This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Organic Choice. All opinions are 100% mine.
As I mentioned in a recent post, we purchased our home because of the property: we were so excited by the gardening potential of our sunny lot. As we got going in our gardening endeavors, however, we quickly learned that the soil here isn't great… it contains so much heavy clay. So we built raised beds and we've trucked in a heck of a lot of good quality soil that we've amended in many different ways over the years. We've learned first hand that the success of a garden depends so very much on the quality of the soil.
In a future post, I will definitely talk more about how we amend the soil in our raised beds. But since not everyone has the space or inclination to garden in raised beds, today I want to focus on another form of gardening that's potentially more "do-able": organic container gardening.
Organic container gardening is great because the only thing you really need to get started is a bit of outdoor space (in the city, this could be a balcony or rooftop) and some sun (6-8 hours/day). Many people are accustomed to growing flowers and maybe herbs in containers, but you can absolutely grow organic vegetables in containers, too. The vegetables that do particularly well with organic container gardening include tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and zucchini (ratatouille, anyone?). Many types of greens including lettuce varieties and Swiss chard should also do well in containers.
A couple of things to keep in mind:
-Because plants such as tomato and eggplant can get quite large, look for varieties that are meant to go in containers. The names connote smaller stature such as "patio", "pixie", "dwarf", and "compact".
-Most herbs will be successful in containers, but I’ve read that dill and tarragon are two that prefer to be in-ground (unless you are able to use a very deep pot).
Choosing a Container
You can go with a standard plastic or terra-cotta pots for organic container gardening, or use your imagination: take your pick from gorgeous ceramic urns to food-grade plastic pails and buckets. I have heard of opening up a bag of potting soil and planting vegetables directly into it- you can't get much simpler or less expensive than that. And I've seen some fantastic vertical container gardens made with upcycled pallets: I took this photo at a Sustainable Living Fair recently. (This pallet garden was made by a local company called Earth Designs and features flowers, succulents, herbs, and greens.)
Make sure you have holes at the bottom of your container for adequate water drainage; if you don't, the roots of your plants may rot. It is often suggested that you line the bottom of your pots with something such as small pebbles to keep your potting soil from from escaping and to promote good drainage.
Note that tomatoes and eggplants need to be in large containers- figure about 5 gallons per plant. If you plant them in a smaller container, they may not be very happy. It is very tempting when the plants are small to want to put more than one plant into each pot, but for the most successful organic container gardening, refrain from doing this- your plants won't do well if they are crowded.
Homemade fruit curds always surprise me. Each creamy spoonful contains so much bright, sweet flavor. Even though I have been making my own fruit curds for some years now, I still think it’s pretty amazing that such simple ingredients can turn into something so special.
When I found Marisa McClellan’s brand new book Preserving by the Pint: Quick Seasonal Canning for Small Spaces in my mailbox a few weeks ago, I immediately checked the index to see if there was a citrus curd recipe inside. The answer was, happily, yes! And the recipe- Orange Cardamom Curd- was so intriguing that I had to make it right away.
Do you follow Marisa’s blog Food in Jars? If you are interested in food preservation, then you must, must, must check it out. Having met her in the flesh, I can attest to the fact that she is a lovely person; Marisa is also a truly fabulous resource when it comes to canning (Preserving by the Pint is her second book; she is also the author of Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round). I really like her small-batch approach. I think it’s wonderful for those new to preserving, but I have to stress that Preserving by the Pint is not just for novices. I, for one, really enjoy making small amounts of preserved foods…I don’t always want to make 6, 9, or 12 jars of something…I don’t always feel like “swimming in preserves”, as Marisa puts it.
Preserving by the Pint: Quick Seasonal Canning for Small Spaces contains recipes for so many things you’ll love: from jams to chutneys to pestos and pickles. I plan to use this book a lot and I highly recommend it.
I love this curd swirled into plain yogurt (with some nuts sprinkled on top); I also think it would be great on these orange date oatmeal scones. Marisa mentions using it on whole wheat biscuits…use your imagination!
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Glad in conjunction with their #SAVEITSUNDAY program. With #SAVEITSUNDAY, Glad hopes to educate the public about the consequences of food waste, and I am proud they’ve asked me to be a part of the program. I am being compensated to share my #SAVEITSUNDAY experiences; all opinions are 100% my own.
As I mentioned back in my first #SAVEITSUNDAY post, the average American wastes $1500 worth of food each year. That’s right: $1500…quite a chunk of change to basically be tossing in the garbage.
Throughout my previous posts in this series, I’ve shared ways you can prepare and store food in order to cut down on food waste. My goal has been to help you decrease the amount of trash you are sending to landfills (food represents the single largest component of municipal solid waste reaching landfills, and food waste eventually converts to methane, a greenhouse gas implicated in global warming). The average American throws away 25% of the food they buy…we need to work to get this percentage down, and when we do, we’ll be saving more of our hand-earned cash.
As part of my compensation for blogging about the #SAVEITSUNDAY program, Glad recently sent me a $1500 educational grant. This money is meant to symbolize the $1500 that may be saved by each of us when we prepare and store our foods properly so they keep fresher longer. Glad asked me to share how I am going to be spending the money with you.
We moved to this house largely because of the property. Our previous home was on a small shaded lot and all of my vegetable gardening attempts were a disaster; I fell in love with the potential of the giant sunny yard we have here. I wanted plenty of space for our dogs and cats to roam, plus my husband and I fantasized about not just a big garden, but keeping chickens and bees, as well. Fast forward a few years and we’ve got the big garden (I wrote about how we built our garden here) and the chickens. (I did give the beekeeping a try, but my bees died. I am trying to decide if I should give it another go.) Now that we’ve been doing all this for a few years, we’ve got quite a few improvements we need to make at this point. So I’m going to put my $1500 toward making fixes to our garden and the area in which our chickens hang out, and I’ll also purchase plants (and possible fruit trees) for the garden. (Any money left over will be donated to our local food pantry.)
