How To Prepare Soil For Plants

“Essentially, all life depends upon the soil…There can be no life without soil and no soil without life, they have evolved together” Charles Kellogg

The best way to get to know your soil is to dig a narrow, hole about 24 inches deep. There should be a dark topsoil layer above a paler layer, known as subsoil. Your topsoil should be loose and well-draining. If it’s hard and compacted, then roots will have trouble growing in it and drainage will be poor.

There are different types of subsoils: hard clay, bedrock, stony material, and even sand. There really isn’t anything you can do about your subsoil but it’s important to know what type of drainage it provides.

A porous subsoil will allow roots to reach down for nutrients, and during dry weather, for water. If your subsoil is compacted, then your best option is to make raised beds. That way you can increase drainage and the amount of good soil available to your plants.

Is Your Soil Alkaline? Or Acid?

This video will show how to determine your soil’s nutrients. 1:38 minutes long


 
Measuring your soil’s pH level is important because most plants need soil which is slightly acidic, in the 6.2 to 6.8 level. For reference, a pH of 7 is neutral, less is acidic and anything above 7 is alkaline.

A laboratory test is ideal, but soil test kits are sold in most garden centers and home improvement stores. The kit will quickly indicate your soil’s pH by using a simple color system. Acidic soil using turns the testing solution an orange-yellow, neutral shows as green, and alkaline soil turns it dark green. If you have a local Cooperative Extension Service, nearby, you can have your soil tested there. They will also be able to tell you if your soil has any deficiencies and suggest ways to improve it.

Types of Soil

sand
Sand Image by Dimitris Vetsikas from Pixabay
• Sandy soil drains easily but it dries out quickly in the summer heat. It contains few nutrients so you will need to fertilize regularly. It is a good soil for cool-season crops because it retains heat in the spring when most gardens in northern regions are being started.
 
 
 
 
 
clay soil
clay soil Image by Dirk (Beeki®) Schumacher from Pixabay
• Clay is heavy and rich in nutrients. It drains poorly in winter which makes for a waterlogged garden during the spring thaw. They maintain moisture in the summer so they’re good for warm weather crops.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Loam
Loam
• Loam is a crumbly soil that combines the best features of sand and clay.

How To Check Your Soil’s Drainage

Remember the hole you dug to examine the soil in your yard? Now it’s time for a little experiment to find out how well it drains. Fill the hole with water, cover it, and leave it overnight.

If the water is still there the next morning, your soil is draining poorly. This means you may need to set up a drainage system or resort to raised beds. Excess water is deadly for plants, causing root rot and weakening the plant and making it susceptible to pests and diseases.

Where Should I Plant My Garden?

“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow” Audrey Hepburn

Here Comes the Sun!

HERE_COMES_THE_SUN
HERE_COMES_THE_SUN by Marianthi Mandani
If you decide to grow most types of beans or artichokes, for instance, you’ll need a spot that is sunny for most of the day. On the other hand, if you want to grow lettuce or spinach feel need a spot which offers some shade.

But how do you know which spot is sunny at 12 pm but shady at 4 pm or vice-versa? By checking the light and shadow patterns during the day.

Place wood stakes in the areas you’re considering for your garden. Record the times when each area is fully covered with sunlight and the times when shadows appear. In general, you’ll want an area that receives at least six hours of sun. Again, your choice of plants will play a role in the amount of sun your garden should receive.

Examples of plants which require full sun:
• Artichoke • Asparagus • Beans • Beets • Broccoli • Brussels Sprouts • Carrot • Cauliflower • Celery • Corn • Tomato • Pumpkin

Examples of plants which do well in partial shade:
• Arugula • Cabbage • Endive • Horseradish • Lettuce • Spinach • Peas • Swiss Chard • Radish • Rhubarb

Rain, Rain, Go Away!

Climate will influence your selection of the fruits and vegetables you can grow successfully. Most areas in North America are located in a temperate zone which is unaffected by the extreme heat of the tropics and frigid cold of the polar circles.

