Diane's Tip Of The Week

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Update to Tip of the Week  March 27, 2006

With much discussion and sadness, we have decided the work load is too great to continue the 'Tip of the Week'.  Our planting season is starting and time will become scarce for the next 8 months.  We had tossed around the idea of asking for donations to help support the 'Tip of the Week' but time is more critical right now than money.

There is a wealth of knowledge available at your fingertips; knowledge that has taken years to learn (sometimes with big mistakes teaching us), all posted here (not just at 'Tip of the Week') all through the whole site.  Please use this information to help you enjoy gardening 


Tulip Care  March 27, 2006

Tulips are one of spring's favorite flowers for several reasons, the first being they bloom so early in the season.  Nothing like early spring flowers to bring a smile to your face.  Second, if you live in a cold enough region, they are almost care-free and last but certainly not least, they are so lovely.  Although some people have trouble getting them to come back year after year, mine perform well.  I am not really sure why, maybe they like Michigan.  I don't do much for them but I did make sure they were planted in good soil.

When tulips have dropped their lovely petals and the 'uglies' have set in, that is the time they need TLC.  Remove seed heads so the plant doesn't expend energy on forming seeds.  Leave the green leaves intact until they turn yellow.  The leaves are needed to feed the bulb for next year's bloom.  This is a good time to feed your bulbs with fish emulsion or a bulb fertilizer.  The bulb will grow and store reserves for next year.

After the leaves have turned yellow you can remove them.  Some people talk of rolling or braiding the leaves but don't, leave them natural.  They need all the exposure to the sun they can get.

In the meantime, if the dying leaves really bug you, you can plant new annuals in front of the fading tulips or put in a new perennial if you can avoid disturbing the tulip's bulb and stem.  Woody perennials would not be a good choice because they will block sunshine too much and eventually crowd out the tulips.

For warmer climates, you will need to purchase tulip bulbs each year so the above recommendations will not pertain.  Store bulbs in refrigerator, not the freezer, until the cooler days of late October or November.  Prepare the planting hole ahead of time; remove the bulbs from refrigeration, place in hole as soon as possible, water and refill hole immediately.  If bulbs are allowed to sit out in the warm sun, the cooling procedure could be negated.

A common question is, "Can I plant the bulbs from potted tulips?"  Sure go ahead and try it, it won't hurt anything to try it.  If the bulbs received enough sunlight, water and nutrients they might come back next year.  Just stick the whole ball of potting soil and bulbs in the ground, making sure the bulbs are at least 8 inches deep.  (8 inches from the top of the bulbs to the soil level.) You might not get blooms next year but hopefully green leaves will grow, feed the bulbs for the following year and produce blooms the year after that.  You don't have anything to loose.

Another common question is "Life got too busy and what to do with bulbs that weren't planted last fall?"  Opps!  Once again, you don't have anything to loose, plant them in fertile soil at least 8 inches deep.  There may not be blooms this year but like the information above, perhaps the following year.

If you want to plant more bulbs in the fall and want to plant in the same area mark the locations where you all ready have bulbs or where you want more.  Make a note on your calendar in September (or month suitable for your area) with what the markers denote.


An Early Harvest in Your Vegetable Garden  March 6, 2006

Many gardeners wait half the summer to harvest goodies from their vegetable gardens but you can start harvesting healthy top quality produce early in the season.  No more waiting for green beans, cukes and tomatoes.  Expand your harvest to the front side of the season by growing veggies that prefer cooler weather and produce quickly.

Early harvests can consist of salad greens, lettuce, kale, rhubarb, asparagus, oriental vegetables (tat soi, pak choi, etc), radishes, turnips and turnip greens, peas, kohlrabi, scallions, beets and beet greens.

Many of these vegetables will need to be started from seed indoors to realize the earliest harvest; few nurseries carry seedlings of this sort.  We have information on our web site as to how to grow your own transplants.  You can check out our seed starting page by Clicking Here

Don't try to get a jump on the season by putting in "warm season" vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, cukes, melons, beans, etc.) too early.  They can't handle frosty temps and will die when the nights too cold.

Quick Details:

Asparagus and rhubarb - Perennials that need to be planted ahead of the season.  It can take a few years to realize a good crop but worth the wait.

Oriental vegetables - There are many varieties; check seed catalogs for different types.  They make great additions to stir-fries, soup, salads, etc.

Kale - What a wonderful addition to your garden for ease and healthfulness.  Eating kale is like adding vitamins to your food.  It can be added to salads, soups, stir-fries and vegetable dishes.  Will grow all season long into late fall.  Harvest bottom leaves off the stalks; the plant continues to grow upwards producing huge harvests of more leaves.

Turnips - A vegetable I had no idea I liked until we grew some for our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).  They are great!  Direct seeding* is best; then you can harvest "thinnings" for turnip greens.  For best quality keep a row cover over them to keep pests from tunneling into them.

Kohlrabi - A tasty but unusual vegetable that many people have never tried.  Most of our CSA members have become fans of this easy to grow vegetable.  Start indoors as transplants for best results.  Can be direct seeded but will need ruthless thinning so each plant has enough room to grow into a nice size bulb.

