I just got all inspired by a PBS show and wanted to share! Watch this episode of Growing a Greener World to see how to extend your growing season–it’s full of great ideas.
I’m going to start small next month with two row covers, but eventually I’d like to cover the raised beds with something even more stable as demonstrated in the episode. I’m not sure if I can achieve a true four season garden, but I think I can definitely get through three seasons of outdoor gardening this year.
Here are a few pins that I found helpful when thinking about fall and winter gardening:
Click the Pinterest button (to the right) to follow me on Pinterest and share your gardening pins with me!
Just kidding. I used a pair of dollar store pruners.
For the second year in a row, I’ve been kicking myself for not getting rid of all the cherry tomato volunteers. If I allow any to stay next year, I’m transplanting them to someplace on the property that I don’t pay much attention to. Like, maybe the compost pile. Because this is what ONE leftover volunteer did. (Hint, see the clusters of cherry tomatoes in the middle of the picture? That is the center of the plant, whose vines have crept out every which way and taken over the next bed and a third of the patio.)
Obviously, raised beds are not a proper home for things that climb unless you trellis them properly. I will not be making this mistake again!
Even though there were still quite a few green tomatoes on the vines, I cut most of them back today. We’ve given away a lot, and even the littlest Emerald Thumb is mostly tired of picking and eating them. I think I’ll get out the juicer this week and juice the rest of them. Anyway, here is why they had to go:
These two things are doing well so far, but the tomato vines had sneaked their way into the trellis and were trying to take over. I can’t have that. Sorry, tomatoes…
I have a confession: I’ve never really liked these. I actually am always alarmed when I bite into one and it explodes. They have barely any flesh, and are mostly seeds and skin which are not the best parts of a tomato, in my opinion. Lastly, I hate picking them. It takes for-freaking-ever.
Where do you grow your cherry tomatoes? Or do you even bother with the crazy things?
10 years ago this month, I quit eating meat. I refused to give up some old “classics,” though. Like BLTs.
While it’s not typically possible to go to any random restaurant and order a vegetarian BLT that includes some sort of bacon substitute, (you’ll get a raised eyebrow at the least and a WTF at most) it’s really easy to make your own version at home. That’s the best kind anyway–especially when you can pick your tomatoes straight out of your garden. We all know how satisfying a restaurant tomato slice is, yes? (From 2003’s Intolerable Cruelty comes this wonderful line: “Just bring him an iceberg lettuce and a mealy tomato wedge smothered with French dressing.”)
A few years ago, I was introduced to Morningstar Farms’ veggie bacon strips. While I’m not a huge proponent of meat substitutes that look like meat, bacon is one delectable thing I actually missed from the meat world. I think the smoky, terrible-for-you nitrates involved were my poison rather than the marble-y, fat-plus-tissue cut into strips-sizzling on a griddle thing. So, I rather enjoy myself a couple soy bacon strips here and there, and especially on BLTs in the summer.
They aren’t vegan.
The sandwich I made is vegetarian, though.
Is there any late summer meal that appeals more to tastebuds than a BLT made with fresh ingredients? I think not.
I started out with a fresh, sliced Cherokee Purple tomato.
I added a thin wedge of iceberg lettuce (from the supermarket…sorry, not sorry! You can add your own home-grown lettuce if you wish!)
I layered the lettuce with tomato slices, topped them with two strips of vegetarian bacon, and finished with the second slice of toasted white bread.
The triangle cut is a must to best handle the sandwich without it falling apart.
I love to add a dab of Miracle Whip or mayonnaise for some extra flavor. But I’m a condiment lover! You can take it or leave it…or start a debate in the comments about Miracle Whip vs. mayonnaise…
Ah, summer. It’s the most vegetarian time of the year.
Cherokee purples are an interesting fruit. They’re an old cultivar, allegedly originating with the Cherokee people, according to Wikipedia, a.k.a. the most reputable source on the interwebs. Feel free to do your own research; I’m not going to give a history lesson today because that isn’t really the purpose of this blog. Anyway, this variety is considered one of the “blacks” meaning it’s darker than your average ripe, bright orange-y red tomato.
My tomato knowledge was pretty limited when I started gardening. I knew there were big ones, smaller ones the size of a cherry, grape-shaped ones, yellow and orange ones, and rather odd-looking ones labeled “heirlooms” at the supermarket. Some were good for slicing, others were good for making sauce, and still others were meant to just pop into your mouth straight off the vine for that unmistakable BURST. Then, a friend of mine showed me her Cherokee purple harvest and I was floored at not only the size/shape/color, but she sent me home with a couple and the taste just blew me away! You know how usually a sliced tomato tastes better with a liberal shake of salt and probably some ground black pepper? Not this variety. You don’t need salt or any other seasoning to bring out the flavor because it’s already there.
I actually saved the seeds from one of the tomatoes she sent me home with last year. So the Cherokee purples I’ve been harvesting the last couple weeks are from seeds I saved, started, planted, and tended. Is that full circle since someone else gave me the seeds? I’m saving seeds from my harvest this time around, so hopefully next year this time I’ll be doing the same, and that will be a true “full circle” from seed saving to harvest.
Check back (or subscribe so you never miss a post!) on Friday to see my version of a classic favorite summer dinner. Hint: I bet you didn’t think it could be done!
Waaaaaay back in January, I started seeds for Mr. Stripey tomatoes. Now I am an finally enjoying some! This variety is yellow, with a sort of reddish pattern. The fruits are large and uniform, unlike some other heirlooms that are not so pleasing to the eye. Once you slice one of these babies open, the flesh inside is sweet and juicy. Ok, basically they taste like summer. I probably never would have known about this particular variety (or gone many more years without this bit of wonderful knowledge), but a kind friend sent me a birthday card with a packet of Mr. Stripey seeds a couple years ago. I’m so glad the seeds were still good and germinated no problem. You should definitely try growing these if you haven’t already–they’re amazing!
Let me begin with the craptastic aspects of my August garden (along with a few not awful things) and I’ll end on a positive note.
My Early Doll tomatoes finally began to ripen and then started randomly exploding or falling off the vines. Quite a few have survived, though, and they make a great little slicing tomato. Today I noticed some coloration other than green on several of the Cherokee Purples. I went to pick a giant one off the vine and found it rotted on the bottom and full of those roly poly bugs. I screamed (this happens somewhat frequently when I’m out there) and scraped the sole of my bare foot on the raw edge of a paving stone. I managed to get the good ones into the house and I’ve been hobbling around the rest of the day. Thanks a lot, tomatoes.
Cucumbers and zucchinis are done-zo. There is a single, tiny eggplant. There was cauliflower next to the blackberries for some reason, but I don’t even have the heart to check on it now. Last time I looked at it the leaves were full of holes and it appeared to be struggling to survive. (I’m not a huge fan of cauliflower anyway so while I hated to see it suffer I wouldn’t be sad if it didn’t produce.)
I hope to post more this week. This little update is basically to motivate me to get back to writing again after the August From Hell.
Moving on to the good stuff:
I know a lot of folks out there think they don’t have enough space in which to garden or grow things. I have a friend who has made the most of her tiny amount of space and I asked if I could take some pics and share her garden efforts on the blog! Her rain lilies (I’ve never heard of them but they’re delicate and very pretty) were blooming, and she had hens and chicks, a big hearty-looking container of basil, marigolds and some bright purple annuals. A great amount of stuff in a small space that’s a feast for the eyes and partially edible, too! Here’s a little inspiration for those of you who are on the fence about starting a garden due to lack of space:
Makes you wanna try container gardening, doesn’t it?!
Locals: if you know of anyone whose small garden you think I should feature, please contact me and let me know!
“There was an old, crazy dude who used to live a long time ago. His name was Lord Buckley. And he said, a long time ago, he said, ‘People–they’re kinda like flowers, and it’s been a privilege walking in your garden.’ My love goes with you.” –Robin Williams
Today’s the last day of July, and how the hell did that happen? The weather has been so pleasant this year that I guess it hasn’t felt like those long, hot, drawn-out summers of years past. Well, the brutality of last winter and its neverending-ness probably also make this summer feel more precious.
I know one thing for sure: I had ripe tomatoes a lot earlier last year.
July 12, 2013:
July 23, 2013:
July 27, 2013:
In the 2014 garden’s defense, we’ve had unseasonably cool temps the past couple weeks. The highs have been in the low-to-mid-70s and maybe that’s just not hot enough for tomatoes to ripen. We’ve had a pretty good amount of cherries from the two volunteer plants I allowed to stay (nowhere near the 92,000–that may or may not be hyperbole–I picked last year), though. Other than that, I’ve just picked several green tomatoes off a vine that I think is Early Dolls, a variety I planted last year that came back up (surprise!) this year, put them in the kitchen window, and they’re finally ripe. Nothing on the vine is ripe yet, though!
Curiously, it’s been warm enough for peppers. I have some, ahem, mystery peppers this year. I was given some free plugs this spring and I got them mixed up by the time I went to plant them. Here they are, what do you think these look like? I remember one variety was called “Fooled You.” What does that mean? Does that mean, ha ha, you thought this was going to be a sweet pepper but it’s really the fiery death of your entire face?
I had a bunch of zucchini, but then both plants got powdery mildew and I’m not sure I’ll see many more fruits this year. That’s ok, I can only eat so much grilled zucchini. I have never made zucchini bread but it seems pretty popular. Maybe I’ll make that over the weekend and add a little Emerald Thumb spin.
A commenter asked me recently for a pic of the whole garden situation, so here is one. I’ve got things happening in those blank spots, don’t worry.
Cucumbers are going nuts and Mr. Emerald Thumb will be pickling soon. Watch for a simple pickling tutorial sometime soon.
The poor cauliflower and eggplants are not doing great. Whatever feasts on their leaves has really been feasting. I’m not good at pest control yet. I refuse to use pesticides or herbicides, but I also don’t have time to go pick off any little buggers by hand.
I just sowed winter squash (acorn squash), more basil, more lettuce, and parsley. I think it’s still ok to throw in some carrots and beets. I also want to sow more spinach, and maybe broccoli. I say “maybe” because it takes up so much space and last year I only got like two heads. Kind of not worth it for small-scale, raised bed gardening, if you ask me.
Welp, that’s the July update. Stop by soon for a Caprese salad and a nice glass of wine.
That’s right. The saddest little flower garden in town belongs to someone who claims to have an “emerald thumb.” It didn’t start out sad. It started out with a ton of ambition and planning. There were even charts and sketches! Plots and maps!
I even took a “before” shot:
That was 3 months ago. Today, much to my disappointment, it looks like this:
I don’t even know what happened. I sowed alyssum, dwarf hollyhock, black eyed Susan, dwarf snapdragon, old fashioned mix, regular snapdragon, flowering kale, and zinnia. The stupid bachelors buttons are perennials (those scrubby looking things that have all fallen over) and I forgot about them in my planning frenzy. Basically I got a few seeds to germinate, and a ton of weeds.
Here are some close-up shots. I could’ve just posted these and let you think I had some fabulous flower garden, but that’s not how it is. Sometimes I fail. It’s not a good feeling, but it’s how we learn. AND LEARN, I DID, DAMN IT!
This concludes the tour of the saddest little flower garden ever. I hope to do better next year. I’m tossing around the thought of chucking the flowers and dedicating the entire space to herbs, but that seems like giving up. Maybe I’ll actually spring for plants instead of trying to start from seeds. That is probably the best idea for a beginner–that way, I can stage things first and not wait 2 months to find out I screwed up and could possibly still move things around.
Lastly, my thoughts about this garden, best expressed by Tom Brady because this is the only thing I enjoy watching him do:
It’s blackberry harvest time again, and this year I’m making blackberry tarts. I’ve never made a tart before. (Last year I made this blackberry cobbler.) I figure it’s high time I tried. My neighbor made some berry tarts a few months ago when it was freezing outside, and she used these really cute little metal tart pans. So I had to get some for myself in anticipation of making my own damn tarts.
Now I’m in deep and obviously HAVE to do this although making any kind of homemade crust frankly terrifies me because it always sounds like SO MUCH WORK. Cube the butter, freeze the butter, mix with flour/sugar (so messy!), add ice water, etc. Also I do not own an electric mixer (long story–hey Kitchenaid, feel free to send me one because I will totally sell out for an Artisan!) so mixing dry ingredients together with frozen butter is not the easiest task. Somehow I have managed to convince myself that buying a pre-made crust is cheating, though, so I will continue to martyr myself and make the shit from scratch. Seriously, I cannot in good conscience put a tart made with a store-bought crust on Pinterest. WHAT WOULD PEOPLE THINK?
Now, I’m not a food blogger, and I don’t know a lot about baking. But I figured sometimes my readers might want to see exactly what I do with stuff that is harvested from my little garden so I thought today I’d try to show you. I tend towards simple, easy recipes that I actually don’t need to follow but can adapt using what I have on hand. You can’t do that with a pie crust, really, so you might want to use your own crust recipe or Google one up from some reputable source:
For the crust:
1 1/4 all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon white granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, I freeze and cube mine
Combine the flour and salt, then start adding in the butter with a fork, pastry tool thingie, or similar gadget. When you have some pretty even looking, coarse crumbs happening, start adding the ice water a little (like a tablespoon) at a time. You need to add enough ice water that the crumbs end up forming a ball, then you’re done. You can wrap it in plastic or stick it in a lidded container and refrigerate it until you’re ready to use it, or you can go ahead and stick it in the fridge until you’re ready to use it. I stuck mine in the fridge while I was making the filling. (All this freezing and refrigerating is to keep the butter from getting melty and ruining everything.)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Roll out the dough so it will cover 4 tart pans. Distribute dough evenly into tart pans, trimming but leaving a bit extra above the edges of the pan for shrinkage. Bake for 10 minutes, remove from oven, cool for 10 minutes.
I used little Pyrex flat-bottomed dishes for pie weights. I took them off after 8 minutes. You can use parchment paper topped with dried beans. I didn’t have any dried beans, obv.
For the filling:
Fruit, preferably blackberries, but you do you. I used 4 cups of blackberries.
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Sugar (granulated) 1/2 cup
Powdered sugar (for sprinkling on top) 1/4 cup
Toss the berries gently with the granulated sugar and lemon juice. Distribute berries evenly into tart pans, bake for 40 minutes until “golden” brown (or they look done, or you’re too hungry to wait any longer.)
I looked at some other recipes that use pastry cream filling, or crushed almonds, or things that required like 5 egg yolks. Sorry, I don’t bake often but when I do, I really try not to use a ton of fatty ingredients. The butter in the crust in this recipe is more than enough, and the berries just need a little sugar to bring out their awesome flavor. Why ruin that sort of goodness with the added calories of cream/egg yolks/nuts? You could top the tarts with ice cream or real whipped cream if you absolutely have to, but I much prefer the simplicity of a sprinkle of powdered sugar so I can just appreciate the warm berries and the buttery, (hopefully) flaky crust. Mmm.