Broccoli Spinach Tomato pic

Health benefits of backyard vegetables!

Mom was right after all. Vegetables ARE the elixir for much that ails us, much that our
body needs for health and balance, and much that our body requires to fight off disease and aging. The health benefits of home grown, backyard vegetables just can’t be ignored.

Remember how you stared at your dinner plate as a child, piled high with spinach, broccoli, and more, and wondered why your parents hated you so much? But, like Mark Twain, who once hilariously wrote about how much his father had learned from Twain’s adolescence to his adulthood, our parents were much smarter than we ever gave them credit for at the time. Today, the science is simply overwhelming where the health benefits of vegetables are concerned and each of us must consume a daily regimen of them if we want to maintain peak health and age gracefully.

Let’s take a look at three very popular vegetables, and their amazing health benefits.

BROCCOLI – the super food

When you talk about super nutritious vegetables, broccoli is almost in a league of its own. It is low in calories, it’s rich in vitamins and minerals (a cup of cooked broccoli has as much vitamin C as your average orange does, and it’s chock full of vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, potassium, magnesium, and iron!), it contains needed fiber, and for most, it’s delicious when prepared correctly.

Broccoli is a “cruciferous” vegetable of the family Brassicaceae (also called Cruciferae) and its first cousins in the vegetable world are brussel sprouts, and cabbage, and cauliflower. Sulforophane is a sulfur-containing compound present in cruciferous vegetables, and it may have cancer fighting properties to it. The research is ongoing but is most encouraging.

SPINACH – strong to the finish, cuz he eats his

Were it not for Popeye’s love of spinach, and the super human strength he derived from eating a can of it, many of us would have drawn the line here as kids and refused to eat any. It was never appealing to the eye (then or even now), and it’s flavor makes few do back flips, but the positives of spinach cannot be understated.

Lutein and zeaxanthin are nutrients that healthy eyes depend. They’re both antioxidants that can neutralize free radicals in your body, and spinach is teeming with them. Speculation is that these two substances may protect the eye from light-induced oxidative damage, which is thought to play a role in the development of age-related macular degeneration.  As to other vitamins and minerals, spinach is also a super source of vitamins A and K and a good source of folate. Vitamin K plays an important role in blood clotting.

TOMATOES – kryptonite to prostate cancer?

I’ve left the most popular of vegetables for last. Tomatoes are incredibly popular for backyard gardeners to grow, and they’re a staple of diets the world over. And good thing too because they have many nutritional benefits.

Tomatoes contain a substance called lycopene; a red carotenoid pigment and phytonutrient that is also found in pink grapefruit and watermelon. Lycopene is the ingredient that makes tomatoes red in appearance. Lycopene is a very potent antioxidant, thought to protect against some cancers and even cardiovascular disease. This substance has been found quite promising in protecting men from acquiring prostate cancer. Many medical studies on this topic have been so encouraging that even the FDA has approved a qualified health claim about the relationship between tomatoes and the prevention of prostate cancers. Wow.

The best defense against disease and the inevitable aging process is to eat things that help your body to be healthy, live longer, and fight disease. Fresh backyard vegetables are your weapon! And what better place to acquire them than your own backyard? You can start a backyard garden today, inside a great backyard greenhouse, and cultivate the tastiest, most healthful vegetables around, that are devoid of pesticides and chemically treated soils to insure that only the best stuff is served at your dinner table. Here’s to the good health that several cups of fresh backyard vegetables every day can help us all achieve!

Backyard Gardening (and California’s drought)

It seems that with every ominous new story of climatological catastrophe in California, the
critical importance and future of backyard gardening gets a little clearer. What was once a quaint hobby for many is now taking on far greater significance, and grabbing ever more headlines, as people across North America (indeed, the globe) are taking measure of the precarious nature of the food sources they have trusted for generations.

California…North America’s primary food source

A little back story is in order.

