Thursday, May 31, 2012

Create a Salsa Garden!

Who doesn't like Salsa?  There are so many variations of Salsa, mild to hot, mango to jalapeno and even green tomato salsa.  Creating a Salsa Garden is easy!

My first suggestion, Peat Pellets!  I don't care where you get them from but they make seed-starting "oh so easy."  Before you just go crazy and start planting all of the seeds it's important to decide which varieties you would like to include and how long each will take to mature.
Not everyone likes onions in their salsa.  I do!  I prefer a red onion.  The Red Burgundy onion matures in approximately 100 days.  If you decide to grow this onion it should be planted first.  If you choose a bunching onion or a "green onion" you can wait on planting.  Bunching onion varieties take about 40 days to mature.

I prefer to use a smaller tomato for salsa like the Ace 55 or Roma.  A larger option is a Beefsteak.  Both varieties take approx 75-80 days to mature so they should be started one month after the onion (if you chose the red).  For fancy salsa, try Emerald Green or Amana's Orange tomatoes

For a mild salsa you can use Anaheim instead.  For a hot (or hotter) salsa I use Jalapenos.  For the crazy, burn you mouth for a week salsa, use Serrano Peppers!  These pepper varieties also take 70-80 days to mature and should be planted at the same time as the tomatoes.

Cilantro planting should be staggered throughout the year.  By planting multiple cilantro plants it will allow you to harvest as you need it instead of all at once.  Plant Cilantro at least 30 days before the rest of the Salsa Garden plants mature.  I recommend planting another crop the following week.

Onions: 100 or 40 days
Tomatoes: 75-80 days
Peppers: 70-80 days
Cilantro: 30 days

Fresh Salsa

5 large tomatoes, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tomatillo, diced (optional)
salt to taste
1 jalapeno pepper, minced

In a medium-size mixing bowl, combine tomatoes, onion, cilantro, garlic, lime juice, tomatillo, and salt to taste. Mix well. Add 1/2 of the jalapeno pepper, and taste. If you desire your salsa with more of a kick, add the remaining 1/2 jalapeno. If you are satisfied with the salsa's heat, do not add the remaining jalapeno pepper. Cover the salsa, and chill until ready to serve.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Making Liquid Hand Soap

Here's another DIY recipe, this time for liquid soap.  I'm not making soap from scratch so this recipe is very simple.  All you need is:
a bar of soap (any soap)
a cheese grater
a large bowl

Normally I would use a bar of Ivory or clear glycerin but I'm out so I used Irish Spring.

Unwrap your bar of soap.  Grate entire bar of soap with the larger grate (like cheese) into the large bowl. Cover soap with water overnight.  Add more water if your soap has soaked up all the water.  Place the bowl with the soap in the microwave for 2 minutes.  Stir when finished.  If the soap hasn't fully dissolved, microwave for another minute.

There is no specific amount of water listed.  I added 2 jars full of water (48 ounces) and came out with a thick soap once it cooled down.  One jar will be used in a regular dispenser.  The other jar needs to be watered down for the foaming dispenser.  I'll end up with 3 jars of soap for the foam dispenser.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Another Friday full of Links

Good Morning!  I'm so excited to share a few of the wonderful blogs out there.  Through the link-ups I have found an abundance of resources for DIY projects, recipes and homesteading tricks and tips.

Check out:
Little House in the Suburbs

Deborah Jean's Dandelion House

The Morris Tribe

Midlife Farmwife

Apron Stringz

Dog Island Farm

I've had a great time reading about life on a dairy farm, raising city chickens, raising heritage pigs, growing your own food, living in New Orleans and so much more!
Amana's Orange Tomato
 I couldn't sign off for the week without sharing a piece of my garden.  Above is the first harvested Amana's Orange Tomato of the season.  I sliced it up and shared it with my hubby.  Delicious does not even begin to describe it's sweet, juiciness.

Happy Friday and enjoy the holiday weekend!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Penne and Ham Primavera

Originally posted at Mary's Kitchen.

Need a great recipe for your harvest?  Need a great recipe for leftovers?  After making a spiral ham I always have leftovers.  This is a great recipe to use up a bit of that ham.

