Category Archives: Advice

Growing Vegetables From Seed

Growing From Seed

If you want to get technical about it, plants and seedlings can be planted into the soil, but only seeds can be sown.

And sowing your own vegetables from seed is often the cheapest and most effective way of creating a wonderful spring vegetable garden.

In fact, many vegetables grow best when sown from seed in the position you want them to grow.

Vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, peas, beans, turnips, swedes and beetroot will be most successful if you sow them directly into their intended place in the vegetable garden.

Don’t be tempted to purchase seedlings from the plant nursery to ‘get ahead’ with these vegetables – you won’t be doing yourself a favor, and you’ll definitely be wasting your money.

Other vegetables are fairly easy going when it comes to transplanting. Examples include pumpkin, cucumber, tomato, most brassicas, sweet corn, peppers, lettuces and many herbs. But even with these you can save yourself a lot of money if you grow them yourself from seed, and transplant them into your vegie patch when they’re ready.

Growing From Seed

But how to grow vegetables from seed? There’s nothing easier, if you know some of the tricks of the trade.

The obvious thing to do is check the instructions on the back of the seed packet. They often contain the best advice as to what best suits that particular type of seed, but if you’d like more information, grab yourself a good garden reference book – especially for vegetable growing – that will give you advice on the best time to plant as well as the best method.

Good advice to grow vegetables from seed can mean the difference between getting those seedlings going indoors to beat the last winter frosts, or so late that they swelter in the summer heat.

Sowing the Seed

Sowing the SeedFor direct sowing, first prepare the soil by removing weeks and larger lumps of soil. Mix in some compost before you start, and use the back of metal rake or the like to level the ‘bed’. Use your finger, or if you like nice straight rows, press the handle of the rake into the soil to make a shallow row for planting the seeds.

Check the back of the packet to make sure your row is at the right depth. Sow the seeds at the recommended spacing. If your soil is light and lump-free, use the surrounding soil to carefully cover the seeds. If you’d like to give your seeds a bit of a headstart, cover them with a commercial seed-raising mix.

This contains extra nutrients to help get the seeds going. It’s also usually a different color to the surrounding dirt and is useful for helping you remember where you’ve planted.

When you water the seeds for the first time, use a gentle wide angled spray. Try to avoid any water hitting the ground with too much force, which might dislodge the seeds. Make sure they get enough water to penetrate quite deeply into the soil. In early spring, it’s unlikely they’ll need too many more waters before the seedlings emerge.

As the first seedlings begin to poke through the surface of the soil, thin them out. Crowded seedlings are unlikely to succeed, and although it might seem harsh, it will produce a better result for all the plants if you remove some of the unnecessary ones now.

Try to keep the seedlings weed free. Weeds create competition for nutrients and will steal the goodness in the soil from your seedlings. Also protect them from slugs, snails and birds.

After the seedlings have reached a height of about 2 inches, it’s time to start spreading mulch in between the rows. This will help keep the weeds down, will prevent loss of moisture and will improve the soil over time. Mulch includes just about any organic material.

Good examples are old hay, straw, wilted weeds, sugar cane trash, woodchips, leaf debris or bark. Inorganic mulches like black plastic, road gravel and small stones might look neater, but actually damage the soil and your chances of a successful vegetable gardens, so stay away from those.

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The Perfect Solution To A Whole Food Breakfast

Whole Food Breakfast

No matter how hectic your family life is, you should never miss breakfast. Healthy breakfast food has many advantages for your health, such as provision of energy for concentration; weight control; disease prevention, and many others. The key to a healthy breakfast is being prepared with nutrient-laden foods that you can easily put together when you get up every morning.

If you’re looking for a solution to a whole food breakfast, here are a few suggestions to ensure that you wake up to a healthy meal in the morning:

Healthy Breakfast Smoothies

Breakfast Smoothies

Smoothies are some of the easiest on-the-go breakfast meals you can make. On average, a healthy breakfast smoothie will take you less than ten minutes to prepare. An easy smoothie recipe that packs lots of healthy nutrients includes one cup of strawberries, a banana, a cup of low-fat yogurt, honey, and crushed ice. You may or may not add protein powder. With this tasty smoothie, you’ll have eaten three of your fruit servings for the day.

Whole-grain Cereal

Whole-grain CerealA bowl of whole-grain breakfast cereal is another perfect solution to a whole food breakfast. When it comes to breakfast cereals, the choice is usually between nutrition and taste. Breakfast cereals with lots of colors and artificial flavors tend to taste better than toasted whole-grain cereals with natural flavors. However, the latter have a higher nutrition value than the former. So if you care about your health, choose toasted whole-grain cereals for your breakfast.

