Instant Radishes

One of my favorite vegetables to grow is radishes.  There compact, fast growing, multi-purpose and just plain tasty.  You can pop them out of the ground, rinse them off and start eating, put them in a jar with vinegar for pickled radishes, pop them in the oven for roasted radishes,  just about anything you can think of.  If you ‘re like me and can’t wait to get them in the ground and watch them start growing, here’s a way of getting them sprouting in no time.  Take the seeds and soak them in water for 24 hours.  Then take the seeds and place them in a paper bag in the sun.  The next day go ahead and plant them and they will be sprouting in a matter of 24 hours. Happy munching. 

Natural insect repelling plants and Trap Cropping


One of the easiest way to fight bugs, and save money doing it is just plant something that will repel them. 

You can start with Petunias.  They will repel squash bugs, beetles and aphids.  Make sure its in the sun.  Next, try Basil.  The oils in it will keep away Flies and Mosquitoes.  Marigolds also help fight off mosquitoes, potato bugs, as well as aphids.  Lavender is good for Mosquitoes, Moths and Flies, plus it smells down right good.  Rosemary is another one that’s good to keep mosquitoes away.  Mint is good to keep all biting insects away.  Great for warding off ants.  Catnip is a type of mint, so it repels bugs.  Only problem is you will have cats.  Chrysanthemums is used in many insect repellents to keep mosquitos, roaches, beetles, ticks and silverfish.  Alliums like leeks, onions, scallions, chives, shallots and garlic can grow tall with pretty flowers, and help the rest of your plants against slugs, flies, worms, but, they do attract moths.  Another bad side effect is they can be toxic to dogs and cats.  Lemongrass has citronella in it, which help ward off mosquitos.  It needs a lot of sun.  Nasturtiums are a good one to plant to get rid of cucumber beetles.  Borage is a great plant to put in, repels tomato hornworms and cabbage worms, attracts bees and wasps and adds trace minerals to the soil.  Borage leaves are high in vitamin C and are rich in calcium, potassium and mineral salts.  Chamomile chases off flying insects, coriander fights off potato bugs, Horseradish to get rid of potato bugs, Dill to chase off squash bugs and cabbage loopers, Fennel for chasing away slugs and snails.  Spearmint will chase off beetles, ants, and rodents. 

Now, if you want to make a homemade pesticide, take any extract of garlic, onion, chili pepper, citrus oil, chrysanthemum leave, tomato leave, tobacco leave or any other aromatic herb.  Make this by chopping the appropriate part of the plant and boiling it for 20 to 30 minutes.  Strain this through cheesecloth.  If you want to really beef it up, add dish soap at about 3 tablespoons per gallon to make it stronger. 


Another trick to use it Trap Cropping.  If you want a really great crop of cucumbers and don’t care for squash, plant several rows of cucumbers, and on the outside plant a row of Blue Hubbard or Butternut squash.  The pickleworm is much more attracted to the squash than they are the cucumber.  You can spray the squash, or burn them with little or no loss of cucumber.


Growing Sprouts in a Jar or Ayden’s first Garden


You can buy kits available for sprouting seeds, but there is no need to buy specialized equipment. You only need a clean glass Mason jar a piece of cheesecloth and rubber band. These sprouts are great for munching or throwing them on  a salad.  This is a mini-garden you can grow without having a bit of land to worry about.  Enjoy, Ayden.

Start by Soaking the Beans

Start out by soaking your seeds in lukewarm water for 24 hours out of direct sunlight. For a regular-sized mason jar, use just a couple of tablespoons of seeds. Cover them completely with the water, with about two inches of water above the seeds. Use distilled or filtered water to avoid contaminates being absorbed by the seeds. Most seeds or beans should be soaked about 24 hours, although very small seeds can be soaked as little as six hours. You’ll see the seeds expand as they absorb water, and may be twice their original size after soaking.

