Guide to storing fruits and vegatables


Posted by RobPatton | Posted in Harvest | Posted on 04-12-2011

Stolen from


Unless you belong to a CSA or grow your own garden, produce can take up a huge chunk of your grocery budget, and throwing away food can also feel like throwing away money. As a former professional cook and produce worker, however, I know that getting the most out of your produce can be tricky if you don’t know the best way to store or prep it. (See also: Waste Not, Want Not: Stop Throwing Away Your Food!)

A note about freezing in general — there’s less chance of freezer burn when you use a sealable freezer-weight bag; you can also suck out the air with a drinking straw to ensure that there’s no air in the bag before you close it. I have also found that freezer bags are ideal when you are really hungry and impatient, because you can rip them open and toss them into whatever you are cooking to shorten the defrost time. Freezing is a much faster and easier way of preserving food than canning or putting in jars for the winter. For vegetables, you just need to blanche them first. There are many methods to blanching vegetables, and cooking times vary depending on the size and thickness. All you really need is some basic blanching instructions and a little practice.

Whatever your preferred method may be, I’ve rounded up all 25 items from the previous produce worker’s guide to picking produce and laid out some basic prepping and storage tips to help you get the most out of your favorite fruits and vegetables.


The key to making an avocado last for a few days is to save the pit once you cut it open. I learned this trick from a chef when I worked at a ranch in New Mexico, where guacamole was part of our daily menu. Now, any time I have leftover guac, I place a pit in it before I store it in the fridge (a little lemon juice can also do the trick). If you only used half of the fruit and want to save the rest for later, keep the pit inside the half you want to save to prevent it from turning brown. I learned recently that you can also freeze avocados. Mash the avocado as if you were making guacamole, mix in a small amount of lemon juice, and place the mixture in a freezer bag. For suggestions and photos demonstrating different ways to cut an avocado, check out this Simply Recipes post on preparing avacados (I always use the knife method to remove the pit, but I recommend not using this method unless you are comfortable with a knife).


Other than the peel-and-eat method, there are a number of ways to make bananas last, even for bananas that have already started to turn dark brown. You can always turn overripe bananas into bread, pies, pudding, smoothies, and, if you are feeling industrious, use them to make your own baby food. Freezing them is another option if you don’t eat or use them right away. It’s a good idea to freeze them in slices, though I know some people who peel them and freeze them whole. If you don’t want them to ripen too quickly after bringing them home, you can put them in the refrigerator. Keep in mind that they will not continue to ripen in the fridge, so make sure they are ready to eat before you do this.


Most stores sell basil in large bunches, which is frustrating when you only need a few leaves for a recipe. Or if you have a garden, you know that once basil turns to seed or gets too tall, it is too bitter to eat. Pesto is always a way to turn all that extra basil into a meal, and it is easy to freeze (better to leave out the cheese and add when you are heating it up). When I’m not in the mood for pesto, or I’m just too lazy to make it, I like to chop up basil and freeze it with water in ice cube trays so that I have small amounts of it to cook with after the garden has been put to bed. You can do this with any fresh herb, and it’s a smart way to use up what you don’t use from bunches you get in the store.


Beets and other root vegetables tend to get soft when you store them for too long in the refrigerator, especially during the summer if your fridge tends to “sweat” like mine. The moisture makes the beets break down and lose their firmness. Like carrots, beets last longer when you peel and grate them. Beets make a mess any time you prepare them, but especially when grating them, so remember the apron and get creative. I love shredded beets on salads, and they make a nice garnish for meat and rice dishes. You can use a standard cheese grater, but remember to peel them first. Steaming them and adding a little lemon juice before storing them will stay fresh for up to a week at least, and they make a great quick snack.


No matter what kind of berry it is, it tends to have a short life span in my house, and the raspberries from my bushes rarely make it inside before they are eaten. I will say that most berries are delicate and shrivel within a few days of picking. Unless you are eating them immediately or turning them into a pie, freezing berries is the best way to extend their lives. The good news is that you don’t have to do a lot of prep, with the exception of strawberries. Wash them if they need it, and when they are dry stick them in a freezer bag.


While broccoli will last in the refrigerator for up to a week without any prep, it will last a little longer if you cut the tops and store them in a container. You can also blanche and freeze them if you like to keep a regular stock of veggies in your freezer. For most people, the only question about getting the most out of broccoli is what to do with the stalks. Most stores sell broccoli by weight, which means you are also paying for the stalk. Even though it is a little tougher than the head, it is a versatile ingredient if you know what to do it with it. Peel and slice the stalk to toss in a stir fry, use it in a vegetable stock, or chop it into small chunks to throw in a pasta sauce or stew. My favorite use for the stalk is to grate it or chop it finely and make broccoli slaw. You can replace the cabbage with broccoli stalks, or you can add them as an extra ingredient. I think the stalks are just as tasty as the crowns, and you will get a lot more out of the cost of broccoli if you find a way to use them.


Other than grating your carrots to extend their shelf life at home, you can also turn soft carrots into juice or other purees. I like to make carrot ginger dressing because it’s versatile, and you can customize most carrot dressing recipes to match your tastes. Blanching and freezing most vegetables, especially root veggies, is best to do when the vegetable is fresh. This is an excellent option if you have a garden or belong to a CSA, since there’s often more than enough for an entire family in one share.


Citrus needs to stay cold unless you are going to eat it soon after bringing it home. The one type of fruit that tends to go bad in my fridge is citrus. I don’t know why, but I always remember that blood orange when it’s too late, and I find it shoved in a corner covered in blue fuzz. Like most items in this list, my recommendation is to peel it and place the slices in a clear container in the fridge. This method also helps you remember what is in your refrigerator, so you are more likely to eat it before it goes bad. Or you can make juice. Citrus juicers are cheap and easy to find.


