Tuesday, July 30, 2013

What's Happening in the Garden

COMPOST HEAP:
The volunteers in the compost heap are doing well.  I haven't caught any squash bugs or located any eggs for the past two days.  There are several different kinds of squash-type plants growing.  One may be pumpkin, and there may be a few acorn squash.  I am continuing to add kitchen scraps (over-ripe watermelon, tea bags, cucumber and tomato peels) to the pile, between the plants.

compost heap volunteer squash-of-some-sort - July 30



EGGPLANT:

If only we liked to eat eggplant... but, we don't. I grow it for the gorgeous plant, flowers, and fruit.  I need to find someone (neighbor, daughter's boyfriend, Craigslist stranger?) to take them off my hands.

Dusky eggplant - July 30

GREEN PEPPERS:

These are so good eaten in the garden like apples!  I just have to watch out for the ones with holes. Earwigs (or just one who has the job of chewing the hole?) make the hole and a bunch of them crawl inside the pepper!

I am quite pleased with the number of peppers forming on all four plants.  Last year I had a small harvest, then a larger one in late August, so hopefully that will happen again.  

green pepper broken open with one of the "resident" earwigs




GOURDS:

Some just-for-fun plants are the decorative gourds and turban gourds.  The squash bugs liked the turban gourds, but I seem to be winning the battle against them.

I just love their little curly tendrils!



BEANS:

Finally got enough in one picking for a meal.  The bush beans in cinder block holes are doing well.  The pole beans in the bean bed are finally taking off.  The ones in the recycled gate bed are very lush.


CUCUMBERS:

I only grow lemon cucumbers.  They are very easy to grow, and very productive.  Some days they are too productive! I have eight plants.  Two are together in a Topsy Turvy.  The other six are in the raised cinder block bed.  Four were from the FFA sale, the other two from Walmart.




To be continued...


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Dehydrating and Canning Tomatoes

DEHYDRATING:

I had enough tomatoes the other day to try out the new dehydrator.  It runs very hot, and is nosier than I expected, so I ended up putting it out on the carport.  The weather was already 100, so a hot running appliance in the kitchen was not the way to go!

Within just a couple of hours I could see the tomatoes starting to lose their liquid.  A few of the smaller ones (I threw in some halved cherry tomatoes as well as sliced large ones) were dry in 4 hours, all within 10 hours.  I switched the trays a couple of times during drying.

The instructions say to freeze them. I am a bit disappointed. I thought I could just put them in plastic bags or glass containers at room temperature.  Oh, well...
I can powder the dried tomatoes in a blender and make soup, juice or sauces.  Or throw them into stews.  I actually like the taste of them as is!  They don't taste like tomatoes, sort of like banana chips don't really taste like bananas.  Speaking of which, the rats love banana chips, I should dehydrate them some! The ones at the store have added sugar.  




CANNING:

I had a large (for me) one-day harvest of mostly Big Beef tomatoes, so tried my hand at canning them.  I followed the directions from a wonderful gardening blog (well, it's not all about gardening, but that is one focus), www.onehundreddollarsamonth.com, for peeling them.  Cut an X in the end opposite the stem, plunge them in boiling water for 30 seconds, or until the skin starts to pop.  Then into ice water, rub them a bit to take off the skin.  Then I cut out the core, and canned by the Bell Blue Book method for tomatoes in their own juices.




skin peels right off!
I got only three jars, but I was proud of them... until I removed the jars from the canner and smelled canned tomato.  I set the jars on a cloth to sit 24 hours.  Then, when I moved them they were lightly stuck to the cloth with red.  Did they leak?  I don't know.  The lids are down and tight.  I am unable to pry the lids off with my fingers.  So, the look sealed.  Where did the smell and red liquid come from then?  I considered heating the contents and freezing it, or pureeing it and making a sauce to eat.  But, I got busy with other things, and now have three jars of possibly tainted tomatoes.  I will probably throw them out.  Botulism is no picnic (although many a picnic has caused botulism!), and in my canning class the teacher told us to be safe rather than risk it.  She only eats what she cans herself.

destined for the compost heap (maybe the seeds will provide me with next year's plants!)




Saturday, July 20, 2013

Garden Update - July 20 - LOTS of Tomatoes!

OK, the tomatoes are ripening at a pace faster than I can eat them!  I eat the cherries as I pick, but still end up with a dozen a day extra.  I have six large tomatoes sitting on the counter, and I haven't  picked yet today!


Good thing I bought a dehydrator!  It's a Nesco 400 watt with five trays, but I got two additional trays, and two fruit roll-up sheets.  I used to have a Ronco dehydrator, but got rid of it when we moved here.  Too bad.  Or maybe a good thing, as this is newer, nicer, and is supposed to be faster.  We like apple chips that are tossed with sugar and cinnamon before drying.  But, the first use will be tomatoes!  I don't currently use dried tomatoes, but I will! 



