Sunday, November 3, 2013

End of Season - 2013

Well, the time has come! It's time to clean out the garden. I'll be honest, it's been so cold lately that I haven't been to the garden in awhile and was surprised to see that there was still some stuff growing. 

It went from this:

To this:

And we harvested this:

I'm not sure how good any of it will be, but we can try!

One problem I had was that I intentionally planted some beans that were supposed to dry on the vine...but I couldn't find them. I found dried green beans, but I'm not sure if those can be stored. I was supposed to have dried cranberry beans.  I never have much luck with green beans. 

Anyway, I've already started planning next year's garden! First step should deciding where it will be, but I've stepped over that and have started my list of what I want to grow! Then by March I'll have to figure out when to start each plant. 

Eventually, I'll figure out where I can build garden beds (i.e. where we get the most sunlight). 

For now...I'm trying to make use of all of the leaves that have fallen by building a 3-bin compost bin!

(Alright, Morgan's building it!)

Thursday, October 10, 2013


Courtesy of Morgan! This is what happens with a meat share when you try and get a little creative with ground beef. It was delicious!

Too Many Peppers?

Never! I love a good pepper and onion pizza!

I've still been meaning to grill a pizza, but we haven't gotten around to it yet.  Soon hopefully!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Bounty!

This isn't all from my garden, but my brother, sister-in-law, and nephews stopped by over the weekend and had some vegetables to share. They brought loads of cucumbers, onions, and garlic, which is nice because we aren't growing those things.

Do you see that cucumber next to the giant zucchini? My brother handed me that thing and all I could do was turn around and try to unload our giant zucchini on him!! He wasn't having it though so we now have about 15 lbs of cucumbers and one 15-lb zucchini! I'm guessing. Next year I hope to add a produce scale to my gardening shed, but for now I'm just guessing. 

I also gave them peppers, which they didn't  have. Garden exchanges are a beautiful thing when they work out. I was thankful they didn't try to give us any tomatoes!

Next weekend we have a block party and I'm thinking we'll be making some type of cucumber side dish!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Preserving the Harvest

With about 10lbs of Roma tomatoes, and more coming every week, I figured it was time to start canning! It's not the most fun process to stand over a hot stove for 2 hours on a late August day with 3 burners going. I did some dicey things like carrying pots of scalding hot water around the kitchen and nearly burning myself. Also, theres always the fear that I'll  give someone botulism if I don't do it correctly, but in the end, when I take them out to cool and I start hearing the lids pop (indicating they've been sealed) it's a great feeling! And afterwards when I use them on pizzas it's an even better feeling! And when no one dies from consuming them, I'm ecstatic and declare the process a success!

Friday, August 23, 2013

This pretty much sums it up...

I love this bumper sticker! I can't think of a bigger waste of money, time, and resources than annuals. Especially ornamental annuals!

Which is why I recently planted a perennial herb garden that should come back every year! It was all about buying the right herbs for my climate (zone 5). Specifically, lavender, chives, oregano, and thyme. The rosemary I'll bring inside later in the year. It's a hardy herb, but not quite suited for our sub-zero winter temps. It'd only survive if we had an off mild winter. Also, even for the herbs I did plant, I made sure every one was suitable for zone 5. Some varieties of herbs might not be suitable for this zone. In fact, I bought lavender in particular based on the sales associates advice who said it should stay indoors. I thought it would accompany my rosemary indoors this winter, but upon closer look at the tag, it was ok for zone 5! So in the ground it went!

I'm not saying I'll never have an annual plant. I regularly tend to a whole garden of annuals (most vegetables are annuals). There are plenty of useful annuals, including herbs and vegetables, (actually only herbs and vegetables), but I can't stand when I see apartment complexes planting dozens and dozens of ornamental annual flowers only to watch them later die and never return. You'd be better off planting something useful, like mint! Which is also in my perennial herb garden. 