Penne and Ham Primavera

2 cups uncooked whole wheat penne or mostaccioli pasta
1 cup sliced zucchini
1 cup sliced yellow summer squash
2 cups cubed fully cooked ham
1/2 cup salad dressing
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Coarsely ground pepper, if desired

Cook pasta as directed on package, adding zucchini and yellow squash during last 3 to 4 minutes of cooking; drain.

Return pasta mixture to saucepan; add ham and dressing. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until hot. Sprinkle with basil, cheese and pepper.  A great addition to this dish is sauteed swiss chard fresh from the garden.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

More DIY projects and Recipes

Little House in the Suburbs is hosting another DIY Linky Party.

Not sure what I just said?

Translation: a fellow blogger has invited other bloggers to post links about DIY projects, recipes, gardening, homesteading or simple living.  I highly recommend that you stop by!

Also, check out their latest book:

And if that wasn't enough info, recipes and DIY projects, check out The Morisstribe's Homestead.  I can never get enough recipes!

Still not enough?  Check out The Healthy Home Economist.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Guest Post: Jen in California

Today's post is from a fellow gardener, (And my Sister) currently growing in Southern California (Zone 10).  I hope to have many more just like it from readers and fellow bloggers.  Are you a gardener or Urban Homesteader?  Not sure what an Urban Homesteader is but you bake, preserve food, raise chickens or goats, garden or enjoy DIY projects?  I'm looking for your input!

Sit back, relax and enjoy.  Or if you're like me, read in between the 6 projects you have going all at one time.

Right now I have green onions, rutabaga, beets, tomatoes and broccoli in the ground and thriving.  Tomatoes and broccoli were just transplanted.  Everything in the garden has come from seeds.
Homegrown Beet

Recently I planted chard, marigold and bachelor button seeds straight into the ground and they are just coming up.
Swiss Chard

The herbs I planted in peat pellets are just starting to sprout.
Seeds planted in peat pellets
My favorite is squash because they can last months after they have been harvested.  A simple meal I like is a halved baked acorn squash with a half fresh avocado (also homegrown) in the hole where the seeds were.
Homegrown Tomatoes
I like working in the garden and seeing the veggies grow and having fresh produce that tastes better than what you get in the store.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Growing with Peat Pellets

Peat Pellets are Awesome!  These small discs are self-contained seed-starters.  They are virtually Mess-Free!  I really like mess free.  I know I've posted a few times this year about using peat pellets and yes, I sell them at Mary's Heirloom Seeds.  However, that's not really why I get so excited about Peat Pellets.
Dry Peat Pellets
Anything that makes growing your own veggies, herbs or flowers just a tab bit easier makes me happy!

Just add water and they Grow!

Place peat pellet(s) in a tray or bowl and add water.  Warm water will stimulate growth a bit faster.  If the pellets soak up all of the water, add a bit more just to be sure they are finished growing.  Drain excess water.  This should take about 5 minutes or less.

Make a “hole” for the seeds.  Place seed in the “hole” and cover with peat soil.  Keep Pellet moist but not sitting in water.  Keep in a warm place such as a windowsill, patio table or under lights.

Several seed varieties such as Chamomile, Yarrow and Sage should be sown on the surface of the soil.  Simply pull back or cut the mesh covering off the top of the peat pellet and sprinkle the seeds on the surface.
Baby Basil growing in peat pellets
Purple Bell Peppers
If you're having trouble germinating seeds there are several factors to consider.  
-Not enough or too much water, not enough light or heat and (most important) SOIL.  
I have had better success germinating in Peat Pellets than I did using a seed-starter mix and with peat pellets I don't make such a mess.
Swiss Chard in peat pellets
When the seedling's roots start to push through the mesh, it's time to transplant.  Peat Pellets can be placed directly into the ground or a container.
Marigolds in peat pellets
In the beginning, I wasn't sure about removing the fine mesh surrounding the soil.  Disturbing the roots of a fragile seedling can kill the plant.  However, I've started removing the mesh before transplanting and I haven't lost a seedling yet!  The mesh does not have to be removed.  It is biodegradable.
Zinnia in Peat Pellets
Peat Pellets are GREAT for beginner gardeners and a welcome blessing of mess-free bliss for experienced gardeners!

SPECIALS: May 11th-18th    
ALL orders of Peat Pellets will include an extra 
FREE seed pack. Orders over $35 will include 6 Free Peat Pellets, an extra FREE seed Pack AND Priority Shipping.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day!

