Spade & Spoon is a bi-monthly newsletter from the North Texas Food Bank’s Nutrition and Garden team where we showcase delicious recipes, cooking demonstrations, nutrition/gardening classes, gardening how-tos and discuss all things wellness! Sign-up today!
In 2018, in conjunction with the grand opening of the Perot Family Campus, NTFB also broke ground on a sustainable, small-scale learning garden in honor of our late President and CEO, Jan Pruitt. Access to fresh produce is critical to the success of the North Texas Food Bank and to the health of the neighbors we serve.
NTFB is excited to operate a learning and demonstration garden that acts as a living and breathing display of nutritious food options. Jan's Garden offers tours and programming for all local community groups who desire to learn first-hand about the impact that healthful food choices can make.
What is Compost?
Compost is organic matter created by microorganisms (bacteria and fungi) when they break down the carbon and nitrogen-rich materials in the compost pile.
- Nitrogen (green materials; wetter)
- Carbon (brown materials; drier)
- Water (enough to keep it moist not wet)
- Oxygen (provided by turning the pile)
Benefits of Composting:
- Helps retain moisture in the soil
- Creates a better environment in the soil for beneficial bacteria and fungi that help break down organic matter for plants, which they love and need!
- Reduces household waste
What Should I Add to my Compost Pile?
Do Add: Greens/Nitrogen-rich materials: veggie and fruit scraps, grass clippings, hair, eggshells, coffee grounds, flower trimmings or weeds (careful of seeds!), animal manure (except dog or cat), and fireplace ash (neutral)
Browns/Carbon-rich materials: sawdust, wood chips, twigs, cardboard, shredded paper/newspaper, coffee filters, cornstalks, hay, leaves, and dryer lint
Do Not Add: raw meats and bones, fatty or greasy foods, dairy products, dog or cat manure, lime peels, diseased plants or plants treated with chemicals
What a Compost Pile Needs
Note: Many materials can be used to create a bin: bricks or pavers, wire mesh, wood or use a trashcan with ventilation holes.
Hot Composting: Hands-on method that requires frequent attention, but pile decomposes fast (ready in a few weeks or months).
- Equal mix of layered nitrogen (greens) and carbon materials (browns) required.
- Internal temperature should stay between 90°F and 140°F. Check with thermometer or if it’s too hot to touch.
- Pile should be watered periodically but never wet.
- Turn pile at least once or twice a week to add oxygen.
Cold Composting: Hands-off method that requires little attention, but pile takes long time to decompose (can take more than a year).
- Add yard waste to the pile as you accumulate it and let it sit in a pile or bin.
- Mulching leaves or yard waste before adding it to the pile will help speed up the decomposing process.
Troubleshooting: It can take some trial and error
Ways to Use Compost
Great for fast-acting nutrients and adding beneficial microbes.
- Fill a 5-gallon bucket with water
- Let sit for 24 hrs to remove chlorine. Chlorine kills the good microbes in the compost.
- Add a few handfuls of compost to the bucket and stir twice a day to add air for microbes
- Let sit for 24-48 hrs and apply through drenching or watering can
- Use air pump so no stirring required
- Put compost in pillowcase or pantyhose and tie at top to make “tea bag” for steeping
Constant addition of microbes, nutrients, air, and moisture directly to bed.
- Drill holes into the sides and bottom of a 5-gallon bucket using a spade drill bit
- Dig a hole int eh bed that is the same depth as the bucket and place bucket in hole
- Fill bucket with items to compost (same items as regular compost pile) and a handful or two of compost
- Add a bit of water to moisten, if needed, and place top on bucket. Replenish items in bucket as needed.
- Watch worms eat the food scraps and add air tunnels in the soil
- Worm castings will add more nutrients to the bed
- Add directly into hole or container when planting
- Mix into top 2-6” of soil twice a year
- Lay a 2-4” layer on top of the soil as mulch
This is similar to a regular compost pile by using food scraps, paper, moisture, and the right temp. However, this method uses worms to help break down the materials, as well as add oxygen to the pile by creating air spaces when they move (no turning needed). The nutrient-rich scraps in the pile are turned into nutrient-rich compost for the plants once it passes through the worm’s body.
- Any type of container will work so long as there is air flow through holes or a loose lid and the bottom is enclosed
- It may be beneficial to use a wider and shallower container vs. deep and tall since worms like to stay near the surface of the soil
- Use Red Wriggler worms (easily found online)
- Try not to overfeed the worms. Don’t add new food scraps until they’ve begun eating what is already in the bin
- Worms like food that is cut into small pieces
- Temperature of the bin should stay between 60°F and 80°F
- Bring bin inside if weather will be below 40°F for an extended period of time
How Many Worms do I Need?
Use ½-1 lb. of worms for every square foot of the bin.
