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Now’s the time to build up the immune system

Catch a falling leaf during autumn and you won’t catch a cold all winter! I can’t verify whether that bold statement is true or just a fable. Actually, it’s not that easy to catch a leaf as it tumbles from a tree to the ground. Well as always, I have more than enough to tell. Before I know it, my Singing Gardener page is full. It’s good of you to come by. I’m mighty happy to have you tag along with me. By the way — thank you for subscribing to Grainews!

TIME TO BUILD THE IMMUNE SYSTEM

Cutting back on sugar helps. Now that we’re into autumn, let’s do ourselves a favour and cut down on sugary-laden foods, sweets and beverages. Don’t wait for flu season or a cold to come visiting. Be aware that excess consumption of sweet things can weaken the immune system within a half-hour and its effect remains that way for more than five hours. So says Michael Murray, a well-known naturopathic doctor. To remain healthy this winter he recommends intake of no more than 15 to 20 grams of sugar in any given three-hour period. Did you know that as little as four ounces of many fruit juices contain natural sweetness that converts to about 12 grams of sugar? So may I suggest — let’s all monitor our sugar intake.

GIVING LEMON AND CRANBERRY JUICES THEIR DUE

Sour is good! Squeeze juice from half a lemon into a glassful of slightly warm water. Stir in three or four tablespoonsful of unsweetened, unfiltered pure cranberry juice and drink it first thing in the morning. This duo is a great abdominal support that provides energy and boosts the immune system. Or, try alternating fresh lemon juice and water one day and unsweetened cranberry juice with water the next.

Has your doctor ever suggested: “your system is too acidic?” Let it be known that lemons may seem acidic by their own nature but are surprisingly alkaline once metabolized inside the body. Whether you agree or not, there’s a strong consensus that drinking lemon juice in warm water actually helps reduce overall acidity and draws uric acid from the joints often resulting in a reduction of pain and inflammation. Got colon elimination challenges? Lemon juice encourages regular bowel movements, is a great digestive aid and liver cleanser. It’s been known for centuries that lemons contain powerful health-promoting benefits such as antibacterial, antiviral and immune-boosting components to help fight infection.

PLANT AN OUTDOOR FALL GARDEN

It’s normal for many flowers, herbs, tomatoes, papery-husk tomatillos and ground cherries to self-seed — popping up here, there and anywhere the following spring. Gardeners told me about their morning glory vines and potato plants that volunteered this year.

The preferred method for fall planting is to deep till your soil and have the seedbed ready in advance. Keep an open eye and listening ear to weather reports. Carrots, kohlrabi, radishes, winter leaf lettuce, garlic cloves, parsley, parsnip and spinach can be seeded 10 days or more before the forecast suggests soil is going to freeze and remain frozen. The trick is to avoid any germination before freeze-up. You’ll have extra time to do other things come next spring.

Here are best fall planting dates according to the moon for annuals, herbs, leafy greens and veggies that produce their edible portion above ground: October 10, 11, 12, 15, 16 and November 7, 8, 11, 12. For veggie root crops, transplanting, including flowering perennials, shrubs, trees, food perennials such as grapes, rhubarb and raspberries, lily, daffodil and tulip bulbs: October 19, 20, 21, 24, 25, 26 and November 20, 21, 22. However, don’t wait if weather doesn’t allow delay.

EMPTY FOUR-LITRE MILK JUGS

… make excellent mini greenhouses for starting seedlings. Thoroughly wash empty jugs. About midpoint carefully cut the top half all the way around (see picture) leaving enough at the rear of the handle to fold back as a hinge. Fill the bottom half with good-quality starter mix. Moisten lightly and store in an unheated greenhouse, cold frame, garage, root cellar or storage shed in readiness for planting next spring. However, you can actually experiment by planting seeds in prepared jugs this fall then allow them to also freeze over. For example: plant two or three tomato seeds in individual jugs that are then placed inside a large clear plastic bag, fastened together at the top with a twist tie. Each pre-planted jug is kept frozen during winter. At the appropriate time in spring, remove from storage and place in a sunny, protected area. Once seeds germinate, monitor closely for moisture, temperature and provide air circulation. Transplant extras into other containers and leave only one tomato plant to flourish within its own private mini greenhouse. The very best dates for fall planting tomato seeds are October 24, 25 and the morning of October 26 until noontime.

HELLO GARDENERS AT YOUNG, SASK.

Matter of fact — hello to all gardeners wherever you are across this great land. I continue to hear from many, including Ruby and Henry Soderberg who live an hour southeast of Saskatoon. Ruby didn’t mention whether a high percentage of youthful gardeners live in and around Young, Sask. but they surely all must be young at heart.

Ruby writes:

We had a great crop of potatoes this year. I got my seed from T&T. I have Blue Viking, Alta Blush, Agria, Dark Red Norland. I really like Alta Blush and Blue Viking. The Blue Viking is a white-flesh potato with a purple skin; not blue inside. We moved to this place in 2010 when we had so much rain our garden was under water. 2011, I planted some garden but nothing did well, so we got a load of topsoil for 2012 which was great when it was damp but baked very hard when dry so we added some manure that spring. A friend of mine had a lot of disease in her tomatoes so I watched mine. A few of mine started spoiling in the garden so I picked and disposed of them right away. I watched the ones I took into the house and disposed of any that showed signs of spoiling. It was only as they ripened that they spoiled and there were not a lot. I was careful to dispose of the plants. Last fall we added a lot more manure and I worked it in this spring then planted my potatoes. Should I work the garden good or since I did OK this year should I just lightly work it? I moved my tomatoes and have no sign of any spoilage this year. I am bagging my potato tops this year and will dispose of them out in a bush on our land. Now I hear potatoes can have the same disease. Is that true? Also, my zucchini has mildew growing on the leaves and stems. Ruby.

Ted’s reply: Yes — it’s true that tomatoes and potatoes including peppers are all susceptible to the same disease, blights and fungi that can remain in soil for many years and are spread by splashing rain. Apply several layers of newspaper around each tomato plant up to the stem and top with a mulch of dried, unsprayed grass clippings, leaves and compost. Trim off bottom tomato leaves and avoid using the same exact spot over and over again. Churn up the soil really well during fall, especially just before a good frost. Many insect pests are brought to the surface and will freeze or are unable to work their way back down. Light tilling is better than none but deep tilling is best. Many plants including zucchini are subject to mildew, especially during warm temperatures and high humidity. Keep tomato and zucchini plants well spaced as good air circulation is critical. Here’s a formula tested by a South American researcher from Brazil. It’s safe, simple and effective. Prepare a mixture of one cup of cow’s skim milk for every two cups of water. A weaker solution may not work as well. Apply as a spray over zucchini and other squash vines, on both leaves and stems. It mildew-proofs them in no time flat. Don’t wait until powdery mildew starts to appear. Practise prevention with weekly applications from springtime onward and provide a germicidal effect that stimulates plants to become more resilient. †

About the author

Columnist

Ted Meseyton

This is Ted Meseyton the Singing Gardener and Grow-It Poet from Portage la Prairie, Man. I salute all gardeners and farmers who help make our world a little safer and more ecologically balanced, and who toil to provide health-giving produce to others who cannot produce their own. It takes all sorts to make a world. One half of the world doesn’t know how the other half lives. The best physicians are Dr. Diet, Dr. Quiet and Dr. Merryman.

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