However, that doesn’t mean that all of North America has the same weather conditions, as you already know. There are areas that are drier and hotter, and others with cooler, wetter conditions. Your plans should always reflect your local weather conditions.

Most plants have a range of air temperatures in which they thrive. Most common vegetables are divided into two categories: cool season and warm season. Obviously, these vegetables vary in their planting requirements and in the conditions they will tolerate.

Examples of cool weather crops:
• Arugula • Beets • Broccoli • Brussels Sprouts • Cabbage • Cauliflower • Collard • Kale • Lettuce • Onion • Spinach Turnip

Examples of warm weather crops:
• Cantaloupe • Carrot • Corn • Cucumber • Eggplant • Lima Beans • Pumpkin • Potato • Snap Bean • Sweet Potato • Tomato

Map it Out!

garden planner
garden planner at Amazon
It sounds like a lot of work, but again, preparation is key. Now, that you know which areas receive the best sunlight for your planned crops, and where you have the best access to water and good soil, you need to do a little more groundwork.

Your site has to be free from underground utility lines. Local utility companies will happily locate and stake out their underground lines if you contact them.

Create your map, by first taking a photo of the site to map out the garden. Shoot the photo from a point which allows a full view of your entire garden area. Now, you draw a design of the area and mark the shady areas or any areas which have obstructions such as roots, large rocks, or slopes.

Top Ten Gardening Tips

Top ten gardening tips

vegetable and herb garden
Image by Julia Casado from Pixabay

Gardening is a nice healthy way to spend some time relaxing outdoors. In this article, we will give you the top ten gardening tips that can help you enjoy your gardening to the fullest.

1. Start your plants in pots, once they sprout and grow a little you can transplant them into the garden. This will grow stronger plants and raise their chances of survival.

2. Healthy soil is very important for the health of your plants. You can use banana skins and other fruit and vegetable waste to create a compost area where you can mix the waste with your soil. This will create rich soil and very healthy plants

3. After you choose a place for your garden keep in mind that most garden plants need an average of six hours of sunlight per day. Not all flowers need that much sunlight, however, some do.

4. It is better not to water your garden while the plants are in direct sunlight, the water acts as a magnifying glass and can damage the plants when the sun is strong. Perhaps you decide to water your garden in direct sunlight try to make the waterfall directly on the soil without falling on the plants, especially the leaves.

5. Perhaps you don’t want to lose valuable time watering your garden. You can buy special hoses that will leak water out at a slow pace. This will allow you to simply turn on the faucet and enjoy yourself while your plants receive the water that they desperately need. You must be careful, however, not to overwater your garden.

cut tomatoes

6. After you pick your vegetables keep in mind that pulling at the vegetable to separate it from the plant can cause damage to the plant. It is usually much better to cut the vegetable off of the plant.

7. Perhaps you find that you need to go into the house frequently while gardening taking your shoes on and off can cause a lot of stress. Use some plastic bags (use the ones you got when shopping), you can slip your shoes into them before entering your house.

8. If your yard has clay quality soil this can cause stress while trying to dig as it sticks to your shovel. You can try solving this problem by waxing your shovel with car wax.

9. As we mentioned before your garden needs a lot of sunlight, this means that you will probably be working in the sun quite a bit. Keep in mind that the ozone isn’t as good as it used to be and there are many risks that come from overexposure to the sun. Don’t forget to use sunscreen and if you are extra sensitive you may want to use a hat and maybe a long sleeve cotton shirt.

10. Go Organic.

Gardening can be a very relaxing hobby, some doctors even recommend it as an anti-stress activity. Not to mention the joy that comes from eating food that you produced with your very hands! Happy gardening!

Home Rainwater Collection System

Home Rainwater, photo by Benoit Rochon
Home Rainwater, photo by Benoit Rochon

Rainwater can help add on a home’s water supply in areas confronting water deficiency due to shortage of rainfall or population growth overextending the existing supply. For locations with a good deal of water, rainwater harvesting can help cut back greenhouse gas emissions related with pumping and treating water from a centrally located municipal works. Rainwater harvesting can also reduce storm water overflow from the home, freeing some of the stress on old municipal storm water systems.