California – while best known for its celebrities, smog, and setting cultural trends – has long been America’s biggest bread basket. Since the mid-1850’s, when trains made shipping produce fast and easy, California has played a very critical role in feeding us and the world. But recent negative weather phenomenon, crippling droughts that have brought on draconian water conservation rules, and increasing populations here and abroad (more mouths to feed and thus more yield needed per acre), are pushing the Golden State to the brink, and forcing many families to rethink the way they procure their edibles. Many of your neighbors are not only thinking about backyard gardening, they’re taking concrete steps now to begin growing everything that they’re used to getting at the supermarket.

Inaction – many say – will cost more than aggressively becoming your own source for edibles via backyard gardening.

Food stats tell the story

California produces a sizable majority of many American fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Consider these California stats and you’ll have an idea what is at stake: California produces 99 percent of artichokes, 99 percent of walnuts, 97 percent of kiwis, 97 percent of plums, 95 percent of celery, 95 percent of garlic, 89 percent of cauliflower, 71 percent of spinach, 69 percent of carrots, and we’ve barely scratched the surface. No other state has such market share, and no other state can impact (positively or negatively) the quantity of fresh produce available at your local supermarket or the prices that each of us has to pay for them.

A drought of unthinkable magnitude

So just how bad is the California drought that America’s most populous state has been reeling from since 2011? It is unprecedented in its scope and severity. Here’s the bottom line: California is almost bone dry. So much so that in January 2015, California Governor Jerry Brown declared a “drought State of Emergency” and directed state officials to “take all necessary actions” to prepare for acute water shortages. If conservation doesn’t have a big impact on water supplies – few think that it will – and Mother Nature doesn’t begin to cooperate by dumping apocalyptic levels of rain to refill near empty rivers, wells, aquifers, and reservoirs very soon, vegetable farmers will be faced with an almost cataclysmic lose-lose proposition… grow far less produce or water their produce far less. Beyond the obvious reduction in yield, this catastrophe could have the effect of also bankrupting both small and large farmers throughout the state.

It gets worse. According to National Geographic, California farmers are pumping irreplaceable ground water to counter the drought, and when it’s all gone, “the real crisis begins.” In sum, if you thought things were bad now, everything on the horizon appears rather bleak as well.

Hold on to your wallets

No matter how you slice it, all signs are pointing to increased scarcity, skyrocketing vegetable and fruit prices, and the quality of produce taking a nosedive compared to that purchased just a few years ago. For this, and many health related reasons, the future of backyard gardening is very bright and growing wildly in popularity with each passing day as every news report out of California purveys even more doom. What California cannot supply for the foreseeable future, in the fashion that it has for most of the past 150 years, more and more individuals and families across North America are concluding that they must begin to produce for themselves via backyard gardening.

Backyard gardening…your defense against California’s water catastrophe

The California drought is going to affect you sooner than later, if it hasn’t already. Bank on it. Acquiring a year-round backyard greenhouse and starting your backyard gardening plot soon (getting your gardening learning curve out of the way now) may lessen the fallout of the California drought and the impact it will surely have on your food dollar and quality of life.

How to kill snails and slugs (the bane of a gardener’s existence!)

Few things are more exasperating, and deflating, then to lovingly toil at cultivating your
favorite vegetables or flowers in your backyard garden, only to then have your harvest ravaged by legions of uninvited slimy vermin with voracious appetites who are seemingly always on the prowl for a delectable meal at your expense. Ahhhhh, but fear not my fellow gardeners… this is your guide on how to rid yourself of those slow-moving garden terrorists once and for all; your road map for how to kill snails and slugs!

Diatomaceous Earth – a natural, totally non-toxic substance that bugs loathe!

Many gardeners are rightly very conscious of not introducing caustic pesticides into their gardens as this is often the very reason people across the globe eschew vegetables and produce at the grocery store and grow organically themselves. So, grabbing some aerosol can filled with chemicals and poisons of some kind is simply a non-starter, and we strongly urge you to avoid doing this. Instead, Mother Nature has provided gardeners a sure-fire way to kill snails and slugs (as well as a host of other bugs with exoskeletons) with practically zero negatives.

It’s called Diatomaceous Earth (or DE for short), and you may have heard of it before if you own a pool as it is commonly used as a filter media additive. For everyone else, it is the natural, non-toxic substance that we unknowingly consume every day when we eat things like grains (DE is widely used to keep bugs from consuming harvested crops before they make it to market). It is completely harmless to mammals even when ingested.

