Sep 30, 2009

Tips of Building Your Own Greenhouse

It's a great idea to have your own greenhouse, but finding where you can purchase cheap greenhouses is not so easy. Now you can build your own greenhouse for a fraction of the price with great online diy greenhouse plans. Before you get started though, you might want to read these handy tips for building your own greenhouse.

Tip #1. Before you get started, you will want to research a few different types of greenhouse designs to see which might be the right design for you. Depending on the amount of space you have available and the kind of food you want to grow, you will have a few different designs that will best suit your needs.

For those with limited space, consider a flat greenhouse or hot bed. These are excellent for growing vegetables as well as low running fruit and berries such as strawberries. They are designed so that you can get into them and work them easily. If you want to grow plants that need to climb such as tomatoes then you will want to build yourself a tall greenhouse. These are great for balconies too as they take up very little ground space, but can produce a decent amount of fruit and vegetables.

Tip #2. For larger greenhouses, there are a variety of different designs from hoop to lean to as well as Victorian. Each has its own benefits and limitations, but each has ample room for you to move around in. Hoop greenhouses can be built very cheaply because they can be made entirely from PCV piping, but they take up a fair amount of space and are not as durable as some of the other designs. Getting a greenhouse guide that will show you each of the designs and explain to you how best they can be used is an excellent investment.

Tip #3. Ventilation in your greenhouses is very important and knowing how to moderate the climate inside your greenhouse, no matter what the temperature outside is vital. When deciding what kind of greenhouse to build, it's worth the investment of finding a greenhouse plan guide that includes information on how keep your greenhouse temperate when the weather outside is not ideal.

A good greenhouse diy guide will also tell you how to keep your soil healthy, how to keep your greenhouse from fungus and mould and also how to keep unwanted bugs at bay.

Sep 29, 2009

Growing Runner Beans

The ideal plant for the beginner gardener. If the soil is prepared well with lots of compost, runner beans are very forgiving vegetables. The foliage is attractive, and the red or white flowers making this a beautiful garden feature.

Runner beans prefer a position in full sun, although they tolerate part shade very well. Because of their height, they should not be grown in areas exposed to winds, they will easily be blown over.

Remember also that their foliage is very thick and this results in them casting deep shade over a wide area. Useful for some vegetables but not so good for others.

Part of the 'legume' family of vegetables, runner beans are able to extract nitrogen from the air and fix it in little nodules on its roots. For this reason, the soil should not be rich in nitrogen, which would only result in lots of leafy growth and few beans. The ideal soil is deeply dug with lots of well-rotted organic matter (peat or peat substitute is ideal) incorporated. This will ensure that the soil is capable of holding lots of water, a key need of runner beans.

If unprotected, Runner Beans are in almost all cases damaged by any degree of frost. Where the seedlings have appeared above the soil surface and a late unexpected frost strikes, it is best to remove them and plant more seeds in their place. The best time to plant Runner Beans outside is a week before the last frost.

Cloches or supported plastic will protect them if a late frost is predicted, as will plastic bottles with the bottom cut off placed over the seedlings. The other alternative is to sow the seeds in peat pots and initially grow them on the windowsill until all danger of frost has passed and then plant them, peat pots and all, directly into the ground. Remember to soak the peat pots in water prior to planting so that they will quickly break down in the soil.

A good tip for extending the cropping season of runner beans is to sow half the seeds indoors or in a greenhouse. When you come to sowing time, sow the seeds as normal on one side of the row and plant the indoor reared plants on the other (see picture on right). The indoor grown plants will crop first, followed by those sown directly in the ground a couple of weeks later.

Runner Beans can be given a head start (about four weeks) by sowing them inside and / or under cloches. Simply place the poly-tunnel in position two weeks before sowing (to warm up the soil), then sow the seed three or four weeks earlier than normal.

Supporting Runner Beans

Runner beans grow to about 1.8m (6 foot) high and they definitely need support. The idea is to provide a structure which their tendrils can grow round and pull the plant up.

picture of runner bean wigwamThe most attractive form of support is a wigwam - four or five bamboo canes tied together at the top will be sufficient. The growth at the top will be a bit crowded, but this structure will still produce a good crop of beans.
It is a good idea to twist some gardening twine round the bamboo canes, this will give the growing plants more to grab hold of.

Where space is really short, this type of structure can be used for container growing runner beans. In this case, insert one cane centrally in the container, tie six or so lengths of garden twine to the top of the cane and secure the other ends of the twine to the edge of the container. Plant three or four seeds, which will then grow up the twine. The plants will need their tips pinching out when they reach the top of the twine.

Other methods are to erect a criss-cross of canes, each pair tied together at the top, or simply a line of canes connected together with mesh netting. Both are illustrated in the diagrams below. Finally, don't forget that runner beans can be be grown up an existing fence which has been covered with mesh netting.

Two poles tied at the top - erect a row like this with each pair joined to the next with nylon twine.
row of runner beans
A single row of canes with plastic mesh

Wigwam support
Runner beans cane supports
Row of canes support

Caring For Your Runner Beans
The requirements of runner beans are simple - water and weeding, possibly some feeding. All three can be accomplished by a mulch of organic material spread round the plants - this will help retain moisture, keep the weeds down and gently feed the plants. If the soil has been prepared as described previously the only other attention is hand watering in very dry conditions, especially as the flower buds begin to develop. Finally, pinch out the growing tips when the plants reach the top of the supports.

Sep 28, 2009

How to control garden aphids organically

Bugged by bugs? Afraid of using toxic chemicals in your yard? There are many ways to control garden pests the natural way. Aphids are a very common garden pest which can be easily controlled without dangerous chemicals.
  1. Step 1

    The first, and most important step, is to identify the insect in question. Many bugs are in fact GOOD for your garden! This is why it is a bad idea to spray with poisonous chemicals - they kill everything, not only the "bad" bugs. If in doubt, there are many internet databases which will help you identify insects. Your county extension may also be useful.
    To be sure you have aphids - if leaves look puckered or wrinkly, look on underside of leaves. Aphids are very small (1/16-1/4 inch), pear-shaped, soft-bodied insects. They can be many colors, but are typically green or grayish. They can also be found on the stems of plants. They do not chew holes in leaves, but rather suck the sap of plants.

  2. Step 2

    One method of control for aphids is to encourage natural predators. Ladybugs, hoverflies, lacewings, and certain small wasps will usually control the aphids for you. If you do not spray your yard with pesticides, these predators should already be present. Plant a wide variety of flowers to keep attracting these good bugs to your garden.

  3. Step 3

    If you do find that you have an intolerable amount of aphids, the next step is physical control. Since they are small, soft, and slow, you can just rub them off your plants with your fingers. They can also be hosed off the plants with a strong spray of plain water.

  4. Step 4

    When beneficial insects and physical controls are not sufficient, you can use insecticidal soap. This is commercially available - be sure to follow directions. It is considered organic as it does not harm beneficial insects and does not persist in the environment. You must spray the aphids directly.

  5. Step 5

    A good strategy for preventing aphid attacks is companion planting. Marigolds planted around vegetables and roses will keep aphids (and other pests) away. Many people also swear by garlic plants or other heavily scented herbs.

Tips & Warnings
  • Attracting beneficial insects and other predators to your garden is always the best way of controlling pests organically. Let nature do your work for you!
  • Chemical pesticides kill good bugs along with your pests. The pests will return, but the good ones may not.

Start an Organic Garden Pest Control

Starting an organic garden pest control program is a smart way to help the environment. Avoiding the use of harmful chemicals is also safer for you and your family to eat. An organic vegetable garden requires some hard work and a pest management program that is different than traditional methods. Here are some steps to take that will help you start an organic garden pest control program.
  1. Step 1

    Avoid the use of any man made chemical pesticides including insecticides and herbicides whenever possible. An organic garden pest control program replaces the use of harmful chemicals to the environment. While pesticides typically do their job - they can also harm helpful insects like butterflies and bees from doing their job.

