White Harvest Seed Blog

  • Rainbows in April

    Whether we like it or not, we're smack in the middle of the rainy season. While we're nearly fit to be tied to get outside and transplant our seedlings, those hovering gray clouds just aren't quite finished. Oftentimes during my “cloudy day blues”, I'll remind myself of the charming little saying I learned as a kid – “April showers bring May flowers”. However, when the sunshine still doesn't magically appear, and my plants have yet to bloom, I'm forced to find magic elsewhere. That's when all these spring storms come in handy. For there truly is magic in rainbows.

    Sure, they're bright and beautiful and they usually are followed by better weather, but there's much more to them than that alone. I can't help but think of the very first rainbow every time I see one in the sky. In the book of Genesis, right after God flooded the earth, He made a covenant with His creation saying, “While the earth remains, seed time and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer; and day and night shall not cease.” An important promise to us gardeners, wouldn't you say? “And God said: 'This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations; I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. (Gen. 9:1-13) What a beautiful picture is truly painted by the colors of a rainbow.

    The last time one appeared over our house, we stood in silent awe of two complete rainbows above us. Together, the bright rays formed a quaint canopy over our farm. We were surprised even further when we discovered that the brilliant colors seemed to fall into the valley ahead, where our store rests quietly. We joked about finding the “pot of gold” that everybody says lies at the end of the rainbow, but we knew better. Rainbows in all their glory merely represent something far better. There's no need to run to the end of a rainbow to find treasure when you already have the real stuff in your grasp. I wish that anyone who has ever chased after a rainbow at some point in their lives realized how they were already blessed.  Must a rainbow fall directly into your garden or amidst your family for you to value their worth?

    Take it from me. The next time you spot those colorful rays overhead, look around at the treasures which already surround you, enjoy what you can beneath the protection of an umbrella, and save the end of the rainbow for the birds.

  • Storey's Basic Country Skills: A Practical Guide to Self-Reliance

    Many of us are on the journey to becoming self-reliant. There are many steps to accomplishing this, however. Why do we do it? How serious are we about this pursuit? Is it out of necessity or just a hobby? Or are we doing it because we believe it may someday become a necessity?

    I admire those who are completely committed to this adventure. Those who are doing what they can to make things work for themselves, using their own resources, skills, and energy to get things done. Living life this way means that you learn to do what you have to in order to survive. But its not just about survival. Its about living life honestly.

    I want to introduce to you our book for the month – Storey's Basic Country Skills, by John and Martha Storey. The only way I can give you a short review on this is to list some of the many things this book has to offer. It is comprehensive and seems to cover everything you would ever want to know about living self-reliant.

    This is just a taste of what this book has to offer:

    Learn how to make outdoor furniture – how to drill a well – growing herb gardens – how to make soap – putting in hardwood floors – solar electricity – felling your own trees – weatherproofing your home – putting in a new lawn – building a greenhouse – how to make a garden shed – making apple cider, maple syrup, and homemade sausage – learn how to butcher rabbits, hogs, sheep, goats, chickens, and beef - building a smokehouse – how to care for farm and ranch animals – beekeeping – making cheese and of course, my favorite... everything you need to know to grow your own food. From soil improvement to building compost bins to saving seed to every facet of the garden. You will find everything you need to know to turn that wonderful seed into food for your table.

    Just to be clear, this book doesn't just cover these topics. It goes into great detail on each subject. Like I said before, it is very comprehensive. It's certainly a must-have for anyone who wants to move towards the goal of being self-reliant.

    Again we want to remind everyone of the “Get Prepared Expo” coming to Springfield, Missouri on May 14-15th, 2011. If you are in town, please stop by our booth. We'd love to meet you!