How DE kills snails and slugs

First, let’s establish what DE is. It’s a substance made up of the fossilized remains of plankton, and contains almost pure silica with a few trace minerals tossed in for good measure. Under a microscope DE looks a lot like shards of glass and thus it’s naturally rough, sharp microscopic edges puncture the body of snails and slugs when they traverse a surface that has been dusted with it, and it causes rapid dehydration to take place and ultimately death. Mission accomplished.

Use Food Grade DE only!

As mentioned earlier there are two very common uses for DE…an additive for pool filtration systems, and a wonder substance for killing many kinds of bugs. Not surprisingly then, there are two different grades of DE depending on the application you intend to use it for. For gardening purposes, use ONLY “food grade” DE purchased from a garden supply center, or the like, to kill snails and slugs with joyful haste. The variety meant for pools has unwanted additives that makes it unfit to use around vegetables.

How to apply

DE must remain dry to be effective. So, even a morning dew can render it useless. This means that spreading DE around your garden is easier and more effective if done inside a greenhouse, for instance, where your moisture is much better controlled. If any of your DE gets moist/wet, simply reapply.

Lightly dust your plants, leafs, and soils with DE when snails and slugs are present. Sprinkle a protective circle around the base of plants to act as a fortress from those marauding gastropods! Also, you can spread some DE on surfaces where they commonly travel or places where they may try entering your greenhouse as a kind of preemptive strike. When you do, your snail and slugs problems are going to quickly become a thing of the past.


Though this blog is meant to impart a game plan for wiping out snail and slug infestations in your beloved garden or backyard greenhouse, remember that DE is very effective on ALL pests with exoskeletons (ants, roaches, etc.) that may be causing you consternation as well.


More people are saying “NO” to Genetically Modified Foods

Greenhouse Gardening: more people are saying "NO to genetically modified foodWith opponents conjuring up images akin to the Frankenstein monster of Mary Shelley’s famous novel, genetically modified foods, and other worrisome trends with our food supply, are sending droves of health conscious consumers to grow their own edibles through backyard greenhouse gardening.

Genetically Modified Foods

According to the online food advocacy site Bad Seed, “Genetically engineered plants have had either genes from bacteria or viruses, or genes that make plants resistant to toxic chemicals like the herbicide Roundup — spliced into their DNA. These genes were never part of the human diet until the first GMO plant was created in 1996.” In an online article entitled 50 Harmful Effects of Genetically Modified (GM) Foods, author Nathan Batalion Pakalert stated, “…much of GM [Genetically Modified] technology is directed at eliminating surrounding biological environment – competing animals and plants by soaking them with lethal toxins.” And this from the Philadelphia Enquirer online, “In conclusion, seventy percent of our food is genetically engineered and Monsanto makes 90 percent of the genetically engineered seeds….unless you buy from seed companies that do not sell GMO seed, and then grow your own food.” But GMO foods are not without their fans and advocates. Advocates for GMO say that all the worry is groundless and such modifications to seeds can lead to higher yields and drought resistance, just to name a few. And with world populations increasing, they say, and weather patterns gaining wilder swings, the world’s food supply needs heartier seeds and bigger harvests to keep up with future demand.

The debate rages on, but ominous warnings from concerned scientists, advocates, and health professionals about the cons of GMO foods being outweighed by their benefits, is seemingly growing louder each day.

Greenhouse gardening and growing your own food

Think about the meals you ate yesterday. Was any of it grown with genetically modified seeds? Do you know? It’s this great uncertainty, the great unknowns of Genetically Modified Foods, skyrocketing grocery prices, the desire to eat healthier foods from a trusted source, and the trends toward self-sufficiency that are driving more people around the world to purchase their own backyard greenhouse and begin a lifelong journey of greenhouse gardening. How else can you be sure that your foods have not been altered at the genetic level? Also, how else can you be certain that caustic pesticides have not been sprayed on the vegetables that you and your family will consume? Greenhouse gardening puts you in the driver seat to insure that only the freshest, most natural, and healthiest foods are grown and consumed by you and your loved ones.

