2017.10.16.

2017.10.16 Monday.

Updated update:

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Tonight’s forecast calls for frost an hour or so north of here. I’m hoping I warded it off by frantically picking a bunch of unripe tomatoes before it got dark. There were a few very ripe ones hiding deep within the vines. And two compost-squash fruit and some hot peppers. I’m not even bothering with the cherry tomatoes — too many of them over too large an area.

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2017.10.15.

2017.10.15 Sunday.

Update:

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2017.09.27.

2017.09.27. Wednesday.

Anatomy of a dinner.

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Having been blanched and shocked, but not yet peeled

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Strained seed goop on left, flesh on right, skins and other bits to discard in plastic tub (to compost)

And now I can finally start cooking. Here’s the recipe for a simple tomato sauce:

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (I used an entire small bulb of garlic from the garden)
  • 2.5 cups diced or crushed tomatoes, about 10-12 (I used about that many, all pictured on the right, above, and then added some of the strained seed goop because it seemed too dry)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • many turns of fresh ground black pepper
  • hot pepper flakes (I put in half a fresh hot pepper)
  • 1/2 tsp sugar (I was going to skip the sugar, but it needed it)
  • dried basil, dried parsely, and any other herbs desired, to taste

Process

Sautee garlic in oil until fragrant, add the rest of the ingredients and simmer 10 minutes. Cook pasta a little less than package calls for, then transfer drained pasta into sauce and finish cooking. Top with grated parmesan (ricotta would also be good).

(Recipe cobbled together from various sites, found by searching ‘simple crushed tomato sauce,’ then adapted to taste.)

2017.09.03

2017.09.03 Sunday. Carrots.

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This time, for real. These came up very easily, without having to dig, just pulled right out of the ground. They’re pretty different from store-bought carrots — more tender, almost no skin at all. Not sure if that’s a matter of the type of carrot or the just-picked quality.

I spent a bit of time researching the edibility of the greens — they are edible, and I found recipes for carrot-green pesto, carrot-green soup, and carrot-green and chickpea salad. Also found blog posts on drying the greens and using them in soup stock. I did the latter.

To make the soup, which I based on a recipe for corn chowder (because I had leftover cooked corn on the cob):

Wash the greens well, then simmer in water with celery, garlic, remains of whatever other vegetables you have around that you wouldn’t eat raw (either too tough or too ugly). I started with about six cups of water to cover the greens and other vegetable trimmings and let them simmer while I did the following.

In a deep pan or soup pot, sautee a diced onion (and clove or two of garlic if you like) in butter. Once onion is fragrant, add a chopped carrot (I used the fat one) and chopped celery (about 2 stalks). Once the carrots and celery are on their way to being soft, add a diced zucchini. Add about a cup of milk (I used 1%, but recipes generally call for whole milk or half-and-half or even cream), heat to a simmer, then add corn kernels and strained vegetable stock, which, if you’re a slow chopper and easily distracted like me, should be done by now. (After about 45 mins of cooking, I had about 4 cups of broth.) Bring to a simmer (be careful not to let milk base boil). Add salt and black pepper to taste. Once the carrot and zucchini chunks are cooked to your liking, put some of the soup in a blender (don’t overfill, it’s hot!) and puree, then add puree back into soup. If you don’t want chunks, puree it all, otherwise, puree about half of it for a creamier soup.

Garnish with fresh or dried carrot greens.

To dry the greens, I placed washed and air-dried ferns on a baking sheet lined with baking paper and put on center rack of oven at 170–200 degrees F. They were were crispy in about an hour.

I have some fresh greens left over, so I will try the chickpea salad, too.

2017.08.28.

2017.08.28 Monday.

First ever carrot grown ever in my garden ever. ! (Have I made my point?) Cue Thus Spake Zarathustra Op. 30…

But, to be honest, it tasted like a carrot. No more, no less. Waiting and seeing what the others taste like.

Otherwise, I’ve been plotting what to do about the front bulge, the corn bed, call it what you will — this one:

Except now it looks like this:

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(an ugly mess)

This is where I dumped a lot of leaves and mushroom soil at the end of last year’s season, and all this year I’ve been using it as a depo and not a planting bed.

My big idea is to install a couple of raised beds in this space and plant flowers around them, because this 9’x9′ (about 3m x 3m) bed is hard to handle. After drawing all sorts of patterns, I decided to do the simplest thing: two long narrow beds with space in between for a wheelbarrow, or maybe an H shape.

