Food « Living Lime

By: Living Lime  09-12-2011

1. Dig the hole twice as wide and 1.5 times as deep as the root ball.

2. Fill the hole with water.

3. Drop some composted manure in the bottom. Regular kitchen compost is okay, but the addition of composted manure makes it better.

4. Let the hole finish draining, and put a handful of bone meal at the bottom. Bone meal is high in phosphorus, which promotes vigorous root growth. If you want to, you can mix it up with the compost at the bottom, but it’s not 100% necessary.

5. Fill the hole back up with water.

6. Carefully plant right there in the muck. You will get terribly dirty. You will need to squish your fingers into the mud to get enough dirt underneath. But trust me, it’s worth it. The happy fertilized roots will follow the water down, instead of remaining shallow from watering on top after planting.


1. Mulch around your plants to keep the soil cool.
2. Water in a doughnut around your plants, rather than on the crown. This will encourage your plant to continue to stretch out its roots. Plus, many plants (especially tomatoes) hate to be watered on the crown, so this will keep them happier as well.
3. Water deeply, when you do.
3. DON’T over-water. Don’t even bother getting out the watering can for a week, unless your plants are really droopy. Decide this early in the morning, because many plants naturally wilt in the sun but will perk back up in the evening without help. Water them no more than once a week for the first 3 weeks, and then wait two weeks before watering again. By that point, your plants should be just fine waiting for the rain.

vivid example of how much America, and its food, has changed in the last seven decades. But also how much it hasn’t: note the denunciation of “American standardization,” a charge that predated fast-food chains, the Interstate highway system, frozen dinners, the rise of artificial flavorings, high-fructose corn syrup, widespread factory farming, genetically modified foodstuffs and all the other developments that have flattened the landscape of American eating, on the road and off. If there are surprises to be found in reading these dispatches from bygone dinner tables, the greatest may be the elegiac tone that suffuses some of the entries. It’s always twilight, it seems, when it comes to American food.

1. family
2. have a garden
3. use and re-use
4. make your own meals
5. eat healthy (“we were all healthy during the depression”)

R asked me the other day whether it was too late to plant lettuce. The short answer is yes, it will bolt in the heat. Bolted lettuce is terrible. The long answer is, you can get around that. Here’s some tricks:

1. Give it lots of water. Lettuce is mostly comprised of water, so water frequently to keep it in shape. By frequently I mean daily, at least.

2. Give it nitrogen. Lettuce likes fertilizer. You can apply a balanced composted manure, or for a bigger nitrogen kick, apply fish meal or blood meal. Interplanting lettuce with soybeans is good too, so you can enjoy edamame and nitrogen fixing from a plant that will be roughly the same height. Another surprising nitrogen source is hair. Finely chopping up the (un-dyed/permed) hair from your comb and pets and mixing it into the soil is a good way of adding nitrogen. On another note, your soil loves toenails, but the wonders of human soil additives are best saved for another post.

3. Eat your sprouts. Make sure you are thinning your lettuce crop as it grows, so that the plants have room to grow. Lettuce can’t bolt before it’s mature, so eat salad every day. With leaf lettuce, you can also harvest single leaves from the plant, so that it continues to produce new leaves without having a chance to reach its bolting stage. This reminds me of another tip:

4. Plant leaf lettuces, not head lettuces. Head lettuces are harder to grow, even in the appropriate season. Plus, there are more fun varieties. Check the seed packets for varieties that say they’re resistant to heat or bolting.

4. Shade it. Keep it out of full sun, because lettuce isn’t a fan of summer weather. If you’ve ever moved a plant into natural sunlight without adjusting it first, you’ve probably seen that plants can get a sunburn (whitening of the leaves). Lettuce is the Irishman of the veggie patch: it sunburns easily, and then it’s cranky. Either plant it in part shade, install a shade cloth, or plant tall things to shade it.

5. Use containers. A soil-less potting mix retains water better than earth, so container planting can be a good solution if you’re more neglectful. Just remember to plant it in clay, not plastic, so that the roots stay cool.

