Friday, March 15, 2013

Spring Containers

Spring is nearly upon us, and if you do any container gardening now is the time to start prepping them for being used. You will want to clean out your containers and prep the soil so that it has plenty of nutrients for the plants that you are going to put into the container.

If you are using new containers this year you will want to check a few things before designating it for planting:
  • It must have enough drainage.
  • It must be pest free.
  • It must be disease free.
  • And it must be clean.
You will also want to be sure that your container is in good condition, this will ensure that it lasts longer, there is nothing more frustrating than being halfway through the growing season and having a container break, resulting in having to try to re-pot a plant while hoping that the trauma doesn't kill it. 

Whether you use planters, buckets, or a metal wash tub for your plants the following tips should be beneficial to you.

To Clean a Container: Used containers, whether they were used for planting or other things, need to be washed with a mild detergent. Check for damaged areas on your container while you are washing them. If these areas are easily fixed, then be sure to tend to them before putting your plants in them. Cracks in a container can give way to the pressure from a plant's roots, this will cause the container to break during the growing season. If you feel that a container is too damaged to be fixed you will want to discard of it and replace it with a new one.

Container Drainage: If a container does not have proper drainage then the plant growing in it will be in trouble. Excess water on a plants roots can cause a plant to become waterlogged, resulting in a sick or dead plant. The container that you use needs to have holes in the bottom for excess water to make an escape. If your container does not have holes, you can carefully drill some into it. To keep your holes from becoming clogged with dirt or debris add gravel to the bottom of the container. One to two inches should be sufficient.

If your plant is on a surface that needs to be protected from water, then you will want to have a drip tray beneath the container to catch the excess water that will come out.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Fermenting Food in Crocks

At Bucket Outlet we sell Stoneware Crocks. These crocks are great for a multitude of things, storage, fermenting foods, or just as decor. In the area that we are based in, people stored their own food as a necessity for much longer than some other parts of the country. If a family was lucky enough to have crocks then they would be able to ferment or pickle some of their food to create a bigger variety of foods to eat during the winter months.

People had strong beliefs about when the best time to be able to pickle their foods would be. They used signs to help them. One old timer told us that if the signs were in the bowels then it was not the time to pickle foods, otherwise they would turn out soft and slimy rendering them unfit to eat.

Curious we had to ask what it meant for the signs to be in the bowels. The bowels are apparently ruled by the star sign Virgo and if one wants to pickle or ferment then they should not do it on a day of the month that is ruled by the sign of Virgo. We were informed that if you have a good planting calender that it will have each day labeled with the sign that rules over it. So if you are thinking of following the signs to know when to ferment your food, it is advised by the elders in our area to avoid Virgo's days.

So when was it recommended to try to start your fermenting? Depends on what you are preserving. For kraut, pickle beans, corn, or green tomatoes aim for when the moon is new. It is also recommended to NOT use iodized salt for pickling.

The beliefs of the people who lived in this area are amazing, yet it makes one think when you consider that it was with those beliefs that they were able to survive in the Appalachian mountains.

How to make Sour Kraut:
Have a clean 5 gallon crock ready.
Select firm cabbage heads and chop up.
Pack the crock by alternating layers of chopped cabbage and sprinkling of salt.
You will want about 1/2 a cup of salt per gallon of cabbage.
The cabbage will produce its own water.
Once your crock is full cover your cabbage with a saucer or a preserving weight.
(If using a preserving weight be sure to place a lid on your crock as there is a hole in the center of the weight.)
If you are using a saucer to cover your cabbage you will want to place something on top of it to help weight down the cabbage. Some people use a gallon of water.
Ten days is the average amount of time to allow the cabbage to sour. But you will want to keep a check on the sauerkraut during this process to be sure everything is going well.
Once your kraut is as sour as you desire take it out and pack into canning jars and can them using the waterbath canning method.