Rainwater harvesting has less energy-emphasis than other secondary sources of water like water recycling and desalination. It is also clear of minerals, thus cutting back scale buildup in the pipes, and it is free of sodium, that can be good for people on low-sodium diets or high blood pressure if utilized for drinking water.

Rainwater harvesting helps our environment and wallets.

  • Preserves drinking water by reducing demand of municipally treated water, especially if used for irrigation throughout dry periods.
  • Reduce water bills thanks to less dependence on municipal water.
  • Aids to decrease basement flooding in older urban regions by cutting back the chance of rainwater exiting the property and getting into storm sewers (the sewers can clog up during large storms, which can contribute to flooding).
  • Helps to refill groundwater supplies by using storm water on a position where it can penetrate into the ground and by seizing overflows in instances where the rainwater tank overflows are controlled on the home’s property by a rain garden.

Water conservation

Prior to installing a rainwater collection system, it makes good sense to be sure that you are presently using water in a wise manner around your home.

  • Exchange older, wasteful fixtures, such as faucets and toilets, with more current, water conserving models.
  • Look for the WaterSense® logo on new products to make sure that they meet water efficiency standards set by the EPA in the U.S.

EPA WaterSense logo

As stated by the U.S. EPA.

Choose WaterSense
Choose WaterSense
WaterSense logo. EPA established the WaterSense Program to protect the future of our nation’s water supply by offering people a simple way to use less water with water-efficient products, new homes, and services. Products are independently certified to be at least 20% more efficient without sacrificing performance. Since the program’s inception in 2006, WaterSense has helped consumers save a cumulative 757 billion gallons of water and more than $14.2 billion in water and energy bills.

Look into your exterior water use and check where you can make modifications by watering less often or using native plants for the garden that are more advantageous to take care of in dry conditions. By preserving water around and in the home, you get the most out of your rainwater harvesting system. Larger water usage means you might need a bigger system, and that means higher operating costs and installation.

A Substantial Investment

rain barrel home
rain barrel home and the price is reasonable

Having a rainwater harvesting system can be a substantial investment and must be cautiously done to make sure the system runs efficiently and safely. By chance if you are a building contractor, electrician, or plumber, you will need to check with professionals for most of the installation. Even a talented diy builder should confer with a rainwater harvesting expert and, look at the size of the tank and the area geography, additional specialists may be required.

Conclusion

The benefits of rainwater harvesting can be substantial. Despite living in an apparently water-rich country, we have to be conscious of the importance of clean drinking water and of the necessity to conserve it. Using treated potable water for landscape irrigation and in toilets does not make any sense to a lot of people. In comparison, rainwater use, where allowed and possible, will help us bring down our carbon footprint by cutting back the need for the energy needed for the management and transfer of municipal water to homes.

Collecting and using rainwater takes some of the work off city storm drains and can help stop flooding. When we are in a drought, the stored water lets property owners more freedom in water use than homes and businesses depending on municipal water for irrigation. In addition, it saves money.

Fire Ants In Southern USA

How do you kill garden bugs organically? Fire Ants

Fire ant map in USA
Fire ant map in USA

Back in 2004 my husband got a job in Florida, so we all moved there from Ohio. Within a month of living in our new home our two year old daughter discovered a mound of dirt in our backyard. Within seconds of finding and touching it, she was covered in fire ants that bit her on the legs that caused her intense pain. That was our first introduction to Florida’s fire ants.

Imported Ants

Fire Ant from South America Photo from Ninjatacoshell
Fire Ant from South America Photo from Ninjatacoshell

Since that time I have learned all I could about fire ants. What I learned is that fire ants are not native to the United States. They were accidentally brought to the United States in 1929 on a cargo ship carrying soil from South America. Since they have no natural predators here in the US, the fire ants has exploded. They are incredibly aggressive and dangerous.