Plus, I'm always on the mission for perennial vegetables. For my area, I've only identified a few, like asparagus and Jerusalem artichokes. Also some fruit plants are perennial in our area, like apples, peaches, pears, and grapes, depending on the type. 

Here's a picture of my perennial herb garden (it's still small; I planted it late)

Happy gardening!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Determinate v. Indeterminate

Tomatoes come in 2 types-determinate and indeterminate. Determinate ripen all at once. Indeterminate ripen throughout the season. If you're ever confused....roma tomatoes are determinate! Whoa. And this isn't even the bulk of it. Most are still ripening. 

We were able to turn this....into this:

That's zucchini/tomato soup just like my mom makes! Except we used fresh tomatoes! It's basically just a puréed tomato base with potatoes, zucchinis, and onions in it. There should also be an egg cracked in it and some Parmesan but we were using what we had and we were out of Parmesan and eggs. Sad, but the soup was still great!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

More turnips! Big ones too!

More turnips! Look how big these are!

Also, two banana peppers!

Tis the season!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Habanero Fail!

I thought I was doing a good thing when I put my habaneros in the ground finally. I thought they'd finally grow big and produce fruit. But I think they were pretty stunted from the deer incident. They never grew. They didn't die either, but they were taking up room in my garden that now seemed appropriate for things that might actually produce, especially for a fall garden. So out they came! I'd be lying if I said it broke my heart to rip them out. I had given up on them. In went lettuce, Swiss chard, and ...uh... I forget. Radishes I think. Well, we'll see in 45 days I guess!

I also plucked some ripe tomatoes and one giant zucchini. I was a little disappointed we haven't had more zucchini by now. But I'm glad to have the one at least. No green beans yet. Well...I found one but no real green bean harvest to speak of yet. 

I think it might be an off year. We had lots of rain early on, then not much rain, then some suddenly cool temps recently. As one gardener commented, this much inconsistency isn't good for any one type of vegetable. It's bad for all. 

We also got a few of the early roma tomatoes (which I put in a brown paper bag to help them ripen just a little more) and some banana peppers too, which is nice!

Now to find a recipe that uses peppers, zucchini and tomatoes! Yum!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Habanero Angst

The habaneros seem to be my problem child this year. The first 2 died rather quickly, presumably due to bad drainage and excessive rainfall.  I repotted 2 more and they seemed to be doing very well. I was happy to even see them flowering. Then I found one had been eaten by a deer. Badly eaten. It's the one on the left that was badly eaten. 

Now they're in a screened in porch, but that can't be good for sunlight and pollination. I ordered a motion-activated sprinkler, which should be in later this week. The tag line was "squirt 'em, don't hurt 'em."  And I can get on board with that! I'm also wondering if a motion-activated light would help as well. My final line of defense is to have our dog pee all over the yard and I can brush her and leave her fur out there, but this seems way too subtle for such brazen deer. 

And now we'll place blame... It's my own fault for the most part. I put out a bird feeder with seed which apparently attracts the deer. I did not know this. The bird house was on a pole in the middle of the lawn, but when the lawn was getting mowed someone moved the bird house right on top of the hostas.  I noticed there was no bird seed left the next day. Also, they took bites out of some hostas that hadn't been eaten at all until I lured them with bird seed. Not having learned my lesson, I didn't change a thing and the deer came back the next night and ate one peony and one pepper plant. Grrr. 

Silly me thinking I could deter a deer with a hot pepper plant!!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Dilly Beans!

Last summer I canned several jars of dilly beans. I love these! They're spicy and pickled. And go very well as a side dish to meat or in a salad like this. We just used our last jar in a salad and I can't wait to jar up an even larger batch this summer! 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

All Things Seem to be Growing

Peppers, although slightly bushier than I expected seem to be doing well. I saw a flower for the first time today. 

The blueberries are almost blue...

And the sun came out today! I don't think it's expected to last very long, but it's out for now!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Water Conservation

Look what showed up today!

She's bigger than I thought she'd be! So what's the story behind this, you ask. 

