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‘Vegetable Gardening’ Category

  1. Claussen Refrigerator Pickle Recipe

    August 7, 2013 by Jocelyn Baker

    When it comes to pickles, I’m a bit of a snob. Sweet pickles? Yuck. Less that crunchy pickles? No way. In my life, I’ve only ever liked ONE of the numerous homemade pickles that I’ve tried. I’ve never tried making them myself, because I was convinced that even I couldn’t make a pickle that I would like. Until I discovered this awesome refrigerator pickle recipe, that is. And guess what? They’re delicious!

    Refrigerator Pickles

    At the grocery store, Claussen pickles are my favorite; they’re always crunchy and have a great flavor. So when I found a recipe for Claussen-like refrigerator pickles, I had to give it a try!

    I bought 1 pound of pickling cukes at my local farmer’s market for $2, and tested the recipe with 1 pint sized jar. The recipe below will work for about 2 pounds of pickling cukes.

    Ingredients for Refrigerator Pickles

    Ingredients

    1 1/2 c. water
    1 1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
    2 Tbsp. pickling salt
    1 tsp. minced garlic
    1/2 tsp. onion powder
    6 large sprigs of fresh baby dill
    1/2 tsp. mustard seed
    1 tsp. black peppercorns

    First combine the water, vinegar, salt, and spices (not the dill) in a saucepan and set it to high. As that heats up, wash and cut up the cucumbers. I just cut the ends off and sliced them in half. Then fill the jars with the cukes and dill.

    Once your brine has heated through, and the salt has all dissolved, take it off the heat and let it cool. It works best if you strain out the mustard seeds and peppercorns then divide them equally among the jars. Once the brine has cooled a bit, fill your jars to completely cover the cucumbers, leaving at least 1/4 inch of space at the top.

    Put the lids lightly on your jars or cover with cheesecloth, and then let them sit out of sunlight on the counter for 2-4 days. I could only wait 2 days before I had to try them, and they were good, but not quite pickle-y enough. I ended up leaving them out for just over 3 days before putting them in the fridge. You’ll want to let them chill for at least a few hours to get the best pickle experience!

    Making Pickles

    Do you have any great homemade pickle recipes? Please share them in the comments!


  2. Succession Planting Vegetables

    July 28, 2013 by Jocelyn Baker

    Summers like this make gardening difficult for those with already short growing seasons. The weather was so cold that many plantings were delayed by a few weeks. In order to get a bigger harvest from my vegetable garden, I will be succession planting as much as possible!

    Succession planting is when a gardener plants crops in varying cycles throughout the growing season in order to maximize their harvest. It really only works with specific crops, and is dependent on how long your growing season is. Since I’m in frosty Minnesota, I’m succession planting beans, peas, lettuce, spinach, kale, arugula, beets, and radishes. Since these are all pretty quick to go from seed to harvest, I should be able to get quite a bit of extra food from my garden!

    I’ve put together this short guide to help other gardeners make the most of their growing time.

    Succession Planting

    Getting Started with Succession Planting

    Find out when you first average frost date is in the fall. You’ll need this to correctly time your plantings. Next, calculate what vegetables you still have time left to plant. For those in my general area, the University of MN Extension office has a great resource on succession planting, which includes a list of vegetables with their times to harvest. I would highly recommend using this if you’re in Minnesota.

    Once you know your average first frost date, you can start counting backwards from that date to see when you should plant your late season crops depending on how long they take to mature. I recommend giving yourself an extra week of buffer time though, just in case!

    Choose Your Plants

    If you’re just starting out with succession planting, I recommend trying it first with very fast growers like radishes, lettuce, spinach, or beans. Keep in mind that the cooler it is when they are planted, the longer they will take to reach maturity.

    Here’s a quick list to give you an idea of average growth times:

    • Kale – 45 to 70 days
    • Radishes – 25 to 40 days
    • Lettuce – 50 to 80 days
    • Spinach – 35 to 45 days
    • Bush Beans – 45 to 65 days
    • Basil – 30 to 60 days

    I’ve also included a list of helpful links for those in other locations around the US at the bottom of this post.

    Getting Dirty

    Once you know what you’re planting, you will need to make room for your new crops. I did this today, by pulling up my first batch of peas to make room for my quickly growing cantaloupe plants. I will probably plant more peas in a few weeks, once I’ve made room by harvesting several heads of cabbage.

