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Winter Garden Structures

This post was featured first on Bakerette.com.  Thanks again to Jeni for allowing me to guest post!

Winter Garden Structures

 

This month I want to teach you about some very important Winter Garden Structures you need to extend your gardening season into the fall and winter months.  There are three simple methods for extending your season, first fabric row covers, second mini hoop houses, and third cold frames.  Let’s talk about each in order of the level of protection they provide.

Floating Fabric Row Covers

Winter Garden Structures 2

Floating row covers are the simplest and least expensive of our winter garden structures.  Floating row covers are agricultural fabrics produced in a variety of weights and materials.  You can find row covers at many garden centers or online.  They come in many different sizes but for most garden applications you should be able to find pieces that are roughly 5’ x 20’.  A piece that size will usually be under $10.00!  For fall and winter applications you want to buy the heaviest weight you can find.  The thicker the material the more cold protection you will get.

You can get as fancy as you want with row covers.  I’ve seen folks who build simple wire hoops and then attach the fabric to the hoops.  But for me that’s too much work.  We simply use the row fabrics to cover our crops when there is a threat of frost.  It’s light weight so you can throw it over your lettuce bed and hold down the edges with a few rocks or bricks so it doesn’t blow away in the wind.  The heavier row covers offer around 6 to 8 degrees of protection.  So on those frosty fall evenings your plants will be protected down to as low as 26 degrees!

Fabric row covers are also super handy to use to protect your warm season crops from an early freeze.  It happens every year around our place.  We will have a night in late September that gets down below freezing which will be followed by 2 weeks of nice warm weather.  If it weren’t for the protection of our row covers we would lose our tomato, melon, and squash plants and miss out on that last couple of weeks of ripening time.  Some years we are able to keep our tomato plants producing well past the 3rd week of October, almost a month past our first frost date!!

Mini Hoop Houses

Winter Garden Structures 3

Hoop houses offer the next level of protection.  Again these can be as simple or complicated as you want to make them.  Basically a hoop house is 4 to 6 “hoops” covered with a plastic.  We make our hoops fairly inexpensively by using four 10 foot lengths of PVC pipe (available at any home improvement center) with a piece of 1” x 1” wood as a ridge poll.  We then cover the structure with 10 mil clear painters plastic and use some simple clamps to hold the plastic to the hoops.  The longer you are planning on leaving your hoop up the stronger you need to build it.  If it is only going to be up through November then you may be able to get away with simply sticking the hoops in the ground.  If you want it stay up all winter then you will need to be sure that the structure is strong enough to endure the wind and snow winter has to offer.  You can head over to my blog for some more ideas on building a hoop house.  You can easily build a hoop house for around $30.00

Winter Garden Structures 4

Hoop houses offer a higher level of protection from both the wind and cold.  You can combine a hoop house and fabric row covers for an added level of protection.  We have found hoop houses handy for our late fall crops.  Plants like broccoli, cabbage, carrots and kale do very well in a hoop house.  But our experience has been that you should only plant your hardiest crops in hoop houses.  Ultimately they don’t offer as much protection from the cold as our next season extension option, the cold frame.

Cold Frames

Winter Garden Structures 5

Cold frames offer the most protection of the three winter garden structures options.  A cold frame is basically a wooden box with some type of glass top.  Again, you can make it as simple or complicated as you would like.  You can also make them any size to fit your garden beds.  A few things to keep in mind when building a cold frame:

  • Usually cold frames are no more than 12 to 15 inches tall.  This keeps them low and out of the wind
  • Whenever possible the top should slope to the south.  This lets in the maximum amount of light
  • Plexi glass is much lighter and less likely to break than actual glass.  So if you are going buy something for your cold frame lid buy plexi glass.  But don’t let that stop you from using that old storm door you have lying around, that can be perfect for a cold frame lid

You can jump over to Stoney Acres to see how we built our 3 cold frames.  If you are building from scratch and using plexi glass tops, plan on spending around $130 dollars to build one.

