Why Crop Rotation is Important for Healthy Soil

dirt soil

Why Crop Rotation is Important for Healthy Soil

This year I was hoping to be able to grow 2 tons of vegetables. It’s not going to happen. Why? Because I totally failed at rotating my crops.  Keeping your soil healthy is essential to organic gardening–and I flat out asked too much of mine without giving enough in return.

mavis butterfield one hundred dollars a month

Basically, some plants take certain nutrients from the soil and put different nutrients back in.  If you grow the same thing (or plant of the same family) over and over in the same spot, the plant will suck all of the nutrients it needs from the soil until there is nothing left.  When the plant can’t get what it needs, it becomes susceptible to diseases and fungus.

How to Prevent  Zucchini and Squash Blossom End Rot{How to prevent blossom end rot}

Those diseases and fungus then find safe harbor in the soil and prey on the plant the next year.  The whole thing can be very ugly business.  The good news is that if you rotate your planting spots at least every 3 years, you will actually be nurturing your soil, not destroying it.  {Of course, I’ve learned just how true this can be the hard way–not only will I not hit 2 tons of vegetables, I’ll be lucky to even hit 1 ton this year.  I guess that’s what happens when you get into a routine.  Mother nature always shows you who’s boss.}

DIY Raised garden beds cabbage

Rotating crops isn’t that tricky, once you have a basic understanding of what each plant takes and gives the soil.  Some plants take almost nothing from the soil {i.e. most herbs}.

peas in pod

How cool are they?  Others take quite a bit of nitrogen {lettuce, cabbage, tomatoes}, while some add quite a bit in {peas, beans, and other legumes}.  So, as a general rule of thumb, it’s best to rotate starting with nitrogen providing plants, then the next year, nitrogen sucking plants, followed by a nice benign year of crops like herbs.    Think of yourself as a dirt farmer, rather than a vegetable gardener.

Testing the pH Level of Soil{Testing the pH level in your soil}

When you properly rotate crops, diseases that may be present in the dirt typically only affect plant families.  If you plant something that is in a different family, the disease will not have a host plant, and you will have successfully shut.it.down.  It’s organic pest and disease control at its finest.

eliot coleman four season farm greenhouse{Four Seasons Farm – Eliot Coleman Barbara Damrosch Tour}

Eliot Coleman {author of 4 Season Harvest} suggests that your rotate your crops in a simple 8 step fashion:  (1) tomatoes (2) peas (3) cabbage (4) sweet corn (5) potatoes (6) squash (7) root crops (8) beans.  That seems pretty simple to me, and if you grow something not listed, you really only need to look up what family it belongs to and assign it a position in the rotation {i.e. Brussels sprouts belong to the cabbage family–boom! it’s number 3 in the rotation.}

rainbow-carrots

Mother Earth News even had this handy dandy little breakdown of all of the most common plants and which family they belong to, so that you can personalize your rotation plan:

  • Onion family: onions, garlic, leeks and shallots
  • Carrot family: carrots, celery, parsley and parsnips
  • Sunflower family: lettuce, sunflowers and a few other leafy greens
  • Cabbage family: cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale and many other leafy greens, as well as rutabagas and kohlrabi
  • Spinach family: beets and chard
  • Cucumber family: cucumbers, melons, squash and gourds
  • Pea family: peas and beans
  • Grass family: corn, wheat, oats and rye
  • Tomato family: tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and potatoes

garden map

I think the hardest part of crop rotation is coming up with a plan, but I guess that’s what winter is for, right?  Long dark days with plenty of time to plan out your garden.

What do you think, is crop rotation important to you?

~Mavis

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Homemade Tomato Paste Recipe

Homemade Tomato Paste Recipe

Homemade Tomato Paste Recipe

With so many tomatoes this year, I wanted to try and make tomato paste. While searching online I found this recipe, the ingredients looked so simple, I just had to try it out. And guess what? It turned out freakin’ awesome!

tomatoes

Ingredients

5 lbs. tomatoes
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil plus 2 tbsp.
Salt {to taste}

Homemade Tomato Paste Recipe

Directions

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  Wash and chop the tomatoes.  Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a skillet on high.  Add tomatoes and season with salt.  Bring mixture to a boil, stirring frequently.  Cook until super soft {about 10 minutes}.