    Once you have your space cleared, make sure that the area is cleaned up and free of weeds. Once the weather starts to cool down, you can use floating row cover or cloches to cover your plants and prolong their growing time. Certain plants will be fine in below freezing temps, such as kale and cabbage, which are hardy down to about 20 degrees. Others will be killed by frost, so you may have to cover them overnight in late fall.

    References For Other Areas

    Thanks for reading folks! Happy gardening, and see you next time.


  3. Organic Gardening #6 – Layout and Planting

    May 27, 2013 by Jocelyn

    Generally, Memorial Day weekend has been the time I’ve used to get my garden started. It’s normally warm enough for me to plant all of my veggies, but not this year! Our growing season is currently about 2-4 weeks behind schedule, and the only things I have in my garden so far are cabbage, beets, peas, spinach, and onions. I was hoping that by now I would at least have a few good garden planting progress photos for you, but alas, it wasn’t meant to be!

    The temperatures have been cooler than normal, averaging highs in the mid-forties over the past week or so, and it has been windy as heck! Yuck. I had my tomato plants outside yesterday for a couple hours, and they looked pretty sad after just a few hours.

    For now, most of my garden is covered in black plastic so the soil will warm up more quickly. I’ve designed a layout plan for my garden, taking crop rotation and companion planting into account, which you can see below.

    Garden Design

    Read my Companion Planting post if you’d like more details about plant placement!

    So, once it’s actually warm enough to plant, it’s going to be a frantic rush to get everything done.

    My Planting Process:

    • Remove the layer of plastic, and pull any remaining weeds.
    • Then add a layer of compost, and work it into the soil.
    • Before planting anything I set all of my pots on the dirt where I’m intending to plant them to see if everything fits the way I’d like.
    • At this point, I will likely lay down the soaker hose I purchased this year, then just plant around that.
    • And last but not least, plant all the things!!

    Hopefully I will be updating you all soon with news of warmer weather and some great photos of my plants in the garden!

    Thank you to all of our  service men and women; Happy Memorial Day.  Thanks for reading!


  4. Organic Gardening #5-Early Spring Garden Tasks

    May 15, 2013 by Jocelyn

    Hey folks! Well, I know that many of you are dealing with scorching hot weather right now, but in my city the weather is just starting to warm up. It’s like we went straight from winter into summer! Who needs spring anyway, right? Of course I’m kidding; there is actually a lot of spring gardening preparation to be done before your last frost date arrives. So, what can we do?

    Hardening Off Seedlings

    Even though your seedlings are in a simulated outdoor environment, it’s very important to move them outside gradually. The sun is much more powerful that most normal grow lights, and your little plants will get scorched if they’re immediately moved into full sun for too long. Hopefully you’ve also exposed them to a bit of a breeze while indoors, so the first little outdoor breeze won’t knock them over. I had to cover these little guys because it was so cold that day:

    Hardening Off Seedlings

    Days 1 through 3

    I like to cover my plants for the first few days that I set them out. This gives them a bit more shelter, and makes the temperature adjustments a bit easier for them. On Day 1, start by putting them out only for 1-2 hours. By Day 3, you can bump the time up to 4-6 hours. If it’s particularly cold or windy on any given day, you can either cover your plants, or leave them in for a day.

    Days 4 through 8

    Now that your plants have been exposed to periods of sun and wind, you can start leaving them out for full days. By Day 8 or so, you should be able to leave your plants out overnight.

    Days 9 through 12

    Your plants should be hardy enough to be transplanted into your garden. By this time, they may be getting too big for their small pots, and you’ll likely see quite a bit of growth once they’re accustomed to their new garden home. Once planted outside, you may still have to cover them a few times if the weather gets too cold or windy.

    Direct Sowing Early Crops

    Last week I planted pea, beet, and spinach seeds right in my garden. These are all vegetables that will grow well in cool weather. They generally grow quickly, and will produce fairly early. Here’s a short list of cool weather crops that can be started from seed directly in your garden before your last frost date:

    • peas
    • beets
    • spinach
    • lettuce
    • kale

    Spring Garden Cover

    Preparing Soil for Planting

    Last year I got some good advice from my fellow community gardeners. I noticed that several of them had covered their garden plots with black plastic. After asking why they did this, they explained to me that the plastic has multiple uses. First, it will retain heat and help the soil warm up more quickly. Then, because of the heat and moisture any weeds that overwintered in your soil will sprout. Once sprouted, the weeds will die because they are unable to get sunlight. And guess what? It worked! I had far fewer weeds in my garden last year after doing this! It has now become part of my annual garden bed prep.