Build your cold frame so that it can simply sit on top of the soil over your garden beds.  Fill in any gaps so that the wind can’t get in and your plants will be tucked in for a long cold winter!

Cold frames are perfect for all your low growing crops.  Carrots, spinach, Swiss chard, Asian greens, lettuce and Mache all love a cold frame.  If you live in an area where it gets really cold in the winter you can even add a row cover inside your cold frame during those months when you never see the temperatures rise above freezing.  This will give you some added protection.

Here’s a warning; if you want to build a hoop house or cold frame for your garden you need to be prepared to manage the temperatures inside the structure in the fall and spring.  If someone isn’t going to be around during the day then be sure to open up your hoop house before you leave for work on days that will be over 50 degrees.   You would be amazed how hot it can get in a hoop house or a cold frame on a sunny 60 degree day.  If you don’t open it up your plants might just get cooked inside a 95 degree cold frame!!

I really hope you have enjoyed these last two posts on season extension.  It’s a fun part of gardening that many people over look.  Two posts don’t even scratch the surface of all the information out there on winter gardening.  I’m very happy to field any questions at my own blog; ourstoneyacres.com or right here in the comments section on the Bakerette!

Next month we will look at what we can do in the fall to get our main garden ready for planting next spring!!

Real Food Breakfast

Real Food Breakfast

When we began our real food journey we tried to do too much too soon and the teens did not react well and so I backed off and have just made slow, small changes and it has worked out a lot better.  One of the most important things I wanted to change, was breakfast!!  This was super important to me because it is the first and most important meal of the day.   I wanted my family to have a real food breakfast each and every day to get them started out with the right kind of food!!  I didn’t want them to packed full of sugar to start their day!!  We have slowly changed what we eat for breakfast, and almost all of my kids have adapted to the change.  I still hear the moaning and groaning about how they want that sugary cold cereal…but I won’t buy it anymore!!   I want them to be eating a real food breakfast.    Here is the trick if I don’t buy it, they can’t eat it because it is no longer in the pantry for them to grab.  Before I read about real food I didn’t really pay attention to the labels on those cold cereal boxes!  I picked what I thought was not too sugary,  Ha, Ha…you will laugh when you find out what I bought.  Yes, I did buy Frosted Mini-wheats ( what they have wheat in them right??), Cheerios, Chex, and Honey Bunches of Oats(they are good for you right? Oats are in the name?).  My husband on the other hand liked the sugary cereals and so he would throw in Frosted Flakes or Marshmallow Matey’s(Lucky Charms) .

Tosca Reno in her book, The Eat Clean Diet for Family & kids calls cold cereal, “Chemical Soup!”   She also said, “I feel like the cereal aisle is  booby-trapped at entry point.  At least when you are in the junk-food aisle you know it.  On every level, even the junkiest of cereals is trying to present itself as a healthy food.    Would it shock you to learn that the sugar content in a small serving of Froot Loops is the same as a Kit Kat bar.”

It is hard to believe that there is so much sugar content in our food but it is so true.  When my husband and I decided to start this real food adventure, we started by going to the grocery store to see what we could possibly buy!  The first few times at the grocery store took quite a while because I would check ingredients of every label of food I picked up before it went in the shopping cart.  I encourage you to do the same and you will be surprised what you see.  I was so shocked at how many ingredients each label had and how many  I couldn’t pronounce.  I found that sugar and high fructose corn syrup were in most everything!!  There are so many chemical preservatives added to cold cereals to help them last longer, but do we really know what those preservatives can do to us???

Real Food Breakfast Eggs

It makes me sick to think that I was even feeding my family this junk!!!   They would even go to the pantry and get the cereal out and eat it as a snack…yikes!!!   There had to be a better way to feed my family a real food breakfast than out of a box!  The Cold Cereal aisle is really overwhelming because it is full of box after box of cereal claiming to be good for you but when you  look at the long list of ingredients and all the sugar….ugh…it makes me so angry at myself for not paying attention to what I was putting in my body!