And I just happen to have two sheets of plywood “curing” against the side of the garage (I bought them some years ago as protection for something or other, but never used them). So, the plan calls for ripping the sheets into 16″-wide boards (8′ long) for the sides, and 16″x32″ boards for the ends — four sides and six ends will get me an H. The problem is, the blade of my  baby circular saw (5″ diameter) kept overheating and deforming, causing me to have to pause after every two feet of sawing. Took me forever to figure out what was going on — first I thought I hadn’t tightened the blade properly, then that the lubricant was low — and it took all afternoon to make these six cuts. But I finished. And it was a beautiful day to be fooling around outside with power tools.

But before I can put these frames together and install them, I have to move a bunch of dirt and pull a bunch of weeds.

Stay tuned.

2017.08.27.

2017.08.27 Sunday.

Cleaning up the small bed on the side bulge. I had planted arugula, beets, mixed greens, and radishes there, and all I got to eat was beets and some greens, and then the argula took over. As did the bugs that eat plants in the Brassica family.

This is just one plant!

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Harlequin beetles and cabbage worms:

ID sources:

Cleanup was in preparation for fall crop planting — I sowed green and yellow squash and a bit of basil.

2017.08.26.

2017.08.29 Saturday. Shades of red and orange.

Did more gardening than weeding for the first time in months.

  • Replaced the disintegrating plastic covering the middle raised bed with two layers of weedcloth. No more fooling around with that bed til next spring.
  • Sowed a few fall crops in the front tomato bed: Paris white lettuce (83 days, but it can be harvested before maturity); Blue Lake 47 bush bean (58 days); basil (we’ll see).
  • Put up a cage for the tomato plant pictured. Not sure if that was one I planted or a volunteer.
  • Thinned out the bushy plant in that same bed (the one that has produced the only full size tomatoes so far). It needed more airflow.

I discovered another zombie hornworm on that bushy plant in the back. This one’s smaller, and I left it undisturbed (aside from taking pictures of it).

2017.08.24

2017.08.24 Thursday. Tomato-related.

First off, we had a massive storm two nights ago, and an unsecured cage that was overgrown with a volunteer cherry tomato vine decided it preferred the reclining position.

Also the ceremonial opening of the first full-size tomatoes. They’re not much to look at (check out the odd structure of the larger one upper left), but they tasted great!

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And this evening, I noticed a zombie tomato hornworm, covered in parasitoid wasp cocoons. (Warning, kind of gross images to follow.) My first impulse was to cut off the stem to take a closer look, or maybe to dispose of of the thing. Even though I’ve been fooled before by freaky- and creepy-looking things that are actually good for the garden. This was indeed an instance of “save it!” After taking pictures and looking it up online, I hung the section of stem back on the plant at a height I could observe.

Maybe I’ll get a chance to see the wasps emerge. For more information on this phenomenon, as well as Latin names, check out this Galveston County Master Gardener post: http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/galveston/beneficials/beneficial-04_braconid_wasp_on_hornworm.htm.

2017.08.20.

2017.08.20 Sunday.

First “real” tomatoes! First hot peppers!

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So excited I couldn’t keep still!

Spent most of the day weeding out back, cutting down and pulling woody heath asters and tall horseweed (I think that’s what it is), plus another kind of flowering woody stalk, looks a little like heath aster or monkey flower at first, but then branches out in all directions:

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Here’s a before picture of aster and this mystery plant and red lobelia in the foreground and purple Joe Pye weed in the background:

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I discovered the small plant that was growing in the compost bin has now become a full-fledged squash, so I set up another compost bin. I don’t think this would have been easy to move:

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Other observations: a hint of carrot in the chimney bed (blurry pic, will take another tomorrow), hummingbirds are frequenting the lobelia, tomatoes going gangbusters with very little support….

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The sweetbay magnolia is fruiting rather obscenely:

 

And a goldenrod I haven’t yet taken out of its pot is getting lots of attention:

 

 

2017.08.08.

2017.08.08 Weeds.

The backyard is a weedy mess, but also home to sweet smelling clethra, cardinal flower, monkey flower, spiderwort, cranberries, monarda… Tomorrow is yardwaste pickup, so I did what I could in two hours to fill as many bags as possible. Identification to come later.

The following are thistle or thistle-like flowers — these are the ones I wanted to pull before they flowered because they are prolific seeders. All grow to at least four feet tall.

 

This next batch consists of trees and vines and smaller woody plants.

Finally, stuff growing in compost.

And there is so much more: spurge, pigweed, Japanese stilt grass, crabgrass, fox tail, common purslane, heath aster, fleabane, catchweed bedstraw, ribworth plaintain, broadleaf plaintain, creeping cinquefoil, ladysthumb,  yellow nutsedge, and (yawn) dandelions.

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