Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Hitting 'The Carrot Lottery'

After searching for some carrot growing tips to ease my personal carrot struggle I came upon this joyous little piece titled "Lottery winner plans to grow better carrots". (Enjoy!) http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20090616/od_nm/us_lottery

Now back to my carrot troubles. Figure 4 is not my problem, nor will it ever be if I can't get the dang things to grow. You see, I went to the trouble of making a special mix for my carrots. They have a nice deep bed made with fine sand and loam. We removed the obvious rocks by hand with every wheelbarrow load that went in. There is not too much nitrogen or organic matter to cause 'forking' and the soil is well drained thanks to all that sand. I have a special planting method that I covered back in May, and I am sure to keep the stinkers moist for the first few weeks.

This lone carrot ranger is all that has survived out of the latest 16 seeds sowed. Pitiful.

I do have others growing in a separate section. Keep in mind I began sowing carrot seeds on April 18th, and have had many, many failures along the way.

Only 4 or 5 carrots survived out of the first hundred or so seeds. Luckily the batch behind them actually seems to be doing OK (me, knocking on wood), so I guess I just need to be patient.

The reason behind the disapearing carrot is a still a mystery to me. Rabbits? Slugs? Bad JuJu? I know others have had there own carrot struggles and if there is anything you have learned along the way, please share it here.......this girl has yet to hit the lottery.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Recently I sent away for some free seeds. I was not expecting the quantity or variety that arrived today, WOW! This is the "Winter Sowing" Assortment, well worth the stamped self addressed envelope. I received 6 varieties of flower seeds and 5 vegetable seed packets. These included a Winter Radish, Pak Choi, 'Winter Giant' Spinach, Black Cherry Tomato, and Egyptian Beets. Thanks WinterSown!!!

Winter Sowing is done outdoors during winter using mini-greenhouses made from
recyclables; there are no heating devices, no energy wasting light set-ups or
expensive seed starting devices. For free seeds and instructions go here: http://www.wintersown.org/wseo1/Free_Seeds.html

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Tomato Talk

This is the first Juliet to ripen. The flavor was good but its size is closer to a cherry than a plum. Will I be surprised by the miniature plum tomatoes that continue to come or is this a temporary consequence of a cold and rainy Spring? I have never experienced a fuzzy tomato before, but it was easily removed with a swipe of the thumb.

I may have ruined this Big Beef with the nylon. I was trying to be proactive and prevent any small creatures from enjoying the ripe tomato before me, but all the rain and it's tight cover left behind some scars. I picked it, not being convinced it was going to ripen on the vine at this point. This tomato has spent months growing, and hanging, and being green.
The Sungold tomatoes are so delicious, I wish I could pick more than one at a time. All of the plants are growing fruit with the exception of the Yellow Pears. They seem to be on their own schedule and have just begun to flower.

Chard Tart

This tart is becoming a favorite of mine. I found the recipe here: www.farmfresh.org/learn/recipes/CHARD.pdf I am still awed by the visual feast the Bright Lights variety of Swiss Chard offers. I have been using up my frozen pie crusts and a mixture of swiss and parmesan cheese. Even the kids are eating this one, green parts and all!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Other People's Gardens

Another post not about my garden. Hey, what else is there to do when the rain just doesn't stop and you have little to harvest? Make stuff with food from other people's gardens!
(Speaking of other people's food, my1st CSA pick-up was today: 1 head lettuce, 1/4 lb salad greens, sm bunches of kale and swiss chard, 1/2 doz. eggs, 1 kohlrabi, quart of strawberries, and cheese.)

All this dreary weather is making me think of the fall and winter months, which makes me dream of baking pies. Today I made the Blueberry Pie Filling (recipe in previous post). The recipe made 5 pints so I will do another batch soon in order to have batches frozen in 2 pint quantities, enough for 5 pies in all.

