Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Growing Salad Greens from Seed

It is best to sow lettuce or spinach seeds thinly in rows spaced about 1 -1 ½ ft. apart or simply scatter the seeds in blocks. Cover lightly with soil, firm in place and water well. Keep the soil moist until germination. Once the plants have a grown their true leaves, you can begin to thin the plants to about 6" apart.

Start lettuce or spinach indoors or direct seeded in the garden as soon as the soil is workable.  Great for container gardens. 

Depending on the type of lettuce, harvest outer leaves only or cut down the whole head.

Spinach can be harvested in the cut and come again method of harvesting lettuce. Cut individual leaves, starting with the older, outer leaves, and letting the young inner leaves remain and continue growing for a later harvest. You can also cut down the whole plant, for a larger harvest.  

Tip: Soak seeds overnight in water before planting to ensure strong germination.

Plant seeds half an inch deep and 3 inches apart. Set out seedlings 8 inches apart. Indoors or out, thin newly germinated seedlings with cuticle scissors instead of pulling them out. Chard seed capsules often contain two or more seeds. If more than one germinates snip off all but the strongest sprout at the soil line. Gradually thin direct-sown seedlings to 8-12 inches apart.

Harvest individual leaves from the outer area but be sure to leave the crown intact.

Frequent picking helps to stimulate the production of new leaves. Rinse leaves with cool water immediately, shake off the excess moisture, and store in plastic bags in the refrigerator for up to four days.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Seedling Update

This month I was thrilled to find a solution (or so I thought) to my Garden Dilemma.  Here I am, almost 4 weeks later and the mini greenhouse was almost a complete disaster.  I won't say it was a failure because I learned a lesson.  I did not plant according to what would grow best in this container, I grew what I wanted to plant.  

Some of the seedlings required very little water and some regular watering.  Several of the seed varieties did very well (mainly flowers) and others sprouted and then died.

Sunday morning I sat out on the patio transplanting the seedlings that had not died into 3 inch peat pots.  Here's a tally...

Grew Well:
French Breakfast Radish
Dark Purple Opal Basil
Danver's Half-Long Carrots

Grew just Okay:
Extra Dwarf Pak Choy
Atomic Red Carrots
Bachelor Button

Grew but Died:
Fine Verde Basil
Little Gem Lettuce

Several of the previous patio seedlings have now been transplanted into the garden, making more room for the greenhouse survivors. Last week I transplanted the Long Island improved Brussels Sprouts, Purple Top Turnips and German Giant Radishes into the garden.  We've eaten all but one of the mature German Giant Radishes.
I will still use this handy greenhouse in the future but I think I'll stick with herbs and flowers.  For now, I'll suffer with an extremely messing patio.  Thank goodness for a loving and understanding hubby!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Natural and Organic Pest Control

I grow my own veggies so that I'm not poisoning myself or my family with gmo, chemical and pesticide laden produce. 

I admit, growing an organic garden is not easy!  I have battled flea beetles, tomato hornworms, aphid infestations, powdery mildew and cut worms.  I've used organic pest control solutions that work and several that absolutely did not.  Below are a few recipes that have worked for me.

Neem Oil
Recipe from Extremely Green
Naturally occurring compounds in neem oil discourage feeding on treated plants. When ingested, neem disrupts the molting and reproductive cycles of many insects. (In tests, desert locusts, which are voracious herbivores, will sooner starve to death than eat plants treated with neem). Neem has proven remarkably non-toxic to birds, mammals, and beneficial predators like ladybugs, spiders, bees, and wasps.

Mix 1 tsp (cap full) per quart of water (4 tsp per gal) plus 1/4 tsp of liquid dish soap per quart of water (1 tsp per gal). The liquid dish soap acts as an "emulsifier" or "sticker-spreader". Shake well.

Spray the diluted solution generously on all leaf surfaces, including the undersides of leaves. This solution can also be used to water the plants. Use once every 2-4 weeks. Apply early morning or later afternoon.

