About Me

My photo
Always happy to meet fellow gardeners, dog lovers, food growers and canners! Feel free to e-mail me with questions, comments or ideas, or just say hi!

Friday, August 21, 2020

Growing Lettuce - Homesteading 101


No homesteading garden is complete without growing the foundation of your salad garden, lettuce! 


Growing lettuce is easy, takes up little space so you can easily tuck it between and under taller vegetables and even flowers.


Lettuce grows for many weeks in the mild weather of spring and fall, and it can be planted several times every season for a continual supply. 




The Basics -- Lettuce

AnnualHeight:  9-12:      Width:  6"


Lettuce comes in many different varieties including leaf lettuces, crispheads, summer crisps, icebergs, romaine, butterheads, and bibbs.  Here's a  short description of each.


Leaf lettuce.  Forms a loose rosette of tender, sweet-tasting leaves in 4-6 weeks.


Summer Crisps.  Loosehead of large, crisp leaves with good flavor.


Crispheads.  A combination of romaine and iceberg types.  Crunchy texture.


Romaines.  Oblong leaves that form fairly loose, upright heads.


Butterhead and Bibb.  Broad rosettes of tender, wavy leaves with a delicate flavor and creamy texture.


 


There are early varieties for spring planting and heat-tolerant varieties for Fall planting.




Starting Seeds of Lettuce

Seed Depth: 1/4" - 1/2". Need light to germinate.

Seed Spacing: Thin to 6-8" apart.

Days to Germinate: 7-14 days.

Days to Harvest: Leaf Lettuce 30-50 days.

Head Lettuce 100 days.

Seed Longevity: 2 Years

Sowing Indoors:

Start Romaine, iceberg and other head lettuces indoors 4-6 weeks before the average last frost date, making three small sowings at weekly intervals.

Sowing Outdoors:

Spring: Direct sow as soon as soil can be worked.


Fall: Direct sow 4-8 weeks before your average first frost date.


Salad Spinner 








Winter Sowing:

If you haven't tried winter sowing, you're in for a treat. This method is especially good for sowing herbs and greens. 


Winter sowing is basically sowing seeds in the bottom of a milk jug during the winter, setting the milk jugs outside for the winter and leaving them there until the seeds germinate in Spring.


For our separate article with details about Winter Sowing, click here.


Salad Tongs





Growing Lettuce Plants



Growing Temperature: 55-60 degrees during the growing season. Will survive light frosts.


Plant Spacing: Leaf Lettuce - 1" for continuous harvest.


Head Lettuce - 8"
Summer Crisps - 8-12"
Iceberg - 8-12"
Romaine - 10"
Butterhead - 8-10"
Bibb - 6-8"


Container Size: Shallow Roots. 6" deep.


Sun/Shade: Full sun for best yields. Tolerates part shade.


Soil: Plenty of compost will encourage fast growth.


Watering: Consistent water for the best flavor.
Lack of moisture causes bitterness.



Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks



Fertilizing


Since greens are such a  fast-growing crop, as long as they are grown in rich soil there may be little need for further fertilization.    


That said, a liquid balanced fertilizer when the seedlings are 4" tall will give your greens a boost and carry them through their short season.  After the temperatures warm, though, the leaves of Lettuce will turn bitter and no amount of fertilizer will help at that point.







Growing Tips


Extending the Growing Season:


Start romaine, iceberg and other head lettuce indoors 4-6 weeks before the average last frost date, making three small sowings at weekly intervals.


Set out the seedlings and direct sow leaf lettuce outdoors at 2-week intervals.  If you plan to harvest only leaves, sow entire loose-leaf crop at once.





Harvesting Lettuce


Leaf Lettuces.  Harvest outer leaves as soon as they're a usable size.

Harvest entire plant at 2" above soil level for cut-and-come-again.


Head Lettuces.  Cut the head away from the stalk when the head is still firm.  Head lettuce will be freshest when harvested in the morning.


