Monday Recap: Transitioning

July is already more than half over, and there’s a noticeable change in the rhythm of things here. We’ve gone from planting, mulching and watering the summer garden to harvesting and preserving the summer fruits and veggies. And now it’s time to start planting for fall. The seedlings I started in late June are growing up fast, and it won’t be long before they are in the ground and growing. They spent a little time on the deck Saturday before they headed on to the greenhouse. That’s about half the total plants in the below photo. And I need to start some more things like Asian greens and lettuce soon.

seedlings for fall vegetables

seedlings for fall vegetables

It’s also time to sow carrots for fall, even as I am finishing the harvest of the spring planted ones. I’m sowing the fall carrots where the onions were growing, not necessarily because that’s a good succession but because that’s really the only good open spot I have at the moment. I’m pulling the spring carrots as we need them and as I find room in the refrigerator. That’s Cordoba in the below photo.

harvest of Cordoba carrots

harvest of Cordoba carrots

I couldn’t get seed for Hercules carrots this year due to crop failure, and Johnny’s Selected Seeds was recommending Cordoba as a substitute. It’s a blocky, cone-shaped carrot that is supposed to do well in heavier soils. Even though our soil isn’t all that heavy, it certainly did well in it’s first outing here, and I will plant more for this fall. Due to the wedge shape it was easy to pull up without digging, which meant no broken off carrots to dig out either. It’s also pretty tasty, so it’s got that going for it too!

closeup of Cordoba carrot

closeup of Cordoba carrot

Some of the Purple Haze carrots wound up on a salad. The purple and orange interior was pretty to look at when grated over the lettuce. I’m sure it added a few anthocyanins to the meal as well.

salad topped with grated Purple Haze carrots

salad topped with grated Purple Haze carrots

And speaking of onions, the Candy and Sierra Blanca onions did great this year. We’ve been enjoying them in various ways. They were great in some vinegar cole slaw I made last week, and they are so very tasty when grilled or roasted. The Red of Tropea onions were a big disappointment though. It seems I was shipped the wrong slips, even though the bundle on the label said ‘Red Tropea’. The onions that grew look like a red cippiolini type called Red Marble. They are lovely little onions, but the key word there is ‘little’. I ordered them from Renee’s Garden Seeds, and they have refunded my money but of course that doesn’t give me any of the Red Torpedo onions that have done so well in years past! I’ll find another supplier next year, though it’s really the grower’s fault.

Red Marble onions

Red Marble onions

The small fruited tomatoes are coming on like gangbusters. We started dehydrating them last week, and I slow-roasted some as well. Those are two of my favorite ways to preserve the smaller tomatoes, at least the ones that we don’t eat fresh.

tomatoes for dehydrating

tomatoes for dehydrating

We use the FoodSaver to seal them up airtight and then freeze them. Both the dehydrated and the slow-roasted tomatoes keep well that way for at least a year or more.

dehydrated and slow-roaster tomatoes after sealing

dehydrated and slow-roaster tomatoes after sealing

We also enjoyed the first slicing tomatoes last week. They begged to be put on a BLT, and who was I to argue with that? That’s the red Jetsetter and the black fruited Paul Robeson in the below photo. I have to say the Paul Robeson is no match for our favorite Cherokee Purple, at least so far. Hopefully we can do a side by side taste test of the two when the CPs start ripening. The BLTs were still tasty however. Jetsetter has become my favorite hybrid slicing tomato, and it is a dependable and tasty performer for us here.

sliced Jetsetter(top) and Paul Robeson(bottom) tomatoes

sliced Jetsetter(top) and Paul Robeson(bottom) tomatoes

The pole beans are continuing to keep us supplied with beans to eat and to freeze. The Fortex beans are coming on now, and they are always a treat. They are stringless and tender even when they get to be a foot long. I try and pick them a bit shorter than that, like the ones in the below photo which are closer to ten inches long on average.

harvest of Fortex beans

harvest of Fortex beans

I cooked up some of the Fortex beans along with a medley of fingerling potatoes. That’s a mix of French Fingerling, Russian Banana and Magic Molly in the below photo. There are a few of the smallest Yukon Golds in there too.

assortment of fingerling potatoes

assortment of fingerling potatoes

The blueberry harvest continues to wind down. I know my wife is happy about that, since she has been out there harvesting them pretty much every day for the past six weeks. The blackberries are giving us a nice amount every few days, as are the raspberries. The 2014 blueberry harvest is nearing 50 pounds. Those little blue organic jewels are precious to say the least. The local berry farm is selling them for about $5 a pound, and they’re not even organic! It’s safe to say the plants have paid for themselves several times over.

