Companion Planting Guide for Your Veggie Garden

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Swiss Chard Garden
Swiss Chard Garden

Many people put in their vegetable gardens every year and do their best to do the proper fertilization, watering, and weeding. Yet, no bounty for the table. It might be that the neighboring plants are the wrong types.

Some vegetable plants will benefit their neighbors; others will hinder their growth and yield. The answer is to plant correctly paired species. Sometimes even certain flowers will provide great benefits. This applies to both traditional and raised bed gardens.

First, Plan Your Garden

To take advantage of companion agriculture in order to get more bang for your buck, you first need to choose which vegetables and then mate them up with something else you want to bring to the table.

Personally, I choose the things that I love to eat but are either hard to find or expensive. For example, so far this year I’ve put in tomatoes, basil, strawberries, Brussels sprouts, rosemary, and chocolate mint (goes great in my espresso grounds).

As a side note, it never hurts to have fruit trees. When they are blossoming, that means more bees which will also pollinate your vegetables. My “mini-orchard” contains two fig trees, a plum tree, a Republic of Texas orange, a mandarin orange, a Sam Houston peach, a mulberry tree, and an improved Meyer lemon. All organic.

Recommended Companion Plants

There are a lot of popular plants that have plant friends. Let’s look at some of the most popular.

Asparagus. Good with basil, tomatoes, and parsley. Asparagus in the home garden is a good investment, it is low-maintenance, less expensive than at the store, and a bed will produce for years.

Basil. Good for most garden crops except rue. It improves the growth and flavor of many vegetables, especially tomatoes and lettuce.

Beets. Plant with broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage bush beans, onions, cauliflower, chard, and kohlrabi.

Bush Beans. They like cauliflower, cucumbers, corn, beets, potatoes, carrots, cabbage, strawberries, catnip, marigolds, and savory. Why catnip if you don’t own a cat? It repels flea beetles.

Brussels Sprouts and Broccoli. Good friends of thyme, mint, chamomile, dill, hyssop, beets, buckwheat, onions, rosemary, sage, wormwood, marigolds, nasturtiums, calendula, carrots. But not strawberries.

Cantaloupe. Likes sunflowers and corn, but not potatoes.

Carrots. Plant near cabbage, chives, early potatoes, leeks, salsify, wormwood, peas, radishes, rosemary, lettuce, onions, and sage.

Corn. Compatible with early potatoes, melons, beans, cucumbers, soybeans, squash, peas, and pumpkins .

Cucumbers. Plant near cabbage, corn, radishes, sunflowers, early potatoes, and beans. Not compatible with late potatoes.

Eggplant. Pair up with beans and marigold. Avoid potatoes as companions.

Onions. They like the companionship of beets, carrots, strawberries, tomatoes, summer savory, and cabbage. Avoid beans and English peas.

Parsley. Great with asparagus and tomatoes.

Soybeans. The ideal plant. They work with and help anything.

Squash. Good with corn, radishes, marigolds, and nasturtium. Not friendly with Irish potatoes.

Tomatoes. Works well with onions, marigold, asparagus, cucumbers, basil, carrots, and parsley.

Use marigold flowers for pest control
Use marigold flowers for pest control and beneficial companionship

More gardening tips

There are many other things to tip a generous harvest in your favor. This spring I took up rainwater harvesting for garden and tree watering. There are two main reasons that this is a good idea in my humble opinion. First, rainwater is free. Secondly, plants prefer the Ph in rainwater as compared to tap water.

Another good tip is to apply beneficial nematodes to your lawn and garden during the spring. On your lawn they will eliminate fleas without using pesticides. In your garden they will organically control sod webworms, cutworms, maggots, various types of ants, and many more. Pesticides are a bad idea; they kill beneficial ladybugs. They will also kill the earthworms that keep your garden soil aerated. Also, pesticides are taken up by the plant roots and kill the microscopic microbes that keep the roots healthy. Eventually, those toxins will make their way to your dining room table.

Did this post on companion planting for your garden help you? If so, feel free to share the link with your friends and your social media contacts.


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About the author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation and financial and energy trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.


How to Build a Raised Garden Bed

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Raised Garden Bed
Raised Garden Bed

A raised garden bed (or raised bed garden if you prefer) is a great way to grow your own organic produce. It’s a simple weekend DIY project. The picture above shows the one I just built. It still needs a bit of tightening up but the basics are there.

Types of Raised Bed Gardens

The one I built was made using cinder blocks. The benefits are low cost of materials and the ability to expand easily. Kits are also available but they cost a bit more and not all are expandable. They can also be built using wood (cedar is a good choice) and stakes.

