Spring is Here…Time to Prepare Your Garden

The weather is warming up and there is still time to get your gardens prepared.  The average date of the last freeze in North Texas is the third week in March so now is the time to get started.   I’ve followed Neil Sperry for many years for his expert advice on gardening and so much more on his weekly radio show .  I ran across this great online guide titled “Everything you need to know to plant a successful vegetable garden here in North Texas”.

He includes are some very informative tips, check it out.


Pick the sunniest site. Vegetables need sunlight.

Provide perfect drainage. No vegetable crop grows well in waterlogged soil.

Start small. Too many gardeners are overly ambitious at the outset, only to become discouraged by their poor results when they can’t maintain all the space they’ve opened up. Choose only crops your family really likes, then specialize in those. You can always expand the second time through, but if you fail you may never come back.

Prepare the soil carefully. Organic matter is your key to success. Add 5 or 6 inches of a blend of sphagnum peat moss, compost, well-rotted manure, finely ground bark mulch and other organic matter and rototill to a depth of 12 inches.

Know the proper planting time for each crop that you’re growing. This is a really big issue! Every crop has a two- or three-week window in which it must be planted. If planted too early it may not survive the cold weather. If planted too late it may not mature before heat sets in. This is one of the main places where people set themselves up to fail.

Here are some of the main crops and their timing. Late January: English peas, asparagus (perennial), onions. Mid-February: cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, Irish potatoes. Late February, early March: leaf lettuce, Swiss chard, radishes, carrots, turnips, beets. Late March, very early April: beans, corn, tomatoes, peppers, squash, melons, cucumbers. Mid-April into early May: sweet potatoes, okra, southern peas.

Choose the best varieties of each crop that you grow. Texas A&M vegetable specialists have lists online. In many cases they will be hybrids selected for productivity, yield, flavor and pest resistance. Many of the old heirloom varieties, tomatoes for example, are notoriously poor producers in Texas conditions. Limit the numbers of those that you try.

Care for your plants regularly. Check them daily once they start growing

Harvest your produce at the peak of maturity. In many cases, that will be before it reaches full size. Cucumbers, okra and summer squash, for example, should be harvested when they’re little more than half their full size. The same goes for carrots, green beans and lettuce leaves, and you harvest broccoli before any of the flower buds actually start to open.

Extend the season by planting fall crops in the same ground. Truth be told, fall vegetable gardens are often more productive than their spring counterparts.

Involve a youngster in your gardening plans. Whether it’s a child, grandchild, niece, nephew or students at a school in your neighborhood, there’s something magical about helping little hands plant big seeds and guiding them in growing vegetables all the way to harvest. It’s something neither you nor they will ever forget.


The Amazement of Swiss Chard

Did you know that Swiss chard is known for being one of the most nutritious vegetables in the world? Now that’s definitely a good reason to think about adding Swiss chard to your diet.

Growing up, we had a lot of different types of leafy green vegetables in our family garden including mustard, collard and turnip greens, and a variety of different types of lettuces. I can remember eating salads that included everything that came from our garden (the soft butter lettuce, the tomatoes, the onions, the cucumbers, the radishes, a couple of different kinds of parsley, fresh dill, rosemary, garlic, different types of mints).

However, I have to admit that I don’t remember seeing Swiss chard growing in our garden. Since becoming a chef, my culinary palate has really expanded and Swiss chard is now something that I grow in my own garden. It’s super easy to grow.

I picked a nice bunch of Swiss chard from my Fall garden and mixed it with a small bunch of rainbow chard.


The best Swiss chard I have ever seen growing was in my friend Cory Russell’s garden. Fresh From the Gardens featured Cory’s Fall Garden in one of our gardening videos. If you haven’t seen it, you should definitely check it out. It includes some really good gardening tips.

Tip: You can also substitute azomite for the micro nutrient mix mentioned in the video. Axomite includes natural trace minerals for your soil. It’s not something you’ll probably easily find but if you google where to purchase azomite in your location, you should get a list of locations.

