Sunday, October 28, 2012

Compost, Garlic & Hoops

I spent a solid 3.5 hours working in the garden, assisted most of the time by my wonderful husband. The first order of business was to improve the compost pile. We're pretty lazy composters, and recently the neighbor complained that our compost smelled. The cause was pretty clear - we had way too many "greens" in the compost (kitchen scraps, spent grain from brewing, etc.) and not enough "browns" (leaves, grass clippings, other dead plant matter).

I gathered two garden cart-fulls of leaves from the front yard, dragged them to the back yard compost bin, and mixed it into our current compost. Later I added another cart-full of leaves just for good measure.

In the meantime, Aaron prepared the garlic bed. I try to avoid tilling whenever possible so we can have some nice, fluffy soil full of worms...which means prepping a bed is hard work. I did help, a little. We sifted 12 buckets of finished compost to add to the bed, which I then raked in and smoothed the soil. Time for the garlic! Last year I planted 3 rows in my 4' x 16' beds. I realized I could have planted them closer together, and I finalized that decision after seeing that Daphne planted her garlic in a 6" grid. Fun fact: The holes in the leftover trellis material sitting in our garage are exactly 3" apart—perfect spacers!

Last year I planted about 95 cloves of garlic (and I think I paid about $40 for the seed), and I'm quite sure I won't have enough to get us through until next year's harvest. So, I planted 119 cloves this year (trying to strike a balance between planting more but leaving some for our use). I chose the largest cloves from last year's harvest. The Music cloves are amazing - I planted 63 of those. The Spanish Roja are much less impressive, but since I had them, I planted 56 cloves. Because I planted in a grid instead of in rows, I managed to use about half as much space, even though I planted about 20% more than last year.

The difference in the soil quality between last year and this year is remarkable. Last year I had to dig holes and shove the garlic cloves into the cold earth in between clods of clay soil. This year, I could push the cloves a few inches into the soil and cover them without tools in most cases. The compost has been doing its job :)

To finish, I brought another cart-full of leaves from the front yard, crunched them up a bit, and used them to mulch the garlic. Aaron watered it in, and now we'll just sit back and wait for spring.

Also, Aaron bought some 7mil plastic to put over our bed of chard, carrots and beets. This is our first year using hoops, so it's really just an experiment - but I'll be very excited if I can harvest chard throughout the winter, and carrots and beets in early spring.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Buying Beef in Bulk

I have a great garden in my back yard, but I do not have the space (nor the blessing of my husband or knowledge needed) to raise my own meat. For the last two years we've been buying our meat at the farmer's market, from local farmers that raise their beef, pigs, chicken, buffalo, etc. on pasture. After thinking about, we decided we'd like to 1) avoid going to the farmer's market so often in the winter, 2) try to eat more cuts of an animal, and 3) save money while still buying from local farmers.

So, we decided that we would buy beef in bulk. We solidified our decision when we found a 16-cubic feet upright freezer on super-sale at the local home improvement store. So, this summer we visited R Farm to check out their farm store. Based on our online searches, they were offering the best value in local beef raised on pasture (although they're not certified organic). We planned to go to the store to buy a few cuts, try them out, and then decide if we would buy. However, while there we heard Mac talking about the cost of feed going up this winter because of the drought, which would ultimately increase the price of beef. We decided right then and there to put a deposit down on a half steer, without ever tasting the meet. We still bought some cuts and took them home with us, and I'm happy to report that they were delicious.

Our farm visit was in mid July, I think. I received a call from Nicole on September 13 letting us know that our steer was ready for slaughter in five days. It was a little faster than I expected, but fine by me. I started reading up about cuts and requested our selected cuts from the butcher R Farm works with, Detjens Northern Trails Meats. They had an online form, which made it super easy.

Yesterday we went to go pick up the meat. It was a lot, but manageable. We filled three coolers. We realized we were newbies because we were the only people not wearing gloves. When packing coolers full of meat, it helps to have gloves on - my hands got a little frosty. Lesson learned from last time.

We got the meat home and packed it in the freezer. I'd say it fills about 60% of our freezer. Our freezer has three shelves, a bottom basket, and door space. The beef filled the bottom rack, bottom shelf, and about 80% of the second shelf.

