One Magic Square
February 17, 2019
When I read a book I have the habit of highlighting certain passages I find interesting or useful. After I finish the book I’ll type up those passages and put them into a note on my phone. I’ll keep them to comb through every so often so that I remember what that certain book was about. That’s what these are. So if I ever end up lending you a book, these are the sections that I’ve highlighted in that book. Enjoy!
Commercial seeds in shops are increasingly based on fewer varieties, may be genetically modified, and are often impregnated with toxic substances to ensure shelf life. Most are hybrids, bred by companies for improved size, production, and pest resistance. Hybrids may grow fast but do not usually produce viable seed or if they do, it may not breed true to type (i.e. the hybrid type it grew from) or its offspring may deteriorate after a few seasons
When sowing seeds dig a deep, narrow hole and half-fill it with water. Plant the tube, push it down a little, and tuck in firmly with soil
Plant shallow-rooted lettuce between deep-rooted carrots and beets that find nutrients further down and provide shade when planted south of lettuce. Tomatoes stay healthy with chemicals exuded by mustard plants
Radishes and green onions are compatible, while climbers like peas, beans, and cucumbers benefit from having low-growing lettuce or bok choy nearby to shade their roots
Sow plants as close together as their adult size allows–for radishes, green onions, and carrots 1in; onions 2 to in; beets 3 to 5in–on the understanding that you regularly pull the biggest plants to make space for others
When at a loss, I put mustard seeds near a plant needing rescuing. Mustard comes up in a week and exudes a gas that keeps pests away. But when the mustard reaches a height of 3 feet, it robs nutrients form the plant it is protecting. Cut it down and spread the leaves and stalks between the vegetables. When space allows, let mustard grow to full height–the flowers attract beneficial insect bonanza
The old days of letting a sprinkler dump water on a vast area for hours are gone forever. Sprinklers water indiscriminately, and sometimes plants miss out, dying before you notice
It’s a myth that spraying plants on hot days causes leaf burn. Rain doesn’t burn plants, does it? Leaf burn results from lack of water at the roots
Epsom salts provide magnesium sulfate for prematurely yellow leaves. Apply 1 teaspoon per watering can
By planting each plant in an earth saucer surrounded with stones and filling the saucer with CMC, you trap moisture and attract good beetles. To keep slugs and snails away, spread coffee grounds around the stones
According to research at Utah State University, you can attract ladybugs by sprinkling some of your garden area with sugar water. Melt 1/2 cup of sugar in warm water and top off with 1 quart cold water. Apply with a watering can. Do 1 to 2 gallons at once.
You can eat holes you, you know. They cook up quite well.
Repelling instead of destroying improves biodiversity
Fill plastic bottles with water and dig them in as edging around vegetable plots. Scratching birds don’t like reflective obstructions, although mice will still go in. In late Autumn or early spring, the water absorbs the warmth of the sun and, at night, the bottles give off this warmth, keeping plot temperatures more even
Ice -cream tub lids are useful to put under growing pumpkins and squashes to prevent rotting where they touch the ground. Use margarine lids under baby squash, cucumbers, or low-hanging tomatoes
Grow heat-loving plants on the south side, lettuce on the north side, honeysuckle and pot herbs around an eastern entrance, and a hedge of strong plants on any side where ferocious winds hit: elderberry, crab apple, large daisies, wild plums, or goldenrod
Permaculture is about closed cycles in which each component aids the others. It means that if you grow something to provide mulch and food for animals, who then give manure to put around fruit trees and vegetables, and the cycle is sustainable, you have a closed cycle.
Open-pollinated seed is seed that has been grown with the aid of bees and insects in the open and will breed true to type
The general rule for saving seed is to let pods and seed heads dry on the stalks. This enables seeds to take up all the goodness of the dying plant. You then cut off the seed, place it in a paper bag, and hang it in a dry, dark place for a few weeks. After this, you can harvest seed from the pods or casings and store it in airtight, screw-top jars or plastic containers kept in a dark, dry, and cool place.
Total seed-saving buffs keep their seed in glass jars in the bottom of the fridge
The Plant Variety Protection Act of 1970 (PVPA) and Plant Patent Act of 1930 (PPA) regulations state that seed companies hold patents on seeds they claim to have improved, and farmers pay a series of levies to keep PVPA and PPA operating so that they may have access to the improved seeds. Growers are not allowed to share seed grown from these improved seeds with neighbors or other growers, as this violates the intellectual property rights of the seed company that owns the patent for the improved seed sold to the farmer.
Global seed companies have created “terminator seed” which produces plants that cannot procreate. This compels farmers to buy new seed from the seed company each year.
Patenting seeds is like patenting the air we must breathe, or taxing the rain that falls on our gardens. While these debates rage on about who has rights to seeds and who has not, be on the safe side, obtain heirloom variety seeds, grow them, and set up your own little seed bank.
Assuming you have garlic and fresh ginger on hand, sauté these with onion and olive oil over fairly high heat. Pour in a little water or vegetable stock to create a steam cloud. Add the firmest vegetable, toss one minute, then the next firmest, toss, and so on, leaving tender greens till last. Add a squirt of soy sauce. Add chutney, sauces, grated cheese, or spices, and either cooked rice or pasta, for a very repeatable meal
Make your own chai–spicy Indian tea. In a glass jar, stir 3 tablespoons of cinnamon a tablespoon each of ground coriander and ginger, a teaspoon of ground cardamom, and half a teaspoon each of five-spice and turmeric. Add a teaspoon to boiling water. Good way to chase away a headache.
Reduce cooking time of beans and legumes by placing them in the freezer for a day. After soaking beans overnight, drain and rinse, boil vigorously in fresh water for ten minutes, then simmer till soft. Add pinches of aniseed, caraway, or fennel to the water to counteract flatulence.
Asparagus has male and female plants. The females are slim and pretty, too thin to cook, and produce tiny vermillion-seed berries. The familiar fat spears come from the male plants
For pesto, in a blender, reduce a bowl of Arugula leaves to a pulp while drizzling in a little olive oil and a tablespoon of lemon juice, gradually adding a cup of pine nuts (or walnuts or cashews) and blend. Add two cloves of garlic, 2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese, and blend. Drizzle in more olive oil, if needed.
For cilantro, start picking leaves when stems are 12 inches
Eggplant and red peppers can be fried in oil in julienned strips with red onions and garlic, then frozen in containers to pull out for an impromptu lunch–great with Italian bread and avocado. Or purée eggplant, adding salt and pepper, and freeze for later use
The half-empty freezer compartment presently contains the following 2-person meals:
- 9 packets of podded broad beans
- 3 containers of cooked eggplant with garlic
- 2 large containers of tomato, onion, and garlic pasta sauce
- 2 containers of plain tomato paste
- 2 containers of arugula pesto
- 1 container of hummus
- 2 containers cooked beet salad
- 2 containers of stewed quince
- 2 containers of fried tofu
- 3 large containers of lentil soup
- 2 containers of pumpkin soup
- half a bar of homemade cake
- 1 bag frozen peas from the shop
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