Along with owning a draft horse you may like me also enjoy having an organic garden so I want to share with you some gardening tips and tricks I learned over the years of gardening in all the variety of places I have lived. I understand gardening methods change from region to region due to climate, soil conditions, and regional varieties but these tips I am sharing will work for just about every garden.
I have had gardens in Illinois, Montana, Florida, and now Belgium. Each of these locations had their benefits and their challenges. Over the years I have learned something new from each of these locations.
Montana's challenge was the short growing season. I usually could not get the garden in until sometime in mid June and the first frost could arrive in mid to late August. Also at the time we lived on the north face of the Big Snowy Mountains which was a bit more challenging then living in lower near town. But I managed to get a decent garden by buying regional plants suited for this area and a bit hardier for cold climates. The soil however was a challenge as there were many rocks so when the weeds took hold the were very difficult to pull out.
Florida was the complete opposite of Montana, long long season but unbearably hot along with giant insects. I swear the insects there are twice as large as any insect in all the other places I have lived. I also found working in the summer Florida heat unbearable. I managed to get a few vegetables but honestly you could buy them way cheaper than growing them your self and that is exactly what I did.
Illinois was a dream. The soil there is black as coal and very rich. Anything can grow in this soil, after all Illinois is located in the farm belt, and they call it that for a reason. The best tasting tomatoes always came out of my garden there and I would have bushels of them. It was also the perfect place to grow sweet corn. I have missed these two summer vegetables since I moved away. The high humidity of Illioins summers made for an abundant crop of garden insects also, but all in all I loved the taste that the rich soil would produce.
Belgium is also a dream place for gardening and I must admit the easiest gardening I have ever done due to the nice sandy soil. Weeding is a breeze and I never have a problem with it being to wet. But if it doesn't rain (very rare in Belgium) I have to water a lot. I have also been experimenting with vegetables I never tried before like leeks, the english cucumbers, strawberries, raspberries, current berries, rhubarb, and a wide variety of herbs. It has been a joy to walk out and pick some fresh mint for tea, or thyme to put in the soup and pick fresh leaf lettuce for the evening salad.
But I wanted to share with you some of the tips and tricks I have learned over the years that I believe will work in any garden location. So here are 7 tips you can try in your garden.
1. Put your tomatoes under a roof and on polls to keep them from rotting.
I use to let tomatoes grow on the ground but they often would rot from the rain or burn from the sun. Here in Belgium if they get wet they seem to rot right away. So my husband built me this nice little roof for them along with poles for them to climb. I now get big lush red tomatoes that are easy to pick. Note: they still don't have the flavor of Illinois tomatoes.
2. Pick the sucker that grow in between the branches on the tomatoes off.
Here is a tip that will improve your tomatoes. Tomatoes get little sucker branches that take nutrition from the main stems. They grow just inside the corners of the plant. If you pick them off the tomatoes get bigger on the main stems. What this video as I show you how to do this.
3. When you dig up your potatoes don't wash them. They will store longer with dirt on them.
Funny but if you leave some of the dirt on your potatoes they will last longer in storage. Just put them in a cool dry place and be sure not to wash them until you use them. Also only dig them up when it is dry.
4. You can pick and freeze your fruits & vegetables raw and they taste better when you cook them in winter.
I pick my peas, green beans, carrots, raspberries, strawberries, currant berries, and instantly put them in freezer bags and freeze them. I don't wash them because the water will burn them, but wash them when I use them before cooking. This is easy and fast and they taste so much better than if you blanched in hot water which is what I use to do.
5. If you grow cauliflower or even buy it, don't touch the white flowers it is what makes them turn black.
Every notice cauliflower in the store always has black spots on them. This is from people touching the white flower. If you buy or grow cauliflower avoid touching the white flower. Also wrap the leaves around them when you first see the flower, it will keep them from turning yellow and becoming hard. Also good to put a net over them to avoid the moth worms that just love to eat way at cauliflower and broccoli.
6. Cucumbers make great soup.
When I first learned this here in Belgium I was a bit taken back. Cucumber soup? I would have never imagined making soup from Cucumbers. But a man at my husband's work shared the recipe and it is a great summer soup hot or cold
Here is the recipe
Best to use English cucumbers rather than Garden cucumbers: Here is a link of the different varieties. http://abt.cm/1MHfKPx
2 to 3 English cucumbers
2 large or 3 small Leeks
2 medium size pototoes
2 TBl spoons of butter
1.5 quarters of water
3 Knoor vegetable broth cubes
Fresh Thyme small bunch tied with string.
In large pot melt the butter
Take two or three English cucumbers
Peel the skin off and chop in medium size chunks. Put in large pot
Peel potatoes and cut into chunks and add to pot.
Also buy 2 large or 3 small Leeks and wash and chop the white part into chunks with a bit of the green leaf. Put in pot with butter and cucumbers.
Salute the vegetables until you can smell them and they are slightly soft.
Add about 1 1/2 quarts of water a the 3 Knoor vegetable broth cubes (this is the key to all good soup)
Then cut your fresh thyme about 2"long and about ten small pieces and tie a string around them and put it in the soup
Simmer soup until all vegetables are soft.
Take the thyme herb out and discard.
Get a small hand puree mixer and puree the vegetables in the soup. Season to taste.
Season with salt & pepper to taste
Wa La you have a great summer soup.
7. Here is a great article on how to keep you vegetables fresh after you pick them or bring them home. I learned even more great tips from this article
I would also like to share with you a great book about a couple that decided they would raise their own food and only eat food in season. One of my favorite books about food and animals.
Animals, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbra Kingsolver
Gardens are one of the best benefits of living a rural lifestyle along with having some backyard chickens and reliable draft horses to help you out with the bigger farm chores.
Let me know if these tips are helpful and if you have any gardening tips I would love to have you share them in the comments below.
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My next post will be "It May Look Easy But..."