worms, composting, organic gardening, and nature

Posts tagged ‘Organic Gardening’

Gardeners are Super Heroes

So, you always wanted to wear a cape, brightly colored spandex, and proclaim that you are here to “Save the Day!”?  Go ahead, you deserve it, because Gardeners are Super Heroes!  Grab your magic hand trowel and let’s talk about how you can fight off an evil nemesis each day.

We are talking about “it” that can’t be named, that villain that kills over 500,000 Americans each year…begins with a C, yes, Cancer.  The good news is that cancer has a kryptonite, and that is healthy, organic foods that are loaded with KaPOW!

Here are 7 healthy, cancer-fighting foods that you can grow in your garden.  By growing your own, they will not lose important nutrients during transportation and storage, and (even more importantly) won’t be laced with chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, or irradiated.  You will have control of everything you use on your familys foods–and as a Superhero, you would never jeopardize health with nasty killers like chemicals in your food!  I’ll use a blue text to show my words below.

From: Top 10 Antioxidant Foods

“Berries—Blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries are loaded with proanthocyanidins, which are the antioxidants that may help in preventing cancer as well as heart disease.  Additionally, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries have ellagic acid, which is a plant compound that fights carcinogens.  And blueberries seem to help elderly folks retain cognitive function longer.  Stir berries into yogurt, add them to salads, or eat them au natural for a delicious snack.”

If you buy berries in the grocery store, they will already start to lose some of  those important antioxidants.  The most important thing, though, is that if you are not buying all these berries organically, they are going to have been fumigated with tons of antifungal chemicals that are known carcinogens.  Blueberries are not able to be grown in our North Texas Clay Soil…but you could try to grow them in large pots.  Blackberries are a fairly easy to establish crop that would last a lifetime in your backyard.  Strawberries are both fun and delicious to grow in pots or beds.

“Broccoli—Along with other cruciferous veggies such as cabbage, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts, broccoli may help in preventing cancer and heart disease.  In general, the crucifers contain indole-3-carbinol, which is a powerful antioxidant that breaks down estrogen and reduces the risk of breast cancer, along with ovarian and cervical cancer.  Beta-carotene is also found in broccoli, and is though to be a cancer and heart disease preventative.  Drizzle lightly-steamed broccoli with salad dressing and enjoy.”

The time to get started is NOW!  I plan on broccoli, broccoli raab, Brussel Sprouts, Mustard Greens, Bok Choi and other dark leafy greens.  These will be picked and eaten immediately, saving all the health benefit and cost of buying from the store…and again, no chemicals to offset the health benefits.

“Tomatoes—Lycopene is the hero within the much-beloved tomato.  Lycopene is in the carotenoid family, which is also in pink grapefruit and is twice as strong as beta-carotene.  According to the latest studies, men who eat more tomatoes or tomato sauce benefit from lower rates of prostate cancer.  Lycopene is also thought to prevent cancer of the lungs, colon, and breasts.  Additionally, tomatoes contain glutathione, which increases immune function.  Add Roma tomatoes to fresh pasta along with olive oil, or add sun-dried tomatoes to soups or mashed potatoes.”

We froze bags of tomatoes, and made multiple batches of stored Marinara sauce from our early summer tomatoes.  I still have healthy plants and am really hoping for a cool down so my plants can start setting fruit again.

“Red Grapes and Red Wine—Red grapes contain reservatrol and quercetin, and those are potent antioxidants that get rid of free-radicals and keep blood vessels open and unobstructed.  Reservatrol is believed to help prevent cancer and reduce inflammation, gastric ulcers, strokes, and osteoporosis.  Sip a glass of red wine or snack on frozen grapes.”

I am NOT a grape growing expert, nor do I currently have grapes…but no time like next growing season to start!  Here is a guide, but remember to use organic methods instead of any chemicals:  Texas A&M Grape Growing Guide. 

Oh, and I highly recommend sipping a nice glass of red wine as you enjoy the fruits of your garden labors (in moderation, of course).

“Garlic—It isn’t just vampire repellent anymore.  It has been shown to help prevent heart disease, cancer, and slow down aging.  The key ingredients are the sulfur compounds that give garlic its pungent aroma and taste.  Keep your heart healthy and prevent cancer by adding garlic to soups, stews, or spreading roast garlic on warm bread.  Garlic is also an excellent anti-fungal and can help with asthma and yeast infections.”