Apache blackberries

Apache blackberries

 

In other news, I pulled all the cucumber and amaranth plants from the greenhouse after they got infested with a major spider mite outbreak. Mites are a common problem in the summer greenhouse here, and they mushroomed out of control before I knew it. There’s time to replant the cukes, and in the meantime the ones out in the main garden are keeping us supplied. The last thing I need is spider mites getting on the seedlings for fall, though I have to say they seem to prefer the cucumber leaves. They can all hang out together on the compost pile now! I planted a few new leaf amaranth plants already, which are in the left side of the otherwise empty beds in the below photo. The mites left the parsley plants on the right side alone. The cucumber seeds should be up in a few days and I’ll get them planted too.

almost empty greenhouse beds

almost empty greenhouse beds

The dehydrator stays busy this time of year. When it’s not drying tomatoes, we’ve been using it to dry herbs, calendula and even onions. Drying the onions sure made the house stinky for a while, but then as the onions began to get dry the smell dissipated. I guess it wasn’t any worse than when we dry garlic, which is something else I’ll be drying soon.

calendula drying in dehydrator

calendula drying in dehydrator

I’ll close with an image of the Scarlet Hibiscus which has just started blooming in the Wild Garden. The hollyhock-like flowers are attractive to both hummingbirds and butterflies, and of course they are also pretty to look at as the tall plants tower over the other perennials.

Scarlet Hibiscus flower

Scarlet Hibiscus flower

That’s a look at what’s going on here at Happy Acres. To see what other gardeners are digging, drying, harvesting and cooking up, visit Daphne’s Dandelions where Daphne graciously hosts Harvest Mondays.

 

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Saturday Spotlight: Wave Petunias

Regular readers may recall that I am a big fan of the Wave petunias. I’ve been growing petunias for as long as I can remember, and when the Wave varieties first appeared I couldn’t wait to try them. The Petunia ‘Wave Purple’ was a 1995 All-America selection, and other colors were soon to be introduced. I loved the original Purple Wave, and for that matter all the Waves will brighten up any area with their colorful and seemingly never-ending display of blooms. They have certainly made growing petunias a lot easier with their productivity and easy going nature.

Wave Petunia 'Purple Improved' growing in old wheelbarrow

Wave Petunia ‘Purple Improved’ growing in old wheelbarrow

It’s been almost 20 years after the original Wave was introduced, there are now five different Wave series, and they come in more than a dozen different colors. There is truly a Wave petunia for every growing situation, with types for containers and planters (Easy Wave), hanging baskets (Shock Wave and Double Wave), and even some that will form a miniature hedge or climb a structure like a fence (Tidal Wave). Unlike older petunias, you don’t need to remove the spent flowers on the Wave petunias. They do however require an ample supply of water and periodic fertilizing throughout the growing season.

Easy Wave Red petunia growing in container

Easy Wave Red petunia growing in container

While petunias in general are not necessarily a great source for nectar or pollen, they do serve to attract butterflies, bees and hummingbirds. I wish I could say they are deer-resistant, but our hungry deer herd seem to be quite fond of all the different Waves!

Tidal Wave Pink petunia

Tidal Wave Pink petunia

The only drawback to the Waves is that the plants can be expensive to buy if you want a lot of them. At least they are expensive around here. So, a few years ago I stopped buying transplants and began starting them myself from seed. I found that for the price of one plant at a nursery I could buy a packet of seeds that would grow ten or more plants. That was a deal I just couldn’t pass up!

transplanting Wave Purple Improved petunias

transplanting Wave Purple Improved petunias

The seeds themselves are tiny, and are almost always sold pelleted to make them easier to handle. Petunias do take a long time from seed to flower, so I usually start the seeds indoors in early February. I use a heating mat to give the seeds the heat they require for germination, and they are normally up in a week or less. You can read about the whole process I use here: Do The Wave. By late April or early May they are ready to plant outside.

