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Tips For Sustaining A Survival Garden

February 27th, 2012

There are never any guarantees that our grocery stores will continue to be stocked full of food, or that a natural disaster will allow us safe roads to drive to the store on. Many emergencies are such that there is no time to start growing a garden, or just begin gaining experience at growing food. Perhaps that knowing this, you have already started a survival garden of your own.  But the only question remaining is, “how do I keep a survival garden thriving all year long?” Growing your own survival garden is similar to any other garden in terms of chores and maintenance, but do keep these points in mind:

Sustainable Plant Choices: A survival garden should include plants that are both nutritious and perennial.  It is also advantageous to choose plants with a long, repeated harvest. A survival garden that only requires daily and weekly tasks like fertilizing, mulching, pruning, weeding and watering is a far less daunting than starting a garden from scratch each season.  Also, while perennial plants need nurturing, they are also fairly forgiving for new gardeners, and when temporarily neglected. Good choices to include in your garden are: asparagus, root vegetables, beans, artichokes, horseradish and a variety of herbs.

Become An Expert! Do your research about each fruit, vegetable and herb you grow in your garden. Buy a few books or search online for instructions on the best techniques for proper planting, maintenance and harvesting in your garden.  There is no substitute to knowledge and experience to ensure your garden will thrive when you need it most.

Proper Planning: When including more plants in your survival garden, space should be optimized the best way possible.  Stagger and plant close together, and pay special attention to plants that have deep root systems. Plants that have deep roots (like tomatoes,) should be grown next to plants with less intrusive roots (like lettuce).  Take a look at our post on Companion Planting for more information on plants that grow well together.

Many survival gardeners also like to create designated areas for the variety of plants growing in their garden.  Separating and labeling medicinal herbs, vine vegetables and culinary plants may prove very helpful and accessible when in an emergency situation.

Seed Saving:  In an emergency, no one can afford to waste money or allow a garden to fail. In fact, some emergencies can last for more than one season or year.  Saving seeds from plants that are vigorous and thriving can ensure well-grown food years in the future.  To get the most out of your seeds, first be sure to never use hybrid or genetically modified seeds, as these will not be able to reproduce. Using non-hybrid seeds, also known as open-pollinated, allow you to reproduce the same plant and yield seeds every year.  Keep watch for vegetables and fruit in your garden that are free of disease, yield a high number of produce, and are the best looking (also – resist the urge to eat them!).  Mark that plant with a stake or ribbon. Allow the seeds to fully ripen before harvesting, and carefully place them indoors for drying.  A paper bag or clean newspaper will work just fine.  Once dried, store seeds in a labeled, airtight container or clearly marked envelope. Seed saving can only occur when non-hybrid seeds are planted. You can find a wide variety of non-hybrid seeds within Humble Seed’s The Producer- which makes the perfect survival seed bank.

Canning and Preserving: Preparing early and not waiting for an emergency to arrive is the key to survival. After each harvest, begin storing an emergency supply of food by canning your bounty and storing them in a dark room, food pantry or cellar.  Freezing food is not the best option for disaster preparedness, as there are never any guarantees that electricity will work.  Never canned before?  See our Canning And Preserving 101 post for an easy step-by-step guide to canning your produce.

Be sure to read our original post on Disaster Preparedness for more information and tips on survival gardening!

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Is Your Garden Really Green?

February 21st, 2012


Garden – the term brings to our mind a picture of lush green surroundings, a soothing atmosphere full of oxygen, fresh air & colorful flowers. If you are not a green horn in gardening, you must know very well that the very concept of a ‘green’ garden is really vague. A well maintained garden most of the times is maintained using artificial chemicals like pesticides, chemical fertilizers etc. thus the greenery of such a garden is not really that green as it seems, isn’t it? Let’s see how to make your garden chemicals & environment pollutant free in the true sense.

Keep it original

The world consisted of trees and plants and a lot of greenery before the human race even existed. So hence we can say that Mother Nature never needed the help of harmful chemicals to keep her alive or to beautify her. So who are we to do that? Get rid of those chemical poisons and try to keep your garden as original as possible. Instead of fertilizers use green compost and in place of pesticide, prefer the use of natural insects to kill the weeds.

