Monday, April 16, 2018

Homemade Potting Soil Recipe for Planting Carrots in Containers

As some of you may or may not know, my garden spot is rather small. Minuscule, even. I cram an awful lot in there and push the ol’ boy to his limits. That’s right, my garden is a “he.” Ships are girls and gardens are boys. Look it up. It’s science. So this year, since space is at a premium, I decided to give container gardening a go. Also, I wanted to try out an array of new carrot varieties.
carrots |
The first step is to find a receptacle for your garden to grow in. For carrots, you really only need it to be about one to one-and-a-half feet deep. I found a Christmas tree storage container that is going to be perfect for growing carrots. My husband even decorated it with some fun carrot doodles (more on that later). It is large enough to accommodate the quantity I plan on growing, but is still small enough to be mobile, if necessary. I drilled more than a dozen 1/4” holes on the bottom for proper drainage. I then placed newspaper inside on the bottom of the container before filling with soil. This will make sure that it doesn’t create a muddy mess all over my porch. 
growing carrots in a container |
You need a loose and light soil mix for carrots to flourish. A soil that isn’t compacted will allow your carrots to grow longer. I am using a near equal combination of sphagnum peat moss, perlite, and compost. There are other alternatives you can try as well, which I'll list later. Why make your own soil instead of buying a convenient bagged mix? The cost is much less to make your own. PLUS, there's the added benefit of knowing exactly what's in it. So you can tailor your mix for specific foods that you grow.
Homemade potting soil mix recipe |

Sphagnum Peat Moss

Peat moss is sought after because of its ability to retain several times its weight in moisture. It releases moisture to plant roots as needed. Peat moss is widely available to buy and is inexpensive. Coco coir (the fibrous material around the shell of a coconut) is also a very good option in place of peat moss.

Perlite or Vermiculite

Perlite is a volcanic glass/ash that's used to aerate the soil and keep it well draining. It can hold 3-4 times it's weight in water without becoming soggy. It's sterile and pH-neutral and doesn't break down easily. Vermiculite is a mineral that's expanded in a furnace, making it lightweight. It adds aeration to soil and retains nutrients. It must, howeverbe handled gently. If handled roughly, it will compact and lose the ability to hold air. Vermiculite holds water, contains calcium and magnesium, and is almost pH-neutral. I opted to go with perlite for my container instead of vermiculite due to cost. Perlite is much less expensive.

Compost, aka "Black Gold"

Compost adds lots of nutrients to the mix. In fact, it's one of the best fertilizers around. Compost is a good source of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. The nutrients in compost are slowly released. The micronutrients in compost are essential for plant growth. Compost retains moisture, and improves the chemical, physical, and biological quality of soil. Overall, compost creates a better environment for plant roots. My compost needed sifted since it was a little chunky in it’s current state. There were avocado pits and bits that hadn't broken down yet. It needed to be much finer in texture to accommodate carrots. After all, I was after long carrots. So I wanted to avoid any obstacles in the soil that may impeded their growth.
homemade potting soil mix recipe |