  • Cool Weather Crop Recipes

    Summer isn't the only time to think about recipes. We're dreaming of delicious meals long before it's time to bring their ingredients indoors. Right now, just looking at our young tomato and pepper plants makes me hungry for a tasty salsa or stir-fry. It's the beginning of a wonderful season. So why not, before you're too busy with "garden duty", store up the best recipes? Below are a few cool weather crop ones to get you started. WARNING: You'll be hungry once you read these.

    Dressed-up Broccoli

    3- 1/2 cups broccoli florets
    3 Tbsp. dry bread crumbs
    2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
    1 Tbsp. butter or margarine, melted
    2-3 garlic cloves, minced

    Place broccoli and a small amount of water in a microwave and broiler-safe 1-1/2 qt. dish. Cover and microwave on high until crispy and tender, about 5-6 minutes; drain. Combine remaining ingredients and sprinkle over the broccoli. Broil for 4-5 minutes or until lightly browned. Makes 7 servings

    Arugula Summer Salad

    4 Cups fresh arugula or baby spinach
    1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
    2 medium tomatoes, cut into wedges
    2 Tbsp. Olive oil
    1 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
    1 Tbsp. Red Wine vinegar
    Salt and pepper to taste

    In a salad bowl, combine the arugula, onion, and tomatoes. Whisk the dressing ingredients, drizzle over salad and gently toss to coat. Serve immediately. Makes 6 servings.

    Tomato and Spinach Pasta Toss

    2 Cups penne pasta uncooked
    1/2 lb. hot or mild Italian sausage, casing removed
    7 Cups baby spinach leaves
    1 can (14 1/2 oz) diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano, undrained
    1 Cup shredded mozzarella cheese
    2 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese

    Cook pasta as directed on package. Meanwhile, crumble meat into large deep skillet. Cook on medium-high heat until cooked through, stirring occasionally; drain. Add spinach, tomatoes and dressing; cook 2 minutes or until spinach is wilted, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Cover to keep warm. Drain pasta; place in large serving bowl. Add meat mixture and cheeses; mix lightly. Makes 6 servings; 1 cup each.

  • Tips for Trellising

    Gardeners are always looking for ways to improve their gardens.  That's the beauty of it – we never stop searching.  One thing I've learned is that trellising is one innovation that works!  The dilemma you generally run into, though, is finding materials and facing the costs.  The latter is usually most prohibitive.  That's why we're here to share with you what we've learned about finding common, cheap, usable stuff around the farm or home for your trellising needs.

    For you 1st time gardeners who are new to this idea, let me explain just a bit.  Vining vegetables such as cucumbers, gourds, small melons and pole beans thrive when given free reign.  These “garden space killers,” as we like to call them, can easily overtake your garden if left alone.  Believe me, I've seen it happen.  Simply adding a trellis or two can make a world of difference.  If you provide a way for them to “climb up” off the ground, it helps to prevent rotting and disease.  A trellis also encourages growth within a healthy amount of room, meanwhile making harvesting all that much easier.  On top of all this, the abundant foliage can often make quite a stunning spectacle of itself.

    If you're anything like us, it's easy to get overwhelmed by the possibilities.  Just take one plant – one trellis – at a time.  And focus on getting the right supplies.

    The average farm is a “treasure chest” of items that can be used.  Old, metal T- posts lying in the barn make great, strong, supports.  They are fairly easy to drive in the ground with a sledge hammer.  Damaged, plastic, electric fence posts make good plant supports with wire or string looped through the “arms”.  Old pieces of woven fence or rusty, animal panels can usually be found in farm scrap piles.  If nothing else, check with the nearest farmer.  They'll most likely be thrilled to get their  “perceived junk” hauled off for free!
    If you garden in the city – don't fret – you have multiple options too!  Your local fence company may have scraps of chain link fence from jobs or old sections from remodel jobs.  Local concrete companies or lumbar yards may have damaged sections of  “Re-mesh” wire for bargain prices.  Again their “junk” may just be your treasure!  Broken handles off tools like shovels, brooms, etc. make good support posts when driven in the ground at least a foot deep.  Even discarded volleyball or tennis nets from your local school or community center would be ideal for certain varieties.