When I walk down this aisle now, I do not buy very much from it and guess what I am saving a lot of money by not buying those expensive boxes of cereal.    I slowly stopped buying the sugar cereals until we only buy one, but only because it has 6 ingredients but it still has sugar and corn syrup in it…sigh!!!!   I haven’t convinced my family completely, including Rick to give up on this one cereal….Wheat Bran Flakes….it is a work in progress…I will convince them eventually.  This was not an easy adjustment!   Like I said above, there were complaints of how there wasn’t anything to eat for breakfast!!!  But I am slowly getting my family to adjust to a healthier real food breakfast. A real food breakfast is so much better for you!  When you eat a good breakfast it gives you the right energy your body needs to make it through the day!  I feel  so much better not starting my day being packed with sugar!!!  I have also shed a lot of unwanted pounds that I haven’t been able to lose in years!   This was a total bonus to my real/clean food journey!!!  (I will share more about that in a later post on exercise/clean eating.)

I have found a couple of cereals that have less than 5 ingredients in them but do not have sugar that I do still buy.   Western Family Bite size Shredded Wheat (1 ingredient, but it does have BHT in it) and Western Family Wheat and Barley Nutty Nuggets(this has 4 ingredients).  I also buy oatmeal, Cream of wheat, and Zoom.  I have to mix up my real food breakfast each day.  Tosca Reno just has oatmeal every single day!!  I can’t do that I have to have different things each day otherwise I would get sick of that same old stuff day after day.   Just because your eating  a real/clean food  breakfast  doesn’t mean it has to be boring and tasteless!!  I have made a list of our Real Food breakfasts that we have and I hope it helps you to make the change too!!  I will be posting some of the real food breakfast recipes in later posts.

Real Food Breakfast Granola

This is a list of the options that I have in the pantry for my family  to have for a Real food breakfast each day.   They are simple and easy and don’t take much more time than pouring cereal in a bowl.   The ones that take longer I save for the weekends when I have more time and  I also have some things in the freezer for easy grab and go..like whole wheat tacos,  homemade whole wheat waffles/pancakes.  I also at times will make extra scrambled eggs and either freeze them or put in the fridge for an easy breakfast burrito.   I hope this list will help you see how good a real food breakfast can be each day!:)

Real Food Breakfast Real Food  add ins or Toppings Prep time  
Cold Cereal- Bite size Shredded  Wheat or Nutty Nuggets Fruit-strawberries, raspberries,Bananas, add some honey 1 minute
Cream of Wheat Add honey, bananas, & flax 2 ½ minutes
Zoom Add honey and fruit of choice, flax 2 ½ minutes
Homemade Granola Add fruit and milk
Oatmeal Add a pinch of salt and  then add applesauce, flax,  and cinnamon. This tastes so yummy! 2 minutes to boil water.
Whole wheat English muffin egg sandwich. Fry a n egg and toast the muffin, add some spinach/ kale and some homemade BBQ sauce and oh so good!! 5-8 minutes to cook the egg
Plain Yogurt Frozen/fresh fruit of choice, add a little honey, some flax and mix together then sprinkle granola on top.  This is my favorite! 2 minutes
Whole wheat  Pancakes/ Waffles Add fresh/frozen fruit to top or drizzle honey on them. 20 minutes-I save these for the weekend.
Scrambled eggs Add onion, green pepper, spinach/kale, and zucchini and you have a great breakfast. 15 minutes
Breakfast Burritos Grab a frozen whole wheat taco and add leftover scrambled eggs from fridge put in a little spinach and add some homemade BBQ sauce and a little cheese…mmmm!! 45 seconds in microwave.

7 easy vegetables to grow

For the last couple of months we have talked about why you should garden and what you can do to get started.  For my last post in this series I thought we could talk about 7 easy vegetables to grow for a new gardener.  So why is this important?  Over the years as I have taught many gardening classes I’ve found that the key to someone starting a garden and then continuing on is having some very early success.  So let’s take a look at 7 easy vegetables to grow.

