Vojito! the Best thing to Happen to Summertime Since the Mojito!

How to Make a Vojito

A delicious recipe for Vojito, with vodka, lime, mint, fresh strawberries and mix.

Welcome to Strawberry Vojito Summer Heaven

“Drink because you are happy, but never because you are miserable.”
~Gilbert K. Chesterton

Here we are, enjoying another beautiful summer in Colorado. The beginning of summer brings with it many pleasures; baby animals, flowering trees, green grass, and the always enjoyable, bountiful gardens! As many know, along with this pleasures come a fair amount of work. Keeping up with the yard, controlling weeds, up keeping the garden, and attempting to keep those cute little animals from enjoying all our hard work in the garden!

After a day of weeding, mowing the yard, chasing after the beautiful joys that are our children, and caring for our surrogate child, our garden, we look forward to our adult time on the deck to take in the oasis we have created. I believe we can all attest to the joy we get from sitting on a deck or patio, looking over the beauty we have helped mold while enjoying a delicious adult beverage that looks, tastes and feels of summer. For us at Sunshine and Rain, we have found that our favorite drinks this year have been able to use things from our garden to make the recipe even more enjoyable. Today’s drink is what we call a Strawberry Vojito. Yes you read that correctly, Vojito, not Mojito. We call it a Vojito because we have replaced the rum with vodka.

In hopes of others finding creative ways to utilize herbs and fruits from their garden, we decided to share this recipe with you!

To make this drink you will need the following ingredients:

  • 10 Fresh Mint Leaves – We have used both peppermint and spearmint and both have been wonderful! We don’t even prefer one over the other…whatever is FRESH is best!
  • 1-2 Fresh Lime Wedges
  • Mojito Mix
  • Lemonade (Fresh is always best)
  • Soda Water
  • Absolute Citron Vodka
Directions:
  • Take the mint leaves place them in a shaker and muddle them.
  • Once all the leaves have turned a dark green color from muddling, add two sliced strawberries and muddle them in with the leaves.
  • Once the strawberries have basically liquified, cut the lime to get one lime wedge. Squeeze the lime wedge and then place it in the muddled mixture.
  • Add one shot of Mojito Mix, two shots of Absolute Citron Vodka, and roughly four ounces of Lemonade.
  • Add about one cup of ice and shake the mixture for 10 seconds.
  • Open the shaker and add two shots of Soda Water and pour the mixture into a glass.
  • For presentation purposes, add one sliced strawberry to the top of the ice, another lime wedge to the side of the glass and garnish with a good sized mint leave.
  • Enjoy your summer in a glass!
Voilà! Summer in a glass!

Voilà! Summer in a glass!

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Posted on July 12th, 2013 by Ms. Sunshine  |  No Comments »

Loving and Growing the Tea Plant!

Grow Tea Plant

Tea Plants are Beautiful and Ancient!

What is the Tea Plant?

The Tea plant is a plant that we see and use  every day and probably don’t acknowledge all of its various uses.  In order to get all that we can out of the Tea plant it is important to know about the diverse characteristics of the plant.   While there are many different products that may be considered “tea”, such as fusion teas, as well as drinks infused with other plants, we are going to look at the species known as “Camellia sinensis” which is used to make black tea, oolong tea, green tea, and white tea.

While Camellia sinensis is native to countries like China or India, it is now being cultivated across the globe in many tropical and sub-tropical environments.  Tea remains one of the most historically recorded plants still in use today.  In fact, the medicinal uses of tea date back to 4700 years ago by the great emperor Shennong in The Divine Farmer’s Herb-Root Classic, in which tea and a collection of plants were outlined for their medicinal uses.  Tea has been known for its stimulant effects, amazing anti-oxidant properties, and even for help with simple things like stomach aches and bladder problems.  We can break down some of these health benefits further in order to better understand how to use the tea plant.

  • Caffeine

Did you know that Tea contains caffeine?  It is really no surprise that the various teas, black and green especially, contain the stimulant known as caffeine.  In fact, about 3% of their dry weight is caffeine! .  Teas percentage of caffeine in relation to its dry weight is actually more than coffee. When you are feeling a little sluggish or just don’t have that pep in your step, but don’t feel like brewing a pot of coffee, try switching it up and making some tea.   It is important to be aware however, that caffeine is a natural diuretic, which is also beneficial for a number of reasons, including lowering high blood pressure, cirrhosis of the liver, and hypertension.  Maintaining your hydration is the only downside of diuretics so be sure that if you are drinking a lot of tea that you take measures to properly re-hydrate yourself as well.

  • Anti-Oxidants

Tea has also been known to have anti-oxidant properties.  Anti-oxidants have been the focus of numerous studies and while there are many mixed opinions about the benefits of anti-oxidants, many studies conclude that they do help in reducing the risk of heart disease.  In addition, those who work out with regularity are at risk for oxidative stress, accompanied by inflammatory responses, which can be relieved by drinking tea regularly.

Grow Your Own Tea Plant from Seeds!

Tea Plant

The Beautiful Tea Plant

So if you think that you may want to start drinking tea on a regular basis than what would be better than growing your own tea plant and reaping the benefits?