Peas - A common veggie but maybe you haven't grown them before.  For a real treat grow the snow and snap varieties in addition to the shelling type.  You can sow pea seeds as early as the soil can be worked.  We prefer to grow them up the inside of fencing to keep the rabbits out of the garden.  Fencing also makes them easier to pick.  Use metal fencing with small openings at the bottom to keep rabbits out, don't use plastic.  We knew someone who tried to save money by buying plastic and the rabbits ate right through it.  The secret of fencing is to put it up before the critters know any food is planted in the garden.

Scallions - An easy plant for children to help with; buy onion "sets" and children can plant them, they are virtually impossible to do wrong or hurt.  Directions will be included on package.

Beets - Direct seeding into the garden is best.  Each seed consists of multiple beets, so thinning is a must.  Use "thinnings" for beet greens.

Lettuce - EASY to grow!  Lettuce seed is extremely small so starting in cells indoors makes it easier to thin; one plant per cell for nice heads of lettuce.  (I mean it!  One plant per cell!  Be brave and get rid of the extras or move them to a cell that doesn't have a seedling!)  Leaf lettuce can be direct seeded and later thinned; use "thinnings" as baby greens.  There are so many to pick from, it is unbelievable how many types of lettuce there are.  We prefer "heading" types over leaf lettuce; the leaves are fuller body.  We harvest largest outside leaves instead of waiting for the heads to form.  When harvested this way, you get lettuce quickly and the plants keep on producing for weeks.  After a month start new plants so you will have new plants when the older plants give out.  For best results, give each plant 8 inches of space between plants.

Radishes - for best quality keep a row cover over them to keep the pests from tunneling into them.

*direct seed - to sow seed directly into the garden instead of planting seedlings already started indoors.

If you haven't grown a vegetable garden before take it slow and grow a few of above mentioned items.  It can be overwhelming to try it all for the first time.  Start small and keep the garden tended to; if it gets away from you, you will feel like a failure and might not try again.


Currants    February 27, 2006

Currants are very popular in Europe but here in the States you don't see them much; what a shame, they make absolutely wonderful jam.  Since having three bushes of our own for only three years we are convinced they should be more common.  They are rather tart as a fresh fruit ,(some people like to eat them raw, guess it is an "acquired taste") but the jam they produce is worth growing them.  Our bushes started producing fruit the year after I planted them even though they weren't large bushes.

My first taste of what appeared to be a ripe berry sent me to the computer to find out when these dark little berries should be picked; it wasn't sweet or tasty.  I discovered you should wait at least two weeks from the first appearance of ripe berries to pick all the berries at once.

Waiting to pick the berries all at once is great because making jam is the number one reason for growing currants.  These unusual berries just beg to be made into jam.  You don't need additional pectin or jam preparations, just sugar and water.  John claims the black currant jam I make is the best jam he has eaten.  Currants have seeds but they don't get caught between the teeth as with some other berries.  We got 6 jars of jam the year after planting, 12 jars the next year and doubled that the third year.

Our black currants are in full sun and seem very happy there.  They don't receive much care and don't require pesticidal sprays.  There are some areas in the country that have problems with blister beetles and have banned currants because they are a host plant for the beetles.  You should check with your local Extension Service or another knowledgeable source to find out if your location has a ban on currants.  We haven't noticed any pest problems of any sort.

The cultivar we grow is called Ben Sarek, it is a black currant.  There are red and white currants also.  They are suitable for zone 3 to 9 in the US.  (Health reports often claim the darker the pigment in fruit or vegetables the greater antioxidants.)

Many companies sell currants.  Three sources I know of are:

Jungs 800-247-5864 www.jungseed.com

Raintree Nursery 360-496-6400 www.raintreenursery.com

Here is the easiest and one of the tastiest jams you can make:

Currant Jam

1 cup water

3 cups currants

5 cups sugar (we successfully cut the sugar to equal the amount of currants this past year but don't go lower, they are too strong in flavor.)

Clean and sort berries.  Combine water and currants.  Boil for 2 to 5 minutes.  Let set overnight.  Add sugar- Boil for 30 minutes.  Transfer to jelly jars for freezing.  You can follow USDA guidelines for sealing jam jars for shelf-storage but I freeze ours.

Correction from last week's TOTW:

I heard from a beekeeper who said their raw honey doesn't set up solid like the honey we get locally.  It appears that it depends on the flowers the bees are pollinating as to the consistency of raw honey.  After 9 or more months their honey still pours.  We talked to another beekeeper who said when his bees are in certain fields the honey sets up so quick it is hard to get in the jars.  Obviously raw honey has a mind of its own.


Sweet Cure for Skin Injuries    February 20, 2006

Gardening can be complicated with an open wound from burns, cuts or scrapes.  Amazingly studies show that the fastest healing can be accomplished with raw honey applied to the wound.  I have seen first hand that honey helps heal and fights infections quicker than antibacterial ointments.  (Obviously the pharmaceutical industry doesn't want you to know this!)

