Growing Crops: Basil

Basil is an annual herb that is widely used in Mediterranean cuisine – you would be hard-pressed to find a pasta sauce that doesn’t have basil in it. Not to mention it is one of the staple ingredients in pesto (the others being garlic, olive oil, and pinons or walnuts).

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Growing Crops: Fava Beans

Also called Broad Beans, they actually aren’t beans at all – they’re a member of the pea family. Go figure. A bush plant rather than a climbing vine, varieties include Aquadulce, Broad Windsor Longpod, Bunyards Exhibition, Imperial Green Longpod, Futua RZ, and The Sutton.

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Growing Crops: Chard

Leaf beet (or Perpetual spinach), Rainbow chard, Ruby chard, Seakale beet, Spinach beet, Swiss chard…’tis all a variation of the same vegetable, a close relative to the beet. It is a sturdy, savory green that tastes equally delicious raw in salads as it does wilted as a side dish – or baked into a particularly delicious strata dish involving eggs, cheese, sausage, and bread.

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Garden Tools You Will Need – Planting and Tending Your Crops

Whether you intend to start seeds indoors and then transplant outside, or purchase young plants to transplant as soon as you get them home, or you plan to sow seeds directly in the soil, these are the basics you will need to plant and tend your vegetable garden.

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Raised Bed Gardening

Planting your garden in traditional rows at ground level ensures more labor. There will be much more tilling, weeding, mulching, and drainage issues – and a smaller overall harvest – than if you constructed raised garden beds.

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Growing Crops: Cress

Cress is a catch-all term for three very different delicate yet spicy little salad greens. Despite the name, all three are entirely different species. Watercress (nasturtium officianale) is probably the one you’re most familiar with. It requires an aquatic environment to properly grow (such as the banks of a stream or pond), therefore is not recommended for the urban organic garden. Winter Cress (barbarea verna) – also called Upland Cress – will grow in regular soil and is a cool-season plant that can be harvested clear through the winter.

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Your Garden Calendar

Even within the same state, climates are different. For example, Flagstaff, Arizona has about a 2-month growing season due to the altitude (7,000+ feet). During the summer it rarely gets above 82 degrees F and the daily rain during the monsoon season (between Independence Day and Labor Day) is cold and often contains ice pellets. Winters are cold and harsh, and they’ve seen blizzard conditions in early June. We’ve lived there, we know! Two hours south (and 5,000 feet lower) in Phoenix you can grow vegetables pretty much year-round and 112 degree temperatures during the summer are fairly common. Winter there means maybe having to put on a pair of socks or long pants for a couple weeks.

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Growing Crops: Collards

Collard greens are a staple in the Southeastern U.S., appearing alongside everything from fried chicken to BBQ ribs to Brunswick Stew. They are a member of the Brassica family, which makes them yet another cousin to the cabbage plant.

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Growing Herbs 101

There’s nothing quite like an herb garden. Not only do herbs ward off some pests who are repelled by their strong scent, they just look beautiful, and the taste of fresh herbs in your cooking cannot be beat. You will wonder how you ever cooked with that dried stuff in the bottles at the supermarket.

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Growing Crops: Apples

Apple trees are tricky things. They often fall victim to diseases such as apple scab, powdery mildew, and fireblight. Apple tree propagation is done by grafting particular varieties onto specific rootstocks that determine the disease resistance, growth rate and eventual size of the adult trees. We do not recommend that you plant from seed – you may put in a lot of effort for nothing. Instead, buy live trees that are at least 2 years old, the more disease-resistant the variety the better.

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