Check out this app – Protein Tracker

I just found a killer app on my Android from Google Play, its called: Protein Tracker. It’s a great app that calculates and counts your protein consumption every day. I just found it this am, and I’m LOVING IT!! I was a bit baffled, at first, because I am horrible with the whole “# of gems in each, fruit, veggie, other type of food” but I searched Ask.com for the conversion, and found another awesome conversion/counter, { http://www.calorieking.com/ } that really helps save my tooshie, in the # of grams of protein per item. I want to her back from my readers on this!! What do you think???  – Ami

This is the link to download the app from Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.proteintracker.two&feature=search_result#?t=W251bGwsMSwyLDEsImNvbS5wcm90ZWludHJhY2tlci50d28iXQ

Month by Month Guide to vegetable Gardening

When to Plant As the saying goes, timing is everything—and that’s never more true than when it comes to vegetable gardening. Determining the right time to start seeds and to plant outdoors is essential, which is why following a month-by-month to-do list can mean the difference between a happy harvest and a heartbreaking one. One important note: Since the USDA Hardiness Zone Map divides North America into 11 separate zones—each zone is 10°F warmer (or colder) during an average winter than the adjacent zone—the correct start dates vary for different parts of the country. (The timeline featured here is roughly based on the timing for Zone 8.) The best way to determine the exact timing for your garden is to ask the county cooperative extension in your area for a localized calendar. (Contact info is available at extension.org.) Now, get growing! 

  February The bottom line: While it’s too early to actually start planting most vegetables, there are tasks you can take on inside and outside. Preparation Finish up your seed orders. When the seeds arrive, read the instructions on the packets and make a chart of what date to start each variety, working backward from the last frost date for your area. Germination rates—how long it takes a plant to go from seed to the first sign of leaves—vary, and in order to have the little guys ready to plant, you must start them at the right time. To keep your information straight, write down your ideal planting day for each one on a Post-It, stick it to the individual packets, and organize the seeds in chronological order in a card file.

To prep for seed starting, hit the stores and stock up on enough of the right growing mix, seed trays, and peat pots (or whatever other method you plan to use).

Make sure you have the necessary tools; fill in any gaps in your collection and clean and sharpen the tools you already own. The essentials: a round-headed shovel, a garden spade and fork, a scuffle hoe, a dirt rake, a bypass pruner, a trowel, a garden thermometer, and a wheelbarrow. Gloves and—c’mon, you know you love ’em—garden shoes complete the list.

Planting Outside: If the ground is workable, plant bare root perennial vegetables like asparagus, artichoke, horseradish, and rhubarb.

Inside: Start seeds for cool-season vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, kale, lettuce, spinach, and onions.

March The bottom line: Since this month tends to be unpredictable weather-wise, have row covers at the ready for any late-season frosts or freezes that might damage perennials.

Preparation Outside: Most vegetables prefer a slightly acidic soil (6.0 to 6.8 pH); pick up a pH test kit at a garden center to make sure yours is in the right range. No such luck? Make adjustments as recommended on the package, using organic matter to increase or decrease the soil’s acidity. Even if your test is good, you should amend the soil—i.e., add conditioners, such as compost, peat moss, or coir (coconut fiber), that improve its texture—yearly, and give perennial vegetables a boost by “side dressing” it with organic compost or aged manure. (Scatter the fertilizer along the sides of a row of plants; turn it into the existing soil with a spading fork and rake it smooth.) If you’re stuck with soil that’s beyond saving, consider building raised beds instead and filling them with good soil.

Inside: Start seeds of warm season crops such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, pumpkin, snap beans, squash, and sweet corn.

Planting Use a garden thermometer to determine if the soil temperature is at or above 40ºF. When it gets there, start planting (or “setting out,” in garden lingo) the seeds you’ve started for cool-season crops: kale, lettuce, spinach, and onions.

At the end of the month, plant peas. If the ground is wet and muddy, hold off so you don’t destroy the soil by working in it too soon.

April The bottom line: The weather can still work against you—keep those row covers handy in case of a nighttime cold snap—but otherwise you should be getting into full swing.

Preparation Check soil temperature regularly with your thermometer. When it consistently registers at 60ºF or above, you have the go-ahead to plant some warm-season crops.