A little over a year ago my daughter had a serious cut on her arm that required stitches.  The hospital sent her home with their best antibacterial ointment but much to her dismay, even after the stitches were removed, the injury was red, inflamed and swollen.  She faithfully followed the directions applying the ointment each day.  When she complained to me how bad it looked I suggested she use raw honey.  Shockingly the next day the site wasn't red or swollen anymore, in just one day!

India has studied honey vs. modern medicine's "cures" extensively.  The results are incredible.  At Miraj & General Hospital in India they found pathogenic organisms found in burn wounds, when cultured, were not able to survive a 30 percent concentration of honey.  In another study 28 different strains of multi-drug resistant bacterias were all killed by raw honey where as eleven of the most popular potent antibiotic drugs failed miserably (ampicillin, chloramphenicol, erythromycin, kanamycin, penicillin, streptomycin, tetracycline, gentamicin, amoxicillin, ciprofloxacin, norfloxacillin) to kill the very same strains of bacterias.

Dr. Subrahmanyam of India studied burn patients and found that those treated with raw honey were free from infection within 7 days.  Another study found 87 percent of burn victims treated with honey healed within 15 days compared to only 7 percent of those treated with a medical polyurethane film covering.  Similar results were observed with treatment using amniotic membranes in burn patients.  The "new improved" treatments can't match good old raw honey.  Why don't we use raw honey in our hospitals?  Raw honey can't be patented hence no money to be made by pharmaceuticals.

How does raw honey work?

There a several factors that bring about healing in wounds that man has not be able to duplicate with all their fancy medicines.

Raw Honey's Antimicrobial Activity

Osmolarity-honey performs this killing action by "sucking" water from the cells of bacterias which destroys them by dehydration.

Honey is somewhat acidic and when applied to skin or a wound (which are salty) hydrogen peroxide is produced as the pH rises.  The sugar molecule in the honey starts to break down and produce hydrogen peroxide.  As most people know, hydrogen peroxide has been used for decades to kill bacteria.

Honey contains many complex components that man has trouble duplicating such as antioxidants, minerals, enzymes, amino acids and fats that aid in killing microbes and speed healing.

What is "Raw Honey"?

To work as described above and for the most benefits internally (honey has many qualities for the inside of our bodies too) you must use "raw honey".  I have seen bottles of so called "raw honey" that I know by just looking at them really weren't raw.  The only time raw honey should be liquid and pour out of a bottle is soon after it is collected from the hives.  After several weeks to a couple months, raw honey 'sets up' into a solid form; similar in consistency to peanut butter.  You might even see what we would consider as impurities; don't worry about it, get over it, think of it as protein.   'Modern man' likes things easy and quick so heated honey is preferred, raw honey isn't easy to spread or use.  But raw does indeed tastes better!

What is wrong with heated honey?

Heat destroys beneficial properties, enzymes and bacterias found raw honey.  It is not the same as in its natural state because it has essentially been rendered 'dead' by the heat.  Same as with pasteurizing milk, heating honey kills off healthy characteristics that once were there.

How do you find raw honey?

You probably won't find it in the grocery store.  We carry it here at our farm for those who live in Michigan.  Try specialty shops, Farmer's Markets, or use the links I sent out last week to locate beekeepers in your area or as you drive in the country stop if you see "Honey For Sale" signs.

Keep raw honey on hand for external and internal health.  It is even helps those with allergies but that is a whole other subject.


Eating Great!  Not Just Good But Healthy!    February 13, 2006

Last week you got to watch the award winning 'Meatrix' and 'Store Wars'.  (If you missed those please check Tip of the Week posted just below this one.)  I told you that this week I would show you how to buy directly from local healthy farms.  But first let me share with you what has transpired since then.

Since my mother died at 58 from a stroke and my twin sister had a stroke at 49, I was encouraged to have an ultrasound done on my carotid arteries five years ago.  Clogged carotids were the cause of the problems with my mother and sister.

Since I weighed 200 pounds at 12 years old and lost considerable weight the next few years with a "healthy diet" (modern medical healthy diet-the "Diet-Dictocrats" diet) I was sure I would check out fine.  We ate (and raised our daughters) on no-fat/low fat foods, skim milk, skinless chicken breast, fish, hardly ever red meat, Fleishman's margarine, canola oil (YIKS!) and plenty of fresh produce.  We seldom went out to eat, (and hardly ever fast food!), ate other healthy foods and never fried things.

When the test results came back (about 5 years ago) I was totally shocked that my carotids were 50 percent constricted on one side and 60 percent on the other!!  This was not possible!  I ate healthy, exercised and did almost everything I was supposed to do.  I spent the next year taking Plavix and was disappointed when I went back for another test to be told, "No, things are the same.  Plavix can't remove plaque, only thins the blood.  Plaque can't be removed."  (Silly me!  I thought Plavix was going to cure me.)  My sister was told the same thing by a different specialist; that plaque can't be removed.