Garlic Oil Spray
Recipe from Organic Gardening
Organic gardeners have long relied on garlic as part of their pest-fighting arsenal. Garlic contains sulfur, which, besides being toxic to pests, is also an antibacterial and antifungal agent. The dish soap in this mixture also breaks down the bodies of soft-bodied pests, such as aphids.

 What You'll Need:
Three to four cloves of garlic
Mineral oil
Strainer or cheesecloth
Liquid dish soap
Spray bottle

To make garlic oil spray, mince or finely chop three to four cloves of garlic, and add them to two teaspoons of mineral oil. Let this mixture sit for 24 hours. Strain out the garlic pieces, and add the remaining liquid to one pint of water. Add one teaspoon of liquid dish soap. This mixture can be stored and diluted as needed. When you need to spray, use two tablespoons of the mixture added to one pint of water in a spray bottle.

To use your garlic oil spray, first test by spraying an inconspicuous part of the plant to see if your mixture harms it at all. If there are no signs of yellowing or other leaf damage after a day or two, it is safe to use. If there is leaf damage, dilute the mixture with more water and try the test again. Once you have determined that it won't harm your plant, spray the entire plant, paying special attention to the undersides of leaves.

Warning: Garlic oil is a non-selective insecticide, which means that it will kill beneficial insects (such as lady bugs, who are natural predators of aphids) just as easily as it kills the bad guys. It's best to keep as many beneficials around as possible. This spray should only be used if you haven't seen any beneficial bugs in your garden.

Companion Planting

Aphids: Sunflowers, Oregano, Coriander,Chives
Cabbage Worms: Tomatoes, Thyme

Flea Beetle: Catnip, Garlic, Mint, Sage, Tansy, Wormwood
Nematode: Calendula, Marigold
Snails: Fennel, Garlic, Rosemary
Tomato Hornworm: Dill, Borage, Calendula, Marigold, Petunia, Opal Basil
Whitefly: Basil, Marigold, Oregano, Peppermint, Thyme, Wormwood

Happy Planting!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Bee my neighbor...Mason Bee House

I'm looking for a few good renters...Bees that is!  After watching the movie Vanishing Bees back in December I planted lots of flower seeds in the garden.

Flowers were just the first step in attracting bees.  
I also purchased a Mason Bee House.

Here's another that can be wall-mounted:

I found a great list of "Bee-friendly" plants over at The Daily Green.  Below are the flowers and shrubs listed.

Annuals                                     Perennials 
Asters                                         Buttercups
Calliopsis                                    Clematis
Clover                                         Cosmos
Marigolds                                    Crocuses
Poppies                                       Dahlias
Sunflowers                                  Echinacea
Zinnias                                         English Ivy
Shrubs                                       Geraniums
Blueberry                                     Germander
Butterfly Bush                              Globe Thistle
Button Bush                                 Hollyhocks
Honeysuckle                                Hyacinth
Indigo                                           Rock Cress
Privet                                           Roses
                                                    Yellow Hyssop

I've already mounted my Mason Bee House.  I'll update as soon as the bees move in.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Book Review: Backyard Homesteading

I have to start by saying that most of the books I review are on 
My Bookshelf page.  I don't review or recommend books I don't like.  My mom always told me "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."

Each book has a link to my Amazon Store.  If you purchase anything using the link (As long as you stay on the link or page until checkout) I make a small percentage on almost everything.  Bonus:  It doesn't even have to be an item I listed. Every bit helps and is always appreciated!


Backyard Homesteading: A Back-to-Basics Guide to Self-Sufficiency

First things I noticed about this book, Made in the USA and printed on recycled paper!  YES!

Second, if I wasn't already working my own backyard homestead I would definitely be inspired to start!  The book is an easy read with plenty of illustrations.  I learn best by reading and then seeing so this book is a must.  

After reading the section on Growing Fruit, Berries and Nuts I'm thinking about adding a dwarf fruit tree (which can be grown in a container) and Blueberries (which require acidic soil).

Beekeeping? Check!
Backyard Chickens? Check!
Goats? Check!

A modern backyard homestead book would not be complete without a section on canning.  An extra treat I found in Backyard Homesteading is a section on brewing beer and making wine. 

Backyard Homesteading may not be as in-depth as Carla Emery's Encyclopedia of Country Living (more on that later!) but it's a great starter for urban homesteaders.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Cruciferous Recipe

What's cruciferous?  Brussels Sprouts...They are a cruciferous vegetable.  I found this recipe over at Farm Girl Fare.  I almost want to stop what I'm doing and go make something every time I read her recipes.  Below is a recipe for Napa Cabbage with Brussels Sprouts and Creamy Dijon Dressing.  

I've tried this recipe with both the Creamy Dijon and Apple-Cider Vinaigrette (detox dressing) and they are equally delicious.

Napa Cabbage Broccoli Slaw with Brussels Sprouts, Radishes, and Creamy Dijon Dressing
Makes about 7 cups - Adapted from Gluten Free Girl and the Chef 

As always, I urge you to seek out local and organic ingredients whenever you can; they really do make a difference.

For the dressing:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup yogurt (I use lowfat—homemade yogurt is wonderful)
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
4 Tablespoons rice vinegar (I use seasoned)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

For the slaw:
1 pound Napa cabbage (about 1/2 smallish head)
1 pound broccoli (about 1 medium head or 2 smallish crowns)
1/2 pound brussels sprouts (about 12 small), outer leaves removed, ends trimmed
1/2 pound radishes (about 7 large), ends trimmed

Optional additions:
A couple of shredded carrots
Chopped scallions (green onions)
Chopped roasted and salted almonds
Raisins or dried cranberries (craisins)

Make the dressing:
Combine the mayonnaise, yogurt, mustard, and rice wine vinegar in a small dish. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Make the slaw:
Cut the Napa cabbage and broccoli into pieces that will fit through your food processor's chute and process using the slicing disk, along with the brussels sprouts. Switch to the shredding disk and process the radishes (and carrots, if using). Alternatively, use a knife to thinly slice the cabbage, brussels sprouts, and radishes, and cut the broccoli into bite size pieces.

Place all the vegetables in a large bowl and toss with the dressing, along with any of the desired optional additions. Salt and pepper to taste.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Recipe: 5 Minute Artisan Bread

I was speaking with a friend today about bread.  Although I am unable to eat bread during my detox, I feel that it is necessary to prepare for post-purification.  I plan to eliminate store bought bread completely.  Before, I always had an extra loaf on hand in the freezer for last minute meals.  No more! 

Here's a recipe I previously posted for Dinner Rolls.  Delicious!  Both types of bread can be made ahead and frozen for convenience.

Below is a recipe for 5 Minute Artisan Bread.  I first stumbled upon this recipe at Mother Earth News. 

By Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François

The Master Recipe: Boule

Makes 4 1-pound loaves
3 cups lukewarm water
1 1⁄2 tbsp granulated yeast (1 1⁄2 packets)
1 1⁄2 tbsp coarse kosher or sea salt
6 1⁄2 cups unsifted, unbleached, all-purpose white flour
Cornmeal for pizza peel

The artisan free-form loaf called the French boule is the basic model for all the no-knead recipes. The round shape (boule in French means “ball”) is the easiest to master. You’ll learn how wet the dough needs to be (wet, but not so wet that the finished loaf won’t retain its form) and how to shape a loaf without kneading. And you’ll discover a truly revolutionary approach to baking: Take some dough from the fridge, shape it, leave it to rest, then let it bake while you’re preparing the rest of the meal.
Keep your dough wet — wetter doughs favor the development of sourdough character during storage. You should become familiar with the following recipe before going through any of the others.

