You can grow vegetables all year round. Without a greenhouse. Even if you live north of Fargo, N.D. Even if you're blessed with weeds, terrible soil and lots of bugs. All you have to do is grow sprouts! Most everyone has heard of mung bean sprouts and alfalfa sprouts. But a lot of other seeds can be sprouted: radish, cabbage, sunflower, garlic chives, wheat, peanuts, garbanzos, clover, buckwheat, green peas, rye and lentils. You can eat them raw in salads, and sandwiches, add them to soups, stews, and casseroles, even bake them into bread. First make sure the seeds you are sprouting are organic and not treated with a chemical to enhance germination or highly toxic fungicides. You can sprout seeds with nothing more than a mason jar, a rubber band and some cheese cloth ( or a piece of nylon panty hose). Be sure to sterilize the jar with boiling water before you use them. Soak your seeds for six to eight hours, the viable ones will swell and sink to the bottom. The duds will float. Skim off the floaters and drain. Put the seeds in your container. Rinse and drain again. put your cover on and store it away from direct light, but not in a spot that's totally dark. Bean sprouts don't require light but other leafy ones do. Rinse and drain at least twice a day. More if you are able. You can’t rinse them too much. You want to hit them with a pretty good stream to rinse off any mold that may be starting and you want to make sure each seed is fully rinsed. Use tepid water-about 70 degrees. You want to store your jar so that excess water can drain out. I purchased a sprouter that looks like a mini-dehydrator with trays and a catch basin on the bottom and a lid on the top. There are also bags made out of linen and trays made out of bamboo that you can buy. If you have an electric dehydrator that will work justput some screens or mesh in the trays. Most of the bean sprouts are best eaten when they are immature, about a quarter of an inch long. But sprouts like  onion and garlic chives may take 12 to 14 days to get to the right stage. Most of the others are ready between three and eight days.


Extend the storability of winter squash by washing them in a mild bleach solution (1 tsp bleach in a gallon of water). Make sure they are completely dry and store them in a cool dark place.



Select a variety that is well suited to your growing conditions. Some kinds are early maturing enough for us northern gardeners that have a short growing season. But watch your variety. It seems there are more hybrids in this vegetable than any other. Notations like F1, se, sh, or sh2 are a tip off to hybrids. A rich clay loam with a pH around 6.0 is best. But if you have less than perfect soil then you'll need to add lots of nitrogen. Good organic sources of nitrogen include manures, fish meal, alfalfa meal and blood meal. Compost is always a good way to provide a well balanced blend of nutrients and trace minerals. Work in a generous amount before planting. You can also enrich your soil with the use of cover crops. More about those in a future newsletter. Plant your corn 1/2 inch to 1 inch deep if you are planting early.The soil close to the top is warmest. If you are planting a late crop go down 1 inch or slightly deeper. Because the soil moisture is more even the lower you go. I know you southern gardeners like to plant several different crops to get a continuous supply. To insure good pollination plant your corn in a block at least five rows wide and five rows deep. If this is not possible you can improve the size of the ears by hand pollination. It's easy, when the pollen starts falling off the tassels gather up as much as you can by running your hand up the tassel and dump it on the silk. Do this as soon as the silk appears and do it every day until the tassels get dried out A couple of tricks: don't mulch too early in the spring, you want the soil to warm up as much as possible and if your area is windy you can mound the dirt up around the stalk to keep it from blowing over. Corn needs about 1 inch of water per week and a good way to keep the soil moisture even, is to use newspapers or rotted leaves as a mulch. When your plants are about knee high go ahead and mulch. A good intercropping method is to plant pole beans in with the corn. The beans fix nitrogen with their roots which feed the corn, and the corn provides a stalk for the beans to climb on. Also cilantro (coriander) is a good pest deterrent as it brings in beneficial insects.

If corn earworms are a problem in your area, squirt a few drops of mineral oil into the silks when they first appear. Or wait until pollination is completed and the silks extend more than three inches and make a barrier by placing a rubber band or clothes pin over the end of the husk.

As far as raccoons and other furry pests. I think an electric fence is the only sure way. But I have heard that coons won't cross a wide border of lime around the corn patch. Try a few drops of Tabasco sauce on the end of the ear a couple of weeks before picking time.  Or plant cucumbers and squash in with the corn. The prickly spines on the stems may deter them. Bird netting has been somewhat successful. If all else fails, you could tape the ears to the stalk with duct tape. (grin)


Companion Planting Tip

Flax is a good companion to both carrots and potatoes, it will improve the flavor as well as the growth. If you plant flax next to potatoes it will deter the Colorado potato beetle.



"Garden: One of a vast number of free outdoor restaurants operated by charity-minded amateurs in an effort to provide healthful, balanced meals for insects, birds and animals."





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