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Naturopathica

Sunday, July 31, 2011

DIY Tailored Pelmet Window Treatment

Photo Credit: BURCU AVSAR, styling by Laura Fenton

There is an article in the Good Housekeeping magazine (August 2011 Issue) on how to create an inexpensive, tailored pelmet to hide those not so pretty curtain rods.  See photo above.  To learn how to create this window treatment, visit their website at http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/home/crafts/diy-window-treatment.

Tomatillos

Photo 1: Tomatillo fruit

Photo 2: Tomatillo flower

My tomatillo plant is finally forming fruit!  See Photo 1.  I was getting a little worried.  My tomatillo plant had been forming plenty of flowers for months without producing any fruit.  I am still not sure why it is not just starting to form fruit.

I have not noticed much of a weather change, and there have been plenty of bees and other pollinating insects in the garden.  The only thing I did differently was increase the amount of water I was giving it.  I have been fully saturating the ground with water everyday.

  

Saturday, July 30, 2011

More on Cilantro

Photo 1: Cilantro seed heads drying out

Photo 2: New cilantro plants sprouting from seed

There is an article in Sunset magazine that talks about a "better way" to grow cilantro.  The article explains how to grow and harvest cilantro in a way that will provide you a continuous supply of cilantro until the plant goes to seed.
Two square feet of cilantro is more than enough for our family of four.  By rotating the sections we harvested the cilantro from, we were able to have a continuous supply of cilantro for several weeks.  I do encourage you to plant your cilantro in the shade to keep it from going to seed so quickly.  However, if you are a fan of coriander or would like some cilantro seeds, allow your cilantro plant to flower and go to seed.  To learn more about harvesting your own cilantro seeds (also known as coriander), click here.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Reviving Azaleas

Photo: New growth on water-deprived azalea bush

My new azalea plant was one of the few plants that suffered while I was away on a long weekend.  The high temperatures and lack of water turned this plant into crisp.  Since then, I have watered it everyday, and weeks later, I am happy to report some new growth.    

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Peppermint Back from the Dead


Photo 1: Dead mint.  One new mint shoot is growing out of the edge.

Photo 2: Mint growing out of the drainage hole

I neglected to water my wall planters for three days, which meant instant death to my container plants in this California summer weather.  Although my peppermint looked completely dead, I continued to water it hoping it would return.  See Photo 1.  Weeks later I noticed some signs of life in an unusual place.  The mint is growing out of the planter's drainage hole!  See Photo 2.  That mint is one tough cookie!  





Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Using Light to Determine Seed Pod's Ripeness

Photo: The light is shining at this bok choy pod in a way that illuminates the round seeds inside.




Quick Tip: Hold up seed pods against the strong sunlight to tell if seeds have formed in the pod.  If pods are ripe, you should be able to see the seeds.   See Photo Above.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Planting Pumpkin Seeds for Halloween

Photo: Young pumpkin plant

I planted a couple of pumpkin seeds directly in the soil earlier this month.  I hope I planted them in time for Halloween!  I would love to have a porch full of Jack-o-Lanterns.

Free Areca Palm by Mail


Photo: Areca Palm, Free Plant of the Month by freeplantsbymail.org

Free Plants By Mail (freeplantsbymail.org) was started by local growers as a way to use the surplus plants from nurseries and also as a way to support The Nature Conservancy.  Free Plants By Mail offers a new free plant each month.  This month they are offering areca palms.  Although the plant itself is free, you do have to pay a small shipping and handling fee of $6.95.
This organization also has over 100 plants available for sale on their site.  100% of the proceeds from the sale will go to The Nature Conservancy.
Click here to view Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).

Monday, July 25, 2011

How to Harvest Spinach Seeds

How to Harvest Spinach Seeds

Materials 
  • 5 gallon bucket or brown grocery paper bag  
  • Garden shears
  • Strainer with 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch holes
  • Large bowl to catch seeds as they fall
  • Seed container (e.g., envelopes, plastic snack bags, etc.)

Directions
  1. You will know when spinach plants are ready to form seeds when they shoot out a stalk that  produces flowers.  These blooms will disappear and seeds will form in its place.  See Photo 1.    
  2. You should collect the seeds when the plant is dry so avoid collecting them in the early morning or after they have been watered.  
  3. Use the garden shears to cut the spinach stalks off.  
  4. After you cut the stalks, place them in the bucket or paper bag upside down.  Allow the seeds to completely dry out in a cool, dry location.    
  5. After the stalks have dried and turned brown, start collecting the seeds.  See Photo 2.  Place the strainer over the bowl.  Then use your hand to strip the stalk of its seeds using one fluid motion.  See Photo 3.
  6. Remove the strainer.  You can repeat the straining process if you would like to remove more of the leaves.  
  7. Label the seed container with its name and date collected (if desired).  Then pour the seeds into your seed container.  Store seeds in a cool, dry location until you are ready to plant them in the garden.  See Photo 4    
Photo 1: Seeds forming on spinach.

