Tag Archives: Garden

Spring Garden Guide

3 Feb
Go forth and spread your seeds! Your vegetables seeds in case there was any confusion.

Go forth and spread your seeds! Your vegetables seeds… in case there was any confusion.

Let the gardening season begin! Yippee! I know it is hard to think about your garden plot when the ground is covered with snow and the temps are sub-zero, but the thought of a freshly picked juicy ripe tomato on a BLT puts a smile on anyone’s face and a song in my heart. *sigh* While it is far too early to start planting outdoors in Nebraska, it is never too early to order seeds and create your gardening guide for rows of tasty (and might I add super inexpensive and healthy) produce come spring and summer. I can smell the bacon cooking…

 

February

Preparation: Now is the time to start ordering/purchasing seeds or attend seed swaps in your community. Seeds are good for 3-4 years, so share the good lovin’ if you have plenty left over. This is also the time to consider your gardening space (community, backyard, raised beds, containers, etc) and your chemical-free means for controlling pesky pests while keeping your produce–and all of the big and little people who eat it–safe.

 

March

Preparation: Time to play in the dirt and by dirt, I mean manure that will add nutrients to your soil for the best possible growing conditions. That poo is the holy grail for hearty, healthy produce. Also, plant seeds for transplant plants such as cabbage, celery, eggplant, leeks, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. Depending on the variety, you will want to start the process 6-8 weeks before they are to be transplanted outdoors in the garden. If you plan on buying the plants, then no worries darling.

Outdoor Planting: Plant asparagus crowns, collard green seeds, onions, pea seeds, radish seeds, spinach seeds and turnip seeds.

 

April

Outdoor Planting: Plant leek plants, swiss chard seeds, broccoli plants, cabbage plants, cauliflower plants, lettuce seeds, kale seeds and beet seeds.

 

May

Outdoor Planting: Plant carrot seeds, potato plants, cucumber seeds, pumpkin seeds, eggplant plants, pepper plants, tomato plants and summer squash seeds.

 

Truth be told, I am not a master gardener by any means. My experience comes from trial and error through my own garden and through gardening advice from my parents who have organically gardened for over 30 years. Yes… they are the cat’s meow.

 

For more regional gardening information, check out the UNL Extension program, your local nursery and community garden, and organizations such as City Sprouts, North Omaha Tool Library and Common Soil Seed Library at the Benson Public Library.

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Fresh Herbs Any Thyme

23 Sep
My very own green goddesses.

My very own green goddesses.

I love going out to my garden and picking fresh cilantro for guacamole or basil for homemade pizza sauce. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have fresh herbs all year long to dress up your favorite dish? Here are some tips for year round herbs that trump grocery store dried varieties any day of the week.

Indoor Garden. Many herbs like oregano, marjoram, chives, basil, cilantro, thyme, mint, rosemary and lavender do wonderful indoors if started from seed or a starter plant. Invest in good potting soil and a nice clay pot (plastic doesn’t work well). Keep these green beauties trimmed, well watered and cozy in bright direct light and warm temps above 60°. If you are looking at bringing the outdoors in, it is best to transplant your herbs in September before the first frost hits. Cilantro and basil do not work well as transplant herbs, but the others do just fine. Again, place them in clay pots with good potting soil and slowly acclimate them to lower light levels before moving them indoors for good.

Dry Out. My dad dried basil last winter and it worked beautifully! All you need is some string and brown paper bags. First, clean and pat dry the herbs keeping leaves on the stems. Once herbs are dry, tie the stems together, place them in a paper bag and hang them upside down to dry for 4-6 weeks. Pick the dried leaves off the stem and place them in a tightly sealed container. Do not crush the leaves until you are ready to use them in your recipe. Crushing them will release their aromatic oils which adds all of the flavor and aroma to your tasty dishes.

Freeze In Fat. Freezing your herbs in a fat such as olive oil helps preserve the lovely oils that add so much flavor to your wintry stews. For this method, you’ll want to pick the leaves off the stems, wash and dry them in a salad spinner or pat dry with a paper towel. Place the leaves in a food processor with olive oil (1/3 cup olive oil for every 2 cups of leaves). Process the herbs until they are finely chopped and place 1 cup of the herb-oil mixture into a 1-quart zip-top bag and lay the bag flat in the freezer so the mixture will freeze in a nice, even layer. Use within 6 months by cutting off as much of the herb oil you need for pestos, soups, stews, salad dressings, hummus and more.

