Tag Archives | plants

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

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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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What to do with extra (large) Zucchini – 3 Delicious Recipes

This article will explain what to do with extra (large) Zucchini by giving 3 delicious recipes.

Every year my garden produces way more zucchini than we can keep up with. We are always giving zucchini away to friends and neighbors but even so, we end up with extra large zucchinis that we don’t want to go to waste. This summer, we discovered a few ways to put these zucchinis to good use. Here are 3 easy recipes that work great with large Zucchini:

1. Grilled Zucchini

What to do with extra (large) Zucchini - 3 Delicious Recipes

This is so easy to do and really delicious. All you need to do is slice the zucchini into long flat strips that are about 1/4″ thick. I usually leave the skin on to hold the pieces together better. Then, put the zucchini on your BBQ and pour a little bit of soy sauce on each piece. Then, add salt and pepper.

What to do with extra (large) Zucchini - 3 Delicious Recipes

When you flip the pieces of zucchini over, the soy sauce, salt, and pepper will all get grilled into the zucchini adding a ton of flavor. Once the zucchini starts turning slightly transluscent, you know it’s ready. Take it off to serve and enjoy!

2. Zucchini as a pasta replacement in Pesto

This is one of the coolest things we discovered this summer. My brother-in-law told us about this and then made it for us at a family reunion. It was so delicious! What you do is make normal pesto (we typically buy the pesto mix at the store but you can also make your own if you have lots of basil handy), but instead of adding pasta noodles, you use zucchini noodles from your large zucchini. To prep the zucchini, use a thick cheese grader or simply cut the zucchini into thin spaghetti like strips. Then, quickly cook the zucchini for about 4 minutes. Put it into a strainer to let it drain. Then, add to your pesto mix in place of adding pasta noodles with a little bit of olive oil and additional fresh basil if you have it. Mix it up and add some salt and pepper to taste. That’s it. Now you have a low-carb, delicious, and healthy meal that uses up your large zucchini.

3. Zucchini Bread or Muffins

Zucchini Bread or Muffins is the default go to use of large zucchinis. Zucchini bread not only tastes delicious, but it is also really healthy for you because of the large amount of zucchini you use. There are dozens of recipes online that you can choose from. Here are a few links to ones that I like:

  • Super Moist Zucchini Bread or Muffins (healthy): http://allrecipes.com/recipe/super-moist-zucchini-bread/
  • Mom’s Zucchini Bread: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/moms-zucchini-bread/

Do you have additional recipes or ways that you use zucchini? Let us know in the comments.

If you have never grown zucchini or any other produce of your own, TogetherFarm has made a much easier way for you to do that. We want everyone to experience the benefits and flavor or homegrown produce and so we have created a modular garden box that doesn’t require tools to build and can be built in any shape or size. The modular garden box system is called TogetherFarm Blocks. The blocks are made from 100% recycled food-grade plastic so they are good for the environment too! You can pre-order your garden box kit on Kickstarter by following this link:

TogetherFarm Blocks on Kickstarter

Kickstarter Campaign for TogetherFarm Blocks

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Gardening with Recycled Materials

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We’ll keep it short on words and long on pictures in this post as we review different ways of gardening using recycled materials.  My wife and I prepped and planted our spring garden earlier this year.  Here are some quick how-tos and tips for your 2014 garden.

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There they are – a winter’s growth of cover crops.  These guys are all ready to be folded back into last year’s soil which fed a bounty of tomatoes.  Now it’s time to feed the soil.

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There are a few articles out there on incorporating your cover crops into your soil beds.  One says to get a pair of garden shears and do a bit of a mowing, trimming them all before anything else.  We simply got a pitch fork and began turning the cover crops into the soil.  It looks like hard work but it was actually pretty easy.  The cover crops kept the soil moist and well aerated making short work of this task.  The other thing we noticed was the soil, which was a light brown when we planted last year, was rich and dark black with worms and other small critters thriving below the surface.  The beds were very much alive and healthy.

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When done, our beds looked like this.  Note that some of the greens are still at the surface.  We didn’t mind too much because we planned on amending the soil with a few bags of organic soil.  It is important, however, to make sure to cover up any of the greens.  Remember, these guys are still alive with roots in the ground.   You don’t want them to reestablished themselves amidst your new garden.

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We added “Edna’s Best” potting soil to our gardens since it had a nice mix of soil, mycorrhizal fungi, earthworm castings, kelp meal, bat guano, feather meal and a natural wetting agent.  It’s easy, just toss the bag on the garden bed, split it open with a shovel and then remove the bag.  All the soil dumps right where you want it.  We decided to spread it evenly across the top instead of folding it into the beds.  Since it rains fairly often in Portland, Oregon, the soil and nutrients will melt into the rest of the beds.  Again, this also keeps light away from any leftover cover crops to make sure they decompose into the soil.

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The finished project:  Soil is now spread evenly and ready for planting.

yard junk

In 2013, we had an old wire and metal pipe greenhouse that was showing its age.  We took it down and were planning on taking it to the dump.  However, part of our spring garden was peas that love to climb.  My wife, Rhonda (the brains of the operation), figured out a way to keep this out of the landfill while putting it back to work.

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She took the wire shelves and some old tomato hoops from the green house and created an attractive and stable structure for our peas to wrap themselves around.  The structures made it very easy to harvest the peas once they were ready.

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There are a lot of books and magazines on gardening in the Pacific Northwest, but save your money – if you plant to start from seed, all of the instructions including when and how to plant for your specific region, are on the back of the packet.  This would have saved me some money because I bough about a dozen heirloom tomato seeds anxious to get them going earlier this year but found it was too late.  Oh, well.  I’ll save them for next year and start them in egg shell starters.

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Using the poles from our old green house, we divided our beds up into sections for spinach, beets, onions, kale, and carrots.  A common mistake is to plant your crops and then forget to mark them.  They all look alike as seedlings and you won’t know what’s what until they are mostly grown.  For our spring garden, we simply followed the directions on spacing and number of seeds to plant.  We then looked around the yard for more material that would end up in the landfill.  We found some old boards from a planter box, broke them up, and then wrote on them with a green wax pencil to identify our different crops.

Now that the seeds are in the garden, make sure to water them well to wake them up.  Follow watering instructions for your plants, making sure not over-water, which will drown those new roots reaching down into the soil.

You can also be very strategic about planting certain types of plants in close proximity to one another.  Tomatoes and basil do well together.  Marigolds planted in your bed near your crops will function as a natural pest repellent and helps gauge the health of your garden.  There are many other tips and tricks to planting crops which we’ll cover in the coming weeks.

We’re so passionate about using recycled materials that we started a Kickstarter Campaign, where we are raising funds to bring our very first product, TogetherFarm Blocks™.  Made from food safe recycled plastics, it’s an easy way to quickly build a garden bed in a matter of minutes.  If you have a small space you can use these to quickly build a custom garden box without tools or carpentry experience.  Check them out!

TogetherFarm Blocks - the best way to build a garden box

TogetherFarm Blocks – Modular Garden Box System

 

 

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