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.

How to Care for Succulents

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How to Care for Succulents

I LOVE succulents.  If you maintain them, which is super easy to do, they always look great.  They make great centerpieces, for pretty much any occasion, they are excellent house plants, and here in my neck of the woods, they look great in outdoor landscaping.  {Does it sound like I am running for the Succulent Promotion Council?  I am having cards made up as we speak.  It’s all very official :) }

succulents

Like I said, maintaining them is a piece of cake, once you know what you are supposed to do.  Here’s the 411 on caring for succulents:

  1. Water.  Succulents have unique watering needs.  During their growing season {the warmer months}, they actually need consistent watering.  Allow them to dry out completely between waterings.  In the cooler months, cut back watering to just once a month.  They will go dormant, and just won’t need tons of water.
  2. Light.  Because cactus are actually a type of succulent, some people think all succulents love direct heat and sun, but not true my friends.  Afternoon sun can actually burn them.  They do, however, enjoy plenty of light.  How is that for conflicting information? :)  Your best bet is to place them in a south facing window, but move them back quite a bit in the dead of summer.  If you plant them outside, plant them in spot that they aren’t exposed to direct afternoon sunlight.
  3. Temperature.  If you only have succulents as houseplants, you don’t really need to worry about this one.  They are happiest in a range of about 50-85 degrees–which is actually a pretty significant spread, if you ask me.  Outside, they can tolerate higher and lower temperatures, but you may notice some signs of stress.sedum and succulents living wall frame
  4. Soil.  Because succulents tend to grow naturally in very sandy well-drained soil, make sure to choose a potting soil designed for cactus and/or succulents.  If you can’t find any, you can mix regular potting soil with perlite, to encourage drainage.
  5. Pots.  If you will be potting your succulents, make sure your pots have sufficient drainage holes.  This is pretty much a standard rule of thumb for all potted plants, but I thought I would mention it anyway.

That’s it.  If you take care of those 5 little items, your succulents should stay pretty happy.

~Mavis

Need a creative way to showcase your succulents?  Try making a succulent terrarium or you can try a  succulent living wall planter.

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 Turnips {Start to Finish}

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how to grow turnips

If you plan on growing your own turnips for Thanksgiving dinner now is the time to plant them. We planted 2 packets of Purple Top White Globe Turnips this morning and if all goes well, we’ll be swimming in them by late November.

Brief description:  Turnips are a root veggie that make great fall crops because they can withstand cooler temperatures.  You can also eat the tops:  turnip greens.

Where to Plant Turnips:  Plant in a well-drained sunny place.

turnip seeds

Planting Seeds:  For fall harvest {which usually yields sweeter turnips} plant about 2 months before average last frost.  Plant in a sunny, well-drained area.  Plant 1/4″ deep about every 3″ apart.

Growing Tips:   Keep the soil evenly moist for best growth.  At about 5″ tall, apply a mulch to protect the plants.

turnips

How to Harvest:  If you are harvesting the greens, pick only 2-3 leaves per plant at a time.  For the turnip roots, pick when they reach 2-3″ in diameter {they taste better when they are smaller}.  Harvest the roots like you would a potato or rutabaga, being careful not to damage the turnip.  

How to prepare turnips to eat:  Turnips are a great substitution to the more starchy potato.  They don’t have quite the carb load, so if that matters to you, you can still get the potato flavor without the sugars.  Turnips can be mashed, diced, sliced, roasted, and even eaten raw.  Turnip greens can be cooked or eaten raw too.  Turnip roots store for a long time–don’t wash them, just cut off the greens and place them in a single layer in a box.  Then store the box in a cool, well-ventilated area.

Fun Fact:  According to the Botanical Interests website, the Irish used to hollow out turnips and put and ember in them–which is where the idea for Jack O’ Lanterns came from.

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

vegetables to plant for a fall harvest

Now is the time to start thinking about Thanksgiving root vegetables.  If you want to know what else you can plant to have in time for a Thanksgiving harvest, go HERE, and check out my fall planting guide.

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 Brussels Sprouts {Start to Finish}

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brussels sprouts

 

Are you thinking about growing Brussels sprouts this year for a winter harvest? Well now is the time to plant those seeds!

Brief description: Brussels sprouts are a cabbage-like vegetable and are part of the mustard family.  They have a richer, less bitter taste than cabbage, though.

Where to Plant Brussels Sprouts:  Plant in fertile, well-drained soil in an area that receives at least 6 hours of sunlight a day.  They can be grown in raised beds or garden beds.

cabbage seeds

Planting Seeds:  Direct sow seeds 1/4″ deep.  When seedlings are 2″ tall, thin to one about every 2 feet.

