Sunday, July 31, 2011

First Tomato of the Season

Sun Gold Tomatoes around a rain barrel

Sun Gold are the BEST cherry tomatoes ever! These particular ones are a bit small. Just an experiment really. Started them from seed with my 4th graders and they grew on a classroom window sill. Now they receive only a few hours of sun a day but yet...tomatoes!

In the garden Glacier tomatoes are the first to be ripe and picked and they were delicious. A bit small but so good. I love these too because they are the perfect size for a single portion of bruchetta or in a salad or whatever. But not big enough for a tomato sandwich really. To make the BEST tomato sandwich you need a Jersey tomato. I'm not kidding! But if you can't get a fresh, ripe Jersey tomato then we'll just have to settle for whatever tomato varieties are in our garden or at our local farmer's market. They will be delicious! May not quite be a Jersey tomato but delicious just the same.

Dug my first potatoes today. Yukon Golds were a good size, the Rose fingerlings were small. Onions and shallots are starting to flop over. We've been eating the onions for a while. Garlic is harvested. Bottom leaves were turning yellow and brown. Have had a few eggplants and they've been delicious and lots of zucchini and yellow squashes. Basil is finally looking and tasting good. It took a while for those plants to come back. They were looking so awful for so long!

Fall plantings of greens and some root veggies are in about 2 weeks now and some are doing great. I lightly covered them with a straw mulch and have been watering them. I covered the lettuce seedlings with a shade cloth as well as the mulch and they look great too. Radishes as always are struggling. Flea beetles and slugs. Same problems as in spring. Cukes are coming finally! It's the 4th try and putting them under row cover seems to have helped. Some pumpkins look great some have been hit with something. I'm assuming it's from those dang cucumber beetles. That bacteria wilt. Scallions, lettuce, beets, chard, kale, lettuce, carrots, herbs, zucchini, yellow squash, garlic, potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant...all have been wonderful. Beans are almost in flower. I planted them late. Peas, asparagus, radishes, and spinach have come and gone. Peas were delicious. Corn and pumpkins are growing.

Gardens are nice. They are nice to putter in. They are nice to look at. And they are nice to eat delicious food from. As the saying goes, "Gardens make the world fresh and clean." AHS

May your August garden be as good as or better than your July garden,

Saturday, July 30, 2011

When to Plant to Outsmart Pests

A great planter that I saw at the Coastal Maine Botanical Garden in Boothbay, Maine in the children's garden area. What a LOVELY place to visit.

This great link below is a bit late for this year but a must to try next year!! It has a few great tips on when to plant crops such as potatoes, corn, and brassicas to outsmart the pests that harm them most. I was about two weeks late planting my potatoes this year and I nearly didn't plant them. I usually plant when the dandelions bloom and I usually have to hand pick and squish potato beetles which is one of the grossest things to have to do. Talk about how to ruin a relaxed evening in the garden. Anway, this year I haven't (knock on wood) seen one! And others are dealing with them like crazy. Coincidence? I don't know. But when I found this article I began to wonder. Next year I will plant late again and I will also start my corn indoors! I hate those darn cornworms.,1&cm_mmc=OGNews-_-646366-_-07272011-_-time_your_planting_to_avoid_pests

I just harvested all my garlic and picked my first tomatoes...yum! Cukes are still struggling and I found my first hornworm on a tomato plant. I know they are destructive but I hate killing them because they are the coolest looking bugs. I just love to look at them.

It's a beautiful evening. Cool breeze, temp in the high 70's (F) and the sun is setting. I just came in from the garden and had a nice swim. I'm admitting that I just haven't written in this blog as much as I'd like to. But the garden is big this year and it's keeping me really busy. And I'm afraid it isn't going to get better because now the harvests really begin and with that comes cooking with this delicious food as well as canning. So far I was able to put up some strawberry jam and raspberry jam. I've frozen raspberries and strawberries as well. But once tomatoes come that's when things really speed up.