    In a week or so, I will also buy several bags of organic compost to add to my raised bed and help replenish the soil levels. Once this is done, it will nearly be time to plant everything! The only thing I really have left to do is design my final garden layout plan, and that is what I’ll be talking about next time!

    What about you? What kinds of things do you do in the spring to get your gardens ready for planting? Let us hear it!

    Thanks for reading!


  5. Organic Gardening: Part 3 – Starting Seeds

    April 11, 2013 by Jocelyn

    This is Part 3 of my Organic Gardening Series: Starting Seeds. The series of images below is a really fast and basic guide to seed starting if you’re already familiar with some of the details. For those that are very new to gardening, I’ve elaborated on each step in the process below. If you still have any questions, please comment here and I’ll get back to you!

    Seed Starting Steps

    Step 1: Gather Your Supplies

    You will need the following:

      Seed trays with plastic containers and clear lids
      A spray bottle full of water
      Seed starting soil (quality is important)
      Paper and pencil
      Grow lights

    Step 2: The Dirt

    Fill your containers with your soil, and spray it really well so the top layer is nice and damp. A good seed starting soil will be loose and fine, not dense. After they’ve sprouted, your seedlings will require a lot of nutrients to grow as quickly as they do. This is why I use Fox Farm soil; it’s fine enough for seeds to easily germinate in, but it also has the nutrients they need to grow big and strong! I also don’t have to worry about manually fertilizing the seedlings this way, which is much easier in my opinion! If you want more information about choosing a seed starting medium, check out my previous post: The Importance of Dirt.

    Since I only sprayed the top of my soil, I add some water to the bottom of the tray so the soil can wick moisture up to the seeds as well.

    Step 3: Planting the Seeds

    I’m a lazy seed planter, I’ll admit. I don’t read the seed packets for every variety to see what their planting depth should be. I just sprinkle some seeds on the dirt, very lightly tamp it down, and then sprinkle a little more dirt over the top of the seeds. A good rule of thumb is to have your seeds at a depth that is approximately 3 times that of the seed’s diameter.

    For really small seeds like Petunias or Snapdragons, I just sprinkle them on top of the soil, tamp it down lightly and call it good.

    Step 4: The Lighting

    Without at least 12-16 hours of bright light every day, your seedlings will get tall, stringy, and likely fall over after a few weeks. We want strong, sturdy little seedlings that will be healthy enough to withstand their eventual transition outdoors! For this reason, I recommend getting some good grow lights, and connecting them to a timer. If you’re on a budget, these are great bulbs. It’s best to keep the lights between 2-4 inches away from the tops of your seedlings.

    Lastly: Ongoing Care

    Once planted, water, light, and air are the three things your seedlings will need to thrive.

    Water

    If you watered your seed trays from the bottom as well as spraying the top, you probably won’t have to water much for the first week or two, since the seedlings won’t have any developed root systems yet. If the top of the soil looks dry, just give them a good misting.

    Once sprouted, your seedlings will need a fairly steady supply of water. It’s just as important to make sure that they aren’t too wet, either. If you’re unsure of how much water to give your seedlings, I would recommend watering less. If you water too much, you risk mold, which means you could lose all of your seedlings. If you don’t give them enough water, you’ll likely notice their leaves getting a little wilted, and they should respond well to a good drink of water.

    Light

    As we discussed above, your seedlings will want at least 12-16 hours of light each day. They will also want a period of darkness to rest. This is why having your lights on a timer works so well. If you don’t have an automatic timer, just make sure to turn the lights off at night.

    Air

    Air circulation is important for two reasons. First, it is a preventive measure against mold and mildews. Second, it will help strengthen your seedlings so they will better be able to withstand outdoor winds when being transitioned outside. I like to put a fan near my seedlings once they’ve sprouted; it should be on the lowest power. If it still seems as though it’s creating too much of a breeze for your seedlings, then I just move it a little further away.

    Finally, it’s important to note that a little attentiveness can go a long way when starting plants from seed. I check my seedlings every day, sometimes every two if I’m busy. It’s definitely more important to watch them closely when they’re just sprouting. Once they’ve grown a bit, then you don’t have to worry about them as much.

    Well, that’s it folks. Thanks for reading! I hope all of you are enjoying nice spring weather! In the meantime, I’m wishing I could stay snuggled up at home right now.
    Spring Weather?
    PS – Stay tuned for Part 4, when I’ll talk about pruning and hardening off your seedlings!