We have sprouts!

It’s been only a week since we celebrated seed-starting day, and already this gardening season is on its way!

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Happy Seed-Starting Day!

So many seeds!

Seed Starting Day has become something of an unofficial holiday in our house. On that day, we spend half the day with the seeds, from preparing the trays to the actual planting of them, and then we spend the other half of the day being as lazy as possible. 🙂 Okay, “being lazy” is relative, so maybe the most we did was order pizza. Either way, this year’s Seed Starting Day, which we held this past Sunday, was as good as any. And this was despite the fact that our yard looks like this just a couple days earlier:

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A Few New Seeds to Try…Just a Few

We will readily admit that we’ve tended to go overboard when it comes to purchasing new seeds for the year. Making things worse, is that with each new year comes a brand new set of seed catalogs, with more new ones showing up all the time. Here’s this year’s stash:

While it’s super fun going through each catalog, picking out all the “yes!” and “maybe?” seeds, this year it was a little overwhelming. And that’s mostly because we think we have a pretty good seed stash already. Did we really need to to add another two-dozen new varieties of this, that, and the other just because?

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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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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!