Thursday, December 23, 2010

A White Christmas!

May your Christmas sparkle with moments of love, laughter and goodwill,
And may the year ahead be full of contentment and joy.
Have a Merry Christmas!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The First Kiss of Winter

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving Day! I was very thankful for the preserved garden bounty that went into the Thanksgiving meal this year including carrots, celery, green beans, onions, garlic, various herbs, and potatoes.

On Friday we awoke to our first light dusting of snow for this year.

Some freezing rain followed and the day remained quite cold.

While many were shopping Black Friday sales, we lit our wood stove and enjoyed a cozy day inside shopping for holiday gifts on our laptops.

Seed catalogs are arriving in the mail and I am looking forward to enjoying their colorful photos in the months to follow.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Preparing for Winter

We took advantage of the unusually warm weather last weekend to finish up most of the garden and yard cleanup. The sun was out and the temperatures were quite warm for November, high 50s on Friday and mid 60s on Saturday.

First on our list was gathering and shredding the leaves in our yard. The bulk of this was completed with the lawn mower and some strategic mowing that gathered up the shredded leaves into a pile. Then the pile was raked up and used to mulch the garlic bed:

Raspberry bed:

The rest of the shredded leaves were added to the compost bin. We definitely have to build a new compost bin next year. This one is falling apart and probably won't make it through the winter:

After most of the leaves were cleaned up, we moved to the front part of the yard to tend to the ground surrounding the apple trees. It was a great year for apples. Too bad ours are not edible and mostly ended up on the ground:

Our property came with seven overgrown apple trees. At first, they produced only a few apples among their tangled branches. Over the years, we have trimmed and fertilized them. All but one tree responded really well and began increasing the amount of fruit produced each year. This year the size of the apples also increased.

It’s almost impossible to grow apples without some sort fungicide and insecticide spray regimen to eliminate the various worms, insects, molds, mildews, and other diseases. Not only do I have a difficult time accepting the fact that I have to spray the trees, I also have difficulty sticking to a schedule. So each year as the apple production increases, we eat none. At least the deer are fed well.

I am hoping next year will be different. I have all winter to research organic or low spray methods. Then I can develop a schedule and stick to it so hopefully we can enjoy eating apples next fall. Any links, book, or advice would be greatly welcomed.

To start off right, all the old diseased apples that fell from the trees needed to be removed. First we used a leaf blower to blow the leaves leaving behind the apples. Then we used snow shovels to scoop up the hundreds of pounds of rotten apples into a cart and dumped them deep into the woods so the deer can still eat as many as they want.

Other chores accomplished last weekend included removing the solar mulch from the in ground gardens giving the soil a chance to breath. Storing the rest of the growing pots, self-watering containers, and gardening tools into the shed for the winter. We also decided to remove the wooden trellis uprights along the square foot gardens and store them in the shed hoping the wood will last a little longer out of the winter elements.

Finally, a peek under the row cover shows the Pak Choi, Chinese Cabbage, Swiss Chard, and Scallions have mostly recovered from the slug and caterpillar damage from earlier this fall and are showing some growth. I am hoping they will continue to develop beneath the row cover: 

Monday, November 8, 2010

Harvest Monday: November 8, 2010

Each Monday, Daphne’s Dandelions hosts “Harvest Monday” where everyone can share links to their harvest for the week. It’s fun to see what everyone is harvesting from his or her gardens in different areas.

The Sugar Snax Carrots that were harvested on Saturday weighed in at 6 pounds.

Some were used for fresh eating and Sunday’s dinner. The rest were sliced, blanched, and frozen.

The last of the tomatoes should finish ripening in just one more week.

I have been washing and freezing these as they ripen. I will need to make another sauce next weekend to free up some freezer space.

It’s hard for me to believe that it is early November and things are still growing in the garden. Usually I just accept that our first frost is the end of the growing season, but this year I am experimenting with Pak Choi, Chinese Cabbage, Swiss Chard, and Scallions. I am hoping they will continue to grow beneath a mini hoop house. It will be fun to see how far I can push them.

Be sure to visit Daphne’s Dandelions to see what others are harvesting or preparing with their garden harvests this week.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Close Carrot Calamity

Something didn’t look quite right when I took a quick glance out the window yesterday morning at the garden. It was raining and had been raining off an on for the past few days. There are only a few things in the garden right now, Carrots, some Herbs, Pak Choy, Chinese Cabbage, Swiss Chard, and Scallions.

It was the Carrot bed that was looking wrong. At first I thought the foliage was matted down from all the rain. When I walked out I was stunned to see that most of the foliage was gone!

