HOMEMADE POTTING SOIL…ON THE CHEAP

My Homemade Potting Soil

There are at least three qualities that your vegetable growing soil must possess.

1. Soil must drain well and allow for oxygen to permeate.
2. Soil must hold moisture.
3. Soil must contain nutrients.

The first two seem to contradict each other…but if you think of how a sponge works, maybe it will seem a little less contradictive. You basically want your soil to behave like a sponge holding both air and water.

For my raised beds, we used a mixture of 1 part peat moss, 1 part coarse sand, and one part compost. The compost I used was ‘composted cow manure’ from Menards. This compost had quite a bit of clay in it…which wasn’t a bad thing, because clay contains lots of minerals. If I had it to do over again, I would have used two different kinds of compost…like the mushroom compost they sell at Home Depot along with the composted cow manure from Menards.

Because compost, which was the nutrient component of my soil mix, also helps retain moisture, I would have added more of it to my mix. In the future, when I am mixing new soil for raised beds or pots, I will use 2 parts compost, 1 part peat, and 1 part sand.

The year before, I used a mixture of 1 part top soil, and 1 part composted cow manure. It made a very heavy soil, one that I would NEVER use in a pot…but it grew absolutely huge bell pepper plants in a raised bed box.

I added a little organic fertilizer to the mix for potting up the plants I sold this year.

Soil Nutrient Boosters

If I could have done that over again, I would have left out the bone meal entirely. The potatoes my son and I planted in the long bed seem to love the bone meal, but the seedlings would have been better off without it. I too could have done without my greenhouse smelling like I buried my enemies in there. YUCK!

My advice regarding bone meal is to use sparingly and mix into the soil very well.

I found lots of recipes for potting soils on the internet that get specific in regard to ingredients and additives based on what you intend on growing in it. I suppose anything can be complicated if you want it to be.

If you just want to make lots of inexpensive soil for a raised bed garden, my mix will work just fine. I urge you to use a 5 gallon bucket to measure, and peat moss fluffs up quite a bit so the 2 cubic foot bale makes a lot more than you’ll think it will.

Dump the 5 gallon buckets of each ingredient on a tarp, and use the tarp to mix by pulling the mix over on itself. Lay thin layers of the mix into the bed and water as you go. Peat moss has this way about it…and if you don’t water as you go, you’ll have a heck of a time getting the soil uniformly and completely wet.

Soon, I will need soil for my rain gutter grow system . We will be moving before harvest, so mobility will be a factor. Since I need the soil for the grow system bucket to be lighter than what is/was in my raised beds (or my smaller pots that I don’t want to blow over in the wind), I will use vermiculite and/or perlite instead of sand.

I’ll keep you posted how all that goes!

THE REAL PROBLEM WITH MONSANTO GM CORN

Monsanto Image with text found on Facebook

Monsanto Image with text found on Facebook

This photo is misleading. First of all, the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is not toxic to humans, or animals, or even many insects. Bt toxin is particularly toxic to Butterfly and Moth type insects…the REAL problem with Monsanto GMOs is they are unnatural mutations that were never meant to exist in nature. Having a plant enabled to produce a bacteria that is meant to protect it from a ‘pest’ that feeds upon it will…not can, but WILL…create super bugs that are not affected by Bt. Which will really tick me off, because that is the only organic way I have found to successfully control cabbage worms, besides netting, and netting is not always possible or practical. Also, as with any intervention, should be used ONLY when necessary…which is around one month out of the year where I live.

GM corn fed live stock have definitely shown signs of disease of internal organs compared to the same breed/species fed organic corn…but this is not because of the Bt toxin. It’s not even because of the GM corn. I believe it’s because Monsanto GM crops are “Round-Up Ready” meaning they can be, and therefore, are SOAKED in the herbicide Roundup.

According to an article I read at Scientific America’s website: “Weed-Whacking Herbicide Proves Deadly to Human Cells”, which can be read here: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=weed-whacking-herbicide-p, it’s not the glyphosate which is the active ingredient in the herbicide, it was one of the inert ingredients, specifically the surfactant polyethoxylated tallow amine (POEA), that is toxic to humans…and other wild life including tadpoles. The article says Monsanto claims that Roundup has sold since the 1970s.

