I have made no secret of my love of growing strange and unusual vegetables. Among the things we are growing this year that I can’t get at the grocery store are Irish Cobbler potatoes, bride eggplants and purple bush beans. We have harvested several rounds of beans already. The variety we planted are Royalty Purple Pod Bush Beans:
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 8 red radishes, thinly sliced
- 2 Delicious apples, quartered cored and thinly sliced
- 1/2 European seedless cucmber, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
- Salt and black pepper
Oh, and do you see that small red thing at the front of the photo? That would be a strawberry. Yes, really. I got one the chipmunk missed. I brought it in, washed it off and decided I would eat it after dinner. It tasted terrible. Really and truly terrible. I can’t even describe the flavor. So maybe the chipmunk is doing me a favor?
Speaking of someone who isn’t doing me any favors, here he is napping in my purple bush beans. Literally on one of the plants:
|I know, you’ve missed him. He’s still around, and still napping.|
Most of the garden is now in the ground:
|Potatoes, carrots & parsnips, planted in April|
I didn’t remember to photograph the main garden, because we were headed out immediately to plant the back 40:
|Standing next to the field, looking back towards the house|
This is the sight that greeted me as I came downstairs just after 5 AM this morning:
I did come thumping down the stairs this morning – I am always delighted to reach the first floor in one piece without having any coffee – which caused him to turn around and try and see in the windows next to the door. Fortunately I managed to avoid being seen; when I am spotted there is lots of meowing and a lot of sad looks.
Many of the seedlings have been brought upstairs and put on a rack. It started raining so we couldn’t put them outside earlier this week, but they’re going out today:
J has also planted the hops in pots outside below this sun porch:
We are growing three types (and by “we” I mean, of course, J and I am just taking associated credit.) The vines grow 18 feet high, on average, so they’re on the ground underneath the highest wall of the sun porch so we have a spot we can string trelises from the top to pull them up. (I also hope that it will provide a little bit of shade on a room that is hard to sit in during the height of summer, even with all the windows and doors open.)
The area around the hops is pretty much empty since they go up rather than out, so J decided on Monday to plant more herb seeds – cilantro, basil and dill. He of course had help:
He said it would have gone much faster without a cat climbing into his lap. I’m still trying to figure out when exactly I turned into a cat lady without actually owning a cat.
I remember now why I prefer J do all the seed starting:
Those suckers are really small.
Tonight we started oregano, basil, cilantro, thyme and later this week we will start parsley after soaking it per the package directions. Our other stuff is doing really well:
Our seed starting shelves are getting very full. The multi-spectrum bulbs seem to really work. I’m particularly excited about the geranium seeds; all five came up and now look like real geraniums. We should be in great shape by Memorial Day, aka transplant day.
Happy first day of spring! It’s a whole lot of nothing at the moment with the gardens. While it seems like the weather has been warmer this spring than any in recent memory, we’re still months away from a full, lush garden, and those seeds are making us peevish while we wait. (Well, they’re making me peevish. Grow already!)
Last year as an anniversary gift I bought J a plant cam. He set it to take photos three times a day for the whole gardening season. Surprisingly, only once did we capture a photo of non-plant living creatures in the garden (J and Max) and the photos show a really neat gardening progression.
Now that we are well and truly past mid-August, here’s where things stand in the yard:
|Eggplants and peppers|
|Carrots, lettuce, potatoes, shallots|
|Corn – slow going, but it’s coming along|
|Pumpkins, watermelons and in the rear, the corn again|
Our main garden and raised beds are doing well. This week I noticed that the potato plants are starting to die off, which means I should be harvesting them soon. (CRF did share that tidbit over tea.) The back forty patch has not done as well as we would have liked, but that area was so wet right through June it is nothing short of amazing that anything is growing there. The watermelons are pretty much toast – nibbled by some bug, they barely grew. Two of the five mounds still have some greenery, but that’s it. The pumpkins are growing, and so far we have eight small green Orange Smoothie pumpkins, and two Jack-Be-Littles. It seems unlikely that the Howden or Lumina vines will produce pumpkins for fall. (The Luminas got eaten by the same bugs that went after the watermelons, we think.) And while I’m disappointed that I will not have white pumpkins for my porch (think of the color contrast between white pumpkins and orange flames, when J lights them up on Halloween!), our only expectation was that we would get the garden in back there this year – the area needed heavy brush-cutting, mowing, plowing and tilling. Now that we’ve established an area, next year we can improve it and overall crop health.
What we’ve learned so far:
1.) It is gong to be possible to grow two crops of certain types of vegetables, such as beans and peas, in our hardiness zone. (With our occasionally late frosts – we sometimes have them as late as the 2nd weekend in May – we thought it was only safe to plant after Memorial Day.) Our goal next year will be to do two plantings of peas, and three of beans.
2.) Fertilizer – it makes all the difference in the world in the growing season in central New England. We’re partial to Neptune’s Harvest, an organic liquid fertilizer you mix with water. Expensive, but worth it for how it works and the fact that it’s organic.
3.) Squash plants – six of each (summer squash and zucchini) is too many. Four each is more than enough. When we try to plant six each again next year, someone remind me we don’t need that many.
4.) You really can have too many sungold tomato plants. (Even for me.) They don’t freeze well, so we have to consume vast quantities of them or give them away. Part of me doesn’t mind putting the sungolds into berry boxes and distributing them, but a (tiny, little) selfish part of me dies a little death every time I hand over a box of them. Next year we’re going to reduce the number and try some other tomatoes, like plum, so I can make sauce.
5.) Those strawberries are just for the chipmunk. He will outsmart every trick you have to keep him away. Just give up, and leave a tiny napkin next to the plants so he can wipe his mouth on the way out of the garden bed.
6.) The hammock is much more useful when properly installed. Maybe someday I will actually get to sit in it for more than 10 minutes:
|The view from the main garden – it looks so inviting when working in the hot sun!|
I would like to tell you that we have been so busy in the garden that I haven’t had a minute to post. The truth of the matter is, I have time to post at least one evening a week but then I get distracted by something else – American Pickers or True Blood on t.v., usually. Sometimes I’m busy baking or pickling. Such sorry excuses for why the blog has been dormant for a whole month, right at our busiest time of year.
And boy, have we been busy. Right after we got home from our recent trip, the garden started exploding. One Friday afternoon, J picked all this:
Which I immediately divided up and shuttled out to the neighbors:
Two days later we had an equal amount. I am so happy that the local food pantry where I volunteer takes fresh produce to distribute to clients. Otherwise my life would be a never ending series of canning adventures.
Speaking of canning, I did take a huge bunch of our pickling cucumbers over to my cousin J’s house (she of the three children) about two weeks ago to make dill pickles. The recipe has been in the family for three generations (if you count us) and the pickles need to ferment for about two to four months. I made 5 quarts of dill pickles. Well, I helped make 5 quarts of dill pickles – J did a lot of measuring for the spices and the more dangerous part of sterilizing the jars and then boiling them to seal them up. Really, I am not sure how it could have been any easier for me, except if maybe I didn’t have to cut up the cucumbers. I didn’t take photos of the process because I forgot my camera. But she’s at it on a regular basis, so I hope to get some photos in the next few weeks.
One of our experiments this year has been growing peas. We chose a variety called “Mr. Big Pea” which is an English pea. (The name also reminded me of Sex in the City‘s Mr. Big. I am sure people have stranger reasons to pick a variety of something, but those people don’t blog.) We put them directly into the ground Memorial Day weekend with no expectations. When they bloomed, we were pleasantly surprised. And then we got peapods:
Which turned into actual peas:
The peas are enormous – the size of my pinky fingernail, at least. We’ve gotten two meals out of the pods we’ve picked (we have 26 plants) and plan to at least double the amount we plant next year, in addition to planting in two batches to extend the harvest.
The only drawback is that this is not a sweet pea, so the pods are tough and can’t be used in things like stir fries. But we might try a second variety next year that has edible pods.
Last night I said to my NY cousins that although the title of the blog is “Cocktail Farmers” I had been posting very little in the way of drink recipes. I will have to remedy that, although mixed drinks are more of a fall/winter/spring thing around our house. Usually if we have a drink in the summer, we just open up some wine.
Perhaps we should plant grapevines?
Well, a lot has changed in the garden in the last few weeks. Back on May 31, I posted this picture:
Looked pretty sad, didn’t it?
This was last night’s photo:
We’ve had a string of hot days lately, so that’s helped enormously. (Also enormously helpful? The Cocktail Farmers were in the Caribbean for my cousin’s wedding, partaking of tropical frozen drinks at the 2-for-1 Happy Hour. One of the best was called a Tropical Breeze featuring mango puree, strawberry puree, and Midori. When we figure out how to duplicate it, expect to see it here.)
There have been some casualties along the way:
Just before we left I noticed several of the Brandywine tomato plants had some sort of yellowing blight near the stems. Because they came from a nursery and previous tomato blight infestations have been linked to nursery plants, I ruthlessly ripped them out before we left. Nothing, NOTHING must interfere with the Sungold tomatoes, further down the row. I’ll sacrifice everything else in the garden for those. The bonus in ripping out the plants was that I discovered the subterranean watering system J put in the garden is working, and the roots are reaching down into the soil rather than spreading out along the surface. So that was a decent consolation prize.
So far everything else is hanging in there. We have lots of zucchini coming in – in fact, we harvested the first one before we left and gave it to our neighbor, and picked three more on Wednesday. But they keep coming:
As do the summer squash:
This one has my dad’s name written all over it
And we’re starting to see tomatoes, too:
Sungold flower buds, soon to be crack…I mean, tomatoes.
And beans! Last year we put in about a half dozen plants, transplanted from the seed starting trays, and got enough for one meal for the two of us. This year? Directly into the ground, 1 inch apart and I planted 40 of them. 36 came up:
We’re going to have bushels of beans this year, if things continue as they have been. I can’t wait. Last year nobody else got any, because there simply weren’t enough to share. I’m sure my friend Stella Caroline will come up with some fantastic side dish for them. (She is both a fabulous cook and a tremendous baker. Seriously – when she brings me something there is the internal struggle to listen to the angels of my better nature and share with J. I do, but boy, I really, really don’t want to share her yummy treats. I didn’t know her when I married J, because if I did the marriage vows probably would have included a line about sharing pastry. Instead we recited a Navajo Wedding Blessing, which does not include a reference to caramel chocolate matzo. That alone entitles her to one of my kidneys. And one of J’s.)
Our experiment with peas is so-so. They look a little feeble, and we put them in kind of late:
We do have one ENORMOUS pea pod, however.
We’re just not sure there are any peas in it. There are buds on the plants, though, so hope springs eternal….like death, taxes, and the neighbor’s cat needing to nap right in the way: