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What To Plant Late Summer For A Fall Harvest

July 24th, 2012

With temperatures steadily rising, and many cities experiencing one of the worst heat waves in decades, it’s hard to imagine that fall is just a few short months away.  If you’re already dreaming of chilly temps and a gorgeous fall harvest, you may want to consider planting now, or in the near future. There are a variety of plants that are adapted to grow well in warm soil, when temperatures increasingly get cooler. Choosing fast maturing plants will also ensure that your bounty can be harvested before the fall frosts become an issue.

What to Plant in the Summer

First, check out the average frost date in your city or town. Places with early starting frosts may not be able to plant their heart’s desire, or perhaps should start planting earlier in the summer time to prevent frost damage. Below is a general guide to what to plant and when:

July: lima beans, eggplant, okra, southern peas, peppers, and tomatoes.

August (these plants have a 60-80 day maturity cycle): snap beans, pole beans, corn, cucumbers, southern peas, peppers, pumpkin, squash, broccoli, cauliflower, collards, onions, and turnips.

September (these plants mature quickly):  beets, cabbage, carrots, endive, escarole, mustard, onions and radish.

Protecting Plants From Mr. Freeze

Plants can grow successfully in the late summer and early fall.  Yet, when those chilly temps begin to drop, frost damage can wreak havoc on vulnerable plants. Most plant damage can be prevented (see our guide to preventing frost damage), but do keep in mind that hardier plants are better adapted to withstand cooler climates. Knowing the frost date in your area can help prepare your garden, and sticking to plants with cold hardiness can better ensure a successful crop.

These hardy plants can withstand a fair amount of frost and continue to grow relatively unharmed: broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, collards, kale, mustard greens, onion, parsley, peas, radish and turnips.  Avoid planting basil, bush beans, and snap peas too late, as these sensitive plants will only disappoint come frost season.

Soil that is too warm can also pose a problem early on. Certain plants are unable or are difficult to germinate in soil over 85 degrees F. In exceptionally warm climates, stay away from planting lettuce, snap peas and spinach until the soil can cool down a bit.

Helpful Tips for Summer Planting

*Pest control can be particularly bewildering in the summer time.  See our guide to treating pest naturally.

*In very warm climates, utilize large plants and trees to provide some shade during peak sunlight hours.

*Do not allow seeds to dry out. Provide at least 1 inch of water, once a week.  This will moisten the soil without overwatering. You may wish to water young seedlings more often.

*Warm, dry soil can form a layer of dry crust around young seedlings, interfering with germination. To prevent this, layer compost, mulch of moist potting soil over the seed row and continue watering to keep the soil moist.

***Friends, what are you planting now for a delicious, fall harvest?


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Two New Ways To Support Tomatoes

July 18th, 2012

Peak into a few backyards in the summertime, and you may find gorgeous, red tomatoes, ripe on the vine and ready for harvest. Traditionally, gardeners use metal cages or stakes to keep their tomato plants upright. Yet, many are now finding that these methods can be unstable, lead to uneven sunlight exposure, or other nuisances.  Now more than ever, gardeners are trying a new method to grow their tomatoes upright: they are bending and tying tomato plants’ rubbery stems on a flat plane.  Using a flat plane can offer what stakes and cages cannot: more stability, even sunlight exposure, a decreased likelihood of fungal disease, increased air circulation, less drooping, and an easier time spotting pests.

Below are two methods for growing and stabilizing tomatoes on a flat plane. You may find that these eye-catching methods are very easy to implement in your own backyard, and we hope they inspire you to think outside the box when it comes to growing food.

An Arbor

An arbor or a backyard archway is a unique and beautiful instrument for growing tomatoes, and can provide plenty of support.

How to:  Much like you would use a trellis, plant the tomatoes at the bottom of the arbor. Gradually train your tomato plant to climb the arbor by weaving the stems in and out of the support bars, and tying and twisting the flexible stems up and over the archway. Be sure to prune or tie loose stems that meander away from the arbor. Trellises and lattices can also make gorgeous arbors during the summer growing season.

A Wire Fence

Wire fences are commonly already available in many backyards. Using it for a tomato plant is a great way to create a “living wall” for you and your neighbors to admire.

How to: If you already have a wire fence – you’re set! If you’d like, you can enforce the fence stability further by attaching “hog wire” or “horse corral panels” commonly found at animal feed stores. To get started, plant the tomatoes at the bottom of the wire fence. As the tomato plant grows, the trick is to weave and tie the branches as wide as possible. This will provide stable support, and even sun exposure. Soft ties, hooks and twine can also help to ensure the plant stays securely on the fence. Feel free to prune or redirect plants up and over the fence if they grow too tall.

Other Flat Plane Ideas:

*Grow tomatoes up a nice lattice or trellis.

*Create a “bridge” by leaning two wire mesh panels against one another (wire the top for stability).   Grow tomatoes on the top surface of the “bridge.”

*Weave tomato plants up a gazebo or similar structure for a unique look.

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Growing Wildflowers In The Summertime

July 13th, 2012

Who doesn’t appreciate the beauty of vibrantly colored wildflowers? Whether on a scenic drive or appreciated in the backyard – wildflowers are a genius idea for beautifying areas that may need more color and texture. Given the right care and plenty of rain, wildflowers can make front entrances, walkways, patios and even brown gravel instantly come to life with carpets of blooming flowers. Although wildflowers grow best in the Springtime, there are a handful of varieties that do quite well specifically in the summertime during monsoon season. Therefore, if you live in the Southwest or in an area that receives plenty of rain in the summer months – wildflowers are a wonderful option.

Some Background On Wildflowers

The lifecycle of an annual wildflower includes: germination, growth, flowering, setting of seed, and death. The sexual parts of the plants are the flowers and fruits, which must successfully thrive if a plant is to reproduce. In nature, it is vital that these short-lived plants are able to flower and produce seed in order to ensure survival of the species.

Annual wildflowers grow best in warm-arid climates.  In fact, there are no annual plants in the polar regions of the wet tropics for this reason! In the driest areas of the Southwest, like in the sandy flats near Yuma, Arizona – up to 90% of plants are annuals. Yet, not every attempt at growing wildflowers ensures a spectacular wildflower garden. Mass germination and prolific growth depend on rains that are both early and frequent.

When To Grow Wildflowers

In the desert southwest, spring is by far the best wildflower season.  However, there are small group of summer blooming wildflowers that respond very well to summer rains. This includes the annual Devils’ Claw and Arizona Poppy.  For these summer blooming wildflowers, the strong rains of July and August coax the heat loving wildflowers into bloom.  Therefore, these seeds are best planted in May or June. If you are considering planting wildflowers this year, now is the time!

If you prefer to wait for peak season, the winter-spring species are the most numerous. These are the flashy ones that attract the most attention in the spring. The most common showy winter annuals in the southwest are the Mexican gold poppy, Lupine, and owl clover.

Deciding Where To Plant

When planting wildflowers, it’s best practice to not begin with overly impressive plans.  You may not be able to plant a vast meadow of wildflowers right away. Start with areas that will get noticed: near front entrances, close to the patio, or along walkways. Start small and add on more each year or growing season.

Ironically, weeds and wildflowers need similar conditions to grow. So be sure to plant in areas with full sun exposure, and aim for a minimum of 8 hours a day.   However, if you notice the soil is impacted – some work may need to be done if you suspect dozens of dormant weeds are waiting underground to sprout.

The End Of The Season And Collecting Seeds

Annuals finish their life cycle in one short season. At the end of the cycle, they may dry up, shrivel, and become unsightly for you and your neighbors. Do keep in mind that if you’ve used a variety of both perennials and annuals, the die off won’t appear as harsh. When handling the annuals, wait to remove the plants until after they have set seed. Seed build-up improves chances for increased germination in the following season. For seed savers, this is a real treat during the growing season. Learning to identify when the seeds of different flowers are ripe can be a challenge, but when you get the hang of it, many find it’s very rewarding.

When cleaning up at the end of the season, remove the annuals by pulling the entire plant, or by cutting them at ground level. Cutting the plant at the ground allows the root to decompose naturally into the soil, which can provide nutrients for next season’s wildflowers. Perennials may be left in the garden to bloom again the next season, or can be cut back for new growth if needed.

Some Additional Tips:

*Planting summer wildflowers in the early summer works best – before or just as the monsoon season begins.

*Extreme heat during the initial development can reduce the bloom. So plant as early in the summer as possible!

*Seeds of different species have different germination requirements. Timing and temperature, along with quantity of the first rain that triggers germination, determine which species will dominate or even be present at all.

*To help ensure mass germination, there should be a soaking rain of at least 1 inch.  Following the initial moisture, frequent monthly rains are necessary for vitality and growth.

*If subsequent rains are few and far between, plants may be short and small, and may only produce one flower with a few seeds. While wimpy, this can be enough to ensure future generations.

*Keep intruders like tumbleweeds, buffel-grass and other weeds out of the wildflower gardens, as they are a real threat to wildflowers survival!

Friends, would you consider growing wildflowers in your yard? Which varieties would you love to grow?

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Lose Weight and Eat Healthy With Peppers!

July 13th, 2012

A member of the nightshade family, peppers have been around for over 7,000 years, and were first enjoyed by the Native Americans.  Peppers can range in color and size, and can taste intensely hot, or even delicately sweet. With so much diversity and flavor, many can’t help but ask, ‘What is it that the humble pepper cannot do?’ They can spice up your favorite salsa, add a hint of sweetness on the grill, add nice color to an omelet — even prevent disease and help you lose weight.

Yes, that’s right!  Many are discovering that these vibrantly colored delights have some pretty amazing health benefits to boot.

The Health Benefits

Peppers and chiles are wonderfully nutrient rich, and contain important carotenes, flavonoids, and more vitamin C than most citrus fruit! Their vibrant colors, ranging from red, yellow, orange and green (and sometimes purple) can be associated with different nutrients. Eating a diverse combination of peppers can offer vitamins A, C, B, beta-carotene and lycopene. These nutrients alone can strengthen eyesight, improve mood, provide energy and vitality, and support the immune system.

Furthermore, peppers are a natural anti-inflammatory, which help ward off disease as well as cancers in the pancreas, bladder and prostate. Consuming them on a regular basis can also lower blood pressure, which consequently, can lower your risk of a heart attack or stroke.

Why Peppers Can Help You lose Weight

Peppers contain few calories, and zero fat and cholesterol.  Yet, this is not the only reason why eating peppers can aid in weight control. A study at UCLA Center For Human Nutrition found that eating chili peppers can better control metabolism.  Even better, participants who consumed the peppers’ nutrients in pill form burned an additional 80 calories and appeared more energetic than those that were given a placebo.

How did that happen? Researchers found that a compound in peppers raises the body’s temperature; a similar effect to when a person goes for a light jog, or jumps rope.  A pepper’s ability to warm the body can also keep us warm in the winter, yet cool in the summer when we perspire.

Finding The Best Peppers To Plant

Choosing a variety of natural peppers to include in your diet can offer the most diverse nutrients, and can keep your body balanced. Hot Mama’s Peppers and Chiles offers ten varieties of non-GMO and non-hybrid seeds, including certified organic and heirloom seeds. A few delicious peppers to try are our sweet Antohi Romanian Specialty Frying Pepper; perfect for summer sandwiches, our Yankeee Bell Peppers; stuffed with your favorite seasoned goodies, and spicing up chili, fried potatoes and tacos with Habaneros and Conchos Jalapeños.


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