Square Foot Gardening – How To Start Sooner and Grow Later Into the Season

square foot garden 2010 007If you created accessories for your square foot garden bed, you can easily be the first gardener on your block to enjoy a hyperlocal salad.  If you did not construct accessories for your garden beds do not despair, there are still many techniques that can be used to allow one to garden sooner.

The first things that the early gardener will want to do is to warm the soil and sterilize it.  A garden left unplanted is a great environment for weed seeds.  To kill these seeds and warm the soil at the same time, you just need to cover the garden bed with plastic.  Place this plastic on top of the bed several weeks before you plan to plant and secure down with heavy stones or staple to the frame.

During this process one must consider the color of plastic.  For sterilization, black plastic is the best.  It absorbs heat, which speeds up the process.

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Garden Your Way to Fitness

gardenforfitnessWho knew that gardening could reduce flab, define curves and step up cardiovascular performance, let alone replace your normal fitness routine when performed consistently? Dedicated gardener —that’s who! They know from experience (and the occasional strains to prove it) that serious gardening builds muscle and bone strength, improves endurance, flexibility, balance and coordination. It’s stretching, weight training and aerobic exercise, all wrapped up in one fitness activity—getting your garden into shape along with your body. After reading this article, you’ll be armed with plenty of rebuttal information the next time some exercise maniac snickers while saying that gardening is akin to a casual game of golf or a stroll in the park.

Researchers at Kansas State University found that gardening is an exercise of moderate intensity. This study involved senior men and women, ages 63–86, all in good health. Participants gardened for an average of 33 hours per week in May and 15 hour per week in June. Each participant worked on their own 8’ X 4’ gardening plot. The study involved nine gardening tasks: hand weeding, raking, digging a raked garden, turning compost, transplanting, mulching, mixing soil, filling small pots with soil and transplanting seedlings. They repeated a task for 10 minutes, with five-minute breaks between tasks. The conclusion was that the amount and intensity of exercise fell well within the CDC recommendations for exercise.

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Square Foot Gardening – Caring For Your Square Foot Garden

square_foot_Garden4If you are looking for an easy way of gardening, then square foot gardening is the answer.  What makes it so easy is its manageable size and designer soil mix.

Traditional in the ground gardening requires the soil to be broke up with tillers and plows.  This soil is then compacted again with heavy farm machinery and human traffic.  Tasks such as planting, weeding, watering and feeding the garden becomes difficult because of this soil compaction.  This is where square foot gardening is different.

The specialized soil mixture that is recommended for square foot gardens keeps the soil loose and in doing so makes planting and weeding a breeze.  Also fertilization normally is not required due to the fact that seasoned compost is used.  This soil component provides plants with proper nutrition.  If a plant does need a little extra nutrition, it can be added on an individual basis by applying it to only the squares that need it.

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Grilled Desserts

dessert_grilledOne thing that I always try to do when preparing a meal is to consolidate my working space to as small a space as is comfortable. Doing so will increase your efficiency and reduce your clean up time which equals more free time to relax and enjoy yourself.  With that being said, when I plan on preparing a dessert as part of my BBQ get-togethers, I always try to find a fun and creative way to incorporate my grill into the process. Just as you would when making a more traditional desert, there are countless combinations that you can play around with to entice your taste buds when using a grill. Here are some ideas to help get you started on making homemade desserts right on your BBQ.

Fruit is one of the simplest and easiest desserts to prepare on the grill. It may seem obvious to some but make sure you clean the grill before throwing your favorite fruit on. After all, nobody wants to taste hot dogs in their Grilled Bananas Foster. Virtually any fruit can be prepared on the grill however, harder fruits such as apples, pineapples, and pears tend to fair better as they have a little more leeway before overcooking. If you were planning on using a softer fruit like strawberries or mangos then I would recommend using a skewer just for the ease of cooking. Otherwise try to cut pineapples into uniform relatively thick slices, apples and pairs should be split down the middle with their seeds and cores removed, and other hard skinned fruits like bananas and oranges can be sliced and grilled skin facing away from the heat with the skin remaining on the fruit in order to keep them intact when removing them from your cooking surface. Since fruits are mostly made up of sugar and water your primary goal when grilling them is to create some nice grill lines and caramelize the fruits natural sugars. It is recommended that you should soak fruit in water for about 20 minutes before cooking, although I have always gotten away just fine with placing fruit straight on the grill so long as the grilling surface has been properly oiled. You can also be about as creative as you want with adding flavors or seasonings to fruit before grilling.  A mixture of spiced rum, cinnamon, and brown sugar goes great with bananas, pineapples, and apples. And I usually suggest something like fresh mint and orange liqueur for citrus and other tangy fruits.

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Square Foot Gardening – How to Plant Your Square Foot Garden Bed

220sqftgardenOnce you have built your garden bed and decided on the accessories, it is time to plant the bed. Before you jump into a planting frenzy, you must first fill it with the appropriate growing medium.

Soil Structure

The best medium is made up of 1/3 blended compost, 1/3 peat moss, and 1/3 coarse vermiculite. The compost needs to be made of at least five different ingredients. Most commercially made compost generally is only made of two ingredients. The best approach is to make your own compost but if that is not possible, the commercially made compost can be enriched with garden scraps, poultry or rabbit manure, tea bags, coffee grounds, crushed eggshells, shredded newspaper, straw, hay, and/or grass clippings. Any combination of these materials will help enhance the commercially prepared compost.

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Urban Homesteading with Plants – Part I Container Gardening

balcony-gardenUrban homesteading is loosely defined as living a self-sustaining lifestyle in an urban setting.  The activities that constitute urban homesteading include raising and preserving your own food along with raising animals.   While not everyone has the perfect environment for becoming self-sustainable all it takes is a simple step in that direction and a windowsill.

Windowsill Gardening

To begin your own journey into urban homesteading and self-reliance starts with small steps.  The easiest project to begin with is a simple windowsill garden.  This type of garden is large enough to grow herbs and microgreens along with some simple edible flowers such as nasturtiums and pansies.

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Square Foot Gardening – Creating Accessories for Your Garden Bed

square-foot-garden3What does a women and a square foot garden have in common?  Answer:  Their accessories… and every woman understands the importance of accessories.  They can create a statement, protect the wearer and help the whole outfit come together.  In gardening, accessories do the same thing.

In square foot gardening these accessories can be designed to make a gardening statement.  They can be used to protect plant material from nature and can help the whole garden come together.  While a woman’s accessories may be a belt, scarf or jewelry, the accessories of a square foot garden consists of cages, hoops, and trellises.

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Go Green – Your Guide to an Eco Friendly Outdoor Kitchen

outdoor_kitchenGoing green is becoming more popular these days, with people becoming more eco conscious and recognizing that going green is a great way to be kind to the environment and save a few bucks. Here are some tips on making your outdoor kitchen more eco-friendly, with the focus being your grill and refrigerator since these are the two major appliances you will see in most outdoor kitchens.

When designing any outdoor kitchen the first thing you pick out is a grill, which sets the tone for the other appliances. Most outdoor kitchens have gas grills, so I will begin there and as for charcoal grills, I will shed a little light on that subject later in the article, addressing an alternative to the not so eco-friendly lump of coal.

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Square Foot Gardening – How to Create Your Garden Space

square-foot-gardeningOnce you have planned what you are going to grow and how much, it is time to build the planters.  These can be made from non-pressure treated wood, recycled material such as cinder blocks, and even manmade wood.  The key though is to make sure that the material is at least one inch thick and six inches deep.

When planning the size of your square foot garden planters, keep in mind that the typical human can comfortably reach the center of a planter that is 4 feet across.  Anything large will not allow the gardener to reach the very center.  Utilizing this principle will help you come up with a size that fits your environment.  A good size to start with is a 4 by 4 foot bed.  This size will create 16 different planting areas.  If you want a larger space or if a rectangular shape is needed, try a 4 by 8 foot bed.

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How to Cook Your Meats to the Perfect Temperature Every Time

grilling-meat-thermometerWhether you are cooking for a large group or just a few people, one of the fastest ways to ruin a BBQ is to overcook and dry out your meats. Cooking meat to the desired temperature is simple, but not necessarily easy. However, there are some foolproof steps that you can take to produce consistent results every time when grilling your favorite dishes.

If you are working with pork or poultry products, one of the most overlooked steps to prevent overcooking is to allow your meat to sit at room temperature for approximately 45 minutes.  Bringing your meat to room temperature will promote even cooking, and help prevent burning and drying out the outside before the center has fully come to temperature.  If you are familiar with your grill and the cut of meat you are grilling you can establish some sort of timing system that should be fairly consistent.  However, many cooks of varying experience levels will opt to use a food thermometer to gauge the internal temperature. Poultry is safe to eat after the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F, and pork is considered safe to eat once the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees F. If I am using a food thermometer I typically try to remove my meats from the grill when they are a degree or two short of my desired temperature as carry over cooking occurs even after the meat has been removed from the heat.

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