Alternative & Eco-Friendly Soil Mixes

Peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite contribute to pollution when mined, processed, and packaged. There are several alternative and more eco-friendly potting soil ingredients you can try. Peat moss comes from wetland bogs which help sequester carbon. It grows slow, so increased demand may encourage over harvesting. So conservation of peat bogs is as important as protecting the rainforests. Composted tree bark, wood chips, and rotted leaves are good substitutes. And since we're surrounded by trees, most of those ingredients are free!
Alfalfa may be another good option to replace peat moss. It's rich in nitrogen which is slowly released into soil.
Coarse sand (bulider's sand) can replace perlite, a mined ore, to lighten soil and improve drainage. A little sand goes a long way. Adding too much will make the soil heavy. Avoid fine sands which end up making soil dense and heavy too.
Vermiculite naturally contains a small amount of asbestos. Inhaling asbestos fibers is dangerous as they are carcinogenic. You should wear a mask and only use vermiculite in ventilated areas. Wetting it helps the dust from spreading. Pine fines, finely ground pine bark, are a good alternative to vermiculite. Coco coir, ground coconut husk, is also a good replacement. Depending on your location, it may be an exotic ingredient as it comes from India or Central America. Coco coir can hold up to nine times its weight in water and also help aerate the soil. 
Many gardeners use their best garden soil amended with compost or composted manure. Clean, commercial top soil would be okay to use as long as it's untreated. I toss old potting soil from houseplants into my compost too. Soil doesn't go BAD, it just becomes lacking in nutrients. So organic matter needs added back into soil over time.
Newspaper is often used in the garden as a natural mulch and weed suppressant. Some gardeners even make potting cups from folded newspapers. Ground up newspaper helps retain moisture and adds organic matter to soil. There has been debate amongst organic gardeners on the safety of using newspaper in soilMost newspapers use soy inks and bleach paper using hydrogen peroxide instead of chlorine bleach.

Alternative Fertilizers

If your soil mix is lacking in compost, you may consider an organic fertilizer. The fertilizer choice would depend on the base growing mix. And since many fertilizers effect the pH, choose appropriately! Blood meal adds nitrogen and bone meal adds phosphorus. Kelp meal, greensand, or other minerals add minor nutrients. I often hear great things about bat guano, although I've never used it. I have used wood ash in my garden before because my mom claims it's the best. Mom is NEVER wrong. Composted manure is often a fan favorite for gardeners. The pièce de résistance (in my particular case, at least), is my manure fertilizer. That’s because it is “Grade A, 100% Marion Township, Grey Donkey Dung” (a direct quote from my father-in-law). This manure is as near a perfect example of nature’s fertilizer that you are likely to find on God’s green earth. Add organic fertilizers in small amounts or if your plants aren't growing how you want them to. 
Donkey manure fertilizer |
This is Norman and Lady. Their poop is in my garden. And the world's greatest father-in-law drove that poop four hours round trip to my house. And Norman thinks that's hilarious...


Planting Carrots 

Planting carrot seeds is as easy as sprinkling the seeds along the surface. They shouldn’t be that far apart from one another, and can even be planted in clusters of three, if you prefer. The seeds should not be planted deep at all, so spread a rather thin layer of your soil mixture overtop. Carrots need a very moist soil to germinate in. This can prove problematic since the top layer of soil will dry out quickly due to evaporation. Some find it easier to pre-water the ground before dropping the seeds. Then watering again after the covering the seeds with soil. Remember to keep an eye on your carrots in these early days, so the ground never goes too dry or becomes a swamp.

Thinning Carrots

Once the seeds germinate and have spouted to a couple inches high, you will need to thin them out. Each remaining carrot should be about an inch apart. The thinning process is very important! Overcrowded carrots won't get the nutrients, moisture, and space needed to thrive. You may need to mound up soil around your carrots that remain, so the roots aren’t exposed.
If you want your carrots to do really well, you may want to thin them a second time after another month. This time try to get them an inch and a half to two inches apart. These little carrots should be substantial enough for you to eat. If careful, you can try transplanting thinned carrots to areas with low germination. Try to get them into the ground as upright as possible—I know, that’s tricky! Remember to cover over the roots so they avoid exposure to sunlight. Once the carrots are about three inches tall, I'll add more compost fertilizer around them.
Thinning Carrots |

Crazy Carrot Container

Oh yes, before I wrap this up I should mention my husband’s vandalization of the carrot container. I asked for something classy and stylish… and instead I got this! Just kidding! I think this is super cute and love that the soil comes through behind the cartoons. He used acrylic paint markers that will hopefully hold up to the elements. We shall see. 
Carrot Garden Container |
YES. There will inevitably be a squirrel digging in my container. 
Carrot Garden Container |
And swallowtail caterpillars are big fans of carrot tops.
Carrot Garden Container |
Sometimes I get funky carrots with multiple limbs. I'm hopeful that planting in a container this year will eliminate crazy carrots! 

