Growing Jicama – Pinetree Garden Seeds

Typically, growing jicama in the northeast can be a little difficult. With it’s sweet, crisp flavor and crunchy texture, who wouldn’t want to grow it?

It traditionally grows in Mexico and Central America, requires 6-9 months free of frost, and has a growing season of about 150 days. We’ve decided to try our hand at this year, so you can follow along with our progress! To start off, we’ve implemented two different methods of germination to see which produces the strongest seedlings.

We began by soaking the seeds in water for 24 hours.

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Our first method of germination is in peat pots with a seed starting mix. These will be placed on a heat mat with a grow light for best results.

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Our second method of germination is placing the seeds in between wet paper towels.

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Both sets of seeds are placed in side plastic bags to create a greenhouse effect.

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Check back for progress updates!

The Best Herbs to use in Soap making – Pinetree Garden Seeds

During the long winter months, it’s not unusual to feel gray and glum… so an obvious cure to the winter blues is crafting! Soap making is one of the most customizable activities a beginning crafter can tackle… so many options and so much to learn! One of the easiest methods of soap making is using melt-and-pour bases, which cuts out the need to handle tricky ingredients like lye.

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A great way to spiff up your melt-and-pour bases is by adding essential oils and dried herbs! They have wonderful health benefits, and will fill your shower or kitchen with refreshing or soothing scents that will either get you going in the morning, or help you sleep better at night. A lot of gardeners like to bring their fresh herb plants inside for the winter, so you can also use clippings of your favorites herbs that you’ve air dried, or dried in a dehydrator. Check out this blog post on keeping an indoor herb garden!

Lavender is by far one of the most popular dried herbs used in soap making. It’s known for its clean, gentle scent, and it’s antibacterial properties. It is also used to aide in sleeping, as well as relaxation.

Calendula is an incredible astringent that will aide in abating rashes, scrapes, burns, bee stings, and other skin irritation issues. Unlike a lot of other herbs that tend to turn brown with age, Calendula holds it’s yellow color well.

Rosemary is antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral. It is loaded with antioxidants, as well as has a pleasant spicy, piney scent. Dried rosemary stems can be a little rough, so if you’re using the whole stem it’s best used as hand soap.

Mint has excellent healing and soothing qualities. It aides in calming irritated skin, as well as relieves some symptoms of acne. Mint is also anti-inflammatory. We do not offer pre-packaged dried mint, but the seed is easy to grow from and the resulting plants dry very well.

Chamomile has a gentle, pleasant scent that is easily recognizable. Known for its calming, anti-inflammatory properties; it also helps resolve skin disorders such as acne, rashes, psoriasis, and eczema.

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Start by selecting your dried herbs, soap base and essential oils. What scents would you like paired together? I used chamomile essential oil with dried calendula, tea tree essential oil with dried rosemary (I used clippings from my own rosemary plant that I dried, but prepackaged dried rosemary works just as well), and lavender essential oil with lavender buds; all with a cocoa butter base.

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Chop your desired amount of soap base into small cubes and melt them in a double boiler. When your soap base is completely melted, add in your desired essential oils.

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Choose your dried herbs and sprinkle them into the bottom of your soap mold. I decided to do one large bar and chop it into smaller bars (our bar tray mold is great for this), but you can use smaller plastic soap molds as well.

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Carefully pour the completely melted soap base on top of your herbs. I poured very slowly and was able to preserve the different sections of herbs. For this multi-sectioned setup, I added a few drops (2-3) of essential oil to each different strip of herbs after pouring in the melted soap, and gently swirled it in with a toothpick. The soap base will start to cool very quickly, so try and move as fast as you can.

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Allow your soap to cool completely before trying to remove from your mold. I let this soap cool for several hours, and it popped out of the mold with no trouble at all.

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The dried herbs now serve as an exfoliator of sorts, and look pretty to boot! What are your favorite melt-and-pour soap projects?

Pinetree Recipes: Marinara Sauce

It’s a well known fact that with successful gardening comes a large harvest, and the best way to preserve all your hard work is to, well… preserve it! One of our employees, Lorrie, decided to freeze her wealthy tomato harvest this past summer in preparation for making large batches of homemade marinara sauce!

She froze the blanched and skinned tomatoes in gallon freezer bags; defrosting about 30 lbs of them for this recipe. Makes about 25 cups of sauce.

INGREDIENTS:
30 lbs frozen tomatoes, defrosted and drained
8 whole bulbs of garlic, peeled and separated into cloves
4 medium onions, roughly chopped
1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup dried parsley (or 1 1/2 cups fresh parsley)
1/3 cup dried oregano (or 1 cup fresh oregano)
3 TBSP dried basil (or a heavy 1/2 cup of fresh basil)
2 whole carrots, peeled and grated
1 TBSP sugar
Salt & pepper to taste (we used 3 TSP salt, 1/2 TSP pepper)

  1. Place your 30 lbs defrosted tomatoes in a large stock pot and set on medium/high heat

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2. Cook your tomatoes down until most of the water has cooked away. The tomatoes will turn a rich red color, and when you stir them the tomatoes will coat your spoon. This process took several hours for us, so fear not if it takes a while! This is something you can set on the stove to cook while you’re doing something else in the kitchen. Just be sure to stir them periodically.