    Plant tie-up possibilities are numerous. A few to consider trying would be skeins of yarn, strips of cloth rags, old pantyhose, trash bag ties, or even an old fishing line.  Just use your imagination.  It's okay to have fun with it.  Just remember you need things that won't break easily or damage the plants.

    The thrill for me is turning useless things into productive, useful ones!  Once the work's completed, it is very rewarding to sit back and watch your plants take off.  Before long, if you're lucky, your trellis will be hidden beneath strong and healthy flowering plants.  Hope this helps stir some practical and fun ideas!

  • The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest

    This month we certainly recommend to you this wonderful book to help you preserve your harvest. One of our many passions here at White Harvest is to encourage people not only to plant gardens, but also to preserve those harvests for a year-round supply of their own homegrown food. Not only do we believe this to be better for you, but in our world today, we believe it may become absolutely necessary for people to be prepared. Besides, if you are like us, you usually have more produce that you can eat fresh.

    This book goes into great lengths to teach you the process of canning, freezing, drying and pickling both fruits and vegetables. Anything from how to choose the best ingredients, step by step instructions on canning, including safe and unsafe canning practices, detailed descriptions of the four types of food drying, how to freeze herbs, meats, poultry, and dairy products, preserving jams and jellies, how to make pickles, and information on cold storage. I have canned and frozen my fruits and vegetables for years, but I have yet to try my hand at food drying.

    One of my favorite sections was the gift giving of preserved foods. Have you ever thought of giving a “living tossed salad” as a gift? Use a large clay pot, and plant with lettuce or a variety of greens and include parsley, chives, or oregano. Include a bottle of homemade salad dressing with a couple of fresh tomatoes out of your garden. Make a copy of the dressing recipe on an index card and there you go! You've got one unique gift!

    How about give a jar of your own homemade tomato sauce or spaghetti sauce with meat? Wrap up a large pasta bowl with individual serving bowls, a Parmesan cheese grater, and a variety of pastas too. It's simple and fun to give!

    The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest, by Carol W. Costenbader, is full of extra tips along the way. One is to keep your freezer well stocked. Did you know that a full freezer requires less electricity to maintain than one that is half full? Another is to keep a chart on the inside of your pantry door or kitchen cabinet, which gives the location of canned goods. This conveniently saves you more time than you'd think. One more... If your pantry is being attacked by insects, sprinkle bay leaves on the storage shelves. This will discourage their visits.

    Last, but not least, the book is FULL of recipes for each preserving method. If you're like me, who loves to try new recipes, you'll love them too! This book is full of helpful information. Whether you are experienced at preserving your harvest or you are just beginning, I know you will enjoy all it has to offer.

    On a slightly different note, since we are talking about harvesting for the future, we would like to invite any of you who might be in the Ozark region to come visit us at the “Get Prepared Expo” in Springfield, Missouri on May 14-15, 2011. It will cover topics of interest such as Survival Economics, Alternative Energy & Solar Power, Hi-Yield Gardening, Conceal and Carry Firearms Orientation, Self-Reliance, and ways to prepare for natural and man-made disasters. We will have our garden booth there and we would love to meet you! Be sure to visit their site for further details. www.usaprepares.com

  • Preventing Plant Diseases

    Many of us fight pest and disease problems each year in our gardens. I know I am always looking for those natural, organic ways to minimize these problems. There is nothing more discouraging than to plant healthy seeds that grow well for a time, and then begin to die due to disease. So what can we do?

    We've got a few suggestions this week which we hope will help. If you have found some ways that work for you, let us in on your secret! Leave a comment here or post one on our Facebook page.

    1. First of all, one of the most important things to begin with is planting disease resistant varieties. Just strong, healthy plants that have a sure start will go a long way in fighting off disease.

