Serious Success with Succession


Human beings by their very nature are a curious race of people. We are all striving to learn new things, to expand our skill, knowledge, and the reach of our minds. Yet all too often, when it comes to certain topics, we become mired in limited thinking. When it comes to gardening, for example, many of us still think of gardening as a spring, summer, and early fall activity. We plant our seeds and seedlings in the spring, cultivate them in the summer, harvest them in the fall, and spend the winter dreaming about when we can be outside in our gardens once again.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Through the technique of succession planting, we can garden nearly all year long. How, you ask? Well, I’ll show you with a rough plan. Feel free to take what I’ve given you and modify it for your own allotment (to use the British term).

Late winter/early spring – In late February/early March, purchase seeds of cool season crops – lettuce, arugula, gourmet greens — brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, kale, mustard, etc.), peas, and others. Start these indoors under grow lights. You can also get an early start on your tomatoes by starting them indoors under your grow lights. I usually start mine around the first week of spring. Meanwhile, when the first decent weather day comes along, prepare the soil in your garden by working in some compost, earthworm castings, organic fertilizer, and any other soil amendments that you feel is needed. If you did all that the previous fall, then you should already have loose, rich, fertile and friable soil all ready to go. Lay down mulch now to reduce or eliminate your weeding chores later. When the seedlings that you’ve started indoors are big enough, transplant them into your garden. You can protect them from extreme temperatures by surrounding them with a season extending device – bell cloches, Walls O’Water, cold frames, etc. If a frost should occur, your plants should be safe. Besides, a little frost actually improves the flavor of kale.

You can also prepare your garden for an early start for tomatoes and any other crops by digging the holes where you want to plant them and surrounding them with a season-extending device. This will warm up the soil and get it ready to receive those tomato seedlings.

Mid-spring – Keep the spring crops well-watered and well-fed. If you are using a cold frame, make sure that you vent it on warm days, otherwise the heat trapped inside might burn up your plants. Get an early start on your summer crops (corn, cucumber, eggplant, squash, sorghum, muskmelon, watermelon, etc.) by starting these indoors under your grow lights. The tomato seedlings you started should be mature enough to plant in the holes that you’ve surrounded with season extenders.

Late spring/early summer – By now the weather is beginning to get quite warm. Harvest all the lettuce before it bolts (produces a flower), mustard before it becomes pungent, and all of the remaining spring crops before it gets too hot. Memorial Day weekend will be a good time to transplant the summer crops that you started indoors in mid-spring.

Mid-summer – Keep all vegetable plants well-watered and well-fed. Start planning for fall by starting fall crops indoors. Many of the same vegetables you planted in the spring also work well as fall crops. In addition, this is also a good time to start root vegetables (turnip, rutabaga, parsnip, leek, carrot, etc.).

Late summer/early fall – Begin pulling up the remaining summer vegetables and clear space for fall crops. Transplant the fall vegetables from your seed starters indoors to your garden.

Mid fall – Pull up the remaining summer vegetables and start cleaning up the spent plants and other garden debris. Be careful not to damage your fall crops. This is also a great time to plant garlic and onions for next summer’s harvest. Be sure to clean and store all tools, hoses, etc.

Late fall/early winter – Clean up any remaining summer garden debris and begin harvesting your fall vegetables. If you wish, leave a few root crops in the ground for winter usage.

Mid-winter – Do you have a hankering for parsnip-leek soup? Clever you – you left a few parsnips and leeks to overwinter in your garden, and now you don’t have to waste gas, time, and wear and tear on your car to get them. Just put on a coat, walk a few steps into your backyard, and harvest what you need. (Note: if you live with others, please be mindful of your choice of words. Say, “I’m going out in the garden to dig up a few root vegetables.” Don’t say, “I’m going out in the garden to take a leek.”)

Remember also that you can preserve some of your harvest through canning, freezing, drying and cold storage, giving you additional supplies of the good stuff that you can enjoy all year round.

And there you have it. A simple succession planting plan. Done correctly, it will give you wholesome, nutritious, home-grown garden vegetables practically all year round.

