In the Garden: 7.1.2013

Garden-1

The combination of hot, humid days, and warmish nights have really helped my garden take off.  The photo above was taken exactly one month ago, and the photo below a week ago, and today the garden is even more lush and verdant.  In fact, this week we harvested our first zucchini, cucumbers, broccoli, and basil.  It is so wonderful to once again be able to cook a meal that we grew.

Garden-2 Garden-3

Ella’s garden (above), doing particularly well. I am convinced it is because she sings to her plants in such a sweet melodic voice.

Garden-4

The hot, humid Missouri weather has introduced me to a whole new aspect of gardening: pest management.  In Oregon, if you were vigilant about picking off slugs, and had a solid deer fence, your garden would fare well.  Here, I am combating cabbage moths, lace bugs, and cucumber beetles, and everybody tells me to watch out for the squash bugs and tomato hornworms.  While we slept, a large mammal (probably a skunk) crept through the fence and ravaged the garden, tearing into the sides almost every bed.  Oddly enough, not a single plant or fruit was eaten, which is why I suspect skunk over raccoon. I imagine the skunk was hunting for grubs, of which we have plenty. You can see the damage in the photo above.

Pests aside, the garden gives me such pleasure, and it is a joy to walk it each morning with Ella and Everett at my side.  Ev scouts out new green tomatoes and hunts for the last remaining ripe strawberries, while Ella hand-pollinates zucchini and creates flower bouquets.

What is growing in your garden?

 

Tomatoes I Have Grown and Loved

If it is not already obvious, I really love growing tomatoes. To the point of obsession.  I wander the greenhouse rows tending to my plants, lovingly pruning them, winding them up their trellis, pinching off new growth to encourage ripening.  And this year my babying has paid off, as we’ve enjoyed a lovely harvest of large, sweet, beautiful tomatoes.

Like many, I keep a garden journal with notes about seeds ordered, dates I transplant, etc.  But while I’m a very detail oriented kind of gal (I love Excel spreadsheets and making lists and all that fun stuff), for some odd reason, I have never been able to keep a harvest record. So each year I scratch my head and think, “hmmm…which tomato did I really love last year?”

No longer, my friends!  I am here to share my tomato harvest notes, for my sanity and your enjoyment!

Cherokee Purple (seed from Territorial Seed Company) – I really enjoy this maroon-tinged tomato for its rich, wine-y flavor, but it is prone to cracking and molding on the vine. Pick just short of ripe and bring indoors to finish ripening.

Pineapple (Territorial Seed Co.) – Large, beautiful red-yellow striped fruits.  Delicious, low acid, sweet taste.  This was my number one slicer this year.  With home-cured bacon, these tomatoes made the best BLTS ever.

Oldenhorf Red (Adaptive Seeds) – A new one for me this year.  These were the first ripe tomatoes in my greenhouse.  The fruits are early, perfectly red, round, and blemish-free. But the flavor is somewhat unimpressive.  I call it a “work horse” tomato.

Kellogg’s Breakfast (Territorial Seed Co.) – Perfect, huge, bright yellow-orange fruits with a sweet/slightly tart flavor.  Nice addition to salsa.

Rose de Berne (High Mowing Seeds) – Beautiful pink fruits of uniform size and shape. Intensely sweet & delicious flavor (my mother-in-law gives it a 10).  But, the fruits crack consistently at the first hint of ripeness.  Pick early!

Pruden’s Purple (High Mowing Seeds) – These are really not purple at all, but big, pink, meaty fruits.  Some cracking on larger fruits, but the flavor and texture are nice.

Baylor Paste (Adaptive Seeds) – If I had to tell the world about a tomato that I grow and love, this would be the tomato.  It has everything going for it – looks, texture, flavor, abundance.  And best of all, each and every tomato is PERFECT.  No end rot, no cracking.  Just dozens of perfect, ripe, tomatoes on every plant.  Grow this tomato and you won’t regret it!

Gilbertie Paste (High Mowing Seeds) – This is a nice paste tomato.  Large, nice meaty flesh with few seeds, no blossom end rot problems.  But I don’t find it to be especially prolific.

Principe Borghese (Territorial Seed Co.)  – Abundant, perfect, small oval shaped fruits.  Great in salsa, or roasted, or cut into pasta, or dried.  You get the idea!

San Marzano Paste (High Mowing Seeds) -Some gorgeous and large fruits, others (even on the same plant) are small with blossom end rot.  Very disappointing –  I won’t plant these again.

 

I’d love to hear…which tomatoes did you grow and love?

 

 

Garlic Harvest

Garlic harvesting is a multi-generational activity here on the homestead.  Each July, Brian’s parents escape the Arizona heat to spend the summer in the Northwest.  So for a few months, we benefit from having family close by; sharing meals, sharing the joys of raising children, and sharing the daily chores of the homestead.  As their visit coincides with the annual garlic harvest, we’ve established a bit of a routine: we dig the garlic together, Grandma cleans the bulbs, I braid, and we all share the bounty.

This year we grew an assortment of hard-neck and soft-neck garlic, but it was all from last year’s saved bulbs, so I have no idea what varieties were represented.  What I do know is that our garlic lasts all year long, so we are planting cloves that have been selected for long term storage.  We use garlic liberally in our cooking, of course, but also feed it to our goats to help maintain their health.

The hard-neck garlic harvest begins. Check out the size of those bulbs!

Ella was so helpful!  She has become quite the harvester, and specializes in arranging the harvest in beautifully neat piles.

(These are the soft-neck varieties)

To the porch!

The cleaning and braiding will continue happening into the weekend, at a nice slow pace.  It’s a pleasure to work together to create such a harvest.

Manda Ruth

Hello! It’s been a mighty long time since I’ve written here.  We’ve had a visitor, lots of rain, and oodles of homestead work.  I’ve been diligently working in the garden, planting the last of the veggies into the ground.  Thanks to our winter and spring efforts, the sweet reward of harvest begins: Asparagus, peas, lettuce, spinach, kale, Swiss chard, new potatoes, carrots, beets, and today, our first ripe strawberries!  It feels so good to be able to once again craft our menu around what is ready to eat from the garden.

Noticing that sweet Everett was growing bigger and bigger, and that my sweater-in-progress was not, I decided to make a strong push to the finish.  Thank goodness I did, because this 24 month sized sweater fits my 18 month boy just perfectly.

It’s the Manda Ruth cardigan, minus the hood, and you can find my Ravelry notes here.

Can you believe those cheeks?  I just want to eat them up, they are so chubbilicious!

What are you creating today?

* Yarn Along-ing today with the fine folks at Small Things.  Check it out here.