Archive for the ‘march planting’ Tag

Easy Herbs to Grow Indoors

One of the gardening questions that I am asked most frequently is, “what can I plant if I don’t have a yard?” Sometimes when I answer, I get a little bit of a skeptical look, because most people know that my wife and I maintain a full one-acre crisis garden. But I haven’t always been so fortunate as to have this land to grow on. I have experimented with growing indoors and on found plots of land and I can tell you honestly, it is possible and not terribly difficult.

If you have only a rooftop to work with, you can create an urban crisis garden. If you are limited to a small porch, balcony, or patio, you’ll find that many vegetables, including tomatoes and lettuces, grow really well in pots. If you truly have no outdoor space, and your garden is confined to a few small pots on a windowsill in your home, then herbs are an excellent option for you.

You may think of herbs as just a seasoning for your food, but they are so much more than this. Fresh herbs are an excellent source of antioxidants. Common fresh herbs such as sage, oregano, peppermint, and thyme are all chock full of healthy antioxidants. Plus, herbs have incredibly powerful medicinal properties. In fact, the herbs that are included in the Survival Herb Bank have the ability to treat a huge range of illnesses and ailments with no harmful side effects.

Herbs are awesome for a great number of reasons. So if you want to try growing them indoors, here are a few easy types to try:

  1. Spearmint and Peppermint- Mint grows so well and is so hardy that it is almost like a weed. One of the things that I like a lot about mint is that it is good even for people who do not like to cook. You can just throw some fresh leaves into a pitcher of iced tea. Mint is great at calming an upset stomach and is delicious and refreshing in every application.
  2. Chives- Chives are one of the very easiest things that you can grow indoors. They don’t even require much sunlight. To stimulate new growth, all you need to do is cut off about 1/3 of their tops. Their slight peppery, oniony flavor is a great healthy seasoning.
  3. Parsley- Parsley doesn’t require much sunlight either, and is great for both cooking and medicine. If you have a large bunch of parsley, try using it in pesto instead of basil. My dog Hatchet loves parsley, too. You can give parsley to dogs to help calm an upset stomach or freshen their breath.
  4. Rosemary- Rosemary is one of my favorite herbs because of its wonderful piney fragrance. It is so good baked into bread or corn muffins. Plus, it has amazing medicinal properties and can be used for indigestion, and to treat poor circulation and muscle pain.When growing rosemary indoors, leave the soil on the dry side and make sure not to over water it.
  5. Oregano- Oregano is such a classic herb. I associate it with Italian food and therefore automatically find it comforting. Oregano is also powerfully healthy for you. Wild oregano oil is just as effective at treating bronchitis as conventional antibiotics- without the side effects. If you grow it indoors, make sure to put it in a sunny spot because it requires about 6 hours of sunlight per day.
  6. Thyme- Thyme is another herb that requires a good deal of sunlight. Try to give it about 6-8 hours of sun if you grow it indoors. A nice thing about thyme is that there are many different nice varieties from which to choose, such as lemon thyme and golden thyme.
  7. Basil- Basil, like thyme, comes in many different wonderful varieties. Some are more sweet, while others are more spicy. Basil is one of my favorite herbs to use in cooking, but it is also great raw- you can toss the fresh leaves right into a salad. If you grow basil indoors in the winter, be patient. It grows slowly.

Radishes Out the Wazoo

Remember back in early spring when we discussed vegetables that can be planted in March? Well, the first one that I had listed was radishes. I often refer to these as the gardener’s “instant gratification” because they are ready to harvest quite quickly. This year, mine went  from seed to ready-to-pick in just about a month. And I planted a very large crop of them. The result? Radishes out the wazoo.

You may be wondering, what can you do with that many radishes? They do not seem to be an ingredient that is frequently used in recipes or cooked dishes. But it does get old after a while to eat them all plain or just on top of a garden salad. And most of us simply don’t possess the creative talent to construct an Aztec God out of radishes…

Well, my lovely wife has come up with a whole array of ways to use radishes, and the terrific thing is that they’re all quite easy, (though perhaps not as visually stunning as the Aztec God). Try grating a handful of radishes and carrots, then mixing them with a dab of dijon mustard and mayonnaise. It makes an excellent sandwich condiment. Or, for a quick appetizer or snack, slice off the top and bottom of your radishes so that they are level on a plate, then use a small knife to make a little hole in the top center. You don’t need to core the whole thing, just a little hole will do. Now, fill this hole with a dollop of room temperature butter or cream cheese. Give it a sprinkling of salt, and maybe a few fresh herbs if you wish, and that’s it. You’ll want to eat these right away, because if you put them in the fridge, the butter hardens back up, and the texture is just not as delicious. My kids used to eat these butter radishes by the pound. No kidding- I actually got my kids to eat a vegetable by the pound.

With all the great uses for radishes, my favorite is pickling them. Now my wife and I pickle quite a few different vegetables, including green beans, cauliflower, beets, and many others. Her favorites are pickled okra and asparagus, and my favorites are pickled yellow squash and radishes. Yes, much, much more than just cucumbers can be pickled. Plus, pickling is an excellent way to keep the fresh vegetables from your garden, whether you want to give them as gifts, or store them in preparation for crisis.

