Tag Archives: organic gardening

Wordless Wednesday: Spring Peas

 

Image copyright © 2012 Danielle R Limoge.

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under Wordless Wednesday

And So It Begins

Yes, I know it’s mid-March and technically still winter, but seriously, how could I resist?  The sun was shining, flowers are blooming, and temps are rising (albeit a bit too fast for my liking).  The past 5 weeks have been a whirlwind of activity, none of which have included food-growing activities.  I’ve yet to order this year’s seeds, my growing shelves remain empty, and the lights are still unplugged.  I’m embracing this life change, but still I find it to be a bit unsettling.  Not quite as much as the absence of winter, but unsettling none the less.

Tonight I was reunited with the feeling of freshly worked earth moving between my fingers.  The sensation was intoxicating.  As I sit here typing I’m drunk off of dirt.  It’s a glorious feeling.

Typically, peas are sown on Paddy’s day, at least where I come from.  This year I jumped the gun.  Planting anything right now is a gamble; in Pennsylvania, it’s not unheard of to experience a severe snow storm late March through mid-April.  Despite this year’s unseasonably warm winter, I’m banking on it being over… said the optimistic food-grower.

So, tonight I threw caution to the wind and planted two rows of peas and half a row of spinach.  Should I lose them it’s okay, kind of.  I will only be set back in time, which is now more precious than currency.  My (most likely cross-pollinated) golden peas were saved from last year’s harvest, and the spinach seeds are from 2010.

This week’s goal is to get my brassicas and leeks under lights and order my remaining seeds.  We’ll see how that goes! 🙂

Images and content copyright © 2009-2012 Danielle R Limoge.

Leave a comment

Filed under Micro-farming

What a difference a day can make!

I’m a bit of a weather junkie.  Intense storms really excite me; the damage to my garden, however, does not!  I don’t really mind snow, but if it is going to snow, then freakin’ SNOW.  I can do without the 2″ inducing milk-bread-egg-buying-panic!

February ’09 gifted us with 3 blizzards in one month.  Everything shut down, it was glorious!  This past Summer we were handed a hurricane, earthquake, and a flood, all within the span of two weeks.  Excluding the massive damage, I loved every minute of it.

Last week, there was talk of a Nor’easter headed our way.  Never can I remember seeing measurable snowfall in October, but still I decided to air on the side of (excited) caution.  Much of Friday afternoon was spent outside winterizing the grounds and gardens; plants were pulled, herbs were cut, and stakes, cages, and trellises were taken down and put away.  Only the cold-hardy, not-yet-ready-for-harvest, plants remained.

Here are a few pictures of what my fall gardens looked like Friday, October 28.

“The Greens Bed” Various Kales, Lettuces, and Bok Choy.  I had plans of overwintering them in a cold-frame.

The main garden.  (L-R)  Several rows of various Carrots, Celery, Green Onions, Radishes, Bok Choy, Swiss Chard, Beets, and Red Swan Beans.

Spinach hidden by French Breakfast Radishes, Spring Mix, and Mustard Greens.

Baby Bok Choy, full-grown Bok Choy hidden under Black Spanish Radishes and Daikon Radishes.

Radish mix ready for harvest.

Red Swan Beans

Beets

My radish & carrot harvest: Daikon, French Breakfast, and Black Spanish radishes. Snow White and Dragon carrots.

This is what went down all day and into the night, Saturday, October 29.

Once I realized this Nor’easter was no joke, I bundled up, bolted outside and began pulling my onions, chard and celery.  Harvesting in the snow kind of sucks, big time! The weight of the wet snow had already begun to snap the chard and celery stalks!

Easily a 20 lb harvest!  The basket was FULL of Celery (4 plants worth) along with some Bok Choy.

After it was all said and done, I think we had about 6 inches of branch-breaking, power line-downing, snow.  The rest of the week is going to be in the high 50’s, and thankfully it has begun to melt.  My kale in the front garden (not pictured) made it through the storm, but I have yet to survey the main garden or the greens bed.

Images and content copyright © 2009-2011 Danielle R Limoge.

4 Comments

Filed under Micro-farming

Hoarders: Produce Edition

I definitely subscribe to the “less is more” theory when it comes to acquired stuff… except for fabric and kitchen appliances that is! 😉  I’ve gotten very good with simplifying, streamlining, and purging useless objects from my life.  That’s not to say I live in a home with naked walls, or have tossed every childhood memento, but I have really lightened my load over the past five years.  You never realize how much stuff you have til you move it… and after all my travels and house hopping in college, I became very tired of moving stuff!

Unfortunately, if you were to step inside my home right now, you would think I was well on my way to being on an episode of Hoarders followed by a veggie themed Intervention!  Thankfully, the crate climbing and fermentation side-stepping only lasts a few short weeks!

I’ve reached the point in this bountiful season where I’m canning on a daily basis; the star of the jar is usually tomatoes.  This past weekend, Canning Palooza took place in my kitchen!  For two days I did nothing but blanch, boil, slice, chop, and simmer the essence of Summer; filling  jars that will be savored when the trees are barren and the garden is dormant has consumed my every spare moment.

I started out with approximately 100 lbs of tomatoes; I am proud to say I am now 60 lbs lighter!  Unfortunately, that will all change once I step back in the garden.  We’ve had rain for the past several days, so I know there will be a cornucopia of ripe vegetables ready for the picking!

Here are several images of my produce packed kitchen.  I apologize for the sub-par photography, most of the pictures were taken in the middle of the night, so I was forced to use the dreaded flash.

 L-R Top crate is full of Green Zebra and Amish Paste tomatoes.  The bin underneath is packed with Pattypan squash.  The bottom front tub has Cherokee Purple, Green Zebra, and Hillbilly tomatoes; next are boxes, bowls, and trays of Cream Sausage tomatoes.  Another tray of Amish Paste and Hillbilly tomatoes.  Two gallons of lacto-fermentation pickles and several jars of tomato butter setting their seals.  Then it’s a bin of Cherokee Purple and Hillbilly tomatoes and finally a wash basket of Hillbilly tomatoes.

The counter holds a plethora of Summer squash in the form of Pattypan and Patisson Strie.  I also have some just-cut celery hanging out next to the canner.

And on top the freezer is a huge bowl of Purple Tomatillos, Chinese 5 Color peppers, and several jars of dehydrated tomatoes!

And now I present you with the first images of Canning Palooza 2011:

As you can see, my piano has become the canning catch-all.  It is packed full of various tomato sauces, stewed tomatoes, carrots, beets, tomato butter, and jams of raspberry, cherry-vanilla, apricot, and tomato.  The ledge above the piano holds another gallon of fermenting pickles (these are dill) and a quart of pickles with Chinese 5 color peppers!

On the bench I have several bags of dehydrated tomatoes.  The piano is the last step in my canning work-flow.  Everything has been wiped and labeled, it just needs put into one of two canning closets.

AND I’m happy to report that the piano is empty once again… at least until I wipe and label last night’s canned salsas! 😉

So please forgive me and my scattered postings.  Between getting the Fall gardens in, and keeping up with preserving Summer’s harvest, I’m one busy, sleep deprived, little bee!  I have so many tasty things to share, but the time to do it is scarce!  So until next time, Happy Harvesting and Canning!!

4 Comments

Filed under Micro-farming

Wordless Wednesday: Chioggia Beets

2 Comments

Filed under Wordless Wednesday

Herbs: German Chamomile

This year, I vowed to make better use of my food dehydrator; so far I am off to a great start!  Last year, I didn’t begin using it till mid July, but successfully dried blueberries, banana chips, and Swiss chard.  I failed at tomato skins.  Technically, I didn’t fail, but the results were not what I had expected.  Instead of a crispy chip-like wafer, I ended up with leathery plastic pieces… and into the compost they went!

This year, I’ve dehydrated several batches of both strawberries and cherries; blueberries will be the next fruit to come into season.  I also have plans for tomatoes, melons, peaches, kale, carrots and anything else I can think of!  I’ve also decided to better utilize my vast supply of organic herbs growing around the property.

Last year I planted Matricaria chamomilla, also know as German or Hungarian chamomile.  It is closely related to Roman or English chamomile; however, they are two separate plants.  German chamomile is an aromatic annual that grows about 2-3 feet in height and bears small daisy-like blossoms.  Roman chamomile is an aromatic creeping perennial that also produces small daisy-like flowers, but grows close to the ground.  For centuries, the English have been using it to create scented lawns (like the one found at Buckingham Palace), since it’s resilient to being walked on.

Another way to tell the difference between German and Roman chamomile is by the receptacle.  Roman chamomile is flat and solid on the inside, whereas German chamomile is dome-like and hollow.

Many herbalists use the two chamomiles interchangeably since they have similar properties.  German chamomile, however, is considered medically superior and more potent since it contains more of the anti-inflammatory agent chamazulene. Chamazulene is a highly effective and proven herbal remedy for arthritis, rheumatism, and gastritis.  German chamomile is also anti-allergenic, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, calmative, carminative, digestive, emmenagogue, mild bitter, nervine, and a sedative.

Since I allowed my German chamomile to self seed, it came back (with a vengeance) this Spring.  I have more chamomile than I know what to do with… and that is a very good thing!  I plan on transplanting some of the volunteers to other areas of the property this weekend.  I really enjoy winding down with a relaxing pot of chamomile and catnip tea, so, the bigger my harvest the more tea I can brew!

 Polonius assisting me with the harvest!

Drying German Chamomile

It is recommended that you harvest the chamomile flowers early in the morning after the dew has dried, but before the blossoms have opened.  When I started, the blossoms were closed, but they had opened by the time I was done!

You can pinch off the flower from the stem, which will encourage rapid new growth, allowing for a continual harvest.  Or you can cut the stems, which takes much more time for the plant to rejuvenate.  If you cut the stems, tie them together with twine and hang upside down in a warm, dry, and dark place.  If you are only cutting off the flowers, which is what I did, you will need a drying screen or a dehydrator to dry them.  I used the herb/craft setting on my dehydrator and left it run for about 8 hours.

Before placing the blossoms in my dehydrator, I first soaked them in a small bowl of cold salt water for 10 minutes to kill any bugs that may have tagged along for the ride.  I think I used 2 tbsp salt.  Then I drained the flowers, rinsed them and allowed them to soak another 5 minutes in fresh cold water.

Store the dried flowers whole, in an air-tight jar, out of direct sunlight.  When making tea I keep my flowers whole, but some people like to crush them.  Always crush herbs right before using them.  Storing crushed herbs is a sure-fire way to decrease their effectiveness and flavor!

10 Comments

Filed under Dehydrating, Herbs

Garden Tour and My Battle with Blight

Last weekend, I spent most of Friday night, all of Saturday morning and some of Monday afternoon tackling the beginnings of late blight on my tomatoes.  Late blight is usually our precursor to the ever loathsome dog days of summer.  Every July, the bottom leaves develop spots, turn yellow, shrivel up, and die, leaving my tomato plants looking like a sad mess.  Thankfully, late blight seems to favor my leaves and not the actual fruit itself.  However, it can affect and destroy the leaves, stems, fruits, and tubers of potato and tomato plants.  Late blight was responsible for the Irish Potato Famine.

Late blight spores are asexual and are spread by rain splash and wind currents.  One way to slow down this ugly fungus-like pathogen is to begin removing the infected leaves as soon as they appear.  I should have started that task around Tuesday, but alas, I had too much other stuff to tend to.  By the time I got into the garden Friday, it had spread through the first three rows of my tomatoes.  My Cream Sausage were the hardest hit.  Since they are a determinant variety, I will be pulling them after the harvest.  My Amish Paste, Hillbilly, Cherokee Purple and Green Zebras are all indeterminant varieties, so I will continue to clip off leaves and suckers well into the fall till our first hard frost.

And now, I shall take you on a 365 degree tour of the main garden!

Several of my sunflowers had what appeared to be powdery mildew, so I pulled them.  I’ve started new ones for transplant.  Two weeks ago, I pulled the sugar snap peas and rebuilt the trellis to accommodate my tiger melons, which I will be growing vertically.  My bush peas will most likely be pulled this weekend and replaced with winter squash.  Carrots were next to the bush peas, but I pulled them after the picture was taken.  The brassicas will most likely come out next week.  Some are forming heads and others I don’t believe ever will.  I will be planting carrots, beets, and beans in that space.

After the empty space on the left is celery, then Brussels sprouts.  They may or may not do anything.  Regardless, I am going to give them another go this Fall!  I love me some Brussels sprouts sautéed in an obnoxious amount of butter and garlic!!  And now begins the tomatoes.

L-R Cream Sausage, Amish Paste, Hillbilly, Cherokee Purple, and Green Zebra.  I think it took me a total of about 10 hours to cut out all the blight damaged leaves.  I also thinned out the suckers (stems that will never flower) and restaked everything!  You can now walk down each path; by thinning out leaves, I’ve increased air circulation, which will hopefully help in protecting against other tomato diseases!

Some of my tomato plants have reached a height of 6 feet, they are now taller than me! 🙂  I did some companion planting this year and placed a row of carrots between the Green Zebras and the Purple Tomatillos, they were shaded by the rapid growth of the plants flanking them.  After the leaf trimming, they are getting more light, but it will be a slow grow for them!  This is my first year for tomatillos and I did not realize just how big they got!  I did not stake them, but they are holding up well.  I may go in with supports later if they begin to look stressed.  To the very right of the picture are my ground cherries.   Only two made it and they are thriving; I’ve started two more that now have true leaves.

Beans, beets, beans, and cucumbers!  I’m going to seed more carrots next to the last planting of beans.  If I need to, I will trellis my cukes to keep them off the ground and away from my carrots, which is most likely the case.

And as we continue along the backside…

Zucchini and purslane are behind the tomatoes.  Yes, I eat purslane.  Yes, I know it is a weed.  I have more summer squash growing in the front garden, along with kale and onions…but this post is all about the main garden.

I ended up losing two Swiss chard earlier this year.  I’ve never had them bolt from the heat in their first year till now!  I’m going to start more for my cold frames, and hopefully extend my harvest well into the winter months.  Next to my chard are alternating rows of beets and carrots.  They will soon be ready for harvest.  In front of those are my newly seeded French breakfast radishes.  So far they are doing well!  Next are beets that I have slowly been pulling.

And finally, the remaining brassicas, peas, sunflowers and some empty growing space that will soon be covered with winter squash!

Well, that’s it.  You have now just circled my main garden.  Hope you enjoyed the tour! 🙂

2 Comments

Filed under Micro-farming

Garden Growth: Mid June

I’m having a hard time accepting the reality that summer is just a few short days away!  Um, pardon me, Father Time?  Would you mind slowing things down just a bit?  You see, I’d like to savor these last few days of Spring because once Summer rolls in my mind automatically jumps ahead to begin preparations for Fall.   And with these thoughts of Fall I’m painfully reminded that winter is right around the corner.  See, it’s not even Summer and already I’m thinking of Winter!  UGH!  Sometimes I really hate the way my brain works!

But enough about the neurotic workings of my cerebral cortex, lets focus on the task at hand: bringing you up to speed on the progress of this year’s garden(s)!  Last night I spent another 2 hours mulching the garden.  No, I’m still not done with that project.  But in my defense I’ve got a lot of ground to cover!  I’d say about 90% is done, I still have some planting to do and it is senseless to cover an area that I am just going to have to reopen for seeds.  Plus, I tend to get lost in thought; several times I caught myself standing there contemplating crop rotation, succession plantings, and trellis placement.  Forethought is essential to maximizing crop yields and pest prevention, especially when you grow organically!  Or at least that is my excuse for perpetual garden daydreaming! 🙂

You may want to stand back, for I shall now open the photo floodgate!

 Excuse my weeds, I have yet to properly mulch this end since I will be ripping out the peas and trellises over the next few days.  My sugar snaps are working on their grand finale, and after one more thorough sweep through the golden sweet peas I’ll pull them.

Towards the back you can see the golden sweet peas leaning into the bush peas.  After my third horizontal garden incident I gave up.  If it were earlier in the season I would have fixed it (again), but since I’m pulling them in a few days why bother.  The bush peas are still producing but I’m not sure for how much longer.  This was my first year growing this variety and honestly I’m just not all that impressed.  Don’t get me wrong, they are yummy, but I think I prefer both the look and taste of trellised sugar snaps.

Next to the bush peas are two mini rows of carrots, behind that are a few heads of flame lettuce, other wise referred to as “clown head”.  🙂  Then there are the brassicas.  So far I’ve harvested about 5 smallish crowns from the green sprouting broccoli.  The violetto cauliflower and romanesco broccoli have done nothing, and I’m assuming they probably won’t due to the rapid increase in temperature we experienced a few weeks back.  Brassicas hate the heat and it went from April to July during the end of May beginning of June.

After I harvest the crown I pull the plants.  If it were earlier in the season or Fall I’d keep them for the small offshoots, but I need the space since most of my cucurbits will be transplanted here.

You can see on the left side of the picture where I’ve begun pulling plants.  The dark areas were mulched last night.  Those four green spots towards the middle are celery and behind that are a few short rows of beets and carrots.  Next are Brussels sprouts, again not too hopeful on a harvest, and behind that is Swiss chard.  Then starts the tomatoes!

This is the same picture as above just taken from the other side.  One the left is the Swiss chard, the open patch is four rows of newly sown french breakfast radish seeds; I’m planning on pickling them.  Next are Detroit dark red beets; I started harvesting those and the cylinder beets (hidden in the pea rows) last Wednesday.  My mom and niece had stopped by that evening so I showed Cecelia how to pull beets and then sent a bunch home with my mom.

My first beet harvest of the season.

L-R Cream Sausage (the first to mature, I’ve harvested 4 so far) then it’s Amish paste, hillbilly, Cherokee purple and finally green zebra.  I’m hoping to have staggered them enough so that they are don’t mature at once, but I doubt it!

Hillbilly tomatoes

On the left are purple tomatillos, then ground/husk cherries (my first year growing both).  I’m planning on starting more ground cherries later today.  I knew they were small but had no idea they were tiny!  I’d like to can some and with just two plants I don’t think they will produce enough…especially since the ones that have ripened never make it out of the garden! hehehe  After the cherries is a row of red swan beans and beets (too small to see).

Purple Tomatillo

Red Swan Beans

I’ve decided to try things a little differently this year in hopes to not have everything ready for harvest/canning all at once.  Next week I will be calculating harvest dates and putting in my “canning” beans, carrots and beets.  Hopefully by the time they reach maturity I will have the bulk of my tomatoes canned, sauced and salsafied!

You can barely see them but at the bottom center are my Boston pickling cucumbers .  I’m hoping I got them into the ground late enough so I don’t have another attack of bacterial wilt like last year!  What a mess that turned out to be!!

Malbar spinach, although technically it’s not spinach, it is a tropical perennial that tastes just like spinach.  It is part of my edible landscaping, which will vine up the arbor next to my roses.

Chinese five color peppers.  Another new variety I’m growing this year.  I have a bed of peppers and eggplants but this is the only one doing anything worth photographing!

My front side yard where I ripped out the ivy to create more growing space.  I have two rows of onions, cipollini and red, alongside my Russian red and scotch blue curled kale.  Towards the back are patty pan squash.

I have more squash varieties and onions in another bed but the onions have not broken ground so I didn’t take any pictures.  I also have basil, parsley, rosemary, oregano, cilantro and a few others scattered about the property.  I ended up running out of light so I’ll have to photograph them later.  However, I think this post is more than enough to tide you over till my next garden growth post! 🙂

Leave a comment

Filed under Micro-farming

Wordless Wednesday – Golden Sweet Peas

Leave a comment

Filed under Wordless Wednesday

Garden Growth: May Edition

I’m a little behind in posting, but given the time of year that is to be expected!  That’s not to say I haven’t been writing, cooking, and photographing; I just haven’t had the time to sit down and meld everything into a fluid post.

You may remember me mentioning that this year I wanted to mulch the garden to reduce my time spent pulling weeds.  I’m 90% finished with that task and I couldn’t be happier with the results! Yes, a few weeds still pop up here and there, but nothing like the battle I underwent last year!  The layer of mulch has also allowed me to garden during this very wet Spring without sinking knee-deep into the mud!

Here’s the rundown of what I’ve got “growing on”.  The picture angles tend to jump around a bit, so I will try to make it least confusing as possible.

L-R sunflowers, peas, carrots, cauliflower, and broccoli

(taken from opposite end as first picture) radishes, lettuce, beets, and spinach, flanked by peas

 bush peas, carrots, lettuce (behind carrots), and the beginning of my brassicas

Full view of the left side of the garden.

L-R swiss chard, brussels sprouts (behind the chard), mustard greens, carrots/beets/spinach/scallions/celery (behind the mustard greens), beets, radishes, green sprouting broccoli, and romanesco broccoli

 Same veggies as mentioned above, just from a different view.  You can better see the small rows of carrots/beets/spinach and scallions.

The left side of this picture starts the tomato patch, everything to the right is the same as above.  The edge of the garden in the lower right corner is a row of sunflowers.

 L-R 5 rows of tomatoes, tomatillos, carrots (that have not sprouted yet), and ground cherries.

I plan on putting in my beans, squash, and cukes in the space after the ground cherries, but need to pick up some more variegated fencing for the addition I tilled.

2 Comments

Filed under Micro-farming