I know Wikipedia isn’t necessarily the be all end all for factual information…but according to the article I read there: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roundup_%28herbicide%29), Monsanto patented the active ingredient in 1970, and Roundup was put on the market in 1976 (so says the “Manufacturing Status” Under the Roundup logo in the cell to the right of the article)…however, the body of the article states Monsanto began marketing the product in 1973.

Regardless of the actual year that Roundup was first used on our food crops, and lawns…I am certain that it began sometime in the 70s and its use has increased each and every year since.

Monsanto held the patent until it’s expiration in 2000, and then the herbicide began to be produced by all other manufactures inclined to do so. And no doubt this has done more to increase its use.

Take a look at the graph below:

Graph of reported autism diagnoses from 1970 to 2009

SOURCE: Nature.com – ORIGINAL SOURCE : Autism Speaks

I found this at http://www.nature.com/news/2011/111102/full/479022a/box/1.html, who sites the source for the image as Autism Speaks. I could not quickly find this at Autism Speaks.org, but I did find that “Autism now affects 1 in 88 children and 1 in 54 boys” (http://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism/facts-about-autism).

I know several people who have children that suffer from some form of autism, some of these people are personal friends. Incidentally I have taken an interest in the malady and have been looking for an environmental factor that changed sometime in the 70s.

According to a California Study (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080107181551.htm), eliminating thimerosal from most vaccines did not reduce the reported cases of autism…they, in fact, continued to rise…so if it’s not the thimerosal in the vaccines that is to blame, then what is…what has changed since the 70s?

After doing the initial research only to refute the text in the Corn Grenade photo, I found it extremely interesting that Roundup began being sold in the U.S. in the 70s. I found it so interesting, that I was compelled to do even more research…and this is what I found:

Glyphosate Usage to Autism Diagnoses

Graph created by Divinia “doodle” Featherly with data from the sources noted in the image.

I have received permission from AutismSpeaks.org to use the new “Autism Prevalence On The Rise” graphic they emailed to me, you may view it here>> AS_12 Autism Prevalence Graph

I cannot say that Roundup is responsible for the rise of autism…but I would be really interested to see what would happen to the number of reported cases of autism if the world quit using herbicides containing POEA.

Monsanto is, in my humble opinion, evil. Monsanto and the FDA are so in bed with each other that the affiliation has gone far past being comparable to the fox guarding the hen house…and mutated into something more like the police running, and working the meth lab. Monsanto has won court cases for patent infringement against innocent farmers whose non-GMO crops have been raped by the pollen from a neighboring farm that used Monsanto’s freak seed…and I’m sure this is just the tip of the ice burg of the evil that is Monsanto.

Like so many things evil, so many negative facts can be reported to bring to light just how black they are. However, care must be taken to not report misinformation. Misinformation creates noise that dilutes and detracts from the truth that needs to be presented to the public.

PING TUNG EGGPLANT

PING TUNG EGGPLANT

PING TUNG EGGPLANT

~PING TUNG EGGPLANT~

The Ping Tung is the most bragged about eggplant that I have researched…I cannot wait to taste it.

From what I’ve read, this is an extremely high yielding disease resistant plant with beautiful snow-white flesh and very few, small seeds. You can use the entire eggplant and not have to remove areas with pockets of seeds or the tender skin.

It grows about 2 feet tall by 2 feet wide. Some people report having to steak or cage this plant because of its heavy fruit production.

BRUSSELS SPROUTS

Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts

~BRUSSELS SPROUTS~

Sprouts are tolerant of almost all soil conditions…except for acidic soils which can encourage club root, a fungus that thrives in acidic soil. Also, Brussels sprouts are a top heavy crop that would benefit from staking or caging to keep them from falling over in windy weather. They will grow equally well in sun or part shade…but prefer part shade.
The key thing when growing Brussels sprouts is to make sure they do not run shy of water. They also have shallow roots, so you’ll want to hand weed if necessary. Unless the soil is poor, you won’t want to fertilize after they start making sprouts, this will cause sprouts to become loose and leafy…also called “blown” sprouts.

