Tuesday, June 23, 2009


This is my first year growing potatoes in the garden. My dad always grew them, but I decided to give it a try. I bought a variety of red potatoes. My father-in-law had told me a little bit about a neighbor he has that uses straw when he grows his potatoes. I'm a little late getting the straw down, but I finally got around to it. Part of my problem was finding a farm store that wasn't out of straw already. Here is a great article on growing potatoes in straw: http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/vegetable/tips-for-growing-potatoes-in-straw.htm
and here is a great article on growing potatoes in general: http://extension.usu.edu/files/publications/publication/HG_Garden_2005-13.pdf

My potatoes got planted later than I had planned. I wanted to plant them in april, but really they didn't get planted until the end of May. My plants are now about 6 inches high so I put the straw around the plants until just an inch of plants are showing. The straw (or if you choose to use dirt) helps to keep the potatoes from being green when they are harvested. For new (baby) potatoes they are ready to be harvested when the flowers bloom. If you want regular sized potatoes you wait until the vines die off. I've done some reading on different ways to plant potatoes. Some gardeners plant them in old, large nursery pots or garbage cans. I might actually give it a try next year.

Next year as I'm planting my garden I plan on documenting when I actually plant specific plants, and how I go about it. I didn't get this blog up and running until after things had been planted, however I do plan on trying fall cropping of some veggies.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Another Favorite Salad Dressing

My spinach may have bolted, but my salad greens are still doing well. I have two favorite salad dressing recipes. One is in the spinach salad below, and this one is like a creamy italian.

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons corn syrup
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons romano cheese
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon parsley flakes
1 tablespoon lemon juice


Mix all ingredients in a blender until well mixed.

If this is a little to tart for your own personal tastes please add a little extra sugar.

Bolting Spinach

Well the time has come and my spinach officially went to seed and bolted. I had to pull it up yesterday. Spinach bolts and is no longer good when it starts to get hot out. I do have to say that with this rainy, cool weather my spinach lasted a long time. I enjoyed it for a little over a month. I'm going to try a fall planting this fall, so we'll see if it works.

Cabbage Worms and Moths?

Yesterday my venture in the garden was scoping out pests; one in particular. The cabbage worm or moth loves to eat and lay eggs on:

Brussels sprouts
Mustard Greens

If any of these plants are developing holes in the leaves, it's very possible that the cabbage worm has entered the garden. Fortunately we've had some huge downpours, and I hear this helps prevent the cabbage worm. This year I haven't seen them too much, but last year I had to get rid of these pests in the garden.

How to identify:

If your plant is getting holes in it, that can be an indicator. Another indicator are when you look under the leaf you might seen little green droppings or white eggs.

Another big sign that you potentially have a problem is if you see the green cabbage worm, or the moth that it turns into. The moth is what lays it's eggs on the plant.

How to get rid of these pests:

The best way of getting rid of them is to hand pick them and get rid of them. You just take any cabbage worms/eggs you see and pick them off the plant. This is a good job for the kids. If you are like me you could also treat with insecticides that you might find at a garden store. They have powders you can brush on, or sprays (some organic, some not).

I've also read another great organic repellent is a hot pepper spray. I've never tried that, but if cabbage worms come to grace their prescence this year I'm going to give it a try. You can make the spray by chopping or grinding hot peppers into fine particles. You then mix 1/2 cup of the grounded peppers with 1 pint of water and then strain out the particles to form a clear solution. You should spray the plants twice, 2 or 3 days apart. Just make sure the spray makes contact with the cabbageworm.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Favorite Spinach Recipes

Let me know if you have a favorite spinach recipe. Please e-mail me and I'd be happy to share. I love spinach in a lot of things (pizza, calzones, soups, salads, etc. etc), but here are two of my favorite spinach recipes.

Spinach Salad

I'm sure a lot of you have this recipe. It's quite popular around here. I have to recipes I use from time to time. They are both very similar

*I don't always use these measurements. The dressing is really good and you can use it with any/all/or additional ingredients or amounts. I usually half he dressing, store the dressing in a canning jar and use it as needed.