(# lbs of waste per week / 7) x 2 = (recommended worm weight)
How to Harvest Compost
Fun Facts about Worms
- Worms are hermaphrodites (have both male and female reproductive parts)
- Don’t worry if some worms die. They reproduce quickly!
- Don’t remove dead worms. They will become compost.
No matter how much gardening space you have, (a few acres or raised beds, a balcony, or a windowsill) you can grow healthy food in your home. Fruits and vegetables can flourish in a container on your windowsill or on your patio. Here are a few tips on how to start your own.
Tips to Remember:
- Make sure your pot has a hole in the bottom for drainage.
- Use a saucer under the pot to catch excess water.
- Stop watering the plant when you see water coming out of the bottom.
- Fertilize your plants once a week or once every two weeks.
- Be sure to pick a container wide and deep enough for your plants to grow to full size (12” or 14” pots recommended).
- To check if your plant needs water, stick your finger into the soil to your knuckle. If it’s dry, your plant is thirsty!
How to Plant Your Container Garden:
- Fill your pot about ¾ with soil.
- Plant 2-3 seeds for each plant you want to grow.
- Water the pot until the soil is thoroughly moist or until water comes out of the bottom of the pot.
From Scraps to Produce: Kitchen Scraps that can be Replanted
We often throw away fruit and vegetable parts that we don’t use or want when we could recycle them to grow more! These are just a few of the many fruits and veggie scraps that can be regrown into food or used to start your own garden!
Note: For peppers, pumpkins and tomatoes just wash, dry overnight, then plant the seeds.
Tips to Consider When Planting
A plant hardiness zone map helps determine what plants can grow in which areas, based on average low winter temperatures. Texas is in plant hardiness zone 8a.
Microclimates at Home
- Sub-climate within a main, general climate.
- Microclimate factors include moisture, drainage, shade, sun, protection, and temperature.
Days to Harvest/Maturity
- Days to maturity: the time it takes a plant to produce fruit
- Use as a guideline: Transplanting-begin counting days when transplanted outside. Direct seeding-begin counting when the seed is planted outside.
What to Plant this Season
Feb 1-April 1 Rutabaga
Feb 5-May 1 Radish
Feb 10-Feb 25 Leeks-Seed
Feb 10-March 1 Beets
Feb 10-March 1 Carrots
Feb 10-March 1 Kohlrabi Seed
Feb 10-March 1 Onion for scallions, sow current year
Feb 10-March 1 Peas, English
Feb 10-March 1 Pease, Edible Pod
Feb 10-March 5 Onion transplants current year
Feb 10-March 5 Parsley
Feb 10-March 10 Lettuce, Leaf
Feb 10-March 10 Lettuce, Cots or Romaine
Feb 10-March 10 Lettuce, Butter-head
Feb 10-March 10 Spinach
Feb 10-April 1 Collards
Feb 15-March 1 Asparagus
Feb 15-March 1 Crowns
Feb 15-March 1 Broccoli transplants
Feb 15-March 1 Chinese Cabbage
Feb 15-March 1 Cauliflower transplants
Feb 15-March 1 Kohlrabi transplants
Feb 15-March 1 Potato, Irish-seed pieces
Feb 15-April 1 Mustard
March 20-April 20 Beans, Snap Pole
March 20-April 20 Beans, Lima Bush
March 20-April 20 Beans Lima Pole
March 20-May 1 Beans, Snap Bush
March 20-May 1 Beans, Yellow Bush
March 20-May 1 Beans, Pinto
March 20-May 1 Corn, Sweet
March 20-May 1 Cucumber, Pickling
March 20-May 1 Cucumber, Slicing
March 25-April 15 Tomatoes, large-fruited transplants
March 25-April 15 Tomatoes, Paste transplants
March 25-April 15 Tomatoes, Small fruited transplants
March 25-May 1 Squash, Summer
March 25-May 1 Squash, Summer Pan-Type
March 25-May 1 Squash, Winter
March 25-May 1 Squash, Zucchini
March 25-May 1 Watermelon
April 1-April 20 Pumpkin
April 1-May 1 Pepper, Hot
April 1-May 1 Pepper, Sweet Bell
April 1-May 1 Pepper, Sweet Salad
April 1-May 20 Peas, Southern
April 5-May 1 Cantaloupe
April 5-May 1 Eggplant
April 5-June 1 Okra
April 15-May 15 Potato, Sweet Slips
June 15-July 1 Eggplant seed
June 15-July 1 Cantaloupe
June 15-July 1 Watermelon
June 15-July 15 Eggplant transplant
June 15-July 15 Pepper, Hot
June 15-July 15 Pepper, Sweet Bell
June 15-July 15 Pepper, Sweet Salad
June 15-July 15 Tomato, large fruited
June 15-July 15 Tomato paste
June 15-July 15 Tomato small fruited
July 1-August 1 Peas, Southern
July 1-August 10 Squash, winter
July 15-Aug 15 Okra
July 15-Aug 15 Pumpkin, small
July 25-Aug 10 Potato, Irish seed pieces
Aug 1-Aug 15 Beans, snap pole
Aug 1-Aug 15 Broccoli-seed
Aug 1-Aug 15 Brussels Sprouts seed
Aug 1-Aug 15 Cabbage seed
Aug 1-Aug 15 Cauliflower seed
Aug 1-Aug 15 Corn Sweet
Aug 1-Aug 15 Cucumber Prickling
Aug 1-Aug 15 Cucumber Slicing
Aug 1-Aug 25 Kohlrabi seed
Aug 1-Aug 25 Squash summer