Even if you’ve already read the article on how to pick produce at the store, this bears repeating — corn will last longer if you buy it with the husk and don’t shuck it until you are ready to cook it. The husk keeps the corn moist and fresh. Also, keep it in the refrigerator until you are ready to eat it. Most stores will display corn out of the cooler because customers tend to buy what’s right in front of them in a beautiful display, but our department would take down the display at the end of the day and put the corn in the cooler overnight (same for other perishables that you might typically see displayed out on the floor). Corn can also be blanched and frozen, either on the cob or cut and cooked slowly for a cream-style corn.


Cukes will last several days without any prep in the fridge. But they last a little longer if you take an extra minute to slice them and store them in a container in the fridge, or put them in separate plastic bags for ready-to-go snacks. Making a cucumber-and-onion salad with your favorite vinaigrette will extend their lives, but they can get mushy. When slicing cukes for salads, you can also make them a little fancier with a potato slicer. Just peel four or five small strips in equally-sized intervals, from the tip to tip, and then slice as you normally would.


You will find many eggplant varieties out there, and this is one produce item I would recommend not cutting before using it. What’s most important to consider when prepping eggplant is that it tends to have a bitter flavor unless you press all the liquid out before cooking. There are many ways to press and prep eggplant, and I’ve picked out a short YouTube video that shows you one of the simplest ways to press eggplant using Kosher salt. The longer you leave the salt on the eggplant slices, the less bitter it will be.


Unless they are fresh, figs should always be stored in the refrigerator. Even if they are fresh, you should eat them within a few days after they ripen, or put them in the fridge until you are ready to use them. Figs are a great addition to any holiday or winter dish. Try dried figs on salads or slice them and add to a grilled cheese using a strong cheese such as Gruyere or Fontina. If you love lamb like me, try this recipe for leg of lamb with balsamic-fig-basil sauce. It takes about two hours, but it is completely worth it!

Green Beans

Beans will break down faster in a plastic bag, particularly if there’s moisture in the bag. Freeze them if you aren’t going to use them right away. Blanching green beans is easy, but you want to make sure they are cooked but still crisp, so be sure not to leave them in the boiling water for longer than about a minute. Also, be sure to drain and dry the beans completely to avoid freezer burn. I like to eat green beans raw if they are really fresh, but in the middle of the winter, they tend to lose their luster. No matter how you choose to prepare them, make sure you don’t over-cook them. The same goes for asparagus and broccoli.


Even the healthiest bunch of kale should be eaten within a few days, before it starts to wilt. Cutting it up won’t make it last longer. If the bunch has started to wilt, simply chop off the ends and soak it in warm water. Then put the kale in the refrigerator for a few minutes until it looks alive again. The easiest way to remove the leafy, edible parts is to hold the stem at the bottom and pull the greens away from the stalk. Kale cooks quickly, so unless you are putting it in a soup or stew, you don’t need to leave it in the pan for very long (five minutes usually, or until it starts to get soft).

One of the easiest side dishes to make is garlicky kale. Finely chop some fresh garlic, using whatever amount fits your taste buds, and saute the garlic in a few tablespoons of olive oil on a low heat for about five minutes or so. Add the kale, and salt and pepper to taste; then stir around the mixture until the kale turns bright green (or purple depending on the variety). I highly recommend using a cast iron skillet if you have one. I’ve found that kale doesn’t tend to freeze well, but you can certainly try it. I would recommend not leaving the kale in the boiling water for more than 30 seconds. If you like to make your own veggie stock, save the stalks to add to your mix.


Unless you live in a warmer climate, the lettuce you buy at the grocery store in the winter has probably traveled thousands of miles to get there, leaving it dried out and wilted. Reviving a wilted head of lettuce is similar to prepping kale and other leafy greens. Trim off the bottom of the heads and soak it in warm water before refrigerating it for a few minutes just before you are ready to prep it. You may need to rinse it again and send it through a salad spinner before making your salad.

Romaine tends to be one of the heartier and more versatile varieties of lettuce, which is why I usually go for romaine, especially in the winter. Also, I try to find fresh romaine instead of the packaged romaine hearts, since those tend to be more expensive. One way to save time during the work week is to prep your lettuce ahead of time. Be sure to rinse and dry it as well as you can before chopping it. Then store the chopped lettuce in an airtight container in the fridge. I’ve found that it lasts up to a week longer than keeping a fresh head in the crisper.


Buying melons that have been cut in half and wrapped in plastic saves you prep time, but the melon will not last as long. Try to find fresh melons when they are in season. If you are only using half of the melon, and you need to wrap the other half in plastic wrap, remove the seeds and pulp in the middle. The melon will get a lot mushier if you don’t. Watermelon tends to last longer if you cut it into large pieces or chunks and store in airtight containers in the fridge.


Mushrooms tend not to last more than a week, no matter what you do to them. However, it is important that you don’t wash them until you are ready to use them. It’s best to store them in a paper bag in the fridge if you don’t prep them. You can slice them and store them for a few days after, but make sure you use a good container, and remember to wash and dry them thoroughly before prepping or storing them. You can also freeze mushrooms, but be sure to use them within three months. Dried mushrooms are always a nice addition to soups and stews in the winter.


If I know I’m making a recipe that calls for onions in the coming week, I will sometimes prep them when I get home from the store. All you need to do is dice or slice them and put them in a container in the fridge, but try to avoid plastic containers since they will retain the strong odor. Sliced red onions are great on salads and sandwiches, and it’s always nice to have them on hand. If you don’t prep your onions immediately, store them in a cool dark place (root cellars are ideal if you have one). Try to avoid putting onions in the fridge since the moisture can cause them to break down faster, and avoid plastic bags for the same reason.


Unless they are not ripe yet, pears should be stored in the refrigerator. You can always slice them for snacks throughout the week, but be aware that they turn brown faster than most fruits. Use a little lemon juice to keep them from getting dark spots.


As with onions, peppers can be sliced or chopped ahead of time or stored whole. Either way, they should be stored in the refrigerator. Sweet peppers are also a nice addition to grilled cheeses. My favorite grilled cheese is cheddar, avocado, Dijon or spicy mustard, and sliced orange peppers. You can use tomato as well, but I prefer the crispness of the pepper.


Potatoes and onions are very similar in that they should be stored in a dry, dark place rather than the refrigerator. Potatoes tend to turn brown soon after you cut them open, so use lemon juice, or soak thick slices in water overnight for excellent oven fries. Soaking them keeps them from drying out when you bake them.


Like other root veggies, radishes will go soft more quickly in a fridge. Chop, grate, or slice them and store in containers. If you buy an entire bunch, cut off the greens once you get them home, but don’t toss them. The greens are edible, and they are a delightful addition to soups or raw on a salad. Be sure to chop them finely, since they can be stringy and hard to chew.


Try to avoid storing tomatoes in the refrigerator unless you are chopping them to cut down on prep time for a later meal. Green or less-ripe tomatoes will ripen after they’ve been picked, but you have to leave them in a warm spot, such as a sunny window, or in a brown paper bag. Placing them near apples can also quicken the ripening process. If you do prep and store them in the fridge, make sure you use them within a few days. They tend to get mushy and lose their flavor after.

Winter Squash

Winter squash should be stored outside of the refrigerator, unless you are preparing it for a recipe. Always peel any kind of winter squash, and to make your life easier and to avoid wasting any of the meat, cook the squash in the oven at around 350°F until the squash is soft but not mushy. This makes it much easier to peel. But make sure the squash has cooled off before you try peeling it. Steaming or baking beets and turnips also makes peeling much easier and less wasteful.

Zucchini (and Summer Squash)

Zucchini and summer squash are some of the most versatile vegetables to use and can add variety to any dish. You can slice, julienne, or chop them, leaving the skin on or peeling it according to your personal tastes, and store in containers for later use. They also store fairly well without being prepped, but they start to break down after about a week depending on the shape they are in when you buy them. Because it is moisture-rich, you don’t necessarily have to blanch zucchini if you want to freeze it. If you plan to make zucchini bread, all you have to do is grate and measure out whatever the recipe calls for, and then place each serving in a freezer bag. When you thaw it, just remove the excess water. For a southern flare, try fried zucchini or summer squash. You don’t have to use breading if you don’t have any; just make sure you use enough oil to get them golden brown. Fried okra or fried green tomatoes do require some kind of breading for optimal flavor (and authenticity).

Late Crop of peppers and grapes came in this week.


Posted by RobPatton | Posted in Blooming/Producing | Posted on 25-10-2011

Late Crop of peppers and grapes came in this week, Alex was willing to eat them right off the plant, but I haven’t tried yet.  I expect they will be part of dinner this week.


More Watermelons


Posted by RobPatton | Posted in Blooming/Producing | Posted on 31-07-2011

Here is another one, we suffered from late planting this year.

2011 Planting updates


Posted by RobPatton | Posted in New Plants | Posted on 20-02-2011

So I’ve updated the initial planting this year to 264 new plants from seed.  I’m spending my free time trying to get everything stocked up for the warmer weather.

Currently from seed: (each row is 6 plants)

Row    Type
1    Papya
2    Papya
3    Papya
4    Brussel Sprouts
5    Sweet Banana Peppers
6    Sweet Banana Peppers
7    Spinach
8    Lettuce
9    Kale
10    Kale
11    Spinach
12    Sweet Mix Peppers
13    Pimieno
14    Pimieno
15    CA Wonder Peppers
16    CA Wonder Peppers
17    Hungarian Hot Wax Peppers
18    Hungarian Hot Wax Peppers
19    4689 Peppers
20    4689 Peppers
21    4689 Peppers
22    Yellow Pear Tomatoes
23    Yellow Pear Tomatoes
24    Yellow Pear Tomatoes
25    Basil
26    Cilantro
27    Spaghetti Squash
28    Giant Watermelon
29    Sweet Watermelon
30    Sweet Watermelon
31    Super Heavyweight Hybrid pepper
32    Super Heavyweight Hybrid pepper
33    Giant Marconi Hybrid pepper
34    Giant Marconi Hybrid pepper
35    Chinese Giant pepper
36    Chinese Giant pepper
37    California Wonder PS pepper
38    California Wonder PS pepper
39    Giant Aconcagua pepper
40    Giant Aconcagua pepper
41    Bounty Hybrid pepper
42    Bounty Hybrid pepper
43    Virginia Sweets heirloom tomato
44    Virginia Sweets heirloom tomato

Fruits and Vegatables best bang for the buck


Posted by RobPatton | Posted in Harvest | Posted on 12-02-2011

Productive Produce

Posted by Eric Hess

02/10/2011 10:30 AM
Cabbage, watermelon, and greens end up on top.

Cabbage-migeeYesterday, Jen posted on getting the most bang for your buck in the produce section. By comparing the price-per-cup of various fruits and vegetables to their ANDI score, she arrived at a rough ranking of the best, cheapest sources to get your vitamins.

(Note: neither of us is totally sold on the ANDI scoring method, but it at least provides some food for thought—pardon my pun.)

She didn’t have time to track down the whole list, but I did.

Here are veggies:

Veggies ranked

And here are fruit:

Fruits ranked

(Note: These figures were arrived at by dividing each item’s ANDI score by the average price per pound provided by the USDA–found here in Jen’s post.)

Jen already highlighted the smart choices: cabbage, leafy greens, carrots, and cauliflower for veggies, and watermelon, plums, oranges, and apples for fruit.

What shouldn’t you waste your money on? I wasn’t surprised to see corn on the bottom—fresh corn is often expensive and it’s starch-laden interior lacks much in the way of nutrients. Green beans, winter squash, and artichokes all ended up at the bottom, too. Potatoes didn’t rank as badly as I expected, but that’s just because they’re so darn cheap.

For fruit, grapes came in dead last—not shocking since they’re largely water. The most expensive fruit, raspberries, came in third, and despite being cheap nectarines landed in fifth.

For the most part, it’s all pretty intuitive. The things Mom always tried to get us to eat—like greens and brussels sprouts—look pretty good. But let’s be honest: if you’re fretting the choice between broccoli and okra—and not between Cap’n Crunch and SpaghettiO’s—you’re already way ahead of the curve.

