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Making Weeds into Snacks

June 16th, 2013

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As gardeners we often see weeds as pests and think up new ways to destroy them. But there are more to weeds than what meets the eye. Did you know that many weeds are edible and even nutritious? Here are a few weeds you can snack on instead of eradicate:

  • Dollar weed  – This circular weed has a tendency to take over yards. However since you can eat them perhaps you will find them not so objectionable anymore. The small round leaves of this weed can be eaten raw and have a taste similar to cucumber. Try to pick leaves smaller than a quarter for the best flavor. Dollar weed also grows in standing water so be sure to wash well before eating. If you desire you can also make a kimchee or sauerkraut like dish from the leaves. Only the leaves are edible. The stems are stringy and hard.
  • Dandelion – This is another common weed that is edible. With its distinctive yellow flowers and fluffy seed heads this is one weed you can’t overlook. This is also a nutrition packed plant. High in many vitamins, minerals and even protein, you could survive for a while on this plant alone. However the flavor leaves something to be desired. With a bitter taste this plant is best eaten cooked. The yellow flower can be eaten raw of the green parts are removed. It makes a colorful addition to salads. Young leaves can be mixed with other greens for a flavor burst. Wilting the leaves is also a great way to make the plant palatable. Combine with hot bacon drippings, green onion, a little sugar, and apple cider vinegar for a tasty side dish. Or you can use a strong oil and vinegar dressing or a salty accompaniment like soy sauce to disguise the bitter flavor. The roots of the dandelion can also be roasted and ground for a coffee substitute or boiled for twenty to thirty minutes before eating.
  • Spiderwort/Day Flower  – With beautiful blue flowers and long, slim leaves this distinctive plant is easy to spot growing in the shade. You can eat the stems of this plant and they have a texture similar to okra, and just as slimy. The sap from the plant can be used to relive minor burns and the stems can be added to thicken stews. The leaves are also edible raw. Nutritious and hardy a frost will kill this plant but it will grow back within a couple of months.
  • Chickweed – Another weed, this one loves to grow in sidewalk cracks, along foundations and anywhere the soil has been disturbed. It has tiny white flowers and likes to grow in clusters. Full of vitamin C, iron and other minerals, this plant is best cooked in stews and soups and acts as a thickener. It tastes good chopped fine and cooked in pasta sauce or as an addition to pesto and salsa. Do not eat too much of it as excessive consumption can cause stomach upset.
  • Purslane/Sedum/Stone Crop – Another weed that loves sidewalk cracks, this juicy looking plant has many uses. This pant loves heat and can often be found growing during the hottest parts of the year when everything else is turning brown. The leaves and stems are edible raw or cooked. Full of vitamins A,C, and all the Bs, minerals, and omega-3fatty acid, this plant is a great addition to your diet. You can also steam it or fry it and the largest stems can be pickled like cucumber.
  • Sow Thistle – This weed is another variety that pops up where you least expect it. It can grow to waist high and has many edible parts. The young leaves are edible raw, steamed or boiled. The stem can be peeled and then cooked like asparagus. Very rich in vitamins and minerals the whole plant can be picked before flowers appear and steamed. The buds of the yellow flowers also make a great caper substitute. Just pluck them before they open and pickle them for six weeks. The roots of this plant are very bitter but can be roasted for a coffee substitute.

 

About the Author:

Humble Seed welcomes guest bloggers. This is a guest post by Liz Nelson from WhiteFence.com. She is a freelance writer and blogger from Houston. Questions and comments can be sent to: liznelson17 @ gmail.com.

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Beat The Heat This Summer In Your Garden!

June 15th, 2013

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During the dog days of summer, you and your plants need some extra TLC – particularly when it hits above 100 degrees. It only takes a few hours for the sun’s rays to damage your plants beyond repair while you were splashing around in the pool (not that we blame you!). To make summer gardening beneficial for your plants and more bearable on yourself, here are some quick and easy tips.

Taking note of your plants. When the heat is on, plants will show signs of distress. Look for browning, yellowing and/or wilted leaves with little to no flowering.  They may also feel crisp when touched. If there are already signs of damage, you may be able to save your plants for successful harvesting. Make sure to mulch 3 to 4 inches to help conserve water, and when watering, give your plants a good, deep soak. Mulching also cools the soil temperature by shielding it from direct sunlight. To prevent damage, read further.

Watering. Depending on what region you live in, you may be experiencing drought. If so, and if you are dealing with water restrictions, you will need to be thoughtful with the day(s) and time(s) you water. If you can, water your plants deeply when it’s cooler in the early morning or evening. If you have drip irrigation, great! If not, you may want to invest in soaker hoses. If you’re fortunate to get a summer monsoon season, a water harvesting barrel is a great way to water your vegetables and reduce your water bills.

Feeding your plants. Many plants may hold back fruit in the hot weather, making it important that you continue to encourage fruit by providing nutrients. One easy way to do this is by side-dressing your plants with compost. Making your own compost is easy (see tips here), plus it makes a rockin’ natural fertilizer for your garden. Limiting weeds can also reduce competition for nutrients and water with your plants – pesky little things aren’t they? If it’s too hot to go weed pullin’ – you may want to try in the evening.