Aug 1-Aug 25 Squash Pan type
Aug 1-Aug 25 Squash Zucchini
Aug 1-Sept 1 Beans, snap bush
Aug 1-Sept 1 Beans, yellow bush
Aug 1-Sept 1 Beans, pinto
Aug 1-Sept 1 Chard, Swiss
Aug 1-Sept 1 Collards
Aug 1-Sept 10 Mustard
Aug 1-Oct 1 Parsley
Aug 1-Oct 15 Rutabaga
Aug 1-Oct 15 Spinach
Aug 10-Sept 1 Cabbage, Chinese
Aug 15-Sept 1 Lettuce, head
Aug 15-Sept 5 Carrot
Aug 15-Sept 10 Lettuce
Aug 15-Sept 10 Butterhead
Aug 15-Sept 15 Lettuce Leaf
Aug 15-Sept 15 Lettuce, or romaine
Aug 20-Sept 15 Broccoli-transplants
Aug 20-Sept 15 Brussels Sprouts-transplants
Aug 20-Sept 15 Cabbage transplants
Aug 20-Sept 15 Cauliflower transplants
Aug 25-Oct 1 Greens
Aug 25-Oct 1 Kale
Aug 25-Oct 15 Turnip
Sept 1-Sept 15 Beets
Sept 1-Oct 1 Peas, English
Sept 1-Oct 1 Peas, Edible, Podded
Sept 1-Oct 1 Leeks
Sept 1-Oct 1 Onion-seed-sow previous year for bulbs
Sept 1-Nov 1 Radish
Sept 1-Nov 1 Garlic
Fundamentals for a Healthy Garden
How to Properly Water
Watering is a simple task, but here are some tips to make your watering more efficient:
- Put sprinkler head on a gentle watering mode.
- Use a slow back and forth motion to go over plants 3 or 4 times to ensure deep watering all the way down to the roots.
- To check if your plant is watered enough, stick your finger into the soil to make sure it’s wet up to the middle of your finger. Or continue watering until watering is coming out of the bottom of the pot. Remember, pots dry out faster than plants in the ground!
- Water only the roots and not the leaves. This will help lower the chances of disease.
There are two main types of harmful insects-sucking and chewing. Sucking insects have a mouth part that sticks like a straw into a plant to suck out the nutrients and water. Chewing insects bite the plant and leave behind noticeable chew marks. These are just a few of the many harmful insects. Each plant can attract different types of insects.
NOTE: A great prevention practice is frequent scouting in your garden!
Many can be bought and added to your garden. These are just a few of the insects that can help your garden.
- Beneficial Nematodes: microscopic worms that help control grubs and cutworms, among other pests. Establish well in areas with regular watering.
- Lacewings: Love eating caterpillars and aphids, among others. Release when the weather is consistently above 50°F.
- Lady Beetles: Larvae and adults love eating aphids. Release after a light watering and at dusk.
- Praying Mantises: Larvae and adults will attack and eat any other moving insect.
- Assassin Bugs: Attack aphids, large caterpillars, beetles, and flies.
- Braconid wasps: tiny wasps that use many pests as a host for their eggs. Females can lay 50-200 eggs.
Types of Control
- IPM (integrated pest management)
- Use of multiple control techniques to prevent and/or control pests
- Cultural control/practices
- Gardening practices used such as crop rotation, variety selection, weed and water management
- Leaving garden fallow for a time between planting seasons
- Remove piles of dead or diseased plants
- Sanitize garden tools with rubbing alcohol if used on a known diseased plant
- Select healthy plants and pest-resistant varieties if available
- Prepare soil well with fertilizer, nutrients, and other additives if needed
- Scout garden regularly for pests
- Biological control
- Using one organism to control another, such as releasing ladybugs to eat aphids
- Mechanical control
- Using physical means in the garden to help protect plants from pests
- High-pressure water, covers, barriers, and hand-picking pests from plants
- Chemical control (do not spray on windy days)
- Certain chemicals that are allowed in home gardens
- Must follow directions on safety sheet and homeowner responsible for any consequences
- Less toxic approaches
- Such as oils or by-products from plants and animals like lemongrass oil or neem oil
- Many general use products that are for a variety of pests
- Products for Pests (check labels for how, when, and if you can use it in a vegetable garden)
- Snails & Slugs
- Products containing metaldehyde
- Grasshoppers and crickets:
- Carbaryl, esfenvalerate, malathion, and azadirachtin
- Soil pests such as millipedes, centipedes, cutowrms, root maggots, mole crickets, earwigs, etc
- Fallow period in garden
- Some synergized pyrethrins and carbaryl can help
- Preplant treatments can be done
- Snails & Slugs
Many diseases are spread through water. When watering, try to keep the leaves as dry as possible and only water the root system. Moist conditions with cool temperatures are an extremely conducive environment for diseases. Spring and fall are prime times for disease.
