Tag Archives: in the garden

in the garden, october

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Fall is definitely here – on the trees, in the meadow, in the garden.  We have had some pleasant fall weather of warm days and cool nights, but we also had 11 days of nearly continuous rain.  We needed the rain, but the last 3 chilly days of it pouring down were disheartening.  The sun has come back now and I am back in the garden a bit.  Mainly to pick greens, but I did some weeding after all that rain, too.  The greens are plentiful and delicious.  I am eating salads nearly everyday, and collards and kale are showing up in most suppers.  I will freeze some soon so we will have them through some of the winter too.  I’ve got quite a few jalapenos in the garden still – and the plants have started blooming again!  Of course, they will be killed by a frost before any baby peppers have even form, but they are pretty with the red peppers and white blooms.  And, my marigolds, scattered throughout the garden are vibrant now.  I may need to get out and pick some for a dye bath.  Finally, the pears are coming down fast in the large tree by our house.  I hope we’ll make cider this weekend.

 

in the garden: not a lot

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We are waking up to chilly, often foggy, mornings here.  The fog burns off and the days are often quite warm (even hot).

Work has been busy for me for the last few months.  School and soccer and music lessons have also started over the last month.  I feel as if I have 2 full time jobs, and I am feeling slightly drained already, though that may be because I am just tired (I hate waking up early, especially after staying up late to have some “me time” – why does school have to start so early?).  So, the garden has been a bit neglected lately.  But, that is really fine since the garden is near its end (at least the summer garden).  A few fall crops, like kale and arugula, are just now ready, but everything else is still too small to harvest.  Weeds are growing everywhere, but I haven’t had the time to get out the weed eater or the hoe.  Maybe today.

My favorite fall flowers are out now – ginger lily, that white orchid-like flower with an incredible scent, and Autumn Joy, the sedum which is so pretty from now till frost.

 

in the garden: potatoes

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The garden has faded into its late summer nearly-nothingness.  We’ve been in desperate need of water, but got a good shower yesterday.  Hopefully, we’ll have a few more this week.  And, I love the flowers of late summer which are starting to show now.

Cucumbers are done, beans are done, winter squash is just about done.  It’s too hot for lettuces, spinach, and most greens.  There are a few watermelons that are ripening now and I need to check on them often.  I brought one inside because the vine had died, and I thought it would be a pale, tasteless thing.  But, it surprised me and was ripe and delicious.  I brought it inside in late afternoon and I’m not sure I’d ever before eaten a warm watermelon!

The tomatoes, which have done well, and we have eaten nearly everyday, fresh, in salads, on sandwiches, and on pasta – well, they now have late blight and are rapidly fading.  The only plants actively still growing and producing are the hot peppers (and one sweet pepper) and the okra – and the weeds too, but let’s just ignore them for now.  Funnily, the biggest space in the garden that looks the dead-est is the potato patch, which is also producing the most food from the garden right now.  I am harvesting large amounts of potatoes each day as I am clearing out rows to grow fall crops (collards, kale, beets, and some carrots have gone in the last few days) – about a bushel today.

I start craving potatoes in April, just when they are pushing up green and bushy from the ground.  After I’ve waited for 3 weeks for them to come up because I never remember to pre-sprout them and am too anxious to get them in the garden as soon as possible.  But, we don’t get to eat any until late May or early June.  Then, just a few small new potatoes, which are tender and nearly sweet.  Now, though, we have so many potatoes that I feel I need to cook at least a few pounds for supper each night.

A friend visiting our garden in early summer commented, “That’s a lot of food right there.” when he saw our potato patch.  He was comparing it to his 10’x10′ garden with a few lettuce and tomato plants and herbs.  Just now though, I am think it an apt description of it – it is a lot of food.  Those potatoes will fill us up for most of the fall and right into the winter (maybe even through most of the winter).

We grew 5 varieties this year. Ordered from Fedco Seeds (their Best Keepers mix), I think they were Elba, Red Pontiac (my favorite red – so round and large), Cheiftan (did not like as much), Katahdin (had lots of disease), and Russet Burbank.  I also planted a fingerling (Banana).  I have come to realize that while a darling in the foodie world, I don’t really like fingerlings much.  They are ok, and sometimes great, but I prefer the less dense flesh of “regular” potatoes, which I also find easier to cook.

