Monday, January 27, 2014

The DD's Comprehensive Guide to Saving Money by Growing Your Own Food, Part III: Seeds, Soil and Tools

Today's article in my frugal food-growing guide will be short and sweet.  However, it is one of the most crucial parts of the guide: Saving money on seeds, tools and soil.

Most of the big box stores sell seeds and tools for a ridiculous mark-up.  I've seen seeds sell for $1.50 per packet at places like Lowes, and their tool selection ranges from $20 to $100+ for a single tool.  And forget about plant starts... every year, they reduce the amount of plants you get in a pack and charge a little more than they did the previous year.  Not a great way to save money on growing food.

You should know that you have cheaper options, though.  Much cheaper options.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Will Choline Make You Smarter?

 Will Choline make you smarter?  Here are the key points you should know. 

  • Choline supplementation may improve declining cognitive abilities of individuals with Alzheimer's disease and similar cerebral health issues.
  • The only well-designed human study on choline in healthy individuals thus far shows a small benefit for increasing attention span in middle-aged women, using doses of up to 500 mg of supplemental choline per day.
  • Most studies investigating choline supplementation for cognitive performance enhancement in healthy individuals are plagued by bad experiment design, too few subjects, or both.  Further research is needed.
  • Aim for the adequate daily intake of 550 mg for men, 425 mg for women.  For reference, a normal-sized chicken egg contains about 140 mg of choline. 
  • ADDENDUM 04/15/2015: Although I still recommend obtaining the adequate daily intake of choline for possibly improved cognitive function, I DO NOT recommend obtaining choline from eggs.  There is mounting evidence that the choline in eggs vastly increases the risk of heart disease and cancer.  Read more about this issue with animal-based choline here and hereSome of the highest sources of plant-based choline can be found in pinto beans (~60mg/cup), broccoli (~30mg/cup), oats (~20mg/cup) and oranges (~15mg).

The essential nutrient,Choline

I've been hanging out on the Nootropics sub of reddit for a while now, in an attempt to find a link between food and improvements in cognitive function.  For those of you who don't know what nootropics are, here is a brief summary directly from the Nootropics FAQ:

Monday, January 13, 2014

The DD's Comprehensive Guide to Saving Money by Growing Your Own Food, Part II: Planning What to Grow

Welcome to the next installment of my frugal food-growing guide.  If you are following this series, hopefully by now you have started collecting food scraps, leaves and other organic material for your very own compost pile.  You can read more about that in Part I of my guide.

Today, I want to write about some particular aspects of planning out your frugal vegetable garden before actually delving into the creation of it.  Planning for this kind of project is absolutely necessary, since each plan will be unique and different based on several different factors.  Some of them include your location, the amount of space available to work with, time of the year, you (or your family's) particular tastes in vegetables, space-to-production ratios and various other things.  This article will focus mainly on planning which vegetables and fruits you decide to grow in your garden.

First, let's start on the assumption that you found a suitable space for your future garden.  This means you have a plot of soil (or some kind of raised bed) that is at least somewhat workable... not completely full of rocks, or other potentially toxic materials.  It also means it gets at least 8 to 10 hours of sun per day in the spring and summer, and is also close to a source of irrigation other than just rain.  If you have a plot that meets this criteria, go ahead and read on.  If you don't, then find a better spot or figure out a way to improve upon the existing space--possibly by removing shading objects such as trees, and collecting rainwater in barrels or buckets (something you should probably do anyway).  If rocks are the main obstacle, I would personally find another spot than attempt remove them... it's just way more hassle than it's worth to me.  Your individual circumstance and preferences may dictate what you decide to do.

Identifying Your Climate Zone

Now that we have a usable plot of soil to work with, the next thing to do is determine exactly what zone of plant hardiness that you live in.  The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map website can help you do just that.  Just click on your state to find detailed climate information for your particular zone.  This is an important step because you will need to know the first and last average frost dates for your region, as well as how hot and cold it will be during a typical season in your area.  It's important information to know, as most vegetables can be separated into groups based on their preferred growing temperatures.  For example, tomatoes, okra, eggplant and peppers all prefer hot summer temperatures, while plants like spinach, broccoli and lettuce all prefer (and taste better) being grown when the temperatures are cool.

The USDA Zone Map will show you which climate zone you belong to