Fire Ants Home

Fire ant mound
Fire ant mound get about 15 inches high

By now you are probably wondering how to spot a fire ant nest, or the ant itself. It’s actually pretty easy to see where the fire ants are living if you know where to look, which is down. When I am outside walking on grass or dirt, I watch my feet as I walk. What I look for and avoid are any dirt hills. The hills can be as small as an inch or as large and tall as 15 inches. The dirt for these hills has a grainy look to it that I have come to learn.

Swarming Effect

Fire ants on board
Fire ants on board

If you are unsure if a dirt mound is a fire ant nest, there is a very easy way to find out. Take a long stick and poke the nest. If fire ants live there, they will immediately swarm out of the nest and onto the stick. If the stick was your hand, you would get bit many times over.

Identify

a parasitic phorid fly and a fire ant
a parasitic phorid fly and a fire ant

As for the ants themselves, I don’t really know what they look like specifically because I never see them unless their nests have been disturbed. When that happens it is best to get as far from the fire ants as possible. From what I can tell, though, they look like a typical ant. They are neither excessively large nor small. And, no, they are not red as their name might imply.

Fire Ants Bite

Fire Ant Bite
Fire Ant Bite can be serious

The reason fire ants are called “fire” ants is because of their bite. Their bites burn like fire, or so I’ve been told. I’ve never been bitten but I know plenty of people who have, including my daughter. Her legs were covered in little red welts. Apparently, fire ant bites cause small, painful welts that can sometimes scar. In my daughter’s case I counted over 40 bites at the time of the incident. She is now 10 and several of the bites turned into scars that can still be seen.

Bite Treatment and Hill Destroyer

The best way to treat fire ant bites is with a sting and bit product called Mitigator. Apply it as soon as a bite occurs. And if you find an ant hill, you can either buy a product called Amdro, or call your exterminator. I have found that exterminators are far more successful at killing fire ant colonies than over-the-counter products are.

Store Bought Container Plants

Nature Shop Flower
Nature Shop Flower

When you buy a container of plants at the store, it is usually not a good idea to simply leave the arrangement as is for too long. Most store-bought container plants have already outgrown the container they were planted in. The stores want these to look full and lush because they sell better that way. But unfortunately, they don’t live well that way.

Since the container is overcrowded, the plants have little room to breathe let alone grow. So if left in the container as you bought them, the plants are likely to die not long after you’ve brought them home.

The best way to keep these container plants alive is also a wonderful way for you to have more plants in your home:

flowerpots
flowerpots used to separate the bought plants

Separate them into multiple containers.

1. Once you’ve found a container of plants at the store you really like, be sure to also buy a few extra pots if you don’t already have some waiting at home, and buy extra organic potting soil too. I recommend going to a reliable nursery that sell only quality plants.

2. When you get home with your new materials, you’ll repot some of the plants from the container you just bought. You don’t have to do this immediately, but it is best to do it within a few days of bringing it home.

Most indoor container plants are quite hardy, so you don’t have to worry too much about hurting them.

organic potting soil
organic potting soil from espoma

1. First, you’ll need to set up all your materials. Set the new container of plants on a table or counter, then put the empty pots and potting soil close by. I prefer to do this next to a sink because you’ll be watering the new containers after transplanting and having the sink on hand just makes this easier.

2. Now, if the container full of plants is a bit dry, soak it with water really well first. This will loosen the soil and make it easier to remove plants from.

3. Next, turn the plant container over on your hand, so the plants start falling out. Usually the container is so full and crowded that all the roots are intertwined, thus the entire plant arrangement comes out as one piece.

4. With the plant roots showing, pick one or two sections – or individual plants from the arrangement, and gently break its roots away from the main root section. You will break some of the plant’s roots when you’re doing this, but a little breakage doesn’t usually hurt anything. Just be sure you don’t sever the plant from its roots entirely.

Sometimes its easier to simply use a knife or spade to cut the plant roots apart. You can separate and sort out the entire original container arrangement first, or you can do it one section at a time.