Here's what we ended up with:

  • 3 chuck arm roasts (about 3 lbs each)
  • 3 blade chuck roasts (about 3 lbs each)
  • 1 rib roast (maybe 5 lbs?)
  • 2 rump roasts (about 3 lbs each)
  • 1 english roast (about 4 lbs)
  • 6 packages of stew meat (about 1 lb each)
  • 4 soup bones
  • 2 large packages of short ribs (about 3 lbs each)
  • 8 round steaks (about 12 oz each)
  • 6 sirloin steaks (about 10 oz each)
  • 8 t-bone steaks (about 8 oz each)
  • 4 porterhouse steaks (about 10 oz each)
  • 8 ribeye steaks (about 10 oz each)
  • 5 lbs of hot sticks
  • 73.5 lbs ground beef
*I didn't weigh any of this meat - I'm totally guessing, and likely a bit conservative. The only thing I'm sure of is the ground beef.

Since most of my beef cooking experience has been tacos, chili, hamburgers, and stew, I'm going through my cookbooks for great ways to use all this beef. We're looking forward to quality meat without all the running to the farmer's market.

As luck would have it, we signed up for a whole-hog butchering class 6 months ago, and that fell on the same weekend our beef was ready. So today we butchered a hog and brought home a cooler full of pork. More on that in a separate post, once I wade through the pictures.

Monday, September 3, 2012

I Will Not Be Defeated

As I briefly alluded to in my previous post, our fall garden bed (chard, beets, turnips, carrots) was overrun with pests that ate off the top of all the tender seedlings. Generally, I'd assume September is too late to start all over again, but I'm going to ride the wave of this crazy climate year and hope our last frost doesn't hit until the end of October. I've replanted the chard, beets, and most of the carrots. I'd run out of St. Valery carrot seeds as well as all turnip seeds.

To ward off the pest, I've already treated the bed for slugs, and I also sprinkled ground pepper over everything. I read on Garden Web that ground pepper is a deterrent for mice, voles, and other crawly critters. Hopefully, this will keep them away until I can get some row covers purchased and installed.

The beets and chard rows are covered with wet burlap, and the carrot rows are covered with boards to help speed germination and stop the ground from drying out so fast. I will try to be diligent - I'd really like some fall/winter greens and root vegetables.

Do you take any special precautions with your fall garden?

Garden Lessons

The garden season is not entirely over (it better not be - there are a lot of green tomatoes on my plants), but I've gotten through enough of it to reflect on things I want to do differently next year. Some of my readers who are more experienced gardeners may say "duh," but this is only my third year of gardening (fourth if you include containers). Hopefully, I have about 50 years of gardening ahead of me. My husband has urged me to write these things down so I don't have the same frustrations next year.

We need to learn how to deal with pests.

Whether flying, crawling, or scampering, this year's mild winter has made every pest invasion more extreme. There are a variety of measures I can take to keep the pests out of my garden.
  • Dig our chicken wire barrier down into the ground.
    • Last year, when I put up the chicken wire along our chain link fence that encloses the garden, I didn't dig it into the ground. I knew I should have, but we had already felled 4 trees, added 4 large beds, hauled in garden soil, and constructed a serious trellis/gate. I needed to get plants in the ground, not dig in the chicken wire—or so I thought. The ground-level barrier worked for a year, but this year I've seen mice and chipmunks running free through the garden. They've definitely learned to burrow. Either this fall or early next spring, we're going to have to invest some serious sweat equity - digging in approximately 125 feet of chicken wire.
  • Invest in some hoops and cover fabric.
    • If the mice do end up getting in, I don't want to let them have my beet harvest again. I know the hoops aren't 100% necessary, but I think I'd like to have them to extend the growing season anyway. I wish I would have purchased some immediately after I discovered the devastation in the beet patch - the entire fall bed (beets, chard, turnips) has had all of its leaves eaten by some type of critter. I dont' think it's going to make it. Hopefully this covering will also keep our plants protected from the bugs that infested our garden this year - at least until they're established enough to need pollinating.
  • Figure out how to outsmart the slugs.
    • We've tried beer traps. We've tried treating with Sluggo (maybe not frequently enough?) The fact is slugs are still decimating many of our crops. They seem to love our soil, and I need to find a way to get rid of them.
  • Pay more attention to my summer squash and cucumbers, and Aaron's hops.
    • I think these need to be sprayed much more often than we did (we use pyrethrin). That, or I need to plan to have two rotations of these plants so I have more maturing after the first planting is lost to the bugs.

We need to make better use of our available space.

  • After harvesting the early bed, most of it stayed empty (except 4 rows of pole beans on 2 trellises) because it was too late to plant the melons I had planned for that bed. I could have, however, planted more summer squash in that space—it would have started producing fruit right as we started severely cutting back our powdery-mildew and squash vine borer infested leaves and stems.
  • Some things can be planted closer together (garlic), while others need to be farther apart (onions, tomatoes, beets).
  • I need to give up on planting in the ground on the back fence line (it's overrun with weeds from all the neighbors) and add a few smaller raised beds back there. They'll be perfect for determinant tomatoes, bush beans, or smaller root veggies like beets and turnips.

I need to build better tomato cages.

  • I have these great tomato cages that store flat (they're made up of 3 poles and 9 connectors/supports each), but I consistently assemble them backwards. I face the supports the wrong way, so as the plant grows it busts out of the cages. Simply snapping on the supports facing the correct direction will fix this problem—yet I've managed to screw it up for 2 years.

I've got to make the basil last.

  • Believe it or not, I think this means planting less of it. I have a tendency to plant too much basil, which results in my inability to keep up with harvests and the premature yellowing of the plants. I need to be ruthless when I harvest so the regrowth continues until the tomatoes are all ripe.
  • Related - when I have a glut of basil, I need to make pesto, even if there is a bunch in the freezer. I'm looking at a pesto-free winter because I didn't make pesto in June when I should have.

It's time to start identifying my preferred varieties.

  • This is most important for me in regards to the plants I grow a lot of and put up for the winter—tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, zucchini, garlic.
  • Tomatoes: I started growing exclusively heirloom tomatoes because it seemed the most authentic type to grow. Don't get me wrong - they're delicious. But, I need a large portion of my tomatoes to be suitable for canning. Most of the heirlooms I grow are delicious slicers, but they don't put out the volume to give me enough for canning.
    • This was the first year I grew some determinant varieties, and Polbig (an early hybrid) is definitely a keeper. It put out tons of fist-sized tomatoes that are perfect for canning, sauce, salsa, etc.
    • Blondkopfchen, an heirloom cherry tomato, is definitely a keeper. It takes longer to ripen than some other cherries, but its huge clusters give me an enormous amount of tomatoes at once - they're perfect for roasting, fresh eating, and soon I hope to give them a try in my newly-purchased dehydrator.
    • Moonshine is my favorite slicer, so that heirloom will still find a place in my garden.
    • Amish Paste, however, is on its way out. The huge tomatoes would be great, except they always split on me, and I end up cutting off way to much to get rid of the damaged parts. Also, I only get a few ripe tomatoes a day - not enough at once to put up anything of consequence.
    • Matt's Wild Cherry tastes delicious, but it sprawls way too much for me (the plant is so tall I can't pick the highest clusters) and it annoys me that the fruits seem to ripen in a set order on the cluster - those closest to the stem ripen much faster than the fruits at the end of the cluster. This means more time spent picking, as you can only pick one or two fruits from each cluster at a time. I appreciated that they ripened the earliest, though - so I'm on the hunt for another early-ripening cherry tomato.
    • Heinz was on trial in my garden this year, and it will probably get another year. The fruits are small, but they take longer than the Polbig's to ripen, meaning I have an extended canning/preserving season.
    • According to this list, I might end up with only 5 or 6 tomato varieties each year (assuming I try something new every year). I need to realize that that's ok. I've got lots of other fish (veggies?) to fry.
  • Beans
    • I've only been growing beans for 2 years, but I've learned a variety of lessons. 1) Don't plant a double row in front of the trellis - the leaves will grow so thick you'll never find the beans! 2) Don't freak out about getting them in the ground as soon as we're clear of the last frost. Better for them to get a start to grow healthy stems than to be set back by cold, wet weather. 3) I need to stagger my bean planting. This year I planted up until July and I think I'll get everything harvested before the first frost.
    • Ideal Market tastes delicious, but it's hard to find in the mess of beans. I'm going to stick with beans that have some sort of color to them so they're easier to pick.
    • Using that criteria, I think Rattlesnake and Purple Trionfo Violetto are keepers.
    • I'm going to actually grow my pole beans on poles (teepees) next year. The beautiful trellises my father in law makes keep getting blown over in the wind.
    • I'll likely try growing edamame again next year, although every single seed failed to come up this year.
    • I'll need another year of trials on growing dry beans. The bugs and slugs were so ruthless this year, they didn't get a fair shot.
  • Cucumbers
    • Actually labeling my cucumbers will likely help me determine which ones I like :) I had a hard time with germination this year, then ended up planting them way too close together. Next year will be better. My husband loves pickles, so I need to plant a lot of pickling cucs and just a few slicers.
  • Zucchini & Summer Squash
    • I'll probably just stick with black beauty and yellow summer squash. They're solid producers, I can freeze a bunch, and they're easy to process.
  • Garlic
    • This was the first year of growing garlic, so it won't actually be until the fall 2013 planting that I can make intelligent choices based on their storage qualities. However, based on what I've seen from our Music variety and what I've heard about its storage qualities, it's a keeper. In fact, it might be the only one I plant this fall. We'll see.
I'm sure there's more......but there are another 6 weeks left in the garden season to get it all out of my head and onto the blog, right?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Thursday's Kitchen Cupboard - August 30, 2012

