Monday, September 23, 2013

The best food dehydrator for herbs!

Fresh herbs are a real treat in the summer, but when fall arrives out comes the food dehydrator! Dehydrating the herbs that I grow over the summer gives me access to wonderful tastes all winter long. The best part is that I know how they were grown, so I know exactly what I'm adding to my food... Pesticide Free Goodness!

Let me show you how I dehydrate Basil. This is one of my favorite herbs to grow and use. It is also often thought to be one of the trickiest herbs to dehydrate.  I'm going to bust that thought and show you how easy Basil is to dehydrate properly.

Materials needed:
Food Dehydrator (I highly recommend the Nesco FD-80A Square-Shaped Dehydrator Amazon Frustration-Free Packaging)
Fresh Basil
Kitchen Towel
Zip Lock Bag


Rinse Basil leaves 
Pick your Basil from the plant and collect leaves in a bucket or colander.  Rinse leaves under running water while in the bucket. Just a quick soak and spray on the bucket of leaves, you don't need to hand wash every one of them. Then dump the bucket of rinsed leaves on a kitchen towel. Spread them out, allowing them to dry off. I have mounds of leaves and just move them around on the towel while waiting their turn for the dehydrator.

Lump Basil Leaves on Dehydrating Tray
Next you are going to place your leaves on dehydrator trays. How you do this part depends on your dehydrators quality and ability. If you have the square NESCO this is so easy - just lump handfuls of leaves on the tray. If you have another type of dehydrator you may need to place the leaves only one layer thick with room around each leave for air circulation. This method is not needed for the NESCO. Just lump the leaves on the trays and stack them up.

Dehydrated Basil Leaves
Next set the temperature, plug it in and come back in 6 hours. I set the NESCO for 135 degrees. It has a herb setting on the machine, but I've always used the fruit setting. After 6 hours come back, check your leaves for crunchiness, unplug your machine and dump your leaves into a Ziplock Bag. Keep drying leaves until you run out.

Now you have the option to crush he dehydrated leaves or store them in a bag, an air tight shareable container, or what ever method you desire.

Happy dehydrating!
This is the product that I personally use.  It dehydrates all sorts of foods and has a large capicity for a very low price.  You also have the ability to purchase additional trays. I highly recommend this product.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Organic Pest Control using Frogs

Organic Pest Control using Frogs!
I love natures little surprises... 

Can you find the little frog hiding on the leaf of my pepper plant?  I found him just as I was about to pick these bell peppers. The peppers have been grown using organic methods --- and this little guy is an example of that.

By not using pesticides I am able to preserve natures balance. When pesticides are used in the garden, often frogs are driven away and made sick to the point of death.

Find more organic gardening tricks, cost saving methods and fun gardening projects with kids on this website.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Basil, the Unexpected Flower Arrangement

Create uniquely aromatic and visually interesting flower arrangement with Basil. Use the herb Basil by itself or mix it in with other flowers for several weeks of interest. White flowers slowly open toward the tip as time passes. Mix different varieties to create different aromas and contrasting leaf colors increase visual interest.
Sweet and Spicy Basil flower arrangement 
I grow both sweet and spicy Basil. I like to mix them in arrangements for the color contrast  as well as the scent combination. The primary reason I grow Basil is for use in cooking, but come to my house and you will find bouquets of Basil tucked away in various parts of the house.  Just rustle the leaves when ever you pass for your custom scent combination to be released over the next hour or so.

All you need to do is snip some stems that are close to flowering. Then place the stems in a glass or vase and presto, you have a quick flower arrangement to keep or share with friends.

Also, by snipping the stems and keeping the flower from blooming on the plant you keep the plant young and flavorful while at the same time encouraging bushiness.

Typically you grow Basil from seed, however I have found that you can also take a cutting from a non blooming stem and in about a week you will have roots.  Just keep refreshing the water for a few weeks and then you can plant the stem with roots and leaves in a potting mix. This produces a larger plant quicker, but you must have a Basil plant already established before you can use this method of propagating.

