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Planting Time

Last year, I made a comment that one can never have too many pepper plants. I may have proven myself wrong this year. I had forgotten what I had written, and had to laugh at myself when I saw it.

I’ve been experimenting with different plants the last couple of years, but I’ve also started canning my garden bounty and decided this year to focus on what I already use.

I updated my herbs. The peppermint and chives came back nicely, but sadly the sage did not. I planted chocolate mint, sage, basil and oregano.

As for the veggies, I planted radishes, peppers and tomatoes. Okay, and maybe a few more peppers and tomatoes. And peppers. I’m afraid I may regret that decision come August.

A friend gave me a mystery tomato and a fancy plum variety. I also planted a cherry tomato, a Fourth of July 1″ tomato and four romas.

As for the peppers. Oops. Some ladies have issues with self control around shoes. With me, apparently it’s all about the peppers.

I guess this year’s experiment will be pepper varieties. I ended up with a few: Anaheim chili peppers; a Tabasco one; an Ancho one; a couple jalapenos, six banana peppers, four sweet bells, a Hungarian Wax pepper, and a mini bell, because at this point, why not? And then…I saw them. Yes, I knew my garden was already full. But I couldn’t muster up the will power to care. I picked up four purple beauty bell peppers. I was planning on leaving room for red peppers, but who can resist purple peppers??? You guessed it–not me!

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Smaller Grocery Lists

I think I may have mentioned before I don’t enjoy shopping. That may be a factor in the satisfaction I receive with gardening and canning. But it’s wintertime and so I’m brainstorming other ways of removing items from my grocery list.

The first, most obvious one is to waste less. “Waste not, want not” is so very true. I was shocked when I saw a statistic claiming an estimated 30-40% of food is thrown away in the U.S. I have not analyzed by family’s contribution to this waste, but I am hopeful it is less.

Unfortunately, the onions we have on hand are getting ready to turn. In the past, I would have tried to use them up, then pitch them when I was unsuccessful. However, to help my time spent in the kitchen be more productive, this past summer, my husband purchased a dehydrator and food processor.

So I sliced three red onions thinly, spread them out in the dehydrator, turned it on and waited about a day and a half. When they were dry to the point of being crumbly, I popped them into the food processor and pulsed away. It took a bit to get it as fine as I wanted, but it got there.

I used a funnel to pour it into a small spice jar I had on hand, labelled it and stored it in the pantry.

Onion powder may not be expensive, but why not make use of all you can? I’ve added one more item not to buy at the store.

I no longer buy, but instead make myself:

Pickles, relish, jams/jellies, pasta or pizza sauces, BBQ sauce, cayenne powder, and now onion powder.

I plan to do the same with garlic powder and garlic salt. And hopefully many others!

Living Seasonally

Wow, has time escaped me. I’ve tried to focus on living more intentionally this past year, and to make time for me to do those things I enjoy. I find I’m a much better person to be around when I carve time out for me.

In the past, I’ve put the burden on myself to clean, grocery shop, etc. I set my standards unrealistically high, and then allowed resentment to fester when I wasn’t able to achieve them.  My family did not have these expectations of me, and I certainly never mentioned them. But that didn’t keep me from being unhappy that my family wasn’t magically doing what I wanted without being asked.

This year, I’ve changed my focus. I work outside the home, and while I enjoy doing so, it understandably puts a crimp in the amount of time I am able to devote to keeping my house in order. I have refused to let it consume me. Instead, I priorize my day. The first thing I do when I get home is exercise. I’m often exhausted, but I find that this energizes me, and puts me in a better mood. This is my “me” time where I get to escape.

My other hobbies are gardening and canning.  I started canning last year, and this year I tried to be more intentional with planting what we would use, and canning what we would eat.  It is through my experience with these activities that I realized another area where I should focus: living seasonally.

