Tuesday, October 7, 2014

What is Your Drought Emergency Plan?

Do you have a drought emergency plan? Do you need one?

Wood chips for garden mulch
Aged wood chips used for garden mulch.
If you are gardening and growing food in a drought stricken area, yes you do need a drought emergency plan. Your gardens may not survive without one. If the drought continues, we can expect water restrictions already in place to tighten. That means less water for your food garden. It may also mean less food for you.

We have been putting our plan into action all year long and it keeps expanding. We are continually coming up with more ways to save water in the garden. I'm not giving up our gardens without a fight. I will do whatever I can to keep them growing and producing throughout the drought.


I can't say it often enough. You have to cover the soil. Mulch does a fantastic job of reducing water use in the gardens. Even though the very top layer of mulch may dry out, it can still hold water and keep the soil underneath consistently moist.

Radicchio planted close together forms a living mulch .

Living Mulch

Grow a living mulch to shade and cover the soil. It is really easy to do. Plants are carefully spaced in the garden so that they brush shoulders. Keeping the soil and your organic mulch shaded and cool helps reduce evaporation.

Edge stones help control soil erosion .

Control Soil Erosion

One of my projects this week has been setting edge stones to keep the soil and mulch in place. If you've taken the time to build up healthy soil and a good layer of mulch, the last thing you want is to have it slowly erode away. Erosion control is an important aspect of soil and soil moisture management.


Those rotting fruits and vegetables are loaded with liquid, and once composted produce a moist, rich fertilizer that will help keep your gardens healthy through the drought. If you have a compost tumbler or something similar, catch the compost tea runoff in buckets and use it to water and feed with. Dilute the compost tea with clear water.

Water Less Frequently

Most people water more than necessary, so cutting back most likely will not hurt your gardens. Before you turn on those drip lines or sprinklers, stick your finger in the soil and find out if it really needs more water. We have two 50-gallon barrels we use for watering. And we do it the old fashioned way - with a bucket. The bucket method gives us more control over how much water is used.

Every Last Drop. 

Save every bit of liquid you can to water your gardens, from the last of the coffee in your pot to the water used for washing and steaming vegetables. Even spent coffee grounds can add moisture to your soil.

Pomegranate trees are heat and drought tolerant.
Pomegranate trees are heat and drought tolerant. 

Heat and Drought Tolerant Plants and Trees

Choose plants and trees that don't need much water. We have plumbago, sage, rosemary, garlic chives, pomegranates and more happily growing with little or no added water. We even have kale, Swiss chard and Brussels sprouts that are doing very well without irrigation. When you are buying seed and selecting plants, look for ones that can stand up to hot, dry conditions.

Garden Training

Train your garden to thrive without water. I can guarantee you'll be surprised how much water your plants don't need. Pay attention to those plants that do especially well and propagate them. They are the ones that will serve you well throughout the drought. Take cuttings and save seed from the healthiest plants in your gardens.

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Monday, October 6, 2014

Provider Bush Beans in the Fall Garden

Provider Bush Beans  (Image source: SeedsNow.com)

This fall we are planting Provider Bush Beans, a 5 to 6 inch stringless green bean that grows on compact little plants.

Last fall, our bush beans did fabulous. Since they are a family favorite we plant lots. As in 300 so far, and probably another 300 next week. I know you are probably thinking I'm crazy. Who needs that many beans? Well, we do. Most people would plant 20 or so plants per person in the household. However, that wouldn't keep food on our table and stock the freezer. (I don't like canned green beans, ick - we freeze them.)  I'm hoping the old farmer's saying of a pound a plant holds true for us. That would give us about 600 pounds of beans. Enough for the family for a few months, and extra to share. Another crop gets planted in the spring. 

I chose Provider bush beans not only for the compact plant size, but also because it is a fast grower: only 50 days from germination to harvest. We should have plenty for my famous homemade green bean and mushroom casserole at Thanksgiving. (We even have our own mushrooms growing now!)

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Homemade Green Bean Casserole Recipe

Homemade Green Bean Casserole Recipe
Homemade green bean casserole.
Green bean casserole has been a holiday tradition since it was invented in the Campbell Soup Test Kitchen in 1955. Holiday meals just don't seem complete without it. But all of that canned, processed soup makes it taste, well, canned. A homemade version of this time-honored dish is so much better. Your family will love you for it. This year, make it homemade and start a new tradition with this delicious holiday recipe..


12 ounces fresh, sliced mushrooms (crimini, button, oyster or a mix of your favorites)
1 clove garlic, finely diced
2 Tablespoons butter
Salt and Pepper.
2 Tablespoons all purpose flour
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup whole milk or heavy cream.
1 pound fresh, cut green beans
Onion topping (recipe follows)


  • Preaheat oven to 375 degrees
  • Saute mushrooms and garlic in 2 tablespoons butter until tender. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Stir in 2 tablespoons flour. Mix well and cook for about one minute, stirring constantly.
  • Stir in chicken broth and milk or cream. Cook and stir until the gravy is thickened.
  • Reseason with salt and pepper to taste.  Remove from heat.
  • Blanch one pound fresh green beans. Blanching is a term for partial cooking in boiling water. You don't want to boil them to mush; five minutes will do the trick. Remove them and rinse with cold water or put them in an ice bath to stop the cooking process. Drain the beans. You can skip the blanching if you are using frozen green beans, but thaw and drain them before stirring into the gravy.
  • Combine the drained beans and about 1/4 of the onion topping with the gravy. Pour the mixture in a lightly greased casserole dish. Sprinkle the remaining onion topping evenly over the top. 
  • Bake uncovered at 375 degrees for 30 minutes, or until the gravy is bubbly in the center.

Onion Topping

2 large brown or white onions, thinly sliced and separated into strings
1/4 cup plain breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt. 

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Toss onion strings with bread crumbs, flour and salt.
  • Lightly grease a baking sheet. Spread the onion slices evenly on the baking sheet. Give them enough room to get crispy and dry out. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes, tossing them every 10 minutes or so for even cooking. 
  • Remove from the oven when they are golden and crispy. Do not seal in plastic or cover when you take them out of the oven. All the moisture will make the breading soggy. 

Grow your own! We are happily growing Provider Bush Beans from SeedsNow.com, our favorite provider of organic, heirloom, non-engineered seeds.

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