Swiss Chard 6

Here’s a link for Texas locations to purchase axomite and to Garden Variety Organics which is where I purchased a bag of azomite. I am experimenting with the gardening method mentioned in my video and having great success. My dad also uses something similar in his garden.



If you head out to Garden Variety Organics in Waxahachie, TX, make sure you use your GPS!

You’re probably wondering how to prepare Swiss chard so I’ve included a few recipe links below. I’ve tried Swiss chard a lot of different ways, and one my favorite ways to eat Swiss chard is to caramelize onions, toss the Swiss chard with the onions and finish it with a dash of sherry vinegar or red wine is also good. It really does make a great side dish and pairs well with baked fish.

What to Look For:

You'll typically find three types of chard in your grocer or farmer’s market. Look for crisp, vibrant green leaves with no yellow or brown marks.

  • Rainbow chard has colorful red, pink, yellow, or white stalks
  • Fordhook Giant is identifiable by crinkly leaves and thick, white, tender stalks
  • Ruby Red (or Rhubarb) chard has thin, red stalks and slightly stronger flavors

How to Store:

Rinse Swiss chard mildly and store in moistened paper towels in a plastic bag (with a few pinholes to allow air to circulate) in the refrigerator for two or three days.

Swiss Chard Recipes:









Swiss Chard 8

Health Benefits of Swiss Chard

Just one cup of Swiss chard provides over 700% of our daily needs for vitamin K and over 200% of daily vitamin A. Swiss chard contains high levels nitrates, which have been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce the amount of oxygen needed during exercise and enhance athletic performance.





Time to Plant Onions

I love the taste of fresh home grown onions and I grow them often. And I can’t tell you how many onions I’ve eaten from Dad’s garden. When they are that fresh, I enjoy eating them raw or adding them to a bowl of cucumbers from the garden along with tomatoes and making a quick little brine to eat at the dinner table. In Texas, onions can be planted as early as January and can withstand the cold temperatures.

They typically come in a bunch of about 60 small transplant plants an each one can be planted separately so you end up with a lot of onions. This year I bought both red and white bulbs. If you don’t have time to plant them immediately, do what my dad recommends. Put the entire bunch into the ground or a pot and keep them moist until you are ready to plant them individually. You’ll see me placing mine in my container until ready to plant at which time I’ll separate them.onion collage

Onions 101 – What you should know

  • The onion is a rugged plant and can withstand some weather at below- freezing temperatures.
  • Onions should be in the garden four to six weeks prior to the last frost date. Without some cool days, you will not get good top growth.
  • The warmer temperatures will generate a larger bulb. As a matter of fact, the trigger to activate a large bulb is warmer temperatures and longer days.
  • So the sooner you get them into the ground, the better they will grow.
  • Onions need full sun. They prefer a sandy loam but will grow reasonably well in clay soil.
  • Prepare the soil well before planting, removing all weeds and fertilizing with a high phosphorus (10-20-10) fertilizer (my dad’s favorite)
  • Onions need plenty of water during their early rapid growth.
  • You should plan the site near a water supply if possible so you can control the moisture if the rains do not come at the needed time.
  • Once the bulbs form, they can stand a much drier climate.
  • Make it easy on yourself and buy transplants, called slips, or sets from your seed store. I got mine from Calloway Nursery, but have also found them at Home Depot and Walmart.
  • If you choose sets, try to buy sets that are about one-half inch in diameter. Larger ones will likely go to seed early, and smaller ones will not make a good-sized bulb.
  • They can be planted on a wide bed about four inches apart, with just the tip showing above the ground. If you prefer transplants, they too can be set out about three or four inches apart; or if you plan on using some as scallions, you may want to place them every two inches and removing every other one to eat as green onions, therefore leaving room for the remaining bulbs to reach full size.
  • Slips have usually been pulled at least three weeks before you take them home and may appear dry. This is all right; and if you like, you can freshen them up by letting them stay in a shallow pan of water with a handful of compost added for a couple of hours or overnight.
  • You should give your onions a side dressing of nitrogen after they have been growing for about three weeks and continue to side dress them every two weeks until the neck of the bulb begins to soften.
  • Always keep the soil pulled away from the plant when working around them, and never cover them too deeply.
  • They should be ready to harvest by the last of May or the first of June.
  • The green tops will become soft and topple over. That is the time to pull them and leave them to dry for two or three days.
  • The roots should then be snipped and the tops cut, leaving them a couple inches long. Store them in a cool, dry place where they are not touching each other and are receiving good air circulation. Some people place them in discarded panty hose, tying a knot between each onion and hanging the entire batch in a dry place.
  • Onions do not have many insect problems, but thrips (a very small yellow or black insect) may be found on the inner leaves.
  • Use insecticidal soap or other labeled insecticides for control (follow label directions, especially for last application prior to harvest).
  • Onion harvest should occur in May and June or when the onions have matured to the desired size. Pull the onions, leave laying in the row for 1-3 days for drying, clip the tops and roots and store in a cool dry place until needed.