The Serene Peace of the Garden


Louis Pasteur once spoke of “living in the serene peace of libraries and laboratories.” Author Dale Carnegie, in his book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, elaborated on this. “Why is peace found there,” he asks. “Because the men in libraries and laboratories are usually too absorbed in their tasks to worry about themselves. Research men rarely have nervous breakdowns. They haven’t time for such luxuries.”

I would like to add to the words of Louis Pasteur and Dale Carnegie by saying that serene peace can also be found in the garden. In the garden, we gardeners are also absorbed in our tasks – the tasks of turning the soil, laying mulch, planting, cultivating, watering, weeding, harvesting, and cleaning and preparing for next year. Plus we have the added benefit of sunshine, exercise, and fresh air, three things that libraries and laboratories do not have.

There are always things all around us to cause to fret and worry, and that is never more true than today. We worry about the pandemic, and whether or not we and/or our families and friends will catch it. We fret over the economy and wonder if we will be able to keep our jobs or, if we’re out of work, if we’ll ever find another one. We worry about our government leaders, and whether they are harming or helping our nation. We fear for our nation as a whole, wondering if we will ever again be united as one people. We feel a profound sense of unease about the damage we are causing to our planet, and wonder if the day will ever come when our wanton wastefulness and careless disposal of harmful substances will someday turn our planet into a barren lifeless wasteland. The load of all of this carried on our shoulders is enough to cause the physical and mental dissolution of even the strongest man, woman, or child.

But there in our gardens we can shut the doors on the world for a while. We can turn our focus to the tasks at hand and find joy in the golden squash, red tomatoes, violet eggplant, and beautiful flowers of various shapes, sizes, and colors that result from our diligent labor. And suddenly, one day, we look up and realize that for those few minutes or even hours, the burdens of our world have been lifted off of our shoulders, and we feel that sense of serene peace of which Louis Pasteur and Dale Carnegie spoke.

So if the world and its troubles have you in a vice-grip that threatens to break you, may I humbly suggest that you become absorbed in the tasks of gardening? Because just like researchers, we gardeners rarely have nervous breakdowns. We, too, have no time for such luxuries.

Birds Do It – Bees Do It – And Fruits, Vegetables, And Trees Do It

Yes, birds, bees, humans, and other higher forms of life, all do it – sexual intercourse, that is. But guess what? Plants are also doing it! Yes, you read that right. The beautiful flowers that delight our eyes and noses, the fruits and vegetables that delight out palates and sustain our bodies, and the majestic trees that provide us with shade and oxygen are all having sex!

Now I’ll leave it to the scientific researchers and philosophers to determine whether or not plants are capable of enjoying the act. But the mechanics of the act are well understood. The diagram below shows the plumbing in all its glory.

Flower Diagram

(source: Fruit & Nut Research & Information Center —

The anther (the parts that hold the pollen grains) and the stamens (the long stem-like structures that support the anthers) are the flowers’ male parts. The stigma, style, ovary, and ovules are the female parts. In order for the plant to reproduce, the pollen must come in contact with the stigma. Thanks to the stickiness of the stigma, the pollen is able to stick to the stigma. Once attached to the stigma, the pollen grows a tube down through the style, into the ovary, and then unites with the ovules. This causes one half of the chromosomal makeup of the species to unite with the other half, and a seed, bearing the plants full set of chromosomes is created. In some plants, the ovary will swell after fertilization, turning into the fruits and vegetables that humans and higher animals consume for food.

How does the pollen come in contact with the stigma? In some plants this is caused by the action of the wind (e.g. corn). For others, this pollination occurs before the plant comes into full flower (e.g. beans). But the vast majority of plants are pollinated through the action of insects, birds, or bats visiting the flowers to sip the sweet nectar they produce. This is critical for two reasons – 1) some plants have male and female structures that are on separate plants. If these plants were never visited by pollinators, then these plants would never be pollinated and the species would fail to reproduce and eventually die out. 2) Approximately 80-95% of the plant species found in natural habitats require biotic agent-mediated (bees, butterflies, moths, etc.) pollination. This includes many of the fruits and vegetable plants that produce the foods critical to human health. No pollinators = no plant sex = starving humans.