Now it’s time to Drain and Store

Drain the water from the jar completely, (Save this for watering your other plants). This will be a lot easier with large seeds or beans. You’ll have to shake small seeds hard to get as much water as possible out of the jar. After draining, put the jar back out of direct light. Put the jar tilted downward at an angle with a bowl under it to catch the remaining water, which will allow fresh air into the jar while still draining excess water.  You’ll need to do this twice a day, three times if possible.  Fill the jar with fresh cool water, swirl and shake gently for 10 to 15 seconds before draining. Repeat once or twice, and then drain the excess completely before returning the jar to its original position. Repeat this process two to three times a day for three to five days.

Let the Sunshine in.

Finally it’s time to expose your sprouts to the sun after about 5 days. Rinse and drain seeds before placing the jar in bright indirect light, not in the direct sun. This allows the sprouts to develop chlorophyll and 'green up.' The amount of time will depend on the type of seed, but this can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Continue to rinse the sprouts regularly.

When ready to harvest, seeds will require a final rinse. Fill the container with water, and skim off any hulls or debris before draining thoroughly. Once sprouts are dry, they can be eaten immediately or stored in the refrigerator for several days.


What types of Seeds should you Sprout

Most people are familiar with the big white sprouts on salad bars, but these are not the only option. Make sure seeds you use are intended for food and not for planting, however. Seeds for planting are often treated with insectides or other chemicals that may be dangerous to consume.

Peas, Lentils, Soybeans and Mung Beans - Mung beans are used for the common white sprouts seen in most grocery stores. Peas, lentils and soybeans produce similar sturdy sprouts.

Radish, Clover, Broccoli and Alfalfa - These small seeds grow thin, delicate sprouts that develop tiny leaves.

Wheat, Rye, Barley and Oats - Although most people are more familiar with growing these grains like grasses, they also can be sprouted in only a few days.

Sunflower - Hulled seeds can be sprouted in the jar, or the intact seed can be soaked and grown like grasses in a tray.  (The sprouts can be clipped, eaten and they will keep on growing for future harvesting)

What About Mold?

There are few hazards in sprouting seeds in Mason jars, but it is important to watch for mold. If you find mold on your sprouts, throw them out and begin fresh. These tips should help prevent the problem:

Make sure there is plenty of air circulation. Try placing the jar in another location, or add a small fan near the jar to keep air moving. If you use a fan, make sure it is not blowing directly on the jar.

Use colder water when rinsing, and rinse more often.

Make sure the sprouts are drained thoroughly. Too much moisture encourages mold.

Thoroughly clean and sterilize the jar and other equipment. Use one tablespoon of bleach per pint of water. Soak the equipment for 20 minutes before scrubbing thoroughly.

If your sprouts have a musty smell or slimy appearance throw them out, they are no good.

At home, refrigerate sprouts at 40° F or below — in a clean refrigerator.

Wash your hands properly before handling raw sprouts.

Rinse sprouts thoroughly under running water before use.

If you decide to cook sprouts, it can help reduce the risk of food poisoning. Toss them into soups, stews or stir fries near the end of the cooking process — or oven roast until crisp and browned.


