Tag Archives | container gardening

Benefits of Growing and Eating Kale

Benefits of Growing and Eating Kale

Ornamental Kale looks beautiful in the garden and is also edible.

Kale is one of those garden plants that is packed full of all kinds of nutrients and benefits for your body. In addition, it is really easy to grow and is hardy in lots of different climates. This article will tell you how to grow kale as well as explain some of the benefits to eating kale.

How to Grow Kale

Kale is really easy to grow. All you need is a portion of your garden that gets lots of good sunlight and where the nutrient rich soil is at least 6-12″ deep. Kale is in the same family as broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts which all require soil that is rich in nitrogen. You can buy kale starts at most places where vegetable starts are sold however, kale is also easy to start from seed. The past few years I have done a combination of purchasing a few starts to give me some kale earlier in the year and then started a few kale plants from seed. Once the kale plant has established itself, water it 1-2 times per week when the temperatures are under 80°F and every other day for warmer climates. When the plant has several leaves on it, you can start picking and eating the bottom leaves. The plant will continue to grow and produce more and more leaves that can be eaten. I had one summer where my kale plants had gotten to about 4 feet tall and we had so much kale that we were sharing with all of our neighbors.

Benefits of Growing and Eating Kale

Ornamental Kale can survive freezes as low as 20°F.

If you live in a colder environment or if you want to grow kale in the winter, many varieties do well in near freezing whether. In addition, some of the ornamental kale can withstand temperatures down to 20°F. The ornamental kale is edible but doesn’t taste quite as good as regular kale.

One of the garden pests to watch out for with kale is aphids. If you have a problem with aphids on your kale, check out this article for some organic ways to get rid of aphids in your garden.

Benefits of Eating Kale

Kale is full of incredible nutrients. It is high in Vitamins A, C, and K. It also has lots of calcium, potassium, folic acid, lutein, and antioxidants. Per calorie, kale has more iron than beef, more calcium than milk, and 10x more vitamin C than spinach. Wow! That’s a lot of wholesome goodness in one plant. So what is all that good for? Well, these nutrients help with eye health, skin health, reduction of the risk of heart disease and cancer. Kale also contributes to weight loss, lower cholesterol, and healthier bones.

Here is a fantastic info graphic that sums all of this up, courtesy of Juice Generation:

Why you should eat kale and health benefits of kale

Do you grow kale? How do you like to eat your kale? Share your favorite recipe in the comments.

Eat Kale, Stay Healthy

 

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3 of the Best Winter Crops – Onions, Garlic, and Cabbage

cabbage

Cabbage is a great winter vegetable.

This article will give you an overview for 3 of the best winter crops – onions, garlic, and cabbage.

In the past I always assumed that my garden would just lay dormant in the winter. After all, what produce really grows in the winter? But, I was wrong.

There are actually quite a few varieties of plants that can be planted in the fall to be harvested in the winter or early the next season. Before planting in the fall, be sure to amend the soil to make sure that you have plenty of nutrients for the winter crops to thrive on (for a soil amendment recipe, see tip 3 of this article: 3 Tips on How to Prep for the New Growing Season). One other thing is that these plants grow best in areas that have a mild winter – meaning that there are nights that might get below freezing but not severe freezing for weeks and weeks at a time.

So, what are 3 of the best crops to grow over the winter? Here they are:

1. Onions

Onions are a perfect winter crop because they take very little effort to plant and maintain. Simply plant the onion in the amended soil so that the bulb is covered (about 1-2 inches deep). You can plant onions even as late as October or early November depending on the weather. Once you have planted the onions, cover the soil with mulch. This will help to keep the soil moist and slightly warmer. Water the plants a couple times per week if the soil is dry in your area and until the first freeze. Then, just leave the onions for the entire winter. In the spring, you can harvest the green part of the onion to use in soups and other dishes. Once the tops turn brown, your onions are ready for harvest.

2. Garlic

Garlic is also an easy plant to grow in the winter. You can even just buy a large garlic from the store and break each of the little cloves a part (called “cracking”). The larger each of the individual cloves, the bigger the garlic will be when harvested. Each clove will  become a whole garlic for the harvest the next summer. When planting, it is important to plant the bottom of the clove down and the top facing up. You can plant garlic in October or November depending on the weather in your area (you will need to plant garlic 3 weeks before the first hard freeze). Plant at a depth of about 2 inches below the surface and then cover with mulch.

3. Cabbage

Cabbage is a plant that will grow and be ready for harvest in the winter. In order to do this, you will need to plant the cabbage from seed in late Spring, or you can buy starts in the late summer or early fall from your local nursery. Make sure your soil has lots of nutrients. The Savoy Cabbage is among the hardiest of the cabbages and is a perfect one to grow in the winter. When the cabbage looks big enough and the head feels firm, you can harvest it in the middle or late winter.

There you have it. There are lots of other plants that can grow in the winter. If you don’t want to grow produce in the winter, then try growing a cover crop. Cover crops help put nutrients back into the soil for the next growing season and they help with weed control. Check out this article to find out more about cover crops: Cover Crops.

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How to grow tomatoes and potatoes on one plant

This article will show you how to grow tomatoes and potatoes on one plant by grafting a tomato plant onto a potato plant. As summer slowly rolls to an end, we often find ourselves with an abundance of tomatos.  Many of the fruit remains green and not fully ripened.  I typically find myself asking, “What can I do different next year to get more fruit for my effort?”

 

It turns out there is an answer:  grafting tomato plants to potatoes.

How to grow tomatoes and potatoes on one plant

Grafted Plant Diagram (click image to see image source)

Over the centuries, smart gardeners and farmers have developed successful methods to use potato root stock to support tomatoes that may not otherwise be well suited to poor soil conditions in your garden.

 

This is a great way to save space in your garden!  You can start your potatoes early in the growing season to let them mature.  Leave some of the potato plants in place and perform the following grafting process to give your tomato plants a head start!

 

The process:

  1. Taking the potato plant (called the “stock”) cut the stem about 1-inch above the ground and split the stem in a V-shape.
  2. At the tomato plant (called a “scion”), cut the stem with at least 6 to 8 inches of length with a straight across cut.  I recommend choosing a tomato plant that has a stem roughly the same diameter as the potato plant rootstock.
  3. Shape the cut end of the tomato plant to a wedge shape so that it will fit into the potato plant stem’s V-shape cut.
  4. Carefully slide the tomato plant stem onto the potato rootstock.
  5. Wrap the graft location with grafting tape in order to hold the two plants together.
  6. The grafting tape needs to remain in place until the tomato plant begins to show new growth.

 

Here is an illustration of the grafting steps described above:

How to grow tomatoes and potatoes on one plant

Grafting Scion Section to Stock (click image to see image source)

Why does this grafting process work?  Tomato plants and potato plants are part of the family of plants called “nightshades”.  Both plants contain alkaloids that help protect the plants from insects (they can even be used to make an organic liquid pest control solution for aphids: Organic Aphid Control)

 

A point of caution, grafting can potentially affect the flavor of the tomato fruit.  Also, grafted plants may yield less fruit than two separate plants grown from seeds.  On the other hand, a major benefit is the grafting process will save you a lot of time and space!

How to grow tomatoes and potatoes on one plant

Tomato-Potato Graft Plant Starts (click image to see image source)

If you end up trying this next year, or plant to grow potatoes in general, we have the perfect garden box for potatoes (and for lots of other things too). We call it TogetherFarm Blocks. This is a modular garden box system made from 100% recycled, food-grade plastic that can be put together in any shape or size. Because it is modular, it is perfect for growing potatoes and tomatoes. Tomatoes will send out roots at any point that the stem is below the  surface of the soil. So, as the plant grows, you can add additional layers onto your modular garden box to give the plant even more strength and fruitfulness. With the potatoes, TogetherFarm Blocks makes it simple at harvest time. Simply pull apart the blocks to be able to get to all the potatoes underground. So cool! We are currently in the last few days of a Kickstarter Campaign to get these blocks to market. If you pledge now, we will ship you a kit at the end of January of next year – just in time for next year’s growing season. Here is a link to TogetherFarm Blocks on Kickstarter as well as a picture of an assembled box. Help us reach our goal and get incredible rewards. Pledge now!

 http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/togetherfarm/turning-plastic-into-produce-togetherfarm-blocks

How to grow tomatoes and potatoes on one plant

TogetherFarm Blocks – an eco-friendly and easy way to build a garden box

 

Happy Gardening,

Matt and the TogetherFarm Produce Evangelists

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Last few days to Pre-order TogetherFarm Blocks on Kickstarter!

Kickstarter Campaign for TogetherFarm Blocks

The TogetherFarm Team has been hard at work the past 4 weeks getting the word out about TogetherFarm Blocks. Our Kickstarter campaign continues to progress towards being fully funded and there’s still time for you to pledge and receive a garden kit of your own. The Kickstarter Campaign will end on September 23rd at about 9pm. So, hurry on over to the TogetherFarm Kickstarter page and make your pledge before it is too late. Be a part of a movement that is empowering more people to grow their own produce. Follow this link to make your pledge now:

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/togetherfarm/turning-plastic-into-produce-togetherfarm-blocks

Kickstarter Campaign for TogetherFarm Blocks

We already have over 350 backers of TogetherFarm Blocks on Kickstarter. Each of these people is receiving an incredible reward for their pledge. Here are some quotes from some of our recent fans:

  • “I always try to tell people that if they have a few square feet of sun, they can grow some food. TogetherFarm Blocks will help with that mission.”
  • “What a great product for those of us who are disabled and the ground is just a little too far away.”
  • “I love this idea – it is what I have been looking for, in particular, the fact it does not involve me measuring and cutting my own garden box.”
  • “Love the idea of these blocks and the ease of building raised beds anywhere.”
  • “I have built my own planter boxes before, but it involved a chop saw and lumber. This looked WAY more fun, and right up my alley.”

And the list goes on! People all over are excited about TogetherFarm Blocks. If you haven’t pledged yet, would you consider doing that right now? Here is the link:

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/togetherfarm/turning-plastic-into-produce-togetherfarm-blocks

Thanks so much for your support!

 

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