Brussels sprouts are a long season vegetable. They can take anywhere from 80 to 120 days to reach maturity. So you plant these in spring and harvest in the fall. A hard frost always improves the eating quality of sprouts, and I have read that you’ll want to wait until the first frost to start harvesting. When harvesting, sever the Brussels sprouts from the main stem using a knife – breaking them off will injure the main stem. Take the lowest sprouts first and work up the stem as they ready, the lower sprouts mature earlier than the higher ones.

I have also read you can pull them up by the root, just before our Minnesota winter turns ugly and hang them upside down in the basement and continue to harvest from them.

I found a site that has a ton of information on growing Brussels sprouts and the bugs and diseases to look out for. Click here to have a look.

I have several yummy sounding recipes on file for sprouts that I will post later…but from what I’ve read…the trick to having delicious sprouts that are as far removed from those you were forced to eat as a kid as the east is from the west, is to not overcook them.

How to Grow Tomatos and Peppers

I’ve been selling lots tomato and pepper plants lately, I feel it’s past time that I post some planting/growing tips for these two plants.

Tomato and pepper plants grow best with 8 to 10 hours of sunlight per day. In addition, peppers and tomatoes have trouble setting fruit when temperatures drop too low or get too high. The average hottest part of the day in the USA is between 2 and 6 PM (of course the actual time will vary a bit according to where you live).

Your tomato and peppers plants would do well with afternoon shade. The best possible place would be one that gets 100% of the eastern rising sun, and begins getting dappled shade between 12 noon and 3ish. Then gets full shade from 3ish to around 5 PM (at least this is so where I live in Minnesota).

The tomato’s optimal temperature range for fruit set is between 65° and 80° F. Tomato fruit becomes small or misshapen if night time temps drop below 55° F, and will set poorly at lows of 50° F or less and highs of 95° F or greater.

The sweet pepper’s optimal temperature range for fruit set is between 60° and 80° F, and up to 85° F for most hot peppers. Fruit sets poorly if night time temps drop below 60° F, or are greater than 75° F and pepper plants may suffer bud drop. At daytime temps greater than 90° pollen can become sterile and pepper plants may, again, suffer bud drop.

When planting your tomato plant be sure to bury your plant deeply, allowing just the top 4 branches to be above the surface of the soil. I remove all the leaves that would be below the soil line. All members of the night shade family will sprout roots along the stem. This will help your plant develop a large, strong root system that will promote and support growth and fruit production.

I have read that you should not bury a pepper plant, but I contend they can be planted just like a tomato. The difference is, most tomatoes grow much bigger than peppers plants and really need the extra roots. If you purchased my pepper plants in the ½ gallon bags…they are already planted deeply enough. One thing that should be done to your pepper plants that needn’t be done to tomatoes is removing the blossoms. You should remove the blossom buds from your pepper plant as soon as you can safely pinch them off without damaging the rest of the plant. Do this until your pepper has been transplanted and has started to grow again (I’ve found this can take up to two weeks), or until night time temperatures stay above 60° F…which ever takes longer. The reason for this is the fact that peppers grow quite slowly, pinching the buds keeps the plant from wasting its energy producing useless flowers and, instead, allows it to use that energy to recover from transplant shock quicker and be bigger when it’s time to start letting it blossom and set fruit.

A major problem with the tomato plant is its tendency to develop fungal infections. Taking a few precautions will greatly reduce the risk that your tomato plants will succumb to blight. They are as follows (and apply to other plants susceptible to fungus infections as well): Only water in the morning. Water only at the base of the plant. Be careful not to let water splash up on the plant. Do not use a sprinkler. Do not get the foliage wet.

Rain is another issue…and moist stretches in the weather cause lots of problems for tomato plants no matter how careful you are with watering so….

…as promised, here is my recipe for a fungus preventative:

To 1 Gallon of water add:
1 Tablespoon Baking Soda
2 1/2 Tablespoons Mineral Oil
1/2 teaspoon Castle, Insecticidal, or Murphy’s Oil Soap
1 Cup 3% Hydrogen Peroxide

Shake solution constantly while spraying, because the oil needs to stay mixed. I use a pressure sprayer I bought at Menards…two for $8.

Spray your tomato plants EVERY single time it rains…Now, there are times when it just rains and rains, for days and days. You can’t spray, and even if you did, you’d be doing it in the rain, and the rain would just wash the concoction into the ground, so you don’t. Then the first sunny day you find your tomato plants are in trouble. This is when you need an actual fungicide…not a preventative.

When my plants…any of them, show any sign of fungus I use ORTHO Disease B Gon Copper Fungicide. I follow the instructions except that I also add 1 cup of 3% Hydrogen Peroxide to the gallon of water (more is not better, H2O2 can burn your plants if it’s too concentrated). First, pick ALL of the affected leaves from the plant (it does not matter that you remove most of them…leaves will grow back), put these in the fire pit or throw them in the garbage, DO NOT PUT THEM IN THE COMPOST. Next, wash any instrument used to remove the affected leaves and wash your hands with soap. Then, last, spray the entire plant until it’s completely saturated and dripping. Repeat on other affected plants from the first step to the last until you’re completely finished treating one plant including washing up before moving on to the next. Do this every 7 days or after rain washes away the fungicide until the plant looks healthy again, then you can resume using the preventative.

A word to the wise: Go ahead and buy the copper fungicide now. You can get it locally at Ace Hardware.

HABANERO

HABANERO

~HABANERO~

I’m excited to grow The legendary 10-alarm pepper originating from the Caribbean. Famous for being the hottest of all peppers, its name means ‘from Havana.’

Long ago, the Habanero and its family migrated from the Caribbean Islands to Central America where they remain extremely popular today. This pepper is a close relative of the Jamaican Scotch Bonnet…which I will not be growing, at least not this year.

Height:
18-24 in.

Spacing:
18-24 in.

(spread):
16 in.

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun

Heat (Pungency):
Extremely Hot (above 30,000 Scoville Units)

Fruit Shape:
Oblong

Fruit Size:
Small (under 2″ in length)

Days to Maturity:
95-100 days

Fruit Colors:
Green changing to orange

Seed Type:
Open-pollinated

CAYENNE – LONG RED SLIM

CAYENNE – LONG RED SLIM

~CAYENNE – LONG RED SLIM~

My Paw-Paw grew Jalapenos and these. I can remember the strings of dry Cayenne hanging on the walls in my Maw-Maw’s kitchen…so beautiful! We grew these last year (2011), and I’d have to say they were the easiest to dry…string ‘em and hang ‘em, that’s all I did. The Serrano and Anaheim chili peppers got moldy and found their way into the trash…but the Cayenne are hanging in my kitchen even now. As a matter of fact my chiropractor recommended I make a tea of Cayenne pepper and lemon. I was delighted that I had my own organically grown pepper perfectly preserved hanging from a shelf in my kitchen. I really thought the tea would be hard to choke down, but you know…it was really kinda good…like, I’m thinking of making me a cup now.

Very hot fruits average 5 inches long and ½ inch thick. Use fresh, or dry for winter use. Harvest starts about 75 days after plants are set out. CAUTION: Use rubber gloves, or clean hot peppers under running water, to avoid skin burn from the pepper juice.

Height:
18-24

Spacing:
12-15 in.

Spread:
16 inches

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun

Heat (Pungency):
Hot(30,000 to 50,000 Scoville Units)

Fruit Shape:
Tapered
Twisted

Fruit Size:
Medium (4″ to 6″ in length)

Days to Maturity:
75 days

Fruit Colors:
Green changing to red

Seed Type:
Open-pollinated

Usage:
Fresh (salsa, salads)
Drying
Pickling

VIRGINIA GOLD TOBACCO

VIRGINIA GOLD TOBACCO

~VIRGINIA GOLD TOBACCO~

Did you know that it’s legal to grow and process your own tobacco for personal use?

