Saturday, October 10, 2009

Fall Kitchen Work

Rosemary, Oregano and Parsley - dried for winter use

Tomatoes, halved and seeded and ready for dehydrating

Finished Product - Oven-dried Tomatoes

Tomatillos, whole and in a bit of water

Finished product - ready for use in salsas, stews, chili, etc.

Today I have some jalapenos I'm going to dehydrate. We also got our first good frost last night (it's currently 34°), so I'm going to go thru the garden and pick whatever may be left.

In other yardwork, we have to mow the lawn and then overseed the backyard. We disagree on where we're going to overseed (we only bought enough to do about half the back). I think we should seed where the grass is thinnest - towards the back of the yard - and Eric thinks we should seed where we spend the most time, even though the grass there is plenty thick and grows well.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Putting Food By

Well, with the start of fall harvest comes the start of putting food aside for the winter.

Last weekend I turned about 1/3 of the collards I harvested into Sukuma Wiki (the rest went to my sister, probably for the same purpose). There's still more collards coming in, so I may have to do another batch.

Last night I spent the night turning several pounds of tomatoes into my Red-Wine Marinara Sauce. I have about 20 lbs ripening in the bag and about as many still on the vine.

Some time in the near future I'm going to pull out some tray-frozen peppers from last year and turn them into Roasted Tomato and Pepper Sauce, along with this year's peppers.

I only ended up with a handful of jalapenos this year - not enough to justify smoking and drying them into chipotles. I may just turn them all into poppers to eat now or try my hand at pickling.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


Jalapenos, one gigantic tomato (Better Boy?), several plum tomatoes, a couple romas, more beans, one squash, a couple peppers.

And several pounds of collards to be blanched and frozen, turned into sukuma wiki, or eaten fresh this week.

Happy (almost) September!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Garden update

My tomato plants have been hit by some form of spot disease. I think it's bacterial.

I trimmed away the worst of the affected leaves. The fruit seems to be just fine so far. In fact, we have a tomato the size of a bocce ball that's almost ripe. And the plants pictured here? Crazy producers. I'm going to have some amazing marinara this year. Also, if you look carefully in the first photo you can see our tomatillo plants and all the fruit it's set. Love.It.

The garlic we grew this year actually doesn't suck! I have to admit I was nervous. I dug it up when they said to, but the bulbs were so small. But I took one of them and tried cooking with it and, wow. Delish. Spicy and flavorful.

The onions are almost ready to come out, I think. Our yellow ones are beautiful and large. I can't wait to cook with them.

I think the bush beans and the peapods have finally kicked the bucket.

I don't know if our habanero will ever produce. Our poblano seems to be done after just two peppers. Green peppers are doing just fine and the jalapenos are doing ok. Not as crazy as last year but we didn't have much hot weather this year.

The lettuce? Came back. Gah. I may have to ding-dong-ditch with lettuce this year.

Our zucchini plant got vine borers, so that got dug up and thrown out. I'm scared to see what all this rain has done to my remaining squash plant. It had set more fruit a week ago but I've been unable to go check on it all this week.

I need to harvest, blanch and stew the collards. I think I may just make a ginormous pot of sukuma wiki and be done with it.

I've been harvesting and drying herbs for the winter. I love my oven's dehydration feature. I have a boatload of fresh dried parsley and rosemary. The oregano and basil are next.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Garden Recipes

Now that the garden is starting to swing into full production, I thought I'd share a couple recent kitchen creations using in-season vegetables.

Garden Bounty Minestrone - this was a tasty way to use up zucchini, squash, beans and pea pods.
Creamy Orzo Primavera - a spin on pasta primavera, using more beans and pea pods
Spinach-Stuffed Pork Chops - using spinach, a spring onion and fresh herbs. and bacon. because bacon makes everything better

The following are from last year that are worth a repeat:
Caesar Salad with Croutons - a great way to use the last of the lettuce for this year
Sukuma Wiki - collards, collards and more collards. goes GREAT with BBQ.

Find more on What Recipe using the "garden" tag

Monday, July 27, 2009

Lettuce and Garlic Harvest and thoughts on fall planting

I harvested the last of the lettuce yesterday. We're about to go on vacation and it was getting towards the end of the season. I was pretty sure it would bolt while we were gone.

Our two plants ended up offering two gallons of leaf lettuce. I think overall we've harvested somewhere between 4-5 gallons this year.

I also dug up our garlic. We lost one head... as in, I couldn't find it where it had been planted. Another one is probably inedible since the stem was completely brown and flopped over. But I got one nice head and one smaller one that I think will do.

I'm considering going ahead and ordering a bunch now for fall planting. Not sure where, yet, I'm going to plant it though. I have been toying with next year's plan and seed orders (first time growing from seed! Eek!), so I may come up with a rudimentary plan just to get the garlic in the ground.

Friday, July 24, 2009

What's Growing Now

I've been woefully behind in updating but the garden and life is keeping us busy.

To date we have harvested:
a boatload of lettuce
a ton of collards
dozens of green beans
lots of pea pods
3 jalapenos
1 zucchini
1 summer squash
lots and lots of herbs

With them we have made lots of salads, sauteed collards to go with Rudy's BBQ chicken, salmon stir fry (using the beans and pea pods), and Garden Bounty Minestrone.

Ready to be picked are the garlic (I think I may be too late for one...) and some onions and shallots (they just need thinning).

On the vine there are lots more jalapenos, poblanos, green peppers, a ton of tomatoes, more zucchini and squash.

Odd failures this year were the chard and the spinach. I really don't know what happened - last year we couldn't keep up with them.

In exciting news, I was talking with my mom about canning. She asked why I was bothering with it and I whined about our lack of refrigerator space, especially in comparison to our pantry space. She seemed surprised that we hadn't bought a freezer yet and I admitted it was on the list of purchases but we've never gotten around to it. So she said that she and dad would buy us one as a Christmas present - apparently this was something they'd done for most of my other siblings. It's a very generous gift but one I think we'll gladly accept. I need to keep an eye on sales now.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Garden photos - June 09

So, here's the garden from back on the 1st.

And what it looks like today:

Our attempts at container gardening - not bad, eh?

The grapevine. Last year it didn't do well at all, so this year we cut it back as far as I dared - more than 2/3 of the existing vine. I was worried when it didn't start budding this spring, but it's coming back beautifully.

Last, more of the Zebrina Mallow

Monday, June 22, 2009

Organic Gardening success story!

Every year our Mugo pine is infested by sawflies. Sawflies are the face of evil. Don't believe me?

The only thing that kills these suckers is this supremely toxic chemical crap that I won't touch with a 10-foot pole. We used it the first year we moved in and were almost as freaked out by the chemicals as the sawflies.

Last year we did nothing, partially because the chemicals scare me so I was relying on Eric to take care of it (and he is incredibly good at procrastinating when he wants to). They never really denuded the bush, but there were swaths that were cleared. So, letting nature run its course wasn't really an option.

This year I opted to do some manual pruning. I had to trim back the candles anyway as the bush is slowly growing to the size of a tree. As I was doing that I chopped off any branch that had the larvae on it and dropped it on the driveway. The birds appreciated the free feast and I didn't have to prune as much as I thought I would.

As a result, this year the bush looks happy and healthy - and all without chemicals!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Organic Lawn Care - Maintenance

To continue this series, let's address the topic of maintenance. It's all well and good to say that these chemicals are destroying the health of your family and the planet but then what do you do if you have a problem?

Assuming you've taken steps with aerating and amending to help build a solid foundation for your turf, the best thing to do is tackle the problems as they crop up. For example, we have a problem with clover this year more than the past few years. Clover is a well-known nitrogen-fixer, so that would point one in the direction of nitrogen deficiency.

That observation is backed up by another, more humbling, one - dog pee. Urine spots that people so often complain about are caused by nitrogen in the urine. Too much nitrogen in one area can burn the lawn. Which means if your dog's pee is burning your grass, in addition to other steps, you may actually want to reduce the amount of nitrogen you apply. The reverse is happening in our case - the spots where Lucky goes are some of the healthiest, thickest, fastest growing areas of the lawn.

Identifying the exact problem lets you pinpoint a specific solution. This saves you time, money, and helps reduce runoff and benefits the environment. In this case, it's a simple matter of applying a nitrogen-rich, phosphorous-free organic fertilizer. There are now several options on the market, even a mass-market one by Scotts. Butoffee grounds actually make an excellent option if you have a small lot or a specific area you want to treat - Starbucks and other chains even give their used grounds away for this purpose (be careful if you have pets, though, since coffee and coffee grounds are toxic to dogs if ingested).

As a rule, problems in the yard are symptomatic of nutrient or soil deficiencies. A simple search on the internet can turn up quick, easy and cheap (or free!) solutions to your problem.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Mulching the Front

Yesterday and today, in between rain and thunderstorms, we completed one of the big to-do list items: Mulching the front yard. Some quick before/after pics and then some general photos of the work.





And an updated to-do list:
  • Power-wash trellis and mailbox post
  • Finish master plan of the yard
  • Clear out back woods
  • Get rid of barberry bush in back - fall
  • Trim large bush trio in back - fall
  • Re-landscape west wall bed (aka fireplace bed) (potentially optional)
  • Place stepping stones from garage to back yard (potentially optional)
  • Re-mulch front yard beds
  • Prune Mugo out front after killing the evil sawflies
  • Re-landscape garage bed
  • Re-level brick patio
  • Fill in holes in front bed (dead junipers and rose bushes)
  • Plan out vegetable garden
  • Look at and either remove or repair yard sink

Monday, June 1, 2009

Garden 2009

I think I mentioned we decided to do only two beds this year and just plant closer. So here we go.

If you notice spots of bright color, those are the annuals we planted in the beds - marigolds, petunias and nasturtium

Bed 1 - Beans, Peas, Collards

Bed 2 - Tomatoes, peppers, onions

Photos photos everywhere

Siberian Irises started blooming
Bean Bed - June 1, 2009

Things are HUGE

Columbine. This one is particularly loaded with blooms

Another Columbine... I think this one is my favorite.

Snow-in-summer - this guy didn't bloom last year


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