Mixing and Storing the Dough

1. Heat the water to just a little warmer than body temperature (about 100 degrees Fahrenheit).

2. Add yeast and salt to the water in a 5-quart bowl or, preferably, in a resealable, lidded container (not airtight — use container with gasket or lift a corner). Don’t worry about getting it all to dissolve.

3. Mix in the flour by gently scooping it up, then leveling the top of the measuring cup with a knife; don’t pat down. Mix with a wooden spoon, a high-capacity food processor with dough attachment, or a heavy-duty stand mixer with dough hook, until uniformly moist. If hand-mixing becomes too difficult, use very wet hands to press it together. Don’t knead! This step is done in a matter of minutes, and yields a wet dough loose enough to conform to the container.

4. Cover loosely. Do not use screw-topped jars, which could explode from trapped gases. Allow the mixture to rise at room temperature until it begins to collapse (or at least flatten on top), approximately two hours, depending on temperature. Longer rising times, up to about five hours, will not harm the result. You can use a portion of the dough any time after this period. Refrigerated wet dough is less sticky and easier to work with than room-temperature dough. We recommend refrigerating the dough at least three hours before shaping a loaf. And relax! You don’t need to monitor doubling or tripling of volume as in traditional recipes.

On Baking Day

5. Prepare a pizza peel by sprinkling it liberally with cornmeal to prevent the loaf from sticking to it when you slide it into the oven.

Sprinkle the surface of the dough with flour, then cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit-sized) piece with a serrated knife. Hold the mass of dough in your hands and add a little more flour as needed so it won’t stick to your hands. Gently stretch the surface of the dough around to the bottom on four “sides,” rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go, until the bottom is a collection of four bunched ends. Most of the dusting flour will fall off; it doesn’t need to be incorporated. The bottom of the loaf will flatten out during resting and baking.

6. Place the ball on the pizza peel. Let it rest uncovered for about 40 minutes. Depending on the dough’s age, you may see little rise during this period; more rising will occur during baking.

7. Twenty minutes before baking, preheat oven to 450 degrees with a baking stone on the middle rack. Place an empty broiler tray for holding water on another shelf.

8. Dust the top of the loaf liberally with flour, which will allow the slashing, serrated knife to pass without sticking. Slash a 1⁄4-inch-deep cross, scallop or tick-tack-toe pattern into the top. (This helps the bread expand during baking.)

9. With a forward jerking motion of the wrist, slide the loaf off the pizza peel and onto the baking stone. Quickly but carefully pour about a cup of hot water into the broiler tray and close the oven door to trap the steam. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the crust is browned and firm to the touch. With wet dough, there’s little risk of drying out the interior, despite the dark crust. When you remove the loaf from the oven, it will audibly crackle, or “sing,” when initially exposed to room temperature air. Allow to cool completely, preferably on a wire rack, for best flavor, texture and slicing. The perfect crust may initially soften, but will firm up again when cooled.

10. Refrigerate the remaining dough in your lidded (not airtight) container and use it over the next two weeks: You’ll find that even one day’s storage improves the flavor and texture of your bread. This maturation continues over the two-week period. Cut off and shape loaves as you need them. The dough can also be frozen in 1-pound portions in an airtight container and defrosted overnight in the refrigerator prior to baking day.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Dark Opal Basil Jelly ... from Grow Great Grub

Last month I reviewed an excellent gardening / food book Grow Great Grub by Gayla Trail.  Then of course I had all sorts of excitement with the New Seeds announcement and I didn't get a chance to post what looks to be a delicious recipe.  This is a jelly recipe I'll look forward to making as soon as my Dark Opal has reached maturity.

"This recipe uses low-methoxyl pectin, a type that allows jam and jelly makers to cut back on the sugar.  As a result, this recipe will not work with regular pectin."

