Dig for Your Dinner – Growing Spinach From Seed

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spinach

Do you have lots of shade, but still want to grow something to munch on?  Spinach is where it is at then, my friend.  Spinach is a cooler weather crop, so it’s one of the first ones I start outdoors.  It is great to sneak into smoothies, because it packs a nutritional wallop, and doesn’t affect the flavor to much.  It’s one of those leaves {unlike Kale} that actually has a really nice flavor, if you ask me.  It can stand alone in salads or be mixed in with other greens…and it’s awesome in quiches and sauteed.  Listen, just grow it, so I can stop trying to sell it already.

what-do-spinach-seeds-look-like1How to Grow Spinach

Growing spinach from seed is as easy as pie.  Actually, pie is an art form, now that I think about it, so that’s a stupid saying.  It’s best to start it right outdoors–though, you CAN grow it in containers indoor all winter long, if you have a bit of natural light.  I plan to sow my seeds directly outside.

spinach

You can do containers, garden beds or in pallets.  Plant your seeds about 1/2″ deep.  I like to drop a couple of seeds in each hole, just to make sure I get something to germinate.  Thin seedlings to 1 every 2″-6″ apart {depending on variety, so check your seed packet} when they are about 1″ tall.  Because spinach is a cool weather crop, you will need to find a shady spot for it if you plan to sow it throughout the summer.  You can plant seeds in between the rows of taller plants, like corn or tomatoes–or you can plant it in containers and move the container around as needed.

When is Spinach Ready to Harvest?

Once the plant is established and leaves are about 1″ across, you can pretty much pick off the leaves as you need them whenever the mood strikes.

Spinach Salad w Bacon Dijon Dressing

Spinach Salad with Bacon Dijon Dressing

My Favorite Spinach Recipes:

Quinoa Spinach Salad with Tuna and Corn

Quinoa Spinach Salad with Tuna and Corn

Freezer Meal - Gourmet Spinach Blue Cheese Burgers
Freezer Meal Gourmet Spinach Blue Cheese Burgers

Easy Spinach Frittata
Easy Spinach Frittata

spinach-power-smoothie-recipe1
Spinach Power Smoothie

If you live in the Pacific Northwest Region and are unsure what seeds you should be starting right now, or when your transplants should be set out in the garden, this regional planting guide should help you out.

Don’t live in the Pacific Northwest? Find your regional planting guide HERE.

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.



Dig For Your Dinner – Growing Heirloom Tomatoes From Seed

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heirloom tomatoes

It’s my favorite time of year.  Yesterday, I planted my heirloom tomato seeds.  I grow tons of stuff for the garden, but somehow, growing tomatoes makes me feel all warm and garden-y inside {garden-y is definitely a word}.  Maybe it’s that they kick off the warm season veggies, or that they produce pounds and pounds of produce, or maybe it’s just that it makes my nerdy little gardening heart happy–whatever.  All I know is that I love all things tomatoes…tomato sauce, salsa, pizza sauce {please read like Bubba from Forrest Gump}.

planting tomato seeds

If you have never grown Heirloom tomatoes, you are seriously in for a treat.  They each have a super unique flavor, and it’s near impossible to get them at the grocery store.

tomato seedlings

How to Grow Heirloom Tomatoes

If you are starting tomato seeds indoors, I really do recommend a grow light–otherwise, they get super leggy {spindly looking} and just don’t turn out as strong.  Plant seeds about 1/8″ deep.  Plant a couple of seeds in each pot to ensure germination.  when they are about 2″ tall, thin them down to one seedling per pot.  Tomatoes like the soil to be pretty darn warm, so make sure to keep them in a warmer spot in the house, and if you are using a window for light, make sure there isn’t a draft.

tomato seedlings under grow lights

If you do have a grow light, keep the light about 3″ inches from the top of the soil and maintain that spacing as the seedlings emerge.  Tomatoes will lose their first set of leaves, and then the true leaves will appear, so don’t be alarmed.  You will need to transplant them into larger pots before they are ready to go outside, then put them under the grow lights for a couple of weeks.  They will be ready to transplant outside in about 8 weeks {provided that the weather is warm enough}.

tomato plants organic gardening

To transplant them outdoors, make sure to harden them off first.  Choose a sunny, well-drained location.  When you  plant them, plant them and their lowest set of leaves in the dirt.  That will encourage better rooting.  I like to trim up the rest of the leaves so that when I water, it doesn’t splash up onto the leaves and cause disease.  Tomaters hate to have their leaves wet.  Put a tomato cage around the plant, being careful not to drive the wire into the roots.  You can also stake the plants, if you have lots of plants or don’t want to buy cages.

