Sarah’s Kitchen Gardens

sprouts day 2

sprouts day 2

This morning when I checked on my sprouts, they appeared swollen, but showed no other signs of germination. So I put the covers back on to wait for tomorrow’s inspection. Then, I put together a small army of sprout kits for people to buy.

sprout kits

They are selling for $10 each plus tax in my online store, if you want to try it out.

Here’s a photo of the seed packets I branded:

seed packets

It’s been a busy few days! I’m also getting ready to be a vendor at the La Leche League Garage Sale here in Waterloo. It was very short notice, but I want to get my name out there so I’m putting together what I can. More interesting things to come, once I figure out packaging!

If you want to come to the Sale, here’s some information:

Facebook Link

Time: Thursday, November 18, 10 am – 12 Noon

Location: First United Church Waterloo, 16 William St W, Waterloo

I will be having a draw at my table – enter your name to win a gift certificate for Sarah’s Kitchen Gardens – so come if you can! There will also be raffle prizes at the sale, some from other vendors and one from me, so it sounds like it will be a good time.

If anyone has any other ideas of how to get my name out there I’d be happy to hear them….

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try this at home

finished sprouty bags

I love sprouts. I like to add them to salads or eat them on their own. Back when I ate sandwiches, I liked them on my sandwiches. They are full of great nutrition and tasty too. I’ve always had problems growing them in glass jars, though. So I’d like to show you the solution I’ve come up with, and encourage you to grow your own too!

First, I have to say that alfalfa is not in the picture here. I don’t have anything against alfalfa, but I think radish and broccoli sprouts are much more tasty. The wee radish leaves taste like radishes in your salad, without the super heat of the radish root. Broccoli leaves are a milder broccoli taste, and have all the good nutrition of cruciferous veggies. I’ve also started some peas, because pea shoots taste great too. But if you want to grow alfalfa, by all means please do! You could also do spinach, beets, and microgreens – but these will take longer to germinate and grow.

So, shall we get started?

First, find yourself some ‘Small Food Waste Bags’ that are leak proof. This means they have a lining on the inside that looks sort of like plastic, but it’s really some plant-based fibre. This allows the bag to be ‘totally biodegradable and compostable’, as it says on the side. Cut through the bag where the little bump is:

cutting bag

Then start turning the sides down, so the walls of the bag become two thicknesses of the paper bag.

turning sides down

bag side

When you’re finished, you should have a little tray with sides about 1.5-2 inches high.

sprouty tray

Fill it about one third to a half full with some dampened potting soil, plus a dash of composted manure if you have it.

soil and manure

Mix it up.

mixing soil

Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of radish or broccoli seeds on top. If you’re using pea seeds, you’ll need about 3 tablespoons since those seeds are so much bigger.

seeds

Lightly brush your fingers across the surface of the soil, and then press down. Some of the seeds will be showing still but that’s ok.

pressing seeds

Mist them with a spray bottle, or very carefully moisten the surface of the soil some other way if you don’t have a spray bottle.

misting seeds

Next, make a cover for the seeds using the leftover bag piece. Cut it in half, then cut one of the halves so that you have one thickness of bag to use as a cover.

cutting bag

cutting

This cover will keep the seeds dark and moist before they germinate. Check every day to make sure it’s still moist under the cover, and to see if the seeds have germinated. Once you see little sprouties, take off the cover and put them on a windowsill so they can use the sunshine! You should have ready-to-eat sprouts in about 5 days. Eat them when they still have 2 leaves each. For the pea shoots, each them when they are anywhere from 3-5 inches tall.

Cut them with scissors or a knife just above the level of the soil. Put your sprouts in a salad, or on a sandwich, or use them to garnish a stir fry. I’m sure there are other options too – feel free to leave comments below. Enjoy!

And when you’ve used all the sprouts, give the soil a stir and let the old roots dry out or wilt just a bit before you start the next batch. The old roots will contribute to the organic matter in the soil, feeding the micro-organisms that make nutrients available for the plants.

tray with cover

If you do this please let me know. Take photos and post them on the Sarah’s Kitchen Gardens Facebook Page!

You could also come to the Little City Farm on Saturday, December 11 for this year’s “A Little Bird Told Me Craft Sale” – I will be there selling these as kits, soil and seeds included, so you can grow your own sprouts. AND I will also be giving away a draw prize gift certificate for Sarah’s Kitchen Gardens at that sale.

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remembering

girls in shades

Forgive me, readers, for it has been 8 days since my last post. I’ve been working on Sarah’s Kitchen Gardens, but only in fits and spurts since my SI joint has been acting up and that makes it hard to sit for too long without painful consequences. AND – we went to the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair! What fun. You can see my movie stars in the photo above.

The petting farm was a big hit – we loved the llamas! And they had some Silkie chickens, poor things, that got easter-egged for some strange reason.

llama 1

silkies

So the days have just flown by, and I’ve written a few blog posts in my head that never made it to cyberspace. I can’t really remember them now, but I’m sure they’ll come back eventually.

Today I’m remembering that many people lost their lives defending my right to live in peace. I hate the thought of war but I want to honour those who are willing to fight for us.

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details

greenhouse joint

I spent a bunch of time on the weekend filling in the gaps of my greenhouse. Above, you can see one of the joints. One side has some foamy stuff squished in there, and other side doesn’t. This is what I was doing – squishing foamy stuff into the cracks. Thrilling.

But necessary. It will make a difference in the amount of heat retained in the greenhouse in the spring, when I’ve got my seedlings in there growing for you!

It seems there are so many details to work out these days, about everything related to the business. I’m still working on PayPal, hoping to have functional ‘Buy Now’ buttons on the website this week. And yesterday was a bit rough, with my SI joint acting up again it’s hard to function. This morning I actually used crutches around the house so I could get a few things done – like, oh, just helping my kids get off to school and everything that goes with that – but now that I’m warmed up I can actually walk without them. It’s a bit daunting to be in that much pain first thing in the morning, but now that I can actually move around and carry a few little things here and there, I’m much more motivated to work on things before the next attack hits! Luckily I’ll be going to see my friend Joanne, an RMT, tomorrow.

Oops – there goes my 15 minute timer. Must get off my hiney so the SI joint doesn’t seize up again.

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hard frost

collard greens

I’m glad I did some harvesting on Saturday. This morning we woke to discover that there had been a hard frost in the night, one that actually affected these type of plants – collard greens, kale, cabbage, etc. I have kale and collard greens in my house waiting for me to make chips or freeze them, whichever I feel more inclined to do.

If I freeze them, I’ll be chopping them fine first, so they can easily be thrown into spaghetti sauce or soup.

If I make chips, I will be using this recipe, which is a variation on all the other kale chip recipes floating around in cyberspace.

Kale Chips

1. Turn oven on to about 200 degrees.

2. Wash and dry the kale.

3. De-stem the leaves, then chop leaves into chip-sized pieces.

4. Throw them in a bowl and drizzle about 1 T olive oil per 7-8 leaves.

5. Throw in some sea salt and a squeeze of lemon if you have it.

6. Massage the kale with your hands – really mix in the oil and salt – make sure it’s all coated.

7. Oil a cookie sheet, or lay down some parchment paper.

8. Bake for 20 min or so – keep checking them – til they’re crispy.

9. I like to then throw mine in the dehydrator for awhile to really crisp them up. This is not necessary, though. Another variation is to skip the oven and just use the dehydrator. Some people also make a sauce of some type of nut butter and salt and other flavourings, to expand on the olive oil and sea salt taste.

bug in your ear

grasshopper

A friend once commented, in response to my question about what people wanted to read about on this blog, that she would like to know what she can do now in preparation for spring. All these winter months – what are they good for?

Well, this is when I start thinking about what varieties of seeds I want to grow. So, I thought I would share some links to the companies where I’ll be buying seeds, so you can check them out for yourself.

I will be providing the option for people to choose what particular varieties of veggie seedlings they’d like me to grow into seedlings, so I thought maybe I should just mention that now instead of in January when you’d have less time to ponder the possibilities.

Here we go:

William Dam Veggies

William Dam Herbs

Seed Savers Veggies

Seed Savers Herbs

Ontario Seed Company Organic Veggies

Ontario Seed Company Organic Herbs

Let me know what you want and I’ll grow it for you. Within reason, of course. No banana trees here.

Please share this page with friends who garden and might be interested in choosing their own special seedlings without having to grow them from seed!

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snail mail from google

snail mail from google

I will have a listing on Google Maps soon! I applied online, and part of the process is confirming the address, which means they need to send something to the address. Namely, a certain PIN that I could then enter online to reassure them that I am who I say I am.

Now I just wait to see when it goes up!

In other news, I found this plastic-wrapped bean in with all the bean seeds when I was planting them (as an experiment) 2 weeks ago:

wrapped bean

It made me laugh out loud in the middle of my planting. The girls were away at school so I couldn’t ask them right away, but they have since confessed. It was an ‘invention’. No real purpose. Its official title is “The Wrapped Bean”.

I’m still chuckling.

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get outside

boots and pumpkins

What a day yesterday! The kids and I just about blew away on our walk home from school. I love fall: it’s the season of pumpkins and leaves and rubber boots. I would have been married in the fall if I could have waited the extra few months. As it was, we sweated our way through a July wedding and lived happily ever after anyway, spending our honeymoon in beautiful British Columbia riding horses and picking cherries and going for boat rides. I’m sure it wouldn’t have been as much fun in October.

No matter the weather, though, I think we should all make a point to get outside as much as we can. Because it’s so good for us. Some of the most content, cheerful, relaxed, level-headed people I know are people who work outside all day, or spend lots of time outside getting to work. My friend who was a lineman working on power lines all day. My friend the postie, out in all weather, who loves it when it’s about 5-10 degrees. My friend who bikes to work for as many months as he can, even in freezing weather, keeping track of his mileage and trying to beat his miles from last year. My hubby bikes to work too, and although his passion for biking is not as extreme, he is the most level-headed, caring person I know.

I feel a difference in myself when I get outside; my insides are not as jangly as when I spend all morning on the computer. It is relaxing spending time in the fresh air, whether you’re hiking or sitting in a lawn chair. Or doing yardwork or gardening.

It’s especially good for the kids to be outside, too – they have so much more energy than us adults – and I will often kick mine outside to burn off some energy if they’re getting too intense for inside the house. It’s really one of the best things we can do for our kids, I think.

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hidden treasure

hot pepper treasures

The size of the weeds in my garden often causes me embarrassment, particularly when showing my gardens to people who had previously held the notion that I am this ‘amazing’ gardener who grows ‘so much food’ for her family. So, at risk to my own personal dignity – what shards are left – I write about my day yesterday.

I had a wonderful day yesterday; the weather was gorgeous for working outside, so I thought I better make the most of it. I spent a few hours clearing the garden of bricks, wood, cold frames, and forgotten tools. I also took down the fence in preparation for my father-in-law coming with his tiller-machine. I still have some patio stones to move, and hubby will have to help take down the garden gate, but most of it is done, which feels pretty good.

The embarassing part comes when I write about what I found in the garden – see photo above – under thigh-high weeds. These beautiful chili peppers, plus those little round peppers. I’m sure they’re hot but I can’t for the life of me remember what they’re called. Nice, eh? If I hadn’t been clearing out the cold frames I never would have seen them. It’s like foraging in the wild, except it was supposed to be my well-tended garden.

Every year I have this same problem, and every year I vow it will change next year. I will weed my garden. I will weed my garden. I will weed my garden. Sigh.

Things are changing for real next year, because I have more people keeping me on my toes. I’m reducing the size of the garden, because I need to be realistic about what I have time for. I’m also putting in about 6 or so of the 4’x4′ square foot gardening beds, since I’m selling them and need to have more experience with them. They should drastically reduce my need to weed, since the plants are planted in such a way that every little bit of the garden is used to its full potential. And I’ll be filling them with new soil and composted manure, which should help me stay ahead of the weeding for a little bit. I will then have garden paths that can be paved with patio stones or seeded with grass, since they are dedicated paths that won’t suddenly be the carrot and bean patches next year.

I’m excited about this transformation. I do believe it will help me get something done. It’s hard to look at 2000 square feet of garden and decide to weed it, but with the 4’x4′ patches, I can work one patch at a time.

AND, if customers will come to my greenhouse on Saturdays in May and June, I will have even more incentive to keep things looking nice!

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square feet

all new square foot gardening book

Living in the city, I often ask myself how much more I can grow. I have a large garden by most city standards, at around 25’x80′. Huge, I know. You’d think I’d be growing enough to feed a small village. Sadly, though, that is not the case. Long rows of plants leave lots of extra space around them, and this extra space needs to be weeded. Add to that the fact that all the nutrition I mixed into the soil is equally blended across good growing space and pathways. Not very efficient.

The reason I like this All New Square Foot Gardening book so much is that it deals with the inefficiencies and presents a better way. Sure, if you live in the country and you’ve got space to spare and want to grow food for all your neighbors, this may not make a whole lot of sense for you. But city folk, who are increasingly becoming more and more interested in growing their own food, do not have the luxury (or burden?) of space.

Mel Bartholomew, who wrote this book, suggests that 80% of the space in a traditional garden is wasted. He popularized 4’x4′ garden boxes that are marked with a square foot grid. Some plants will take a whole square foot, such as tomato or pepper plants. These each get their own square. Smaller plants like radishes don’t need that much space, so they get planted 16 to a square foot. Lettuce will grow 4 to a square foot. Essentially, in the whole garden box you are not wasting any space. And because it’s 4’x4′, you can reach to the middle of the garden without stepping in it.

This is key – don’t compact the soil. Start with amazing soil – not soil dug out of the ground, but a nice potting soil plus composted manure and other blends of compost. If it stays nice and fluffy, the roots of the plants will have the three things they need – air, water, and nutrition – and will grow very well. If you are not gardening in raised boxes but do have a garden, try to designate areas that are ‘no-walk zones’ – never ever step in them. When you add nutrition, add it only there, and not in the pathways.

Other reasons for gardening in smaller and more intensive space include saving water and growing what you can eat. Large gardens with long rows of cabbage just might produce more cabbage than an average city family can eat. And who needs 10-20 zucchini plants? One is usually more than enough, as those with gardening friends can tell you.

I like this idea so much that I’m basing my product line on this reasoning. I will have 4’x4′ garden kits for sale, as well as smaller 4’x1′ planters with bottoms for those growing food on balconies.

If you’d like to read more about Square Foot Gardening, you can check out the official website. I will also be posting more about this in the future.

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