Growing Tips:  Brussels sprouts like slightly acidic soil.  Don’t be tempted to cram them in tighter than 24″ apart–they are one of those plants that need plenty of space to grow.  They do best in cool weather, so as tempting as it may be to plant them in spring for a summer harvest, don’t, it makes them taste super bitter.

brussels sprout sprouts stalk

How to Harvest:  Brussels sprouts mature from the bottom up, so pick the them from the bottom up.  Pick off sprouts when they are firm and about 1-2″ in diameter.

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’s my Favorite Brussels Sprouts recipe:

Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic VinegarBrussels Sprouts with Balsamic Vinegar

Getting kids to eat brussels sprouts:  Around Halloween time is the perfect time to introduce brussels sprouts to kids.  Cook a whole Halloween feast, and tell the kids the brussels sprouts are Martian Heads.  They will love it.

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.

Mavis Garden Blog – How to Harvest and Store Onions

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I’ve received a bunch of questions recently from people wanting to know when they should harvest their onions,  so I thought I would go ahead and repost this handy dandy tutorial on how to harvest and store onions for those of you who have never done it before, or just need a quick refresher.

**************

This year I grew 3 different types of onions.  Walla Walla Sweets Yellow Onions, and Red Onions.

The Walla Wallas are for eating fresh, the yellows for winter storage, and the red onions for homemade salsa, sandwiches and for roasting on the grill.

Because I planted so many onions, at different times, not all of the onions are ready to harvest right now.  But a few of them are.

Here are a few pictures of the drying process of my first batch of onions.

Onions are ready to be harvested when the necks are nice and dry.  At this point you’ll want to pull up the onions, and lay them flat on the soil for a day or two so they have a chance to  dry out in the sun a bit.

Then, you’ll want to move your onions to a warm, ventilated area {out of the sun} for a few weeks so they can finish curing.

You’ll know the onions are done drying when they look like the regular onions you see in the grocery store.  The outer skins will be paper like and brittle, the roots will be dry, and the tops will be completely dried out.

If you would like to show off your onions, then you’ll definitely want to try braiding them.  Hanging the onions in the kitchen is cool.  The Pilgrims did it, and so can you.

Braiding onions is pretty basic, almost like french braiding hair, but instead of pulling hair {onions} from beneath, you are adding them on top and working them into the onions from there.

The trick to braiding the onions is to make sure the onion stalks are not completely dried out.  If they are to dry, the papery stalks will crumble in your hands.  You need them to be moist enough so they will be flexible to braid with out falling apart.

When I braided the bunch of onions you see above, they had been drying for about 7 days on the back porch, which I felt was the perfect amount of time.  As the onions continue to dry, they will hold together just fine because I braided them pretty tight.

As far as long term storage goes, brush off any excess dirt, and place onions in mesh bags, or storage crates in a cool, dark place.  The ideal temp for storing onions is around 40 degrees.

Now, if I could just get the smell of onions off my hands…

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.

Protect Your Garden with Beneficial Insects

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where can i buy ladybugs

Over the years, I have learned that growing a a garden organically does not mean putting the plants in the ground, watering, and waiting for fresh produce to show up.  To truly get the most out of your garden, you have to learn to work with nature.  Introducing beneficial insects into your garden can help you naturally manage insects that would otherwise destroy your crops.  Essentially, you are waging a carefully calculated war in your backyard.  You are introducing natural predators of nasty produce sucking insects to maintain the balance in your garden.  I would be lying if I didn’t admit to liking the power of it all -ha!

 ladybug
Ladybug {photo credit}

To start, ladybugs are an awesome choice.  Believe it or not, it’s not really the actual ladybug that helps to control aphids, etc., as they don’t really eat all that much in their adult state, but rather the larvae that really contribute to the overall health of your garden.  Those little babies eat A LOT of soft bodied insects.  The key to getting ladybugs to STAY in your garden lies in making it a hospitable place to lay eggs and raise babies.  You can order ladybugs online or get them at your local nursery.

The most important factor in getting them to stay is how you release them.  Release them just after dusk {that ensures that they’ll at least spend the night, as they won’t fly away in the dark} in a well-watered garden.  Typically, ladybugs you buy are a wee bit dehydrated, so a place that has plenty of water might entice them to stay and make a home.  Also, unfortunately, an ounce of prevention doesn’t really apply with ladybugs.  Your garden needs to have some level of aphid {or other sap-sucking insect} problem.  No food, no stay.

