PostHeaderIcon Garden Soil (Part 1) – Understanding the Basics

Garden soil is one of the most basic elements required in gardening. A gardener cannot do without soil, regardless of the type of plants he is planting. Good quality soil is essential to your plants’ health but have you ever thought what the humble garden soil is made of?

What is Soil Made of?

There are four main components of soil – mineral matter, organic matter (humus), water and air. Within the soil contains inorganic elements such as stones and gravel. These are the mineral matter and they make up to 40%-60% of the soil volume. Mineral matter originates from the bedrock that is under the soil.

Organic matter or humus is the decomposed remains and waste products of plants and animals. Soil nutrients or the chemical properties of the soil are largely affected by organic matter. In between the mineral matter and organic matter is the space occupied by water and air.

Purpose of Soil

The role of garden soil is much like the role played by parents. They provide support and help the plant to grow strong and healthy, just like the way our parents supported and provided for us when we were young. Soil is needed to support the plant by allowing its roots to grow through the soil and hold itself in place. With its ability to store nutrients and water, soil also plays a vital role in the biological support for the plant.

In addition to supporting plant life, garden soil also supports other life forms. Microorganisms and insects rely on soil to survive while contributing to the plant by decomposing organic material and adding structure to the soil. Microorganisms like fungi and bacteria that live in soil are used to produce antibiotics, which have benefited much to mankind. Soil is also used to support vegetation growth for mankind’s consumption to ensure survival. All life on earth is dependant on it either directly and indirectly.

Now, let’s explore further the different types of soil texture.

Different Types of Soil Texture

Soil texture is determined by the different mineral particles and its respective size distribution. These mineral particles are sand, silt and clay. Sand particles are 2 to 0.05 mm in diameter, silt particles are 0.05 to 0.002 mm in diameter and clay particles are less than 0.002 mm in diameter. These particles exhibit different properties and their combinations in different proportions will have favorable outcomes for certain plant life. Let’s take a look at the most common classes of soil texture:

Sandy soil
As the term suggests, sandy soil feels gritty to the touch and contains a high percentage of sand particles. There is a lot of space in between the particles and therefore, it does not hold water well. Hence, essential plant nutrients also get washed away due to the free draining nature of sandy soil.

Clay soil
Clay soil has small size particles which makes it clump together easily. What this means is, there is less room for air spaces and drainage capability is relatively poor. Besides, clay soil does not hold nutrients well, thus it’s not an ideal garden soil. Clay soil is heavy, feels lumpy and becomes sticky when it’s wet, making it difficult to work with.

Silty soil
Contrary to clay soil, silty soil feels smooth to the touch. It contains a high percentage of silt particles and has good drainage capability due to the small size of the particles. Water is able to permeate through easily with silty soil. Silty soil holds nutrients better than clay soil and is easy to cultivate but it can be compacted quite easily.

Loamy soil
Loamy soil has the best soil texture and is a gardener’s dream soil. It has a good proportion of clay, silt and sand particles thereby providing the perfect amount of drainage. Unlike sandy soil, it does not lose water excessively. Loamy soil is able to retain nutrients for your plants. Thanks to its good structure, loamy soil is also easy to cultivate.

Healthy soil provides the basis for healthy plants. In the second part of our Garden Soil series, we will look at what constitutes healthy soil and how to create healthy soil.

Stay tuned.

PostHeaderIcon Why Grow Vegetables When You Can Buy Them Easily?

How do I grow organic vegetables?

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos, www.123rf.com

Grow vegetables, buy vegetables – which is a better option? In our modern, fast-paced society where speed is the essence, most people would opt for buying vegetables. Pushing your shopping cart down the supermarket aisles while enjoying the cool air-con after work is probably a relaxing task that you enjoy too. Besides the convenience, the readily available and wide variety of vegetables also makes groceries shopping an easy task.

So, why grow vegetables when you can get them easily from the supermarkets?

Growing your own vegetables has several advantages. Just as home-cooked meals are healthier and better than  food consumed outside, growing your own vegetables allows you to control what goes into the soil and the plants. Although growing your own vegetables may sound tough to the clueless, it can actually be interesting if you adopt a fun attitude and rope in your family members too.

Still not convinced about putting your hands into vegetable gardening? Here are 5 good reasons to encourage you to grow your own vegetable garden.

1. Enjoy fresh veggies anytime you want it

Imagine harvesting your own vegetables from your garden a minute ago and enjoying a bowl of delicious salad the next minute. Having your own DIY vegetable garden allows you to savor your favorite vegetables anytime you want it, even in the middle of the night.

2. Organic vegetables free from pesticides

Being the gardener, you decide how you want your veggies to be grown. You can learn more about organic gardening and grow fresh vegetables that are free from pesticides and chemicals. You can even make your own fertilizers and do your part to save the earth.

3. Strengthen family bonds 

Gardening is a wonderful activity that can strengthen family bonds if you get your family members involved as well. And if you choose to plant vegetables, you can literally enjoy the fruits of your labor. Do you have young children at home? Get them involved too. What better way to teach our next generation about nature, recycling and saving the earth than to have them cultivate interest in this area at a young age!

4. Relaxation and Natural Therapy

Vegetable gardening, in fact, any forms of gardening is a good form of relaxation for our busy minds. Besides taking nature walks, you can also try gardening, which many have said to be therapeutic and helps to de-stress.

5. Save more money

Yes, growing your own vegetables can help you to save money. It doesn’t cost much to get seedlings,  gardening tools or flower pots and containers. All it takes is your dedication and passion for your labor to turn into a bountiful harvest.

Vegetable gardening is not just for those who have a garden or backyard. If you stay in an apartment, you can consider indoor vegetable gardening. And if you want to maximize your gardening space, get the Gardman R687 4-Tier Mini Greenhouse, where you can have 4 sturdy shelves to plant your favorite vegetables at your balcony.

 

PostHeaderIcon Clearly Fresh Bags Review and Discount Code

Recently, I was invited to put Clearly Fresh Bags to the test. Apio Inc, the manufacturer of Clearly Fresh Bags sent me a sample pack for review and I embarked on my experiment with four different types of fresh produce. Before I go further, I’d like to stress that I did not receive monetary compensation for this product review; my opinion are unbiased and honest.

So, what exactly is Clearly Fresh Bag? Clearly Fresh Bag is a fresh produce storage bag that promises to keep your produce fresher. It claims to be able to extend the storage life of your produce up to 50% longer. Clearly Fresh Bags come in a pack of 10 resealable bags, at a price of US$3.99. The produce storage bags look like your typical Ziploc bags, except that it has a breathable 3 inch square membrane on one side. Known as BreatheWay membrane, this hi-tech membrane creates the passageway for the right amount of oxygen inflow and much more carbon dioxide outflow. This ensures the environment within the bags is kept at optimum, thus allowing your produce to remain fresh longer.

Each resealable Clearly Fresh storage bag measures 12″ x 14″, which is a handy size for most produce. Usage is easy – simply put your fresh produce (preferably unwashed) into the storage bag, gently push out some of the air from the bag, zip the bag and store your produce as usual.

Do note that it is recommended to place ONE type of produce in each storage bag since different produce have different environmental requirements to stay fresh. Clearly Fresh Bags can be used for all kinds of produce. It works especially well with popular fresh produce such as apples, asparagus, avocados, bananas, berries, broccoli, carrots, cucumbers, lettuce, mangoes, and papayas.

As part of my Clearly Fresh Bags test, I bought four types of produce and kept them for 10 days – in Clearly Fresh Bags versus regular resealable storage bags. The results are shown in the series of photographs below. The left column displays the produce at Day One while the right column shows the condition of the produce at Day Ten.




For a detailed review of my Day Ten observation, read my previous post here. You may also like to read my Day Five observation in my earlier post.

Personally, I am surprised at the outcome of my Clearly Fresh Bags test. I was rather skeptical initially with the claims of this product but I am now convinced that this product works. BreatheWay Technology does keep fresh fruits and vegetables fresh longer!

So, what do I like about Clearly Fresh Bags? Hmm…besides its proven ability to keep my produce fresh longer, I also like the handy size and tight zip closure. I love the thickness of the storage bag too, it doesn’t feel thin like some low quality storage bags. You just know you can count on it to keep your veggies fresh.

I guess you’re probably wondering if the Clearly Fresh Bags are truly that good and if there’s anything that I don’t fancy about it. Well, I think it’ll be great if Apio Inc can offer the storage bags in smaller sizes. While the current size is good for fresh produce, I would love to have a smaller size resealable bag for my cut veggies (salad) so as to retain its freshness better with minimum opening of the zip.

I hope you enjoy reading my review of Clearly Fresh Bags. If you have experienced this product, you’re welcome to share your thoughts and leave me a comment. But if you’re new to Clearly Fresh Bags, here’s your chance to try this amazing product at a discounted price.

For a limited time, Apio Inc will be offering a 15% discount for readers of IndoorVegetableGardeningTips.com. Get more details of the promotion below.

**DISCOUNT CODE FOR YOU**

Enjoy a 15% discount when you purchase Clearly Fresh Bags today. Simply place your order at www.ClearlyFreshBags.com and enter the promo code IVG15 upon checkout. Promotion ends July 4th, 2011.
 

 

PostHeaderIcon Clearly Fresh Bags – Are My Produce Still Edible? (Day Ten)

It’s been ten days since I started my experiment with Clearly Fresh Bags. Clearly Fresh Bags are much like your regular resealable produce storage bags except that it has a 3 inch breathable membrane that is supposed to extend the freshness of your produce up to 50% longer. If you’ve missed my earlier posts, you can read more about Clearly Fresh Bags here.

To recap, I have bought four different types of produce and placed a set of each produce in a regular resealable storage bag and a Clearly Fresh Bag. The vegetables were then stored in the refrigerator while the bananas, on the counter top. I checked on them five days ago and found the result to be encouraging. Read more about my Day 5 review here.

Now that it’s Day Ten, it’s time to review my produce again.

The first thing that caught my attention was the Banana. There is such a stark contrast between the banana in the Clearly Fresh Bag versus the one in the regular resealable bag. Without Clearly Fresh Bag, the banana ripens rapidly and turned black by Day Ten. The banana was extremely soft, I’m sure even the monkeys wouldn’t be interested in it. In comparison, the banana in the Clearly Fresh Bag remains yellow in color although it has also developed black spots on its skin by now. Come on’, it’s been 10 days since I first bought it! You’re supposed to eat your bananas fresh and not keep it for souvenir, right?

The Butterhead Lettuce in the Clearly Fresh Bag looks green even on Day Ten. The outermost layer of leaves may be a little soft but those leaves within still retained its moisture relatively well. Will I eat the Butterhead Lettuce? Yes, I’ll simply peel off the outer layers and have the rest of it in my salad bowl. How about the one in the regular resealable bag? Errh… I probably wouldn’t eat it as the edges of the leaves are already rotting. Moreover, the leaves are also turning yellowish and soft. It’ll be a waste of my effort chewing the veggies if the nutrients are already lost.

Looking at the Wong Bok Cabbage here, you might think there isn’t much difference between the two. I thought so too till I looked at the underside of the veggie. Five days ago, I remarked that the cabbage in the regular resealable bag has begun to shown some black marks. The bad news is, those marks have turned darker and there are new ones appearing too. In contrast, the Wong Bok Cabbage in the Clearly Fresh Bag has lesser black marks; its texture also remains crunchy. I would say the condition of the cabbage isn’t too bad, considering that I’ve been keeping it for 10 days.

