Gardening. End of the Summer thoughts.

6 08 2013

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Our very first harvest! Promising!

I started my garden in May, a couple of killer frosts came by and hurt some plants. So I started over with those plants. As a first time gardener, I am learning that gardening is dynamic, that you can continue working on it through the summer for a fall crop, and I really like that.

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One of our midsummer harvests. That night dinner was awesome.

So, what have I learned from this season? Some plants are extremely sensitive to low temps, it does not need to freeze for them to be lost. Okra and cucumbers are in this group, next year I’ll wait until the temperatures stabilize, even if that means waiting “too long”. Likewise, high temperatures can be damaging for plants, even those that like it hot. We had a two week period of very high temperatures that did not even let go through the night (86 F at 9 PM!?) and this stopped production, blossoms fell, new flowers did not show up. Now that the summer is cooling off my plants are starting to make some more flowers. It might be profitable to find a mixture of varieties that can tolerate different temperatures in the future, to get fruit all through the season.

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Diseased zucchini, powdery mildew… boo!

I am disappointed at my zucchini. I’ve heard so much that you get so tired of eating zucchini, that they produce so much! That I was really excited about eating zucchini all summer long. Sadly, I only got two very small fruits. Looking around the other plots, they also got either very little or nothing. Asking other gardeners in Pittsburgh, they agree, this year they didn’t get anything much. I guess it was either the very high temperatures or the too abundant rains we got in mid summer. On top of that, my plant got a case of powdery mildew, so I removed it to free up some space.

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Bacterial wilt. My cucumbers never filled in.

My cucumbers also didn’t fare well. The first plant got killed by a late frost, the second had a slow start because of low temperatures, but then it started to grow nicely, set blooms and produce fruit. But then it started to wilt, and no matter how much I’d water it, it would wilt again after not too long. I looked around and again I saw that other plants in other plots were suffering a similar fate. It happens that they got bacterial wilt, likely transmitted by cucumber beetles. So I removed that plant too.

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Cucumber beetles. Pretty, but harmful.

The tomatoes were an interesting bunch. I got an Early Girl, a Patio and a grape variety. Though the Patio and Early Girl started to bloom and produce fruit at about the same time, the Early Girl was ripe and ready sooner, the fruits are good, sweet tasting, they mature quite uniformly and are juicy! The plant is a little sick to judge for those yellowish leaves, though. But it is a plant I would consider planting again. The Patio variety was disappointing. The plant looks robust and beautiful, but it produced very little and small fruit, and the fruit bruises easily, I’ve even had a couple of tomatoes that rotted before being ripe! I understand its charm is that it can be planted in a container, but I will probably not plant it again. The grape tomatoes are still blooming and going strong. I love to have a bunch in the kitchen to snack here and there while I cook… my little guilty pleasure 🙂 Next year I would like to experiment with a second crop to have some fall tomatoes too, I don’t think I have enough time this year to do so.

Now I am about to plant my fall harvest. I am excited about it and I hope it works out well. We got some lettuce (which did really bad through the summer indoors and outdoors), spinach, arugula, radish and peas. So much learning to do! This is seriously a lot of fun!

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Updates on gardening

25 06 2013

After having lost one cucumber and one okra plant, temperatures finally settled and Summer started… sort of. We still have a lot of fluctuations, some cold days, some really hot days, but no more freezing. We just had a couple of very rainy weeks and the result was tomatoes on steroids! The plants are so big that I had to cut one down because it got larger than the cage and I was afraid the branches were too heavy for them to have enough support.

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Huge tomatoes, caged zucchini, and lots of goodness to come!

I also decided to cage the zucchini plant. I know it is not a very orthodox move (do you cage zucchini?) but I needed to get it out of my peppers, cucumbers and eggplants. It is now growing upwards inside the cage, I just have to give it gentle nudges to keep the leaves inside every few days. An interesting side effect of being inexperienced about anything is that sometimes you come up with solutions that are not the norm, will they work? only time will tell. For example, I realized that the second cucumber plant I planted was not a bush like my first choice, but a vine… surprise! So I got a bamboo rod and I am getting it to climb up along it. My husband told me you normally have them in a trellis, but maybe this will work, what do you think?

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A friend of mine passed me some chives, which are happily rooting in Ignacio’s plot, and I started some lettuce inside. That proved to be more challenging than what I thought. My first batch got burnt by the sun one particularly hot day, so my next batch I move around for it to get good morning sun but not to get too hot afternoon sun… Ignacio is delighted watering them. The second challenge is that the cats find them yummy. Yesterday I started a second batch outside, because I want to see how they do outside compared with inside and because everybody is of the idea that having a succession of seeds started every two weeks is best.

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I put the chives in water until the rains passed and I could go out in the garden and plant them. They performed really well.

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Lettuces in a pot, the leaves are super pretty too!

The tomatoes are full of fruits, all of them green. The peppers are too fruiting… today Ignacio sneaked away and took my first pepper way before its time. I was rather sad… I really was looking forward to eating that yellow pepper :/ we ate it anyway, but it was not fleshed out, not good tasting… meh. Next one will be.

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That little pepper? It is no more.

I am so excited about all the plants doing so well I even got another okra to give it a try again now that the frost is not a danger anymore. My husband gave me a bunch of gardening books for my birthday and I am really looking forward the next growing season so I can actually plan a garden to get started early and have a good harvest season early on.

What do you like to plant best? Ideas?





Recipes: Okra Minestrone

13 08 2012

I went to the East Liberty farmer’s market to show my dad how many stands they have and the variety, and in the Blue Bird Organic Farm stand they had okra! My husband is from Louisiana, so I could not go home without some! Half of it I fried, which was delicious! And the other half I used to make a minestrone soup. The secret of this soup is the okra, it will give it a unique flavor, bur you have to make sure to denature all the slime. Let me pass you the recipe:

Okra- half a pint. Sliced thinly

Carrot- one medium

Celery- four stalks

Onion- one medium

Zucchini- one medium

Cooked red beans- two cups

Penne whole wheat pasta- Two cups dried

Chicken or vegetable broth- one cube

Spices- salt, pepper, two bay leaves, oregano, thyme, curry

Water.

Garlic- optional

.

First cook the beans in just water, or use a can of sugar free unsalted beans. Slice your vegetables, and reserve.

In a large pot add some olive oil and saute the onions and garlic, add the carrots and celery and let them cook until slightly tender. Add three cups of water and let it come to a boil, add the broth cube. Then add the okra and zucchini. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cover. The okra will release a lot of gooey slime and you will have to cook for a long time, about one hour, for it to break down. Once the soup stops looking sticky and gooey add the spices, then add two more cups of water up to six cups, add dry noodles and let them cook in the tasty broth you’ve just made. Two minutes before your pasta is done add the beans so the warm up.

Serves six.

Voila! You have a unique and delicious minestrone! Serve hot and enjoy!

Okra minestrone.