Hope your garden is going well and you are able to enjoy your time in it. There really is nothing like it.
And....Gardens make the world fresh and clean...AHS

Sunday, July 17, 2011


A Beautiful Female Zucchini Flower. See the fruit beginning to form at the base of the flower? It will be my first zucchini of the year.
This year I want to try frying zucchini flowers. Here's a blog with a recipe for this. Just scroll down to the fried squash blossom post. I also put this link over there on the right.

What a year for squashes! Most of them are doing great! My pumpkins, yellow squash, and zucchini are doing great. But it hasn't been without a lot of work in the form of diligent cucumber beetle squishing. Here's what this destructive pest looks like:
I've struggled with cucumber beetles for years. But this year they are just brutal. I have found that evening is the best time to monitor (aka squish the bugs) the plants for these destructive pests. Not only do they nibble on the plants but they nibble on the roots. That is not good as they can chew the roots right off and kill the plants. AND when they nibble on the plants they transmit a virus called, bacterial wilt,that kills the plants. The cucumber beetle is a "vector" of this virus. A "vector" is a carrier. So the beetle carries this virus and when it chews the plant it transmits the virus to the plant. As you can see, keeping on top of this is essential. I don't normally spray but I just couldn't keep up with this. I'd spend an hour killing these bugs and have clear plants and the next night I'd go back out and check and see that leaves with dozens of bugs on them. And they were doing a number on my plants. So I bought some NEEM which is an organic spray and used it. (Here's a link to info on how NEEM oil works: It seemed to work for a little while. But the bugs are back but according to the information I just read that's OK. It doesn't mean it's not working. See the link for full information on how this oil works. Anytime I have resorted to using an organic spray, especially when plants are in flower, I worry about the bees. I don't want to harm bees. And my squashes are in flower so I didn't spray the plants in flower even though it says this oil only harms bitting/chewing insects so it supposedly doesn't harm beneficial insects such as bees.

Because of something eating cucumbers as soon as they come up I've replanted cucumbers 3 times already. I'm wondering if it's cutworm. I'm not sure. This last time I've put them under row cover. We'll see if that makes a difference although if it's cutworm my guess is it won't. I did buy some pickling cukes from the local farmers market (Barrels) and made some counter top pickles.
I have to confess that this is a photo from last year but since it looks the same, hey why not use an old photo! To make these all you do is put some dill, garlic, 1 hot pepper and small cukes in a quart jar. 1/2 fill with white vinegar and fill the other 1/2 with water. Add about 1 tsp of kosher salt and let it sit on your counter with lid ajar for 3-7 days and then enjoy!

As for my cantaloupes and watermelon, they are under row covers too. But I did that to provide warmth. First I put black plastic down and got the soil nice and warm. Then I transplanted seedlings that I started inside in compost pots into the warmed soil. These plants don't like their roots disturbed so these are good pots to use as you plant the pot and all. They are a wonderful alternative to peat pots. More on why we shouldn't use peat in a future post. Looks like the row cover provides an insect barrier too. Now it's time to take the row covers off though because the plants are in flower and they need to be pollinated. Tough for bees to pollinate if there's a barrier still up. Here's a pic of my row covered plants. See some pumpkins in the background.

Here's a squash plant that came up in my compost pile. We'll see what it is although I suspect a pumpkin.

Well, time to get outside! Hope you are enjoying your gardens and your squashes!
Gardens make the world fresh and clean - AHS

PS - I just reread this post and wow; it's a bit all over the place. I apologize. I just flew into Jersey City for a week long science/math teachers conference and am a bit tired. It's beautiful outside but hot so I came in to nap and can't fall asleep so thought I'd post. Maybe I should have napped instead! So I apologize for this wild post! Here's a photo of what I see from our hotel

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Summer Ramblings - Part 2

To me nothing says summer more than Day Lilies! I just love them. I have them lining the barn and walkway to our kitchen door. I also have them lining our pool fence. Today they were in full bloom and so now it feels like summer, really like summer. Ahhhhh...