These are the two varieties I grow and share.
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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Organically Make a New Garden Bed

Expanding or creating a new garden bed can be simple and quick if you use these quick easy steps.  You don’t need to dig up grass, spray weed killer, or break your back. This is a simple, organic, zero digging garden bed method!

This is an update on a previous post titled No Dig Garden Bed Method.  I have tried a few more tricks and have found ways to speed up the process of getting garden beds ready for planting. I also have pictures from different beds using slightly different techniques over different time spans.

Materials Needed:
Newspapers (No Slicks) Black & White preferable
Weed eater – if available
Manure or Compost – enough for a depth of 1 minimum
Mulch – enough for a depth of 1 to 2 inches
Non Windy Day

Cut Grass & Weed, No Need to Dig
If available use a weed eater to cut the grass or weeds down to the ground.  Rake the debris in a pile away from your new bed (you can save and use in your compost pile).  If you don't have a weed eater, just rake your weeds flat and as many away as possible.  You the want the newspaper lay as flat as possible on the ground.
Dig Free Garden Bed Method
Use a garden hose to wet the area that will be your bed.  Now you are going to place newspaper in crisscross overlapping fashion over the entire area.  You want sections overlapping sections. Each section should be 10 or more pages thick.  You don’t have to count pages; you don’t even have to unfold them if you don’t want, just place them around in thick chunks. 
Before you get too far, squirt some water on the freshly laid paper. If you happen to get a breeze the papers won’t blow away. Continue until you have covered your entire area with newspaper. Make sure the entire area is fully covered or you will have weeds pop through in that spot.
If it looks like you have a Paper Mache flower bed you did a great job! This is your weed barrier and eventually the grass roots and weeds underneath will die. 
Have you ever sat something on your lawn for too long and the grass and plants underneath died?  You are accomplishing the same thing with the newspaper, a free weed barrier and in many cases better than what you buy at the store.   You can do this around existing plants or shrubs if you wish.  Just realize that the grass will grow towards the hole left for the shrub and you will have some weeding to do.
Organically Made Garden Bed at 3 months
Next you are going to put down either compost or manure. What you choose to put down depends on what you may have on hand and what you want to plant in your bed. How much of it you put down depends on your time frame.  If you want to plant seeds or starts immediately then you are going to need to put down 3 to 4 inches of compost and pasteurized manure mix then top with 1 inch of mulch. Don’t mulch where you place your seed. 
If you have a bit more time then you can get away with 1 to 2 inches of compost or manure and 1inch of mulch.  Of course if you can put more compost/manure mix in your bed the better your plants will be in the future.  Water your bed thoroughly after you have mulched.  Make sure to immediately pull any weeds that may appear.  The only weeds I have had were ones that jumped or went under my edging and are at the edge of the bed, making them quite easy to pull.
Organic Garden Bed Method at 10 months
The newspaper along with the manure/compost and mulch block all light and will kill any weeds or grass trapped below. The newspaper will gradually break down over the next 8 months to year with the manure mixing in leaving you a nice healthy bed to plant in.
Pull weeds as they appear. You will likely see them hop your edging or surface just at the edge.  You shouldn't see any in your bed, unless you used this method around existing trees or shrubs.
This method also works well to prevent weeds if you plan to build a raised bed.
Related Articles: 

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Monday, August 26, 2013

Quick & Easy way to Plant up Strawberry Runners

If you have grown strawberry plants before you probably know that they spread like crazy very quickly.  They spread by sending out runners as soon as the strawberries start to slow in production.  If your plants are grown in the ground keeping up with these runners can become a pain very quickly.

When we started our Strawberry plants a few years back I told our son that he was in charge of them.  He had to water them, pick them, and best yet... share them with the family!  The strawberries grown in a pot on our back porch have proven to be a fun gardening adventure for him and especially our toddler.

Strawberry Runners Ready to Pot Up
We have managed to create a fun and easy way to keep up with the runners, maintain easy
maintenance, keep our small porch clutter free, and share our plants.  Here is what we do...

Materials Needed:
3 or 4 small pots
potting soil

When a cluster of leaves form on the end of a runner, or several runners this is your Que that it is time to begin.  You will need 1 pot for each runner.  You will be placing the smaller pots inside of the larger pot (containing the mother plant).  If you have more runners than you can fit pots just snip off the extra runners. Many more runners will form and you can pot those up after the first batch finishes.

First fill your small pots with potting soil. Then one at a time take the leaf cluster and push it into the soil in the pot. Next move some of the leaves in your big pot and set your small pot inside your big pot.  Just repeat this until you have all your runners potted and placed inside your big pot.  The picture above shows strawberry runners ready to pot up.  It also shows 3 pots inside of the larger pot!

When you water your main pot you will also be watering your babies.  You will also have a clutter free patio... well at least from starter pots.

Strawberry Plants ready to have Runners Cut
You will wait a few weeks and then you can gently wiggle the baby plant to make sure that the roots are growing well.  Generally after about one month the roots will be substantial enough that you can then cut the runner between the mother plant and the new plant.  You might even find that after a month roots are growing through the baby plant's pot down into the dirt of the mother plant.  This is a sure sign that your plant is ready to cut free!

As soon as you cut the new plants free, share them with friends or pot them up in a new larger pot to increase your strawberry production next year.  Don't forget to start this process again to keep those runners in-check!

Be sure to save your small pots from other plants so you can reuse them.  If you don't have any small pots on hand you can repurpose plastic or styrofoam drink containers. Just make sure you poke holes for drainage.

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Friday, August 23, 2013

Great Store & Great Resources, Grogg's Green Barn

Grogg's Green Barn, Tulsa Oklahoma
I wanted to share with you a great place I wondered into... Grogg's Green Barn.  This is Oklahoma's first organically focused & native plant garden center and is located in Tulsa.  The employees were passionate to educate and help the public find and grow organically. 

I really enjoyed myself and found so many products and solutions I have never seen or heard of. In stock were several heirloom tomato varieties and many herbs, all organically grown at various sizes. They also offer free classes to the public several times a month. A neat surprise was in the back of the property was a very interesting chicken coop with chickens and a living herb roof!

If you are a Tulsa local - go check it out & if you live out of town, make it a point to come check this place out!

One of the products I learned about while at Grogg's was Nolo Bait. It seems that we are having terrible grasshopper problems in Oklahoma this year & Nolo Bait is a certified organic biological insecticide.

Photo Courtesy of Grogg's Green Barn's website

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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Retain Garlic's Cancer Fighting and Antibacterial Properties when Cooking

Garlic has many wonderful medicinal properties. It is known as a cancer fighter, an antibacterial, antiviral, antioxidant, and anticlotting.  All of this is possible due to Allicin, which is the active compound in garlic. This wonderful compound is only created when garlic is minced or chopped, causing enzymes to come in contact with each other.

Wait 10 min to retain Garlic's Cancer Fighting Properties
However, most of these properties of garlic are lost if you prepare the garlic incorrectly. According to an article titled, "Eat on the Wild Side" in the June 2013 Prevention Magazine, the only way to retain these healing properties is to wait 10 minutes from the time you mince the garlic before you cook with it. Otherwise you destroy the enzymes before they have had the chance to create Allicin.

Normally I mince my garlic and then throw it in a pan of olive oil. The first time I cooked after reading this article I had to do things a bit out of order.  I went ahead and prepared my garlic and left it sitting on the chopping board for 10 minutes while I got all the other items for dinner out. I then started chopping my other veggies, still waiting for 10 minutes to pass. It seemed like it took forever.

However, for all of the properties of garlic, especially home grown garlic... I think I can wait an additional 10 minutes on it.

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