The biggest advantage with cereal is that it has the shortest preparation time (less than five minutes on average). Most times, you simply need to add low-fat milk to a bowl of cereal and top it off with some frozen fruit too and you’re off to a nutritious start of the day.

Whole-grain Pita with Cheese

Whole-grain PitaAnother easy breakfast meal comprises whole-grain pita with tomato and cheese, along with an apple. This healthy breakfast meal gives you a mix of ‘good’ fat, protein, carbohydrates, and fiber in the fruit. Simply add a piece of low-fat cheese to your whole-grain pita with a slice of tomato into your microwave for approximately five minutes. You can complete with a cup of tea or fresh orange juice for more vitamins.


OatmealOatmeal is a heart-healthy food that contains a high amount of complex carbohydrates that slowly release energy throughout the day. In addition to keeping you full most of the day, oatmeal is easy to make: preparation time is less than 10 minutes and you may add milk if you want. You can also add blueberries or a few slices of apple. There are many ways you can have your oatmeal; just be creative and try out different things, provided you choose steel-cut oatmeal.

In all, you should aim at one serving of a whole grain cereal, a serving of a high calcium food, and a serving of high protein food. There are many alternatives here, so make sure your breakfast includes variety every day.

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How to get rid of cucumber beetles naturally

Cucumber Beetle Damage

The cucumber beetle is so named because it feeds off cucumber plants (among other vining fruits) and can seriously damage or even kill the plants.

Its body is even shaped like a cucumber even though it is significantly smaller. It also feeds off the plants and fruits of watermelon, muskmelon, pumpkin, squash and gourd.

The stripes on the back of one type of cucumber beetle resemble the stripes on some varieties of watermelon and some cucumber rinds. The other type of this beetle has spotted backs.

Cucumber Beetle Damage

The cucumber beetle comes out of hibernation every spring in southern states when the soil temperature reaches about 65 degrees, Farenheit. In states further north, the beetle migrates from the south and arrives in June.

Whether it migrates or hibernates, it is looking for food to eat about the same time that sprouts of these vining plants are just pushing up through the soil’s crusty surface. The sprouting seedlings provide a tender, succulent meal for the hungry cucumber beetle.

This insect also causes damage through the bacteria it carries inside its body that comes in contact with the plants and the soil through the beetle’s feces. If the bacteria gets inside the plant’s system, it can cause its leaves to wilt.

The bacteria multiply rapidly and can move from an infected plant to healthy plants. The larvae of the cucumber beetle feeds off the plants’ roots and stems, and the adult cucumber beetle feeds off the larger plants’ leaves and blossoms. This insect also eats the rinds of the cucumber, muskmelon, watermelon, pumpkin, gourd, and squash.

Results of the Damage

If the beetle has infected the internal systems of the cucumber, watermelon and muskmelon plants and caused the leaves to wilt, the plants cannot be saved, cutting into crop yields and profits. Yields are also affected negatively when the beetles have eaten sprouts, blossoms, roots and stems of the plants.

Infested plants will not produce as much as healthy plants. Beetles that feed off the rinds of watermelons, cucumbers and muskmelons ruin the appearance of those fruits, making it impossible to sell them at farmers markets and to retailers. Profits take a direct hit.

Prevention both Natural and Artificial

Inspect the soil to look for eggs prior to planting. Introduce lacewings and ladybugs, which feast on the eggs, into your garden at the site.

Plant your cucumbers, squashes and melons a little later in the season than your neighbors so any beetles in the area will be attracted to their gardens. As soon as you plant your seedlings, or if you plant seeds in your garden, as soon as they sprout, cover the seedlings with screens, cones or garden row covers.

Constant inspection of your plants from the minute they begin to poke up through the soil is essential. As the plants grow, be sure to inspect the undersides of leaves and stems because the beetles are shade loving insects.

Gardeners can buy a device to place near their plants that serve to lure beetles into them and trap them on a sticky surface similar to fly paper.

Sprays are available made from pyrethrum, which is an extract of the chrysanthemum painted daisy flower. If any of the plants indicate evidence of bacterial wilting, pull them up and destroy them immediately before the healthy plants around them are infected.

Do not put infected plants into your compost pile, which is another way bacteria is spread, perpetuating the problem. Destroying them also prevents them from attracting more of these pests into your garden.


Any covers place upon the plants squash, pumpkins, melons, cucumbers and gourds must be removed as soon as blossoms appear so the plants can pollinate.

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