Archive for the ‘Growing your own food’ Category

barb“As more people become aware of the importance of growing their own food, social media has become a primary way ideas are shared. One of these ideas which is often seen on Facebook and Pinterest is the walipini underground greenhouse.

This greenhouse claims to grow food year-round and only cost $300 in building materials. For lots of gardeners, particularly those in cool climates with short growing seasons, a greenhouse is almost a must-have. Let’s take a look at the advantages of an underground greenhouse:

Takes advantage of thermal mass. When you dig down even just four feet, the temperature changes dramatically. Frost lines generally are three to four deep, so a six to eight foot walipini is completely protected from frost. One walipini owner claims that his greenhouse keeps pretty steady 70 degree Fahrenheit or warmer temperatures when it’s 10 degrees outside. Because underground greenhouses are warmed by thermal mass on all sides, you really can’t lose any warmth compared to a traditional greenhouse.”

Since it’s now August,a lot of tomatoes should be ripening,along with some of the various types of hot peppers, green and yellow wax beans,and pickling cucumbers should be producing the majority of their cukes by now.

This is when a pressure canner pays for itself,as it’s the only safe way to can green and yellow wax beans.

The bigger benefit to having a pressure canner is that you can take your tomatoes,peel them,remove the seeds,-(save the skins,and all the stuff that comes out with the seeds)-and cook them down into sauce or puree.

I have this old strainer I got from my grandma with a metal stand that is designed to fit over a mixing bowl,it also has a wooden pestle-(like mortar and pestle)-Google it if you don’t know that it is…

It is the perfect set-up for forcing the last of the tomato juice from the seeds,skins,and the membrane that holds the seeds in place-use the juice that you get by pushing all that stuff through the strainer to add to your tomatoes as they are cooking down into sauce or puree.

If you don’t want to go through all that-buy a new sieve that has a crank-type handle on it that turns a blade to force the stuff from the skins seeds,and membranes of the tomatoes through the holes. That is a much faster method-I just use my grandma’s because that’s how I have always seen it done-so that’s just how I process my tomatoes.

Once your sauce or puree is cooked ’till it’s thick enough-follow the instructions from the Ball Blue Book of Canning, and/or the book that comes with the pressure canner.

I posted links to a bunch of sources for canning info in a previous post titled- ” Gardening,Canning and Food preservation part I ”

Another benefit to having a pressure canner is that you can make your tomato sauce or puree into a meat sauce if you want to have already made pasta sauce on hand-great thing to have a LOT of for your emergency food supply.

You can also make vegetable soups-using  the tons of zucchinis and green+yellow beans you you should have now-and can that soup in your pressure canner.

Again-follow the Ball Blue Book instructions,or one of the other resources I posted in part I of this series.

To use up your pickling cukes-I make some into bread& butter type pickles,some into dill pickles,some into garlic dills,and some into hot dill pickles-using a variety of my hot peppers from the garden.

I do NOT use my pressure canner to make any kind of pickles-or a water bath canner-I cold pack ALL of my pickles,along with most of my hot peppers.

How to make cold packed pickles and peppers will be in Part IV.

Until then…





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Mrs. Starvin Larry in the garden…


Some things I did not discuss in detail part 1…


Even if you live in a home on a small city lot,you can still make a compost pile.

Start the pile by saving all of your vegetable peelings and scraps,along with fruit rinds,apple cores,etc.

Add your grass cuttings,the leaves you rake up,coffee grounds,egg shells,the outer leaves from a head of lettuce,tea bags,all the stems and leaves you prune off of your garden plants-including flowers-(if your wife or girlfriend plants flowers)-if you plant flowers-and you’re a guy-your man card is hereby revoked.

Add a couple bags of manure,which you can buy at Lowe’s,Home Depot,or your local garden center. We have chickens,so we have a source for plenty of high nutrient manure for the compost pile.

I do a fair amount of woodworking and carpentry,so I have piles of sawdust to add,which helps a lot. If you use a chainsaw to cut a tree down,or cut firewood-rake up the sawdust from the chainsaw and add it to your compost pile.

If you live in the city/suburbs, in the fall,you can usually find all the leaves you can use,either raked in piles on the curb,or bagged up in the “special” paper bags the city makes you buy.

If you have a lawnmower that has a bag to catch grass,along with saving the grass cuttings,run over the leaves before putting on your compost pile.

Once you have a fairly large pile,you have to keep turning it over,or mixing it up,to speed up the process. You will notice that the stuff from the center of the pile is warm,that’s the things you have added breaking down into compost.Keep adding stuff to the pile as often as possible,turn the pile over every time you add new materials. You don’t have to thoroughly mix the pile every time,but you have to cover the new materials with the already decomposing stuff from the center of the pile. If it hasn’t rained for a week or so-water your compost pile,moisture aids in decomposition.

Wood chips are anther good thing to add to your compost,as is old mulch.

I help out a friend who owns a tree service from time to time,and he will dump a load of chips for me any time I need them.Those who live in the city can usually get free wood chips when you see a tree service taking a tree down,most will gladly give you as much of the chips as you want.

Just keep adding new organic material to your compost pile,and it will keep breaking the stuff down,and you will always have a supply of fresh compost for free.