  • Time and Commitment

Growing tea plants from seed is a great project however, growing your own tea is for advanced gardeners with a willingness to commit for a couple of years!  If you think you fit this description then the next most important thing to consider is the climate in which you will be trying to grow a tea plant.

  • Climate

The tea plant is a naturally tropical or sub-tropical plant, which should be grown in a climate Zone of 8.  This would include parts of the mid-west but more specifically the southern region of the United States.  If you don’t live in one of these areas you would have to consider growing the plant in a greenhouse or pot that you can easily move indoors.

  • Growing your Plant

  1. Seeds:First, you will need seeds.  Check out eGardenSeeds.com’sTea Plant Seeds to accommodate your needs.
  2. Soil: Once you’ve got your seeds you will need to pick a soil mixture that is just right for your plant.  .  A key to a good plant will be a soil mixture that is sandy and quick to drain.  Other growers suggest a soil that is slightly on the acidic side, but a well-drained mixture is paramount to a good plant.  Another tip is to add some sphagnum moss to your potting mixture.  This will be extremely beneficial as this moss will be vital in providing your sand soil mixture with the capacity to hold water and nutrients.
  3. Pot: The tea plant is a small shrub, that can grow up to 3 feet if you don’t prune it, so pick an appropriate sized pot if that’s is where you will be growing it.
  4. Grow! Tea plant seeds germinate erratically and over a long period of time. These seeds can germinate at any time from a month and up to a year after being planted- patience is key!!! Once your plant is growing, expect it to blossom in the fall, with small aromatic flowers, that are quite pleasant.   You will need to wait 2-3 years before attempting to harvest your plant, but the wait will be worth it!!

Enjoy!

Grow Tea Plant

Now You Can Grow Tea Plants from Seed!

 

 

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Posted on April 12th, 2012 by Dr. Greenthumb  |  No Comments »

Love Spells, Charms and Potions from the Garden

Invite cupid in from the Garden!

Invite cupid in from the Garden!

Express Your Love

There are many different ways to express the feeling of love.  For many people this can be expressed in the form of flowers presented to a partner.  Flowers are an age-old way for those who care about one another to communicate those feelings in a symbolic and meaningful way.   While flowers remain one of the more traditional ways to express intimate feelings between people there are a number of other plants whose uses include love spells and even potions; and let’s not forget the all important aphrodisiacs.

valentines-gift-seeds

Pick Your Love Herbs

Herbs have been a staple of the love potion consortium for centuries and remain a key player in today’s potions.  The types of herbs that can be used in love potions range from the common to the obscure but all have their uses.  Most of us are busy with the routines of daily life and therefore may not have time to shop for the various exotic herbs available.  Luckily enough there are still a wide variety of common household herbs that can be utilized.  Basil is one such herb.

Basil

An age old Love Magnet- Basil!

An age old Love Magnet- Basil!

 

Basil holds a special place in many Eastern religions and is a more commonly used herb for culinary purposes in the Western hemisphere.  It has been said that basil is the course to true love.  Many of the spells relating to basil has to do with the burning of the herb to invoke its magical properties.  One such spell is the Aphrodite New Moon Love Spell.  This spell can be used for attracting new lovers and is a fun way to use such common herbs as basil.  Another common herb that is utilized through burning is the Bay leaf.  The Bay Leaf Love spell is a simple spell that can bring forth the love you desire.

Aphrodisiacs

Many herbs grown in the garden have Aphrodisiac properties

Many herbs grown in the garden have Aphrodisiac properties

Ginseng

Aphrodisiacs are a popular, easy and extremely fun way to keep the excitement of a relationship moving in the right direction.  Similar to herbs, there are a number of simple aphrodisiacs available for purchase at a reasonable price.  One such aphrodisiac is ginseng.  Ginseng has long been used for its medicinal qualities in ancient China, as well as Korea, and has now seen resurgence in today’s popular culture.  Ginseng, now commonly seen in many energy drinks, can be found in two forms, the American and the Asian. Both forms of Ginseng have been found to enhance libido and increase copulatory performance, according to a recent Southern Illinois University study.

Damiana

Damiana is another amazing aphrodisiac easily available at an affordable price.  This plant has actually been around for hundreds of years and was a cherished plant of the ancient Aztecs and Mayans, who used it most commonly as an aphrodisiac in the form of a tea that was drank.  Nowadays Damiana is still used in teas as well as some Mexican liqueur, and is still regarded for its enhancement of sexual drive in both males and females.  If you’re looking for a little excitement to share with your partner give Damiana a try and see why it’s been around for hundreds of years and will remain in use for hundreds of years to come!