If you didn’t start your own seeds, buy transplants and seedlings of early-season crops like radishes, spinach, onions, leeks, lettuce, cabbage, beets, peas, Brussels sprouts, and carrots.

Planting Begin setting out your early-season crops. Try to pick an overcast day to minimize transplant shock —the stress that occurs when plants are moved from a cushy greenhouse environment to the harsh real world. Be sure to water well at planting time. When finished, add a two- to three-inch layer of mulch to suppress weeds and keep in moisture.

For greens, sow seeds directly in the garden where they’ll grow. Plant them in succession, every few weeks, for a continuous harvest through the season.

Maintenance Until newly transplanted seedlings develop root systems, make sure they don’t dry out or you’ll lose them. And stay on top of weeds, catching them before they begin to spread

May The bottom line: Take advantage of warm temps, longer days, and moist soil to do the bulk of your remaining plantings. But resist the temptation to plant more than you can reasonably take care of as the season advances.

Preparation Check soil temperatures for readings consistently above 70ºF to know when to plant heat-loving crops like tomatoes and peppers. Confirm that you have the gear you need to water the garden: As temperatures warm, consistent moisture will be of the utmost importance.

Planting You can continue (or start) planting any early-season crops, plus tomatoes, squash, melons, eggplant, peppers, sweet corn, cucumbers, potatoes, and herbs. Water and mulch any new transplants with care.

If choosing to sow directly in the garden, start your carrots, beets, and radishes. Don’t mulch these areas until seedlings are up several inches and have been thinned (you’ve sorted out the small, deformed, or overcrowded seedlings).

Maintenance Follow packet instructions for proper spacing of the crops that were direct sown and thin the seedlings accordingly.

Watch for insect damage on leaves (missing notches, holes, pits, or stripped stems). When you spy signs of trouble, control the situation by removing the affected leaves, employing a row cover to create a barrier, or spraying or dusting with an organic pesticide. Consult a garden center or extension service for a recommendation of the best action.

Harvest Cool-season plants like asparagus, peas, and spring greens will be getting ready for harvest. (P.S. The more you harvest, the more they produce!)

June The bottom line: Full speed ahead! Through the next few months, your focus will be on maintenance and harvest.

Planting Early in the month, finish getting any warm-season vegetables into the ground. Direct sow the warm-season crops you plan to grow in place. Continue to thin seedlings of direct-sown crops that were planted earlier.

Maintenance As your plants shoot up, be prepared with staking materials; you’ll need plenty of bamboo stakes in different heights to keep your crops from succumbing to gravity.

About one month after planting, side dress crops with organic compost. If you didn’t use mulch, get out there with a scuffle hoe and attack the weeds.

Harvest Harvest during the cooler times of day—early morning or evening—when plants are least stressed. Continue to pick greens, peas, beans, and herbs. Stop harvesting asparagus and rhubarb, which need to rebuild their food reserves in order to produce a good crop again next year.

July The bottom line: You can’t slack off completely, but get ready for the big payoff.

Planting Extend the season with a late harvest of beans, carrots, cucumbers, cauliflower, and other cold-season crops. Where you have room, cultivate and amend the soil with compost before direct sowing seeds or planting seedlings.

Maintenance Remove suckers—the growth between the main stem and the leaf—on tomato plants and pull out any finished early-season crops. Continue staking tomatoes and other plants as necessary.

Water in the early morning, the best time to reduce evaporation. Try to water the soil, not the leaves, to reduce fungal disease. Be sure to maintain consistent moisture so fruit develops successfully. (Drought-stressed plants are more susceptible to fungi and insect trouble.) Check mulch, topping off areas that have thinned. And weed away! Weeds rob plants of water and nutrients.

Harvest Harvest daily. If there’s too much of a good thing, share your bounty. Use an old plastic laundry basket to collect produce that is ready to be picked, and hose off the contents outside—it’ll act as a giant colander.

August The bottom line: It’s the dog days of summer, and both you and the garden need a break. Kick back and enjoy.

Preparation Make some notes about your successes and failures. (You may not remember those ravishing radishes or sickly heirloom tomatoes come January when you start to plan next year’s garden.) 

