dishin' the DIRT on hit and myth landscaping

Archive for the category “nutritional value of plants”

Produce Chart with Pesticide Levels

Several folks asked for a LABELED produce chart showing pesticide levels, so here it is! RED means it is likely to have a higher level and GREEN means a lower level usually.

If you cannot buy all organic produce, here's a lesser of evils approach chart.

If you cannot buy all organic produce, here’s a lesser of evils approach chart.


Always Best to Buy (or GROW) Organic Produce?

Lately, I’m getting more requests from my landscaping clients who’ve never considered themselves gardeners to grow their own food.

And they want to do it organically.

Horror stories of tainted greens drive many to question what else they might be buying in that bag of lettuce or spinach. Restaurants, bars, and even airlines blame skyrocketing prices for dropping lime and avocado from their menus. It might tempt some folks to just grow their own food. While citrus and other heat loving plants thrive in my part of the world, what about you who don’t have the weather – or space – to grow your own? Should you move? Well, maybe.

At my house, produce may be found throughout the landscape. If I cannot grow enough, the rest is bought from local farmers whenever possible. I believe in permaculture, which is simply good stewardship of the land. But, as I said before, my options for growing food are vast because of where I live.  And I enjoy gardening.

Should you buy or try? Check this chart to see what produce you should ALWAYS buy organic.

Check this chart to see what produce you should ALWAYS buy organic. Green means little pesticides, red shows what has the most pesticides in traditionally grown produce.

If you’re confused about buying organic produce, check out this chart I made for a lecture I gave. It shows which traditionally grown produce items have the highest pesticide levels. Scary? That’s not the purpose of my talk or why I’m sharing this information. I simply want to give you guidelines on which items deserve the extra bucks to buy organic, or extra time and space to grow in your yard, if your climate allows. Although this won’t necessarily make you a better organic gardener, it could make you a better shopper when it comes to organic produce.

NOTE: if you want an easy-to-reproduce copy of this chart, just let me know. I’m happy to send you a larger JPEG or PDF of it.

Easy to grow from seed: LET US have LETTUCE!

Some of the new kids on the block...or at least in MY block!

Some of my lettuce is beginning to bolt.  Just when it starts getting too hot in the kitchen and I prefer a cool salad over a warm meal, my salad fixins’ peter out on me.  While I LIKE flowers, when a stalk shoots up on lettuce to produce flowers – thus producing seeds – I know my fresh-from-the-garden lettuce days are numbered.

'Vulcan' lettuce from seed, new to my garden this year.

A few things about growing lettuce…..

1) Most salad greens – like lettuce and spinach – prefer cool weather.  That means the Gulf Coast version of winter makes perfect growing conditions, while summer (and spring and fall) are too hot for them.  They bolt, another word for “going to seed” as my grandmother called it.  When they start this route in order to propagate (make babies), the leaves soon turn bitter. I do have a couple of varieties that last a little longer: ‘Red Sails’ and an oakleaf type whose seeds came to me from a neighbor.  She calls it “Israel lettuce” and says seeds traveled to Texas in an unnamed pocket after a visit to the Holy Land. Jury’s still out on several new ones – a tennis ball heirloom I bought from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, ‘Vulcan’ that Sakata Seeds sent me and an organic blend given to me by Territorial Seed Company – to see how they do in the heat.*
2) They key is to NOT dig a hole for the tiny seeds; instead, dot them around on moist, scratched dirt and top with a sprinkling of potting soil.  Keep them damp, but don’t pour water. The deluge will dislodge the seeds and they’ll end up sprouting somewhere else, like at your neighbor’s house.
3) I start putting out seeds around Labor Day and plant a few more in a couple of weeks.  By Halloween, I’ve got enough salad to feed my subdivision.  I have enough to feed my family long before that.
4) Some folks swear they’ve found a good summer greens substitute with Malabar spinach.  I’ve grown this vine and while it is pretty, its taste is a bit strong to me.
5) Lettuce makes a great bed edging if you are more into aesthetics than edibles.
6) Salad greens work GREAT in pots if you are yardless, or if you have trouble bending to garden.
7) Different types of greens have different nutrient levels. Texas A&M put together a chart to show you what’s what.

HIT:lettuce is easy to grow from seed!

So…..would you like some seeds?  Leave a comment to tell me and I’ll mail some out when mine go to seed.  We’ll have a salad together.  Wanna try the Vulcan? Don’t know if it will last the summer, but put enough of my Asian dressing on it and I think even my garden clogs might taste pretty good!

Live long and prosper.

(*While I do not receive compensation, I was paid in SEED MONEY… free seeds from Territorial and Sakata companies.)

What the HECK is an HEIRLOOM? Part 2

What qualifies plants to get shelved into the HEIRLOOM section?

An heirloom at our house is this chair from the bank in Ballinger, TX that my husband's grandfather gave him, along with this horse blanket.

Last week we jumped into a discussion about HEIRLOOMS, one of the current buzzwords in landscaping. Introduction date is the 1st factor that decides a plant’s place as an heirloom, as I indicated, but today we’ll look at the 2nd criteria for that classification: dependability and self-reliance.

Datura bloom from seeds my dad gave me, which I've now passed down to my daughter.

SALVATION ARMY VS FAMILY HEIRLOOM:  In her book What Makes Heirloom Plants So Great? Judy Barrett makes the point they’re “just like heirlooms of any other kind.”  Something ends up a family keepsake because it’s useful to someone.  The item must be handed down to become an heirloom, right?  For plants, they have to be able and stable, handed down from seed (or bulb, or whatever mechanism it reproduces from) to qualify.  “Able” means the plant CAN be handed down easily, and “stable” refers to the fact it DOES get handed down, coming back year after year as basically the same plant.  Another name for this is open-pollinated.  An open-pollinated plant will reproduce itself over and over, pretty much unaided.  In the case of an annual plant, like many vegetables and herbs and flowers, those seeds may be saved by someone and then planted the next season.  But the point is, it’s a fairly easy process and — if conditions are right — the plants could get by just fine on their own.

HIT: HEIRLOOM plants that easily make their home in the next generation's garden.

So, why all the fuss about heirloom plants then?

1) THEY’RE EASY!  That doesn’t mean ANY heirloom can go ANYwhere.  A favorite plant usually becomes a favorite because it did well in their specific environment.  If your Aunt Betty’s lily became her stand-by in Indiana, that doesn’t mean it will be yours in New Mexico.

2)  THEY’RE FUN!  Maybe I’m weird, but I enjoy sharing the fruits of my labor AND the seeds.

3) THEY KEEP OUR HISTORY ALIVE!  I get a kick out of putting a few of my ‘Tennis Ball’ lettuce seeds saved from last season in the mail to my daughter and know she’ll be eating the same salad Thomas Jefferson ate at Monticello.  Handing down white cemetery iris from my grandmother to my children gives me joy.  Our family ROOTS remain vital when we grow heirlooms.

MYTH: food is food...or is it?

I also have a theory about what we eat being better for us when we keep it the same as our ancestors.  It just makes sense our bodies recognize what goes in our mouth as food if it’s what’s been going into our mouths for the last few hundred years.  Doesn’t an engine need some tweaking if we pour a different type of fuel in the tank than what’s expected? Think of the difference even within the same plant.  Ever eaten a ripe tomato straight from the field?  Do they taste the same as one from Kroger?  If you have no clue what I’m talking about, read Part 1 of this topic!

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