Fall Garden Update

We’re in the busy period now where summer veggies are coming on, and it’s also time to plant and take care of the fall veggies. Today I’ll share a quick progress report on how the fall vegetable plantings are doing. I set out kale and collard plants early last month, and they have taken off nicely. I set out most of the collard greens in a bed where broccoli and cabbage were growing earlier. The bed had been prepped with lots of compost in spring, so all I did was work it up with a digging fork and add some organic fertilizer. You can see in the photo that the weeds are growing too! I need to weed and mulch with straw soon before they get really out of hand..

Yellow Cabbage collards

The other end of that bed was covered in weed barrier fabric and had been planted with bush summer squashes. Those plants are all done for and were put on the compost pile. I used scissors to cut a slit in the material and sowed turnip greens (Topper and All-Top) in half the area. I sowed white ‘salad’ turnips (Hakurei) in a nearby area using the same method. All the turnips are coming up now and hopefully they will be easier to keep weeded with the fabric.

turnips

I replanted a couple of bush zucchini at the far end of that bed. It’s a bit late to be planting squash here, but the plants were started in pots last month and should get off to a quick start. I set out a couple of zucchini in grow bags, and I can move them inside the greenhouse if an early frost threatens. I’ve had good luck growing the squash in these bags, though the yields are lower than those I plant in-ground. At this point I’m just looking for a few fresh ones to extend the season a bit.

late planting of zucchini

I also set out  a few collards in another bed that was covered in weed barrier fabric. They seem to be growing a bit faster than the ones planted in bare soil. And they are definitely less weedy!

Yellow Cabbage collards

I have been experimenting with this woven black polypropylene fabric this year and so far I am pleased with the results. This White Russian kale planted in it is also off to a great start.

White Russian kale

While I try and limit my use of plastic in general, and especially in the garden, I am also getting to the point where I don’t have the energy to devote to gardening that I used to have when I was younger. So I am looking for any and all ways to assist me, and the weed barrier fabric is one way. The bed where the collard greens are planted in bare ground needs weeding repeatedly, while the bed next it has been weed free for months since I put the fabric down. The fabric can be reused, and I look forward to more experimenting with it next year.

collards need weeding

Back in July I sowed a section of one bed in cowpeas for an edible cover crop. They are now setting pods and ready to begin harvesting. I’m growing two varieties this year, one called Quickpick Pinkeye and Fast Lady Northern Southern peas. The cowpeas and mulch will keep down weeds plus add organic material and nitrogen to the soil, while giving us some tasty peas.

Quickpick Pinkeye peas

In spring I planted several eggplants in containers and they kept us well supplied until the in-ground plantings began bearing. The container plants have slowed down, so I trimmed them back a couple of weeks ago and gave them a drink of fish emulsion and seaweed fertilizer. They responded with a flush of blooms are are now setting fruit. I have Fairy Tale, Gretel and Patio Baby growing and all have done well in containers.

Fairy Tale eggplant

I have one more fall planting I made, and that is a bed of kohlrabi I set out behind the greenhouse. I have Kolibri and Terek planted there, and it needs to be weeded and mulched too. Those should be ready to eat sometime next month, and give as a bit more fresh kohlrabi before winter sets in. I have spread Sluggo pellets on the soil to help keep the slugs under control, since they are usually a problem with the kohlrabi.

kohlrabi plants

I decided not to set out any broccoli this fall, since I grow it in the winter greenhouse and that usually keeps us well supplied. I also decided to skip planting cabbage. I do have some other greens like mizuna started and I will try and find a home for them soon. I hope you have enjoyed this update on what’s happening here at Happy Acres!

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Harvest Monday September 6, 2021

It’s time once again for Harvest Monday, where gardeners from all over celebrate all things harvest related. The summer harvests continue here but at a slower pace. I’m finally getting a decent harvest of sweet peppers here. Carmen and Jimmy Nardello are two of my longtime favorite sweet peppers. They are generally early to ripen, and that has been true to form this year. I roasted these in the oven, which we then used for a side dish one day and on a pizza.

sweet peppers

Jimmy Nardello peppers

The pole beans are off and running now, and I got a big haul of them last week. There were also a few more of the short vine Health Kick tomatoes that ripened. I turned those into a thick sauce we used on the pizza, then froze the rest. There were over three pounds of the beans, and I have been harvesting them a couple of times a week as they size up. These heirloom beans never get tough, so there is no rush to harvest them like most modern varieties.

beans and tomatoes

I’m growing one new variety called Gizzard this year. This is a multi-use bean that can be used as a snap bean, a shell bean or allowed to dry before using. It is colored much like Turkey Craw, which I have been growing for several years now. There were two pounds alone of the Gizzard, so I cooked up one pound and froze the rest along with the other beans. They were tasty, with lots of mature seeds in them which gives a rich flavor as well as makes them a good source of protein. They do have strings, like all the pole beans I’m growing, but I can sit and string and snap them fairly quickly. I find it’s no harder than shelling peas or dried beans.

Gizzard beans

We are past peak tomato season, but still getting plenty to eat. Cherry Bomb is still pumping out lots of tasty and sweet cherry tomatoes. We’ve been enjoying these on salads mostly as well as snacking on them.

Cherry Bomb tomatoes

It has been a great year for eggplant too. We most often roast or grill them. Nadia and Galine are big purple Italian types, and Asian Delite is the skinny one with bright purple skin and a mild white flesh.

eggplant harvest

I used one of the big ones to make Baba Ganoush last week. I roasted the cut eggplant until a bit charred on top but still soft inside, then scooped out the flesh and mashed with a fork. I added tahini, olive oil, garlic and a bit of chopped flat leaf parsley from the garden. Sprinkled with a little paprika on top and served with toasted pita bread, it made for a tasty side dish for lunch one day.

roasting eggplant

Baba Ganoush with toasted pita bread

I planted a really different kind of rudbeckia in the Wild Garden this spring, and it is just now beginning to bloom. Henry Eiler grows four to five feel tall and has petals that are rolled instead of flat. I think the overall effect is striking, and the flowers are attractive to both butterflies and bees. We don’t deadhead these or our coneflowers, and the finches and other birds love eating the seeds from the seed heads that form.

Rudbeckia Henry Eilers

The Leucanthemum Sweet Daisy Birdy in the Wild Garden has gotten another flush of blooms. This Shasta Daisy is a 2021 AAS Winner and looks to be a good addition to our lineup of summer bloomers. It’s attractive to butterflies and bees too, and the rabbits and deer leave it alone.

Sweet Daisy Birdy

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to share, add your name and blog link to Mr Linky below. And be sure and check out what everyone is harvesting!


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Harvest Monday August 30, 2021

It’s time once again for Harvest Monday, where gardeners from all over celebrate all things harvest related. As we near the end of August, the summer garden is still keeping us well supplied with warm weather crops like tomatoes and eggplant. And last week, the sweet peppers finally began ripening as well. Sweetie Pie and Carmen are two dependable and tasty performers for me, and I have both these AAS Winners planted in ground. I have lots of hot peppers both green and ripe coming on, and I have used a few of these already as needed.

August harvest

August harvest

The pole beans are setting on nicely now. I have at least four different varieties yielding, with the rest of them blooming. I am freezing what we don’t eat. I string and snap the beans, then blanch in boiling water for three minutes before they hit the freezer. I find if I freeze them on freezer paper lined cookie sheets I can break them apart more easily for later use instead of having them all in a big frozen blob. We use the same treatment for blackberries and blueberries, though of course they don’t need to be blanched.

harvest of pole beans

harvest of pole beans

Paste tomatoes are winding down, and I’m not exactly unhappy about that. I made another batch of tomato paste last week as well as another batch of freezer sauce. Granadero, Juliet and Health Kick have all done well and made a lot of sauce, ketchup and tomato paste.

Granadero and Juliet tomatoes

Granadero and Juliet tomatoes

I also used the paste tomatoes for a fresh marinara sauce to make a casserole dish of grilled Eggplant Parmesan Casserole. I baked the sliced eggplant in the oven  instead of grilling since it was so hot outside. After assembling the casserole, it finished in the oven until it was bubbling and cheesy. It’s comfort food for me and my wife, and we had leftovers for the freezer as well.

Eggplant Parmesan casserole

Eggplant Parmesan casserole

Slicing tomatoes are still coming on strong. Benevento is a new release from Artisan Seeds. This hybrid beefsteak is red with yellow stripes outside and solid red flesh on the inside. It has a great flavor, and the fruits keep well both on the vine and after harvest.

Benevento tomato

Benevento tomato

Benevento tomatoes

Benevento tomatoes

I have been growing Chef’s Choice Orange for several years now, and this 2014 AAS Winner always does well for me. It and Chef’s Choice Yellow are the only two large yellow/orange tomatoes I am growing. We have enjoyed these on sandwiches and as a side dish. Any extras wind up in sauces along with all the other tomatoes!

Chef's Choice Orange tomato

Chef’s Choice Orange tomato

Pink Cherrywine is another new release from Artisan Seeds. I think the flavor compares favorably with Sunpeach, which is a pink cherry tomato I’ve grown for several years now.

Pink Cherrywine tomatoes

Pink Cherrywine tomatoes

This time of year, meal planning usually revolves around which veggies are available. One meal I made last week featured roasted eggplant and sauteed avocado squash along with a prosciutto and parmesan stuffed pork tenderloin. Most of our entrees are not so elaborate, but this one was easy to put together.

dinner with roasted eggplant and sauteed avocado squash

dinner with roasted eggplant and sauteed avocado squash

This spiderwort plant has gotten its second (or third) wind and is blooming again. I have heard some call it a weed, but the bees absolutely love this native plant. We have several planted and one or more has been blooming pretty much all spring and summer.

spiderwort

spiderwort

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to share, add your name and blog link to Mr Linky below. And be sure and check out what everyone is harvesting!


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A Few Favorites in 2021

Every year I usually do an annual end-of-year review of what did well in the garden, and what didn’t. This year I am sort of jumping the gun to give a review of some of my current favorites that I have been harvesting and eating. It’s no secret that tomatoes are the most popular and most widely planted vegetable by home gardeners here in the U.S. That doesn’t necessarily mean they are easy to grow though. I’ve been growing them for many years now, but they don’t always do as well as I would like due to weather and other factors. It’s proving to be a great year here in 2021 for tomatoes, so I’ll start with a few of my favorites.

Damsel tomatoes

I have several favorite slicing tomatoes for fresh eating, and Damsel is near the top of the current list. Damsel has pink skin and a sweet, tangy red flesh. I first grew it as a part of my testing of late blight resistant tomatoes, and it has proven to be one of the best I have tested so far. Seed catalogs like Territorial Seed Company claim it has a flavor “typically only found in heirlooms”. I have to agree, and we have been enjoying all the fruits my one plant has produced so far. We have done several tastings this year, and it has beaten the competition handily every time. Next year I need to set out more than one plant and skip some of the others!

Damsel

Garden Treasure is a red slicing tomato I have been growing for about six years now. It was released by the University of Florida Klee Lab for tomato research, and until recently was only available by making a modest donation ($10) to their research program. For that they sent you seeds for it plus their Garden Gem tomato. In our garden, Garden Treasure makes loads of juicy, tasty tomatoes that grow on strong indeterminate vines. It has been a favorite here ever since I started growing it. Seeds are now available online at Proven Winners, where the listing says it was bred “to have true heirloom taste, with modern disease resistance and high yield of large fruit.” Once again, I have to agree!

Garden Treasure tomatoes

Cherry Bomb is a cherry tomato with excellent late blight resistance, and it is my third year growing it. I can say it is definitely my favorite cherry tomato at the moment, and possibly my favorite ever! The slightly elongated round fruits are sweet and in my garden very resistant to cracking and splitting. I confess I’ve snacked on quite a few out in the garden, and for that matter I generally head straight to Cherry Bomb if I’m looking for cherry type tomatoes for use in the kitchen. My one caged plant has yielded five pounds of tomatoes so far, and the vines are still growing strong. In addition to fresh use, I have also dried them and slow-roasted them for later use.

Cherry Bomb tomatoes

Moving on to other things, acorn squash Goldilocks is a 2021 AAS Winner. This spring I set out two plants that were sent to my by the folks at AAS for trial. Both plants did well, and I got around a dozen squash total from the plants. The ones I’ve been harvesting are right about one pound, which is a good size for the two of us to share for a meal.

Goldilocks squashes

Goldilocks is truly one of the best tasting hybrid acorn squash I have ever grown. The seed cavity is small, and the orange/yellow flesh has a great taste and texture. I plan to grow this one again in 2022, and perhaps will set out more plants than I did this year.

inside of Goldilocks squash

roasted Goldilocks squash

Early Bulam is a Korean squash that is nicknamed ‘avocado squash’ because of it’s shape. Botanically, it is a C. moschata squash that is used in the green stage much like tromboncino is usually used. It grows on vigorous vines that I have trellised to keep them off the ground.

Early Bulam squash

I think it has a much better flavor than the tromboncino, and it is a favorite here in the kitchen for sure. The squash has much more flavor than a zucchini, and the flesh is less watery. I really enjoy cutting these squash into cubes and sautéing  in a bit of olive oil.

cooking Early Bulam squash

Gretel and Fairy Tale are two more AAS Winners, Gretel from 2009 and Fairy Tale in 2005. I am growing both these in containers, where they have yielded an impressive amount of tasty, tender fruits. We love these eggplant roasted, grilled and in stir-fries. The flesh and skin are tender and mild.

Gretel and Fairy Tale eggplant

Fairy Tale eggplant on the grill

And last but certainly not least, the Mini Munch cucumber has become my new favorite cuke. The fruits have a tender skin and crisp, seedless mild flesh. I have these growing in our greenhouse, where they were early to yield and quite prolific. We have enjoyed these on salads and other dishes, as well as when turned into refrigerator pickles.

Mini Munch cucumbers

I hope you have enjoyed this review of some of my favorite things from the garden in 2021. I’ll be back soon with more adventures from Happy Acres!.

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Harvest Monday August 23, 2021

It’s time once again for Harvest Monday, where gardeners from all over celebrate all things harvest related. It’s been a great year here for tomatoes, and I have harvested almost 150 pounds of them. They have been dehydrated, roasted, turned into sauce and paste as well as eaten fresh at every opportunity. Juliet and Health Kick have been especially prolific, and so far I have gotten 40 pounds of Juliet along with 25 pounds of the short vine Health Kick. I have four plants of Juliet in two remesh cages, and three plants of the Health Kick.

harvest of paste tomatoes

Juliet tomatoes

The slicing tomatoes have not disappointed either, and last week I picked a couple of big Chef’s Choice Yellow tomatoes that weighed over a pound each. While impressive, I have to say I prefer the slightly smaller sized fruits like the red Garden Treasure ones in the below photo. It’s hard to get a decent slice out of the ones with the big shoulders.

Chef’s Choice Yellow and Garden Treasure tomatoes

It’s been a so-so harvest for the winter squashes so far. I got a mix of Thelma Sanders, Gill’s Golden Pippin and a couple of delicata along with two more of the yellow acorn Goldilocks. Goldilocks has been the star squash so far as well as the earliest, though I am looking forward to getting a taste of the others soon. The neck pumpkins are setting on quite a few fruit so we should have plenty of them for winter storage.

winter squashes

We have had a bumper crop of eggplant this year, and have been well supplied for a couple of months now. The ones planted in-ground are now producing, and I’m harvesting a mix of Italian and Asian type varieties that are quite useful in the kitchen.

eggplant harvest

One thing we did with the eggplant last week was to make a cheesy casserole. For this dish I cooked Carnaroli rice in the rice cooker until it was done but still had a bit of “crunch” to it. That way it could continue to soak up moisture from the other ingredients, which included tomatoes, mushrooms and mozzarella cheese. I topped the casserole with fresh basil and more mozzarella and Pecorino Romano cheeses. It had a great flavor and mouth feel, and made for a comforting side dish at dinner time. The leftovers were pretty tasty too! I can see this casserole using other garden goodies like squash or perhaps even cabbage.

cheesy eggplant and rice casserole

cheesy eggplant and rice casserole

The pole beans are just now really starting to produce, and I got enough last week for another cooking plus a few for the freezer. We use a lot of beans in soups as well as for cooking up on their own, and we have used up pretty much all I froze last year.

bean harvest

In other news, I baked up a batch of Everyday Sourdough Bread last week for sandwich use.  This King Arthur Flour recipe is easy to make, and baked in a Pullman loaf pan which makes for a loaf with a dense consistency that can be sliced thin and yet still hold up to wet toppings like tuna salad and such. I’m still experimenting with this recipe, and for this loaf I used 20% sprouted whole wheat flour along with 80% bread flour. It took about 16 hours from start to finished loaf, but only around 15 minutes of that was hands-on time.

Everyday Sourdough bread

We still have lots of things blooming in our flower beds. The hardy hibiscus plants are really putting on a show, and even though the blooms only last a day there are usually several news ones to open up each day. The Ligularia (aka ragwort) is also looking good in the shade garden now.

Scarlet Hibiscus

Ligularia blooms

Rainbow Marcella Echinacea

My wife is especially fond of this Fluffy Shasta Daisy that is blooming now. She has several different daisies in the Sun Garden area, including Becky and the 2021 AAS Winner Sweet Daisy Birdy. Fluffy has quite a few blooms given that it was just planted a couple of months ago.

Fluffy Shasta Daisy

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to share, add your name and blog link to Mr Linky below. And be sure and check out what everyone is harvesting!


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