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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Which Veggies can handle a Light Frost

I don’t think I have a complete answer to this question, but we had a light frost last night and I can now report what did and didn’t survive.

Reportedly, the low last night was 37. I didn’t figure this to be a frost, but there was a frost advisory out, so I should have listened. Anyhow, I didn’t protect any of my plants. Not much I could have done anyway. I went out first thing in the morning and there was a very light frost on all of the plants, but no noticeable damage to any of them.

I came out later after it had warmed up and this is what I found:

The damage is quite clear. The top leaves are dropping and a dark brown color. The second level and lower leaves are still green and healthy looking. I can also report that the individual bean pods survived just fine.
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The tomatoes suffered similar to the beans. The highest leaves were black and drooping and the lowest leaves were still nice and green.
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The actual fruit suffered no damage.
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Same story here. We went ahead and harvested these.
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Same exact story again. You can see the blackish leaves in these pictures and you can see that the fruit itself is a-ok.2012 10 28_8099
More pictures of the injured peppers
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The gourd vines died. So I assume this would be true for any squash family plant. The dark colored leaves you see are all the gourd vine, but you can see a birdhouse gourd and a luffa gourd hanging from the trellis having survived the frost.
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All of the typical fall crops came through without missing a beat; they show no damage whatsoever. This includes: broccoli, cabbage, kohlrabi, collards, 6” garlic that just sprouted, turnips, cauliflower, lettuce, spinach.

A few things also came away without harm that I was a little surprised at: a celery seedling (what under tulle), a celery plant (growing under the tomatoes), all of my herbs – none suffered at all. The artichoke also show no damage.

I know that not many of you are shocked that a frost could do this to the summer plants. But this is just to show – those of us who are new to this – just what the damage looks like at a temperature of 37. Even with the damage, I decided not to pull anything other than the basil. I wanted the basil, so I saved what was left of it. I know I won’t get much of anything from what was damaged, but warmer weather is just around the corner and I want to see if any of the plants bounce back and actually ripen some of the undamaged fruit. I guess you can call it an experiment….after all, I have nothing to lose.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Herb Garden Update

It has been a while since I updated you on my herb garden.
An herb garden is so easy to maintain. I forget to water it most of the time, but most herbs can handle low watering conditions. My plan was to allow them to grow throughout the summer; only harvesting what I needed for fresh use.  Before the first frost, I plan to severely cut them all back; harvesting quite a bit to dry or freeze.
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My rosemary hasn’t gotten as big as expected and the sage is much larger than expected. Next to the sage (bottom right); you can see the chives. There are three of them.

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The lemon balm is really large. I honestly have no idea why I planted lemon balm. I think I had extra room. In front is the thyme. The little plant in front of the lemon balm is parsley; just starting out.

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The top plant is french tarragon. It’s quite small, so I may not harvest much of it. Just below it (spreading along the ground) is the oregano. The brown stem in front of the oregano is the remains of the stevia. I chopped it down quite a bit. Note sure if it will come back or not. The small plant to the bottom left is the sweet marjoram….useful for making sausage.

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The chocolate mint is beautiful and smells great too.

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The rosemary has grown nicely. The gap between the two plants does have a smaller rosemary in there….it’s just been stuck behind a rather large zinna that has been pulled.

Missing from my herb garden pics is the cilantro; you saw that earlier this week. And I still have spots reserved for cumin and chamomile. I can’t get either to germinate. If I do; then I can’t get it to live beyond the seedling stage. As soon as I find one of those in a planted form; I will be buying it.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Green Beans Perhaps

The DH and I were discussing what we should eat for lunch. The kids were with Nana, so we could have anything we wanted. We decided on shrimp but still needed a veggie.

I decided to go walk around the garden to see how things were growing and I came back like this:

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It’s nice when that happens…go out for a quick look and come back with a shirt full of something. I guess we’ll have some green beans sautéed with onions with our shrimp.

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

Friday, October 19, 2012

Not done with the Okra Plants Yet

I promise you, this is our last post about okra plants. They are gone now; nothing is left. But we did manage to find one more use for those mini trees…….

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We used them in a school project: ‘Build a Farm’. Now, the walls and fence aren’t all okra plants, but they are in there. How’s that for reuse, recycle, and reuse again….lol….smh…..

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Pan Roasted Rosemary and Garlic Chicken

This is an Italian recipe from my Italian cookbook. I love Italian cooking because it is all about using fresh ingredients and the recipes can be quite simple  - yet absolutely delicious; like this one is.

From the garden, I used fresh rosemary and chopped garlic; use enough so that each piece of chicken is covered with a nice sprinkling of it.
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You start by browning the chicken on both sides using butter/olive oil.
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Next you add the sprig or two of rosemary and 3-5 cloves garlic. You can also add salt and pepper to taste at this point.
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Add 1/2 cup of dry white wine and let boil vigorously for 30 seconds. Then turn the temp down to a simmer and simmer until the chicken is done (20 minutes or so; be sure to not allow the pan to dry out by adding more water if needed).
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After about 20 minutes; you’ll end up with a delicious – easily prepared – chicken dish.
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It was quite delicious and such a simple and quick recipe. See what other's are pulling out of their cubpboards over at Robin's Thursday 's Kitchen Cupboard.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Walk Around the Garden

It is so nice outside these days. I take a walk around the garden every afternoon when I get in from work. Today, I’ll take you on the walk with me.

