Tag: Vegetables

10 Gifts for Gardeners
The Garden

10 Gifts for Gardeners

10 Gifts for GardenersChristmas is just around the corner! If you are looking for a few ideas to bring a smile to the face of that gardener in the family this year, allow us to make a few recommendations.

  1. The Family Garden JournalThe Family Garden Journal. Our garden journal is a great way for a gardener to celebrate a year of growing plants. It features 366 pages with room for to-do lists, observations, harvest records, and other notes, and it even includes a shopping list, a map, a planting table, and other useful tools for planning a garden. Makes a great keepsake. Read more.
  2. Heirloom seeds. Heirloom seeds are sure to delight! Choose varieties with a compelling story and an attractive appearance. If the seeds come from your own heirloom garden, that makes them even more special.
  3. The Christian Kids’ Gardening Guide. Looking for a gift for a budding green thumb? This delightful little book offers both practical growing tips and fun activities to foster a love of gardening. Read our full review.
  4. All New Square Foot GardeningAll New Square Foot Gardening. If your fellow gardener does not already have a copy of this revolutionary book on gardening, do him a favor and get him one. Even those committed to traditional row gardening can pick up many useful tips for making the garden more productive and attractive. Read our full review.
  5. Oxo Good Grips trowel. Every gardener needs a trowel. If the trowel has a comfortable handle, a sharp stainless-steel blade, and handy measuring marks, so much the better.
  6. Rodale’s Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening. Another classic work on gardening that deserves a place on every gardener’s bookshelf. This one is an indispensable reference for those who garden naturally. Read our full review.
  7. Luster Leaf Rapitest Soil Test KitLuster Leaf Rapitest Soil Test Kit. Does your gardening friend know how to test his soil for pH and NPK? If not, this kit will make it easy for him. Read our full review.
  8. Gardening gloves. Even a gardener who already has a pair probably won’t mind an extra pair.
  9. Seed packets. This is another good choice for an heirloom gardener. These seed packets seal to protect their contents, and they can be used with a home inkjet or laser printer.
  10. Sweet potato beetle. This hilarious craft is a great way to use that overgrown sweet potato! Warning: The laughter will be heard for miles around!
Cover Crop Decision Tool
The Farm

Cover Crop Decision Tool

Cover Crop Decision ToolLooking for the right cover crop? Give this Cover Crop Decision Tool from the Midwest Cover Crop Council a try.

First select from one of the following states:

  • Iowa.
  • Illinois.
  • Indiana.
  • Kansas.
  • Michigan.
  • Minnesota.
  • Missouri.
  • Ohio.
  • Ontario.
  • Wisconsin.

Then choose options that take into account your growing conditions:

  • County (for frost/freeze date estimate).
  • Planting and harvest dates.
  • Drainage situation.

Finally, fine-tune your choices by noting your goals:

  • Increasing nitrogen levels.
  • Building soil.
  • Fighting erosion.
  • Fighting weeds.
  • Creating a new source of forage for grazing or harvest.
  • And more!

Once you’ve found a cover crop or two that meets your needs, click on the name of the crop to learn more about about its pros and cons, as well as its planting and termination requirements.

An easy-to-use way to choose the right cover crop for your unique growing conditions!

Onion Disease Guide
The Garden

Onion Disease Guide

Onion Disease GuideIn some years, onion harvest time is troubleshooting time.

There are many things that can go wrong when growing onions, especially when growing them in irregular weather patterns. Identifying the various problems can be quite difficult, as they tend to manifest themselves in the same way—rot.

This onion disease guide offers a thorough and well-photographed look at the many problems that plague onions. However, it is also brief and concise, going straight to the most important points of each disease.

For each onion disease, you will learn:

  • Symptoms.
  • Conditions for disease development.
  • Control methods.


While the recommended treatments tend toward chemical control, there is still plenty of useful information here for organic and home growers, particularly when it comes to disease identification and prevention.

Food Preservation
The Lifestyle

Food Preservation

Food PreservationPreserving the food we grow at home or buy in bulk from a local farmer can seem daunting to the beginner. We know that food safety is important, but how do we achieve it?

This food preservation site from K-State has the answers. Many resources have been combined into one convenient location.

Learn more about:

  • Canning.
  • Curing and smoking.
  • Dehydrating.
  • Food business.
  • Freezing.
  • Jams and jellies.
  • Pickling.
  • Special diets.

On each of these topics, choose from an extensive list of resources, including PDFs, videos, and external links.

Just to give you a sampling of the questions you can find answers to:

  • What special methods do I need to use to can low-acid fruits?
  • How do I build my own smokehouse?
  • How do I make beef jerky safely?
  • How long can I store frozen foods?
  • Is it safe to use a pickle recipe written before 1994?
  • Where can I find good jelly recipes?
  • How do I make my own horseradish sauce?
  • Where can I find canning instructions that are safe to use?
  • What is the science behind canning?
  • How do I adjust canning times for my altitude? (No, Kansas is not flat!)
  • What are the regulations on selling home-preserved foods at the local farmers market?

Also, every other month you will find a new issue of the Preserve It Fresh, Preserve It Safe newsletter—two pages of seasonally relevant advice and sometimes a recipe.

A great resource for the dedicated home canner, with plenty of other information for those looking for simple but safe ways to preserve the harvest.

Veggie Wash
The Lifestyle

Veggie Wash

Veggie WashHomegrown vegetables are good for you, but they are frequently dirty. Veggie Wash is an all-natural cleaning spray that seems to do a good job getting the produce clean and ready to eat.

For things like tomatoes, apples, and peaches, just spray the fruit and rub it clean under running water.

For berries and lettuce, fill the sink with cold water, add the produce, and spray with Veggie Wash. After a brief soak, rinse and drain the produce.

Do you still buy fruits and vegetables from the grocery store? Try using Veggie Wash to remove that wax coating—it really works!

Seeds From the Tombs
The Garden

Seeds From the Tombs

King Tut's SeedsMany gardeners know that cool, dry, dark places are ideal for long-term seed storage. Many gardeners cite the seeds found in ancient Egyptian pyramids as evidence. According to the popular story, these seeds, after lying dormant for thousands of years, sprouted when planted.

While most scientists would agree on the perfect conditions for storing seeds, most deny that seeds found in Egyptian tombs have ever germinated.


Mummy Seeds

The story that seeds from pyramids were sometimes viable was born sometime in mid-1800s England, a time and place definitely in the grips of mummy mania. Archeologists, both amateur and professional, were unwrapping mummies at every opportunity without compunction. In this process, they frequently uncovered small surprises rolled up with the bodies, including seeds. Seeds were important in Ancient Egyptian funeral rites because they symbolized burial and resurrection.

The first known instance of someone claiming to have sprouted ancient Egyptian seeds was published in 1843 in The Gardeners’ Chronicle of London. The Gardeners’ Chronicle reported that some wheat seeds were found in the hand of a mummy unwrapped in London. A crop was raised from one, and the next generation of seeds was available at exorbitant prices. The Lurgan, Portadown and Banbridge Advertiser and Agricultural Gazette shed some additional light on the story in 1849, reporting that the seeds were brought to England by Sir William Symonds and were then being grown by Francis Fforde of Ireland. In 1857, Harper’s New Monthly Magazine ran an article by T.E. Thorpe on wheat, noting its exceptional longevity and mentioning this incident as an example. The article also observed that the wheat tillered prolifically—“fifteen stems…sprung from a single seed.” (For comparison, note that most American farmers hope for two or three tillers per plant; British sources note that under ideal conditions up to 20 tillers are possible.) Thorpe went on to speculate:

From this great increase it is naturally suggested that wheat now grown is a degenerate class of the same species formerly common in Egypt; else, it is argued, how could the Egyptians have supplied the Assyrian, Grecian, and Roman empires from their superabundance above their own wants?