  2. Step 2

    Promote a healthy environment for helpful insects as part of your organic garden pest control program. Include plants in your organic garden that attracts butterflies, bees, and birds. Birds and a few insects are actually natural forms of pest control as many other bad insects will avoid them.

  3. Step 3

    Include plants and herbs that naturally fend of harmful insects and other pests. For example, plants like garlic and tansy will distract harmful insects like mosquitoes from coming into your garden. Other plants and herbs you may want to consider using as part of your organic garden pest control program - onions, mint, hyssop, horseradish, geranium, lavender, rue, and thyme.

  4. Step 4

    Use manual pest control methods that include weeding and pruning instead of using a herbicide to kill weeds. Another method is to hand pick worms and other insects off your plant as a form of pest control that does not use harmful chemicals. You should also try and use compost and several inches of rich topsoil to promote healthy roots.

  5. Step 5

    Educate yourself on what works best as part of your organic garden pest control program. The key to success is to use multiple methods of pest control including the ones listed earlier. Take notes on what works best so you can improve your control.

Sep 26, 2009

Bitter Gourd or Bitter Melon - Gardening

Scientific Name : Momordica Charantia L.
Family : Cucurbitacea
Colour : Light Green
Common names : Bitter gourd, Bitter melon, Bitter cucumber, Karela (Hindi), Balsam pear, Balsam apple
Best Season : Throughout the year

Nutritional Value : 44 kcal, 5.6 g protein, 290 mg calcium, 5 mg iron, 5.1 mg vitamin A, 170 mg vitamin C per 100 g serving.

Bitter gourd is a fast growing warm seasonal climbing annual, native to South Asia. Considered one of the most nutritious gourds, the plant has medicinal properties. A compound known as 'charantin' present in the bitter gourd is used in the treatment of diabetes to lower blood sugar levels. The plant also has a rich amount of Vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, phosphorus and carbohydrates. There are several varieties available, having fruits 3-4 inches to even 12inches in length.

This vine has a slender hairy stem with numerous branches and dense foliage. The plant grows up to 6 feet tall and develops small, yellow flowers both male and female, on the same plant. The fruits are green usually oblong, has an irregular surface with warts and 8-10 vertical ridges. When ripe, the fruits turn yellowish orange in colour.

Propagation and Planting :
Mainly a warm season plant, bitter gourd thrives in hot and humid climates. Propagation is through direct seeding and transplanting. The best medium for the seeds is a fertile, well drained soil with a pH ranging from 5.5 to 6.7, enriched with organic matter, such as compost or dried manure. But it will tolerate any soil that provide a good drainage system. The soil must be prepared well by adding organic matter before planting.

Two or three seeds can be sown together in a pit 1/2 inch deep. Water lightly. For better results soak the seeds in water 24 hours before sowing. The seeds will germinate in 2-3 days. The germinated seeds can be replanted on raised beds 18-20 inches apart. Transplants should be done in such a way as to avoid disturbance to the root system.

As the plants grow, place poles 2m.high and give wire or twine supports in rows across the poles.

Regular watering with plenty of water is essential for its growth. Flowers will start appearing in 5-6 weeks and fruition will occur between two to four months. Mature fruits are ready to be picked within3 months from planting and they will be light green and juicy with white flesh but bitter. Pick the fruits every 2-3 days when they are still at the tender stage. Regular picking is important as fruits will become more bitter as they mature and it can also hamper the growth of new fruits.

Leave some fruits to reach full maturity if they have to be reserved for subsequent crops. When fully mature, the fruits will break open on its own and release brown or white seeds which can be collected.

Problems and Care :
Vines should be pruned at the tips when female flowers start developing to encourage branching and fast bearing. Regular fertilizing is essential for its growth. Water immediately after applying fertilizers.

Bitter gourd is susceptible to many diseases and insect pests. It is susceptible to watermelon mosaic virus, other cucurbit viruses and powdery mildew, which can be controlled by sulfur dust. Rust disease is controlled by spraying foliage with oxycarboxin. The fruits are subject to attack by various fruit flies and fruit rots. Pests attack on fruits can be prevented by wrapping fruits with newspapers, when they are about a few centimetres long.

Sep 25, 2009

Fruit and vegetable - types

Types of fruit
Fruit is the sweet, fleshy, edible portion of a plant. It generally contains seeds. Fruits are usually eaten raw, although some varieties can be cooked. They come in a wide variety of colours, shapes and flavours. Common types of fruits that are readily available include:
  • Pome – apples and pears
  • Citrus – oranges, grapefruits, mandarins and limes
  • Stonefruit – nectarines, apricots, peaches and plums
  • Tropical and exotic – bananas and mangoes
  • Berries – strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, kiwifruit and passionfruit
  • Melons – watermelons, rock melons and honey dew melons
  • Tomatoes and avocados.
Types of vegetables
Vegetables are often cooked, although some kinds (salad vegetables) are eaten raw. Vegetables are available in many varieties and can be classified into biological groups or ‘families’, including:
  • Leafy green – lettuce, spinach and silverbeet
  • Crucifer – cabbage, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and broccoli
  • Cucurbits – pumpkin, cucumber and zucchini
  • Root – potato, sweet potato and yam
  • Edible plant stem – celery and asparagus
  • Allium – onion, garlic and shallot.
Legumes or pulses contain nutrients that are especially valuable. Legumes need to be cooked before they are eaten; this improves their nutritional quality, aids digestion and eliminates any harmful toxins. Legumes come in many forms including:
  • Soy products – tofu (bean curd) and soybeans
  • Legume flours – chickpea flour (besan), lentil flour and soy flour
  • Dried beans and peas – haricot beans, red kidney beans, chickpeas and lentils
  • Fresh beans and peas – green peas, green beans, butter beans, broad beans and snow peas.
Colour is the key to healthy food
Maximum health and protection against disease comes from eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) guidelines recommend that adults eat at least five kinds of vegetable and two kinds of fruit every day.

Foods of similar colours generally contain similar protective compounds so try to eat a rainbow of colourful fruits and vegetables every day to get the full range of health benefits. For example:
  • Red foods – like tomatoes and watermelon contain lycopene, which is thought to be important for fighting prostate cancer and heart disease.
  • Green vegetables – like spinach and kale contain lutein and zeaxanthin, which may help protect against age-related eye disease.
  • Blue and purple foods – like blueberries and eggplant contain anthocyanins, which may help protect the body from cancer.
  • White foods – like cauliflower contain sulforaphane, which may also help protect against cancer.
Things to remember
  • Fruits and vegetables contain important vitamins, minerals and ‘plant chemicals’.
  • There are many varieties of fruit and vegetables available.
  • Eat five kinds of vegetable and two kinds of fruit every day for good health.
  • A diet high in fruit and vegetables can help protect against cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

Fruit and vegetables - choosing and preparing

Fruit and vegetables are an important part of your daily diet. They are naturally good and contain vitamins and minerals that can help keep you healthy. Research shows that other compounds, phytochemicals or antioxidants, can also help protect against some diseases.

There are many varieties of fruit and vegetables available and they can be prepared, cooked and served in a variety of ways. Eat five kinds of vegetable and two kinds of fruit every day for good health.

Select for freshness, variety and appeal
When buying and serving fruit and vegetables, go with variety for maximum nutrients and appeal. Select a mix of seasonal fruits and vegetables from the different groups and choose for freshness and quality.