Saffron

If you are looking for an aphrodisiac with a little more exoticism and are willing to pay a little more, there is one of the oldest known herbs on the planet, saffronSaffron can be dated back to potions used by the ancient Sumerians as long ago as the 10th century BC.   Saffron is a marvelous aphrodisiac rumored to be used by Cleopatra.  The famed Egyptian Queen would sprinkle saffron into her bath water to enhance lovemaking.  Today saffron is the most expensive herb by weight but still holds much of the allure it did in ancient times.   Saffron holds magical properties as well, such as the enhancement of lust and is said to be most effective when used by women.  When you’ve got money to blow and are looking for a fun way to spice up your love making, turn to the age-old herb that is known all over the world, saffron!

valentines-gift-seeds

Throughout history there have been a large number of plants and herbs used to ignite the passion between lovers. In general, there are a number of amazing herbs and plants that are conveniently accessible to the everyday gardener, which can spark a fire between you and your partner.  While flowers prove to be something on the ordinary side of life, why not add a little vehement enthusiasm to the bedroom and try some of the other extraordinary things plants have to offer.

Invite cupid in from the Garden!

Invite cupid in from the Garden!

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Posted on January 28th, 2012 by Dr. Greenthumb  |  2 Comments »

Growing Tulips in Colorado

 

Growing Tulips in Colorful Colorado

An Abundance of Tulips Bloom on Boulder Colorado's "Pearl Street Mall"

“I guess he’d rather be in Colorado
He’d rather spend his time out where the sky looks like a pearl after a rain”

John Denver

Growing Tulips in Colorado

Tulips are part of the Tulipa genus which has over 100 species of flowers.  Tulips are perennials (many tulips are planted in late fall as annuals) and are a welcome emergence of color to your garden every spring.  Tulips thrive in climates where there are long cool springs and dry summers, making them an ideal plant for gardens in Colorado.

When and Where to Plant

For tulip growers in Colorado, the best results are typically achieved by planting the bulbs in late September through October and even as late as December depending on when and where you want them to bloom.   Even though tulips grow well in both sun and shade, you will want to avoid planting tulips in a southerly exposure too early in the year, in order to avoid premature blooming.

If you plant your bulbs too early in the year, at a shallow depth, the heat from a south exposure can make the bulbs bloom in the early heat only to be killed off by an inevitable freeze.  Conversely, if you are late to plant your bulbs you can make up the time by planting your bulbs in a southerly exposure and at a more shallow depth thus allowing the bulbs a better chance of warming up and blooming.  An average depth of 4 to 8 inches should do the trick.  The best rule of thumb for the proper depth is to plant the bulb at a depth three times as deep as the height of the bulb.  For example, if the bulb is one and ½ inches tall, dig a hole 4 and ½ inches deep and place the bulb at the bottom with 3 inches of soil on top of the bulb.   You can group the bulbs together according to a similar guideline.  Spacing the bulbs at a width two times the width of the bulb allows for close grouping and spectacular blooming in the spring.  If the bulb is one inch wide space the bulb two inches from the next bulb and proceed accordingly.

For all of the procrastinators out there don’t worry, if you miss the time window of fall you can still plant late in the year.   To achieve the proper blooming schedule, plant the bulbs at a slightly more shallow depth than normal and pick a space in your yard where the sun will assure warmth throughout the proceeding season.

Planting Tulip Bulbs

Spacing and location are important factors to consider when planting your bulbs

Picking the Best Tulip Bulbs

An all important step to great tulips is picking the best Tulip bulbs.  You want to pick the biggest, firmest, fullest bulbs available.  In the case of bulb picking size does matter, and bigger is definitely better.  You do not want bulbs that are soft to the touch as they may contain mold and thus might lead to bulb rot.

Buying Tulip Bulbs

When choosing your bulbs, select bulbs that are firm and blemish free

Preparing the Soil

Once you have picked the biggest and best bulbs it is time to prepare the soil in which you have decided to plant.  The soil should be quick draining and well aerated as this is where tulips will thrive.  Dig your holes and then begin placing your bulbs.  The bulbs need to be planted with the point up and the flat part of the bulb sitting at the bottom of you hole.  You will only need to water if you feel the ground is particularly dry.

If you follow these simple steps to planting Tulips, you can expect an amazing burst of color come spring and you can enjoy your Tulips for many years!

Growing Tulips

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Posted on September 9th, 2011 by Dr. Greenthumb  |  4 Comments »

Thoughts on Extending your Garden for Fall

Fall harvest!

Enjoy planting your Fall garden as you continue to enjoy your Summer harvest!

Summer’s lease hath all to short a date.

-   William Shakespeare

With the dog days of summer in full swing, it may be hard to imagine fall as being right around the corner. In fact, late July through September is the best  time to extend your home garden’ s growing season by planting a fall garden. If you have been enjoying the fruits of your labor in your garden through the spring and summer you’re in for a double treat with your fall garden. Fall gardens take less time and work because the soil has already been worked up in the spring.

Many vegetables, such as broccoli and cauliflower actually do better when grown during the late summer and early fall months and some such as beets, kale and swiss chard develop an improved taste after being exposed to a light frost.

