Create your own organic kitchen garden in 2013

With a continued focus on healthy eating this year and the recommendation to eat healthy, organic foods where possible, what better way to incorporate the two by creating your very own organic kitchen garden in 2013. With a little planning and imagination you’ll soon experience the joys of planting and growing your own food that will see you kitchen stocked with fresh produce all year round. Celebrate the seasons and get in touch with the foods that should be cooked with and consumed throughout the different cycles of the year and you’ll be sure to be taking in maximum vitamins with every bite without any of the pesticides.

So how do you get started? The first thing you need to consider is the available space you have within your garden to dedicate to growing food. You’ll need a bright sunny spot that is relatively sheltered from the winds and ideally as flat as possible to allow for even water distribution across your plot. Make sure you have easy access to the plot, ideally locating it as close to your kitchen door as possible to ensure you can reap the benefits of popping out into the garden whilst cooking to pick your herbs and vegetables for your meal.

organic kitchen garden

To achieve the best results, start off simple and choose vegetables that are known to be easy growers such as lettuces, Swiss chard and chives. Add to this some tasty beetroots and radishes and you’ll soon see just how much fun growing your own food can be. To achieve success with your vegetable growing you need to ensure that your plants have access to as much sun as possible – ideally at least 6 hours each and every day.

If your garden tends to fall into the shade halfway through the day you might want to consider planting directly into containers rather than the ground to allow you to move your plants into the sunny areas with relative ease. As the seasons change and the position of the sun moves around your garden you might find this one of the most valuable tips to consider.

Container growing also opens up the opportunity for those people without gardens to participate in growing their own food and can do very well on even the smallest sunny balcony or patio. All you need to do is ensure that your pots are large enough to take the full growth of the plant, add plenty of drainage holes and water on a daily basis. For best results add a liquid fertilizer once every fortnight and you’ll soon start to see results.

Tomatoes on a patio

If you have a sunny window in your kitchen this is a great place to grow your favorite herbs from and fills the space with an incredible aroma. It’s also the ideal place to start off tomato plants, bell peppers and squash that benefit from that extra bit of nurturing and protection in the early days. What’s more, bringing your organic garden directly into your kitchen in this way is incredibly inspiring when meal planning.

Herb garden in containers

Like these planters? I found them here

Before planting your seeds you need to ensure that your soil is as fertile as possible. Add essential nutrients by working the soil through with rich compost manure and high quality fertilizers before you get started to guarantee your end result of delicious, healthy produce. On top of this you will need to maintain a regular watering routine, depending on the weather and soil you have planted into and the types of vegetables you are growing. As a general rule, leafy vegetables need to be watered more frequently than root vegetables. Be sure to add proper drainage to your soil to allow your vegetables to have the best chance of growing fully. Compost or bark chippings achieve this for you easily.

With all this in mind you are now ready to plan your own organic kitchen garden to ensure you are supplied with tasty, home grown food all year round. With some daily dedication to your plot you’ll enjoy following the seasonal patterns of planting, pest control and feeding as you watch your vegetables grow, inspiring you with ideas for new recipes to experiment with for highly nutritious, cost effective and deliciously organic mealtimes.

Author Bio: The article is being written by Peter Smith. He loves to renovate his home every year for purchasing new furniture or accessory he trusts the brand Mayer Blue.

Deterring mystery pest from eating my tomatoes: New Updates

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This is not the first time visitors have stolen tomatoes from my garden, but this year the mystery pest has gotten every ripe tomato I have grown this year, which given out cold/wet summer has only been about a dozen ripe tomatoes.  I normally go with the philosophy of this land is owned by my neighborhood animals first and I am fine sharing a tomato, some lettuce, and a few blueberries, but with the end of the season coming closer and less tomatoes left on the vines…I am going to war with the hungry critter.

This evening I applied a liberal amount of Critter Ridder from Havahart following the directions on the packaging.  Instead of trying to describe the product I will defer to marketing material to describe products I use since that is what they get paid the big bucks for.

This powerful combination of active, all-natural ingredients work together to irritate the animal immediately if it smells, tastes or touches the product. This unpleasant experience drives the animal away unharmed but unwilling to return to the treated area. 

Our patented formula effectively repels groundhogs, skunks, dogs, cats, squirrels, raccoons, chipmunks and other nuisance animals.

