foodscout blog find health naturally Mon, 16 Jan 2012 17:46:39 +0000 en hourly 1 One Year of Gardening: What Is Easy, What Is Hard Mon, 27 Sep 2010 01:53:35 +0000 foodscout Salad from the garden

Salad from the garden

Just over a year ago, we put in our first back yard, raised bed garden. At this point, we are still not experts, still have more unsuccessful plants than successful ones, and are still frequently overwhelmed by all that we do not know.

But one thing we have learned over the last year is which vegetables are really easy to grow, which are nearly impossible, and which fall in between, at least in our particular mountain climate in Western North Carolina. Wherever you live, it could of course be completely different.

What’s Easy:

  • Greens of just about any kind, including beets, chard, lamb’s quarters, lettuces, kale, Asian greens, collards, and cilantro. The Asian greens and kale do need frequent tending to pull off cabbage worms that will annihilate a plant within days. The lettuces tend to attract aphids which can be dealt with using natural sprays.
  • Snap peas. Give them some nice thin lattice to climb up and they are good to go.
  • Strawberries. They need a little time to get established, but once they do, they can take over a garden bed.
  • Green onions. I stuck some seeds in the ground, didn’t pay much attention, and in a few weeks I had fresh onions.
  • Sun gold tomatoes (orange cherry-sized). The only tomatoes that have done well for me. This one plant grew like crazy and provided dozens of little tomatoes each week for a few months.

What’s hard:

  • Tomatoes (aside from those sun golds). I tried two years in a row and both times they were destroyed by blight. That is a fungus that causes the tomatoes to rot on the vine, but it is a regional problem so you may not have to worry about it. At least this year I managed to get a half dozen brandywine tomatoes out of the garden.
  • Watermelon. I was so excited to be able to grow my own fruit. When the little melons started to form on the vine, I was hopeful that this would be a success. Then the plant just shriveled up and died without warning. On the other hand, my neighbor has a front lawn composed entirely of beautiful watermelons, so I know it’s not impossible.
  • Cucumbers. In two years I have managed to enjoy only 3 cucumbers from my garden. The first year they were destroyed by pickle worms. The second year the plants got some kind of fungus and died. Those 3 cukes sure were delicious though.
  • Blueberries. I have killed 2 bushes and I have one that is surviving but has yet to produce a single edible berry.
  • Garlic. I don’t even know what happened. It just died.

What’s hit-or-miss:

  • Bell peppers. I got a few good ones last year (even though I planted them too late) and this year I have 2 plants that are producing quite a few good-looking peppers. The jury is still out but it looks promising.
  • Squash. My summer squash was phenomenal and plentiful last year, until pickle worms destroyed it. When I somehow managed to accidentally plant spaghetti squash this year, it produced only a few squashes which molded before they were ready to be picked.

That’s how it’s gone for us so far. What’s important is that this year has been more successful than last year. If we can keep that trend going, we’ll be in great shape.

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Summer garden planting Sun, 16 May 2010 01:09:02 +0000 Diana tomato cages

tomato cages

This year, we have the chance to do what we were too late for last year. That is the May planting. In the southern Appalachian region, early to mid-May is the time when all the below-50 degree weather is behind us.

This year, we’ve added a fourth 4X8 garden bed to our yard to make room for everything, which still doesn’t appear to be enough space!

From seed, we planted a variety of greens, peas, green onions, and cucumbers. From plant starts, we planted sun gold tomatoes, Brandywine tomatoes, purple Cherokee tomatoes, orange bell peppers, red bell peppers, lambsquarters, stevia, strawberries, and something called “moon and stars watermelon”. We also decided to try a raspberry bush this year.

Some things we are doing this year to hopefully avoid the failings of last year:

  • We put a fence around our new small raspberry bush so that it does not meet the same fate of our blue berry bush which we tripped over several times.
  • We are using tomato cages this year instead of stakes. Last year, the stakes worked OK, but we often accidentally broke off major parts of the plant when we needed to re-stake part of it. Of course, it didn’t matter in the end since all of our tomatoes succumbed to blight.
  • We planted everything at the right time! Last year, we planted our summer vegetables much too late (July). I’m told that could have contributed to our tomato blight as well as the pickleworm problem we had with the cucumbers and squash.
Winter greens harvested in mid-April

Winter greens harvested in mid-April

One reason we ran out of space in the garden (we’re hoping to also plant some cantaloupe) is because some of our fall greens from last year are still producing! Greens has been the biggest success in our garden, which is great since it’s also the largest component of our regular diet.

