Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for July, 2013

It’s the end of July and our slicing tomatoes are finally changing color – just a week ago they were barely starting to blush red. There are a ton of clusters on each plant, so many that they’re starting to weigh down the branches, and we’ve had to resort to tying the stakes together to keep them upright.

Still not even turning red.

Still not even turning red.

So to lighten the load (literally), we strategically removed about five big tomatoes and decided to make a Southern favorite – fried green tomatoes.

We’ve never made these before, but I’m so glad we did because they were absolutely delicious. I looked up a few recipes and found the basics are the same. As usual, I made my own variation.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Save fresh herbs in a small vase of water.

Save fresh herbs in a small vase of water.

Our herbs are always one of the best things in our garden. They’re thriving right now in all the sun and warmth of summer. The basil is especially growing strong. I’ve already pinched back a bunch and made some delicious pesto.

We’ll have to make another batch soon, but usually when we pick basil it’s more than we can ever use in one dish.

To save the basil (and a couple trips outside), we always make sure to get as much of the stem as possible. Then, we use what we need and store the rest in a small vase.

This really works for almost any herb – just make sure to remove any leaves that would be below the water line.

It will stay fresh like this for about a week. Plus, it makes the kitchen smell amazing!

Read Full Post »

Thankfully, most of the insect problems have subsided, and we’re actually getting to use a lot of the vegetables from our garden. The harvest has been good so far and even if everything dies tomorrow (which we are hoping doesn’t happen), I’ll chalk it up to a pretty successful year.

Grilled chicken pitas with tzatziki and orzo.

Chicken pitas with tzatziki and orzo.

While I’m happy with a sliced cucumber or tomato and a little bit of salt, or some sautéed zucchini and eggplant, we’ve been trying to think of more creative ways to use everything.

That said, I’ll be sharing a few of the dishes we’ve been making with the herbs and vegetables from our garden. First up, Greek chicken with tzatziki.

It’s a pretty simple recipe, and we usually stuff the chicken in a pita pocket and top with the tzatziki.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

A good harvest

A good harvest

Except for the zucchini, everything in this photo came from our garden in the past two days. We had about 1.5 pounds of Roma tomatoes, two more cucumbers, about eight peppers, two eggplant, a couple dozen cherry/grape tomatoes and even picked some of the edible nasturtium and borage flowers. This makes me excited that we’re at least doing something right!

Read Full Post »

Our tomatoes are finally starting to turn red. We’ve harvested a handful of zucchini and cucumbers, plus an eggplant and a few Anaheim peppers. Not to mention all the fresh herbs we need.

Delicious homegrown cucumbers.

Delicious homegrown cucumbers.

So far, it’s been a decent season and could end up being one of our better gardening years. But of course not everything is perfect. Despite our efforts to crush the cucumber beetle and wipe away any trace of the squash vine borer, we’ve lost a few battles.

I suspect what made the leaves on two of our cucumber plants shrivel and die was bacterial wilt transmitted by the cucumber beetle. Either that or serious damage from a mega-infestation of squash bugs, which I promptly doused in insecticidal soap.

We did lose one of our yellow squash volunteers to the squash vine borer, as well as half of another yellow squash plant that somehow divided itself in two after it was in the garden.

While all this is upsetting, I’m trying to look on the bright side of things. Where we had to tear out the cucumber plants is a great place to plant a fall crop of peas, and the dead squash plant frees up a pot for some more fall lettuce.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Read Full Post »

There are few new faces in our garden this year. And they’re not welcome. We’ve seen some familiar ones – squash vine borers, cucumber beetles, squash bugs – but there have been several we’ve never noticed before.

First, the leafhopper. It’s actually a very pretty insect. The ones in our garden are a light, minty green with blue and orange stripes, but they come in all sorts of colors. I saw one earlier in the season hanging out on our squash plants. They’re pretty fast and jump around when disturbed.

As always, I wanted to check out what it was before we destroyed it. Turns out, they’re not good at all. They suck out the juices of the leaf, and the toxic saliva produces a stippling pattern on the leaves. If they’re not controlled, they can cause the leaves to yellow, wilt, dry out and eventually die.

Next, the mealybug. We noticed these on one of the cucumber tendrils, and they look like white fuzz that moves. They’re also not good because they suck out the sap from the plant’s tissue.

The next two I have no idea what they are. Even with some searching I haven’t had much luck. One looks like skinny grasshopper with a small stripe down its back. The other looks like a lightning bug, but fatter and without the stripes on its wings or dot on its head.