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3. A quick way to peel cloves of garlic is to smash them with the flat edge of a large knife. Peel all your garlic and set the cloves aside.

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4. Peel and roughly chop your onions and set aside.

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5. Grate your two carrots finely.

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6. Add your garlic and onions to the pot, as well as olive oil. Stir and allow to cook a little longer (10-15 minutes).

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6. Turn off heat and allow tomato mixture to cool enough to place in a food processor. We waited about 20-30 minutes.

7. Add in the carrots and send your tomato mixture through your food processor until it becomes velvety in texture.

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8. We added our dried herbs after the tomatoes had already been processed, but you can add them before processing if you prefer.

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9. Add sugar, salt and pepper to taste.

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10. We chose to freeze our finished sauce in freezer-specific plastic containers, as it will be used fairly quickly.  This recipe made about 25 cups of sauce. You can also can your sauce (check out our post on canning here)

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An Inside Look at Adult Coloring Books! – Pinetree Garden Seeds

All the rage lately are something called adult coloring books! Detailed, intricate drawings that call for a steady hand and a need for colorful artwork; these coloring books are claimed to be a new form of therapy for stressed adults.

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Studies show that coloring or doodling is a way for people to focus and organize their thoughts. It’s an easy task that allows the brain to slow down and process. Coloring also provides an escape of sorts; allowing people to be creative within a certain set of parameters. The linework (pun intended) is already laid down for you; all you have to do is go crazy with color!

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Repetitive, hands-on actions are shown to release serotonin, which is responsible for relaxation. As you can see from the below coloring book excerpts, each image is highly detailed with lots of intricate, repetitive patterns. We suggest using colored pencils for these designs, as markers tend to bleed through the paper. The ‘Flowers Coloring Book’ pages are one sided, so you may be able to use markers as long as you place a piece of paper beneath the coloring book page to prevent it from bleeding onto the next design.

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Most 21st century adults are so used to a multitasking lifestyle that they need something to do when engaged in a mundane activity such as watching television or talking on the phone. Many people like to knit or text on their cell phones while watching television… so coloring in a coloring book isn’t that far off! Our brains are so trained to perform multiple tasks at once that it may be impossible for some people to relax without having multiple tasks to engage in. The patterns and designs in these coloring books are very detailed and intricate, but also repetitive enough to promote a sense of calm.

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Currently we offer two adult coloring books for purchase; Animal Kingdom and the Flowers Coloring Book.

Keeping an Indoor Herb Garden – Pinetree Garden Seeds

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One of the hardest things about winter is the severe lack of greenery. Snow may be pretty, but the naked trees and dismally bare garden beds are enough to bring anyone down! Luckily, bringing a little greenery back into your life during those gray winter months is very easy.

Fresh herbs can add color and pizzazz to almost any food dish, and they’re a cinch to maintain! If you already have herbs growing in your garden and want to bring some inside for the winter, re-potting them is a great project. You can also start any  herbs you desire from seed, just be prepared to wait a little bit longer to use them. Use our seed starting post to get your herbs going!

Potted herbs require at the very least 4 HOURS of sunlight per day. Use a sunny south-facing window in your house for the best light, or supplement your plant’s lighting needs with a grow light.

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Herbs (and most potted plants in general) need good drainage. If the soil holds too much water, it can cause the roots of your plant to rot! Make sure the pot you use for your herb plant has a drainage hole at the bottom, and that you only water when the top 1/2-3/4 inch of soil is dry to the touch.

Be mindful of using clay pots, which tend to dry out quickly. Heat from a furnace during the winter can also dry plants out quicker, so be sure to keep an eye on your soil.

If you already have houseplants, it’s best to quarantine any herbs brought in from the garden for a few weeks to avoid spreading pests or diseases. Feed your herbs with liquid seaweed fertilizer in winter to give plants a boost of nutrients.

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Rosemary, whose name means “dew of the sea” in Latin, has a fresh lemon-pine flavor that complements chicken, lamb, and pork dishes, as well as pizza. Harvest the desired amount of stalks for your use by cutting with scissors, and new growth will come directly from where you cut. Rosemary plants prefer bright light and cool temperatures. Make sure to harvest stalks regularly to prevent your plant from stretching and getting ‘leggy’.

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Oregano, whose name means “joy of the mountain” in Latin, has a zesty flavor that is often associated with Italian cooking. Use in a variety of Italian dishes, as well as on pizza. Allow your oregano to grow up to 4 inches in height before trimming, which encourages your plant to grow denser and bushier. Oregano likes a lot of sunlight, and tends to need less water than most other herbs.

