Growing Crops: Cranberries

Most gardeners do not realize that they do not have to live waist-deep in a bog in order to grow their own cranberries. Highbush cranberries (viburnum trilobum) come in several varieties, including Alfredo, Early Black, Howes, Stevens, and Wentworth, that have been specifically bred as shrubs, some of which can grow as tall as 15 feet. Hand-picking is all that’s required, rather than flooding a field and floating the berries like logs in a boom.

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Cover Crops

Green manure is not fresh out of the horse. In fact, it’s not even manure. It’s another name given to cover crops, or crops that are planted for one reason only: to benefit garden soil. Think of it as a grow-your-own organic fertilizer, literally. Cover crops also stabilize soil and attract beneficial bugs, providing them with food and shelter.

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Crop Rotation

Crop rotation is perhaps the single best way to fight disease and pest problems that can plague your vegetable crops. Ideally, you will have several separate areas, beds, patches, or sections in your garden so that you can rotate your crops around in order to prevent the same crops from being repeatedly grown in the same place. This also gives your soil a chance to recover each season.

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Garden Pest Control – Beneficial Birds, Bees, and Bugs

Bees help pollinate your crops, and birds and certain bugs feed on other bugs that would otherwise eat your crops, so you want a bird-, bee-, and beneficial-bug-friendly garden. These helpers will not completely get rid of garden pests, but they will enhance your food security by preventing a full-blown infestation from occurring.

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Growing Crops: Borage

A beautiful and tasty annual herb with an ugly name, borage is also a low-maintenance herb. Perfect for those would-be gardeners with the proverbial brown thumb. You have to really try to kill this herb off. So, why not give it a try?

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Growing Crops: Chicory, Radicchio, Endive, Escarole…and Frisee, too!

Why so many different plants in one post? Well, they’re all members of the same family (asteraceae) and genus (cichorium) and have remarkably similar planting requirements and growing conditions. Chicory belongs to the species intybus, and radicchio is a chicory variety. Endive belongs to the species endivia, and escarole and frisee are endive varieties. All of them are cool weather vegetables that tend to bolt during the heat of summer. They make it possible to enjoy salad all year long.

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Smart Garden Ideas – Companion Planting

Companion planting is not an exact science, but certain combinations of plants grown together seem to be an effective way of enhancing food security by reducing the chances that crops will be destroyed by diseases or pests. The smell of certain pungent plants can repel pests. Other plants attract birds and insects that eat garden pests. One plant will feed the soil with the nutrients another needs, creating balance. A few specific examples follow.

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Garden Tools You Will Need – Harvesting

Simply yanking your vegetables off the branch or out of the ground is not the proper technique for harvesting your crops. Unless we’re talking about corn. Then it’s pretty much twist and yank the ear off the stalk. The rest of the time, however, using the proper tools is the safest way to harvest your crops with minimal damage to not only the remaining plant but to what you just harvested. You don’t want to bruise or crush your produce.

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Growing Crops: Corn Salad

Also called Lamb’s Lettuce, Mache or Rapunzel, this cold-hardy green helps make it possible to enjoy salad year-round. The flavor is quite mild.

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Growing Crops: Broccoli Rabe

What, exactly, is broccoli rabe (or raab, or raap)? Well, it’s not broccoli, for a start. It got that nickname due to its florets that resemble those of green calabrese (what we call broccoli here in the U.S.).

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