Well, a few months ago, Albany County ran a special on rain barrels.  It was like 20% off if you ordered through the County. So I ordered one knowing that we'd be in a house at some point this summer. And isn't she a beaut!?

Morgan picked her up and apparently these barrels are re-purposed pickling barrels from Greece. Even better!

As soon as we move into the house we'll set her up and see how she does!

One step greener!


Look what we grew! I can't wait to make another turnip greens soup!

Monday, June 17, 2013

A good sign...


On a few tomato plants

And on a banana pepper

These flowers make me the happiest because they're plants I started from seed. I expect the few I bought from the store to flower, but it always surprises me when my own plants flower and produce fruit!

Hot Pepper Redo

I repotted 2 more habaneros and they seem to doing fine 2 weeks later. The first pair died within days. These lost a few leaves initially, but now I can see new growth starting on the stems. A little sunshine today will do them well!

It actually rained again today, but just for a little bit. But they still got outside for some sunshine most of the day. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

What about those turnips?

What do I do with turnips, you might be wondering. Actually, even Morgan has expressed his reservations over the turnips. It seems he's completely forgotten about the things we made last year - sautéed greens with white beans, roasted turnips, mashed turnips...

Last night, we (mostly I) made turnip greens potato soup! It was great (if I don't say so myself). And we (mostly Morgan) love any recipe that let's us use our Cuisinart hand blender that emulsifies food into soups (seriously, Morgan loves this thing). 

I started by sautéing onions in the Dutch oven (my favorite "tool") and then adding the potatoes and chicken broth. I also added 3 very small turnips that came with the bunch of greens, but we had more greens by far. I let this simmer for about 30 minutes. 

Meanwhile, I sautéed the turnip greens in some oil and garlic. 

Eventually, I added the greens to the potato mixture. I can't say I added them with any rhyme or reason. Just at some point, I decided to add them.

I let that simmer a little more, until the potatoes seemed soft enough to blend. Another 10 minutes or so. I just kept squeezing individual potatoes with the tongs to see how easily they smooshed. Very scientific. Eventually it seemed they all were very smooshable. 

Then it was ready to blend! I added a small amount of skim milk, but I've done similar recipes and added no milk. It just depends what we have in the house. The potatoes give it the creamy texture regardless of if you use milk. Some might use heavy cream, but I like to keep the recipe light. 

And voila!

I topped off each serving with some cheddar cheese just because we had some and everything's better with cheese. 

It made enough for 4 bowls - dinner for two and lunch for two!

Basically this recipe works with anything in substitute for the turnip greens - spinach, radish greens, squash, leeks. We use this "recipe" almost all year long, but my favorite is with leeks for potato-leek soup, but we'll have to wait for the fall for that!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

So far...

It's been raining for what seems like an eternity here. Yesterday, I announced, "The sun is out. Finally!" But actually the sun wasn't really even out. It just wasn't raining. It was still cloudy. Today, it's raining again. Usually I'm a firm believer in "Yay rain! It's good for the plants!" But this has me wondering if maybe a plant can have too much water. I know potted plants that don't drain well can be over watered. (I think this was my habanero problem. I changed to a soil-less mixture, recommended for container vegetables and repotted 2 more. They seem to be doing fine, so far.). I also know that sometimes seeds that are over-saturated rot and don't germinate.  I've heard of this specifically with bean seeds.  But I'm not sure if vegetable plants in the ground can be over-watered. I imagine they'd be better off with some sunshine every once in awhile, but I once read that plants get a lot more sun through overcast skies than we realize. I assume it also depends on how well the soil is able to drain. It seems to be draining alright since I haven't seen any pooling or puddling in the garden. 

Anyway, all that's to say, here's the garden so far! 