Salad/Food Crispers




Storing Lettuce For Later Use



Tendergreen leaves, like Lettuce, can't be preserved well.


FreshLoose leafed lettuce will store 7-10 days in a crisper.


Head lettuce will store 1-3 weeks in the crisper



~~~~~~~~~~~~~



To read the other articles in our Homesteading 101 Growing Your Greens series, click on the name below:







Swiss Chard



Check out our other great gardening articles:  Click Here







This post may contain Amazon affiliate links and as an Amazon Associate I earn from ying purchases without costing you anything extra.

Growing Parsley - Homesteading 101


Parsley is a tender herb with soft stems and leaves.  It is popular for many reasons including its variety of uses, vitamin content and its ability to grow and give you a flavorful harvest even after a light snowfall.  Parsley has a light, peppery flavor that complements other seasonings.

  

Types of Parsley

Curly leaved Parsley.   Deep curled leaves and attractive appearance.  Only used as a garnish.

Flat leafed Parsley (AKA Italian Parsley) Preferred by cooks for its flat, celery-like leaves.  Pleasant tasting foliage can be eaten fresh or added to recipes.  Single Leaf Italian Parsley has a rich flavor that is best for seasoning cooked dishes.








Starting Parsley from Seed

Parsley is slow to germinate, but after you do get it to the plant stage, it's not fussy at all.  To speed up this process, soak or refrigerate the seeds for a day before sowing them.

Seed Longevity:                                       2-3 years.
Seed Sowing Depth:                                1/4”.
Best Soil Temp for Germination:              65 – 85 degrees.
Days to Germination:                               21+ days.






               Spring Sowing                                             

Direct sow 4-6 weeks before the last frost date or as soon as the soil can be worked, or sow indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost date. 



Winter Sowing

If you haven't tried winter sowing, you're in for a treat.  This method is especially good for sowing herbs.  Winter sowing is basically sowing seeds in the bottom of clear milk jugs in the winter, setting the milk jugs outside for the winter and leaving them there until the seeds germinate in the Spring.

For our article containing detailed information about Winter Sowing, click here




             Other Sowing Tips                                   

You can also start seeds in a pot in late summer and grow the plant outside until the first frost, then bring the plant indoors.



Growing Parsley

Plant Size:                                                12-18” Height.
Growing Soil Temperature:                       60 – 65 degrees.
Spacing                                                     9-12”.
Container Size:                                          6-18” in diameter   12” deep.                          
For fresh parsley all winter long, transplant one or two plants in a 10” container in late Fall and grow in a sunny window.

Soil:                                                            Fertile, slightly acidic to slightly alkaline.
Watering:                                                    Light.  Parsley has shallow roots.
Light/Sun:                                                   Full sun to light shade.
Fertilizer:                                                     None.
Good Companions:                                     Asparagus, corn, pepper, tomato.

Other Care Tips:
Keep roots cool and moist by mulching.
In September, cut back plants set out in spring to promote new foliage.


Dividing Parsley


Dig up the Parsley plant.  Locate the older growth which will have a slightly darker hue.  This growth is vital to the plant.  Divide into thirds and replant at the same depth.  Do not harvest sections again for at least 3 weeks.




Cuttings of Parsley


Take cuttings in spring when new growth is several inches in length.  Side shoots of 4" in length are perfect. Cut the stem at an angle and remove lower leaves leaving an inch or two of the stem bare.  Plant cutting bare side down into a  well-drained soil mix.  No fertilizer is needed at this stage.

Wrap the container in plastic to keep in humidity.  Avoid having the leaves touch the plastic.  Place the pot in light but out of direct light.  Keep soil moist but never soggy.  Remove the plastic when cutting grows roots.  A light tug that yields some resistance will let you know that roots have formed.


Harvesting Parsley

