Thursday, October 17, 2013

Growing veggies from kitchen scraps

There are many kitchen cut vegetables that can be regrown to provide food for your household. Some of these are often thought as waste and  kicked into the garbage and most of you I hope will be instead kicked these into your compost pit or to feeding them to some of your backyard animals. If you have the space there's no need to let these things go to waste. Often I will replant these cut vegetable bottoms in potted containers and once they get going I'll give them to friends as gifts. Vegetables like green onions, bok choy, celery, lettuce, and pineapple can be regrown to provide another course of fresh homegrown goodies. 
Pineapple is a unique regrown fruit and is pretty simple to do. Usually when you prepare your pineapple you cut off the top and the bottom. When regrowing this for just place the top on top of the bottom and simply played in the dirt. It's that easy and let the play do it on its own. If you are not in a year-round warm climate then plant this in a potted container that you can bring indoors. It takes two years to regrow pineapple this way. 
Green onions are fantastic to regrow and when prepared in the kitchen most people cut off the white bulb bottom including the roots. These can be simply replanted back in the dirt and we usually space them about 3 inches apart in rows of 6 inches or more. If you harvested green onions in the field with scissors rather than pulling up the bulb there's no replanting to be done there. Just cut as needed and you'll always have a supply. 
Bok choy ,celery and lettuces we will sometimes start indoors and allow them to root first before planting them outside. One just simply gives a fresh cut on the bottom of the vegetable taking off a 16th of an inch of material. Often the root end of the vegetables you buy at the store, will be healed over and this fresh-cut gives the roots a chance to grow faster. We have also planted these vegetables directly into the soil outside and if it is spring or fall time we have not seen any problem with them rooting directly right in the dirt. Watering well to make sure they don't dry out. Pre rooting you veggies indoors in the summertime helps to prevent the hot summers from drying them out. We always follow the planting guide ( spacing , depth etc. . ) when replanting cut vegetables and we treat the replanted cut vegetables as one would treat seedlings or starter plants going in the ground. Often restaurants will discard large amounts of these and you can take advantage of this if you have an inside advantage and ask them to save the bottoms for you .

Here is some green onions and a the remains of a discarded celery stalk. 
Here are scallion bottoms presoaking in Willow Water 

Here a 1/16 of an inch has been removed from a vegetable bottom to allow for fresh root growth 

Here is a pot planted with lettuce and celery bottoms 

These are Romaine lettuce bottoms that we are replanting into the soil. 

Same field a few weeks later . 

A celery bottom showing new growth . 

We at Gateway Garlic use a lot of Willow water ( see our blog Willow Water ) and because of it's rooting effects will use it here in this type of project. Whatever you use you should water your replanted starts well and never let them dry out. 
Carrot bottoms can be replanted as well. You won't grow a new carrot but what you will grow is a healthy plant that will produce seeds. This is a perfect project for those heirloom carrots you buy your farmers market. If you thought they were delicious you can now grow your own seed to plant them yourselves. Resist using most store bought carrots as they have a tendency to be hybrids but sometimes you can grow a decent carrot from the seed that was harvested off the hybrid cut carrot bottom. 
Bulbs onions are like carrots as you won't re grow the same vegetable but what you can grow are seeds. Simply put the cut top on the cut bottom ( minus the bulb in the middle ) and replant. Water well and you will see the green part regrow itself. Weeks later a seed head will develop and you'll have free seed for replanting or you can harvest the early greens for scallions. Some old world farmers will harvest their onions and replant all the tops/bottoms in the field . About six to nine weeks later they will harvest the large stalk that regrows ( before it flowers ). This is called an onion topper and some will throw this right on the grill. Blackened by fire , it is removed and the outer skin peeled away to reveal a delicious monster scallion ! 

Carrot - replanted for seed
Cabbage - replanted for same 
Bok Choy - replanted for same
Green onions - replanted for same 
Bulb onion - seed or same 
Lettuce - seed or same 
Celery  - seed or same 
Broccoli - for same 
Pineapple ( two years ) for same 

Most cut veggies work great indoors when planted in SIP ( self watering planters ) during the wintertime. A 2 liter pop bottle can be turned into a fantastic self watering window container. Remember that unless your using artificial lights ,south facing locations work best . 

