Little Garden, Microgreens: Part II

Posted in edible leaves with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 24, 2012 by PickMeYard

The beauty of growing a little microgreen garden is that it’s so compact and convenient.  The toughest part for us is remembering to water them everyday and to never let them dry out.  We have forgotten about them before and had to start a new batch, but it wasn’t such a big deal.

We like to re-use food containers to grow our microgreens.  My favorite was a big, plastic birthday cake container from the grocery store.  We used a lighter to burn holes in the bottom for drainage. It even came with a lid… perfect.  We’re amazed at how many food containers are ideal for growing our microgreens… trash to treasure.  I can’t take credit for this idea though.  It was sparked by You Grow Girl.com.  That chick has some clever ideas.

I think this container had lettuce in it. The plastic is thin which makes it easy to burn drainage holes in. Sometimes I use the lids as a base to catch drainage water.

I keep a bucket of mixed potting soil with a cup on my porch all the time.  It makes it convenient to start a new batch of microgreens.  We only put a couple inches of soil into the containers.  The first time we grew microgreens,  we filled the soil to the top.  When the seeds germinated they pushed the soil right over the sides of the container.

When we grow microgreens, we tend to use a lot of seeds.  The seeds should be sprinkled generously over the top of the soil.  I buy bulk seeds for growing microgreens since they usually have a better price.  Oh, and some seeds should be soaked overnight for a better germination rate (chard and peas, for example).  Also, keep in mind that each seed type will have a different growing ideal.  Broccoli and purples cabbage are some of the easier micro greens to grow, whereas celery and basil could poise a challenge.  We love to experiment, hate to follow instructions, and have a “just do it” attitude around here.  We try to learn from our mistakes though.

Bags of seeds for growing microgreens.

After we’ve selected our container, half-filled with it soil and sprinkled our seeds, we cover each container with a paper towel.  The paper towel should not be removed until the microgreens push it up with their growth.  The paper towel should not stick to them at this point.  Don’t be too hasty to pull the towel off or you could pull your microgreens out with it.  We like to lift up a corner of the towel and peek underneath to see how they’re doing.

Microgreens trays covered with paper towels. We water right over the towels. It keeps everything in tact and helps the seeds germinate.

The seeds do not need light to germinate, but they do need water and warmth.

Are they ready yet? Nope, not yet.

They can’t be allowed to dry out.  I made a watering canister out of an old juice container by drilling holes in the lid.  It delivers the water like a rain shower.

More trash to treasure. This juice container was saved from the landfill and makes the perfect microgreen waterer.

Grayson spreading his favorite seeds... fennel.

Master micro gardener.

How could this not be packed full of nutrients?

Beautiful, non-toxic and chemical free greens grown in our rich little garden… rich with life!

Come grow with us!

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Little Garden, Microgreens: Part I

Posted in edible leaves with tags , , , , , , , on April 23, 2012 by PickMeYard

We’re in love with microgreens.  They make the perfect urban, mini-garden.  I think you should fall in love with them too.  Oh please, please let me tell you why.  Don’t let your eyeballs glaze over… this is good stuff.

Are you wondering what microgreens are?  Sprouts?  Baby greens?  They’re not either.  Microgreens are the stage of growth when a plant develops its first leaves, after the seed sprouts.  If the microgreen is not harvested, then it grows into the baby green stage.  The microgreen is a treasure trove of nutrients.  I don’t have a nutritional analysis on this though, only logic.  For further reading, there is a fabulous book called Microgreens by Eric Franks & Jasmine Richardson.  Microgreens look beautiful, taste like heaven, and have health benefits.   They’re full of flavor and I don’t have to chew and crunch like I’m eating a salad.  They do actually melt in your mouth.

A bite of avocado with microgreens, shredded jicama, and a miso dressing.

However, the best part is they are incredibly easy and fast to grow.  I love the little garden look on my indoor patio.  Our favorite microgreens are fennel (tastes like licorice), basil, alfalfa, wheat berries, peas, amaranth, kohlrabi, celery, onion, beets (they’re red), sunflowers, red clover… but there are many, many more that we haven’t tried yet.

It tasted as good as it looks.

Our little microgrreen garden.

My children love to grow microgreens in the summer because there are no weeds, no insects and no hot sun.  It’s not possible for us to grow lettuce (and a lot of other stuff) in our Southwest Florida heat and humidity (during the summer) because the elements are just too extreme.  Our microgreen garden, on the patio or in the kitchen, makes up for this.  We can have our cake garden and eat it too.

Loring planting the seeds in our microgreen garden.

Kindergarten.

Have I talked you into growing some?  I’m trying really hard.  In my next post, I’ll share a really easy and inexpensive way to grow them.  We’ve been growing crops in recyclable containers on our lanai and in our kitchen.

Grapefruit with microgreens and edible flowers. Delicious!

Our wheat berry microgreens with water droplets on them.

Come grow with us!