If space is an issue, you can grow your tomatoes upside down in hanging baskets or in a Topsy Turvy.

tomatoes

When Are Tomatoes Ready to Harvest?

Tomatoes are ready to harvest when they have developed a deep red, orange, purple {whatever the variety you are growing} color and are firm to the touch.  They may still have a little yellow around the stem.  Just pluck them off of the vine with your fingers.  Tomatoes that are ready to harvest will pull from the vine fairly easily–if you need to put your back into it, you may want to give it another day or two.

purple Cherokee heirloom tomato

My Favorite Tomato Recipes:

Heirloom Tomato Sauce RecipeHeirloom Tomato Sauce

baked-tomatoesBaked Tomatoes with Pine Nut and Basil

recipe-crock-pot-pizza-sauceHomemade Crock Pot Pizza Sauce

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

Dig for Your Dinner – Growing Kale From Seed

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italian kale plant

Kale.  Okay, so not my favorite vegetable on the planet, but The Girl loves it so I’ve decided to plant a few rows of the stuff for her this year. She loves to add kale to her smoothies.  I personally like to add it to my compost pile, but to each their own ;) .

Admittedly, Kale is nutrient packed.  It has over 45 flavenoids {not to be confused with excellent flavor–totally different}.  It also has about 1100% of your daily vitamin K intake, which is pretty darn impressive.  It is touted as an anti-cancer food, as it boasts impressive levels of antioxidants.  So, I guess I’ll have to have The Girl whip me up a smoothie and suck it up…literally.

kaleHow to Grow Kale:

Kale is super forgiving.  It is a cold weather crop, so it’s one of the first and last crops you can grow each season.  In some areas, Kale and Arugula will grow all winter–though, very slowly.  You can sow it directly outside about 1-2 weeks before the last frost {I personally think you can do it as soon as the soil can be worked, it just won’t really start to grow until 1-2 weeks before the last frost}.  To sow it outside, sow seeds about 1/4″ – 1/2″ deep depending on the variety {check your seed packet}.

kale plantsWhen seedlings are about 1″ tall, thin them to one every 8″-10″.  Kale will go to seed pretty darn quick in hot temperatures, so plan to grow it early spring or late fall.  You can also start seeds inside about 5-6 weeks before the average last frost.  Then, you can transplant them into your garden or in containers.  Follow the same basic growing guidelines as outdoors.

mavis butterfield picking kale

When is Kale Ready to Harvest?

You can harvest the leaves of Kale pretty much anytime there are leaves.  The smaller leaves actually have a bit better flavor.  Just pull off the outer leaves as needed, and it will continue to produce for you the entire season.

My Favorite Kale Recipes:

Blueberry Kale SmoothieBlueberry Kale Smoothie

Sauteed Kale with Parmesan Cheese

Sauteed Kale with Parmesean Cheesekale-brownies-recipeKale Brownies with Carrots

recipe breakfast quiche bacon kale mushroom Quiche with Kale, Bacon, Mushroom and Cheese

If you live in the Pacific Northwest Region and are unsure what seeds you should be starting right now, or when your transplants should be set out in the garden, this regional planting guide should help you out.

Don’t live in the Pacific Northwest? Find your regional planting guide HERE.

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

Dig for Your Dinner – Growing Lettuce from Seed

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Growing Lettuce from Seed

Lettuce is pretty much the easiest thing to grow on the planet.  It has pretty high yields and, unlike other veggies, can make up the bulk of an entire meal.  Because, I know, deep down you can’t get enough veggie trivia {it’s probably so deep down you’ve never even considered the term “veggie trivia”} I thought I would throw this awesome little nugget out:  The term salad comes from the latin world salata, which literally means salted things.  Salads originally consisted of veggies that were salted, and drizzled with oil and vinegar.  Salads date back to ancient Rome and Greece {probably because they were so easy to grow} and have been a staple in nearly every culture since.

Nowadays, salads are pretty much synonymous with dieting, and occasionally get the bad rap of being rabbit food, instead of the awesome goodness that it is.  Still, dieter or not, it must be popular because the average person consumes about 17 lbs. of iceberg lettuce alone each year in the U.S.  I don’t know if you have ever weighed lettuce, so let me tell you, 17 lbs is A LOT of lettuce…and not even the tastiest variety at that.