It's been such a crazy week, I posted this on Wednesday thinking it was already Thursday. Needless to say, all this was done before this week started.

I couldn't keep myself out of the kitchen this past week.

First, I harvested the outer stalks of my neglected celery plants and cut them up to freeze in our awesome new freezer with cooled shelves. Everything freezes super fast in this fine piece of machinery (that is, until our 1/2 cow comes and there's no more room on the shelves). I ended up with 2 quart bags full of chopped celery.

Then, I dealt with the green bean harvest that had been piling up. I also took the chance to try out our new FoodSaver. With sales and coupons, we ended up getting it for $30 at Kohl's a few weekends ago. These are frozen in packages that are the perfect size for a meal for the two of us (just over a cup of beans).

Then, it was on to canning. First, I pulled out the "accidental tomato paste" I made last year (that's what happens when you take a nap while you're making sauce) and tried making taco sauce for the first time. It tasted pretty good on the stove - we'll see how it works off the shelf.

I also made fiesta salsa. Although a lot of tomatoes go into salsa, I chose this recipe mainly because it also used cucumbers, and I've been trying to get through the huge pile of cucumbers I overbought when I made pickles. I've yet to find a salsa recipe I like that gets canned, so we'll see how this one holds up.

I also put up about 1/2 a gallon of tomato sauce (frozen in 2-cup portions), but didn't get a picture during the cooking. I used a recipe for "quick blender tomato sauce" that just involves coring and quartering the tomatoes and throwing them in the blender with garlic, basil, parsley, and carrots, then reducing on the stove. It was an excellent way to use the two quarts of canned tomatoes that hadn't sealed during canning the weekend prior, as well as some extras I had sitting around.

I haven't gotten a Kitchen Cupboard post up in awhile, so here are some other things I've been up to:

Mom and I had a marathon tomato canning session on
August 19. I bought 50 lbs of tomatoes at the farmer's market
for $30. She planned to make the trip and I didn't have nearly
enough tomatoes ready, so now I've really got a lot!

I also canned over 40 jars of pickles in July, but apparently haven't taken photos. Perhaps they'll make an appearance in a season-ending pantry photo.

To see what others are doing with their harvest, visit the Gardener of Eden.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Garden Challenges: Zucchini & Cucumbers

Zucchini and cucumbers are supposed to be easy vegetables to grow. If you let them go for a couple of days, both plants give you baseball-bat size fruit that many people end up pushing off on unsuspecting neighbors. While I've gotten a decent yield from both plants this year, I'm also finding some challenges.

In addition to black beauty zucchini (which seems to be growing wonderfully, but my two plants are only giving me 3-4 squash per week), I planted eight-ball and papaya squash. The eight-ball was prolific early, but quickly became infested by what I assume is a squash vine borer. The stems are turning to yellow mush, and investigation finds a lot of small worms eating their way through the plant. I lost one plant completely to this pest a few weeks ago. The papaya took longer to mature, but it also shows signs of damage from the evil worms now. I think I've harvested four squash from three plants.

Both the eight-ball and the papaya squash plants are also starting to get what I assume is powdery mildew (gray spots that look like mold on their leaves). I pulled a papaya plant today that succumbed and failed to produce any fruit. While cleaning up the eight-ball plants today, I found a hidden squash that was the perfect size to harvest. It had somehow managed to find a way to sit on uncovered soil. I brought it in and noticed it was soft. I sliced it open to find a brown mess of rot. I sure hope that was an isolated incident.

