Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Simple and frugal lifestyle

Cannot believe that the blog is approaching it's first birthday, so thought we would publish and update the first ever blog.
We moved to Cyprus in October 2009 with the aim of growing most of our own food. We have a large garden and have established twenty-two deep beds for vegetables, a herb garden and a mini-orchard where we have planted 44 fruit and nut trees.

We initially started the Cyprus Gardener website to provide information on growing organic food but have gradually come to realise that food is only part of living a sustainable lifestyle and this blog is an opportunity not only talk about growing our own food but other sustainability issues. 
There is a growing awareness that our materialistic lifestyles, in a world with depleting resources, are not sustainable over the long term. Especially in a world where one in four of the worlds population still live in extreme poverty. We need to consider living simpler and more sustainable lifestyles to meet our everyday needs but at the same time not compromise the ability of future generations to enjoy a life without scarcity. A simpler lifestyle does not mean we need to go without but we do need to review lifestyles which are generally based on over consumption and materialistic values. As Gandhi said, "The rich must live more simply so that the poor may simply live".
Growing some of your own food organically is a good start to a sustainable lifestyle which is open to us all. And reduces our over reliance on the large food multinationals which are dependant on depleting oil for growing and transporting food thousands of miles around the world. Growing your own food without relying on artificial fertilisers and chemicals also protects the soil on which we all depend and supports biodiversity.

There is growing evidence, obviously denied or rejected by the food industry, that organic foods are higher in nutrients and vitamins and consequently a healthier choice. Feeding ourselves with food which is chemically and GM free has to be your first step towards a sustainable lifestyle. Everybody, even with very little space using containers or pots, can grow some of their own food organically or if not support, by using their purchasing choices, those who do. With food scare stories almost daily such as mass food poisoning, hormones in milk, mad cow disease and cloned meat its no wonder more and more people are realising that growing their own food is the only safe method of producing nutritious food. 
This blog will hopefully offer suggestions on what you can do to live a more sustainable, simpler and frugal lifestyle.
I honestly believe that there is a growing shift in attitudes to food, and other sustainable lifestyle choices, as we gradually return to enjoying our food rather than treating it as another factory commodity where our food is produced as cheaply as possible.
Small steps do matter so join the movement.

2012 New Year Gardening Resolutions

Resolution 1 - Make a plan of what we want to grow. A plan will enable us to grow more, save time and save money by not buying too many seeds. Good planning helps you to arrange your beds and plant the right number of each vegetable and allow you to use your space to it's maximum.

Resolution 2 - Continue to build the soil and improve it's structure and nutrient levels. Reuse fallen leaves, make compost and use seaweed.

Resolution 3 - Mulch, mulch, and mulch. Organic mulches, such as straw, seaweed and chopped leaves will suppress weeds, conserve moisture and add nutrients to the soil.

Resolution 4 - Water only when you have to.

Resolution 5 - Try to grow more of what we eat. Reduce our food miles and make them food meters but try growing something new and grow more herbs for the kitchen.

Resolution 6 - Pick early and often vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, beans, squashes and cucumbers, as continual picking will increase your yields.

Resolution 7 - Increase successive planting. Once a crop is finished plant another crop. Make this part of your gardening plan.

Resolution 8 - Take regular breaks when gardening or at least switch movements or activities often to save muscles and joints from injury by repetitive motions.

Resolution 9 - Encourage the good bugs by planting appropriate flowers to naturally fight insect predators and parasites. Remove diseased plants and don't let any weeds go to seed.

Resolution 10 - Enjoy all aspects of gardening even the tedious and energy sapping tasks.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Sage and Onion

Make your own sage and onion mixture to use as a stuffing or to make your own sage and onion balls.

Ingredients:

Olive oil for frying, 2 medium sized onions, small bunch of fresh sage leaves finely chopped or 2 teaspoons of dried sage, 100g of bread and salt and pepper to taste.

Method:

(1) Peel and finely chop the onions and fry until softened
(2) Grate bread to fine breadcrumbs
(3) Add breadcrumbs and the rest of the ingredients to the onions and mix well

Use as a stuffing mix or form into balls before cooking for 10-15 minutes in a medium oven.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Growing turmeric

I have ordered five turmeric rhizomes on E-Bay. Turmeric is a perennial tropical plant of the ginger family and it's roots are used to produce turmeric powder. These roots are boiled, dried and ground up to produce the turmeric powder which is used as a spice in curries to add a lovely peppery taste and produce a deep yellow colour.

Turmeric is a very healthy addition to your diet as it contains iron, manganese, lowers cholesterol and has antiseptic and antibacterial properties.

From what I have read growing turmeric is relatively easy, provided the plants receive enough moisture until they are established, after which they are drought tolerant. The plants also appear to be able to cope with most soil types but prefer some shade but if grown in full sun will need to be kept constantly wet. Outside of tropical areas, the plants will need covering in the coldest months to avoid frost damage.

I will use a propagator to get the plants started before planting the rhizomes out in late February. The pleated leaves will apparently grow to about 120cm tall in ideal conditions and yellow flowers will emerge between the leaves in summer months.