A separate instance came to light in 1844. In this case, the story was that Thomas Pettigrew, a famous unroller of mummies, had found some wheat and pea seeds in a vase in a sarcophagus in the British Museum. The wheat all failed to germinate, as did many of the peas, but W. Grimstone of the Herbary in Highgate reportedly managed to coax some of the peas to life.

In the early 1850s, or possibly even earlier, more reports surfaced of Egyptian plants sprouting. In this case, Lord Lindsay of Britain claimed that he had found a root in the hand of a mummy he had unwrapped in Egypt. After being planted, the root grew into a dahlia.

In 1856, a Dr. Deck supposedly received part of a dried resurrection flower from a group of Arabs. These Arabs claimed to have taken the flower from a mummified priestess about ten years before. Dr. Deck found that the resurrection flower could revive when wet, albeit temporarily.


Science and Seeds

Scientists began experimenting with the germination and viability of seeds as early as the mid-1800s. Most researchers could keep their seeds alive for only 10 to 15 years at the most. A theory was formulated that the maximum lifespan of a seed was 30 years.

In June 1921, the New York Times ran an article on the reaction of British scientists to a claim then current in American that morning glory seeds found in the hand of a mummified girl sprouted. J.L. North, curator of the Royal Botanic Society, listed three reasons for doubting the claim before proposing an alternative theory:

In the first place, though grains were frequently buried with a mummy to provide food in case the corpse came to life, they were always baked to prevent germination. We have in our museum some such grains, burned black. Secondly, the morning glory is a convolvulus. The plant inhabits moist districts and not dry localities like Egypt. Thirdly, no seeds of the convolvulus last a very long time.

What really happened, I think, is that seeds of the morning glory happened to be in the soil in which the ancient grains were planted, and developed in normal fashion.

Many of North’s statements are can now be regarded as either doubtful or simply false:

  • There is relatively little record of pre-baked seeds found in tombs. In fact, some seeds, such as coriander, were actually planted in tombs and allowed to germinate. (It is worthy to note that some Egyptian seeds have carbonized simply from old age.)
  • A plant remarkably like a convolvulus (probably a bindweed, still a problem in Egypt today) is often portrayed in Ancient Egyptian art, sometimes in wreaths but also shown in marsh habitats, climbing up papyrus stems. The fact that a convolvulus can regenerate itself from just a small fragment of root may have been symbolic of rebirth in Ancient Egyptian culture, and its clinging habit may have been associated with femininity.
  • Most farmers and gardeners with the misfortune of being familiar with weeds in the bindweed family know that convolvulus seeds can last for incredible lengths of time, even under suboptimal conditions. Field bindweed seeds have been scientifically proven to live for a minimum of 50 years, outstripping other noxious weeds.

In 1933, a series of experiments were made on some wheat from Egyptian tombs. Every possible method of inducing germination was attempted, including an effort to use colored glass. All were in vain. The seeds merely crumbled to dust.

Scientists say that all viable seeds that come out of the tombs today are probably interlopers transported by rodents. Other instances may be hoaxes that salesmen love to market to tourists.

Unfortunately, scientific trials of seed longevity rarely last for any considerable length of time. Most experiments are abandoned after 20 or 30 years. Furthermore, no one botanist can continue the work alone, assuming the working lifespan of a botanist is 50 years at maximum.

What scientists have determined is useful, however. As a general rule, weed and agricultural seeds last the longest. Barley seeds, for instance, remained viable at 123 years of age in one study. Vegetable seeds are rarely viable for more than a few years under normal storage conditions, although when carefully sealed and stored at cold temperatures they can remain viable for at least 20 years. Some species can last 50 (beets) or even 60 years (tomatoes).


How Long Can a Seed Live?

Theories on the absolute maximum lifespan of seeds were shattered when a Japanese botanist uncovered lotus seeds in a layer of peat at the bottom of a dry lake bed in Manchuria. After the find, the seeds went to a museum, where they lay dormant for at least a decade. When a germination test was finally carried out, nearly all of the lotus seeds sprouted.

Scientists were astonished. The peat in the lake bed was thought to date back to the Ice Age. Evolutionists place the end of the Ice Age at 10,000 years ago at the latest. Creationists frequently suggest that the Ice Age occurred shortly after the Flood, probably about 4,000 years ago—still a very long time for a seed. Based on carbon dating results, however, scientists discounted the possibility of the seeds being thousand years old and suggested that they were more recent interlopers.

But this was not the only Ice Age discovery destined to come back to life. A cache of seeds possibly buried by an arctic ground squirrel was discovered in Siberia, 124 feet below the permafrost and surrounded by the remains of animals such as bison and woolly mammoths. Three out of over 600,000 seeds germinated and reproduced successfully. The three seeds were all narrow-leafed campion flowers (Silene stenophylla). The results came to light in 2012.

Arguably one of the most incredible resurrections of old seeds came in 2005. In 1973, archaeologists recovered seeds from the (then) extinct Judean date palm at the ancient fortress of Masada, the site of the last stand of the Jewish Zealots against invading Romans in A.D. 73. Troubled times resulting from Roman and then Arab occupation reduced the cultivation of the tree, leading to its extinction around A.D. 500.

At the time of discovery, the seeds from Masada were about 1900 years old. They went into a drawer at a university in Tel Aviv until 2004. Painstaking methods were used to revive them the following year, including a hot-water bath, a dose of seaweed-based fertilizer, and a solution of hormones. On March 18, 2005, the date palm “Methuselah” emerged from the soil, bringing the species back from extinction.


The Truth About Ancient Egyptian Seeds

The fact is, we may never know the truth about the viability of Ancient Egyptian seeds unless repeated attempts are made to sprout them. Remember, the seed cache in Siberia had a germination rate of three out of 600,000—a mere 0.0005%! While the vast majority of the old seeds are undoubtedly long dead, there may be a few hardy survivors that gave rise to the tales of mummy seeds.

Keeping a Garden Journal
The Garden

Keeping a Garden Journal

Keeping a Garden JournalGardening season is finally upon us! If you’re like most gardeners, you are looking forward to planting seeds with the full expectation of making this the best gardening year yet.

While much of gardening comes down to experience, diligence, and creativity, having the right tools makes a big difference. One handy tool is the garden journal.


Advantages of Keeping a Garden Journal

  • Permanent record. While you can keep gardening notes on loose sheets of paper or sticky notes, the chances of you finding and referring to these notes in the future are slim to none. When your notes are in one place, whether that is a binder or a real journal, you have access to valuable information.
  • Memory aid. Really, are you going to remember what’s going on in your garden from one year to the next? If you’re like most people, the answer is probably not. Write down important information. It will save you a few headaches.
  • Simplicity. Writing in a garden journal gives you an opportunity to condense your thoughts and observations into key information that you can use.
  • Learning tool. By noting our successes and mistakes, we have a road map to use in future years. This helps us build expertise quickly, since we are not wasting time repeating mistakes.
  • Sharpen observation skills. Part of becoming a green thumb is observation. If you have a journal that invites you to note your observations, you might just find yourself looking for new ways to fill the pages. Your powers of observation improve, and so does your understanding of your unique garden.
  • Proof of progress. You really are developing a green thumb, and your garden journal contains proof. A review of past journals can keep you motivated and spark ideas for overcoming current challenges.
  • Gardening memories. If you have gardened long enough, you have undoubtedly made some great memories. A glance through an old journal can bring recollections back as though the events happened yesterday.


