It’s been only a week since we celebrated seed-starting day, and already this gardening season is on its way!
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:
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?
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.
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!
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!
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 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!
Yup. Tomatoes and beans. That’s about all that’s going on this garden right now. While that might not sound very exciting, it truly is! Because (1) we have lots of tomatoes, and (2) we have lots of beans. And we mean LOTS.
Well, okay…so “lots” is relative. This harvest of tomatoes — which includes all the cherry tomato varieties we’ve been growing, plus a number of Plums and Marmanades (the round, fluted ones) — isn’t a lot in the grand scheme of gardening for many, but it’s quite a large harvest when gardening for two (plus a cat, who, oddly enough, doesn’t like tomatoes). And when you end up with a harvest like this every couple days or week over the course of a summer/fall, well, a lot of tomatoes can turn into too many tomatoes. In the past we tried canning with great success, but this year, as we’ve written about before, we opted to try making and freezing basic spaghetti sauces. The results have been excellent so far. In fact, this past weekend, we made our third batch of sauce.
This last batch will be the first that features a good mix of the larger tomatoes, such as Roma (plum tomatoes) and Rutgers, along with a couple Marmandes, and the cherry tomatoes. We’ve found that the difference in the sauces tends to lie in acidity. The two batches of sauces that we had previously made are a little more acidic in flavor and require rather heavy seasoning. This last batch, with the addition of the larger, sweeter tomatoes, had a much more rounded flavor. We didn’t have to use quite as much sugar and salt, especially, to appease any bitterness. The resulting sauce is just a tad bit more appealing when used plain over fresh pasta. The more acidic sauces are really good when used with either cheese or meat, like on pizza or a meatball sandwich. But that’s probably just personal preference.
Meanwhile, as we’ve been saying, when we’re not dealing with tomatoes, we’re dealing with beans. So many BEANS!
This past week and weekend, we made several trips out to the patch of pole beans to collect as many dried and drying pods as we could. The results have been more than fantastic! Most surprising are the black beans. We had a moderate harvest of them last year, but this year, the two black bean plants that produced have been wildly prolific. The same is true of the Dixie Speckled Butter Peas, a mini Lima bean of sorts (also, not a pole bean). We only got a few pods of them last year, but this year, the little row of plants is just crazy with them! As in the past, the Red Ripper and Blue Goose cowpeas remain strong. And it looks like we’ll be in for a major harvest of the Christmas Lima Beans before too long (lots of pods, not many beans visible in them yet). In the picture above, you might also spot a few plain, round green-gray beans – those are the Fort Portal Jades, a new variety for us this year. They did alright – we got at least enough to try in a soup or stew. As for the red and white striped beans, those are Rattlesnake beans that we let dry. Those you can harvest the full pods early and eat them like string beans, or you can dry the pods and just re-hydrate the beans.
With another push of warm-ish weather promised this week, along with plenty of sun, we hope to see the last our our larger tomatoes ripen. In addition to lots of Romas, Rutgers, and Marmandes, we also have a plant with some very green Jersey Giants on the vine! Those special tomatoes are particularly delicious, and we really hope that they’ll come to fruition before it gets too chilly. *fingers crossed*