; that the same moral law which governs the actions of men when acting alone is also applicable when they act in concert with others; that no citizen or group of citizens has any right to direct their agent, the government to perform any act which would be evil or offensive to the conscience if that citizen were performing the act himself outside the framework of government.
(6) I am hereby resolved that under no circumstances shall the freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights be infringed. In particular I am opposed to any attempt on the part of the Federal Government to deny the people their right to bear arms, to worship and pray when and where they choose, or to own and control private property.
(7) I consider ourselves at war with international Communism which is committed to the destruction of our government, our right of property, and our freedom; that it is treason as defined by the Constitution to give aid and comfort to this implacable enemy.
(8) I am unalterably opposed to Socialism, either in whole or in part, and regard it as an unconstitutional usurpation of power and a denial of the right of private property for government to own or operate the means of producing and distributing goods and services in competition with private enterprise, or to regiment owners in the legitimate use of private property.
(9) I maintain that every person who enjoys the protection of his life, liberty, and property should bear his fair share of the cost of government in providing that protection; that the elementary principles of justice set forth in the Constitution demand that all taxes imposed be uniform and that each person’s property or income be taxed at the same rate.
For the other principles see http://www.bigeye.com/The_Proper_Role_of_Government.htm
Ezra Taft Benson
It felt like spring today! I love the warmth of the sunshine, the smell of the moist dirt, the sight of daffodils and tulips popping out of the earth, the plump firmness of leaf buds swelling. If you’re thinking about gardening this year, the stores (and catalogs!) have the seeds and bareroot plants you may want. For instance, this week’s CAL-Ranch ad features packets of seeds 10/$1. (No, that wasn’t a typo.) They also have onion sets, a bag of 100, for $1.99. (Onion sets are baby onions, you plant them to harvest onion bulbs this year. You could plant onion seed, but it’d likely be two years before bulb harvest.) Smith’s Marketplace had bareroot raspberries and blackberries a month ago, and have their roses and fruit trees now. I assume everyone else does, too. When you buy seeds, keep any you don't use. They will be good next year if you take good care of them- keep them cool. dry ,and dark. They will last at least a few years if you store them properly. I usually get a good four or five years out of my packets. After that, not as many of the seeds germinate. You can use seeds from your pantry, too: the dry beans you buy will grow in your garden. Other seeds you may have in your kitchen are flax, mustard seed, celery seed (this one is NOT celery plant, you grow this for the celery-flavored seeds), coriander seeds (the plant is cilantro, the seeds are harvested as ‘coriander’), fennel seeds, aniseed, raw unsalted sunflower seeds, popcorn, raw peanuts, other raw nuts (if you want a tree!)…. If you have any onions, potatoes, or garlic that are starting to sprout, plant them instead of throwing them away.Edibles look good in your flower beds! Planting a few of those in existing beds is an easy way to get started. Leave a few carrots or parsnips in the ground for year #2, or plant carrots from the grocery store. They'll send up beautiful, lacy white flowers in the summer. (I love them in flower arrangements.) And then the next year, you'll have volunteer carrots 'naturalized' into your flower bed! Onions and carrots have some of my favorite flowers.
Fresh herbs make nice companions in a flower bed, too. The foliage is great, and most have pretty flowers as well. My 'kitchen garden' is just off the front porch; hardly anybody even notices that it's food. It's only 6x22 but in the bed are LOTS of edibles. To get the whole mixed picture, here's what's in it: lots of spring bulbs (NOT edible), rock cress/aubrietta, pansies (edible leaves and flowers) a couple strawberry plants, a young crabapple tree, a really gorgeous yellow rose bush, garlic chives (white 'firework' flowers), chives (purple ball-shaped flowers), a trailing mini red rose, shasta daisies, lavender, catmint, oregano, parsley, lemon thyme, regular thyme, marjoram, purple-leaf sage, green-leaf sage, a few annuals, one ornamental grass (Miscanthus), sedum and aster for fall color. Even better, I can use the herbs in the dead of winter- I just plunge my hand down in the right place through the snow, and come up with a handful of parsley or thyme for the soup pot. Yummy.
