Friday, November 4, 2011

End of the Season

Enjoyed the last few peppers and squash. Frost a few days ago. All that's left out there is onions and leeks, we need to cover those with some ground up leaves to keep them cozy for the winter. Also need to plant the garlic this weekend. Few weeks ago went in to NYC to the Union Square Green Market and bought some garlic (rocambole, hard neck) from the author of It's a Long Road to a Tomato. He recommended that I plant it around Halloween, but it's been alternately wet and late when I got home this week, so it's looking like tomorrow will be the day.

Oh, quick note, our Gooseberry bushes are Houghton and Black Velvet.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Pepper Plans

Last year's pepper harvest was really nice. This year's was plagued by mismanagement on my part. So many of the seeds I took from peppers I bought at the store failed to germinate. And some of those that did produced rather peculiar crossbreeds - I think my jalapenoes and my Hungarian Wax peppers from last year cross pollinated. Oops. Interesting, but not particularly exciting crossbreeds.

For next year I was thinking about the following varieties:

Pepper plan
Will probably select 2-4 additional varieties while browsing the seed catalogs and grow a couple of each. Since my peppers grew very well in buckets this year, I'll grow most of them in buckets. So I need...~70 buckets. Right now I've amassed 20. Probably will grow the Anaheims directly in the ground in the back garden, so that bumps it down to ~50.

Oh, another thing that worked really well this year is grass clippings in the pots. A layer of grass clippings helps the plants retain water and prevented weeds.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Next Year

So a couple of plans for next year.

First pass
Over the tomatoes and corn I'll build a chicken wire cage to keep out the squirrels. Yeah, it's that bad.

I'm thinking big tomatoes in the fenced in garden, and a variety of cherry tomatoes in buckets, most likely on the front porch. I've been amassing a large quantity of 3 gallon buckets (they serve up loads of hard boiled eggs at work from the buckets). Going to use those for peppers. And then finally the tons of empty 2 liter bottles I have will be pots for basil. Maybe dill as well.

Monday, October 3, 2011


Starting to get a bit chilly. Hasn't been a frost yet, but soon I'm sure. Got me thinking about how things have gone over the past four years, and what I've learned in the process. And of course a bit of planning for next year.

The first gardening season in our place. Didn't go too nuts, just built a couple raised beds out back and planted some tomatoes and zucchini.

Raised beds, 2008
What did well
  • Rutgers tomatoes
  • Zucchini
What I learned
  • I needed more space
  • Zucchini are awesome, and I don't tire of it easily
It was as if the gardening gods decided to let me have a good year to get me hooked. I assumed things would only get better. Ha! I tilled up a bit more ground for planting and tried some new veggies. 

New plot, 2009
Beans, 2009
Tomatoes, 2009
What did well
  • Green beans, but I didn't plant many
What did poorly
  • Tomatoes, deer ate most of them
  • Zucchini, well, maybe not poorly, but squash borers did a number on them
  • Eggplant, ended up with less than 1 per plant
What I learned
  • I need to keep the deer out!
  • I need to do something about squash borers
This year inspired me to try growing tomatoes in the basement (and start this blog). That wasn't very successful either. But it was fun.

The year the fence went up. Definitely the biggest change to the backyard. And it did keep out the deer. But I was introduced to a new enemy - the squirrels.

The fence, 2010
Peppers, 2010
Different tomato varieties, 2010
Butternut Squash, 2010
Anti-squirrel cage, 2010
What did well
  • Butternut Squash
  • Peppers
  • Cucumbers
  • Garlic
What did poorly
  • Tomatoes, due to the squirrel invasion
  • Zucchini, due to the borers
  • Corn, due to various wildlife
What I learned
  • Squirrels eat tomatoes, the only reliable defense is a chicken wire cage
  • Same for corn
  • Barley is too much of a hassle
  • Upside down tomatoes only did so-so
Didn't really feel like a spectacular year, although we did ok. 