In spring, my focus was planting and establishing my garden. Summer, it was keeping the plants from dying between dry weather and bug invasions. But then came the fun part…making pickles, spaghetti, pizza and BBQ sauces, and many jams. And about the time I was sick of tomatoes came the first killing frost.

Never before have I looked forward to winter. I couldn’t even imagine a time where I would be crazy enough to wish for winter. All of a sudden though, I could imagine the pioneer woman on the plains. The hard work of summer is past, and food is preserved and stocked. Winter would be a nice break from summer’s hectic pace.

So in the spirit of living seasonally, this winter I plan to complete long overdue sewing and decluttering projects. I’m hoping that I can rotate through my interests as the seasons change.

Wish me luck!

Garden Abundance

My granddad was a gardener. When I think garden, I think granddad. His garden was always impeccable. A weed would not dare to grow in it. The veggies would march along in the straightest of rows, and the back half of the yard had the fruit trees.  When I think of what I want to accomplish in my garden, I think of my granddad and all his hard work.

Needless to say, I am nowhere near as accomplished a gardener as my granddad.  But each year is a new year to learn more. This year’s lessons are varied.

1.) Tomatoes can/should be pruned. I never knew. Hopefully if I prune them next year, I’ll have rows of tomato plants instead of my current grown together tomato “area”.

The tomato “area”.

2.) Cabbages take up too much space and attract too many pests to be invited back next year. We only ever really have it for St. Patrick’s Day and as sauerkraut. So nope.

4.) You can never have too many pepper plants or varieties. It’s an impossibility. So next year, more peppers, less cabbage.

5.) Homegrown radishes are far superior to store bought radishes. And all these years I thought I didn’t care for them.

These are just a few of the lessons I have learned already this year. Each lesson brings me closer to my granddad’s memory. And, I hope, closer to his legacy.

Cabbage and Broccoli

Wow, life got busy quickly! We are in the midst of a heat wave, so I’ve been struggling with the garden. The cucumber and pumpkin are not looking great.

Cabbage?

Each year, I try to add at least one new plant to my garden. Some become new favorites, others…well, don’t.

I added broccoli last year and thought they were moderately successful, so planted three more this year. I also planted six cabbages for the first time.

To summarize my learning from growing these this year: they won’t be back next year.

I don’t like to use a lot of chemicals in the garden. I do when I have to, but generally try to avoid them. I also work full time outside of the house, so even though I would like to spend more time in the garden, my time is just too limited. This means that my favorite plants to grow are low maintenance.

The cabbages were a hot bed of romantic activity for cabbage moths. They’d flutter around adding charm to the garden, and I did a really nice job fooling myself into thinking damage wasn’t that bad. There were no holes in the leaves and I never saw caterpillars. And then the day came to harvest them. And there were eggs in every layer. I fed them to the rabbits.

And there was the broccoli. Ugh, the broccoli.  The first head was harvested nicely and was delicious. The second one was iffy. By the time I harvested the third one, the middle was invested with caterpillars. Yes, two small heads of broccoli in season are $2.50, but nope. Just nope.

Both broccoli and cabbage take up a lot of room in my raised bed garden. Both do not produce a lot for that amount of space. And both attract too many pests. Neither will be back next year. I’ll use their space for other vegetables.

Summer Frustrations

As I mentioned in a previous post, I love the anticipation of the early spring. I love planting the vegetables, seeing the apple trees bloom. I can never wait for the garden to start to produce.

And then inevitably, the heat of the summer arrives. The rain barrels run dry and the water bill goes up. And the pests arrive. I’m trying to figure out what is going on with the cucumbers.

Any ideas what is going here?

I treated it for fungus and insects and trimmed off the affected leaves. I hope that works. It would be such a shame to have to yank it out.

And then there’s the apple trees.

Japanese beetles have been busy!

We went away for a short vacation, and when we returned, all three apples trees were invested to the point where I gave in and used Sevin. I tried so hard to keep things natural in the yard, but it just got so bad so fast. I plan to limit the use in the future, and will pay attention to the time of year to better prepare for their arrival next year.

 

Apples!

Backyard Apples

I’m so excited to check our apple trees. Last year the trees didn’t bloom until fall and we had tiny apples in time for winter’s killing frost. This year, we had a lot of blossoms early in the season and I was hopeful. Early storms blew some off, but then came the bane of every backyard apple tree…fungus!

Last year, the apple trees developed apple scab. This is a fungal disease that makes the leaves turn brown, wilt, and fall off. If any apples had developed, they would have looked horrible and unappetizing.  I went to my local nursery and spoke with their tree expert.

This past February, armed with all my new apple scab knowledge, I pruned the trees more aggressively, and treated for fungus more often.  After a wet spring, I checked the leaves for any spots and pulled off any that were infected.

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Apple butter, anyone?

I only have a couple dozen apples this year, but I’m hopeful they will be good quality. And that the harvest will continue to increase each year!

Grocery Shopping at Home

I really, really, really detest shopping. Doesn’t matter what kind it is, I don’t like it. Unfortunately, grocery shopping is a bit difficult to avoid.

Honestly, that is one of the things I like most about gardening. There’s just something about being able to head to the backyard to get the vegetables for that night’s dinner.

Last year, I made the leap to waterbath canning. We had so many cucumbers and banana peppers we couldn’t eat all of them fresh. I had so much fun with that, I branched out to other recipes.

Which brings me to tonight…we’ve been trying to use up what we have on hand this week. Too much food has ended up in the freezer. The fridge is pretty bare and I’m going to be at the grocery store tomorrow. Oh, the joy.

But to tide us over until then, I ran downstairs and grabbed a jar of apple butter for my husband and blackberry jam for me. I also brought up a jar of pickled banana peppers and another of rosemary garlic cherry tomatoes to add to a salad. And then just because it was there, a jar of cranberry sauce from Thanksgiving.

I won’t be able to avoid the store forever, but I have to admit I’m hopeful that as we expand the garden, my grocery list will shrink and the time spent in the grocery store will gradually lessen.

I can’t wait to see what staples I can make myself this year.

Too Much Excitement

I ran out this morning at 5:30 to get all the new berries watered. We are most definitely in a dry spell, and it’s supposed to top 90° this weekend. Every time rain has been predicted, it fails to materialize. This is making for some pretty stressed plants–especially the ones we just planted this spring.

The strawberries are struggling. They’re dry and not growing much. The bunnies have feasted on the blueberry bushes. And the blackberry bush has one side that looks like it’s given up hope.

So where is my excitement coming from? Well, even though the asparagus seedlings are struggling in this dry wind, I have two strong, healthy shoots coming up from the bare root section! I took a picture of it this afternoon, but it’s out of focus. I’ll post a retake tomorrow.

I am not planning on cutting any asparagus this year. I’m hoping this will set me up for a good harvest next year. I’m crossing my fingers that we get rain soon. Maybe then my berries will take off and the asparagus will strengthen.

Radishes!

Okay, confession time. I am not good at eating vegetables. They were not that common in our house growing up, and I’ve struggled getting over my phobia of trying new foods. However, I absolutely love gardening and canning. Because of this, I’m introducing new foods to my overall diet.

Each year when I’m planning my garden, I count on having my tried and true veggies (tomatoes, peppers, onions), but I also toss in a few new ones just for fun. Last year it was sweet corn. This year it’s radishes.

First batch of radishes

I think I may have found another vegetable to grow every year!  I don’t know if it’s because they’re homegrown or what, but these are the best radishes I’ve tasted. Much more flavor. I added them to my salad for lunch and even better, they received rave reviews from my husband.

They mature in 22 days, so they are perfect for succession planting. If I start one row every week, after three weeks I’ll have a weekly harvest.

Ready for slicing!

Now I need to find more ways of eating radishes. I never thought I’d hear myself say that!