Juicing for Better Health

Juicing for Better Health

Whether it is just a fad or a trend that is here to stay, juicing is extremely popular among health conscious individuals. As more and more people experience the amazing results associated with this healthy lifestyle choice, its popularity is expected to grow.

Without question, juicing can be incorporated into your daily life to increase your overall health and vitality. By increasing your daily intake of healthy fruits and vegetables, you’ll be giving your body the essential building blocks it needs. To get the most benefit out of juicing, you’ll want to educate yourself on some of the basics before you get started. You’ll find a wealth of information on these topics in the pages that follow.

The Benefits of Juicing at Home

If you are new to juicing, you may find the process to be a bit of a hassle. However, once you start to see and experience the many benefits associated with juicing, you may wonder how you ever got along without it. So commit to testing out your new lifestyle for at least several weeks before deciding if it is for you or not.

Important Tip: Making your own fresh juice drinks is better than buying ready-made juice products as they have to be treated and processed to extend shelf  life. Therefore, homemade juices are fresher, plus you have more control over what you are putting into your body.

When making your own homemade juices, however, it is important to consume the juice product as soon as it is ready. Exposure to air degrades the nutrients in your juice, so the sooner you drink it, the better.

beet juice - Juicing for Better Health

 

It should also be noted that although fresh fruit juices are delicious and refreshing, be aware that many fruits are naturally high in sugar which can lead to unwanted weight gain and other unintended health issues. A better alternative is to combine complementary fruits and vegetables together to create healthy and delicious concoctions. Combining vegetable-based juices with a healthy balanced diet will help you achieve the results you desire.

 

 

 

Benefits of Healthy Juicing

One of the main benefits of juicing is that it is a lot easier to drink a single glass of nutrient-rich juice than it is to consume a comparable amount of whole fruits and vegetables. People are busy and most simply won’t sit down and eat that much produce at one time. Instead, they’ll reach for more convenient, but less healthy options.

There are many advantages associated with juicing. As mentioned, juicing makes it easier to give your body the important nutrients, enzymes, vitamins and minerals it needs. In addition, some argue that juicing offers a more efficient way for your body to absorb nutrients without placing undue pressure on your digestive system.

Juicing is also a great alternative for those who dislike vegetables and avoid eating them whenever possible. For these individuals, a glass of delicious juice lightly sweetened with a bit of pineapple or pear is a welcome alternative to a plate of steamed veggies.

There are tons of recipes available online to help you make delicious and creative juicing concoctions your whole family will love. When creating a collection of juice recipes you want to try, look for combinations that include both fruits and vegetables for the greatest health benefits.

Be aware that most juicing recipes include parts of the fruits and vegetables you would normally discard.  With juicing, you’ll often be advised to include leafy plant tops, rinds, skins, seeds and other parts that normally end up in the trash or compost pile. This is a real shame, because these items are often full of the essential nutrients your body needs.

Breville JE98XL Juice Fountain PlusWhen you start juicing, you will want to invest in a juicer powerful enough to handle the types of fruits and vegetables you plan to use. This doesn’t mean you have to break the bank or make a huge financial commitment to test out your new lifestyle. There are a number of really good entry-level centrifugal juicers on the market for around $50 or $60. These models don’t offer all the bells and whistles of higher end units, but they are certainly worthy of your consideration.

Regardless of what kind of juicer you choose, consider it an investment in your long-term health. Making your own juices at home is infinitely better for you than picking up processed juices in your local grocery store. Those processed juices usually require some heating process to extend their shelf life, which can kill off valuable enzymes and nutrients. By making your own juice at home, you can keep the integrity of juice blends intact.

 

 

 

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Cooking Vegetables without Sacrificing Flavor

Cooking Vegetables without Sacrificing Flavor

Eating vegetables is very beneficial for your health in several different ways, one most important is keeping your blood pressure low. Adding the most amounts of vegetables to your diet as you can protects you from other diseases like certain types of cancers, heart disease, and type II diabetes.

Vegetables are packed with nutrients and vitamins that can give you an added boost of energy. On top of it all, being healthy inside can make look younger, healthier and more attractive on the outside, and who doesn’t want that?