What to Write in a Garden Journal

  • Garden plans. Did you know that a garden journal can double as a planning tool? You can use your journal to keep track of seed lists, garden maps, and planting dates. This is an especially good use of a journal, since it keeps all of your gardening information in one place.
  • Frost dates. While you can find average first and last frost dates for your area easily enough, you will have much better results if you track the frost dates in your own garden. After several years, calculate the average. Does your garden tend to be warmer or cooler than the surrounding area? It makes a difference!
  • Signs of the seasons. Let nature be your guide. Every spring comes a little earlier or later than the last one. With practice, you can learn to plant in sync with the seasons. A journal can help you keep track of signs to look for.
  • Crop rotations. Don’t let diseases or nutrient deficiencies build up in your soil! Hang onto your map and planting records. Having access to last year’s information is a big help. Having access to the last three years’ information is even better.
  • To-dos. Keep track of gardening chores and how often they need to be done. While you’re writing down what you observed today, jot notes on what you need to do tomorrow or in a week. Staying organized is suddenly quite easy!
  • Experiments and their results. Are you trying something new this year? Write it down, and be sure to note the results as they arise. Not only does the process of writing cement information in our heads, but even if we do forget we have a permanent record to refer to.
  • Notes on favorite plants. Need to remember when to cultivate the asparagus bed? How to prune the blackberries? Where to plant nasturtiums to take advantage of their pest-repelling properties? Keep pages in your journal specifically for notes on plants that you grow every year. Now you don’t just have a journal—you have a personalized reference book!
  • Favorite varieties. Likewise, keep track of your favorite plant varieties. Note which tomatoes were the easiest to grow and which lettuce tasted the best. When it’s time to buy seeds again, you’ll already know what kinds to get.
  • Pests and diseases. Every gardener (particularly every organic gardener) has a list of “bad guys” that they count on battling every year. Improve your warfare strategy by recording the habits and preferences of the bug or fungus in question, then list ways to deter or destroy it.


A Final Tip

The most important thing to remember about keeping a garden journal is that it should be simple. If wrestling with a bulky binder feels complicated to you, you may very well give up on your journal before the season ends. If writing a detailed essay on your garden every day feels complicated to you, you probably will avoid the task like the plague.

Find a journal that invites you to jot down your thoughts. Then write down only what you are interested in remembering.


Helpful Resource

The Family Garden JournalThe Family Garden Journal
Our 466-page journal offers room for both planning and observing, featuring a shopping list, a planting schedule, a garden map, a maintenance page, a daily journal, and pages for notes on plants, pests, and diseases. Preview sample pages and more information here.

Luster Leaf Rapitest Soil Test Kit
The Garden

Luster Leaf Rapitest Soil Test Kit

Luster Leaf Rapitest Soil Test KitKnowing the state of your garden soil is handy, but if your garden is for personal family use only, you probably don’t feel justified in ordering a professional lab analysis. Fortunately, inexpensive test kits are available online.

This kit by Luster Leaf seems to do a fair job. It tests:

  • pH.
  • Nitrogen.
  • Phosphorus.
  • Potassium.

As you can see, only the bare basics are included. The tests focus on NPK, not trace minerals. Fortunately, it is fairly easy to keep trace mineral levels in balance by regular applications of compost and organic matter.

Using the kit is easy. Complete instructions are included, but the basic procedure is:

  1. Prepare the soil sample.
  2. Dilute the soil sample according to the directions.
  3. Put the solution into the test container.
  4. Add the appropriate powder to the solution.
  5. Compare the color of the solution to the color chart on the container.

Did you detect a problem with your garden soil? The instructions offer advice on how to remedy the situation.

One word of advice: The powder may lose some of its efficiency over time. Keep the powder capsules stored in the included airtight bags in a cool, dry, dark place. Try to use the tests within about 18 months for the most reliable results.

Simple and inexpensive—perfect for the budget-conscious gardener.

Get Ready for January 2017
The Lifestyle

Get Ready for January 2017

Get Ready for January 2017January is a great time to plan for a new year! Take some time to shape your philosophy and develop a farming or gardening approach.

  1. Plan a garden.
  2. Discover community-supported agriculture.
  3. Learn the pros and cons of gardening in Kansas.
  4. Study the farming practices of the Plains Indians.
  5. Define sustainable agriculture.
  6. Preserve Kansas heritage.
  7. Evaluate the interstate highway system.
  8. Find out how compost gardening works.
  9. Examine your horse’s conformation.
  10. Read about the peopling of the plains.