The Green Juice Craze – What’s it all about?

You don’t have to look very far to notice the green juice craze that has swept the nation in the past year or so. It’s everywhere. “The Green Juice Generation” – ages 18-40 take green juicing very serious and it has become a normal part of many lives, along with healthy eating and exercising.   All good stuff!

And I know you’ve noticed the surge of healthy cafes and organic markets that have also sprouted up everywhere. You can even find green juice popsicles and believe it or not, cocktails that include their version of green juice.   Starbuck’s has gotten into the trend and offer their opinion on the benefits of drinking cold-pressed fruit and vegetable juices.


There are some important things you should consider if you are thinking about starting a juicing regiment.  Be sure and consult with your doctor before starting a juicing regiment if you have any medical issues.

Vegetable Juice is Not a Complete Meal

It is important to note that vegetable juice has very little protein and virtually no fat, so by itself, it is not really a complete food. It really should be used in addition to your regular meals not in place of it.  You will get the vitamins and minerals your body needs by juicing, but you won’t get the fiber that you also need.  And the soluble fiber in vegetables is really good for your cholesterol and blood pressure.

So unless you are undergoing some special fasting or detoxification program, it is probably unwise to use juicing as a meal replacement. Ideally, it can be consumed with your meal or as a between meal snack.

Listen to Your Body

This is partly because you should only start by juicing vegetables that you enjoy eating non-juiced. The juice should taste pleasant -- not make you feel nauseous.

It is very important to listen to your body when juicing. Your stomach should feel good all morning long. If it is churning or growling or generally making its presence known, you probably juiced something you should not be eating. Cabbage, for example may be one of the vegetables you might want to use in small amounts until you are sure it doesn’t upset your stomach

Here are a few simple lessons to get you up and help you enjoy the benefits of juicing quickly:

Use Pesticide Free Vegetables

It is wise to choose organic whenever possible. However, some vegetables are worse than others. Below are the vegetables that are the most pesticide-loaded ones according to the Environmental Working Group.

So it would be wise to only purchase these vegetables if they are organically grown. The worst ones are listed first.

1.     Celery

2.     Spinach

3.     Kale

4.     Collard Greens

5.     Lettuce

6.     Carrots

7.     Cucumber (not as bad if you peel the skin)

Get ready to juice!

Please note that the order listed below is only intended for those that are new to juicing so you do have a pleasant experience with it. However, if you use ¼ to ½ lemon or lime, you can start experimenting with the more bitter greens early on as the lemon and lime effectively counter their bitterness.

Please note that it would be FAR better to use lemon or limes than carrots, beets or apples, which have far more fructose than lemons or limes.

Here are a few simple lessons to get you up and help you enjoy the benefits of juicing quickly:

If you are new to juicing, I recommend starting out with vegetables like these as they are the easiest to digest and tolerate.  One of our favorite combinations in my home is actually celery and pineapple!  Both have amazing health benefits.