    2. Crop rotation is very effective in prevention.

    3. Don't work in the garden when leaves are wet. Wet conditions allow you to spread fungus spores and disease organisms from plant to plant.

    4. Soil rich in high organic matter content and a good balance of nutrient elements provide the best defense against disease.

    5. Pick off affected leaves ASAP. Dispose of them in the trash. Do not put in your compost bin.

    6. Prune plants to allow for good air circulation if necessary.

    7. Water plants at the base at ground level.

    8. To prevent club root, increase the pH level to 7.2 as this fungus disease requires neutral to acid conditions. Plants affected with club root will look wilted and stunted.

    9. To help prevent “damping off” in the garden, improve soil drainage and water plants in the morning. Keep soil evenly moist and not sopping wet. Also, before you plant your seed, make sure the soil is not too cool. And do not plant your seed too deep. The longer the seeds are underground waiting to germinate, the more susceptible they are. A good general “Rule of Thumb” is to match the planting depth to equal about the width of the seed.

    10. Another way to help indoor seedlings from “damping off” would be to consider using a bleach solution to disinfect the pots before planting. ( a ratio of 1 to 9 - bleach/water). Water the seedlings from the bottom of the tray and provide good air circulation with a small fan if necessary.

    Many successful gardens become that way by taking preventive measures. And when it comes to disease control, prevention is always the way to go. Wishing you a disease-free garden this year!

  • Winds on the Horizon

    Have you ever wondered why the robin goes to nest right before a storm?  Scientists have surmised two reasons.  One is the low pressure air, that comes with storms and is harder for birds to fly in due to its density.  The second is the instinct within the robin to protect her frail nest from the elements.  (An instinct I believe is put there by our Creator) Storms – and the winds that carry them – are certainly a force to be reckoned with. Like the robin, we mustn't find ourselves unprepared at the last moment.

    We all know that the daily weather is nothing more than massive conflicts in the sky overhead.  Huge blobs of air, called air masses, fight it out to see who is King for the day.  They are constantly moving about and bumping into each other and just like that, the day's weather is created.  It's kinda like bumper cars!  The only difference is they are moved by winds that follow consistent patterns in the atmosphere.  Unlike bumper cars which go any which way they can.

    So where do these winds come from?  First of all, the sun heats the air masses.  Science studies have shown that hot air moves toward cold, and cold air is drawn to hot.  So air at the equator is drawn to the North and South Poles, and the cold air at the poles is drawn to the equator.  Presto! Wind currents are formed.  But instead of just traveling north and south on the Earth, the Earth's rotation on its axis causes them to travel more west to east in the Northern hemisphere and east to west in the Southern hemisphere.  So any change in a westerly wind patterns in the USA, generally means foul weather is on the way.  This old American folk rhyme says it well, (before technology was around):

    When the wind is in the north, the skillful fisher goes not forth;
    When the wind is in the east, 'tis good for neither man nor beast;
    When the wind is in the south, it blows the flies in the fish's mouth;
    But when the wind is in the west, there it is the very best!

    These air masses which form are as unique as a sponge.  Wherever they start or linger, they “absorb” that region's characteristics.  Like smoke on clothes or mustiness in cellars.  For example, if they start over polar waters, they will be cold and wet;  if over polar land regions, cold and dry; if over the tropics, warm and humid; if over water, damp and wet.  The common factor in air masses is that there are only really two basic types – warm and cold.  And they do not get along!  When they meet, there is an epic battle for control which can be felt in thunderstorms, snow, hail, rain and high winds and in extremes tornadoes, whirlwinds, and hurricanes.  As an observation weather forecaster, if you can tell which one is coming, the better off you are.

    Cold fronts are generally the ones to take notice of.  They are the violent storm producers.   Fast and furious!  While the warm fronts are more mild, slow movers, and give more advance warnings.  These truths show forth in this old saying:

    “Rain long foretold, long last; Short notice, soon will pass.”

    Or this one by Shakespeare:
    “Small showers last long, but sudden storms are short.”

    Here are some early tell signs to look for when identifying fronts.  High altitude, Cirrus clouds are wispy and are called “mare's tails” because they are the first to be seen on warm fronts.  Then there are the stratus clouds – which are flat, gray, and boring – that move in to leave a “leaden sky.” Usually, as the rain begins to drizzle, the cold front will make its intro with alto-cumulus clouds nicknamed “mackerel clouds” or “cotton balls.”  These little cuties later become the nasty
    thunderclouds that unleash their power in severe thunderstorms.  As we learned earlier, hot air draws cold air and visa versa, so that is why we have so many wind changes in storms.  When it finally turns westerly, in the USA, the storm is on its way out.

    Another factor in weather science is high and low pressure.  Just by monitoring air pressure throughout the day, you will have a good indicator of what is in store.  Without going into much detail, simply put, high pressure means good weather and low pressure means unsettled weather and likely brewing storms.  Barometers are the tool of choice and here is the old saying to compare:

    When the glass falls low, prepare for a blow;
    When it rises high, let all your kites fly.

    Here are a few natural “barometers” to look for.  Chickweed, called the poor man's barometer, closes up when air pressure drops.  Waterfowl fly higher in the sky when air pressure drops because it hurts their ears.  Also, you will notice animals more restless and people more edgy. Even the furniture will talk to you in creaking moans.

    “Hark how the chairs and tables crack,
    Old Betty's nerves are on the rack.
    Twill surely rain; I see with sorrow,
    our jaunt must be put off tomorrow.”

    Humidity is a factor to monitor too.  How many of you have experienced humidity so thick you could wear it or slice it with a knife?  Here's a sailor saying to remember from days of yesteryear:

    “Curls that kink and cords that bind; signs of rain and heavy winds.”

    Sailors were also known to soak a piece of cloth in salt brine and let it dry.  Since salt absorbs moisture, when the cloth became damp it foretold a coming storm's soon arrival. There really is so many things we could try!

    As gardeners, the weather is an essential part of our world. Take notes and keep an open eye towards the skies. You'll never know what to expect otherwise.

  • A Photographer's Garden

    During the winter, the trees are stripped bare, the wind seems harsher, and the grass is withered brown. The lively days of summer seem hard to recollect. Why is it that our memory always fails to fully paint the landscape so green, the birds so boisterous, or the ponds so blue when the world lies dormant before us? I guess we tend to get used to the way things are and wind up forgetting what things were like before. That's why the changing of seasons is such a miraculous thing, for we change along with it – a new perspective practically knocking at the door. Creating a keepsake of all these changes around us is something every person, especially gardeners, should try. The best part about it is, it's so easy. Simply photograph it!

    There are so many things a gardener has to carry with him to the garden throughout the season – a spade, a watering can, a rake, seeds, trellises, buckets, and don't forget a hat! However, there's one more tool for harvesting you must not forget. It's your camera!

    In a garden, your options are limitless. Just think what you can capture. With just a bit of preparation, you could document your plant's entire life cycle, photographing it from seedling to final maturity. Any problems such as a disease or pest could be recorded in a flash and used in researching a remedy. The best zucchini crop you've ever grown could always be remembered. Those helpful insects that make frequent visits to your flowers could create a stunning photo to submit in a contest. And don't forget to photograph the best scenes of all – of your family in the garden. There's nothing sweeter to remember than your child playing beneath the sunflowers or your husband's grin over a juicy slice of watermelon. Don't miss out on such memories by forgetting your camera.

