Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Raised Bed or Square Foot Gardening Trends in America

No doubt about it. Intensive gardening, or square foot gardening, is growing more popular in the U.S. How do I know this?

The other day, I visited a large general store (also known as a feed store). Ordinarily, I wouldn't have any problem obtaining bags of earthworm castings. However, when I requested one bag, the store owner informed me that a lady had just come into the store and purchased every bag he had. I had to wait several days until their truck came by with another delivery.

The owner told me that "everyone is doing raised beds this year." And, yes, to get the 8 cubic feet of dirt required for a square foot garden, you need a fair amount of compost, assuming you don't make your own. You also need vermiculite and peat moss.

I also went over to Home Depot recently, and they have some lovely cedar square foot gardening kits for your raised beds, for $34.95 each. Personally I think this is a good price, especially if you're getting cedar. All of the lumber comes with pre-drilled holes for easy assembly. If you've ever assembled a box, you know how much this is appreciated! Also, the kits have those lovely corner pieces that look very professional and finished.

Hmmmm.... I just might have to buy a couple of them.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

The Use of Nylon Net in Square Foot Gardening

Nylon net is a useful and versatile thing to have around the house. And, as I found out, around the garden.

I just planted this table-top square foot garden last week with green beans. Unfortunately, I found footprints in my garden, and some of the green bean seeds displaced!

Could it have been a squirrel? Well, either that, or a possum leaping down to the box. At least twice this week, the pesky possum that I saw a few weeks ago is back to terrorize my dogs -- and who knows what else. The possum could be using the table-top box as a jumping off point. In one of my table-top gardens, though, I found pecan shells, so that tells me that at least one squirrel is looking to bury a pecan or an acorn. In fact, I saw at least 12-14 places around the yard this spring where a buried pecan had sprouted.

Well, nylon net works quite well to protect the garden, at least when it is in that delicate status of germination/young seedling. You can water very easily, and your plants will get plenty of light.

What else is nylon net good for? If you can figure out a way to drape or tent it properly, it will keep cabbage moths away from your broccoli or cabbage. They can't lay their eggs that produce caterpillars unless they have a good landing spot on your prized plants.

On the other hand, if you want to see options to purchase or use nylon trellising for your climbing plants, go here:

Trellising for Plants

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Yellow Squash or Zucchini Squash Casserole Recipe

Squash is just one of those vegetables which needs some seasoning or flavoring. In North America, we're not yet into the growing season for summer or crookneck squash (normally, that's early summer). If you are finding squash now in the supermarket, very likely it doesn't have much flavor, and it may have been grown in Mexico or in a greenhouse.

But, all is not lost. At any time of the year, if you locate summer squash or zucchini squash at the market, you can prepare this great casserole. I've been making this dish since my post-college days.

The beauty of it is that you can bake it in the regular oven, or even microwave this small casserole to get the ingredients to firm up properly.

Note: What I learned from my mother or sister, I keep very loose. Meaning, I'm not that picky and fussy about ingredients being exact. Over time, if I make a dish quite often, I simply eyeball my ingredients, and figure out what looks right! This dish nearly always turns out perfect anyway.

Here it is:

4 medium yellow crookneck squash (or 3 large zucchini squash)
2 to 3 T. chopped onion
1 T. butter
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
Some grated cracker crumbs (Ritz or Waverly Wafers, saltines, or your choice)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Cut up the squash. Coarsely chop the onions. Put the squash and chopped onions in a saucepan with water, and boil it until the squash is just beginning to turn tender (don't overcook!) Drain the squash. Put it into a glass, pyrex, or Corning Ware oven dish (I use a one-quart dish).

Add the butter to the squash and mix until the butter is melted. Add the beaten egg to the squash and stir together. Salt and pepper the squash to your taste.

Add the grated cheese to the squash and stir everything together.

Crush the crackers. Sprinkle a layer of cracker crumbs over the squash.

Cover the dish, and bake in a 375 degree oven for about 20 minutes, or until everything is set. Or, put the dish into the microwave oven, and cook on high for about 5 minutes. If you like your dish very browned on top, you can stick it under the broiler for a short time to get the top crispy.

This dish makes about 3 decent-sized servings. Keeps well.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Annual Flowers from Seed

Today I planted an old-fashioned mix of annual flowers.

I just hate putting nursery transplants in the ground. In perhaps half the time, I broadcast seed from 8 packets of Ferry-Morse spring annuals into my small front bed.

And, I did it with a heavy hand. After all, this is Texas, and I can't imagine that all of the 16 seed types mentioned on the packet will germinate.

I suspect that the zinnias, cosmos, and marigolds will win out over the poppies, bachelor buttons, and strawflowers.

And, frankly, I have never heard of godetia, clarkia, and gypsophila. Off to Google Images to look these up!

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

What Can I Cook With Lots of Peppers?

Here's a picture of a few of the peppers I grew last summer and fall.

Don't they look great? They ripen unevenly and at their own pace. You can sure tell the difference between them and store-bought ones. I'll definitely be putting in more pepper plants this year.

But what can you do when you have too many peppers?

Fortunately, chopped peppers freeze well. You don't have to blanch them before putting them in your freezer, either.

My favorite dish to cook these days is hashed brown potatoes with chopped peppers. I use to avoid trying this because the potatoes stuck to the pan.

However, with the product called Simply Potatoes Shredded Hashed Browns, by Crystal Farms, which is found in the refrigerator case of the supermarket, I can whip up great hashed browns -- and use very little oil, as well.

Simply Potatoes come pre-grated. All you do is take what you want out of the bag and dump them into the pan.

Here's how. I take 1 tablespoon of olive oil and heat it in a large skillet. When it's hot, I add about 1/4 cup of chopped peppers. (You could also add some chopped onion, if you like). I let the peppers saute for a minute or two, then I add half a bag of the Simply Potatoes. Everything cooks on medium heat. You let your potatoes brown about 5 minutes, and then turn them over with a spatula and cook them on the opposite side.

Half a bag of potatoes makes 2 good-sized servings of hash browns.

That's all there is to it! I never seem to have problems with sticking, and with only 1 T. of oil for two servings, these are considerably less greasy than the hashed browns you'd find at McDonald's or your favorite breakfast spot.

I'm off to make some right now.