Thursday, November 13, 2014

Cilantro: The Next Generation

I can't be absolutely sure, but it's quite possible that the cilantro pictured above(which I'm using today in my sofrito) will be my last harvest from outdoors this year. The weather forecasters are predicting early, bone chilling cold that will probably kill off most plants except for evergreens. If this is indeed the end, I can only say that it's been a pretty good year in gardening, despite weather that sometimes seemed to be determined to make it otherwise.

Among this year's garden pleasures was growing cilantro from seeds produced in the garden last year. I was doubtful how viable they would be, but almost every seed planted sprouted. And I had plenty to plant and plenty more are still left. I look forward to learning if the seeds will be as prolific next season.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Final Coutdown

Overnight lows have brought an end to most of my gardening. However, the root vegetables continue to do well as these succulent green onions attest. They are amazingly pungent considering their small size and I love the flavor they bring to everything from stir fry dishes to soups and casseroles.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Domesticated Daucus Donation

I grew these beauties in a discarded 10 gallon storage bin that someone had thrown away because they just became tired of it. I took them, along with a bag of fresh banana peppers, to a local charity that works to make sure people who are in need are fed at least a couple of wholesome, filling meals each day.

I should have planted at least two containers of carrots this season. Carrots are so easy to grow. Give them a nutrient rich environment, water and sunshine and they just take off. I'm definitely going to grow more next year.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Peppers For The Patio

You don't need much of a container to grow beautiful banana peppers like these, as you can plainly see from the photo. And you certainly don't need much room either. So if all you have available is a patio or porch, preferably with a Southern exposure, you have no reason not to try growing some to supplement your supply of fresh vegetables. Peppers have few if any pests and the only "problem" you may have with them is harvesting them fast enough once the plants start producing!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Colorful Nutrition

I have already extolled the nutritious wonders of Swiss chard elsewhere in this blog. So I won't repeat them in this entry. I'll just allow you to gaze at the colorful cousin of the family known as rhubarb chard. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Lovely Lakota

Lakota squash have an appeal that extends beyond their use as food. They make a great addition to the centerpiece of any Thanksgiving table. And because they are a winter squash, they keep for months. I recommend growing them to anyone who has the space for the vines, which can extend to six feet or more.

Friday, September 26, 2014

And I Almost Forgot...

While I was waxing poetic about the myriad ways in which banana peppers could be eaten and used in an earlier post, I forgot to mention that they can also be pickled. How careless of me!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

All In Good Time

Thanks to a summer that has been far cooler and wetter than normal, the melons in the garden have taken their own sweet time(pun intended) to grow and ripen. However, as the old saying goes, good things come to those who wait. And it has been well worth the wait. I thought the lack of ninety degree days and sunshine would have an adverse effect on the taste of this season's crop. I was wrong. These are some of the sweetest melons I've ever grown. My only complaint is that there might have been more of them to harvest if the weather had been more cooperative. Well, in the immortal words of Mick Jagger, "You can't always get what you want." But thankfully, I can truly say I'm happy with what nature provided despite adverse conditions.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Race To The Frost Line

Normally, we don't get frost here until the middle of October. However, nothing has been normal about this growing season, which started late because it was cooler than normal thru May and into June. And now it's been cooler in September than it should be on average. It will be a real race to see if my butternut squash plant will mature before Jack Frost makes his appearance. I've got my fingers and toes crossed!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Flavorful Rainbow

Fragrant, flavorful, fantastic, fresh banana peppers come in many colors and are extremely versatile. They can be used in salads, soups, stews, casseroles and stir fry dishes. They can be boiled, baked, fried, roasted or eaten raw. I can't get enough of them. This year I more than doubled the number of containers devoted to growing them. And I'm glad I did! And I can't wait to do it again next year!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Cheap Eats

Some may look at my garden and wonder why anyone would go to the expense and trouble of growing something that could be picked up at the nearest grocery store. Well, the fact is that truly fresh produce tastes far better than anything you're likely to buy at most grocery stores. And then there is the matter of frugality.

I know that's something that most people find hard to understand. "Don't those plants require water and fertilizer?", they ask. Most certainly they do. But how are those things major expenses when you use mainly captured rainwater and make your own fertilizer from food scraps and plant matter using a composter? And when you lasagna garden, you don't even need potting soil or top soil because the decomposition of leaves, grass and other organic matter you've gathered from Mother Nature provides your planting medium.

