Category Archives: Gardening

All About Gourds

Good Gourd! What’s with the bumpy, weird-looking decorative squash? We get many questions about growing and curing our gourds. (Did you know that the luffa sponge is a gourd?) Discover the world of “gourdgeous” gourds.


Gourds are among the oldest cultivated plants. They were the early water bottles of the Egyptians, and have been used for utensils, storage containers, and dippers for centuries. Botanically speaking, there’s really no difference between gourds, squash, and pumpkins. They all belong to the family Cucurbitaceae. And they’re all frost-tender. But gourds are the common name for hard-shelled, non-edible cucurbit fruits suitable for decorative ornaments or utensils. Some of the squashes and pumpkins are ornamental, too, but they are soft-shelled so they won’t lat as long.


Goards come in so many shapes and colors. There three general types of gourds: Cucurbita pepo are the cute, colorful little ornamental gourds that make good decorations. They are closely related to pumpkins, summer squashes, and some winter squashes such as acorn and delicata. An American native, Cucurbita types come in unusual shapes and textures: smooth, warty, plain, patterned, ridged, striped. There are also many shape and color variations including: the apple, pear, bell, egg, bicolor, or orange. Fruits are not usually useful more than one season.

Source: Gourds: Types of Gourds, Growing Gourds, Curing Gourds | Old Farmer’s Almanac

The Surprising Benefits of Gardening in Retirement

Each autumn, the fruits of the harvest fill the shelves of local groceries and farmers markets, a colorful reminder of the many nutritional benefits of fresh produce. But growing produce offers equally sustaining, though perhaps less visible, benefits.

Beyond reduced grocery expenses, gardening offers many positive effects financially. A garden may be a good way to improve property value, for example, says David Ellis, director of communications for the American Horticultural Society and editor of its magazine, The American Gardener. But most people garden because they enjoy it, he says. “They grow vegetables and improve their own nutrition,” says Ellis, “and they grow flowers, which they give away and spread joy.”

A form of light exercise, gardening can be a great way to stay active. The exercise involved varies, depending on the task, and seniors should be careful not to overexert themselves, Ellis says.

Spending time outdoors has been linked with improved mental health. Recent studies have shown that the quantity of nearby green space buffers life stresses across ages. Gardening may lower cortisol levels in your brain, and in turn reduce stress levels, according to a study in the Journal of Health Psychology.

Gardening may also lower the risk of dementia by as much as 36%, according to a study conducted in 2010 in Australia. For this reason, horticultural therapy is a growing area proving helpful for seniors with dementia, says Ellis. With this form of active therapy, people are led through gardening tasks and see the results, often making use of fragrant herbs that stimulate memory, he says. “It has become a great tool,” says Ellis.

Source: The Surprising Benefits of Gardening in Retirement

Summer Squash: The Gardening Staple You Can Grow In 40 Days

For a lot of people, the thought of summer squash brings to mind just a few varieties. The entire list probably consists of little yellow crooknecks and zucchini, with no more than one or two choices of each.

There is a bonanza of summer squash taste available to home gardeners. If you like squash even a tiny bit, you will want to grow your own. Fresh summer squash in your backyard provides daily fresh young produce throughout the season, the ability to eliminate food miles, and the opportunity to try dozens of unique varieties that are not available at stores or even farmer’s markets.

Source: Summer Squash: The Gardening Staple You Can Grow In 40 Days –

Nutritious Food Plants You Can Harvest Quickly

Here’s a great list of quick vegetables that everyone should see.

We’ve grown them all!

We only need a few weeks to produce some nutritious vegetables and enjoy them for a great lunch or dinner.

Imagine having fresh spinach harvested four to six weeks after planting. Even better, a vegetable garden in your backyard will complement that verdant, green lawn and add some color and texture to your landscape.

There are many wholesome veggies you can grow, relatively quickly, a few steps away from your kitchen. Here are five vegetables to get you started.

Source: Nutritious Food Plants You Can Harvest Quickly – The Prepper Journal

Discover 20 Self-Sowing Flowers! | Old Farmer’s Almanac

Many flowers reseed themselves! Here’s a list of over 20 annual and perennial flowers that you can plant once and enjoy for years. And if you are busy deadheading your flowers—stop! Take a look at the seed heads you are cutting off.

Let some of the seed heads ripen until they turn brown and split open. These seed capsules are like salt shakers full of tiny seeds. Scatter the seeds anywhere you would like them to grow or just let them drop where they are.

Next spring, keep a sharp eye out for the seedlings when weeding. Some may be slow to emerge. If there are more than you want you don’t have to keep them all. Thin them out to allow enough space for the plants to fully develop. Relocate the extras or pot them up to share with friends.


Via Old Farmers Almanac


Save Your Seeds, Save Your Life

We are told that everything begins with seed. Everything ends with it, too. As a chef I can tell you that your meal will be incalculably more delicious if I’m cooking with good ingredients.

But until that afternoon I’d rarely considered how seed influences — determines, really — not only the beginning and the end of the food chain, but also every link in between. The tens of thousands of rows surrounding me owed their brigade-like uniformity to the operating instructions embedded in the seed.

That uniformity allows for large-scale monoculture, which in turn determines the size and model of the combine tractor needed to efficiently harvest such a load. (“Six hundred horsepower — needs a half-mile just to turn her around,” joked the farmer sitting next to me.)

Satellite information, beamed into the tractor’s computer, makes it possible to farm such an expanse with scientific precision.

The type of seed also dictates the fertilizer, pesticide and fungicide regimen, sold by the same company as part of the package, requiring a particular planter and sprayer (40 feet and 140 feet wide, respectively) and producing a per-acre yield that is startling, and startlingly easy to predict.

It is as if the seed is a toy that comes with a mile-long list of component parts you’re required to purchase to make it function properly.

We think that the behemoths of agribusiness known as Big Food control the food system from up high — distribution, processing and the marketplace muscling everything into position. But really it is the seed that determines the system, not the other way around.

The seeds in my palm optimized the farm for large-scale machinery and chemical regimens; they reduced the need for labor; they elbowed out the competition (formally known as biodiversity). In other words, seeds are a blueprint for how we eat.

We should be alarmed by the current architects. Just 50 years ago, some 1,000 small and family-owned seed companies were producing and distributing seeds in the United States; by 2009, there were fewer than 100. Thanks to a series of mergers and acquisitions over the last few years, four multinational agrochemical firms — Corteva, ChemChina, Bayer and BASF — now control over 60 percent of global seed sales.

Source: Opinion | Save Our Food. Free the Seed. – The New York Times

How to grow your own wellness garden

Besides food, one can grow many herbs that are useful medicine. Here’s a few. Be sure to click for more info.

Modern medicine owes a lot to the plant kingdom, from the treatment of heart disease to lung disorders. But plants can be useful for minor ailments and everyday self-care, too.

Growing for wellness is going mainstream. A recent survey by Wyevale Garden Centres found that more than two thirds of British gardeners consider the health and wellbeing properties of a plant before they buy it.

At Chelsea Physic Garden, a Food is Medicine Trail starts this month to highlight plants you can grow as tonics, pick-me-ups and other soothing remedies to handle the stresses of modern life.

Many are surprisingly easy to grow, even in limited city spaces. We asked Chelsea Physic Garden’s head of plant collections, Nell Jones, to share her tips for the best “wellbeing” plants to grow at home.

Source: How to grow your own wellness garden: from peppermint to turmeric easy-to-grow plants that will help with minor ailments and wellbeing | Homes and Property

Gardening when your life depends on it

Here’s a good article about “food insurance” and how to achieve it.

Few of us like to think about what life would be like if our society were to break down, even temporarily, due to internal or external factors like war, insurrection, famine or natural disaster. But most of us do indeed plan for the worst, don’t we?

That’s why we purchase health, homeowners, life, automobile, flood and other types of insurance, right? We ought to add “food insurance” to that list, and that’s the concept behind “gardening when your life depends on it.”

As with any preparation strategy, planning and resultant implementation should begin now, while things are calm. If you wait until times actually get tough, you’ve waited far too long.

It would be like buying car insurance after you hit a tree or buying flood insurance when the water is three feet deep in your living room. Here are five food production and gardening strategies that will help keep you alive during hard times.

Just remember that you will get out of this what you put into it; if you just plan on things being “broken” for a few days, your meager preparations won’t matter much if the crisis lasts weeks, months or even years.

Source: Gardening when your life depends on it: five food production strategies that may keep you alive during hard times –

Gardening and volunteering boosts mental health, relieving stress, anxiety and depression

(NaturalNews) Looking for ways to relieve stress, anxiety and depression without resorting to pills or psychiatric therapy?

Engaging in activities such as gardening and volunteering, produce obvious practical benefits, but they can also help significantly in boosting mental health and self-esteem.

A recent BBC article described the benefits of both volunteering and gardening as valuable aids to achieving a sense of personal well-being.

Therapeutic benefits of volunteering In the BBC piece entitled “Gardening and volunteering: The new wonder drugs?” Nick Triggle wrote: “There is a growing body of research that suggests volunteering is good for your health, particularly mentally. “It can help bring stability, improve self-esteem, reduce social isolation and help people learn new skills.

“For many, it can be a gateway to paid employment, which in turn has its own benefits. “In fact, there’s plenty of evidence a whole range of social and practical activities can improve the wellbeing of people.”

Source: Gardening and volunteering boosts mental health, relieving stress, anxiety and depression –

Seed Starting in Arizona for Fall

Now is the time to start thinking about the fall garden in Arizona. It’s hot, and the poor garden looks sad. Soon however, the temperatures will drop, and once again, all of our favorites can be started. Click on the link for more great info.

Midsummer and yikes is it ever hot! It is time for me to be starting new plants for the fall from seed but conditions are just too hot. What to do? Here are a few tricks.

The seeds of different vegetables have optimum temperatures for germination and right now most of them will not like this heat.

Beets and carrots aren’t too bothered by hot soil. Their germination doesn’t start to drop off until the soil gets to be over 90 degrees.

However, the optimum temperature for lettuce is around 65 degrees and germination drops off rapidly after the soil heats up to the mid seventies. Spinach does best at 70 degrees but by the time the soil is in the mid-80’s, forget about it. Some brassicas don’t mind the heat. Cabbage, Chinese cabbage, and kale will sprout fine in soil as hot as 90 degrees, while broccoli prefers cooler soil, its optimum being around 75. The germination on cauliflower drops off rapidly after soil temperatures hit 85.

Source: Seed Starting in Hot Weather | Old Farmer’s Almanac