Other than a yellowing leaf here and there, the black beauty plants are, well...beautiful. Still, I've mostly been able to keep up with harvests. We've eaten quite a few zucchini-based meals, I've given maybe 8 away to friends, and I've frozen 13 cups of shredded zucchini. I need more, as I have a killer veggie chili recipe that gets thicker (and more tasty) with the addition of zucchini.

The cucumbers also are starting to have their issues. Some leaves are withering and turning gray on the trellis. I feel that I planted too many plants too close together. I followed square foot gardening guidelines and planted 6 seeds per square foot along each side of my A-frame trellis. The vigorous plants (which have already provided many quarts of pickles) seem more interested in tangling with each other than climbing the trellis. I really hope they keep producing for another husband has a strong taste for pickles and I've only canned five quarts - the rest have been refrigerator pickles.

Of course, I'll do some googling, but I'm wondering - what do you, oh gardeners of the internet, do to keep your summer squash and cucumber plants healthy and vigorous as long as possible? I haven't gone to any drastic methods - plant, water, mulch, one watering of fish emulsion, and a few sprays of pyrethrin to keep the cucumber beetles away.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Onion Harvest

I may have jumped the gun a little. I've noticed my onions flopping over for the last week or so, and today when I went out in the garden I realized they had all flopped (well, all but one). Since I had some time (and time is precious these days), I pulled them all except for the lone red onion still standing tall, which I think is going for the Gross Farms size record. I know it seems early to pull onions, but everything is early this year. And...they flopped!

Anyway, after I pulled them I googled "curing onions" just to make sure I was proceeding correctly, and I realized I should have maybe waited another week or two to pull them. Oh well. Even with their small size, I think this might be enough onions to get us through the year. We don't eat them raw; only in cooked dishes.

The yellow onions are Yellow of Parma and Spanish Sweet. My markers are long gone, so they're intermixed, but both are supposed to be good for storage. The red is Redwing, another storage onion. We're not big red onion eaters but I've seen some intriguing recipes with red onions so I figured I'd give it a try.

I sorted the yellow onions by size, which I think can be labeled small, sort of small, and really tiny. The red onions sized up much nicer. It should be noted that I planted these using the square foot method recommendations (16 per square foot) and I don't think I'll be doing that again. They could have used some more room to spread out.

It turns out our garden cart is a pretty great place to cure veggies. The garlic cured better here than in the basement next to the dehumidifier, so I'll give the onions a try on it as well.

The garden is starting to empty of summer crops much earlier than normal. I need to get to work this weekend and plant a bunch of fall/winter crops. I hope they'll make it to harvest, as I'm also wishing for a nice, cold winter so all these stupid bugs freeze to death.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Harvest Monday: July 23, 2012 - Garlic!

The standard harvest this week focused around zucchini, cucumbers, and a handful of cherry tomatoes. I harvested my first papaya squash on Saturday (not pictured).

Although it was harvested over a month ago, tonight we finally trimmed and cleaned our garlic. The harvest is quite impressive. We started with this:

and ended up with this:

Music (3 lbs 5.25 ounces)

Spanish Roja (2 lbs 6 ounces)

I'm very impressed with my first-ever garlic harvest. We have plenty to eat for the year, and to plant for next year!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

First Tomato!

I just ate my first tomato from the garden without taking a photo. It was a Matt's Wild Cherry from one of the hanging pots. Delicious! I can't wait for more.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

A Walk Through The Garden - Heatwave Edition

Like much of the United States, we've been having a heatwave. Although I'm on vacation today, I won't be spending much time in the garden—the high is 101. I got outside prior to 10 a.m. to tie up some tomatoes, pick basil flowers, and take a photo walk through the garden.

This year I attempted to add some flowers to my garden to attract insects. The nasturtiums in pots and fence baskets haven't bloomed (many appear to be a lunch for birds or small rodents), but my zinnias are finally starting to bloom.

The last of the spring beets need to be pulled soon.

A rogue chipmunk has been sneaking under our gate (the stone path settled, leaving a gap), and he's been munching on some of the beets.

These are Polbig tomatoes. They should be my first non-cherry tomato.