·       Celery

·       Cucumbers

These three aren't as nutrient dense as the dark green leafy vegetables In the few days to weeks it takes you to adjust to the 3 vegetables listed above, you can start adding the more nutritionally valuable but less palatable vegetables into your juice.

When you've adjusted yourself to juicing, start adding other vegetables.  We juice a lot of dark green vegetables like kale and collards but these vegetables are bitter so start with smaller leaves at a time and be sure to balance it out with lime or lemon.  And we also like adding ginger and an apple for balance.

When you're ready, move on to adding herbs to your juicing. Herbs also make wonderful combinations, and parsley and cilantro work exceptionally well.  I would start with a small amount of herbs as some people just don’t tolerate herbs like cilantro.  We also add lemons, ginger, apple.  Get creative.  All of these below are good for starters.

·       Red leaf lettuce

·       Green leaf lettuce

·       Romaine lettuce

·       Endive

·       Escarole

·       Spinach

The greens below are bitter so you really need to balance these greens listed below are bitter, so start with smaller leaves at a time and be sure and balance it out with lime or lemon.

·       Kale

·       Collard Greens

·       Dandelion Greens

·       Mustard Greens (bitter)

When purchasing collard greens, find a store that sells the leaves still attached to the main stalk. If they are cut off, the vegetable rapidly loses many of its valuable nutrients.

Make your juice taste great.

If you would like to make your juice taste a bit more palatable, especially in the beginning, you can add these elements:

  • Lemons and Limes: You can also add one half to a whole lime or lemon for every quart of juice. You can actually juice the skin if you want to avoid the hassle of peeling them
  • Cranberries: You can also add some cranberries if you enjoy them. Researchers have discovered that cranberries have five times the antioxidant content of broccoli, which means they may protect against cancer, stroke and heart disease. In addition, they are chock-full of phytonutrients, and can help women avoid urinary tract infections. Limit the cranberries to about 4 ounces per pint of juice.
  • Fresh ginger: This is an excellent addition if you enjoy the taste. It gives your juice a little "kick"! And, as an added boon, researchers have found that ginger can have dramatic effects on cardiovascular health, including preventing atherosclerosis, lowering cholesterol levels, and preventing the oxidation of low density lipoprotein (LDL).


Drink your vegetable juice right away, or store it very carefully.

Juicing is a time-consuming process, so you'll probably be thinking to yourself, "I wonder if I can juice first thing in the morning, and then drink it later?" This is not a good idea. Vegetable juice is HIGHLY perishable so it's best to drink all of your juice immediately. However, if you're careful, you can store it for up to 24 hours with only moderate nutritional decline. This is really helpful if you are bringing your juice to work with you so you can consume it during the day. How to store your juice:

  1. Put your juice in a glass jar with an airtight lid and fill it to the very top. There should be a minimum amount of air in the jar as the oxygen in air (air is about 20 percent oxygen) will "oxidize" and damage the juice.
  2. Purchase a food vacuum pump like Food Saver with a Ball jar attachment. You can pour your juice into a pint jar and put the lid on and use the Food Saver to suck out the air in the jar to vacuum pack it. This will remove most of the oxygen that will damage the juice.
  3. Immediately store it in the fridge and consume it when you are ready. It is best to drink it as soon as possible and in any case within 24 hours of juicing.

Most people juice in the morning, but if that does not work out well for your schedule, please feel free to choose whatever meal works best for your lifestyle.

Clean your juicer properly

We all know that if a juicer takes longer than a few minutes to clean, we'll find excuses not to juice at all. Most juicers come with a brush to clean the metal grater, but an old toothbrush works well to clean any metal grater. If you buy a high-quality juicer, the whole process should only take about 5 minutes.  Whatever you do, you need to clean your juicer immediately after you juice to prevent any remnants from contaminating the juicer with mold growth.

