Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Natural Garden Pest Control

Natural garden pest control comes with a wide range of benefits and there are so many reasons why you should try it. Besides being an inexpensive way of keeping pests out of your farm, it is much safer to the environment, your garden, you and your family. And besides, some of the natural methods used to control pests are even much more effective than applying pesticides not to mention the serious risks that these pesticides have on your health and the environment at large.

Natural prevention measures- organic gardening
Perhaps the easiest ways of ensuring that your garden is not invaded by pests is to discourage these pests from coming into your garden in the first place. As every pest control expert will tell you, a healthy garden has the best defense against pests. To achieve this, start by pulling out those weak plants because chances are high they might already be attacked by pests or attached by other diseases. Focus more on building healthy soil organically by use of natural composting methods such as top- dressing the soil with natural fertilizer and compost and mulching. Other preventive measures include disinfecting your tools before attending to your garden, keeping foliage dry, minimize pest habitat and rotate and interplant crops in your garden.

Organic gardening is ideally done at the backyard with an understanding that healthy and happy plants in good and highly nutritious soil helps a lot in prevention of harmful insects and most diseases. While organic gardening doesn't necessarily eliminate all pests in the garden as most pesticides do, it is always very important that the garden is kept watered, mulched, and clean of debris and weeded in order to prevent many pest related problems.

Introduce beneficial insects
There are some beneficial insects, which prey on pests and they can save you from having to use pesticides in your garden. While you can attract these insects naturally in your garden, some are also available for purchase from catalogues and play on harmful pests, insects and their larvae. Some of these very beneficial insects include ladybugs, brachnoids and Ichneumon wasps, Lacewings, Hover- flies, praying mantis and nematodes among others. 

Garden ‘mini- in sectary'’ is something else that you should consider also. This refers to the setting up of a small piece of your garden and designing it in a way that it is capable of attracting and harboring beneficial insects. Such ‘good’ insects prey on a wide range garden insect pest thus providing the gardener with a natural, safer alternative to pesticides.

Homemade and non- toxic remedies
Besides being inexpensive, homemade remedies for pest control are preferred by many since you will know exactly what you are putting to your garden. These homemade sprays are quite effective and offer very good results when are used for controlling harmful insects. These remedies are made with natural ingredients and these means that they are non- toxic such as cayenne, garlic, horsetail or stinging nettles. You simply dilute these waters and spray them on your pests which kill the pesticides. It is essential that you spray the plants very well including below the leaves since this is where most of the pests hide.

Common pests and how to control them naturally
Tomato hornworm: This is essentially the scariest and most destructive pest in a garden. While the pests aren't dangerous to human beings as such, they pose a great threat to potato plants. This is because of the fact that they feed heavily and are capable of eating a significant amount of leaves from the potatoes. Roto-tiling and moving the tomato regularly is an effective way to manage these pests naturally. These pests can also be eliminated effectively by looking for them and actually picking them off. If you don’t have the time to do this, there are many organic products that you can by and spray off your plants and this will really work.

Cabbage worm: These kinds of worm alongside its counterpart parsley worms can serious damage leafy green plants if left uncontrolled. You can literary pick them off from your plants and this will keep them under absolute control. You will need to be very alert and keep checking for any signs of plant damage by the cabbage worms throughout the season. Alternatively, you can use organic products to spray your plants underneath the leaves and you will succeed in killing the worms together with their larvae.

Slugs and snails: while these pests are actually not bugs as such, they can cause a great havoc in your garden. This is because they determinedly feast on the stem and leaves of your plants and will particularly attack on your leafy garden vegetables. The best natural prevention for snails and slugs is use of baits which you can buy from your local garden center. However, you will need to follow strictly the directions given. These boxes usually contain Metaldehyde, which slowly kill the snails as they die. Be careful not to use these formulations around pets or birds as they can be dangerous when they eat them. A good way to control snails and slugs is creating barriers to ensure that the pests are not able to cross over to your crops. You can use materials such as wood ashes and crushed egg shells which are easily available at home and are easy to use with and cheap. Eliminating the snails physically will also work as well.

