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Getting Started – The Follow Up

As promised we got more details, an update and even a photo of our co gardener’s plant. She likes it hot like most of us. She decided to go with a hot pepper for her first plant and it has sprouted! She is starting her plant in doors. We too started with just two herbal plants on our window seal and quickly grew into a full fledged garden the same day. We have come a long way since then. We were not sure of how it would all unfold from two little kitchen plants. But, it is possible as you can see. She will have to move to a bigger pot if she chooses to keep her peppers in a container. They will outgrow her container fast. While the plant may look small because of the container, there is a whole root system below looking for more resources to grow your plant larger. We will be checking back in with our friend. She promised to give us updates. How has our friend encouraged you? How might you start an indoor plant? As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep on sharing. We love the pictures.

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Getting Started

Cabbage
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Most of our family and friends are pretty excited about the garden and like me waiting on the edge of their seats for the harvest. “It looks ready” is becoming a popular comment around these parts. Me included! One of our friends decided to make the plunge and start with a pepper plant. We could not be more excited. We will be checking back in with her on the progress of her pepper and for more details. We know them to be pretty good cooks and like the most of us they enjoy a good meal. We can not wait to see what they will cook up from the plant(s) they harvest. How can you get started with your own inside or outside garden? Which plants do you enjoy cooking with? Which plant would you like to grow first? Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

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Soil Blocks

We heard about Soil Blocks from another talented farmer and gardener. We were not sure what to think. But from all that we heard, we were excited to give them a try. Soil Blocks come in different shapes and sizes. Which one you use (size) is dependent largely on the size of your seed and plant. While they also can be used for seedlings that grow in size. Just like when you put a seed that is grown into a plant into a larger pot so that it can grow bigger. It is the same concept. There are Soil Blocks and Soil Pellets, which is largely dependent on the shape. Soil Blocks can either be made or purchased. We ventured out in this Corona climate and found Soil Pellets, which we have found to be quit nice.

The seeds are placed in the center of the flat discs. The discs are placed in a tray. We have been moving from plastic trays to clay trays to be more true to our organic pursuits. Clay, we have found, is excellent in disease prevention as well as drainage, especially when there is a hole at the bottom of the pot for drainage. Once your seeds are in place you water the discs, follow the directions on your package, from the bottom (because they are sitting in some type of tray). In the case of our pellets you must be careful to water from the bottom so the seeds do not fall out from the disc. The disc grows about an inch to an inch and a half in height becoming cylinders. The soil medium grows around the hole where your seeds are and effectively buries them in the soil for you.

Our instructions advised us to water the Soil Blocks whenever the soil medium is a light brown. We are still trying to figure out a good labeling system. For now we just used a little paper. We liked the Soil Blocks for several reasons:

  • Saves Money – Because you are using less soil and no pots. You save a tremendous amount of money. We got 36 pellets for around $4.
  • Saves Space – Because you are not using pots and the space the Soil Blocks takes up are considerably less. You save on space and then can spread natural resources such as water, sunlight and soil much better.
  • Saves Stress – Because you do not have to remove transplants from pots, you save on stress plants experience when you transplant them. The entire Soil Block is placed right in the soil. If you have inside contained plants, when moving from say a larger pot from a smaller pot because your plant is growing, the transplant process is a lot easier and also reduces plant stress.
  • Save Time – Because your Soil Blocks do not have to be watered everyday, you save a tremendous amount of time. When it rains outside and your Soil Block are moist inside, you have a day off from watering.

We have not yet transplanted our Soil Blocks. Nor have our seeds grown into plants yet. Check back. We will keep you posted. A few have sprouted. We expect the transplant process to go very well. Another note, the plant roots will be poised to settle in their new homes / the surrounding soil as long as they do not sit to long in the Soil Blocks. Unlike plants in pots whose roots can begin to circle the pot as they grow in search of new soil and resources.

We are all about sustainability so when we saw these clay trays we knew that we could re purpose them when all the plants are in the ground and out of the mini greenhouse. In our garden we have a few melons and squashes. It is recommended that some of them will need to be raised off the ground to prevent rot and other unseen issues. So when we are done with the clay trays in the greenhouse, we will use them to lift our melons off the ground. Wood would probably be easier and more cost effective. However, wood is susceptible to mold and may not resolve the issue we are trying to address.