My blogger friends Erin over at Garden Now-Think Later! and EG at Engineered Gardener have been busy making blackberry jam and it has been looking yummy! So, I dug out some set aside recipes I have been wanting to try and washed up the Ball jars and got my canning on. These are the recipes I used for Sweet Onion Preserves and Jalapeno Strawberry Jam, thanks for the inspiration!!:

http://www.discusscooking.com/forums/f94/sweet-onion-preserves-13516.html I substituted a mix of white wine, white balsamic, and red balsamic vinegars in place of the tarragon vinegar, and used rosemary and sage in place of the fresh tarragon.
http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Jalapeno-Strawberry-Jam/Detail.aspx This is all that was left of one of the jars come evening after making the jam. We all had some poured over cream cheese with crackers, and then my 2 yr old decided she was just going to go for straight for it and began eating spoon fulls right out of the jar. This recipe isn't too spicy, if you are looking for some real heat you need to kick the type of peppers up a notch. Used more hot red cherries than jalapenos but the cherries had less fire than I was expecting. Can anyone give me lessons on the world of hot peppers?
I saw these containers and thought they would be perfect for freezing individual pints of berries in.

Freezer Blueberry Pie Filling

I generally use frozen wild blueberries for pies but this is worth giving a second thought.....blueberries are such a good value at the grocer right now, those Jersey berries are a welcome treat since locally we are not in season yet.

12 C blueberries, washed, dried, and picked over
3 C sugar
1 T lemon zest
1/4 lemon juice
3/4 C corn starch

Stir together sugar and corn starch in a large saucepan. Add blueberries and stir. Leave to sit about 30 minutes/until it gets juicy. Then add lemon juice and zest. Turn stove to med. heat and cook until thickened. Store in freezer jars ( Will need 2 pints for a deep dish pie, 1 pint for a 1'). Should fill about 5 pints. Edit- I added a few good shakes of cinnamon to the sugar mix and salt to taste after it was thickened over the heat. Just a small amount of salt is needed, I did about 5 grinds of sea salt.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Garden Tour

This first picture is of my blustery back yard, now you can fully understand why my garden is in the front yard.

My messy garden needs some clean-up! As you can see I am still in the 'container planting phase' which is ridiculous considering we are almost into July, darn weather, so pardon the bags of soil, peat pots and containers scattered about. I will post some close ups of the planted containers another day. The kitchen garden is made up of six beds; 4 are constructed with 1x8 cedar boards; 2 are deeper with a combination of 1x boards. How deep you ask? I forget. 12 and 18 inches maybe? I am sure my husband didn't forget since he was lucky enough to rip the boards down to size. (thanks honey!)

The first bed is home to my asparagus (and some peas and milkweed for fun). The second has three rows of tomatoes. There are a handful of basil plants through out along with a row of red onions and 2 rows of cut-n-come again lettuce interplanted.

The third and fourth beds are Cucurbits and Roots. The one in the foreground is divided into 3 sections and contains carrots and herbs; potatoes; carrots and sweet potatoes. The vertical bed behind has cukes, winter squash seedlings, marigolds, and sweet alysum. Some of these seedlings are too small to be seen.

In the fourth bed I have legumes, beans, peppers, onions. the peppers were stuck in to separate the legumes and onions since they do not enjoy being neighbors.

The final bed is the one that gives me trouble. A few plantings of spinach, beets, and chard have been ripped out and started over or replaced with something else. Currently it holds a variety of salad greens, 2 rows drying beans(pole), bush beans, another row of pole beans, zinnias,3 peppers, 1 eggplant and some bunching onions. It's picture can be found below in the last post.

The Passing of Spring & Square Foot Gardening

This cold and rainy weather pattern we are stuck in is starting to get on my nerves. The ripening time on my tomatoes has been ridiculously slow, and the peppers and eggplants are barely inching along......onions are drowning, enough already! I totally appreciate the rain but a few more warm sunny days tossed in would do wonders. I chuckle to myself when I read other gardeners complaining about the heat waves. Maybe my rain isn't so bad after all. But the wind....not sure how high the winds are but things have been moved to safer places on the deck and there are lots of branches littering the ground. The dogs don't even want to be out in it.