But, with so many potatoes, I am currently feeling a bit overwhelmed by the amount and hence not sure what to cook.  You can only have roasted potatoes so many times per week.  So, I am going to write out some of our favorite things to make from potatoes – hoping to keep me motivated to keep using them:

  • Smitten Kitchen’s baked potato crisps with the works (potatoes, sour cream, bacon – so good), from the book
  • Roasted potatoes made with the method of parboiling them first, then putting them on a baking sheet with hot oil and roasting in a hot oven (a technique Smitten Kitchen also uses to make fries)
  • mashed potatoes with browned butter (a whole stick!)
  • latkes (or as we call them, potato cakes – BTW, I am totally a Smitten Kitchen fan)
  • frittatas – and adding herbs, variety of cheeses, and/or chopped greens and onions or garlic
  • gratin – also love to add lots of extra stuff to it from winter squash, to herbs, to bacon (and cheese of course)

I think I’ve come up with a few meals that will work for us here, and some I will use over and over because they are so delicious and everyone loves them (the first, in particular).

Any other really great meals that use lots of potatoes (and that kids will like, and that don’t take too long to prepare)?  I tried gnocchi last year, but gave up until my brother can give me lesson.

 

in the garden

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We had really hot weather two weeks ago and we went away for the weekend, coming back to a garden loaded with things to harvest.  This past week has been cooler, but everything is still producing.

  • The green beans are nearly done (second planting is coming along). Lots of bean leaf beetles  on them.
  • Blackraspberries are done (such a short season).
  • The blueberries are still producing strong.
  • I am harvesting cucumbers everyday, but have yet to can pickles.  I love having them in the winter, but we do eat a lot of fresh cucumbers – in salads, mainly.  I have not had quite enough to pickle – maybe next week.
  • The first tomatoes were harvested (and eaten quickly).  No more have ripened since, and I’m thinking its because of the cooler weather this week.
  • The winter squash and watermelons are taking over the garden.  I’ve seen on ripe butternut already, which seems way to early, but probably not.
  • The potatoes are delicious.  I’ve harvested some of three varieties  One variety of red potato has lots of scab and so is not very pretty.  The fingerlings have been wonderful – as have the Kennebecks (my favorite, I think).
  • We are also harvesting mulberries, but only a few at a time – which either get eaten all up, or go in the freezer with blueberries or black raspberries.  The kids love to eat them (and climb the tree to harvest them).  They will keep going for a while.
  • The first zinnias have been picked (dalias, too).  The yarrow and alliums and dill are so pretty together.

I’ve definitely got some weeds (mostly grass weeds, which I hate most).  And, my 2nd beet planting failed.  I think I will try again in August when I do the fall planting.  I would love to have some more beets, since I think I only harvested 3 or 4.

What’s going on in your garden?

in the garden 6-4-15

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Everything in the garden is growing like crazy.  The potatoes look really great, but there are still some potato bugs (Colorado Potato Beetle) on them, so Hythe has been helping me pick them off every other day.  He likes to drown them (rather than smash), and I agree – they can be a little gross to smush.  I am now working to get the potatoes mulched with straw.  I am half-way there and will finish this weekend, I hope.  The straw fills in for the second potato hilling and works quite well.   I love the potato blossoms.  They are so pretty, and with five different varieties, each flower is a little different in color.  I told Hythe we could start getting some potatoes from the ground when they starting flowering, so he has been reporting to me each time a variety starts to flower.  I have only dug a few little baby potatoes, though – they still need some time.  It is a pretty time in the garden.

The snap (or English) peas are producing lots and lots of peas right now.  We’ve been picking (and eating) every other day.  I have a stock pile in the refrigerator for lunches and snacks.  I will try to freeze some tomorrow because we finally have grown enough that I can feed everyone who wants peas, and have some left over.  My family far prefers to eat the peas raw, and they end up on plates and in lunch boxes in the pod to be split open and snacked on during the day.  I have also been shelling and throwing them into salads and soups every chance I get.

Lettuces are still growing, though some are starting to bolt.  I need to do my “next” sowing of lettuces, carrots, beets, and beans.  Maybe this weekend.

The squash and watermelon are growing well and are all now mulched with straw.  I hope to have zucchini soon.  The beans are getting ready to flower and the okra is about 3 inches tall now.

And, we have (or had) cherries.  Lots of cherries, so many we could not possible pick them all.  Plus, they were at the top of some tall-ish trees and we could not reach them all.  Nor, would I have had the time to pit them all.  But, we did get a couple of gallons.  We ate lots fresh, then I pitted a lot and made jam, a pie, and froze the rest.  While I love cherries, I am ok with the season being short.  We’ve had so much rain that the over-ripe ones in the tree are mostly split and moldy now.  I am grateful for all the fruit we have.  Strawberries are just finishing, cherries have come and are nearly gone, but while we were getting the last of the cherries tonight, Evva came up to me with the first black raspberry!  And, soon there will be blueberries.  And, the boys have been finding some ripe mulberries.  So glad to have all this fruit!

The garden work is continuous, and for now, still enjoyable.  Hythe enjoys helping me, and I love it when William joins me in the garden to pick or mulch or weed.  The girls have not been so enthusiastic.  Well, they are enthusiastic about the theory of a garden, but not in practicality of it.  They cheer on the great food coming from the garden, but rarely participate in the work.  I should probably encourage them more, but I don’t want to nag.  And, they often have their own passions and interests they want to pursue while I pursue my in the garden.  But, I came home from a run last weekend to find William had set up Anne with the weed wacker and she cut all the weeds around the garden and near our house.  She had fun and felt grown-up and useful.  It was wild to see her from a distance as I came home from my run, wondering who the teenage boy (or old man?) was who was weed wacking our garden, only to realize it was Anne.  Looking strong and capable.   While I never would have set her up with that machine (I can barely run it myself), I was glad William had.

in the garden

We have been very dry here for nearly 3 weeks, until yesterday when a glorious long, not-too-intense rain fell.  It has made all the difference.  And, more rain is expected for the rest of the week.  Most of these pictures are from just before the rain.  All of a sudden the peas have started to fill out, the fava beans are ready to pick, and the potatoes are thankfully so much easier to hill.

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The peas grew what seems like 6 inches while I was away on a retreat last week.  This week they are filling out those pods, and Hythe and I picked enough for the him and his siblings to eat for supper last night.  Such a treat!

The potatoes also shot up in the last week, and I have been trying to get them all hilled.  Since it is a bit of a tough job, I usually do one row a day, but with the dry soil, it was even more physically challenging.  I got the last row and a half done after it rained yesterday.  Next job is to mulch them all with straw to make up for the less than adequate hilling (they really need to be hilled twice, and I always plant too close together to get 2 good hilling jobs done – but I get more potatoes per area and I’ll make up for it with the straw).  We also have potato beetles, but Hythe and Steven and I go out and pick them off and drown them.  The boys love to do it and take the job very seriously.

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All the spinach is done now.  The warm weather caused it to start bolting. I got a last big harvest which I froze and will soon put that area into snap beans.

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The walking onions are starting to walk.  They are not so good to eat right now (as they are mostly stems putting up flowers), but I’ll have a few windows to get them while the new ones are young.  Their shapes are so interesting and beautiful.

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I couldn’t believe I already had a few large-ish green tomatoes on a few of the plants.  But, I imagine they will stay green for a long time.  For some reason they do that here in the mountains.  I am staking them differently than I have in the past years.  I’m going back to my favorite method after trying lots of different ones.  With this one, I stake each plant, tie it with old sheets, and prune suckers fairly heavily.  I usually end up with one or two main branches, less disease, and lots of tomatoes.   We’ll see how it goes this year!

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What’s going on in your garden?

in the garden this week

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More and more is happening in the garden space this week.  We’ve had consistently warm days and not-too-cool nights.  We had a great heavy rain from a spring storm which made up for the 10 days with no rain.  All that means perfect growing conditions for the garden.  The peas have started to bloom.  The favas have tiny little pods on them, but the plants are a little yellow and aren’t looking very happy (too warm?  not enough water? normal?).   Lettuces are growing, and the cut-and-come-again patch seems to never end.  We are eating salads nearly everyday.  But, speaking of salads, the spinach has decided it is too warm.  All the leaves started to point up and the plants are ready to bolt any moment.  I think I am going to pull them all out and plant beans there this week.  We have so enjoyed the spinach patch – in salads, mostly, but I made a risotto with spinach, tomatoes, and sausage the other day that was good (though, of course, 3 out of 4 children boycotted it).