To prepare your garden for a fall harvest

  • Remove any residue or debris from previous crops
  • As in spring, spade or loosen the soil
  • Add high quality organic fertilizer to replenish the nutrients used by your spring/summer crops
  • Plant seeds according to their recommendations
  • Keep the soil moist until your seeds germinate (this is especially important because you will be planting at the end of summer when soil tends to dry out quickly)

As summer comes to a close and fall approaches, frost presents a threat to many garden vegetables. However, there are many crops that are not effected by frost, or even moderate freezes and will continue to produce harvests well into the late fall moths. Some of the best fall producers are :

Other, more sensitive crops such as beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, and squash will, if protected, continue to produce crops into the fall. Some recommended and effective way of protecting these plants in your garden are to cover them with boxes, tarps, plastic or blankets. Covering the plants allows them to stay warm and decreases the chance of an early or light frost killing them.

Here are a few recipes to encourage your appreciation of your fall garden!

Sautéed Swiss Chard Ribs with Cream and Pasta Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 lb swiss chard, yielding 2 cups of chopped ribs
  • 1/4 cup (half a stick) butter
  • 3/4 to 1 cup heavy cream
  • Enough dry pasta to make about one quart of cooked pasta (use rice pasta if gluten-free is required)
  • Salt and pepper

Method

1 Separate the ribs from the greens. Cut the ribs into 1/2-inch to 1-inch pieces. Blanch the ribs in lightly salted boiling water for 3 minutes.

Cooking with Swiss Chard swiss-chard-stalks-2.jpg

2 Melt butter in a saucepan on medium heat. Add the drained, blanched ribs and simmer for 4 minutes. Add heavy cream and cook until cream reduces by two-thirds.

3 While the cream is reducing, cook up your pasta according to the pasta’s package directions.

4 Mix creamed chard with pasta. Season lightly with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Arugula Salad with Beets and Goat Cheese Recipe

Ingredients

Salad Ingredients:

  • Beets – (boiled until a fork easily goes in it, about an hour), peeled, sliced into strips
  • Fresh arugula – rinsed, patted dry with a paper towel
  • Goat cheese – chevre
  • Walnuts – chopped

Dressing ingredients:

  • Olive oil
  • Lemon
  • Dry powdered mustard
  • Sugar
  • Salt and pepper

Method

The amount of ingredients depends on how many people you are serving and how much salad you intend to serve them. The important thing is that this is a good blend of flavors.

The dressing for three servings of salad is 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1/2 lemon, 1/4 teaspoon of powdered mustard, 3/4 teaspoon of sugar, salt and pepper to taste. *Adjust to taste

Assemble the salad according to preference. A handful of arugula leaves, a few beet juliennes, some crumbled goat cheese, garnish with chopped walnuts. Dress and enjoy!

Happy Gardening!

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Posted on August 8th, 2011 by admin  |  1 Comment »

Quick Tips on Watering your Garden

Watering-Blog

“If there is magic on the planet, it is contained in the water.”
-   Loren Eisley

Do you water the garden or the plants?

It sounds like a funny question but to put things into perspective the garden is where plants grow, not the plants themselves. Furthermore, water must reach plant roots which are in specific places in the garden meaning water should be directed towards those points or it can be easily wasted.

To do this there are all kinds of industrialized drip irrigation systems that aid in feeding crops and can be converted for regular use. However, most homeowners don’t need such specialized methods and are left with two options: the hose or the watering can.

The hose

"Just take a garden hose with your back to the sun and spray. You'll make a rainbow."  ~ Doug Kelly

"Just take a garden hose with your back to the sun and spray. You'll make a rainbow." ~ Doug Kelly

The hose is one of those wonder utilities Americans couldn’t live without. It makes life so much easier when distributing water across property without actually having to carry it bucket by bucket and it’s not uncommon for one house to have two hoses.

Nevertheless, when watering the garden the hose can sometimes be a nuisance. For example, most hoses have settings for long stream or gentle spray, both of which have issues.

The long stream is usually too powerful for many plants easily drowning or knocking them over and at its gentlest spray water distribution still covers a wide area. Neither is economical as both usually end up watering the “garden” instead.

The hose also comes with a few other drawbacks like getting stuck when pulled distances and despite  hose holders it may get tangled and twisted often knocking down plants in its path.

The can

"Water is the driver of Nature." -   Leonardo da Vinci

"Water is the driver of Nature." - Leonardo da Vinci

The concept for the outdoor watering can we know today, once known as the “watering pot,” is hundreds of years old. Depending on its size and the type of spout it either provides a long protruding stream or a more gentle spray without the hose’s power. That being the case it has a better delivery despite some dampening of surrounding soil.

The biggest drawback, of course, is refilling it every few gallons. When using the hose water shoots out endlessly but when the can runs dry you need to walk it back to the spigot.

The verdict

So with all that said is the hose or the can better for watering the garden?

In the spirit of not wasting water but making life a little bit easier a combination of the two works great. Use the hose to carry water to the garden and fill the watering can near plants when feeding.

Aside from a descent summer rain or setting up alternative distribution systems it’s a good compromise that is efficient and effective.

Guest contributor Jakob Barry writes for Networx.com, a growing community of homeowners and contractors sharing and monitoring home improvement projects together. He covers various home improvement topics including green gardening tips and  grounds maintenance

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Posted on June 28th, 2011 by Ms. Sunshine  |  No Comments »

The Top 5 Organic Pesticides to Make in your Kitchen!