We’ll keep monitoring this and see how it progresses. I’m going to mix up a batch of insecticidal soap and spray it on the unwelcome insects.

Read Full Post »

Ready for the grill.

Ready for the grill.

In three years, we’ve gotten maybe three squash from our plants. Mostly because the squash vine borer destroyed it before it produced fruit, other times it was lack of pollination.

So when our first zucchini was ready to pick this year, we were thrilled. We went away for the weekend, and it went from almost ready to a monster in two days.

We just sliced it up and threw it on the grill for a quick, delicious side.

Here’s the recipe:

  • Slice the zucchini into rounds, about a half-inch or so thick. Brush each side with (or toss in) olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. I also sliced half an onion to go with it.
  • Put it on a grill pan (ours has slots in it) and cook for about three or four minutes per side, more if you like it softer. Once it was done, I grated some fresh parmesan cheese on top.

It was delicious and we will keep this recipe on hand for the future.

Read Full Post »

Like people, vegetable plants need certain nutrients to grow and thrive. The big three are nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus. There are, of course, other nutrients needs like calcium and magnesium that help plants.

Most commercial fertilizers have some mix of the big three, plus other micronutrients. We have a small garden, so I’m always unsure of the proper amount to add even with directions provided. Also, it’s much easier (and makes me more comfortable) adding natural ingredients to our garden and not relying on mixes.

There are plenty of things you can add to help give the soil a boost and most are probably on hand. While I’m sure there is some scientific formula to figure out exactly how much of each nutrient these add to the soil, we’re focused on the primary one these contribute.

  • Nitrogen. This is a big need for almost everything and too much can be just as dangerous. We mostly use coffee grounds because they won’t add too much to the soil, and it’s easy to adjust. They stay separate from compost stuff anyway because it makes the container a soggy mess.
  • Potassium. Bananas are a great source of potassium for humans, and the peels can be just as effective for plants. We just cut up the peel and bury it a couple inches under the soil. As it decomposes, the peel will add this nutrient.
  • Phosphorous. So this isn’t really a natural additive, but matches supposedly work well. My mom told me my grandpa, who always had an amazing and productive garden, would put matches in each planting hole for his peppers. Don’t use the wooden matches, they have to be the cardboard sticks in a small matchbook. We forgot to put these in the pepper holes, so I buried a few next to all our pepper plants.
  • Calcium. We had a really big issue with blossom end rot on our tomatoes last year, and I later learned a lot of this could be attributed to calcium deficiency. One of the easiest ways to correct this is with eggshells. We rinse out the shells and let them dry in the sun. When they’re ready (or when we need them), they’re laid on newspapers and crushed, usually by stepping on them. Then, the powder is sprinkled around each tomato plant.

We’re trying this all for the first time this season. If it works, I’m sure it’s something we’ll keep doing each year.

Read Full Post »

We came home from a camping trip two weekends ago and were excited to see how our garden was doing. Everything looked great until we spotted it – the adult version of the squash vine borer. There it was, just sitting on the zucchini leaf minding its own business.

The adult SVB. From whatsthatbug.com

The adult SVB. Photo from http://www.whatsthatbug.com

These have been a terror in our garden for the past three years, destroying our squash plants. Ever since the first year, when our plants were perfectly healthy then dead within days, we’ve been watching for this. I thought we were in the clear this year, but I was wrong.

In a weird way, I’m glad we saw it. I wasn’t as diligent about checking for any signs of the squash vine borer because everything was healthy and doing well — no yellow leaves, no wilting.

I think our beneficial nematodes really helped because they killed most of the cocoons that might have overwintered. But, seeing this adult reminded us that we’re not in the clear, and we still need a plan of attack.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Deer

Our frequent visitor. The three-legged deer.

He’s not completely missing a leg, he just walks around with his front right leg pulled up like a flamingo. I wish we knew what happened – maybe he got nicked by a car or tangled up somehow in the woods.

He’s been coming around our house for about a year, so maybe it’s time we give him a name. I’m kind of amazed he survived all this time and how big he’s gotten. When we came home from a bike ride, I slowly approached him to take a picture. Even from a distance it seemed like he was 4 or 5 feet tall.

It’s likely he’s responsible for our early gardening season losses. Luckily this time he was munching on the bushes at the edge of the woods line.

Read Full Post »