Sunchokes (Jerusalem Artichokes) are beautiful, too; they look like small sunflowers. They're pretty pricy to mail-order the roots, though. I just bought a 1-lb bag from the grocery store, though, for $3. Much better. I also got my horseradish start from the grocery store, and I'm thinking of growing some ginger that way.
There’s quite a bit of gardening, or ’pre-gardening’, that can be done right now. For instance: -If you have fruit trees, now is the time to prune and fertilize them. -If you’re up for a bigger challenge, you can graft fruit trees right now. -You can till when your garden soil doesn’t stick to your shoes. (Another test is to make a ball of it; if it compacts densely, it’s too wet.) You COULD till it before that, but your garden will end up compacted and clumpy. Your plants would not appreciate it. There is a month-by-month gardening guide on our local Glover Nursery’s website. Here’s a piece of it:MARCH• Early March is a great time to plan your garden layout.• Make corrections and amendments to your garden if the soil has dried out enough.• Start eggplant, peppers and tomatoes INDOORS. (6-8 weeks before setting plants out)• Plant bare root raspberries and strawberries.• Plant kohlrabi, lettuce, parsnip, potatoes, rhubarb asparagus, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, parsley, swiss chard, spinach, turnips,onion, peas from mid-March until the first part of May.• Plant carrots, beets and endive from mid-March until mid-June.• Plant radishes from mid-March until September.• Use floating row cover to help warm the soil for faster plant growth.For info on how to start a garden, or improve the one you have, see Gardening 101 The how-to-start–it is the first page. The other pages have the chart for last average frost dates in Utah, links to good gardening websites, ideas for gardening cheaply, etc. Have fun!
photo courtesy of photos8.com
Does it always seem like too much of your budget goes to food? Do you wonder what amount of money is 'normal'? If so, go to the Official USDA Food Plans pdf.
This page will give you the 2010 averages, based on nutritionally balanced diets cooked at home. Now that you see how frugal you really are, here are some tips to help even more; pick just one or two to try so it's not overwhelming. Then all that's left is deciding how that new-found money is going to better use! Ways to eat well on less money
*Buy on sale and get extras so you never pay full price.
*Buy the fresh fruits/veggies that are $1/lb or less.
*Find ways to throw away less- only serve up what you will eat, save wilted veggies in the freezer for soup later, re-purpose leftovers.
*Use meat mostly as a flavoring (mixed in with other ingredients), not as its own dish.
*Buy meats that you can get for $2/lb or less, or whatever is bargain-price for your area.
*When you buy meat, get a bunch on sale, then cook it all at once. Package and freeze most of it for future, faster, meals.
*Buy flour, sugar in bulk, make more things from scratch.
*Keep your kitchen clean so you like being there! (You don't need to do it all yourself! Doing dishes 'all the time' causes depression for me- once I added that to my kids' job charts, I felt much better!)
*Grow a garden where you used to have some lawn- you get the same water bill, more food. Packets of seeds can last 4-5 years if kept cool and dark. Or split packets with a friend.
*Make your own bread instead of buying it.
How much can you save on bread? Cost varies by recipe, but mine comes out to less than $ .50 per loaf ($. 42), including the electricity for baking, for top-quality whole-wheat bread. (Well, frankly, the quality varies by week....) If you eat two loaves a week, that saves you $200/year when compared to $2.50/loaf of bread. We go through 6 loaves a week, so we’re saving over $600 per year. Yes, a stand mixer and grain mill definitely pay for themselves! For the recipe I use, see Basic Bread
on my website.
Yesterday the Teachers' Quorum (14-15 yr. old boys) came to my house for their weekly activity. They've been learning about nutrition and safe food handling, so they all pitched in and cooked a meal. Their handout included budget-friendly, adaptable, and fairly fast recipes; the kind that would be especially valuable when in college or on missions. For these recipes, click on Quick & Cheap Meals
. The boys did great with them, I think you'll like them, too.
Happy cooking and budgeting!