Height is also a consideration. The cinder block height works well for me but people with back problems do better with elevated garden kits. It’s all a matter of convenience and personal preference.

Preparing the Garden

A garden laid directly on the ground, like mine, will benefit from a layer of newspaper laid on the grass surface. This will inhibit grass and weeds from making their way up through the dirt.

On top of this goes your dirt with compost added in. It’s easy to mix using a hoe. What type of dirt? I have heard some gardeners swear by rose soil but in my experience regular garden soil works fine. If you already know what you are going to plant this is a good time to test the soil pH and adjust it using the appropriate soil amendments.

Planting Time!

You’ve got two choices–start your plants from seed or buy bedding plants. Seeds are less expensive but using plants will mean you can harvest sooner. I prefer plants. Just plant them at the recommended depth and water them in well.

Next add a couple of inches of mulch to the surface. There many varieties available. I prefer hardwood mulch because of the way it decomposes over time and feeds the soil. Whatever you do, do not use dyed mulch. That dye is chemical and you certainly don’t want roots to be taking it up!

Now toss out some organic fertilizer and some agricultural dried molasses. The molasses stimulates all the beneficial microbes and earthworms, both of which are important for the health of your soil. Microbes share a symbiotic relationship with plants. Worms will keep your soil aerated which helps in water distribution and root growth. Another consideration is spraying out some beneficial nematodes to control fleas and many other pests.

I hope you found this article on building a raised garden bed helpful. If so, please pass it along to your friends. Comments or ideas? Add them in the comment section below. Thanks for visiting and happy gardening!

About the Author:

Kelly R. Smith
Kelly R. Smith

Kelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelors Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation and financial and energy trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients.


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10 Most popular Diets


Healthy food for weight loss
Healthy food for weight loss

It’s interesting to note that out of all book genres, cook books and diet books rank so high. It seems contradictory, doesn’t it? Yet it makes sense that people want to eat well and stay in shape and be healthy all at the same time. Fair enough.

Most diets are associated with weight loss but some are more lifestyle, part of a religious faith, or as part of a periodical detox program. Let’s look at 10 of the most popular diets (as of this writing; fad diets pop up all the time).

  1. Atkins Diet. This is one of the big ones. In fact, it was the number one diet of 2017. Oddly, when it was first developed it wasn’t even meant to be a weight loss program; it was designed to benefit folks with cardiovascular risk. This diet relies on restricting carbs. The result is controlled insulin levels so that fat is burned for energy rather than carbs.
  2. Gluten Free. Gluten is a naturally-occurring protein in grain plants such as wheat. Anyone who bakes homemade bread for example knows that gluten is the “glue” that holds bread together. Unfortunately, many people are sensitive to it. Many others adhere to this diet because they just believe it to be healthier. It can result in weight loss because, like Atkins, it restricts some carbs. It can be expensive though.
  3. Ketogenic. This is another one that was developed for other purposes. For example, it has been used for decades as a treatment for epilepsy. It’s basically the same at Atkins in that it reduces carbohydrate intake (less than 10% of daily calories) and raising fat intake. Many researchers are looking at using this diet for  diabetes management and general metabolic health.
  4. Whole 30 Diet. This program relies on abstaining from most processed foods (there is a list of permitted items) along with grains, dairy, alcohol, legumes and sweeteners for 30 days. It has been described as a “nutritional reset program that emphasizes whole foods.” Meat, eggs, fruit, and vegetables are allowed as part of the diet. Dairy products, grains, legumes, alcohol, and sugar are not allowed.
  5. Vegetarian Diet. This diet comes in many flavors: living food diet, vegetarian, lacto-vegetarian, fruitarian vegetarian, lacto-ovo vegetarian, pesco-vegetarian, ovo-vegetarian, and semi-vegetarian just to name more than a few. Studies have demonstrated that vegetarians suffer less from diseases, enjoy a lower body weight,  and may have a longer life expectancy than people who eat meat.
  6. Vegan Diet. Veganism is considered more of a way of life and a philosophical outlook than a diet per se. Vegans will not consume anything that is animal-based. This includes eggs, dairy, and honey. Vegans don’t always get into veganism simply for health reasons, but in addition for environmental, ethical, and compassionate reasons.
  7. Mediterranean Diet. This diet has been around for quite a while and as might be guessed it is modeled after, well, the Mediterranean style of eating. In a nutshell, the fare is high in monounsaturated fats from nuts and oils, vegetables, whole grains, and seafood. It also includes token amounts of fruit, dairy, eggs, and a bit of red meat every now and then. It is thought by many to be one of the most beneficially ways to eat for overall health, especially for the cardiovascular system.
  8. The Raw Food Diet. Sometimes referred to as raw foodism, it is defined by consuming food and drink that has not been processed. This diet is completely plant-based, and organic whenever possible. The four basic categories of raw foodists are raw vegetarians, raw vegans, raw omnivores, and raw carnivores. This last one scares me.
  9. The DASH diet. This diet was was developed with the idea of lowering high blood pressure. Its hallmark is consumption of a mix of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy. In addition, it is important to avoid saturated fat, sugary beverages, sweets, full-fat dairy, and some oils, and as might be guessed, less salt overall.
  10. The Volumetrics Diet. This one puts the focus on the energy density in various foods. This is the number of calories in a certain amount of food. Foods that rate a high-energy density have lots of calories per a little amount of food, and low-energy density foods have fewer calories for more food.

There’s certainly a lot of options to choose from which is a good thing. Certain lifestyles are palatable to one person and not to another. In many cases it is possible to mix and match. The important thing when taking on one of these popular diets is dedication.

 


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Panamanian-Style Ceviche Recipe



Panamanian-style ceviche and tortilla chips
Panamanian-style ceviche and tortilla chips

Ceviche (alternatively known to a lesser extent as cebiche, seviche or sebiche) is a seafood dish popular in most Latin American countries. The exact preparation location dictates the exact ingredient list but the one we will consider here is the Panamanian-style ceviche recipe since that’s what I grew up on.

This dish can be eaten as an appetizer before your homemade pizza or other main dish although I don’t see any reason not to just go ahead and make a meal of it. Although some people have have characterized it as raw fish like sushi, nothing could be further from the truth. The fish undergoes chemical cooking (from the acid in the lime juice) rather than thermal cooking.

For the purpose of this article I’ll give the ingredients for a small batch, as pictured above. If you’re making more just keep the ratios the same, to your liking. Try to use organic ingredients where possible.

Ceviche Ingredient List

  • 1 filet of fish, approximately 8″ long, cut in 1/4″ – 1/2″ cubes. Use any white-flesh, non-oily species. In Panama corvina is used but I can’t get it here so this time I used cod. I used shark once. Only the hot pepper bit back.
  • 1/2 large onion, diced. Any type will do; I use red onions because they taste superior and they add color to the dish.
  • 3 sticks of celery, sliced about 1/4″.
  • Kosher salt as desired; I leave it out because of blood pressure.
  • 2 carrots, cubed or sliced.
  • 1/2 large red bell pepper, cut into 1/2″ chunks.
  • 1 large tomato, diced.
  • 2 large serrano or jalapeno peppers, finely diced. Habanero pepper is traditional if you dare.
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro.
  • Sufficient lime juice to cover ingredients. (Lemon juice can be used in a pinch.) Save yourself some work by buying a bottle at the store rather than squeezing them yourself.

Ceviche Preparation

Panamanian-style ceviche ingredients
Panamanian-style ceviche ingredients

Cut up all ingredients and combine in a glass container. Never metal! Keep in mind that the fish is much easier to work with if it is frozen. Add the lime juice until it just covers the mixture.

Cover the container and store it in the refrigerator for a minimum of 24 hours. This will give the fish and vegetables in the ceviche time to cook and combine flavors.

One of the best things about Panamanian-style ceviche is that it is so versatile. The list of vegetables is up to your taste and imagination.  Some areas of Mexico substitute scallops for the fish; Colombians prefer shrimp.

Enjoy it with a spoon or over homemade oatmeal flax seed bread or scoop it with tortilla chips! Have you experimented with any interesting twists to this recipe? Share them with our readers in the comment section below.


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DIY Home Flea Control Methods

A hideous flea under magnification
A hideous flea under magnification

Just one glance at that monster insect pest above is enough to make you want to eradicate them because of the sheer ugliness, but it gets worse. Your pet may develop flea allergy dermatitis, skin infections, and anemia. Also, if your dog or cat ingests a flea he may become infected with tapeworms.

Why are Fleas so Hard to Get Rid Of?

Why are they such effective parasites? First, their bodies are flattened sideways, allowing them to easily navigate through your carpet or your pet’s fur no matter how dense it may by.

Secondly, those claws you see in the image above allow them to cling to Fido’s skin to resist all that scratching and chewing. And those back legs? They allow the pests to jump 50 times their body length! They would easily dominate in the Insect Olympics.

How Can You Practice Organic Flea Control?

In a previous post we explained how to eliminate flea larvae in outside the home by applying beneficial nematodes. This is a preventative measure since the larvae can never reach adulthood.

But what if you already have them in your home? You need DIY home flea control methods that don’t rely on poisons. Filling your home with toxins to get rid of pests is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Following are some organic solutions.