I figured I should use the time stuck in this gardening holding pattern to take a look back over the recent passing of Spring, and how the square foot gardening experience has gone so far. I have harvested lots of greens, peas, and a few tomatoes so far.

The positives:

  1. I am very happy with the raised beds.
  2. The SFG method has allowed me to try growing a little bit of everything which I really like. I figure this growing season will show who the true performers are, what we liked the best, and how much or little of each crop needs to be grown.
  3. Weeding and watering has been very manageable to date.

The Negatives:

  1. I found the recommended soil formula to be very costly and I couldn't find vermiculite locally. We did our own mix based on Mel's concept and tweaked it slightly for each bed. For example, the extra deep root bed is mostly loam and fine sand; the tomato bed is heavy on amendments and compost. I wish I could have started with Mel' s mix and tweaked that instead, but buying 3 different kinds of bagged compost and vermiculite on-line to fill all my square footage was not an option. Instead we bought a truck load of compost from a horse farm, got free delivery of loam from a friend, and purchased amendments and alternate sources of bagged compost as needed.
  2. Another cost, the cedar for the beds did not come cheap.
I should do a photo for each bed so I remember what was where come next Spring. Maybe i will brave the winds.....

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Rabbits Have a New Salad Bar

Damn bunnies, I love them but was not pleased to discover they had eaten all but two of the green bean seedlings and put quite a hurting on the pea population. I put down some dog hair through out the preferred 'buffets' along with some pieces of reflective tape. Hopefully this will deter the little beasts. I jinxed myself the other day by telling someone I have been fortunate to not have Peter Freakin' Cottontail ravaging my garden. On a good note there have been lots of beneficials hanging around the garden lately. Big Daddy Long Legs have set up shop in the potato bed, Mr. Snake has been lounging in shady nooks, and best of all these nice beetles have made it their personal mission to rid my eggplant of aphids. Here are a couple of pics:

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Aquidneck Farmer's Market

Another long day done, at least we got some sunshine in. We were on a mission first thing this morning, another stop on the farmer's market tour. This time we hit a really nice market in Middletown RI, just outside of Newport. There were 2 vendors selling meat, another with a raw bar and lobsters, 2 cheese vendors, 2 bakeries and a handful of produce vendors along with some other specialities vendors such as imported olive oils and vinegars, jellies, etc. This is a market you could do almost all of your shopping at for the week.

Market bounty:

  • Divine Providence cheese, $9.00
  • Salty Sea Feta, $5.50
  • Bayley Haze Raw Cows Milk Blue Cheese, $4.62 ($22/lb)
  • Shelburne Farm 1 yr Farmhouse Raw Cows Milk Cheddar, $4.48 ($14/lb)
  • Olgas's Pizza Crust- 9 crusts total, $11.25
  • Baguette, $3.00
  • Free Range Chicken (whole, 5lb), $20.00
  • 1 1/2 lb breakfast sausage links, $13.33
  • bag of organic mixed greens & organic bulk strawberries @ $5.50/lb, $10.25 total
  • rhubarb, $2.50
  • 2 bunches asparagus & bag of garlic scapes ($1), $9.00 total
  • (1)pint red, (1) pint yellow new potatoes, $6.00

Grand Total: $98.93. I was a little shocked by the prices, particularly on the meat and cheese. I actually double checked to confirm my meat total for 4 links of sausage and a chicken, coming in at over $33.00. As much as I would like to eat this type of meat all of the time it is just not an option. I think I will continue to purchase local beef in bulk, but stick to big store "natural" chicken and chicken sausage.