Cabbage photo by Sightline staffer Migee Han.

New Supply Order today….


Posted by RobPatton | Posted in New Plants | Posted on 09-02-2011

While looking for local (inside Florida) vendors, stumbled upon website.

These guys focus on Tomato, Peppers, and Eggplants.   I loaded up on some nice looking options for peppers for this season’s growing!  I’m excited, both for some tasty peppers, as well as some fantastic pictures to come..

#9329A Chinese    Large Quantity 9329A –         1       $ 9.25       $ 9.25
Giant             Chinese Giant
1/16 Ounce $9.25
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
#9146A Giant      Large Quantity 9146A –         1       $ 5.25       $ 5.25
Aconcagua         Giant Aconcagua
1/32 Ounce $5.25
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
#9266A Super      Large Quantity 9266A –         1      $ 11.00      $ 11.00
Heavyweight       Super Heavyweight Hybrid
Hybrid            1/32 Ounce $11.00
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
#9037A Giant      Large Quantity 9037A –         1       $ 9.95       $ 9.95
Marconi Hybrid    Giant Marconi Hybrid
1/32 Ounce $9.95
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
#9254A            Large Quantity 9254A –         1       $ 8.70       $ 8.70
California        California Wonder PS
Wonder PS         1/16 Ounce $8.70
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
#9366A Bounty     Large Quantity 9366A –         1      $ 11.00      $ 11.00
Hybrid            Bounty Hybrid
1/32 Ounce $11.00

Top Ten Most Nutritious Vegetables and How to Grow Them in Your Garden


Posted by RobPatton | Posted in News and Reports | Posted on 08-02-2011

Top Ten Most Nutritious Vegetables and How to Grow Them in Your Garden

by Colleen Vanderlinden on 02. 8.11

containerkitchengarden.jpgPhoto Credit: katmere via Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License.

A perfectly ripe, juicy tomato, still warm from the sun. Sweet carrots, pulled from the garden minutes (or even seconds!) before they’re eaten. Growing your own vegetables is one of those activities that balances practicality and indulgence. In addition to the convenience of having the fixings for a salad or light supper right outside your door (or on your windowsill), when you grow your own vegetables, you’re getting the most nutritional bang for your buck as well. Vegetables start losing nutrients as soon as they’re harvested, and quality diminishes as sugars are turned into starches. For the tastiest veggies with the best nutrition, try growing a few of these nutrient-dense foods in your own garden. And don’t let the lack of a yard stop you – all of them can be grown in containers as well.

Grow These Good-for-You Veggies

broccpeasbeans.jpgPhoto Credits (left to right): Wanko, Qfamily, George Scholz, via Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License.

1. Broccoli

Broccoli is high in calcium, iron, and magnesium, as well as Vitamin A, B6, and C. In fact, one cup of raw broccoli florets provides 130% of your daily Vitamin C requirement.

  • How to Grow Broccoli
  • Grow Broccoli in Containers: One broccoli plant per pot, pots should be 12 to 16 inches deep.
  • What to Watch Out For: Cabbage worm. If you start seeing pretty white butterflies fluttering around your broccoli, you’re guaranteed to start seeing little green worms all over your broccoli plants. To avoid this, cover your broccoli plants with floating row cover or lightweight bed sheets. If you start seeing cabbage worms, simply pick them off by hand.

2. Peas

There is nothing like peas grown right in your own garden – the tender sweetness of a snap pea just plucked from the vine is unlike anything you can buy in at a store. Aside from being absolutely delicious, peas are high in fiber, iron, magnesium, potassium, and Vitamin A, B6, and C.

  • How to Grow Peas
  • Grow Peas in Containers: Sow peas approximately 2 inches apart in a pot that is at least 10 inches deep. Provide support for peas to climb up.
  • What to Watch Out For: Hot weather. Once the weather turns hot, pea production will pretty much shut down. Grow peas in early spring and late summer/autumn, or any time of year when temperatures are consistently between 40 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

3. Beans (especially navy beans, great northern beans, kidney beans)

While snap beans (green beans/wax beans) are a great addition to any garden, it’s the beans we grow as dried beans that are real nutritional powerhouses. Dry beans, in general, are high in iron, fiber, manganese, and phosphorous.

  • How to Grow Beans
  • Grow Beans in Containers: Bush beans are your best option for growing in containers. Plant beans four inches apart in a container that is at least 12 inches deep.
  • What to Watch Out For: Harvest at the right time. Harvest dry beans when the pods have completely dried on the vine. The pods should be light brown, and you should be able to feel the hard beans inside. Shell the beans, and let them sit out a few days to ensure that they’re completely dry before storing them in jars in a cool, dark, dry place.

brusselstompepper.jpgPhoto Credits (left to right): norwichnuts, photon, S. Diddy, via Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License.

4. Brussels Sprouts

The bane of many a childhood, Brussels sprouts get a bad wrap mostly due to overcooking. When prepared right, Brussels sprouts are sweet, tender, and delicious. They also provide tons of fiber, magnesium, potassium, and riboflavin, as well as high levels of Vitamins A, B6, and C.

  • How to Grow Brussels Sprouts
  • Grow Brussels Sprouts in Containers: Grow one plant per 16-inch deep container.
  • What to Watch Out For: Cabbage worms (see “Broccoli, above.)

5. Tomatoes

Fresh, homegrown tomatoes are the reason many gardeners get into vegetable gardening in the first place. There’s just nothing that compares to eating a perfectly ripe tomato, still warm from the sun. Tomatoes are also incredibly good for us, packing plenty of fiber, iron, magnesium, niacin, potassium, and Vitamin A, B6, and C. They’re also a great source of the antioxidant lycopene.

  • How to Grow Tomatoes
  • Grow Tomatoes in Containers: Container sizes will vary depending on the variety you’re growing. If you’re growing an indeterminate variety, your container will need to be at least 18 inches deep. For determinate varieties, 12 inches is a good depth, and for dwarf or “patio” type tomatoes, 8 inches is perfect. One tomato plant per pot.
  • What to Watch Out For: Tomato horn worm can be a problem in many areas – these large caterpillars should be removed by hand whenever you see them. Also watch out for signs of blight, which is a real problem in many parts of the U.S.

6. Red Bell Peppers

Red bell peppers are high in potassium, riboflavin, and Vitamins A, B6, and C – in fact, one cup of red bell pepper packs an amazing 317% of the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin C and 93% of the recommended Vitamin A.

beetsamaranthcarrots.jpgPhoto Credits (left to right): La Grande Farmer’s Market, SummerTomato, color line, via Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License.

7. Beets

Beets are a great “two-fer” crop – you can harvest the beet roots, of course, but you can also harvest and eat the greens. Young beet greens are delicious when added raw to a salad, and larger beet greens can be sauteed as a quick side dish or used the way you’d use other greens such as spinach. Beet roots are very high in iron, potassium, and vitamin C. Beet greens are even better, as they are high in iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and Vitamins A, B6, and C.

  • How to Grow Beets
  • Grow Beets in Containers: Plant beet seeds three inches apart in a container that is twelve inches deep. Because each beet seed is actually a cluster of seeds, be sure to thin the seedlings to one per cluster. Thinnings can be added to salads or sandwiches.
  • What to Watch Out For: Knowing when to harvest. Beet roots are at their best when they are harvested small – between one and two inches across. At this size, they are sweet and tender. Larger beets tend to be kind of woody and less flavorful.

8. Leaf Amaranth

Leaf amaranth is a less-common vegetable that is well worth a try in your own garden. The leaves have a sweet and slightly tangy flavor that works well in a variety of dishes, from stir-fries and soups to simply steaming it all by itself. As a bonus, leaf amaranth is one of the few heat-tolerant greens. It won’t bolt in the heat of summer the way spinach and kale are prone to. Nutritionally, leaf amaranth is very high in calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, riboflavin, zinc, and Vitamins A, B6, and C. Everyone should be growing this!

  • How to Grow Leaf Amaranth
  • Growing Leaf Amaranth in Containers: Scatter the tiny seeds over the soil’s surface in a pot that is at least 8 inches deep. Harvest the leaves when they are two to four inches tall. You will be able to get at least two or three harvest before you’ll have to sow more seeds.
  • What to Watch Out For: Leaf amaranth is fairly easy to grow, and relatively problem-free. Rarely, leaf miners can become a problem.

9. Carrots

Carrots are at their sweetest, crunchiest best when freshly harvested from the garden. These icons of healthy eating deserve their “good-for-you” rep – they’re very high in fiber, manganese, niacin, potassium, and Vitamins A, B6, and C. Their only drawback is that they do tend to be high in sugar, so if you’re watching your carb intake, you’ll want to limit the amount of carrots you eat.

  • How to Grow Carrots
  • Grow Carrots in Containers: Sow carrot seeds two to three inches apart in a pot that is at least twelve inches deep. Look for shorter varieties, such as ‘Thumbelina,’ or ‘Danver’s Half Long.’
  • What to Watch Out For: Harvesting at the perfect size. Carrots are at their tastiest when harvested small. Leaving them in the ground too long can result in overly large, woody carrots. You’ll also want to make sure to keep your carrots evenly moist, as letting the soil dry out too often can also result in somewhat bitter, fibrous carrots.

leafygreensall.jpgPhoto Credits (left to right): Oakley Originals, djprybyl, djprybyl, via Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License.

10. Leafy Greens

OK, I cheated here. I can’t recommend just ONE leafy green, because they are all incredibly good for us, as well as delicious — kale, collards, spinach, turnip or dandelion greens — how can you possibly choose just one? In general, the “green leafies” contain high amounts of calcium, iron, potassium, and Vitamins A, B6, and C.

  • How to Grow Kale and Other Leafy Greens
  • Grow Greens in Containers: Grow one kale or collard plant per ten inch deep pot. Other greens can be grown a few plants to a pot — they should be planted at least 4 inches apart and harvested small.
  • What to Watch Out For: Heat and cabbage worms. Most leafy greens are cool-weather crops, so they’re best grown in spring and fall in most areas – hot weather will cause them to bolt. In addition, many of these greens are members of the Brassicas family, which means they are prone to cabbage worm infestations. Control them with the same methods outlined in the “Broccoli” section, above.

Try growing one or two (or all!) of these nutrient-dense, delicious vegetables in your own garden, and you’ll get double the health benefits: healthy food and time spent outdoors, nurturing your plants.

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Looks like the blueberries are blooming!


Posted by RobPatton | Posted in Blooming/Producing, New Plants | Posted on 02-02-2011

Came home today and noticed that the blueberry plants have started blooming.

A little planting done. 162 Plants, late is better than never.


Posted by RobPatton | Posted in New Plants | Posted on 24-01-2011

New Plants for 2011

162 New Plants started

Got out there Sunday morning and get a few things started. Been pretty busy with things, and it was nice to get back into the swing of things.  The water was COLD, though.

So far we’re trying for:

Brussel Sprouts
Sweet Banana Peppers
Sweet Mix Peppers
Pimiento Peppers
CA Wonder Peppers
Hungarian Hot Wax Peppers
4689 Bell Peppers
Yellow pear low acide tomatoes
Spaghetti Squash

Buy or make your own Organic soil…. Some notes and recipes.


Posted by RobPatton | Posted in Soil Options | Posted on 29-12-2010

Appendix 1

Sources of Organic Potting Media, Untreated Peat Moss, Coir, and Other Approved Ingredients

It bears repeating: Organic producers should always consult their certification agents before purchasing brand name products, especially those with unfamiliar ingredients.

Beautiful Land Products
P.O. Box 179
West Branch, IA 52358

Web site states that all potting media meets criteria for organic certification.

Cashton Farm Supply
199 Front Street
Cashton, WI

Long-time supplier of products to organic farmers — organic fertilizers, non-organic potting mixes.

Johnny’s Selected Seeds
955 Benton Ave.
Winslow, ME 04901

Compost-based organic fertilizer products (two kinds).

Lambert Peat Moss, Inc.
106 Lambert Rd.
Riviere-Ouelle, QB
G0L 2C0 Canada
1-800-463-4083 (U.S.)
418-852-3352 FAX

Produces OMRI-Listed peat moss products: Jeff’s Natural Solution, Ferti-Lome Pure Canadian, Lambert Canadian, and Canadian Gold.

Millenium Soils (Coir Div. of Vgrove, Inc.)
111 Fourth Avenue, Ste. 371
St. Catherines, ONT L2S 3P5
905-687-8635 FAX

Organic Mechanics Soil Company, LLC.
110 E. Biddle St.
West Chester, PA 19380

Manufacturer of organic, peat-free, compost-based potting soil, sold to independent garden centers, natural food stores, nurseries, and landscapers. Products include a Premium Blend (OMRI-Listed), Container Blend, Planting Mix and Germination Blend.

Peaceful Valley Farm Supply
P.O. Box 2209
Grass Valley, CA 95945

Long-time supplier to the organic community.

Seven Springs Farm
426 Jerry Lane, NE. Floyd County
Check, VA 24072
540-651-3228 FAX

Carries McEnroe Organic Farm growing mixes. Catalog claims these meet NOP requirements for organic production. Also carries asbestos-free vermiculite and perlite.

Sun Gro Horticulture, Inc.
425-641-0138 FAX

Sun Gro manufactures about 20 different OMRI-Listed transplant media products. Most are marketed under the Sunshine, Sunny Grower, Alberta Rose, or Black Gold labels.

Superior Peat, Inc.
1700 Carmi Avenue
Penticton, BC V2A 8V5
250-493-4475 FAX

OMRI-Listed products include Superior Peat Black Peat and Superior Peat Peat Moss.

Vermont Compost Company
1996 Main St.
Montpelier, VT 05602
802-223-9028 FAX

Product brochure claims that all products are acceptable for organic production. Includes several potting mixes, composted manure, sphagnum, vermiculite, perlite.

Appendix 2
Recommended Guides for Learning to Make Potting Media

— For General Information on Potting Media —

Growth Media for Container Grown Ornamental Plants. Revised edition. Extension Bulletin 241. By Dewayne Ingram, Richard Henley, and Thomas Yeager. 1993 (reviewed 2003). 21 p. Published by the University of Florida, Gainesville, FL.

This publication can be downloaded from the University of Florida IFAS Extension website. Not available in hardcopy except as single copies to Florida residents via Cooperative Extension.

The Fruit, The Seed, and The Soil. John Innes Leaflets #1–9. By W.J.C. Lawrence. 1948. Published by the John Innes Horticultural Institution, Bayfordbury, Hertford, UK; printed by Oliver & Boyd, London. Order from Oliver & Boyd, 39A Welbeck Street, W.1, London, England.

— For Specialized Information on Organic Potting Media —

The New Organic Grower. 1995. By Eliot Coleman. Chelsea Green Publishing Co., White River Junction, VT. 340 p. (Chapter 14 is especially useful.) Available for $24.95, plus $3 for shipping and handling, from:

Acres USA
P.O. Box 91299
Austin, TX 78709
512-892-4448 FAX

The Organic Gardener’s Home Reference. 1994. By Tanya Denckla. Storey Communications, Pownal, VT. 274 p. (Chapter 1 is especially useful.) Listed for $14.99. Available through most bookstores and online at

Organic Transplant Production for the Advanced Market Gardener. This was the title of a workshop given by Dr. John Biernbaum, Michigan State University, and Chris Blanchard, Rock Spring Farm, Spring Grove, Minnesota. It was presented March 2001 as part of the Organic University program offered by the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) in conjunction with its Upper Midwest Organic Conference. Participants were provided with an excellent manual. MOSES plans to continue offering the University program and should be contacted regarding scheduling and availability of the manual. Contact:

P.O. Box 339
Spring Valley, WI 54767

Sustainable Vegetable Production from Start-up to Market. 1999. By Vernon Grubinger. Cornell Cooperative Extension, Ithaca, NY. 268 p. (Contains sections on composting and on transplant production.) Available for $38, plus $6 for shipping and handling, from:

152 Riley-Robb Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853
607-254-8770 FAX

Growing 101 Herbs That Heal. 2000. By Tammi Hartung. Storey Books, Pownal, VT. 256 p. (Includes author’s favorite potting mix for starting herbs. Organic production.) Listed for $24.95. Available through most bookstores and online at

Appendix 3
Recipes for Growing Media

These recipes come from a variety of sources and present a wide range of options for working with organically acceptable materials. Because the sources are diverse, units of measurement are also different. When the origin of a recipe is known, or further details and recommendations are known, they have been provided. Note that several recipes are intended for use with Ladbrooke “soil blockers.” Soil blockers are hand tools designed to form free-standing blocks of potting soil, which serve as a substitute for peat pots, seedling flats, etc. The system has been popular among small-scale producers. One source of soil blockers is:

Peaceful Valley Farm Supply
P.O. Box 2209
Grass Valley, CA 95945
(530) 272-4769.

The first recipe shown is a classic soil-based formula; the second is a soilless recipe based on the Cornell Mix concept.

Classic soil-based mix

  • 1/3 mature compost or leaf mold, screened
  • 1/3 garden topsoil
  • 1/3 sharp sand

Note: This mix is heavier than modern peat mixes, but still has good drainage. Compost promotes a healthy soil mix that can reduce root diseases. Vermiculite or perlite can be used instead of sand. Organic fertilizer can be added to this base.

Organic substitute for Cornell Mix

  • 1/2 cubic yard sphagnum peat
  • 1/2 cubic yard vermiculite
  • 10 pounds bone meal
  • 5 pounds ground limestone
  • 5 pounds blood meal

The following four recipes were found in the March–April 1989 issue of the Ozark Organic Growers Association Newsletter. The formulas are credited to the Farm and Garden Project at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Seedling mix for Styrofoam seedling flats

  • 2 parts compost
  • 2 parts peat moss
  • 1 part vermiculite, pre-wet

Sowing mix

  • 5 parts compost
  • 4 parts soil
  • 1 to 2 parts sand
  • 1 to 2 parts leaf mold, if available
  • 1 part peat moss, pre-wet and sifted.

