Saturday, January 16, 2016

Sugar Snap Peas: What Makes Them Sweet to Grow

Sugar Snap Peas:  What Makes Them Sweet to Grow

The name gives it all away.  Sweet to the taste, crunchy to the texture and sound.  Peas that can grow to a nice, plump size.  Snap Peas are considered a combination of the best qualities of the English Peas (round plump peas) and the Chinese Peas (edible pod) to eat.

Why I Grow Sugar Snap Peas

I decided to try a new vegetable one day randomly and I saw a package that read, "Sugar Snap Peas" at the grocery store.  After one bite of the raw vegetable, I was shocked and amazed.  These were fantastic.  How could I have never tried these before.  Shortly after, I bought a packet of seeds and started growing these.  Imagine my surprise when I tried the first batch of my new favorite vegetable and they were even sweeter.  The store bought doesn't compare to my freshly harvested sugar snap peas.  Naturally, we had them at the dinner table and my 8 year old tried one and then took mine off my plate and placed them on his and even moved the rest of the vegetable bowl over to him and claimed, "This is my dessert.  No one is allowed to eat my dessert."  Couldn't argue with him there.  Conclusion:  I must grow double the amount of plants that I had last year so that I can even have a few.  Since I'm competing now with my son to eat some.  

Reason To Grow

Whether you choose to grow a bush variety in a container or a vine variety in the garden, these are great cool weather plants that have great harvest, the more you pick the more that grows.  

-Can withstand light frost (but not the flowers).

-Likes cool, damp weather conditions.

-Withhold watering slightly in the beginning to encourage root growth in the start.

-Doesn't need much fertilizer if any.  If Sugar Snap Peas need more nitrogen then what your soil has available, it can fix it's nitrogen level from the air.  

-Vine plants can be 5 inches apart.  Bush plants should be about 1 foot apart.

-Use poles or trellis when growing tall or vine varieties.-60 to 100 days to harvest

-Once you hit 80 degree weather,  that's the signal that it's the end of the pea season.

Don't be shy when growing this plant, you will definitely enjoy your harvest.  Be sure though that if you're growing a vine variety, you do give the vines something to hold unto so that it can grow upward.  

Friday, January 15, 2016

What's Amazing About Spinach?

What's Amazing About Spinach?

With Children thinking it's gross and Pop-eye getting his supernatural strength from it;  somewhere in between must be the truth.

As a Food

I must admit, I never touched spinach until I was on a vegan diet for a year at age 27.  My first bite of raw baby spinach I was holding back on making that face children make when they've already decided that they don't like something right before their parent makes them try it.  Yea, that was me as a married, mother of one, adult.  Imagine my surprise when I tried it and realized, "this is better than lettuce."  I was shocked and amazed.  Even my 6 year old tried it and it instantly became his favorite vegetable, raw.  He would eat them like cookies.  Literally, he would hold them like cookies and carry a bowl of spinach around the house and eat them.  Spinach at that point became our new lettuce.

As a Plant

The first time I had a garden in the ground, I had a very late start.  I planted all sorts of different seeds just to simply see if plants could and would grow in my soil.  It was a success.  But then winter came as it does when living in zone 5 and I left everything in the ground and waited for spring to start anew.  Imagine my surprise when the snow left and all my spinach was still there, just waiting to be an early spring harvest.  

Good Qualities

-One of the most cold tolerant vegetable plants

-Spinach is considered an "overwintering" vegetable plant.

-Has two planting dates per year.  Early spring and late summer.

-Takes 45-60 days to grow and harvest

-Small plant so you can plant 3-5 inches apart.

-Great as a container plant.


     I would say that what spinach does to a cartoon Pop-eye gives a good representation to how strong this spinach plant is.  It's a hardy plant that can take a beating (a winter snow beating that is).  This would be considered in my eyes, a very easy plant to grow with multiple harvests and not overwhelming at all.  Whether your trying your hand out with one plant in a container or a whole gardens worth, spinach is low maintenance and it taste great.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Best Beginner Plant For A Vegetable Gardener: Tomatoes

The Best Beginner Plant For A Vegetable Gardener:  Tomatoes

There are so many different varieties of tomatoes to accommodate different planting zones and personalities of gardeners. Such as:

-Quick Pick: 60 days to harvest.  Has a heavy yield.  Good for an early harvest compared to most.

-Better Boy: 70-75 days to harvest.  Has a good balance of acid and sugar which makes this one of the most pleasing tasting tomato.
-Super Sweet 100: 70 days to harvest. Has a high heavy yield.  Great for salads and snacking

-Tiny Tim: 45 days to harvest. Very dwarf sized plant which makes for a good container plant.

My Personal Experience

     I have forgotten to put holes in the bottom of my container tomato plants.  Therefore, I've drowned them multiple times due to rain and yet all my plants survived the season.  They have been infested with aphids and still they yielded a harvest.  Not the best harvest, but a harvest none the less.  My first year I didn't prune my plants.  They were wild and all over the place and my tomatoes were still tasty.
     As the years have gone by, I've become a better gardener.  When you start, you will make mistakes, but I've learn by experience that tomatoes can outlive my numerous mistakes.  So there is hope for beginner gardeners.  

Top 5 Perks to Growing Tomatoes

-Very resilient

-Multiple types for multiple climates

-Great for containers on balconies to huge    gardens

-Harvest throughout the season

-Harvest yield can range from 8 lbs-20 lbs

Tips for Growing

-Have your soil ph level at about 6.0 to 6.8 which is considered acidic.  Use a potting mix and not a potting soil.  Potting soil can be too heavy and lead to drainage problems.  

-Use a tomato cage or trellis to train the tomato plant in the direction of growth.  Plants can grow upward of 10 feet, depending on type and variety.
-Pick a spot that receives at least 8 hours of direct sun.

-Start pruning when the plant has reached a foot high.  Prune the "shoots" or "suckers" located in the "V" or crotch between two stems

-Prune away new growth once the plant has reached desired height.  This allows the energy of the plant to focus itself instead of spreading it out thinly.

-Keep leafs and stems off the ground.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Biodegradable Seed Starter Container

Biodegradable Seed Starter Container

There are many different reasons to start growing plants from seeds.  Whether your planning on growing vegetables or flowers or other types of plants, one thing that is for certain, you want to start off giving your seeds the best possible start.  So why not make that start eco-friendly?

Cardboard egg cartons are a perfect seed starter (just make sure that they're not the styrofoam kind).

Why use Egg Cartons?

-They are plant sized cells.  There's no measuring or messy work.  Perfect size for 2-3 seeds each.

-Holds moisture.  Don't over water.  Give indirect water by misting.  By touch you'll know if its dry.

-Easy to separate when the exciting time comes to transplant your seedlings into the garden or pot.  Simply tear or cut apart the individual pods and plant into the soil.

-FREE!  The best part, it's FREE!  After you're eggs are gone, you are now left with an egg carton.

So there you have it.  A free, biodegradable seed starter.  

Here's another tip.

When using the cardboard cartons, I'd recommend using an old baking tray, ex:cookie sheet to be placed under the egg cartons to contain excess water and soil.  The baking tray also gives stability when moving the egg carton pods to be planted.

A Final Thought.

With choosing to go with a cardboard egg carton, your doing the earth a favor while doing yourself multiple favors. 

All you have to do is buy eggs that come in a cardboard carton and then save them.  I simply store mine in my basement until it comes time to start my seeds.