7 Easy Vegetables to Grow

Lettuce

Lettuce is a great beginner crop.  You plant lettuce early in the spring and then you can replant in early August for a nice fall crop as well.  In fact plant breeders have now even developed some varieties of lettuce that can stand up to the heat of the summer and still stay crisp and tasty. (click here to learn more about summer crisp lettuces)

There are basically 3 types of lettuce that do well in home gardens.  Leaf, butter crunch and romaine.  For most home gardeners the traditional “iceberg” lettuce that you get at the grocery store is a little difficult to grow, so stay away from them.  Instead choose from the huge array of both colors and textures that are available.  Be sure to search the web or seed catalogs for lots of fun types of lettuce to grow.  Don’t limit yourself to the 4 varieties you can get on the seed rack at the local home improvement store.  Branch out and find lots of tasty lettuces to grow in your home garden.

7 Easy Vegetables to Grow Lettuce

Tomatoes

Everyone needs to grow some tomatoes.  Once you have tasted a home grown, vine ripened tomato you may never go back to the grocery store again for tasteless commercially grown tomatoes.  Two or three tomato plants are easy to maintain and can be very productive.  Be sure to buy a good quality, large tomato cage for each plant you put in.  The cages help support the growing plants and keep the fruit off the ground and away from pests.

There is a big push in the gardening world to move back to Heirloom tomatoes.  I think that’s great and we grow some ourselves and love them.  But Heirlooms are a little more difficult to grow.  If I was just starting out I think I would plant 3 tomato plants, 1 cherry, 1 with medium size fruit and 1 with a large fruit.  There are literally thousands of tomato varieties out there to choose from so it’s hard for me to really suggest a variety.  But for the beginner I would choose hybrids that have good disease resistance and are easy to grow.   Also you should plant tomatoes from starts not from seeds so go to your local garden nursery and chose some good healthy starts to begin your tomato growing adventure.

7 Easy Vegetables to Grow tomato

Zucchini

Zucchini or other summer squashes (including yellow, crook-neck, and patty pan) are quite easy to grow.  They are also one of the most productive plants you can grow in your garden and one of the quickest to produce (some have fruit ready to pick in just 60 days).  Summer squash plants take up quite a bit of room so be sure to give them some space.  They can be planted by seed directly in the garden as soon as you have passed your last frost date.

There are many types to choose from so have fun trying different types from year to year.  We always plant our favorite Zucchini but we also experiment with different colors and sizes of other summer squash.  One warning for the new gardener, all types of summer squashes are very productive!    Be careful not to plant too much, one healthy plant can produce 30 pounds of fruit in a season so be sure you really like zucchini before you put in more than one or two plants!

7 Easy Vegetables to Grow zucchini

Cucumbers

Who doesn’t love the cool crisp taste of fresh cumbers in the summer time!  Whether for fresh eating or for pickling, cucumbers are one of the best plants for a new gardener to grow.  Most cucumbers grow on long vines (although there are a few “bush” varieties out there).  Because of the long vines it’s best to grow them on some type of trellis.  A short 4 foot row of cucumbers with a good trellis can produce 50 pounds of fruit in a season.  They are usually producing by mid summer and will continue to produce until early fall when the frost kills the vines.

Be sure to plant the type of cucumber you want for what you are going to use them for.  There are two types, pickling and slicing and each is better for its intended use.  If you would like both there is no reason why you couldn’t plant slicing and pickling cucumbers side by side.

7 Easy Vegetables to Grow cucumbers

Pumpkins

One of the best ways to get your kids excited about your new garden is to let them plant their own pumpkins!!  One or two pumpkin plants can produce 6 to 8 jack-o-lantern sized pumpkins.  Pumpkins are simple to grow and care for and the kids will have a blast watching them grow and develop.  One thing to keep in mind with pumpkins is they take up a lot of space!!  I’ve had 2 pumpkin plants over grow a 4 x 8 bed.  So be sure that you want to dedicate all that space before you plant this fun garden crop.

7 Easy Vegetables to Grow pumpkins

Kale

Let’s face it, Kale is kind of an acquired taste.  You won’t catch your kids out in the garden stealing a kale leaf like you might catch them in your strawberry patch.  But kale is becoming more and more popular for gardeners because it is so dang good for you!  Kale is a super food packed with tons of nutrition.  And it’s easy to grow.

Here’s a hint . .  Most of the kale you buy from the grocery store was grown in the spring and summer; it tends to be tough and very strong tasting.  Kale is very hardy, so try planting your kale in mid summer, and time it so that it is ready to harvest after your fall frost date.  The cool (and even freezing) temperatures of fall and early winter change the taste and texture of Kale.  It becomes sweet, mild and tender after a few good coatings of frost.  Or try planting it early in the spring and harvesting it as baby kale when the leaves are still mild and tender.

7 Easy Vegetables to Grow kale

 

Ever-Bearing Strawberries

Strawberries are one of the most rewarding and easiest crops to grow.  You plant them from either starts or “bare root” (bought bulk, and very cheap from many online nurseries).  We choose to grow Ever-Bearing Strawberry plants and plant them bare root.  The fruit is always smaller than the traditional June bearing plants but you get the benefit of several crops throughout the year starting in June and continuing until the frost comes in late fall.

Strawberries do take up some space but the nice thing about them is they only need to be replanted every 3 to 5 years.   So the one time investment in plants gives you many years of tasty berries!

7 Easy Vegetables to Grow strawberries

So for all you new gardener lets get going with these 7 easy vegetables to grow!!  Please feel free to visit our blog Stoney Acres for more great gardening tips and you are welcome to ask questions there and I will do my best to help!!

This post was featured first on Bakerette.com.  Thanks again to Jeni for allowing me to guest post!

Our Real Food Journey -Healthier cooking oils

Healthier Cooking Oils

The next step in our real food journey was to change to healthier cooking oils.  This was one of the easiest steps to make.  We stopped using shortening, canola oil, margarine and cooking spray.   Science is now finding that unrefined fats (which we were told for years were the enemy to good health) are actually better for us than all the trans-fats, poly unsaturated fats, etc. that we used as replacements.  We have learned that unrefined oils are the best and so our search began for healthy unrefined oils.  One of the best articles we read on oils we found on 100 days of real food (one of our favorite blogs) you can read that post for a much more in-depth look at healthy oils.

I didn’t want to use any of my old oils after learning more about them.  I began searching for healthier oils and I found olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil and butter.  I now use these healthier oils instead and I use them consistently.   I first started buying organic extra virgin olive oil from Costco.  I started using olive oil exclusively for everything because it was a healthier oil.

Healthier cooking oils Misto Sprayer

I then bought a Misto brushed aluminum olive oil sprayer from Target for $10, no more cooking spray for me!!.   Did you know it contains isobutene??  What in the world will that do to you?? I now have a healthier oil sprayer, so simple and easy.   This was an easy switch it didn’t change the taste of what I cooked at all.   However, the Misto didn’t work as well as I liked and kept getting clogged.  I just started cleaning it more often and that helped a lot.  However, when I spray it on pans, things still stick especially my bread sticks and pizzas, so sometimes I just rub coconut oil on it and that helps a bit more.

I then started reading conflicting things about olive oil and how you shouldn’t cook it at high temperatures.   I started researching that and still there were pros and cons to both.   I still use olive oil but for low temperatures, and I use it for salad dressings.   I now buy Avocado oil and use that to cook on high heat.  I switched to Avocado oil in my Misto and it sprays much better, things still stick though.  Does anyone have a Misto they are using?  I would love to know what healthy oil you use to put in it and if you still have things stick?

