Garden Check-In

Sustainability

One of my resolutions this year was to become more sustainable by growing some of my own food. I started mostly everything from seed and I am finally starting to see some of the fruits and vegetables of my labor! Here’s a quick recap of my process: I germinated most of the seeds to start. The only ones I started straight from seed were the sunflowers and the green beans. After germinating I started the seeds inside the house to make sure the weather didn’t beat them up. The beans were the only seeds sown directly outdoors. I did have a few plants die which I replaced with organic seedlings from Green Acres Nursery & Supply. The ones I replaced were the yellow squash and one of the cucumbers (only one of mine survived). I also ended up purchasing a butternut squash plant and an eggplant along with some herbs. The herbs I bought were basil, sage and oregano. I even ended up planting some green onions in a garden bed that were from the grocery store. I think I had a very successful turnout overall and am so happy that things went so well with my first season starting from seed.

Enough recap, let’s show you how everything is looking!

Here is one of three sunflowers. The first image is what the sunflower looked like when it first bloomed. The second shows the seeds forming inside of the sunflower. Stay tuned for a post on how to harvest the seeds.

There are green beans galore in the garden right now! I picked this handful last night and have many, many others waiting to ripen. I can’t wait to use these as a side dish or in a salad. I ate a couple of them raw while I was picking and they are so delicious. Even the ladybugs love them!

Since I bought the squash plants and eggplant later in the season they haven’t produced yet, but the zucchini has not disappointed. This is one of two zucchs I’ve harvested so far, and they are so delicious! And even though only one of the original cucumber plants survived it already has a baby cucumber hiding in the trellis. I can’t wait for the other to start producing too!

The tomatoes haven’t ripened yet, but the plants are loaded with babies! I just know they are all going to ripen at the same time and I am going to be overloaded with tomatoes. I am going to use this as an opportunity to learn to can them into fresh tomatoes and sauces so stay tuned for that! I have cherry tomatoes and larger tomatoes that are coming in – 6 plants total – which is going to yield me a huge crop!

The only fruit items we were looking forward to this year have either already produced or have been taken by the heat. The apricots survived and were delectable. Unfortunately, the peaches seemed like they may have gotten too hot and started falling off the tree while they were still green. I didn’t expect our trees to produce this year at all since it was their first year, but happy that at least the apricot gave us some fruit. What will be sort of cool is picking our neighbors fruit off the limbs overhanging into our yard – figs, plums and grapes oh my!

I’m so thrilled with how everything has been going and can’t wait to see more growth. Stay tuned for more posts on sunflower seed harvesting, canning, pruning and more! Until then, happy gardening!

MelissaRose

Gardening in January

Sustainability

Part of my fourth New Year’s Resolution for 2019 is to become more self-sustainable by increasing the size of my garden. As stated in a previous post, I already have two good sized raised garden beds I plan on using as well as an in-ground bed on the side of my house. Last year, I only used the two raised beds and was able to get a decent crop of tomatoes, squash and zucchini, but this year I want to ramp it up a bit by using my side yard bed to incorporate some other crops into my garden. Now you may be thinking, “Gardening in January? What in the world can you get done in January?” Well, that’s what this post is all about.

I’m the kind of person who loves planning ahead. Whether it be groceries, outings or gardening I find great satisfaction in having a plan in place. When it comes to gardening, January is a great time to lay out what I want to accomplish. This gives me plenty of time to figure out what I will need to buy, what will go where and if there are any larger projects I need to finish before being able to move forward. The first thing I like to do is outline my space. Where am I going to plant? Do I have enough room? Do the beds need to be prepared? And lastly, what am I going to plant? The last question is the most fun and can sometimes take the most time depending on how much space you have. I have pretty limited room if I’m sticking to good spatial requirements between plants, so I have to be a little picky about which plants I choose. I also look at planting calendars for my zone (I’m in 9b – northern-ish California) to determine if there are certain items I can cycle in and out of my garden beds. A good place to check for your zone is Garden.org. You can then use your zone to figure out what your planting  calendar is. I’m using this planting guide from Urban Farmer. Their entire site is filled with great tips and tricks.

I know I have three garden beds I want to use for vegetables. From there, I can pretty much determine how many plants per bed I will be able to fit, of course depending on what the plant is. I am probably going to follow a similar structure to what I did last year, since the plants seemed to have enough room to provide a decent crop. The only difference is that I will not do as many tomato plants as I did last year – I had two normal size varieties and two cherry varieties. This year, I’d like to cut back and maybe do one of each in order to make more room for a different vegetable. The larger plants can only fit a couple per bed, so I will be doing a squash and a zucchini plant in one bed together. I’d also like to have a cucumber plant, which I believe is fairly large also, so I’m planning on leaving room in the side yard bed for that. So far that makes for the following plant list: 1 tomato plant, 1 cherry tomato plant, 1 zucchini plant, 1 summer squash plant and 1 cucumber. The other items I’d like to plant, and may have to cycle, are spinach, carrots, green beans and broccoli. A couple of these are colder weather plants (spinach, carrots, broccoli), so I am going to try and cycle these out of the beds as the warmer crops seeds become ready for transplanting.

The next step I’ve been working on is collecting my items for growing my own seeds. This year I want to grow my own seeds because it will cut down on costs but will also ensure that I’m harvesting fully organic produce. I also love the idea of having extra plants that I can give away to family and friends. Originally, I strayed away from wanting to do seeds because I thought it would cost more than just buying the plants, but I have learned that there are several items that I can repurpose to get started. I am going to use old egg cartons to start my seeds, old food trays (like from vegetable party and cheese trays) to hold them together and catch excess water, and I’ve already starting purchasing small terra cotta pots from the thrift store at a fraction of the cost of the home supply stores. This is already saving me a ton of money and makes me feel better about being able to reuse things that otherwise may have just been thrown away. I’ll be sure to document these steps as I go.