How to Grow Lettuce:

growing lettuce in winter

Like I said, lettuce is crazy easy to grow.  You can sow it directly outside 2-4 weeks BEFORE the average last frost.  Then, you can continue to sow it every 3-4 weeks for a successive crop.  If you live in a mild-wintered climate, you can grow it all year {it will just grow a little slower}.  Sow seeds every 1/2″, about 1/8″ deep–or according to seed packet.  Water seeds by lightly sprinkling with water–lettuce seeds are so small, they will drift out of their rows if you introduce too much water.  Thin to 1 plant every 6″ when seedlings are about 1/2″ tall.

When is Lettuce Ready to Harvest?

red leaf lettuce

Lettuce can be harvested as a “head” or you can snap off leaves as needed.  If you decide to harvest an entire head of lettuce, cut the head off at the base, being careful to leave the base–it will give you a second crop of lettuce that way.  Each variety matures at a slightly different rate, and has different flavors at every point of maturity, so make sure to sample them all.

Which Lettuce Varieties to grow?

This year, I am growing these kinds of lettuce:

My Favorite Recipe with Lettuce:

Roasted Chicken Salad with Cranberries

Roasted Chicken Salad with Cranberries

If you live in the Pacific Northwest Region and are unsure what seeds you should be starting right now, or when your transplants should be set out in the garden, this regional planting guide should help you out.

Don’t live in the Pacific Northwest? Find your regional planting guide HERE.

how-to-grow-lettuce

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

Dig for Your Dinner – Growing Leeks from Seed

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growing leeks from seed

Leeks are one of those things the average gardener doesn’t take the time to grow, but seriously, they are a delicious addition to a stir-fry.  Leeks are a relative to the onion, but they do not produce an edible bulb.  They are much, much milder tasting–so I think they are a little more kid friendly.  In case I haven’t sold you on the meager leek, let me throw these awesome tidbits out:  leeks are low in calories, are packed with anti-oxiants, they are a great source of folic acid, and vitamin A.  Basically, you’re doing yourself a big fat favor by integrating them into your life.

transplanting leeks
How to Grow Leeks:

Here’s the deal, it really is a bit easier to buy leek starts from your local nursery.  Leeks, like onions, can be a little trickier and more time consuming to start from seeds {time consuming, mostly}.  It is IMMENSELY  gratifying to start them from seed, though, so if you have the time, space, and energy go for it.  Leeks prefer well-drained soil, so make sure to mix a little perlite into the soil if drainage is an issue.  If you are starting them from seed, you’ll want to start them indoors 8-10 weeks before the last frost.  Once you get the plants established, they are super hardy little buggers.  Plant 4 or so seeds about 1/2″ deep.  Thin to one plant per pot when plants are about 1″ tall.  When you transplant them outside, plan on a 12″ row spacing.

leeks

When are Leeks Ready to Harvest?

Leeks are ready when the stem is about 1″ in diameter.  1″ diameter seems to yield the best overall flavor.  To harvest them, just loosen the soil around the base of the plant, and lift them out of the ground.

Which Leek Varieties to grow?

My Favorite Recipe with Leeks:

My favorite recipe is actually from Mama’s Minutia, and it is DELISH.   It’s called Giant Sausage and Leek Quiche–I think pretty much any recipe that leads with “giant” is the start of something wonderful.

If you live in the Pacific Northwest Region and are unsure what seeds you should be starting right now, or when your transplants should be set out in the garden, this regional planting guide should help you out.

Don’t live in the Pacific Northwest? Find your regional planting guide HERE.

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

Dig for Your Dinner – Starting Artichokes from Seed

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Starting Artichokes from Seed

The HH loves artichokes, so I always make sure to include them in my garden.  They are actually really beautiful plants, in a strange, Tim Burton cartoon sort of way.  I kind of saw them in a new light when we stumbled onto the Thomas Keller’s French Laundry garden a couple of years back.  They aren’t a very common dinner table fare, but I don’t know why–you can class up pretty much any dish with them–afterall, they are, technically an edible flower.  Lore goes that Zeus himself turned one of his scorned lovers into an artichoke–maybe because it captured some sort of tragic beauty?  {Did I sound like a scholar there?  That’s what I was going for :) }.

Artichokes are packed with goodness.  They are a great source of vitamin C, folic acid, and magnesium.  They only have about 25 calories for a whole medium flower.  You really can’t make a case against them, so just embrace growing them.

artichoke 10 weeks

How to Grow Artichokes:

One plant can yield up to 20 artichokes per season, so you really don’t need to plant a ton to get great yields.  To start them from seed, start approximately 12 weeks before the last frost.  Plant seeds 1/8″ deep.  When you transplant them outside, keep rows 2-4′ apart–one plant can get quite big.  Make sure to plant in a sunny location with good drainage.

When are Artichokes Ready to Harvest?