5. Once you’ve got one or more sections of the container arrangement separated, you’ll put them into the empty pots. Fill one of the pots at least half-way with the new potting soil. If the soil is a bit dry, soak it well with water and let it drain. Then dig one or more partial holes in the soil of the new pot, and put one section of the original plants you’ve broken off into each hole.

You can put one section into each pot, or you can put 3-5 sections into each pot. It all depends on how large your new pots are, and how large each plant section is that you’ve broken off from the original. You want to be sure there is space for each section in the new pots though because the sections you’ve broken off will grow and fill in quite fast – usually within a couple of weeks – and you don’t want to have to move it to another pot again so soon.

6. Once you have the plant sections in place, fill in the remaining area around them with more potting soil. Press it down a bit, add some more water and let it settle, then if needed: Add a bit more soil.

watering
watering

7. Once you have the soil level covering the roots and at an appropriate height, soak the new planting pot with water again and let it drain.

You’ll need to rinse off the outside of your pot most likely, then you can sit it anywhere in your house with enough light. Repeat this process for however many sections of plants you want, and within just a couple of weeks, you’ll have several new indoor container plants looking wonderful in your home!

3 Invasive Plants

invasive plant
invasive plant kudzu

When planting a garden, it’s a good idea to know what you’re planting might be invasive in some way. Often new gardeners will end up buying plants that are very easy to grow, not knowing that in time the plant will become more of a problem than anything else.

Invasive plants are those plants that grow so prolifically, and are so hardy, that they destroy other plants in your garden. Often they get out of hand, and can take over the entire yard. These are wonderful for getting quick results in a garden, but they’re so hardy that they’re extremely difficult to get rid of in the future.

There are also some plants which are not native to an area, that will destroy the native and natural plant life there. This can cause big ecological problems over time.

Ivy
Ivy_on_Chicago_University_campus_building, photo by Spikebrennan

Ivy

One of the most common and most invasive plants is Ivy. In some areas of the United States, different types of ivy will expand, choke out and kill other plants quite quickly.

Mint

Mint is another plant that tends to be problematic. It also expands and grows quickly, and it can also kill other types of plants that’s in its growth path.

Wandering Jew/Purple Heart

wandering jew,purple heart
wandering jew,purple heart is very invasive but beautiful

Another invasive plant is the ‘wandering jew’ or some call it ‘purple heart’ will spread in just a couple of years. This plant will grow good in sun or in shade. Plant in an area that you want to cover with no other plant.

Planting and growing invasive plants is OK to do, if you do it properly. The most important thing to do when planting them though, is to put them in an area where they can be fully contained and controlled.

A common way to plant mint for instance, is to simply put it into a pot, then plant that pot into the ground. This keeps the roots of the plant contained, and the gardener can simply nip any stray branches that might try to go into unwanted places.

This same technique can be used with ivy, but it’s more difficult to control. Because ivy is a vine, all the various points on the vine can take root. So leaving the vine unchecked for just a few days can be enough time for new roots to take hold and spread.

Pots and Containers

I personally suggest keeping ivy in pots and containers only. Don’t put the containers into the ground, simply sit or hang them on your patio or keep them inside your home. You could also plant ivy and mint in window boxes, just watch the ivy closely and if it starts trailing too close to the ground, trim it back.

There are other types of plants, vines, bushes and even trees that can be harmful to others in the environment too. It’s always best to try researching specific plants online before planting them. This is most important to do for bushes and trees because these live much longer than general annuals do.

Keep in mind that some people consider certain plants as invasive, just because they don’t like them and the plants are quick and hardy growers. Many native wildflowers are referred to as invasive or “weeds” because of this tendency. This is a preference issue though and not an ecological one. Some people just don’t like wildflowers and naturalized plants while others do.