There are many more that you can grow but these are just a few that we have done ourselves. Many people add avocado, garlic ( and others ) to this list but we haven't . The reason being is that they are actually the seed from which you grow these from and didn't qualify as regrow cut veggies. 
Both potato and sweet potato can be used to grow starter plants. With the potato all one has to do is to allow the buds to pop that are on the potato. Some people place these in a dark room so that the buds grow . Some people will put the potatoes in partial light to allow the buds to grow. Called chitting ,  some folks believe you grow stronger potato plants this way. Anyway you do it just simply cut your potato up into large chunks after your buds have appeared making sure you have at least one bud per chunk and plant accordingly 
A potato showing the budding 
A cut chunk of potato showing at least one bud per potato chunk 

Sweet potatoes are different creature as they will produce small plants called slips ( clones ) . When these are 4 to 5 inches long you can simply snap them off the sweet potato carefully and place in water to root. Once a good rooting system has developed you can go ahead and plant your sweet potato slips or plants accordingly. 
A sweet potato packed with slips that are being broken off for us to root .
Sweet potato slips in a jar of water which is encouraging roots the form . 
Planted sweet potato starts indoors as we wait for warmer temperatures so we can plant them outside
Here Garden member Handy Dan has shown one of the techniques we use in planting sweet potatoes is in coffee bean sacks . Part of the no till method it makes for easy harvesting. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Willow water

Farmer Browns supercharged Willow water
Willow Water is a method to extract the rooting hormones indolebutyric acid (IBA) and Salicylicacid( SA), which are present in sufficient quantities in the Willow(Salix) trees to use as a liquid that stimulates root growth. 
Old world methods often suggest soaking the cut stems for up to a month in water. Most new methods suggest using 48 to 72 hour extraction process and those are available. What both of these systems lack is that most scientists agree the hormone itself is alcohol soluble. Our method fixes that and make a more concentrated tea. 

Carondelet Willow tea 
Gather willow branches from the first or second years growth that are green and yellow do not harvest any brown branches. Cut these branches into 1-2 inch pieces and place at the bottom of the 5 gallon bucket filling that bucket about a third of the way loosely. Pour a gallon and a half of boiling water on top of these branches and carefully place a dinner plate on top those branches. Safely use something to force the dinner plate down , making sure that the Willow branches are below the surface of the water. Allow this to sit overnight and cool. The next day add 2 shots of vodka 2 to gallons of water and pour this mixture over the dinnerplate making sure again that the plate is forcing the material below the surface of the water. Allow this to sit for 4 to 5 days. The alcohol will not only help you extract more of the hormone but after a few days time it would begin to disappear from the solution altogether. You may now remove the dinner plate and remove the cut Willow branches. Then what's next is  pouring off your liquid rooting supercharger into recycled ( if possible ) gallon jugs that you can store in the refrigerator for months.You can use this to water cuttings or use it to stimulate root growth when planting starters. We use it when transplanting anything to help reduce system shock and to encourage quick root growth. We have proven through experiments that seedlings watered with this grew faster than those that weren't. However you make your tea just remember that science in the garden can be fun as well as rewarding.

Concentrating vinegar for effective organic weed control

How to concentrate vinegar for garden use : We use a concentrated vinegar instead of a roundup ready type poison for weed killing. Most household vinegar sold in stores is found to be 5% acidity and can usually be good enough for the creation of the weed killer. This means that you might have to use multiple applications to kill denser or stronger weed patches ( just like with roundup ) but that can get annoying and in the case of roundup too excessive.This system is minimalist so if you are anal retentive or OCD and after reading this you INSTANTLY have a better idea and want to design all kinds of gadgets you think will work better than this.... do it ! As far as my life is concerned the less specialty equipment I have, the better. Most equipment i use and keep around me have multipurpose uses but that's how i do things, you of course are different. You are only limited by your imagination and of course your storage capacity.  
Here is our system and it works for us .

First of all you will be cold distilling because most folks do not own a home still with a condensing column but if you do have one or are creative enough to make one, skip this part. 

To make it even easier to create this at home I have stripped this technique down. 
Materials : a grain bag or a straining bag or a large stainless steel sieve and a stainless steel pot ,a gallon of commercial vinegar and a stir stick that will fit the vinegar container. 

We first started with a gallon of standard household vinegar like the kind you find at the supermarket. The bottle was opened and a stick was placed inside the full bottle of vinegar, in this case a rounded piece of wood from a tie rack. We placed this set up inside the freezer and every 20 minutes we would go in there and used to stick to start it around. After a couple hours it turns into a vinegar slushy. We next got a stainless steel pot and placed in it a grain bag or juicing bag. Those of you who are unfamiliar with one,it can be purchased at your local homebrew store outing your better kitchen supply house . It has many other household uses, is dish washer friendly, will last many years and usually will cost about $15. A paint strainer bag will also work for this process. These usually can be found at your box hardware stores or local paint stores and cost around $3-$4. We poured the slushy into the grain bag which sat inside the pot and made sure all large ice chunks were broken up. It was a lot easier to set the gallon jug inside the pot and CAREFULLY using a utility knife, cut the top off the gallon jug. It's contents easily poured out.We then easily lifted the bag and the mostly water mixture was frozen and remained in the bag. That was discarded and the content of the pot was poured into a container. I couldn't believe it could be that easy ! We were left with about 30 oz of concentrated vinegar . In later tests we poured the vinegar into large cups and they froze quicker with no cutting the gallon jug. 

Be very careful with handling this material and do not splash it around. This is acetic acid( even vinegar is just diluted acetic acid )and can be VERY dangerous when concentrated.You are COMPLETELY responsible for what you do yourself if you act stupid and we are in no way responsible for your actions. 

