Sunday, September 30, 2012

Fall Garden Guilt Assuaged

We got over to the garden today and finally got some more things planted for fall. Good thing because I was really starting to feel guilty that my fall garden plan flew out the window. (I know, why did I think we would have an awesome fall garden when we have a brand new infant...crazy, right?! But we had baby help this weekend so we were able to make time to garden). We are planting super late we realize, but we hope that the row cover will extend our season. Supposedly it protects the plants down to 28 degrees. Then we will switch it out for a plastic cover. Our average first frost is October 15th but may come a bit later, so we will see how things go.

We planted more cylindra beets since our lack of watering has yielded only 4 seeds that germinated. Sadly I'm out of Golden Beet seeds which I only realized when we got to the garden. :sigh: We filled in the lettuce with some romaine and bibb, planted a row of butterhead lettuce, a row of Japanese red mustard, a row of regular mustard, a row of kohlrabi, a few wax bean seeds, and assorted radishes. We also planted one brussels sprout as an experiment since it is our first time growing it, and we are beyond late in getting the seed in the ground.  We'll see what happens. At least we can try again with them in spring.

The canola cover crop that we planted in the big bed last week is popping up. At first I always think they are weeds. We need to fill it in in some places, but it should keep the erosion under control this winter.

Our peppers are still going strong and the bees are definitely enjoying the basil seed stalk flowers as you can see in the picture at the top. Our neighbors all have amazing peppers right now too, so I think the conditions may just have been right this year.

Our blackberry is beyond out of control and is trying to assimilate the fence. Once the berries are ripened and picked this is getting whacked back.

We also got some more compost going and for once we remembered to bring some brown matter (shredded newspaper) and not just our green matter kitchen scraps. I'm trying harder since I don't want to attract any more critters.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Recipe: Healthier Pumpkin Granola


Since it is fall I thought I'd share my recipe for pumpkin granola. I make a batch every week and then have it with greek yogurt each morning for breakfast. I typically make "healthy" granola so it is not very sweet. If you like sweeter or richer granola, just up the sweetener and add  more goodies (nuts, dried fruit, etc). It is really customizable so if you don't have all the ingredients, don't sweat it and if you want to add other things in it, go for it. Enjoy!

2 mixing bowls, one large & 1 medium
2 baking sheets
1 rubber scraper
1 mixing spoon
Measuring cups

6 cups Rolled Oats aka "Old Fashioned Oats"
1/4- 1/2 cup Flax seed (ground)
1/4 cup Wheat Germ
Few shakes of Cinnamon
Dash of Nutmeg
Dash of Ginger
(and other spices to taste)
3/4 - 1 cup Coconut Flakes (or brown sugar, sugar in the raw or other sweetener--adjust amount to taste)

1 Can of Libby pumpkin puree or equivalent amount of pureed fresh pumpkin
3/4 cup Applesauce
Squeeze of Honey

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. In the large mixing bowl combine the dry ingredients.

3. In the smaller mixing bowl combine the wet ingredients.

4. Pour wet ingredients into dry and combine. Mix until the wet ingredients are thoroughly dispersed and most of the flakes are no longer dry looking.

 5. Pour onto the baking sheets and smooth out. This will allow it to cook more evenly.

6. Cook for 30-45 minutes or until the granola reaches the texture you prefer. The shorter time will yield granola that is a little more chewy and the longer will yield crunchy, hard granola.

7. Let cool and then store in an airtight container.

Eating Suggestions:

This tastes great in yogurt, mixed with applesauce, put on top of ice cream or even eaten with milk like cereal.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Fall Garden Clean Up

Last weekend we cleaned up the garden for fall. Even though I planned out what we should plant when for the fall garden, life got in the way and most of that did not make it into the ground. What can I say, life with an infant is hard. We did manage to plant the row cover bed though and some things are starting to sprout including some yummy oakleaf lettuce. 

We cleaned out our compost bin, mostly to try to discover what kind of critter was living in it. We're thinking chipmunk because the holes are small and it stole plastic bags from somewhere and threaded them throughout our pile like a nest. We could put out a trap for it, but it hasn't stolen any produce and if anything it has helped us out by turning our compost a bit so for now I think we're cool. Plus, you can see below how empty it is now, so we may have accidentally evicted it.

The prolific volunteer tomato soldiers on; although, it is looking rather ragged---kind of like a tomato fountain. Somehow though it still has lots of green tomatoes so it may just stay til the frost comes.

Our regular tomatoes are still producing but they are slowly petering out. Still quite a few green ones on the vines though.

As I mentioned in a previous post, the peppers are still going gangbusters as well. This has been the best pepper year we've ever had but we deserve no credit. They have flourished under our neglect (and from the spill over from our neighbor's irrigation set up).

The two basil plants I transplanted to the garden towards the end of the season have set seed (which the bees are enjoying) but otherwise they look great. We planted so many kinds of basil this year I lost track of which one this is.

We mulched our very sad raspberries which we almost killed by stupidly putting wood chips underneath them early in the season. We did not know at the time (but do now!) that woody material requires extra nitrogen to break down...which it stole from the raspberries. Sadly they did not even send out runners this year when we usually have so many we can't give them away. Time will tell if they come back next year or not. But they did set a little fruit for their second harvest (they are everbearing).

The blackberry mini-bramble is doing something, but I already nibbled all of these while I was there the other day.

Now the plot is pretty well cleaned up (if sadly empty). We sowed our winter canola cover crop in the big bed and will probably also do the tomato bed once they are done. Hopefully I can still sow some more in the covered bed and possibly in the pepper bed if those finish up soon.

Our Seed Collection - 2012

Here is what is in our seed collection right now (or as Garden Betty calls it, our seed vault). Since I'm already shopping for next year I thought I should know what I already have without having to trot all the seeds out periodically. We store our seeds in old peanut butter jars or a ziploc and keep it in a crisper drawer in our fridge. The * indicates the seeds we start indoors. The bolding are the seeds we got mid-season that we will try in 2013.

Bean, Brittle Wax (Bush Wax) -OP- Burpee -52 days  (1 1/2 pkgs)
Bean, Burpee's Stringless Green Pod- F1 - Burpee- 50days (Bush habit)
Bean, Climbing French - SSE -OP-65-75 days (pole habit)
Brussels Sprouts- Baker Creek-OP 
Kohlrabi, Early White Vienna – Baker Creek - OP
Choko Baby Pakchoi – John Scheepers – 45 – 55 days
Climbers (Peas and Cukes):
Pea, Shelling (Burpeeana Early)-Burpee - 63 days
Pea, Super Sugar Snap (edible podded) - Burpee – 64 days
Cucumber, Burpless Beauty – Burpee – F1- 60 days
Cucumber, Bush Champion - Burpee - F1 - 55 days 58-65 days
Cucumber, Japanese Climbing- SSE -OP
Gourds and Squash/Pumpkins:
Winter Squash, Early Butternut (bush habit) – John Scheepers – 82 days
Potimarron - SSE -85-95 days (saw this in Germany and loved it. SSE is the only place I know of that sells it)
Pumpkin, Early Sweet Sugar Pie--Burpee 90 days
*Basil, Greek - Burpee Fordhook Collection                        
*Basil, Lime- Burpee Fordhook Collection            
*Basil, Genovese – Baker Creek
*Basil, Sweet - Burpee
*Bee Balm, Lemon – Baker Creek            
Chamomile, Organic German ( but actually roman)-Garden's Alive-OP- Perennial
Chamomile, Bodegold – John Scheepers - Perennial
Chamomile, Organic German - Garden's Alive
Chervil, Curled -Burpee Fordhook Collection  
Chives, Common- Burpee-Perennial
Chives, Common - American Seed
Chives, Common - Burpee Signature 
Chives, Garlic - Burpee                   
*Cilantro, Slo-bolt – Baker Creek
Cilantro, American Seed            
Lavender, True - Burpee
*Majoram - Ferry Morse             
*Oregano – Burpee
Parsley, Single Italian Plain Leafed - Burpee
*Sage, Broad Leaf -Jiffy Smart Start
*Tarragon  -Ferry Morse
*Thyme, Common -  Burpee   
*Cherry Tomato, Blondkopfchen-SSE-OP- 75-80 days (yellow)
*Cherry Tomato, Black Cherry- Baker Creek – OP (black/purple)
*Cherry Tomato, Riesentraube- Baker Creek -OP (red)
*Cherry Tomato, Super Sweet 100 –Burpee- F1-70 days (red)
*Tomato, Cherokee Purple – Baker Creek – OP (black/purple)
*Tomato, Costoluto Genovese- Baker Creek-OP (red)
*Tomato, Green Zebra-Baker Creek - OP    (green)
*Tomato, Orange Fleshed Purple Smudge- Baker Creek – OP -(multi)
*Tomato, Thessaloniki- Baker Creek-OP-60-80 days (red)
*Eggplant, Rossa Bianca – SSE – OP -80 days
*Pepper, Beaver Dam – SSE – OP-80 days from transplant (mildly hot)
*Pepper, Black Hungarian – SSE – OP 70-80 days from transplant (medium hot)
*Pepper, Garden Sunshine – SSE – OP-80-100 days from transplant (sweet)
*Pepper, Red Mini Bell- Baker Creek (sweet)
Onion, Nebuka Bunching- Plantation- 60-65 days
Onion, Yellow Granex - John Scheepers - 150 days
Evergreen Long White Bunching Onions -Burpee- Perennial
Leek, American Flag--Ferry Morse
Shallots, Ambition – John Scheepers--100 days
Root Vegetables:
Beets, Burpee Golden – SSE – 55-60 days
Beets, Cylindra - Burpee - 60 days
Carrot, Nantes Half Long - Burpee - 70 days
Carrot, Short n' Sweet Chantenay - Burpee - 68 days
Parsnip, Hollow Crown- Burpee – OP- 105 days
Radish, French Breakfast – SSE – OP – 30 days       
Radish, Asian Watermelon - Burpee - 35 days
Radish, Gourmet Rainbow Mix (Flamboyant French Breakfast (red/white long taper), Fuego (red round), Hailstone (white round), Helios Yellow (round), Pink Celebration (round), Plum Purple (round), Roodkapje (red/white round) and White Icicle (long taper)  - John Scheeper- 23-30 days 
Turnip, Purple Top White Globe – SSE -  45-65 days
Turnip, Golden Globe - Baker Creek  
Lettuce, Butter Beauty (butterhead) - Burpee - 75 days
Lettuce, Burpee Bib (butterhead)- Burpee 75 days
Lettuce, Parris Island Romaine – Ferry Morse – OP-68 days
Lettuce, Simpson Elite (looseleaf) –Burpee –OP- 48 days
Lettuce, Tennis Ball (butterhead)- SSE
Lettuce Mix, Lovely Lettuce Mesclun Blend (Little Gem Baby Romaine, Curly Tango, Cheeky Red Lolla Rossa, Crispy Summertime, Brunia red oakleaf, Buttery Rouge Grenobloise and Merveille des Quatre Saisons) - John Scheepers - OP-30-40 days
Mustard Greens – Baker Creek
Japanese Giant Red Mustard Greens - Baker Creek 
Echineacea, Majestic Coneflower Mixture- John Scheepers- Perennial
Bells of Ireland -Burpee
Love in a Mist - Baker Creek (2pkgs)
Lupine, Russells Hybrid Mix - Burpee
Sunflower, Tiger Eye Mix - Baker Creek

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Garden Nemeses: The Weeds

Here are some pictures of the plants that make gardening life difficult for us. We consider them weeds, but we realize that what is and isn't a weed is in the eye of the beholder.

The Morning Glory
This is the most invasive weed we have in the community garden. The seeds are spread so thoroughly that we will never eradicate it fully. It grows around our plants, choking them off like a boa constrictor and worst of all, it takes over the deer fence if unchecked. Once we went on vacation for two weeks in July and when we came back our entire plot was a tangle of vines and purple flowers. To make matters worse my husband and I are both allergic to it. Needless to say, the thought that anyone ever grows this on purpose horrifies me.

 Here is a morning glory seedling (the heart shaped one in the center):

This is what greeted us when we got back from vacation in 2010. Keep in mind we were gone 2 weeks and the plot was semi-weeded before we left. but we hadn't dealt with the morning glories. As you can see they launched their assault from the fence. Needless to say we no longer go on vacation during garden season.

This is another gem that we inherited in our plot. The main problem with the horseradish is that it is so persistent. You have to dig down at least a foot to get rid of it because it is a parsnip shaped root; just ripping off the greenery doesn't kill it. Somehow it seems to know this and the errant seeds that do the best grow in the inaccessible area between our fence and our neighbors, in the empty spaces in the pallet that makes up the walls of our compost bin, and in the corners of our beds--all of which are extremely difficult to dig out. I have dug the one below out at least 3 times in the last 3 years. But if even one tiny root piece remains, it grows back. It is also frost resistant. At least this one we could eat if we wanted.

We are in a bit of a detente with the mint at the moment. When we got our plot, this was growing along each fence line and since it spreads through rhizome, it is basically unkillable. (Yet if I try and dig up some to put in a pot at home it dies...oh irony). This year we noticed our largest patch of mint decided to move away from the fence and colonize our sun box and this is where it stayed the whole season until it finally got completely cooked in the August sun. We never opened up the window since we weren't really trying to help it out so I'm sure there were days it was 110+ degrees in the box. Luckily we realized we didn't really need the sun box for growing since we have our low tunnels now and we are fine to use this as our mint containment system from now on.  Of all of our weeds this one bothers me the least. It smells beautiful when we rip it up, it doesn't bother the other plants, and we do use it for tea.

Virginia Creeper
This is the most insidious of our weeds because if causes the same types of blisters and rash as poison ivy if you are allergic to poison ivy (which of course we both are). It grows everywhere in norther Virginia including on fences, houses, trees and it turns a lovely red in the fall which is why people like it and treat it as an ornamental. It is coming from outside the trees outside our plot, snaking its way in the space between ours and our neighbor's makeshift fence and growing along the back of the sun box. I tried to kill it last year and am still scarred for my efforts so this time we are waiting til winter to try to eradicate it. I am no fan of round-up and we never use it in the garden but we may trot it out to finally end this.

The Fennel
I'm hesitant to say this, but I think we may have conquered our initial nemesis: fennel herb. Just like Florence fennel but without the bulb part, the top part looks like dill with feathery fronds. It grows a root underground that can be as long as your forearm and weigh up to 5 lbs, and it has to be fully dug out to eradicate it. 
Our ENTIRE plot was covered in them (all the stick looking things in the picture). Before we could do anything in our plot we had to dig out every last one. As you can see from the picture below of what our plot looked like when we first got it, the previous owner had tried to smother it with weed block. This had no effect whatsoever. Long after we dug it all out little fennel sprouts would pop up everywhere each year. They look like little carrot tops when they are seedlings. This is the first year that we haven't had more than one or two pop up in our beds so maybe we finally won. Maybe.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

September Peppers and Tomatoes

This year we had planned to forget pepper altogether. The last few years they have only done so-so in our garden and some didn't germinate for us at all. At the last minute I thought, what the heck, and sowed some of the most stubborn seeds when I started the tomatoes indoors. Of course they all germinated and it turned out to be a banner year for peppers. Most exciting of all were finally getting a few Beaver Dam peppers after 2 years of NO germination whatsoever. Now it is September and our peppers are finally coming in and our tomatoes are still going. 
 Here are a bunch of Garden Sunshine Peppers. 

  Assorted cherry tomatoes. Aren't they pretty?

 Tomato plants still going strong. The Cherokee Purples failed this year (sad face) and our Blondkofpchen crapped out early because of the heat, but our smudges are still going strong along with the Black Cherries.

 Some more Black Cherries. This thing is PROLIFIC. Will definitely be planting next year.

 Here is our accidental pepper bed. It has definitely benefited from the overflow from our neighbors elaborate drip irrigation system that you can see in the top of the picture. We haven't watered much at all in the last month but they are still going strong.

 Here is my garden diva...the Beaver Dam from Seed Saver's Exchange. We still have quite a number of these on the plants.  I was so excited when I realized they germinated that I started squealing, "It's a Beaver Dam....a Beaver Dam!!" so of course now my hubby does this every time we bring some home.

 Here are some Garden Sunshines turning that lovely orange.Still have lots of these too.

 And here is an Orange Fleshed Purple Smudge that actually looks like the picture. Most of them seem to only have the purple when they are still green and then just turn totally orange. Of course I had to have a little hitchhiker peek out right when I took the pic. :sigh: We probably will plant these again next year because they are a great theft deterrent tomato...if you aren't in the know that they are supposed to look like this they just look diseased or not ripe yet.

What a lovely sight!