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Fall Herb Gardening

August 31st, 2012

Hasn’t the summer been flying? It feels like we blinked once in June, and here we are, discussing fall gardening tips. Fall is the perfect season to plan out your herb garden, perform small maintenance chores, and grow new herbs for the New Year.  While you’re looking forward to those crisp evenings, rosy cheeks, hot soups, and the smell of bonfires, keep these fall herb gardening tips in mind:

Have A Plan For Fall

Keeping a garden notebook can make the difference between a fine garden, and a great one. Take a few moments to make simple map of what you’d like to grow and where. Also, make notes of your past successes and failures, which herbs did not grow well, and a possible reason behind it. Jot down which herbs you used the most often, and which you used the least. This all will make your herb garden more successful this fall.

Annual Herb Fall Care

If you are searching for herbs with little commitment, annual herbs are a great choice. This includes basil, dill, parsley, rosemary and marjoram. Generally, annual herbs can stay in the ground if they continue to do well. If not, annual herbs are easy to clean out and replace in the fall.

If you have an herb garden already in place, take a look and decide which herbs need to be cut back. Thin any herbs that have grown past their boundaries. If you plan on seed saving and replanting, wait until your herbs have finished their growing cycle by flowering and making seeds.

Perennial Herb Fall Care

Perennial herbs may start to accumulate dead growth at this time. It’s your choice if you prefer to cut it back and dispose of it (or compost), or leave it for foraging birds or animals in the garden. If you decide to leave it, be aware that fall is the time when animals may be looking into your garden for a more reliable food source. Therefore, it’s important to harvest your herbs as they become available, and/or place adequate fencing around the herbs to protect them.

Consider drying or freezing herbs if you find they are growing in abundance. Plants that do not dry well are generally chives, parsley, cilantro, and tarragon. Try freezing these herbs, or adding them to salad dressings or marinades for more aromatic appeal.

Fall Planting

Many gardeners save planting for the springtime, yet herbs can and should be planted in the fall. Herbs thrive in the cooler air, as well as the softer soil, and tend thrive in these conditions. Planting in the fall also means they will be ready for harvest early the next year. Herbs that grow best in the fall include: basil, dill, cilantro, and parsley. You may want to add new soil or soil builder to ensure richness.

Preparing For Fall Frost

Cooler weather comes as early as September for some, and has the potential to bring unexpected frosts.  To prevent frost damage, the best method is to move plants in containers or pots inside before the first frost. However, if plants are rooted in the ground, use old blankets, sheets and burlap sacks and lightly drape them over your plants in the evening.  Ensure the covers are removed in the morning so that each plant receives plenty of necessary sunlight.  Stones, stakes or bricks can also be used to prevent covers from blowing off.  Also, avoid using heavy blankets or place wire around the plant to balance the weight and prevent crushing.

Have you purchased your Uncle Herb’s Favorites seed kit for fall? You’ll find 10 great herb choices of non-GMO and non-hybrid varieties.

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The Top 10 Health Benefits Of Beets

August 24th, 2012

Beets are easy to love. They are gorgeous in color, and offer a rich, earthy flavor that can’t be replicated. Once you get cooking, one slice down the center allows a beet’s red juices to trickle free, making you wonder if you got lost in some teenage vampire movie. But don’t let that deter you from roasting or juicing them, grating and then throwing them in salad, or even baking them into a gratin.

While at one time beets made “The 11 Best Foods You Are Not Eating List” we’re hoping that beets are making a comeback! There are just too many health benefits one should take advantage of. Read on for 10 reasons beets should make a comeback on your plate.

1. Beets contain a unique combination of antioxidants. They contain essential phytonutrients called betalains. Betalains contain a variety of antioxidants, and give beets their famous red and yellow hue.  These phytonutrients, along with vitamin C and manganese, help to protect against certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, as well as age-related macular degeneration.

2. Beets can lower blood pressure. Research at the American Heart Association found that beets can lower blood pressure and reduce cardiovascular disease. An article published by Hypertension (June 30, 2010) suggests that 8.5 ounces of beet juice can greatly lower systolic blood pressure.

3. Beets keep athletes hydrated. Beet juice contains high levels of potassium, which help to balance electrolytes and regulates the body’s fluids.

4. Beets are a natural anti-inflammatory. Chronic inflammation can lead to heart disease, certain cancers, and other health problems. Fortunately, beets contain high levels of carotenoid phytonutrients and betain (a B-complex vitamin), that help to regulate inflammation. Furthermore, beets also contain choline, an important vitamin in controlling inflammation.

5. Beets detoxify the body. Betalain pigments not only give beets their rich color, but are also important contributors to the body’s detoxification process. Pigments help to neutralize unwanted toxins and make them easier to eliminate in urine. Those that live in big cities or feel they are exposed to above average toxin levels could benefit from adding beets to their diet.

6. Beets contain healthy nitrates. A study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that there is an important nitrate in beets that helps increase stamina, and reduces the need for oxygen intake.  This combination makes exercise less tiring, and those who took part in the study felt more energized.

7. Beets can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. Many prefer beets that are lightly steamed, boiled, baked or roasted. But just remember that high heat reduces the antioxidant and nutrient content (don’t you hate that?). Fear not – raw beets are also exceptionally flavorful. To attain the most benefits, throw ½ beet down a juicer along with your favorite fruits and vegetables, or grate/slice thinly in a salad.

8. Beets are essential for eye health. They can improve overall eye health, and have even been studied to reduce rates of macular degeneration, which affects a growing number of seniors.

9. Beets can prevent cardiovascular disease. Amrita Ahluwalia, Professor of Vascular Biology at Queen Mary’s William Harvey Research Institute said, “Our research suggests that drinking beet juice, or consuming other nitrate-rich vegetables, might be a simple way to maintain a healthy cardiovascular system, and might also be an additional approach that one could take in the modern day battle against rising blood pressure.”

10. Beets can help those with anemia and low-blood hemoglobin. The high iron content in beet juice is easily absorbed in the blood stream, and can also increase blood count and improve circulation.

***Are you growing beets this fall? What are your favorite ways to enjoy beets?



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7 Reasons Seeds Fail To Grow

August 16th, 2012

Enjoying a bounty of freshly harvested veggies, fruits and herbs is perhaps the best part of growing your own garden. To get there, gardeners must master the early stages of sowing and germinating seeds. While necessary, this process can leave many of us wondering: why do some seeds have all the luck, while others fail to grow?

Fortunately, luck is a very small part of ensuring seeds are able to germinate successfully. Rather, proper planning and a watchful eye can allow your seeds a great chance of developing into a beautiful and delicious garden to enjoy all year round.

Read further to discover the possible reasons seeds fail to germinate:

Reason 1: Seeds are planted too deeply. This is the number one reason seeds fail to germinate and grow properly early on. As a rule of thumb, plant a seed no deeper than 3 times the diameter of the seed. Also, always follow the package instructions for specific planting times, depth, spacing and location recommendations.

Reason 2:  The soil is not prepared well. Adding organic matter such as mulch or compost a few weeks before sowing or planting is paramount to ensuring success in your garden. Organic matter provides microorganisms, rejuvenating the soil and increasing the likelihood of successful germination. Once you sow the seeds indoors or outdoors, gently press the soil so that the seeds can come in full contact with the soil.

Reason 3: The soil is either too hot or too cold. Many gardeners get very anxious to get their gardens started early.  But if the soil is too hot or too cold, seeds may fail to germinate and grow properly. Many seeds are unable to germinate if the soil reaches a temperature over 85 degrees F. Likewise, soil that is too cold can also impede germination (especially for warm season crops like corn, squash and beans). Instead, start your garden indoors, or hold off on sowing until the soil reaches a comfortable temperature for your seeds.