We had Grilled BBQ chicken pizza for lunch using Olga's crusts (awesome!), leftover chicken shredded w/Q sauce, garlic scapes, and the Divine Providence cheese which has a gouda-cheddar like flavor. BBQ chicken pizza shows up on the menu quite frequently at my house, but this version was a bit lighter and a welcome change from the smoked gouda, mozzarella and caramelized onions I typically use. Oh, and home made strawberry ice-cream for dessert tonight, it was rather effortless considering how good it tastes. Erin- you must take the ice cream plunge!

Beach Plums

This is a subject I know nothing about so really I had no business bringing home a five gallon container with a wee one inside. Beach Plum you ask? The farmer said it is a hardy variety, that it will tolerate some shade (though produce less fruit), has a very distinct flavor, and makes a very good jelly.
These plants, prunus maritima, grow everywhere along the North Eastern Seaboard and there is a project through Cornell and the Cape Cod Cooperative Extension that is trying them out for horticultural production. The fruits ripen in September and can be eaten right off the bush or used to make jellies and syrup. After reading up on this I have learned to 'treat it' like a plum and prune it like a peach. Huh. The one pictured at left is being pruned into tree form, they are quite bushy and rambling when growing in the dunes. I figured for $6.50 its worth a shot at homegrown beach plums for snacking though their performance when grown for horticultural use thus far has been less than stellar. (I will post a picture of our latest addition to the edible landscaping soon.)

Friday, June 19, 2009

S. Dartmouth Farmer's Market Bounty

Just came home from our farmer's market adventure. It involved me getting twisted around (even with GPS), two dogs ( one of which sat on the horn for a 20 seconds straight as I was unloading 2 kids into traffic and required 2 e-collar/cone repairs (she was just spayed)), and lots of sticky strawberry fingers that were not happy with the lack of wipes and thought is was fun to shred the lettuce leaves the whole way home. Ahh, serenity.

I did manage to fill my basket with some good eats:

  • 12 oz bag locally made Fig & Nuts Granola, $6.50

  • head of lettuce, $2.50

  • pint of the juiciest strawberries I have seen all season, $3.00

  • approx. 1/2 pound of peas, potted rosemary (frost tolerant variety), potted pineapple sage, $9.00

  • Caramelized Onion Focacia loaf, $6.00

S. Dartmouth Farmer's Market Grand Total: $27.50. I have to frequently remind myself that I am paying for quality from these vendors and that this food will nourish my family. I have never been one to skimp on food quality, but eating on a more local scale is definitely more expensive- like $7.oo/lb heirloom tomatoes and $6 breads. There was a farmer with lamb and beef products today, breakfast sausage was $8 pound; also live lobsters, the best value there for sure. My little man was quite ticked we didn't bring home any "lobbas"- but I explained Big Mama was out of cash, maybe next week.

I may check out Fairhaven tomorrow, I have decided I am going to skip my town's market this year, I have just not been that impressed in the past.

On another note, our ice cream/frozen yogurt/sorbet maker came today and I had two VERY excited kids who couldn't wait to open box. We got to some ice-cream making straight away only to realize the tub needs to be frozen first. So, the strawberry ice-cream to-be is in the fridge waiting patiently to be churned into some creamy, sweet goodness.


  • History:Kohlrabi came to the United States from Europe. It's name literally means cabbage-turnip. Kohlrabi can be planted for both spring and fall harvest. It comes in white, actually green, and purple varieties.

  • Storage:Store kohlrabi with leaves on to maintain freshness. However, they can be stored sans leaves if you are short on space. Either way, store kohlrabi in your refrigerator crisper. Since they are so bulky, it is usually easier to simply use them right away.

  • Nutrition: good source of vitamin C and potassium and are low in both sodium and calories. One cup of diced and cooked kohlrabi contains 140% of the recommended daily allowance for vitamin C and only 40 calories.