I’ve noticed a lot of people are arriving here at Living Lime on search terms with some variation of “buttercrunch lettuce” and “lime” (as in ground limestone for the garden). Hopefully I can help you find what you’re looking for:

1. Leaf Lettuces:
- are delicious, but have to be planted in cool weather, and give them frequent, short watering (most other plants want infrequent deep watering). If leaf lettuces bolt (suddenly grow tall and flower), you may as well just let them seed and try again, because they’ll be bitter.

- How to harvest? pick it. Early in the morning is the best time, whenever the leaves are big enough to eat.

- If you plant the seeds close together, then you can thin the lettuce patch by eating it. This will help you grow more in less space. Even better is if you mix a bunch of leaf lettuce seeds together in one spot, so you get a tasty salad mix.

- companion planting: beans, kohlrabi carrots, alliums(onion family), radishes. Avoid celery, cabbage, cress, parsley.

2. Horticultural lime:
- is excellent for raising the Ph of your soil for alkaline loving plants. But unless a soil test has told you your soil is too acidic, you probably don’t need it for this use. Your plants like soil that’s full of organic matter, even if it makes the soil more acidic. I wouldn’t recommend applying lime unless you’ve done a soil test, because you don’t want to be mucking about with your soil’s pH if it’s already perfect. It can damage plants and drinking water supplies.

- is often used for adding calcium to the soil, which is particularly useful for preventing blossom end rot in peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants (the fruit gets sunken dark patches of rot on the bottom). More likely, your peppers just need more consistent water conditions, as peppers have difficulty taking up nutrients if they go through periods of drought. Bone meal delivers calcium but is also high in phosphorous (= strong roots), so I’d rather use that than lime. I’ve also read that that you can put a Tums tablet in the bottom of the hole when you plant, as the calcium is more available in that form, and it only goes where you need it.

-lime is best applied in the fall, because it needs time to break down. Adding it in the spring isn’t really going to help with calcium levels for your new plantings.

-If you’re going to use lime, Don’t ever apply lime mixed with a chemical fertilizer. Even with natural fertilizers, it’s best applied at a different time, because nitrogen + lime = ammonia + negated nutritional benefit to your plants. Also, don’t apply lime two years in a row, or you’re just asking for trouble.

-If you’re sure you want to apply lime, use a face mask. Trust me, you don’t want it in your lungs.

I’ve been noticing a disturbing trend at the farmers market lately. More and more vendors at the farmers market are selling imported produce, and you have to pay attention to the labelling to know if you’re actually buying from a local farm, or if you’re at a quaint supermarket stand. Yesterday’s trip to the market was particularly disheartening.

We were perusing the outdoor vendors, and came across a stand with zucchinis and tomatoes that caused me to go on my usual envious rant about Leamington having an earlier season. But there were strawberries there. I wait all year for the summer berry binge of Ontario strawberry season, so I was pretty surprised, especially since it said product of Ontario on the sign. I asked the guy where in Ontario strawberries season starts in May. Short answer: It doesn’t. They were product of California. Then why was he using a Foodland Ontario sign? He wasn’t trying to lie, he assured me. When people ask he tells them that they’re from California, as he did with me. He was just using the signs provided by the market. Obviously, if that was the case, he could easily have used the back of the sign, or cross out the “Product of Ontario” claim at the bottom (which we suggested to him). But since he was the only one around using Foodland Ontario signs, and he had taken the time to put the strawberries in cardboard pint boxes, it was pretty clear that deliberate deception was exactly the point.

We didn’t ask about the rest of the produce, but let the market office know what he said about the strawberries. They were not interested in having their customers deceived and made him change his sign. But he vends at 4 local markets, they informed us. Taking advantage of people who are trying to locally source their food.

It’s definitely worth chatting with your market vendors before you buy.

UPDATE: Foodland Ontario said, “It is illegal to sell produces [sic] as ‘Product of Ontario’.” Thought so. They also investigate abuses, like food police!