Harvest Parsley as needed, starting with the larger outer leaves.  You can also harvest the long stems with the leaf blades.  You can cut above the soil level for a bunch and it will grow new foliage.


Harvesting Parsley Seed

Parsley does not go to seed the first year.  Harvest the Parsley seeds of second-year plants when they have turned dark brown.  If the seeds are harvested earlier, they may not be viable.  Shake seeds off the seed heads and into a paper bag to dry.  You can also pluck out seeds as they turn brown as they tend to ripen at separate times.


Storing Parsley

Fresh
Bouquet Storage

This method works well for tender herbs with soft stems and leaves.
  • Clean and thoroughly dry the herb.  
  • rim the end of the stems and remove any wilted or browned leaves.  
  • Fill a Mason jar or clear glass with 1" of water.  
  • Place the herbs in the jar like a bouquet of flowers
  • Loosely cover with a plastic bag or cling wrap.  Label and store in the fridge.

Parsley will stay fresh in the fridge with this method for 3 weeks.


Freezing Parsley

For best results, use frozen Parsley within 1-2 years. 
By freezing herbs, you will lose some of the herb's texture but preserve the flavor. 

Here are a few freezing options to consider:

Tray Freeze

Spread herb onto a cookie sheet on a single layer. Freeze in the freezer, then transfer the herbs into a labeled freezer bag to store.  Since the leaves are frozen separately, you can easily remove the amount you need.


Ice Cube Trays

Clean and thoroughly dry herbs.  Mince and pack herbs into ice cube trays 3/4 full.  Add water to fill and freeze.  Transfer frozen cubes into a labeled freezer bag to store.





Flat Freezer Bag

Clean and thoroughly dry herbs.  Chop herb into 1/2" pieces, place in a labeled freezer bag. Squeeze out the air, lay flat and freeze.




Drying Parsley

Hang to Dry

Pick your herbs in bunches right before you intend to store them.  Tie the bottom of the bunch together with twine and hang upside down to dry in a dry, low humidity area. For added protection against dust, you can put the bundles inside paper bags with plenty of holes for ventilation.  When the herbs are dry, the leaves will crumble easily between your fingers.  Store in an air tight container.
For best results, use dried Parsley within 1-2 years.



Using Parsley

Parsley perks up salads, soups, meatballs, and poultry stuffing.
It is most often used in sauces, salads, and sprinkled over dishes at the end of cooking for a flash of green and fresh taste.



Growing your own herbs is fun, easy, more healthy than the herbs shipped to grocery stores, and what's best, saves you tons of money! Try it today.


To view other herb articles in our culinary herb series, click on the herb name below.






This post may contain Amazon affiliate links and as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases without costing you anything extra.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Growing Thyme - Homesteading 101



The perennial shrub thyme certainly deserves a place in every herb garden.  Not only is it one of the most useful plants in the kitchen, but it also has attractive foliage, long-lasting flowers and it's an easy-to-care-for compact plant.  English Thyme is used most often in cooking.

Types of culinary Thyme include Thymus Vulgaris, also referred to as Common Thyme, and include summer, winter, and French Thyme. 




Starting Thyme From Seed

Thyme seeds are difficult and slow to germinate, but it can be done.  It will take a year to get a good-sized plant.

Seed Longevity:                                           2 years.
Seed Sowing Depth:                                    Cover thinly.
Best Soil Temp for Germination:                  70 degrees.
Days to Germination:                                    7-10+ days.



Herb Scissors




Herb Mincer




Spring Sowing


Sow indoors 6-10 weeks before the last spring frost.   Plant outside 2-3 weeks before the first last spring frost.



Winter Sowing


If you haven't tried winter sowing, you're in for a treat.  This method is especially good for sowing herbs.  Winter sowing is basically sowing seeds in the bottom of milk jugs in the winter, setting the milk jugs outside for the winter and leaving them there until the seeds germinate in the Spring.

For our article containing detailed information about Winter Sowing, click here








Growing Thyme

Plant Size:                                                     Height 6-12”   Width 12”.
Growing Soil Temperature:                           70 degrees.
Spacing:                                                         12”.