My plot is the first one closest to the camera with the eye sore of a trellis! On the far left we have loads of tomato and pepper plants. Then we have loads of green beans - most of which are bush plants and won't vine up that trellis, but at least a few should vine.  I hope. Then I have a row of turnips followed by a row of lettuce with zucchini starting to pop through in between the turnip and lettuce rows. The reason I did this was because: 1) I realized I didn't have any room for zucchini and I adore zucchini (see earlier post about my adoration for zucchini and all things zucchini-related); 2) the zucchini plant will create shade for the cool weather loving lettuce and turnips; and 3) the turnips and lettuce should be "ripe" and able to be picked long before the zucchini starts really taking off and taking up  room. It's a little bit of a gamble, but I think it'll be ok. 

"Do you even like turnips?" You might be wondering. Yes. I do. Last year's CSA had me wishing we had more. I really liked sautéing the greens as a substitute for chard and roasting the turnips as an alternative to potatoes. 

I'm hoping to plant more turnips in the fall garden. I'm just not sure when the turnips are ready because they're growing underground, but garden advice columns seem to indicate that I'll see them poking through the dirt about when they're ready. I hope the wildlife doesn't get to them first. I also made sure to plant the turnips a few weeks apart so we'll have 2 "harvests."

Another mistake I noticed is that the trellis will probably cast a shadow on my sun-loving tomato and pepper plants, which isn't ideal. I hope they get enough sun that a little late day shade won't hurt them too much. Besides, there probably won't be that much vining up the trellis anyway, but we'll see. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Habanero Problems

Just when I thought, "Everything's going great! I have nothing to talk about!" This happens. What is this? My habanero pepper plant lost all of its leaves. 

Let's back up. These plants were doing really well in their cell packs. Sometimes I like to compare my plants to the ones in stores and mine looked better! 

When I transplanted everything, I didn't have room in the garden so I decided to put 2 habaneros in pots so I could take them with us when we move in a few weeks and gave away the rest. 

Everything was looking good. I even read that a little bit of cold (but not frost) was good for pepper plants (but not eggplant). 

Then I noticed a few leaves had fallen off. Then a few more. Now they're nothing but twigs. This is a bad sign. 

But I have no idea what exactly "this" is. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Anecdotal Gardener...2013

Every year I struggle with the same garden conundrum - how many of each vegetable to plant? Of course, I struggle with this prior to starting my seeds in mid-March, but end up brushing it off by just starting dozens of seeds and vowing to make the decision later.  I thought I had this under control this year by only starting 8 of each, but I complicated matters by putting 2 seeds in each block of soil. And almost all of them came up. I immediately declared, "Off with their heads!" and decided to just discard the excess seedlings, but when the time came for re-planting, wouldn't you know it, I had a change of heart and I attempted to save each and every seedling. And I did!
So for the second year in a row, I've ended up with more plants than any one person can plant in a 6'x12' garden, or consume. I'm faced with the same problem as I was faced with last year. "Are 11 Roma tomato plants too much? Can we consume the bounty from 12 banana pepper plants? What about six eggplant?" And this year, for the first time, a real problem is what do we do with 11 habanero pepper plants? Those suckers are hot! Anytime you plant a crazy amount of anything, you're going to have to come up with a crazy amount of recipe ideas.  Last year, we battled the zucchini: sautéed, grilled, stuffed, fried, zucchini bread, zucchini quiche, zucchini and tomato soup.  If I'm being honest, I can't think of that many uses for a pepper that hot. The beauty of the zucchini is also that I absolutely adore zucchini.  "'Adore' is a strong word to describe your feelings toward a vegetable," you might be thinking to yourself. And for many vegetables, it would be a strong word, but not for the zucchini. I adore zucchini.
Then, year after year, I have this moment: "I don't even like tomatoes!" I mean I do. I can eat a few, but the thought of having to consume nearly two dozen plants' worth of banana peppers or tomatoes is a bit daunting.  Without fail, every year, I start having thoughts of giving away plants.  "Surely [so-and-so] would love a few plants..." I think to myself.  For some reason, these thoughts are quickly met with a feeling like I'm giving away a child.  "But these are my plants...I started them. I cared for them; maybe I can make room for them somewhere."  But there isn't always room for them.  Last year I was able to fit most of them in (I only gave away one banana pepper plant), but the garden looked like something a bunch of people committed to an insane asylum might plant.  Several cherry tomato plants squeezed in between 8 different types of tomatoes, and surrounded by banana pepper plants.  We struggled to consume those cherry tomatoes too.  But in the end, we loved having our go-to cherry tomato dish every week.  I mean every week, like religiously.  It was a recipe for cherry tomatoes: sautéed with garlic, parmesan, and basil and served over pasta.  It was simple and delicious! And we ate it every week, around Monday or Tuesday, after harvesting them on Sundays. 
Another thing I struggle with every year is what I'll call the initial-garden-planting-brain-fog-and-feelings-of-inadequacy.  As I sat there, earlier this week, attempting to replant several turnip and lettuce seedlings, I was overwhelmed with this "I have no idea what I'm doing," feeling.  My husband observed, "I feel like you have this problem every year, but it always turns out fine." He was right. Every year I sit there stumped by the garden arrangement and how to delicately handle the seedlings, even though I've spent months planning the garden lay-out, meticulously drawing garden plans on graph paper.  I sit there stumped.
     "Where's your garden lay-out that you printed out?" Morgan asked.
     "Oh, it's useless, it'll never work," I replied.  I ended up sitting down right there in the garden and doing a brand new sketch of the garden.  I immediately realized I really could only fit 12 caged plants, which would consist of tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant, and I would need to narrow these plants down to fit the garden. Not to mention that now I'm worried my garden plan won't have enough room for cherry tomatoes or zucchini because those are the vegetables I really love the most. Oh, and green beans! Last year we made and canned dilly beans and they really turned out to be a favorite of both of ours.
Also, as I start gardening season 2013 in a new community garden - not just new to me, but new to Earth - I see other confused gardeners roaming around the garden.  Even more confused than I am. They're like me from 3 years ago; sponges hoping to glean information from anyone or anything.  "It might be too soon to put out tomato plants," I casually commented.  "You probably can't start tomato seeds in the garden...especially not in mid-May."  They marveled at me, "How do you know these things that you know?" I wasn't sure of the answer either.  From growing up? From books? From other gardeners? Yes, some of the information I know has been gleaned from these sources, but generally, the answer is: anecdotally.  A process of repeated trial and error.  Some trials you win and some you lose (and that's not a pun because I'm a lawyer by day).  Like with all things in life, you read a few books and try a few attempts and eventually you figure out what works and what doesn't work.  You may never know why something works or something else doesn't work, but you learn something and you stick to what works best.  For me, some things I remember and repeat year after year, other things I forget and so I repeat the errors year after year. It's all part of the process.

Happy gardening!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Week Five

Yesterday, I let my plants get some sun on top of my car. They seemed to do pretty well. This time outside helps them start to acclimate to outside conditions like wind and sun. Some leaves got spots but I think this may be because I watered them and got water on some leaves. They came back in around 6pm. They need to acclimate more, but they won't go in the ground until the end of May so they have some time.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Week Four

Everything is doing well! I did a head count and right now I have 6 eggplant, 10 habaneros, and 11 banana peppers. In the other room I have 11 roma tomatoes growing. I also started turnips, radishes, carrots, and two types of lettuce out on the balcony. They can tolerate colder temperatures, so they're just out there until the community garden opens.

In other news, check out this prosciutto, goat cheese, and arugula flat bread we made Sunday night!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Week Three

I couldn't leave those romas out of the growlight! It was breaking my heart and today it's supposed to rain all day so I found some room for them.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Week Two

It's only been 2 weeks, but everything has germinated and well on its way to growing its first set of real leaves. I transplanted the Roma tomatoes because they were growing very fast, but more so because I planted 2 seeds per block and every seed came up. I wanted to separate them before they grew together too much. I managed to save almost all of them, except 2 because I didn't have enough transplant pots. The other seeds I'll separate soon, but they're not as far along so I don't want to disturb them.