I planted a random Forrelenschlus lettuce in the shade of the Polbigs. It had been eaten to the ground by a pest earlier this spring, but now it's doing well.

Still no broccoli head, but the plants are definitely growin.

The black beauty zucchini plant is full of flowers.

Cherry tomatoes - probably Blondkopfchen. I did a terrible job with labeling this year.

Eight-ball zucchini. Just picked two last night, and this one will be ready in a day or two.

Slim Jim eggplant. First time growing eggplants in my garden.

Cucumber flowers. I think I've spotted cucumber beetles in my garden, so I'm going to have to be super vigilant - when it cools off.

The leaves from our Italian Giant parsley are huge!

We have more basil than we know what to do with.

This is my first time growing celery. It's looking great.

Here's a picture of the stalk.

I also have bush beans flowering, and the strip of pole beans that actually survived the worm/slug attack is starting to climb the trellis. I've started another strip that is up now, and I'll plant another this weekend.

Time to start planning the fall garden...

Thursday's Kitchen Cupboard - July 5, 2012

It's the summer of jam.

I haven't been good about blogging about the jams and jellies I've been canning, but I've definitely been busy making them! So far this summer I've put up strawberry and peach jam, as well as basil and garlic scape jelly. I've made sweet jams for three years now, but this will be my first year attempting savory jellies. I see many cheese and cracker appetizers in my future, or maybe savory thumbprint cookies.


First, strawberry jam. I made a dozen half-pint jars, and basically used the recipe on the container of low/no-sugar pectin I purchased, with the exclusion of lemon juice (the Ball canning book didn't call for it, so I felt safe). I only used half a cup of sugar for every two cups of crushed berries, and this is by far the most delicious jam I've made yet. I only have eight jars left after sharing some of the deliciousness.

The crushed berries separated from the juice...but I can deal with that.


Next, I made peach jam. My mom tipped me off to a traveling truck that brings tree-ripened peaches from Georgia to the upper midwest. I had never worked with peaches before, and I'm glad my husband was kind enough to help me blanch, peel, and slice the peaches. We ended up with seven quarts of frozen peaches for pies or smoothies, and 10 jelly jars of jam. I don't think I've ever had peach jam before, but I must say - it's delicious. I wish I would have doubled the recipe so I'd have 10 half-pint jars.

This is what half a bushel of peaches looks like.

I used the recipe from the Ball canning book.

There were plenty of peaches left for fresh eating, and this delicious peach cobbler.


Next, I found myself with a glut of basil well before the tomatoes (or any other summer veggies) were ready to harvest. I decided to take a foray into the land of savory jams. I used a Taste of Home recipe, although because I was using low/no-sugar pectin, I only used two cups of sugar. Even then, this jam seems overly sweet. I got nine jelly jars (one went home with my parents). I haven't tried it since it set.

Garlic Scapes

Even though I've already harvested my garlic, I'd been saving the garlic scapes for a day when I had time to make the recipe I read a few weeks ago on Gardener of Eden. Again, I modified the recipe slightly. I used more garlic scapes (probably 1 1/2 cups) and only a cup of sugar with my low/no-sugar pectin. Time will tell what this tastes like with my modifications. I got nine jelly jars (again, one went home with my parents). 

With almost 100 heads of garlic, we were swimming in scapes this spring and I was desperate for something other than a stir fry.
Not the most beautiful color...

Not jam!

I did put up one non-jam item. Using Daphne's brine recipe, I made my first jar of refrigerator pickles for the season. My cucumbers are just now flowering, but I was able to pick up a hoop house-grown cucumber at the farmer's market last weekend. These are delicious, even though my dad says "they taste too much like cucumbers." I'll be making a lot more of this brine.

Jar gifts

A former co-worker sent me a message on Facebook a few weeks ago offering up some extra jars from her grandmother's house. I gladly accepted her offer. She dropped them off while I was at work on Tuesday, and to my surprise she left five boxes of half-pint, pint and quart jars. There must be well over 100 jars in the boxes, some new in the box, and all very high quality. Looks like I'll be able to put up anything that comes out of the garden - hoping for an increased variety of pickles (including squash, green beans and carrots) and hopefully some whole tomatoes. No pictures of the jars - I haven't actually gotten around to unpacking them.

Want more?