Going by either Kohlrabi or Kohl Rabi, it is often mistaken for a root vegetable and can be enjoyed freshly grated or sliced in salads, cut up for dipping, or for making 'kohlslaw'. I would like to try one of the recipes below depending on the size and quantity in my share.

Kohlrabi Gratin (Anna Barnes) Serves 4-6

kohlrabi with leaves

1 T butter or olive oil

1 clove garlic or 1/2 garlic scape thinly sliced

2 - 3 T sliced green or bulb onion

3 - 4 c stock

3 - 4 T flour

salt and pepper to taste

2 ounces sharp cheddar or other strong cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Remove greens from kohlrabi and set aside. Cut off roots and tops of kohlrabi and trim off fibrous outer layer. Slice into 1/4" slices or cube into 1/2" pieces. Wash greens. Remove stems using a knife to make v-cuts in the leaves. Stack several leaves together, roll like a cigar, and thinly slice into strips 1/8" to 1/4" wide. Repeat.

In a large pan heat 4 qts. water to a boil. Add leaves. Test for tenderness and bitterness. Cook until leaves are on the verge of losing their bright green color. Remove and drain. In a large saute pan, heat butter or oil. Saute garlic and onion for 2 min. Remove, set aside. Add 3 c stock to pan, bring to a low boil. Add kohlrabi bulb pieces. Cook until tender crisp. Remove from pan.

Remove 1 c stock and into it stir flour. Add back to stock in saute pan. Salt and pepper to taste. Stir to prevent lumps. Add onion, kohlrabi, and kohlrabi leaves. Coat with sauce. Add 1/2 to 1 c more stock if mixture is too dry. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Transfer to a greased 2-3 quart dish. Top with grated cheese. Bake until cheese is brown, approx. 15 to 20 min.

Kohlrabi with Parmesan
2 large or 3 medium kohlrabi, stalks and leaves removed

2 T unsalted butter or olive oil, or combination

1/4 c grated Parmesan cheese

salt and pepper to taste

1 T minced parsley

Peel kohlrabi to remove fibrous outer layer. Shred with grater or food processor. Heat a medium skillet to medium heat. Add butter and/or oil. When fat is hot, add kohlrabi. Cook, stirring frequently, until vegetable is tender, about 8 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stir. Toss with cheese. Cook until cheese melts, about 1 minute. Garnish with parsley. Serve hot. Serves 4.

Much of this informative information along with recipes was found at http://www.prairielandcsa.org/recipes/kohlrabi.html

Thursday, June 18, 2009

An Ode To Mr. Adams

I was inspired to write this ditty after carrying our growing collection of empties from the counter to the basement this morning:

Six empty cases of beer on the floor, six empty cases of beer
We drank the Sam down after digging the ground,
Six empty cases of beer on the floor.
Six empty cases of beer on the floor, six empty cases of beer,
We keep them near, cause the children are here,
Six empty cases of beer on the floor.
Six empty cases of beer on the floor, six empty cases of beer
Honey run to the store, we must buy some more
We need a full case of beer on the floor!

The Life of Cheese

"Remember, cheese is a living thing!" say the Shy Brothers' who will be providing their delicious Hannabells for our CSA share next week. This 'living thing' is a debated topic. The milk which cheese is made of is clearly not alive, however, many cheeses have live cultures added which will continue to flourish and enhance the flavor of the cheese as it ages, and in this case the Shy Brothers' add two. Either way this Wisconsin girl got her cheese on at a young age and just couldn't imagine life with out it.

Picture a hilltop.....where the Shy Brothers' story begins. They make some delicious cheese, the little bells come in many flavors, my two favorites are Rosemary and Shallot. The rosemary is especially good with a bit of honey drizzled on top and makes a wonderful addition to any cheese plate. Locally I pick it up at Lee's Market or the Westport Farmer's Market but they will ship from the farm as well. http://www.shybrothersfarm.com/the-cheese.htm

Cheese Serving and Storage Tips (courtesy of cheese.com)
Unpasteurised cheese with a range of flavours should not be sliced until purchase otherwise it will start to lose its subtlety and aroma.
Keep the cheese in conditions in which it matures. Hard, semi-hard and semi-soft cheeses are stored in the temperatures from around 8 - 13 C.
Keep the cheese wrapped in the waxed paper and place it in a loose-fitting food-bag not to lose humidity and maintain the circulation of air.
Wrap blue cheeses all over as mould spores spread readily not only to other cheeses but also to everything near.
Chilled cheeses should be taken out of the refrigerator one and a half or two hours before serving.
Cheeses contain living organisms that must not be cut off from air, yet it is important not to let a cheese dry out.
Do not store cheese with other strong-smelling foods. As a cheese breathes it will absorb other aromas and may spoil.
Wrap soft cheeses loosely. Use waxed or greaseproof paper rather than cling film.
Let cold cheese warm up for about half an hour before eating to allow the flavour and aroma to develop.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

CSA Starts Next Week!

Our 1/2 share CSA pick-up begins next week. This size share is listed as feeding 1-2 people (example of 1 week's 1/2 share in photo), I have often regretted not getting a full share for our family, BUT I am the only true veggie lover and we will have some produce from the kitchen garden if all goes well......so a 1/2 share it is. They have unfortunately decided not to do bread this year due to all of the special requests from past shareholders, I guess some people just can't be happy with a homemade loaf, go figure. Next week's pick-up will include the following:
  • fresh, free range eggs
  • salad greens
  • strawberries
  • kale
  • cheese
  • kohl rabi

I need to do some investigating on the kohl rabi, that will be a first for our household. This is where I am hoping all of those vegetarian and seasonal ingredients based cookbooks I have acquired will come in handy. I will of course post any recipes I find interesting or 'taste test approved' for my own future reference and for you few fab followers out there.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tomato Love

Ironically today feels more like Fall than the last week of Spring, but I just had my first bite of home grown tomato- just now- and it was fabulous! I love how the cherries burst when you bite into them and this little garden hero did not disappoint. Sungold, you have earned a permanent place in my garden. The months of living with a seed station in the bedroom, more hours of light than dark, constant watering, and bi-weekly feedings has finally paid off with a June tomato. Life is good.

Got Crumble?

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumble:

Melt 1 stick butter for topping; In a med. bowl whisk together the following:
1 1/3 C flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 C plus 2 T sugar
pinch of salt
Add melted butter and pinch together with fingers until crumbly (want some larger chunks); set aside, can be chilled while preparing filling.

Approx 1 quart (or 3 Cups) quartered washed strawberries
Approx 1 1/2 C rhubarb (cut into 1/2 inch pieces)
1/2 C sugar
pinch of ground cloves
1 T Gran Gala or other orange liquor
1-2 tsp lemon juice
pinch of salt
1/4 C corn starch
Mix cornstarch, sugar, salt, cloves together and toss with berries and rhubarb.

Spray shallow baking dish or pie plate with non-stick spray, add filling and drop topping over until evenly covered. Bake on cookie sheet until bubbly and browned, about 35-45 minutes at 375 degrees. If top gets too brown cover with foil for last 10 minutes bake time.
We ate this with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top, ENJOY!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Garden Notes

Garden Notes: I am terribly close to picking my first tomato, the Sungold cherry is starting to get a deep orange tint. That little pepper is 'Carmen', a sweet Italian variety from Johnny's Seeds which should be amazing when big, red, and roasted. I have lost the ability to distinguish between the 3 pea varieties growing which stinks because one is consistently much better than the rest. I put a stocking over my big beef today, that sucker is so big the nylon just fits.....only two tomatoes growing so far though. (Do the larger slicing tomato varieties typically produce fewer fruits than the smaller cherries and plums?) Potatoes beginning to flower; something is mowing down the muskmelon seedlings; pH in correct range on potatoes and blueberries; alpine strawberries almost ready for picking.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Back To The Farm