Garden Summer Lovin’ for a Delightful Fall Harvest

26 Aug
Newly planted Red Winter Kale on my garden's North side.

Newly planted Red Winter Kale on my garden’s North side.

I am a novice gardener. I plant, water, weed and let nature do its thing. So when I see a vine full of  sweet Cherry Tomatoes or a bountiful Basil bush, I geek out. I think it’s the Bee’s Knees. It’s true. I have a bit of a love affair with my garden… I tell my plants their beautiful, shower their feet with chicken poop and manure chocolates, but nothing compares to the nourishment I get in the end. I think I first became enamoured as a little girl, eating strawberries straight from the patch and selling our pumpkins on the highway after Nebraska Husker Football games.  This is why I’m so excited for my first Fall harvest! I probably planted a bit too late this summer, but who cares? I got nothing but love.

If you want to join in on the late summer planting party for a delish Fall harvest, I put together a handy-dandy veggie list for us Midwesterners and Great Plainers (is that even a word?!). Choose whatever your little heart desires and give it a go: arugula, beets, broccoli (transplants), Brussels sprouts (transplants), cabbage (transplants), cauliflower (transplants), carrots, chinese cabbage, collard greens, kale, mustard greens, peas, radishes, spinach, swiss chard and turnips.

I want to know about your experience. What is the best time to plant for a Fall harvest? What are your favorite vegetables to plant?

For more fabulous health and wellness tips, visit Stephanie Bell Wellness on Facebook or Twitter.

Got Worms? An Organic Gardening Guide to Chemical-Free Pest Control

22 Jul
Carrots from my garden.

Carrots from my garden.

You know those pretty white butterflies that innocently flutter around your vegetable garden? They are white demons about to lay eggs on your produce that will hatch worms who have the munchies. Yes, I’m a hater and still harboring some ill will. After they infested my kale, I decided to seek the advice from pros. Ya see, I come from good tree huggin’ stock. Who better to ask than my father, Dan Bell, who has over 30 years of organic gardening experience (my mom represents on the flower garden side). This is what Dad Bell had to say…

Preventative Care

1. Cover Up. Protect your plants by purchasing floating row covers which is a netting that prevents insects from laying eggs on your plants.

2. Infiltrate from the Inside. Bacillus Thuringiensis (Bt) or Thuricide is a soil-borne bacteria that has been used since the 1950s to control insects. There are different strains of this bacteria depending on the insect you wish to target. It will kill everything from tomato hornworms, fruit worms, cabbageworms, potato beetles, mosquitoes and black flies. Basically, the insect digests it and it destroys its alkaline digestive tract, therefore killing the insect. However, without geeking out too much on the physiological reactions, since humans and other mammals have an acidic digestive tract, we are protected from this bacteria and it is safe to use on produce and plants. Even though it is natural and organic, it is still best to use caution and ensure you do not inhale it or get it in your eyes or open wounds.

Ingredients:

Read the label, but it is usually 1-4 tsp per gallon of water.

Directions:

1. Place mixture in a pump spray bottle. Bt is effective in the larva stage of the insect, so apply it to the underside of the leaf where the larva feed.

 

When Pests Attack.

Sometimes those little guys just slip through the preventative cracks.

1. All-Purpose Bug Killer. This recipe is touted to kill everything from ants to those deceptive white butterflies.

Ingredients:

1 cup water

2 T witch hazel

2 drops dish soap (preferably chemical-free… we got a theme going here)

Directions: Place everything in a spray bottle and spray the pest directly.

Recipe courtesy of Sharon Cuyler, Organic Gardening magazine.

2. Beetlejuice. Japanese beetles can be a real pain this time of year.

Ingredients:

water

2 drops dish soap

Directions:

1. Fill a bucket with water and the dish soap.

2. Pick beetles off of leaves and dump them in the bucket. This will act as beetle birth control, killing them and thus preventing them from reproducing their tyrant youths.

Have you used these methods on your garden? What chemical-free ideas do you have to get rid of pesky insects? Please leave a comment below.

For more nutrition, fitness and gardening tips, please contact me at Stephanie Bell Wellness.