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Monday, December 10, 2012

Harvest Monday Emergency

Well with all the Christmas parties and shopping and decorating to do, I wasn’t supposed to have a harvest this week. Mother nature decided to force my hand. I have lettuce that has bolted because it has been some warm, but today…..we had to do an emergency harvest because the next three days will see lows in the 20s. Yep, a 40 degree drop in the lows from just a week ago!

I don’t have any weights yet; and when you see the picture below, you will know why. We barely squeezed pulling the stuff from the garden. Now we need to squeeze in weighing it and blanching it too! Thanks Mother Nature.
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Starting at the top with the cauliflower and going clockwise, we have: cauliflower, a bag of broccoli (small head and lots of side shoots), a boat load of turnip greens, and finally a stack of collard greens. I know having these on our kitchen floor looks very unsanitary; but, we had no place else to put them. Plus, we will thoroughly clean and blanch them. In the middle of all of that, just below the cauliflower, is a little bit of celery. That celery plant is still putting out. I will dry this batch. I think the freeze will kill the celery plant, but it’s sure been good to me and I will be sure to ‘lose’ more celery under the tomatoes next summer.

Here is a closer look at everything:

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Bag of broccoli
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Also here is a close up of one of the turnips. I mostly planted seven-top turnips; which doesn’t produce an actual turnip, only the tops. But, I did plant a few Purple Top White Globe Turnips; here is a look at one of them.
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Well, I am glad for the freeze; maybe a few bugs will die. This is how my beds look now.
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Tune in later this week to see if there were any casualties. In the meantime, check out other harvests at Daphne’s Dandelions Harvest Monday….our bloggers in Australia should be starting to crank out more of their summer crops now.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Good, Bad, and Ugly - December Garden Tour

This tour will be about the Good, Bad, and Ugly of our garden as it stands this first week of December.

Garden blogs are usually full of beautiful pictures of neatly arranged garden plots. This post will show you the under belly. Those moments when the garden isn’t so tidy.

But, so that I don’t scare you away; I’ll start with the good.

The Good

In the front you see the garlic has emerged and put on some size and in the back are some collard greens that are ready for harvest. The bed looks scarce, but there is garlic planted throughout. This is poor space planning because I definitely could have planted more collards. I need to have planted more collards because collards cook down to nothing.
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Bed 4
A bed full of turnips with small cabbage seedlings in what appears to be gaps in the turnips.
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Bed 5
A bed of frost-killed tomatoes. You would think this should be a part of the ugly. But take a closer look. You see that small area of green in the middle of the bed. Well that is a celery plant that was planted last spring. Yes, LAST SPRING! It survived 100+ degree weather because it was buried under a jungle of tomato plants. I left it there (pulled all the others) because I wanted celery seed. I expected the 100+ temps to cause it to bolt. Well, I guess it never got hot enough under all those tomatoes. I harvested most of it in October, some more in November, and I’ll be able to harvest more in a few weeks. This plant has survived a few frosts as well. Note to self: next spring, leave all the celery planted.
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Bed 8
I know this bed looks a mess and it is. The green you see is actually weeds. But, I called this good because under those dead plants are potatoes. We dug some of them up after I took this picture. This was our first attempt at fall potatoes. I;’ll share the harvest later after we clean them and weigh them. There aren’t many, but I totally neglected this bed. It's also ‘good’ because its got some volunteer dill and onion growing in it.
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Bed 10
Another bed of broccoli and cabbage. All of these were seeded indoors and transplanted late summer. Everything survived and the bed is nice and full.
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This bed also has another garden first for me….we’ll be harvesting cabbage fairly soon.
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The Bad

Bed 3
A cover crop of … I think its hairy vetch.

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Bed 7
This bed is broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. I put it in the bad category because a few seedlings died and a few more never germinated. This bed should be full. So it’s a minor disappointment.
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Bed 11
Lettuce, Spinach, and Celery
Don’t see the spinach and celery. Me either. That is why this bed is BAD. The lettuce has done brilliantly; except the warm temps have some wanting to bolt. Spinach is hard hear because it really needs cool soil. Our soil doesn’t cool down enough until mid to late October. By then, the days are too short. I think I will start some in a few weeks (around Christmas) and set them out in Feb and hope for a March harvest.
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The Ugly

Bed 2
Pepper plants killed by frost
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Bed 6
Frost killed Beans
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Bed 9
Frost killed beans that didn’t produce a thing. I planted these much too late. I really wanted these cannellini beans because I love minestrone soup.
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Bed 12 is so bad that I didn’t even take a picture of it. Copy and paste any of the above pictures.

I hope these pictures don’t discourage anyone from gardening Laughing out loud, but gardening is work and as you can see….we’ve got work to do.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Harvest Monday

This week’s harvest brings us great delight! We’ve got …….
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This is our third attempt at growing broccoli. The first time was the spring of 2011. We got beautiful plants and no heads. Then the fall of 2011, we had horrible germination rates and poor growth. One broccoli plant survived and gave us a bountiful harvest of one large head and pounds of side shoots.
We decided that our spring gets hot too fast to attempt spring broccoli again, so we waited until fall. SUCCESS! FINALLY! We have harvested 7 heads so far; with more to come (see broccoli bed below) and side shoot production should start soon as well. This week’s harvest came in at 5.3 pounds; two heads like the one above and two smaller heads; our largest weekly harvest yet.
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We also harvested a head of romaine lettuce. It was quite large. Our temps have been rather warm (mid 70s) and this one was actually starting to bolt. I hope it tastes ok because there will be no cooking this week. We are still not in the cooking mood after Thanksgiving  and all of the leftovers are gone ….we’ll be eating sandwiches and salads.
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We went ahead and dug up the fall potatoes. I figured there weren’t many and  they weren’t that big. The plants died much soon than they did last spring, so potatoes may be best as a spring crop here.
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Last but not least, TOMATOES! Not many; just a couple. I harvested these a few weeks ago before an expected frost. I didn’t include them until they ripen. I had more, but they spoiled while ripening?. I’m actually scared to taste them because they ripened in doors from a fully green tomato. I’ll brave it later this week on one of my sandwiches.
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Check out more fall harvests at Daphne’s Dandelions Harvest Monday.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Make Lemon Balm Jelly

If you ever decide to plant a lemon balm plant in your garden, you will soon find yourself searching the internet for something to do with it. The plants get rather large. So describe them as invasive. I wouldn’t use that word because invasive (to me) means that it replants itself. It just gets rather large, so be sure you have enough room for it. Becky at Simply Self Sufficiency has done a lot with Lemon Balm. Check out her website for more ideas.

For my first real venture into Lemon Balm, I decided to try the Jelly.

I started by soaking a thinly sliced lemon in 3 cups of water. I let that sit in the fridge overnight.
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I then strained the lemons from this water, brought it to a boil, added 4 tightly packed cups of lemon balm, and allowed that to simmer for about 15 minutes.
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I strained this mixture. Added 6 1/2 cups of sugar and brought to a rolling boil. I then added 6 tablespoons of powdered low-sugar Ball pectin. I boiled this until I had jelly set (using the spoon test).
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I removed from the heat, placed it in pint jars and water bathed for 10 minutes.
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I saved a little for immediate use.
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The Truth: I tried to cut the sugar in this recipe; using just half of the 6 1/2 cups. It didn’t work. I waited a few days and all I had was a syrup. So, I dumped all the jars back into the pot. Boiled, added more sugar and pectin until I was able to pass the jelly set spoon test. I can't tell you how much sugar I ended up adding, but I can say that I ended up with more than the 6 1/2 cups the recipe called for. Just add little by little until you are able to get jelly set.

Well worth it; it’s absolutely delicious! Everyone loved it. Take that overgrown Lemon Balm plant.

Monday, November 19, 2012

What’s for Thanksgiving Harvest

I failed to give you guys a garden tour this month. I did the tour, but the pictures didn’t come out so great; with the short days I haven’t been able to get better pictures.

But this week, I will share with you what was (and what may be) harvested for Thanksgiving.