The recommended amount of vegetables to eat daily is 3-5 servings, and sadly enough, better than 70% of people do not eat enough of these healthy and nutritious food sources. Too many, eating vegetables is a chore, and they simple don’t take the time to prepare them for consumption.

Eating vegetables, an essential part of the meal can be really delightful and gratifying, in what way? Consider the following.

Vegetables can be cooked and prepared in a variety of ways, from steaming to roasting.

We prepared this guide to help you learn the best techniques in cooking healthy and sumptuous vegetables. You might say you already knew this, than please consider this guide a reminder.

A good sign that vegetables are properly cooked is by looking for a very bright and vibrant color. When the color is dull or dark, as can be the case with canned green beans or Asparagus, it’s a sign that they are over cooked. When vegetables are over cooked, they have little to no nutritional value. Over cooking your vegetables, or buying them in a can is really wasting your hard earned money.

Now your guide for healthy ways to cook vegetables without sacrificing flavor, including necessary vitamins and minerals:

These cooking methods can create appetizing and healthy vegetable dishes.

Steaming

Boiling the vegetables is the easiest and most convenient way of preparing a vegetable dish. In this cooking method, all you need is a cooking pot filled with water. But it isn’t ideal as boiling your vegetables strip the essential nutrients while cooking. What’s more, it saps flavor from the vegetables.

Steaming your vegetables can allow you to cook them without losing their nutrients, and it helps the vegetables retain their natural flavor.
To steam vegetables, you just need a good and reliable steamer. But if you do not have a steamer, you may use a pot with a steaming basket.

 

 

 

Roasting

roasted vegetables

Roasted Vegetables

There are some vegetables that can retain more antioxidants, flavor, and nutrients when roasted. Peppers, eggplant, sweet potatoes, beets, and asparagus, to name a few, are healthier and more delicious when they are prepared with this method.

Keep in mind, even though the oven is at 350 degrees, and if you are roasting the vegetables for 20 to 30 minutes (depending on the vegetable) the internal temperature of the vegetables will normally be about 165 degrees.

40 to 60 percent of the nutrients are still intact at this temperature. Vitamins and minerals begin to waste away at temperatures of 185 degrees and above (internal temperature not the temperature of the stove).

Sautéing

Sautéing also referred to as stir-frying, is no doubt one of the healthiest ways to prepare a vegetable. When sautéing the vegetables, they are being cooked in a pan over very high temperatures. Since the vegetables are cooked in a high temperature, sautéing quickly cooks your vegetables and reduces the loss of nutrients and vitamins.

But keep in mind, cutting your vegetables in thin slices is the best way to sauté or stir-fry them, doing so cooks them quickly and they are not exposed to the high heat very long, and therefore retain their nutrients.

As far as the taste goes, sautéing won’t compromise the vegetables flavors. Sautéing can retain the natural flavors even better than steaming them. Sautéing them can even add flavor, as this cooking method is done by adding in other flavors like herbs and spices.

It is worthy to note, that sautéing requires keeping an eye on the pan of vegetables at all times, as the vegetables can burn quickly or over cook, losing their flavor and essential nutrients.

Grilling

grilling vegetables

Grilling Vegetables

Almost any vegetable can be cooked on a grill. The  best vegetables to use though, are those with a low water content, like corn on the cob, zucchini, potatoes, mushrooms, and artichokes to name a few. Coat the vegetables with avocado oil or coconut oil (high smoke point oils) before placing on the grill.

You can also grill vegetables using a foil pouch. Make a pouch with aluminum foil, add a little water and they can be steamed, or add some butter, herbs and spices instead to add some flavor.

Most vegetables on the grill cook in 3 to 5 minutes. Harder vegetables like potatoes will take longer. Be sure the grill is nice and hot, so that they are on the grill no longer than 3 to 5 minutes, so that they do not lose their nutrients.

Check out our search with the key word “Vegetables” here at Splendid Recipes and More for recipes using the methods in this article, for cooking vegetables. —–Link Here—–

 

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Citrus Herb Roasted Vegetables

Citrus Herb Roasted Vegetables

This recipe focuses on the roasted vegetables as a side dish. We did use skinless chicken thighs (bone-in) as this is my families favorite part of the chicken. Though I do prefer, de-boned, skinless chicken breast.

You can roast these vegetables with about any meat you wish, including fish like Salmon or Halibut. The blend of seasonings that we used are common culinary herbs with the zest of citrus fruits, orange and lemon. This seasoning blend is well suited for many uses in the kitchen, like adding spice to a fruit salad, or add it to a grain, such as quinoa. For lean meats, you can use the citrus herb seasoning as a dry rub before grilling.

The seasoning consists of  the following:

1 tbsp. dried thyme

1 tbsp. dried oregano

2 tbsp. dried basil

1 tsp. dried rosemary

1 tsp. dried sage

1 tsp. fennel seeds

Mix the ingredients together in a spice grinder and store the blend in an airtight container.

The fresh ingredients you add to the seasoning when ready to use are:

1 1/2 tsp. fresh orange zest

1 1/2 tsp. fresh lemon zest

Here are the vegetables you will need, but keep in mind, you can use just about any vegetable you like:

vegetables neede for Citrus Herb Roasted Vegetables

Here we are using 2 zucchini squash, 2 crookneck squash, 2 carrots, about 15 Brussels sprouts, and 1 small to medium eggplant. Note if you are going to bake some chicken or fish with the vegetables, you may not use the amount that is called for, due to spacing in the baking pan.

pouring season mix into baking pan

In a mixing cup add the zest of both citrus fruits, and 1 to 2 tablespoons of the herb seasoning mix. You may want to add about 1 teaspoon of sea salt. To the dry mix add 1/4 cup olive oil or avocado oil, 2 tablespoons of honey or 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, and 1/4 cup orange juice. We used the juice of a fresh Navel orange. Of course it juiced almost 1 cup. One fourth cup was added to the mix, and the cook got their dose of vitamin-C (he drank the rest). This is optional, add 1 minced fresh clove of garlic.

Mix the dry ingredients with the wet till well combined and pour into a 13 x 9 inch baking pan. Now if you don’t like meat, than maybe you will want to look away as we show you the next step.

putting chicken thighs over seasoning face down

Next, depending the meat you want to use, place meat into pan. Here we used skinless chicken thighs, placed bone side up. If using fish with skin on, place fish in with meat down.  Bake in a preheated oven on 400 degrees for 30 minutes.

Placing chopped vegetables into baking pan to roast

Remove pan from oven and turn thighs over and arrange chopped vegetables over and around meat. If you are going to just use the vegetables only, than pour wet seasoning mix into baking pan, add vegetables and roast for 30 minutes in the 400 degree oven.

Place baking pan back into oven and cook another 30 minutes. This will insure chicken meat is cooked to 165 degrees internal temperature and will roast the vegetables.

Citrus Herb Roasted Vegetables

Remove roasted vegetables to a serving dish, then place meat on to a serving platter. Pour or spoon as much of the seasoned liquid as you like over the roasted vegetables.

Citrus Herb Roasted Vegetables with Baked Chicken Thighs

Plate and serve.

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Organic Vegetable Box Schemes and CSAs

box of vegetables from a local CSA

Have you heard people go on and on about the great deals they’ve gotten through their CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) or vegetable box scheme? These interactions between consumers and farmers can be a win-win – members of the community invest in a local farm, and in return get fresh fruits and vegetables.

It’s tempting to jump in and try it…but is it worth it? How do you find a reputable one? It’s a good idea to know what you’re getting into before signing up. Here are some considerations.

How a CSA Works

A vegetable box scheme or CSA box is, basically, an agreement between you and the farmer. Most farms require that you sign on for a full season, and for a fee you receive a box of seasonal produce every week, every other week, or monthly, depending on your local scheme. The contents of the box are strictly seasonal; you won’t find summer squash in June, for instance. Some schemes will deliver to your door; others ask you to go pick it up on a set day.

Advantages of a CSA

Community Supported AgricultureThere are certainly advantages to signing up with a vegetable box scheme or CSA. For one thing, the produce is extremely fresh and organically grown. Here are some other advantages to consider:

* The distance between farm and table is reduced, thus reducing the use of preservatives on produce and the use of fossil fuels to transport the produce.

* The produce is in season, bringing you closer to the way your ancestors would have eaten.

* The food in a veggie box is usually much more affordable than a comparable amount of food from the store. You’re not paying for the transportation for one thing.