  • Eat with the seasons – this is nature’s way of making sure our bodies get a healthy mix of nutrients and plant chemicals.
  • Try something new – try out a new recipe each week and buy a new fruit or vegetable as part of your weekly shopping.
  • Let colours guide you – different colours generally indicate different combinations of nutrients. So, put a rainbow of colours (green, white, yellow/orange, blue/purple, red) on your plate.
Serving suggestions for your family’s health
Vegetables and fruit are a handy snack food and are easily carried to work or school. Include them in everyone’s meals and most snacks for a healthy well-balanced diet. Some suggestions include:
  • Keep snack-size fruit and vegetable portions easily accessible in your fridge.
  • Keep fresh fruit on the bench or table.
  • Add fruit and vegetables to your favourite family recipes or as additions to your usual menus.
  • Use the colour and texture of a variety of fruit and vegetables to spice up your meals.
  • Think up new ways to serve fruits and vegetables, including:
  • Fruit and vegetable salads
  • Vegetable stir-fries
  • Raw fruit and vegetables
  • Vegetable soups
  • Snack-pack, stewed or canned fruits or dried fruits.
  • Limit fruit juice, as it does not contain the same amount of nutrients as fresh fruit and contains a lot of sugars, even though they may be ‘natural’. Choose water and a serve of fruit.
Preparation and cooking
Cooking and processing can damage some nutrients and phytochemicals in plant foods. It is important to prepare and cook your fruit and vegetables to retain maximum vitamin and mineral content. Some suggestions to get the best out of your fruit and vegetables include:
  • Many vegetables and fruits can be eaten raw or pureed into
  • smoothies.
  • Use a sharp knife to cut fresh fruits to avoid bruising.
  • Cut off only the ‘inedible’ parts of vegetables – sometimes the best nutrients are found in the skin, just below the skin or in the leaves.
  • Use stir-fry, grill, microwave, bake or steam methods with non-stick cookware and mono-unsaturated oils.
  • Avoid overcooking to reduce nutrient loss.
  • Serve with pestos, salsas, chutneys and vinegars in place of sour creams, butter and creamy sauces.
  • Nutrients such as carotenoids may actually be increased if food is cooked. For example, tomato has more carotenoids when cooked – a good reason to choose a variety of ways to prepare fruits and vegetables.
Once you’ve prepared and cooked your vegetables and fruit, spend some time on presentation. You are more likely to enjoy a meal if it’s full of variety and visually appealing as well as tasty. Sit at the table to eat and enjoy your food without distractions like television.

Things to remember
  • A diet high in fruit and vegetables can help protect against cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
  • There are many varieties of fruit and vegetables available and many ways to prepare, cook and serve them.
  • When buying and serving fruit and vegetables, go with variety for maximum nutrients and appeal.
  • Cooking and processing can damage some nutrients and phytochemicals in plant foods, while other phytochemicals are more available when food is cooked. Serve a variety of raw and cooked vegetables and fruit.


Cauliflower and other cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage, and kale, contain compounds that may help prevent cancer. These compounds appear to stop enzymes from activating cancer-causing agents in the body, and they increase the activity of enzymes that disable and eliminate carcinogens.
Epidemiological studies have long suggested a connection between these vegetables and resistance to cancer. However, only in the past decade have we begun to understand how these compounds work.
Sulfur-Containing Phytonutrients Promote Liver Detoxification
We now know that cruciferous vegetables contain both glucosinolates and thiocyanates (including sulforaphane and isothiocyanate). These compounds increase the liver's ability to neutralize potentially toxic substances.
If potentially toxic molecules are not properly and rapidly detoxified in the liver, they can damage cell membranes and molecules such as DNA within the cell nucleus. Such damage can start a chain reaction that may eventually lead to carcinogenesis-cell deregulation and uncontrolled growth.
Many enzymes found in cauliflower also help with the detoxifying process. These enzymes include glutathione transferase, glucuronosyl transferase, and quinone reductase.
Both animal and human studies show increased detoxification enzyme levels from high-glucosinolate diets. Researchers suggest that this helps explain the epidemiological association between a high intake of cruciferous vegetables and a decreased risk of certain cancers.
New Research Expands our Understanding of How Cruciferous Vegetables Help Prevent Cancer
New research has greatly advanced scientists' understanding of just how cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kale and Brussels sprouts help prevent cancer. When these vegetables are cut, chewed or digested, a sulfur-containing compound called sinigrin is brought into contact with the enzyme myrosinase, resulting in the release of glucose and breakdown products, including highly reactive compounds called isothiocyanates. Isothiocyanates are not only potent inducers of the liver's Phase II enzymes, which detoxify carcinogens, but research recently conducted at the Institute for Food Research in the U.K. shows one of these compounds, allyl isothicyanate, also inhibits mitosis (cell division) and stimulates apoptosis (programmed cell death) in human tumor cells.
Sulforaphane, a compound formed when cruciferous vegetables are chopped or chewed, is already known to trigger the liver to produce enzymes that detoxify cancer-causing chemicals, inhibit chemically-induced breast cancers in animal studies, and induce colon cancer cells to commit suicide.
An in vitro study published in the Journal of Nutrition suggests that sulforaphane can also help stop the proliferation of breast cancer cells, even in the later stages of their growth.
Sulforaphane may also offer special protection to those with colon cancer-susceptible genes, suggests a study conducted at Rutgers University and published online on May 4, 2006, in the journal Carcinogenesis.
In this study, researchers sought to learn whether sulforaphane could inhibit cancers arising from one's genetic makeup. Rutgers researchers Ernest Mario, Ah-Ng Tony Kong and colleagues used mice bred with a genetic mutation that switches off the tumor suppressor gene known as APC, the same gene that is inactivated in the majority of human colon cancers. Animals with this mutation spontaneously develop intestinal polyps, the precursors to colon cancer. The study found that animals who were fed sulforaphane had tumors that were smaller, grew more slowly and had higher apoptotic (cell suicide) indices. Additionally, those fed a higher dose of sulforaphane had less risk of developing polyps than those fed a lower dose.
The researchers found that sulforaphane suppressed certain kinase enzymes. These cell signaling enzymes are expressed not only in laboratory animals, but also in humans, and the ones supppressed by sulforaphane are involved in activities that promote colon cancer.
According to lead researcher, Dr. Kong, "Our study corroborates the notion that sulforaphane has chemopreventive activity…Our research has substantiated the connection between diet and cancer prevention, and it is now clear that the expression of cancer-related genes can be influenced by chemopreventive compounds in the things we eat."
Human population as well as animal studies consistently show that diets high in cruciferous vegetables, such as cauliflower, are associated with lower incidence of certain cancers, including lung, colon, breast and ovarian cancer. Now, research published in the International Journal of Cancer (Zhao H, Lin J) suggests that bladder cancer can join the list.
University of Texas researchers analyzed the diets of 697 newly diagnosed bladder cancer cases and 708 healthy controls matched by age, gender and ethnicity. Average daily intake of cruciferous vegetables was significantly lower in those with bladder cancer than in healthy controls.
Those eating the most cruciferous vegetables were found to have a 29% lower risk of bladder cancer compared to participants eating the least of this family of vegetables.
Crucifers' protective benefits were even more pronounced in three groups typically at higher risk for bladder cancer: men, smokers, and older individuals (aged at least 64).
Diagnosed in about 336,000 people every year worldwide, bladder cancer is three times more likely to affect men than women, according to the European School of Oncology.
Crucifers' well known cancer-fighting properties are thought to result from their high levels of active phytochemicals called glucosinolates, which our bodies metabolize into powerful anti-carcinogens called isothiocyanates.
Isothiocyanates offer the bladder, in particular, significant protection, most likely because the majority of compounds produced by isothiocyanate metabolism travel through the bladder en route to excretion in the urine, suggested the researchers.