Blender vs. Juicer – Does it matter?

There are different ways to prepare your juice, which typically includes vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables such as celery, spinach, cucumber, lemon, ginger, parsley and sprouts. The version favored by Dr. Oz, host of the Dr. Oz show, is prepared in a blender. Others utilize a juicer to make the drink.

I personally use a juicer for making my green juice and that is primarily because of some health issues that my daughter Adrienne has experienced.  She is not able to consume a great deal of fiber so we can control the amount of fiber by using a blender.You should consult with your doctor if you have any digestive concerns.

Benefits of Juicing

There are many reasons why you should consider incorporating vegetable juicing into your optimal health program. Here are a few.

1.     Juicing helps you absorb all the nutrients from the vegetables. This is important because most of us have impaired digestion as a result of making less-than-optimal food choices over many years. This limits your body's ability to absorb all the nutrients from the vegetables. Juicing will help to "pre-digest" them for you, so you will receive most of the nutrition, rather than having it go down the toilet.

2.     Juicing allows you to consume an optimal amount of vegetables in an efficient manner. If you are a carb type, you should eat one pound of raw vegetables per 50 pounds of body weight per day. Some people may find eating that many vegetables difficult, but it can be easily accomplished with a quick glass of vegetable juice.

3.     You can add a wider variety of vegetables in your diet. Many people eat the same vegetable salads every day. This violates the principle of regular food rotation and increases your chance of developing an allergy to a certain food. But with juicing, you can juice a wide variety of vegetables that you may not normally enjoy eating whole.


The blended green juice recipe favored by Dr. Oz, is chock full of fiber. Fiber aids digestion, prevents constipation, and helps you control your weight because it adds bulk to your diet to make you feel full. Oz’s drink blends the juices of lemon, lime, apple, parsley, ginger root, cucumber, celery and spinach. Drinks made in a juicer do not have the benefit of fiber.

If you do not have any known digestive or other health issues, you should consume 38 grams of fiber if you are a man aged 19 to 50 and 25 grams of fiber if you are a woman of the same age. After age 50, men need 30 grams of fiber and women need 21 grams according to U.S. Dietary Reference Intakes guidelines.  Your doctor can confirm what is best for you.


Green juice is rich in chlorophyll, which gives greens their color. Chlorophyll helps your body detoxify. For example, it may inhibit absorption of environmental pollutants like dioxin and also help your body excrete them quicker, says K. Morita, lead author for a study published in "Environmental Health Perspectives."

Chlorophyll also enhances oxygen transport in your body and is a top nutrient for balancing your body’s pH by helping to reduce acidity. Low-grade acidosis may contribute to fatigue as well as other health concerns, including kidney stones and lower growth hormone levels, which lead to more body fat and loss of lean muscle mass. Author Gillian McKeith includes carrot, celery, cucumber, spinach, fennel, ginger root, parsley and alfalfa sprouts in her version of the drink. Both McKeith's and Oz's versions of the green juice have the benefit of chlorophyll.

What about juicing Fruit?

Virtually every health authority recommends that we get 6-8 servings of vegetables and fruits per day and very few of us actually get that. Juicing is an easy way to virtually guarantee that you will reach your daily target for vegetables.

While you can certainly juice fruits, if you are overweight, have high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol, it is best to limit using fruits until you normalize these conditions.

The exception would be lemons and limes which have virtually none of the offending sugar, fructose, that causes most of the metabolic complications. Additionally lemons or limes are amazing at eliminating the bitter taste of the dark, deep green leafy vegetables that provide most of the benefits of juicing.


What type of juicier should you purchase?

Do your research before investing a lot of money in a juicer.  If you are new to juicing, I recommend a mid-priced juicer.

The two links below take into consideration many factors to consider when purchasing a juicer.  One is a consumer comparison and the other one offers some great considerations as well like:

  •        Ease of use
  •       Price
  •        Noise Level
  •        Size
  •        Warranty
  •        Power



As you can see, there are many things to consider before starting a juicing regiment.