So if we want to keep the human species alive, healthy, and growing, we need to protect the biotic species that help plants to “get it on.”

Corona Can’t Touch This

Back in 1990, rapper M.C. Hammer released a tune entitled “U Can’t Touch This.” Now M.C. Hammer was referring to the idea that “U” couldn’t “touch” — come close to him — to match his talent and ability in music, lyrics, rhyme, and dance. But if I may, I’d like to extrapolate this to our current world situation. A seemingly unstoppable bundle of ribonucleic acid wrapped in a protein coat is spreading death and destruction throughout the human population. The grim tally has left many of us survivors terrified and wondering if we’ll be the next victim of this modern-day black plague.

But take heart. As terrible as this virus is, and as much as it’s taken away our freedom of movement, human contact, and overall sense of safety, there are some things that, to this virus we can boldly say, “u can’t touch this.”

COVID-19 can’t touch the love we feel for our spouses, partners, family, and friends. The fact that we can’t make contact with them right now doesn’t diminish the love we feel for them, and our ability to demonstrate that love. If we can’t hug and kiss them, we can still talk to them via Zoom or the good old-fashioned telephone. We can write e-mails and texts, or even good old-fashioned pen and ink letters. We can visit them at their residences and talk to them from six feet away or through glass windows. Togetherness may be hindered, but our ability to express love is never halted.

COVID-19 can’t touch our creativity. We may be stuck indoors and unable to work a regular job, dine at restaurants, or attend public events. But if you open your newspaper, turn on your television, or browse the internet, you’ll see all kinds of stories about people creating new forms of stay-at-home-entertainment, online concerts, virtual graduations, and other ways of bringing us amusement and diversion. I’ll bet my whole garden harvest double or nothing that by the time this is all over, new inventions and businesses will have been formed, all stimulated by the needs that this virus has created. They always have been, and I expect they will be again.

COVID-19 can’t touch our human spirit, generosity, and resilience. It’s a cold hard fact that this virus has laid us low. People are getting sick and dying from it, and we still don’t know all the effect that may show up later in the survivors. But every day, you hear about people banding together to deliver food and other necessities to those in need. Groups of people are organizing parades to wish shut-in children a happy birthday. Businesses and other organizations are busy sewing masks to give away to those who need them. Scientists all over the world are working together night and day to find a treatment and/or a vaccine for this terrible disease. And while there are still news stories about selfish politicians and other individuals who place a higher value on coin-of-the-realm than on human lives, there are also plenty of examples (that you don’t always see on the nightly news) of those that want to serve and help their fellow man. “Look for the helpers,” television personality Fred Rogers once said. “There will always be helpers.”

Lastly, COVID-19 can’t touch the human ability to reach out to a higher power. Whatever your religious faith; whatever deity you pray to; whatever higher power you turn to when the well of your human efforts has run dry, nothing – not the virus, not a poor economy, not selfish politicians, not anything can ever come between us and the higher power we turn to.

There is no doubt that the virus has knocked us down. But it has not, nor will it ever knock us out. It may take several months, or even a year or two, but in the end the human race, with its love, creativity, human spirit, generosity, resilience, and ability to tap into a higher power, will eventually triumph.

Oh, and one more thing. When the events of the world seem overwhelming, turn to your garden. Plant a new one or cultivate an existing one. There is nothing like being out in nature to lighten the load of world events. Audrey Hepburn once said, “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” There will always be a brighter tomorrow, no matter what things may look like today. And few things can brighten a tomorrow (and a today) like a well-cultivated garden.

The Intimate Gardener

Garden Heart 2

We all know that fruits and vegetables are good for our overall physical health. They provide all of the necessary nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and other as yet undiscovered food factors that our bodies need to survive and thrive. But fruits and vegetables are capable of much more than the mere enhancement of physical health. They also play a role in improving the intimate lives that we share with our romantic partners.

According to Cosmopolitan, these fruits and vegetables have some potential capability of acting as aphrodisiacs.

Maca – a vegetable root that dates back to the days of the Inca nation of what is now modern day Peru, it is been called Peru’s natural Viagra, and it is thought to have a positive effect on stamina, energy, fertility, and libido.

Pumpkin – And you thought they were just for pie and Halloween decorations. Pumpkin is also an excellent source of fiber and potassium, both of which can help improve stamina, and magnesium, which has a calming effect on muscles and nerves.

Celery – contains small quantities of androstenone, a male pheromone that can enhance male attractiveness

Garlic – contains high amounts of allicin, a substance that plays a role in increasing blood flow and overall cardiovascular health. Yes, I know it can sour the human breath, may I suggest that both you and your partner consume garlic together? That’s what you call détente.

Pine nuts – an excellent source of zinc phytochemicals, and other health oils, all elements that can stimulate male libido.

Ginsing – this ancient herb has been used to treat sexual dysfunction and enhance sexual behavior in traditional Chinese medical practices. According to an article in the scientific journal Spermogenisis, “data from animal studies have shown a positive correlation among ginseng, libido, and copulatory performances, and these effects have been confirmed in case-control studies in humans.”

Apples — a 2014 study suggested that consuming an apple a day resulted in better sexual quality of life for young women.

Saffron – Cleopatra supposedly bathed in saffron-infused milk for its aphrodisiac qualities. Scientific studies have also shown that saffron can increase sperm motility in infertile men and decrease the negative sexual side effects of some antidepressant drugs. Hmm, I wonder now just what Donovan meant when he sang, “I’m just mad about saffron..”

Hot peppers – Capsaicin, the substance that gives peppers their heat, stimulates nerve endings on the tongue. This, in turn, causes the body to pump out epinephrine (adrenaline), which then causes the release of endorphins, then pleasure-causing body biochemical. So eat a Carolina reaper if you want to please and keep her!

Figs – Figs are high in amino acids, which, in addition to being necessary building blocks for our bodies to produce needed proteins, can also increase libido and boost sexual stamina.

Asparagus – The high levels of Vitamin E in asparagus may play a role in increasing oxygen and blood flow to the genitals. Asparagus is also high in potassium, which can boost sex hormone production.

These are just a few of the many fruits and vegetables which can improve sexual health and be a bodacious boost for a bedroom bonanza. Best of all you have everything to gain and nothing to lose by trying them. If you and your sweetie consume pumpkin soup with celery sticks for an appetizer, an asparagus casserole for dinner, and apples and figs for dessert, and nothing special happens, you’ll still be eating nutritious food that will enhance overall health with no side effects. It’s also a heck of a lot cheaper than Viagra!

The Old Gray Seeds They Ain’t What They Used to Be


Now is the time to start thinking about your vegetable garden. The seed catalogs have been gracing your mailbox and you’ve had a chance to see all the colorful varieties of fruits and vegetables that are competing with each other for your attention and your dollars. But wait! You’ve forgotten something. What about all those seeds left over from last year or earlier that have just been setting around your house doing nothing. Maybe there’s still life in them?

Whether or not those old seeds are still viable will depend on the seed and just how long they’ve been hanging around, unplanted, on your shelf. Seeds are not a forever thing. Sooner or later they all lose viability and become nothing but dead specks of what might have been. Some seeds can be stored for several years and will still be viable. Others will fail to germinate if not planted after a year.

Research on various types of seeds has given us some guidelines as to how long a shelf life different seeds possess. The website of Johnny’s Selected Seeds has a table that lists different sees and how long you can hang onto them before they lose viability. Here is a link to that table –

Another way to check the viability of your old seeds is to run a germination test. The following information come from North Carolina State University Extension.

Seed Viability Test

What You Will Need

Ten seeds of each type being tested
Paper towels
Sealable plastic bags
A permanent marker

Moisten a sheet of paper towel. It shouldn’t be dripping wet, just uniformly damp. If your paper towel falls apart when it gets wet, use 2 sheets, one on top of the other.

  1. Place the 10 seeds in a row along the damp towel.
  2. Roll or fold the paper towel around the seeds.
  3. Place the paper towel into the plastic bag and seal it. Write the date on the plastic bag, so there’s no guess work involved. If you are testing more than one type of seed, also label the bag with the seed type and variety.
  4. Place the plastic bag somewhere warm, about 70 degrees F. A sunny window sill or on top of the refrigerator should work.
  5. Check daily, to be sure the paper towel does not dry out. It shouldn’t because it is seal, but if it get very warm, you may need to re-moisten the towel with a spray bottle.
  6. After about 7 days, start checking for germination by unrolling the paper towel. You may even be able to see sprouting through the rolled towel. Very often the roots will grow right through it.
  7. Check your seed packet for average germination times for your particular seed, but generally 7 – 10 days should be enough time for the test.
  8. After 10 days, unroll the paper towel and count how many seeds have sprouted. This will give you the percentage germination you can expect from the remaining seeds in the packet. If only 3 sprouted, it is a 30% germination rate. Seven would be a 70% germination rate. Nine would be a 90% germination rate, and so on.

Realistically, if less than 70% of your test seed germinated you would be better off starting with fresh seed. If 70 – 90% germinated, the seed should be fine to use, but you should sow it a little thicker than you normally would. If 100% germinated – lucky you, your seed is viable and you’re ready to plant.

You don’t have to waste the seeds that germinated. They can be planted. Don’t let them dry out and handle them very carefully, so that you don’t break the roots or growing tip. It’s often easiest to just cut the paper towel between seeds and plant the seed, towel and all. If the root has grown through the towel, it is almost impossible to separate them without breaking the root. The paper towel will rot quickly enough and in the meantime, it will help hold water near the roots.

Source: North Carolina State County Extension Service —

Gardening During The Time of Pandemic

There is no sugarcoating the situation facing every man, woman, and child living on planet Earth. We are in the midst of a pandemic! A new species of coronavirus is plaguing the human population. This species is highly infectious and it kills! Already, hundreds of thousands have been killed by this virus and even more sickened by it. There is neither vaccine nor treatment for it. All we can do is follow the guidelines spelled out by our health professionals – wash your hands frequently, cough into your elbow, and stay at home as much as possible. However, if you must venture out, avoid large gatherings, and stay at least six feet away from other people.

In an effort to implement the above guidelines, we have been forced to cancel many social events large and small. Sporting events, concerts, and even family gatherings have all fallen by the wayside in our desperate efforts to halt this terrible disease. This hurts us to our core, as we humans, by nature, are active social beings. We do not do isolation very well.

However, we are not completely without activity. We can still go for a walk. We can still exercise. And yes, we can still garden. I’ve followed all of the news about the virus, and I have not yet seen anything that says that the virus lives in soil, green plants, seeds, or the immediate atmosphere surrounding your garden (assuming no one has coughed on any of these). And while being out in nature is neither cure nor prevention, there is something about getting your hands in the soil, setting out seeds and seedlings, cultivating them, and watching them grow and bear flowers and fruit that can certainly lift your spirits a little and make all the bad news, fear, and worry a little easier to bear. Indeed, the very awakening of the earth after a long winter sleep has a way of gently lifting one’s spirits, even in the midst of trying times.

And you don’t even have to garden in complete solitude. To be sure, you cannot meet with your garden club or plant gardens in large groups. But you can contact friends and family through phone, e-mail, Skype, etc. and swap ideas about what you’re going to plant. You can meet in gardening forums on the web and learn about the new cultivars of vegetables that will soon be available. You can even share seeds and seedlings with friends and family (call them up, tell them you’re coming, leave the merchandise on the doorstep, and high-tail it back home.

Yes, there are lots of reasons to feel concern and worry. But you don’t have to hide under your bed petrified with fear. The earth hasn’t stopped growing, and neither should you. By all means follow all the infection prevention guidelines. And then get out and garden. You will feel better for it.

All Hail the Mighty Bean!


According to the Oxford Dictionary of the English Language, a bean is 1) an edible seed, typically kidney-shaped, growing in long pods on certain leguminous plants. 1.1) the hard seed of coffee, cocoa, and certain other plants. 2) a leguminous plant that bears beans in pods. 3) a very small amount or nothing at all of something (used emphatically) e.g. “there is not a single bean of substance in the report” or “I didn’t know beans about being a step-parent.” 3.1) used in reference to money e.g. “he didn’t have a bean.” and 4) a person’s head, especially when regarded as a source of common sense e.g. “this morning the old bean seems to be functioning in a slow way.”

From the point of view of a gardener, I, of course, am more interested in definitions 1 and 2. More specifically, I’m referring to those edible podded and/or seeded plants of family Fabaceae and all its associated genera. Here in the US, we mostly consume Vicia faba (broad bean or fava bean) and Phaseolus vulgaris (common bean, which includes the pinto bean, kidney bean, black bean, Appaloosa bean as well as green beans, and many others).

Beans have been eaten since time immemorial as they are a nutrient powerhouse that costs little to produce, raise, and store. They are an excellent source of fiber, they aid in digestion, they can regulate blood sugar, lower cholesterol, excellent sources of heart-necessary minerals potassium and magnesium, help you maintain a healthy weight, high in iron, high in B vitamins, and rich in the antioxidants that neutralize the free radicals that can cause cancer. They are indeed a wonderful food that should be grown in every garden and a part of every diet.

And like many other vegetables, there are hundreds of different cultivars that you probably haven’t tried yet. So why not plant some next year? Try a cultivar such as Royal Burgundy which produces colorful purple pods that can be eaten like green beans. Or make your own baked beans using a dry shelling variety such as Vermont Appaloosa, or Yin Yang (yes the beans really do look like the yin-yang symbol). Or why not get really crazy and try a runner bean such as Thai Purple Podded or Chinese Mosaic. These will not only add flavor to your meals, but can also add color to your garden and make it aesthetically pleasing as well as practical.

Of course, I can’t talk about beans without bringing up the gas they produce. Beans contain the sugars stachyose, raffinose, and verbascose, which are bodies are unable to digest. When they reach our colon, the bacteria there begin to ferment them, which produces the gas. However, there are ways of negating this.

  1. Eat fruit or sugar foods 2 – 3 hours away from a meal with beans.
  2. Only eat one protein in the same meal, as each protein requires a specific type and strength of digestive juices.
  3. Potatoes conflict with digestion of the beans, so avoid eating them in the same meal.
  4. Eat a whole grain with beans to complement them.
  5. In Japan and Far East Asia they add a piece of seaweed (Kombu or Wakame) after the beans as it makes the beans more digestible, more nutritious and tastes great!
  6. Use digestive spices — in India they cook ginger, turmeric and sometimes fennel and asafetida, with beans to make them more digestible.
  7. Chew and savor your beans! Beans and grains are foods with which the digestion starts in the mouth. Savor bean soup in the mouth before swallowing to begin the process of digestion.
  8. Start with mung beans, aduki and dhal as they are easy to digest because they are low in the complex sugars that are not easily broken down by the human digestive enzymes. Even invalids can digest these ones.

(Source: Huffpost (

And if all else fails, then do what Ben Franklin suggested in one of his essays. Fart proudly!

Don’t Let Your Soil Get As-salt-ed



Here in Chicago and Cook County, when snow and ice coat our driveways and streets, we spread generous amounts of halite salt to melt the frozen precipitation and keep traffic moving. Indeed every Chicago mayor knows that if you fail to clear off the snow and ice, you will not be re-elected for another term.

However, while salt is wonderful for clearing snow and ice from the roads, it’s not quite so wonderful for our plants. According to Rutgers University Cooperative Extension, salt harms vegetation in a number of ways.

  1. Increasing water stress. In the root zone, water molecules are held very tightly by salt ions, making it difficult for roots to absorb sufficient quantities of water.  In sensitive species, this “physiological drought” may result in depressed growth and yield.
  2. Affecting soil quality. The sodium ion component in rock salt becomes attached to soil particles and displaces soil elements such as potassium and phosphorus.  As a result, soil density and compaction increases and drainage and aeration are reduced.  In addition, chloride and calcium can mobilize heavy metals in affected soils.  Plant growth and vigor are poor under these conditions.
  3. Affecting mineral nutrition. When the concentration of both the sodium and chloride components of salt in the root zone is excessive, plants preferentially absorb these ions instead of nutrients such as potassium and phosphorus.  When this occurs, plants may suffer from potassium and phosphorus deficiency.
  4. Accumulating to toxic levels within plants. The chloride component of salt is absorbed by roots and foliage and becomes concentrated in actively growing tissue.  Plants repeatedly exposed to salt over long periods of time may accumulate chloride ions to toxic levels, resulting in leaf burn and twig die-back.