Sep 23, 2009

Tips to help you eat vegetables


CarrotsIn general:

  • Buy fresh vegetables in season.They cost less and are likely to be at their peak flavor.
  • Stock up on frozen vegetables for quick and easy cooking in the microwave.
  • Buy vegetables that are easy to prepare. Pick up pre-washed bags of salad greens and add baby carrots or grape tomatoes for a salad in minutes. Buy packages of veggies such as baby carrots or celery sticks for quick snacks.
  • Use a microwave to quickly “zap” vegetables. White or sweet potatoes can be baked quickly this way.
  • Vary your veggie choices to keep meals interesting.
  • Try crunchy vegetables, raw or lightly steamed.
For the best nutritional value:
  • Select vegetables with more potassium often, such as sweetpotatoes, white potatoes, white beans, tomato products (paste, sauce, and juice), beet greens, soybeans, lima beans, winter squash, spinach, lentils, kidney beans, and split peas.
  • Less sodiumSauces or seasonings can add calories, fat, and sodium to vegetables. Use the Nutrition Facts label to compare the calories and % Daily Value for fat and sodium in plain and seasoned vegetables.
  • Prepare more foods from fresh ingredients to lower sodium intake. Most sodium in the food supply comes from packaged or processed foods.
  • Buy canned vegetables labeled “no salt added.” If you want to add a little salt it will likely be less than the amount in the regular canned product.
Stir fryAt meals:
  • Plan some meals around a vegetable main dish, such as a vegetable stir-fry or soup. Then add other foods to complement it.
  • Try a main dish salad for lunch. Go light on the salad dressing.
  • Include a green salad with your dinner every night.
  • Shred carrots or zucchini into meatloaf, casseroles, quick breads, and muffins.
  • Include chopped vegetables in pasta sauce or lasagna.
  • Vegetarian pizzaOrder a veggie pizza with toppings like mushrooms, green peppers, and onions, and ask for extra veggies.
  • Use pureed, cooked vegetables such as potatoes to thicken stews, soups and gravies. These add flavor, nutrients, and texture.
  • Grill vegetable kabobs as part of a barbecue meal. Try tomatoes, mushrooms, green peppers, and onions.
Make vegetables more appealing:
  • Many vegetables taste great with a dip or dressing. Try a low-fat salad dressing with raw broccoli, red and green peppers, celery sticks or cauliflower.
  • Add color to saladAdd color to salads by adding baby carrots, shredded red cabbage, or spinach leaves. Include in-season vegetables for variety through the year.
  • Include cooked dry beans or peas in flavorful mixed dishes, such as chili or minestrone soup.
  • Decorate plates or serving dishes with vegetable slices.
  • Keep a bowl of cut-up vegetables in a see-through container in the refrigerator. Carrot and celery sticks are traditional, but consider broccoli florettes, cucumber slices, or red or green pepper strips.
Vegetables as snacksVegetable tips for children:
  • Set a good example for children by eating vegetables with meals and as snacks.
  • Let children decide on the dinner vegetables or what goes into salads.
  • Depending on their age, children can help shop for, clean, peel, or cut up vegetables.
  • Allow children to pick a new vegetable to try while shopping.
  • Use cut-up vegetables as part of afternoon snacks.
  • Children often prefer foods served separately. So, rather than mixed vegetables try serving two vegetables separately.
Clean vegetablesKeep it safe:
  • Wash vegetables before preparing or eating them. Under clean, running water, rub vegetables briskly with your hands to remove dirt and surface microorganisms. Dry after washing.
  • Keep vegetables separate from raw meat, poultry and seafood while shopping, preparing, or storing.

Sep 22, 2009

The Least Contaminated Fruits and Vegetables

There's lots of reasons to buy organic. First, it's better for the environment. No pesticides means healthier soil, water, and wildlife. Buying organic supports small farmers. Organic farmers can earn a fairer price for organic produce compared to factory farming. Organic farming is good for biodiversity. Organic farmers are growing a wide variety of non-genetically modified (non-GMO) fruits and vegetables. Where factory farming has shrinked our choices in the supermarket to one or two types of any produce variety, organic farmers are resurrecting many heirloom varieties.

Finally, organic foods are healthier for you. The research on whether consuming organic food is healthier for people remains inconclusive. However, the USDA's own tests show that most non-organic produce contain residual pesticides even after washing. The long term effects of consuming these pesticides has not been sufficiently studied, but they can't be good for you.
In a perfect world, we would buy all of our groceries organic. Unfortunately, organic food is still more expensive (although the price is continually dropping) or even unavailable. To make wiser consumer choices here is a list of produce with the highest level of pesticide contamination. The following list is based on information and studies by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Consumer Reports, and the Environmental Working Group.

  1. Nectarines – 97.3% of nectarines sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  2. Celery – 94.5% of celery sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  3. Pears – 94.4% of pears sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  4. Peaches – 93.7% of peaches sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  5. Apples – 91% of apples sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  6. Cherries – 91% of cherries sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  7. Strawberries – 90% of strawberries sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  8. Imported Grapes – 86% of imported grapes (i.e. Chile) sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  9. Spinach – 83.4% of spinach sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  10. Potatoes – 79.3% of potatoes sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  11. Bell Peppers – 68% of bell peppers sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  12. Red Raspberries – 59% of red raspberries sampled were found to contain pesticides.
Here is a list of fruits and vegetables found to contain the least amount of pesticides. Notice that many of these have thick, inedible skins which protect the fruit.

  • Asparagus
  • Avocados
  • Bananas
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Corn (However, almost all corn is genetically modified)
  • Kiwi
  • Mangoes
  • Onions
  • Papaya
  • Pineapples
  • Sweet Peas

Sep 20, 2009

How to Plant in Clay Soil

Clay soil can be discouraging to the home gardener both for the difficulty in digging and the potential death grip it can put on plants and flowers. But for all its drawbacks, clay soil does not have to keep you from having a beautiful landscape if you use a little hard work and careful planting.

Plant Effectively in Clay Soil

Step 1

Choosing the right plant is essential. Some plants that grow well in clay include: blue star flowers, swamp sunflowers, daylilies, Autumn Joy sedum, goldenrods and ornamental grasses such as switchgrass and Indian grass. The local nursery will help you with this as well. Look for hearty varieties that do not require good drainage or plants that grow well in pots.

Step 2
Using the pick ax, chop up the soil in the area you wish to plant. Chop up the ground in a circle roughly twice as big as the root-ball or pot of your plant.

Step 3
Using the shovel, dig a hole about six inches deeper than the root-ball or pot of your plant. You may have to alternate between the axe and the shovel depending on how hard the ground is. If it's excessively dry, soak the area you chopped up with the axe with water overnight to loosen the soil.

Step 4
Place a four-inch base of soil mixed with the compost mulch in the bottom of the hole. Then add roughly two inches of mulch and sprinkle plant fertilizer over the top of the mulch. Water until moist but avoid standing water.

Step 5
Carefully remove the plant from its pot or loosen the ties on a canvas root-ball. If it has canvas, leave the canvas on the bottom third of the ball as you lower into the hole. Remove the twine, but the canvas can stay to hold the ball together. Backfill around the plant with a mixture of soil and mulch. Slope mulch up and around the plant to an inch away from the base.

Step 6
Water until moist but not flooded. Water carefully the first week and fertilize to add nutrients to the tough terrain.

Sep 18, 2009

How to make your own organic fertilizer

Organic components

Seed meals and various kinds of lime are the most important ingredients. These alone will grow a great garden. Seed meals are byproducts of making vegetable oil. They are made from soybeans, flaxseed, sunflowers, cotton seeds, canola and other plants. Different regions of the country have different kinds more readily available. Seed meals are stable and will store for years if kept dry and protected from pests in a metal container with a tight lid.

Lime is ground, natural rock containing large amounts of calcium, and there are three types. Agricultural lime is relatively pure calcium carbonate. Gypsum is calcium sulfate and is included because sulfur is a vital plant nutrient. Dolomite, or dolomitic lime, contains both calcium and magnesium carbonates, usually in more or less equal amounts. If you have to choose one kind, it probably should be dolomite, but you'll get a better result using all three types. These substances are not expensive if bought in large sacks from agricultural suppliers. (Do not use quicklime, burnt lime, hydrated lime or other chemically active "hot" limes.)