Why be pesticide free?

boy and dog
boy and dog sitting on chemical-free lawn

Almost everyone wants a lush, green lawn and an attractive, pest-free garden. Unfortunately, in order to achieve this goal, many people resort to using harsh chemical fertilizers and pesticides. While these products are effective in accomplishing their purposes, it is not without impact. Most fertilizers and pesticides currently on the market are made with harmful chemicals that, even when used properly, affect not only human health but the health of our environment. Luckily, there are now great cost-effective and proven natural alternatives that can help you achieve a healthy and beautiful yard without chemicals. Salt Lake City, partnered with Beyond Pesticides, is running a trial on a couple of local parks to incorporate the best alternative practices in pesticide management and lawn care. They encourage city residents to join them in reducing the amount of chemical pesticides and fertilizer they use.

Pesticide Exposure

father spreading chemical pesticide
father spreading chemical pesticide

As part of the Healthy Babies Bright Futures initiative, Salt Lake City is working to reduce exposure to harmful chemicals that we come into contact with on a daily basis. One common source of exposure is through pesticides (including rodenticide, herbicides, insecticide, and fungicide). Their guide was created to give residents a starting point for reducing and phasing out chemical pesticide use in their homes. It’s healthier for you and the environment!

Chemical pesticide use and exposure has been shown to have negative health effects on humans. Recent studies show that most homes in the United States are contaminated with pesticides. Health effects found to be caused by chemical pesticide exposure include birth defects, childhood cancer, acute poisoning, brain tumors, and asthma.

A Child is Vulnerable

children on lawn
children on lawn, ARE THEY SAFE?

Children are particularly vulnerable to chemicals due to their exploratory nature and size. Children are more prone to place potentially contaminated household objects, as well as their hands, in their mouths. Because of their small size, children are closer to the ground and contaminated surfaces which exposes them to more chemicals. Additionally, compared to adults, children have a relatively higher intake of food, water, and air.

Eliminate Use

After learning about the great alternatives to chemicals in this article, it is likely that you will want to cut-down or eliminate the use of pesticides and fertilizers in and around your home. Initially, this might mean more time spent in the garden doing manual labor. Luckily, gardening, promotes many health benefits.

Stress Reduction

Studies have shown that working in the garden improves both your mental and physical health. Gardening has shown to be more effective at reducing stress than other leisure activities.

A Low-Impact Exercise

people working in the garden equals exercise
People working in the garden EQUALS exercise

Gardening is also a good source of low-impact exercise, such as stretching and strengthening muscles. This physical activity is associated with a lower risk of developing dementia. Two studies were conducted in which people in their 60s and 70s were followed for up to 16 years. Those who gardened regularly had between a 36% and 47% lower risk of dementia than those participants who did not garden.

Keep Our Environment Healthy

Creating a natural environment and promoting biodiversity around our homes can reduce chronic illnesses, including allergies, in both children and adults. Recent studies show that the health of our soil is directly related to the microbial life on our skin and in our gut. This is yet another reason to keep our environment healthy and diverse by eliminating the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers.

Types Leafy Green Vegetables

Kale
Kale is especially helpful

No diet is truly optimized without a healthy amount of leafy greens. These plant foods are truly a miracle of nature, and are loaded with vitamins and minerals; they also are low in calories so you can eat plenty of them without gaining weight. Leafy greens can be eaten in sandwiches, be part of casseroles and can be eaten in numerous types of salads.

What are leafy greens?

There are both common and relatively uncommon leafy green vegetables available to you. Most you can get at the produce department at your local supermarket but others you may have to grow in containers in your house or in a garden or visit a store like Whole Foods.

A few leafy green vegetables include:

spinach
spinach can be eaten in abundance
  • Spinach is high in zinc, niacin, fiber, protein, vitamins A, C, E, K, B6, thiamin, calcium, folate, iron, manganese, magnesium, potassium, and copper. Low in fat and even lower in cholesterol.
  • Kale raw kale is composed of water, carbohydrates, protein, and fat. It contains a large amount of vitamin K. It is a rich source of vitamin A, C, B6, folate, and manganese. It is a good source of thiamin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, vitamin E, iron, calcium, potassium, and phosphorus.
  • Broccoli is an excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin K, B vitamins, manganese, whereas other essential nutrients are in low content. Broccoli has a low content of carbohydrates, protein, fat, and dietary fiber.
  • Romaine Lettuce
    Romaine Lettuce
  • Romaine Lettuce is a source of Vitamin A, Folate, Vitamin C, Calcium, Iron, Phosphorus, and Potassium.
  • Cabbage is a rich source of vitamin C and K. Cabbage is also a moderate source of vitamin B6 and folate.
  • Mustard greens are a rich source of vitamins A, C, and K. Mustard greens are a moderate source of vitamin E and calcium.
  • Dandelion greens contain abundant vitamins and minerals, especially vitamins A, C, and K, and are good sources of calcium, potassium, iron, and manganese. A surprising plant that is beneficial in many different ways.
  • Swiss chard
    Swiss chard
  • Swiss chard has rich content of vitamins A, K, and C. Also having significant content in raw chard are vitamin E and the dietary minerals, magnesium, manganese, iron, and potassium.
  • Escarole/Endive has a rich content of vitamins A, B5, Folate, and especially vitamin K. Rich in minerals of Manganese, Potassium, and Zinc.
  • Turnip greens have a rich content of vitamins A, B6, C, E, and especially high in vitamin K. Minerals of Calcium and Manganese are moderate.
  • Watercress
    Watercress
  • Watercress is particularly rich in vitamin K and contains significant amounts of vitamin A, C, B6, riboflavin, calcium, and manganese.
  • Chickweed is edible and nutritious and is used as a leaf vegetable, often raw in salads.
  • What makes leafy greens so special?

    Disease Prevention

    It seems that Mother Nature knows what she’s doing, as leafy greens contain disease preventing plant-based substances that may help protect from diabetes, heart disease, and even various cancer mainly because of the powerful antioxidants they offer. Kale, for example, is a great source of vitamins A C, K, calcium and also supplies folate and potassium.

    Weight Loss

    These vegetables have so few calories that they hardly even count and lettuce, kale, and spinach can be eaten in abundance. These are also high fiber foods and so they keep you full longer and allow you to eat less. Another benefit of the fiber is that it helps to stabilize blood sugars, and that results in less out of control cravings for sweets and other junk.

    Vitamin K

    Different leafy greens have different properties but all of them can be considered good for you. They contain vitamin K, which is essential in helping the body to properly clot blood. Vitamin K also helps prevent several conditions related to advancing age and can help prevent bone loss, arterial calcifications, kidney damage and heart disease. Just a single cup of most leafy green vegetables will provide you with more than enough vitamin K for your system per day. Kale is especially helpful, providing about six times the recommended intake of vitamin K.

    Lower Cholesterol

    You can actually lower your cholesterol by eating leafy green vegetables. The bile acids produced by the liver which help fats digest from the gastrointestinal tract are bound by the fiber in the leafy greens. The bile acids pass through the body along with the residue of leafy green vegetables, forcing the liver to use up even more cholesterol to make bile acids. This reduces your endogenous cholesterol level. There was one study in the Nutrition Research journal that indicated that slightly steamed kale and mustard greens did the best job of binding bile acids.

    Eye Health

    Leafy green vegetables are good for the eyes. The best leafy greens to eat for eye health are mustard greens, Swiss chard, kale and dandelion greens because they are high in carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin. Carotenoids help filter the high energy light caused by sun and therefore prevent sun-induced cataracts. These carotenoids also improve overall visual acuity.

    Vitamin B5

    A cup of raw escarole can help your body by adding pantothenic acid, also called vitamin B5. The B vitamins together help carbohydrates break down into glucose to be used for cellular fuel. The body cannot store B vitamins each day so you need to find a daily source for these vitamins. What better way than to incorporate escarole/endive in your diet.

    Calcium For Bone Health

    Leafy green vegetables contain large amounts of calcium. It’s the calcium that gives these foods their slightly bitter taste. While leafy greens do not give you alone the amount of calcium you need in one day (about a thousand milligrams of calcium per day for women between 30 and 50), they provide easily absorbable kinds of calcium. A half a cup of dandelion greens will give you about 75 mg of calcium, while mustard greens can give you 55 mg calcium.