2011 Wave petunias at 5 weeks from sowing

2011 Wave petunias at 5 weeks from sowing

Whether you buy transplants or start them yourself from seed, if you’re looking for an easy-to-grow annual flower, Wave petunias are hard to beat. With a variety to suit almost any use, and lots of colors to choose from, there is surely a Wave petunia you will adore!

To see my other Saturday Spotlights, visit the Variety Spotlights page.

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Grow Vertical with Pole Beans

If you’re like me, and most other folks, space is often at a premium in the garden. I am always trying to find room for one more thing to grow, and I know I’m not the only one that struggles with that issue. One popular way to more effectively utilize that limited space is to go vertical with vining plants like beans. I’ve been growing various types of pole beans for quite a few years, and they are a good way to maximize your growing space while you also increase your yields.

pole beans reaching for the sky

pole beans reaching for the sky

There are several advantages to growing pole beans. For one thing, they typically produce two to three times as many beans per plant compared to bush beans. They also tend to produce those beans over a longer period of time, which makes them great for having lots of fresh beans to eat. And while taste is always subjective, many people think that pole beans taste better than the bush varieties.

Rattlesnake pole beans

Rattlesnake pole beans

There are certainly many different kinds of vining beans out there, including numerous heirloom varieties that have been handed down from generation to generation. Another added benefit I like is that the pole beans are produced higher off the ground, so they don’t require bending or stooping down to harvest them. And since the beans and vines are not coming in contact with the ground, you usually have fewer issues with diseases and spoilage.

htrellis for pole beans

trellis for pole beans

One thing for sure, the vining varieties need some kind of sturdy support. It can be as simple as wooden or metal stakes, or a little more elaborate setup like bamboo poles sunk in the ground and lashed together at the top to form a teepee. Since I grow a lot of pole beans every year, I like to put up a trellis using a mesh material like Trellinet or Hortonova. These lightweight materials are UV resistant, and with a little care they can be reused for more than one season. For the last two growing seasons I have used the Hortonova material, which has a 6″ by 7″ opening which allows ample access at harvest time. You can read more about how I put up the trellis here: Trellising the Pole Beans.

recent harvest of Musica, Gold Marie and Rattlesnake pole beans

recent harvest of Musica, Gold Marie and Rattlesnake pole beans

The actual planting and growing of pole beans is pretty much the same as for bush beans. If you’re new to growing beans, Cornell University has a Growing Guide that explains all the details. And you can check out their Pole Bean Varieties for information and independent reviews from gardeners all over. This year I am growing the snap beans Fortex, Musica, and Gold Marie, and the dual-purpose beans Cherokee Trail of Tears and Rattlesnake which can be harvested either at the green snap stage or allowed to grow to maturity and harvested as shell beans. My other pole bean for 2014 is Good Mother Stallard, an heirloom shell bean with maroon colored beans mottled with white and a great meaty and rich flavor.

Good Mother Stallard beans

Good Mother Stallard beans

If you’ve never tried growing pole beans, you might consider giving them a try in your garden. While it may take a little bit of time initially to set up the support system, the payoff will come at harvest time with lots of tasty beans.

This post was shared at  Green Thumb Thursday, Simple Lives Thursday and Old-Fashioned Friday.

 

 

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Monday Recap: Digging, Drying and Fermenting

Last week it was time to do some more digging for buried treasure in the garden, starting with potatoes. I wanted to try some of the Yukon Golds and see if they were ready. The tops were finally dying down so I figured it was about time. They have become our favorite all-purpose potato, and we use them for baking, mashing and other things as well. With rain in the forecast, I wound up digging all of them and the rest of the potatoes too.

Yukon Gold potatoes

Yukon Gold potatoes

This year I experimented growing blue potatoes for the first time. I planted Adirondack Blue, Purple Majestic and Magic Molly. The Adirondack Blue was the most productive here of the three. I’m still trying to decide which one I like best in the kitchen. That’s Magic Molly in the below photo, which is a fingerling type. I’ll try and show a comparison of the three later on when I get a chance to try them all. I’ll probably pick my favorite of the three to grow again next year.

Magic Molly potatoes

Magic Molly potatoes

Next up was the garlic. The softneck varieties were flopping over like onions do, so I dug a few to see how they looked. I was happy at how big and fat the bulbs were, so I went ahead and dug them all. There were also a few of the hardneck types left so I dug them too. They’re all drying down in the basement now. Some of the softneck Nootka Rose made double bulbs. You can’t beat two for one! Nootka Rose is my favorite softneck, as it does well here and is a good keeper. It doesn’t seem to mind our variable winters either, despite being an heirloom variety from the Pacific Northwest. I have to say the silverskins Silver White and S&H Silver also did well this year, despite our colder than usual winter. I won’t weigh the garlic harvest until all of them are cured.

Nootka Rose garlic

Nootka Rose garlic

While I was in the mood for digging, I also dug up some of the spring carrots. I tried growing two varieties of purple carrots this year for the first time, Purple Haze and Purple Dragon. I planted about a two foot section of each variety, and each wound up producing right at two pounds. Both made nicely shaped, colorful carrots. In the below photo, that’s Purple Dragon on the left and Purple Haze on the right.

Purple Dragon and Purple Haze carrots

Purple Dragon and Purple Haze carrots

Of the two carrots, I think the Purple Dragon has a more uniform purple color on the outside, but as you can see in the below photo the purple coloration goes further on the inside flesh of the Purple Haze. Both have a nice mild taste raw, but my wife and I agreed that Purple Dragon had a little more flavor. I’ll grow both of them again this fall and see how they do then. I need to dig more of the carrots as time and space permits, but the refrigerator is pretty full of other things at the moment.

interior of Purple Dragon(L) and Purple Haze(R) carrots

interior of Purple Dragon(L) and Purple Haze(R) carrots

A harvest that didn’t require digging, bending or kneeling was the first of the 2014 pole beans. That’s Gold Marie and Musica in the below photo. I grew Musica last year and it is a fine tasting and heavy producing flat Italian bean. It’s my first time growing Gold Marie but the flat yellow Italian type beans usually do great for me here. I’ve also got Fortex and Rattlesnake planted, and they are just now starting to bloom. The Cherokee Trail of Tears beans shouldn’t be far behind.

Gold Marie and Musica pole beans

Gold Marie and Musica pole beans

We managed to get away from HA for a day last week and made time for a picnic. My wife and I went on a picnic on our third date, and they have been a regular part of our lives ever since. We drove to the nearby Lincoln State Park (which is right across the road from the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial) and enjoyed a lovely lunch of Curry Chicken Salad and Green Bean and Bulgur Salad with Walnuts. I used green beans, cherry tomatoes, onions and parsley from the garden. The Sun Gold and Supersweet 100 tomatoes were tasty in this salad.

Green Bean and Bulgur Salad with Walnuts

Green Bean and Bulgur Salad with Walnuts

After eating, we worked off some of the lunch with a hike around the lake. On that third date, my wife was expecting I would pick up something at a deli. But little did she know she would be dining on some of my homemade goodies like Smoked Salmon on Field Greens and Orzo Salad with Chickpeas. While I was trying to impress her a little, it was also true that I ate like that pretty much all the time. I guess it worked, we’re still going on picnics together!

me on the trail at Lincoln State Park

me on the trail at Lincoln State Park

I got enough of the smaller tomatoes last week to start dehydrating them. We are almost out of our stores of them, and it is a great way to preserve the tomatoes. After drying, we will package them up with our FoodSaver and stick them in the freezer. They keep well for more than a year that way, as opposed to leaving them on a shelf in the pantry. That’s Juliet in the below photo, cut into quarters for drying.

Juliet tomatoes ready for dehydrating.

Juliet tomatoes ready for dehydrating.

I’ve been making lacto-fermented vegetables again. My first batch this year was a jar of kohlrabi pickles. I cut the kohlrabi into about 3/8″ sticks before packing into a quart jar and covering with brine. I let them ferment at room temperature for five days, then tested one to see how it tasted. My wife and I both loved the salty crunch of the mildly-fermented kohlrabi, so I put the jar in the refrigerator to slow down the fermentation.

lacto-fermented kohlrabi pickles

lacto-fermented kohlrabi pickles

Next I made some sauerkraut, one batch using cabbage and the other with shredded kohlrabi. For these two I mixed each with salt (2% of the vegetable weight) before putting in the jars. You can read about the process I used here: Homemade Sauerkraut. I’ve not tried using kohlrabi before, but after the great taste of the kohlrabi ‘pickles’ I thought it might make some tasty kraut too.

jars of Kohlrabi and Cabbage kraut

jars of Kohlrabi and Cabbage kraut

The blueberries are continuing to roll in. Every day my wife goes out and harvests the little blue jewels. She’s hauled in 38 pounds of them so far, and they’re not done producing yet. I eat some every day for breakfast, and there will be lots in the freezer to enjoy when they are done for the year.

daily blueberry harvest

daily blueberry harvest

I’ll close with a photo of some of the calendula flowers I’ve been harvesting and drying. These will get used for soap and lotions, and I use them to make Calendula Infused Oil. I gave away quite a few seeds last year and I hope they are doing as well for other folks as they are doing here for us. It’s an easy to grow annual with so many beneficial properties. And the varieties I grow have been selected for a high resin content for medicinal uses

calendula flowers

calendula flowers

To see what other gardeners are digging, drying, harvesting and cooking up, visit Daphne’s Dandelions where Daphne graciously hosts Harvest Mondays. And many thanks Daphne for keeping this going every week!

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Homemade: Plantain Anti-Itch Salve and Lotion Bars

It’s summer, and that means many folks are spending a lot of time outdoors, me included. And often times that also means we get itchy from mosquito bites, poison ivy and other rashes and skin irritations. Fortunately, one way to get relief can often be found right in our own backyards.

Common Plantain, Plantago major

Common Plantain, Plantago major

Plantain is possibly the most widely distributed medicinal plant in the world, though many folks may not even know its name or its many uses. Plantain has antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and antihistamine qualities that make it quite useful externally. If you have it growing around your place, you can always just pluck a leaf, crush it, and apply it to the affected area of skin to get some relief.

harvest of plantain from our back yard

harvest of plantain from our back yard

For the last few years, my wife and I have been making our own anti-itch salve using the natural healing properties of this common backyard ‘weed’. It’s handy to have on hand, and a great natural way to stop those minor itches.

Plantain Anti-itch Salve

Plantain Anti-itch Salve

But before we can make a salve, we need to infuse the plantain leaves in oil, which can then be used by itself on the skin or to make other products like this salve. You can read about how I do it here: Homemade Plantain Infused Oil. My current favorite oil is sweet almond, but coconut oil and olive oil are also great choices. I like almond oil because it is easily absorbed into the skin, it has a neutral scent, and it has been found to have a calming effect on skin irritations. Of course, if you are allergic to almonds or other nuts you should choose another oil.

plantain infusing in oil

plantain infusing in oil

If you use the hot infusion method, you can easily make the infused oil in less than a day. With the cold infusion method it will take several weeks. Once the oil is infused and strained, you can make either a salve or lotion bars with it. You’ll need some beeswax, and some peppermint essential oil, though the EO is optional. You can also make it using a plant-based wax like carnauba, though you’ll need to use less wax that way. To make a salve, I use somewhere around 10% to 15% beeswax (and the rest oil) to thicken it enough to make application easier. For a lotion bar I use about 25% beeswax and 75% of infused oil. The more beeswax you add, the thicker the final mix but beeswax also adds ‘drag’ and too much can be unpleasant on the skin.

I like to add the peppermint essential oil not just because it smells good, but because it has anti-itch properties of its own. As with all essential oils, if you’ve never used peppermint EO on your skin you should test the diluted oil on a small patch of skin (on your upper arm, for instance) to make sure it doesn’t cause a problem. And EO’s should be used sparingly on young children, and not at all on infants.

ingredients for plantain anti-itch salve

ingredients for plantain anti-itch salve

The oil and beeswax mixture needs to be heated to melt the beeswax. You can use a double boiler or the microwave to do that. I usually measure out the oil and beeswax in a small glass Pyrex measuring cup and use the microwave, set for 50% power. I heat the mix for 60 seconds then stir a bit, then heat another 60 seconds or so if it hasn’t melted yet. Once the wax is all melted, you can add a few drops of the peppermint EO (if using) and give it all one more good stir before pouring into your containers. You can use any small glass, metal or plastic containers to hold the salve. The four ounce glass canning jars are a nice size to use. We have push up tubes specially made for lotion bars, but you can also use a silicone mold or muffin tins lined with muffin papers. Just make sure to let the salve or lotion bars cool completely before using.

pouring salve in lotion bar tube

pouring salve in lotion bar tube

Of course, as the saying goes an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. To keep bugs away you can try our Lemon Balm Lavender Bugs Off Spray as a natural insect repellent. But if all your best efforts fail when it come to avoiding the ‘itchies’, this salve is a great natural way to help ease the discomfort.

To see more about how to identify and find plantain, read Saturday Spotlight: Plaintain.

This post was shared at  Green Thumb Thursday , Simple Lives Thursday, Old-Fashioned Friday and Natural Family Friday.

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Monday Recap: Tater Time

The potato vines started yellowing and turning brown last week, and that me it was time to start digging a few potatoes. I started with the fingerling Red Thumb, then continued with Russian Banana and Purple Majesty. That made for a pretty trio of taters!

red, white and blue potatoes

red, white and blue potatoes

I used them to make some red, white and blue potato salad for the 4th of July. Of course the Russian Banana potato is actually considered yellow-skinned, but it was close enough for me. I used my recipe for Dilly Potato Salad, and it was a tasty way to enjoy the first potatoes of the season. I still have Adirondack Blue, French Fingerling and Yukon Gold left to dig. Those vines are not quite died down yet, so I think I will leave them for a bit longer.

Dilly Potato Salad

Dilly Potato Salad

It was just my wife and me for our 4th of July mini-picnic, but we ate well. We collaborated to make some Asian-inspired coleslaw, using our Tokyo Bekana and KY Cross cabbages. We also grated up a couple of freshly pulled carrots from the garden, and finely chopped some green onion to add to the mix. The dressing used rice wine vinegar and sesame oil, along with sugar and a little Thai Aioli sauce. We both pronounced it a keeper, and it’s too bad that was the last of the Chinese cabbage because it worked well in this slaw. I’ll have to grow some more this fall.

Asian inspired coleslaw

Asian inspired coleslaw

I enjoyed eating the first of the White Scalloped squash last week. This heirloom pattypan squash has a very distinctive taste and shape, and it is growing here for the first time in several years. My mother used to love this squash, and I always grew some for her as well as for me. I usually prepare it simply, cooked until just tender and then seasoned with butter, salt and pepper.

heirloom  White Scallop squash

heirloom
White Scallop squash

The first of the bush beans were ready to harvest yesterday. That’s Derby in the below photo. I will be cooking them for dinner tonight. Derby is a 1990 All-America Selections winner and I’ve been growing it ever since it was first introduced. The pole bean Musica won’t be far behind, as they are setting on now too.

Derby snap beans

Derby snap beans

And the first of the Juliet tomatoes have started rolling in. This year I planted three cages of these productive mini-Roma type tomatoes, and they will find their way into a number of tomato sauces as well as in homemade ketchup. They are also great for drying and for slow-roasting. I know many folks who wax poetic when talking about Brandywine and other ‘classic’ heirloom slicing tomatoes, but if I could only grow one tomato it would be the hybrid Juliet. Mind you, I’ve got my favorite heirloom tomatoes too (Cherokee Purple and Vinson Watts come to mind), but Juliet and other hybrids are the dependable, productive workhorse tomatoes that we rely on year after year here at Happy Acres.

Juliet tomatoes

Juliet tomatoes

A while back I was looking for a way to protect the kale growing in one of the cold frame beds. It had gotten too large to close the cold frame lid, and I knew the deer would eat it up if I left it unprotected. I took the suggestions from several readers and made a frame using PVC pipe and draped some bird netting over it. That is working out great. I suspect I will wind up pulling the kale and replanting the bed for fall, but until then we can enjoy eating it without fear of the critters eating it first!

kale covered with netting

kale covered with netting

In other cold frame beds, summer lettuce is sizing up nicely. I’ve got Slobolt, Sierra, Anuenue and Red Sails growing right now, and all are handling the heat pretty well. It helps that they are on the east side of the greenhouse, where they get afternoon shade. That’s Red Sails in the below photo, sharing a bed with basil. That wasn’t an intentional companion planting, I just happened to have room in that bed for a few lettuce plants. They do seem to be getting along well.

Red Sails lettuce hanging out with basil

Red Sails lettuce hanging out with basil

Not far away in the Wild Garden, butterflies have been daily visitors to the coreopsis, bee balm, agastache and echinacea. I’ve seen a few Swallowtail butterflies and a couple of Monarchs so far, including the one on the echinacea in the below photo. Bumblebees and other pollinators love these flowers too, and you can see a bumblebee on the coneflower just behind the Monarch. I find if I stand still with my camera out there, everyone gets used to my presence pretty quickly and I can get some good images. The Monarch was seemingly fearless of me and I followed it around for quite some time before it finally had its fill of nectar and flew off.

Monarch butterfly on purple coneflower

Monarch butterfly on purple coneflower

I hope you have enjoyed this update. To see what other gardeners are harvesting, cooking or planting, visit Daphne’s Dandelions where Daphne hosts Harvest Mondays.

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Monday Recap: Rooted and Golden

It is amazing to me how the garden can change directions so quickly. Last week it seemed like all of a sudden it was time to harvest roots here. It started with the onions. I pulled a couple of the Candy onions to grill them for a pizza, and I was surprised how big they were getting. I pulled a few more for another meal, and they are tasty even if not quite fully grown.

Candy onions

Candy onions

These onions surely lived up to their name. They were sweet and mild to begin with, and grilling just made them taste even sweeter. The pizza also featured arugula from the garden and tomato sauce and roasted tomatoes from last year, plus cheese and mushrooms. I need to share the crust recipe sometime because it is pretty tasty, made from sourdough whole wheat. And it is easy to throw it together too, especially with the bread machine doing most of the work.

pizza with garden veggies and  Sourdough Whole Wheat crust

pizza with garden veggies and Sourdough Whole Wheat crust

Then it was carrots. I needed a few for a salad, and decided to see if any of ours were ready. Sure enough, I pulled a couple of the Yayas and they were definitely big enough to eat. I’ll pull some more to go in a quiche my wife is making later this week, along with some of our broccoli and another onion.

Yaya carrots

Yaya carrots

Next it was garlic. I really wasn’t planning on digging any until this week, but the garlic had other ideas. I was out in the garden doing other things and noticed that the foliage on the early types was turning yellow. After a quick inspection, I decided it was time to dig a few. I wound up digging all the Asiatic/turban types and the artichoke types as well. That’s Siciliano in the below photo, a nice big artichoke variety. They will be so nice for baking whole. It is my first year growing this one but I am thinking it will be back next year based on size alone.

Siciliano garlic harvest

Siciliano garlic harvest

Last year I waited too long to dig the garlic, and the outer wrappers started disintegrating on me. This year I was resolved to do a better job on the timing. And I planted the garlic with harvest sequence in mind. I started the row with the early types on one end and the later types on the other end, so that hopefully I could move down the row as they matured. That strategy is working so far. I did some other things different this year as well, and I’ll talk more about the way I grew it after it’s all harvested and cured. I’m hanging the garlic in our hot and dry basement to cure. It will be smelling good down there for a few weeks, if you like garlic! And it is safe to say we love garlic here. In the below photo is Uzbek, a turban type that I have been growing for several years now.

