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Is your soil pH way off base?

May 26th, 2011


Have you ever dealt with vegetable plant problems that confounded you? When it comes to growing your own herbs and vegetables, soil pH is one element in gardening that you should be aware of in order to grow the most successful plants.

If your tomatoes develop blossom-end rot the soil could be lacking in calcium or if your peppers have too much leaf growth the soil could contain too much nitrogen. Each of these soil conditions can be fixed by testing the soil pH and amending if necessary. Soil pH (potential Hydrogen) is basically the measurement of acidity or alkalinity and runs on a logarithmic scale from 0 to 14, with 0 being the most acidic and 14 being the most alkaline. If the soil pH is too high or too low this can be toxic to plants. Garden soils generally have a pH between 5.5 and 8.0, and vegetable plants generally grow best in soil with a pH level between 6.0 and 7.0.

To test your soil pH, you can purchase a soil pH meter or soil test kit through Amazon or at your local garden center. You can also check with your local Cooperative Extension office to see if they can test your soil for you.

What are culprits for soil becoming too acidic or alkaline? Climate and mineral content are two reasons why soil pH can be affected. When it rains, calcium and magnesium can be leached from the soil. In areas where rainfall is high, like in the Pacific Northwest, you’ll find soil that is more acidic, while in areas that are dry you’ll find soil that is more alkaline. As far as mineral content goes, natural rock in soil will affect soil pH. Acidic rock contains more silica which will create acidic soil, while limestone will create alkaline soil.

If your soil pH is below 6 that means the soil is too acidic, and if your soil pH is higher than 7.5 that means the soil is too alkaline. You can easily fix these soil pH problems by adding ground limestone to acidic soil and soil sulfur to alkaline soil. Both limestone and sulfur can be found at local garden centers.

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Seed Spotlight: Red Express Cabbage

January 26th, 2011


Delicious, antioxidant-rich cabbage may not be the most popular vegetable in the garden, but it offers wonderful flavor and versatility that should not be overlooked, especially for warming winter meals. In season from late fall through winter, now’s the time to enjoy cabbage.

An ancestor of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower, cabbage was once prized by ancient Egyptians and Greeks, and for centuries, during famines, cabbage was a staple that helped sustain people in need.

Red cabbage, such as our Red Express, is very low in saturated fat and cholesterol and a good source of thiamin, riboflavin, folate, calcium, iron and magnesium. It is a very good source of dietary fiber, potassium, manganese, and vitamins A, C, K and B6.

Generally used to make coleslaw, it is also perfect for Braised Red Cabbage and Apples (below), a classic German-style dish that is easy to prepare. It complements a variety of foods, such as braised meats, game birds, and pork dishes. When cooking red cabbage, it’s important to note that cabbage’s red coloring reacts to changes in Ph, so avoid cooking it in aluminum cooking vessels and include an ingredient like acidic fruit, lemon, vinegar or wine.

Braised Red Cabbage and Apples


2 tablespoons bacon fat

1 small onion, diced

2 large tart apples, such as Granny Smith, peeled and diced

1 small head red cabbage, cored and shredded

½ cup dark brown sugar

¼ cup cider vinegar

Kosher salt, to season

Freshly ground black pepper, to season


Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Sauté onion in bacon fat in a large Dutch oven. When slightly caramelized, add apples; sauté for two minutes. Add cabbage, brown sugar, vinegar, salt, and black pepper. Bring mixture to a boil then cover and bake for 40 minutes or until cabbage is very soft. SERVES 6

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Seed Spotlight: Rosa Bianca Eggplant

January 11th, 2011


Whether you call it aubergine or eggplant, this vegetable makes a wonderful addition to a spring garden and menus—as appetizers, side dishes and entrées. A plant native to India, the eggplant, today, is grown in most warm regions of the world.

Our heirloom and organic Rosa Bianca Eggplant—found in The Producer—is adored for its violet and white coloring and savored for its creamy, mild taste and wonderful texture. Raw eggplant can have a bitter taste, but once cooked, the flavor of eggplant turns deliciously complex and rich. This versatile vegetable can be fried, grilled or roasted.

If frying, it is important to take the raw eggplant’s texture into consideration. The texture is somewhat spongy, so it will soak up the oil. Fry over moderately high heat. Once the cell structure breaks down, the eggplant will release much of the oil it initially soaks up. Just like squeezing a sponge!

Grilling an eggplant is easy and adds a smoky-sweet flavor. Simply cut an eggplant, lengthwise, into steak-like pieces. Whisk together olive oil, minced garlic and chopped rosemary then brush each side of the eggplant slices with the mixture. Set eggplant slices, diagonally, on the grill and turn often until they’re cooked through.

Nutritionally, eggplant is low in saturated fat, sodium and cholesterol. It is also high in dietary fiber; folate; potassium; manganese; vitamins B6, C, and K; thiamin; niacin; pantothenic acid; magnesium; phosphorus; and copper. Wow! That’s a lot of nutritional health benefits!

This vegetable is a keeper, so plan on adding it to your spring garden and menus. Two of our favorite eggplant dishes include Baba Ghanouj and Eggplant Parmigiano. How do you like to cook your eggplant? We’d love to hear from you.

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