Summer squash are selling for an average of a dollar a pound in local stores in our area. So far I've pulled the equivalent of more than $20 in produce from the plant in the picture shown above and there is still more to come.

I get delicious, fresh produce and pay pennies for it. What can be bad about that?

Monday, September 1, 2014

Attack Of The Mystery Squash

Last year, I saved some seeds from a bush delicata squash. I planted several of them this year and put out three plants. Two of the plants have developed along normal lines, but the third has produced what you see in the photo above. If you compare these squash to average bush delicata, you see they are quite different in appearance.

I have sent this photo to different sites on the web and many people have suggested that it is a patty pan type of squash. However, I've never planted patty pan squash and this squash doesn't really have the scalloped shape so common for patty pan. Besides, how could a patty pan seed get into the delicata seeds I collected? I've never planted the patty pan type nor have I ever borrowed any patty pan seeds from another gardener. So I have a mystery on my hands. And I have begun to wonder.

Could this be some sort of strange, mutant, Audrey Rose squash? Is it just the vanguard of an invading army of alien squash sent to take over the gardens of Earth? Or is it something even more sinister? Will the bulbous fruits grow so large that they will produce pseudo-humans who will move among us and infiltrate our society? Is the end of life as we know it at hand? Stay tuned to this blog to find out.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Keep A Weather Eye Out

When someone tells you to keep a weather eye out or on something they mean watch it very carefully so you don't end up blindsided by change. That's always good advice when growing anything, but it's especially true about summer squash, cucumbers and other members of the Cucurbita pepo group. Once they start bearing fruit, it takes daily inspection to make sure you don't overlook some tender prize. And If you skip a few days of inspection you may find yourself looking at living baseball bats, because as tender as they are when they're young and small, they easily become tough skinned behemoths in a very short time.

These beauties will escape that fate. They'll make a nice side dish after they are battered and lightly fried.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Long Time Coming

It's not supermarket pretty and it has certainly been a long time in coming. But the first large tomato has finally ripened and will soon be followed by others. The weather certainly hasn't been what it should be. Although there has been sufficient rain, the long stretches of hot weather that tomatoes, melons and other plants love best have been in short supply. Despite the unusual weather, it looks like things will work out well after all. And that suits me just fine!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Plethora Of Lycopersica

Humans in Central and South America had been eating tomatoes since at least 500 B.C., but it took the Spaniards to spread this versatile vegetable to Asia, through the Philippines and to Europe.

A member of the deadly nightshade family of plants, rumors persisted for years in Europe that tomatoes were poisonous. And for some time the plants were grown as nothing more than ornamentation or conversation pieces. Of course, there is always some adventurous soul who will try anything. And once Europeans learned that it was the leaves and not the fruit that was poisonous, they couldn't get enough of this strange, shiny import from the Americas.

This year I have about a dozen small containers planted with Tiny Tom, Tumbling Tom and Peardrop varieties. And as you can see from the photo above, the plants have given an abundant harvest.

Friday, August 8, 2014

A Familiar Friend

The stripped delicata squash plant has started fruiting. I love this variety for its taste, its resistance to powdery mildew and the fact that it keeps well for months after harvesting in dark, cool, dry places like the corner of a garage.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Wait Is Over

I revel in this time of year. The container cherry tomatoes are ripening so fast I can hardly keep up. Fortunately, I know just what to do with them; cherry tomato pizza with homemade pesto and marinara sauce anyone?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

First Time's The Charm

There are thousands of people around the country that are dedicated to producing new varieties of tomatoes that can be grown in containers. My hat is off to those who came up with this variety known as Peardrop. They are tasty, juicy and have a sweetness that is just perfect. I'm definitely going to save some seeds so I can grow these again next season!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Crated Basil

A quartet of lettuce leaf basil plants is doing quite well in this planter made from a re-purposed milk crate and a plastic trash bag. Pesto anyone?

Monday, August 4, 2014

Song Of The Cicadas

Summer is ending. Summer is fleeting. Soon it'll be cold, snowy and sleeting.

The cicadas are out in full force and singing up a storm. And no matter what lyrics one might put to their tune, the chorus would undoubtedly be something like the sentences at the start of this entry. Gardening this year had a later start than usual because it seemed that Mother Nature didn't really want to start spring. Planting in this area was three to four weeks later than usual. But the time of bounty is upon us and the first summer squash is in. I hope my straight neck squash plant lives up to the prolific nature of average summer squash plants, because there isn't much time left before the cool nights return and the autumnal equinox is upon us.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Lot From One Pot

If you're interested in growing basil, but don't have much room. Try the lettuce leaf variety. As you can see from the photo, you can get a lot from just one leaf. And even a modest sized pot provides enough room for a plant with an abundance of leaves such as these. Just make sure to harvest the leaves regularly so the plant won't flower and go to seed.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

First Harvest

In my never ending quest to save Mother Earth, reduce, reuse, recycle, refuse and to pinch a penny until Lincoln's head turns black and blue; may I present delectable Tom Thumb lettuce, the first harvest of the season. No doubt you will note the unconventional containers in which these two fine heads of lettuce are growing. They once contained juice, 100% pure of course. And now they host the perfect complement to almost any sandwich or the basis of a really great salad. Ah, a toasted bun, a dash of mustard and some fresh lettuce with a great veggie burger are merely the start of great garden season dining!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Spring Is Upon Us

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood. And one of the surest signs that Spring has sprung is this blossoming peach tree in a nearby yard. It's enough to make you forget the term polar vortex.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Birds The Word

Here's something to crow about. Today marks the 229th anniversary of the birth of naturalist, ornithologist and painter John James Audubon. No need to go cuckoo. Just follow the link to learn more about this man and his amazing contributions to our knowledge about nature.

Friday, April 25, 2014

They're Baaaaaaaaack!

While performing the annual ritual of container triage I came upon an unexpected find. This pot was located in possibly the worst place of any container. It was buried under a mountain of snow near the fence that was the result of not only what fell in that location, but what was piled there during numerous shoveling and snow blowing sessions. Yet the chives in it have survived and have sprouted anew. I should have taken a few pics of the mini snow Everest that engulfed this container. But take my word for it, this is the last thing I expected to see as I prepared for this season's container gardening. I guess there was more going on beneath the snow than I suspected. Nature truly is grand!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Learning To Hate Thinning Less

If you think the title of this piece is about hair, you're barking up the wrong tree. It's actually about one of my least favorite gardening activities, thinning. Maybe it's my keen sense of frugality, but it has always irritated me that sprouts must be removed so that others may flourish. The loss of potential produce just rubs me the wrong way. Although to be honest, I don't just discard the potential tomatoes, carrots, etc. The young plants go straight into the compost bin. But still, I'm haunted by the thought of what might have been.

This sense of loss is greatly reduced when growing lettuce and other greens. Even when young, the tender sprouts can be used in a sandwich or salad. So my thinning becomes grazing. Now that's something I can live with!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Winter Is Holding On

According to the calender we have entered Spring, but Old Man Winter isn't prepared to take leave of us just yet and produced some lake effect snow this morning as a reminder he is still in charge. He also gave me the perfect excuse to  bake a couple of Bush Delicata winter squash I harvested last autumn. Their bright color and delicious taste took the edge off of what was an overcast and gray day. And the seeds extracted from them will allow me to start growing another batch of these wonderful squash in a few weeks when Spring really arrives.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Lettuce Begin

A few green shoots to help build the anticipation that home grown lettuce will soon be part of my meals once again.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Gardener Knows

Beneath the snow
The gardener knows
The blooms await
For a later date

Beneath the snow
The gardener sees
Not what is
But what is to be

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Mid-Winter's Delight

Among the embarrassment of riches available in the New World are the seemingly endless varieties of winter squash that can be cultivated here. Although the growing season here ended months ago and we're squarely in the middle of what is shaping up to be one of the snowiest winters on record, yesterday I retrieved a Thelma Sanders Sweet Potato squash from the dark, cool recesses of my garage and baked it. Its warmth, naturally sweet taste and aroma certainly took the chill off the season. It's only February. And winter can last up until the end of April in a bad year. Fortunately, I have a few more squash to see me through until the Spring thaw.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Herbs In The Window

It's an unfortunate fact of life that at this latitude the winter days aren't long enough or sunny enough to grow fruit bearing plants without the help of additional, artificial light. However, certain herbs can be grown on the ledge of a window with southern exposure. My cilantro plant is coming along very well despite the fact that it hasn't even been a month since the winter solstice. And now that the days are becoming longer, I think I'll plant some chive seeds to have something to add to my baked potatoes.