1 bag or head of lettuce (I use mine from the garden)
2 bunches of spinach (more or less, also from garden)
1 purple oinon
1 lb mushrooms
1 lb bacon bits (I usually make mine without, but if I do I just fry up a few slices of bacon and crumble it up)
1 c. cottage cheese, drained overnight in a colander (optional)
chopped almonds (optional)

1/2 c. sugar
2 tsp. dry mustard
2/3 c. red wine or cider vinegar
2/3 c. oil - I use half vegetable, half olive
1 Tbs. poppy seeds

Toss the salad with enough dressing to coat just before serving.

Hot Spinach Artichoke Dip
This recipe is not healthy, but it is so good. I like to eat it with french bread, pita bread, or crackers.

1 (10 ounce) box frozen spinach chopped, thawed (I just cook and chop my fresh spinach)
1 (14 ounce) can artichoke hearts drained and roughly chopped
1 cup shredded parmesan-romano cheese mix
1/2 cup shredded mozarella cheese
10 ounces prepared alfredo sauce
1 teaspoon minced garlic
4 ounces softened cream cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine ingredients thoroughly in a bowl and spread mixture into a small baking dish (I used an 8" X 8" dish).

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until cheeses are bubbling and melted.

Freezing Spinach

There are a couple of ways of freezing spinach. I don't usually get around to freezing it because we usually eat or give most of it away.

My sister Lisa told me that she takes her fresh, washed spinach and just throws it in a freezer bag. Then when it freezes she opens the bag, crumbles it while it's in the bag and then removes the air and freezes. She sneaks it in to things like spaghetti sauce, casseroles, and soups. I also do this. My daughter and husband both like spinach so I guess it's not necessarily sneaking it in, but it always adds extra nutrition to things.

I read online somewhere that freezing without blanching isn't the most nutritious way. I read that all veggies have enzymes and bacteria that break down the nutrition and taste over time if they aren't blanched. I need to look into that a little more. To blanch greens you should get a pot of water boiling. Throw the spinach in the pot and let boil for 2 minutes. Immediately take it out and put in an ice water bath. This is to stop the cooling. Then you could bag the greens, but I might suggest freezing on a cookie sheet lines with wax paper before you put it in the baggie. That way it won't end up as a big lump of spinach. You could also try to crumble it after you put it in the bag.

Storing and Cleaning Spinach

I'm probably making this post a little late as my own spinach is starting to go to seed. I guess it's time to pull it up. Here are a few tidbits about spinach:

Washing and Storing

I usually clip my spinach with scissors and then put it directly in my salad spinner basket. Do you have one of these? I love them! Thanks to my sister Judy who gave me one quite a few years back. It is one of my favorite kitchen items.

Google it and find out more about it. Basically it's great for storing and washing any kind of greens, and it stores them for a very long time.

Back to the spinach:

If the spinach is a small batch I just fill the bowl of the salad spinner with water and place the spinach in the basket. If it is a large batch I usually put it in my sink and soak it in water. As it soaks in the water I swish it around every so often. The sand and dirt will go to the bottom of the bowl or sink. I then empty the water and repeat about 3 times. I don't know if it's just me, but I find the spinach collects a lot of dirt and needs it. If you have a salad spinner throw the spinach directly in the basket (with the bowl empty of water) and spin it. It will dry all the leaves. If you don't have a spinner just use a strainer/colander and then dry w/ paper towels. If you have a small batch of spinach growing in the garden you could probably just store it in the strainer.

I have a lot of spinach and lettuce growing in my garden so it doesn't help me to store it in the spinner, as I use the spinner a lot. I take a gallon sized ziplock baggie and place the dried spinach inside. I also fold two paper towels and put them on both sides of the bag. This helps keep the moisture away from the spinach and it lasts a lot longer. I have 1 bag of spinach that has easily been in the fridge for over 2 weeks, and it is still as crisp and fresh as the day I packaged it.

** Note: This method works well for storing any greens.