The 2010 Garden Review

OK - so for two years I had great hopes and expectations for my garden that turned to discouragement and despair....

2008 - The year of the GROUNDHOG - I had the best success ever in 2008 with seed my plants out, got the direct seeding done and was eating the best salads ever from my garden...the weather was good and the plants were growing strong...and then CHUCKY made an entrance and kept on breaking in all season. The plants were either eaten or stunted from his tunnels and I got next to no harvest of anything once the varmit got started around the begining of July.

2009 - The year of RAIN - I started out container gardening and eventually planted the garden mid-July after securing a 1/4 inch mesh fence at a right angle outward from the garden fence. I did harvest some beans and a squash or two, but because of the wet and lack of real heat most plants suffered. We had NO tomato harvest at home or at our CSA.

2010 was the year of perseverance and superstision. I was supersticious of posting ANYTHING about my garden here this year....but I persevered and did plant.
I started seeds...they did ok...not great...but ok. I planted in some containers.....and got seeds/plants in the garden by June.
I put out the surviving tomato, pepper and tomatillo plants, onion starts, planted beans (yellow, purple and chinese noodle, kholrabi, leaf cabbage, basil, yellow squash, zucchini, cucumbers, broccoli raab and swiss chard. Then I crossed my fingers...
The swiss chard and broccoli raab never came up...
The kholrabi did...and I got some kale out of that row as well ( I guess that seed company doesn't have very good quality control)
I weeded and watered; and weeded and watered; and weeded...which really wasn't great for the onions, but they did OK...not great, but OK.
I replanted radishes when I harvested the onions.
The cucumbers and squash grew...the tomatoes and peppers and tomatillos grew...the cabbage and beans grew...the basil grew (with extremely frequent shavings!!!).
The cucumber plants looked healthy one day and were dead within a week...around mid-late July...I had harvested about 8-10 fruits.
I continuously harvested/thinned kholrabi and kale throughout the summer and fall. The largest were probably a couple of inches in diameter and made tasty sweet pickles.
I got a decent amount of squash both green and yellow, not what I would call an overabundance, but enough.
The tomato plants were ok. I got some from each plant, not a lot, but some. The exception was the Amish Salad tomatoes - largish cherrys - that were abundant and delicious.
The only surviving pepper plants were anchos and they were also fairly abundant. I got a decent harvest of tomatillos, enough for 1 nice sized green sauce.
My regular beans were one of the big successes this year. I planted late enough that they had not yet put out flowers when we got our first hellish heatwave, and they gave me abundant harvests for 6 weeks...until the stink bugs damaged the plants too much for further harvest.
The chinese noodle beans came up - I think I picked 3 beans and then the plants disappeared.
The cabbage leaf....did well, but was unharvestable due to bug dammage.
The radishes did better than I've seen before....I actually got some to grow roots as well as leaves this year...and had a small harvest.

At this point I've got some lessons learned, and some pesto, squash, kale and onions in the freezer (although the bean harvest was great, we managed to eat all of them!!!), and had some delightful fresh dishes from the garden all summer!

This weekend I pulled what remained out of the garden and left the gates open so that my husband can fill it up with the autumn leaves. Next spring I want to re-work the configuration of my very small space. (10X10) so that there is less garden path and more planting space.
The leaves should help renew the ground.

Hope you have had a reasonably good gardening year too!

It's Asparagus/Rhubarb Season!

It's early spring in NJ. The weather is unpredictable, and tomatoes are months away. What's a gardener to do to keep up their spirits?

Plant perrenial veggies of course!

Asparagus, Rhubarb and Egyption (walking) Onions are perrenial vegetables that you plant once and get YEARS of abundance out of.

In my case, I didn't even do the work of planting my asparagus and rhubarb patches, they were already there when I moved into my house. I did plant Egyption Onions that I received from a local freecycler.

After a couple of years of abundant asparagus harvests, the past two years have seen more sparce harvests. I think some of the local wildlife may have developed a tast for the tender shoots which I thought only appealed to the human population. But the patch is big and the stems are sparce with lots of space in between, so I think it may be time to re-plant some roots as well.

My favorite application for asparagus is broiling or grilling after tossing in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Cook until the shoots are starting to lightly caremelize...and STUFF yourself!

The rhubarb is always more prolific than I can get my family to I generally freeze some, make strawberry/rhubarb jam, and give it away to friends who are not as lucky as I.
This year, however, is the YEAR OF RHUBARB" and my patch is producing the biggest, most succulent stems I have ever seen! On saturday I harvested the first cutting - somewhere between 10-20 lbs of stems.

If you've never seen/used rhubarb, let me start by saying NEVER NEVER eat the leaves they are poisonous to humans. If you look for rhubarb in a store, it looks like reddish giant stalks of celery, because the leaves have been removed for your safety.