    Considering that these are virtually fat free foods they give high fat dairy foods as a source of calcium a run for their money.

    Prevent Colon Cancer

    Kale and mustard greens can help prevent colon cancer by being part of the group of vegetables that includes cabbage and broccoli. In a study in one dietetic journal, those people that ate more of these leafy greens suffered a lower risk of developing colon cancer.

    How do you eat leafy greens?

    Leafy greens can be eaten raw in salads or can be steamed and mixed with things like herbs, other vegetables, or added to stir-fry. Generally, it is advisable to have a little heat applied to these vegetables as possible to keep their nutritional content intact. Kale and spinach both are at risk for overcooking very fast because they cook so quickly.

    A good rule of thumb when cooking is to only steam to a bright free color, such as the case with broccoli, once it turns a dark green color it is likely overcooked and has lost valuable nutrients.

    Health Benefits For Sweet Potato

    sweet potatoes
    sweet potatoes are healthier than their white counterparts.

    Sweet potatoes seem like an indulgent food but they’re actually even healthier than their white counterparts. Sweet potatoes have high levels of vitamins A and C as well as the minerals manganese and copper.

    Low Glycemic Index

    They’re also low on the glycemic index which means that when you eat a sweet potato, it won’t cause your blood sugar to spike and fall. The average sweet potato is about 180 calories and contains 41 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of protein, and 7 grams of fiber.

    Fat and Cholesterol Free

    Sweet potatoes are fat and cholesterol free. The high fiber and low-calorie count make this a perfect food for adding to your weight loss regimen. Sweet potatoes can be prepared in many ways including baking, roasting, and boiling.

    Healthy Blood Sugar Levels

    While the name “sweet potato” makes it sound like these contain a lot of sugar, they’re actually very low in sugar. And eating a sweet potato won’t cause blood sugar problems. In fact, sweet potatoes can help your body to maintain healthy blood sugar levels more efficiently.

    Antioxidants

    Sweet potatoes are chock-full of antioxidants that help you to fight inflammation and reduce your risk of some diseases such as heart disease and cancers.

    Add a Fat

    To get the best benefit from eating a sweet potato, it helps to add a fat to it. This allows fat-soluble vitamins to be absorbed better by the body. Try drizzling your baked potato with extra virgin olive oil for this effect.

    Choosing a Sweet Potato

    Sweet potatoes can be found all year in the grocery store. When choosing a sweet potato, you’ll find that potatoes with the smallest diameters are the sweetest. You’ll want to choose firm potatoes that have uniform skin. They shouldn’t have spots that look rotten.

    Storage

    Once you get sweet potatoes home, avoid the temptation to toss them in the fridge. This causes the flesh to become hard and can make them bitter. Instead, store them in a cool, dry place. A basket makes a great storage container because it’s well-ventilated.

    Eat the Skin

    Always wash potatoes well before cooking and eating them. And don’t forget to eat the skin. The skin contains many nutrients and a lot of fiber. If you skip the skin you’re missing out on major nutrition.

    Health benefits for sweet potato are a wonderful food to add to your diet if you’re looking to lose weight, maintain your weight, and improve your health. And grow them organically.

    Recipe for Sweet Potato Noodles and Sauce

    sweet potato noodles
    sweet potato noodles, photo by theimpulsivebuy

    Prepare the noodles:

    1. Create Sweet Potato Noodles using a spiral cutter or by using a mandolin on small French fry setting.

    Prepare the sauce:

    2. Mix together equal parts tahini(A thick Middle Eastern paste made from ground sesame seeds), raw honey, stone-ground mustard.

    3. Add in a garlic clove, minced and red pepper flakes to taste.

    4. Mix the sauce and the Sweet Potato noodles and let set in a warm place to soften a bit.

    5. You can add raisins or dried cranberries to garnish or sprinkle with nuts or seeds.