Someone recently asked me why I use a grow light. This question took me off guard because wasn't it obvious? I guess not. For starters, seedlings need a lot of light. Day lengths are longer in June and July than our days are now. Plus, some days it's overcast, which for a grown plant is fine, but for a seedling it could make it grow stringy and reach for any little light it finds. And here it tends to be overcast a lot. Finally, it's because they're indoors. They can't get the same amount of sun they'd get if they were outside. Combined with the shorter days it leaves too much opportunity for week seedlings.

Here are the seedlings today and the Romas which now have to deal with natural light. Because they're more mature plants, I'm hoping it's ok.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Week One

So far so good. The Roma tomatoes came up first, but the others take a little longer (about 10-14 days). They might be getting a little bit moldy, but once they all come up I'll take the dome off and let them air out a little. Hopefully that will help.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

My 2013 Garden!

Last year's garden theme was quantity-lots of tomatoes, zucchini, and peppers, but when I looked around I wasn't growing anything that interesting. This year's theme is diversity! So I'd like to plant different varieties of different vegetables. I'd still like to have an abundance, but with our relocation this year, I'll be working with a smaller plot than last year (last year was 10'x20', this year will be 6'x12', oy). I'm also not going to be as organized with the planning this year because, as last year proved, the best laid plans often go astray so I'm going to roll with it.

So this year, I still did my garden plan, but it will probably need revising and improvising as I see what takes off and what mood I'm in come planting time. I used They have a great kitchen garden planner and best of all, it's free! I highly recommend it. It helps lay out spacing and gives tips on each plant.

Last night, I started habanero peppers (the holy-crap-hot peppers), banana peppers (the yum-these-are-good-on-sandwiches-or-pickled peppers), eggplant (the I'm-planting-these-for-Morgan-because-he's-been-telling-me-he-wants-to-make-his-grandmother's-Tunisian-stuffed-eggplant-recipe-and-last-year-yielded-almost-no-eggplant eggplant), and Roma tomatoes (the sauce tomatoes)!

I started 8 of each using my soil blocker. I put 2 seeds in each block. We'll see what happens. They are in a plastic gardening flat on a warm seed starting mat and will be under a grow light once they come up. All of these vegetables need at least 8 weeks indoors and some repotting eventually. Let's call these my "high maintenance" vegetables.

In the beginning of May, I'll start my low maintenance/direct seed vegetables (squash, beans, lettuce, carrots, whatever else strikes my fancy between now and then), but I don't direct seed much because I haven't had a lot of luck with direct seeding. I usually start them all indoors for 2-3 weeks. It helps me space out my garden better and helps me differentiate between weeds and vegetable plants in the beginning.

Here are some pictures of the soil blocks. I also keep them under a greenhouse to keep their humidity levels up. These types of seeds like warm and humid, so I oblige.

And lastly, my garden plan. Like I said above, it's just an idea. It'll probably change, but it lets me see how far apart everything should be planted and how many (approximately) I can fit.

Spring is almost here!

Correction: Spring is technically here! Summer is almost here!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Windowsill Looseleaf lettuce

It worked. It needs another few weeks and it's not much, but it's nice to know it's possible.

It's also almost time to start my spring seedlings. Remember last year I mentioned it's important to identify what to plant, how much, and when. Next post I will talk more about what I'm planting this year. The early plants are definitely tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant. They need at least 8 weeks indoors and can't be planted out until the middle to end of May, so they're about ready to get started.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

It worked!

I successfully grew Bok choy on our windowsill in the winter! And it was delicious. I sautéed it last night with garlic and put it on top of some pasta with Parmesan. I forgot to take a picture of the finished product because it looked so good we ate it pretty quickly. But here it is right before I cooked it up. I just wish we had more.

Next up....windowsill salad!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Bok Choy!

We ate the arugula and will be eating the Bok choy soon. I like sauteeing them with a little sesame oil, just for flavor, but they're basically steamed, and serving with a meat like beef or lamb.

Next up? I bought loose leaf lettuce seeds to grow next.