    Create a garden that's not only wonderful to spend time in, but also one worth looking back on. Sow seeds which will grow the most beautiful blend of colors. Vibrant plants such as Basil, Rat's Tail Radishes, Potatoes, Marigolds, and Okra speak for themselves.    Study the countless shades of green around you. Bet you would lose count of the different types. Establish a warm haven you'll love to hate to leave. A stone pathway alongside your herbs will add a quaint atmosphere. If you have the room, a bench is another beautiful addition. Put it right in the middle of your garden's glory and you won't regret it. Together, your garden and your photos will certainly shine. We each have different perspectives and different sources of interest. Find your own and reap a tremendous keepsake for years to come.

    Andrew, Carissa, and I absolutely love to take pictures. We have images of almost everything under the sun. Whenever we're fighting “spring fever”, we turn to them. That's another reason we're so delighted to share our photos through our website, Facebook, and Flickr. We hope our customers enjoy seeing ours as much as we enjoy seeing theirs. Our site would certainly be missing a lot without the great contributions of other such enthusiastic gardening photographers. Why not become one yourself?

    As your next garden sprouts this year, don't just focus on what you'll be eating. Remember there's another kind of harvest ripe for the taking. Before you step out into this green world, just don't forget to take extra batteries!

  • Say Goodbye to Pests

    Everyone who has ever planted a garden has had to deal with pest problems at one time or another.  (If you haven't, what is your secret?)

    The first and most important thing to consider is your soil.  Soil that has been built up with rich compost and manure is the best method to assist with pest problems.  By improving the quality of your soil, you can produce healthy, vigorous plants with real resistance to pests.  Plants that are strong, healthy and resistant will do much better, even if your soil is not built up like you would like it to be yet.  Gardening is all about a “work in progress”.  So if you are still building up that soil, at the very least, plant those vegetables that will give you a head start towards pest resistance.

    Following are a some suggestions to help you to organically control pests.  Hope they help!

    1.Annually rotate your crops, keep the weeds down, and plant crops that are suitable for your area.

    2.Daily check your plants.  Be sure to inspect the underside of leaves and around the base of the plants for problems.  Do your plants look stunted or wilted?  Are branches dying?  Are the leaves curled or blackened?  Do the leaves have spots and have they been chewed on?  These are all signs of pests or disease and early detection will be extremely beneficial.

    3.Use cardboard collars around seedlings to prevent cutworms from destroying your transplants. Toilet paper/paper towel cardboard rolls work great.  Press it down into the soil about an inch with two inches protruding above the soil.

    4.Pick off and dispose of damaged plant parts during your daily checkups.

    5.Blasting aphids and other small insects with a stream of water has proven effective.

    6.Simply hand pick insects off the leaves and drop them into a bucket or jar of soapy water.  This is still the most proven and effective method.

    7.Encourage the “beneficial” insects by planting flowers such as marigolds, daisies, nasturtiums, and asters.  Mint, dill, fennel, and parsley are also good choices.

    8.Consider companion planting.  Inter-cropping with tomatoes, rosemary, sage or peppermint will help repel the cabbage butterfly.  Bush and potatoes planted together protect each other from the Colorado potato beetle and the Mexican bean beetle. Another plant that fights pest problems is the Castor Bean. Grow this plant in your garden to repel both moles and mosquitoes.

    9.Heavy mulch is effective in reducing injury to your plants caused by nematodes.

    10.Consider mixing about a cup each of wood ashes and lime in two gallons of water and spray on both the upper and underside of leaves to repel cucumber beetles.

    11.Try this homemade spray to fight insects:  Make a concentrate solution by mixing 1 cup of vegetable oil and 1 tablespoon of liquid dish soap.  When you are ready to spray on your garden, dilute 2 teaspoons of concentrate with 1 cup of water.  Put it in a hand sprayer and apply to your infested plants.  Be sure to spray both the top and undersides of the leaves.

    12.Use floating row covers and prevent pests from ever reaching your crops.

    13.If you are having trouble with slugs or snails, try trapping these pests in a container filled with stale beer.  Snuggle it down in the soil, so the slugs will crawl into the container and drown.  I tried this last year for my strawberries and it worked well.  Scattering a band of wood ashes around plants also discourages them as well.  Start saving those ashes from your wood stove now, so you will have them when you need them this summer.

