Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Herb Garden

The herb garden is doing nicely.  It makes me happy every time I see it off the deck!  The summer flowers are almost spent, and it nearly time to cut back the mint for winter.

The terra cotta pot holds orange mint.  In the tier below that are rosemary, sage and lemon thyme.

rosemary, lemon thyme and sage
 On the main level are chocolate mint, peppermint, wooly apple mint, two types of oregano, chives, creeping thyme, nutmeg thyme, and some baby cilantro seedlings.


chocolate mint, peppermint in upper left,  and on right wooly apple mint (2)

wooly apple mint and on right in rock circle pruned back oregano

creeping thyme
On the deck is a container of pineapple mint.

pineapple mint
I have yet to transplant the lemon balm (lemon mint).  This is the one I got (along with two oreganos) in trade for some mints a few weeks ago. It is getting a lot of new growth.  The leaves are so deliciously lemon scented!  I will probably just prune off all the taller stalks and leave the new growth at the bottom, then plant it in the herb garden, or a pretty container. 

lemon balm
I cut a branch off a large shrub that overhangs part of the herb garden, so the herbs will get more sunlight.  The shrub has been neglected for years and has been allowed to grow to tree-size.  I am cutting it down to size; it grows back from the base quite well.  I cut back the over-grown lilac bush the same.  There is a blue tree (blue spruce?) that has to go nearby too.  It leans way over, and at some point someone bolted a chain into the trunk (who thought that was a good idea?) in an attempt to keep it upright. I love the color of the tree, but most of it is dead underneath the outer branches, and in the neighbor's yard as well. 

tree-shrub pruning to allow more sun to the herb garden, pruned back lilac in corner of yard.
leaning tree with chain
chain and bolt system of some sort cutting into the tree trunk

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Compost Heap Volunteers Update

The compost heap is the best garden "bed" of them all!  It seems rather cannibalistic to have the plants thriving on the remains of their old selves!  I guess that would be self-cannibalism, which I do NOT want to think about!

I have some lovely acorn squash:

Some of what seem to be a variety of pumpkin:

The only squash I bought were pumpkin and acorn, for Halloween Jack-o-lanterns, and cooking.  So, this has to be a pumpkin as it isn't an acorn squash!

Then entire compost heap is overtaken with squash!  I'm not complaining, I'm actually thrilled and surprised.

acorn squash leaf!

acorn squash in foreground
This is what I started with; at this time I thought they were cucumbers (I also threw those out):

In the above photo you can see some small tomato seedlings. I transplanted a few, one with success.  I threw out rotten cherry tomatoes all winter, the kind that you buy in little plastic containers.  I think it is a cherry Roma.

No one in the family likes fresh squash, that's why I don't grow the ever popular zucchini!  But, we do like baked goods made with winter squash.  Any recipe calling for pumpkin can successfully be made using winter squash.  So, pumpkin pie, pumpkin cake, pumpkin cookies (just made a batch yesterday from an early ripened Cinderella pumpkin - details later), pumpkin muffins, pumpkin bread...  if I don't have pumpkin handy I use acorn squash! The flesh cooks up yellower than pumpkin, but after cooking the taste is identical.  And why not?  Pumpkins are winter squash! 

All the growth in the compost heap has slowed my ability to compost new material!  I have a side pile growing that I will have to add in after squash season!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Pasta Sauce - frozen and canned

I made two batches of crock-pot pasta sauce.  Apparently "crock-pot" is a specific brand of slow cooker, but I use the term to just mean I used  slow cooker!  Mine is a Hamilton Beach.

Anyway, I used this recipe, adapted from one I found online. It is by no means a hard and fast, written in stone, type of recipe!  Add or subtract ingredients as you choose.  My family does not like the texture of onions, so I use onion powder.  Peel the tomatoes if you wish, or don't.  I tweaked the second batch a bit to make it thicker.  Boy, does this stuff smell delicious as it cooks! 

Crock-Pot Pasta Sauce

ripe tomatoes (the recipe said 20-25, but I just filled the pot with them, cutting the large one into quarters, popping the cherries in whole!)

Aren't they pretty?  Most of these are Medford tomatoes. Yes, named for my town!

 Put tomatoes in pot and top with...

1 TBS onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder (you can add more later to taste)
herbs - I used
     sage - 4 leaves
     oregano - two small stems
     rosemary - one stem, about 5"
     thyme - two small stems of lemon and nutmeg thyme
1 tsp. each salt and pepper
2 TBS olive oil 

Cover and cook on high 4 hours.  Stir.  Recover and cook 2-4 hours more.  As the tomatoes cook down they release a lot of liquid.  When I made the second batch I drained 4 cups of this liquid off half way through cooking.

