Sunday, August 31, 2014

The end is near

As much as I love gardening, by the end of August, I am done with it. Fortunately, it is about done with me, too. The determinate Roma tomatoes have passed their peak. The butternut squash are turning a lovely shade of beige. Even the zucchini plants are slowing production (although there is a giant zuke out there I can't reach - we'll see just how big it will get). But there is still plenty to feast one's eyes on.

I'm happy to report that I have seen more monarch butterflies this summer. After reading Barbara Kingsolver's Flight Behavior and then seeing few, if any monarchs last year, I was getting a bit concerned. Hopefully, they will hang in there.

One of the best kept secrets regarding nectar plants is the lowly zinnia. Not only do they attract butterflies but hummingbirds as well. And so easy to grow!

In the Learn Something New department, it was only after reading this gardeninacity post that I took a closer look at the seed pods on the swamp milkweed and butterfly weed plants. Very interesting.

And then there are the sunflowers. I can't tell you the varieties of these beauties, as the seeds are from a mixture. Since these are bred for cutting, the plants have multiple blossoms and those blossoms last a long time.

How is your garden winding up?

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Coming attractions

The so-called meadow for the birds, bees, and butterflies has been a problem for quite some time, primarily because it is too large for me to maintain, even with the help of my SO. So now the plan is to turn that area into a mini-orchard. Toward that end, today my SO helped me relocate the patio beds so that they may become blueberry beds. (I know, I know, this year I planted blueberries on the south side of the house, but I decided that just was not going to work out. I'll move them next spring.)

The patio beds needed to be moved anyway. If I ever make up my mind on a contractor, the patio will become a deck and the beds were in the way. Also, their location was not very conducive to growing sun-loving plants, most of which have been relocated and most of which are much happier. My only remaining concern is the treated lumber is really old, so it may have arsenic in it. To waylay that issue, we are going to line them with cedar shingles. Blueberry plants are shallow rooted, so I think that will be good enough.

The mini part of a mini-orchard will hopefully be accomplished by following the directives for a backyard orchard culture, found at Dave Wilson Nursery. Instead of planting one tree every ten feet, I will plant four in one hole. Instead of letting the root stock determine the size the trees grow, I will keep them severely pruned. The goal is to have some fruit from many varieties instead of a lot of fruit from very few varieties. Between this strategy and the holistic orchard techniques described in The Holistic Orchard, I hope to grow tree fruit that is as close to organic as I can get. Also, I won't need to climb ladders and, theoretically, if frost threatens, I may be able to save the crop by throwing sheets over the trees.

I've had crazier ideas.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Saints preserve us

For living alone, I spend a lot of time in the kitchen this time of year, putting food by. In the future, I hope to do more canning and dehydrating, but with the remodeling going on, it is simpler to just shove everything into the freezer (which is getting *very* full).

Coffee is a necessary fuel

So far, I have grated zucchini, zucchini spread, zucchini soup base, zucchini fritters, zucchini puree. (It's a good thing I like zucchini.) There is pizza sauce and tomato basil red sauce, plus whole cherry tomatoes and Romas. The corn, green (and purple) beans, and broccoli came from a local organic urban farm, Tanglewood. They also supplied most of the strawberries, while the blueberries and peaches are from various farmer market vendors and the raspberries grew in my own backyard. For protein, there is bacon, chicken, and salmon, courtesy of Seven Sons. Like I said, the freezer is *very* full.

Running out of counter space

In the garage we have garlic, onions, and potatoes (red and blue), to be joined in the fall by pumpkin and butternut squash and hopefully sweet potatoes.

Note fluids necessary for marathon preserving sessions

The last time I harvested zucchini, I saw no new blossoms, so hopefully it is on the wane. There will be more tomatoes which I will can (because the freezer is *very* full).

March of the peaches, led by Abe Lincoln tomato

Sometimes I wonder why I spend so much effort gardening and harvesting and preserving. It is not the simple life, as it takes equipment, time, energy. How much easier it is to just go to the grocery store (the variety of which is expanding locally). I could go on and on about a philosophy behind my madness, but I doubt it would move you. There is just something very satisfying about gathering the makings of a meal from my own backyard or, when the winter winds blow, from my own stash of foodstuffs. For me, it just feels right.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Blue plate special

Here is dinner from last week: meatloaf, corn on the cob, and a baked Adirondack Blue potato. The potato tastes fine, if not as creamy and buttery as the Eva potatoes I grew last year, but I am having trouble getting past the color.

I later boiled some of the Adirondack Blue with the Adirondack Red; when I checked the leftovers a couple of days later, I thought they had turned into a science experiment. I fried the leftovers, and the red ones looked like chunks of ham. Again, taste was fine, just having trouble with the visuals.

What about you? Do colored potatoes put you off?

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Must be August

In June, the gardener knows it will be a while before she reaps. In July, the harvest begins. In August, more of the long-awaited crops come to fruition, plus the fall plantings start to grow.

Onion harvest - Copra and Red Zeplin
Burpless Beauty cucumber, growing vertically
Matt's Wild Cherry and Black Cherry tomatoes
Honey and Cream sweet corn
The pumpkin in the tomato bed keeps getting bigger and more orange
Pumpkin vine trying to escape the confines of the garden
Purple Pod pole beans, for fall harvest (fingers crossed)

I love mixing some flowers in amongst the veggies. The bees friend finally bloomed, so now we know what they look like. The zinnias will add color through the rest of the season.

Bee's Friend
Lilliput Mix zinnias

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Fall planting

This past week, we had one of those horrible 90-degree days when the air is barely breathable. Just one. This morning, the weather felt almost autumn-like. A good reminder to get the fall garden planted.

In the past, before retirement (BR), I didn't always plant a fall crop of anything, as I was usually knee deep in tomatoes by now. Also, while gardening is always unpredictable, fall is more so. For one thing, most of what gets planted likes cool weather and August is usually anything but cool. Then, just as the temps start to moderate, frost may occur. So fall plantings are more of a crap shoot than spring or summer, but it's hard to resist an empty bed.

In the sixteen squares above, I planted roots - beet, rutabaga, turnip, carrot, radish - plus lettuce and spinach and kale and broccoli, all from seed. Since the pole beans were not able to complete with the corn and pumpkin, I also planted some of those in their own bed, as well as a short row of snap peas behind the endamame (which are languishing under pumpkin vines).

Speaking of pumpkin, the two varieties I planted continue their attempt to dominate the entire garden. I found this big boy in the tomato bed, a good 25 feet to the SSE of where the vines started.

Its smaller cousin breached the corn. I planted two varieties, both supposedly small, and now I am not sure which is which. I *think* the green ones are Rouge Vif d'Etamps while the orange ones are Burpee small(?!?) sugar.

Joining the pumpkin is butternut squash. While not quite as sprawling as the pumpkin, it too is doing its best to wander far and farther.

And, as far as squash is concerned, size *does* matter.

Just ask the zucchini.

We ate at Five Guys last night. I said I didn't care where we ate, as long as they did not serve zucchini. Or cucumbers (except as pickles).

Actually, I like zucchini and have been trying out all kinds of new and unusual dishes, courtesy of the Internet. More on that later. Right now it is time for my afternoon nap.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Perfect weather, sort of

We have been having some gorgeous weather from the human comfort standpoint - cool, dry, partially overcast so no sun baking one's brains, etc. Some of the garden plants, especially the sad looking sweet potatoes, wish it were warmer, and they all could use a good soaking rain. But us two-leggeds cannot complain. Some hot days are coming, then hopefully a storm and more of these reasonable temps. We'll see - weather is so fickle.

Here's what's happening in the yard these days:

First up, garlic!

The pic above is 'Music' which is supposed to be the newest fave of backyard garlic growers. I purchased it from Burpee, who sells it by the ounce, not the bulb, so I had no idea how much I was getting. Turns out a LOT, enough to experiment with. Pickled garlic, anyone? (The variety below is either Bogatyr, German Extra Hardy, or Georgia Fire, all of which I grew from my own stock.)

I think the fountain never made it out of the shed at all last year. Now that I am home ALL THE TIME, it is back on the back porch where I can enjoy its burbling while simultaneously enjoying this great weather. (Notice Meyer lemon in the back. It is much recovered and doing great - knock on wood!)

Next to the back porch, where I can keep an eye on it, is some swamp milkweed, which is relatively new to the yard.

Not so new to the yard is common milkweed, all volunteers. Milkweed spreads easily but is also easy to discourage, either purposely or not. Given the plight of the monarch population, I am going to deliberately encourage these guys.

New garden art!

Last year, I added the cat below. This year, when I passed the same vendor at the Three Rivers Festival, I eyeballed the sampling but nothing (that was within my price range) caught my eye. My SO, however, returned the next day and bought me the above heron. It is standing in the rhubarb patch, but I am thinking it would look great by a pond. Agree?

Here's is the Japanese fern I mentioned before, a gift from my (now former) co-workers. It's still alive, and now I am interested in maybe adding a few tall ferns to the back of the hosta bed. Maybe. We'll see how this one does.

Another gift from those co-workers, a Supertunia. I'm not much of a petunia person, but I am curious to see what a super version of one does.

And, finally, daylilies.

My daylilies bloom every year, and every year I am so taken with their luscious colors that I photograph them, and the photos look remarkably similar to the photos from previous years.

Yesterday I picked my first tomatoes of the season, some cherry-sized ones. I planted two varieties of cherry tomatoes and the plants have become so HUGE and intertwined that I am not sure which plant these came from. I'm guessing the Matt's Wild Cherry, simply because the black cherry should be darker, right? I've not grown either before, so I'm not sure what to expect, except great taste. Yum!