Thursday, September 24, 2015

Three Plants in the Brassica Family

Brassica is only a fancy name for cauliflowers, cabbage, broccoli, and many other similar cold weather plants.  The vegetables in the Brassica family are also referred to as "crucifers" or cruciferous vegetables.  The cruciferous vegetables do best when the day time temperature stays around 75 degrees F.

Here at the Back Forty Garden, we buy the seedlings:  it is more convenient for us, keeping in mind that we have a rather small home garden.  These cold weather plants may also be planted from seeds, of course.

The germination time is about 10 days for the three plants that I have selected.  The cauliflowers will mature in 120 - 150 days; 75 - 120 days for cabbage; and 100 -130 days for broccoli.

In preparation for these cold weather vegetables, my husband mowed down the field peas after picking them.  I turned the soil and removed the largest roots.  (The field pea cover crop did a good job of keeping the garden relatively free of weeds.)  I added many shovelfuls of mulch from the compost pile and worked into the soil.

All of the cruciferous vegetables need full sunshine and plenty of room to spread their leaves, grow, and develop.  I put about a foot and a half between the plants and dug holes that I added garden fertilizer and Ironite.  I mixed it around in the hole before I planted the seedlings.

Of the three cruciferous vegetables, the cauliflower requires most attention.  It is so exciting to see the snowy curds deep within the plants.  Although the cauliflower need full sunshine, it is important to provide the curds with shade when fully exposed to the sun.  I simply drape the curd with one of the plants' own leaves.  This keeps the vegetable from losing its color and flavor.

The broccoli and the cauliflower freeze well when cut into bite size pieces, blanched, cooled quickly, and bagged.  I use the cabbage as needed from the garden and it always fun to make slaw and saurkraut.

Don't forget that the earth would want to feel your bare feet;
the wind would like to play in your hair;
and the sun would like to kiss you ever so gently.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Sustainable Gardening

I believe that every gardener is using sound ecological and organical practices that cause little or no harm to the environment. The gardener improves the environment beginning with his or her garden plot no matter how small or large.  There seems to be no specific way to define "sustainable gardening."  One could say that it is a way of life.

There are a few things that a sustainable gardener does to improve the soil.  One of the most important practices is to create and use compost made from garden, yard, and kitchen waste.  I have a designated area for my compost pile sectioned off by logs from trees that had to be taken down.  A fancy bin or barrel is not necessary nor is boards or plywood that is only an added expense.

At the Back Forty Garden, we seldom use pesticides or herbicides for our lawn/grass so we cause no harm to drainage and water sheds by collecting the grass in bags and empty them into the compost pile. This grass is also used as mulch.  I am surprised that animal and birds have left my pile alone.

Another important sustainable practice is to rotate the crop.  We avoid planting the same type of vegetables in the same areas year after year.  Some crop such as potatoes, tomatoes, and corn has a tendency to deplete the soil and need to be replenished by compost.  Some of the insects and pests are creatures of habit and the rotation will confuse them.  They have to tackle new items on the same ground.

Water conservation is another method of carefully sustaining the garden and a way of life.  If I don't have enough mulch from the compost pile, I use the fresh grass collected in the lawn mower bags.  I simply put them close to either side of the vegetables to retain the water and keep the weeds down.

Having a garden, sustains our bodies and souls.  It provides us with exercise, fresh air, and healthy foods.  It keeps us from using our vehicles to travel to the grocery stores and buy vegetables and fruits shipped from faraway places and stored for a long time before shipping.  I supplement my vegetables by buying at the Farmers' Markets.

To enjoy gardening and reaping its benefits while improving the environment is a sustainable way of life.  We live it.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Planting Tomatoes for the Fall

There is a variety of hybrid and heirloom tomatoes available in nurseries and home improvement stores for planting in September for the fall/winter season.  Heirloom tomatoes are those that have been around for a long time, true and tried, and they have never been cross pollinated or otherwise modified to grow better and larger and at the same time resist diseases as have the hybrid tomatoes.

There are other terms that may be of interest when selecting tomatoes and the labels usually let you know if they are indeterminate or determinate.  Those tomato plants labeled as indeterminate will mature in no special order; meaning, some will mature one day and others the following week and continue to produce until frost.  Those tomato plants labeled as determinate mature pretty much at the same time which may be an advantage for a fall harvest.

During the Labor Day weekend, we prepared the soil where we had planted okra, unsuccessfully.  We turned the soil and removed the weeds.  This patch came out to be a 20 foot long row and about 3 feet wide.  Here at the Back Forty, we planted the following tomatoes:

Big Beef that should be ready in about 75 days with large and beefy fruit.  The "shoulder" color of the tomato is apple green prior to ripening and turning red. The Big Beef is the indeterminate kind ripening now and then and should be harvested before frost.

Big Boy takes about 80 days to mature and the fruit is large, red, and meaty.  It is high yielding and wilt resistant.  It is indeterminate.