Carrot Deformities & Growing Issues

A proper soil mix free of rocks and debris will ensure long straight carrots. But there are other carrot growing issues that may come up. Splitting happens if there's inadequate moisture or fluctuations in moisture. Carrots need just the right amount of water, about an inch a week during the growing season. The soil should be moist but not waterlogged. Roots will rot if there's too much moisture. If you neglect to water carrots, compensating by overwatering will lead to cracks. Moisture stress causes stunted growth as well. Too much nitrogen can also cause cracking and multiple roots to form.

Overcrowding can cause deformities such as forking and splitting in carrots. Plant and thin according to the seed packet guidelines. Use a loose soil and remove weeds to allow carrots to grow straight. Mulching around carrots will help suppress weeds.
Deformed and cracked carrots are usually still safe to eat. You can cut off damaged portions if they don't look right. I often add deformed carrots to my chicken bone broth.
Of course if you don't want to eat your deformed carrots, you can always PLAY with them!
 Twisted Carrot Theater |

 Twisted Carrot Theater |
Aster yellows disease also causes deformities including secondary roots. This disease is caused by a mycoplasma organism carried to plants by the aster or six-spotted leafhopper. While the disease affects many other plants, carrots are often the most affected. The first symptom is yellowing leaves, then plants are stunted. Taproots become very hairy, pale in color, and bitter tasting. Affected carrots are may be inedible because of the taste.

Additional Reading

ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture has a handy PDF download on organic potting soil mixes. They have tips on making your own potting soil mix with additional info on fertilizers.
Planting Carrots in Containers with Homemade Potting Soil Recipe |

Do you plant your carrots in raised beds or containers? Do you have any growing tips or favorite soil mixes?

Monday, April 9, 2018

Victory Garden Canning Label Collection, mason jar labels grandma would love

While many of us have heard of Victory Gardens before, some may not be overly familiar with what it really means. We gave an overview of Victory Gardens in a previous blog post. We love the vintage artwork from that era so much that we designed a whole line of victory garden canning labels in the style. Our popular Grow What You Eat canning labels are designed to look like retro WWII art. These simple kraft mason jar labels look great on canned salsa and jam.

Kraft Grow What You Eat Canning Jar Labels

All that hard work in the garden and kitchen paid off! You should feel proud to eat the food that you grow! Our Fruits of Victory canning labels are a perfect gift for gardeners and canners alike. Add these mason jar labels to jam, jelly, or veggies.

Kraft From the Victory Garden Mason Jar Labels

"Of Course, I Put Up" kraft paper canning labels are also available in "WE Put Up" since some families like to preserve together.

Kraft Of Course I Put Up Canning Jar Labels

From the Victory Garden canning labels are perfect for jam, jelly, or salsa. Handwrite the contents and date on the kraft canning labels when you're finished preserving.

Kraft From the Victory Garden Mason Jar Labels

I Put Up canning labels look like a rough rubber stamp. This mason jar label also comes in WE Put Up, great for families who can together.  These canning jar labels are also part of our Rubber Stamp Label Collection.
Kraft I Put Up & We Put Up Canning Jar Labels

Cluck Yeah! Farm Fresh Rooster canning labels are great for farmer's market food jars. This rustic kraft canning label has lots of room to handwrite text. These country canning labels look great on pickled beets, strawberry jam, and salsa.

farm fresh rooster canning labels

Let everyone know you grew it yourself and canned it! This label would also work well for egg cartons. Homegrown canning labels have room to handwrite text above and below the banner art. Just peel and stick canning labels to the the lids or front of your jars—no cutting involved!

homegrown canning labels

Our Can it Dammit canning label is perfect for when you're feeling sassy. It's the perfect mason jar label for any potty-mouthed food preserver! This kraft canning label is designed to look like a rubber stamp with lines to handwrite contents and date. This canning jar labels is also part of our Rubber Stamp Label Collection.

Kraft Can it Dammit Mason Jar Labels

Vintage "Yes I Can" canning labels are great gifts for proud canners! Since some families like to preserve food together, this mason jar label also comes in "Yes We Can." Handwrite the contents and date on your canning labels when you're finished preserving your jams or sauces.
yes I can canning labels

Add some red, white, & blue to your home canned goods with Patriotic Yes I Can canning labels. "Yes WE Can" mason jar labels are also available.
Patriotic Yes I Can, Yes We Can Mason Jar Labels

Our Antique Olive canning label has plenty of room to handwrite text. This weathered, water-stained design would be a great addition to home canned vegetables or spice jars. 
Antique Olive Canning Jar Labels

Preserve for Victory! V for Victory! These vintage Preserve for Victory canning labels have a classic, victory garden design. The golden color and V design add a retro and  patriotic look to home canned goods.
Preserve for Victory Man Jar Labels

Add retro Waste Not Want Not canning labels to your victory garden food jars. I heard this saying from my Grandma every day. You'll always have what you need if you don't waste what you have. And what should you not waste at all? FOOD. Especially your home grown food!
Waste Not Want Not Canning Jar Labels

Our Garden for Victory canning labels are available in rustic kraft and white labels. These retro canning jar labels are an empowering reminder for gardeners and food preservers. Add these patriotic canning labels to food you grew and preserved. Dig for victory! Grow your own food! Put up!

Kraft Garden for Victory Mason Jar Labels

Garden for Victory Canning Jar Labels

Our custom retro canning labels are a simple, retro design reminiscent of old-fashioned food store labels. These mason jar labels are customized with YOUR custom text and color choice. They come in round labels for regular or wide mouth canning jars and ovals for jar fronts. Mason jar labels are available in rustic kraft and white designs. 
Custom Retro Canning Jar Labels

Custom Retro Kraft Mason Jar Labels

Custom Retro Oval Mason Jar Labels

Custom Retro Kraft Oval Canning Jar Labels

Add some patriotic stars & stripes to your home baked or canned goods. Our Stars & Stripes canning labels add color to jam jars. Handwrite the contents and date on the labels or write a special message for a military gift. This design comes in round and oval labels for jar fronts. Mason jar labels are available in rustic kraft and white designs that really pop. 
Stars & Stripes Canning Jar Labels

Kraft Stars & Stripes Mason Jar Labels

Stars & Stripes Oval Canning Jar Labels

Kraft Stars & Stripes Oval Mason Jar Labels

Victory Garden Canning Labels |
If you're interested in vintage victory garden posters and history, take a look at our Victory Garden Pinterest Board.

Victory Garden posters

Monday, March 26, 2018

Orange Peel Cleaner Recipe & other uses for citrus peels in your home & garden

You make some lemonade; you toss the lemon peels. You eat an orange; you toss the peels in the compost. You add some lime to the coconut; the peel gets pitched. It’s a shame that up to 40% of fruit is wasted. But it doesn’t have to be! There are a ton of uses for your citrus peelings.
How to Make a DIY Citrus Vinegar Cleaner with Orange Peels |

DIY Citrus Vinegar Cleaner

One of my personal favorites is using the grease smashing properties of citrus and combining it with the might of vinegar. Together they are a disinfecting powerhouse that is nearly unstoppable. And making it is crazy easy. Just fill a mason jar with your collected citrus peels. I use orange peels, but you can also add lemon peels. Once filled to capacity, pour in white vinegar to the top of the jar. Then put the lid on and let sit for a minimum of 2 weeks. Strain out the peels and combine the vinegar with water at a 50/50 ratio. If you want to get extra fancy, add some dried herbs to your spray bottle for an olfactory delight. Your kitchen and bathroom counters won’t know what hit ‘em! Please note, citrus may damage some surfaces. Do not use on granite, marble, stone or hardwood floors, or painted surfaces.
How to Make a DIY Citrus Vinegar Cleaner Spray with Orange Peels |
Our orange canning jar labels and pastel dots labels are nice options for labelling your concoctions!  

Citrus Deodorizers and Potpourris

Orange and lemon peels also make tremendous deodorizers. They have the natural ability of absorbing foul odors. Place some peels in the back of your fridge or in the base of your kitchen garbage can to keep things smelling fresh. Shred peels in your garbage disposal to release that great citrus smell in your kitchen. Make a refreshing potpourri by simmering peels in water with some cinnamon and cloves. Add cut up peels to stockings and hang in closest or cars. Your nose will thank you, especially when you replace synthetic fragrances with FREE and natural scents.

Lemon Peel Cleaners

Lemons are especially handy for removing hard water stains on faucets. Rub fresh lemon peels onto stainless steel faucets to remove unsightly white buildup. Repeat as needed and your faucets will shine bright! This will also work on copper, silverware, pots and pans.
Are you a coffee or tea junky who is also bad at cleaning stained mugs and pots? Lemon to the rescue! Add some salt to the outside of a lemon peel to rub away stains on mugs. Coffee tastes better from a clean pot, so don’t forget to clean that too. Add lemon peels and water to your pot, then turn on. As the pot heats, citric acid is released from the peels and melts the stains away. Coffee anyone?

Citrus Vinegar Pest & Cat Repellant

Another great household use for peels is as a pest deterrent. Citrus has an acidic oil in its peels called d-limonene. This substance is toxic to ants and will kill them if they come in contact with it. You can make a citrus-vinegar mixture similar to the cleaning formula above. Put some peels in a pot and cover with white vinegar. Heat the pot to almost boiling, then turn the heat off and let it sit for 2-12 hours. The longer you let it sit, the stronger the concentration. Strain the liquid into a spray bottle and have at those ant intruders!
You can also add citrus peels to flower beds and gardens to repel cats. I personally tried this with no luck. If you have tried everything else to repel cats, it's worth a try. Just cut orange peels up into one inch pieces. Scatter in your flower beds or anywhere you don't want cats. Add new peels once a week to refresh. No need to remove the old peels outside since they'll decompose. 
Another option is to make a citrus repellant spray for cats. Bring 2 cups of water and 1 cup of chopped citrus peels (orange, lemon, or limes) to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool, then strain the peels out and add to a spray bottle. If anyone has luck with any non-lethal cat repellant, I would LOVE to hear about it!! This solution is also supposed to work for dogs, but why on earth would you want to repel them? ;)

Add Citrus Peels to Food

Candied citrus peels are definitely the place to start. So delicious, once you make them you will accept no substitutes. This Candied Citrus Peel recipe would be great on baked goods or ice cream. And just imagine them dipped in dark chocolate. Mmmmmmm.
This citrus infused vinegar recipe is great for salads or cocktails. If you want a vinegar with a knockout color, try this Blood Orange Balsamic Vinegar recipe.
Stop buying expensive store-bought extracts! They are so easy and cost-effective to make yourself. In no time you can whip up some lemon or orange extract in your kitchen. Citrus extracts are perfect for holiday gifts or favors once packaged up in cute bottles or mason jars.
Make citrus ice cubes by infusing water with leftover peels. Add peels to a pot of hot water and steep until infused. Freeze orange, lemon, and limes cubes, or combine all flavors together. Lemon ice cubes are especially tasty in ice tea.
You can also use citrus zests in food like our Zesty Lime Curd recipe. Spread this delicious curd in a baked tart shell for a quick dessert. Top the tart with a ring of fresh raspberries or a twisted lime slice to impress.
Lime Curd Recipe |
One of the easiest ways to enjoy your citrus peels is to dehydrate them and add them… to everything! Trail mix, oatmeal, cupcakes, pancakes, smoothies, salads, ice cream, chicken or fish… okay, you get it. Preparing your dehydrated peels is easy. Just slice them into bite-sized pieces and leave them out to dry. Easy-peasy! Or, if you want to speed the process up, place peels on a cookie sheet in a 200° oven and let them bake for a couple hours. You’ll know they are done when the edges start to curl up. And I guess I should mention, you want to use organic oranges if you are going to consume the peels. Don’t forget to wash them, too!
Grind Dried Citrus Peels in Spice Grinder |
I run dried citrus peels through my spice grinder to make a wonderful powder. The citrus powder is perfect for adding to dressings, marinades, smoothies, or baked goods. Store the citrus powder in a recycled spice jar and shake away!
Grind Dried Citrus Peels in Spice Grinder to Make Orange Powder |