Healthier cooking oils Olive Oil

I also switched from shortening and margarine to coconut oil and unsalted butter.  The shortening ingredients list is so bad; I couldn’t use it any more.    The ingredients list for butter and coconut oil is just one ingredient!!  I have had to learn to cook with coconut oil and it takes me maybe one more step by using a pastry blender in my bread and English muffins but it really isn’t that big of deal.  This didn’t change my cooking much either nor did it change the taste!!   I feel better that I am using healthier oils to put in my foods.   Obviously I am not a scientist and an expert on healthier cooking oils, but I know that these oils are healthier and I like using them.  I am not suggesting just because they are healthier you should put them on and in everything, try to use the least amount that you can but choose these healthier cooking oils.

Moving to healthier cooking oils for my family didn’t cause any moans and groans from the kiddos so it was a fairly easy adjustment.  I know you can change it now too.   Go to your pantry and look at the ingredients in your oils, shortening, and margarine.  Do you really want to be eating that stuff?  You can make the switch today to healthier cooking oils!!!

Monday Harvest Report – Winter Lettuce Harvest

Hi guys!  Welcome to December!  I hope all my U.S. readers had a great Thanksgiving weekend and you’re all fired up and ready to enjoy the holiday season!  It has been a couple weeks since I did a Monday harvest report so I thought I’d take a minute to let you know what we have been harvesting from the garden for the last two weeks.  First off our weather has been unseasonably warm which is good for our lettuce bed!  Lettuce in the winter likes nights that don’t get much lower that 25 and we have had plenty of those along with lots of days in the low 50’s.  That’s great for my winter garden but not so good for our snow pack in the mountains.

Winter Lettuce Harvest

So we have had a big winter lettuce harvest every weekend!  I’ve been picking a big basket like this every Saturday and it usually lasts us most of the week.  This basket has the last of the Nevada lettuce and a mix of a few others.

Winter Lettuce Harvest 2

This is the basket from this weekend.  This one gives you a look at all 4 of the varieties we are growing this year.  On the left is Oak leaf, Center top is Paris Island Cos, Center Bottom is Larry’s red, and on the right a small head of butter crunch.  Each harvest is coming in at around 3/4 of a pound and the leaves are still tender and tasty.  At some point the cold weather will turn the leaves bitter, just like the warm weather does in the summer, but for now we are having some great salads!

Home Grown Sunflower Seeds

Here’s a harvest that I have totally forgotten to include in my totals.  Of course we didn’t harvest these this week, we actually cut the sunflower heads way back in September.  We put these seeds on a top shelf to dry and forgot about them.  So some time this week we will try to get around to actually roasting these seeds putting them away for the kids to snack on!

Here’s our 2 Week total:
Lettuce – 1.50 lbs
Spinach – .50 lbs
Sunflower seeds – 2 lbs
Total – 4 lbs

That brings the home garden total to 708 pounds for the year!  We still might make 720 by year end.  Maybe!!??

I normally don’t make it a habit to promote upcoming posts.  It seems like every time I do life gets in the way and we don’t get the promised post written.  But this week we are ahead of the game and both Valerie and I have a post written!!  So drop back by on Wednesday and Valerie is going to be talking a little more about our real food journey.  This time she will be sharing info about our switch to healthy oils.  On Friday I will be talking about the 7 easiest vegetables that I think every gardener (especially new gardeners) should be growing!  So please stop back by later in the week!!  C-ya then!!

We will be joining several blog hops this week including the Good Morning Mondays at the Darling Downs Diaries, Tuesday Garden Party at an Oregon Cottage, Garden Tuesday at Sidewalk Shoes, The Homestead Barn Hop at New Life on a Homestead and of course the Monday Harvest Report at Daphne’s Dandelions!

Homemade Dinner Rolls Recipe

Homemade Dinner Rolls

This was one of the first breads I ever made and was the beginning of my obsession with making homemade bread.   When I was a teenager, my church youth group  got together once a week, and this wonderful lady in my neighborhood taught me and a bunch of other 12 & 13 year old rambunctious and loud preteens how to make our own homemade dinner rolls.  She taught us every step of how to make the perfect homemade dinner rolls!  She made each of us feel how hot the water should be so the yeast would rise and we mixed and kneaded it.  She had a lot of patience with us and I never forgot any of those steps.