Photo 2: The little balls on the dried spinach stem are seeds.

Photo 3: Seeds and dead leaves are stripped from the stem.

Photo 4: Spinach seeds in a plastic snack bag.

Drying Seed Pods from the Fence

Photo 1: Mustard greens seed pods hanging from fence

If you live in an area that has dry summers, you can dry seed pods from the fence.  All you have to do is gather the stalks into a bundle, and then tie them together with twine or strong string.  Then hang the bundle from the fence.  I just use another string to form a loop, attach it to the bundle, and then hang the loop over a single fence slat.  See Photo 1.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Preparing and Freezing Green Beans

My bush bean plants are producing a lot of beans---too much for us to consume so I have been freezing them for later use.  To learn how to prepare green beans for freezing, see the photos and directions below. 

How to Prepare Bush Beans for Freezing


Tools
  • Scissors
  • Knife
  • 1 Sauce pan
  • Colander (or slotted spoon if you do not have a strainer)
  • 1 large bowl
  • Freezer Bag


Directions

Step 1.  Harvest your beans in the morning.  I use scissors to snip the beans off the plant.  You can harvest the beans at any size.  I like the flavor and texture of medium size beans.  Remove any debris by giving your beans a quick rinse under water.    

Step 2.  Boil a pot of water.  Use enough water to cover the green beans.  While you are waiting for the water to boil, prepare the green beans.  Snip the pointy ends off the green beans (See Photo 1).  You can stop here or if you rather have bite size pieces, slice the beans into 1 to 1 1/2-inch pieces (See Photo 2).

Photo 1

Photo 2

Step 3. Prepare another bowl filled with ice cold water.   

Step 4.  Pour your green beans into the water and boil your beans anywhere from 1 to 3 minutes.  Then remove your beans from the boiling water, and immediately plunge them in the ice cold water.  This will help preserve the green vibrant color and texture (Photo 3).  Then drain the beans in a colander.   

Photo 3

Step 5.  You can either serve the green beans or store them in a freezer bag for freezing.  If you choose to put them in a freezer bag, allow the beans to dry for about 5 minutes in the colander.  The dryer the beans, the less likely they will stick together in the freezer bag.  Then place them in a freezer bag.  Remove as much air as possible from the bag to prevent freezer burn.  

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Drinking Straw Converted to Strawberry Huller

Did you know an ordinary straw can double as a strawberry huller?  Give it a try.  It actually works really well.  All you have to do is push a drinking straw starting from the tapered end of the strawberry so that it pushes out the pith, part of the cap and the green leaves.  See the images and directions below for more detail.  

 Photo 1: Starting at the tapered end of the strawberry, push the straw through the strawberry.


 Photo 2: As you are pushing, keep the straw centered so that the end of the straw comes out of the middle of the stem.   


 Photo 3: The straw has captured the pith, cap and stem.  Remove the stem from the straw and remove the straw from the strawberry.


 Photo 4: Some of the pith may remain in the straw.  That is fine.  When you are done hulling the strawberries, just rinse the straw under water and it will likely remove the remaining bits.  Also, as you are hulling strawberries, some of the pith will naturally be pushed out the other end.  


 Photo 5: I had half a Costco carton full of strawberries that I knew I would not finish before they go bad so I hulled the strawberries and placed them in a freezer bag to freeze.  I can use them later for breakfast smoothies.      

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Olive Oil Hair Treatment


I have thick, long hair that until this morning was dry and coarse from color treatments and daily heat styling.  Prior to using the olive oil hair treatment, I have been using an assortment of deep conditioners and hair oils.  Although many of these products did add moisture and shine to my hair, none of them produced results comparable to a single treatment of olive oil.

If you are at your wits end with your fried, damaged hair, give this a shot tonight.  You will literally see results overnight.  My hair is soft, has just the right amount of shine, and looks very healthy.  Below are instructions on what I did to revitalize my hair.

Olive Oil Hair Treatment

Materials 
  • Olive oil (I just used Kirkland extra virgin olive oil from Costco)   
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
Directions
  1. If you have thin hair:
    1. In the shower, bend over and keep your head down so that you can have easy access to the ends of your hair.  Pour olive oil onto your hands and apply the oil to the ends of your dry hair.  Continue to apply until your ends are saturated in oil.  Keep in mind that hair is very absorbent so do not apply oil to more than half the length of your hair.  You want to avoid getting olive oil on or near your scalp or you will end up with flat, limp hair.  
    2. Allow olive oil to soak in hair for at least 10 minutes.  You can wash your body during this time.
    3. Run warm water through your hair.  Then shampoo and rinse the bottom half of your hair.  
    4. Then shampoo and condition the rest of your hair as usual.  If your hair is really fine, skip the conditioner.   
  2. If you have thick hair:   
    1. In the shower, bend over and keep your head down so that you can have easy access to the ends of your hair.  Pour a generous amount of olive oil onto your hands and apply the oil first to the ends of your dry hair and then work your way up.  Pay special attention to your damaged or trouble areas.  Keep doing this until your hair is saturated in oil.  Try and keep oil at least three inches away from your scalp.  You want to avoid getting olive oil on or near your roots and scalp or you will end up with flatter hair.  However, this is not that big of deal for people with thick hair.  
    2. Allow olive oil to soak in hair for at least 10 minutes.  You can wash your body during this time.
    3. Run warm water through your hair, and shampoo and condition your hair as usual.   