Solar Gem Greenhouses points the way

For almost 25 years, Solar Gem Greenhouses has been a favorite of backyard gardeners who, for a whole host of reasons, have decided that greenhouse gardening makes great sense for them. Whether you are a novice or advanced gardener, someone alarmed at the trajectory of our food supply, or you want a year-round garden of organic, worry-free vegetables that are teeming with amazing flavors, a Solar Gem Greenhouse simply cannot be beat, no matter what the climate in your area may be.

Let’s Grow!

9 Best Reasons To Grow Your Own Vegetables

9 Best Reasons To Grow Your Own Vegetables Solar Gem GreenhousesLists. They are ubiquitous these days. We make lists, we read lists, we share lists, we organize ourselves with lists, we motivate with lists, and we’re endlessly entertained by others who make lists for us that rank things. Who gets to decide how things are ranked, what are the rules, is there a governing body for these list makers, and is there any science to the conclusions they reach? Let’s not overthink this.

Gardeners, no matter their skill level, are not immune to this exciting “list” phenomenon, so what better blog could there be for current and future backyard gardeners than a “list” of the best reasons to grow your own vegetables? Oh, some will quibble with how these are ranked – gardeners have informed opinions, you know – and some will suggest that an obvious item was inexplicably left off of the list. This is what makes lists that ranks things so much fun. But this is MY list, and these are my top reasons.

Vegetable gardening, not being one of those controversial topics that tends to polarize readers and generate furious letters to the editor, seemed like an ideal place for me to begin what I hope will be a recurring theme…unscientifically ranking things purely for your reading enjoyment. Now, we shall wade into the waters of gardening opinion and share with you my iron-clad, no doubt about it, take it to the bank, 9 best reasons to grow your own vegetables. [drumroll please, Maestro]

9 Best Reasons To Grow Your Own Vegetables

  1. Sick of the lousy-quality produce at the grocery store
  2. SAVE MONEY (they’re charging how much for those puny, tasteless tomatoes?!)
  3. Desire to eat healthier and be healthier
  4. Eliminate caustic pesticides from your food and go organic
  5. Looking for a fun, productive hobby (perhaps to share with a child, or grandchild)
  6. Desire to live more self-sufficiently
  7. Want fresher, much tastier produce from a trusted source
  8. Want fresher, much tastier herbs and spices to cook with
  9. Want to grow vegetables (or uncommon varieties of vegetables) that you can’t readily find in your grocery store

There you have it. It’s official. These are the 9 best reasons to grow your own vegetables, right in your own backyard, and right inside your own Solar Gem Greenhouse.

Which brings me to a final exhortation…if you want to vegetable garden all year long – no matter what the season is, or how inhospitable the outside temperatures and conditions are (plus you don’t want to feed pests and the local wildlife instead of your family) a rugged backyard greenhouse, which diffuses sunlight in the interior, keeps the warmth in during the colder months, and greatly enhances your harvest year after blessed year – is a must-have gardening tool.

Let’s Grow!

Surprising Container Grown Vegetables

Surprising Container Grown Vegetables Solar Gem GreenhousesIt’s early January and, as usual, we’re getting inundated with seed catalogs.  We get great enjoyment from browsing the latest offerings of seeds and plants, planning our upcoming garden, and dreaming about the warmer weather and bushels and bushels of fresh produce we’ll grow and harvest.  As in past years, there are a few new varieties here and there that we want to try, along with plenty of old favorites. What you might not know is that MANY of these are perfect container grown vegetables…..yes, they grow well in pots!

Some of the newer varieties give container and greenhouse gardeners more options for what they can grow in a limited space.  For example, did you know you can grow things like watermelon and butternut squash in a container inside of your greenhouse?  But, first things first. Planting a great container vegetable garden requires great seeds. So today, we thought we’d highlight a few of these options.