Today Kyle helped me mulch the middle vegetable garden. It was a big chore that took us a while. Am I glad it's done and I am glad he helped me. It was wonderful to work in the garden together. It's been a while since he's shown interest in that. The weeds were really looking awful and making the garden totally uninviting. I've been avoiding that section for two weeks. Tonight I spent two hours in that garden and enjoyed every minute of it. Not only do weeds rob nutrients and water from our garden plants they rob us of the enjoyment we get while working in our gardens. Weeds are terrible things to have in the garden. No weeds allowed! Now that the entire veggie garden is mulched I was able to begin watering the plants with a lovely tonic that I made. It is a combination of rain water, worm composting liquid, liquid seaweed, and liquid fish emulsion. I made the "tea" light, about the same color as a weak tea. And as I was watering I was able to continue my battle with cucumber beetles. Those bloody little flying buggers! Something I noticed, that you may already be totally aware of, is that if you wait until dawn or dusk to go out looking for them to squish it's a heck of a lot easier than in the middle of a hot day! I tried mid day and couldn't get them no matter how hard I tried. They were so fast and they can fly. But as the air cooled they appeared to slow down and settle in on their squash leaves and the task was much more successful.They also like to hide on the underside of the leaves. Just yuck. These bugs done a number on my pumpkin plants and my zucchini plants as well. They haven't much touched the yellow squash plants. Interesting. I also found some very large squash bugs that experienced the insides of two large flat rocks. I just can't bring myself to squish them. Wimp, I know! I also found egg clusters on the bottom side of the squash leaves and squished them between rocks too. No potato beetles yet though. Now I just jinxed it didn't I?

I tied up the tomato plants for the second time. I've got tomatoes growing! Here's a link to a great tutorial explaining and demonstrating one way of staking tomato plants. This is how I did it this year.

While we're on links to great webpages I'd like to share this blog on putting food up that I just love: I've gone into the archives and what a treasure trove. I particularly liked the "From nose to tail" posting. If you look under "categories" down on the right bar on this Well Preserved blog page you'll find a lot of categories to look through.

And another link on canning I like too: I learned why my canned fruit float! And steps to take to prevent it in future cannings.

Now that I've got the garden mulched and fertilizer feeding 1/2 way done I can begin to focus on the lower garden, what I like to call my spring garden. This is the first garden plot. It's fenced in and it's where I grow all the cool season crops like lettuce, radishes, greens, beets, peas, etc. As I went down to look it over to begin to think about what I want to yank and what I want to replant I thought I'd grabs some lettuce, greens, and carrots. And sure enough carrots were ready for thinning.
First carrot thinnings of the summer! Yummmmm
This garden is a mess. The old strawberry bed needs to be put under plastic and killed off :( The radishes and greens have all gone to flower. While bees love them I figure they've had them for about two weeks now. I'm yanking them and taking the space back. Will replant with some root veggies (lots more carrots), greens, and beans.

I finally gave up on cucumbers in the gardens. Something keeps eating them as soon as those two little cotyledon appear! Ugh! I've replanted three times. I give up. So I got a long planter from the garage. Filled it with soil, planted some cucumber seeds and put it by the pool. That better work. I'm just bummed because all my pickling cukes didn't make it. BUMMER! Oh well.

Tomorrow I will make the last of garlic scape pesto and begin picking raspberries! I love when the raspberries come in.

Hope your gardening is going well and that you are enjoying your time in your garden.
Gardens make the world fresh and clean - AHS

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Happy 4th of July Ramblings from a Rambling Gardener

Snap Peas on a new trellis
A goal every year for me is to have peas by the Fourth of July. That usually happens, but barely. This year I've been eating peas for two weeks already. It may be due to the fact that I planted bush shell peas rather than trellis shell peas. I did this to see if this would be a good choice for our school garden. It is. And these were delicious.

It's been a while since I've posted. Finishing up school and getting the gardens rolling takes up a lot of time! Leaving no time for blogging. But here I am on a glorious day doing this instead of being outdoors where I belong. As the title says this will just be some rambling thoughts. That's how I'm a rambling gardener. Balancing so many different garden tasks. Should I mulch and stake those tomoatoes or should I make pesto with the garlic scapes? Well we all know I need to do both. During the spring planting season it's easier to stay focused on planting. But once the harvesting starts the dance gets a little trickier because the garden still needs tending but now it's also time to can/freeze/dry produce that's coming in. I picked about 16 quarts of strawberries at a U-Pick place and spent an afternoon canning strawberry jam. My strawberry bed bit the dust. Year five and it is just so loaded with weeds. It's a mess. (Note later in the day...I went out to pick any strawberries that I could find and I picked over 4 quarts of delicious red strawberries. Was I surprised. I learned not to give up on a strawberry bed too soon and I learned it's not fun picking strawberries in a weed infested bed!) So I'm still going to cover it with black plastic and kill it off and replant it with something different next spring. I did start a new strawberry bed this year. Wish I started it last year. So this year I picked all the flowers off to encourage strong root growth and better berries for next year. I think from now on I'll expect 3 years from a strawberry bed. Year 1 pick off flowers, year 2 enjoy!, year three start another bed and enjoy this bed for the last season.

Before I ramble on even more, because this really is just a silly post of ramblings, I want to share a website/podcast/blog that I LOVE. The Alternative Kitchen Garden: I've been listening to Emma's podcast for years and I absolutely love her and her podcasts! She also has a blog and a new book! I will definitely add her book, The Alternative Kitchen Garden, to my garden books wish list, along with Elliot Coleman's A The Winter Harvest Handbook. Here's info from his website:

Back to Emma's podcast...she has a post on Peat. I'm sooo glad someone is finally discussing the environmental costs of peat. Peat comes from bogs. Bogs are really special places, as you know if you've ever been lucky enough to visit one. Dredging bogs for peat for gardening just doesn't seem like the right thing to do. And now a brave gardener discusses the impacts of this. Yeah Emma! Here's a website that discusses and explains the beauty and importance of peat bogs;
Another gardener writes about peat, bogs, and organic peat alternatives for your garden -

On Emma's blog/website there is a search tool, just like I have here! If you search "fertilizer" you will be brought to a page listing all her WONDERFUL blog posts/podcasts on the many organic fertilizer choices. My favorite all around organic fertilizer post of hers is here:

Another posting on organic fertilizers came from The Smiling Gardener, Phil. He researched organic products available at Amazon. Interesting. Here's a link to his information: He said his #1 fertilizer is this product: Interesting.

Back to ramblings....another goal is for corn to be knee high. Yeah right! My corn isn't even close to knee high. Maybe knee high for a gnome. My son works for a family that grows and sells wonderful perennial plants wholesale. I must say the perennials that do best in my garden come from them!! Zone 4 Perennials. If you are ever at a garden center in Maine and notice Zone 4 on the tag you know you're getting a good plant. Request them next time you are at a garden center! Anyway, they also have a kitchen garden and they start their corn indoors! I have never heard of that until this year. At first when I heard that I thought it sounded kind of nuts. But now I'm totally rethinking that idea. I bet his corn is knee high. Well I guess we are seeing who has the last laugh here, and it ain't me!

Cut lettuce under shade
Lettuce is doing very well. This shade set up works pretty good. The only problem I have with my lettuce, and it's been one I've dealt with for a few years now, is slugs. They love lettuce. So every time I harvest lettuce I have to wash them off. Gross. I guess I could try beer bait where you put out shallow saucers of beer and the slugs will go in and drown. I guess slugs like beer.

Well enough rambling for now. It's past time to go outside and mulch, mulch, and mulch some more. Make compost and worm casting tea, stake tomatoes, foliar feel flowering plants (broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes) with liquid seaweed, squish potato bug eggs yuck!, pull out spent radishes and spinach and replant with lettuce and more radishes, and pick herbs to make herb butter and cilantro pesto.

Have a great Fourth of July! And be sure to grill some veggies while you are grilling.
"Gardens make the world clean and fresh" AHS