When done you can strain it to remove the skins (and herb stems!), blend it, or keep it as is. My first batch was thin (undrained) and I pressed the tomatoes through a sieve.  I blended the second batch with thicker and smoother results.  I will blend any future batches.

second batch pasta sauce - reheated to can
Freeze or can using hot water canning method.  I froze my first batch, and canned the second.  One full crock-pot's worth of tomatoes cooks down to make three pints of sauce.  It's still not as thick as the store bought, but it sure tastes good! 

I really ought to get some cute labels! 


Friday, August 9, 2013

We've Got Tomatoes!

If a picture's worth a thousand words, then here's four-thousand word's worth of pictures!  All today's harvest.

Meford and Oregon Spring tomatoes, and a green pepper

Tumbler, Medford, and Big Beef

Large Cherry, Super Sweet, Sungold and a few green beans

Close up- these are all Tumbler! 

I have a new recipe for tomato/pasta sauce I am trying out today. The instructions start with peeling the tomatoes, but seeing the ingredients all go into a crock-pot for 6-8 hours, I am going to put them in as is and strain it later.

The Black Cherry tomatoes are ripening.  They taste pretty much like any other cherry tomato.  Pretty color, not a very dark color like I was expecting, but definitely the color of black cherries! So, it isn't "black" cherry tomato, but "black cherry" tomato! 

The compost heap tomatoes are turning color.  These are definitely grown from the tomatoes I threw out during the winter.  I buy packages of these long cherry tomatoes in plastic containers.  I never thought the rotten ones would grow months later!

Cherry Roma?

 Tom, the mystery tomato (missing the variety label, so only $1.00) must be an Ace.  There was a ripe fruit a few days ago, which I ate like an apple! It tasted Ace-like (a good thing), and the plant has the bush growth rather than vining, as Ace does.  As long as it tastes as good as an Ace, I don't really care what it is!  I pulled out my two Ace tomatoes yesterday. They were spindly, with few small tomatoes.  No sense wasting water on something that isn't producing well!  They joined the Cherokee Purple in the compost heap (well, the compost heap next to the real compost heap, where the pumpkins and acorn squash have taken over!).

Friday, August 2, 2013

What's Happening in the Garden - part 2

While I posted a few days ago,  really haven't been able to do much in the garden other than necessary watering.  There are forest fires not far from us, and the entire valley we live in has been filled with smoke.  The air quality has been "very unhealthy" on the EPA's quality charts.  So, we have been staying inside as much as possible.  Last night I noticed some blue sky and real clouds, not the yellow smoke haze.

I was able to get out today and take care of some long overdue garden chores.  Pruning, transplanting, preparing fall beds... those sorts of things.


I delivered some used textbooks (my son is home schooled) to a woman yesterday.  She offered me some herbs, I offered her some herbs in return!  So, I took her a wooly apple mint, a chocolate mint, and an unknown type of mint.  I brought home a large lemon balm, an oregano, and some very small oregano babies.  I cut back the lemon balm, 1/3 of each stem.  Then I cut down 1/2 of those, since it looked poorly, just in case it wants to come up from the roots!  I expect it to be just fine in a few months.  Lemon balm is a kind of mint, and they are very, very rugged plants.  The oregano has new growth at the base, so it will be fine too. 

oregano - new growth at ground level

baby oregano

lemon balm - before pruning and replanting

I cleaned up the strawberry beds.  I threw out most of the runners, but allowed some "daughter" plants to remain, or cut them off and potted them if they were already rooted.  The existing plants are already putting up new growth.  Next year I plan to wage an early battle with the earwigs and sowbugs. so I get more undamaged berries for myself!

half done

"daughter" plants

too many runners!

finished bed - all cleaned up!
The blueberries are finished, and are showing a lot of nice new growth. I wonder if they'll need larger pots next spring?  The Meeker raspberry didn't have berries this year, but will next.

It's the boysenberries (or Tayberries, I have to remind myself the woman who gave them to me wasn't sure) that are impressing me!  Every few days I have to wind their brambly stems through the trellis.  I can only imagine how many berries there will be next year, since all this growth is primocanes!  For some odd reason one stem produced one berry, which is nearly ripe. 


Apples are harder to grow than I expected!  I sprayed in winter, then instead of spraying in spring, after blossom drop, used those silly nylon socks that were supposed to keep coddling moth larva out. They don't work!  I am down to two remaining apples.  When the larva eat their way right through the nylon material, something needs to change.  I don't know how organic farmers do it.

What I started with - May 15
DO NOT USE FRUIT "SOCKS" - they don't work...
lost harvest - July 17

Cookie and the recycled gate planter (eggplant, beans, peppers, tomatoes) - July 17

how it all began!  May 24

cinder block bed (cucumbers, tomatoes, bush beans in holes)
The mini-gladiola are done for the season, but they were so pretty, in such an array of colors.  There was one dark purple I neglected to photograph. 

On another subject entirely... the kitten, Benny, is growing like a weed! He eats as much as one of the dogs, but is thin as a board.  (No, he doesn't have worms, the vet took care of that!)

Benny (Bensonmum) aka "Monkey-Man"