We are still learning, and appreciate any advice you want to share with us. We have better expectations for this year than for last year. And hopefully we will learn lessons this year that will make the next planting even better still.

I heard recently someone say that it takes 3 years to really figure out what you’re doing. We’re on our way!

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Spring Planting in the Foodscout Garden Sun, 04 Apr 2010 12:47:54 +0000 Diana Winter is finally over! The sun has been out and we haven’t seen sub-freezing temperatures in at least a week. Time to plant our early spring vegetables! Here’s what’s happening in our southern Appalachian area garden. If you live in a different climate, like Arizona for instance, you will need to look at what grows at this time in your area.

Our beets, red lettuce, tat soi, and collards made it through the very tough winter with a lot of help from our portable greenhouse tent. Once the air started heating up, the greens began to really flourish again. Additionally, some seeds that we planted much too late last fall that we thought were wasted, actually began to sprout last week! Winter lettuce and arugula is coming up.

To add to what we’ve got in place, we’re planting some good early spring seeds. Snow peas, chard, dino (lacinato) kale, more beets, and green bunching onions.

You’ll notice that our garden is really heavy on the greens. There are 2 reasons for that:

  1. We eat TONS of greens, typically in the form of a green smoothie every night for dinner and
  2. Greens do very well during these colder months.

The fruit vegetables, such as tomatoes and cucumbers, will have to wait for another month or two.

Update: On a walk around the neighborhood today, I stopped by a neighbor’s house who was getting rid of some strawberry plants after thinning out her garden. So I went ahead and planted some strawberries in one of my garden beds, as well as incorporating a few in random places throughout my front yard landscaping. We’ll see how they do.

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At the end of a long winter, Vitamin D is in the spotlight Tue, 09 Mar 2010 11:32:11 +0000 Diana sunshineVitamin D, not technically a vitamin at all, is created in our bodies when the sun hits our skin. It’s good to see that after a cold grey winter like this one, some attention is being paid to this important nutrient. Here are a couple of interesting articles:

Vitamin D deficiency is why you get flu and other infections

This next article does a thorough job of talking about Vitamin D with regards to how many people are deficient. Unfortunately, the entire article focuses on taking supplements and never once even mentions that you can get lots of free Vitamin D from going out into the sunshine.

Getting your Vitamin D: After harsh Western North Carolina winter, rays of ‘hot’ vitamin D return

Any time that sun is shining and you have some time to spare, roll your sleeves up and soak in some sun. Try to get 10-30 minutes per day without the use of sunblock. If that’s not possible, supplements may be your only option.

Read our full page on Vitamin D.

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Mini Greenhouse Tent Saves Greens From Snow Storm Mon, 21 Dec 2009 03:13:20 +0000 Diana garden tentAbout a foot of snow fell this weekend in Asheville. Power was out for 15 hours, stores and restaurants were closed, and cars were snowed in for days. But we had fresh garden greens this weekend from our garden.

Our StarterHouse portable greenhouse by FlowerHouse arrived just in time. We’ve had it up for over a week, trying to decide if we ought to get more for the other beds. There are various brands as well as do-it-yourself plans available, but this one was cost-effective at $80, and it just happened to fit our 4′X8′ garden perfectly.

It does have some drawbacks. The most notable is that it collapsed  under the weight of a foot of snow. Had we not caught it right away, it could have done major damage to our plants. On the bright side, after clearing the snow off of it, it easily popped right back up again quite easily. So in the future, we’ll make sure to clear off accumulating snow after a few inches fall.

greens from our gardenAnother minor hassle is that the zippers can be hard to open and close when it is below freezing because ice can form. This is a pain, but worth the trouble considering the benefits.

In colder climates, it’s possible that this tent would not protect plants adequately from the cold. It’s perfect for our area in the North Carolina mountains.

After this weekend, we are very pleased with this product and will order a second one so that we can keep more greens growing during the winter.

We make absolutely no money from FlowerHouse. We just really like this product.