The best method of pest control in the garden is to keep your plants healthy so they don’t attract bugs

“The more we pour the big machines, the fuel, the pesticides, the herbicides, the fertilizer and chemicals into farming, the more we knock out the mechanism that made it all work in the first place.” David R. Brower

We pesticide to protect

For every gardener there are a number of benefits to growing your own fruits and vegetables. You don’t have to be a thrift-seeking, penny-pincher to realize that growing your own produce saves you money in the long run, not to mention the immeasurable benefit of healthy eating. However, along with growing your own food comes the responsibility of protecting those plants from unwanted insects and disease. Enter the pesticide…

Pesticides gained their fame in the post World War II era, when farmers were given access to DDT.  This synthetic pesticide was very successful for two decades, but resulted in both environmental and human damages. Ever since, large companies have succeeded in maintaining the myth that the general public needs pesticides to keep them safe from malicious, crop destroying insects. Be that as it may, growing your own fruits and vegetables has been around as long as the earliest humans and way before any artificial pesticides where needed to keep us safe.

The truth is that you can make your own all natural pesticides using simple ingredients that won’t cost you an arm and a leg to make yourself!

There really are large selections of homemade pesticides to choose from, so it is important to take the time to test and choose the right one for each species of plant.  Remember that “pesticide” literally means “a chemical used to kill pests,” which is NOT what we will be making.  The following recipes are designed to repel and discourage insects from destroying your hard earned fruits and vegetables, while sustaining a healthy environment for both you and your plants.

But there are alternatives!

Here are a few of the more common homemade “pesticides” and how they work:

*Remember to test all of the homemade pesticides on a small area before continuing onto the entire plant.

Oil Mixture-

The recipe for this is very quick and painless, and will specifically target pest eggs and immature bugs. You will want to spray the leaves and their undersides in an attempt to coat and cover the insects as they begin development.

You do need to be conscious of the liquid dish-washing soap that you use here (and other recipes) and pick one that you think is best.  Things like scented, anti-bacterial and other specialized soaps may have an adverse effect on your plant so start off by testing your mixture on a small section of plant before engaging the entire plant.

  • 1 cup cooking oil ( i.e. canola or vegetable )
  • 1 tablespoon liquid dish-washing soap
  • Use 2 ½ teaspoons of this mixture in 1 cup of water

Mix all ingredients and pour into a large squirt bottle. Spray the oil mixture anywhere you have problem pests and ESPECIALLY where they lay their eggs!

Soap Mixture-

This has the same basic idea of the Oil mixture but without the oil.  You can also see that the mixture isn’t nearly as concentrated as the Oil mixture so you may want to increase the times you spray your plants to every 2-3 days for the next 2 weeks.  The Soap mixture will cause the pests to become paralyzed and unable to eat forcing them to starve.

Spray the mixture on the leaves and undersides for most effective use.

  • A few teaspoons of liquid dish-washing soap
  • 1 gallon of water

Mix all ingredients and pour into a large squirt bottle. Spray the oil mixture anywhere you have problem pests.

Garlic/Pepper Mixture-

This next mixture takes a little more time to prepare but will keep the bugs you have just gotten rid of, away for the season.

  • 1/2 cup hot peppers of your choice
  • 1/2 cup garlic cloves ( onions will also do )
  • 2 cups water

Take all the ingredients and steep them in a container for 24 hours.  Place the container in a sunny spot if possible.  After 24 hours, strain the mixture into a spray bottle and spray your plants.

Tobacco or Nicotine Spray-

We can’t forget that some types of bugs (known as beneficial insects) are actually good for our gardens so it is helpful to use pesticides that can target specific bugs.   This tobacco mixture is great for caterpillars, aphids and most types of worms.

***PLEASE BE CAREFUL*** DO NOT use this mixture on peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, or any other member of the solanaceous family. Tobacco chemicals can kill these types of plants.

  • 1 cup of tobacco
  • 1 gallon of water
  • 3 tablespoons of liquid dish soap

Similar to the Garlic/Pepper mixture, take the tobacco and mix it with the water and let them sit for 24 hours.  After 24 hours check the color of the mixture; if it is very dark, dilute it with water; if the color is too light to see, let it sit a few more hours.   Ideally the color will be similar to a light tea.  When the color is right add the liquid dish soap and spray your plants.

Orange Peel Spray-

This is another mixture that can target the bad bugs destroying your plants.  It will work great against soft-bodied bugs suck as aphids, fungus gnats, mealy bugs and will also repel ants.

  • 2 cups boiling water
  • Peelings of on orange
  • A few drops castile soap

Take the boiling water and pour it over the orange peels and allow to sit for 24 hours.  Take the mixture and strain it into a container and add the soap.  Spray plants completely.