Make use of kitchen waste for making compost

Ever heard of “Gardener’s Gold”? It’s the compost made out of kitchen waste. The compost is highly beneficial as it increases the soil fertility by providing the soil with a high density of nutrients that are easily absorbed by plants. It also helps to build a very evenly spread and deep root network for the plants, thus letting them absorb better. The aeration of soil, soil texture and the water retention capability of soil increases by leaps and bounds.

Buy the recycled stuffs for your garden

Is your garden only for beautifying your home? Is it only to sip your hot cup of coffee while enjoying the beauty of nature? Is it a place only for the garden furniture? If that is so, the furniture can be made of recycled material. What is the point of having a “green” garden which is a home to pieces of metal made after digging the earth and uprooting hundreds of trees?

Make it a “garden” not a “lawn”

There is a difference between the two for sure. A garden is a patch of soil where vegetables, trees are grown. While lawn is a stretch of soil covered with nothing but grass. It surely beautifies the home but also requires a lot of finance to keep it lush green. It also takes the help of chemical fertilizers. A garden is much better in other aspects. It can be easily maintained by home-grown compost. Other than anything else, there is a different satisfaction in painstakingly growing your own food and having them.

Harvest rainwater

Gallons of water are “wasted” each day in watering garden plants. About 40% of the water used for watering of plants goes out as waste as plants are unable to absorb that water. Hence, rainwater harvesting is the best way to reduce this wastage. After all, you are harvesting and using whatever you are getting.

Try to contribute for the global cause

Always keep this in mind that a ‘green’ garden is never a separated system. It in fact is a part of a big global system. Try to plant about 10 different types of flowers in your garden to bring in the bees and butterflies. It will help you by increasing the production of fruits and flowers and will help to minimize the major bee-loss epidemic.

 

A green ‘garden’ is the way to go. If you haven’t got enough space in your own backyard, then contribute your time to a community garden. It will help you and the world in some way or the other. Come, join the green army.

 

About the author:

Kelly is a blogger by profession. She loves writing on technology and luxury. Beside this she is fond of gardening. Recently an article on LED Bulbs attracted her attention. These days she is busy in writing an article on sports car.

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Green Tips For Treating Pests In Your Garden

February 15th, 2012

It’s time to water your garden and with your trusty watering can in hand,  you meander back to your prize-winning cabbages.  They appear happy and healthy at first, but as you inch closer; you notice tiny, pear shaped insects clustering on the leaves, sucking out the juices and leaving damage behind.  Before you grab a bottle of pesticide, consider that the chemicals found in traditional pesticides can be harmful to your health, and can eventually leak into the ground and contaminate your family’s tap water.  Check out these common pests that could disrupt your garden, and the natural remedies to keep them at bay.

Aphids: These pear-shaped insects may appear harmless at first glance, but these little guys defy the laws of science and are born pregnant; which can lead to a quick infestation.  Try spraying them off with forceful water, using a plant based soap (recipe below), and attracting ladybugs, lacewings and hoverflies to your garden.  Plants like parsley, fennel, coriander, sunflowers and Queen Anne Lace will attract these ally insects, and could help keep Aphids and other harmful critters out of your garden.

Beetles: There are many varieties of beetles, and many will hide under the leaves and flowers of your plants, chewing away the foliage and leaving your plants looking tattered.  If you’re not terribly squeamish, pick them (or dust buster them) off the plants, and destroy their eggs that may be hiding just beneath the surface of your plant. While beetles love feasting on starchy plants like potatoes, they tend to loathe yarrow, catnip and garlic plants.  Keeping these plants nearby may prevent beetles from trespassing in your garden.

Caterpillars: Caterpillars may look charming, but as they increase in size, their mouths grow even larger; leaving gaping holes in their feasting paths. Once they become butterflies, they will deter harmful pests in your garden.  But if their caterpillar stage is wreaking havoc on your garden, pluck them off the plants and make your own caffeine spray (recipe below) to deter them from inching along your favorite vegetables.

Leafhoppers: Feeding on plant sap, leafhoppers are another villainous garden pest.  Leafhoppers belong to the Cicadellidae family, and there are numerous species that could damage your garden.  Just as their name implies, these insects hop from plant to plant when disturbed. Ranging in size from approximately ¼ – ½ inch, wedge-shaped leafhoppers feed on plants using their sucking mouthparts, similar to their sidekick; the aphid.  Some species of leafhoppers can transmit a virus particularly harmful to beets, tomatoes and other crops causing crinkled, dwarfed or distorted roots and veins. If you suspect a small leafhopper problem, spray off the leaves with forceful water.  For more severe infestations, consider incorporating ladybugs, lacewings, hoverflies and praying mantids in the garden (see Aphids for plants that attract these insects).

Mealybugs and White Flies:  Common in indoor plants, these critters can weaken your plants while mealybugs leave a sticky substance behind. Normally infestations occur from a new infested plant exposing the others to the insect. To keep these pests at bay, try creating more air circulation in the area the plants reside in. For severe infestations, spray the leaves with diluted alcohol (remember to administer a test a patch first). Neem oil, plant based soaps and even natural dish detergent has also been studied to rid your plants of these bothersome pests.

Slugs and Snails: Similar to caterpillars, these plump pests leave holes in your plants, while leaving behind their trademark sticky trail.  Luckily, slugs and snails go wild for a cold brew, and some prefer leaving a container of beer at the base of the plant for the slugs to eventually drown in.  If the thought of watching a slug drown in your favorite stout seems hard to swallow (pardon the pun), try attracting lizards and garden snakes to your garden by leaving sunning stones and water nearby.  Your garden will feel like an oasis to these slug-loving reptiles.

 

Make your own natural insecticides!

Caffeine Spray: Combine a few tablespoons of used coffee grounds with herbs like: catnip, lavender, yarrow and thyme. Add 2 cups of water, and allow at least 24 hours for the mixture to steep. Strain, and spray liberally on insects and plant leaves. Combine with insecticide soap (below) for a stronger treatment.

Plant-Based Insecticide Soap: Add 1-2 tablespoons of castile soap to 2 cups of water. Spray insects as needed. Add boiled garlic cloves to boost the effectiveness.

How have you treated bothersome pests in your garden?

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From Sprouts to Sprouts: Practical Tips for Making Homemade Baby Food

February 11th, 2012

With the growing concern of contamination, pesticides and chemicals in produce, parents are now seeking the freshest and safest food for their babies.  After all, babies have the most fragile of systems, and pound for pound; babies consume more vegetables than most adults.  Perhaps that is why making your own baby food is the latest trend for sustainable and healthy living.  In fact, 70% of parents have made their own baby food, and the number is growing.  But why leave in the middleman? Growing your own baby food allows parents to grow seasonal produce that their child prefers, while allowing a unique opportunity to have a stake in what goes into their baby’s mouth.

The Jarred Food Dilemma: Over the years, jarred baby food has become safer now that regulations prevent companies from adding “fillers” to jars.  It’s also convenient, and many parents are relieved to see organic baby food now shelved at traditional grocery stores.  Yet jarred baby food, even if organic; is commonly over-cooked and overly processed. It is also concerning that we do not get to see the produce selected for jarring.  Are the fruits and vegetables selected at their peak and truly organic? We just don’t know.

What To Grow: Children prefer sweeter, milder tasting vegetables like carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, sweet peas, and beans.  Yet, a wide variety of fruits and vegetables are easy to puree and can be made into baby food. In fact, planting a variety of produce can allow babies to become exposed to a variety of vitamins and minerals, as well as flavors.  Babycenter.com also recommends incorporating super foods like blueberries, broccoli, avocados, mandarin oranges and prunes, as they are especially healthful for babies. The Producer and Veggin’ Out have a variety of excellent choices.

Preparing Baby Food: Depending on what your little sprout is eating, you’ll need either a: blender, food processor, baby food grinder or even a fork for softer produce like bananas or avocados.

Step 1: Select fruits and vegetables at their peak. Wash off excess dirt, and remove peels, stems and seeds.  Slice into chunks.

Step 2: Cook fruits and vegetables until tender (sautéing in water or lightly steaming works well).  Do not overcook, as this depletes the food from its vital nutrients. It is also not necessary to use oils, butter, lard, salt, seasoning, gravies or sugar while cooking – keep this food as natural as possible.

Step 3: In a pureeing device of your choice, add a liquid such as water or fruit juice (remember that honey is toxic to infants). Puree until smooth and store in batches in your freezer. Many prefer adding the mixture to ice trays as an easy way to store and retrieve single servings. If you plan on storing a smaller portion in the refrigerator, remember not to store it longer than 2 days.

Carrot Acorn Squash Puree

3 cups acorn squash, peeled and chopped

1 cup carrot, peeled and chopped

2 quarts of water

Method:  In a large saucepan, cover the vegetables with water, bring to boil and simmer for 5-10 minutes.  When soft, remove from heat and add vegetables to a blender with a slotted spoon.  Gradually add reserved water, and puree until very smooth.

 

What are your experiences in making homemade baby food?

 

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How to Make a Home Garden Greenhouse

February 5th, 2012


To keep your plants all safe and sound during winters, the best thing to add to your garden is a  greenhouse. You can always scout around and find out affordable options of building a greenhouse yourself, which is truly a useful project and within a day you can accomplish your task. With a greenhouse  in your garden, you can grow your own vegetables and other plants throughout the year.

Besides, you will be contributing vastly towards reducing climate change, with the added bonus of picking fresh vegetables daily for your table. A greenhouse traps the sunlight in and does not reflect back which indispensable for your plants. You can choose to use PVC or glass, which has greenhouse properties. You can follow some specifics if you plan to design and build your own greenhouse.

Building up your greenhouse in the garden

1. Now, you must understand that a greenhouse needs to trap in the sunlight and so you need to choose the right spot for it. Choose a spot where there is ample sunlight in the garden or near a verandah, and avoid shady areas as sunlight will not filter in.

2. You must measure the specific dimension you require for the greenhouse in the shape of a rectangle. However, these specifics will depend on the availability of space in your garden and the number of plants that you want to accommodate. If you have a big garden then you can have a free run of the space but in smaller gardens, you will need to be more accommodating in terms of dimension.

3. Your greenhouse must have a strong structure and you need to plan in such a way that you do not end up using twigs and plastics. Choose strong, wooden planks of old furniture or even skeletal aluminum rods from old household utilities. The material will not only be hard but will be more affordable and solid options to start with.

4. You can build your greenhouse in the basic structure of a room along a rectangular base, which will have four walls and a flat or rounded roof. Of course, rounded roofs are difficult to make as they require a bit of engineering skills, but is well worth the effort as rounded roofs allows for more sunlight penetration.

5. While you adhere to the joints of the structure, you need to use hard material like rope, screws and drill. It matters that the structure should have strong joint support for which you need to pay special attention.

6. If you are building the greenhouse with the help of a professional and using proper custom made frame, then you can go in for glass protection. However, if you have build up your own structure, then glass is not ideal, as it will not be safe without a custom-made frame. You can choose the PVC plastic, which is used for tabletops as they are made of thick transparent material.

When your project is complete, transport your plants inside the cozy confine and watch them thrive throughout the seasons. As long as, you have the determination to take on the project, and happy with a saw, drill and other building tools; you cannot go wrong with the greenhouse.

 

 About the Author:

Kelly is a blogger by profession. She loves writing on technology and luxury. Beside this she is fond of lifestyle. Recently an article on stress relief  attracted her attention. These days she is busy in writing an article on Electric Tankless Water Heater.

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Canning and Preserving 101

February 1st, 2012

First invented during Napoleon’s time as a means of feeding troops healthfully during a march, canning is used today as a useful method to preserve garden fresh fruits and vegetables. Never canned before? Canning entails placing fresh or cooked produce in jars and heating them to a temperature that microorganisms are unable to survive in.  If done effectively; canning can prevent unnecessary waste, save money, and provide healthy food for your family all year long, as well as in an emergency situation.  Essentially, there are two options for home canning: one is water bath canning and the other is pressure cooker canning.  While both effective, this post details water bath canning as it is slightly more user friendly for first time canners.

Selecting The Correct Jar: Mason and ball jars are the two safest and most effective jars to use because they are designed to heat at high temperatures, and come with a two piece self-sealing lid.  Do no use commercial mayonnaise, baby food or pickle jars, as these are not suitable for high temperatures.

Supplies Needed for Canning: Much like with any hobby, the start up costs for canning can seem daunting.  Yet as each year passes, count on saving money as you can reuse jars, canning racks, and other food preserving tools.   There are several canning kits that are available on the market, or perhaps think about purchasing these items separately:

*A large traditional cooking pot, specialized canning pot or pressure cooker to place jars in. Whichever you choose, be sure it has a secure lid to prevent spills.  The pot should also be large enough to fit in each jar with room at the top for water to flow.  Be sure it is no more than 4 inches wider than the burner to ensure an even temperature.

*A jar rack works well to ensure water flow, and to space the jars properly; which will prevent cracking.  If a jar rack is unavailable, some choose to use sanitized cotton cloths to separate and cushion each jar.

*Jar funnels helps to easily ladle food in each jar, and prevents fingers from touching the jar lid.

*Several Mason or Ball Jars with two-piece self-sealing lids.

*Other Useful Supplies: Mixing bowls, saucepans, clean towels, a timer, measuring cups, tongs, a ladle, and a cutting board will all help ensure a smooth canning process.

Basic Step-By-Step Water Bath Canning: This process is ideal for canning acidic foods like fruit, jams, preserves, jellies, pickles and tomato sauce.

1. Sanitize all jars and lids by dishwashing them first, and then adding them to a large pot of boiling water.  Allow all jars to soak for at least 5 minutes.  Remove each jar with sanitized tongs, and place them on a clean towel.

2. Using sanitized tongs for larger pieces of food, or a jar funnel for sauces and jams;  gently place the food into each jar.  Leave approximately ¾ of an inch at the top for the lid. Be sure to use fresh and seasonal produce for optimum taste and expiration life.

3. Seal each jar by placing the small metal disc on the lid of the jar, and twisting the circular piece until securely fastened

4. Place the jar rack inside a large pot of boiling water, allowing the handles to come up from the top.  Carefully lower each filled jar into the boiling water, until all jars are set and carefully spaced. Using the jar rack handles, lower in the jars and fold the handles inside the cooking pot.  Allow the jars to soak for approximately 30 minutes.

5. Carefully remove the jars using tongs, and allow them time to cool off.  Jars should be stored in a cool, dark and dry place to preserve the jar’s contents.

Looking for a great recipe to get your canning off to the right start? Tomato sauces are excellent choices for first time canners.  The Producer includes the Rose Tomato, an heirloom variety with a beautiful, deep rose pink color. Meaty and flavorful, these tomatoes are perfect for tomato sauces.

Classic Heirloom Tomato And Basil Sauce

(Will make enough sauce for 2 jars)

 ½ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 small onion, diced

½ medium carrot, diced

½ stalk celery, diced

3-4 large garlic cloves, sliced

3-4 pounds of very ripe heirloom Rose Tomatoes

2 cups fresh basil, remove stems and coarsely chop

salt and pepper to taste

Method: Peel off the skin of each tomato using a small knife.  Or for easier peeling, cut a small “x” at the bottom of each tomato.  Then blanche them in hot water for about 30 seconds, and rinse under cold water. Once cool, squeeze the tomatoes to remove the seeds and juice, and reserve it for later. Use a potato masher to mash the tomatoes into small pieces.

Heat a large pot to medium high, and add the olive oil, onion, carrot, celery, and garlic cloves.  Add a few pinches of salt and pepper, and allow the vegetables to soften for 10 minutes.  Stir in the tomatoes and basil, and turn the heat to medium low, allowing the mixture to come to a gentle simmer.

Allow the sauce to simmer for 45 minutes, stirring ever few minutes.  If the sauce is becoming too thick, slowly add the reserved tomato juices until it is the consistency you prefer.  Preserve this flavorful sauce by using the step-by-step instructions above.

What are your favorite sauces, jams and produce to can? 

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