The Soil Blocks have been a game changer for us. Thus far, we highly recommend them. How can Soil Blocks help you get your own garden started? Try them out and let us know what you think. Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

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Soil Pellets (Soil Blocks)
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook
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From the Far East

Korean "Lettuce" Seeds Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Beginning your own garden, and an organic one at that, is an adventure in it self. So is going to the international food market. I am pretty adventurous. But, if I am not in a restaurant my adventure gauge for food goes down. What is it? And how do you cook it? Well, today I got a few answers and that is all I need to add some intrigue and adventure to our organic garden. The seed packet is all in Korean, which I completely do not speak, read nor write. The guy at the international food market told me that it was something like a Korean lettuce they “…like it” and that it could be eaten fresh or cooked. So, I am guessing a little more like Spinach. He said they liked it. Initially, I was hoping for basil. At least something I know. But this was better. Something totally new. Not too adventurous. How adventurous is lettuce anyway. The picture of the plant gave me a good idea of spacing and depth. That it is similar to lettuce gave me an idea of how to care for the plant. Initially, I thought no…it’s in all Korean. I don’t stand a chance. But I went ahead and did it anyway. They are in the ground now and we are off to another gardening journey.

I have traveled the world; studied international relations; been to an array of ethnic restaurants in and out of the states; try to speak a second language and have meet a host of people from across the globe. So, I thought it only fitting that we add some international varieties to our garden.

It is important to note that when you are trying a plant you know very little about to test and taste the harvest at different stages of maturity to determine when it is ripe or has the ideal flavor. What international foods do you like that you want to grow in your own garden? What are their nutritional benefits? How can you learn more about a seed when the packet is in a foreign language? How can you learn how to cook your international favorites? Have questions? Want to share? Do you have a international recipe? Share with us by leaving a comment. And send us lots of pictures! We are visuals. Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

Korean “Lettuce” like
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook
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Transplanting Progress

Our goal over the next several weeks is to get all the plants from inside the mini greenhouse and outside into the garden. Things are progressing well. But, there is still much left to be done. We will be planting a few of the same types of plants. We have been anticipating the harvest and looking forward to a bountiful one. We will also be resowing some plants that did not either sprout or did not grow into successful pants or transplants.

As with any garden there is much work to be done; many observations to make and much progress ahead. Today we put out 4 (pinto bean, navy bean, parsley and sage) more transplants (pictured in the article) and observed some successful transplant progress. We also observed some recent and first transplants that are doing pretty well ( 2 tomato plants and 2 kale varieties that we put out. We are actually having kale tonight. But, that is store bought. Wait to you start your own garden as everyone says. You will not regret it and you will notice the difference.

Early Girl Tomato came to us fresh from the store as a plant and she is one of the plants we transplanted right away with out acclimating her. Because she went into shock, we spent many weeks nursing her into good health and protecting her from pests while she recovered from shock. So, we are pleasantly surprised to see her doing so well and growing tall. Her stalk is growing thick, tall and strong. As goes nature from time to time tomato leaves will grow yellow and then brownish. It is recommended that you clip these leaves to maintain the health of the plant and prevent disease. We have not yet seen any flowers. Tomatoes are perfect plants and will pollinate themselves. So, we are expecting to see some flowers before we see any fruit. The birds and butterflies love the garden and come to visit quit often. We will talk more about the birds and bees in another article.

Roma Tomato, very good for sauces because of the few seeds, has truly and literally blossomed. She too came to us straight from the store and went straight into the ground. We prune her and keep her in good health. Her stalk is growing strong, thick and tall. She is healthy and holding her leaves high. And as you can see, she really has blossomed two beautiful yellow flowers. So, we are expecting fruit to start budding any time soon. So we can patiently watch it ripen on the vine. I think this is going to be Charles’ top pick as I know he is into homemade pasta. She has come a long way. We are so pleased at her progress. The neighbors come by often to see the new garden in the yard. They have commented more than once how beautiful the yard is. We are hoping to make a couple of more inviting additions to the yard that will keep the yard a warm and welcoming place.

We planted two varieties of kale, which we love around here. Dark leafy greens are always high on the recommended good for you list. We like them because they are high in iron. Initially, I was very concerned about kale because no matter how much dirt I piled around it, they were just leggy and wanted to flop over and lie close to the ground. I noticed today that they seem to be holding their stance and growing their leaves big now that they are out of the pot. They are bright green and growing crinkles around the edges of their leaves like most typical kale. While you can cook kale, we have lots of salads in store for this duo. We are eager to enjoy the fruits of our labor. Waiting to enjoy seems to be the hardest part. At least my father and I both share that sentiment.