We all headed back to the farm today hoping they would have the pesto and strawberries I went home without earlier in the week and this time I remembered my camera. The kids got to say hello to all of their farm friends again and I got my hands on some lemon basil pesto, strawberries, 2 dahlia tubers for the kitchen garden and some rhubarb among other less glamorous things. I got quite a kick out of the lionhead rabbit (pictured), could anything be any cuter? And for anyone who has never seen a Peacock shakin' his tail feathers for his lady below is a peak: all party in the front, business in the back. (Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumble was on the dessert menu for the evening, I will post a photo and the recipe soon. I had never had rhubarb before so wasn't sure what to expect. I am a new fan and my little guy said "this is AWESOME!". We will be making it again soon.)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

For the Birds

We visited Alderbrook Farm yesterday to pick up some veggies for dinner and take a walk around to visit all of the animals. The Peacock was was showing off his plumage for his Peahen, but of coarse my camera was at home. What a majestic bird, I see him display every year but still want to stare at him for an hour.....the kids of course don't. They are more interested in watching the sheep poop and visiting the chicken coop. No rhyming intentions there, sorry.

I spied this bird house and just had to have it. Not only do I love bird houses and anything with copper, but I have many fond memories of my childhood in the mid-west, especially of a vacation to beautiful Lake Michigan. Triple score, had to have it, now I must decide where to put it so I can admire it from afar.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Bye-Bye Beets and a Biodynamics Intro

What is Biodynamic Agriculture? Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association
Posted using ShareThis. A very interesting topic for sure. I like the idea of trying to make our food as nourishing as possible. To learn a little about this fascinating form of agriculture click on the title in purple text above.

I treated myself to a couple of new books this weekend:

Farmer John's Cookbook, The Real Dirt On Vegetables- tales and recipes from a CSA
http://www.angelicorganics.com/ao/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=130&Itemid=180 I am IN LOVE with this book though I have only sneaked a peak here and there and am really looking forward to reading it from cover to cover. This book also touches on Biodynamic practices a bit.

Jerry baker's Terrific Tomatoes, Sensational Spuds, and Mouthwatering Melons- this book is full of growing tips written by a man who learned about gardening from his Grandmother during the war, and is full of "Grandma Putt's old-fashioned grow-how".
I yanked my pathetic chioggia beets this weekend, they are just not growing as they should. I think I need to modify the soil before trying them again for fall. They had lots of organic matter, maybe too much. That darn horse farm compost again, very heavy and we loaded that bed full of it. From Jerry: "Even small beets send their roots a long, long way into the ground. If they have to struggle through heavy soil or bump up against underground obstacles, they won't develop the way you want them to." These suckers were put out in the coldframe way back in March. I have wasted enough time on them and will be devoting their plot to a more successful crop of bush beans.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Here Begins the Garden Carnage

I think my shallots are rotting from being too wet. I did find a small worm in one but not sure if this is the cause or just an effect of the bulbs breaking down. I must be over watering them and the soil seems to not be draining as well as I would like. The compost I got from the horse farm is still quite coarse and seems to be holding water. Yellow tips on alliums can imply over watering. Below top are the plants I pulled with brown withered leaves; bottom shows yellow tips on remaining plants.

Here is a picture of the worm, I have ruled out the onion maggot:

Thursday, June 4, 2009

How My Garden Grows, June 2009

(Click photo to enlarge) Bush beans, squash blossom, dwarf snap peas, fuzzy baby plum tomatoes, cuke blossom, strawberries in hanging bags, straw bales for planting, seedlings in whiskey barrel, bean sprout emerging.