Join Robin over at the Gardener of Eden for more Thursday's Kitchen Cupboard posts.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

First Zucchini

I've planted three kinds of summer squash this year, and two gave me their first harvest today - 8-ball zucchini and black beauty zucchini. They 8-balls were delicious in a zucchini quesadilla. The fate of the black beauty is yet to be decided.

There are already more baby squash on these plants, so I'm sure we'll be drowning in zucchini soon! I have three 8-ball and two black beauty plants. The three papaya pear squash plants are a little behind, but I'm sure they'll be producing soon.

Friday, June 15, 2012

What Is Eating My Tomato Plants?

I went out into the garden this morning and found some of our tomatoes to be looking quite sickly. something is eating the leaves, and even the vines. What could it be?

You can tell this is looking pretty sickly...

Here's a closer shot (enlarge to see better). Although it's out of focus, one of the stems has been completely stripped of leaves.

Whatever got to this one had the audacity to eat the entire top of the stem off!
Have you ever had an issue like this? This is my fourth year growing tomatoes and nothing has ever chewed on my plants like this. We have an entirely fenced in garden, so unless something is burrowing that I'm unaware of, it would have to be something that can climb a fence or drop in from a tree (squirrel, bird, etc).

Monday, June 11, 2012

Harvest Monday - June 11, 2012

Some of these radishes were harvested this week, and some the week before. This represents a little less than half of my entire radish harvest. I grew three varieties - I think I'm only going to bother with one next year - hopefully one that sizes up better than my Easter Egg and French Breakfast radishes did. Many of them failed to form a suitable root at all.

All of this lettuce was harvested on Wednesday. It's a mix from Pine Tree, as well as a lot of yellow oak leaf lettuce I had left over from last year.

This is the second harvest of scapes; the first harvest was about the same amount. I have a total of 10 heads of hard neck garlic planted, and about half of them have scapes left (some more in the shade are still forming) - I'm waiting for them to make "the curl" before I cut them.

If you pretend that I have another picture of lettuce and scapes exactly like the ones above, that's what I harvested on Sunday night.

Although it's not from my garden, we picked 38 pounds of strawberries from a local fruit farm on Sunday morning. We have about 6 gallons of frozen berries, 13 jars of jam, and a few quarts for fresh eating this week.

Happy harvesting! Check out harvests from around the world on Daphne's Dandelions.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Gardening Don'ts

  • Don't toss diseased tomatoes in the dirt or let over-ripe tomatoes fall to the ground if you actually want something other than tomatoes to grow in that bed next year.
  • Even if the see packet says your peas don't need support, give them some.
  • When planting two types of peas, don't plant them right next to each other. It's impossible to tell the difference come harvest time.
  • Don't grow "Topper" turnips thinking you'll get a burst of greens and then a really great turnip. There's really no turnip at all.
  • Don't believe the maturity listed on beet packets if you're planting in the spring. Allow for 150 - 200% of the stated time.
The garden is finally shaping up, and I've learned the "don'ts" at the top of this post this year. For instance, this is the bed where my carrots were supposed to be:

Sure looks like a lot of tomatoes to me. Confession: I didn't keep them consistently watered and didn't cover them with anything to promote germination, so I'm not surprised only 2 out of 100+ came up. But the tomatoes sure survived! Anyone need some young transplants? I also spy some tomatoes in my patch of young beets (even though they were planted over a month ago and are supposed to mature in 50+ days, none are close to maturity).

Moving on to the peas:

What a tangled mess!

Not everything in the garden is an example of a "don't." My garlic looks great:

Onions and leeks are also well on their way:

Summer squash is starting to come up:

From left to right, the celery, basil, and parsley looks ok. Some of the basil leaves yellowed a bit, but the top growth looks great. They look way more yellow in this picture because the sun was setting.

So, beans. They're coming up, but they're being attacked. In order, here are vermont cranberry, rattlesnake, and a closeup of the Kentucky wonder and a variety whose name escapes me right now. What's eating them?

Now, some garden photos for posterity, featuring the a-frame trellis that Aaron made for my cucumbers. We just need to staple some plastic fencing to it that we have sitting around.

What's the healthiest plant in the garden so far? Other than the garlic, it's the tomatoes hanging in baskets along the driveway. This is a Matt's Wild Cherry. The vine is much thicker than all my other tomatoes, which unfortunately are a bit spindly right now, and it already has blossoms.

I harvested some veggies tonight, but those pictures will be saved until Harvest Monday. Happy gardening!