Well, it is! And growing tobacco is as easy as growing tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, and even petunias…they’re all from the same family – Solanaceae (Night Shade).

Tobacco is very similar to a petunia, only it grows much faster. If you can grow a petunia, you can grow this plant.

In these tough economic times, most of us are looking for ways to save money. If you’re a smoker, you can drastically cut expenses by growing your own.

If you’re not a smoker, tobacco can be grown as an ornamental. Virginia Gold Tobacco can grow up to 6 to 7 feet tall and makes a nice screen for privacy, or to hide unsightly areas. Also, the beautiful pink trumpet blooms are a favorite of humming birds. Another cool thing you can do with the plant is pick off leaves, dry them and steep them in water overnight for a natural, non-selective contact insecticide.

I found some answered FAQs about homegrown tobacco here.

Click here to view the outstanding video made by my friend, Larry Hall,“Why Raise Your Own Tobacco?”

Larry has lots of GREAT videos on his YouTube channel for growing, harvesting, and curing your own tobacco. Like: How To Germinate And Start Tobacco Seeds!, Planting and growing your own Organic Tobacco!,and Harvesting, Hanging, and Curing you own Organic Tobacco!.

TOMA VERDE

TOMA VERDE

~TOMA VERDE~

Tomatillo was a new experience for me as of 2011. I did not know much about growing this plant, but was glad I got two, because two are required to make fruit…as, unlike tomatoes and peppers, the tomatillo cannot successfully self-pollinate. It doesn’t need another tomatillo, any groundcherry will do the job. If the plants are left to sprawl on the ground they may only get 3 feet tall, but I recommend caging them in a corner of the yard.

These are warm season plants and while they will produce an abundance of blooms, none will set fruit until after…I want to say, mid-July in Central Minnesota…after it gets really hot and stays really warm throughout the night. That’s okay though. These giants produce way more fruit than anyone could ever put up.

If you want to get a free, no work taste of the flavor of this fruit, try the Verde Salsa from Taco Bell.

You can also purchase tomatillo’s from the grocery store to make the following recipe. Bear in mind, grocery store produce will never taste as good as what you pull from the plants growing in your back yard…

Tomatillo Salsa Verde

Ingredients

1 1/2 lb tomatillos
1/2 cup chopped white onion
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon sugar
2 jalapeño or serrano peppers, stemmed, seeded & chopped
Salt to taste

Instructions

1. Remove papery husks from tomatillos and rinse well.

2. Cook the tomatillos. You can either roast them in the oven, or boil them. Roasting will deliver more flavor, but boiling is the most common cooking method.

a. To roast, cut in half and place cut side down on a foil-lined baking sheet. Place under a broiler for about 5-7 minutes to lightly blacken the skin.

b. To boil, place tomatillos in a saucepan, cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove tomatillos with a slotted spoon.

3. Place ingredients in a food processor (or blender) and pulse until all ingredients are finely chopped and mixed. Season to taste with salt. Cool in refrigerator.
Serve as a tortilla dip or sauce for Tex-Mex dishes…Yum!

I will post a tested canning recipe later…which does not use vinegar, and is much better than the recipe in the Ball Blue Book because of that.

HARDENING OFF

Whether you get your plants from starting seeds or buy plants you need to harden off the plants before putting them in the ground. To do this, slowly expose them to direct sunlight for a few hours gradually increasing their time in the sun each day until they can tolerate a full day of sun. Keep a close eye on them, especially when you are first starting the hardening off process. If your plants begin to show signs of wilting move them to shade. Two weeks of hardening off will condition your plants to sun and wind.

Hardening off plants is very important! Many people skip this step and the plants suffer from stress. Stress delays growth, and thus production. Sometimes a non-hardened off plant set out in the garden will actually die.

Removing plants from their nursery pots can stress them as well. Make sure your plants are well hydrated before removing them from their pots, and try to move your plants to their permanent place on an over cast day, or in the evening so it can recover from its transplant stress before it has to face the sun.