If you routinely garden with this homemade fertilizer mix, you won't need to apply additional lime to your garden. The mix is formulated so that it automatically distributes about 50 pounds of lime per 1,000 square feet each year.

Bone meal, phosphate rock or guano (bat or bird manure) all boost the phosphorus level, and phosphate and guano usually are also rich in trace elements. Bone meal is usually available at garden centers. Kelp meal (dried seaweed) has become expensive, but it supplies some things nothing else does -- a complete range of trace minerals plus growth regulators and natural hormones that act like plant vitamins, increasing resistance to stresses.

Guano, rock phosphate and kelp meal may seem costly or difficult to obtain, but they add considerable fortitude to the plants and increase the nutritional content of your vegetables.

Some rock dusts contain a complete range of minor plant nutrients and may be substituted for kelp meal.

Making the organic fertilizer

To concoct the fertilizer mix, measure out all materials by volume: that is, by the scoop, bucketful, jarful, etc. Proportions that vary by 10 percent either way will be close enough, but do not attempt to make this formula by weight. An old 5-gallon plastic bucket will allow you to stir up about 14 quarts.

Mix uniformly, in parts by volume:

4 parts seed meal

1/4 part ordinary agricultural lime, best finely ground

1/4 part gypsum (or double the agricultural lime)

1/2 part dolomitic lime

Plus, for best results:

1 part bone meal, rock phosphate or high-phosphate guano

1/2 to 1 part kelp meal (or 1 part basalt dust)

This recipe is inexpensive when judged by its results. Farm feed and grain dealers are the best sources for large bags of seed meals, which are typically used to feed livestock. The other ingredients usually can be found at garden shops, although they probably will be sold in smaller quantities at higher prices per pound. You may find the best prices by mail order or on the Internet.

Applying the fertilizer mix

Once a year, before planting, uniformly spread this mix and finished compost over your growing area. For light feeders, such as carrots, radishes or onions, apply 4 quarts of fertilizer, plus about a quarter inch of compost, per 100 square feet. For heavy feeders, such as corn, potatoes, squash or tomatoes, apply six quarts and a half-inch of compost over the same areas. If you're planting in hills, mix an additional cup of fertilizer into each. Gardeners dealing with heavy clay soils should apply more compost and about 50 percent more fertilizer.

During the growing season, sprinkle small amounts of fertilizer around medium- and high-demand vegetables every three to four weeks, thinly covering the area that the roots will grow into. As a rough guide, side-dress about 4 to 6 additional quarts total per 100 square feet of bed during a crop cycle.

Sep 17, 2009

Using Organic Vegetable Gardening Products

Organic vegetable gardening has never been more popular than it is today, and for good reason. More than ever now the general public has come to understand the variety of benefits that are offered by organic vegetable gardening, and growing your own organic vegetables not only ensures that you are going to be producing safe, great tasting vegetables for you and your family, but also it will be a way of getting outside and getting active.

The process of starting an organic vegetable garden can take some time, but the payoff will be more than worth it. The first thing you are going to have to do is decide on which organic vegetable gardening products you are going to use to prepare the soil and provide it with nutrients as your vegetables flourish.

The Advantages Of Organic Vegetable Gardening Products

These days the shelves are literally stocked with a variety of different organic vegetable gardening products, but there are a few that definitely stand out from the competitors. Organic fertilizer is truly fantastic and works wonders for all sorts of plants. Organic fertilizer is naturally slow-releasing, and the nutrient value is not all available to the plants immediately but rather over time, which is one of the features that make it so great.

Organic vegetable gardening products are important to use because all plants need macronutrients to survive, including nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. There are also many micronutrients which are important here such as boron, copper, nickel, manganese, zinc, and chlorine.

Organic vegetable gardening products help to improve the soil structure of a garden in many ways, but namely they work by providing food for soil microorganisms which convert essential nutrients bound up in organic matter into water soluble forms. This is necessary because then the plant roots are better able to take up and use for healthy growth.

There have been various studies and tests performed on organic vegetable gardening products in order to see what all the fuss is about and determine just what advantages and benefits these products hold over more conventional ones. The results have been astounding, and have proven once and for all that organic gardening is much safer and healthier, especially when it comes to vegetable gardening in particular.

Organic gardening does not require the use of any harsh chemicals or fertilizers, so you know that all the vegetables you are producing are as safe and delicious as possible. So whether you are selling your produce or just using it to feed your family you will feel a great deal better knowing that you are producing your vegetables naturally.

Sep 16, 2009

Is Organic Produce Better For You?

Is there any scientific evidence at all regarding the alleged nutritional superiority of organic fruits and veggies?

A good reference point is two studies, both published recently, regarding the nutritional value of organically-raised produce versus conventionally-produced. The first was a European Union-funded project in the U.K. Conducted over a four-year period, the Quality Low Input Food Project (QLIF) divided a 725-acre farm in half, raising conventional produce (and dairy cows) and their organic counterparts almost side by side. The initial results, published in October 2007, showed that organic tomatoes, potatoes, cabbage, onions and lettuce contained up to 40% more antioxidants and higher levels of some vitamins and minerals (such as copper, iron, vitamin C and zinc) than conventional examples of the same fruits and vegetables. Organically-raised wheat also contained these higher levels of antioxidants and minerals. And the milk from organically-farmed dairy cows was found to have between 50% and 90% more antioxidants (depending upon which media outlet you credit) than conventionally-produced milk.

The USDA and the FSA (Food Standards Agency—the U.K. equivalent of the USDA) have long maintained that organic foods are no more nutritious than conventional foods. Doesn’t this study prove them wrong? Well, not quite. Not yet, anyway. The full results of the U.K. study, which will not be published until sometime this year, showed significant variations in nutrient levels between organic and conventional produce; some conventionally-grown crops proved to have higher vitamin contents than those of the same species raised organically. In addition, as any small-scale farmer can tell you, fruits and vegetables are about the most variable foods out there. They are enormously influenced by species, microclimate during any particular growing season, soil condition, and more. (If you don’t believe me, look at the quality of any brand of vintage wine over a period of several years. You’ll notice changes in the wine with each vintage, often significant, usually caused by how good or poor a year it was for the wine grapes.) It’s possible that different species of lettuce or onion might have produced very different findings, or that if the study had been carried out for a longer period of time, the results might have been more (or less) in favor of organic produce. So I find this study interesting, but not conclusive. However, there was another set of results published in 2007 with less fanfare, which I find more intriguing.

From 1994 to 2004, in a study conducted by researchers from the University of California at Davis, both organic and conventionally-grown tomatoes of one species were dried, then measured for levels of two flavonoids (a type of antioxidant): quercetin and kaempferol. Over the decade-long study, the mean levels of quercetin were 79% higher in organically-grown tomatoes, while the average kaempferol levels of the organic tomatoes were 97% higher than in conventionally-grown tomatoes. The levels of both flavonoids increased over time in the tomatoes that had been grown organically but did not alter significantly in those that had been conventionally produced. The researchers noted that the increasing level of the flavonoids in the organically-grown tomatoes over the 10 year period corresponded with increasing amounts of organic matter in the soil in which those tomatoes were grown, along with a reduction in the manure applied once the soil for the organic tomatoes had reached “equilibrium levels of organic matter.” While the levels of only two antioxidants were measured, and those for just one crop, this study was conducted over a much longer period of time, and the scientists also looked at soil health, a critical aspect of agriculture too often neglected in studies.

For starters, people need to stop regarding vitamins, minerals and antioxidants as substances that will cure all bodily evils, present or potential. Ingesting excessive amounts of any or all of these, regardless of whether their sources are organic or conventional, will not guarantee good health and could even prove harmful. As far as the declaration that organic veggies contain more nutrients because they are slower-growing than conventional counterparts and remain in the soil for a longer time, Dr. Margaret Smith, a Professor in the Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics at Cornell University, says that such claims are made regularly by organic growers. Dr. Smith believes that “…the chemical composition of organic produce might be different because the chemical constitution of the soils in which these plants grow is different.” She also notes that, while she’s not a nutritionist, she has “yet to see any convincing scientific studies showing larger mineral and nutrient content in organic versus non-organic produce.”

So, Should You Switch To Organic Produce?

Economics are frequently a sticking point where organics are concerned. If you’re watching every penny, affording organics may be difficult. Even though many big-chain U.S. grocers now carry them and they are more accessible, you’re going to pay more for organic fruits and vegetables in most cases. How much more? One U.K. study found that organic produce is “typically about 30% more expensive,” and that figure seems to approximate U.S. costs as well. Why? Simple: Organic farming is more costly for the farmer. To begin with, organic certification is an expensive (not to mention time-consuming) process. Organic farming products, whether you’re talking about seeds or sprays, are invariably higher-priced than identical conventional items. Farming organically is more labor-intensive; labor costs time, and time equals money. And organic farming almost invariably results in lower crop yields. Even with the higher prices they charge, it can still be difficult for organic farmers to earn a living wage.

One of the most frequently-cited reasons for purchasing and consuming organic foods is the use, or over-use, of agrochemicals. An astronomical quantity of these chemicals, in synthetic pesticides, as well as in synthetic fertilizers, goes into the growing of conventional fruits and vegetables every year. An increasing number of people are becoming concerned about what effects these agrochemicals, and any run-off from them, may have on soil, groundwater, wildlife, and human health. There’s no better example of the environmental impact of agrochemicals than the annual “dead zone” that forms in the Gulf of Mexico.

Every year, beginning around April, an increasingly-large area in the Gulf becomes so oxygen-depleted that it cannot support any marine life. This is the dead zone, which peaks in size around late July. In 2005, this area was almost the size of the state of New Jersey. One of the chief causes of the dead zone, it turns out, is agricultural fertilizers. Excess nutrients from both synthetic fertilizers and manure drain into the Gulf from the Mississippi and Atchafalya River Basins. There, they cause microscopic phyloplankton to thrive and reproduce in large numbers. When the phyloplankton die, they sink to the ocean’s bottom, where they’re decomposed by bacteria that consume oxygen. Unfortunately, the bacteria also exhaust most of the oxygen in the water, leaving an insufficient amount for other marine life.

By contrast, organic production is distinctly limited in the types of chemicals that are allowed to be used (manure is also allowed in organic production, but there are serious restrictions on how it must be handled). Given that fewer chemicals are used in organic growing, wouldn’t that mean that organic foods are automatically better for the planet?

Sep 15, 2009

Carrot Juice Benefits For Health

Carrot is an easily available vegetable that has several health benefits. It is a rich natural source of vitamin A and minerals like sulfur, potassium, sodium, magnesium, chlorine and iodine. These nutrients are mostly present in the peel, so you should always use carrots without peeling off their skin. Drinking a glass of carrot juice every morning for a few weeks produces a marked improvement in eyesight. Carrot juice has natural cleansing properties which removes toxins from the body and makes digestion and bowel movements easier.

It is especially useful in treating digestive disorders like constipation and prevents stomach ulcers. Carrot juice also helps maintain the acid-alkaline balance in the bloodstream. Drinking carrot juice is also recommended as a natural remedy for diarrhea, as it replenishes the water and essential nutrients the body loses in this condition. Carrot juice is also popularly known to be of great use in getting rid of intestinal worms. Consumption of carrot juice is also useful in making blemishes on your skin disappear and making your skin glow naturally. External application of carrot on the skin is also useful in cleansing the skin pores and rejuvenating dull skin. The natural antioxidant properties of carrot juice make it an excellent natural skin cleanser.

Regular application of carrot juice also helps postpone the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles on the skin, making you look younger. An especially useful home remedy for treating all skin types is to boil a few carrots in water, mash them to pulp, add a tablespoon of honey to it and massage your face with this solution. This tones up the skin without making it excessively dry and gives your face a smooth, flawless appearance. You can also make an effective face scrub at home using carrots. Grate a fresh carrot finely, add to it a teaspoon each of coffee powder and granulated sugar, and apply this paste on your face. Leave it on for 10 minutes and then wash it away with water. Carrot also has natural anti-inflammatory and healing properties, which are useful in treating skin allergies and minor cuts and wounds. You may also use carrot juice beneficially for your hair by blending a few boiled carrots in a mixer with a small bowl of yogurt and an egg, and applying this paste on your hair half an hour before shampooing. This will leave your hair feeling soft and silky. Carrot juice also contains a chemical called beta carotene which helps prevent cancer.

Sep 14, 2009

Diet with greens vegetable

The persistent struggle to lose weight is often exhausting, but a healthy diet plan of fresh greens may help in the battle against hunger.

With hundreds of different diets and so many individual weight loss concerns, it is hard to choose and maintain a fresh diet plan. It is especially difficult for an individual person to know whether he or she will benefit from the drastic and often unsatisfying changes that are made. In most cases, immediate food deprivation causes inevitable binges and, ultimately, dieting failure.

Why Broccoli?

Broccoli is a dense and filling vegetable. It can be prepared lightly sauteed, grilled, baked, steamed, or raw- all of which are conveniently done in a healthy manner. One may be shocked to find the level of satisfaction that can be obtained from consuming roughly ten small florets at least once a day. It is fine to add more satisfying ingredients that will not interfere with the natural broccoli nutrition. Shredded low fat cheese, Parmesan cheese, a handful of olives, or bacon bits are commonly used for extra flavor.

Deciding that broccoli will comprise the main portion of a meal is the first step, but actually anticipating the meal may call for some effort. Remember; once the stomach is full, cravings diminish. The following recommendations will assist in achieving satisfaction from vegetables.

  • Have a variety; add half of a sweet potato or other vegetables.
  • Chop the florets up and mix them into a low sodium soup containing chicken or noodles.
  • Prepare a vegetable stir fry with a half cup of yellow rice.

Low sodium soy sauce and light vinaigrette dressings can also be used to sufficiently coat the vegetables and add a pleasant taste. Also, eating slowly and frequently sipping on a beverage- such as flavored water or club soda –gives the body time to acknowledge a “full” feeling.

The basic dietary benefits of broccoli filtrate beyond the function of filling the stomach for a low calorie cost. Further incentives lie in the fact that broccoli contains the following:

  • high amounts of Vitamin C
  • cancer cell fighting agents
  • potassium- helping lower high blood pressure

Cleanse and Mend with greens vegetables

Consider the broccoli or green vegetable diet a simple makeover for the body, specifically the stomach. Design a game plan for the first week of broccoli meals- incorporating the healthy trees into one meal per day. Set aside twenty minutes after the meal to calmly breathe and remember the diet and weight loss benefits from consuming vegetables.

Enjoy and appreciate the simplicity of the broccoli diet. Allow the whole concept to serve as a window into a healthier overall lifestyle. Unlike pills or preserved meal packages, broccoli and other greens can be consumed continuously- without harmful side effects or health risks.

Sep 13, 2009

Growing Lettuce Indoors

    Ideal Conditions

  1. Lettuce grows best indoors when the temperature is between 40 and 65 degrees and when it receives 6 to 10 hours of bright sunlight daily. Consider purchasing lights designed specifically for plant growing if your room does not receive sufficient light. Select a container at least 10 to 12 inches deep to accommodate deep roots.
  2. Preparing the Soil

  3. Mix equal parts potting soil, vermiculite, peat and perlite and place into your container. Place your lettuce seeds in 1/8-inch deep and cover with soil mixture. Add water until the soil is soaked.
  4. Thinning

  5. Germination should take place after one to two weeks, at which time you will need to thin your lettuce to give it enough room to grow. You will need to remove extra seedlings so there is one seedling every 6 inches.
  6. Water and Fertilization

  7. Add a mixture of balanced fertilizer that is equal parts nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium every two weeks.

    Water the lettuce as often as necessary to keep the soil moist without being fully wet.
  8. Harvesting

  9. When the leaves are large enough to pull away from the plant, your lettuce is ready to harvest. Use garden shears to gently cut the leaves away from the plant or simply pull the entire plant out with your hands.

Sep 12, 2009

Organically Grown Fruits and Vegetables

Many people prefer to have organically grown fruit and vegetables for health reasons. They wish to avoid the potentially harmful chemicals and pesticides that are used in agriculture all over the world. An interesting outcome of this discussion is that changing over from traditional farming to organic could help to eliminate world hunger.

When farmers switch over from traditional to organic farming of crops there is typically a drop in the crop yield while the chemicals and pesticides are taken out of the soil. Right now that would be disastrous for the world’s hunger problem. However, if farmers in both Europe and North America began to switch over to organic the people of Africa would benefit almost immediately. Africa is where the largest numbers of people live who do not have enough food. They would not have to import as much food, which would give them enough of a supply to stave off massive hunger. The savings in time and transportation costs would provide more food for the people of Africa.

This changeover would take about ten to fifteen years, but it would be well worth it if more people throughout the world would have enough food to eat every day. Hunger is a problem based on location and transport of food more than a shortage of food.

Also, if the organic crops in Africa produce as well as expected they could end up with more than enough food for everyone and, possibly, even enough to export to other places at a higher price.

This would be a solution to having a global supply of food for the first time in modern history while also eliminating chemicals and pesticides. This would be beneficial for people, animals, and plants throughout the world.

Sep 11, 2009

Organic Vegetable Fertilizers - Sustain Healthy Soil

Just as human beings and animal life species require certain nutrients to sustain health, growth, and life, plant life needs nutrients as well. The necessary nutrients that plants need so that they are able to grow into healthy mature plants which will set and ripen their fruit is naturally found in soil that has not been depleted. However, because trace elements are washed away and nutrients become depleted, especially if chemical components have been used previously, or crops have not been rotated properly in previous years, soil needs to be replenished just as our bodies need to be replenished daily from the nutrients we consume in the foods we eat. If you notice that your vegetable plants are not growing well, lack vigor, have yellowing or purple leaves or seem to be especially susceptible to pests and diseases, they are suffering from a lack of nutrients in the soil.

By using natural organic fertilizers, you will maintain healthy soil in your vegetable garden for many years, because instead of eliminating important living organisms from your soil, you will allow these creatures to thrive and continue creating the correct nutritional organism balance in your soil.

In addition to starting your vegetable garden with healthy compost, organic vegetable fertilizer supplements may be needed for soil nutrient replenishment. Just as the human body gets a more balanced nutrient replenishment by eating natural and whole foods rather than synthetic supplements, vegetable plants, likewise, receive a more balanced nutrient resource from whole food sources such as organic fertilizers that are made from decomposted plant matter, composted manures or fish emulsions.

Just like chemical fertilizers, most commercially produced organic fertilizers list their content with three bold numbers which indicate the percentage balance of N-P-K or the three compounds: nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium aka potash. While plants need nitrogen for increased protein and green leaves, phosphorus for healthy roots and flowers, and potassium for overall health of the plants, they also need the micronutrients and trace minerals found in natural sources.

Balanced organic vegetable fertilizer products are best for vegetable gardens. The composition of the organic fertilizer should offer a slow release and a low concentration formula for vegetable plants. These safe fertilizers are commercially available in liquid or solid forms at your local nursery or online.

You can also make your own organic vegetable fertilizer from seed meals which are a by product of vegetable oil production, and a mixture of agricultural lime, gypsum lime, dolomite lime, guano, rock phosphate and kelp meal.

Organic vegetable gardening is not new, rather it is the oldest and most economical way of growing vegetables as well as providing healthier and more tasty vegetables, while benefiting and sustaining the Earth itself.

Sep 10, 2009

Difference Between Organic and Natural Food

“What is the difference between organic and natural food?”. Many people think that there is no difference between the two and both mean the same. But this is not true. If you compare organic and natural from their definitions, the difference will be clear.

Organic food refers to food items that are produced, manufactured and handled using organic means defined by certifying bodies such as the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) under its Organic Food Products Act. Natural food, on the other hand, generally refers to food items that are not altered chemically or synthesized in any form. These are derived from plants and animals. Thus a natural food item is not necessarily organic and vice verse.

ApplesBut the important question is - "Why do some people prefer organic food and some people prefer natural food?" This is because some people have the belief that synthesizing a food item results in loss of its nutrients and properties. Hence they demand natural foods. Organic food fans, on the other hand, want their food to be free of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and preservatives.

Apparently, the demand for organic food is more than natural food because organic food seals are granted and monitored by the government. An act similar to the Organic Food Products Act is necessary for the natural food products as well.

Given below is the difference between natural and organic food on different parameters:

Parameter Organic Food Natural Food
Definition Organic food refers to items that are produced using organic means. Natural food items are minimally synthesized.
Standards Stringent standards for organic food production, handling and processing exist throughout the world. Stringent standards do not exist for natural food products in many parts of the world.

Certification Bodies Many countries have certification bodies, the most prominent being the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The International Association of Natural Products Producers (IANPP) is trying to get the definitions for natural food into place. It should be noted that it is not a certification body.

Labels Organic labels have legal implication. A manufacturer should follow the specified rules and regulations before using the organic label. Natural labels are normally used freely by manufacturers due to lack of adequate guidelines.
Demand Demand for organic food is more than the demand for natural food. The demand for natural food is also increasing; however, not as much as organic food.

Health Benefits There is no evidence to prove that organic food is healthier than non organic food. People prefer organic food because they feel it is safer than conventional food as chemicals are not used in its production. However, recent research on the health benefits of organic milk has boosted the spirits of organic food lovers. People prefer natural food because they believe excessive processing of food items disturbs their health benefits.
Price Organic food is priced more than non organic food. Natural food is also priced more than non organic food

Shelf life Shelf life of organic food is more than that of natural food. You can store it for a longer duration.
Since it is minimally processed in many food items, which have high water content, the shelf life is low.

Availability Organic food is being sold in almost every super market. There are special stores selling organic food and one can purchase organic food online as well.
Natural food is available at many stores that sell organic food. There are some special stores that sell natural food. Further, many stores selling health food items also sell natural food products.

Sep 9, 2009

How to store your vegetables

There are actually many ways to store your harvest so do not get frustrated if you feel that you have grown more than you can eat. Many grocery stores sell mason jars and supplies needed for making preserves and canning vegetables along with instructions on how to do this. The same stores sell cheesecloth which is great for placing vegetables on when drying if they are air drying.

Food dehydrators can also be used for drying your vegetables along with your oven. When using an oven to dry vegetables set it for the lowest setting, usually 140 degrees, and watch carefully to make sure the vegetables are drying out and not roasting.

Once you have harvested all of your lettuce you can wash it, remove the core, and pat it dry with a towel. When you have finished store it in a plastic bag and put it in your refrigerators crisping section. This will help your lettuce remain crisp for up to a week.
Since it is harder to store vegetables for a long period of time it is recommended that you harvest your lettuce and start using it even before it has reached full growth. When it has reached full growth use what you can, store what you can use, and offer the rest to friends and family members. They will appreciate some fresh organic salad to use in their salads or to place on their sandwiches.

Root Vegetables
Root vegetables can often store longer than other vegetables you harvest as long as they are harvested on time and correctly. Make sure your vegetables has not been bruised or damaged during the harvest. If they have been damaged throw them away since the spoilage can spread if you are not careful. Many root vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, and more can be stored in a cool, dark, dry place such as a root cellar or some pantries. Other root vegetables (carrots) can be dried with a food dehydrator or even in an oven set to a very low heat setting. Some vegetables such as turnips can even be stored in a refrigerator crisper, especially if they are going to be used soon.