If you aren’t into buying bugs for your garden, you can do a lot to attract them.  Planting appealing scents {herbs like fennel, coriander, and mint, or flowers like marigold} go a long way in drawing the creepy crawlers in.  Most beneficial insects are attracted to nectar and pollen {ah, they have a sweet tooth too}, so providing them a buffet to snack on also keeps them around.

lacewing

Lacewing {photo credit}

Lacewings are another popular choice.  While they look, well, um gross, they have an insatiable appetite for aphids, thrips, scales, moth eggs, small caterpillars and mites.  They enjoy a bit of nectar to wash down all of the insects they feed on, so make sure to plant plenty of tasty flowers for them to draw the nectar out of.

flower fly

Flower Fly {photo credit}

Hoverflies, or flower flies, kind of look like bees.  In addition to feeding on aphids, they pollinate strawberries and raspberries.  Again, you can draw them in with a healthy flower garden.

assassin bug

Assassin Bug {photo credit}

There is a whole host of predatory bugs that feed on tomato hornworms, thrips, spider mites, many insects’ eggs, leafhopper nymphs, corn earworms and other small caterpillars.  Some common ones include pirate bugs, assassin bugs, and ambush bugs {even their names sound tough}.  These bugs have been known to attack adult-sized japanese beetles.  They are a take-no-prisoner sort of gift to your garden.

wasp

Wasps {photo credit}

Wasps are a great addition to your garden as well, because they typically attack unwanted pests at the egg level. Unfortunately they also sting!

spider

Spider {photo credit}

Spiders, if you can get past their shifty startling presence, eat a lot of unwanted bugs, and more often than not, are not poisonous {exceptions to your specific location obviously apply}.  They get a bad rap, really, because they are so darn ugly {I said it}, but they really can improve the overall health of your garden.

There are a ton more potentially beneficial insects–knowing which are preying on your plants and which to keep helps the overall balance of your garden.  Ah, isn’t being one with nature fun?

Will you be adding any ladybugs to your garden this summer?

Mavis wants to know

 

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.

Grow Your Own Sprouts – The Health Benefits

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how to grow your own sprouts (2)
I’ve told you all about how to grow sprouts and the awesome Botanical Interest Seed Sprouter I use to do just that, but let’s talk about why you should be eating those sprouts! There are SO MANY health benefits from sprouts and with all our healthy eating New Year’s resolutions, it’s the perfect time to start sprouting. Here are just a few of the health benefits of sprouting:

1. The vitamin and mineral content is out of this world. If your body is lacking calcium, potassium, iron, Vitamin A, B, B Complex, E, or K, get to sprouting already. It is estimated that the vitamin content increases by up to 20 times the original value within only a few days of sprouting and that there can be up to 100 times more enzymes in sprouts than normal raw fruits and veggies. Getting more vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and essential fatty acids from the foods you eat will, simply put, make you a healthier person.

2. The sprouting process also makes these minerals more usable in your body when the mineral binds to the protein in the bean seed or nut.

3. Sprouting increases the fiber content in the food you sprout. If you’re looking for a great addition to your weight loss routine, increasing your fiber is where it’s at.

4. Sprouting also increases the quality of protein in the beans, nuts or seeds you sprout. Proteins change during the soaking and sprouting process, increasing the nutritional value of your food. Who needs protein powder when you have sprouts?

5. Sprouts help reduce the acidity levels in your body. Too much acidity can be detrimental to your health and in some cases, even increase your risk of cancer. Sprouts help alkalize your body to prevent this.

6. I’m always looking for ways to get more of the essential fatty acids into my diet. Well guess what? The sprouting process increases the essential fats. Problem solved with just a few sprouts.

7. You control what you sprout. There’s no danger in consuming harmful chemicals, pesticides or additives because you’re doing all the growing! As a gardener, this is probably my favorite health benefit of sprouting.234

And there you have some of the many health benefits of sprouting. I sprout all sorts of things and love incorporating my sprouts into recipes or throwing them on a sandwich. Not only are they delicious, but sprouts are so stinkin easy to grow. Even if you kill every plant you try to grow, I promise you can grow sprouts!seed sprouter botanical interests If you haven’t ever sprouted anything or are nervous about trying it, I highly recommend trying the Botanical Interest Seed Sprouter. It’s perfect for beginners and completely awesome for advanced sprouters too who want to stack a ton of trays on top of each other and grow, grow, grow.

020While you’re waiting for your new sprouter to arrive, you can always sprout in a simple Mason jar. That’s how I learned how to sprout and it works like a charm.

So tell me, why do you sprout? What’s your favorite thing to sprout? How do you use your sprouts?

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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