Tips for working with any home-made pesticide:

  • Apply the pesticide on top of the leaves as well as underneath. Excess spraying can cause damage to plants.
  • Most recipes can be used effectively with just a weekly spray. Excessive spraying may affect the plant as well as kill the good insects you want to encourage in your garden (earthworms, bees, ladybugs, etc.). If you aren’t seeing results with a 7 day spray, you can bump it up to 5 days but watch the plant carefully to make sure it can handle it without being damaged.
  • Avoid spraying during hot sunny weather, spray later in the day to reduce the risk of plants burning.
  • If it looks like rain, delay spraying the plants until the weather is clear since any rain will wash away the new treatment. If it has recently rained, wait till the plants are dry before applying treatment to prevent the recipe being diluted with water.
  • When trying a new pesticide recipe on a plant, test a couple leaves before spraying the whole plant (spray then watch how the test leaves react after two or three days, if no signs of damage proceed with spraying the whole plant).

A home for all

As you learn which pests are harming your garden and which bugs you want more of you can begin to bring a sense of harmony without the use of harmful chemicals.

“Much like a subtle spider which doth sit
In middle of her web, which spreadeth wide;
If aught do touch the utmost thread of it,
She feels it instantly on every side.”
-  Sir John Davies, 1570-1626, The Immortality of the Soul

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Posted on May 3rd, 2011 by Dr. Greenthumb  |  5 Comments »

Eight Great Things You Should Know About Companion Planting

Use Companion planting to combine beauty and purpose in your garden

Use Companion planting to combine beauty and purpose in your garden

An age old technique for garden success

Companion planting is an ancient gardening technique that can control pests and increase your harvest. Back in Roman times, citizens did not have the luxuries we have today, such as Garden Centers full of every conceivable spray, chemical or treatment for what ails our plants. They may have used methods described by Pliny the Elder in his many writings on natural histories, herbals and books for physicians. Or maybe they employed common folklore of the time to keep their gardens free from disease, pests and problems. Modern gardeners who employ companion planting will be using methods based on historical and contemporary folklore from various different cultures. Many plants have evolved and adapted to their particular pest problems and environments, and can be used as allies (or enemies) in your garden.

Why does it work?

One of the reasons companion planting works so well is that it creates diversity in your garden. The problem with diversity though, is that many people run out of room in their gardens. Or they don’t have a very large space to begin with, and devote all that space to the ‘food’ bearing plants. My rule is, always leave room for flowers, as this is one of the easiest ways to add diversity to any growing space. Or, use large clay pots and plant your companions in those, so they can be moved around if needed. If you’ve never tried companion planting before, a good way to start is by learning about what affects your favorite types of plants. Perhaps you love tomatoes most of all, so it would be most important to you that they thrive in your garden. Start small, and increase your companion planting as your comfort level rises. Effective companion planting, even if it is your first time, includes observation, some research and a bit of planning. These are the first three important things to know.

The Eight Things to Know:

Observe, Research and Plan

Observe your garden 1.Observe: This is where keeping garden journals will help tremendously. Inspect your plants (I do this at least weekly) and if you notice bugs, don’t just head for the sprays, take note of what they are doing. Are they eating the plant? Burrowing into the stems? Laying eggs? Are there wilted leaves, black spots or distorted growth? Take notes or even bug and leaf samples in a ziplock bag.


Tip-2-for-Companion-Planting-Research2.Research: Now that you have a problem, research your plant online or in books from your library. There are many sites like (Whatsthatbug) that can help you learn if it’s a pest infestation, or are they beneficial insects that you want to stick around? Do they attack certain plants or many types? Do they only come around in the spring, or late summer? If you are stumped after your research, any samples you’ve taken can be shown to a garden professional for their advice.


Tip-3-for-Companion-Planting-Observe

3.Plan: Once you know what the problem is, you can deal with it effectively. Make sure you take notes about what steps you take, because you may refer back to them next year at planting time. Now, down to the specifics of how to affect change in your garden using plant helpers.


Repel, Decoy, Nurse, Attract and Complement

Tip-4-for-Companion-Planting-Repel4.Repelling insects is the number one reason people try companion planting. One way to do this is with pungent smelling plants and herbs.

  • Garlic can deter Bean Beetles and Potato Bugs, and Onions can keep pests from attacking Strawberries or Tomatoes.
  • Lemon Balm, Mint and Thyme create aromatic compounds that deter many pests. These herbs are great for planting in small pots and scattering around the garden, or create borders of them along the edges of you garden as a barrier.
  • Marigolds are widely known by their power to repel all kinds of invaders. Plant these amazing flowers everywhere!

Tip-5-for-Companion-Planting-Decoy5.Decoy plants can lure pests from your edible crops. One pests have been lured by your trap, you can then remove them off the decoy plant, destroy the plant, or treat it with some other type of natural or organic control treatment.

  • Nasturtium is a great example of a decoy plant, as they attract Aphids and Flea Beetles, and also liven up the area with beautiful colors!
  • Many, many pests are attracted to yellowish colors. Whiteflies, Aphids, Cucumber Beetles, Fungus Gnats and many types of flies can be fooled by planting yellow flowers near the plants they have taken up residence in.
  • Mustard plants will attract Cabbageworms and Harlequin Bugs away from cabbage plants.