I do grow LOTS AND LOTS of garlic.  It is nearly impossible to find organic garlic in the stores, and almost as hard to find garlic grown by US farmers.  The amount of anti-fungals and other posions dumped on garlic during conventional growth and shipping (usually from China) is staggering.  There is also evidence that our loosely regulated imported garlic has high levels of heavy metal contamination.  October is the time to plant this crop, and you should order your seed source ASAP.

Spinach—It can help protect your vision because it contains the antioxidant lutein.  Studies show that spinach-eaters are less likely to get cataracts or macular degeneration.  Lutein accomplishes this by shielding your retina from sun damage and keeping free-radicals from hurting your eyes.  Eat spinach salads or add chopped spinach into brown rice dishes.

Time to plant spinach too–easy to grow in a bed or a pot.  Easy to grow by seed, so it is very affordable.  Trim the outside leaves, leaving the inner leaves, and you can cut and grow again all winter long.

Carrots—They are power packed with beta-carotene, a member of the carotenoid family of antioxidants.  This free-radical fighter is also found in yellow-orange vegetables, sweet potatoes, and beets.  Beta-carotene fights cancer and can reduce arthritis from progressing by as much as 70%.  Cook carrots for the highest amount of available antioxidants, since heat breaks down active compounds, making them more available.

Guess What?  Time to grow carrots also.  I suggest either planting these in a large container (at least 12 inches deep), or in a raised bed of at least 12 inches deep.  Don’t even bother to grow these directly into our North Texas Clay–too compacted and carrots need a nice loose organic mix.  Biggest issue is not thinning these enough to allow them to grow.  Keep reseeding through the season and you will have carrots from the first picking until April or May.

Sow (pun intended)–what are you waiting for?  Go out and grow, Superhero (wear spandex and capes while gardening at your own risk)!

From reduced waste to reduced waist

We’ve been eating our garden goodies every meal.  This week we have enjoyed potato and leek soup, multiple variations on tomato/basil salads, and berries for desserts.  Yesterday, we had berries for breakfast, guacamole for lunch, pot roast with roasted vegetables and smashed new potatoes for dinner.  Cherry tomatoes are eaten from sunup to sundown as you pass the bowl or the vine.  Tonight’s meal will be a garden “kitchen sink” pasta.  I feel healthy and full of energy and if my girls’ energy is any indication, all this healthy produce is doing them good as well.  We should be super-infused with anti-oxidants.

Yesterday, my husband gave me grief about taking my daily multi-vitamin.  I admit to a massive eye-roll over his concern.  In the last few weeks, both upper respiratory and GI illnesses have run rampant through our neighborhoods, but we have remained hale and healthy.  Sure, there is probably some infectious Kryptonite lurking around the corner, but it has been great to avoid these illnesses so far.

I can’t help but feel grateful to our wonderful little red wiggler worms for creating lovely, organic worm castings that we use to grow affordable and healthy food for our family with.  By using all that compostable waste, I get a good workout and nutrient dense and low calorie food that tastes great.  If more Americans composted and grew their own gardens, imagine what a difference we could make on our national health care costs!  By supplanting our easy and fattening packaged food and fast foods addictions with garden activity and healthful foods…I have to believe we could make a dent in the debt and make less notches in our belts.  There you go, a new underground conspiracy by one of us crazy gardeners.

Today’s Harvest

The temperatures are heating up, and one of my trusty worm wranglers helped Mom this morning in the gardens.  We picked a few odds and ends for this Holiday Weekend’s Meals:

Fresh, organic goodness!

Red La Soda Potatoes:  First hill I harvested this year, from my smallest plant, close to 2 lbs in weight.  For tonight’s meal.  I’ll wash well and leave the skin on, quarter the potatoes and boil until tender.  Then we will drain and add butter, some of that tasty fresh garlic, a little kosher salt and some chives from the herb garden.  Deelish!

Baby Finger Carrots:  Very sweet as a raw treat to add for lunches.  One of my favorite ways to fix is to peel and cut in half, place in a bowl with 2-3 TBSPs of olive oil, kosher salt, and fresh dill.  Roast in oven for 20-30 minutes (until tender) at 425 degrees.

Texas 1015 Onions:  Thought I had all these harvested, but they just keep showing up, haha.  Always a use…perhaps they will be part of a Mexican dish I’ll bring to the neighbors’ pool party tomorrow?

Snow Peas:  Well, we have harvested the first of the potatoes and the last of the snow peas.  The little worm wrangler and I ate a bunch as we harvested, right off the vine, and we’ll probably have the rest as snacks through the day.

Garlic:  I have started pulling garlic here and there this week.  Ironic that I decided to read Bram Stoker’s Dracula at this time.  Fresh garlic tastes so wonderful–much different than what you can get from the grocery store.  We eat about 2 bulbs a week, on average!

Strawberries:  Nothing better than fresh berries for dessert!

Cherry tomatoes:  We are getting quite a load of these, I’ll probably take some as a house-warming gift to someone tomorrow.  My favorite is the little fresh mozzarella balls, halved tomatoes, basil, kosher salt, olive oil and red wine vinegar in a little salad.

Hope this gives you some menu ideas and inspiration to grow (healthy food and family time!).  Everything’s organic and tasty when you grow it yourself.    If you compost to fill your garden beds, and worm compost to make your amendments, your garden cost is minimal.  What do you think the cost of these organic items would be in the Supermarket?

Food Security

A trip to the grocery store this weekend renewed my passion to grow as much of my own food as possible.  While looking over the loaves of sandwich bread, I was horrified to discover the healthiest, whole grain loaves were all priced over $4.  This is a price I might pay for an artisan loaf from my local baker, but for mass produced bread?  No way!  Unfortunately, I don’t have space to grow enough grain to produce for bread.  I feel as though I should start baking my own, or better yet, I am wondering if I could set up a barter for my organic produce to be exchanged for healthy, local made, whole grain bread?

The produce aisles were not much better.  Food I know has been shipped thousands of miles, grown with all kinds of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides–irradiated, and potentially a Genetically Modified Organism–all at premium prices.  How can I feel good about giving that to my family?

A potential garden client wanted to see my community garden plots.  Her inspiration for growing is to improve the health of her family and she wondered, “just how much food can you grow in a small garden?”.  Sometimes, looking at something through new eyes really brings an issue into focus.  I knew we had been eating daily harvests of snow peas, strawberries, and tomatoes .  I have onions curing and have just started curing my first garlic of the season.  She was astounded at how I had it all packed into such little space.  Garlic surrounding the outside of plots, onions inter-planted with strawberries, root vegetable growing in the same space as lettuce, trellises on the outside of the plots to grow vertical, trellises amongst the potato and strawberry patches, new sprouts of summer melon emerged where I had just pulled onions a week ago.

My gardens look like a jungle, but it is by design.  After all, that is how nature grows her forests,  jungles and prairies.  No fields of just one species can be found in nature–everything has it’s role in the ecosystem–to provide food or habitat for something else.  In these garden ecosystems of mine, I am trying to provide the most healthful and highest productivity of food I can manage–our health, budget, and good eating reap the rewards.  This weekend’s trip to the grocery store made me wonder if the time is here for most people to depend on their own ability to grow their own food to maintain their standard of living?  For health–I’m sure the answer is a resounding YES!  If people want to afford anything but the most processed Frankenfoods, I recommend they quickly join the Grow Your Own Revolution.  I’m here to help you grow organic, affordable, and successful food.  Just ask us at Texas Worm Ranch, rancher@txwormranch.com

Weather Forecast–Gardener’s Best Friend

10 Day Forecast

Take a look at next 10 days. Here in BigD, we have chance for rain on next 7 days. Great for free water and time saving, but…I’m already seeing a lot of fungal disease popping up in fellow gardeners’ plots and cloudy, rainy days leads to more. What would the Worm Rancher Do?

I’m going to be brewing a BIG BATCH of Worm Wine (TM). I’m going to give a generous foliar feeding to of all my garden plants. Not only do the plants absorb the nutrients through their leaf cell membranes (helping them fight off pests and disease), but Worm Wine inoculates those leaves with beneficial fungi and other microbes that will fight off disease-spreading fungi.

If it rains and remains cloudy, I will probably brew another batch for a 2nd feeding early next week. Usually, I do the Worm Wine treatment every 2 weeks, but my plants are doing so well, and I don’t want to risk a spread of fungal disease in my community garden plots from surrounding plots. 

I brew to order, need at least 24 hours, and Worm Wine is $7/gallon or $5 if you order 4 or more gallons. 

Come see us at Texas Worm Ranch, our motto for gardeners is:  Organic, Successful, and Affordable!

Bringing the Heat!

Texas Worm Ranch is building gardens today for Maple and Motor restaurant.  The restaurant is well revered by the local food scene, and tales of M&M burgers with grilled jalapenos can be found all over the Web-World.  Thanks to the prodding of a certain patron, and the gumption of owner, Jack Perkins–M&M customers can start dreaming now of  the organic, safely grown,  just off the vine, smacking good heat of grilled jalapenos on those burgers.  Wipe the drool of your chin!