Rhubarb, although actually a vegetable (seeds outside the plant), is used almost exclusively like a fruit, and is sometimes referred to as "the fruit plant". It is tart - almost lemony - and although wonderful by itself, makes any fruit you pair it with taste more like itself.

The classic combo is of course, stawberry/rhubarb pie, which I have never made. The closest I've come to this is making jam...and it is WONDERFUL!
I have paired rhubarb with blueberries and peaches for dessert applications; made sauces with it; and made a lemonade variation with it.

Perennial veggies are the best part of being a gardener in the spring; when you're putting in all of the work for your mid- and late-summer reward and are feeling like you just can't wait for harvest time, you don't have to - you can enjoy the freshness of a spring harvest that comes to you year after year, with only a little nurturing in between!

If It Doesn't Rain This Weekend - Garden Cleanup

So, we had frost already. HEAVY frost, and snow.
So it's time to clean out the garden pots and the garden plot.
To prevent rot and infestations and diseases from wintering over...all the plant material should be removed and composted away from your main compost.

Hopefully I'll have the chance to do at least some of that this weekend.

Along with that will be harvesting what's left of the herbs.
There's lots of parsley so I'm going to try a batch of Jen's Mom's Chimichurri Sauce!

I'm also going to try to figure out if I can get any of the herbs to keep growing in my east-facing kitchen window....

I'll let you know!

Challenge - Buy Hand for the Holidays

If you noticed, I recently added a do-hickey to my side-bar.

Deanna over at Crunchy Chicken is running a challenge to gift in a more environmentally manner this holiday season.

I have more information over at my food blog - because I frequently gift food items. But you can simply click on the icon over there --> and get started.

If you do this please leave comments about what you made and how the receiver liked it!!!

Fall Harvest!

It seems as though the 1/4 inch mesh metal fencing placed at an outward "L" away from the upright fence has kept chucky at bay.
If you remember from an earlier post I had planted squash and beans and had hoped to plant some additional items...that never happened, BUT the squash and beans have done well.

I have harvested a meal's worth of beans from both the lower garden and the window boxes every week or so. I have also harvested about a half-dozen squash and there are more on the way, and about the same number of cucumbers.
The pepper harvest has been ok, but modest.
There was also a tomatillo plant that I had transplanted in the lower garden that took off like a weed. It has produced a bizillion flowers and many empty husks. I don't think there's enough warm weather left for actual fruits.

The window boxes have still been giving me lettuce, beans and herbs. I have plenty of sage dried for winter roasts and bread stuffing. I have also been harvesting an abundance of parsely.

My biggest problems in the lower garden have been weeds/grass and slugs.
Many beans have been eaten by the slugs - so I guess next year I'll be needing to look for organic control methods.

And let me say that again, NEXT YEAR!

I am so happy to be ending this season with hope for next year's garden. I'm pretty sure I'll be able to plant peas, broccoli, cabbage and other early cool-weather items since the fencing is now secure!

Preserving the Harvest - PICKLES!

Garlic Dills

1Qt Water
1/2 C Salt
1 C white vinegar
8-12 Pickling Cucumbers
Garlic & Dill to taste

1-2 Quart Size Mason Jars / Jars from Tomato Sauce or any Large container
(I used a plastic container initially and moved them to jars after I found some that would work)

Wash pickles, quarter and put in jars with garlic and dill.
Mix salt, water and vinegar and pour over pickles filling jars. (Any large jars will do.)

Leave pickles at room temperature for 3 days.
Refrigerate after that.

Sweet & Salty Slices (with mixed veggies)
sliced onions
green peppers, cut in strips
Green or Yellow Beans
Daikon Radish slices
Enough sliced cucumber to fill a gallon jar (do not peel cucumbers)
4 c. sugar
3 c. vinegar
1/3 c. pickling salt (not iodized)
1 tsp. turmeric
1 1/2 tsp. celery seed
1 tsp. mustard seed

If you don't have a gallon jar you can also use Quart or Pint sized Mason jars...of course any jars will do as these will not be sealed.

Wash and slice veggies and put them in your jars.
(I made 1 jar with just yellow beans and onion slices, and put a mix of veggies in the other jars)

Mix sugar, vinegar and spices together in a pitcher or bowl with a spout until sugar is dissolved.
Pour liquid over vegetables in jar.

Mixture may not completely cover pickles, that's ok.

Ready to eat the next day.
Will keep all winter in refrigerator.
n the picture these don't look as yellow as they became later from the tumeric.
They are both very yummy!