Tip-6-for-Companion-Planting-nursery6.Nursery Plants are needed for those wonderful beneficial insects that should have homes in your garden. Many of those bugs you see out there might actually be helpful. Do your research first before you start killing them off, as they may be your allies!

  • Any plant with small, tightly packed flowers (like yarrow or thyme) will likely attract beneficial insects.
  • Dill can attract spiders, lacewings and parasitic wasps, which help control caterpillers, beetles and aphids.
  • Plants from the Daisy family (cosmos, coreopsis, marigolds, sunflowers, asters, coneflowers, or dahlias) attract all kinds of beneficials, like ladybugs, assassin bugs, lacewings, hover flies and parasitic wasps. They are also an excellent source of pollen for bees!

Tip-7-for-Companion-Planting-attract7. Speaking of bees, attract them for better pollination across your entire garden. A few small to medium sized Bee Balm perennials, spread around in pots (because it will take over like mint!) will cause visiting bees to travel all over your garden for pollen. The first year I planted Bee Balm I noticed substantially more harvested Tomatoes and Peppers than any previous years had produced. Of course ANY flowers will do to attract them, but Bee Balm seems like candy to them!

  • Important: Never, ever spray bee-attracting plants with any type of pesticide. A little light spritz with the water hose in the early morning gives them something to drink while they are spending all their energy pollinating. They get thirsty!

Tip-8-for-Companion-Planting-complement8.Complementary Crops are plants that help each other by shading, supporting and most importantly, don’t compete with each other for light, room or soil nutrients. This is a very efficient space-saving method for getting the most out of your garden.

  • Tall crops like Corn, trellised Beans and Sunflowers can provide some shade for Lettuces, Spinach and Cucumbers, which can sometimes struggle in full sun. Plant tall crops on the south sides of beds or garden areas.
  • Plant lifecycles are important to know, as you can plant quick growing annuals like Lettuce, Cilantro, Spinach, Arugula, and Radishes in the same area as slower plants like Melons or Brussel Sprouts. The faster growing ones will flower, attracting bees and beneficials, while shading the slower growers. Once the slow ones have caught up, your faster plants will have already been harvested.
  • Plant bushy Broccoli with shorter Beets. Cabbage and Thyme also play quite well together. Carrots or Spinach under trellised peas makes a great use of space, too!

The list below will give you some basic tips on what works, and what does not in companion planting. I encourage you to learn more about companion planting:

Basic Companion Planting Guide for Backyard Gardens

Basic Companion Planting Guide for Backyard Gardens

Best of luck as you learn to harmonize your garden!

Companion planting can combine beauty and purpose to give you an enjoyable, healthy environment.

Companion planting can combine beauty and purpose to give you an enjoyable, healthy environment.

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Posted on April 5th, 2011 by Polly Purslane  |  2 Comments »

A Brief History of the Wonderful Tomato

Nothing tops a fresh, garden grown Tomato!

Nothing tops a fresh, garden grown Tomato!

A Muddled Past

The history of the tomato is long and, at times, very confusing! Andrew F Smith’s “The Tomato in America” states that tomatoes probably originated in the highlands of the west coast of south America. Tomatoes were a favorite of the Aztecs as early as 500 b.C., in southern Mexico and adjacent areas, and they preferred the smaller cherry-like tomatoes. The larger, lumpy variant is believed to have been selected in central America after a spontaneous mutation, and it’s probably the ancestor of all the modern cultivars.

Today’s varieties of tomatoes originate from two main predecessors: currant tomatoes and “Matt’s Wild Cherry” varieties. They both originate from the native tomato plants in eastern Mexico.

While most people may think they know everything there is to know about a tomato, the truth is that history has a muddled, confused view of the tomato, and even needed the Supreme Court to make an official ruling as to whether this amazing plant will be considered a vegetable or a fruit.   It turns out that the tomato is both! According to the Supreme Court the tomato is a vegetable, however botanically the tomato is a fruit.  Confused?  Regardless of whether you consider the tomato a fruit or a vegetable it is still an amazing plant that is fun to grow yourself.

A Little Tomato History

A Little Tomato History

The Heirlooms

There are actually a wide variety of tomatoes available, and each offers there own unique qualities and challenges.  A group of tomatoes that have recently reached popularity amongst private cultivators are heirloom tomatoes.  Because there are many cultivars, the heirloom can be a chosen based on personal preference and environment.  So whether you decide on a more traditional tomato plant or want to try your hand at something a bit more unique the heirlooms can prove a fun and exciting way to grow.

Heirloom Tomato Cultivars

Heirloom Tomato Cultivars come with so many colorful names, flavors colors and shapes. Here is a brief list of some of our favorites!

Brandywines

The Red Brandywine Tomato

Brandywine: An Undisputed Heirloom Favorite

One of the greatest things about the heirlooms is the tremendous variety in which they come.  One of the most well known heirlooms, which also lends to their popularity, is the Brandywine.  The Brandywine has excellent flavor and long history.  Although the Brandywine reached the height of its popularity in the 1980’s from a farmer named Ben Quinsenberry, it has been noted in history books dating back to the late 1800’s.  While this plant takes a while to mature (typically 80-100 days) and has a relatively low yield per plant the outcome is always worth the wait.  The Brandywine boasts a large pinkish-fleshed tomato that is unrivaled in flavor and acidity.  Join the millions of people who enjoy the Brandywine and give it a grow!