Once your pile contains almost all fine compost,start a new pile,and add some of the old pile to the new,as this will help the new pile to decompose faster.

I took some scrap 2×2’s and a leftover piece if 1/4″x1/4″ square wire mesh,and made a frame that fits across my wheelbarrow-that way,I can screen any large pieces out of the compost I take from the pile.

All composting does is speed up what happens on the forest floor in nature-the leaves,dead plants,etc. are broken down into topsoil. So what you end up with is a free supply of what is a nutrient rich humus type soil. Be sure not to add an excessive amount of oak leaves,or pine needles,or if that’s what you have to use-add some crushed limestone to balance out the high acidity of the oak and pine.

One other thing I do is in the fall,when all my wife’s flowers die,I empty the potting soil from the flower pots into the compost pile,along with the dead flowers,just break up the roots and stalks/stems.

Those who do not believe in using chemical fertilizers can make a “tea” out of the compost,by placing some compost into a pieces of cheesecloth that’s held over and partially in a 5 gallon bucket,and pouring water slowly into it,use the tea to water your vegetable plants.

In the fall,after you’ve harvested your veggies,and tilled up your garden,spread a layer of compost over the garden,it will prevent weed growth,and the nutrients from the compost will leach into the soil from rain and snowmelt.

Till that layer into your garden in spring,and add a new layer and till it in-this should give you a nutrient rich garden soil-that means nutrient rich veggies from your garden.




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Those who live where they have the room to grow a large garden should be doing so,as it not only saves you money,it supplies you with a lot of food which you can preserve by freezing,canning,and dehydrating.

Just for an example,we just yesterday finished the last jar of tomato puree that we canned last fall,and last year was a really lousy year for growing tomatoes in NE Ohio.

We still have 6-8 pint jars of what I call chili base-it’s peeled and de-seeded tomatoes and a variety of hot peppers that makes it super easy to make a batch of chili,plus it takes less time,as all the hot peppers are already diced up and in the sauce.

We still have green and yellow wax beans canned from last year,and still have some frozen diced hot peppers,green peppers,and sliced eggplant,along with some shredded zucchini.

Even if you live in the city,in an apartment,you can grow a few tomato plants,and a couple of pepper plants in buckets,or large flower pots on your balcony.

I do the maintenance at a couple of condo complexes,some of the people there have huge zucchini and tomato plants on their small patios.

You can grow herbs like basil,oregano,thyme,and rosemary inside year round,in flower pots near south facing windows. Windows facing other directions will work,you just won’t get as much growth,as fast.

No matter where your garden is-a raised bed garden on a city lot,or a half acre garden,you have to amend to soil-which means adding organic material like composted manure(never put fresh manure on your garden-it will kill your plants)-compost,or peat,along with crushed or powdered lime if your soil contains a lot of clay.

To “loosen up” your soil,you need to add vermiculite or perlite-that’s those little white “rocks” you find in potting soil.

You also will need to fertilize your plants,I use a combination of leaf feeding,which I do with Miracle Grow,mixed at 1 1/2 tablespoons per gallon of water-that I put in a spray bottle,then spray on the plants until the leaves are wet. I do that once per week.

I also use a continuous release fertilizer which I place at the base of the plants after they have been in the ground for at least a month. Use according to directions on the package. I have used Miracle Grow’s continuous release fertilizer,and a couple other brands that are specifically for tomatoes. All of them seem to work about the same.

If you are not using fertilizers,you will have to use a lot of composted manure and compost,and rototill it into the soil both in the fall,and in early spring.

What I do is spread a thick-(4-6″)- layer of composted manure over the garden in the fall,after it’s been tilled,in the spring,I till that in,then add another thin layer-(1 1/2-2 1/2 inches)-along with some peat and vermiculite or perlite. If I’m working with soil that has a lot of clay,I also till some lime into the soil in both spring and fall. Eventually, the lime will break up the clay.

It’s not  good to use stakes made from pressure treated lumber in your garden-as the chemicals will leach into the soil-into your plants-and therefore-into you.

Starting out with canning is not all that great of an investment,water bath canners are around $20.00,you also need a pressure canner to be able to can some veggies-like green beans-plus with a pressure canner you can can soups,sauces,and meats.

You will need a set of jar tongs,a canning funnel,and a supply of Ball canning jars-with rings and lids. Also get some canning salt,and citric acid. Some recipes also call for vinegar and some type of oil.

The jars and rings are reuseable,the lids are not.

Get yourself a copy of the ball Blue Book of Canning-it’s about the best reference on canning out there,you can also get canning info from the USDA,and your county Agricultural office if you live in a rural or semi-rural area.

Go here for canning info from Ball…

Go here for canning info from USDA…

The free, 196-page publication can be downloaded from the National Center for Home Food Preservation website. The publication is also available in a spiral, bound book format from Purdue University. Single copies are available for $18 per copy, bulk discounted prices are available. Orders can be placed via phone (toll-free: 1-888-398-4636), fax (765-496-1540) or online at  Purdue’s The Education Store.

Those who are hunters can also preserve game by canning.

Having your pantry stocked up with foods that cost you very little-other than your time,is also a great way to be able to save $$$ that can be better spent on important things-like rifles,shotguns,bows,crossbows,ammo,arrows,crossbow bolts,and fishing gear.




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