My Journey to a Chemical Free Lifestyle: DIY Veggie Wash

One of the joys of growing your own food is that you can control what you put in the soil and on your plants. At my home we are trying to grow our food as organically as possible.

Maybe you don’t have the time or place to grow your own garden. If that is the case, food at the local farmer’s market is a wonderful place to buy your produce. You are buying food that is grown locally and most of the time you get to meet the people who grew it. This allows you to ask questions about whether or not they use pesticides. The best part, to me, is that the food is usually picked fresh that day and isn’t sprayed with any waxy substance. Read More »

What’s in the Garden? Tomato Plants

In January I planted my tomato seeds for my Spring/Summer garden. (What’s in the Greenhouse-Seedlings post).  In February, after the seedlings grew a set or two of true leaves, I transplanted them into small foam cups. (What’s I the greenhouse- you win some you lose some)  I have 179 tomato plants.  These young seedlings had lived a sheltered and pampered life in the greenhouse.  To make it in the “real world” of the garden, they needed a transition period in the garden.   Each day the plants were gradually exposed to the wind, sun, and rain.   Without this gradual exposure to the elements, you would find them limp and withered the next day. Plants can even get sun and windburned. This transition process is called hardening off.  It is best to begin this process one to two weeks before you plan on transplanting them into the garden.

The first day, I brought the plants outside in a sheltered spot and left them there for a few hours.  Then I returned them to the greenhouse.  Each day I gradually increased the time they spent outside by 1-2 hours before returning them to the greenhouse each night.  At the end of the week the plants were able to stay outside all day and night as long as the temperatures did not drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.  They were ready for planting in the garden.

tomato-plants-potted-in-garden

I am planting 8 different varieties.  I am keeping records of which plants have grown the biggest so far.  The Rutgers, Beefsteak, Bonnie’s Best and Brandywine are inches taller than the Moneymakers, Creole, Homestead, and Floradade.  I will continue keeping records. I want to know which ones produce first, have the largest yield, and best flavor.

transplanting-tomato-plants

Today, I planted 32 tomato plants (8 varieties of tomatoes-4 plants of each variety) into two raised garden beds that measure 4 feet wide by 16 feet long. I planted 2 plants of each variety in each bed.  In one bed I will be tying the plants to a hog panel and allowing all branches and suckers to grow.  In the other bed, I will be attaching them to strings and breaking off most of the suckers.  I will keep records to see which methods works best for me.

transplanted-tomato-plants-with-watering-bottles
Once I decided where each plant was going to be planted, I dug a hole and placed a tablespoon of organic fertilizer and a tablespoon of Epsom salt into the hole.  I mixed it into the soil at the bottom of the hole.  Then I removed the plant from the cup and placed it into the hole.  It is a good idea to plant tomato plants deeper than they come in the pot, so they are able to develop roots all along their stems which makes a stronger plant.  I then filled in the hole with the soil that I had dug out of the hole.  Lastly, I watered the plants with rain water from my rain barrels.  This is my first year using these Aqua Cones.  I like knowing how much water I have given to each plant and the fact that the water is directed to the roots instead of the top layer of the garden.  Hopefully, with this method I will have less weeds also.  Once again, I will observe and keep records.

Now it’s time to share the other 147 plants with friends and neighbors.

–Penny

What’s in the Greenhouse? Planting Seeds

At the end of last year, I was blessed with a greenhouse for my garden.  It was something I hoped for but didn’t think I would ever own.   Close friends of ours were moving from the outskirts of  a nearby city to a ten acre farm near our home.  They did not plan on moving this beautiful greenhouse to the farm because they were going to build a larger one.  I was so excited and blessed that they helped make this dream a reality.  With my husband’s labor of love, he made a spot in my garden by leveling the ground and laying pavers.  Then he disassembled the greenhouse, hauled it to our property and reassembled it in our garden. Now it is time to put the greenhouse to use.Read More »

What’s in the Garden? Cauliflower

As I stated in an earlier post, I didn’t plant much of a fall garden.  After walking in the garden today,  I wish I had planted more cauliflower.  Although I have tried planting cauliflower in the past couple of years, I had not been very successful.  I would wait for them to grow to a size similar to what I purchase in grocery stores.  This never happened.  The heads of cauliflower were small and if I waited for them to grow larger they became too mature and began to separate.  My harvests were small and of lower quality than I hoped for.   Looking at the picture of this year’s cauliflower, I am sure that you will agree that my cauliflower was a success this year and that is why I wish I had planted more.Read More »

Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese

There was a time that my now four year old son ate any and every vegetable or fruit that I served him.  Those days are gone. Haha.  Therefore, I get creative from time to time and try to sneak in a vegetable here and there when I can.  This was one of the attempts at hiding a vegetable in a kid favorite, Mac & Cheese, and it has quickly become a family favorite.  Fair warning: this meal is not one of my “quick and easy” recipes, but it is totally worth the time cooking it, if I do say so myself!

Ingredients:

12 oz macaroni noodles
1 butternut squash, peeled and chopped into cubes
2 3/4 cups of milk
1/4 cup of flour
1 cup shredded smoked Gruyere cheese
1 cup shredded smoked Cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded smoked Gouda cheese
1 pack of bacon
1 small sweet onion, finely chopped

1.) Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.  Butter a 9 x 12 glass baking dish, set aside.  Boil pasta according to package instructions. Drain, transfer to a large bowl.

2.) While the pasta is boiling, combine the squash and 2 1/2 cups of milk in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer until the squash is tender (about 20 minutes).  In a separate cup, mix remaining 1/4 cup milk with 1/4 cup of flour.  Stir this mixture into the squash, bring to a boil, and then cook until thickened (about 3 minutes).  Stir in half of each type of cheese until melted, keep warm.

3.) While squash is cooking, cook bacon until crisp and then drain on paper towels.  Crumble the bacon bits into the bowl with the pasta.  Keep about 2 tablespoons of bacon grease in the skillet, dispose of the rest.  Return skillet to heat.

4.) Add onions to skillet.  Cover and cook for 10 minutes on low heat, stirring occasionally.  Uncover and increase heat to high. Cook for about 6 minutes longer, stirring occasionally, until onions are golden.  Add to the bowl with the pasta.

5.) Add cheese and squash mixture to the bowl with the pasta, onions, and bacon.  Mix well and then pour mixture into the buttered baking dish.

top-with-remaining-cheese

6.) Cover the mixture with the remaining shredded cheese.  Bake until cheese on top has browned, (about 15 minutes), remove from oven and cool for at least 5 minutes. Enjoy!

–Brandi

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