This is what the bed looked like only a few days before:

This is what I found:

The foliage had been eaten! Luckily, just the tops were gone. The carrots below were fine except for a few small ones that lay on top of the soil. I found some evidence of a few deer prints in the rain soaked garden soil, so I knew they were the culprits.

I don’t have many problems with deer in the garden. I know they are around, but the woods surrounding the property and the apple trees in a different part of the yard usually provide them with plenty of food. Now whatever apples are left are rotting on the ground and there is no more foliage on the trees. So the nice green carrot tops must have been quite a treat.

I was planning on harvesting the carrots soon, but felt the urge to do so right away even though it began to drizzle again. I pulled them all, trimmed what was left of the tops, and gave them a quick rinse with the garden hose:

Complete carrot calamity avoided.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Planting the Garlic

I had a few days off from work last week allowing me to putter around the garden and accomplish the final garden cleanup before winter. As I pulled out the peppers and eggplants, I pondered on the best area to plant garlic.

I used one of the 4x4 SFGs to grow garlic last year and thought it worked really well to have an entire bed devoted to one crop since the watering and fertilizer needs were the same. Once the garlic was harvested, I was able to plant the bed with fall carrots.

I decided to keep the planting of garlic all in one bed once again, so that eliminated four of the six SFGs because they still had some fall crops growing in some of the squares. This left only two beds to choose from for the garlic. I picked one and added some compost, some fertilizer, and leveled off the soil.

The garlic seed came from the largest bulbs from this year’s harvest of Romanian Red and Purple Glazier. Romanian Red produced larger bulb with larger cloves and have a mild garlic flavor. The Purple Glazier produced smaller cloves but had a more intense garlic flavor. 

I used a scrap piece of 2x3 and marked a line every 6-inches. I actually marked along the walls of the bed as well so I could keep everything straight. These marks will fade over time.

I measured and plotted the holes for the garlic spacing them 6-inches apart and 4-inches deep (making sure the tops of the cloves were at least 2-inches beneath the soil surface). 

Rain was predicted, so I let mother nature water the garlic bed to settle the soil. This bed will later be covered with a 2-4 inches of shredded leaves to provide some extra insulation for the winter:

Monday, October 25, 2010

Harvest Monday: October 24, 2010

Each Monday, Daphne’s Dandelions hosts “Harvest Monday” where everyone can share links to their harvest for the week. It’s fun to see what everyone is harvesting from his or her gardens in different areas.

I had a few days off from work last week allowing me to putter around the garden and accomplish most of the garden cleanup. Each morning we woke to a light frost blanketing the ground and a chill in the air.

The garden is almost empty now, but there were a few small harvests this week:

I was thrilled to see the carrots have sized up quite nicely:

The tips of the carrots are a bit squiggly from penetrating through the raised garden soil into the native soil beneath. Most are around 8- to 10-inches long. I have never had much success at growing carrots until now.

Some of these carrots were eaten fresh, but most were used in the first beef stew of the season. The beef stew also included potatoes, garlic, onions, celery, and herbs from the garden.

Speaking of herbs, I also harvested a bunch of Thyme to dry:

The tomatoes that were harvested earlier this month continue to ripen a little at a time.

I sort through them each week to pull out fruit that shows signs of rotting and the ones turning red to finish ripening on the counter. Once ripe, they are washed and frozen for later use. Last week, I had three gallon sized freezer bags full, this week (thankfully) there was only one. The remaining green tomatoes have been reduced to fit into one paper box.

Be sure to visit Daphne’s Dandelions to see what others are harvesting this week.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Little Frosty

We had a wee bit of a frost over the past couple nights. I was ready for it and harvested all that was left in the garden a week ago. So anything that is still growing I consider a bonus. Not everything was affected by the light frosts, but the zucchini, summer squash, and basil are finished for the season.

So what is left growing in the garden?

Carrots seem to be doing very well. I usually have a difficult time growing carrots, but these are looking quite good:

The lettuce is loving the cooler temperatures. We had warm temperatures even into September. Some of the earlier lettuce plantings bolted in the heat, but the later transplants seem to be doing ok:

Parsley, both flat leaf Italian and Curly are still growing strong. I have dried some and will harvest and freeze a little more this weekend:

My attempt at growing Pak Choi and Chinese Cabbage wasn’t much of a success. I’ll have to remember to use a row cover next time:

The Heritage Raspberries we planted in the spring seem to have adjusted well in their location and are still producing a few berries. I can’t wait to see how they produce next year:

The green tomatoes that were harvested last week are ripening a little at a time. I am washing and freezing these for now to be used over the winter months for soups, stews, sauce, or salsa:

Believe it or not, the peppers were not affected by the frost and are even still blooming. I may be able to harvest a few Jalapeno peppers this weekend:

I am looking forward to the final garden cleanup this weekend. The lawn and paths in between the garden beds are in need of one more mowing before the winter. I also will be planting garlic once I decide where it should go.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Harvest Monday: October 3, 2010

Each Monday, Daphne’s Dandelions hosts “Harvest Monday” where everyone can share links to their harvest for the week. It’s fun to see what everyone is harvesting from his or her gardens in different areas.

