Duarte/Downey Real Estate Agency, Inc

Posted by Duarte/Downey Real Estate Agency, Inc on 8/13/2017

Cooking vegetables from your own garden is a great experience. In the same way that you appreciate a meal made from scratch more than a frozen dinner or takeout, cooking food that you grew yourself is an extremely rewarding feeling. Aside from being delicious, growing your own food can help you save money, waste less food, consume less plastic packaging (helping the environment), and try out new recipes you normally wouldn't. When it comes to planting vegetables for cooking, however, there's more to it than simply tossing some seeds in your garden. Here's how to get the most out of growing your own vegetables for use on the dinner table.

Plant smart

One of the first mistakes beginner gardeners make is planting the wrong vegetables or the wrong proportions of vegetables. One or two squash plants, for example, will provide ample amounts of squash for most small families. So, think about the meals you love to cook and what vegetables they require. Then find out how much those plants yield. Some vegetables can be planted and harvested at many times throughout the growing season. If you eat lots of leafy greens (lettuce, spinach, kale, etc.), don't plant a huge row all at once. Instead, plant in intervals of two or three weeks so you can reap the rewards throughout the season. Similarly, many lettuces (such a romaine) are able to be continually harvested--that means there's no need for pulling the whole planet out of the ground and replanting.

Plan your meals

To get the most out of your garden plan a weekly menu that incorporates items from your garden. If your tomatoes look like they're ripening, plan for making tomato sauce, pizza, or caprese sandwiches the following week. Get creative with recipes. If you have a surplus of peppers, try different stuffed pepper recipes. The internet is your best friend when it comes to discovering new uses for surplus vegetables.


A garden should be useful to you year-round, not just during the autumn harvest season. There are several methods of preserving your vegetables. The way you choose depends on your own need. Common means of preservation include:
  • Freezing meals. Remember those stuffed peppers? You don't have to eat them every day of the week once your peppers are ripe. Cook up some rice, beans, and sauce, stuff your peppers and bake. Eat however much you want and place the rest in airtight bags in the freezer. They'll make great lunches for when you're in a rush.
  • Blanching and steaming.  If you're not quite sure how you'll want to use your vegetables but you know you'll use them later blanching and steaming are great options. Boil or steam them for five minutes then toss them into a bucket of ice-water to cool. Once cool, drain them and freeze them in bags.
  • Canning.  This method takes some preparation and research but canning is a great way to save fruits and vegetables for use throughout the year and are great if you don't have extra space in your freezer for frozen vegetables.

Posted by Duarte/Downey Real Estate Agency, Inc on 3/5/2017

As more and more enlightened persons seek to embrace a self-sufficient, sustainable lifestyle, the world trend is rapidly moving towards more earth-friendly farming practices. Indoor growing is fast becoming an ever evolving and quickly growing sector of the United States agricultural economy. For many persons, outdoor growing space is limited or is simply not an option. If you live in an apartment, condo or on a small city lot, it isn’t practical or feasible to grow outdoors. Outdoor, in-ground cultivation, is also restricted by the seasons. In most areas of the United States, outdoor cultivation is limited to a brief window from late spring to early fall. Hydroponic gardening offers a diverse array of benefits to our environment. Hydroponic gardening requires considerably less water than soil gardening, due to the continual reuse of the nutrient mixtures. Due to lack of necessity, fewer pesticides are applied to hydroponic crops. Because hydroponic gardening systems require no topsoil, topsoil erosion is not an issue. With hydroponics, you grow year around in the privacy of your home crops that produce up to 4 times as much as if grown in the same space outdoors. A well-designed interior grow room utilizes vertical space as well as overhead space to make the best use of all available square footage. Hydroponically grown plants grow faster and produce more abundant crops in less time. The growth rate of a hydroponically grown plant is 30-50 percent faster than a soil plant grown under the same conditions. Hydroponic Plants Are Healthier Aside from their outrageous growth rate and impressive size, hydroponic plants are just plain healthier. Fresh produce grown hydroponically can contain as much as 300 percent more essential nutrients than soil-grown produce. Go Hydroponic Today Hydroponics is an ideal, year-round, soil-free, eco-friendly method of cultivation that offers a high yield in a small space. With hydroponics, there is no need to wait for spring. There is no need to break your back turning over the soil or lifting heavy bags of potting soil, peat moss or soil enhancement mixtures. If water conservation is an issue, hydroponic gardening uses less than a fourth of the water required for outdoor soil growing. You can set up your hydroponic garden and start growing anytime of the year, regardless of the season. A tiny (10’ x 10’) hydroponic greenhouse or grow room can readily grow the year-round produce needs for a family of 4. Imagine enjoying vine-ripened, succulent strawberries in the middle or winter. Utilizing the latest advances in hydroponic growing technology, even novice gardeners successful cultivate vegetables, fruits, flowers and healing herbs indoors in a finite space all year long: the harvest never ends. Cannabis Cultivation One of the major factors in the stellar growth of the hydroponic gardening industry is that today, persons in 21 states, can legally grow or use medical marijuana. Marijuana is now legal for recreational use in Colorado and Washington State. No matter if you use marijuana for medicinal or recreational reasons, it pays to grow your own. Not only do you have control on how the herb was grown, but you can also rest assured of its potency and purity. Growing your own marijuana also takes the worry out of find a trustworthy and dependable supplier. There is no need to pay high street prices for quality weed when you can easily grow your own at a fraction of the cost. The love and care you put into your crop will be amply rewarded by the pleasure of knowing “you and you alone” are responsible for the sweet, smooth quality of the smoke. When you grow your marijuana, you can select and nurture your favorite strain or strains. Discover dozens of different varieties of cannabis, each with its unique flavor, potency, and THC content level. It’s enjoyable to experiment until you find your unique preference. For those growers that value privacy, safety, and security, an indoor grow room can be discreetly set up in a spare bedroom, walk-in closet, attic, under a stairway or in a basement or garage. In a hydroponic garden, all systems of watering, nutrient addition, lighting, ventilation, and temperature can be set up to be controlled remotely with just a click of an app on your smartphone, laptop or tablet. Interior automated hydroponic gardening is perfect for those that travel or maintain a busy lifestyle that makes it hard to spend a great deal of scheduled time maintaining a garden. Getting Started With Hydroponics If you are new to hydroponic growing, the process can be a bit confusing. Before you attempt to design and build a hydroponic growing system to fit your space, buy a simple system first to get “your feet wet” and to gain a better understanding of how hydroponic growing works. Do the research and ask questions.

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Posted by Duarte/Downey Real Estate Agency, Inc on 9/25/2016

You've just bought a house…or maybe you're about to sell one. You look around your property and realize it's less than attractive. The grass is patchy and yellowed in some areas; the shrubs that came with the property look overgrown or spindly; and there's no color anywhere. So how do you go about making your yard an inviting oasis--a place that you or a potential buyer would like to spend time in? You start with the base--the soil. An inexpensive home soil test kit will tell you if your soil is too acidic or alkaline. Depending on the results, you can add a lime or a sulphur mixture to obtain the correct pH. Another factor is your soil's composition and texture. The best soil has the perfect proportions of clay, silt and sand and has some organic components as well. If your soil is so dense you can barely get a spade into it, you need to to loosen it up with a good hand tool and some loam. Loam is basically "perfect soil", with the correct proportions of sand, clay and silt. Loam is available at your local landscape supply business and is sold by the cubic yard. You can mix it into your existing soil or--if your soil is very poor and rocky (as is often the case here in New England), you can remove it and replace it with loam. The other important component of soil--especially if you plan on planting flowers and/or vegetables is organic nutrients. There are two ways to enrich your soil: on the surface and in the soil itself. The best way to add nutrients from the inside out is with compost, which is organic material that has been partially broken down. Old-fashioned composting takes time and work. You need a bin, lots of organic material (leftover food, leaves, grass clippings, etc.), time for the material to break down and someone willing to turn the compost frequently (mixing it up). There is an easier method, however: recycling yard waste. Many landscape suppliers will take your branches, limbs and clippings and turn them into compost for you. Typically, you drop off your yard waste and drive off with someone else's that's already been turned into compost--everyone benefits. Once the soil is good, you can then go onto to the fun part--choosing and planting flowers, shrubs and trees.

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Posted by Duarte/Downey Real Estate Agency, Inc on 6/26/2016

house from grassThe majority of Americans want to live in a manner that protects the environment and leaves the world a better place for our grandchildren. But, “Do you practice what you preach?" Practice Eco-Friendly Stewardship There are many ways that we can incorporate sound environmental stewardship into our lifestyle and use organic gardening methods in the home landscape. By eliminating synthetic chemical products from your gardening practices, you can create a safe and biodynamic home garden. Organic Pest Control While synthetic chemicals are quicker, using organic pest control methods to manage pests in the home landscape are less toxic and damaging to the environment. If at all possible, use the least toxic means first before resorting to noxious chemical pesticides. Natural and effective pest control starts with creating a healthy environment for your plants, shrubs and trees that invites beneficial insects and birds to the garden to do the job of pest control for you. As an example, ladybugs, which can be purchased online or from a local garden nursery, when released into the garden are an effective control for aphids. Microbial insecticides, such as Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), also available online or from local home and garden supply stores, causes insects pests to sicken and die without being toxic to people or pets. Bt is a popular choice of experienced organic gardeners who use the product to control worm larvae from cutworms. Always follow package directions for safe and convenient application. Although not as fast acting as a chemical poison, Bt paralyzes the larvae’s digestive system, and the pests are history in a couple of days. Yellow sticky tape is an inexpensive and effective method of controlling flying insects such as gnats, black flies and mosquitos in the greenhouse, indoors and around the patio. A product made from the fossilized silica shells of algae, diatomaceous earth is composed of microscopic bits of shell covered with sharp projections that penetrate and cut the cuticle of an insect, causing the pest to leak body fluids and die. Diatomaceous earth is not a poison: the physical abrasiveness of the dust does the job. DE is effective against all soft-bodied insects including caterpillars, aphids, whiteflies, root maggots, trips, snails, and slugs. Use DE with caution as the product is non-selective and can kill beneficial insects as well. Organic Fertilizers On a visit to your local hardware store or home and garden supply, you will likely find the shelves fully stocked with a diverse array of chemical fertilizers guaranteed to encourage rapid growth and dense foliage. Read the fine print on the packages. Do you want to apply a chemical poison that requires the safeguards and cautions listed on the warning label? Rather than introduce toxins into your home environment, opt for fertilizing your garden plots with a twice-yearly application of well-aged garden compost or organic herbivore manure (cow, horse, sheep, goat).

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Posted by Duarte/Downey Real Estate Agency, Inc on 4/27/2015

It is time to start thinking about this summer's vegetable garden. By starting your garden indoors you can get an early start on the season and save money by starting your plants from inexpensive seeds. This guide from GardenGuides.com has everything you need to get started. What You'll Need A Sunny Window: Plants like a southern exposure. If you don't have a window that will do, consider investing in some cool-white florescent bulbs. Containers: Try all kinds to see what works for you. Make sure they are clean and have good drainage. If you are using a fiber or peat pot, soak it well before adding soil. Dry fiber pots draw moisture away from the soil. Seeds: You'll get the best results if you purchase fresh seeds, packaged for the upcoming growing season. If you have saved seeds that you purchased last year, test the germination rate before planting. Growing Medium: Nothing beats a good commercial medium because it is sterile and free of unwanted weed seeds. If you want to make your own, here are a couple of good recipes: Cornell Mix 4 quarts of shredded peat moss or sphagnum, 2 teaspoons ground limestone, 4 tablespoons 5-10-10 fertilizer. Simple Mix 1 part loam, 1 part clean sand or perlite, 1 part leaf mold or moist peat. Sowing Seeds Fill pots or flats to within 1/4 inch of the top with your potting mixture and level the surface. It's a good idea to water the soil and allow it to drain thoroughly before sowing the seeds. Make a hole for each seed with your finger or a pencil. Keep in mind that most seeds need to be planted four times as deep as the seed is wide. If your seeds are very fine, cover them with a fine layer of soil. Moisture and Humidity Germinating medium should be kept evenly moist but not soaking wet. Too much moisture will cause the seeds to rot. Use a fine sprayer to water newly planted seeds and tiny seedlings or, if possible, water from the bottom. If you can, slip your pots and flats into plastic bags to keep the humidity and moisture even and reduce the frequency of watering. Light Some seeds require light to germinate while others prefer total darkness. Your seed packet should tell you what your seed's requirements are. Once germinated, all seedlings need light to develop into strong, healthy plants. Supplement the natural light with florescent bulbs if necessary. Seedling Care The care you give your seedlings in the weeks following germination is critical. Keep it moist, but not dripping. Small pots and flats dry out quickly, so check it often. If your seedlings are growing in a windowsill, turn often to encourage straight stems. The first two leaves you will see on the plant are not true leaves but food storage cells called cotyledons. Once the first true leaves have developed, it's time to start fertilizing. Choose a good liquid organic fertilizer and use a weak solution once a week. Hardening Off One week before transplanting your seedlings outdoors, start to harden them off. This process acclimates the soft and tender plants, which have been protected from wind, cool temperatures, and strong sun, to their new environment. Move the plants to a shady outdoor area at first, and bring them indoors for the night if night temperatures are cold. Each day, move them out into the sun for a few hours, increasing the time spent in the sun each day. Keep them well watered during this period, and don't place them directly on the ground if slugs are a problem. Monitor them closely for insect damage since tender young seedlings are a delicacy for insects. Transplanting Don't be in a rush to set your plants in the garden. If they won't withstand frost, be sure all danger of frost has passed before setting them out. Plan the garden in advance. Consider companion planting and plant sizes. Make sure your tall plants won't shade low growing neighbors. Water the ground outside and the seedlings thoroughly before transplanting. This helps prevent transplant shock. It's preferable to transplant on a cloudy day so strong sun won't wilt your seedlings. Dig a hole about twice the size of the root ball and set the transplant into the hole so the root ball will be covered by 1/4 inch of soil. Press the soil firmly around the roots. A small depression around the plant stem will help trap moisture. Water immediately after transplanting and every day for the first week. Be sure to water deeply so you plants won't develop shallow roots.