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Sage, whose Latin name means “to be in good health”, has a warm, fragrant flavor that complements pork, lamb, and other meats, as well as stuffing. Be sure to keep sage regularly watered, and prune heavily to encourage growth. Sage plants should be replaced every 4-5 years to ensure the best quality herbs for your cooking.

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Chives, whose name derives from the Latin word for onion, have a mild onion flavor that works well in quesadillas, baked potatoes, and other dishes without heavy flavors to overwhelm it. When cooking with chives, add them in at the very end, as heat destroys their delicate flavor. Chives require lots of sun and fertile, moist soil. Chives are self-seeding, so remove the flowers to prevent your plant from dropping seeds.

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Thyme, whose name is said to derive from the Greek work for “courage”, has  a strong clover flavor that pairs well with pork, lamb, duck, cajun cooking, and other herbs. The French variety is most popular in cooking. Water and trim your thyme plant regularly.

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Parsley is a vitamin rich herb most often used as a garnish. It has a mild, grassy flavor  that complements lamb, steak, fish, chicken, and many vegetables. Flat leaf parsley is the best for cooking, as it tolerates heat and holds its flavor better than it’s curly-leafed relative. Harvest leaves when the stems have three defined leaf segments; cut from the outer portions of the plant and leave the inner branches. Parsley likes a lot of sun, and fertile, moist soil.

Gardening in Fall and Winter: Grow Veggies in 5-Gallon Containers!

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Today is a bittersweet day. For us New Englanders, it’s the beginning of the end… The first day of Autumn. We’ve long since kissed summer goodbye and are now anticipating cool days and even chillier nights. Gardens are starting to look a little tired, and it’s just about time to put them to bed! For many gardeners, this is a sad occasion… having to bid our summer gardens goodbye. But this is not the end for many gardeners in warmer areas of the country! In fact, now may be the perfect time to plant cool season crops like carrots, kale, radishes, and more! To make it even easier on you, there’s the option of planting your crops in easy-to-move gallon buckets!

Photo via Pinterest
Photo via Pinterest

Your options are vast if you’re looking for a little bumper crop as we head into cooler weather. Most of these 1, 2, and 3 gallon containers can be found at your local hardware store or gardening center, so pick yourself up some organic soil mix and get started!

Using a 3-5 gallon container, you can accomplish growing the following things:

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As a side note, it’s a little late for hot temperature crops like tomatoes and peppers. Unfortunately those will have to wait until next season for most people!

Be sure to drill holes in the bottoms of your containers to aide in drainage, and don’t forget to feed & water, like any other type of garden!

Check out these links for more info on Fall Vegetable Gardening!
8 Vegetables to grow in fall container gardens
Fall gardening for beginners
Plant these speedy fall vegetables for a last hurrah!

Featured: Longwoods Alpaca Farm – Pinetree Garden Seeds

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New to our knitting supplies this year is Alpaca yarn! Alpaca is a natural fiber, breathable, warmer than wool, durable, hypoallergenic material that does not absorb moisture or odors. Lighter in weight than sheep’s wool while providing warmth and softness, and can be hand washed. Alpaca fiber does not contain lanolin, which is the main irritant in many other natural fibers.

Longwoods Alpacas is a small family operation out of Cumberland who is one of many different farms out of the US who will be providing us with the alpaca yarn we sell. The fine, lightweight yarn is 95% alpaca and 5% wool. Easy to knit with at any skill level, and you can even dye your own colors! Grown and processed in the USA.

K400-K401-K402 Earth Treasures Everyday Luxury Alpaca Yarns

Sandstone, Pumice, and Moonstone yarns are all available for purchase via our website or in our catalog. Request a catalog here.

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Trial by Seed: Tying up Tomato Plants!

A good way to keep up good airflow around your tomato plants is to trellis or tie them up to something! Our trial gardens manager Jaci uses a simple stake and board method; driving wooden posts or stakes into the ground before attaching long, thin boards between each post. Once the framework is up, she ties a string loosely around the tomato plant before stringing it up and tying it to the wood frame.

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Make sure that where you tie the string around your plant is loose enough to allow for the growth of the plant.

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You will have to gradually tie up more and more of the plants as they grow larger, fuller and taller. Having good airflow is imperative in the fight against tomato diseases!

What are some of your favorite methods of trellising your tomatoes? Share in the comments section!

Trial by Seed: Seedling transplanting begins! Tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower and more!

Putting in rows for broccoli and cauliflower transplants

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Soil should be crumbly but not dry. Make sure it’s not too compacted, so the roots of your seedlings can stretch and grow!

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Using our All-Purpose Fertilizer Mix

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Tomato seedlings in the ground, getting their first round of watering on a hot day! The shock of being transplanted can sometimes hurt your seedlings, so be sure to give them plenty of water once they’re in the ground.

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Our trial gardens manager, Jaci, places a few rocks at the bases of her cauliflower, broccoli and tomato seedlings in order to discourage cutworms. You can also use our BioSafe Organic Insect Spray to cutworms and other pests.

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