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.

End of season 8 2013

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.

End of season 5 2013 End of season 6 2013

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.

End of season 9 2013

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.

Farmers market 1 2013 Farmers market 2 2013 Farmers market 3 2013 Farmers market 4 2013 Farmers market 5 2013

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!

Peas 1 2013 Peas 2 2013 Peas 3 2013 Peas 4 2013

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.

Alfalfa 1 2013 Alfalfa 2 2013

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.

Alfalfa 3 2013

Pour into a strainer and rinse thoroughly.

Alfalfa 4 2013

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.

Alfalfa 6 2013

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.

Leeks and Onions

The other day I had the grand plan of recreating a dish I had in Paris.  It was an unmitigated disaster.  The key ingredient was the artichoke.  I had never prepared one before and I may never again.  The dish was a lovely tender bottom half of an artichoke with amazing smoked salmon, a poached egg, and a mustard sauce.  The last three I was able to do.  However we now have a pot that is blackened and I’ll have to attack that with oven cleaner.  I hope that works.  I was steaming the artichoke and it ran out of water.  Sigh.

So I moved on to other things.  I decided it was time to get the leeks and onions into the ground.  We like to rotate our little crops each year and that was the plan for the leeks and onions.  Mother Nature had other plans as one bunching onion plant is regrowing and some seeds that didn’t sprout last year are coming up now.  Which is pretty cool but that bed is staying the same as last year.

Leeks and Onions 1 2013

For the leeks I dig out two small trenches to plant them in and mix in organic compost and fertilizer.  A lot of gardeners will bury the leek as it grows to blanch it.  I only do that a little bit until the leeks are pretty sturdy as I like the dark green.  More flavour.

Leeks and onions 2 2013

I plant them carefully and they are so delicate at this point.  Hard to believe they can get up to 5 feet long and you can use them as bats.  :)

The bunching onions are much easier.  After mixing in the compost I just plug them in willy nilly.  I left space to plant more seeds in a few weeks to stagger the harvest.

Leeks and onions 3 2013

Our garden is well on it’s way now with the bulbs and flowers starting to grow.  The peas are poking through and I think spring is finally here to stay!

Planting Potatoes

We had heard over the years how wonderful fresh harvested potatoes were so last year we decided to give it a try.  We did pretty well up to the point tiny little bugs stripped the leaves.  Those little buggers eat really fast.  We did get a small harvest and they were delicious.  So this year we’ll be ready for the little twerps.

The potatoes being planted are Red Norland and German Butterball.  Because our plot isn’t big we needed a way to grow them without taking up a lot of space.  I found last year on Pinterest loads of information about potato towers and that seemed perfect for us.  And it worked very well.  They aren’t hard to grow but there is a bit of prep to do before planting them.

Planting potatoes 1 2013

The seed potatoes get shipped mid April to our area.  We get our stuff from High Mowing in Vermont.  They are great but I do recommend buying your seed from an organic source near your zone.  That way you know it is adapted for your growing conditions.  The potatoes need to be sliced so each chunk you have has some “eyes” on it.  This is where the potato plants grow from.

Planting potatoes 2 2013

The cut sides need to be treated with sulfur to prevent rot.  Now last year we were very careful to follow directions.  They had to dry completely before planting.  But then the next direction was to put them in the soil and water well.  What’s the point?  So this year I cut them all up and treated them.  I let them be in the sun while I put the towers together.

Planting potatoes 3 2013

As the potatoes grow more soil is added so you need enough height to accommodate the growth.  It is also good to have composted soil for this as the potatoes need lots of nutrients.  We had some old wire fencing so we use these for the forms of the towers.  Line the bottom with the compost and line the sides with straw.  Fill the tower with about 6 inches of soil, water well then place the potatoes in with the eyes pointing upwards.

Planting Potatoes 4 2013

Cover with a couple inches of soil and water well.

Planting Potatoes 5 2013

A friend gave us two small tower bags to try out so we used those and built a second tower.  We should get loads of potatoes without using a ton of space.  :)

Planting Potatoes 6 2013

Finally warm enough to plant! But the wind…..

It seems like we live on sea cliffs this year with the wind we’ve had to contend with.  We’re an hour and a half from the ocean but not that you’d notice.   I enjoy a nice breeze but there are days when it’s strong and constant.  It doesn’t help us keep warm with the wind chill.  I had Saturday off but the wind chill kept me in.  I love gardening but not when I’m shivering and turning blue!  Sunday I had to work but it was gorgeous out even with the high winds.  So I was very excited when we got out early!  Time to plant!  :)

I had to pin everything down as I worked so I wouldn’t be running round the garden catching things and I had to duck my head as the dirt swirled but it was wonderful to be outside and digging in the dirt.

Every year we try to rotate the crops in our raised beds so this year the broccoli and Brussel Sprouts will be near the door.

First planting 1 2013

It’s important to plant the seedlings properly so they thrive.  It can be a shock being transplanted.  Though these seedlings are in the hardy category it still makes sense to give them a great start.  I dig a hole big enough for the seedlings and put in organic plant food and fill the hole with water.

First planting 2 2013 First planting 3 2013

Place the plant in the hole and fill it up.  If the dirt is really dry water as you do this.  This will help the plants from going into shock.  Gently tamp down the dirt so the plant is in snugly.  Don’t compact too much though as you don’t want to destroy the ecosystem in the soil.

First planting 4 2013

Water thoroughly.  In this bed I also planted my son’s cabbage from school.  It’s a program for third graders to learn about gardening.  I think it’s a fabulous idea for kids.  In September kids can submit photos to win a contest.  :)

First planting 5 2013

First planting 6 2013

I had time to plant the peas so I took advantage of the weather and got it done.  I love planting peas.  They are so amazing right off the vine and they are a great plant for the garden as they fix the nitrogen into the soil for the next crop.

First the seeds have to be inoculated.  Looks icky but it works.  I soak the seeds while I prep the bed.

First planting 7 2013

The seeds need to be planted in troughs as you want to gradually add dirt to the roots as the plants come up to keep them cool.  For a plant that has such delicate flowers they really love the cool weather.

First planting 8 2013

We moved over the “trellis” from last year.  They are getting a bit beat up so we may have to come up with a new plan next year.  We’ll see how they work this year.

First planting 9 2013

The seeds can be planted an inch apart down the row.  They can handle being planted close together.

First planting 10 2013

Water the seeds and cover with about an inch of soil and then water again.

First planting 11 2013

Then keep fingers crossed that the rabbits don’t get them.  We had a big problem with 3 rabbits last year.  Spent quite a bit of time chasing them off.  They ate a few plants so I had to plant new ones.  So far no issues this week but if they do then there is a product we get for organic gardening that has dried blood.  Gross but effective.  Certainly gets our dogs attention.