Before we get to it, a short disclaimer; we’re not endorsing any of these seed/plant varieties or the companies that sell them.  We’re just letting you know about these options and where you can get them.  Some of these seeds/plants may be offered elsewhere, in addition to the seed companies we listed.  Be sure to shop around. Finally, we didn’t include tomatoes and peppers on this list, as they are already popular container grown vegetables.

Ideas For Container Grown Vegetables

Mascotte Bean – This is a bush bean that grows quite compactly, with plants averaging just 17″ tall.  Mascotte beans are advertised as being slender, French-style beans with white seeds.  Offered by Territorial Seed Company and Park Seed.

Minnesota Midget Melon – This cantaloupe variety produces small fruit, averaging just 5″ across, on small, compact plants that are perfect for containers.  Available from Territorial Seed Company and Burpee.

Caracas Hybrid Carrots – These carrots reach just 5″ into the soil, making them perfect for containers.  The carrots are sweet and full of flavor.  Available from Burpee.
Oxheart Carrots – These carrots get huge, often weighing 1 pound or more.  They are short and wide, going just 6″ deep, making them great containers grown vegetables.  Offered by Territorial Seed Company.
Atlas Carrots – These carrots are almost round and reach about the size of a golf ball.  Need containers just 4″ deep to grow these.  Offered by Park Seed.

On Deck Hybrid Sweet Corn – These corn plants feature super sweet, bi-color ears that average 7-8″ long.  The plants average 4-5 feet tall.  Offered by Burpee, who suggests to plant 9 seeds in a 24″ round container.

Bush Champion Cucumbers – Offered by Burpee, these cuke plants average 1/3 the size of regular cucumber vines.  They produce 10″ slicing cucumbers with some disease resistance.
Spacemaster Cucumber – Offered by Burpee.  Vines average 2 feet long and produce 7″-8″ green fruit.  Good as container grown or in hanging baskets.  Some disease resistance.  We’ve grown these in the past with good results.

Patio Baby Eggplant – This eggplant produces egg-shaped fruit that average just 3 inches long on a plant that remains less than 2 feet tall.  You can get seeds or plants from Territorial Seed Company and Park Seed.

Baby Bubba Okra – This okra plant is only half as tall as other okra varieties, so it might reach 3 feet high.  Ready to harvest in just 53 days, it’s a good option for northern gardeners who want okra.  Produces full-sized pods.  Available from Burpee.
Green Fingers Okra – Offered by Park Seed, this okra variety reaches just a couple of feet tall and produces full-sized yields.

Peas-in-a-Pot Peas – This pea plant produces green shelling peas.  Plants average just 10″ tall and can be grown in 8″ pots.  Offered by Burpee.

Little Gem Lettuce – This butterhead variety features heads that average just 5″ across.  Ready in just 50 days.  Offered by Park Seed.

Tomato-Potato Combo:
Ketchup ‘N’ Fries – This is the first thing that caught our eye this year. This plant was first offered last year in the UK and is now being offered in the USA this year by the Territorial Seed Company.  Basically, it’s a cherry tomato plant that has been grafted onto a potato plant.  The idea is that the top of the plant produces cherry tomatoes, while the roots produce potatoes.  These are perfectly suited for growing in a pot, but they’ll also grow in the ground.

Sugar Pot Watermelon – This bush plant averages just 18″ across, but produces 8-10 pound watermelons.  Offered by Territorial Seed Company.

Winter Squash:
Butterbush Squash – This squash plant produces butternuts that average around 1.5 pounds.  Their vines reach just 3-4 feet long, making them good for a container.  Seeds are offered by Territorial Seed Company.
Discus Bush Buttercup – This is winter squash grows on bushy plants that reach 3 feet across – perfect for a large pot.  The squash averages 3 pounds.  Offered by Territorial Seed Company.
Burpee’s Butterbush – This butternut variety features plants that average just 3 feet long.  Each plant produces 4-5 squash averaging 1.5 pounds each. Available from Burpee.  We’re personally grown these and had good results.
Tivoli – This version of spaghetti squash averages 3 feet across and works well when container grown in large containers.  The fruit averages 9-10″ long, weighs around 4-5 pounds and tastes and feels just like spahgetti squash.  We grew these last year and had good results.  Offered by Burpee.
Burpee’s Bush Table Queen Squash – This is an acorn squash plant that reaches just 3 feet across.  The squash have a classic acorn shape and average 4-5″ across.  Offered by Burpee.  We have grown this variety in the past, with good results.