The thing people always ask me when I say I’m on the 100 mile diet is, don’t you miss bananas? [Full disclosure: I can't kick avocados, which have their tasty hooks in me] I was never that big on bananas, but I’ve tried unsuccessfully to start a dwarf variety from seed a few times (they can take up to 3 years to germinate). Amory B. Lovins (great name!) has done even better. He harvests full sized banana crops grown indoors in a -40 degree climate, without even heating the space. And the technology he used is 20 years old.

Because I can’t endorse the Chevron PR ad preceding the vid, here’s a bonus image:

Two days ago, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) urged doctors to “educate their patients, the medical community, and the public to avoid GM (genetically modified) foods when possible and provide educational materials concerning GM foods and health risks.” Further, they’re calling for long-term independent studies, labeling, and “a moratorium on GM foods.”

The findings of negative health effects of GMOs in animal studies are frightening and diverse: “There is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects.” A quick scan of the article’s end notes shows more than 20 cited scientific studies.

“There is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects. There is causation,” as defined by recognized scientific criteria.

Here are some highlights of the effects in animals:

-Death of most offspring of rats fed GMO, compared to 10% mortality in control group.
-smaller, fewer babies of GMO fed mothers, and those babies are also less fertile
-even the embryos “had significant changes in their DNA”
-Testicles of GMO fed rats turned colour from pink to blue (what?). Sperm was altered.
- “Even Monsanto’s own research showed significant immune system changes in rats fed Bt corn.”
- “7 of 20 rats fed a GM tomato developed bleeding stomachs; another 7 of 40 died within two weeks.” Oh, and by the way, Monsanto’s own study also showed evidence that major organs were poisoned.

-death of “all sheep fed Bt cotton plants…within 30 days”, compared to healthy non-GMO cotton eating sheep

Buffalo and Cattle:
- “premature deliveries, abortions, infertility, and prolapsed uteruses” and high mortality rate in those calves that were actually born.
-Infertility in both cows and bulls
- “On January 3rd, 2008, the buffalo [who usually grazed on non-GMO cotton plants] grazed on Bt cotton plants for the first time. All 13 were sick the next day; all died within 3 days”

-sterility, false pregnancy, “others gave birth to bags of water” (yikes!)

On a completely unrelated note, “the incidence of low birth weight babies, infertility, and infant mortality are all escalating” in the US population.

Here’s the really scary thing:

Put more plainly, eating a corn chip produced from Bt corn might transform our intestinal bacteria into living pesticide factories, possibly for the rest of our lives.

Any blog that starts with: “Both the white and blue flowers in the photo above are camas. The white one will kill you, but the blue one is food,” is a blog worth reading, regardless. But what’s even cooler is when that blog is about a woman living off nothing but urban foraging for a week: finding food in sidewalks, parks, and natural areas in the heart of Portland. I am very happy when I get the chance to add foraged food to my meals (it’s like a free food treasure hunt!), but it takes moxy to eat nothing but.

“I’m interested in foraging as a way to connect with the land and explore a fundamental aspect of what it means to be human,” [Becky] Lerner said. “It’s also a valuable survival skill: Should the trappings of modernity become unavailable to us one day, knowing how to find food without grocery stores or even farms will surely come in handy.”

Here’s the photo of the deadly/tasty plants, in case you’re hungry:

I’ll try to identify as many local wild foods as I can photograph for you this summer Stay tuned. But in the mean time, here’s a gem from the press release:

Lerner readily admits that her pesco-vegetarianism is in question. She will face the decision of whether to endure a vegetable fast — or else eat insects, go fishing or even consider dining on roadkill.

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This means that their housing, feed and water, carcass disposal, and manure management are maintained using best management practices.Avian influenza and other diseases may transmitted by contact with migratory waterfowl or shorebirds.


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I have to admit, sometimes I feel a little crazy about my urban homestead obsession, and though I try very hard to encourage the people around me to grow food, I know that sometimes the scale that I’ve taken it to can be a little intimidating. Real live UC Davis scientists understand that “vegetation buffers can remove as much as 98 percent of E. coli from surface water”, but the perception of safety is more important than actual safety.