Three plus years ago we set off on a new journey, (I stopped taking Plavix too), going backwards in time and eating what our ancestors ate.  Meat from grass-fed animals, raw milk from grass-fed cows, real butter, no canola or soy stuff, full fat foods, plenty of fruits and vegetables, cod liver oil, lacto-fermented drinks, coconut oil and mostly food cooked from scratch.   Just the type of diet the "Diet-Dictocrats" say we shouldn't eat or we will die!

Two weeks ago I had a new ultrasound done on my carotids and got the results back today. The woman doing the test told me things looked great and was shocked when I told her my results from 5 years ago; she thought I must have been greatly mistaken and looked up the old test results. She couldn't believe her eyes!  Remember, the medical community believes you can't get rid of plaque.  The written report I received this week showed what she had told me, things look great!  In fact, this is the final statement from the copy of results," NO SIGNIFICANT PLAQUE IS SEEN IN EITHER CAROTID SYSTEM."  Wow!!!  How about that!  From 50 to 60 percent constricted to "no significant plaque"!

Why am I sharing all this with our group?  Because many of you are also following Nourishing Traditions and hear on a regular basis that you are going to die, get cancer, have heart disease, have a stroke, etc, if you eat the traditional way mankind has eaten for eons.   You MUST eat no fat/low fat food, heavens sake no red meat and good 'heart friendly' margarine and oils.  Yep!  That way of eating sure helped me!  I was on my way to a stroke!  I know the pressure you are under to conform back to modern ways and always with the question in the back of your head, "Am I doing the right thing?"  I know because I have questioned it at times also.  But the more I studied and became aware that back in the early 1900's heart disease, cancer and strokes were not the top three killers, (as they are today) my fears subsided.  And now!  Who cares what the 'Health Report' on the News says, I know what I know!

If you don't follow Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon you can purchase it at many books stores or online at Amazon.com.  Nourishing Traditions is also compatible with the Maker's Diet by Jordan Rubin, a great book for those in a health crisis and needing a concise plan to follow.  Rubin was healed from Crohn's Disease, (another disease that the medical community CAN'T cure), and details in his book show that there is hope for people with digestive diseases and many other life threatening ailments to have their health back again.

Links to put you in contact with local healthy family farms.




Purchasing directly from family farms helps local economies, supports farmers so they can continue doing what they love most, provides the consumer with the freshest best quality food possible, cuts out the middle man and saves on fuel by not using cross-country transportation or shipping from other countries.  It is truly a win-win situation for all involved.  Please make a commitment this year to start buying from local family farms or using Farmer's Markets.  Take small steps and you will find it becomes second nature, it "feels right" (makes you feel good by helping farm families survive), you will love the food and if the farm uses "earth friendly procedures" you will be helping the environment.  I hardly buy anything anymore from the grocery store, you can too.

Consumer Note:  Cutting out the middleman doesn't necessarily mean the food will be cheap.  Using organic/natural methods is costly, hard work and time consuming.  Plus take a look at most farm communities, they aren't rolling in the dough; they do need our business.  They deserve a good price for a good product.  But don't let price scare you away, you will either pay for quality food and have good health or pay the doctor and pharmacy when you and your family are in poor health from poor food.  Cut and Dry, simple as that!


Movie Time!   February 6, 2006

As you probably know by now, we are up to our necks in healthy food around here.  Either we grow it or seek it out locally from farmers we trust.   "Locally" might be up to 2 hours away, but a nice ride in the country sure beats sitting in the doctor's office any day.  And since we have started to eat natural "made from scratch" foods, we have become healthier.  We are now past our "50th" birthdays and are healthier now than 10 or 15 years ago.  Plus our immune systems have never been this pumped up.  We honestly don't get sick from viruses since we have changed our eating; one mild cold for each of us in the past three years.

Next week we will discuss how you too can jump on the "Buy Local" bandwagon.

Gardens Question and Discussion Page

We have an active garden page where you can submit questions and discussion topics.  There are a couple questions about a hibiscus plant not blooming for 2 years.  Any hibiscus experts out there that would be willing to help a reader out? 

Take a gander at the questions posted; if you have two cents to add to a topic, please jump in and help a fellow gardener out.  You don't need to be an expert to have experience in an area of gardening; we welcome input from all our readers.  If you would like to check it out (Click Here).


Seed Starting   January 30, 2006

The past two weeks we have shared our favorite seeds and favorite soil mix but just having good seeds and good soil doesn't mean you will have strong healthy transplants.  Ever try to grow your own tomato plants only to raise spindly green things that didn't look anything like a tomato transplant you purchase from a nursery?  Well, it is possible to grow transplants every bit as healthy, stocky, and dark green as nursery plants.

As you are drooling over seed catalogs let me give you some advice, something I learned the hard way.  Many perennial seeds don't germinate easily.  Some do fine like Shasta daisy or Brown Eyed Susan's (Rudbeckia) but many of the more fancy seeds just sit there while the moss grows on top of the soil; not a pretty sight.

We have a Seed Starting Page on this Web site with instructions you will need for growing healthy seedlings.  Click here to view it. 