The process of pickling radishes can be done many different ways. But the recipe that we use is pretty easy, and allows you to eat them just a day later. (Again, radishes are great for instant gratification. This is quite unlike our cucumber pickles, which take a good 6-8 weeks to cure.) This particular recipe also cuts down a bit on the hot, peppery flavor of the radishes, while still preserving their crisp, crunchy texture.

To pickle your radishes, you’ll need to first gather the ingredients for a brine:

  • 1/2 cup of red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup of white table sugar
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 2 teaspoons of kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of yellow mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon of whole black peppercorns
  • 1/4 teaspoon of celery seed
  • 1 dried bay leaf. 

Combine all of these ingredients in a saucepan and bring it to a simmer over medium heat. Stir it until all of the sugar has dissolved into the liquid. Once the sugar has dissolved, remove the brine from the heat and set it aside on the stove.

Next, wash and trim your radishes. Then, slice them thinly with either a mandolin or a knife. Place all your radish slices in a glass heat-proof bowl.

At this time, your brine should have had 5-10 minutes to cool. That’s perfect. You’re ready to go ahead and pour it over your radish slices. Leave this on your counter and let it cool for about 20 minutes. Then, tightly cover it and place it in your fridge.

That’s it- easy! These pickled radishes will be ready to eat in 24 hours, and will keep in a covered bowl in your fridge for about 5 or 6 days. If you want to pickle large quantities, you’ll probably want to go ahead and can them. You can use the exact same recipe above, and just go through the same canning process as you would any other pickled vegetable. If you need instructions on how to can properly, including selecting the right jars and sterilizing them, you can click here.

Also, the brine recipe above is good for just one bowl, or about 12-16 pickled radishes, depending on their size. I plant French Breakfast Radishes each year, which came with my Survival Seed Bank. They grow in a sort of oblong shape, and should be picked while they’re still fairly small. French Breakfast Radishes are pictured below. If you plan to use a round variety, such as Beauty Heart or Cherry Belle, these get quite a bit larger. And of course Crimson Giant is the largest, hence the name.

One additional thing worth noting: When you make your pickled radishes, keep the windows open. It’s a very stinky process! I can assure you, though, it is one that is well worth it.

What Can I Plant in March?

If you’re like me, you’re ready to go outside and get your hands dirty at the very first sign of spring each year. This year, my spring fever set in a little bit earlier than usual, which I am certain is due in part to the passing of a particularly long, snowy, and arduous winter.

Now those icy months spent cooped up inside are finally coming to a close, and it’s time to till some fresh earth! Unless you are fortunate enough to live in a warm climate, however, you may feel the need to proceed with caution. Although buds are beginning to appear, temps remain a bit frosty. Here in Norfolk, Virginia, the weather tends to still be pretty cool this time of year. High temperatures are only in the 40s, and lows hover right around freezing.

The good news is that despite the fact that the chill is not yet gone from the air, there are many types of plants that do well in late winter and early spring. In fact, some crops can be both planted and harvested before hot weather comes around. Here are some types of vegetables that fare well when planted in March:

1. Radishes– Radishes are an excellent option for the gardener who is seeking a bit of instant gratification. After you plant them, they can be ready to harvest in as little as about three weeks! Several different varieties of radishes grow well when planted in the early spring, including Burpee White, Champion, Cherry Belle, Easter Egg, Early Scarlett Globe, Snow Belle, and Plum Purple. Radishes grow well in almost any soil that is prepared properly, is fertilized before planting, and has adequate moisture. Sow your radish seeds in soil that is 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep.

2. Spinach- Spinach is another plant that grows well from seeds during this time of year. The results are not quite as quick as radishes, but still speedy, as spinach will be ready to pick and eat in about 48 days. Olympia and Bloomsdale varieties tend to be the most popular for spring planting. Plant your spinach seeds in rows, and space them about 1/2 to 1 inch apart. Cover them very lightly with just about 1/2 inch of soil. Make sure to water them because spinach loves moist soil. Don’t water them too heavily, however, as this can wash the seeds out or cause them to sink too low into the soil.

3. Lettuce- With fresh spinach and fresh lettuce, you’ll have the makings for a delicious springtime salad! Sow your lettuce seeds in a thin layer of just about 1/2 inch of soil. Leave a good 10-12 inches of soil between your rows. So that not all of your lettuce is mature at the same time, you may wish to stagger your rows by several days. This way, you can have successive rows of fresh lettuce for several weeks, rather than harvesting it all in one weekend. Depending on the type of lettuce you plant, it will be ready to harvest within about 6 to 14 weeks.

4. Carrots- Carrots are best planted after the final frost, so you may wish to wait until the end of March to plant your carrots. (Now mind you, you can always start your seeds indoors or under glass, but so far we’ve been discussing only direct outdoor seeding.) Carrots will be ready for harvest in about 80 days.

5. Peas- Peas are a real springtime champ. In fact, of there’s just one vegetable that you decide to sow in March this year, I’d say make it peas. They are tolerant of the cool temperatures and light frosts that still occur at this time. Early plantings also usually produce a larger yield. Your peas should be planted in single rows with about 1 inch of soil cover, and will be ready for harvest in about 60 days.