Container Size:                                              Height:  6-8”   Width:  4 – 12”.
Soil:                                                                Well-drained.  Rich soil produces large plants that are less fragrant.
Watering:                                                      Light.
Light/Sun:                                                     Full Sun.
Fertilizer:                                                      Very little, not necessary.
Good Companions:                                      Cabbage, Tomato, Eggplant.
Bad Companions:                                        Onion family.


                       Other Care Tips                                            

  • Trim leggy plants.
  • Lightly mulch after ground freezes.

Dividing Thyme

Divide Thyme after three or four years when the plant becomes woody.

  


Softwood Cuttings of Thyme

Take cuttings in spring when new growth is several inches in length.  Side shoots of 4" in length are perfect. Cut the stem at an angle and remove lower leaves leaving an inch or two of the stem bare.  Plant cutting bare side down into a well-drained soil mix.  No fertilizer is needed at this stage.

Wrap the container in plastic to keep in humidity.  Avoid having the leaves touch the plastic.  Place the pot in light but out of direct light.  Keep soil moist but never soggy.  Remove the plastic when cutting grows roots.  A light tug that gives you some resistance means it has rooted.




Harvesting Thyme

Harvest only lightly the first year.  The best flavor is mid-June and July or when the flowers are barely open.

Peel off leaves from the woody stem.  The stems from younger Thyme can be used as well as the leaves.  An established plant will keep coming back.


Harvesting Thyme Seeds

Shake the dry seed head to shake the seed free.  If they are ripe they will fall out.  If you break up the dried seed head, separating the seeds from the chaff will be time-consuming.

Storing Thyme


Fresh
Damp Paper Towel

This method works well for hardy herbs that have woody stems as well as a few soft-stemmed herbs.

  • Clean and thoroughly dry the Thyme.  
  • Arrange lengthwise in a single layer on a slightly damp paper towel.  
  • Loosely roll up the herb and transfer to a plastic bag or plastic wrap.  
  • Label and store in the fridge. 
Thyme will stay fresh in the fridge using this method for 2 weeks.




Freezing Thyme

For best results, use frozen Thyme within 1-2 years.
By freezing herbs, you will lose some of the herb's texture but preserve the flavor.  

Here are a few freezing options to consider:

Tray Freeze

Strip leaves off the stems and spread onto a cookie sheet on a single layer. Freeze in the freezer, then place in a labeled freezer bag to store.  Since the leaves are frozen separately, you can easily remove the amount you need.

Ice Cube Trays with Oil

This method works well for hard stemmed herbs that would probably be cooked when adding to a dish.  The oil reduces some of the browning and freezer burn.
Clean and thoroughly dry herbs.  Mince and pack herbs into an ice cube tray 3/4 full.  Add Olive Oil to fill and freeze. Transfer frozen cubes into labeled freezer bags to store.

Flat Freezer Bag

Trim off the stems and place them in a labeled freezer bag.  Squeeze out the air, flatten the freezer bag, label and store.


Drying Thyme

For best results, use dried Thyme within 1-2 years.
Thyme is one of the best herbs to dry.  For drying, harvest Thyme when plants begin to flower.


Hang to Dry

Pick the Thyme in bunches right before you intend to store them.  Tie the bottom of the bunch together with twine and hang upside down to dry in a dry, low humidity area. For added protection against dust, you can put the bundles inside paper bags with plenty of holes for ventilation.  When the herbs are dry, the leaves will crumble easily between your fingers.  Store in an airtight container.

Using Thyme

  • Thyme is an essential element in Creole, Cajun, Greek, and French Cuisine.
  •  Thyme can be paired with just about any kind of meat, poultry, fish or vegetable.
  • Thyme is usually incorporated during the cooking process as opposed to the last minute.


There's nothing like the aroma of fresh-picked herbs!  Try growing some today and save money!


To view other herb articles in our Culinary Herb Series, see below.

Basil
Chives
Cilantro
Dill
Mint
Oregano
Parsley
Rosemary
Sage





This post may contain Amazon affiliate links and as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases without costing you anything extra.


Popular Posts