Please note that the instructions and our comments questioning the cost effectiveness of growing your own transplants were made when we were just growing for our own family.  Now that we are growing for 37 families it would be more costly not to start our own transplants.


Super Duper Potting Soil   January 23, 2006

Many of you know we grow produce for a Community Supported Agriculture program (CSA), which because of the expense of plants requires us to grow all our own transplants.  We had been growing some of our own for years but now we have to grow them all.  This means that we get a lot of experience by trial and error but we also depend on plenty of other grower's information to find out what works for them also.  We came across a "recipe" for potting soil and seed starter mix by Eliot Coleman.  ('The New Organic Grower' by Eliot Coleman)

The results have been amazing!  The plants grow faster, sturdier and healthier than we have ever seen before.  The plants are superior, far beyond anything we have grown in the past using other potting soils.  We will never go back to using commercial mixes again.  We have cut 4 to 6 weeks off the growing time of most of our plants.  There are even a few plants that we cut 8 weeks off the growing time.  This means a savings in electricity (for lights) and a huge savings of our time.  We thought we had nice looking plants before but with this mix the plants outperform anything we had grown before.

Now you might be thinking it is too much trouble but the results will be worth the effort.  Just like the extra time spent mulching all of our gardens in the spring saves time in the long run, making our own potting soil has cut down in other work.

Potting Mix:

For "Units" use any measurement you desire, cups, buckets, scoops, etc.

30 units Canadian Peat Moss (sifted by you with a screen, remove the coarse parts and use these bigger pieces in your garden for mulch.) 

1/8 unit lime

20 units vermiculite

10 units garden soil

20 units compost

1/4 unit blood meal

1/4 unit rock or colloidal phosphate

1/4 unit greensand

Since some seeds don't germinate well with too many nutrients omit the last three items for "seed starting mix".  Move your seedlings into "Potting Mix" (using all the ingredients) when moving up in container size.  A good garden store or nursery will carry these items, if you can't find them call around using the Yellow Pages.  You might be saying, "That looks like too much work for me!"  I understand, I would have said that also.  But when you see the plants you raise using this formula you will understand the reason to go the extra step.


Favorite Produce/Seeds   January 16, 2006

It is that time of the year, when gardeners start to get itchy for getting back outdoors and 'dreaming' over seed catalogs is a favorite pastime.  Even if you don't grow your own produce chances are that you grow flowers and perennials.  Check out the list of suppliers at the end of the produce descriptions for contact info to get your own catalogs full of all types of seeds and plants.  They are great entertainment!

Most of our produce is selected for their special flavors.  Every year we try new varieties but we have old stand-bys that we probably will never stop growing.  We grow over 40 different types of veggies, fruit and herbs but only a few make this list.  They have to be very special to be mentioned.

Note: Numbers after description correspond to list of sources at the end of list.

Early tomatoes:

Stupice - an heirloom from Czechoslovakia that ripens in 52 days.  Flavor is tastier than other early types we have tried.  Produces our first ripe tomatoes.  Red fruit.  '1-2'*see note

Ida Gold- another early heirloom that has orange-golden fruit of superior flavor.  Ripens in 59 days.  A wonderful tomato flavor and pretty color to boot! '1'* see note

*These two tomato cultivars and an 'Early Ripe Tomato Guide' is the only thing we sell from our web site, www.homeandgardensite.com.  We have spent over 14 years perfecting our procedures for early tomato growing and have produced the 'First Ripe Tomato' in Michigan for three years.  To grow the first ripe tomato in your area, check out our 'Home' page.  You get both types of seeds and the guide for only $8.00.  You will spend that much just for seeds from other sources but won't get the guide.

Large Tomato:

Parks Whopper - Large red fruit with that good old-fashion tomato flavor we remember as children.  One customer told me that it is the best tomato he has ever tasted.  Heavy producer.  Plants get very large and need a large cage.  '3'

Specialty Tomatoes - We had rave reviews for Cherokee Purple and Striped German.  Cherokee Purple looks unusual with burgundy to brown color interior and green shoulders but the flavor won many people over.  Cherokee can be found at '2, 4, 10'.  Striped German is very unusual with a very high sugar content, fruity taste.  Very pretty with red and yellow interior.  '4' and called Old German at '10'

Small tomatoes:

Juliet - Looks like a small Roma.  Meaty with good flavor.  Red and crack resistant.  Heavy producer.  Perfect for dehydrating.  Plants get very large and a need large cage.  Juliets are very resistant to diseases and one year, after a blight hit, were the only ones left come September.  Juliets are great for growing in our hoophouse into the early winter, as they can withstand cold.  We picked the last Juliets in the hoophouse on December 22 (we did keep enough heat on 3 plants to keep them from freezing)  '3-4-5-6'

Sungold - Cherry tomato with an orange-gold color, very sweet flavor that is unbelievable.  I have had three people who 'don't like tomatoes' come back for more.  Plants get very large and need a large cage.  If you like cherry tomatoes you must try this one.  '4-12'


Spanish Meralda-and Romano Helda - Pole green beans with hearty 'bean' flavor, our favorite bean.  Heavy yields of large flat pods that keep producing until frost.  Harvest  these types very large for the best flavor.  Helda Romano '3-5-12'  Seeds of Change has an Italian that is similar, or look for the name 'Romano' and a pole bean in the description for beans of this sort.  Romano type pole beans produce heavy, slow down a bit and then put out another crop before the first frost.  Foliar feed the plants to promote a good second crop.  NOTE:  Meralda is not available as of 2004.  We have found Helda to be so similar we couldn't tell them apart when grown side by side in 2002.

Yellow Summer Squash:

Zephyr - The ONLY 'long yellow summer squash' we grow anymore after a taste test we performed along side other yellow summer squashes.  It has better flavor and remains firm when cooked.  Rave reviews from our CSA members. '4'


Costata Romanesco - Italian type with ribs.  Doesn't produce as heavily as other zucchinis but the flavor is so much better that you won't mind.  Remains firmer than others when cooked.  '4'

Zucchino Rampicante Summer Squash

Very long light green slender squash with few seeds.  Needs support on a trellis or fence for best growing conditions but worth the extra work of providing the support.  Very good flavor and heavy producer. '10'


Sugar buns - Oh MY!!  A very dependable sprouting corn with superb flavor.  John has told me in the past that corn wasn't worth the effort and space but when he tasted our first 'Sugar Buns' corn he changed his mind.  It is an early type coming in at 70 days.  Best in latitude 38 degrees and higher.  '3-4'


We grow three types of peas; the regular shelling peas, snow peas and snap peas.  I haven't really found a favorite; they all seem pretty good.  Tips I can give you are to look for 'stringless' in snow and snap descriptions and find types that are resistant to diseases when possible.  Check heights; your fencing needs to be high enough.  Even when they say a type doesn't need fencing they will perform better with fencing and be easier to pick.  We direct seed early in the spring and get a wonderful crop in late spring, early summer.  I have never had any success with starting seeds in the summer for fall harvest.


The sweetest was 'Walla Walla' along with pretty tasty 'Texas Supersweet' and 'Candy'.  'Walla Wallas' don't keep long but are some of the sweetest onions we have ever tasted with huge bulbs, so they were well worth it.  'Candy' keeps longer and will sweeten with storage. All produced very large to medium bulbs.  Onion Plants aren't cheap but they are worth the extra money.  We buy seeds to raise our own plants and will be getting them started soon.  '3-4-5-6-12'.

Sweet Pepper:

Ace - I first found out about 'Ace' through Organic Gardening Magazine in a sweet pepper article and we are very happy to know about it.  It is a large pepper that ripens to red earlier than most.  Heavy producer. '4-6'

Red Knight (4) King of the North and Klari Baby Cheese (both 11) and Fat 'n Sassy (5 &11) are great peppers also and make our 'must grow' list each year.  If you can locate Corno Di Toro, it is worthy of garden space too.

Most seed companies are now offering mild choices for Jalape'o peppers, they are a big hit with our CSA members; look for a mild selection if you are looking for flavor and mild heat.


Oh!  You must try kohlrabi!  It is very easy to grow, practically pest free and oh so delicious.  Many people have never eaten kohlrabi and our members were taken by surprise by how much they liked it.  Eat it raw, in stir-fries or steamed with butter, honey, chicken stock, salt and pepper.  We found a HUGE cultivar (Kossak) that is actually better than the smaller types.  Since we like kohlrabi so much we will grow both large and small ones because the smaller types mature faster.   Don't try to grow the small ones to a large size, they will get tough and pithy.  You must get special cultivars for growing large ones.  '3-5-12' for extra large types

Tip-slice the large kohlrabi into sticks and pickle with dill-truly wonderful!


We had beautiful heads of Romaine, Butterhead or Buttercrunch, and Batavia (Sierra) lettuce.  Each CSA member seemed to have a favorite with the Butterhead/Buttercrunch having the most votes.  I personally liked the Batavia best while others like Romaine best.  Lettuce seed is cheap and remains viable a long time so try several and experiment.  Currently I am searching for types that don't turn bitter in heat.  Start them indoors early because they can be transplanted in your garden early for late spring harvesting giving you something to eat out of your garden early.  Pick the outer leaves first while waiting for the heads to form.  Be sure to save the center part of the Butterhead/Buttercrunch for eating out of hand; it is fabulous.  To protect from hungry rabbits and deer use fencing or you will be disappointed.


I don't know if there are different cultivars of stevia so I can't suggest a particular one, but if you are interested in your family cutting back on sugar stevia is the way to go.  Stevia is an herb that is easy to grow in full sun.  You can keep picking it all summer long, use in drinks or cooking.  In the fall pick all remaining leaves and stems, dry and grind to reduce it to a powder.  In the green form (whole or ground) stevia is at least 20 to 30 times sweeter than sugar.  The CSA children loved going out to the garden and picking the leaves to chew on.  It is extremely sweet so a couple leaves satisfied their sugar cravings. '3-4-5'


We grew Kennebec last year, after a friend had tremendous success with them.  We will definitely continue to grow them, CSA members loved the flavor, plus they grew nice large tubers with a heavy harvest.  '5' for a catalog listing or find locally.