Planting If you haven’t planted for the fall harvest yet (see July), it’s not too late to start now.

Maintenance Monitor moisture, insects, and disease; if there’s an issue, deal with it right away. Pick up and discard fallen or decaying fruit—leaving it encourages diseases and insects.

Harvest Keep picking! Cut fresh herbs for freezing or drying to use over the winter.

September The bottom line: With the weather getting less predictable, job one is to protect tender plants such as tomatoes from frost with sheets or covers to keep them ripening on the vine as long as possible.

Planning As the weather cools, this is a good time to dig and prepare new beds for the spring or build additional raised beds and fill with amended soil.

Planting Pot up selections of your favorite, healthiest herbs in planters to bring inside for the winter. Continue planting cool-season vegetables for winter harvest.

Maintenance Keep pulling up finished plants and discarding fallen or rotten fruit to discourage overwintering of insect larvae (meaning they stay alive underground through the cold months ahead). Check that the mulch is layered thick enough on cold-season crops.

Harvest Some plants will keep producing even through light frosts. Others will continue only if protected overnight with covers. Green tomatoes can be picked and wrapped individually in newspaper and stored in a cool spot (55º to 60ºF) to ripen. If frost is predicted nightly and your tomato plants are covered with unripe fruit, you can pull the whole plant up by the roots and hang it upside down in a protected place like a garage, where fruit will continue ripen on the vine. Promptly remove any tomatoes that go bad.

October The bottom line: Mother Nature will dictate what you can accomplish. If the weather holds, then by all means, plug away. But if winter-like weather is upon you, prioritize and do what you can.

Planting Continue planting cool-season crops like beets, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, chives, celery, onions, parsley, parsnips, peas, radishes, spinach, lettuce, turnips, and Swiss chard.

Maintenance Protect new seedlings and winter crops from weather extremes with floating row covers, which are made of lightweight polyester that “floats” on plants. Pull out and rake off garden debris; rake leaves out of beds and add to compost pile. Compost anything that is not diseased or infested with insects. Store garden supplies and potions in a dry place. Remove, dismantle, and store stakes and cages that were erected for plant support.

Harvest Dig up potatoes and store in a dark place with low humidity, and pick winter squashes and pumpkins before a hard freeze. Keep harvesting fall crops like beets, cabbage, chard, and leeks.

November The bottom line: Weather permitting, you may still get in some garden time. The more you do now, the easier it all becomes in the spring.

Planning Order seed catalogs for January planning.

Maintenance Continue watering cool-season vegetable plants if rainfall alone isn’t enough. Every two weeks, feed vegetable plants with a water-soluble organic fertilizer (like fish emulsion).

Cut asparagus plants to the ground as soon as the foliage has turned yellow or brown. Spread a few inches of aged manure or organic compost over the bed.

Harvest Harvest greens and other cool-season vegetables that are producing.

December The bottom line: If you planted a winter garden, keep harvesting, weeding and watering as needed. If you didn’t, enjoy the holidays!  -Ami

Our Estate Garden – February Updates

I got up, early this am, and got out out of the house as soon as I could. I had a few errands to do, and I wanted to hurry up, get my errands done so I could get by walmart, and see if their garden center was open.

First things first, I went to check the P.O. Box, nothing special there, then I went to the Outlet Mall, for some shoes, didn’t find what I was looking for, guess I’ll have to check elsewhere, tomorrow.

The banks are closed, so… Off to Wally World!

  I drove up, circled around, and Yay! They were just opening up the doors on the garden side!  This was the first time I’d seen the garden side open this year.

  I parked, got out and walked in, to look around. They had a few decorative plants various bushes, and some purple Tulips. then, on a different wall, there were some vegetables and herbs. Most of them looked a bit dried out, but a few in the shade looked ok. I picked out the best of the best, and went to pay up.

When I got home, I planted what I had picked up, 9 Broccoli plants & 1 German Thyme.

Yesterday I ordered a bulk shipment of about 4k plants. {Some to be shipped as plants, the rest as seeds.}  Hopefully the shipment will come soon!

  My Mom came over, when I was in the garden, planting the Broccoli. We talked plants for a bit, and walked around and riddled in a shed, that had been sitting in the field for some years. I am all excited!! I am going to to make it our “seed house”! I may be crazy, but at least I’m happy! 

  If anyone out there, reading this, wants to trade seeds, please comment or contact me. I love trading seeds, it’s always something new!

Happy Blogging!! ~Ami

Composting for Beginners Want to start composting? Let’s break it down.

As we progress further in a new decade, we’ve realized that a mindbodygreen lifestyle is universally accessible. We’ve realized that we don’t need fancy yoga clothes to rock a Warrior II, we can mediate without achieving the enlightened state of the Dalai Lama, and we can chisel our dream bodies while eating real food. Composting is no different.

Composting nestles nicely into the democratization of environmentally friendly practices. It has never been easier to cultivate a green life that includes not only separating our paper, glass, and plastic waste and depositing it at the curb once a week, but also includes using our food and yard refuse in a proactive way. Composing allows us to nurture a synergistic relationship with the natural world, and with all of the technology and information available to us, it’s never been easier!

No longer does composting involve tedious, smelly and complicated steps. It’s conducive to everyone’s lifestyle, even lazy environmentalists who care about the earth but prefer simple ways to green their homes. So why not just store your yard and food waste and transform it into something that benefits and beautifies the world?

Not only is composting a simple action with countless benefits, but its growing popularity renders it the hottest way to repay Mother Earth. Celebrities such as Julia Roberts, Daryl Hannah, and of course infamous treehugger and comic genius, Ed Begley, Jr. (pictured left) all compost. Even Starbucks lauds the practice by offering customers free 5-lb bags of used coffee grounds to add to their steaming pile of environmental goodness. The Denver International Airport also understands the importance of composting. It is currently collaborating with A1 Organics, Colorado’s leading recycling business, to install 65-gal compost containers throughout the airport, especially in employee break rooms and restaurants. If big name celebrities promote it and if significant establishments find ways to engage the public in it, then composting truly is something everyone can do.

Let’s break down this seemingly complex process, discredit misconceptions and address some common questions.

What is compost? What does it look like?

Compost is earthly material produced from the natural decomposition of organic matter. Basically, it’s composed mostly of once-living things turned into soil and fertilizer. When fully decomposed and ready for garden use after several months, our composted yard and food scraps look somewhat like topsoil.

Why should we bother to compost? Doesn’t our yard and food waste just biodegrade in landfills anyway?

Yes, our organic waste eventually decomposes in landfills, but the non-organic trash surrounding it prolongs the process. According to the United States EPA, yard trimmings and food residuals together constitute 23 percent of the U.S. municipal solid waste stream. That’s a lot of waste to send to landfills when it could become useful and environmentally beneficial compost instead! Earth911 lists that compost enhances the physical structure of our soil, stabilizes our soil’s pH levels, and controls erosion. Let’s give our overwhelmed landfills a break and use our organic trash to nourish our gardens and change the world.

What do I need to get started?

Think storage. Purchase a compost bin — one of the most popular and affordable ways to store refuse. Visit your local garden store or check out what mass marketing stores offer online to find a compost bin that accommodates your needs and lifestyle. From enormous to tiny and from electrically run to self-operated, a host of compost bins under $100 await your discernment and selection.

Live in an open area and have some outdoor space? Perhaps try a larger compost bin that spins and holds many gallons of waste. Kickin’ it in an urban environment and strapped for space? Purchase yourself a tiny compost bin that discreetly nestles in with your furniture and appliances.

If you’d like to invest in a more complex compost bin, choose from several innovations. Small, plug-in devices that heat scraps to speed the decomposition process run close to $400 and work well in small spaces for people without the desire or time to turn their compost. Those of you with more space might like large, globe-shaped compost units that hold 70 gallons of waste are priced around $200 and contain several air tubes to aerate the contents and produce compost after only 4-6 weeks. Some compost bins, priced around $100 use stackable layers to house worms that eat scraps and leave compost behind.

Although it might seem like you need all of this composting technology to give some love to Mother Earth, no elaborate equipment is necessary. Feel free to channel your inner carpenter and build your own compost bin. Visit EarthEasy for simple instructions or check out hundreds of how-to videos online. Chicken wire, one of the most malleable materials, also makes a great place to store refuse. Just mold it into a wide, cylindrical shape and start composting!

What do I compost first?

As Scott Meyer, editor of Organic Gardening Magazine says, “Compost happens — you don’t have to do a lot to make it work, but a few tips can make it more manageable.” Keep this in mind and the composting process will rarely overwhelm or frustrate you.

Here’s a great way to remember what successful composting requires:

Brown – Refers to the carbon part of the carbon to nitrogen ratio, an essential balance that sparks decomposition and produces usable compost. While numbers vary, an easy way to compost is to include roughly the same amount of carbon and nitrogen scraps. Brown ingredients include shredded paper, straw and leaves. These ingredients should be the first ones you throw into your bin, your first layer.

Green – Refers to the nitrogen component of a compost pile. Green ingredients include table scraps and animal manure.

Water – Ensure that your pile has the wetness of a damp, wrung-out sponge by watering it once a week or twice a month.

Air -This crucial ingredient speeds decomposition and mitigates odor, keeping insects and animals out. Turn your pile a few times a month with a garden fork or mechanism on the bin, or simply shake around the bin to aerate the waste.

Don’t forget to include soil in your pile, as only 1 tablespoon contains 6 million

microorganisms that devour your scraps and produce compost.

If you follow these guidelines, you’ll have fine compost within 6 months. Thinking BGWA will help you remember all of the critical ingredients in compost and turn your trash into treasure!

What can’t I compost?

Meat and dairy produces should not go into your compost pile. They produce odors when they decompose, attracting animals and validating all of those unfortunate misconceptions about composting at home. Eggshells are the only animal products that you can compost — they’re high in calcium level and great additions to your pile.

It’s trendy, it’s simple and it’s for everyone. Composting is now one of the easiest ways to green our lives. By composting, we can practice environmentalism on a local level and affect our planet on a large scale. With comprehensive information and innovative technology at our fingertips, we can incorporate composting as a mainstay of our mindbodygreen lives.

first image via earth911 last image via waystogogreen

Our New Home – Garden Additions & Workbench D.I.Y.’s

If you have been following my blog, you’ll know that the hubbs and I lost our last house to foreclosure, but we are now living in a new house, some distance away from our last. Not to mention, some serious distance from my sister, over @ her brand spanking new blog, : Semikee.Wordpress.com !! 
  I have been trying to keep both of us, as positive as possible. All of the blasted moving just about killed us. I am so incredibly thankful that all of that is O.V.E.R. !! shew!!

  On to bigger and better things,… i have been trying to stay busy, around here. I have FINALLY decided, after much adue, and several decision changes, where to put the Veggie Garden. I have also decided that I want a ‘standing herb garden’, on the patio, so I can just step out the door, when I am cooking, and pick the needed herbs, for what I am preparing at the moment. Our patio is fairly large, another wonderful thing that I am extremely thankful for. (One day, maybe the hubbs will get the notion to re-build an overhang, from the front porch to the garage, covering our lovely patio, and one of our boys hidden doggie caves.)

  Yesterday, I went to visit my sister; (Owner @ Semikee), and the family. As many times as I have been there, I have never met Puff, I can not believe it that I had never met him! He is such a sweetheart, n’ has a bit of a comical nature… Below he is showing me how he perform s his ‘tongue stretching
technique’. 

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After I left there, I went to the local Nursery & Landscape place, n’ purchased some succulents, 2 different varieties of rosemary, some Chick n’ Peas, and a few other plants, and a huge bag of potting soil that I have on my list to collect.

  Now I need a few dozen decorative planters, but….. I think I will improvise because of our current lack of funds.  I also need to decide if I want our Veggie Garden to be raised n’ fenced, or just fenced. Options!! Options!! O.o 

Here are a few images of the new plants I found, yesterday. (NOTICE the hanging bench?) That’s one of the next D.I.Y.’s, I am going to blog about!!
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Aren’t they just beautiful!?? I will be posting updates on the ones I’ve planted, n’ when I get all of the captures together, and type it all up, I will post. Hopefully I will be able to upload a video, and for it to ‘play’!!

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  As a last note, please go by, and check out my sisters BRAND NEW SPANKING BLOG!!
http://www.Semikee.Wordpress.com
Don’t forget to tell her, I sent you!!