So hoping my pest happens to one of the animals that hates the stuff.   I applied this per the directions around my tomato beds and the lawn surrounding the bed.  For good measure I also applied a little on a tomato they were too full to finish on their last visit.  From previous observations I have found they are good about cleaning on the previous nights meal.  Given the active ingredients contain black pepper oil and capsaicin (what makes peppers hot) given we are the only known species that will voluntarily eat these spices pretty sure the animal will not appreciate my seasoning of their leftovers from the previous night.

To once and for all confirm the pest I am dealing with I have setup my OutbackCam night camera to catch any returning visitors on film…hopefully I only catch them once after they have a taste of my spicy tomato I cooked up for them.

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Nightly Updates

Night #1: Mystery pest returned, though moved the tomatoes around but did not eat much of his leftovers.  Was a bit of a ninja and not captured on camera.

Night #2: Again the mystery pest returned and ate a little more but again did not trigger a picture

Night #3: Got a picture triggered but mystery pest must have some sort of invisibility cloak on because I do not see it in the picture.  Planning on moving the camera back a little farther from the fence (or possibly turn on an outside light) since the IR LEDs seem to a little intense at that distance.  Again the pest played with the tomatoes but didn’t seem to eat much (if any) and has not bothered any of the other tomatoes in the vine.

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All About the Tomato Hornworm: From How to ID Them to Best Tomato Hornworm

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Tomato hornworms are common garden pests. This post will show you how to identify them and the best tomato hornworm control methods.

About the Tomato Hornworm

The tomato hornworm becomes the five-spotted hawk moth. In its caterpillar form, it is incredibly disastrous to gardens and landscapes.

How to ID the Tomato Hornworm

The tomato hornworm is 4-5 inches long, once full size. Typically they are the largest caterpillars you will see in your garden. Green in color it has white V-shaped marks. Their color and markings help camouflage them in your garden. In fact, you may see their destruction before you see the actual caterpillar.

Tomato hornworms have enormous appetites, destroying entire leaves, stems and immature fruits.

Given their name, many incorrectly assume they only attack tomatoes. However, they also attack eggplants, peppers and potatoes. In a matter of days they can completely defoliate a plant.

If you don’t recognize their damage or spot one, you can ID these vicious pests by their black droppings, called frass, found at the base of plants or on leaves.

How to Control Tomato Hornworms

One of the simplest ways to control tomato hornworms is to pick them off whenever you see them. They are large and easy to grab when you spot them. Either squish them or spray them with organic pesticides.

Handpicking, however, can be time-consuming. Only best for very small gardens, handpicking will ultimately leave behind some of the caterpillars. And because even just one caterpillar will cause extensive damage, handpicking is often not the most effective way to end their infestation.

Beneficial Insects

There are insects that eat the tomato hornworm, such as the praying mantis. However, beneficial insects may not be in your garden. If you add these beneficial insects, they will end up leaving for other food sources once they can’t find pests in your garden anymore. Thus, relying on them as your sole form of pest control gives the pests another chance of infestation.

Applying BT

BT, or Bacillus Thuringiensis, can be used to treat a tomato hornworm infestation. However, it only works on small larvae, leaving the plant-destroying adults behind to continue their extensive damage.

Best Organic Tomato Hornworm Control

They make really effective organic pesticide products. They are easy to use and kill the tomato hornworms at all stages, ensuring you a healthy organic garden.

Available as sprays and powders, the most effective ones:

· Kill 45 different insect species

· Exterminate them at all stages, from eggs to adults

· Are ready-to-use

· Are OMRI Listed, which means they’ve been reviewed and approved for use in organic gardening.

Guest Author Byline This guest blog post is written by Michelle Anderson who specializes in insect control, including organic pesticides and insect killer.

Tomatoland: How modern industrial agriculture destroyed our most alluring fruit review

There is a very good reason why tomatoes are the most popular vegetable grown in the home garden, you can’t beat the taste of a home grown tomato.  Tomatoland provides and exposé of specifically the Florida tomato industry showing many of the negative, though there are still a few positives explaining the history and the process of getting this previously alluring fruit to your local grocery store.  After reading I can now add several other reasons to avoid purchasing those perfectly round and red commercial tomatoes at my local grocery store which I will explain in more details below. 

 

Matter of Taste

As many of you may or not know below is what your delicious red tomato looks like when picked from the vine.  By picking the tomatoes young this helps prevent fungal diseases prone to the humid Florida area where a good portion of our tomatoes from grocery stores and restaurants are grown.  This also assists in the transportation of these tomatoes without damage to areas like where I live which is about far away from Florida as you can get.  So how does these less appealing tomatoes look like the perfect ones we see in the stores?  Once they reach their destination they are gassed with ethylene to give them their nice red appearance.

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There have also been decades of breeding to produce a perfectly round, high yielding tomato, disease tolerant, and of proper size.  Unfortunately during this process taste has not really been a consideration into this breading process.  Along with taste tomatoes have lost much of the nutritional value they have had in the past.  “According to analyses conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 100 grams of fresh tomato today has 30 percent less vitamin C, 30 percent less thiamin, 19 percent less niacin, and 62 percent less calcium.  So you grandmother may have been correct telling you to eat your vegetables back in the day…sadly maybe this is no longer the case.

Human Factor

Most people are aware that insecticides and pesticides are used to grow most of our commercially produced produce.  We have been told that end up on our fruits are so small that there is no risk to humans.  This statement is definitely an easily arguable statement but in this book the author goes into great detail of the effects of these pesticides on the farm workers who were forced to go into fields too soon before application and in many cases pesticides actually being sprayed directly on the workers.  As a result this led to many cases of reproductive issues with the farmers leading to many cases of abnormalities of children at birth as well as sickness and injuries, rashes during the immediate exposure.

The book also details the outright slavery existing in the Florida tomato fields as less than a decade ago.  This is something that surprised me that I had not heard about this.  There are also examples of modern day indentured servitude by offering an appealing wage but then extorting money from the workers for simple items such as water, “showers” (using a garden hose to rinse of pesticides, food, and premium rent at living quarters which normally would include sharing a small trailer with several other men.

Overall

Overall I thought Tomatoland was a great book and help reinforce my reasons for growing my own produce and supporting my local organic farmers.  It also encouraged me to me aware of who’s hands my food my travel as I decide to make a purchase at my local grocery store.  I would recommend this book to anyone who feels that paying a little extra for organic products is just too much to pay or anyone simply interested in how the tomato industry is run.

Easy Ways to Eat Local

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Whether you want to eat local just to know where your food comes from, to support your local farmers, or possibly an environmental perspective of promoting organic farming or going for a challenge of a 100 mile diet, here is a guest post to help you out.

Eating local has tons of benefits. Fresh food, less environmental damage, preserving farm land, supporting local economy, the list goes on and on. So how can you go local in your meal planning? Here are some easy ways that you can give your environment (and your stomach) a little boost.

Join a CSA

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a program which allows individuals to support a farming operation by giving money to farmers upfront in exchange for a weekly box of food. Find CSA farmers on the Local Harvest website. The website also provides information on how to find a CSA program that will best suit you and your families needs. If you live by yourself, split the food with a neighbor or friend.

Preserve Local Food for the Winter

Make a jelly or jam, pickle vegetables, make some applesauce. These are just a few ways that you can preserve your local food for the winter. Go to the National Center for Food Preservation website to learn how to preserve food.

Go to a Farmers’ Market

Rather than going through a “middle man,” like a supermarket, go straight to the source. Farmers’ markets allow you to buy directly from the person who has grown your food. This is also a great way to get involved in your community. Find a farmers’ market near you on the USDA website.

Build a Backyard Garden

Do you have a green thumb? If you haven’t already, you should consider building a fruit and/or vegetable garden in your backyard. Do some research to find some plants that thrive in your region. If you’re less than confidant about your gardening skills, start small with a windowsill herb garden.

So there you have it — several ways to integrate some local eats into your diet. Once you start eating local, you will feel not only closer to your food, but to your community too.

James Kim is a writer for foodonthetable.com.  Food on the Table is a company that provides online budget meal planning services.  Their goal is to help families eat better and save money.

Money-Saving Tips for the Organic Gardener

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Organic gardening is a hobby many find relaxing and rewarding, and you can take a bite out of your produce bills by eating the delicious fruits and vegetables your efforts yield. However, between the many different planting and gardening tools and supplies you’ll need, the costs can really add up, and anything you can do to save a buck or two here and there will help. Fortunately, there are all kinds of simple money-saving gardening tips for the organic gardener looking to keep expenses under control.

Save Money on Seeds and Planting

If you’re looking for plant trays, hold off before buying brand-new ones. Many garden centers and nurseries will be more than happy to give you their used ones, so be sure to ask if you’re heading out there to pick up seeds or supplies. You can use them as starting pots; they work especially well for kicking off a hardy plant’s growth cycle.

Reusing household items for your gardening whenever possible is one of the best ways to save a few bucks. For example, rather than purchasing seed storage containers, you can use empty film canisters, which you can label to ensure you know which seeds are which. Separating individually started seeds in yogurt containers, plastic bakery trays or ice cube trays is another strategy you can use.

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