I’ve had my first ever radish crop failure!  How does that happen, you might wonder?  Aren’t radishes the easiest things possible to grow?  They should be.  But, the poor radishes were at their very tenderest when the last frost knocked them back.  Then, it got quite warm and those that made it through the frost just got woody.  Maybe it was the variety (Easter Egg – which can be very pretty, but can tend towards the woody).  Anyway, I composted all that remained.

The tomatoes seem to be growing and are putting out a few flowers.  I mulched them with straw to keep down the weeds.  I need to stake them (really soon!).   Potatoes are all up and growing rapidly.  A friend looked at our potato patch this past weekend and said, “Now that’s some food.” That’s what I think too, when I see that patch.  Those potatoes will (hopefully) feed us through the fall and winter.  I am looking forward to new potatoes, and I know the children always like everything I make with them.

I put a wheelbarrow load of compost in the garden, then got some okra planted (2 varieties: Clemson Spineless and Burgundy).  Okra is a favorite in our house, so I hope they do well.

I did something different with the cucumbers, winter squash, and melons.  Instead of planting them in mounds, like last year, I planted out seedlings I’d grown in the farm greenhouse.  I planted them in an alternating pattern in the same area as the okra.  I hope they will cover the ground well and have enough room.  We’ll see if it works out any better than the mound system (which was fine, too).  I mulched between the plants with straw.  And, the cucumbers (slicing and pickling), I planted with the peas, hoping they can also climb the trellis and will be thriving when the peas are dying.  I put in the cucumbers randomly with the peas wherever there was a break in the peas (i.e. where a few plants did not come up) and at each end of the trellis.

I still want to plant a few cantaloupes, but I am not sure I have any more room.  Hythe is a little indignant that I did not plant his beloved pumpkins or corn.  But, I just couldn’t justify planting crops that take up so much room with little return food-wise per area.  I probably need to make a little space next year for him to plant what he wants.  Maybe a new garden space.

Finally, my peonies have large buds that the ants are working on.  So exciting!

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in the garden 4.9.15

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It is all about the flowers this time of year.  Our favorite tree on the property is a huge pear tree, leftover from someone’s homeplace many years ago.  It produces those huge, hard pears that are perfect for cider.  But, in the spring, she is majestic in full bloom, and we call her the Snow Queen.  The daffodils are fading, but my few tulips are blooming.  The apple trees are in the “pink”, as they say, but some are just starting to bloom.  They all make for perfect little arrangements to have on the table.

Dandelions are blooms plentifully – everywhere.  I was weeding my mother’s garden with a woman from Kosovo this week and she said that she used to make “dandelion honey”.  She described how she made it: 150 dandelion blossoms, some water (probably a quart), a sliced lemon or two, and sugar.  Boil this for 20-30 minutes and strain.  It sounded to me like what we might call dandelion cordial, but I think “honey” was the literal translation from Albanian.  So, I made some dandelion honey this week. It was quite good and would make a great lemonade.  I probably used too much water (2 quarts) because I thought it was a little weak.  I am putting a little in sparkling water and enjoying the sunshiny taste!

The fava beans, peas, garlic, and lettuces are growing well and quickly.  I finally put up a pea trellis, which I have not done in years, just letting the vines cover the ground.  But, I thought I would try to have a neater looking garden this year (we’ll see . . . ).  We’ve had plenty of rain and a bit of warm weather.  I need to replant radishes, beets, and lettuces – second sowing.  And, I can do that now because William tilled the whole garden this week.  We also have our seed potatoes, but have not planted yet.  Usually, I try to follow tradition of this area and plant potatoes on Good Friday (why?  because even if hit by a frost, they will “rise again”).  I plan to plant them that by this weekend, though.  I am excited to fill this garden up again.

What’s going on in your garden?  Is it still full of snow?  Do you see signs of spring?

 

in the garden, 3.26.15

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Spring days are here!  I can see a faint blush of color on the lower slopes of the mountains where red maples are blooming and setting seed, spice bushes are starting to flower, and a general awakening seems to be taking place.  The grass in the lawn grew a few inches this week, but the garden is a bit slower.  Lettuce seedlings are still quite small, but the peas have come up strong.  Hythe was in the garden with me looking at everything that was coming up and I noticed a short row of strange looking peas.  He, of course, told me that they were not peas but funny beans that he planted – and I remembered that we planted a few fava beans there.  Well, those are up too.  The garlic has grown a little, the onions a lot.

In one of my other garden places, I am enjoying some wonderful daffodils that I planted (with Hythe’s help) in the fall.  I took recommendations from an article in Taproot Magazine by Erin Benzakein (you should check out her site – it is beautiful) this past fall.  She suggested a few specific varieties of spring flowering bulbs for cut flowers, which I ordered from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs.  The double flowered is called Bridal Crown.  It is beautiful with small flowers and the fragrance is amazing.  I cut a few and put them on the table and every now and then catch a whiff . . . heavenly.   The other blooming now is called Pink Charm (I think).  My goal has been to plant enough bulbs that I can have cut flowers inside as early as possible.  I want to enjoy flowers outside, but want to have enough that they can also be enjoyed inside.

Not garden related, but Hythe has been a little daredevil on a bike lately.  He rode down our dirt road on a kick bike the other evening and William nor I could keep up with him (and he couldn’t stop).  It was a bit scary because he was going so fast that if he wrecked he would have been hurt (not to mention if a car had been coming up the road!).  We had no idea what he could and would do.  So, he has a ban on riding on the dirt road again until he has proper padding and has one of us at the end of the road to stop vehicles coming up when he is riding!  I took him, Steven, and a cousin to a pump track in South Asheville instead – so he could be a daredevil a little more safely.  Also, I love how he rides his pink, flowered, hand-me-down bike with pride!

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in the garden, 3.19.15

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I got out in the garden last week with Hythe to plant some spring vegetables.  I started raining the next day and kept up for  four days.  Then, we have 3 days of pleasant, warm, sunny weather.  And, it started raining again today (and got a bit cooler!).   But, that weather combination was perfect for the garden.  I checked on it yesterday and all the lettuces, kale, and radishes were up!  The peas were just poking a few of their little leaves out of the ground (I had to look very carefully for them – too small even for pictures).

Flowers are blooming – the first daffodils, the glory-of-the-snow (from William’s mother’s garden), the last of the crocuses. Isaiah is plowing the bottom land, getting it ready for spring plantings at Flying Cloud Farm.  Our peach tree is budding up and tiny green leaves are poking out.  The grass is growing, weeds are growing – our world is getting a bit greener.  Steven came out with me to see what was blooming outside and really liked the henbit.  He smelled the flowers, saying “smell good” (though they have no smell), but when I crushed up the stems (they are members of the mint family), he wrinkled up his nose, “yuck”.

All the maple trees are in full bloom.  I used to not consider maples a flowering tree, but they do put on a beautiful show here (and one of the first), with colors from reddish brown to scarlet.  The color last quite a while too and can be stunning on some trees.  Being on the brownish-red spectrum, our tree does not have very pretty blooms (though I do not say that very loud as I would not want to hurt feelings – it has so many other wonderful qualities).  But, it is nice to see it bloom.

I mulched and fertilized most of the blueberries, but I still need to prune them.

Speaking of pruning, my favorite pruning book is The American Horticulture Society book Pruning and Training.  There are also some great resources on-line from NC State University.  William is much better pruner than i am.  He’s had a bit more practice since he worked on the apple farm one winter and has pruned hundreds of apple trees in his life.  I tend to stand, studying a tree or bush for far too long, then make small, tentative clips around the plant, so by the end of 30 minutes the tree looks about the same as before.  Maybe I am too nervous about ruining the tree to make bold cuts.  Blueberries are perfect for me because (at least at this point) my bushes are small and easy understand.  The pruning seems much more strait forward than tree fruits.

What’s going on in your garden?  Anything yet?  I know many people still have snow on the ground (and still coming down).