Everything looks to be coming along nicely; except for one recurring theme.
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These grasshoppers are quite the pest right now. I’m not sure that I have any allies to help me fight these pests. Their existence doesn’t seem to be doing significant harm (yet), but there is clear evidence that they aren’t harmless:
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We’ll save that fight for another day. We have more pressing concerns. That darn basil needs pinching again. I need to harvest it; but fresh basil just doesn’t last long on the counter and I don’t have time to deal with it right now. So let’s get to pinching.
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The tomatoes are coming along nicely; I’ve even got 10 or so baby tomatoes and tons of  flowers. With my frost date (11/15) just under a month away; I am unsure that garden fresh tomatoes are in my future. Maybe we should contemplate a way to protect the plants; we have mild winters (the cold isn’t really noticeable until December) .
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The spring-planted peppers are starting to show their age; we may need to think about when we want to go ahead and pull them.
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The fall-planted peppers are still itty-bitty
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But they are loaded and I pull in 1-2 full sized  jalapenos every day.
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The cucumber beetles showed up again a few weeks ago. This is the 2nd generation. They helped kill my squash and cukes earlier this year. Now they are back working on whatever they can find. Pests.
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The fall crops are still a ways away. The collards look the closest to being ready.
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This picture doesn’t show it well, but the artichoke have really taken off since the weather has cooled. I sure hope that I actually get some artichokes next year.
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Boy do I love turnip green; a real southern staple.
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But unfortunately, these needed to be thinned and they will need to be thinned again later.
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I may not get tomatoes matured before the frost, but looks like I will have a boat loaded of fish (hot) peppers.
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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Two Lessons from Growing Herbs

I was out in the herb garden this weekend and I learned two valuable lessons.

Lesson 1: Allow your herbs to reseed themselves

I was upset because I lost all my herb starts (namely, cilantro). I planned to start more after my walk around the garden. However, while surveying the herb garden I noticed that cilantro was already growing there. A pluck and sniff of a leaf confirmed my suspicion. I was elated; I didn’t have to reseed any cilantro and it was growing in the perfect spot.
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Lesson 2: Don’t allow your herbs to reseed themselves

My excitement about the ‘free’ cilantro subsided some when I realized that there were actually lots and lots of reseeded cilantro seedlings growing in my herb garden. They covered quite a bit of space. I allowed the cilantro to go to seed because I wanted the coriander seed for seasoning, but now I may have a problem on my hands. Mind you, just above the cilantro seedlings (not pictured) are borage seedlings. Borage hasn’t been planted in my herb garden for nearly a year, but it keeps popping up.
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So I am not sure which lesson to abide by. I will allow the ‘extra’ cilantro to get larger before I decide which ones to pull. My herb garden is 100% herbs, so herbs reseeding is a good thing. I could see this being a problem in a garden where you wanted to plant other crops. I would guess that my biggest concern is spacing; which is easily corrected.

So I guess the real lesson here is to know that herbs – allowed to flower and go to seed – will reseed themselves. They probably won’t seed exactly where you want them to; there will be more of them than you need; and you may be pulling unwanted seedlings for a year. So as long as you are aware of this, you can decide if you want to allow your herbs to flower or not.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Harvest Monday

This week’s harvest looks a lot like last week’s. I promise this isn’t the same picture. Look a little closer, this picture has a few green beans and a couple of jalapeno peppers; so that is my proof.
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The peppers are putting out their post-summer flush. The jalapenos and green beans were fall planted but have already  began to produce.

Why not give you a preview of harvests to come (hopefully).

I have never grown nor eaten kohlrabi. I don’t think it is sold here; so the only way I can try it is to grow it myself. Looks like I better find me a recipe.
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The basil is definitely ready to harvest. I have been pinching back blooms. There has been very little return of the black spots since I pinched all the effected leaves off. I’m just not ready to harvest these yet; but I will before the first frost which should be a month away.
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Of course there will be more beans and peppers; but I just wanted to show you that I have a couple more things that are fairly close to harvest time. I’ve got more stuff planted but  nothing else within a week or two of harvest.

I’m sure somebody has more to show you than I, so visit Daphne’s Dandelions Harvest Monday to see what other gardeners are harvesting.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Sweet Potatoes….Again

Although I did have a harvest this week:
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1.17 lbs of bell peppers (harvested because they were getting sunburned, had turned red, or the limp had broken off the plant); this week was about sweet potatoes.

Earlier this year, we harvested about 42 lbs of sweet potatoes. That was mid-August. Since then, we have been fighting a battle to try to keep them from sprouting. It has been a little too warm here for storing potatoes. We don’t have basements here in Texas and even the inside of the house is too warm (apparently).

Our freezer is stuffed. Fortunately, my mom has a pressure canner; so all we needed was more quart-sized jars. I really wanted to store these fresh, but canning them is the only way to save them. Now that I think about it, now is about the perfect time to harvest them. We have a few more weeks of 80’s to help them cure and after that, it will be much cooler in the garage to store them there or even the house will be 10 degrees cooler. So. next time we grow sweet potatoes, we will plant them about 6-8 weeks later.

We began the process by washing them. This was fun!
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Next we boiled them for about 15 minutes to soften them so that we could cut the up into pieces. As we cut them, we placed them in water to keep them from browning. This is a turkey pan full of cubed potatoes; we ended up with 3.5 of these.
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After all the chopping we called it a night. The next day, we reheated the sweet potatoes in the oven for about 15 minutes. We then heated the jars and lids and boiled some water. We placed the slightly cooked sweet potatoes in the jars and covered with boiling water (we decided against sugar water or salt water).
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We placed the jars in the pressure canner so that none of the jars were touching anything. The canner held 7 quart-sized jars.
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Now, I didn’t realize that pressure canning was such a long process. First you bring the water to a boil. Then you put the lid on and close it; but not the gauge. You have to wait for the steam to be released first and allow it to steam for 10 minutes. After that, you put the gauge on and wait for the pressure to build up to the desired level (10PSI). This takes another 10 or so minutes. Once the pressure has built up……now, you can start the 90 minute timer. After 90 minutes, you have to let the pressure fall naturally which can take 30 minutes or so. So what we thought was a 90 minute process, was actually 150 minute process. And we’ve got to do this 4 times before we’re done.
We’ll here’s a look at our first batch.
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Only 3 more batches to go…..atleast the smell was nice and it warms up the house on these cool days we're having. We’ll probably have about 25 quarts of sweet potatoes when done.

Head over to Daphne’s Dandelions Harvest Monday to check out more harvests from around the globe.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

October Garden Tour

Things have changed in the garden. There are a few summer hang-ons and a lot of new tenants.
The boys garden has not changed at all; so I won’t include it…still over run with gourd vines.

Bed 1
The collards are growing slowly…things grow noticeably slower with the shorter days. You can see the radish (bottom right) starting to emerge.
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The garlic has also emerges as well.
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Bed 2 still has the peppers in it. The fall planted peppers are still rather small (you can see them on the left of the bed). They are flowering again (since the heat is gone) and
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have several peppers on them.
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Bed 3 is a cover crop of vetch and oats.
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Bed 4 has turnips and cabbages.
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You can’t see them above, but the turnips have emerged.
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I don’t feel so hopeful about the tomatoes in Bed 5. They just seem to small to give me any kind of crop before the frosts begin. I may need to start the fall tomatoes a month earlier next year; as I should really be harvesting some about now.
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I do have plenty of flowers and
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even a couple of small green tomatoes. But I am not hopeful. They have about a month; so we’ll see.
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Bed 6 is green beans; Kentucky Wonder on the poles and Blue Lake and Tendergreen as bushes. I think they will be fine. The weather is cooling to highs in the 80s; they have grown to near full size and are flowering. So we should have beans shortly.
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Bed 7 is cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower. Most are seeds that I just planted this weekend, but a few were transplanted a few weeks ago.

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This bed has a resident living in one of the hoop holes:
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Bed 8: The potatoes have put on lots of growth…above ground anyway. No flowers yet, so we have a ways to go.
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Bed 9 has more beans; cannellini, Cherokee trail of tears, and pinto.
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They have great growth and flowers, so I should get a crop before it gets too cold. Well, I should get a crop if I can beat these creatures to them:
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Bed10 is the bed of mystery brassicas. My labels washed off, so I had no idea what-was-what when I planted them.
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Now they are older and I can tell the cabbage from the broccoli (but not the broccoli from the kohlrabi yet or the cabbage from the cauliflower). Looks like I ended up with two cabbage next to each other in rather close quarters; we’ll see how they do.
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We had a cool front come in for a few days and I believe that is just what we needed to cool the soil down enough for our seeds to germinate. So in Bed 11, I added celery, celeriac, and spinach seed to the lettuce and spinach transplants that we purchased at Home Depot.
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Last year, we left our lettuce uncovered with no problem, but this year…all of my lettuce disappeared overnight. This is why I had to go buy transplants. We have a family of rabbits living in our yard. They’ve been here for years – almost as long as we have. They haven't bothered my garden before; but I am sure that they ate all the lettuce seedlings. So we covered the new transplants.
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The melons have been removed from bed 12 and it now has a cover crop of crimson clover.
I am really hoping that this year’s fall garden is more successful than last year. I tried to direct seed everything and learned very quickly that the soil is too hot (here) to direct seed in September. The days are too short to wait till October to direct seed. So this year I started everything indoors. I have direct seeded for succession sowing. I don’t worry about our winters; we don’t (typically) get many freezes here, so I think the hoop houses will get me through the few freezes that we get.