4 Types of Diseases
- Viruses- Spread through insects (particularly sucking insects) and people.
- Bacteria- Spread through splashing water.
- Nematodes- Wormlike organisms in the soil that feed on roots that stunt the plant’s growth.
- Fungus- Spores spread through wind, splashing water, and equipment. Fungi love moist, mild conditions.
Signs of Disease
- Wilting of leaves
- Root rot or knots
- Leaf spots
- Leaf blight
- Fruit rot
Prevention and Control Practices
- Fertilize and water plants properly
- Avoid splashing the leaves with water, and water in the morning to prevent damp conditions for too long.
- Plant disease-resistant varieties
- Rotate crops in garden each season, if possible
- Avoid overcrowding plants in beds
- For bacteria, fungi, and viruses pray copper and sulfur-containing products (organic)
- For nematodes, till the soil and dry it out or cover the soil with clear plastic for 6-8 weeks during the summer.
What does disease look like?
How to Enhance Gardens Organically
ORGANIC: Using amendments (additives) that are derived from organic sources, such as plants or animals, that better the soil and garden environment instead of using synthetic herbicides, fungicides, and pesticides. These additives encourage beneficial insects and microorganisms that help plants grow while working with nature’s pre-existing food web. This also includes using cultural practices.
- Less harmful to environment (by-products of organic sources like plants and animals)
- Enhances food web in garden
- Safer produce to eat
Nutrients in the Soil
Micro and Macronutrients
- Macronutrients-main nutrients plants need
- N-Nitrogen promotes leaf and stem development
- P-Phosphorous promotes roots, blooms, and fruiting
- K-Potassium promotes root and stem development
- Micronutrients- needed in much smaller amounts
- Boron (B), Chlorine (Cl), Copper (Cu), Iron (Fe), Manganese (Mn), Molybdenum (Mo), and Zinc (Zn)
If you’re unsure of which fertilizer to use, buy an at-home soil test kit to know what nutrients you need to add into the soil. This will help identify the correct fertilizer for your garden.
What is used in Jan's Garden
- Adds beneficial microorganisms that enhance the soil
- Helps soil retain moisture
- Creates essential air pockets for plants to breath
- Amount needed is based on desired depth of compost
- Boosts beneficial organisms in the soil as well as fertility
- Adds micronutrients to the soil
- 42% sugar level is best
- Use 10-20 lbs./1000 sq. ft.
Cottonseed Meal (many –meals: chicken meal, feather meal, alfalfa meal, bone meal, soybean meal, fish meal)
- By-product of cotton manufacturing
- Slow release fertilizer (plants take it up longer) with high organic matter
- Less chance of burning plants since slow release
- Bone meal
- Dried animal blood
- Adds N to soil quickly
- Raises acid levels
Dirt Diet from Wells Bros. in Plano
- All around organic fertilizer
- Ingredients: Alfalfa Meal, Cottonseed Meal, Dried Molasses, Soft Rock Phosphate, Sulphate of Potash, Vegetable Oil
- Use 20 lbs./1000 sq. ft. for newer garden or 10 lbs./1000 sq. ft. for established garden
Other Organic Treatments
Foliar Sprays - Liquid Kelp (also comes in powders)
- Contains many micro and macronutrients needed for plant growth
- Nutrients are in “ready to use” form and taken up quickly by the plant
- Provides beneficial growth hormones for rapid plant growth
- High amount of fast-acting N for fruit and veggie growth
- Made from fish parts
Herbicides - Corn Gluten Meal (pre-emergent)
- Prevents weeds from creating roots after germination
- Apply after desired plants are established (only attacks new, upcoming plants)
- Multiple applications may be required
- Application must be watered in, followed by a dry spell so weeds do not establish roots
- Timing is crucial but tricky!
- Mixed results found
Tips for Organic & Synthetic Products
- When using synthetic products, be careful of leaching and applying on windy days
- Always read and follow instructions on labels
- Water in fertilizer after applying to break it down
- Best times to apply fertilizers are in the morning or evening to prevent burning plants
- May need to reapply after heavy rain