Sweet Potatoes:

Here in the north, we have a shorter season than some sweet potatoes require but we have had great harvests using Georgia Jets and Beauregard.  Both have excellent flavor with red skins.  Georgia Jets are a little sweeter but they do tend to grow large and ugly.  We don't mind because they taste great. '5 for both'  '12' for Georgia Jets only.


Yellow Doll and Sangria are two of our sweetest.  Yellow Doll is a small round yellow flesh watermelon.'5'

Sangria is a medium size melon with very sweet red flesh. '10'

Both were dependable and well liked by the members.


Sweetie Cantaloupe is small 1-2 pound very sweet and unusual melon with a swirl of orange and green flesh, delicious!  '5,10'

Passport (a tropical green flesh melon) and Earliqueen (orange cantaloupe) are two dependable melons for northern gardens with great flavor. '5,10'


We have great success with "Amazing" heading up nicely and we don't bother with others. '4,5'

Winter Squash:

Heart of Gold is one of the most dependable and sweetest winter squashes we grow. '5' We love Delicata, they are very sweet but shorter storage life than Heart of Gold. '4-5-12'.  Butternut squash is yummy and also dependable.  You can find Butternut in most catalogs. We don't bother with Acorn because they aren't as sweet, we like sweet winter squash.

Here is list of seed suppliers (numbers correspond in above descriptions).  Call for their catalogs.

1. Seeds Trust High Altitude Gardens                   www.seedsave.org

2. Seed Savers            319-382-5990                    www.seedsavers.org

3. Park Seed               800-845-3369                    www.parkseed.com

4. Johnny's                 207-437-4301                    www.johnnyseeds.com

5. Jung Quality Seeds   800-247-5864                    www.jungseed.com

6. Harris Seed              800-514-4441                    www.harrisseeds.com

7. Shepherd's              860-482-3638                    www.shepherdseeds.com

8. Seeds of Change      888-762-7333                     www.seedsofchange.com

9. Gurney's                 513-354-1491                     www.gurneys.com

10. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds   417-924-8887     www.rareseeds.com

11. Fedco Seeds          207-873-7333                    www.fedcoseeds.com

12. Territorial               541-942-9547                   www.territorialseed.com

One last tip: Perennial lovers, many perennials are notorious for difficult seed starting.  If saving money is your goal, you might be better off looking for smaller less expensive plants at a nursery.  If you insist are trying growing perennials from seed start with a small selection before you spend a lot of money on perennial seeds.


Ten Reasons to Throw out your Microwave Oven   January 9, 2006

If I haven't bummed you out yet with the past three Tip's of the Week, here is a doozy; you just might hate me after this one.   Sorry, but what you don't know CAN hurt you!

The following list comes from an article from Dr. Mercola's Web site:  https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/05/18/microwave-hazards.aspx

It is a very educational article, well worth reading for further information with documented studies and sources.

"From the conclusions of the Swiss, Russian and German scientific clinical studies, we can no longer ignore the microwave oven sitting in our kitchens.  Based on this research, we will conclude this article with the following:"

1).   Minerals, vitamins, and nutrients of all microwaved food is reduced or altered so that the human body gets little or no benefit, or the human body absorbs altered compounds that cannot be broken down.  (note from Diane: I just read of a different study stating that 97 percent of the nutrients in microwaved broccoli were absent after cooking.)

2).   The minerals in vegetables are altered into cancerous free radicals when cooked in microwave ovens.

3).   Microwaved foods cause stomach and intestinal cancerous growths [tumors].  This may explain the rapidly increased rate of colon cancer in America

4).   The prolonged eating of microwaved foods causes cancerous cells to increase in human blood.

5).   Continual ingestion of microwaved food causes immune system deficiencies through lymph gland and blood serum alterations.

6).   Eating microwaved food causes loss of memory, concentration, emotional instability, and a decrease of intelligence.

7).   Continually eating food processed from a microwave oven causes long term - permanent - brain damage by "shorting out" electrical impulses in the brain [de-polarizing or de-magnetizing the brain tissue].

8).   The human body cannot metabolize [break down] the unknown by-products created in microwaved food.

9).   Male and female hormone production is shut down and/or altered by continually eating microwaved foods.

10).   The effects of microwaved food by-products are residual [long term, permanent] within the human body.

If you read the extensive article please note the information regarding microwaved infant formula and microwaved expressed breast milk, what happens to the human blood for transfusion when microwaved and the details regarding possible cancer risks.

Even though I thought my microwave was indispensable we no longer have a microwave in our kitchen and I must say it is not missed.  I have gone back to using pots, pans and the oven for reheating and I have a small toaster oven for heating up small amounts of food.  It really isn't that bad.  Even John got a toaster oven for heating up his lunch at work after reading Mercola's article; this from a man who refused to change at first.