There are many other pests that can cause a great disaster in your garden such as whiteflies and aphids, Mexican bean beetle, squash vine borer, honey bees and bumble bees and ladybugs or lady beetles among others. For the larger pests, setting up traps and barriers is also a great option that you can consider. The truth of the matter is that there are so many natural garden pest control methods available at your disposal and you really have no excuse of using pesticides whatsoever. Natural pest control is easy, effective and most importantly, it is cheap.

10 Fruits and Vegetables That Grow Faster

Whether your intentions are to create just a small home garden for feeding your family and loved ones or to create a large garden to venture in small scale produce growing, it is always important that you select fruits and vegetables that grow fast. This way, you won’t have to wait for ages until that you are able to put them on the table for consumption. Generally speaking, fruits tend to take a relatively longer period of time before they mature and are ready for eating. On the other hand, vegetables are known for their incredibly faster growth. You might be surprised to know that fast growing vegetables can mature within a month. Here is a look at some fruits and vegetables that grow fast and which you consider planting and harvest sooner than later.

Cucumber seeds are regarded as the fastest growing vegetable seeds that you can possibly plant. Many people across the world are fanatics of cucumber, mostly due to their generally great taste and the fact that they are refreshing and awesomely cool. In most countries across the globe, cucumbers have over the years become a top favorite food for many. Cucumber can be included in salad and alternatively, it can as well be taken on a daily basis along with dinner or lunch.

Radishes are among the fastest growing vegetables that you really don’t have to wait for ages until they mature. And another good thing about radishes is that they are incredibly easy to grow and attend to. The only thing you will need to do after sowing radishes seed is watering them and before long, they will on their way to your mouth. After planning, radishes grow within a month and are ready and make one of the tastiest salads you could ever wish to grace your mouth.

Turnips are also known for their quick growth and it will only take you not more than two months at most to harvest them. Upon sowing them, their leaves should be ready within 45 days, and you can cut them off and make one of the most delicious and nutritious vegetables that you can set on the table. You can use their leaves to prepare salads, soups or even stews depending on your preference.

4-Green onions
Green onions have over the years become one of the fastest growing vegetables that you should consider planning. Upon planning, green onion stalks should be ready for harvesting between a period of 3 and 4 weeks. If you compare them with the normal onions that take about 6 months before reaching maturity and sometimes even more, you will be full convinced why planning green onions in your kitchen is the best thing you can possibly do. With good care and when all the nutrients needed are available including water, your green onions should be ready within three weeks or a month on the maximum.

Most fruits are very notorious when it comes to growth as most of them seem to take ages upon being planted. However, this is not the case with peas as they are known for their amazingly fast rate of growth. Peas are in fact known for being able to germinate within a short period of just ten days. Within two months their pods will have appeared and the while fruit will have grown fully and ready for harvest.

6-Peach tree
The peach tree has of late become a top favorite for many farmers due to its fast growth rate compared to most fruits out there. Within a period of just one year, your peach tree will have grown to a height of about 15 ft and the fruits will be ready by then. Peach fruits are among the most delicious types of fruits that you can possibly eat.

The mention of the word apples is something that just makes the mouths of many to become watered as they rated among the most delicious fruits one can possibly eat. And something else you should know is that the apple tree is one that grows pretty fast and you won’t have to wait long before the apple fruits become ready and you can start consuming them right away. The apple tree is one of the best plants you can have in your kitchen garden. While there are some fruit trees that start producing fruits even with as many as three years or above, the apple tree start to produce fruits within just two years.

8-Cherry tree
Cherry fruits are not the most popular types of fruits but those who really know about them need no explanation as to why cherries are a kind of fruit that having in your garden is not optional, but a must. Growing the cherry tree in your garden is quite easy and it is only a year or less for it to grow and fruits delicious fruits.

