If your prospects for planting a vegetable garden are limited by insufficient space or an unworkable area, consider the possibility of harvesting fresh, organic vegetables from containers. A window sill, a patio, a balcony or your back doorstep are all sufficient spaces for a container-based mini-garden. Poor soil conditions, weed control issues, and pest problems can all be overcome by growing a garden in containers. metaphysical

Almost any vegetable that grows well in a traditional garden will also do well in a container. Vegetables that are well-suited for container gardening include tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, green onions, beans, lettuce, squash, radishes and parsley. I’ve also seen potatoes and asparagus successfully grown in a container garden. It doesn’t matter what kind of soil you have, because you’ll mix your own. This is extremely simple and requires just three ingredients.

* Peat Moss
* Compost
* Vermiculite

Just mix these three ingredients in equal proportions and you have the perfect soil for growing your veggies. The peat moss makes it light and loose; the vermiculite helps it retain moisture (necessary in our arid climate), and the compost loads the soil with the nutrients your plants need. These products can all be found at your local garden center, and the mixture can be placed in any kind of container you choose – just make sure it has adequate drainage.

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If you need a good reason to plant an organic garden, here are ten.

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1. A garden gives you a great reason to be outside. On average, we spend as much as 90 percent of our time inside. Here in Colorado, this has resulted in epidemic rates of  Vitamin D deficiency. Start a garden and get some sunshine.

2. There is a move to eat food grown locally. Our food travels an average of 1,400 miles to reach us; on the other hand, you can’t get more local than your own backyard!

3. How do you know how fresh your vegetables are (or how nutritious)? A vegetable grown in nutrient-rich soil and picked ripe is much tastier and more nutritious than a vegetable that was picked unripe two weeks ago and shipped across the country. Not to mention, the only person who’s touched the home-grown veggie is you, and there is no “food-grade wax” covering the beautiful produce.

4. Growing your own food gives you the chance to try vegetable varieties you can’t find in the store. Supermarket produce varieties are limited to those that have a long shelf life, can withstand shipping, and are uniform in appearance. That means you are missing out on a wide variety of delicious if not so sturdy fruits and vegetables.

5. Prevent some pollution. The chemicals and non-sustainable farming practices used to grow non-organic crops are contributing greatly to the contamination of the earth. Even organic crops that are shipped by truck contribute to carbon monoxide emissions and fuel consumption.

6. Get some exercise in the great outdoors.  Hauling a wheelbarrow can burn 340 calories per hour, raking, 292 calories, weeding, 306 calories, and general gardening, 272 calories.

7. You can contribute to sustainability. Gardening organically means nourishing the soil that grows the food that nourishes you and creating a backyard eco-system that attracts and supports beneficial wildlife in a balanced way.

8. Get your kids to love vegetables. Kids who grow vegetables are more likely to eat vegetables. This is also a good way to foster a child’s connection with food, seasons and the rhythms of life cycles. They’ll quickly learn that food doesn’t come from a box, it comes from the earth.

9. You will save money. Even in our arid climate, a garden designed to use less water will give hundreds of dollars of produce for a relatively small investment.

10. And finally, you’ll feel really good about what you’ve accomplished. There’s nothing quite like preparing and eating food you’ve grown yourself.

As food prices keep going up, many of us are trying to find ways to become more self-sufficient, including growing our own food. The first question, of course, is what do I plant? Try thinking about what you actually eat, and the components that make it up. For instance, if you love spaghetti, and would like to try making your own sauce, you should definitely plant tomatoes, garlic, onions, oregano and basil, and anything else you might want to put in it (like peppers, or other herbs). When it is time to harvest, you can find information about canning at your library, bookstore, or online, and then — you just do it! Think how fabulous you’ll feel when you go to reach for that jar of pasta sauce, and you know you grew the ingredients and made the food in your own kitchen.