In keeping with our mission to get all plants out to the garden over the next several weeks, we brought out pinto and navy bean, which look very similar to green bean. Unlike lentil bean, which looks tall and stalking bearing several small leaves and a few branches. At least for now. They are not nearly as tall. Nonetheless, they went through the transplanting acclimation period very well and are standing tall as well as looking good. We gave them a healthy amount of water and will be watching how they take to their new home in the garden.


Sage and Parsley went out today also. Sage is looking a little saggy. But, it seems to be holding kind of low. Or either it was reaching for sunlight in the greenhouse. We are hoping that once she catches to her new home that she will spread out and full up. Parsley is one of those plants who did very well. We had one in a clay pot and one in a cardboard like pot and the one in the clay pot did very well in our mini greenhouse aka garage (which seemed to be very mold loving. if we decide to make cheese we should be good.). We are sure that the mold had something to do with that. Overall we were very pleased at how the clay pots were able to shrug off disease. We were able to get the smaller clay pots at a local dollar store. So, they were a good investment. We will wash them out and use them again.

When washing pots it is important to note that you should remove all past substance to prevent disease from spreading. However, if you use a detergent, sit your pot out in the sun for a few weeks and allow the chemicals to leave the pot. You might also try a water and bleach solution or an organic cleanser. What observations have you made? Have you begun your kitchen herbs or garden yet? What is holding you back? Have questions? Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

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What do Bed Sheets have to do with it?

I got a late night call a few weeks ago from my father. He is not a late night kind of guy especially these days. So, when he called I was curious. Luckily so. He was calling with a weather watch warning. Although we were well into April, he told me that the weather was going to dip to frost levels. Once you get into April you figure you are safe. But, being from Massachusetts, I have seen it snow in July. Albeit snow flurries. It still snowed on a beautiful July day. I typically keep an eye on the weather mostly to see when it is going to rain. But, it is a good idea to know the weather for the day regardless, having a garden. There are several weather apps that come with or that you can put on your phone. So, keeping up with the weather is fairly easy to do. These apps are typically very user friendly and very informative. You will find that many of the things you learned in science class will come in handy when you begin to garden.

So what do bed sheets have to do with this anyway. Everything, as my dad pointed out. Bed sheets are a good way to keep the frost away as plants brave the chilly night frost. Most gardeners will tell you if a frost is coming or other inclement weather that may damage your crop, harvest all you can because your crop may not make it through.

Grab a few of the bed sheets that you were planning on replacing anyway. Preferably the ones without the elastic edges. And spread them lightly over your plants covering the tops and sides of your plants completely. Relax any spots weighing down heavily on the plants and protect plant stalks from damage or breakage.

Needless to say, when we got our weather watch warning we did just that. Of course before the frost. The next day we checked for any signs of frost. I was happy to thank my dad and to let him know that the plants showed no signs of frost. Launder your sheets as needed and place them with the rest of your gardening supplies for the next unexpected frost. What did you discover about gardening that you did not expect? Who are your gardening cohorts? Who do you know who also enjoys gardening? Share this site with them. Have some useful gardening tips and experience? Tell us all about it by leaving a comment or sending us an email. Have more questions than answers? Ask. Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

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True to Transplanting

This season we have been true to transplanting for a couple of reasons. We started our gardening season in February prior to the last frost. When you begin planting before the last frost, you must do so inside where the plants can survive the frost weather. We also wanted to give our plants a head start before going into the ground. We were also planting seedlings to go to other homes and possibly kitchens, so we put them in pots so they would be ready to roll once they were plants. Many of these plants were herbs who did not fair well from the mold outbreaks in the mini greenhouse aka garage. Since then they have been resown. Many herbs have been resown into soil blocks. Stay tuned for more on soil blocks.

We enjoyed the transplanting route. However, many plants such as dill and carrots do not like being transplanted nor can not be transplanted (respectively). So, the transplanting process is not for every plant. Read your seed package and do the research to find out if your seedlings will tolerate the process. It is worth noting here that soil blocks can make the transplanting process easier and less stressful for your plants. If you have questions about transplanting just leave us a comment and we will get right back to you. And stay tuned for more on soil blocks.

