Archive for the ‘harvest’ Category

In preparation Thursday, September 16th, 2010

The dawn before fall is nearly as good as spring when it comes to gardening, for me at least. The first plants are drying in their beds. The grass has all but stopped growing. The temperature inside need only be regulated by the opening and closing of windows. We are passed the heavy maintenance stage of weeding and watering and wrangling. All the pumpkin vines have shriveled leaving our back steps a staggering of orange orbs with only a couple looking as though they are waiting for Cinderella’s fairy godmother out in the garden bed.

Soya Envy soybeans, dried on plant, collected for next year's crop

Next steps:

  • Continue gathering seeds – so far I have edamame, marigold, pepper, tomato and butternut squash
  • Covering the tomato plants for a few more nights before picking all and leaving them to ripen on newspaper in front of a sunny window
  • Pick the last peppers
  • Make a list of what did well and didn’t for next year
  • Canning tomatoes
  • Cooking and freezing the pumpkin for pies and baby food
  • Help my parents pick apples and pears, with bonus bagfuls to take home
  • Plant fall bulbs – my pick this year was crocus
  • Plant garlic – just waiting for the order to arrive
Crunch, munch and collect Friday, June 18th, 2010

Cerelia's spring veggies garden

So far my daughter’s garden has been getting the most action – harvest wise that is. The second wave of spinach is hopping up, the lettuce are starting to form heads – I keep thinning as they grow. The rainbow swisschard are starting to reach up to the sun and most recently the peas are popping. The carrots are steadily growing and will have the longest existence in the bed except for the errant Trollius we planted in it last year, when it only held flowers. We’d forgotten about it but my daughter found it early in the spring, dug it up and replanted it in nearly the same spot. The happy golden-yellow flower makes me smile every time.

We’ve made salad, dressed sandwiches with the leaf lettuce and spinach, sauteed some swisschard with olive oil and salt and the latest was a tuna casserole amended with chard and peas, which really put a freshness and crunch to a usually mushy, but comforting classic.

Another thing I’m looking to do this year to keep expenses down is to harvest some of my own seed (pea/bean/etc.). I’ve clipped a few articles on it so I’ll have to dig those out soon. In most cases you let the seeds ripen and start to dry on the plant, then cut off the seed head and lay it on newspaper or paper towel to let them dry more thoroughly. Next loosen the seed or pop open the pea/bean and store in envelopes in a cool dry place or in your fridge.

I’m so glad for the regular rains still but I need to NEED TO get some weeding done. I broke down the other night and weeded one bed in the dark – I only lost one little swisschard plant and a whole lot of crab grass.

Tomato Tomato Friday, September 11th, 2009
Juicy heirloom tomato

Juicy heirloom tomato

Tomatoes have been one of the most consistent crops for us, minus slugs. Any problems we have are usually caused by us: waiting to long to stake, watering incorrectly, not clearing out debris. There are pretty simple fixes, but trying to stake an overgrown tomato is like trying to wrangle a brittle octopus into 8-legged footie pajamas. Tomatoes have typical ailments: blossom end rot (inconsistent watering), blight (not rotating crops after several years or not cleaning up leftover garden debris), bloom drop (too high temps), lack of blooms (soil nutrients unbalanced). We always plant more than we need but there are too many awesome varieties to have only planted a couple plants.

Cherries and grape tomatoes are sweet and fun for little kids – their overabundance leads to lots of harvest. They are great simply off-plant, shish-kebabbed, split in salads or roasted with olive oil and salt and pepper.

Roma or paste are solid, palm-sized, and less watery. They are great cooking tomatoes for canning sauces or salsas, they also make a quick mild base to fresh pico de gallo.

Slicers are the round, typical tomato that comes to mind. They are generally mild-flavored. The are also good for sauce though the higher moisture content means a longer cook time. They are the quintessential burger topper and many overly-bland varieties make it to the grocer shelves. We usually have one or two plants to make canned sauces.

Beefsteak, heirloom, etc. are generally the ultimate sandwich tomatoes. In a caprese salad they can be dressed with olive oil, salt and pepper and layered between fresh mozzarella and basil, just this side of heaven. Heavy, meaty, sweet and tangy. These are the stars of flavor in the tomato world. Because of their heft and water content they are less apt to show up in stores and are a delicacy to find at farmers’ markets. They come in myriad of colors and shapes. Some lumpy and pushing a couple pounds, others are pearly-rose, black, yellow or even green when ripe. These need heavy staking.