 A mother is the truest friend we have, 
when trials heavy and sudden, fall upon us; 
when adversity takes the place of prosperity; 
when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine desert us;
when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, 
and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to 
dissipate the clouds of darkness, 
and cause peace to return to our hearts. 
~Washington Irving

This Mother's Day I decided to give homemade gifts from the heart and I'm pretty sure my mom will enjoy them.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Growing Lavender in your garden

I'm growing Lavender!  Yeah!

Lavender can be grown from seed or from cuttings.  Lavender can be difficult growing from seed but not impossible.
 According to Easy to grow herbs:
"Seeds will take a long time. You will get an exact copy of the original plant with cuttings. Make sure that you take cuttings from your best mature plants.

You may also buy potted plants and place them in the ground.

Make sure that you plant lavender in warm weather. It should be in the late spring. Early summer is also a good time. It needs lots of sunshine too. Make sure that it will not be in a great deal of shade."

Soil is very important.  Drainage is important and should include loose compost.  Lavender can be grown both in the ground as well as in containers.  The larger the container, the larger the plant may grow.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Friday Garden Update

It's been an interesting few weeks in the garden.  It rained here 2 weekends in a row with a wonderfully hot few days in between.
A delicious feast!
I had an accident while transplanting my last Red Fig Tomato plant...I broke the stem...I wasn't able to save it!  
My total tomato plant count is now 2 Cherokee Purple, 
3 Amana's Orange and 3 Red Figs.
Side Yard
Brussels Sprouts
Another Baby Eggplant...Hiding!
Random Peppers...Forgot to mark these babies
Carrots in recycled container!

One of MANY sets of Marigolds

Purple Opal Basil

Herbs started in Peat Pellets
Swiss Chard in Peat Pellets
Marigolds in Peat Pellets
Had enough?  This is just a taste of the garden (the good pictures anyway).  The patio is a mess!  I even have a few seedlings in the laundry room because it's bright and the cat can't eat them in there.

I am amazed at how much better my seeds have germinated and the easy of transplanting using Peat Pellets.  I don't know how I survived without them**plug**  

I even donated a handful of Peat Pellets and Marigold (Calendula) seeds to a local first grade class...THAT is a story in itself...The kids had a great time and so did I.  The best part...MESS FREE!!!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Growing Beans from Seed (beans)

For the sake of simplicity, I classify beans in 2 categories: Bush and Pole.

Bush beans are usually compact and grow close to the ground. Pole beans climb and require a trellis or other support. Bush beans tend to produce more beans in a shorter time, while pole beans will produce more over an entire season. Pole beans typically require much less.

Two weeks before planting, work compost or fertilizer into a garden spot that receives full sun. Well after the fear of frost has passed, use a garden hose to lightly moisten the soil. Plant bean seeds directly into rich, fast draining soil in spring after the soil has warmed. For bush beans, form 1inch-deep furrows and place beans every few inches. For pole beans, position the trellis or bean teepee before planting the seeds. Plant several seeds in each 1-inch furrow.  Cover all seeds with soil and water well.

Keep the soil moist until the seeds germinate. When seedlings sprout, carefully thin them to one plant every 6" to 8". Apply a generous layer of mulch around the plants to conserve moisture and prevent weed growth. Bean plants need about 1" of water per week. They should be watered in the morning so the foliage has time to dry before dark. Fertilize bean plants with an organic fertilizer every two weeks for the first six weeks, then once every three to four weeks. Keep an eye out for bean beetles, which are easily picked off by hand and terminated.

The plants require full sun and regular water. In general, bush beans mature faster and are less sensitive to drought and extreme temperatures than pole beans. Provide support for vines in the form of a trellis or pole.

Tip: Never work around bean plants when they are wet. Disease can quickly spread from plant to plant, destroying an entire crop.

Bush beans are ready to harvest in 50 to 60 days, while pole beans take between 60 and 90 days. Beans should be harvested when the pods are 4" to 6" long. Beans that stay on the plant too long are much less tender and flavorful. Beans should be harvested frequently, even daily, to encourage continued production. Simply pull the pods from the vine to harvest, but try not to knock the blooms off the plant