There is a definite winner in the cherry tomato category, based on taste and production.  Sungold is by far the best tasting cherry tomato.  Super Sweet is not sweet compared to Sungold!  The plant this year is like last year's, rather spindly, but covered with fruits.

Sungold Cherry Tomato
Black Cherry hasn't ripened yet.  Tumbler had one and is coloring up some more.  Large Cherry is ripening, but tastes only so-so.  Super Sweet has lots of small tomatoes, smaller than Sungold.  I have a surprise cherry!  I recognize one of my transplants from the compost heap as coming from packaged tomatoes that I threw out there when they got soft.  They are long, like teeny Romas.
 

The lemon cucs are providing plenty!  Three or four per day, which is fine, as my daughter and I love them.


Another surprise from the compost heap were garlic!  I know I weeded dozens of tiny garlic plants out of the asparagus beds, but I had no idea they would grow and produce big bulbs!  I have them drying. The dog in the photo is Edward, the Golden Doodle.  He has an obsession with licking everything new.  My youngest son calls it his "lick-a-dick-diction."  Library books, shoes, plates of food, anything he hasn't licked before undergoes his welcome!  Edward's a sweet ol' guy (only four), but, no, he still can't be in the room with the kitten.

To be continued...
Garlic and Edward


Friday, July 5, 2013

Strange Weather We've Been Having...

It's been ages since I posted!  Blame the weather...
First, it rained for days and days and days.  Then, the rain stopped, to be followed by temperature in the low 100s!  101, 102, day after day.  So, I wasn't out in the garden much, except to water at dusk. 

A few plants suffered from the heat, but others seemed to love it.

TOMATOES: 

While Oregon Spring is the largest and healthiest plant, it's Big Beef who is producing a tremendous number of fruits.

Big Beef - July 5
Sungold is nearly ready to eat!

Sungold - July 5
The big disappointment is Cherokee Purple.  It's in a large nursery pot, more than big enough for it's use, but the plant just seems so darn fussy.  It doesn't like the heat.  It doesn't like to be wet.  It doesn't like to be dry.  The leaves are constantly curled up in protest to whatever conditions I am forcing it to endure.

Cherokee Purple - July 5
The Aces are producing, but the plants are runty.  Brandywine looks good, but not nearly as good as it's yellow sister did last year.  Medford and "Tom" (the Mystery Tomato) are doing well.  "Tom"  is staying bushy, so he'll be some sort of determinate tomato.  Determinate plants stay more compact, don't need support or staking, and usually produce all their fruit at the same time.  Ace is determinate, although my Aces last year produced all summer long.  The cherries (Large Cherry, Super Sweet) are covered with blossoms.  The Chocolate Cherry in the Topsy Turvy has a few fruits.  I am not terribly impressed with the Topsy Turvy for tomatoes.  The plants don't hang like in pictures, but are trying to turn back upwards toward the sun. 

Chocolate Cherry - July 5

Tumbler is doing well in it's ceramic pot on the deck.

Tumbler - July 5

COMPOST PILE MYSTERY:

Unless there are several different plants growing in my compost pile, I have volunteer acorn squash.  The only other choices are cucumbers or pumpkins, and this little plant looks more like an acorn squash.  I did buy and cook up a bunch of them to freeze and use as pumpkin. 
\
Acorn Squash (?) - July 5

What was a compost heap is now a squash garden!  - July 5
Unfortunately the squash bugs have already found out these plants exist, and are busy finding mating.  I am not bothering to knock them into soapy water (like I did last year) as it's too much work for not a lot of result.  If I don't get any squash from these plants, or the pumpkins and gourds I have growing, I won't be bothering with them again.  The bugs will win.

I got a few tomatoes out of the compost heap too.  One is tiny, in a Topsy Turvy, the other in the recycled gate bed near "Tom."  It looks to be a cherry of some sort.  Another has potato leaves, like a Brandywine.  There is also garlic I pulled out of the asparagus bed ready to blossom!  It's fun to see what survives composting!

Compost Heap Volunteer Tomato - July 5

SQUASH, GOURDS, and PUMPKINS: 

The turban gourds, mixed decorative mini gourds (my saved seeds from last year), and miniature pumpkins look good so far.  One has started to climb the wire trellis on the fence.  I put a few Cinderella pumpkin seeds in an unused storage container and they too are growing well.  No sign of squash bugs yet, I'll keep my fingers crossed!  


Turban Gourd - 7-5



Cinderella Pumpkins - 7-5
 Still to come... beans, eggplant, peppers, berries, apples, and a few duds!