Suyo Long Cucumber

Posted in Fruits of our labor with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 16, 2012 by PickMeYard

We’re always on the lookout for vegetables that can stand up to our brutal Southwest Florida summers.  This summer we’re experimenting with an Everglades tomato bush that we were thrilled to find.  It’s doing great in the heat so far and setting fruit like a champion, but it’s not summer yet.  Extreme heat usually prevents tomato plants from setting fruit.  The true test for the Everglades tomato plant will be in July and August.  This special tomato deserves its own post.  I’ll be writing one soon.

I want to tell you about another heat-resistant vegetable… the Suyo Long cucumber (Cucumis sativus).  Okay, it’s not really a vegetable, it’s a fruit. We’ve been growing this cucumber for several seasons now and the results have been so rewarding.  It doesn’t mind the heat at all.

This is a Suyo Long cucumber growing up our fence. I threw a rotted cucumber by the fence and look what grew. I love it when that happens.

The cucumber package says the Suyo Long originally comes from China and is a sweet-flavored, tender, crispy, ribbed fruit that can grow up to 15′ long.   It’s a burpless, non-bitter and excellent for salads or bread and butter pickles.  We found this description to be completely accurate.  This cucumber is delicious!

Hello? Sorry, we can't come to the phone right now.

We purchased our Suyo Long cucumber seeds from SustainableSeedCo. com.  They’re heirloom seeds and definitely worth growing.  It’s very important to note that this plant must be watered every day.  If it dries out, it’s done.  The plants I had in the ground did much, much better than the plants I grew in containers.  Sometimes my plants don’t get watered and the ones in the ground always stand a better chance of survival in our garden.

The mustard greens in the photo above are wilted but I was growing them for the chickens.  They were loaded with eggs and caterpillars from the Great Southern White butterfly (Ascia monuste).  The girls went crazy when they spotted me coming toward them with my arms full of these.

An heirloom, Suyo Long cucumber that is ready to be picked.

Click here  for a good article on when to harvest a cucumber.  I can’t give advice on harvesting cucumbers because I don’t count the days from planting.  We just pick it and eat it around here.  However, I do know that it’s best to let the cucumber turn yellow if you plan on saving the seeds . We do practice this and it works for us.

Cucumber seeds from the Suyo Long variety.

This is damage from pests. I started spraying them with garden neem oil and it prevented it from happening again.

I’ve been using Theraneem Organix Neem Oil for the Garden and I’ve learned to love this product.  I spot spray it early in the morning before the honeybees wake up.  (Researchers say neem oil is non-toxic to spiders and pollinating insects). I also use this product around our dairy goats.  I mix some essential oils in it for them… rosemary, lavender, geranium and peppermint, in a base of distilled water.  The goats actually walk into the mist instead of running away.

Quick… how many Suyo Long cucumber jokes can you tell in 30 seconds?  Laughing is the best medicine!

Come grow with us!

Guinea Hen Weed

Posted in Herbs with tags , , , , , on April 11, 2012 by PickMeYard

I haven’t posted to my blog in a few months. Hopefully, you noticed.  However, I was invited to be a guest blogger for the Herb Companion magazine, so I did a post for them.  Check it out at HerbCompanion.com.

I’m a gatherer of information and I’ve been doing some serious collecting lately.  I’ve got lots of great stuff to share with you.  I’ll get right on that.

My latest favorite is the Guinea Hen Weed.  I find this herb to be absolutely amazing.  I’m wondering why there isn’t more of it around.

Dried guinea hen weed in my hand.

I learned about this plant in Kingston, Jamaica last year.  A friend (David Couch) asked me if I’d ever heard of it.  I hadn’t.  When he began to describe this herb to me I jumped up with excitement.  “Do you  have any? Can you show me?”  You’ll have to click on the HerbCompanion.com  link for the rest of the story.

This extraordinary plant fights cancer and scientists are actively studying its properties.  This herb can find and kill the cancer cells without damaging the good, disease-fighting cells. I need to add a disclaimer here in the middle of my story.  I’m not a doctor and I am making no claims about anything.  I simply gather information that I find to be wonderful and pass it along.  The Healing Power of Rainforest Herbs by Leslie Taylor  has a wealth of information on guinea hen weed.   Click here for an excerpt from the book.

A bag of dried guinea hen weed with a label on it from a health food store in Kingston, Jamaica.

Guinea hen weed (Petiveria allicea) is a viney plant that grows all over the island of Jamaica.  It’s also known as ‘skunk weed’ because it has a really stinky smell to it when it’s fresh.  It doesn’t smell bad when it’s dried.

I found many stores that sell the dried herb in Jamaica.  I paid $200 Jamaican dollars for the bag in the photo above which converts to $2.85 U.S.  There’s a website called Rain Tree Nutrition that sells it in the United States in capsule form, (they call it anamu).

I believe interest in this healer is gaining in popularity and I bet you’ll be hearing more about it.

Come grow with us!