Finally, let’s talk about the Carrot. Carrots, being hardy vegetables, did not exhibit much visible differences after 10 days of storage. Generally, both carrots still look and feel fresh but on closer examination, the carrot in the regular resealable bag seems to have a dryer texture on the surface. It is still edible but I don’t think it’ll be as sweet and crunchy as the other carrot in the Clearly Fresh Bag.

I have personally reviewed the Clearly Fresh Bag without receiving monetary compensation. My thoughts and opinions of this product are honest and unbiased. If you have used this product before, you are welcome to share your experience too. Feel free to leave me a comment.

**DISCOUNT CODE FOR YOU**

Enjoy a 15% discount when you purchase Clearly Fresh Bags today. Simply place your order at www.ClearlyFreshBags.com and enter the promo code IVG15 upon checkout. Promotion ends July 4th, 2011.

 

PostHeaderIcon Clearly Fresh Bags – First Check On My Produce (Day Five)

Hey, how have you been this week? I’ve been looking forward to this day, not just because it’s a Sunday but because today is Day Five of my experiment with Clearly Fresh Bags. Clearly Fresh Bag is a resealable fresh produce bag that promises to make your fresh vegetables and fruits last longer. It looks like your regular Ziploc bag except that it has a special BreatheWay membrane which performs the magic of extending the storage life of your produce. For more information on Clearly Fresh Bags, check out my earlier post here.

Five days ago, I bought four different types of produce to conduct an experiment with Clearly Fresh Bags – Wong Bok Cabbage, Butterhead Lettuce, Carrot and Banana. I had 2 sets of each produce type, of which I kept one set in a regular resealable bag and the other, in a Clearly Fresh Bag. I’m not sure about you but I was eager to see what has become of my produce, especially the banana.

 

Let’s talk about Wong Bok Cabbage first. As you know, Wong Bok Cabbage usually do not last long. I was rather surprised to see the Wong Bok Cabbage in the Clearly Fresh Bag still looking fresh. I could tell from the texture of the leaves that the cabbage did not lose much moisture. While the Wong Bok Cabbage in the regular resealable produce bag may look about the same in the picture, the underside of the cabbage was actually showing marginal signs of oxidation, with some parts of the leaves having black marks.

The Butterhead lettuce in the Clearly Fresh Bag looks green and feels supple even after five days. Likewise, the moisture in the veggie is well-maintained. I believe the credit should go to the BreatheWay membrane that allows the right amount of oxygen to flow in while enabling much more outflow of carbon dioxide. On the contrary, the Butterhead Lettuce in the regular resealable bag appears to be losing its color. Although it is not turning yellow yet, you could see that its leaves are less green. A closer examination of the edge of the leaves shows early signs of rotting.

Carrots are pretty hardy vegetables, hence you do not see much difference between the two carrots in the picture. After all, it has only been five days. Nonetheless, looking at how the other two vegetables fare, I’m sure some changes are taking place within the carrot although it is not yet visible to the naked eye.

 

The most interesting observation has to be the bananas. I have said previously that I would be very surprised if the bananas can last for five days. Well, the banana in the Clearly Fresh Bag did last for five days. Yes, it looks more ripe than 5 days ago but it is not soft like the other banana. As seen from the picture, the banana in the regular resealable bag has become too ripe and its skin is showing quite a lot of black marks. Besides, the texture is so soft that I wouldn’t even think of eating it.

The veggies are now back in the refrigerator while the bananas are on the counter top. I will continue to monitor and bring you updates on Day Ten. Stay tuned 🙂

**DISCOUNT CODE FOR YOU**

Enjoy a 15% discount when you purchase Clearly Fresh Bags today. Simply place your order at www.ClearlyFreshBags.com and enter the promo code IVG15 upon checkout. Promotion ends July 4th, 2011.