Quick-sauteed tomatoes, garlic, onion, olive oil, basil, salt and pepper over shell pasta with parmesan

Quick-sauteed tomatoes, garlic, onion, olive oil, basil, salt and pepper over shell pasta with parmesan

Squash vine borer or &*(&*%#@! Monday, August 10th, 2009
Squash vine borer at base of bush-type butternut squash

Squash vine borer at base of bush-type butternut squash

My 3 sisters garden is not doing so well. I have 3 stalks of corn and I’ve lost about 1/2 my squash and pumpkin plants.

Apparently learning from my mistakes is my modus operandi. I found many of these ugly bugglies too late to save the plant. A couple ‘fruits’ had just started fattening at the base of the disintegrated flowers. I managed to get one acorn squash from another plant. Insecticides are useless after infestation. This usually happens in late June, early July. My guess is the dryer and hotter the season the earlier they will show up, and possibly fewer. Their entrance is apparent from the yellowing and chewed up opening usually at the base of the plant. I noticed first because even though there was plenty of water couple of my plants still looked wilted. This is a sure sign. Plus – I’m not the most inspective, nor attentive gardener. If you catch the maggot-like offender early you can slice a small opening and get rid of the worm well, an way you see fit – just get rid of it. Then cover the wound with soil.

The adult is a gray moth that flies by day. It emerges from a cocoon in the ground and quickly thereafter lays its eggs. I’ve grown squash and/or pumpkins every year and this is the first time I’ve seen them, let alone have such a large infestation. Unlike past years most of my plants were heirloom this time and that can sometimes mean a lack of resistance to pests that a hybrid plant would have. Another culprit could be the unusually and consistently cool, wet summer we’ve had.

Garlic grows on Thursday, August 6th, 2009
Garlic 'flower buds' in early july

Garlic 'flower buds' in early july

This year is the first time I’ve tried my hand, or thumb, at garlic. Last fall I planted some bulbs as well as some more this spring. Fall planting is the usual method but from my experiment so far it doesn’t seem to matter much. Though I haven’t dug any bulbs yet so truth is yet to come. The fall-planted bulbs had the jump start and sprouted very early. Spring bulbs are catching up and flowered just a week or two later than the fall ones.

The bulb of the garlic grows in the ground. There are two varieties – hard kneck and soft neck, the latter of which would be found on your grocers’ shelf. Hard neck differ in that they are a bit more hardy and a tough thick stem grows in the middle of the bulb.  Both varieties can be planted here.

There is some different schools of thought pertaining to the flower of garlic that starts in mid-summer. When a bulge just begins to start and the top is curled over on itself you can actually cut them off and saute this part. It gives a softer essence of garlic. When a bud is definite you can also just crimp the stem over just under the bud so that the plants energy goes back into making the bulb instead of the flower parts. Or, you can just ignore it completely.

Fall planted garlic in May

Fall planted garlic in May

Spring-planted garlic in May

Spring-planted garlic in May

Harvest comes when the plant has browned about 1/3 of the way up. Waiting longer can result in an inedible product. Dig the garlic so as not to damage the bulb. Brush off as much dirt as possible and keep in a cool dark place until you are ready to use it. You can cut the leaves off leaving a little stem or if you

have a lot you can leave the leaves on and braid them.

First pick – beet greens Sunday, August 2nd, 2009

Yesterday I picked my first beets and first sweet banana pepper. The beets weren’t even a quarter-size in diameter, so I only picked 2 and utiliezed the entire things, minus the fuzziest part of the root.  Beet greens are awesome. Just wilt them by either sauteing them slightly with a little white wine, salt and olive oil or turn them into a hot dish like pasta or rice and the residual heat will wilt them. I’m guessing the small size of the actual bulbous root that is the ‘beet’ is due to my later planting of them. Beet seeds can actually be sown all season long. Just don’t expect to get very big ones if you plant them now.

The smaller beets are great for roasting, greens are great as a side or take fresh ones and turn them into hot pasta, big beets are good for pickling as them can get a bit strong to eat just cooked.

Beets are also great keepers like potatoes, onions, etc. Just keep them cool, dry and in a dark place.