Shade. If your plants are showing signs of heat stress, you should provide them with shade during the hottest part of the day, generally between 11am and 3pm. You can purchase shading material at your local garden center or you can construct a shade barrier using old bed sheets and poles. Summerweight garden fabric is also a nice investment; it can shield plants from damaging rays, and protect crops from birds, insects and other nuisances. Lattices and old screens also work well to shade vulnerable plants.

Keeping your cool. Summer’s heat can be brutal and dangerous to the gardener as well, so it’s important that you protect yourself when in your garden. Using sun block and wearing a wide brimmed hat, loose fitting pants and a light-colored long-sleeved shirt or tee shirt will help reduce skin damage due to the sun’s powerful rays. Wetting or freezing a collar or a towel can also keep you feeling fresh. Furthermore – make sure to have plenty of water within reach while you work!

Best of luck this summer! What are your favorite ways to beat the summer heat within your garden? Do tell…

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Grow Up! Tips for Maximizing Your Garden Space

June 11th, 2013

Lattice

Yards come in all shapes and sizes, and even the most gifted gardener may run into the issue of trying to grow plants in an itty-bitty space, only to become frustrated and end up with frustrated plants, as well. If you’ve found that your plants aren’t thriving, don’t dismiss the idea of having a gorgeously blooming yard quite yet. There are ways to please your green friends, even when you don’t have acres of lush land with which to work.

What’s the secret to having more space in which to garden? Extending your yard upward, not outward. If you’ve never considered using a lattice, now might be the time. You’ll be amazed what you’ll come up with (pun intended).

What is lattice?

A lattice, quite simply, is a structure where pieces of material cross over each other in a grid. A lattice can make the garden space you’re working with seem much larger, since it enables your plants to grow up toward the sky.

Different Types of Lattices

There are a few types of lattices, each boasting its own advantages. Before you decide to put one in your garden, take a look at your options.

Plastic or Vinyl

A plastic lattice can be the least expensive option for the gardener, and plastic certainly has its good points. The advantages of using a plastic lattice can include:

  • It is less susceptible to weather elements.
  • Insects are not as drawn to plastic as they may be to natural materials such as wood.
  • It is easy to clean.
  • It will not warp or splinter.

Wrought Iron or Metal

A metal lattice can be copper, iron or a lightweight aluminum. The advantages of selecting a lattice made out of metal can include:

  • It is durable through the years, provided you maintain it.
  • It brings a sophisticated look to the garden.
  • It can hold heavy plants because it’s durable.

Wood

Of course, let’s not forget wood. If you choose a wooden lattice, you’ll have your pick of trees – pine, cedar and redwood, to name a few. Here are the advantages of a wood lattice:

  • It is environmentally friendly.
  • It blends naturally with the beauty of the natural world.
  • It can be painted or decorated easily.
  • It is relatively inexpensive.

Installing a Lattice in the Garden

Once you’ve decided on the type that suits your space the best, it is time to introduce the lattice to your garden. If you chose a lattice made from wood, follow these tips to install it.

  • Measure the space; measure the lattice.
    You’ll need to make sure that your lattice is cut into the size you need. Measure the space first and cut the appropriate amount of lattice. Use a fine tooth saw on a steady surface for cutting the lattice.
  • Create a frame.
    It’s a bit more difficult to get the lattice to attach to the earth, so a frame is helpful in this case. A simple wooden frame that surrounds the garden space should work.
  • Attach the lattice to the frame.
    Use small nails, deck screws or staples to attach the lattice to the frame you’ve created.

Selecting Plants for the Lattice

Now that you have a lattice in your garden, which plants will grow successfully in a vertical direction? Here are a couple suggestions for plants that will beautify your newly decorated space – there are many others, of course! Keep in mind, too, that these plants are also great for picket fences and any other structures around your home.

  • Roses
    There are many different types of roses in the world, so pick your favorites (make sure they’ll grow in your climate) and watch them wind around your new lattice. Roses are cherished for their fragrance – not to mention that they’re a symbol of love.
  • Clematis
    Clematis vines come in many colors. This is a hearty plant in most climates.
  • Wisteria
    Wisteria is known for its small flowers (usually white, blue or pink). Wisteria blooms in the spring and also thrives in many climates.
  • Morning Glory
    Considered one of the easier vines to grow, even for beginners, morning glory will bloom in the morning with large flowers in colors including white, purple and scarlet.

Remember, a lattice can offer privacy and beauty to your yard, as well as creating a more vertical garden space for happier plants. If you’ve been wondering how to make the most of a minuscule yard, letting your plants grow up might be the answer you seek.

 

About the Author:

Chris Long is a store associate at a Chicago-area Home Depot. He frequently writes for the Home Depot website. Chris’ outdoor project interests range from providing homeowners with lattice tips to how to choose the right fencing for your yard.

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