* You will get the opportunity to try new and unusual vegetables and fruits.

* You will be supporting your community and reconnecting with the origin of your food.

Drawbacks of a CSA

Of course, there are some drawbacks as well. Here are some to consider:

* You will likely have to sign on for a full season or even year; if you don’t like the way the service is going, you’re stuck with it.

* There may be large quantities of a fruit or vegetable you don’t know what to do with, or that no one likes.

* You can’t pick and choose the produce; you get what’s available, and sometimes there are substitutions (if the bell pepper crop doesn’t do well, for example, you may end up with eggplant instead).

* If you cannot make the pick-up time, you lose your produce.

Where and How to Find a Good Scheme

A good place to start is within the community. Ask around and find out who and what is selling. This is a good way to find out who has a good or bad reputation, too. You can also check at your local farmer’s market, as many farmers participate in CSAs. And of course, you can always do an internet search to find one in your area.

If you do an internet search, in your preferred search engine (if you live in the USA) type  Community Supported Agriculture….and type the city or state were you live. If you are living out side the USA check with your local government officials.

Here is another web-site you can use to find local farmers and participants of the CSAs in your area:

Local Harvest / Farmers Markets / Family Farms / CSA …

Image credits
Article Image: Wikipedia
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What is Kitchen Gardening?

This is the seventh post on Vegetable Gardening with guest speaker Judith Sorg. If you missed the first six posts please link here to read.

Now for – What is Kitchen Gardening? – with Judith Sorg.

Have you ever wondered exactly what a “kitchen garden” is or how it differs from a regular vegetable garden?

For starters, a kitchen garden or potager (pronounced puh-ta-zhay), is a special kind of edible garden with a rich history tracing back to old English and French culinary gardens.

Much like a traditional vegetable garden, a kitchen garden is a chef’s delight filled with delicious fruits, vegetables, herbs and edible flowers. In short, a kitchen garden is a celebration of fresh ingredients and delicious home cooked meals.

Both kitchen and traditional gardens offer a sense of satisfaction coupled with tangible rewards for a job well done. Beyond these similarities, there are some distinct differences between the two, however.

Picking tomatoes from a Kitchen Garden

Picking tomatoes from a Kitchen Garden

1. Convenience. One of the main characteristics of a kitchen garden is accessibility. It should be easy to grab the items you need to your prepare your daily meals. Therefore, a potager should be located as close to your food preparation area as possible.

Imagine you are in the middle of preparing dinner when you suddenly realize “this marinade could use a little more rosemary.” Rather than trek out to your main vegetable garden while you have pots simmering on the stove, wouldn’t you rather be able to reach right outside your door to snip a couple sprigs?

With a kitchen garden, the easier it is to grab what you need while you are cooking, the better.

2. Size. Kitchen gardens are usually smaller than traditional gardens because they are situated so close to the house. This isn’t always the case, of course, but having a culinary garden close enough to offer easy access while you are cooking may limit the amount of space available.

If you only have limited space available to plant a kitchen garden, here is a good rule of thumb to consider: A regular vegetable garden is about planning for the future, while a kitchen garden is about enjoying today. Therefore, the fruits and vegetables you plan to preserve for future use – or crops, such as corn, that take up a lot of space – are good choices for a traditional vegetable garden where space is at less of a premium.

Instead, kitchen gardens are normally filled with the items you prepare and eat while fresh. Therefore, containers of fresh herbs, compact cherry tomato plants, or an assortment of leaf lettuce varieties all make great additions to a potager.  If you lack the space for a traditional garden, a small kitchen garden can keep you in fresh, delicious produce all season long.

3. Beauty. While a standard vegetable garden is all about utility and production, part of the charm of a kitchen garden comes from its ornamental aspect. Due to its proximity to the house, a kitchen garden is harder to tuck out of sight than a traditional garden. Therefore, they are often designed to add a sense of beauty to your home, as well.

Some herbs, such as lemon thyme, can be used to create a beautiful and fragrant border around plants and containers. Edible flowers, such as violas and daylilies, can be incorporated to add a splash of color. Compact blueberry shrubs are also highly ornamental and make a wonderful, yet functional border.

potted herbsAs you can see, a kitchen garden offers both convenience and beauty in a compact space. The best part is it doesn’t take much to get started. All you need is a couple large pots, some fresh herbs, your favorite compact tomato plant and lettuce varieties and you’ll be on your way!