August in the Garden: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

I can't believe that it's been so long since my last post.
The summer living is not slow and easy here in northern New Jersey, it is HOT and WET and it's been moving at a breakneck speed this year. With all of life, and the garden has been sort of neglected.
So I give you this past weekend's asessment:

The Good
The fenced garden with groundhog proofing has successfully keept out the groundhog for 6+ weeks now. YAY! So, hopefully next spring I'll be able to get an earlier start there and keep it going all summer.

The windowbox lettuce has been wonderful as have the windowbox bush beans...the beans that did well were a specific variety for container gardening.
And, The herbs always do well in containers.

The squash, cukes, and beans I planted in the fenced area are doing well and should produce a decent fall crop. (fingers crossed)

Onion sets I shared with my garden buddy, Kim, also did well in the fenced garden(not as good as hers, but she's a more attentive gardner) and the leeks were AWESOME.

The Bad
The topsy turvy hanging tomato things didn't do so well...I'm not completely ready to give up. It was a weird weather kind of, maybe next year they'll do better.
I kept planting what I thought was cilantro in containers, and it turned out that most of it was parsely. Oh well...
I still need to plant some autumn greens. Hope I get the chance before it's too late.
AND, the weeds OMG!!! With all of the rain we got this year, the weeds in the garden beds have been horriffic. It has been impossible to keep up with them.

The Ugly
Tomato blight...there, I've said it...
The same disease that created the Irish Potato Famine is taking out tomato crops in the NE USA. Organic and Biodynamic farms are hit hard.

I couldn't grow tomatoes this year for love or money. My seedlings didn't do well...I begged some from my friend Kim, but the weather stunted them.
Then I purchased some plants from the local Lowes...which died within a week...a dry week.
So I took them back and re-purchased...and those plants have barely hung on. (still trying to figure out if I took blight home.)

But in the back of my head I knew my CSG (Community Supported Garden) would take care of me. That we'd get distributions of tomatoes and there would be some "pick your own" patches.
Alas, that is not to be. We received word this week that the blight hit them hard and they had to destroy the tomato fields. It is an especially hard hit as they usually save seed and will not be able to do that either.

So here it is...the last week in August and NO TOMATOES! I'll probably be able to hunt some down at a farm stand somewhere....eventually....but it is not the same as eating as you pick from your own garden or watching your kids pick and eat...or bringing them home from the farm we've supported for 10 years.

What to do with the Green Beans You're Harvesting

It seems that even though some garden plants (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers etc) aren't real happy with the weird weather we're having in NJ this year, the beans like it just fine.
I've picked up 3 lbs at the CSG we belong to, harvested some of my own widow box bounty, and have accepted overflow from a friend's garden.

So, now, what to do with all that bounty....
I've posted a couple of asian-inspired recipes over on my food blog.
Click here, and here.

Of course, you can substitute beans in my friend Leana's squash recipe or just make that with the squash that is also becoming abundant about now!

There's also pickled green beans or 3 bean salad...or blanch them and freeze them for use when you need to taste the summer again.

Happy harvesting, happy eating!

Mid-July Check-In

It's hard to believe it's been more than two weeks since I posted last.
Summer really is flying by.
I finally finished my "groundhog proofing" efforts on the main (aka fenced) garden beds over the past 2 weekends.
During the spring/early summer my attentions to that plot were woefully scant and the weeds and grasses had taken over 3/4 of the I also had to de-weed.
The weeding process, although rough, gave me the opportunity to see how wonderful the ewe poo I added in May had made the earth. The number of earth worms was overwelming!
When I finished those tasks last weekend, I transplanted all my peppers, which were doing ok in pots, but not fabulous; the few tomato seedlings I had left and some summer squash and cucumber seedlings I had started about a month ago.
I also planted some additional squash seeds, and bush bean seeds. Over the next couple weeks I hope to get in some beets, chard and other fall crops.

In the window boxes, the first lettuce planting is ready for harvest; the second and third are coming in and the bush beans should be ready for harvest soon. Some tomato plants are still hanging in there and the herbs are doing well.

Protecting the Veggies

Even with the bulk of the garden close to the house this year, the deer and/or groundhogs have brazenly partaken of our efforts.
I started with pots close to our main door, and as the seeds sprouted I moved most of the window boxes to arms hanging from the porch railing, and covered some of the pots/boxes I couldn't move with bird netting.
At first I only covered the side of the steps with the bean plants, because the tomato and pepper plants are apperently not as tasty to the beasties.
But then my parsley started to got munched - AT THE very back of the pot ON TOP OF THE STEPS RIGHT ON THE PORCH!
So, I bought a second roll and now have it covering both sides.
My husband does not love it, it's not pretty, but it gets the job long as I remember to tuck it in...because the beastie got some of the parsley AGAIN even with the netting over it ARRGH!