9-Coconut tree
Most people really love coconuts but not so many of them know how growing them is quite easy, and that they mature very fast as well. The coconut tree even grows much faster when planted in a warm and hot environment. Most people grow coconut trees at their homes. For countries in the Asian content, nearly every home boasts of having at least one coconut tree and some even more.

10-Apricot tree
The apricot tree is capable of growing much faster as well and provides you with its delicious fruits within a year or less.The lost of fruits and vegetables that grow fast is much longer and you will be amazed to know that you have so many options available than you would probably imagine. To boost the growth of these fruits and vegetables, it is essential that you supply them with the right nutrients and adequate amount of water so that they can grow and flourish fast. It is important that you try growing a couple of these in your garden and see how it goes.

How to Grow Potatoes in Containers

Freshly dug potatoes are nothing like those bought from the store. Unfortunately, the only way that you can get to experience them is by growing the potatoes at your home and to experience the tasty potatoes fresh from the garden. Growing potatoes in containers comes with several advantages. Protecting the potatoes from critters, which really love them, is much easier when they are in the containers. In addition, the last thing you will need to worry about is weeds since the containers are able to ensure that the weeds do not attack your crops. And in any case, this can be quite a fun project to undertake at home together with your kids.

Whether you are growing your potatoes in containers, pots or bags, the advice is the same. First, you will need to put about 7 inches of the best quality compost manure in your containers. Multipurpose compost is a great alternative that can be used as well. For best results, it is essential that you consider mix your compost with well rotted homemade compost/ farmyard manure and/ or sharp sand. The mixture should be 50/50. The benefit of ensuring your mix contains organic material is that it becomes much easier to water your potatoes throughout the whole season. The good thing with the organic material is that they contain highly valuable plant food that can boost the growth of your crop. Chicken manure pellets also works great too.

When it comes to growing potatoes in containers, there are those who advocate that you grow first earliest or even earliest. But still, if you have a relatively large container, you can still use main crop potatoes as well and will do perfectly well. Once you are done with the preparations, place your chatted seed potatoes over the compost and this will depend on your containers’ surface area. According to experts, 1 tuber should be placed for every inch while 3 tubers will work perfectly well in the 18 inch container. 

Once you are done ‘planting’ the tubers in the container, cover with a compost mix over them and the compost should be between 4 and 6 inches. The potatoes will sprout after a few weeks and it is essential that the environment is warm enough to encourage faster growth of the potatoes. As the potatoes continue sprouting in the container, keep placing more compost over them until the compost level has reached about 2 inches below your container from the top. Adding compost is like earthing up and will help in protecting the tubers from light, which can damage them and potato plants from the harmful frost. These two play an essential role in ensuring your crop grows successfully.

One of the main challenges of growing potatoes in containers is watering. It is important you note that you will need to water the potatoes regularly since the soil tends to dry up much quickly when in the container compared to the one on the ground. However, you will need to be very careful not to over water your crops as this would have not so good results. When watering, try to do so straight in the soil otherwise the water will just be running out of the container and spilling on the floor.

Harvesting will essentially depend on the variety of potatoes you planted. When it comes to the first earliest and the second earliest, harvesting can be done right after the plants have stopped flowering. You don’t have to harvest everything at once as you can just take the potatoes you want and just leave the rest in the soil.

As far as main-crop potatoes are concerned, you can harvest them once their tops have dropped and withered away. Before you take in the potatoes for storage in your house, ensure that they have dried well. Growing potatoes in containers is simple and fun. In addition, it is much easier to protect your crop from pests which can be quite challenging if you have planted them in the garden. You can get your seeds from specialty organic growers or nurseries. There are many varieties of potatoes you can grow in containers and get a great and satisfactory harvest.