Homemade Tomato Paste Recipe

Run the tomatoes through a food mill to get rid of seeds and skin {or use an immersion blender}. Rub a baking sheet {preferably with sides} with the remaining olive oil.  Spread tomato puree over the sheet.  Bake for about 2 hours at 300 degrees, turning the mixture over occasionally.  After 2 hours, reduce heat to 250 degrees and continue to cook another 20-25 minutes, or until the mixture is thick and the watery consistency is gone.

Store the paste in the fridge for 1 month, or freezer for up to 6 months.

Find More Recipes in my Recipe Index

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How to Grow Your Own Food – 9/18/2013 Garden Tally

mavis butterfield garden blog

mavis butterfield garden blog

This year I’m on a mission to grow 4,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables in my suburban backyard. In 2012 I was able to grow 2,028 pounds, and in 2013 I’m going double or nothing. I have absolutely no idea if I’ll be able to achieve my goal. But, as with any adventure, half the fun is getting there.   ~Mavis

*******

It’s been two weeks since I last updated this garden tally and let me tell you Bob, I’ve been busy. If I’m not in the kitchen whipping up another batch of heirloom tomato sauce, then I’m working in the garden harvesting vegetables for planting seeds for my fall garden. It’s a bust time of year and with the kids back in school you’d think I would have more time to get stuff done around here, but not so. There’s so much to do it’s crazy.

~Mavis

Here is what I have harvested so far this year:

fresh basil

Basil – 1 pound 3 ounces

We are currently out of fresh basil right now. Although we’ve enjoyed making fresh pesto and strawberry basil jam this summer, I need to get some more seeds planted so we can enjoy fresh basil all winter long.

beets

Beets – 106 pounds 0 ounces

We’ve been pulling up beets lately. There are still a lot left to harvest and I’ve been planting them in intervals so we should have plenty this winter.

bok choy leaves

Bok Choy – 6 oz

It’s time to harvest the Bok Choy we have growing in the pallet garden. Maybe today?

head of broccoli

Broccoli – 13 ounces

The fall broccoli we planted is looking healthy. The slugs have not discovered it yet so I am hopeful.

cabbage

Cabbage – 40 pounds 14 ounce

We are patiently waiting to harvest our fall cabbage!

carrots

Carrots – 17 pounds 10 ounces

Last night we harvest over 12 pounds of carrots. Carrots are one of Lucy’s favorite vegetables so we had to set some aside in the fridge just for her. Luckily she she hasn’t figured out how to dig them up yet, but when she does, we’ll be in trouble.

herb garden thyme

Chives – 1 pound 15 ounces

We cut fresh chives as we need them.

burpless-cucumbers

Cucumbers 8 pound 11 ounces

We’ve been picking cucumbers and slicing them up for lunch snacks {is that weird?} and in salads. I suspect we will have to pull up all the cucumber plants in the next 2 weeks though as the cooler temperatures set it.

fresh eggs blue and brown

Egg Count – 1,967

We collected 82 eggs over the past 2 weeks. The count seems a little to low to me so I’m not sure of someone collected eggs while I was in California last week and forgot to write it down or what. Oh well, as long as we have enough to eat, I’m happy.

elephant garlic bulb

Garlic 9 pounds 2 ounces

Our garlic has been harvested for this year and I am using it in practically every dish now.

garlic scapes

Garlic Scapes 11 ounces

We used these to make Garlic Scape Pesto. Yumm!

green beans

Green Beans 15 pounds 11 ounces

We’ve been harvesting green beans from the tepee poles lately. Yumm a licious!

kale

Kale – 25 pounds 7 ounces

Feeding it to the chickens every chance I get.

kohlrabi

Kohlrabi 5 pounds 10 ounces

lettuce

Lettuce – 36 pounds 13 ounces

We harvested a wee bit last week, and since we received all that iceberg lettuce from Mr. Produce Guy the other day I think we’ll hold off harvesting anymore until next week. Maybe I should get some bunnies? Hmm.

microgreens

Microgreens 5 ounces

My favorite way to eat microgreens is with egg salad sandwiches.

blueberry jam with mint recipe

Mint 13 oz

I made some blueberry mint jam and also harvested some mint for tea.

oregano container herb garden

Oregano – 1 pound 9 ounces

I been using fresh oregano for my heirloom tomato sauce.

onions

Onion – 25 pounds 6 ounces

Last night I decided to pull up a bunch of onions. These ones didn’t get as big as the others so I thought I would go ahead and harvest them before it gets to cold and they rot.