The Bradywine Tomato

The Bradywine Tomato

Stupice

Stupice Tomato: Sweet and Delicious

Stupice Tomato: Sweet and Delicious

In contrast to the Brandywine, in terms of growth and yield, the Stupice heirloom is a reliable plant throughout the growing season, regardless of environment, and actually boasts a sweeter flavor as the weather goes from warm to cold.  Many people agree that the Stupice is the best tasting plant for early season planting and grows incredibly well in hot and cold weather depending on the variety.  That being said, the high yield, which produces quickly, and will continue to produce all season long, makes this a great tomato to plant first!

Dagma/Dogma’s Perfection

Dagma's Perfection Tomato- Unique Flavor, Unique Color!

Dagma’s Perfection Tomato- Unique Flavor, Unique Color!

If you are looking for something a little more exotic in flavor, and overall appearance, then there is one tomato plant most definitely worth taking a look at.  Whether you spell this next plant with an “o” or an “a”, Dogma’s Perfection is an eye grabbing veggie with amazing taste appeal.  This tomato can add spice to any dinner table in ways that other tomatoes just can’t compete with.  The medium sized tomatoes are clothed in a light yellow skin, complimented by delicate hairline red striping.  If that’s not enough to grab your attention wait until you taste it!  While the Dogma holds much of the traditional flavor expected of a ripened fruit, the unexpected overtones of tropical fruit are also present, including what some people describe as faint hints of lime within the juicy flesh.   Don’t be surprised if you make this a staple in your garden for years to come.

Happy Tomato Growing!

Tomatoes are the number one most popular plant to grow in America’s backyard gardens- and we can see why! Growing Tomatoes is a fun and extremely fulfilling pastime. With so many varieties to choose from you are sure to find a never ending (and very delicious) adventure.

Top World Tomato Producers

Top World Tomato Producers

Happy Tomato Growing!...and Eating!

Happy Tomato Growing!…and Eating!

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Posted on February 27th, 2011 by Ms. Sunshine  |  1 Comment »

Gardening by the Moon

A moon garden brings magic to your garden!

A moon garden brings magic to your garden!

“The moon was but a chin of gold, a night or two ago, and now she turns her perfect face, upon the world below.”

(Emily Dickenson)

“When I admire the wonder of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in worship of the Creator.”

(Mahatma Gandhi)

When we think of gardening, most of us think of the warm sun overhead, we have forgotten the power and mystery of our gardens at night!

Planting a Moon Garden is a great way to make the most of your garden. Your Moon Garden will allow you the pleasure of enjoying the enchantment provided by the moonlight and the flowers that love it!

What is a Moon Garden?
A Moon Garden is a garden that is planted with the intention of being most beautiful at night…by the light of the moon. The selected plants are frequently white and many, like the Flowering Tobacco, bloom at dusk and after sunset. The plants in a Moon Garden have unique scents that will attract night pollinators like moths and bats. The white color of the flowers and the green foliage will often make a moon garden appear to float in the night air. Some Moon Garden flowers, like the Star Flowers,  are selected for their unique shapes that reflect the stars of the night sky.

When planning a spot for your Moon Garden, be sure to note where the moonlight peaks in your yard. It is also important to make sure you have a nice spot to sit, to allow your eyes to adjust to the night so you can fully enjoy the splendor of the colors and shapes of the post-sun enchanted garden!

What are the Effects of the Moon on Gardening?
It has long been thought that the moon , its phases and the signs of the zodiac all have a strong influence on when certain crops should  be planted or harvested. In general, the lore says that above ground crops should be planted during the waxing moon (between new and full) and below ground crops should be planted during the waning moon (between full and new).

Folklore uses the moon phases as a crop planting guide

Folklore uses the moon phases as a crop planting guide

In addition to the moon’s phases, some believe it is also important to be aware of which zodiac sign the moon is occupying. Certain signs are thought to be better for specific tasks than other. For example,when the moon is in Gemini, its a good day for weeding or mowing and when the moon is in Libra, it’s a great day to plant flowers!

A summary of the signs of the zodiac and their effect on your work in your garden

A summary of the signs of the zodiac and their effect on your work in your garden

Even when the moon is in the right phase for planting, check the moon sign, (zodiac) to make sure the sign for that day is fruitful. For example, if you plant when the moon is in the right phase but the moon sign is in the Bowels, you will get garden plants that grow and bloom vigorously, but will produce little fruit. For a complete day to day guide to the moon and the zodiac, visit a Farmer’s Almanac Guide.

Once you fall in love with the night, your fondest gardening will not only occur with the sun in your hair, but also with the moonbeams at your feet.

“I often think that the night is more alive and more richly colored than the day.”

(Vincent Van Gogh)

get-moon-garden-seeds-at-eGardenSeed

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Posted on November 23rd, 2009 by Ms. Sunshine  |  No Comments »