Patio Star Zucchini – This zucchini variety produces full-sized squash, but it only grows about half as big as a regular zucchini plant.  Available from Territorial Seed Company.
Partenon Hybrid Zucchini – This zucchini variety averages 3 feet across and produces 8″ long squash.  This is a parthenocarpic plant, so the fruit is produced with pollination, making it perfect for your greenhouse.  Available from Burpee.

We hope you’ll consider trying a few new container grown vegetables this year in your greenhouse, and maybe some of these varieties will be just what you’re looking for.

Got vegetable gardening questions? Post yours on the Solar Gem Greenhouses Facebook page, and I’ll be happy to answer them.

Happy Gardening!

Marcus, your Gardening Guru

How To Choose A Greenhouse

How to choose a greenhouse Solar Gem Greenhouses

Photo credit: Karen Bishop

For almost 25 years now, Solar Gem Greenhouses has been chatting with first time greenhouse owners about exactly how to choose a greenhouse and exactly which of our top-quality backyard greenhouses will best suit their gardening needs. The process often involves helping each of them to make a sound decision concerning the size and placement of their backyard garden. What makes a good greenhouse selection for one, may not work so well for another. So, here’s a brief guide, distilled from the thousands of conversations we’ve had with our very happy backyard gardening enthusiasts over the decades.

Space available

It may seem obvious, but this must be everyone’s first consideration when sorting through how to choose a greenhouse that’s best for your circumstances. How big is my backyard, and how much room do I want to dedicate exclusively for gardening? This can be further complicated by oddly shaped backyards, or backyards that are already teeming with other structures or natural obstructions (read: trees). Take a look at the dimensions of the four greenhouse sizes we offer and, using a tape measure, see what sizes will fit.

Where’s the sunshine?

Some Solar Gem Greenhouse owners have to grapple with a backyard surrounded with very tall trees and/or dense brush that can block out vegetable and plant-loving sunshine for parts of the year. If you have lots of trees or heavy brush that casts shade over large swaths of your backyard, try to find a place that offers balance…some direct sunshine, along with the inevitable shade. Ideally, think about a place that gets the most sun in the winter months, and your plants will love you for it. Be confident that a Solar Gem Greenhouses‘ unique materials and build quality will make the most of whatever particular sunlight conditions you have, and that only the most sunlight-deprived backyards will need to consider any grow-light supplementation. For those who don’t have a too-much-shade challenge, the process of choosing a greenhouse is less complicated. So, it’s on to the next step.

Soil conditions

Even if you don’t plan on gardening directly into the ground in your Solar Gem Greenhouse to grow, say, onions, carrots, cabbage or the like, you still want to avoid placing your greenhouse over adverse soil, like areas where the water table is very high. If the soil you are thinking about placing your Solar Gem over is constantly saturated with water, and “squishes” when you walk over it, you are going to want to rethink your placement. This swampy soil will never accommodate any in-ground growing, but importantly, it will offer far too much humidity inside your greenhouse than is ideal. Lastly, an area on a steep slope that meets all the other criteria is a bad spot. If you can’t find an area that’s close to level, or can be readily made level, then you might have to pick a spot that you will make level (building a small retaining wall, bringing in some extra soil, etc.) so that you aren’t gardening on an awkward slope!

Choose a greenhouse based upon your gardening ambitions

This consideration is important to factor in because it has everything to do with the size of the Solar Gem Greenhouse you will want to purchase. If you have a very small urban backyard, and only intend to grow a few tomato plants during the year, then a Lil’Debi (8’x 4’7″) or a Small (8’x7.5′) may be all you’ll ever need. However, if you are more ambitious and want to grow a variety of yummy, healthful fresh vegetables, herbs, spices, and perhaps some fruit, then you’ll want to think about a Medium (8’x12′) or a Large (8’x15′). This thinking also applies to those who want to aggressively cut into their grocery bills. The more space you have to grow, the more you can grow, and the less you’ll need to buy at the grocery store. BUT BEWARE…we’ve never had a Solar Gem Greenhouse owner tell us that they regretted buying a size larger than they thought they would need, but we have had many who have regretted buying a size smaller than they thought they would need. Choose a greenhouse that projects forward and can grow with you. Seems that a new Solar Gem Greenhouse can really motivate the average gardener into growing lots of things they never imagined they would!