Some juicing proponents say that juicing is better for you than is eating whole fruits and vegetables because your body can absorb the nutrients better and it gives your digestive system a rest from working on fiber. They say that juicing can reduce your risk of cancer, boost your immune system, help you remove toxins from your body, aid digestion and help you lose weight.

However, there's no sound scientific evidence that extracted juices are healthier than the juice you get by eating the fruit or vegetable itself.

On the other hand, if you don't enjoy eating fresh fruits and vegetables, juicing may be a fun way to add them to your diet or to try fruits and vegetables you normally wouldn't eat. You can find many juicing recipes online or mix up your own combinations of fruits and vegetables to suit your taste.

If you do try juicing, make only as much juice as you can drink at one time because fresh squeezed juice can quickly develop harmful bacteria.

If you buy commercially produced fresh juice from a juicing stand or store, select a pasteurized product. Also keep in mind that juices may contain more sugar than you realize, and if you aren't careful, these extra calories can lead to weight gain.



The Bottom Line

Freshly-prepared juice can certainly be incorporated into a healthy diet, but it's not a miracle food that's going to make you instantly skinny or cure whatever ails you.

Additionally, be sure to talk to your doctor before starting juicing in order to prevent potential drug and nutrient interactions. This is because a lot of people use dark, leafy greens such as kale and spinach in their juice concoctions, and these greens are high in vitamin K, which could interfere with how certain blood thinners work.

Juicing Recipes


Note: Try to use organic produce when possible. If not possible, simply clean produce well. Remove rind, core and peel. Juice produce, pour over ice and enjoy.

Happy Green Juice

·       1 cucumber

·       2 celery stalks

·       2 pears

·       1/3 cantaloupe

·       6-8 kale leaves

·       1/2 lemon

·       1 inch of ginger

Drink Your Produce Green Juice

·       4 carrots

·       1 cucumber

·       1-2 cups of spinach

·       1 lemon

·       1 gala or pink lady apple

·       1 pear

Green Lemonade

·       3 cups of spinach

·       1 lemon

·       1 cucumber

·       1 pear

·       1 gala apple

Once you get acclimated to the taste, I highly encourage an 80/20 ratio for green juice (80% vegetables, 20% fruit).

Tip: Never juice bananas or avocado, and follow your juicer's manual, especially as it pertains to leafy greens.

Simply Green Juice

– 1 cup of spinach
– 2 cups of kale
– 2 cups of parsley
– 1 cucumber
– 3 celery stalks

Add a little garlic and/or ginger if you like. Wash thoroughly and juice.

Apple and Cucumber Zipper

-2 1/2 apples
– 1/2 cucumber
– 1″ of ginger

Remove apple stems and juice everything together. A favorite of ours!

Ginger has potent anti-inflammatory properties that can help some people reduce arthritis based joint pain. Evidence points to one of the antioxidants in ginger called gingerol. It helps to combat oxidative damage to joint cells.

Alkaline Juicer Recipes Heaven

– 1 cup of spinach
– 1/2 cucumber
– 2 stalks of celery including leaves
– 3 carrots
– 1/2 apple

Wash all vegetables thoroughly, top the carrots, remove apple stem but don’t peel apple (the peel is full of flavonoid antioxidants), enjoy.

Victoria Boutenko reintroduces long neglected fruits, vegetables, and greens in the most persuasive style for our busy lives: with fast prep and delicious results. Featuring 200 recipes, Green Smoothie Revolution offers both simplicity and enough variety to keep taste buds happy and nutrients coming from a wealth of options.


“In more than thirty-five years of practice as a psychiatrist affiliated with the Harvard Medical School, I have learned one thing very well: Human behavior is very hard to change. Now Victoria Boutenko is persuading me otherwise.… Thirty days of green smoothies will change how you feel, and how you feel about yourself. That’s no small achievement for one small book.”
—A. William Menzin, MD, Harvard Medical School