Planning this year’s garden

So our theme with this year’s garden is “less is more,” and that’s come out in our planning maps for the year. In essence, we plan on planting few plants in the hopes of obtaining more bountiful, and disease-free, harvests.

Our secondary motto is “switch things up!” (With an exclamation point for extra emphasis, of course.) This won’t play out in all the beds, but with at least a few, we’re going to be switching what we plant in them. This is partially good mini-agriculture practice – to rotate plants in and out of different beds — and partially to confound the rabbits, as they have become more and more gung-ho with each year to get at everything we try to plant!

So let’s take a look at what we hope will go where! (Because nothing is ever set in stone when it comes to gardening.

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A taste of Spring, and yes, it’s still February

One of our favorite things about this blog is that it’s given us a way to archive not only our own gardening history, but also that of the changing seasons. Just a couple years ago, in 2016, we had a very strange February, one that started out with snow and turned into full-fledged Spring just a couple weeks later! Now we’re back in a similar situation. Only that the month started off in a deep freeze sans snow, and now, a couple weeks later, we’ve had a warm and rainy taste of Spring!

Sorry for the quality – it’s the best we could do through a screen. But it’s enough to see that the yard was wet. V-E-R-Y- wet.
Puddles everywhere.
We’re talking pool-like conditions!

Just like the year with snow then rain, the change was plain ol’ weird. After weeks of bundling up in layers just to go outside and get the mail, we suddenly only needed short sleeves and rain jackets. It rained pretty steadily this past Saturday into Sunday, and Sunday was an all-day affair. The temperatures well reflected the goings-on, especially when we hit a tropical 65 degrees on Sunday! As of today, we’re back in the 40s, which seems normal. But Springtime is once again on its way back, as we’ve been promised more days ahead in the 50s and 60s…and more rain is likely, too.

If rain is good for anything, it’s staying inside to plan to garden! We’ll talk a bit more about that next week. Oh, and a new batch of seeds just arrived, so maybe we’ll get to them too. In the meantime, all this rain has brought about was looks like a new roof leak (hopefully not though *fingers crossed*), so maybe we should see to fixing that while it’s still dry.

Time to get out the tools!

A Time to Restart and Renew

Well looky here…we’re back! Looking outside, you’d never know that just three months ago we were having to tear down a garden that looked like it was just getting started. Indeed, winter came swiftly and brutally this year in the form of extreme cold. (Extreme for our neck of the woods, anyway.) This year’s snowfalls have been relatively tame, at least they have been so far. Only one was really disruptive, but there’s still plenty of winter left.

But enough with the chit chat! We’re hear to formally mark the yearly restarting of our lovely garden blog! *trumpets flourish!* *angelic choirs sing!*

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The year’s final post in pictures

Hello, and Happy Halloween!  Is it portentously spooky that our final (sniff) post of the year should fall on this particular holiday? Well…perhaps not. But the fact remains that, as we have done in the past and now do again, it’s time to shut down the blog for a few months while we focus on winter prep and subsequent hibernation (haha!). But, we can’t just leave without bidding a long goodbye. We’re going to take one final and poignant trip trip around the garden, because what a year it has been. On with the gallery!


Starting around front, the strawberries spread beautifully this year. Our goal is to eventually get them to cover the entire bed along the side of the house,

And this is primarily why. We’ve usually used this spot for tomatoes, but they always only do okay, never great. And this year was no exception. There’s simply not enough sun for them here. (True, there’s not really enough for strawberries either, but the ground cover will be nice.)

Moving over to the raised beds, they’ve all pretty much been taken over by marigolds. It’s really incredible just how large the plants turned out this year! Here in the cucumber bed, it’s just flowers now.

Yep. More marigolds. You’d never know that we got bunches of arugula and a number of carrots (ooo, they were delicious!) from this raised bed earlier in the year!

The bed that we had been using for peas just didn’t work out this year. Instead, we ended up with more marigolds and a couple of pepper plants that actually produced peppers. Imagine that!

The last raised bed is spilling over with marigolds. They simply cannot be contained! (Maybe we should try, but they look so pretty, all crazy and wild.) And somewhere in there are snapdragons and lots of strawflowers.

Speaking of flowers, the marigolds at the front of the section of bush beans in our longest bed are looking better than ever. In fact, they almost look  “planned” – like we actually tried to make them look artistic or something. Ha!