There are many ways to store tomatoes and that is a great thing since tomatoes are popular with many organic gardeners. Tomatoes can be stored well on a counter top or in a window sill if they are still a bit green. They can also be stored in the refrigerator.
Some people will dry tomatoes for later use in sauces or even preserve them. Tomatoes preserves either sweet preserves with ripened tomatoes or pickle preserves with green tomatoes can be a winter time treat.

Beans and peas
Bean and peas can often be harvested as needed but once it is time to store them there are several methods that can be used. Peas and beans can both be stored in bags in the refrigerator for several days. They also can be canned with the proper equipment. Beans can also be dried which is a popular way to store them. Once beans are dried and bagged they can later be soaked and cooked.

Corn can be stored in the refrigerator or, once the husk is removed it can be frozen for a long time. The kernels can also be dried, stored, and creamed at a later date.

Above only a few example...there has a lot......

Organic vegetables - Broccoli at a glance


The Naming of Broccoli

It's not uncommon for horticulturists to bestow names upon newly developed fruits or vegetables that describe their appearance or their attributes. Broccoli has many strong branches or arms that grow from the main stem, each one sprouting a sturdy budding cluster surrounded by leaves. It was only fitting that the name broccoli came from the Latin bracchium, which means strong arm or branch.

Roman farmers called broccoli "the five green fingers of Jupiter."

In late 16th century England our familiar head of cabbage was called " cabbage," while the entire plant was called cabbage-cole, cole or colewort. To confuse matters further, broccoli and cauliflower were also called colewort.

Throughout its travels during 17th century Europe, broccoli was often confused with cauliflower as well as cabbage, the names often used interchangeably. It was even called broccoli cabbage or Calabrian cabbage.

Broccoli is in the Brassicaceae family and is classified as Brassica oleracea italica belonging to a family whose other members include cauliflower, kale, cabbage, collards, turnips, rutabagas, Brussels sprouts, and Chinese cabbage.

The Brassica vegetables all share a common feature. Their four-petaled flowers bear the resemblance to a Greek cross, which explains why they are frequently referred to as crucifers or cruciferous.

Though the public can easily distinguish broccoli from cauliflower, botanists have difficulty with classification. Both broccoli and cauliflower are akin to the cabbage family. These members develop flower buds that remain in the bud form and do not open. The buds of the cauliflower grow in a tightly clustered manner, while broccoli buds are more definitive and separate from each other.

There are three main types of broccoli, sprouting, calabrese, and romanesco. Calabrese is most familiar because of its large heading portion and thick stalks. Calabrese is what most farmers grow and bring to market. This variety was developed in Calabria, a province in Italy, and is planted in the spring for harvesting in summer.

The sprouting broccoli has smaller flowering heads and many thinner stalks. This type is planted in April and May for harvesting the following winter and spring. Some may be harvested in December.

The romanesco reaches maturity in the fall and is distinguished by its yellowish-green multiple heads.

Though most commercial markets sell only green broccoli, there are cultivars that produce purple and white broccoli. These are more common in Italy and so closely resemble cauliflower in appearance they are easily confused.

With selective cultivation over the centuries, farmers were able to develop broccoli varieties with larger and larger budding heads. In this way they were able to create cultivars that were lighter and lighter in color, until eventually the result was cauliflower.

In recent years, horticulturists have developed the broccoflower, a hybrid combination of broccoli and cauliflower that looks more like cauliflower with a yellow-green color and a flavor that resembles both its parents.

BroccoliWhen broccoli is left on the plant too long, its sugars develop into a type of fiber called lignin, creating stems that will be tough no matter how long the cooking process.

Broccoli rabe is native to the Mediterranean region. It is also called Italian broccoli, di rape, rapini, broccoli raab, Chinese broccoli, and Gai Lon. Another member of the cruciferous family, this variety of broccoli is recognized by its thin stems, tiny budding heads, and abundant leaves with jagged edges. Though it's equally as nutritious as our familiar broccoli, its flavor is more pungent and slightly bitter.

Once a wild herb, broccoli rabe is now cultivated in the Italian provinces of Campania and Puglia as well as in the United States.

Ninety percent of the broccoli grown in the US comes from California's Salinas Valley in North and Santa Maria in the Central region of the state. Other states that grow broccoli include Arizona, Texas, Florida, Washington, Wisconsin, Colorado, Oregon, Maine, and both North and South Carolina.

Broccoli prefers a cool climate, between 40 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and moist soil to mature in 100 to 120 days. It does not tolerate frost.

Nutritional Benefits
Broccoli is the superhero of the vegetable kingdom with its rich vitamin A content--notice broccoli's dark green color as an indicator of its hearty carotene content. Though a bit on the bitter side, broccoli leaves are completely edible and also contain generous amounts of vitamin A.

With one half-cup of cooked broccoli providing 1083 IU of vitamin A and raw offering 678 IU, this veggie should make a frequent appearance at your dinner table. Folic acid is also abundant with one-half cup cooked registering 39 mcg and raw 31.2 mcg.

A cup of broccoli gives you 10% of your daily iron requirement, and the vitamin C content helps the body to absorb the iron.

One cup of cooked broccoli has as much vitamin C as an orange, and one third of a pound has more vitamin C than two and one-half pounds of oranges. A serving of one-half cup cooked broccoli offers 58.2 mg while the raw stores 41 mg. A cup of broccoli actually fulfills your daily vitamin C requirement

If you're a calorie counter, count broccoli in with only 22 calories for one-half cup chopped and boiled and 12 calories for one-half cup raw chopped.

Though this exceptional vegetable is not a powerhouse of protein, it does contain 2 grams for one-half cup boiled, and 1 gram for the same quantity of raw. These same figures apply to fiber as well with 2 grams, for the boiled and 1 gram for the raw broccoli.

Across the nutrition scale, broccoli contains all the nutrients mentioned above in addition to vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc.

It is important to note that though the figures listed for raw broccoli seem lower, it is not because raw broccoli is inferior to cooked. Because raw broccoli contains more bulk or volume than the cooked, one must eat more to equal the figures for cooked. Cooking breaks down the volume of broccoli, making it easier to consume larger quantities.

Frozen broccoli contains about 35% more beta carotene than the fresh because the frozen packages consist mainly of the florets. Most of the beta carotene is stored in the florets. But don't jump too quickly. There's plenty of nutrition in those stems, such as extra calcium, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin C.

The darker colors of the florets, such as blue green, or purplish green contain more beta carotene and vitamin C than those with lighter greens.

Medicinal Benefits
Though definitive proof is not yet published, the National Cancer Institute suggests that broccoli, along with its cruciferous family members, may be important in the prevention of some types of cancer.

Because of its impressive nutritional profile that includes beta carotene, vitamin C, calcium, fiber, and phytochemicals, specifically indoles and aromatic isothiocynates, broccoli and its kin may be responsible for boosting certain enzymes that help to detoxify the body. These enzymes help to prevent cancer, diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, and high blood pressure.

Broccoli along with onions, carrots, and cabbage may also help to lower blood cholesterol. At the U.S. Department of Agriculture's regional research center in Philadelphia, two researchers, Dr. Peter Hoagland and Dr. Philip Pfeffer, discovered these vegetables contain a certain pectin fiber called calcium pectate that binds to bile acids, holding more cholesterol in the liver and releasing less into the bloodstream. They found broccoli equally as effective as some cholesterol lowering drugs.

Broccoli's wealth of the trace mineral, chromium, may be effective in preventing adult-onset diabetes in some people. At the Beltsville, Maryland, Human Research Laboratories of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Dr. Richard Anderson, a diabetes expert, found that chromium boosts the ability of insulin to perform better in people with slight glucose intolerance.