If the plants are successful I will investigate the method for making turmeric powder. I do like a gardening challenge.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Four steps towards organic gardening

Organic gardening may seem complex but it is not as difficult or as expensive as people think. Although it is certainly a different approach to gardening, when you break it down it simply means re-examining every aspect of how we garden. A change towards organic gardening can be a gradual process, phasing in organic methods slowly before you become fully organic and fully enjoy the health benefits of chemical free food.

Step one should always be to analyse your soil's structure and composition. For example, if you have a hard soil with little humus, like ours, your first goal would be to improve it's texture and health. Such a soil can be gradually improved by incorporating as much natural materials such as dried leaves, compost or manure. This process will take some take some time but over time you will see an improvement in your soils structure and health as your soil becomes richer in nutrients and minerals. As the soil improves it will provide plants with the means to resist disease and insect attack naturally.

Whenever we can we add well-rotted manure from local dairies, composted material from the garden and kitchen, well rotted straw, wood ash from our wood burning stove and we will, when we get round to it, make use of sea weed. Whatever natural materials you can use will improve your soil over time. And each season you will notice the structure of your soil improving.

Step two, should be to gradually incorporate the use of organic pest controls into your garden. You can make your own chemical free concoctions at home or alternatively there are now an endless array of commercial  products available to deal with all your gardening problems.

Step three, should be your gradual move towards purchasing organic seeds. You will find a wide selection of these available from on-line seed sellers and most sites will indicate whether seeds are organic or not.

Step four, will involve exploring ways to control weeds without the need to resort to chemicals.  Using a mulch is one of the easiest ways to keep weeds down. Applying a thick layer of any natural material such as well-rotted composted, wood chips or even shredded paper will restrict the light from weed seeds not allowing them to germinate. Hoeing and hand-pulling of annual weeds, if done consistently, is another great way to prevent weeds from taking over your garden. For perennial weeds you must, however, ensure that they are fully dug out to remove all the root to avoid re-emergence.

You can, over a period of your choice, become fully organic by following this four stage plan. Good luck and happy gardening.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Rainbow


We were just on the edge of a thunderstorm and only had a few drops of rain but saw a beautiful double full rainbow.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Homemade citrus spray


Our citrus trees have been suffering from insect attack recently which has damaged quite a few of their leaves. I sprayed them today with a homemade solution.

Last night I boiled a quartered onion (with its skin), a crushed garlic clove and one very hot pepper and after allowing the contents to boil for about 10 minutes,  left the mixture to cool overnight,.

I strained the mixture this morning and added 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and 2 tablespoons of eco washing-up liquid.

I poured the mixture into a spray bottle and added 2 liters of water, before shaking thoroughly before spraying.

We will have to see if the spray does any good and if not I will resort to some shop bought organic insecticide.

Early days - will have to wait, probably until the Spring, to see if the spray has worked.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Marigold - uses and benefits

We were having a stroll around the garden this afternoon and saw this perfectly formed marigold flower.

Did you know the marigold (Calendula) is part of the daisy family and is native to the Mediterranean area. There as many as twenty varieties available, most of which are annuals but there are even a few perennials. Marigold is self-seeding and once established generally produces a show annually and can be thinned out for transplanting. Alternatively you can collect seeds annually, which can last up to two years or longer if stored correctly, and sow seeds in different areas of your garden.

We grow a couple of different annual varieties in our herb beds for the petals which make a lovely addition to salads, pasta or rice dishes and provide a peppery flavour. The petals can also be infused to make a tea which is said to help with digestive problems. This is probably based on the fact that the petals have been found to have antiseptic, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory benefits.

Did you also know - that dried marigold petals have been described as the poor mans saffron because of its similar taste and ability to add colour to dishes.

For other edible flower ideas go to https://sites.google.com/site/cyprusgardener/home/edible-flowers

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Gardening in Cyprus - Jobs for December

The Cypriot weather in December can be very changeable and it is on average the wettest month of the year, with about seven rainy days. Day time temperatures average between 15-18c and minimums of between 5-8c. The mild temperatures of the day can therefore be followed by some very chilly evenings. There can even be an occasional frost but it's not usually too severe. The mild days are excellent for getting some gardening done and the following jobs can be undertaken during the month.


Plant out garlic bulbs and onion sets

Sow salad leaves and beetroot

Sow broad beans

Prune fig trees if needed

Fertilize citrus and pomegranate trees

Harvest citrus fruits and have a try at making your own marmalade or lemonade syrup

http://cyprusgardener.blogspot.com/2011/07/how-to-make-your-own-orange-marmalade.html
http://cyprusgardener.blogspot.com/2011/07/make-your-own-lemonade-syrup.html

Cover any tender plants (or trees such as guava) to avoid any possible frost damage

Harvest olives and if you have already done so prune your olive trees

http://cyprusgardener.blogspot.com/2011/11/pruning-mature-olive-trees.html

Have a try at preparing some of your own black olives

http://cyprusgardener.blogspot.com/2011/07/how-to-prepare-black-olives-for-eating.html

Plant pansies and violas - with viola petals making a lovely addition to salads

Collect fallen leaves for composting or if you don't mind the look leave on the ground to rot down and provide a natural mulch

Plant spring bulbs - if you haven't done so already

Happy gardening and harvesting for the month and if you require any further information go to www.cyprusgardener.co,uk or http://cyprusgardener.blogspot.com/