Reason 4: Overwatering the soil. It’s easy to get carried away, but keep in mind that the soil should be moist – never continuously wet. Furthermore, try to keep the water at around room temperature, and never too hot or too cold.

Reason 5: Birds and squirrels have taken the seed. While not as likely, birds and squirrels do tend to enjoy larger seeds like corn and beans, and often times fail to leave any trace of their sneaky ways. If you suspect an animal has taken the seeds, replant the seeds and place netting around the garden.

Reason 6: The seed quality is poor. Purchasing packaged seeds from a warehouse or store could result in exposure to rain, extreme temperatures, wind, or other weather conditions that damage the vitality of a seed. At Humble Seed, our themed, bundled packaged are placed in FDA food-safe containers, along with our re-sealable Mylar® bags; keeping seeds fresh when they are delivered to your doorstep, as well as in between plantings.

Reason 7: There was a problem transplanting a seedling outdoors. To get a jump on the growing season, seed starting is a great way to grow seeds in a controlled environment. When ready, there are a variety of vegetables that tolerate root transferring well. These include (but are not limited to): broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, celery, eggplant, leeks, onions, parsley, potatoes and peppers. However, many find that root vegetables are challenging to transfer, and are best started outdoors.

It’s essential to time transplanting properly.  Calm, cloudy days (or an area with shade) can stifle the shock of exposure to a new environment. Likewise, transplanting in the late afternoon is helpful for plants to avoid direct sun exposure for a long duration on the initial transplant day. When plants are transplanted in poor weather, or are exposed to too much direct sunlight early on – they can become damaged or die.  However, if you transplanted the seedling properly but still notice some wilting or drooping – hang on tight for a few more days. Plants tend to recover quickly when given the right TLC.



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3 Easy Steps For Prepping A Fall Garden

August 11th, 2012

Fall is a wonderful time to enjoy seasonal pumpkins, squash, green beans, broccoli and cabbage. But before we enjoy the bounty of our fall harvest, there is work to do! Fortunately, prepping for a fall garden can be done in three easy steps.  Once prepping is complete, be sure to read our complete guide on what to plant in the late summer for a fall harvest.

Step 1: Gently begin pruning plants that need it. Yet, don’t prune plants just for the sake of pruning (it’s easy to get carried away!). Simply prune dead or dying plants to control your plant’s direction of growth, and the quantity of fruit it can produce. Pinch to remove growth buds, flowers, or immature fruit.

Step 2: Remove plants that are diseased, old or damaged by pests – they will most likely never produce abundantly again. Weeds also grow rampant in the summer time, and need to be pulled. Our guide to preventing and removing weeds can help with this endeavor. Leave all frost friendly veggies if the foliage is still healthy and producing.

Step 3: Add organic matter like mulch or compost a few weeks before planting, as this can greatly improve the soil quality for your fall harvest.  This is because organic matter provides soil microorganisms, rejuvenating the native soil and increasing the likelihood of a successful fall crop.

If needed: Take note of the position of your garden and the sun. Decide which plants will require full or partial sun, and re-position your garden accordingly. Use large plants (like sunflowers) to protect plants that require more shade. Remember the saying, “The right plant in the right space”

A Reminder About Frost Damage: It’s difficult to imagine that cooler weather has the potential to bring unexpected frosts in the near future.  To prevent frost damage, the best method is to move plants in containers or pots inside before the first frost. However, if plants are rooted in the ground, use old blankets, sheets and burlap sacks and lightly drape them over your plants in the evening.  Make sure to remove the covers in the morning so that each plant receives plenty of necessary sunlight.  Stones, stakes or bricks can also be used to prevent covers from blowing off.  Avoid using heavy blankets or place wire around the plant to balance the weight and prevent crushing.

What are you planting in your gardens for the fall harvest?

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