What to Do With Those Green Tomatoes….

Recipes for Zucchini and Green Tomatoes

If you have an over-abundance of either of the above, here are a couple of recipes to help you use them.

  • 4 med green tomatoes sliced thin (tomatoes should be completely green, not starting to change color) OR 1 med zucchini sliced in 1/4 in slices
  • olive oil

Combine dry ingredients below in a bowl.

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 4 tablespoons each of garlic and onion powder
  • some finely chopped fresh herbs of your choice (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon Lowery’s Seasoning Salt
  • 1/4 cup Red River Yeast, or Brewer’s Yeast (available from your nearest health food store)

In another bowl combine:

  • 2 cups of milk (and you can use any kind of milk, soy, rice, etc)
  • 1 egg
  • pinch of salt and pepper

Beat together.

Start Cooking!

Put a frying pan on med heat, and drizzle in a couple of tablespoons olive oil, and heat.

Start dipping your slices of green tomato or zucchini in milk mixture, then into flour mixture, coating all over, and put in your frying pan.

Let cook on each side until golden brown, place on a piece of paper to drain for a minute before eating. Enjoy!

How do you use your green tomatoes and zucchini? Share your recipes below. And if you know someone who is drowning in extra garden produce, please share this post with them!

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Cucumber & Melon Stem Rot

We have a problem every year in our greenhouse with any of our climbing vines (cucumbers, melons, squash, etc) and stem rot, called Fusarium Stem and Root Rot. We live on the coast where it is damp and cooler than the interior, so this is a common problem.
So I have experimented,  the last couple of summers with different ways of dealing with this fast spreading disease, and have come up with something I feel is quite effective.
As someone who tries at all costs to stay away from commercial pesticides, fungicides, fertilizers, and such, I was trying to find something that is easily accessible to everyone, cost-effective, and garden friendly.
And here it is, drum roll please: hydrogen peroxide. Yup, the stuff you buy off the shelf at the drug store. It is great for killing funguses and moulds, not to mention viruses, bacteria, and the like.
So aside from trying to be very careful about sanitizing thing like the greenhouse scissors, my hands, tools, and such to help slow the spread, I got rid of vines and leaves that were already yellowing and obviously not going to make it. I put the hydrogen peroxide in a spray bottle, straight up (here in Canada it’s a 3% solution) and sprayed it on any areas of the remaining vines that were starting to show rot. Last year I tried diluting the hydrogen peroxide with water, but didn’t feel it was strong enough.
So this year I put on gloves (you want to do this in case of back spray onto your hands, hydrogen peroxide can sting the fingers!), marked the bottle clearly, and so far the results have been impressive.
Morning and evening I have sprayed these areas for the last few days, and most areas have cleared right up leaving a sort of brown scab, or dry spot on the healed area. But the vines are fine, producing well, and of course, there’s the odd new spot that pops up with the fungus. Continual vigilance is necessary.
However, with hydrogen peroxide, I spray all the tools, scissors, greenhouse walls and frame (you can dilute it for this of course), and so far it is working well!
So I thought I would share, in case you are looking for help with this problem, or, if you have discovered a solution to this problem on your own that might help us out.
Happy melon growing!

Disclaimer: Please note that this article is only the opinion of the author, and is a result of her own experience. Results for others may be totally different. All precautions should still be taken to keep things like hydrogen peroxide out of reach of children and pets, and labels on bottles of hydrogen peroxide should be read and followed.

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Composting

Composting in urban areas and small spaces can seem particularly difficult, if you’re not quite sure where to start to begin with.

Add in zoning issues (many suburban subdivision have by-laws about composting), fussy landlords, if you are renting, or the fact that you live on a twentieth floor apartment, can make it an insurmountable issue to get started.

But cheer up, there are viable options to make you happy and help you stay out of trouble with the powers that be!

Bear with me here, as I’m going to do a brief tutorial on composting, for those who really aren’t sure where or what it is. Compost is broken down organic material that comes from household and garden waste, and is then added back into your soil.

It used to be, in the days before garburators, weekly garbage collection, and recycling, that everyone had to care for their own garbage. Every household had a kitchen waste pile out behind the house on which food scraps, weeds, and such got tossed. Over a period of a few months, the pile would slowly decompose back to good soil, which would be put back into the garden. The richness of the compost pile made for great vegetables and fruits.

One did NOT add meat scraps and fat or bones, or dairy to the pile. Instead of decomposing slowly, they rotted quickly, and attracted things you don’t want to have to deal with in your garden, like maggots, wasps and hornets, bears, and whatever else. One also did not add dog or cat feces or human waste, as it was discovered that after a while, people got sick when this was added to the garden. It made beautiful compost, but was not such a good idea for vegetables. One could, on the other hand, add chicken, horse, cow, and pig manure, composted, with fantastic results. Remember that green thumbs have been refining this process for thousands of years, starting, I’m sure, with Abel after the Garden of Eden.

This composting process combined two well-defined universal facts.

1. ‘Waste not, want not’, the old-fashioned adage that one didn’t waste anything, and everything had a use.

2. ‘For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction’ (Newtons Laws of motion), which applies to physics, karma, and just about every other aspect of life, and particularly gardening.

And in gardening, no matter what you hear, the first and most basic gardening fact is that growing food takes matter out of the soil. If you wish to keep healthy soil and have healthy, happy vegetables and fruits, you have to put organic matter back in, to keep it thick and rich, to hold moisture, and support life.

If you don’t believe this, try a three- or five-year model on your garden, where you don’t add organic matter in, try and solve the problem with chemical fertilizers, and let me know what your soil and production is like in five years. Time and again, I have seen people do this to their gardens, and after the first three or four years, they can’t figure out why their soil looks terrible, sandy, the plants aren’t growing right, often turning yellow or getting diseases and dying. In the end, they throw up their hands, say, ‘We used to have such nice soil, I guess we will have to replace it’, and then have to go to all the trouble of hauling away the ‘bad dirt’, and hauling, or paying someone to haul in some nice, black top soil, and start over. And most have no idea why this is happening.

So this is THE Great Gardening Secret:

Take care of your soil.    You can do this with composting, and there are two main parts to this. Add matter back into it in the form of garden compost, which you can easily do with a composter. You can also combine this with another method, earthworm composting, which I cover in another blog post here. Your garden will love you, I’m sure, and will reward you with many years of production and happy plants!

We live in an urban neighbour hood in a small town, an old town, so we don’t have the by-laws that many newer subdivisions in big cities have (which is something you should add to your check list if you are buying a house, by the way. Find out if you are allowed composting and small farm animals. Many new places you are not allowed to have a chicken or two in your back yard. And ignorance does not excuse you of the consequences).

We have a couple old bins, one grandpa built, obviously, one he got at some place like Canadian Tire years ago. It has a little trap door down at the bottom on the front, that you can reach in and scoop out compost as its ready to put in your garden.

Or you can invest in a bigger type, with a revolving barrel. While generally more expensive, these have the advantage of making compost quickly, and you don’t have to turn the compost pile yourself!

However, you can make your own compost bin, very easily, and here is how.

The simplest compost barrel to use is a garbage can. Yup, that’s right, and if you can swing it, get an upright one with the two wheels that makes it easier to drag to the curb. Only your going to drag it to the garden full of nice compost! You should be able to pick one up at Canadian Tire or Walmart for $20-$30.

Get a sturdy plastic one with a lid, of course. Drill some holes around the bottom for drainage. Six to eight holes should be good. Drill some around the top, just under where the edge of the lid sits for ventilation.

Add in some food scraps,  and grass clippings, and a couple shovels full of garden dirt, to get some extra micro-organism action happening. If you can, add a half dozen earthworms in to aid the process. Every few days, use those wheels to tip the garbage can on its’ side, roll it back and forth a few times to shake everything up a little, and stand it back in its’ corner. The contents should be moist, although not soaking wet.  On warm or hot days, check to make sure that it has some moisture in there, give it a quick spray with the garden hose if necessary.

This should give you some great dirt in a few weeks, with minimal expenditure, and effort.

Do you have a composter? What has worked best for you? Write below and share your ideas. And if you know someone this blog post might help, please share it with them too!

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Lettuces & Mescluns

For someone starting out, your lettuces and mesclun mixes are some of the easiest and quickly rewarding items to grow. You can grow them in little pots, big pots, and areas that don’t receive direct sunlight.

They are fabulous for growing in limited spaces, such as apartments and on balconies or window sills.

In fact, these little workhorses  prefer cooler, damper areas, and although they grow quickest in direct sunlight, they will grow very well with bright light, even if there is little direct sunshine.

If they get too much heat, they start to get bitter, and will start to bolt (send up seed stalks), so keeping them in that north facing window isn’t such a bad idea once they’ve started sprouting.

One kind of green in particular that grows in low-light and cold weather conditions is called Mizuna. It’s mature leaves remind one of dandilion leaves. It’s fantastic for winter growing, and low light conditions.

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I am here to tell you that this will be the greens that will get away on you with no encouragement. The picture above is of about a two foot planting of Mizuna, in our green house, and with five people in our family, and a couple of neighbours, this is what we ended up with. We couldn’t keep up! Once I got past the guilt of feeling like I was wasting food, I started concentrating on what a wonderful resource it is.

A small pot on your window sill will undoubtedly go a long way!

Has anyone else tried growing this? What were your results?

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Recycling and Protection for Your Plants

If you live, as I do, in a climate zone where it is cold and wet more often then not, you may be a little concerned about some of your heat loving plants and their survival at this time of year.

I have transplanted my melons and cucumbers  into the green house, and am wanting to protect them from the cool nights, even though they are inside cover.

Voila and to the rescue, plastic milk jugs! Remove the lid for some ventilation, and cut out the bottom. You can set this over your tender plants at night, and remove in the morning. Not as fancy as the cloches you can buy to put over your plants, but they don’t cost $10 either!

Just thought I’d share this little environment and money saver!

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Pests and Cabbages

An age long cry amongst gardeners is over things that like to eat our cole crops. That’s cabbage moths, and other critters that like cabbages, collards, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, and so forth.
As I really don’t like to use chemicals to kill these things (we are eating the veggies that are sprayed), I thought I would share a couple of my favourite ways of dealing with two of the main problems with things that like to kill off my cabbages and broccoli.
The first evil little invader is the cut worm. In dealing with this fat, white little grub, it is necessary to understand a little of their living habits. Now, there are many types of cutworms around the world, so this applies to the habits of the ones we have living on the coast. They live by burrowing in the soil, and travel along about a half inch below the surface. And-this is the interesting part- they don’t burrow deeper than an inch when traveling, nor will you find them on the surface of the soil crawling over barriers like many caterpillar types of grubs. They just squirm along till they find something good to eat, and then eat it till it’s dead before they move on.
So here is a way my mother taught me to prevent them from getting to your cabbages, or whatever else. 
*Take a cardboard milk carton or a juice carton, and cut into 1 1/2 inch squares.
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*When you transplant your seedlings out into the garden or green house, press one of these squares down into the soil around your plant, and leave it sticking out about a quarter inch. 
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*Little burrowing cut worms will just go around the obstacle, and not be able to get to your tender veggies! Smile
To date, as long as I have used this method, I have not lost a cole plant to cut worms. On top of which, at the end of the season, I don’t have to worry about gathering up the little squares, they just slowly disintegrate over the season, and in the fall, they get tilled into the soil. Easy peasy!
The other major problem I have here, is the cabbage moth.  One or two of these pretty little critters, and a few days later your cabbages are crawling with worms.  Crying face
The best and easiest way I have found to deal with this, is to get floating row covers. You can order them from just about any garden supply catalogue, and many garden centres carry them. 
I get the light weight type, cut to fit my rows, and cover. Yes, you can get all fancy and get aluminum hoops, or build frames if you like. I put a few sticks (hey, they are free and easy to grab from the wood pile Winking smile ) in to help hold the cover up off the ground. You don’t really need to, but I like to, I find it’s easier to deal with when its not stuck in the dirt all the time. 
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Around the edges, I dig a little trench about two inches deep, bury the edges of the cloth, and leave it. 
*Sunlight still gets in
* You can water right through it, or just let the rain do its job
* Once in a while I pull up one side of the cover to weed, then rebury the edge.
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In the fall, you can pull your floating row covers out, hang them over the fence in the back yard, and hose them down. When they are dry, fold and put away in the storage shed for spring. They can be reused for several seasons, which is another plus in my book. 
I can’t tell you how happy I am with the vegetables that grow under these things!
Another natural way of getting rid of pests, and not just the ones listed above, is diatomaceous earth. Sprinkling this powder in and around your plants can not only get rid of your cabbage moth worms, but also things like snails, slugs and ants. You can find this at many gardening centres or order it online.
I hope this helps you a little in having a lush and bountiful garden this season! 
What things do you use to ward off pests in your garden? Share below!
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