Green bean is one of our successful transplants. All of our transplants were successful. However, once outside it is a whole new ball game. These plants have to be able to withstand the weather, the outside elements and the pests that come along with it. For instance pumpkin and the first green bean plant did very well. Until a culprit took their leaves right off leaving just a steam. The ants are good but we don’t think they are that good. So, we are still looking for the pest that was responsible for that. Outside of ants the plants have had no real outside dangerous or pests. But it is worthy to note here.

Because of the conditions outside we decided early that we wanted the transplants to be on the bigger side when they went outside. We also wanted them to be in a healthy state. Good health in your plants is important in transplanting because you do not want pests to attack your plants once you put them in the outside environment. Regardless of how well you transplant, your plants will experience some degree of stress during the process. So, you want them as healthy and strong as possible for the process.

When you get ready to begin the transplant process you want to begin by acclimating those strong and healthy plants you have elected for the transplant process. During the acclimation process you leave your plants outside in their well drained pots in an area close to your garden if not in your garden. You will leave them outside for part if not the whole day. You may decide that only part of the day is good enough to have your plantlings out and the other part of the day may be too much for them to become acclimated to. Or the weather conditions during part of your transplant days may not be favorable for transplanting. During these times you can bring your plantlings in. The idea of acclimation is to get your plants acclimated to their new garden and thus mitigating the shock and stress of the transplanting process. Up to now your plants have been set in an inside environment and shielded from outside elements and for the most part pests. Going outside into the ground is a big deal for them.

Plants that undergo shock can become sick and be attacked by pests and die. A friend brought me a couple of plants straight from the nursery and we put them straight into the ground. This was a big no no and we lost about 3 – 4 plants because of it. We had an ant attack and a few other plants had to be nursed back into good health. In retrospect these plants should have been brought inside thus mimicking the environment they had just come from and then acclimated to their outside environment. Nonetheless, with care and organic pest treatments most of the plants survived.

I typically give my plants three days to become acclimated to their outside environments. During this time I give them some shield from the outside environment (like a wall on one side). I constantly check on how they are dealing with the acclimation. Are their leaves high or droopy? Do you see adverse affects on your plants or are they about the same or better? Of course I water them with a light mist and make sure they have proper drainage. If any plants show stress I bring them back in and bring them into good health and strength. I may let them grow more. I basically get them to a point where they are ready to begin the transplanting process.

For those plants that acclimate well to their new outside home in the pot. I turn them over; give the bottom of the pot a tap to loosen them from their pots and place them in a hole level to the top of the soil of the transplant and then cover them with a mound. We highly recommend putting compost in the hole before putting your plant in. Once the plant is in the ground, give it a generous helping of water. Making sure to water the roots and not the leaves. Also, when you bring the plant out of the pot check for any pests or infestations. Check for any problems.

Once the plant is in the ground continue to water it each day with a healthy dose of water. Check the plant daily for any signs of stress or pests. Remedy any issues fast. Once your plant has begun to grow and looks healthy with no signs of stress, then chances are your plant has successfully been transplanted. Continue to nurture this plant as you would the other plants in your garden. We are excited to share our experience with transplanting with you. If you have begun transplanting then that means you have a full garden outside. Curious to know if your plant is transplant friendly? Leave us a comment. Think carefully when selecting a spot for your garden. You want to make sure it will have everything it needs for the type of plants you will be growing. Do you have questions? Ask us. Looking forward to learning more about soil blocks and how they can help you with transplanting? Stay tuned. Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

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The golfer or the ant?

Our overall pests problems have been few. Because our mini greenhouse (as we like to call it) was set up in our garage, we have also experienced a few mold outbreaks that were detrimental to the spinach and herbal seedlings to our great dismay. But the ants have come out, as they always do, in large numbers and have been our greatest challenge.

You guessed it. When these pests and their friends showed up we took the organic route. We first did everything we could to improve the health of the plant. In this instance our plants came straight from the store and into the ground. We will not make that mistake again. Stay tuned for a more successful way to transplant. Needless to say, our plants had a severe case of shock and stress and the tomato plant on the end suffered the most.