Soon, it will be time to start some seeds. In my zone, I can start planting some of my seeds as early as the end of this month, so that’s what I plan on doing. I haven’t purchased any of my seeds yet since I’m still just in the planning phase, but according to my planting calendar, I can get started on my tomatoes, spinach and broccoli seeds this month. I am going to buy all of my seeds at one time once I’m ready (and figure out where I want to buy them), and then start planting them indoors according to my zone’s calendar. I cannot wait to start this process and see how well I’m able to do. This will be my first time starting a garden from seeds and I’m hoping that with enough determination and research that I will have a flourishing garden that I can feed myself and my husband with all year long.

Do you enjoy gardening at home? What are some of your favorite vegetables to grow? And what are some of your favorite vegetables to eat?

MelissaRose

Easy Homemade Granola Nut Bars

Recipes

This week has been a lazy one filled with late mornings, take-out dinners and lots of free time. Not having to work has been a blessing and a curse when it comes to sticking to my New Year’s resolutions. It’s a blessing because I don’t feel the need to take smoke breaks or have a drink after a long work day, but a curse in that I find myself with a lot of free time and the desire to go out instead of staying home. In an effort to spend less money eating out, I finally went grocery shopping today. I sat down and planned out meals for the week that I can prep on Sunday and set a guideline for dinners and extras that will be needed in between. Meal prepping is part of my New Year’s Resolution #4: Become more self-sustainable when it comes to food (you can read a full post about that particular resolution here).

Shopping went fairly smooth with list in hand, and I actually decided to wait to buy my vegetables and herbs until tomorrow when I can hopefully find everything I need at my local farmer’s market (rain and farmers willing). Things only went slightly awry when I realized I had forgotten to include any sort of snacks or in between foods for my husband and I to take to work – things like granola bars, nuts, crackers, etc. Thankfully, I remembered (because I cleaned out my pantry recently) that I had a bag of raw almonds and a bag of raw peanuts at home. This lead me to the idea of making homemade granola nut bars. I’d never done it before, but how difficult could it really be? All you need is some of your favorite healthy ingredients, some oats, and something to make it all stick together. I hit the bulk section of my local grocery store and picked up some more items to throw into the mix. I love this section of the grocery store because it feels like you can get the exact amount of everything you need without all the extra packaging. You could even bring your own bags to cut down on waste. The prices can look a little daunting – the cashews were marked at $11.99 a pound – but considering you only need about 1/2 cup of each ingredient for this recipe doesn’t make the cost too bad. What I ended up with was a bag of raw cashews and a bag of dried cranberries (I got about 3/4 lb of each and still had enough leftover to make this recipe a couple more times). I knew I had a pretty exciting thing going so I headed home to start on my creation.

Many of the recipes I looked up online had way too much sugar for my taste, others used vanilla and that’s not really my thing either. I wanted these to be as natural and close to the flavor of the ingredients as possible. Eventually, I was able to come up with my own mixture, which I think worked out pretty well and was easy to do. My husband enjoys the dark chocolate drizzle over the top (which took me a thousand tries to get just right) and I love the tart snap of the cranberries mixed with the assortment of raw nuts. It should also be mentioned that this recipe could work with any multitude of ingredients. I would just be aware with chocolate or marshmallows (if you’re more into sugar) to add them when the mixture is closer to room temperature so your ingredients don’t melt all over the place. Let me know what I should try as my next combination and if you’re taking any steps to live life more frugally or sustainably when it comes to food!


Easy Granola Nut Bars

2 1/2 c. Oats, old-fashioned

1/2 c. Almonds, chopped

1/2 c. Cashews chopped

1/4 c. Pumpkin seeds, sprouted

1/4 c. Peanuts

1/4 c. Dried cranberries

1/4 c. Honey

1/4 c. Brown sugar

1/4 c. Butter, unsalted

1/4 tsp. Kosher salt

1/2 c. Dark chocolate bar, broken into pieces

  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF and place oats, almonds and cashews on a baking sheet. Once oven is preheated, bake them for 9 minutes or until lightly toasted.
  2. Line a 9” square (or round if you don’t have square) baking pan with parchment or foil.
  3. In a small saucepan, combine honey, brown sugar and butter. Stir over medium-low heat until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved.
  4. Add the oat/nut mixture, honey/sugar mixture and the rest of the remaining ingredients to a large bowl and stir until well combined.
  5. Once the ingredients are combined, press the mixture into the prepared 9” pan with a spatula making sure there are no large air bubbles in the mixture. This was the most challenging part for me – I thought I pressed enough, but will press twice as much next time to really make sure the ingredients are firmly stuck together.
  6. Place the pan with the mixture in the freezer to set – about 20 minutes or so depending on how thick your mixture is and how well you pressed.
  7. To make the drizzle, melt the dark chocolate in the microwave in 30 second increments, stirring in between until melted. Be very careful not to overheat, if you have tiny pieces of chocolate left I suggest heating at 10 second intervals and stirring until completely melted.
  8. Remove 9” pan from freezer and cut granola/nut mixture into desired shapes/sizes.
  9. Drizzle melted chocolate over the top of your pieces and let rest until chocolate sets/hardens.
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