Fruit Plantings

After doing some work to the house we were left with one mess of a side-yard. My husband was hoping to avoid having to mow the slope and I was hoping for some fruit to pick so we came upon the idea of doing some edible landscaping. Luckily this is a popular topic these days or we may have ended up with more hydrangeas and the dreaded grass. This has been a fly by the seat of our pants thing and getting the proper hours of sun required for these fruits is questionable. So far we have planted 2 dwarf apple trees and a variety of small fruits. I have noted the varieties below along with a few links to help me through out the season, I already can't remember what is what. We hope to have a ground cover of strawberries and a blackberry/raspberry bramble hedge when all is grown in. (Shown above: alpine strawberry, our progress in the side yard to date, blackberry flowers)

Canadice Red Seedless Grape - site preparation, pruning & trellising:
(trellis on the garden 'to do' list)
Growing Blackberries:
  • fruit is ripe when it goes from glossy to dull
  • tip erect canes back mid-summer
  • primocane varieties fruit on first year canes
Dwarf Liberty Apple on pajam/M-9
Dwarf Spitzenburg Apple (Thomas Jefferson's reported favorite) on pajam/M-9
Apache Blackberry
Ebony King Blackberry
Navaho Thornless Blackberry- prune to 6 feet; upright, mid-summer fruit; good flavor & yield
Heritage Red Raspberry
Jewel Black Raspberry (2)
(?) Latham Red Raspberry
"Mounding" Strawberry (17)
Honeoye Strawberry (25)- has been called a 'foolproof' strawberry plant, great freezing qualities; early-mid season producer; best flavor occurs in med.-light soil.
Cabot Strawberry (25)- huge, excellent flavored mid-season berries, first fruits may split or be rough; may space closely, less likely to run
Alpine Strawberry (3)
Jersey Blueberry (2)
Toro Blueberry (2)
Bluecrop Blueberry (2)
Canadice red Grape

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Ground Cherry

I seem to have a faint memory of eating these out of someone's garden as a child. They were on my wish list for next year but I decided to throw caution to the wind and order some seeds up before it was too late........now I have to find a spot to plant my 'Aunt Molly's Ground Cherry' keeping in mind they are part of the Nightshade family. The seeds got a late start and have just sprouted. They hopefully will be well on their way to producing some tasty fruit for us this fall.

These small fruits are said to be a nice addition to fruit salads and ice cream but the hands down favorite seems to be pie. I have never had any myself but I am looking forward to trying one of the recipes below:

Amish Ground Cherry Pie- 2 C ground cherries, 1 C water, 1tsp salt, 1 C sugar, 4 T cornstarch,
1 T real lemon juice, additional C water, nutmeg, pastry for a 2 crust pie. Bring cherries, salt & water to a boil. Blend together sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, water, and nutmeg to taste; add to cherry mixture and allow to cool. Put in unbaked shell and top with crust. Bake until browned (no oven temp. given).

Ground-Cherry-Pie-II- http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Ground-Cherry-Pie-II/Detail.aspx

Also, the fruits can be dipped in chocolate or caramel using the peeled back husk as a handle. If not allowed to fully ripen they may have an off flavor and parts of the plant are poisonous, more on this below:

From Mother Earth News- "Expect this garden crop—which prefers medium-dry
soil—to sprout early and grow rapidly. It quickly puts out yellow flowers with
brown or purple centers, and will continue to bloom and bear until the first
frost. Around July, the fruit (which develops in a husk) will begin to drop to
the ground and—even though it's not fully ripe when it does so—you should gather
the cherries as they fall, since they're favorites of many animals and
"Inside the husk, you'll find a small berry—about half an inch in
diameter—with a tomatolike skin and, when ripe, a sweet flavor similar to that
of a strawberry. The color of the mature cherry will vary from species to
species: It may be yellow, red, purple, or brown. And (again, according to the
species in question) it can be poisonous when green . . . so be sure to let the
fruit ripen in the husk until it's soft and sweet. (I have often stored the
unhusked cherries for months. In fact, I was once able to prepare a fresh
ground-cherry pie for Christmas dinner!) "