I have been making these homemade dinner rolls for Thanksgiving dinner ever since she taught me how when I was 12…so I have been making them for a few years!!    I have tried many different homemade dinner rolls but these are by far the best texture and taste!  They are so yummy they just melt in your mouth!

I know I have been posting a lot about real food, and well for Thanksgiving I just can’t go without these homemade dinner rolls.   They do have sugar in them and they are all white flour….but I figure I can make an exception for one day!   I feel like I am giving out one of those secret recipes…but I really want to share this so everyone can try these out!  I promise once you make these homemade dinner rolls you will never want to use those frozen rolls from the store again!!! I hope you enjoy them as much as my family does!

Homemade Dinner Rolls

6 ¾ tsp.  Active dry yeast softened in ½ cup of warm water
2 Cups milk scalded
4 eggs
2 rounded tsp. salt
¾ Cup oil (I used Avocado oil)
8 Cups flour

Mix the yeast and the ½ cup of warm water together (I put this in my glass 4 cup measuring cup and add a teaspoon of sugar to it to help it rise).  Set this aside in a warm place and let raise.

Homemade Dinner Rolls Yeast

In a separate bowl, beat eggs and add the salt and sugar and beat together.  Add the oil and beat, then add the milk (must be very warm-105 degrees but not too warm, because it will cook the eggs when you put it in.  That happened to me once. Yikes!) Add the yeast once it has risen and mix together.  Gradually add the flour until dough is too stiff to beat.  Add the rest of the flour and mix and knead by hand (may be a little stiff).

Put a tiny bit of oil in bottom of bowl, just enough to oil the top of the dough then cover and put in a warm place and let it rise for an hour then punch it down and let rise again for 45 to 60 minutes.

Homemade dinner rolls steps

Melt some butter and spread out on cookie sheet or glass 9X13 pan.   Then grab a small amount of dough and tuck it under to form a ball (Steps 1-3).    Take the ball of dough, dip top in the butter and rub all around it, you just need a light covering of butter on it, don’t put too much.   Then set the roll on your pan…continue to do this putting the balls of dough about 1 inch apart on your pan.   Let them rise again for another 40 minutes or as big as you want them. (Step 4)

Homemade Dinner Rolls Cooked

Bake at 350 degrees.  The secret to getting perfectly brown rolls is to cook them for 10 to 12 minutes first and then check that they are lightly brown on the tops.  Then put tin foil over the top and tuck over the side of the pan.  Cook for another 3 to 5 minutes checking the bottom to make sure it is turning brown too.  It may take longer than 5 minutes depending on your oven, just  check the top and bottom of the rolls about every 2 minutes so they don’t get overly browned.   Once they are done butter the tops and serve warm.

Makes 36 rolls

(Note:  The pictures for this post were of a 1/2 batch I made the other day, a whole batch will make 36 rolls)

Growing Lettuce in the Fall & Early Winter

Growing Lettuce in the fall

We love lettuce fresh from the garden.  In fact we love lettuce so much that we do everything we can to have lettuce growing in the garden all year long.  Lettuce is, for the most part, a cool weather plant.  Most varieties of lettuce prefer to grow in temperatures not much more than 75 degrees.  We have found that fall is really the best time of the year to grow lettuce.  In spring you are rushing to get all your lettuce harvested before the heat sets in and turns the leaves bitter.  But in the fall temperatures are cooling making it the perfect time for lettuce growing.  And most years we can get lettuce to stay tasty until the middle of December with some protection.

So there are 4 important things to remember when growing lettuce in the fall.  Timing of planting, the varieties of seeds you plant, protection from the heat of late summer and protection from the cold of early winter.  Let’s talk about each of these.