Friday, May 16, 2014

How to Preserve Fruits and Vegetables

There are several advantages of preserving fruits and vegetables. When you preserve fruits and vegetables, you become self-reliant because during times when you can't buy canned goods from the store, you will have some preserved fruits and vegetables on hand that you can use to serve with your meals. Preserving your fruits and vegetables also retains the nutrients inside of them for a long time and this is opposite of cooking them for a long time, which saps some of the nutrients out of them. Here are 20 fruits and vegetables that you can preserve.

1. Beets

The first step is to sanitize your canning jars and then pour about six quarts of water in a pressure canner. After you do this, you would then choose a few beets that do not have damaged spots or that are not diseased and then you would cut the top parts off the beets as well as the roots before washing them in warm water. Once this step is complete you will cook the beets for thirty minutes to an hour then drain them. To begin the preservation process cut the cooked beets and place them in the jars, then fill the jar with enough water to cover the beets but don't fill the jar all the way to the top. Place the jars in the canner and let the jars stay in it for 30 minutes. Then remove the jars and place on a sturdy surface.

2. Figs

Figs are a delicious and nutritious fruit and there are several ways you can preserve them. To make a jam out of figs you would chop up three to four cups of figs and place them in a medium-sized pot with enough water to cover the figs. Furthermore, add five cups of sugar and three teaspoons each of lemon juice and vanilla. Let the figs cook down for 15 to 20 minutes then place in canning jars and put lids on the jars. Another way is to boil the figs for thirty minutes  and then place them in jars along with lemon slices. Fill the jars with water and place the lids on the jars before putting the jars in hot water for a few minutes. Finally, remove the jars.

3. Kumquats

Kumquats are tiny citrus fruits that taste great when preserved. One good reason why you should preserve them is because kumquats don't have a long shelf life. To preserve the kumquats, you want to scrub a pound of them with liquid soap and water before rinsing them off with water. After you do this, you would boil the kumquats in a large pot of hot water for fifteen to twenty minutes then add a pound of sugar to the water and kumquats and let simmer over medium heat for 20 minutes. Finally, you would place the kumquats in jars then put lids over the jars.

4. Strawberries

The first step in preserving your strawberries is to wash your strawberries then cut the stems off. The next step is to place the strawberries in a plastic bag filled with a cup each of sugar and water and this is a quick way to preserve your fresh strawberries. Another method is to make strawberry preserves and you can do it by combining a pound of strawberries, three cups of sugar and a few teaspoons of lemon juice in a medium pot. Cook over medium-low heat for 20 minutes and then let cool before pouring into clean janning jars and sealing them with lids.

5. Cucumbers

Instead of buying pickles at the supermarket, why not put your fresh cucumbers to good use and preserve them by making pickles out of them? Start by chopping a pound of cucumbers and then you would sprinkle salt and black pepper over the cucumbers before tossing them in the bowl. After a few hours rinse the salt and pepper off the cucumbers then place them in a large pot of water along with a third cup of maple syrup, allspice and a few teaspoons of ground dill. Then you would put the cooked cucumbers inside jars and fill the jars with the water from the pot. Seal the jars tightly.

6. Jalapeno Peppers

Start by washing the dirt off your peppers after you take them out of the garden and then for the next few days you want to leave the peppers out in a warm and dry location, so they can dry out completely before you start the preservation process. Then slice the peppers and place them in a pot with enough water to cover them along with a half-cup of salt, a few teaspoons of dill, and a teaspoon of crushed red pepper. Place the peppers in canning jars as well as the salt water and seal the jars tightly.

7. Lemons

To make preserved lemons, cut stems off the lemons and then cut each lemon in quarters. After you do this, you would be juice the lemons since it is the lemon peels that are being preserved, and it is the juice that serves as the liquid for the preservation process. You would then add a few teaspoons of salt to the lemons and toss the lemons for a few minutes. Put the salted lemons and juice in the jars then seal with lids.

8. Peaches

Take some ripe peaches and rinse them with warm water, then boil the peaches in hot water for 30 minutes. After putting the hot peaches in ice water, peel the peaches and lay them on a sheet of parchment paper where they can dry for 36 hours. Place the peaches in a glass jar and then seal the jar tightly. Then put the jar in the refrigerator.

9. Tomatoes

Take a few tomatoes and cut the tomatoes slightly at the bottom but not going all the way. In a pot of boiling water add the tomatoes and after five minutes, remove the tomatoes from the pot. After the tomatoes are cooled, peel the tomatoes and set aside. Meanwhile put a third cup of lemon juice in each of the jars and then add the tomatoes. Add warm water to cover the tomatoes and seal them with the lids.

10. Asparagus

To preserve the asparagus, you want to wash the asparagus and cut off the spears. After this step, you would trim the asparagus so that it is at least five inches. Then take a large canning jar and place the asparagus inside it. Then add some diced onions, a few teaspoons of salt, and hot water to the canning jar. Place the canning jar in a canner so you can pressure the asparagus.

11. Pineapple

One of the best ways to preserve pineapple is through the freezing method and here is how you would do it. First you would cut the pineapple into slices and then you take a large sheet of parchment paper and put the pineapple slices on it. Then place the slices in the freezer and the next day, transfer the pineapple to an airtight storage bag before returning to the freezer.

12. Carrots

After cutting off the stem and eliminating discolored or diseased carrots, you would place a few canning jars in boiling water if they are not clean for sanitizing purposes and this also goes for the lids. After you can wash the dirt off the carrots and peel them, then cut them into slices. Put the carrots in the canning jars along with some crushed garlic cloves, herbs and hot water. Seal the jars and place them in the pressure canner for 15 minutes.

13. Okra

Rinse off your okra and then cut off the stems. In a pot of boiling water add the okra and let cook for five minutes. Remove okra from the pot and add to a bowl of ice water. After five minutes you would dry, the okra thoroughly and then place in a freezer bag to freeze as long as needed.

14. Green Beans

Trim and wash your green beans and boil a pot of water. Then place the green beans in a canning jar along with a teaspoon of lemon juice and enough hot water to cover the green beans. Then seal the jars and place the jars in a pressure canner for 30 minutes.

15. Apples

Wash, peel and remove the core from the apples, then chop them in pieces. Then you would put apples inside the canning jars and add a third cup of sugar syrup and hot water to cover the apples. Seal the jars and place in a pressure canner for 30 minutes.

16. Pomegranates

To preserve pomegranates, you want to wash and cut up your pomegranates and then soak them in water so that it will be easy to pull the pomegranates apart. Furthermore, take the pith from the pomegranates because they won't be needed. After doing this scoop out three cups of the seeds and in a pan combine the seeds with three cups of sugar to make preserves. Also add some of the flesh of the pomegranate to the mixture. Let the mixture cook at medium heat and then add a package of pectin. After 15 minutes, turn heat off and let mixture cool. Then pour the preserves in canning jars and seal with lids. You can also store in an area that is dark and cool.

17. Onions

To preserve onions, you want to wash and peel the onions then put them in a medium-sized pot of water. Let the onions boil for seven minutes and then remove them from the hot water. Then add a few teaspoons each of salt, ground ginger and black pepper to the canning jars before putting the onions in them. Fill the jars with the hot water and seal them. Finally, place the canning jars in a pressure canner or 30 minutes.

18. Pears

Start by washing, peeling and coring your pears and then chopping them into slices or cubes. Once you do this you would briefly soak them in lemon juice and water to keep discoloration from happening. Add the pears to a pot filled with two cups each of sugar and water and let cook for 20 minutes over medium heat. Then place the pears in hot canning jars and seal the jars. Finally, place the jars in a pressure canner for 30 minutes.