Cherry tomatoes, 2011
Weird pepper crosses, 2011
Basil, 2011
What did well
  • Basil
  • Garlic, although the cloves were small
  • Tomatoes did better than the last few years
  • Few pumpkins out back, 10 small pumpkins from a random pumpkin plant that sprang up out front
  • Ping Tung Long Eggplants, restoring my faith in eggplant!
What did poorly
  • Zucchini, hardly got any
  • Green beans, mostly due to my neglect
  • Peppers were a big mess, most of the seeds I had didn't even sprout. Others were not what I expected
What I learned
  • Buy pepper seeds from a catalog!
  • Set up cage next year for tomatoes and corn
  • Basil does great and doesn't need much space, plant in small pots next year
  • Cherry tomatoes, particularly Sun Gold for the front porch next year
  • I need to plant more dill for pickles
  • Plant garlic a bit earlier

Friday, September 30, 2011

So... Terribly... Dry.

Done some drying lately. Made sun-dried (well, ok, oven-dried) tomatoes.

Into the oven you go, cherry tomatoes!
And back out again. Submerged in oil and put in the fridge.
Also dried some peppers. These were a gift from a friend, not from the garden. Maybe next year I'll have this kind of bounty. The habaneros didn't get completely bone dry, so I tossed them in a jar and put them in the freezer.

Habaneros before...
...and after.

Dried and ground

And relabelled.
One of our Cherokee Purple tomatoes out front just went nuts. Tons of tomatoes, but since it wasn't properly staked I missed out on most of them, chipmunks and squirrels and slugs got them first as the ripened. I pulled what was left on the plant (8 or 9? Picked 6 or 7 a week or so ago). Frost probably soon.
Loads of green Cherokee Purple tomatoes.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Winding Down

Things seem to be winding down. The lower leaves are dying off in most everything. Some nice peppers.

Anaheim (New Mexico chilis)
The Serranos were a little hot, but not as hot as I expected. I roasted the Anaheims in the oven and gave them a place of honor atop some green chili bacon cheeseburgers. Planting more Anaheims next year. That's the one thing I miss about living in New Mexico.

Tomatoes are still coming in. Done a few different things with them. Right now got a tray of cherry tomatoes hopefully turning into sun-dried tomatoes in the oven. Oven dried? Faux sun-dried?

Pound of mostly Sun Golds.
Tomato Jam
Homemade bread and butter pickles, olives (storebought), pickled banana peppers (not my peppers, but I did pickle them - very crunchy), and pickled black cherry tomatoes (so good).
Pumpkins and sunflower heads. Pumpkins were pretty small, but we got about 9 of them.

Pumpkins and sunflowers
The Zucchino rampicante is starting to die off like the rest of the zucchini, but I did manage to harvest this.

Zucchino rampicante about 13" long

Zucchini on the vine
Basil is starting to go south. The lower half of most of the plants are getting much lighter green and developing dark brown spots. So I harvested everything and made over a quart of pesto. Recipe:

  • Loadsa basil
  • Lotsa walnuts (pine nuts are crazy expensive)
  • Lotsa parmesan
  • Buncha garlic cloves
  • Some olive oil
Blend it all until smooth.

Can't really go wrong with this one. Make it plenty thick, you can dilute it later if desired.

The basil harvest.

Mmmm, basil.
Half pound of fresh basil = 1 quart of pesto
Next year will grow more basil, gave a bunch away and more people were interested.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Pumpkin Harvest

Picked a few of the pumpkins, the vines were dead.

Delicious pie pumpkins
Also picked 3 lbs 9 oz of tomatoes. Highlight was 45 Black Cherry tomatoes totaling 13 oz. I think they've earned a return spot next year.

Black Cherry, Red Cherry, Sun Gold, and Gold Nugget
Pickled a bunch of them.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Hot Sauce Time Again

5 oz peppers, 1 cup vinegar, 1/2 tsp salt. Blend, boil, skim, pour in hot jar. Cover with thin cloth tied with a rubber band. Now to wait three days and see what develops. I sampled tiny chunks of each of the peppers 20 min ago and my lips are still burning.

Hot pepper sauce

RIP Tomato Hornworm

Finally, a helpful animal in the garden! Thanks wasps for disabling this tomato hornworm. 

Tomato hornworm hosting wasp eggs
Got a weird range of new peppers. Except for the one dark green, thin serrano, there were all supposed to be jalapenos. I took the seeds out of jalapenos we grew in the garden last year. Some pretty weird stuff. Must have crossed with the hungarian wax.

Jalapeno non-purebred offspring
Pumpkins getting large. There are several of them, should be a nice harvest.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011


One of our pumpkin experiments is doing quite well. We got a large green and white striped pumpkin (Cushaw suggests google images...) at a local farm for pie last Halloween and it was very good. We saved some seeds and now we have some monster plants growing out back. Here's one photo from a few days ago vs today. This one is now the size of a baseball, and the biggest one we have found is the size of a softball.

Cushaw (??) Pumpkins
Tasted the first Black Krim tomato (1/2 a pound), it was very tasty but it's no Cherokee Purple, so it's out next year. Only room for one black tomato in the garden.

Black Krim
The peppers are all over the place, some may be crossbreeds. A few look like jalapenos though. I'll have to put together a gallery of what we have so far soon. One Bell pepper plant has 5 Bell peppers on it each currently the size of a hackey sack. If last year's crop is any indication, they may not get much bigger.

EDIT - Tomato looked darker in real life. Terrible cracks on the top.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Back the the homestead

Out of town for a few days, a kind neighbor watered the garden for us. We came back to:

  • 8 oz pattypan squash
  • 7 oz eggplant
  • 21 oz zucchini
  • 1 oz jalapeno
  • 3 oz corn - this was way early for the corn, but the Mrs. wanted to see if we could save one before the squirrels ate it.
  • 4 lb 12 oz cucumber (time to pickle some)
  • 2 lb 1 oz tomatoes
  • 3 oz green beans
So about 9 and a half pounds of produce. Not bad, but I feel like we should be getting more.

The best haul was 26 ripe Sun Gold off a potted plant on the front deck - maybe about a three gallon pot. The nicest looking pick was a 13 oz pickling cuke that was enormous for the type, but looked beautiful.

Northern Pickling Cucumber
EDIT - The corn was not ready. Also, made 7 quarts of dill pickles, yum.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Big tomatoes

Big tomatoes coming in! Picked a little early. Kelloggs Breakfast and Brandywine.

Kelloggs Breakfast tomato and Brandywine
[Editor's Note - The Brandywine was delicious as expected. The Kellogg's was tasty, but not as flavorful as the Brandywine. But extremely meaty, might be good for sauce.]

Monday, August 1, 2011

I need to water more

We're going to be going away for a few days and I've been a little worried about my plants and how well they'll do in the scorching heat without watering (90 - 100 degrees some days). A few of the peppers in pots out front have been wilting in the heat pretty badly, though I'd water them and they'd come back. So I figured there's no way the wilty ones will survive in their pots, and I decided to plant them in an open spot in the garden.

Normally I water them a little bit every day. I don't want to underwater, but I'm maybe a little too afraid of overwatering. So I give them each a little water. I think I'm underwatering by a long shot. Today the heat wave broke and we got a torrential rain storm. I figured the plants were all soaked and happy. So I went to transplant one of the wilty peppers and this is what I saw.

Jalapeno that's not watered enough
That was a wake up call. I'm just not watering enough. I hit each wilty plant with a nice deep watering, until water flowed out the bottom of the pot. I'm thinking they won't be wilty tomorrow. Guess we'll see.

Transplanted about 10 basil seedlings out into the garden. Also 3 pepper plants. We'll see if they perk up.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Black Cherry

First taste of the Black Cherry tomatoes. Pretty good, the Mrs. liked them. I picked them a little green, the danged squirrels have me paranoid. Picked a bunch yesterday, then more today, we're getting a steady stream of Golden Suns.

Fistful of tomatoes
Black Cherry
The leek transplants are starting to stand upright. And we've got a ping pong ball sized bell pepper.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Some of the Tomatoes Coming In

The first Gold Nugget tomatoes ripened. They were good, but not as good as Sun Gold. The same bright orange color. Perhaps a bit larger.

Gold Nugget
Also had the first Cherokee Purple today. Well, squirrels had the first, we had the second. And even that had a nibble out of it. But it was delicious. Here are some up and coming Cherokee Purples, still a bit rare...

Cherokee Purple
They're ugly, but tasty. So far this year we've had maybe 40-60 Sun Gold and maybe 6-8 Tigerella. More Sun Gold coming every day.

Sun Gold
We tried a pattypan style Bennings Green Tint summer squash. It was not as good as regular zucchini. But decent, and interesting shape / color.

Bennings Green Tint Squash

Will wrap up this post with green beans, basil, and a baby jalapeno.

Green Beans
Sweet Basil