    14.Paper discs around the base of tomato plants will help protect them from insects.

    15. Circles or squares cut out from tar paper or foam rubber will protect your cabbage-family plants from the dreaded cabbage maggots.  Simply make a slit to the center of the circle and slide it around your seedling stems.

    As you can see, the list could go on and on.  These are just a few things to try.  Before you reach for that bottle of commercial insecticide, seriously consider the natural benefits of dealing with your insect problem organically.

    For more ideas, check out our online planting guides under Resources for more specific problems and solutions.  Next time, we will see what we can do for those disease problems.

    If you have any “tried and true” methods of insect control that you would like to share, please let us know.  Let's help each other keep this “work in progress” going!

  • Basic Benefits of Beets

    How many of you have discovered the pleasure of growing beautiful beets in your garden?  For many years, this was a veggie that I thought I could live without.  Then just a couple years ago, we tried growing some in our garden.  Wow!  They were much better than I had ever remembered.  Now this is a vegetable I plan to always have in my garden.

    The beet (Beta vulgaris) is a biennial native to Europe and North Africa.  People have  been growing beets as a vegetable since the third century A.D., and even before that for medicinal purposes.  The Romans used beetroot as a treatment for fever and constipation.  From the Middle Ages, beetroot was especially used for any ailments relating to the blood or digestion.  Beets also have the added benefits in the fact that they are simple to grow and the whole plant can be eaten.

    Edible parts are the storage roots and leaves.  The roots can be cooked, stored for later use, canned, or pickled.  The leaves can be cooked like spinach or just eaten raw in salads.  Beet juice has also become a popular health food.  And it is one of the sweetest of vegetables.  Either way, both roots and leaves contain Vitamins A, B, and C, calcium, iron and protein.

    So are you ready to plant? First prepare the soil by working in rotted manure or compost.  Rake to remove any rocks.  Beets do not grow well in acidic soil, so make sure the pH level is anywhere from 6.O to 7.  Beets do best in cooler weather.  Hot weather will cause the roots to become tough and stringy.  Sow in your garden 3 to 4 weeks before your last frost date.  Plant seeds 1/2” deep and then seedlings should later be thinned to about 4” when they reach about 6” tall.

    Side-dress with a fertilizer such as cottonseed meal and mulch heavily with straw, lawn clippings, or sawdust to retain moisture and keep the weeds under control.  Moisture is very important, so water regularly, making sure water penetrates deep into your soil.

    Another benefit of beets is that they suffer from very few pests.  And that's always good news!  However, if you live in a warm area, you may have trouble with tiny, yellow leaf miners.  So prevent this by covering plants with cheesecloth, floating row covers, or some other fine netting.  This will protect them from the adult flies.

    Now comes the best part.  You can harvest your beets when they reach 1 1/2” - 2” in diameter.  When root tops begin to push up through the ground, carefully remove soil from around the top to check for size.  Remember, beets will become more stringy and woody if left in the ground to grow larger.  Pull beets up – do not dig and leave about an inch of stem on the beet to prevent “bleeding” when cooked. A few that are known to do well all over the country are the Detroit Dark Red and the Early Wonder.

    Once yielded, beets store well in a cool, dark cellar.  You might even consider burying them in moist sand or peat moss to retain their crispness.

    If you're looking for a good easy recipe, try this one:

    2 cups fresh sliced beets
    2 Tablespoons butter or margarine
    ¼ Cup orange marmalade

    Peel beets; slice or cube. Cook, covered, in a small amount of boiling salted water until tender (about 20 minutes). In a small skillet, melt butter or margarine over medium-low heat; stir in orange marmalade until combined. Add drained cooked beets; cook and stir until beets are glazed and heated through. Makes 4 servings.

    This season, plant these easy-growing beets in your garden and enjoy!

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