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Planning a Productive and Practical Potager

Woman and her child harvesting carrots from her potager garden

 

This is the sixth post on Vegetable Gardening with guest speaker Judith Sorg. If you missed the first five posts please link here to read.

Now for – Planning a Productive and Practical Potager – with Judith Sorg.

A well-planned potager, or kitchen garden, can be a beautiful and enticing way to incorporate more fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs into your diet.

  Little boy reaps turnip greens from a potager garden


Little boy reaps turnip greens from a potager garden

 

The traditional potager or kitchen garden, is a space separate from the rest of the residential garden, such as the ornamental and flowering plants and lawn areas. Most vegetable gardens are a smaller version of old family farm plots, but the kitchen garden is different, as it has its own history as well as design.

 

The following tips will help you plan a productive and practical potatger.

Tip #1: Pick the Perfect Spot.  When choosing a location for your kitchen garden, try to find a spot as close to your kitchen as possible.  After all, you want your own personal culinary garden to be easy to reach while you are preparing meals.

The location you choose must also take into consideration the kind of environment your plants prefer. Choose a sunny location that receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. If you live in a really hot climate, you may find a bit of afternoon shade is nice to have, as well.

Also, you’ll want to make sure the location you choose has easy access to water. You definitely don’t want to drag a heavy garden hose around the house or carry buckets of water in order to keep your plants hydrated.

Tip #2: Pick Your Plants. The easiest way to decide what you want to grow in your potager is to think about what you like to cook.

For example, if you use a lot of fresh herbs, you’ll want to keep a big pot of your favorite varieties on hand. Kids can’t get enough of your homemade salsa? Plan to have a steady supply of fresh cilantro and juicy tomatoes nearby.

In other words, you want to stock your kitchen garden with the fruits, vegetables, herbs and edible flowers you use in your day-to-day cooking.  These are the items you will want to have convenient access to throughout the growing season. Items you plan freeze, can or otherwise preserve for later use are ideal for your regular vegetable garden.

Tip #3: Make the Most of the Space You Have.  Due to their proximity to the house, many kitchen gardens are confined to a relatively small space. If your proposed potager has a small overall footprint, don’t get discouraged. Instead – look up!

Take advantage of as much vertical space as possible to maximize your growing area. Consider growing juicy yellow pear tomatoes surrounded by creeping thyme in a vertical container or use hanging baskets suspended on shepherd hooks for your favorite herbs. Just make sure you keep them well watered as hanging baskets tend to dry out more quickly.

You could also add a trellis or incorporate a fence into your design to provide support for climbing plants, such as pole beans or cucumbers. If your potager has a blank wall with good sun exposure, you could add a ladder-like series of shelves to house a lot more plants than you could fit into the ground you have available.

beautiful potager garden

Beautiful potager garden

Tip #4: Make It Beautiful. Although some may argue that beauty for its own sake is neither productive nor practical, I disagree. Your kitchen garden is an extension of your home and will likely be visible to your family and guests. So, making the area as attractive as possible just makes good sense.

Balance, symmetry and repetition are components of any good garden design. To incorporate balance and symmetry into your potager, try adding two matching brightly colored containers filled with herbs and place them on each side of the entrance.

For repetition, add multiples of the same plants throughout the garden. For example, a group of 3 cherry tomato plants in attractive containers will have a stronger visual impact than a single plant. You can also create a sense of order by planting lovely borders of edible flowers or fragrant herbs along walkways.

One great thing about incorporating ornamental aspects into your potager is you may find you want to spend more time in an area that nourishes both your body and soul.

Next we will talk about the difference between kitchen gardening and a regular vegetable garden.

For Judith’s next discussion link here: What is Kitchen Gardening?

 

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Ranch Spinach Pasta Salad with Chicken Sausage

Ranch Spinach Pasta Salad with Chicken Sausage

Spinach is among one of the world’s healthiest vegetables. It is part of a class called cruciferous which is a vegetable rich in vitamins and minerals, and also contains concentrated health-promoting phyto-nutrients such as beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin and flavonoids which provides powerful antioxidant protection.These antioxidants are good to find and expel the toxins we are exposed too on a daily bases.