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Article: That Tap Water Is Legal but May Be Unhealthy Fri, 18 Dec 2009 19:46:08 +0000 Diana unsafe waterWe’ve been filtering our water for years, but after doing more research on water, decided to switch to bottled distilled water. Tap water is so bad these days that filtering it doesn’t get all the chemicals out. Flouride, in particular, was the main impetus for the switch. That’s not to say that filtering your tap water is not worthwhile, because it is. We chose to take the extra step.

Even during times when money has been scarce, we kept room in our budget for bottled water. Nothing is more important to long-term and short-term health than clean water.

So this recent article in the New York Times was a welcome surprise. It is painful to hear that so many people are consuming unsafe water in the United States. But an honest look at the problem allows us to make changes for the better.

The 35-year-old federal law regulating tap water is so out of date that the water Americans drink can pose what scientists say are serious health risks — and still be legal.

Only 91 contaminants are regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act, yet more than 60,000 chemicals are used within the United States, according to Environmental Protection Agency estimates. Government and independent scientists have scrutinized thousands of those chemicals in recent decades, and identified hundreds associated with a risk of cancer and other diseases at small concentrations in drinking water, according to an analysis of government records by The New York Times.

Read the full article in the NY Times here

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Article: Exploring a Low-Acid Diet for Bone Health Wed, 25 Nov 2009 21:53:41 +0000 Diana This isn’t news in some health-conscious circles, but it’s wonderful to see it addressed so prominently in the New York Times. This article challenges the idea, long touted by the dairy industry, that milk is beneficial in combating osteoporosis. It goes even further and suggests that maybe it is part of the problem.

The science of osteoporosis and its resultant fractures has long been plagued by some vexing observations. Why, for example, are osteoporotic fractures relatively rare in Asian countries like Japan, where people live as long or longer than Americans and consume almost no calcium-rich dairy products? Why, in Western countries that consume the most dairy foods, are rates of osteoporotic fractures among the highest in the world? And why has no consistent link been found between the amount of calcium people consume and protection against osteoporosis?

An alternative theory of bone health may — or may not — explain these apparent contradictions. It is the theory of low-acid eating, a diet laden with fruits and vegetables but relatively low in acid-producing protein and moderate in cereal grains. Its proponents suggest that this menu plan could lead to stronger bones than the typical American diet rich in dairy products and animal protein, often enhanced by calcium supplements.

Read the full article here

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Harvesting Unripe Peppers Mon, 26 Oct 2009 01:55:25 +0000 Diana unripe sweet peppersWe planted our red sweet peppers quite a bit late in the season. My plants produced a lot of peppers but did not have a chance to fully ripen before the first frost came and withered all the leaves.

My gardening advisor suggested we go ahead and harvest the peppers, since they were already pretty large.

Definitely, they are not as tasty as they should be.  They are slightly bitter and not as crispy as they should be. But they are still pretty good and definitely have that same refreshing taste that all home grown food seems to have.

Now that the peppers and other summer vegetables are gone, there’s space to plant some more winter greens. I’ve just added winter lettuce and arugula to my garden beds.

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Tiny Urban Gardens Wherever They Will Fit Mon, 19 Oct 2009 00:01:48 +0000 Diana sidewalk garden bedI spend a lot of time walking around my neighborhood. I used to enjoy the pretty landscaping, but over the past year or so, a significant change has happened. More and more neighbors are turning their yards into vegetable gardens; finding any patch of earth that gets sunlight and planting food.

This is an older neighborhood so there are many wonderful huge trees, which means a lot of yards are too shady to grow food. That hasn’t deterred some from planting their gardens in less conventional places. Back yards, hidden behind fences, are no longer the only place you can put a garden.

Entire front yards are now replaced with rows of leafy greens.  Steep hillsides are turned into terraced gardens. And my personal favorite: 4 neighbors got together and built raised garden beds in the “right of way” area between the sidewalk and the road.

You could take this explosion of urban vegetable gardening as a negative sign; highlighting our lack of faith in the future of our food supply. You could also take it as a positive sign; that a rapidly growing number of people are taking control of their health and reconnecting with real wholesome food.

If you want to grow your own food, you can find a way.

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Gardening and Farming on Rooftops in the big cities Sun, 04 Oct 2009 01:48:22 +0000 Diana rooftop farmEven in the Big Apple, residents are finding ways to garden. One resident has even created a 6,000 square foot commercial organic farm, on a rooftop in Brooklyn.

Check out the video here.

Learn more about Rooftop Farms, in Brooklyn NY.

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