1.8 lbs of broccoli, bunches of sage (to make rubbed sage), and an onion. I found this onion while cleaning out the summer crops. It was a seedling that had recently sprouted. I decided to see if it would bulb and this is what I got. I have a couple more still out there; I’ll pull at different times to see how they do.
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Now for what is ready to be harvested. Romaine and Red Sails lettuce. They are beautiful. I also have a few more heads of broccoli that have started to head (one of those not so great pictures I told you about).
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I also have a bed of turnip greens that could use a trimming. The gaps in the greens contain a small cabbage seedling. These are Seven Top turnips, so they won’t produce a useable bulb. The collard greens are also of a trimmable size. In front of the collards you can see the garlic tops. They are sizing up nicely and should have plenty of green tops before spring hits.
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Check out more harvests that are just in time for Thanksgiving at Daphne's Dandelions Harvest Monday.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Make Rubbed Sage

One of the great Thanksgiving traditions is turkey and dressing. In the South, we don’t do stuffing….we do dressing. Dressing made from cornbread…..cornbread made from yellow cornmeal – not sweet cornbread either.

One of the main ingredients of dressing (other than the cornbread of course) is rubbed sage. Rubbed sage, is basically sage crumbled very fine so that it will distributed quite evenly throughout the dish.

Since I have a huge sage bush in the garden that could use a good trimming (see the before (1st) and after (2nd) photo); I decided to make my own this year.
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Here’s how it’s made:

Step 1
Harvest your sage. You shouldn’t harvest more than 1/3rd of the plant at a time. You can wash down your sage bush the day before you plan to harvest. This should get rid of any bugs or dirt that may be on it.
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Step 2
Dry your sage. You can air dry it or dry it in a dehydrator. I used a dehydrator. Sage is a low moisture herb, so it doesn’t take long to dry. I dried it for about two hours.
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Actually I split my harvest into two. I dried half of it in the dehydrator and the other half is air drying. I just want to see if there is a visible difference. I’ll update you once the air drying sage is done.

Step 3
Place your dried sage in a bowl and
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Crumble  the dried sage with your fingers.
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Step 4
Press the crumbled sage through a strainer. This will get it fine and crumbly and remove any left over stems or sage leaves that didn’t crumble.
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Step 5
Put the sage into a dry, sterilized jar. I ended up with 1 cup of rubbed sage.
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This sage plant cost me $3 in the spring. I would say that it has already paid me back. Have you seen the price of sage lately?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Fall’s First Harvest

Finally, a fall harvest. I didn’t get to post last week, so this is actually two weeks of  harvest.
The bean plants were probably harmed the most by the light frost we got, but that beans themselves showed no sign of damage. I’ve been harvesting them by the bowl to the tune of 8 lbs. You ate looking at Tendergreen Improved, Blue Lake, and Kentucky Wonder – in order shown.
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I also finally harvested that kohlrabi that was growing. It weighed in at an eight of a pound and was roasted in the oven with garlic and salt.
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Along with the green beans, I have been harvesting celery. Yes, celery. I left a celery plant in the middle of my tomato bed, so it was under the tomato jungle throughout the summer. Well it survived 100+ temps under there without bolting. I harvested from it a few weeks ago and again this week. Its still in the garden and I hope to harvest from it again. I chop my celery and dry it (for soups) and freeze it for casserole-type dishes (like dressing!).
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My  pepper plants were loaded with peppers when t he frost came. Thankfully the peppers themselves weren’t harmed. I harvested about 10 lbs of bell peppers; sliced-diced-and froze them for later use.
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I also harvested about 5 lbs of fish peppers. 5 lbs is a LOT because the peppers are slightly smaller than jalapenos. They sure make for a beautiful arrangement.

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Not pictured is a huge head of broccoli that weighed in at .8 lbs. My broccoli is doing very well this year. With almost all of the plants forming heads. I should be able to harvest two more this week. I hope the side shoot production is prolific. If not, I’d need two beds full of broccoli to cover this family’s broccoli requirements.

See what other gardeners are harvesting at Daphne's Harvest Monday.