What needs fixing exactly? Well the winter has really taken its toll on just about everything, but our fencing has really suffered quite a lot. Between the deer and my animals, fencing is not optional here and ours is kind of a mess right now. We are also going to be opening up a bigger area in which the chickens can free range, and that will need to be fenced as well (because I don’t want my chickens to be vulnerable to predators).
It’s been such a long winter around here…I am so glad it is officially over. Now that it’s spring, I’ve got cleaning and organization on the brain.
In my book One Simple Change, I wrote quite a bit about clearing out the clutter from your life. In this post, I’m going to excerpt some relevant content from the book; I also have a great giveaway to help you out with your pantry organization and storage needs!
I feel anxious and unhappy when my mental and physical spaces are cluttered; the existence of clutter makes it hard for me to get things done. Is the same true for you? It can feel so amazing to let go of the baggage that may be bogging down your mind (and I give some suggestions for how to do that in my book); focusing on ways you can clear the clutter from your home can do wonders for your well-being, too.
Take a look around you: Open your closets and your drawers. Are you holding onto things you don’t need? Now is a great time to let them go. You will likely feel so much better when you do.
One of the places in just about everyone’s home that can typically benefit from some clutter control is the pantry. If yours is a mess, it may be hard to know where to begin, but I suggest you get started simply by taking stock of what you’ve got. Clear a surface so you can empty out your shelves and see what you have.
Next, toss everything that’s past its prime. Most packaged and processed foods should probably go. (Though if these don’t make up much of your diet, I don’t think you should worry too much about them…I believe there is room for all types of food in a healthy diet.). I hate telling you to throw things away, so if something is compostable (or suitable for donation), please go that route.
A lot of people don’t cook much because they don’t keep many staples in their pantry. If this is going on for you, now’s the time to make a change! I want you to restock your kitchen with everything you need to create wholesome, nourishing meals for you and those you love.
My goal when I stock my pantry is to know that I can throw together a tasty meal with what I have on hand pretty much anytime. I want to be able to make any dish that pops into my head, or that I see online or in a cookbook or magazine, with a very minimal amount of shopping for additional ingredients (like fresh fruit or vegetables, dairy, or meat). The more items I have on hand, the better off I am. So I keep a lot of staples in my pantry.
I’ve got many different oils and vinegars; dried legumes, like black beans and chickpeas; different types of lentils; grains and pastas; various nuts, seeds, and dried fruits; a variety of unrefined sweeteners and sea salts; and a giant collection of herbs and spices. I’ve also got a pretty big collection of regular and gluten-free flours for baking. I buy as many of my pantry items as possible in bulk (to save money and avoid packaging), and I store everything that is suitable in glass jars with tight-fitting lids. This works very well for keeping my ingredients organized and away from pests; it also means I can keep as much of my food away from plastic (and its potentially unsafe chemicals) as possible.
I also have a lot of home-canned fruits and vegetables, which I preserve each summer. I make many jars of sauce with tomatoes from my garden, for example. Though homemade jams can end up being pretty high in sugar, I make them with local fruit and derive great pleasure from having them around. I use them in small amounts throughout the winter, and I also give them as holiday gifts.
(Text adapted with permission from my book One Simple Change: Surprisingly Easy Ways to Transform Your Life. Copyright 2013; Published by Chronicle Books.)
Do you have a lot of spring cleaning and pantry re-stocking up to do? To help you tackle the organization of your pantry, my friends at MightyNest will give one of you a set of 12 glass clip-top Kilner Jars. These are free of worrisome chemicals including BPA and phthalates. They are perfect for storing all the dry goods in your pantry, such as beans, grains, nuts, and seeds. You can also use them to store things like flours, coffee, shredded coconut, and chocolate chips. Kilner jars are dishwasher safe. The retail value of this giveaway is approximately $100 and it is open to readers in the USA only.
To enter the giveaway, please leave a comment on this post (telling me what you plan to let go of) AND follow the directions found in the widget below. Please know that when you use the widget to pledge to get real about real food storage, you’ll automatically be entered to win the giveaway and you’ll be signing up for the MightyNest for Schools Program. When you sign up for this program, 15% of any purchase you make from MightyNest in the future goes back to the school of your choice (it can be your child’s school or simply a school that is in your local area).
When I was a kid, I spent many a winter and spring break with my maternal grandparents in Arizona. Oh, how I loved those vacations.
I loved the fresh orange juice my grandpa would squeeze for us each morning, playing with my brother at the pool, and shopping with my grandparents. I also loved everything my grandma made us to eat. (My parents owned a pretty fancy restaurant so at home we ate things like confit of duck and scalloped potatoes. At my grandparents we got to eat “normal” food: like tacos and banana cream pie!)
Recently, I was thinking about how much I miss my grandparents. Missing them made me crave banana cream pie something fierce, so I decided to make one.
My grandma made her pie with a store-bought crust and vanilla pudding from a box: I thought it was the most delicious thing ever, but I opted to make mine with whole foods ingredients from scratch. (I used the recipe in Joy of Cooking because that’s where I turn for classic recipes.) My daughter helped me make it by slicing the bananas and placing them “just so”.
The verdict? It was pretty darn delicious and I will definitely be making banana cream pie again! Maybe next time I will change it up a bit, though…see the bottom of this post for some amazing-looking banana cream pie variations from fellow bloggers.