Dark Opal Basil Jelly
1 1/2 cups fresh Dark Opal Basil leave, finely chopped
1/2 cup white grape juice
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 cups sugar
3 teaspoons low-methoxyl pectin
3 teaspoons calcium phosphate solution

1. Place the basil, white grape juice and 1 1/2 cups water in a pan and bring to a boil.  Immediately remove the pan from the heat and set aside to steep for about 20 minutes.
2.  Strain the leaves from the liquid.  Some liquid will have evaporated, so add more water to bring the quantity up to 2 cups.
3.  Pour the liquid back into the pan along with the lemon juice and slowly bring the mixture to a boil.  In the meantime, mix the sugar and low-methoxyl pectin in a bowl.
4.  Once the herbal liquid is bowling, slowly stir in the sugar-pectin mixture using a whisk, continuing to stir until the powders have dissolved into the liquid and all lumps are gone.
5.  Bring the liquid to a vigorous rolling boil that can't be stirred down and allow it to boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
6.  Quickly and thoroughly stir in the calcium phosphate solution and remove the jelly from from the heat.
7.  Pour into sterilized jars and process in a boiling-water bath for 5 minutes.

Makes 5-6 quarter-pint jars

"If you'd rather not bother with sterilizing jars, leave the jelly on the counter to cool and set for a few hours before serving.  It will last about a month in the fridge."

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Detox Recipe: Salad Dressing

Today is Day 5 of the detox.  I am feeling great and we finally made it to the gym this morning.  The recommendations for exercise are 30-45 minutes of moderate exercise every day.  For the first few days we walked instead of hitting the gym.  I must say the gym was a bit tougher than usual but we made it!

Below is a recipe for salad dressing.  I found this recipe a few years ago when I started the program for the first time.  I continue to use this recipe even after the program because it is DELICIOUS!

Apple-Cider Vinaigrette (my version)
6 tablespoons organic Apple-Cider Vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup water
1 clove garlic, crushed or minced
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons Italian Herbs (dried and pre-mixed)

Mix ingredients and refrigerate or let sit at room temperature.
I essentially mixed two of the listed recipes and omitted what I didn't want.


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Detox Day 3

I've been busy lately preparing the fridge and kitchen for our detox.  My husband and I started the Standard Process Purification program on Friday.  I'll admit, it's not fun or easy.  There are no super exciting recipes for detoxification.  However, I did find a great recipe for salad dressing that I continue to make year-round. 

Standard Process is a supplement company we offer in our Chiropractic office and they can only be purchased through healthcare professionals.  You won't see them at walgreens or cvs.  The products are high quality, whole-food supplements.  You can even tour their farms in Wisconsin if you wish to see the operation.

During the 21-day Purification Program we eat unlimited fruits and vegetables (having an organic garden has come in handy) and 2-3 nutritional/protein shakes per day.  We have eliminated dairy, nuts, meats and processed or canned foods.  At day 11 we add limited amounts of lean meat and wild rice or lentils.

This is not the first time I have used this program and will not be the last.  I have enjoyed amazing results each time I have embarked on this journey.  This is not a crash diet nor is it a fad.  I do not starve myself, nor am I eating pre-prepared sodium and chemical laden meals or drink only shakes or silly lemonade concoctions.  This is a serious program offered to serious people interested in a life changing experience.  The weight loss is a bonus!

For now, I'm off to the Farmer's Market for more nutrients!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Getting Started...Soil

At the moment I have veggies growing in containers as well as a semi-raised bed garden.  I have tried to replicate my Gran's recipe for soil and amendments, plus my own additions.  I remember her "list" for my uncle every year.  She had the BEST tomatoes I have ever tasted.

I use a mix of several items from the garden center and home.  Here’s my recipe:

4  large bags organic garden or potting soil
1 small bag Perlite (optional)
1 small bag Peat Moss or Coconut Coir (improves drainage) 

1 cup organic bone meal (high in phosphorus)
1/2 cup blood meal (high in Nitrogen)

Finely crushed eggshells (calcium)
Compost: 1 large bag store bought OR equivalent homemade

For pest control I use:
Spray bottle
Organic Neem Oil (for insects and diseases)

Next weekend might be moving day for quite a few seedlings.  Plenty going on in the garden lately!

Happy Planting!

If you are interested in posting what you're doing in the garden, what works for you or just a few pictures, please email

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tuesday Garden Update

We had another crazy weekend.  Neither my hubby or I are sports fans so the craziness I refer to was the Nutrition seminar we attended Saturday and Sunday and the seed planting I was able to squeeze in between it all.  Condensed version of the seminar was teaching patients about the value of nutrition in food...then adding whole-food (not synthetic) supplements when necessary.

The 72 cell seed starter greenhouse I purchased last week was money well spent.  Still, I had a tough time deciding what I wanted to grow.  I could grow 6 varieties (12 each) or 12 varieties (6 each) or many more varieties which require more detailed labeling.  I couldn't decide so I made it up as I went along.

Planted 2/3/12  and  2/4/12:
Extra Dwarf Pak Choy (6)
Little Gem Lettuce (6)
Danvers Half-Long Carrots (12)
Atomic Red Carrots (6)
French Breakfast Radish (6)
Feverfew (6)
Dark Opal (3) and Green Verde Basil (3) 
I know I planted these 2 weeks ago but I want to grow a few to give as gifts.  Stay tuned for a Dark Opal Basil recipe!

Marigolds, Bachelor Buttons, Zinnia and Cosmos. 
left side
The left side was planted Friday so it those seeds have a head-start. 
right side
I managed to harvest a few veggies from the garden to make a lovely salad this weekend.

German Giant Radish (medium size)

Happy Planting!

Friday, February 3, 2012

My latest garden dilemma...

This is not the worst dilemma I've faced and certainly won't be the last. I have run out of room on the patio area (the raised area the cats shouldn't be able to reach) and I want to plant more seeds.  You're probably thinking "More Seeds?  Is this chick Nuts?"  
Is there such thing and Veggie Gardeners Anonymous?

There I was this week, thinking about which seedlings needed to be transplanted and which seeds I had planted that didn't do so well.  What did I do?  I planted more!  Last Saturday I planted a few herbs and flowers (one's I meant to plant the previous week). I have now added Dark Purple Opal Basil, Oregano, Thyme and Cosmos.

Here's where the dilemma comes into play.  I've used up all of my recycled toilet paper and paper towel rolls and if I use anymore of the peat pots I won't have any to sell on my website.  How can I manage to plant more seeds with little or no space?  
I remember checking in at Preserving the Simple Life and seeing that she had purchased a Jiffy Seed Starter Greenhouse.  I promptly squealed with delight (quietly since I was inside) and drove to (insert big box home store) and bought a similar item for myself.

Since Mary's Heirloom Seeds just announced new seeds like Feverfew, Extra Dwarf Pak Choy, Lettuce and Radicchio, French Breakfast Radish and Huckleberry, I'll be able to plant more and save space.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

New Seed Announcement

I am pleased to announce that more new seeds will be available Monday, February 6th, 2012!!!  There have been many changes made at Mary's Heirloom Seeds.

First, ALL orders over $15 will now ship Priority mail for FREE!  Second, the price of several seed varieties has been reduced.  Third...drumroll please...more NEW SEEDS!!!
Basil - Genovese

Danvers Half-Long Carrot
French Breakfast Radish

Tom Thumb Lettuce
Cabbage - Extra Dwarf Pak Choy
Rossa Di Treviso Precose Radicchio 


I'm trying to keep today's post short and sweet and I will happily provide an explanation of all new seed varieties on Friday.  

If you are interested in making an early purchase (before they are available on the website)  please email  or post a comment.  
*UPDATE*  Now available at Mary's Heirloom Seeds!

Stay tuned for website updates!  Education Pack and Mini Education Pack available now and include flower seeds and plant markers.