Harvest when flowers have reached full size, but are still CLOSED.  The flavor and texture changes the more they open up.  Cut the bud off with a 2-3″ stem.

fresh artichokes

Which Artichokes to grow?

My Favorite Recipe with Artichokes:

My favorite way to eat artichokes is probably the most basic.  I steam them whole and then dip the edible part of the leave in melted butter.  If you are only into the artichoke heart {which, is admittedly the best part}, give Martha Stewart’s Artichoke Bottoms au Gratin recipe a try.  It’s cheesy aritchokey goodness.  If you want to turn an artichoke into an entire meal, try this Sun-Dried Tomato and Feta Stuffed Artichoke recipe–I mean, what in that title doesn’t sound uh-mazing?!

If you live in the Pacific Northwest Region and are unsure what seeds you should be starting right now, or when your transplants should be set out in the garden, this regional planting guide should help you out.

Don’t live in the Pacific Northwest? Find your regional planting guide HERE.

How-to-Grow-Artichokes

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

How to Store Winter Squash

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How to Store Winter SquashWinter squash are like potatoes.  If you store them right, they will seriously last you most of the winter–at least until you can get out and grow yourself some cool weather kale and spinach.

heirloom-butternut-squashTo ensure that you get the longest life out of your squash, start by picking it at the right time.  The squash shouldn’t be wet at all, so don’t pick after the sprinklers have come on or after a rain.  Cut the squash from the vine, instead of pulling it.  That way, you won’t accidentally break off the stem too close to the squash, causing a blemish that will speed up rot.  Also, make sure to pick it before the nighttime temperatures dip into the 40′s.  Don’t let the name fool you, winter squash does not like it to be too cold.

anna swartz hubbard squashThe first step in storing winter squash is curing.  Curing is basically a fancy word for leaving the squash out somewhere warmish with good air circulation and ignoring for a week and a half to two weeks.  Curing helps make sure any excess water leaves the squash and makes it taste better long term.

Some people like to give their squash a quick diluted bleach bath before storage.  It helps to kill any fungus or bacteria on the squash.  If you do decide to give your squash a bath, dilute it 1 part bleach to 10 parts water.  Rinse well after the bath and dry completely before storing.  This step is completely optional.

hubbard squashWinter squash are happiest when stored at about 55 degrees.  If you have a root cellar, well, then I’m jealous.  If you don’t, your best bet is going to be a basement or garage.  They need to be completely dry throughout storage, so either keep them up on a shelf or in a box, where water from melting snow off of the cars, etc. can’t get to them.

Depending on the type of squash you are storing {acorn has the shortest shelf life, while blue hubbard has one of the longer shelf lives}, it will last anywhere from 4 weeks to 7 months.

What’s the longest you’ve successfully stored a winter squash?

~Mavis

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

How to Grow Garlic

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How to Grow Garlic

Is it already time to plant garlic bulbs again? Where does the time go. It seems like it was just yesterday and I was harvesting garlic from our garden. Is it just me, or are there more things to do in the garden in the fall than in the Spring?

how-to-plant-garlic

Growing garlic is very simple and straightforward. For starters you want to try and find certified garlic bulbs {most local nurseries have it in stock this time of year}. Some people just buy garlic bulbs at the grocery store, but a lot of times produce {even bulbs} can be sprayed to slow growth, so I like to buy certified garlic bulbs so I know exactly what I’m getting. Botanical Interests and Territorial Seed have a great selection.

fall-how-to-plant-garlic-bulbs

To plant garlic, first break the bulb apart and inspect the cloves for any damage.  Toss any cloves that are brown or have decay on them. Next, plant the garlic about 2″ deep and about 6″ apart in loose, well drained soil. Cover the bulbs with soil, water and walk away. Mother Nature will take care of the rest until spring. Unless of course you live somewhere where it never rains during the fall and winter months. If that’s the case, then be sure and give your garlic bed a drink every now and again.

fall-planting-how-to-plant-garlic-bulbs

Once the garlic begins to sprout in the spring, I like to cover my garlic patch with a couple inches of leaf litter to help insulate the garlic bulbs a bit from the cold {if you live in a warmer climate you don’t need to do this}.

how to grow garlic shoot

I don’t know about you, but I use garlic practically every day in my cooking, so it’s really nice to be able to grow it in my backyard each year for a nice stash when I need it.

How to Grow Garlic

  • Plant cloves 6 to 8 weeks before a hard freeze so the roots have a chance to get established
  • Do not break cloves until you are ready to plant
  • Plant cloves 2″ deep with the root end down and the point side up
  • Space cloves 4″- 6″ apart {depending on size}

elephant garlic bulbWill you be growing garlic this year?