19. Watermelon

Take two quarts of a store bought watermelon slices and place them on a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Prehear the oven to 250 and when it heats up, place the watermelon slices in the oven. When the moisture is completely out of the slices, remove them from the oven and let them cool before placing in a glass jar and storing in the refrigerator.

20. Raspberries

You would make raspberry preserve similar to the way you would make other types of berry reserves. In a medium-sized,  pot combine two cups of raspberries, three cups of sugar, a teaspoon of vanilla, and two teaspoons of lemon juice and a third cup of water. Cook over     medium heat for 30 minutes and let cool. Pour preserves into canning jars, seal the jars and place jars in a warm water bath for 20 minutes.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

How to Grow Mushrooms

 Growing mushrooms might seem a little complicated but this is a task that any enthusiastic gardener shouldn't hesitate to attempt. The most important thing is setting up the most appropriate environment for them to growth in. Growing mushrooms is different from plants because you won’t be growing them from seeds but from microscopic spores, which take root in the growing medium or substrate. Growing mushrooms at home is easy as you can manage light and temperature conditions, which are vital for their growth.

    Which mushroom type do you want to grow?

 The first thing is deciding on the type of mushroom that you wish to growth. Generally speaking, the ease of growing mushroom varies from one type to another. The easiest ones to grow are white button, shitake and oyster. While the method used for growing these mushrooms is similar, there exists difference in the ideal medium for growing them. If you choose shitakes, hardwood sawdust is the best place to grow them. Oysters are best grown in straw while composted manure is the best place for growing button mushrooms. Your taste is what should guide your selection and by the end of the day, growing the type of mushroom that you desire to eat most will make everything much easier and enjoyable for you.

    Get the mushroom spawn & substrate

 In mushroom growing, mushroom spawn refers to the sawdust which is permeated with the mushroom mycelia or simply the fungus’ root structure. This facilitates growth of the mushrooms just like the plant seedlings and there are various online stores where you can order your mushroom spawn from. The type of substrate that you buy should depend on the kind of mushroom you are growing. If you are a novice gardener, opt for mushroom growing kits and this will make your life much easier.

    Growing medium preparation and spreading the mycelia

 You will be spreading the mycelia of your mushroom spawn on the growing medium before the mushrooms are produced. To encourage the growth, a warm temperature will be needed. Once you have identified the most suitable growing medium for the mushroom species you have decided to grow, place some in a baking pan. Using a shallow pan but with a considerably large surface area provides more room for the mushrooms to growth. You can simply use your finders for mixing the spawn in the growing medium and after all, you care less about getting your hands dirty as a gardener. Set the heating pad to 21 degrees Celsius and then have baking pan placed on it. You must be right about the temperature as this is the only way to create an ideal environment for the growth of the mushroom. Place the set up in an environment that is like, probably in the cabinet for like 3 weeks. During this time, your mushroom medial will be able to permeate into the growing medium.

    Facilitating growth of the growing medium

 In order to facilitate growth of your growing set up, you will need to place it in the most ideal environment. This will of course be done after the 3 weeks mentioned here above have elapsed. A dark and cool environment is certainly the most recommended and your basement will be a perfect place to place it. Cover the medium with potting soil and dampen the environment thoroughly by adding water. The most important thing is to keep the mix cool and moist and should be checked regularly and water added if necessary.


 Once your mushrooms have grown fully, it is now time to do the harvesting. Small mushrooms will be seen appearing on the medium in about three weeks. An ideal environment must be maintained during all this time by keeping it moist, dark and cool as this will go a long way towards encouraging faster growth. After sometime, you will see that their caps are now fully separated from their stems. This is an indicator that your mushrooms are now ready for harvesting. To harvest them, the only tool you need is your fingers and you just need to pluck then. For purposes of hygiene and looking after your health, make sure that you rinse them thoroughly before you cook or eat them.

How To Grow Organic Mushrooms Cheaply