And in case you didn’t know, all the cool people are storing onions in their pantyhose these days.

basket of pears

Pears 47 pounds 7 ounces

We had a bumper crop this year. Vanilla Pear Jam is awesome.

growing peas in containers

Peas – 42 pounds 9 ounces

We’ve got peas growing in the greenhouse and in a garden box. I wonder which set will be ready to harvest first?

How to Harvest and Store Potatoes for Winter

Potatoes – 252 pounds 5 ounces

We have so many potatoes that we’ve decided to donate our extras to the food bank. Potatoes are super easy to grow, but next year, I don’t think I’ll plant so many. 😉

How to Harvest and Store Potatoes for Winter.

radishes

Radish – 22 pounds 2 ounces

Note to self- Plant more radish seeds.

raspberries in wooden baskets

Raspberries – 21 pounds 7 ounces

Raspberry season is officially over in our backyard. Boo!

rhubarb

Rhubarb – 39 pounds 9 ounces

Rhubarb is rad! I think we have about 5 or 6 rhubarb plants sprinkled around our yard. I’ll have to dig up the crowns this fall and move them all to one location.

purple sage

Sage – 14 ounces

acorn squash

Squash 12 pounds 12 ounces

Last week we harvested a delicata squash, this week 2 acorn squash and another delicata squash. Pumpkins are next!

fresh organic spinach

Spinach – 15 ounces

I planted more in the greenhouse last week for a winter harvest.

mung bean sprouts

Sprouts –2 pounds 15 ounces

Here are instructions for growing your own sprouts.

strawberry pancakes tasty

Strawberries 23 pounds 14 ounces

Besides eating them fresh, so far we have made strawberry kiwi jam, strawberry freezer jam, strawberry pie, and homemade strawberry shortcake. There are just a few left to pick and then we’ll be done harvesting berries for the year.

garden swiss chard

Swiss Chard 29 pounds 15 ounces

Chickens LOVE chard. 😉

heirloom tomato

Tomatoes 186 pounds 9 ounces

Over the last 2 weeks we have harvested over 41 pounds of tomatoes. When it rains, it pours right?

cut-wheatgrass

Wheatgrass – 7 ounces

big zucchini

Zucchini – 36 pounds 4 ounces

We haven’t had as many zucchini this year as we would have liked but oh well, there’s always next year, right?

Total Food Harvested in 2013: 967 pounds 15 ounces

Total Eggs Collected in 2013: 1,967

If you are new to gardening or just want to learn more on the topic of organic gardening, my #1 favorite book is The Gardener’s A-Z Guide to Growing Organic Food By Tanya L.K. Denckla.

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Mornings with Mavis – Prepper’s Pantry, Organic Sweet Potato Puree, K-Cups, Chooka Rain Boots and More

dial soap coupon

puggle puppy

Hello Wednesday.

Lucy the puggle dog was up bright and early this morning munching on carrots. What a nut! Hey, at least she’s not chewing on the furniture though, right? I’m sure it could be worse. 😉

Here are a few deals I spotted this morning for you. Have a great day everyone.

Mavis

free kindle books

Available Kindle Books I think are cool…
Prepper’s Pantry: A Survival Food Guide Free {I grabbed this one}
Not Just Tacos Free
Vegetarian Recipes for Meat Eaters $3.99
Miss Minimalist: Inspiration to Downsize, Declutter, and Simplify $.99 {Great Reviews}
Soap Crafting: Step-by-Step Techniques $4.99
Embroidered Effects: Projects and Patterns to Inspire Your Stitching $2.51

The prices on Kindle Books can change quickly, so grab them while you can.

Farmer's Market Organic Sweet Potato Puree

Sold Out

Amazon currently has the Farmer’s Market Organic Sweet Potato Puree, 15-Ounce Cans {Pack of 12} on sale for $18.16/$1.51 each shipped when you use the subscribe and save option at checkout.

k cups couponsGrove Square Cappuccino Pumpkin Spice 24-ct K-cups $10.50 shipped when you use the subscribe and save option at checkout.
Grove Square Apple Cider, Sugar Free 24-ct K-cups $11.39 shipped when you use the subscribe and save option at checkout.
Grove Square Hot Cocoa 24-ct K-cups $11.37 shipped when you use the subscribe and save option at checkout.

Learn About Amazon Subscribe and Save

pencil pouch

Get a Twilight Retro Style Leather Pencil /Makeup Pouch for only $1.99 shipped. This is super cute and would make a great stocking stuffer. I just ordered one for my daughter. Other colors are available.

cool rain boots

Zulily has some super cool rain boots available today in their Chooka and Western Chief Boot Sale. There’s also some pretty funny running t’s too in the Zulily Go For a Run Sale as well.

life is better on the runAlready a Zulily Member? Go HERE to Get This Deal

Scott Bath Tissue, 1000 Sheet Rolls

Amazon has Scott Bath Tissue, 1000 Sheet Rolls {20 rolls} on sale for $10.82 shipped when you clip the $1.50 coupon {must be logged into your Amazon account to see it} and use the subscribe and save option at checkout.

Vanity Fair Everyday, 400 Count

Get the 400 count package of Vanity Fair Everyday Napkins for $8.35 shipped when you clip the $1.00 off coupon {must be logged into your account} and use the subscribe and save option at checkout.

organic gardening magazineDiscount Mags is offering a 1 year subscription to Organic Gardening Magazine for only $4.50 a year when you use code MAVIS at checkout. This deal will expire tonight 9/18/13 at midnight EST so be sure and grab your subscription before then.

Long Term Seed Storage

Are you savings some of your garden seeds this year? Here are a few quick tips on Long Term Seed Storage.

Great Wolf Lodge

Groupon is offering a Great Wolf Lodge 1- or 2-Night Stay for six in a Suite with Waterpark Passes and Restaurant Credit starting at $219.

Grand Mound, WA
Williamsburg, VA
Greater Charlotte, NC
Kansas City, KS

Cincinnati/Mason, OH
Sandusky, OH
Traverse City, MI

Grapevine, TX
Wisconsin Dells
The Poconos, PA

New to Groupon? Join Groupon Here!


Maybe Dreaming of Disney Instead?

Click on the banner above to order your FREE Disney Parks Guide!

The FREE Disney DVD includes:

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  • A tour of the Disneyland Resort in California, including 2 enchanting Theme Parks and 3 Resort hotels
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  • Plus much more, including pocket-sized planning guides, planning tips, and information on special events

dial soap coupon

Print a coupon good for $1.00 off any Dial, Dial for Men or Tone Bar Soaps

Find More Printable Coupons

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Organic Gardening Magazine Subscription Only $4.50 a Year

organic gardening magazine

DiscountMags is offering a 1 year subscription to Organic Gardening Magazine for only $4.50 a year when you use code MAVIS at checkout.

Organic Gardening Magazine is the essential resource for any gardener, it provides current and authoritative information, with a focus on making the process of gardening fun and easy.

*This special rate will be live through midnight  9/18/13 {EST}. You can purchase this deal as a new subscription or to renew your existing subscription for up to 4 years. You can also purchase additional subscriptions as gifts!

Go HERE to get Orangic Gardening Magazine

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Slow Cooker Pear & Ginger Applesauce

Slow Cooker Pear & Ginger Applesauce

Slow Cooker Pear & Ginger Applesauce

Cooking in a crock pot pretty much kills two bird with one stone. You get a delicious recipe out of it, and it keeps you from ever having to buy candles because it makes your whole house smell so good you sometimes want to lick your walls {kids, do not try that at home}. Applesauce is the best like that because the smell will linger for days. But we had a bumper crop of pears this year, so I added pears to my applesauce and did not regret it one bit. Plus the addition of ginger gives it that little extra kick. Yumm-o.

Slow Cooker Pear & Ginger Applesauce

Ingredients

6 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced {I used Fuji because my kids love them}
6 pears, cored, and sliced
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ginger, finely grated
1/4 cup water

Directions

Place apples, pears, sugar, cinnamon and ginger in a large bowl and stir until fruit is coated. Place the fruit mixture in the crock pot with the water and turn it on.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 4-5 hours, stirring every few hours. If you don’t want chunky applesauce, you can use a wooden spoon or potato masher to break up fruit after a few hours of cooking. Serve hot or cold or room temperature. Basically it’s awesome at any temp.

Looking for a new crock pot? This one’s my favorite:

crock pot

The Cook’ N Carry 6-Quart Oval Manual Portable Slow Cooker. {I own 2 of them!}

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10 Highly Effective Study Habits

10 Highly Effective Study Habits

10 Highly Effective Study Habits

Now that the kids are back to school and all settled in, I really want to make sure to start the school year off right.  I didn’t realize until AFTER I finished school how being successful really is all about having good study habits.  I want to make sure my kids have the “tools for success” already in place before they head off to college.  {Don’t I sound all teacher-like? Ha.}

So, if you are still in that utopian back-to-school place where you plan on getting up early to make hot breakfast, pack all organic lunches, and really be present during homework {ha}, here are some serious tips to help your student{s} make it a struggle-free year:

  1. Get organized.  Seriously, teach your kids how to organize their binders, bags, etc.  Also, if you have older kids, give them the skills to keep an assignment planner.  Get them in the habit of writing their tasks down.  {This one will hopefully benefit you too by saving you from running out to buy poster board at 8:00 p.m. because they have a project due the next day.}
  2. Follow a routine.  Make a hard-fast homework time in your schedule.  Little ones particularly benefit from predictability.  There’s less resistance when the time is already built into your day.
  3. Get creative.  Getting creative isn’t just for the little ones.  Older students can find what habits are effective for them individually by trying out several techniques:  flash cards, rewriting notes, making up songs, making a game out of studying {memory, game shows, etc.}
  4. Location, location, location.  Determine a set place for kids to study.  It helps them get into the mindset.  Maybe it is a desk in their room, your family office, or the dining room table?  Make sure their location is stocked with supplies.  My kids never really liked studying in their rooms, so I made them a little tote with pens, pencils, markers, scissors, etc.  We pulled it out during homework {which they always did at the kitchen counter} and then stashed it out of sight until the next day.
  5. Limit distractions.  Make sure snacks, bathroom breaks, etc. are all taken care of before they start to study.
  6. Encourage your kids to talk to their teachers.  In a world of email and instant communication, it is important to teach your kids how to email their teacher and/or ask for clarification.  Some kids are too embarrassed to raise their hand in class if they get behind, show them other ways to communicate if that is the case.
  7. Teach healthy lifestyle habits for test days {all days, really, but that is not always realistic}.  Encourage kids to go to sleep on time and eat a healthy breakfast on test days.  As they get older, the tests come with higher stakes, so healthy habits will really play into their success.
  8. Encourage them to learn their learning style.  When they bring home an assignment or test with a great grade, ask them what they think helped them the most.  A pattern may start to emerge.
  9. Encourage note-taking.  Note-taking is a learned skill.  Either the teacher suggests it or he/she doesn’t.  Encourage your child to do it anyway.  Show them how.
  10. Older kids have a lot of pressures.  Studying from start to finish is too much.  {Man-oh-man, I am glad I am not in high school now!}  Encourage them to take breaks.  Depending on the kid, maybe a 10 minute break every 30-50 minutes will help re-center them.  For some people, the prospects of a 2 hour study session seems so overwhelming, they don’t want to begin.  Teach them how to recognize their time limits.

Do you teach your kids HOW to learn?  If so, how do you do it?

~Mavis

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Fall Lawn Care Tips

Fall Lawn Care Tips

Fall Lawn Care Tips

Taking care of the grass is totally my husbands department, but I know some of you do it all, so here’s a quick and dirty guide on fall lawn care and prepping your lawn for winter:

First, now that it is cooler, lower your lawn blade {keeping your lawn blade higher in the summer protects fragile roots from too much heat}.  Leaving it too high for winter creates an awesome hideout for mice and other rodents–which repay you by destroying your lawn.

Fall is also a great time to aerate your lawn.  An aerator is pretty inexpensive–and goes a really long way when you get a group of neighbors who want to go half-sies with you.  It will also prep your lawn to receive a winter feeding.  Fertilizing the lawn before winter gives the grass a much needed boost to ensure strong roots the following year.

If you have thin or bald spots in your lawn, fall is perfect for seeding.  The weather is cool, and you don’t have to worry about a spike in heat that will affect germination.  Make sure to rake in your seed to improve germination too.

If you have trees with leaves, make sure to rake them up and get them off of the lawn.  Leaving them there through the winter can lead to fungus and other diseases in the grass.  Imagine the leaves being a blanket that creates a hotbed for unwanted disease.  Rake ’em up and compost them, if you like, just make sure to get them off the lawn.

Finally, make sure to think about weed control.  Destroying them now, whether with an organic weed killer or by hand, will make your job A LOT easier come spring.  All weeds do is compete for nutrients anyway, filthy beggars.

That basically the 411 on fall lawn care around this house.  Is there anything you do differently?

~Mavis

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