Note: All ingredients are sifted through a 1/4-inch screen. For every shovelful of peat, add two tablespoons of lime to offset the acidity.

Prick-out mix for growing seedlings to transplant size

  • 6 parts compost
  • 3 parts soil
  • 1 to 2 parts sand
  • 1 to 2 parts aged manure
  • 1 part peat moss, pre-wet and sifted
  • 1 to 2 parts leaf mold, if available
  • 1 6-inch pot bone meal

Special potting mix

  • 1 wheelbarrow-load sifted soil
  • 1 wheelbarrow-load aged manure
  • 1 wheelbarrow-load sifted old flat mix
  • 5 shovelfuls sifted peat
  • 2 4-inch pots bone meal
  • 2 4-inch pots trace mineral powder
  • 2 4-inch pots blood meal

The following recipes are taken from John Jeavons’s How to Grow More Vegetables…, Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA.

Classic planting mix

One part each by weight:

  • compost (sifted, if possible)
  • sharp sand
  • turf loam (made by composting sections of turf grass grown in good soil)

Note: the mixture should be placed in growing flats on top of a 1/8-inch layer of oak leaf mold to provide drainage. Crushed eggshells should be placed between the leaf mold and compost for calcium-loving plants like cabbages and carnations.

Simple soil flat mix

Equal parts by volume:

  • compost
  • bed soil (saved from a biointensive production bed during double-digging process)

The next three formulas are credited to the 1992 NOFA-NY Organic Farm Certification Standards.

Classic formula for horticultural potting mix

  • 1/3 mature compost or leaf mold, sieved
  • 1/3 fine garden loam
  • 1/3 coarse sand (builder’s sand)

Sterile peat-lite mix

  • 1/2 cubic yards shredded sphagnum peat moss
  • 1/2 cubic yards horticultural vermiculite
  • 5 pounds dried blood (12% N)
  • 10 pounds steamed bone meal
  • 5 pounds ground limestone

Recipe for soil blocks

  • 20 quarts black peat with 1/2 cup lime
  • 20 quarts sand or calcined clay
  • 20 quarts regular peat with 1 cup of greensand, 1 cup of colloidal phosphate, and 1 cup blood meal
  • 10 quarts soil
  • 10 quarts compost

Note: all bulk ingredients should be sifted through a 1/2-inch screen.

The following four recipes are credited to Eliot Coleman. The first was published in the Winter 1994 issue of NOFA-NJ Organic News, in an article by Emily Brown-Rosen. The remaining three are adapted from Coleman’s book The New Organic Grower (see Appendix 2).

Organic potting mix

  • 1 part sphagnum peat
  • 1 part peat humus (short fiber)
  • 1 part compost
  • 1 part sharp sand (builder’s)

To every 80 quarts of this add:

  • 1 cup greensand
  • 1 cup colloidal phosphate
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups crab meal, or blood meal
  • 1/2 cup lime

Blocking mix recipe

  • 3 buckets (standard 10-quart bucket) brown peat
  • 1/2 cup lime (mix well)
  • 2 buckets coarse sand or perlite
  • 3 cups base fertilizer (blood meal, colloidal phosphate, and greensand mixed together in equal parts)
  • 1 bucket soil
  • 2 buckets compost

Mix all ingredients together thoroughly. Coleman does not sterilize potting soils; he believes that damp-off and similar seedling problems are the result of overwatering, lack of air movement, not enough sun, over-fertilization, and other cultural mistakes.

Blocking mix recipe for larger quantities

  • 30 units brown peat
  • 1/8 unit lime
  • 20 units coarse sand or perlite
  • 3/4 unit base fertilizer (blood meal, colloidal phosphate, and greensand mixed together in equal parts)
  • 10 units soil
  • 20 units compost

Mini-block recipe

  • 16 parts brown peat
  • 1/4 part colloidal phosphate
  • 1/4 part greensand
  • 4 parts compost (well decomposed)

Note: If greensand is unavailable, leave it out. Do not substitute a dried seaweed product in this mix.

The next recipe and details come from John Greenier, of Stoughton, Wisconsin. They were published in the January 1996 issue of Growing for Market.

Seedling mix for soil blocks or seedling flats

  • 2 3-gallon. buckets sphagnum peat moss
  • 1/4 cup lime
  • 1 1/2 cups fertility mix
  • 2 cups colloidal (rock) phosphate
  • 2 cups greensand
  • 2 cups blood meal
  • 1/2 cup bone meal
  • 1/4 cup kelp meal
  • 1 1/2 buckets vermiculite
  • 1 1/2 buckets compost

Directions for mixing:

  1. Add peat to cement mixer or mixing barrel.
  2. Spread the lime and fertility mix over the peat.
  3. Mix these ingredients thoroughly.
  4. Add the compost and vermiculite and mix well again. When done, examine the distribution of vermiculite to ensure that it has been mixed in evenly.

Note that all bulk ingredients should be screened through 1/4-inch hardware cloth. Well matured, manure-based compost should be used (avoid poultry manure and wood-chip bedding).

The next two recipes were published in the September 1990 issue of Greenhouse Manager in an article entitled “Recipes for Success in Media Mixes,” by Kathy Z. Peppler.

Growing mix for packs

  • 40% topsoil
  • 40% Canadian-type Michigan peat
  • 20% perlite
  • 5 pounds lime per cubic yard
  • 3 pounds dolomitic lime per cubic yard

Note: The topsoil and peat are sterilized early in the fall, then brought indoors to be blended with the other ingredients and stored inside.

Growing mixes for pots and baskets

  • 30% topsoil
  • 60% peat
  • 10% perlite
  • 5 pounds lime per cubic yard
  • 3 pounds dolomitic lime per cubic yard

Note: The handling of this pot mix is the same as for pack mix.