Monday, July 4, 2011

Tomato Stem Split in Half

Photo: Attempting to repair a split tomato stem with strips of plastic from plastic grocery bags

I was careless in the garden with my Pink Brandywine tomato plant that was already forming fruit.  The stem split in half at a long diagonal.  Instead of starting all over, I had two options.  I could piece it together and hope the halves fuse back together or I could stick the other half in the ground and hope it takes root.  

I decided to try and piece the halves together using strips of plastic taken from a plastic grocery bag.  I first cut small strips to tie the stem back together.  Then I took long strips to wrap the two pieces more firmly back together.  Part of the tomato plant looks a little sad and wilty.  I am hoping it survives.  

Sunday, July 3, 2011

How to Harvest Bok Choy Seeds

Photo 1: Bok choy plant forming seed pods

Photo 2: Sunlight is illuminating the bok choy seeds inside the pod.

Photo 3: Bok choy seed pods fully mature and brown.

Photo 4: Collecting seeds from bok choy plants

You probably have noticed that some of your plants have grown tall, flowered and formed seed pods.  Instead of cutting these plants down and chucking them in the trash or compost, harvest your seeds for your next planting.  It is easy to do, and saves you from buying more seeds.  I collected more seeds from one single bok choy plant, than what would come in an average seed packet.  I share my extra seeds with family and friends.    

How to Harvest Bok Choy Seeds

Materials: 
  • 5 gallon bucket or brown grocery paper bag  
  • Garden shears
  • Strainer with 1/8-inch to 1/4-inch holes
  • Large bowl to catch seeds as they fall
  • Seed container (e.g., envelopes, plastic snack bags, etc.)

Directions: 
  1. You will know when bok choy plants are ready to form seeds when the bok choy plants grow tall and produces flowers.  These blooms will disappear and seed pods will form in its place upon pollination.  
  2. You should collect the seeds when the plant is dry so avoid collecting them in the early morning or after they have been watered.  
  3. When some of the seed pods start to turn brown, use your garden shears to cut the plant at the base of its stalk.  Note: You can wait until the pods turn completely brown to skip the drying process (step 4), however, you risk some seed pods opening and releasing seeds into the garden.  See Photo 3.  You can also cut the stalk when the pods are still green, but do not cut them too early.  If you do, you risk ending up with little to no seeds.  I chose to harvest my seeds a little early because I have a small garden, and I am eager to reuse that garden space.  See Photo 1.  
  4. Tip: To find out whether your seed pods have seeds in them, hold them up against the sunlight.  Turn the pod so that the sun will hit the pod in a way that illuminates the contents inside.  If you see round seeds inside about (about 1/8" in diameter), you can cut the pods off for drying.  See Photo 2.   
  5. After you cut the stalks, place them in the bucket or paper bag upside down.  Allow the seeds to completely dry out in a cool, dry location.  
  6. You may notice that some of the seeds have already been released in the bucket or paper bag during the drying process.  This is a good sign.   Place the strainer over the large bowl.  Then take a seed pod and use your hands to split it in half lengthwise to release the seeds.  You may have to twist or rub the pods a little to work the seeds loose.  The small brown seeds will fall through the strainer into the bowl, but bigger pieces of debris will remain in the strainer.  After you break your last pod, dump the rest of the contents of the bucket or paper bag into the strainer to collect any remaining seeds.  See Photo 4.
  7. Remove the strainer.  Then pour the seeds into your seed container.  Label the seeds with its name and date collected.  Then store seeds in a cool, dry location until you are ready to plant them in the garden.    

Last Updated: July 25, 2011

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Danver Half Long Carrots

Photo: Danver's Half Long Carrots and Mixed Lettuce Leaf

I harvested a few Danver's half long carrots the other day.  They roasted beautifully in the oven next to the chicken, garlic and onions.  The carrots retained a lot of its flavor and texture throughout the roasting process.  

This is my first time planting carrots.  Having crumbly, garden soil and an automatic watering system makes it super easy to grow them.  I planted 16 carrot seeds per 1 square foot to maximize planting space.  I initially planted 2 square feet of carrots (i.e., 32 carrots) with the intention of reseeding 1 square foot at a time for a continuous supply of fresh carrots, but I am thinking about planting more.        

I chose Danver's half long carrots because I do not have a deep garden bed.  However, you can technically harvest carrots at anytime (i.e., from baby size to full length size).