Ever wonder what those numbers mean on the bags of fertilizers you see at the big box stores?  Well, they mean more than they will help your plants grow.  Each one has its own specific purpose.  The first number stands for Nitrogen,(N).  This is great for all the leaves your plants have.  It doesn’t matter if it’s cabbage or grass.  Just remember, if you’re growing something that has flowers or fruits, and the number is too high, it’s going to take its toll on the plant.   The second number stands for Phosphorus, (P).  This is what you need if your growing something that has a flower or a fruit on it.  You’ll need something with a slightly higher number in the center for the flower or fruit to grow.  If its not growing well throw in a little bone meal.  1-11-0. this will give it a boost.  Lastly, its Potash, a form of Potassium,(K).  This helps the plants overall just do well.  Helps with the quality of the fruit and helps reduce stress on the plants.  This is needed more as the plants gets closer to maturity.  Hope this helps with the basics.  So,  in review, vegetables like broccoli and tomatoes with a nice fruit will do well with 5-10-10, while cabbage and corn, with more leaf than fruit will do well with 16-16-8 or 12-12-12.  Remember, if it says use 12-12-12 and you only have 6-6-6 on hand, just use twice as much  to make the 6 a 12.  Half as much 10-10-10 gives you 5-5-5.  Now, this is the same if you’re dealing with flowers.  If your plant has flowers like a rose, use 5-10-10.  If it’s to be used on a grass, use 12-12-12, or 10-10-10.  The only time this rule is broken, is if it’s a young plant and there is no flower or fruit yet.  Increase the Nitrogen to help the plant get established, then go to one of the fertilizers that is better suited for it once the blooms set in. Easy enough.

People always think of oranges when they think of Florida, but pomegranates are a great fruit to grow down here also.  Here's a few tips on how to grow them down here.   There is not always a need for fertilizer for pomegranate trees.   However, if the plant is doing poorly, especially if it is not setting fruit or production is minimal, a fertilizer for pomegranate trees is recommended.  A soil sample may be the best way to determine if the pomegranate tree is really in need of supplemental fertilizer. The local extension office may provide soil testing services or, at the very least, be able to advise where to purchase one. Also, some basic knowledge of pomegranate fertilizing needs is helpful.  Pomegranates thrive in soils with a pH range from 6.0-7.0, so basically acidic soil. If the soil results indicate the soil needs to be more acidic, apply chelated iron, soil sulfur or aluminum sulfate.  Nitrogen is the most important element that pomegranates need and the plants may need to be fertilized accordingly.  The easiest thing to remember is treat it like citrus when fertilizning.  First and foremost, pomegranate trees need adequate water, especially during the first few years as they establish. Even established trees need additional irrigation during dry spells to improve growth not to mention fruit set, yield, and fruit size.  Do not fertilize pomegranates during their first year when you initially plant the tree, mulch with rotted manure and other compost instead.  In their second year, apply 2 ounces of nitrogen per plant in the spring. For each successive year, increase the feeding by an additional ounce. By the time the tree is five, 6-8 ounces of nitrogen should be applied to each tree in late winter prior to leaf emergence.  You can also go “green” and use mulch and compost to add nitrogen as well as other micronutrients beneficial to pomegranates. These gradually break down in the soil, continuously and slowly adding nutrition for the plant to uptake. This also lessens the possibility of burning the shrub with the addition of too much nitrogen.  Too much fertilizer will cause an increase in foliage growth, lessening overall fruit production. A little fertilizer goes a long way and it is better to underestimate than overestimate.

Growing Pomegranate in Florida

Growing an Avocado Tree.

Save the pit the next time you enjoy an avocado.  Rinse the meat off of it and dry it thoroughly.  Take and carefully push three or four toothpicks around the largest diameter of the pit.  Rest it on the rim of a glass or cup and fill the container so it comes up and covers at least one inch of the pit then place it in a sunny spout and make sure the water stays up.  In 4-5 weeks it will sprout roots and a stem.   Once the stem reaches 6 –8 inches, cut it in half.  Wait for it to sprout then plant the pit in a pot with loose sandy soil to allow plenty of drainage.  Make sure to leave half to pit out of the soil.  Keep the plant in a warm, sunny place and give a plenty of light watering.  Every time it grows 6 – 8 inches, pinch off the top leaves for a stronger plant.  Don’t think about moving it outside until spring, and remember, Avocado trees don’t like temperatures below 45°.  

December is the still great for planting in North Florida.  You can plant Beets, Broccoli, Cabbage, Carrots,  Kale, Kohlrabi, Mustard, Bulbing and Bunching Onions and Radishes.  Have a Merry Christmas all.   If you want to check out other things to plant, check out North Florida Gardening.  Have fun gardening.