How many bulbs do you usually by each year and when do YOU plant your garlic?

~Mavis

Looking for more information in growing, cultivating and enjoying garlic?  Check out the book The Complete Book of Garlic By Ted Jordan Meredith.  Amazon currently has it in stock and ready to ship.

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

The Benefits of Using Row Covers

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row covers tomatoes raised garden bed

Row covers are a great way to keep certain things in your garden {i.e. heat} and later on in the season, certain things OUT of your garden {i.e. pests}.  They are cheap, effective, and even though some people think they are an eyesore, I see them as kind of charming. I always think, “Oh, a gardener.  Awesome. Solidarity, my friend, solidarity.”

How to Build a Row Cover or Mini Greenhouse Poly Tunnel

Row covers, depending on your climate, can extend your season by up to a month on each end, spring and fall.  In the spring, they help keep the soil warmer, essentially letting the little seedlings know it’s safe to do their business.  Floating row covers, like the ones I use, have some sort of support system, like PVC pipe bent in an arch over garden boxes, to keep the cover from sitting directly on the plants.

spinach growing in a greenhouse

It is not always necessary to use supports, if you get a lightweight row cover, you can simply drape it over the plants.  Though, lightweight covers do more for controlling pests than cold.  Essentially, by using a hooped row cover, you create a very cheap, efficient mini greenhouse.  When protecting your plants from cold, you really want to go with a plastic row cover.  The heavier the plastic, the better the protection–though, the less light that penetrates, so you have to make the decision based on your climate.

fabric row cover

Fabric row covers are awesome for keeping pests, like beetles, birds, squirrels, etc. OUT of the garden.  They are specifically designed to let air and light in and keep varmint {I don’t use that word enough} out.  The cool thing about cloth row covers is that they can be draped over the plants without support, like a little blanket of protection.  They really only provide light protection for frost, though, so don’t rely on them heavily there.  They are cheap, can be easily cut to size, and are pretty easy to work with and store to use over and over again.

eliot coleman four season farm greenhouse

Year-round gardeners swear by hoop frames and row covers.  They are like a poor man’s greenhouse.  I think it will take a little trial and error, but so far, I have been really impressed with my row cover hoop house.  If you want to start using row covers for year round gardening, here’s a few tips:

First, spread down some sort of mulch, use leaves, straw {seedless variety} about 12″ thick over the top of your veggies.  Then, cover your frame with a row cover.  The combination creates a perfect environment for year round production of cool weather veggies {i.e. carrots, parsnips, turnips, etc.}.  If you live in a SUPER cold area, you can even consider providing an additional layer of row cover to further insulate.

What do you think, are you ready to give row covers a try?  Or, maybe you have been using them for years and have learned some tricks you’d like to share?

~Mavis

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

How to Grow Broccoli Raab {Start to Finish}

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Broccoli raab seed packet

Have you thought about your fall garden yet? This year I will be growing broccoli raab again. Why? Because it’s freakin’ delicious that’s why. ;) I don’t even really like broccoli, but broccoli raab? Oh heck ya, bring it on.

Brief description:  Broccoli raab is also known as asparagus broccoli, broccoletto, rapini, or rabe, .  It is grown for it’s asparagus-like shoots.  It can be used in salads and vegetable dishes or it can stand alone.

Where to Plant Broccoli Raab:  In a sunny location {though it will tolerate partial shade, but with lower yields}.  Plant in raised beds, containers, or garden beds.

brocolli raab seeds

Planting Seeds:   Plant seeds 1/8″ deep.  Thin to 1 every 4-6″ {or one per pot} when seedlings are about 2″ tall.

Growing Tips:  Broccoli raab uses up quite a bit of nitrogen, so regular fertilizing is best.  Manure and/or compost soil conditioners also help yields considerably.  Requires moderate, but consistent watering.

How to Grow Broccoli Raab {Start to Finish}

How to Harvest:  When plant reaches about 1 foot high, harvest buds and leaves just under buds with scissors.

Prep Tip:  Broccoli raab has a stronger taste than regular broccoli.  If the taste is too strong, you can tame it down considerable by blanching it.  {Blanch for 2-3 minutes in heavily salted water.}

regional-planting-guides

Are you ready to start your garden but you’re not sure when you should plant your seeds or set out your transplants? Head on over HERE and you’ll be taken to a handy dandy chart that is broken down into what vegetables should be planted {or transplanted} each month in your area.

Anyone can do this. Dirt + Seeds+ Water = Food!

~Mavis

Here is my Favorite Broccoli Raab recipe:  

broccoli raab salad
Chickpeas with Broccoli Raab and Bacon

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

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