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How to Measure How Much Sunlight Your Garden Space Gets

Watch the video below and learn how to observe key temperatures in your area and map the sunlight and shadows in your garden space for success!

All plants have ideal growing temperatures. Outside those optimum temperature ranges, plants become less productive, and growth grinds to a halt. Too far outside the zone, plants die. It’s crucial to know what temperatures your plants need and when those temperatures happen in your area! 

 

Your vegetable plants need 6-8 hours of sunlight minimum to thrive. Measuring hours of sunlight and mapping your shadows BEFORE you dig or build your garden beds will ensure your plants’ success.

Download our complimentary shadow mapping template

Once you understand your climate, you can let Mother Nature do the work. She’ll even let you take the credit! 

Share what shadow mapping has taught you about your garden space!

How One Ugly Carrot Started the Grow Your Own Vegetables Movement

One ugly carrot changed Stacey Murphy’s life forever. Watch the video or read Stacey’s story below to learn how the seed for Grow Your Own Vegetables first sprouted! 

Stacey’s Story:

Years ago, I was working overtime as an architect in New York City. I was working on exciting projects like churches, libraries, and community centers. I had worked my whole life to get where I was, and you would think that I would be ecstatic. 

But every day, I was feeling a little bit more disconnected from everything. I felt like a tourist in my own life, like I didn’t belong. And I especially felt disconnected from my food and my body. 

I was trying to stay as healthy as I could. But to be honest, I was a little depressed and low energy. Maybe you can relate. 

I was grabbing quick, convenient food all the time and rushing right back to my busy day. It was “healthy” food, but it was still convenience food, and I was just grabbing and going without thinking.

On the weekends, I would go to the farmer’s market. I would load up on organic, fresh food. It would keep me happy for a day or two…until I went back to work and forgot about it again. 

Then on a crisp day in October, 2008, I bought carrots from one of the local farmers. The carrots were in a bag, and they were covered with a bunch of soil. Who does that? Who sells your food mixed in with a bunch of dirt? It’s so weird, right? Well, this farmer did. He told me that the carrots would stay fresh in the fridge longer and that they would taste sweeter.

The crazy thing is, he was totally right

These ugly, dirty carrots were a miracle in my mouth. And at that moment, I had a flashback to growing up in my mom’s garden. I was so lucky. She had a gorgeous garden, and I remember discovering carrots underground, digging them up, and pulling them out. Just, “Wow, look at this,” and I ate the carrots before they were even washed. They had little flecks of crunchy soil on them. 

How sweet and delicious those carrots from the garden were! As I sampled these carrots in this bag covered in dirt, I remembered my mom’s garden, and I knew that I had to get my hands dirty and start growing some food again.

To this day, I have to tell you, my mom says her memories of her garden are much different than my memories of her garden. She says that my memories are better. She still has this sort of garden shame around what it all looked like, and she was busy being tormented by tomato hornworm caterpillars.

But I saw something different. In my experience as a little kid, her garden was my own private science discovery show. It was full of mysteries to solve. It was where I learned to appreciate the finer things in life. I discovered the exact moment to pick peas for maximum sweetness. I chased butterflies, and I watched new seeds magically emerge from the ground into full-blown plants dripping with fruit. I watched and learned intently, and I asked lots of questions, like all curious kids do. 

Years later, there I was, holding this bag of soil and carrots. And I had so many questions for this farmer. I felt so much curiosity about these beautiful-tasting carrots. It was a delightful rediscovery of the feeling of digging up your own carrots.

Suddenly, I felt connected, I felt healthy, and I felt whole again in ways that I hadn’t a long time. And that’s when I knew I was going to grow my own vegetables and herbs. My whole lens on life shifted, and I could never go back to the way life used to be because I had this big realization.

What I realized in that moment is that a garden, it’s not a thing. It’s a lifestyle. But even more than your garden being a lifestyle, it’s a feeling. 

It’s not about what you’re actually growing. It’s not about your yield. It’s about who you’re becoming. And that day with the carrots, I suddenly remembered that I was this wild child and a part of nature. I loved the thrill of discovery in the garden. I remembered how great it felt to run barefoot. I wanted that feeling back. I wanted my own private science discovery channel again. I wanted to play in the dirt. I wanted to learn from my favorite teachers: the sun, the soil, the plants, and the insects. Simply making the decision to grow my own food, I already felt connected to the feelings of health, vitality, and most of all, peace.

Do you have a favorite vegetable story? Share with us below!

One Crop Rotation Rule to Prevent Diseases in Your Garden

Plan your plants to prevent disease in your garden!

When you’re thinking about what to plant where this year, you should be thinking bigger picture…what crop rotations each year will help you prevent the kinds of diseases that wipe out all your hard work and your harvest.

To help you create a plant plan that works for you, Stacey created this video about how to use crop rotation to prevent 3 of the most common “big nasty diseases” you might see pop up in your garden:

If you would like more in-depth instruction on planning your garden for success, check out our Crop Planning course. It’s a sure fire way to feel more in control of your garden every time you plant.

What crops do you like to rotate? Let us know below!

What to do if you have no “Browns” for your Aerobic Compost? (Composting in the City)

Adding “Browns” (organic, dry and carbon rich materials) speeds up compost of food scraps in an aerobic bin. What’s Stacey’s favorite Brown if if she doesn’t have leaves? Watch and find out!

Are you a city gardener? Share your city gardening tips with us!

Cooking Oil Smoke Point

Have you ever wondered if you are using the best oil when you are cooking? An important thing to consider is the oil smoke point. 

The smoke point is when an oil will begin to burn or smoke. Avoiding this is important because it both negatively affects flavor and studies show it likely carries health risk. High oil smoke points are 400°F or higher. Low oil smoke points are 395°F and below. 

Oils with high smoke points are best to use for cooking anything hotter than low heat cooking. Oils with low smoke points are generally best used for seasoning or dressing by adding them at the end of or after cooking. They can also be used for marinades and low-temp cooking methods such as confit.

520-570°F: Avocado Oil

Avocado oil’s smoke point is quite high at 520-570°F (271-299°C). This is a great oil to keep on hand for cooking because of its health benefits and high smoke. 

510°F: Safflower Oil

Safflower oil is another great cooking oil with a high smoke point of 510°F (265°C) making this a reliable oil to keep on hand for all cooking methods.

450°F: Clarified Butter

Clarified butter has a high smoke point because of the milk fats being removed (these burn first). This gives clarified butter a smoke point of 450°F (230°C). It works great for almost all cooking methods including high heat cooking as well as emulsified sauces such as hollandaise.

450°F: Sunflower Oil 

The smoke point of sunflower oil is right around 450°F (230°C). Sunflower oil has a light flavor, but it has a richness that is nice for rounding out the flavor of a dish.

440°F: Peanut Oil

The smoke point of peanut oil is around 440°F (227°C) which accommodates all high heat cooking methods. It also provides a prominent and rich flavor to your dishes.

425-465°F: Refined Olive Oil

Unlike fresh olive oil, refined olive oil has a smoke point that works well for most cooking processes. Refined olive oil has a smoke point around 425-465°F (218-241°C).

390°F: Grapeseed Oil

Grapeseed oil has a smoke point around 390°F (195°C) which accommodates even more cooking methods than lard. Most cooking methods are achievable with grapeseed oil excluding searing and grilling.

370°F: Lard

Lard has a smoke point around 370°F (188°C). It will work well with most cooking methods from medium to medium-high heat

350-385°F: Coconut Oil 

Coconut Oil can be effective for roasting, baking, and pan-roasting. It has a smoke point between 350-385°F (175-196°C) which makes it suitable for moderate heat cooking methods.

350-410°F: Sesame Oil

This oil has a smoke point around 350-410°F (175-210°C). It is better when sesame oil is added towards the end of the cooking process. If sautéing or glazing, add sesame oil 1-2 minutes before adding the soy sauce or other glazing liquids. Sesame oil is also great for flavoring sauces. 

325-410°F: Olive Oil/EVOO

Olive oil’s smoke point is around 325-410°F (163-210°C) based upon how filtered it is. It can be used to cook at lower temperatures or added to fresh food at the end of cooking. When using especially aromatic olive oils like single origin or freshly processed olive oil, the subtle flavors come through best when the olive oil avoids temperatures above 200°F (93°C). The best uses include dressing salads, tomato toast, and freshly roasted chicken and beets.

300-350°F: Butter

Butter has a slightly lower smoke point than other fats, but it is a commonly used cooking fat for those who consume dairy. The smoke point of butter that has not been clarified is 300-350°F

Brandon Beins
Culinary Educator and Human, Plant, & Soil Health Advocate

“My food journey began in high school when culinary classes brought me into the world of creating food. I continued on to culinary school before completing a two year apprenticeship with a local sushi chef. This apprenticeship was really where 

I learned to care for ingredients; how to prepare them in a way that shows them respect. In order to really take care of your ingredients you need to start with the soil. I haven’t had many memorable meals that were prepared with unhealthy produce from depleted soils,and most of the memorable meals from my life were simple meals made from ingredients that had themselves been nourished lovingly and prepared the same way. I believe high quality food can be prepared by anyone, and it starts with the soil.” 

Do you have a favorite cooking oil? Share your cooking tips with us and our readers!