Spinach as a cruciferous vegetable can find cancerous cells and expel them from the body.  To have this protection requires 4 servings per week. To have the same protection from any other vegetable would require 10 servings per day.

The chicken sausage we use in this recipe is minimally processed. It’s all natural and no preservatives added. In my opinion, it is the best chicken sausage I have had. The chicken sausage is pre-cooked and sold with four large links. Though I have found it uncooked in some stores packaged with 5 large links.

To get a coupon and find a store near you that sells the sausage link here to the Al Fresco web-site.

Here is our featured recipe:

Ranch Spinach Pasta Salad with Chicken Sausage

7 oz. vegetable spiral pasta

1 tsp. Cajun spice~

½ cup Greek yogurt

1 tbsp. lemon juice

2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil (see note)

2 cups baby spinach

½ cup chopped yellow bell pepper

¾ cup grape tomatoes, halved

½ cup carrots, cut julienne style

½ cup cucumber, diced

½ package Al Fresco Chicken Sausage Apple and Real Vermont Maple Syrup (2 links, remove casing, if using raw bought sausage cook according to package instructions).

Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.

In a medium bowl; mix seasonings, yogurt, basil and lemon juice.

In a large bowl mix in pasta, sausage (option if using pre-cooked sausage: heat sausage in a skillet over medium heat) and other remaining ingredients; stir in prepared dressing until well coated.

Plate and serve.

_________________________________

~substitute 1 tbsp. Lemon herb

Note: Tear the basil by hand. Chopping basil or using kitchen shears will only case the leaf to turn brown.

 

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How to Build Raised Vegetable Garden Beds

This is the fifith post on Vegetable Gardening with guest speaker Judith Sorg. If you missed the first three please link here to read.

Now for -How to Build Raised Vegetable Garden Beds – with Judith Sorg.

There are many benefits to using raised vegetable garden beds in your garden.

For starters, I have found elevated garden beds are easier on your back and knees because they require less bending, kneeling and crawling than regular beds.  In addition, raised garden beds offer better drainage, which means your plants aren’t stuck sitting in excess water every time it rains. Plus, it is much easier to build your soil UP than it is to work amendments into the ground.

raised garden beds for the handicapped

Raised garden beds for the handicapped

Raised garden beds also are great for those who are wheelchair or scooter bound.

Fortunately, building raised vegetable beds is a super easy do-it-yourself project. All you need are some readily available tools and materials, and an extra pair of hands.

How to Build Raised Vegetable Garden Beds

Tools and Materials  

(makes two 8’ x 4’ x 6” high beds)

(6) 1” x 6” x 8’ cedar boards* – 2 boards cut into 4’ sections

Wood screws and/or 8 metal corner brackets

Power drill

Important Note: Cedar is naturally insect and moisture resistant, so it tends to hold up well in outdoor environments. Avoid using pressure treated lumber for your food growing areas because the chemicals used to create them can leach into your soil.

*Cedar boards come in a variety of lengths and widths. Obviously, using 6” wide boards will give you more shallow beds than 10” boards. Choose whichever length and width combination you prefer. If you find 4’ beds are too wide, simply reduce the length of each shorter section to 3’ – 3.5’.

Instructions:

To assemble your raised vegetable garden beds, line the ends of an 8’ foot section and a 4’ sections up so they form an “L” shape. While your helper holds the boards in place, secure the two boards together with wood screws or with the metal corner brackets.

Repeat this process with the remaining cedar boards until you create 2 wooden rectangles, each measuring 8’ in length by 4’ in width.

Once your beds are assembled, carry them a sunny spot in your garden and place them where you want your raised beds before you begin filling them.

Filling Your Vegetable Garden Beds

Of course, you can fill each bed with pre-packaged gardening mix, but you may find that gets a bit pricey. You can also create your own more cost-effective planting medium very easily.

 Build Raised Vegetable Garden BedsStart by adding a thick layer of newspaper or flattened cardboard across the bottom of your raised garden box. This will help prevent weeds and grass from growing up into your planter. Then, add alternating layers of peat moss, compost, aged manure or barn litter, and topsoil.