There’s not a whole lot you can do about salt on town and city roadways. However, there are steps you can take to minimize salt contamination in your own yard. For starters, clear off the snow from your driveway with a shovel or plow first before applying ice-melting salt, and then use the minimal amount necessary to melt the ice and snow. Second, there are more environmentally friendly ice melting products that you can use instead of regular halite salt. Lastly, if your soil does become contaminated with salt, you can try adding plenty of water to dilute the salt. In some cases gypsum at 50 lb./1000 sq. ft. can be added into the top six inches of soil at the drip-line of trees. If the foliage of trees and shrubs becomes coated with salt, then wash it off with salt-free water. Try to plant trees and shrubs as far away as possible from streets, roads, and driveways to minimize salt contamination. If you must plant near the pavement, then plant salt tolerant plants.

This winter, let’s do all we can to prevent the as-salt on our soil and plants.

Preserve That Harvest



You can taste a little of the summer
My grandma’s put it all in jars

― Greg Brown

Congratulations! Your garden has yielded a bountiful crop of fresh, nutrient-rich sweet, and crunchy fruits and vegetables. You’ve eaten as many fresh vegetables as you can and shared some of the rest with family, friends, and maybe even your local food pantry. But even so, you still have plenty left over. It would be a shame if it went to waste. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to. There are ways that you can preserve these fruits and vegetables so that they can last throughout those bone-chilling winter months of cold, snow, and misery.

Canning – the process of using a combination of heat, acid, and salt to preserve fruits and vegetables in glass jars. Fruits and vegetables so preserved can last up to year in some instances.

Drying – the process of removing the moisture from foods, either through exposure to air, sunlight, or heat (either in your oven or a commercially-made dehydrator. Dried foods do not look as colorful and shiny as canned foods, but are still quite edible and contain more nutrients than do their canned counterparts. Note: before drying produce, it is important to blanch it first. Blanching is the process of heating food without cooking it. This step is important, because blanching inactivates the enzymes that cause food to spoil.

Freezing – the process of preserving food by storing in temperatures below zero, usually in a commercial freezer (not the freezer that comes with your refrigerator). While freezing does not stop the clock on food spoilage, it slows it down considerable by slowing the growth of microorganisms. Freezing is considered superior to all other methods of preservation in that the concentration of nutrients, as well as texture, color, and flavor is greater than that of food preserved by other preservation methods

Jams and jellies – Jams and jellies are the results of turning fruits, vegetables, and herbs into concentrated, sugar-rich spreads that can be added to toast, meats, or anything else your creative mind can think of.

Pickles, relishes, and chutneys – similar to canning, it’s the process of using heat, acid, salt, herbs, and spices to create spicy creations from your garden produce. While produce so preserved doesn’t exactly qualify as nutritious, they add a zing and a zest to more nutritious meals (think of a sandwich with a pickle on the side). As an aside, I have to give a shout-out to my friends Sue and Judy Lazar for the wonderful tomato chutney they make and for the fact that they always save a jar for me.

Vinegars and seasonings – Vinegar is made through the fermentation of fruit juices and grains. The combination of wine alcohol, oxygen, and acetobacters produce this tangy concoction that has been used throughout recorded history as a medicine, cosmetic, preservative, flavor-enhancer, cleanser, disinfectant, beverage, and digestive aid. You can combine a vinegar varieties such as balsamic, champagne, cider, malt, white rice, sherry, and wine with your own produce or herbs to create your own flavored vinegars.

Cold storage – placing produce in a cool dark environment (basement, window well, root cellar, etc.) with the proper amount of humidity to maintain as much as possible produce in its fresh form throughout the winter. This is probably the simplest form of food preservation.

So don’t let all that extra produce go to waste. Use one of the above methods to put it in a state where it will last through the winter. Then on those cold winter nights, you can pop open a jar, bottle, freezer pack, or cold-stored container to bring a little light of summer into an otherwise bleak season.