Health & Beauty Benefits of Citrus Peels

Another fantastic use for dried peels is to make your own… wait for it… homemade Vitamin C powder! YASSSS!!! Citrus is high in Vitamin C, but the nutrients are concentrated in the peels. In fact, the peels have nearly twice the Vitamin C as the flesh. Put dehydrated peels in a spice grinder and you have fresh Vitamin C powder. This is better than anything you can buy at a store. That’s because your homemade version will contain live enzymes that the pharmacy varieties lack. Use as a natural supplement by adding to water, smoothies, or foods.
And that leads me to the other health benefits of citrus peels. Orange peels are nutrient rich and healthier than the flesh of the fruit. The peel is loaded with flavonoids, which are antioxidant compounds known for assisting in the prevention of chronic health conditions. The flavonoid hesperidin has been shown to benefit those suffering with heart disease. It significantly lowers diastolic blood pressure. And polymethoxylated flavones have been shown to lower cholesterol just as well as prescription drugs, without any possible side effectsThose polymethoxylated flavones are also suspected to be protective against the occurrence of cancers, though research is still in the early stages.

Lemon peels are fantastic for skin care. The citric acid in them is a bleaching agent, therefore, they act as a natural skin lightener. They may also enhance the softness and clarity of your skin by removing dead skin cells and stimulating new skin growth. To help with acne, wash and grate the skin of 5-8 lemons and add their juice into a bowl. Mix together, store in a bottle, and shake before using. Apply the mixture to your skin and massage in a circular motion once a day. Leave the solution on for about 5 minutes. You'll feel the tingle as it seeps into your pores. Rinse and dry your face.

Citrus Peels Crafts & Jewelry

Dried citrus peels look gorgeous formed into roses. It does take patience and a steady hand. Use a knife to strip the peel off in one long piece. Then roll the peel up into a rosette and pin in place with a toothpick until dried. The final citrus flowers are great in potpourri, decorations, or used in jewelry. Get extra crafty and make an orange peel bead necklace.

orange peel roses |
How to make orange peel roses for jewelry or potpourri |
DIY Citrus Vinegar Cleaner Spray using orange citrus peels |

We LOVE preventing food waste! What ways have you repurposed leftover citrus peels? Let us know in the comments below.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Mandala bohemian style canning jar labels

Our Mandala canning labels really brighten up jam and jelly jars. These bohemian mason jar labels are ideal for gift-giving home canned food in jars. There are 4 different colored mandala canning jar labels on each sheet, so this design is perfect for mixing and matching colors for different jams. Apply our adhesive peel & stick canning labels to mason jar lids or the glass jar.

Mandala Canning Jar Labels

Mandala Canning Jar Labels

Our Color Mix Canning Label Collection has label designs with a mix of colors and patterns on each sheet. These mason jar labels make it fun to mix and match colors for different jams and jellies.

Mandala Canning Jar Labels

Our adhesive canning jar labels are great for gift giving, farmer's markets, or for dressing up mason jars in your own pantry! Handwrite the contents and date on your round canning labels when you're done preserving salsa, jam, or jelly.

Mandala Canning Jar Labels

Mandala Canning Jar Labels

Mandala Canning Jar Labels

Mandala Canning Jar Labels