No matter which Solar Gem Greenhouse you decide is right for you, know that you have the finest year-round backyard greenhouse available anywhere. Grow whatever your hearts desire, eat healthier, go organic, cut your grocery bill, and enjoy every wonderful minute of it. And remember, setting up a greenhouse in your backyard is a snap if it’s a Solar Gem…no assembly required, no special foundation needed, and no ongoing maintenance. THIS is how smart, highly successful backyard gardeners do it.

We hope that this brief foray into how to best choose your backyard greenhouse has been helpful and enlightening. If you have any questions, please call or send us an e-mail…we’re here to help you be the best gardener you can be. The factory staff, and our wonderful independent dealers across the U.S. and Canada, are ready to help you get the most from your Solar Gem Greenhouse. Happy gardening.


HOT Topic: HOT Peppers!

HOT Topic: HOT peppers! Solar Gem Greenhouses

HOT Topic: HOT peppers! Solar Gem Greenhouses

Hot peppers are a favorite item to grow for many backyard gardeners, and particularly owners of a Solar Gem Greenhouse. Known for their hot and spicy nature, hot peppers come in many varieties, in many shapes and colors, many types of hot peppers, and boy can they bring the heat to any meal!  Peppers are often categorized by the quantity of spice they commonly contain, and that’s what we want to focus on today.

Scoville scale and the classification of hot peppers

One of the popular ways that peppers are classified is by the Scoville Scale…the official hot pepper scale. According to the popular website Wikipedia, “The Scoville Scale is a measurement of the pungency (spicy heat) of chili peppers or other spicy foods as reported in Scoville heat units (SHU), a function of capsaicin concentration. The scale is named after its creator, American pharmacist Wilbur Scoville. His method, devised in 1912, is known as the Scoville Organoleptic Test.” So, the higher the number of SHU’s assigned to a particular variety of pepper, the spicier it will taste.

Hottest hot peppers in the world

Red Savina Habenero peppers just barely made the top 10 list of the hottest hot peppers in the world in 2014 coming in at number 10. Your average Red Savina Habenero has 500,000 SHU’s (Scoville Heat Units). Trinidad Moruga Scorpion peppers, by contrast, contain a sinus-melting 2 million SHU’s and are rated as one of the hottest of hot peppers in the world! Which makes a fire extinguisher and 911 on speed dial “must-have’s” if you ever plan to sample one yourself. [Sidebar: we recommend that you don’t]

Need some perspective on how hot that really is? Have you ever eaten a super spicy jalapeno pepper that set your mouth afire and made your eyes water profusely?? Think about this…your average jalapeno pepper has just 1000-4000 SHU’s. It could take 2,000 times the capsaicin concentration contained in just one spicy jalapeno to come close to that which is contained in an average Trinidad Moruga Scorpion pepper. WOW. Muy caliente, amigo!

An interesting question we asked ourselves as we researched this topic was “who are the poor souls who had to personally test these fiery hot peppers that make up the hottest hot peppers list?!” Ouch!

Growing your own hot peppers

No matter how daring you are in your pepper cultivation (and sampling), a Solar Gem Greenhouse can open up your world of backyard gardening and help you to be a year-round grower of the freshest and healthiest vegetables, herbs, spices, HOT PEPPERS and more. Looking for a hot pepper challenge that doesn’t require testing the hottest varieties yourself? Grow some of the milder, most flavorful hot peppers in your own Solar Gem this year!

Here’s to the wonderful world of peppers…a hot topic, indeed…may they spice up your life.

Let’s Grow!

