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Guest Blog: It’s Dinner Time – Do You Know Where Your Food Has Been?

July 29th, 2010

When you buy a sweet pepper at your local market, do you know how many people have touched it?  Even bagged apples had to be sorted and put in that bag. What did that banana go through before you picked it up, or worse, what was in that cart before you put your bananas in there?

Many people see the obvious reasons to wash an apple bought loose at the market-they see others pick up the fruit, sometimes even place to their nose, and then put it back. Gross; okay, wash the apples. What about fruit that you don’t eat the peel like oranges or watermelons? Suppose there are some bacteria on that watermelon. You slice with a knife and now the bacteria are on the knife. Keep slicing, keep spreading the germs. Well, what if I grew that melon myself. I’m the only one who touched it; I know where it’s been. Safe? Not necessarily.

Food grown on the ground is susceptible to bacteria often found in the soil. What about prewashed veggies, like salad mixes and fresh spinach – safe? Again, maybe not; if the water used was contaminated, as has happened on occasion, you can get sick from it, or worse.

Now I’m not going to tell you what to do, it’s your life. Heck, I’ve seen people handle money (which has more germs on it than anything) and then handle food; and I saw my husband get very sick from someone doing just that. If you care about what you are eating, or even more so what you might be feeding others, the precaution is simple-Before you eat it, wash it, all of it – from the asparagus to the zucchini, whether you eat the peel or not. I use dish soap or hand soap, a little goes a long way.

Simple to keep it safe.

~Gardening Jones

About Gardening Jones-

GJ has been gardening and preserving my family’s food for many years (25+). Recently new to raising free-range chickens for the eggs and blogging. GJ is a Master Gardener through Penn State Cooperative Extension; HAACP licensed in Safe Food Handling, a former restaurant owner and also a formerly licensed home food canner.

GJ can be found at:

Facebook: http://bit.ly/FBGJones

Blog: http://gardeningjones.com/blog

Website: http://gardeningjones.com

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Garden Hero: The Green Lacewing, AKA Aphid Lions

July 28th, 2010

 

Did you know that green lacewing larvae are one of the most beneficial tools for keeping pesky garden villains under control? While the adult green lacewing is quite lovely, lacewing larvae appear somewhat menacing, with their large mandibles, pincher-like mouthparts, and armored looking bodies.

The green lacewing life cycle is pretty simple:

  1. An adult lacewing lays her eggs on plants, and each egg is attached to the tip of a hair-like filament.
  2. After just a few days, a predatory, and very hungry, larva emerges from the egg.
  3. After a short two- to three-week growing period, the larva spins a cocoon to pupate.
  4. An adult lacewing emerges approximately five days later, and it will then mate and repeat the life cycle. An adult green lacewing will live for approximately four to six weeks.

When a green lacewing larva emerges from its egg it’s ravenous, and it will feed on aphids, beetle larvae, leafhoppers, mealybugs, whiteflies, and more. When the larva grabs hold of its prey it injects it with paralyzing venom then sucks out the body fluids. Gross, yes, but the lacewing larva means business, and it will seek out prey rather than waiting for prey to come to it.

During the larva’s very short growing period it can consume up to 200 eggs, other larvae, and pests. To take advantage of their short life span, it is recommended that you release green lacewing larvae into your garden in early spring. If you want to help control your garden pests with lacewing larvae, release new larvae regularly in order to keep a steady supply in your garden and on your plants.

Adult green lacewings prefer to feed on honeydew, nectar and pollen. Light green in color, with large eyes and two long, thin antennae, the adult green lacewing also has long, transparent wings that have a distinct veins running through them.

 

Green lacewings prefer humid conditions, and plants that benefit from having the lacewing near include peppers, sweet corn, and tomatoes. If you want to control villainous garden pests organically, the green lacewing is a great choice for your garden!

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Garden Villain: The Leafhopper

July 24th, 2010

 

Feeding on plant sap, leafhoppers are another villainous garden pest. Leafhoppers belong to the Cicadellidae family, and there are numerous species. Just as their name implies, these insects hop from plant to plant or when disturbed.