The Truth About Soy    January 2, 2006

Do you suffer from the following disorders?

loss of energy, fatigue

thyroid dysfunction, hypothyroidism

"brain fog"

thinning and lifeless hair

gray skin, dry skin

weight gain

gas, digestive distress

poor muscle tone


reproductive disorders

low libido

These complaints are becoming more common in our modern society and many experts are now convinced that the abundance of soy in processed foods is one of the culprits.

Soy-the modern "health" food, or is it?

For years soy was considered an industrial by-product and then used primarily as animal feed.  But animals could only eat so much soy before they started developing serious reproductive and other health problems.  This created a dilemma for the very powerful and greedy "processed food" industry.  There was simply too much 'soy by-product' remaining from making dietary oils so they decided to market soy as 'people feed'.  But most people hate the "beany" taste of soy and its gas producing effects so the food industry set out with very crafty advertisers to convince Americans that soy is a "health food" and found ways to 'mask' soy incorporated into processed foods.

Remember how I said weeks ago, "if a food isn't found naturally in our environment, don't eat it"?  The type of soy found in processed food can't be made in the kitchen.  Only chemical factories can turn soy into "food".  (Unless you are eating the whole bean which can be easily cooked in the average kitchen.)  The following is a list of processes soy experiences to end up on your plate: extracting the oil with extremely high temperatures and intense pressure, use of solvents such as hexane, and mixed with caustic alkaline solutions and acids.  Just the extreme high heat and pressure is enough to cause serious problems with a food product let alone solvents and acids.

But what about the Asians and 'all the soy' they eat?  Honest studies (not those produced by the food industry) reveal that Asians use fermented soy foods such as tempeh, miso, natto and tamari sauce.  Asians use soy as a condiment not a food staple.  Fermentation uses beneficial bacteria, fungi, and other organisms to break down the soy and neutralize the "anti-nutrients" found in soy.  In addition, they consume far less soy in their diets than the typical modern American diet.

Anti-nutrients?  Yes, soy prevents the human body from absorbing nutrients taken in during a meal so instead of soy being "healthy" it actually causes the body to realize less nutrition from the foods eaten.  Phytates found in the soy bind with minerals such as iron, zinc, calcium and magnesium and prevent utilization.  Here in America we have poor nutrition as it is, we can't afford less because we have eaten a "food" that lowers the nutrient utilization from our meals.

Other Soy Anti-nutrients:

Hemaglutinin-a clot-causing agent, dangerous for those with heart disease and atherosclerosis or narrowing or hardening of the arteries.

Trypsin Inhibitors-interfere with protein digestion and cause pancreatic disorders.

Goitrogens-can damage enzymes needed for the thyroid and blocks iodine which is necessary for proper thyroid function. 

Due to the processing of soy aluminum content is 10 times higher than pasteurized milk.  Aluminum is suspect as a contributing factor in Alzheimer's.  The aluminum found in soy infant formulas can damage the infant's brain. The free radicals found in processed soy are disturbing.  Free radicals are suspect in the formation of cancer.  Many infertility doctors recommend their patients avoid soy.  We have an epidemic of thyroid dysfunction in America.  Soy is now one of the top eight food allergens.  Just how long does the list need to be to prove soy is not a "health food"?

Soy as an Estrogen

Soy contains 'plant estrogens'.  Well versed oncologists (cancer doctors) instruct their breast cancer patients to avoid soy because of the estrogens in soy.  Young girls are experiencing puberty earlier and baby boys shouldn't be exposed to estrogen; it has a feminizing effect on their development.  Soy added to infant formulas is downright criminal!  It makes me shudder and want to cry!  Shame, shame, shame!

Infertility Problems on the Rise!

Excerpt from a notable doctor's web page: "Women who are trying to conceive may want to heed the following: Avoid eating too much soy. According to a study involving humans, a compound found in soy known as genistein has been found to impair sperm as they swim toward the egg. Even tiny doses of the compound in the female tract could destroy sperm."  Please save and pass this info to someone who is struggling to conceive.  Read the whole article here: http://www.mercola.com/2005/jul/9/soy_fertility.htm

Why would the food industry add soy to our food?

Soy is easy and cheap to grow.  To add further insult to injury most soybeans in the United States are genetically modified; for further information why GM is dangerous go to the 'Tip of the Week' for Dec. 19th 2005 Click Here.  Greed in the reason for the overuse and abuse of soy; pure and simple.

How could the FDA and USDA allow such a dangerous food?

The FDA and USDA are controlled, in part, by the food, chemical and Pharma industries.  This is a whole subject unto itself so the quick answer is MONEY, power and greed.  All soybeans, whether GM soybeans, organic or conventional, carry a load of anti-nutrients, toxins and plant hormones and don't belong in food unless fermented.

You say, "I Just Won't Eat Soy!"

Best of luck!  Read most processed food labels and you will find soy, often times listed several times in several forms.  The only way to avoid soy in the modern diet is to use whole foods and cook from scratch.  I know that isn't a popular way to eat these days but your health is at stake.  Don't be fooled by the powerful food industry, if it isn't a food that was around 200 years ago, don't eat it.


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