Solar Gem Allies With

Want to know the best ways to get started growing tasty tomatoes, fresh herbs, hot peppers, crunchy cucumbers, yellow squash, crisp lettuce, sweet cantaloupe and MUCH MORE in your Solar Gem Greenhouse? Marcus the Gardening Guru at will show you how to do it easily.
Solar Gem Greeenhouses is thrilled to announce our gardening alliance with the premier backyard vegetable gardening site on the web! It there that you will find tips, ideas, how-to’s, soil prepping advice, recipe’s and lots of other helpful information. Marcus is a regular columnist and contributor here on our Solar Gem website and our Facebook page.
Whenever you ally or recommend another company to a friend or family member, you do it very thoughtfully and deliberately because you want to be known as someone with quality, discerning tastes who properly vets the people they refer. This is just such as case as we have always felt that Solar Gem Greenhouse owners are an extension of our family and we care deeply that you succeed in your backyard gardening endeavors. This is why we can recommend Marcus, and his terrific website to all of our Solar Gem Owners. It is a web resource for gardeners par excellence and rich with vegetable gardening information that will surely enrich your gardening experience.
Got a vegetable gardening question? Be sure to post it on our Facebook page .
Let’s Grow!!

Click here:

Everyone Should Try Growing Radishes In Winter

Growing radishes in winter Solar Gem GreenhousesRadishes are usually thought of as one of the first crops to produce in the spring, but have you ever considered growing radishes in winter? If you own a Solar Gem Greenhouse, you can be growing radishes throughout the winter months without much effort. The key is making sure they get enough sunlight and maintaining a growing temperature of 50 degrees F for most of the day. So, as long as your Solar Gem is in a fairly sunny spot and you keep it in that temperature range during the day, we can get started.

Growing radishes in plastic plug trays

We’ve found that a good way to grow radishes is by using plastic plug trays, growing 1 radish per cell. For radishes, we like the cells to be about 2″ across and 3″ deep, but you can go a bit smaller if you like smaller radishes. Make sure they have a drainage hole in the bottom – most do.

Growing radishes from seed

You can get radish seeds from mail order companies. Some of them have seeds on sale this time of year, just because they are trying to clear out their stock before the spring. We like medium-sized, round varieties – Cherry Belle, Red Head, Early Scarlett, etc… You can also try the larger round varieties – German Giant, Crimson Giant, etc…, but be ready to pick them before they get too big for the cell they are growing in. We’d probably stay away from the long, cylindrical varieties – the cells usually just aren’t deep enough. But no matter which variety you prefer, growing radishes in winter is something everyone with a greenhouse should try at least once.

Fill the trays with a decent soil mixture. Radishes aren’t fussy at all and will grow in most soil conditions. We usually use a 50/50 mix of top soil and composted manure – the inexpensive stuff from our local big box store. Fill the cells up most of the way with soil, leaving about 1/4″ of space at the top for watering. Plant 1 seed per cell – poke your index finger into the soil, a little deeper than your fingernail, drop in a seed and cover it with loose soil. Water it in and let nature work her magic.

Keep the tray in a warm, sunny spot. The seeds will germinate in temps as low as 45 degrees F, but they’ll do better at 50-60 degrees F. Once established, the plants can handle near freezing nighttime temps, and the cooler weather makes for a milder radish with more complex flavors. In addition, the plants will do best with at least 6 hours of sunlight per day. Keep the soil in the trays moist – usually a squirt of water every 2-3 days will be enough. Most varieties are ready for harvest in about a month.

Radish recipe

If you end up with a lot of radishes and you get sick of eating them raw, you might try cooking them. Surprisingly, most radishes taste a little bit like brussel sprouts or cabbage when you cook them. We like to halve them and put them in a foil packet with a pat of butter and some salt and pepper to taste. Seal the packet by folding the edges, place it on a baking tray and cook in the oven at 350-375 degrees F for 30 minutes or until tender.

Give it a try and you’ll find that growing radishes in winter can be fun, rewarding, and delicious.

Got a vegetable gardening question? Post it on the Solar Gem Greenhouses Facebook page and I’ll be happy to answer it!

Happy Gardening!

Marcus, your Gardening Guru

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