The thermometer read 36˚F/2˚C as the sun rose early Sunday morning. Our first frost is imminent and was predicted to occur early Monday morning, but we escaped frost free. It is just a matter of time now. The weekend was devoted to preparing for the end of the growing season for the year.

Most of the tomato plants were pulled several weeks ago, but the San Marzano tomatoes growing in the Square Foot Gardens (SFG) were still healthy and producing so they were allowed to grow until first frost. This weekend, I harvested most of the large green and partially ripe tomatoes and trimmed the plants down to the ground. I was surprised to end up with 4 paper case sized boxes of tomatoes. I am not sure if all the green tomatoes will ripen, but I am certain some will.

The rest of the peppers were harvested, there were a few Jalapeno, Bells, and Anaheim left:

A few Zucchini, some small Cayenne peppers, and one Carrot that was pulled up to check the size:

The Purple Trionfo Pole Beans that I am trying to save for next year’s seed were pulled and spread out to finish drying in the basement:

Another batch of tomato sauce was made and canned; herbs were snipped, washed, and dried in the microwave or dehydrator; and one more batch of pesto was made and frozen for later use.

I welcome the end of the growing season. The garden has served us very well this year. Weekends have been busy cooking, canning and freezing each weekly harvest. The freezer and pantry shelves are jam-packed with the garden’s bounty to be used over the winter months.  I am looking forward to a break from gardening for a little while. The upcoming weeks will be busy with final cleanup of the garden, raking, shredding, and composting leaves; and stacking wood. Winter will be here before we know it.

Be sure to visit Daphne’s Dandelions to see what others are harvesting this week.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Harvest Monday: September 27, 2010

Each Monday, Daphne’s Dandelions hosts “Harvest Monday” where everyone can share links to their harvest for the week. It’s fun to see what everyone is harvesting from his or her gardens in different areas. Below is an overview of some of the bounty harvested over the past week:

The peppers seemed slow this year, but this week I was able to harvest 2-pounds of Anaheim Peppers:

These were used to make some Chicken Enchiladas with Dan’s Green Chili Sauce. Dan’s recipe (Urban Veggie Garden Blog) can be found here. I modified his recipe a little bit to cook in a slow cooker/crock pot. There was enough Green Chili Sauce to freeze for another meal.

The tomatoes are still coming in. After this weekend, only the San Marazano plants remain in the garden. There are still many tomatoes on these vines and a few are harvested each day to finish ripening on the windowsill:

These are the fruit that were salvaged from the pulled tomato plants from yesterday's post:

A large amount of eggplant was harvested and used for Eggplant Parmesean:

Yellow Summer Squash, Bell Peppers from a branch that bent over from their weight, and some more San Marazano Tomatoes to add to the overflowing windowsill:

Another Yellow Summer Squash and a Zucchini that went from small to large in less than 24 hours. Must have been a result of the warm weather we had last week. It will be seeded, grated, and frozen for zucchini bread later this fall/winter:

Be sure to visit Daphne’s Dandelions to see what others are harvesting this week.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Is it Fall Yet?

I know the calendar says fall is here, but the weather didn’t feel fall-like until today. This past week we had temperatures in the 80s and yesterday the humidity was quite high making it uncomfortable to work outside.

What a difference a day makes. Today is in the 50s requiring a sweatshirt to stay warm. I took advantage of the comfortable weather to clean up the garden. Most of the tomatoes and all the cucumber plants were pulled.

Below is a picture from mid-July of the Roma tomatoes in the self watering containers and a row of four Early Girl tomatoes planted behind these in the traditional garden. They were so healthy then:

The plants were dying and had pretty much finished producing. It was time to put them out of their misery:

A few partially ripe tomatoes were salvaged. These will finish ripening inside on the windowsill:

The San Marazano tomatoes in the square foot gardens are still looking pretty healthy and a full of partially ripe and green tomatoes, so I they are staying for now:

I think by next weekend, I will have enough ripe tomatoes for one more batch of sauce.

This guy startled me as I was cutting through the tomato foliage. I’ve seen plenty of toads, but this is the first pickerel frog that I have seen in the garden this year: