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Time to Start Enjoying the Bounty of the Garden…

We were lucky to have a good friend take care of our gardens with her kids. She even sent pictures to us! I got a kick out of that. 😄

Despite seeing the photos it was surprising how well some of the plants were doing. The tomato plants and pepper plants struggled a bit when we planted them. The pepper plants didn’t seem to like the Epsom salts at first. What difference a few weeks make! The peppers are thriving and the tomato plants shot up big and strong and we will have a bigger harvest this year than last.

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I love how tomatillos look like lanterns whilst they are growing.

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I never appreciated how beautiful the flowers of vegetables can be until we seriously started growing them. Green beans have one of my favourites.

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Our son helped make a delicious black currant, gooseberry, and apple crumble. So good! Our little bushes are bursting this year much to my husband’s delight, he loves the tartness of these berries.

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Our flower garden survived the huge hacking we did to reclaim the garden. It seems counterintuitive to do that but the proof is in the pudding. The garden is happy and thriving sharing a beautiful bouquet of blooms.

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It’s turning into a great year. 😊

Garden 8 2014

Walkabout As My Veg Grows

I get so excited when our garden comes alive and the blooms burst forth.  There is satisfaction to see the veg we plant flourish, especially the seeds we plant as there is always some breath holding until they poke up through the soil.  For the most part our garden is doing well.  The only issue is our tomatoes went into a bit of a shock because even though I kept an eye out on the nightly temps in the weather reports, the reports were wrong and it got much colder than it was supposed to.  It looks like most of them will recover as I really prepped the soil with nutrients but I will have to switch out some with the leftover plants we still have in the greenhouse.  It is hard not to worry over them like a mother hen.

Walk with me through our garden…

Garden 1 2014

Our black beans are half an experiment this year as half of the beans that we planted were from beans we harvested.  So far so good!

Garden 2 2014

Good old Brussels Sprouts.  Once these are ready to harvest I have a few recipes to try for my husband.

Garden 3 2014

I always look forward to the pea flowers.  So delicate.

Garden 4 2014

I was beginning to wonder when the potatoes were going to poke through but they finally did and they are growing strong.  We just picked one kind this year and gave each bit more space to see if we get a bigger harvest.

Garden 5 2014

These did very well this year.  Usually we lose about half of the seedlings but fingers crossed most will keep going.  Which will be great for our homemade stock.

Garden 6 2014

I think something has been nibbling the tips of our onions as there are quite a few that are suspiciously flat topped.  I’ll have to keep an eye on them.  Haven’t seen any telltale footprints though.

Garden 7 2014

This flower is so aptly named.  Jumps up everywhere but it is pretty and edible so I let it.

Garden 8 2014

We find the strawberry plants everywhere and we dig them up and put them back in the strawberry patch.  A bit like herding cats…

Garden 9 2014

I think these are ready to start cutting and make some crumble or tarts.  Which will make our son very happy.

Garden 10 2014

The weather needs to clear as we have a boatload more pepper plants to get into the ground.

Garden 11 2014

Life is good.  :)

 

 

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Not Long Now Til Fresh Tomatoes!

I got carried away with seedlings again this year. I think we have about 80 tomatoes and nearly 10 tomatillos. Problem is, our garden didn’t miraculously grow over the winter so we’re faced with the puzzle again of where to put it all. Granted it’s a good problem to have but I know I’ll be giving some of the seedlings away.

We struggle with blight and other issues so each year I had new things to try to help keep the plants healthy. And because we do things organically it’s important we find solutions that fit into that. We’ve used copper powder for the blight. We’ve learned to keep the leaves and plants dry while watering the soil and keeping up with pruning any shoots that start to yellow.

After reading about what minerals the tomatoes needed we added egg shells last year for the calcium. We noticed an improvement so for the past couple of months I’ve been saving the shells.

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Our seedlings got a bit leggy as I started them too soon. I always forget and do that but hopefully I will remember next year. The jungle gets a bit much!

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This year we are adding Epsom salt. This will give the tomatoes magnesium. Gardener swear by it for tomatoes, peppers, and roses. Various articles state that research doesn’t bear this out but I figured it won’t hurt to try. To plant I dug a deep hole and added crushed eggshells, about a tablespoon of Epsom salt, and some organic tomato food. Mix with the soil then fill the hole with water.

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Gently separate the roots and place in the water.

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Fill back in with soil, add the cage, and water again. Repeat!

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I cannot wait for fried green tomatoes, fresh caprese salad, and homemade sauce!

PS this is my first post on my iPad so feedback on how it shows on your screen will be welcome.

Potato harvest 4 2013

You Say Potato, I Say Potahto

Actually I don’t say potahto.  I say tomahto but that’s it in that category.  I do love that song with Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong.  What a musical combo.  I love listening to them.  Not like today’s singers that overload on those silly runs trying to prove they can sing.  If you can sing, just sing!

It was time to harvest the potatoes.  I was keeping my fingers crossed we would have a bumper crop and then we’d have to figure out how to store the tremendous bounty.  Reality wasn’t quite like that.

Potato harvest 1 2013

We had already harvested the two little towers and didn’t get a whole lot but they were small.  We had enough for a few meals.  But it was time to tackle the two big ones.  You know they are ready when the plants die back.

Potato harvest 2 2013

My husband tipped them over and it was time to dig in.   The kids had fun with this.  Nothing like getting all dirty!

Potato harvest 3 2013

We had a few good size ones like this one but many were small and some pea sized.   I kept those too.  My husband thought I was crazy but dang it we grew them, we’re keeping them!

Potato harvest 4 2013

We filled the bucket about halfway.  Not exactly the tremendous bounty I was dreaming about.

Potato harvest 5 2013

But it was more than what we bought to plant and they are delicious.  I’ll have to do some research over winter to see how to increase our yield organically.  In the meantime roast potatoes and parsnips sounds good.  :)

End of season 6 2013

As the days get shorter….

When autumn arrives it is so striking how quickly night falls.  I wish we could hold onto the longer days with the cooler crisp weather.  Instead it is time to start saying goodbye to the garden and get it ready for winter.  We were lucky this past weekend, the weather was absolutely perfect.  We had a number of tasks to complete but it makes it easier with the warmth of the sun.

We needed to clear out the tomato beds.  Given the blight that is prevalent in the area we can’t compost the plants.  It seems like such a waste but we have to bag them and bring them to the dump.  Each year we get some but we’re getting better at combating the blight.

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Those tomato cages can be quite flimsy and bend easily but man some of them did not want to come out of the ground.  I was hauling off on them like I was trying to pull up a tree root!

We did one round of peas this year but a few strays tried to give it another go in the bed.   If your season is mild enough you can get two harvests but by the time the plants grow large enough our winter gives them what for and we don’t have much luck.

End of season 1 2013

As we had already harvested the black beans we had the kids clear out the bed.  Except the one lone kale.  Have no idea where that came from!  That bed has never had kale planted in it.  But up it grew anyway.

End of season 2 2013

The butterfly weed is going to seed.  Wonder where it will pop up next year.  I generally let it spread as it has such a pretty orange bloom.

End of season 4 2013

Our hops are taking over their little area.  We really need to transplant them to the back corner of our garden and let it just go crazy.  The poor trellis is crying uncle at this point.

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I’m convinced the pepper plants don’t realise it’s autumn!  They are still going strong.  I’ll have to cart a bunch to the community kitchen as our freezer is quite full and there is only a little space for some frozen peppers.  The leaves aren’t as green but there is a bounty of hot peppers.

End of season 7 2013

It will soon be the Brussels Sprouts turn to shine.  All they need is a good frost.  Though this is the only plant that produced decent sized sprouts.  The other 4 grew pea sized ones.  Usually they do so well.

End of season 3 2013

It’s time for our bushes to turn colour.  I love the red that the blueberry bushes turn.  So vibrant.  Hopefully they will have a good slumber over the winter so they can give us more than a handful of blueberries that we got this year.

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It was just lovely being outside in the garden without melting in the heat and humidity.  Wish we could slow this time of year down.

Farmers market 1 2013

Love our Farmer’s Market…

The weather this weekend was glorious, absolutely perfect.  When it’s like this we love to start our weekend by taking the dogs downtown, eat our breakfast outside while people watching, and then heading over to our farmer’s market.  There is a booth that always has dog biscuits and water.  Let’s just say all the dogs that come know where to go.  Those of us on the other end of the leash get pulled along!  It’s this time of year that the market really comes into its own.  Tables start to groan with all the veg.  It is so beautiful with the range of colours.  Usually my husband will hold the dogs at one end while I make my rounds so I took some pictures this time as I worked my way through.

I love it as most booths use organic methods and are small local farms.  One farm has been off the grid since 1979!  I also found out they only cultivate 1 out of 45 acres which surprised me as they sell a ton of food.

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We also were able to get into the garden and harvest a ton of tomatoes.  We planted 51 plants this year so I will be making a lot of sauce when it gets cooler.  This is perhaps a third of what is growing currently.  Of course I’ve been eating them off the vine as well.  :)

Farmers market 6 2013

Peas 1 2013

Peas Glorious Peas!

According to my husband it is hotter and muggier up here than in Atlanta and Austin.  Lucky us.  It is so oppressive at the moment and it looks like it will last for several days more.  Averaging about 90-95F/32-35C with a heat index of about 105F/40C.  I only know of one person, a good friend of mine, who is really happy about this, the rest of us are miserable!

And the peas choose this time to be ready to harvest.  Timing is everything!  It takes me a few days as I only have one tray that works to freeze the peas so I do this in stages.  We did use some fresh for our risotto the other day.  So wonderful with fresh picked peas.  :)

The steps are easy.  Pick, shell, freeze, vacuum seal.   Done!

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And they are a really nice treat eating them frozen as well.  Especially on a hot day!

Garden progess 2 2013

And then the rains came…

It was a case of be careful of what you wish for.  I wanted rain.  Just enough to fill the rain barrel.  We only have one.  Mother Nature thought we had a 100.

The spring started off wonderfully.  Some days was like an English summer.  We had some rainy days then some wonderful gorgeous spring days.  Then it got dry very quickly.  The plants were doing well but the soil got so dusty!  The wind blew and you got dirt in your eyes.  Ugh.  So I wished for rain.

And it came!  It seems we were on the thunderstorm path with showers and bucketing rain.  When it wasn’t raining it was unbelievably muggy and humid.  Ick.

The benefactor of all this?  Our garden.  It is doing amazing.  So are the weeds but that’s another story.  :)

I love our peas.  Once they start growing it’s my favourite snack as I walk by.  We’re almost to the point where I can start harvesting and freeze the peas for our risotto.

Garden progress 1 2013

I am debating whether or not to plant broccoli next year.  We don’t eat it much but on the flip side the flowers are so pretty.  Tiny little yellow flowers just pop in the garden of a ton of green.

Garden progress 3 2013

I plant kale because you can get a ton out of a very small space.  My husband calls it rabbit food.  :)  It’s become a little family joke “You’re feeding Daddy rabbit food!” LOL  But he’s a good sport and if I come up with dishes that incorporate it he’ll eat it.  And because so much grows I get to give a nutritious food to the community kitchen.  We plant about a 4 x 2 foot spot and the number of meals we get is huge.

Garden progress 4 2013

I’m looking forward to harvesting the leeks.  We usually get 5 foot long leeks and I hope that happens this year.  We do all organic gardening.  Miracle Grow and other chemicals have nothing on us!  I brought one to the community kitchen last year and they looked confused for a couple of minutes when I tried to hand them a 5 foot leek.  Wish I had a camera.  :)  But it’s a great place right round the corner from our house.  They do such good work and I really hope there comes a time when what we grow might go to waste because no one is hungry.

Garden progress 5 2013

Zucchini.  Here’s the thing.  I am a supertaster.  About 25% of the population has some level of this.  What that means is we don’t like mushy food, overcooked veg, or some veg like zucchini, squash, or Brussels sprouts.  These types of veg taste extremely bitter to supertasters.  I keep reading about descriptions of Brussels sprouts being nutty and sweet.  They are one of the most bitter things I’ve ever tasted.  Most veg that I can’t handle cooked I enjoy raw so something in the cooking process really changes things.  Except zucchini.  I can not handle that raw!  But here’s the thing.  I also have to be a good sport.  Each year we ask the kids what they want planted and our daughter chose zucchini.  I don’t want to discourage them in anyway when it comes to gardening or healthy eating so we planted a bunch and I’ve been pinning recipes for when they are ready.  I’m wondering how much cheese is needed to cover the taste!

Garden progress 6 2013

I can’t wait for harvest time for the peppers.  We love to make hot pepper jelly.  It is so good on cheddar cheese.  I think we have about 6 varieties and 35 plants total in the raised bed.  We’ll freeze more when it’s time.  They work really well in sauces and chili.

Garden progress 7 2013

We went a bit crazy with the tomatoes.  We planted about 50 plants of 4 varieties.  I can not wait for harvest!  I love picking them fresh and eating them as I go by just like the peas.  And oh the sauce we’ll make!  Yum.  We do pick a few and make fried green tomatoes.  Such a treat.

Garden progress 9 2013

Last year we did one potato tower and this year we did four.  So far they are doing well and once the pile of dirt dries out a bit I need to add more to the towers.  You only want 1/3 of the greens sticking out so you add as you go.  Of course we’ll have to now figure out a root cellar system because I plan on having a lot of potatoes and I don’t want them going to waste.  But there is nothing like a fresh harvested potato.

Garden progress 10 2013

My son has a neat program as school where they give out cabbages to plant in third grade.  He is getting such a kick out of watching it grow.  Can’t wait to see how big it gets.  :)

Garden progess 2 2013

 

Growing Alfalfa Sprouts

We came across alfalfa sprout seeds at our local gardening store and thought they would be fun to grow.  Thought this would be cool and plunked the seeds in soil and watched it go all wrong.  Turns out we should have read the directions.  You don’t plant them in soil but rather in a jar with water.  Even cooler!  :)

It takes 5 or 6 days to get the harvest so it is pretty easy overall.

You will need some seed, water, a mason jar, butter muslin, and some bleach.  Store the seeds you don’t use in a sandwich baggie.

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To start it is important to sterilise the seed in a bleach solution of 1 tsp bleach in 1 cup of hot water.  The seed is gathered in fields with animals and you don’t want to risk e coli.  Soak for about 15 minutes.

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Pour into a strainer and rinse thoroughly.

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Rinse the jar and pour the seeds back into the jar.  Cut a small piece of butter muslin and place it over the opening of the jar and tighten the ring over it.  Fill with water and pour most of it out again and leave on the draining board upside down so the excess water can drip out.  Do this bit daily until it is ready to “harvest”.

Alfalfa 5 2013

Using a large bowl tip out the sprouts and gently loosen the clump.

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Fill with water and let the seed shells float to the top and skim off.

Alfalfa 7 2013

Drain until mostly dry then store in an airtight container in the fridge.  It is great on salads and sandwiches.