Next to them is the mass of pole beans. While it might not look like there are any beans at all, they are all hiding inside and at the back. It’s very likely that we’ll be getting beans well into next month.

Moving on, the tomatoes in the first stone bed are all looking rather done. There are still a couple plants with fruit on them — we’ll see if the ripen.
Meanwhile, the ONE massive Sun Sugar Hybrid plant is…well…it’s simply amazing in its tenacity.

And finally, the tomatoes way in the back are all pretty much done as well. There’s one fabled Jersey Giant plant here that still has tomatoes on it. It would be nice to see them ripen, for sure, but with the weather ups and downs, the prospect of that happening seems slim. We remain hopeful, anyway.

And that’s that! 🙂

2017 was a unusual year in the garden for us. But we managed. From getting a late start to experimenting with flowers to dealing with squash bugs to making more spaghetti sauce then two people might ever need, it was certainly a year to remember. It’s not lost on us that our supposed “first frost” day – November 5th – is supposed to be in the 60s and rainy. With that, there’s no way to predict just how much longer the garden will produce, how much longer the flowers will remain all nice and pretty, or when we’ll really start tearing things down for the winter…if winter ever comes! (It looks like the mild trend will likely continue until close to Thanksgiving.) Actually, as of this post, we’ve already taken apart all the net cages and managed to save at least one of the potted plants indoors. (Both the blueberry and blackberry plants, along with one of peppers, didn’t make it through this year.) So little by little well work out way towards clearing out the old and preparing to make way for the new.  We’ll restart things early next year, which seems both far away and all too close, already!

Our thanks go out to everyone who joined us this year, and we hope you’ll come back in few months when we renew and restart things in the garden. 2017 was fun, and 2018 is sure to bring new adventures!

Is it really the “end” of the season?

Because looking outside, you’d hardly know it. Granted, there are leaves on the ground, but, frankly, everything still looks pretty darn green! Okay, maybe not everything. Some plants, even the flowers, are starting to look a tad less green than they were even a month ago. And even though we’re still getting tomatoes, especially the bright orange Sun Sugar hybrid cherry tomatoes, they aren’t nearly as sweet as the ones from the height of the summer, which is to be expected.

You’ll see in the picture above the additional of some rather remarkable peppers! We’re pretty sure that the larger ones top right are Sweet Chocolate peppers, which are supposed to turn a rich, dark brown. However, seeing as the outside temperatures are due to drop later on in the week, and sunshine will likely be in short supply, we decided to pick them before it was too late. The other peppers are Rellenos. All of them will be quite tasty in a few cozy meals of fajitas and quesadillas!

Inasmuch as the Sun Sugars won’t quit, this latest harvest was the smallest one since they first started ripening. But the hardy plant has plenty more fruit on it. We’re pretty sure that even in the event of cool rain and cool temps, the plant will keep going for awhile. And even if the tomatoes aren’t super sweet, they’ll still be great to have around…for sauce!

Okay, okay. So cherry tomatoes aren’t sauce tomatoes. But, roast enough of them, and they work just fine! In fact, these tomatoes probably make up the bulk of the four bags of sauce we’ve made so far this year.

With our latest batch of tomatoes, we got to sauce making again. From roasting (with spices) and cooling…

…to pureeing…

…to straining…

…to the final product, ready to be bagged!

The resulting sauce, which is mild and sweet, is such a wonderful thing, as it’s great on it’s own, or it can be easily used as a base for soup or a more complex sauce (with the addition of vegetables, meat, cream, and such). We’re really looking forward to utilizing it over the winter months.

Rounding out this post, we’d be remiss if we didn’t at least mention the pole beans, which show no signs of quitting either. 🙂

Looks like it’s time for another shelling party!

 

No News is Good News

At this point in the year, the gardening calendar says that we have about three weeks left until first frost. But based on what Mother Nature has thrown at us this month – a wacky combination of summer and fall (Fummer? Summ-all?) — it’s very possible that the garden will keep going well into November, if not beyond. But that’s kind of how it’s been the past couple years. That said, we wouldn’t mind having just a normal winter, one that’s generally cold with the occasional (and not massive) snowfall.

Seems like “normal” is anything but, these days.

If it seems like we’re just blathering on, we are, because outside of beans and tomatoes, there’s not much to talk about. Looking outside, aside for a few plants that have bit the dust, mostly the bush beans and the barrel of ground cherries, things don’t appear much different than they did at the end of September. We’re still getting droves of Sun Sugar Hybrid cherry tomatoes, along with several other varieties (though more in handfuls than in droves).

If anything exciting has happened, it’s that we have not one, but two beautiful Jersey Giant tomatoes!

This may not seems like something worth celebrating, but we’ve had trouble growing this rare paste tomato the past couple years. The fact that these two not only grew but ripened before the end of the season is a very happy thing. 🙂 We’ll definitely be saving these tomatoes’ seeds once we dare cut into them!

While we’ve been making loads of sauce with our tomato crop this year, we’ve also been cooking up a storm. This past weekend, even though the weather wasn’t as fall-like as we had hoped, we made a couple batches of chili.

Meatless, top; with meat, bottom. Still early in the cooking process here.

The chili turned out a little thinner than usual, but it tasted fresh and really delicious!

In the meantime, checking in on our beans…

This is the stash that we shelled last week. (Rain over the weekend kept us from picking more.) It’s dried quite nicely, and it’ll soon be time to sort them. Fun! No, really. We’re already starting to plan some new bean dishes for the new year. Hoppin’ John is a staple, but with the variety we have, it only seems right to try some new stuff. We’d like to try making re-fried black beans from scratch, as well as that classic Italian soup, Pasta e Fagioli. (Okay, we we don’t have any white beans, so it won’t be “classic,” but surely we can try something new?) But first, the garden has to dry out so that we can get pick the rest of the beans.

Yep, no matter what, the season’s not over yet!

 

Bean-stravaganza!

If someone had told us years ago that not only would we someday spent our weekends sorting beans, bit that we would also enjoy it, well…we’d have thought that person was slightly off their rocker.

But here we are.

Yep, this weekend we sorted beans.

And it was fun, because of course it was! We’ve come to really enjoy growing shelling beans, because you get so much from very little work. Of course, maybe we should learn to train out beans better so that they don’t grow into a massive tangle, but then, hunting for the beans on a cool fall morning is part of the fun, as well. Though, perhaps we should say of late, a warm fall morning, as summer recently reared its ugly head here at the beginning of October. Still, picking dried bean pods no matter the weather is still rewarding, because from then emerge jewels. (Jewels you can eat, nonetheless!)

The collection of beans in the picture above is what we gathered before our last post. This past weekend, they were all finally dry enough to sort. Sure, we could be proactive about it and just sort the beans as we shell them, but sometimes beans don’t dry as nicely as you think they should. Sorting them by hand later lends, we think, to better quality control. Luckily, of the mass of beans we had to sort, only a fraction of them turned out to be bad. The rest went into storage containers and are destined for some bean sup come the winter. Yum!

Meanwhile, there were plenty more beans to pick. You might imagine our surprise when we went out to the bean patch and found a new if small crop of wax beans!

The wax beans were a real surprise, as only a couple weeks ago we thoughts the plants were pretty much done. Seems they had other ideas! Somewhat surprisingly, the batch of beans was very tasty. They were a little tough, but nowhere near as leathery as one might expect late-season string beans to be.

Meanwhile, with the new bowl-full of new pods, we had to get to more shelling! And the results..?

Hoo boy, what a selection of beans we got! The beans ranged from fresh (raw) to fully dried. Mst noticeable here are the Christmas Lima beans, the largest of which are as meaty as the end of one’s thumb! (And there are many more pods still on the wines outside.) Beyond that, we also had a great harvest of Dixie Speckled Butterpeas – they are mini Lima beans that are pick with maroon speckles. We also got some more black beans, as well as the pretty, green-gray Fort Portal Jade beans. We also ended up with a handful of the white-with-dark-speckles Rattlesnake beans, as well as just a few gray spotted Blue Goose cowpeas. What made up the bulk of the harvest was the Red Ripper cowpeas. In the photo, the plain dark pink ones are fully dried, bt the tan-colored ones (which look more like light pink in person) are the fresh, raw beans that need to dry.

With all the craziness going on in the world today, it’s nice to know that, no matter what, we’ll always have beans. 🙂