Monday, September 27, 2010

my kitchen garden


Here's the vegetable garden I grow on the side my house. This is the view from the east - the shady side. That's the potato bed in the foreground. The cold frame is at the far right in the bright sun. It is mostly full of cucumbers right now. They are amazing this year. I pick 2 or 3 a day. Much more than I can eat. I will make another batch of pickles soon.

On Sunday, I removed the melons from behind the cukes (they did not do well here) and planted a couple rows of fall beets and lettuce. The seedlings were started inside under lights. Soon the cover will go back on the cold frame. I'm hoping this bed will produce greens into the winter.

One of the items on my list of things to do this week is to call a tree trimmer. One big branch of the giant shade tree to the east is hitting the roof of our house. I am hoping in addition to removing this branch they can remove some others and give my garden a bit more sunlight.

this weekend's harvest

harvest 3

Sunday, September 26, 2010

digging potatoes

potatoes 1

Freshly dug potatoes! I grew 4 varieties this year: Cobbler, All Blue, Green Mountain, and Rio Grande Russet. The Blue potatoes produced very well and are a nice purple color. My favorite is probably the Russets, which grill very nicely.

I only harvested about 1/10th the amount of potatoes of last year's harvest. This year, I planted in a very shady bed in my home garden. Mostly because of last year's late blight problems, I decided to remove all late blight susceptible plants from my community garden. Next year I am looking forward to growing potatoes in full sun again.

potatoes 2

Friday, September 24, 2010

today's harvest - chiles and broccoli!


Even as I was picking these Numex (Joe Parker) chiles they seemed they they should be stuffed. Chile Rellenos? I've never made them before, but these chiles smell so yummy, I think I will try.

And I was really happy to see some nice broccoli heads today. Its still my old spring planted broccoli plants. I never needed the space for something else, so they have stayed in just for the nice blueish-green of their leaves. With the cooler weather, they are producing some sparse heads.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

my plot on last day of summer

plot 4
plot 3 plot 2

Lucky I have the giant sunflowers and big purple hyacinth beans this year, because right now, there's not much else going on in my garden plot.

Well I do have a big patch of basil, a patch of sweet potatoes that I really have high hopes for, and nice chiles. But not much else. The beans all succumbed to the beetles. It was a terrible year for beans in all plots at our community garden. I have empty pole bean tepees and empty shell bean beds where I had to pull plants before they produced anything.

And the dry hot weather has been brutal for those of us who didn't come down daily to water. I have especially had trouble with fall carrots and lettuce sprouts drying out. I've lost many sowings of these in the past months. I finally have big seedlings from indoor seeding, but its so late now that I will put them into my cold frame soon. Only a couple weeks now until we get a frost. I heard that not far west of here they have already had light frosts.

Cucumbers, tomatoes and chile peppers in my home garden are still doing good. They have the luxury of an automatic sprinkler. I hardly used this at all last year. Today's harvest was a bunch of North Carolina pickling cukes, a couple Cherokee purple tomatoes, and two pretty chiles: numex and poblano.

the meadow on the last day of summer

last day of summer 5

Too bad summer can't last forever.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

harvest moon

last day of summer 4

I just got the following note from an astronomy observer.

Watch it right in your front yard---

Summer usually ends on Sept 21 or Sept 22 (the equinox.) This year it ends at ~02h15 UTC on Sept. 23rd, i.e. 11:15 EDT tonight.

And it's the full Moon tonight, making it the last full Moon before the equinox, a.k.a. the Harvest Moon.

And tonight's moonrise occurs just before sunset, so the Earth will briefly be illuminated by both the Sun from the West and the Sun's light reflected by the Moon from the East.

And the full Moon usually looks huge at moonrise due to an optical illusion.


Sunday, September 19, 2010


pickles 7

My first try at making pickles! They are yummy. I made the recipe called Famous Back Eddy House Pickles from the book Quick Pickles by Chris Schlesinger and others. This book has lots of similar recipes and I'm hoping to try more of them soon. I like pickle recipes that use a mix of vegetables, in addition to cucumbers. I added beets (striped Chiogga's) to the recipe, which darkened my brine.

pickles 6 pickles 1
pickles 2 pickles 3
pickles 4 pickles 5
pickles 9

Saturday, September 18, 2010

today's harvest


It is so nice to have a steady stream of tomaotes. Even though my plants aren't producing lots, they are producing enough give us fresh tomaotes of all different varieties whenever we want them.

The bottom of this bowl is all cucumbers. And I finally got around to making pickles today!

failed popcorn crop :(

popcorn 1

I harvested most of my popcorn this week, but there were almost no kernels on the cobs and lots of worms again. I guess it had low pollination. It seemed the bed had richer soil at one end than the other - the corn grew well at one end and much slower at the other. It all matured at different times and I bet this was not good for pollination. Oh well. The worms enjoyed it anyway.

Next year, I will feed the WHOLE bed better. I'm also going to look into parasitic wasps. I asked a local organic farmer how they keep the worms away from corn and that is their trick.

my popcorn stalks

Friday, September 17, 2010

broccoli mix

I just saw this at Garden Rant: a broccoli mix with a mix of varieties that mature at different times so you have heads all season! Great idea! I will definitely try this.

my new ristra

ristra 3

I found some pieces of string and started a ristra. I love that it is something that grows. I can add to it as more chiles ripen. I tied three cayenne or two Thai together at the stem with string then made a loop with the end of the string. The loop gets added to the other chile bunches on the growing ristra.

I hung it on my kitchen door - so evil is now warded off!

chiles for a ristra

chiles on a plate

I'm accumulating a lot of small red chiles this year. Time to figure out how to make a ristra. I see instructions at eHOW (eHOW ristra instructions link). They say a ristra is decorative, but its also a good way to dry chiles and keep them for fall and winter use.

A couple years ago I made a ristra with wire. It was hard to make and didn't hold the chiles well. But they did dry and keep well. I used them all winter.

eHOW's method uses string to tie chiles in bunches of three and then assemble into a loose hanging strand. Sounds like I can assemble the ones I have now and add more as they ripen. I hope to start one tomorrow.

My small red chiles are mostly a variety I call Amelia's cayenne, which originated from seeds Amelia gave me 3 or 4 years ago and that I grow and collect seed from every year. They are very productive this year. I also have Thai hot and Nardello.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

belmont community gardens

new compost area

This is an area we have newly cleared at the south east side of the Belmont community gardens. It was all brambles and small buckthorn trees. Its off to the side and out of the main view of the front path into the gardens. We'd like to put our compost, manure and wood chip piles here in the future. We're also setting up a big bin for composting garden waste here - for gardeners who don't do this in their own plot.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

skippy's new haircut


Skippy gets a haircut much more often than me. Every 5 weeks. This clip is a bit different than before. More tapered on the nose. Also not so short as mid summer. The days are cooling off a bit now. Nice to see his eyes again!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

fall seedlings

seedlings 3
seedlings 1

As the summer crops fade, I am increasing the numbers of seedling I'm planting. Mostly greens: lettuce of all types, arugula, spinach, endive and escarole and beets. They'll go into my community plot after the squashes and corn are pulled (only 26 days until frost!! OMG). And then, they'll go into my cold frame when the cucumbers finish. I had such a nice early spring cold frame full of greens that I'm looking forward to fall. I think they will grow well past the first frost.

I've resorted to starting all my seeds inside under lights. The sun and rain are too unpredictable for small seedlings outside in the big world, especially when my schedule is all mixed up.

seedlings 4 seeds for fall greens

Sunday, September 12, 2010



These are grapes growing over our patio on a big arbor in the back yard. A red variety whose name I have forgotten. They're not good eating grapes, to me anyway - probably a jam or wine variety, but birds and animals love them. Squirrels and cardinals are most often in the vines.

Last evening as we relaxed on the patio, a fluffy black critter with a lovely white stripe down the center of his back ambled up within 5 feet of us - I think to sample fallen grapes. Fortunately he didn't consider Skippy a serious threat. Skippy jumped up and ran after him, both of them disappearing into the dark corner of the yard. Fortunately, when Skippy came back to us, he was still smelling pretty. Lucky us! I think I almost spent the evening washing skunk spray off Skippy.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


cukes 6
cukes 4 cukes 3
cukes 1

Still lots of cucumbers hiding under the leaves in my vine filled cold frame. It seems this is a good spot for them. I notice that most other cucumber patches around here have turned brown and stopped producing. I think the frame has sheltered them well in this hot dry summer. I'm starting to get a little mildew on the leaves now, but not too bad.

I can't even come close to eating them all. I meant to make pickles, and maybe I will soon, but I haven't had time to do this yet.

But maybe I won't have extras now, because I've discovered a nice way to use them: tiny baby cucumbers in a martini! A perfect way to eat a whole cuke in one bite.

cukes in martinis

baby lemons

meyer's lemons 2
meyer's lemons 3 lemons

I took a bunch of photos of the lemons on my Meyer lemon tree just now. Its still blooming and setting fruit. But today's lemon count was a little lower than my last one - 26 instead of 33. Maybe a few have dropped off, but its hard to count them, so the difference may be just my counting.

meyer's lemons 1

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

new grape arbor - and my lemon tree

new grape arbor

I forgot to post this photo last weekend after my husband made this new arbor for my grapes. The vines were all over the place. I pulled them together and put them on their new arbor. Much more orderly looking.

Add my little Meyer's lemon tree is also in this photo. I will have to get a close up picture of the lemons growing on it. Earlier this year, someone told me that lemons need a lot of nitrogen. So I fertilized it well and added fresh soil. I've never had so many fruits before. I counted 33 last week. And it is still blooming its wonderful smelling blossoms and setting more fruit.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

lacy bean leaves

bean beetle damage 101

A bad year for beans. Rampant Mexican bean beetles. I left 2 full beds of my plot for beans this year, but am pulling faster than I plant. Time to give up. I pulled the last of my snap beans today. The photo is my shell beans. I'm tired of spraying and squishing the beetles, so these will probably be pulled soon. :(

garden sparrow

bird 108

What do you think this guy is? An immature song sparrow maybe? They flit in and out of the garden plots. I think there is an abundance of food for them here now. I like the little tuft of feathers on his head.