Saturday, September 20, 2014

16 tons

Today my SO helped me move the dirt from the patio beds to the newly located blueberry beds. It was a lot of dirt. Without his help, it would have taken me days, assuming I did no lose heart and give up. He truly helps my gardening dreams come true.

Re the rest of the garden, I can't wait for a hard frost. I am so sick of zucchini and tomatoes, and am eager to harvest the pumpkins, butternut squash, and sweet potatoes. The fall plantings show mixed results: some beans, some kale, something else as yet to be identified (turnips?), the rest no-shows.

Re the incipient mini-orchard, I have been taste testing apples. Today I went to a farmers market and picked up an apple sampler: Jonagold, Swiss Gourmet, Cortland, and Sweet 16. The vendor also turned me on to a new resource, Orange Pippin. I see an orchard tour in my future.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Continuing to wind down

I'm not much for fall clean up. Those late bloomers provide nectar and seeds for wildlife, then winter interest for the most part, especially when capped with snow, and finally something to do in March when I want to be out in the yard but it is too early to do much of anything. The only exception I make is the vegetable garden, as a good clean up makes for a better garden next year.

Toward that end, I spent an hour or so thinning the raspberry bed yesterday. While very prolific this past summer, the plants produced berries that were a bit small for my tastes. I'm new to raspberry growing, so last year simply removed the old canes. This year I also thinned the new ones, with the goal of keeping one cane for every six inches or so. This was accomplished by removing the more spindly ones. Theoretically, my efforts should result in larger berries next year. I also cut out the trumpet vine that threatens the patch (if you ever plant trumpet vine, put it out in the yard where you can control its runners with a mower), fed the bed with composted horse manure, mulched, and rearranged the fencing that holds the canes upright and keeps the bunnies out. Overall, good work and a good workout.

What are your fall garden rituals?

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