Our Florida Christmas Tree

Posted in Trees with tags , , , , , on December 24, 2011 by PickMeYard

We broke our usual tradition this year with our Christmas tree.  My 5-year-old daughter is very into decorating and we were taking way too long to get a Christmas tree for her.  She was growing impatient.  Finding a tree was getting complicated… and expensive.  Our little town sold out of Christmas trees quickly so we needed to go on a tree hunt somewhere else.  We also needed to purchase a new tree base because our old one disappeared.

Then, our tree found us.  It was a big, beautiful citrus tree with six different kinds of citrus fruit grafted onto one tree.  It’s called a cocktail tree.  Grayson and I were in love with this lovely tree.  We both wanted it so badly, but it was pricey… about the same price as a cut Christmas tree and a new base for it.  We asked permission from the 5-year-old to substitute the cocktail tree for the Northern fir-tree.  She thought it was a great idea!

We brought the tree home, set it up in our usual Christmas tree spot, and spent the evening decorating.  A new tradition has been born.  We absolutely love our citrus Christmas tree.  I’m sure this idea is a contemptuous act to most die-hard Christmas traditionalists, but we live in Southwest Florida.  It still smells like Christmas around here, just more citrusy.  My kids are excited to plant the tree after Christmas and we’re already picking out the spot.  We’re definitely doing this again next year.

The six types of citrus grafted onto our cocktail tree. We made a Christmas tree ornament with them.

The kids are proud of our Christmas tree. Good... 'cause that's what it's all about.

Our new custom... a Florida Christmas tree.

The temperature was in the 80’s today, so we aren’t expecting snow.  It turned out to be a white Christmas though… Florida style.  We had a dump truck full of sand delivered for the kids.  They couldn’t be happier with their mountain of sand and cardboard sled.

Florida snow and sled.

We hope everyone has a joyful 2011 holiday season.

Come grow with us!

Fort Myers Beach Baskets

Posted in Inspiration with tags , , , , , , , on December 9, 2011 by PickMeYard

We have a gazillion palm fronds in Florida.  My son and I have been thinking about a way to use our old palm fronds to make a Seminole Indian thatch cover as a shady area for our goats.  So, on a recent outing to Fort Myers Beach, a man weaving baskets out of palm fronds immediately caught our eye.  We watched him quickly weave an awesome basket out of one frond.  We thought this was so cool and had to buy some.

Dave weaving a small basket at Fort Myers Beach.

He starts the basket with the middle of the frond.

Dave makes it look easy.  I seriously doubt it’s easy.  The finished baskets are beautiful.  Dave has a website and sells his baskets from it, but he’s half the price if you buy them from him at Fort Myers Beach.  We definitely had to have one… actually two.  The baskets start out green since they’re still freshly cut and then they dry out and turn brown.  It’s not a bad thing.  The dried baskets are lovely.  I’d been searching for the perfect basket and I found it.  Writing this post makes me want to go buy more from him.  Maybe I’ll get one of his hats too… any excuse to go to the beach. 

Boys watching Dave weave the baskets.

The basket is taking shape.

These are the two baskets I bought.

Dave says that cats go bonkers over the baskets.  He said he makes some just to donate to the cats at the Humane Society.  Check out his website at Coconut Baskets.com.

Koby bought his own basket with his own money.

Come grow with us!

Umbuzi Goat Dairy

Posted in Goats with tags , , , , , , , , on December 7, 2011 by PickMeYard

Umbuzi is the name of the only licensed goat dairy in Florida.  It seems hard to believe, but it’s true.  Florida has lots of dairy goats.  Why is there only one commercial dairy? The huge investment in money, time and expertise may have something to do with it.  However, the folks at Umbuzi have put their hearts and souls into this operation.  It’s probably easier to move a mountain than to open a dairy from what I’ve heard.  Umbuzi has done it though and they’re hoping to start selling their products to the public by February 2012.

Umbuzi Dairy has a herd of over 70 Nubian goats.

Umbuzi Dairy will offer hard and soft cheeses, plus pasteurized milk.  They’ve just added yogurt to the list too because it’s the best yogurt ever.

They don’t have a finished website yet, but they’re working on it.  They can be found at  UmbuziFarm.com.

The goats at Umbuzi live in paradise. Isn't this pasture beautiful? The pink thing is for back scratching.

They created an incredibly clever way to milk lots of goats at the same time, then send them down the line and back out to pasture. It moves.

This is some of their equipment.

A commercial dairy requires perfection with temperatures, ph, and bacteria detection.

Umbuzi's friendly Nubian goats.

Pasture land at Umbuzi Goat Dairy in Southwest Florida.

Umbuzi is located in a rural area outside Ft.Myers, Florida.  They’re a family operated business with healthy animals and a beautiful dream.  Isn’t this the kind of food we all want?  Support for local business is a very good thing, no matter where you live.

Delicious goat cheese at Umbuzi Dairy. I just had to sneak a peek.

Come grow with us!