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You may be wondering how much you can grow in your own backyard. Well, according to the book The Backyard Homestead, on just a quarter of an acre one can harvest 1,400 eggs, 50 pounds of wheat, 60 pounds of fruit, 2,000 pounds of vegetables, 280 pounds of pork, and 75 pounds of nuts. Now, maybe you don’t have any desire to raise a pig, but the point is that with a well-planned garden, even in a small space (see the square foot garden), you can produce food for your family – fresh, organic, and produced by your own hand – it doesn’t get much better than that.

Some of us who wish to grow our own food feel that we can’t, either because of lack of space, poor soil, or no soil. The solution is something known as square foot gardening, a variation on the French Intensive or Biointensive method of farming.

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The square foot garden is planted in a raised bed that is filled with high-quality soil. This eliminates the problem of poor soil, or no soil since the raised bed can even be built on a concrete patio. The bed is then divided into sections of one square foot each, and vegetables are given exactly the amount of space they need. This system of gardening is ideal for our arid climate because it requires less watering than a traditional garden. With a little commitment and work you can have fresh veggies on your table into the fall. Look back in the next few weeks as we follow a novice gardener putting in this type of garden.

Some comfort food for a cold winter’s day.

Leek Potato Soupvolunteer firefighters in Colorado

Recipe courtesy Alton Brown, 2005 – From The Food Network

 

Ingredients

  • 1 pound leeks, cleaned and dark green sections removed, approximately 4 to 5 medium
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Heavy pinch kosher salt, plus additional for seasoning
  • 14 ounces, approximately 3 small, Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced small
  • 1 quart vegetable broth
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 tablespoon snipped chives

Directions

Chop the leeks into small pieces.

In a 6-quart saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the leeks and a heavy pinch of salt and sweat for 5 minutes. Decrease the heat to medium-low and cook until the leeks are tender, approximately 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the potatoes and the vegetable broth, increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and gently simmer until the potatoes are soft, approximately 45 minutes.

Turn off the heat and puree the mixture with an immersion blender until smooth. Stir in the heavy cream, buttermilk, and white pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning if desired. Sprinkle with chives and serve immediately, or chill and serve cold.

metaphysicalEchinacea is an herb that is particularly well known because of its ability to lessen the symptoms and duration of a cold or the flu when taken at the onset. The best way to take this herb is in liquid form, such as in a tea, or one can take the dried herb in capsules. This flower is actually anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory. Besides treating colds and flu, echinacea is also useful for a variety of other ailments. Brew the herb into a tisane (herbal tea) to help with symptoms of sore throat, enlarged lymph nodes, stomach cramps and urinary tract infections. Additionally, echinacea can be made into an ointment to treat skin issues, such as, cold sores, insect bites, and mild burns.

This herb should not be used by people with allergies to plants in the daisy family.

Look for echinacea preparations in the herbal section of your local natural grocer. If you are a gardener, you can create a cold and flu themed garden including thyme, garlic, cayenne pepper, yarrow, echinacea, peppermint and rosemary. Peppermint becomes invasive, so plant it in a large container with drainage holes, separated from the other plants. As an added bonus, echinacea and yarrow will draw butterflies to your garden.

metaphysicalThyme is a savory herb that is fabulous for seasoning things like meat loaf, lamb dishes, onion soup and stews. Thyme also has healing properties, and can be used many ways. Use fresh leaves for cuts and wounds – simply clean the wound then lay leaves on top and wrap with a bandage. A tincture, available at natural food stores, can be used as an antiseptic, and an infusion of leaves brewed as a tea is good for the stomach, aids in digestion and helps menstrual cramps.
As well as a culinary delight, thyme is also antibacterial and antiviral. In Germany today it is used to treat whooping cough and emphysema, and is a wonderful cold remedy. Look for thyme preparations in the herbal section of your local natural grocer. If you are a gardener, you can create a cold and flu themed garden including thyme, garlic, cayenne pepper, yarrow, echinacea, peppermint and rosemary. Peppermint becomes invasive, so plant it in a large container with drainage holes, separated from the other plants. As an added bonus, echinacea and yarrow will draw butterflies to your garden.