The following recipes and instructions are from a workshop entitled “Getting Started in Organic Market Gardening,” which was offered as part of the March 2001 “Organic University” program sponsored by Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Services (MOSES) in conjunction with its Upper Midwest Organic Conference. The first is credited to Tricia Bross Luna Circle Farm, Gays Mills, WI; the second is credited to Steve Pincus, Tipi Produce, Madison, WI.

Luna Circle recipe

  • 2 buckets black peat (1 bucket = 8 quarts)
  • 1/2 bucket compost
  • Fertility mixture:
    • 1 cup greensand
    • 1 cup rock phosphate
    • 1 cup kelp meal
    • 2 buckets sphagnum peat moss
    • 1 bucket sand
    • 1 bucket vermiculite

Directions for mixing:

  • Screen the peat and the compost and combine with the fertility mix.
  • Mix well.
  • Add the sphagnum, sand, and vermiculite.
  • Mix well again.

Tipi Produce recipe

  • 2 bales sphagnum peat moss (3.8 or 4.0 cubic foot bales)
  • 1 bag coarse vermiculite (4.0 cubic foot bags)
  • 1 bag coarse perlite (4.0 cubic foot bags)
  • 6 quarts of a fertilizing mixture comprised of:
    • 15 parts steamed bone meal
    • 10 parts kelp meal
    • 10 parts blood meal
    • 5 to 10 parts dolomitic limestone (80 to 90 mesh)

Note: This mix works well in small and medium plug trays and 1020 flats for growing lettuce, onions, leeks, peppers, tomatoes, melons, squash, cucumbers, and many flowers. When repotting small plugs into larger cells, add about 1/3 by volume of old leaf mold or compost and more fertilizing mixture. Continue to fertilize twice per week with soluble fish and seaweed fertilizer.

The following three recipes are adapted from a subchapter entitled “Using compost for container crops and potting mixes” in On-Farm Composting Handbook, by Robert Rynk, (ed.). 1992. PublicationNRAES-54. Northeast Regional AgriculturalEngineering Service, Cornell Cooperative Extension,Ithaca, NY. 186 p.

Vegetable transplant recipe

Equal parts by volume of:

  • compost
  • peat moss
  • perlite or vermiculite

Bedding plant recipe

  • 25% compost
  • 50% peat moss
  • 25% perlite or vermiculite

Container mix for herbaceous and woody ornamentals

Equal parts by volume of:

  • compost
  • coarse sand
  • peat moss or milled pine bark

The following two simple recipes came from Mark Feedman, a practitioner of the Biodynamic-French Intensive system. The first mix was used with great success while doing development work in the Dominican Republic; the second is an adaptation used later in New Mexico.

Dominican Republic mix

Equal parts:

  • fine loam soil
  • sharp horticultural sand
  • well-finished leaf mold

New Mexico mix

  • 2 parts well-finished compost
  • 2 parts good topsoil
  • 1 part leaf mold

The remaining recipes in this appendix are of uncertain origin, but were published in earlier versions of ATTRA’s Organic Potting Mixes.

Recipe #1

  • 50 to 75% sphagnum peat moss
  • 25 to 50% vermiculite
  • 5 pounds ground limestone per cubic yard of mix

Recipe #2

  • 6 gallons sphagnum peat moss
  • 1/4 cup lime
  • 4 1/2 gallons vermiculite
  • 4 1/2 gallons compost
  • 1 1/2 cups fertility mix made of:
  • 2 cups colloidal (rock) phosphate
  • 2 cups greensand
  • 1/2 cup bone meal
  • 1/4 cup kelp meal

Recipe #3

  • 10 gallons sifted two-year-old leaf mold
  • 10 gallons sifted compost
  • 5 to 10 gallons sphagnum peat moss
  • 5 gallons perlite
  • 5 gallons coarse river sand
  • 2 cups blood meal
  • 6 cups bone meal

Recipe #4

  • 40 quarts sphagnum peat moss
  • 20 quarts sharp sand
  • 10 quarts topsoil
  • 10 quarts mature compost
  • 4 ounces ground limestone
  • 8 ounces blood meal (contains 10% nitrogen)
  • 8 ounces rock phosphate (contains 3% phosphorus)
  • 8 ounces wood ashes (contains 10% potassium)

Recipe #5

  • 9 quarts compost
  • 1 cup greensand
  • 3 quarts garden soil
  • 1/2 cup blood meal
  • 3 quarts sharp sand
  • 1/2 cup bone meal
  • 3 quarts vermiculite

Recipe #6

  • 1 part peat
  • 1 part bone meal
  • 1 part perlite
  • 1 part compost (or leaf mold)
  • 1 part worm castings (optional)

Recipe #7

  • 2 parts vermiculite
  • 3 parts peat
  • 2 parts perlite
  • 2 parts cow manure
  • 3 parts topsoil
  • 1/2 part bone meal

Recipe #8

  • 15 quarts screened black peat
  • 15 quarts brown peat
  • 17 quarts coarse sand
  • 14 quarts screened leaf compost
  • 3 ounces pulverized limestone
  • 9 ounces greensand
  • 3/4 cup dried blood
  • 3 ounces alfalfa meal
  • 3 ounces colloidal phosphate
  • 9 ounces pulverized bone meal

Recipe #9

  • 10 pounds compost
  • 30 pounds sphagnum peat moss
  • 60 pounds white sand
  • 8 pounds calcium carbonate
  • 4 pounds soft rock phosphate
  • 2 pounds sawdust

Recipe #10

  • 70 pounds white sand
  • 25 pounds sphagnum peat moss
  • 5 pounds chicken manure
  • 8 pounds calcium carbonate
  • 4 pounds soft rock phosphate

NCAT would like to acknowledge OMRI staff members Cindy Douglas, Brian Baker, and Emily Brown-Rosen for their assistance in reviewing the original draft of this publication.

By Georrge Kuepper
NCAT Agriculture Specialist
and Kevin Everett, Program Intern
September 2004 ©NCAT
Reviewed October 2010
Paul Williams, Editor
Slot #61
Version 102810