Timing

If you are planning on growing lettuce in the fall the most important thing to keep in mind is the timing of when you plant those seeds.  You should aim to start getting seeds in the ground about 60 days before your first frost date.  For example our first frost usually arrives right around October 1st, so we start planting lettuce either in the garden or indoors in our seed starter on August 1st.  If your first frost date is November 1st then you could wait til September 1st to plant.  The key is 60 days.

 

Growing Lettuce in the Fall starts

Now can you get away with 45 days?  Of course, but 30 days before your first frost will be pushing it.  You need to have some well established plants by that frost date.  Also keep in mind that anything planted in the fall will take longer to mature than it would in the spring.  If your seed package says your lettuce will be ready to eat in 45 days then plan on 55 to 60 days in the fall.  Your daily amount of sun will be decreasing in the fall so it just takes longer for the lettuce to be ready.

Seed Varieties

Variety selection is the least important part of growing lettuce in the fall.  Really not a ton to tell you here.  Most lettuce that you grow in the spring will also do well in the fall.  But I would avoid “head” lettuce and stick with either leaf lettuces or lettuces that form smaller looser heads.  Butter Crunch lettuces do very well in the fall as they don’t form a heavy solid head.  Some smaller varieties of romaine lettuces also do well, we grow a variety called Paris Island that usually gets a nice head developed by late November.  Varieties that we have enjoyed and have grown well in the fall include black seeded Simpson, Butter crunch, Paris island cos, oak leaf, Nevada and most types of red leaf lettuces.

Protection from the heat in Late Summer

If your summers are anything like ours then 60 days before your first frost is probably still pretty hot!  In August we have at least 10 days over 100 degrees.  That can be rough on new lettuce plants.  So you do need to baby those seeds and seedlings a bit when growing lettuce in the fall.  First off be sure to keep your lettuce beds moist, not soggy wet but moist so that the newly planted seeds can germinate.  Until seeds have sprouted and are a week or so old I may lightly water my lettuce beds twice a day.  Once they are established they will do better but still be sure they get plenty to drink.

A simple frame hoop with some shade cloth on it can also really help your lettuce plants when it is still super hot.  This isn’t strictly necessary but it sure can help.

Another method we use to defeat the late summer heat is to start our lettuce indoors in our seed starter.  If you do this, it’s easier to control the environment that your lettuce grows up in.  I use some simple cell packs and thin to one plant per cell.  I keep them indoors for 4 to 6 weeks, fertilize them once a week with a good organic fertilizer and they will be ready to go out just a few weeks before your first frost.  This method also had the added benefit of producing a very pretty finished product.  It’s easy to plant a nice neat bed of individual plants that will look fantastic all fall!

Growing Lettuce in the fall 2

Protection from early winter cold

Lettuce is hardy, but it’s not super hardy.  It can handle a few nights of frost but will quickly turn to mush if it sits out unprotected for too many evenings with temperatures below freezing.  Simple protection is all it takes to get your crop to last well into the late fall and early winter.

Try buying some fabric row cover.  This simple and inexpensive garden tool can really save your lettuce from a cold night.  The heavier row cover fabrics can protect your crops for up to 6 to 8 degrees.  This means your lettuce will be snug and warm on nights as low as 26.

For even more protection try a hoop house or even better a cold frame.  Either of these simple structures will keep you growing lettuce in the fall well into the days when you have temperatures as low at 20 degrees!  You can learn more about Hoop houses and cold frames by following these links.  The links will hook you up with some posts I wrote on using both.  You can also go here to see a great post on how to build a really nice cold frame.

All great things must come to an end and the lettuce harvest usually comes to an end when night time temperatures reach that 20 degree mark (even in a cold frame).  So if it looks like your night time temperatures are going to drop below that mark and stay there for a few days then it’s time to harvest the rest of your lettuce and bring it in and put in the fridge.  Most lettuces will stay good in the fridge for at least another two weeks giving you tons of crunchy salads well into December.

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