You may now proceed to part two and that requires you take about 3 ounces of vinegar ( unconcentrated ) and add two ounce of a dish soap in a separate container. Carefully mix the two together until the dish soap is dispersed into the vinegar. You are NOT trying to create suds but instead just mixing the two into one. Take your pump action sprayer and remove the pumping head. Place this mix into your sprayer and then CAREFULLY add a gallon of your concentrate. Your vinegar/soap mix will be easily dispersed into your concentrate effectively and you may now begin spraying.... that is after you have replaced your top. Be very careful as to what you spray and that also means yourself. Concentrated vinegar can be very painful to get in your eyes and mucous membranes and you way want to wear safety glasses and a respirator. Another effective way is to use a heavy duty kitchen glove that you wear and dip a rag into this mixure ,wiping it on the leaves of those plants you want to kill. Some plants like yucca may still require multiple treatments . Since the removal of the plants ( pulling, burning , mowing ) means the removal of most of the acid , there's no PH change . If you got sloppy a dusting of lime or hardwood ashes would counteract the acid residue . When in question always do a ph test

Vinegar slushie in a strainer bag just before straining out the frozen water 


Weeds before spraying 

Same weed patch one week later 

Planting Garlic

Garlic is a fairly easy crop to grow as well as a sustainable one. Grown for thousands of years and thought to  have its origins in the Steppes Garlic can be found on almost every continent. In looking over the web you'll  find many different techniques in growing it and in all types of terrain. We are going to tell you our style of growing garlic of which we have two.

a standard softneck with the outer paper removeds
Here in the Midwest of America our garlic planting usually begins with the Autumnal equinox in September and culminates near the end of October. Although some may begin planting earlier and some will plant later what matters is what works for you and in our style it works for us. Here in the Midwest garlic is a sustainable crop as it grows during the wettest months of the year and the months that have little or no weed growth. Any gardeners or farmers out there would know the less you have to water and the less you have to weed makes you happier gardener or farmer. 
Begin by breaking up your bulb of garlic into the individual cloves. We refer to the single cloves as seed because it is how we grow our garlic. Depending on what kind of bulb you have you might find yourself with an inner ring of smaller cloves surrounded by the outer ring of larger cloves. We plant only the larger cloves because they will yield us the larger bulbs. You may plant the smaller cloves if you choose. We usually save up all our inner cloves and use them for cooking. Do not peel each individual clove as this is a protector and barrier for the garlic seed. The young garlic sprout will break through this without any issue . We presoak our cloves overnight in water as we believe this helps us get a jump on germination. 

Flat ground or raised bed planting :
Handy Dan using his favorite tool to level a bed
our presoaked garlic cloves or seeds
Our worked and prepared soil is leveled and we begin by planting our garlic in 10 to 12 inch rows, planting each individual clove 6 to 8 inches apart. Often we use a smooth stick to help us create the indentation to receive the garlic clove. We make our indentation about 2 inches deep and we stick our clove in this hole root side down and pointy side up. If they were planted upside down the young sprout will route itself but there's no need to make the plant spend the additional energy when you can take care in how you place it inside the hole. Covering the young seed with earth,we then give it a healthy watering and will water regularly for one week after the sprout has shown through the surface of the soil. Here in the Midwest we are often prone to harsh winters and we will mulch in our Garlic after the sprout has shown. We do not bury the sprout with mulch and we do not recommend mulching before the Garlic has sprouted. Some people have suggested 6 inches of mulch on top which we find to be far too excessive. That system has probably led to a lot of failures in Garlic growing. 

Berm planting 
We do lots of berm planting which we do a little different than your standard flat ground or raised bed planting. A raised berm is nothing more than a mound of soil raised above the ground set in a row. We prefer this method as it seems to be easier to amend the soil, weed, and harvest. Having amended the soil of our berms , we then flatten out the top of it to knock down any peak which may have formed while we were amending. This usually leaves us with a nice smooth and rounded row . We plant our garlic 6 to 8 inches apart from one another in any direction including our rows. We stagger the seed apart from one another one might say in a checkerboard fashion. Using a small stick we gently push it in the berm forming a 2 to 3 inch hole and place the garlic seed in it. We then cover up the hole ( containing the seed -point side up , root side down ) with earth and that's how it's done. 
You will find when your garlic sprouts they are looking a lot like green onions or spring onions and they easily grow all winter long. Occasionally water but do not drown out the plants . We do not fertilize before springtime as we do not encourage bulb growth during winter. We do amend our soil before planting to help give the plant a good jump on it's fall and winter growing. Come springtime is when we begin to add in our amendments. Since we are organic or naturally growing we do not use any artificial fertilizers and instead revert to leaf mulch mixed with aged horse manure  and amended with Compost. Sometimes we may use a liquid fertilizer of fish emulsion, compost tea, or our own manure tea . This of course is sprayed at the base of the growing plants and not on them. 

Chesnok Garlic soaking before planting