Celebrity is one of my husband's favorite tomatos.  It should be ready for harvest in about 70 days and it is of the determinate kind, meaning that the tomatoes ripen all at the same time.  The Celebrity is a medium sized globe shaped fruit.

Roma is one of my favorite cooking tomato and it stores well.  It is compact and bright red. It is a determinate kind that will ripen about the same time.

Moby Grape is new to me.  It is a determinate tomato.  This is similar to cherry tomatoes.  It is recommended that they be eaten directly in the garden.  It is so safe and so good in our garden because we do not use pesticides or herbicides.

I plan to keep better track of the determinate and indeterminate tomato plants.  When the determinate plants are done, it is time to pull them out of the ground as far as I am concerned.  It is no need to keep them in the ground any longer than necessary.  It will only serve as a good feeding place for bugs and insects and the ever present aphids that will munch on the root system.

We have sometimes selected tomato plants that are tall and spindly but we plant them as deep as feasible.  If that is not possible, we grow the plants somewhat deep but horizontally.

Hurry and get your tomatoes planted for the fall.
Thank you for visiting my blog.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Never Forget 9/11

It was a beautiful morning with clear blue sky and a hint of autumn in the air.  
It was September 11.  

Never Forget.

Always Remember

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Three Root Vegetables

The holidays are behind us, the children are back in school, and the tourists have gone home, and it is time for me to get out, turn the soil in the garden, and plant some cold weather root vegetables.  Carrots, beets, and rutabaga are easy to grow and delicious and nourishing.

There are two different kinds of Carrots that we do like:  The long and slender Imperator and the short and stubby Danvers, both from Ferry-Morse.  The germination time is 8 - 12 days and about 75 days to harvest.  There are plenty of seeds in a package to cover a 10 foot row.  1/2 ounce of seeds will cover a 100 foot row.  The carrots need to be carefully thinned out when the tops reach about two inches.

Plant the seeds in separate beds and mark them well (in case of the planter's memory loss).  They prefer full sun, well-drained soil, deep enough to grow in, loamy and fertile.  Isn't that the kind of soil we all have?

This year, I am planting most of the vegetables in blocks as opposed to linear rows.  Since there are a lot of seeds in the packages, I am also going to stagger the planting schedule keeping in mind that we are able to gardening year round in northern Florida.   Seed companies suggest to stop planting about 75 days before frost.  In my case, it's before the heat sets in.

Another interesting root vegetable is the old-time heirloom Rutabaga  with purple shouldered tops and I was delighted to find that it has yellow flesh.  It is also a cold weather root and light frost may even improve its taste.  It stores very well. As you may have seen in stores, it has been waxed where the tops have been cut.

The germination time is 3 - 10 days and the harvest time is in 90 days.  It is recommended that two (2) seeds be planted every two inches and when the seedlings measure about two inches, it's time to thin the plants and leave one plant every two inches.

The third important cold weather root is the Beet called Ruby Queen to brighten the fall/winter garden.  Like most vegetables, it prefers full sun and well-drained soil.  Ferry-Morse suggests that the seeds be scattered but I prefer to plant the seeds in a row and not to crowd them too much but to give them plenty of room to grow.

The seeds germinate in 10 - 12 days and the beets are ready to harvest after 55 days.  Thin the plants to about two inches apart when the seedlings reach two inches tall.  If you like, add a very small amount of Nitrate of Soda when the plants are 4 to 6 inches tall.

I have gleaned information from Ferry-Morse and Wyatt-Quarles Seed Companies as well as information from the local Standard Feed Company, plus my own trials and errors.  Dr. Earth maintains that "gardening is based on science not magic."  See, I need all the help I can get from different sources.

I am sure that the seeds are sowed under the best conditions at the seed companies and the days to germination and harvest are approximate.

Special thanks to my dear husband for so many years of gardening with me.

Thank you for visiting my blog where cookies are used.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

A Summer Salad

This Summer Salad is quick and easy to make with few ingredients and perfect to take along for a Labor Day picnic.  It's a basic Peach and Tomato Salad.  Peaches and tomatoes do present an unusual combination but they are surprisingly tasty mixed together.

Fresh summer peaches are still available at grocery stores and Farmers Markets.  At my last visit to the market, I picked up juicy freestone peaches, plump tomatoes, and firm cucumbers.

To make the salad, I washed and cut two tomatoes and two peaches into wedges which came out to be equal parts of each fruit.

To add a third ingredient and a little bit of greenery, I peeled and seeded a cucumber and cut it up into half moons and added them into the fruity mix.

If European or Canadian cucumbers are used, leave the skin and seeds--just cut 'em any way you want.

For a dressing, I mixed oil and vinegar together and added a little sugar, salt, and pepper to taste.

Have a Great Labor Day!
Thank you for visiting my blog.