  • Homemade Flea Spray. This is a very economical method that is non-toxic to children and pets. All you need is a spray bottle and a few ingredients that you probably already have on hand. Combine 2 cups vinegar, 1 cup water, 3 tablespoons lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of witch hazel.
  • Dawn Dish Soap. Any dish soap will work but Dawn is preferable. Simply fill small bowls with warm water and soap and place them in affected areas. Night time is most effective because fleas are nocturnal insects.
  • Orange Oil Spray. This is one of my favorites for all types of pest control. It won’t harm humans or pets but it is deadly for insects including fleas, spiders, ants and more. It can usually be purchased at your local well-stocked nursery.
  • Diatomaceous Earth. Again, look for this at the nursery. It is the microscopic remains of fossilized algae, in a fine powder form. Sprinkle the dust thinly in affected areas wearing a dust mask to avoid throat irritation. Wait two days and then vacuum thoroughly. Diatomaceous earth kills fleas by dehydrating their bodies.
  • Rosemary as a Preventative Measure. While rosemary will not kill fleas, it will certainly keep them away. They don’t like it! To prepare it, let it dry and then grind it up finely. Sprinkle it anywhere you are experiencing flea activity.

Using a combination of these methods is more effective than a single one so don’t be afraid to experiment to determine what works for you. Do you know of any other effective home flea control methods? Tell our readers about it in the comment section below. We’re all in this together!

 


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Beneficial Nematodes for Organic Flea Control


Beneficial nematodes for pest control; photo by Kelly Smith
Beneficial nematodes for pest control; photo by Kelly Smith

Do you have pets? Do you have a yard? Do you try to stay organic? If you answered yes, you need to know about beneficial nematodes because they’ve got your back. They will solve your flea and tick problem without having to resort to toxic pesticides.

Toxic pesticides kill all the beneficial critters like ladybugs and earthworms. Products like Roundup and Weed & Feed do more damage than good. If you lose your earthworms you lose your soil aeration. Lose your ladybugs and praying mantis and you’ll have to buy more toxic chemicals to control pests.

What are Beneficial Nematodes and How do They Work?

In a nutshell, they are non-segmented, microscopic roundworms. You might not have heard of them but they occur naturally all over the world. Well, perhaps not Antarctica.

They are predators of tick and flea larvae in the soil. These may be your primary concerns but they also control sod webworms, cutworms, maggots, various types of ants and many more. They work by first finding a suitable host.

Highly-magnified nematodes
Highly-magnified nematodes

Next they enter through an appropriate body opening or through the body wall. Once they have taken up residence they produce a bacteria and inject it int the host’s blood, which kills the host. Finally the search for the next host begins.

How are they Applied to Your Lawn?

Since the nematodes arrive at your home in a seemingly powder form, they can easily be applied in a variety of ways. Small areas can be applied with a watering can.  Large lawns are candidates for hose-end sprayers like the one I used this morning. It’s a good deal since it comes with  loaded with fertilizer.

You won’t likely find nematodes at your local store but they are easy to find on-line. Every spring I order mine from Arbico Organics. High-quality products and quick delivery. For my front and back yard I order the 10 million size (rated for 3,200 square feet). A bit of overkill perhaps, but after the flood from Hurricane Harvey who knows what’s lurking below the soil?

If you have friends that might be interested in organic pest control using beneficial nematodes, share this article with them. Leave a comment below!

 


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Homemade Oatmeal Flax Seed Bread Recipe


I can safely state that one thing I cannot tolerate is store-bought white bread. It’s full of crap ingredients and air. If I can’t buy some good stuff, I just prefer to make my own. The good thing about homemade bread is that I get to control the ingredients.

So, that being said, here is the recipe for the oatmeal flax/chia seed whole wheat bread that I baked today. I like to pair it with a bowl of Panamanian-style ceviche but it works fine by itself or toasted. Enjoy!

Oatmeal Flax/Chia Seed Whole Wheat Bread Ingredients

  • 1 cup organic milk
  • 1/2 cup steel cut oats
  • Enough whole wheat flour for mixing and kneading
  • 1 egg
  • 1/8 cup flax seeds
  • 1/8 cup chia seeds
  • 2.25 oz. pecans, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup wheat bran
  • Rapid-rise yeast

Assembly and Baking

  • The oats are not as as processed as the instant kind so mix them with the milk and allow them to soak for an hour.
  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  • Mix in the yeast, egg, seeds, bran, pecans, and enough whole wheat flour to where you have to turn it out and knead it.
  • Knead the loaf, adding flour, until you have a proper consistency. The more you knead it, the better texture it will have.
  • Butter the loaf pan and press the dough down into it.
  • Bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean
  • Let the loaf cool on a rack.
  • Enjoy!

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