Ranging in size from approximately ¼- to ½-inch, wedge-shaped leafhoppers feed on plant sap using their sucking mouthparts, similar to their villainous sidekick, the aphid. Some species of leafhoppers are an agricultural nuisance, like the potato leafhopper and beet leafhopper. With the beet leafhopper direct feeding may only cause minor damage, but it can also transmit a virus known as ‘beet curly top virus,’ as well as other viruses. Beet curly top virus is destructive to sugarbeets, beans, tomatoes, and other crops. If plants are infected with this virus, the leaves may become crinkled, dwarfed, or rolled inward and upward; roots may become distorted; and plant veins may swell.

Leafhoppers often lay their eggs within plant tissue, so they are not always easily noticed. Yellowish-green, wingless beet leafhopper nymphs have the same wedge-shaped bodies as their adult counterparts, and the adult beet leafhopper is gray to greenish in color with folded wings.

When you’re in your garden and checking on your plants, keep an eye out for leafhoppers by checking plant stems and underneath leaves. Adult leafhoppers will hop if disturbed, but nymphs are wingless.

To help control leafhoppers in the garden shoot them off of your plants with a forceful stream of water or consider incorporating ladybugs, green lacewings, and/or praying mantises into your garden.

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Guest Blog:From Garden to Table in 60 days

July 22nd, 2010

Andrew & Averie in MI with their Humble Seed harvest!

Vegetable gardening is all the rage – but not in a trendy sense.  It has become a must-have for many health and eco-conscious people. The vegetables in grocery stores are often harvested before they are ripened and shipped across the country, even the world, ripening along the way.  In fact many fruits and vegetables come from seed that have been genetically modified.  The seeds have been altered to produce fruit or vegetables that will withstand the early harvesting and transportation.

The transportation brings in the issue of the amount of gas and pollution required to get the produce to your kitchen.  Think about it, if you live in Arizona and are eating a Texas or Florida grapefruit, how far did it travel to get to you?  Most produce today travels farther than many of the U.S. population does in one year!

September marks the beginning of the fall/winter planting season in the Phoenix area.  A well amended garden bed with a rich layer of compost will help ensure success. Purchase seeds or transplants at the local nursery.  Several nurseries even grow their own small plants (called transplants) that are adapted to the local climate.

All vegetables take several weeks to set fruit (a vegetable forms) and mature. Seed packets often describe all the details about planting depth, space between plants, germination days and days to maturity.  But planting by seed may not provide instant satisfaction! Seeds take up to a week to germinate, then at least 30 days more to grow into a plant before they even set fruit.  One way to advance the timeframe to when vegetables are ready for picking is to start out with a transplant, an instant plant!

Choose vegetables with shorter maturity dates to maximize the cost savings of a home garden..  The plant with the earliest maturity date is the radish – 30 days.  These plants will put food on the table in about 60 days – arugula, beets, beans (bush and pole), collard greens, kale, kohlrabi, lettuces, peas, spinach, swiss chard, tomatoes and turnips – and they are all great fall plants in the low desert!

Another way to get an early harvest is to pick “baby” vegetables, that is pick them before they are mature. Several vegetables may be picked early including lettuce, beets, fennel,kohlrabi, leeks and onions.

Culinary herbs like cilantro, dill, fennel, mint, oregano, parsley, sage and thyme are always a safe bet for an early harvest as they can be cut once the shock of transplanting has worn off, usually a few weeks.

Harvesting tips – be gentle, use scissors to cut the vegetable off the plant, pick when you need it but pick when ripe, don’t pick when the plant is wilted.

Enjoy the harvest and the time spent in the garden! The plants will look brighter and the food taste fresher as a result of some tender loving care.

Doreen Pollack is the Garden Goddess and owner of Down 2 Earth Gardens, providing garden consultations and coaching.  Join her for gardening how-to workshops around the valley. To find a workshop near you, visit www.down2earthgardens.com or call 623.217.6038

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Garden Hero: The Predacious Praying Mantis

July 21st, 2010

 

As far as humans go, this alien, leaf looking insect appears more menacing than it truly is. However, for villainous garden bugs, the praying mantis is all about pest control. This lean, green eating machine takes no prisoners, because it would rather consume them! Aphids, beetles, crickets, grasshoppers, mosquitoes, moths, and more, there a few garden pests that can escape the hungry appetite of the praying mantis.

Life Cycle

The life cycle of the praying mantis is short and consists of three phases: egg, nymph and adult. Praying mantises mate in late summer then females lay their eggs in the fall before dying. Generally, a praying mantis will lay eggs on branches, flower stalks and walls. The eggs are covered with ootheca—a liquid which hardens into an egg case. This Latinized word makes perfect sense: oo-, meaning ‘egg’ from the Greek word ōon, and theca, which means ‘container’ or ‘cover,’ from the Greek theke. Praying mantis egg cases are very hardy, so there is no need to worry about subzero temperatures. There is no larval phase for the praying mantis. Come spring, wingless praying mantis nymphs push their way out of narrow slits in the egg case then immediately begin their predatory life. The praying mantis molts five times, and in approximately six months the praying mantis is an adult.

If you are interested in purchasing praying mantises for your garden, you can buy praying mantis egg cases. Each egg case hatches 50-200 young praying mantis nymphs, and three egg cases will cover approximately 5,000 sq. ft. Placed strategically in your garden, shrubs or branch nooks, once hatched, your praying mantis nymphs will voraciously begin their heroic garden patrolling, keeping villains at bay and your plants healthy.

Note: If you decide to purchase praying mantises for your garden, be aware that this insect also delights in eating other heroic bugs, such as hover flies and lacewigs.

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Humble Seed’s “1,000 Fans Contest”

July 20th, 2010

Humble Seed knows everyone loves a great contest, and we certainly know there are people who are passionate about the environment and the foods they consume, so we’ve launched our “1,000 Fans Contest” and made it even easier to enter!

With the world being in the current state it is in, where people crave ‘back to basics,’ Humble Seed strives to promote the earth-friendly, positive sustainable lifestyle, via our Facebook page, premium products and informative blog posts.

At Humble Seed, we’re dedicated to providing individuals and families with the highest quality heirloom, non-GMO, non-hybrid, and organic seed varieties. Become a Humble Seed Facebook fan, and spread the love, and you can win a great prize (contest rules below). Our goal is to reach 1,000 followers!

To enter Humble Seed’s “1,000 Fans Contest,” you must do the following:

  1. Quickly enter our sweepstakes via our Facebook entry form here –http://bit.ly/WinHumbleSeed
  2. Afterwards we ask that you invite your friends to enter too and the sooner you may win!
  3. Once Humble Seed reaches 1,000 fans, Humble Seed will arbitrarily select a fan, and we ask that the winner post photos of their plants and foods as they grow. We want to see how everything’s going and growing!
  4. The winner of Humble Seed’s “1,000 Fans Contest” will win the Humble Seed Trio, which includes the following products: Uncle Herb’s Favorites, Hot Mama’s Peppers and Chiles, and Veggin’ Out, as well as a garden tool tote. Total retail value: $110.00. Offer limited to U.S. residents only. (Due to export restrictions on seeds)

Good luck, and good living!

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Garden Villain: Antagonizing Aphids

July 18th, 2010

 

This itty bitty villain can wreak havoc in the garden! The aphid loves to feed on new plant growth, sucking the sap right out of plants, and the aphid’s saliva is toxic to plants. Aphid plant damage can include: browning, curled leaves, lower growth rates and yields, mottled leaves, wilting, yellowing, and even death to plants.

Aphids are approximately 1/16- to 1/8-inch long, and they have pear-shaped bodies. There are many aphid varieties, ranging in color from black, brown, green, pink, red, or yellow. Once an aphid picks a spot to feed, usually along a plant’s stem or underneath the plant’s leaves, it will pierce the plant with its stylets—sucking mouthparts that are like tiny syringes. Just like vampires do in the movies, aphids suck the life out of their victims. Aphids also have two cornicles located at the rear of their bodies. These tube-like cornicles release cornicle wax, which is a quick-hardening defensive fluid.

If you notice that you have aphids on your plants, there are several safe, insecticide-free remedies for combating the antagonizing aphid and caring for aphid infested plants:

Purchase ladybugs. Aphids are a ladybug’s favorite meal!

Make an aphid removal home remedy. Mix 2 teaspoons mild dish or laundry soap into a bottle of lukewarm water. Spray the aphids with this mixture. The soap will wash off the aphid’s protective waxy coating and cause dehydration.

Get out your garden gloves. Put on some gloves and remove aphids from your plants with your hands.

Ready the garden hose. Shoot a sharp stream of water onto the plant where the aphids are located, to wash them off.

It’s very important as a food grower to regularly check your plants and garden for any villainous visitors. If you’re not paying close attention to what’s happening near and on your plants, aphids, one of several garden villains, can cause significant plant damage before you’re even aware there’s a problem.

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Garden Hero: The Lovely Ladybug

July 16th, 2010

 

With their richly colored orange-red wings and distinct black spots, lovely ladybugs often conjure up childhood memories of placing one on your hand or arm then intently watching it with fantastical awe. This beautiful bug is adored by many children for its calm nature, but it’s also adored by gardeners for its beneficial pest control behavior.

Ladybugs have colossal appetites and not only consume aphids—lice that feed on plant juices—but also eat other insects and larvae, including leaf hoppers, mealybugs, mites, whiteflies, and the eggs of the Colorado potato beetle, just to name a few. One ladybug, in its lifetime, can consume more than 4,000 aphids, their preferred meal.

In addition to consuming aphids and other insects, ladybugs require pollen as a source of food, in order to mature and lay eggs. Some plants that attract ladybugs include basil, cilantro, dill, fennel, pepper, thyme, and tomatoes. If you want to be extra considerate of your little garden heroes, consider planting bell-shaped flowers, such as lilies or tulips, which capture drinking water for ladybugs and provide a cool, relaxing oasis for them to inhabit. With the garden protection that ladybugs provide, they deserve to be pampered!

If you’re interested in using the heroic ladybug to help combat the villains in your garden, it is important that you not use insecticides—which you should try to avoid regardless. Insecticides will not only eliminate most of their food source but also discourage ladybugs from laying their eggs in your garden.

If purchasing ladybugs for your garden, do not release them during the heat of the day. Keep them in a cool place, such as the refrigerator, before releasing them in the evening after the sun goes down. Placing your ladybugs in the refrigerator will not harm them but simply slow them down. Ladybugs do not fly when it’s dark, so this is your best chance at giving them the opportunity to get comfortable in their new living environment. Also, before releasing the ladybugs, water the areas that you will be placing them in so they have plenty of water to drink. Think of ladybugs as house guests; you want them to feel welcomed and comfortable. If your ladybugs are comfortable in their new home, chances are they’ll stick around. You can’t fence ladybugs in, but should they choose to stay and live in your garden they’ll be great heroes in combating those villainous aphids and their sidekicks.

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Garden Heroes and Villains

July 12th, 2010

Did you know there are heroes and villains in your garden that come in all shapes and sizes? From villainous whiteflies, which feed off of plants by sucking the plant’s juices, to heroic lady bugs, which enthusiastically eat aphids, learning the difference between good and bad garden animals, bugs, and even bacteria can help you maintain and preserve the healthy foods you grow.

If you’re a current Humble Seed Facebook fan then chances are you’ve seen the questions posted from other fans about some of the heroic and villainous creatures and critters they’ve dealt with, along with our suggestions. Every garden needs insects, because many insects pollinate plants, so one of the best things a food grower can do is to have a better understanding of how to work with the good guys and manage the bad guys.

Starting this week, we’ll be featuring a garden hero and villain every week and posting to our blog and Facebook page. If you have not become a Humble Seed Facebook fan then we encourage you to do so, because we’re here for you, to make your food growing experiences the very best they can be.

Check back soon!

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Guest Video Blog: Power Reasons to Grow Power Food

July 10th, 2010

Adam Hart is a nutritional coach, whole foods chef, speaker and author. He been a nutritional researcher for 10 years, studying the ideal foods for attaining optimal health. Make sure to check out Adam’s website, Facebook and Twitter pages.  A ton of great information!
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