We then rid the plants of the ants with a regimen of boiling water, white vinegar and then flooding with water from the hose. It was successful. However, we have seen them rear their heads again in a more clandestine manner. So, while these organic remedies were successful, the best remedy is to keep plants as healthy as possible. It is not always easy to see when a plant is in trouble. And when the ants get more clandestine in their attacks, sometimes you can not see it until it is too late. The best remedy for this is to occasionally give your plants a 360 degree check. In the case of garages which love mold, also check for odors.

an ant uprooting fatality (roma tomato)
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Our Roma Tomato plantling seemed to be doing just fine. So, we began the transplant process. When we went to put Roma in the ground we found a swarm of ants at the bottom of Roma’s pot made out of a cardboard like material. We found that clay pots work best to discourage mold and disease in a garage like environment. The cardboard like pots were very ineffective in this. Again, we went the organic route when mold appeared. We discarded all mold infested material. Even soil. And washed the pots in a bleach and water solution, which effectively got rid of all visible mold. We are now in the process of transitioning these pots out, transplanting and moving to soil blocks, clay pots and clay trays. Stay tuned for more on soil blocks and how they help you save in more ways than one.

Since the top soil seemed in tact, we noted the ants and moved on and planted Roma in the soil. Big mistake. The next day we found Roma up rooted and a few feet from her mound. Apparently the ants kept working from underneath the plant after we transplanted Roma and moved her right out of the ground. In retrospect we would have tried our natural remedies or removing the infested soil. We also recommend checking your pots 360 degrees when you have them outside for acclimation.

We found that these organic remedies were effective, but we have to follow these ants down all the way so to speak. They are very crafty and not to be underestimated. A word of caution. The boiling water and white vinegar had an adverse effect on the leaves and plants overall. When using these methods be careful to aim only for the ants and not the plants. Aim low in this case. Also these remedies are only for ants. Each pest will have its own natural remedy.

Do you know of any other organic remedies that can be used in the organic garden? What do you do to keep your plants healthy and to come to their aid when they are sick? Try this organic remedy and tell us how it worked out in your garden. Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

white spots on the leaves from the boiling water and white vinegar organic ant remedy
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook
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The Urban Landscape

Chef Ponder was to the point about the food choices in our urban environments. He warned us that our food choices are often to full of meats, canned and frozen foods and often lacked choices of fresh vegetables, fruits and fresh foods in general. And so was inspired our organic garden. My grandfather had a corn field where our neighbor’s house is located now. So, it was not hard for us to take the leap and reclaim some urban space for gardening.

Our beginnings were and are humble. So, we have a lot of hope for our garden. Not only will it provide us a reprieve from the food choices to often found in urban grocery settings, it will also give us some organic options as well. Chef Ponder pointed out to us that many of the health challenges we face today may be solved by proper diet. I have personally suffered tremendously because of a mineral and vitamin deficiency and know many other women who have also suffered like me. Needless to say, we have high hopes for our journey and know improvements do not happen over night.

As always at the root of any organic mission is your health and wellness. During a time when Corona is so prevalent, we can all appreciate those things that add to our good health and well being. What challenges have you faced because of poor diet? What would you like to grow in your garden? How can you transform your urban landscape into a vegetation heaven? Join us on our organic journey.

Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

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Harvesting Herbs

We had a few questions about harvesting herbs. And we are here and happy to answer. First and foremost we have a love for herbs because they are a great way to start gardening. You can keep them in containers on your window seal if you like. Or you can place larger pots on your front or back patio. It is how we begun our organic garden. Although we went from 2 seeds to over 30 seeds in the same day, it is a great way to get started and introduce yourself to organic gardening. We highly recommend it. So, go ahead and get started. Remember, to send us your pictures and leave comments all about your journey in organic gardening. We invite you to join us on ours.

Dill before harvesting
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Question: When you harvest your herbs will they grow back?

Answer: The quick answer is yes.

As long as your herb is in its season it will continue to grow back for some time. Some herbs will come back year after year but lose their flavor after a few years, like oregano.


1.You can see the dill before harvest. 2. You can see the dill pre cooked. 3. You can see the dill after we cooked it up with salmon. 4. You can see how the dill is slowly growing back in its small container. This is after about 5 days after the initial harvest. Dill was the first plant that we harvested in our organic garden. We also used a little thread from our sewing room and a popsicle stick (from the local general store) to stake the herb as dill has a tendency to get a little leggy and want to flop over. We did this to encourage growth and to prevent the stems from breaking and becoming damaged, hindering growth. Remember to keep the herb and not the popsicle stick towards the light.

Thank you for your questions. We truly enjoy making this journey with you and hope that you will soon visit one of your local garden stores or nurseries and began your organic journey with us. What questions do you have? What are your observations. We invite you to leave your comments with us. We love pictures. Be sure to contact us and e mail them right over.Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.