Uzbek garlic

Uzbek garlic

Botanically speaking, the kohlrabi bulb is a swollen stem and not a root, but it keeps like a root vegetable, and to me it looks like a root. I harvested more of the Kossak variety last week. The three in the below photo weighed right at six pounds total. We have enjoyed the kohlrabi sliced and then grilled, and this week my wife is going to roast some.

trio of Kossak kohlrabi

trio of Kossak kohlrabi

And some of the potato vines are definitely starting to dry up. So yesterday I dug one hill of them to see what sort of hidden treasure I could find underground. I got almost 13 ounces of fingerling Red Thumb potatoes from that hill. We will get our first taste of new potatoes later this week. I’ll wait and dig other potatoes as needed.

Red Thumb fingerling potatoes

Red Thumb fingerling potatoes

We are harvesting plenty of other things above ground too. Right about on schedule, the first ripe cherry tomatoes showed up last week. We typically start getting them the last week of June, give or take a week or so in either direction. The first to ripen here was Sun Gold, followed shortly by Supersweet 100. It will be awhile before any others are ready, but the vines are loaded with green tomatoes and that is a great sign of things to come.

Sun Gold - our first ripe tomatoes in 2014

Sun Gold – our first ripe tomatoes in 2014

The blueberries keep coming on strong, even as the raspberries are winding down. The everbearing raspberries are setting on the summer and fall crop though, so it won’t be long before they start ripening. We’ve hauled in 21 pounds of the blueberries so far. We are surely enjoying all the fresh berries, and not a day goes by when we don’t eat our fill of them. The blackberries are just now beginning to ripen, and I will be out there harvesting them soon as well.

everbearing red raspberries

everbearing red raspberries

I harvested one head of the Tokyo Bekana last week. This is a non-heading Chinese cabbage that is easier to grow here in spring than the heading types which too often bolt before they head. It is much like Fun Jen, if you are familiar with that one. The slugs and sow bugs had done a lot of damage to the outer leaves but there was still plenty left after cutting them off. We usually eat these raw, and indeed this one wound up getting mixed with lettuce for a taco salad. Despite the mixing of cultures, it was pretty tasty, and there is more of it to enjoy later.

Tokyo Bekana cabbage

Tokyo Bekana cabbage

And the first cucumbers are coming on right about now. The ones in the below photo were barely in the house before I was making refrigerator pickles with them and the Sierra Blanca onion next to them. The cucumbers are a mix of Tasty Green, Summer Top, Dasher and Green Fingers. Ironically, the ones planted in the main garden have matured just ahead of the greenhouse varieties which got off to a somewhat later than usual start.

first cucumbers of 2014

first cucumbers of 2014

We had bad news last week on the wildlife front. A House Sparrow trashed the bluebird nest yet again. The five eggs were about twelve days old, and there had been no sign of the sparrows for a couple of weeks. But a male showed up one morning, and when I went out to the garden I noticed the bluebird eggs were all pecked out and laying on the ground. It’s senseless, because he did it in one nest box but then took up residence in another one that was unoccupied. It’s no wonder these aggressive invaders have decimated so much of our native bird populations. Sadly, they don’t even need a cavity to nest, unlike the bluebirds who have no choice. Hopefully the bluebird pair will give it another try this year.

bluebird eggs after House Sparrows got through with them

bluebird eggs after House Sparrows got through with them

I’ll close on a happier note. The fall vegetable seeds I sowed last week sprouted in no time. It seems like I just got rid of the plants I started for spring and summer, but I think that’s the way it always seems. I’ll be potting these up into larger quarters in about two weeks or so, and they will get planted starting in early August.

seedlings for fall vegetables

seedlings for fall vegetables

I hope you have enjoyed this update of the happenings going on here in late June. To see what other gardeners are harvesting, cooking or planting, visit Daphne’s Dandelions where Daphne hosts Harvest Mondays.

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