You can add additional amendments, such as bone meal or a slow-release organic fertilizer, once you decide which plants you want to grow in each bed and you’ve conducted soil tests to determine what nutrients your soil needs to accommodate those plants.

If you prepare and fill your raised beds in the fall, simply cover them with dark plastic to “cook down” all winter.  You will be rewarded with beautiful rich soil in the spring, but it will be quite a bit lower than you remember – so be extra generous when filling the beds.

If you assemble your raised vegetable garden beds in the spring, you can plant right into the layered mixture. Over time, the layers will break down to form a rich soil. In the near term, your plants will do just fine in it as long as you don’t use fresh compost, manure or barn litter, all of which can “burn” your plants.

As you can see, learning how to build raised vegetable garden beds isn’t difficult. If you follow these easy instructions, you can look forward to years of more rewarding and efficient gardening.

Next post will be March. 20,2014, themed, “Planning a Productive and Practical Potager.”

 

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How to Plant a Vegetable Garden in Four Easy Steps

This is the fourth post on Vegetable Gardening with guest speaker Judith Sorg. If you missed the first three please link here to read.

Now for -How to Plant a Vegetable Garden in Four Easy Steps – with Judith Sorg.

If you love to cook, learning how to plant a vegetable garden is one of the most rewarding things you can do. When you grow your own garden, you can harvest fresh seasonal fruits, veggies and herbs as you need them instead of having to drive miles to the nearest grocery store. It just doesn’t get any fresher than that.

Here’s How to Plant a Vegetable Garden in 4 Easy Steps:

simple garden layout

Example of a simple garden layout
image credit: vegetablegardenplanning.net
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Step #1. Decide What You Want to Plant. This is the fun part. Start by making a list of all the recipes you frequently make. Note which vegetables and herbs you use over and over again, because this will tell you not only what you should plant, but also in what quantity.

Don’t forget to jot down other items your family enjoys, even if you aren’t using them in your cooking currently. Growing your own vegetable garden is a great way to expand your culinary horizons.

This planning phase is a great time to get your children interested in gardening, too. Ask what they might like to grow or make fun suggestions if they are too young to come up with ideas on their own. Pumpkins, ornamental gourds and sunflowers (for their beauty and seeds) are popular choices with kids of all ages. Fast growing plants, such as lettuce and beans, are also great choices for children because they produce noticeable results quickly.

Once you’ve made a list of plants you want to grow, collect mail order catalogs, search online or stop by your favorite garden center to find seeds and transplants. You can learn a lot about what grows well in your area by tapping into these resources, as well.

Step #2:  Pick a Location for Your Vegetable Garden

Just like in real estate, planting a successful vegetable garden is all about location, location, location. If you want your plants to thrive, there are a couple non-negotiable items you will need to provide:

Vegetable Garden in Four Easy Steps with sunshine1. Sunshine. Pick a sunny location with at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day.

2. Water.  Make sure the location you choose has easy access to water. You will need to water your plants whenever Mother Nature refuses to cooperate, so make sure you have a convenient source of water nearby.

3. Accessibility. Gardens need care, so position your vegetable garden in an area that is convenient to get to with the tools you need to work in it. If you place it too far from the house or garden shed where you keep your tools or in an area difficult to reach with a wheelbarrow, you may find yourself tempted to neglect it.

Make your life easier and plant your garden in the most convenient sunny location you can find.

4. Good Drainage. You may have to do some work for this one, especially if you live in an area with heavy clay or compacted soil. If you find the area you want to plant tends to collect standing water, you will want to build your beds up to protect your plants from overly wet feet.

Step #3: Create Your Garden Beds

Once you’ve identified where you want your garden, you will need to decide where you want the individual beds within it. As you are doing so, keep in mind the orientation of the sun throughout the day because taller plants or those growing on trellises can cast damaging shadows if they aren’t positioned correctly.

To create the individual beds, many old school gardeners swear by the traditional practice of removing heavy layers of sod, then tilling and amending the soil beneath it before planting your vegetable plants.

Although this method will certainly work, you simply don’t have to work that hard.   Instead, you can use the Lasagna Gardening method of building your beds UP instead of digging down to create them. This methods works equally well with raised garden beds or directly on the ground.

compost needed for gardening in four easy stepsTo get started, add flattened cardboard or a thick stack of newspapers on top of the ground and then add alternate layers of peat, topsoil, aged manure or barn litter, organic mulch, yard clippings and/or compost.

You can either prepare these beds months in advance or right before you plant. Either way, the layers will meld together into a beautiful, rich soil for your plants.

For more details on this no-dig gardening method, check out Lasagna Gardening, a New Layering System for Bountiful Gardens.

Step #4: Start Planting!

Once your beds are ready, it’s time to start planting!

Before you start digging, you have some choices to make: you can sow seeds directly into the soil, start seeds indoors then harden them off outdoors before adding them to your garden, or plant established transplants you’ve purchased directly into your prepared beds.
Some plants require direct sowing, while others need to be started indoors several weeks before the frost-free date in your area in order to perform well. While you are creating your list of plants you want to grow, make a note of the growing requirements for each so you can give your plants the best chance of survival.

If you decide to follow these four easy steps to plant a vegetable garden, you will be rewarded all season long with an abundant supply of fresh and healthy produce. Plus, you’ll have the added satisfaction of knowing you did it with your own two hands.

Next will talk about: “How to Build Raised Vegetable Garden Beds.”

Return for Judiths next garden discussion March. 17, 2014.

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Deciding When to Plant Vegetables in Your Area

This is the second post on Vegetable Gardening with guest speaker Judith Sorg. If you missed the Introduction please link here to read: 3 Must Know Vegetable Gardening Tips.

Now for -Deciding When to Plant Vegetables in Your Area- with Judith Sorg.

Deciding When to Plant Vegetables in Your AreaFiguring out when to plant vegetables in your area requires a little detective work. In addition to your geographic location, you’ll need to consider a few other variables, as well. For example, the type of vegetables you plan to grow and how you intend to plant them, such as seedlings, transplants or seeds will factor into when you should get your crops in the ground, as well.

If you live in an area with distinct seasons, your vegetable growing season will fall loosely between your anticipated frost-free date in the spring and the first hard frost in the fall. Unless you have a crystal ball, it is next to impossible to predict these dates with absolute certainty.

Fortunately, there are some valuable online resources you can check for general guidelines. A quick online search for “frost-free date” + your geographic area should give you a good idea of when it might be safe to plant in your region.

Of course, the published frost-free date for your area doesn’t take into account unexpected late season snow storms or unseasonably cold temperatures. However, if you wait until after the expected frost-free date for your area AND for the daytime soil temperature to reach 65 degrees or warmer, you should be in good shape. If you want to warm up your soil faster, you can cover your planting beds with dark plastic sheets for several weeks prior to planting.

As you develop your garden planting timeline, think of these two important dates as virtual “bookends” around your prime vegetable growing season. However, if you start seeds indoors or protect your plants from cold temperatures with mulch, cold frames, row covers or mini-hoop houses, you can extend your growing season even further.

Planting seeds and day to maturity Don’t Ignore “Days to Maturity” for Your Selected Plants

As you’re deciding when to plant vegetables in your garden, pay close attention the “days to maturity” information noted on the seed packages or plant markers for the vegetables you’ve selected. This number, which is often expressed as a range of days, tells you how long it will take until that plant is ready to harvest.

This is important to know because some vegetables reach maturity much faster than others. For example, radishes, lettuce and baby carrots can be ready for harvest just 30 days after they are sown as seeds. On the other hand, some pumpkin varieties can take a full 120 – 160 days before they reach maturity.

The “days to maturity” for a particular vegetable variety gives you an idea of how early you need to get that plant into the ground if you want it to reach maturity before your first hard frost date.

It also tells you how late in the season you can plant certain crops. For example, you can’t wait until late summer in northern climates to plant pumpkins seeds that require 160 days to mature. On the other hand, you can plant fast-growing lettuce varieties with confidence until 30 days or so before your expected last frost date.

Learning when to plant vegetables in your area is worth the effort. Knowing when your prime growing season begins and ends – and how you can get the most out of it – will make you a much more successful food gardener. It will help you decide which vegetables to grow and how to help those varieties thrive in your garden.

Next post is March. 15, 2014 and the theme is: The Difference Between Heirlooms and Hybrids

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