Monday, July 29, 2013

Harvest Monday: Allium Triumph Edition

 Beware! Lots of pictures in this week's Harvest Monday because I really didn't take time to group things together and, well, I really wanted to show off my alliums. But, first things first: Harvest Monday is graciously hosted by Daphne's Dandelions where each week gardeners from around the world share what they've harvested and to my mind many words of wisdom about the art of vegetable gardening. Go visit, it's very motivational!
They're here!! At last, my first ripe tomatoes. A full ten days later than last year, but finally we are able to taste the best of the summer garden, a fresh home-grown tomato. Sure hope there are a lot more of these soon!
 My overflowing basket of kale was also one of the bright spots of the week. I had a fabulous spring garden, but my summer garden is not one of the better ones. It seems that none of my heat loving plants are doing that well. Production is slow and limited and disease and pests are rife.
 Even the green beans are nowhere near as productive as I'm used to, but they are coming in at least. I also have begun to harvest my pole yellow beans in small handfuls.
 Broccoli shoots are still coming in steadily.  And below you can see my entire red cabbage harvest. Not one is bigger than a baseball. I have never figured out how to grow a large red cabbage. The white cabbages grow beautifully, but the reds are very reluctant to size up. I will cook these into German sweet and sour red cabbage and freeze for later use.
 The berries are still keeping my spirits up! Blueberries are still coming in strong. I've picked over seventeen pounds so far.
 We also have two patches of wild blackberries. They are a great treat, but unfortunately have settled themselves into very inconvenient spots on our property, attempting to crowd up to my garden and to smother my new little apple tree. They will have to be trimmed into submission after berry season is over.
 After harvesting three saladette tomatoes, my Sungolds decided it was time to ripen too. Hope there will be a lot more than these lonely two soon.
 But now...ta-da-da...I get to crow about the one triumph of my 2013 summer garden, my alliums! The garlic was trimmed and weighed last week and I got 13 pounds of it. By comparison, last year I harvested about four pounds and never did use it up. The garlic in the blue containers is what I'm saving for seed from each of six varieties. In the basket is the garlic we will use and give away.
 I harvested my onions yesterday and I can say without a doubt, they are the biggest and the best onions I have ever grown! Yay, onions! Last summer the vast majority of my onions were no bigger than sets, but this year, oh this year! Below are my Ailsa Craigs, which are not keepers, but will last about two months in storage. They are large and sweet and beautiful.
 I had to take a photo of the two very biggest onions in the lot. They are Ailsa Craig and I will weigh them when they're cured and trimmed.
 Here are the Redwings. The seed came in on backorder so they were started later than the other onions, but they still came out a pretty good size.
 I grew a number of varieties of yellow storage onions, Prince being my favorite. I also have some Copra, Pontiac, and Varsity. When I first planted out my seedlings, they all looked a bit wan and unhappy and I remember really worrying about whether they'd make it. My goodness, did they make it. Wish they'd tell a thing or two to the zukes, cukes, eggplant, peppers and carrots!
 Finally, here are my shallots, all grown from seed. I grew Prisma and Ambition and they also grew huge. When those seedlings were first planted out, about half had already died back in their flats, which made it that much nicer to see how well the survivers did this summer.
 All those alliums are now drying out on top of our old family camper, waiting for a bit of summer sun to help in the process of curing. Sunshine's been a bit scarce lately!
Here's to more good harvest as we close out the month of July! Already?!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Harvest Monday: Heartbreak Edition

Maybe I should call this the "heatbreak" edition! Because there has been both this week! Our awful heatwave finally broke yesterday and we are having more reasonable summer weather now. Thank goodness! I pushed myself to get outside ultra-early for the past two weeks to get the labor done before the heat got unbearable and I have to admit it has worn me out. This week I will take it a little easier and modify the pace a bit.
But yes, there has also been heartbreak. I harvested all my potatoes last week because the plants were dying back and got a terrific total of 30 pounds. But yesterday, alas, I found that most of them were rotting. Rotting! Sob! In doing some research I think, but am not sure, that they were the victims of early blight. They had started to blister under the skins and began weeping that foul-smelling decay that potatoes do when they rot. I had to throw most of them out and was able to keep only a fraction of what was harvested. Oh, sometimes gardening can really get you down. First the poor showing with zucchini (3 so far and all the first plantings about dead) and now the potatoes. So my gardening motivation is a little low at the moment!
BUT, there were some positives for Harvest Monday, which is hosted over at Daphne's Dandelions each Monday and here they are:
 There is one of my three zucchini and the only two yellow squash I have been able to harvest from my highly unproductive and now dying off summer squash plants. I have a fresh new planting that should start producing next month, so hope to get a few more. Hope springs eternal for the gardener! Those potatoes you see are "toast" now and it's making me sad just looking at them! I got more broccoli shoots and picked a few of my healthy but skinny little celery plants.
 Got a few more kohlrabi too and below you see my new favorite, Kossack! I heard about it from fellow bloggers last year and decided to give it a try. Not only does it produce a huge bulb, but it is sweeter than the other varieties I've had. This one is a keeper!
 I have two very large trombocino plants and harvested two beautiful specimens this week. One of them was a two pounder! Tasted great and helped take the sting out of the zucchini failures. Hopefully there'll be more. I've started to harvest cucumbers too, not a large amount, but a few Lemon and Double Yield. Also a flat yellow pole bean called Gold Marie Vining is starting to produce. All of the beets from my first planting were harvested last week except my Lutz Salad Leaf, which can get very large. But tucked in with them I found this overlooked perfect beet and have no idea what variety it is.
 The blueberries are coming in like gang-busters now. I've picked over seven pounds so far and there are plenty more on the bushes. I'll be out there later today picking them again. But the king of the garden this week is green beans. They are finally coming in and below is my first pound of them. There will be plenty more to come.
So goes the week! Barring any new disaster, next week should finally see my first ripe tomato. I have a number of small peppers, but nary an eggplant in sight. Every year is different isn't it? Every year a new challenge, a new disappointment and a new triumph. I've said it before and I'll say it again, gardening is a wonderful thing but it does keep you humble.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

A Berry Good Year!

All that spring rain we had has led to one of the best years for berries we've seen in a long time! I harvested over 8 pounds of gooseberries a few weeks back and am in the middle of the blueberry harvest now. If we'd taken care of them, the strawberries would have been winners too, but alas, we let the slugs go to town on them. It was a very busy time for me, getting the garden going so I did let them go.
But never mind that! Look what I harvested this week:
 It is the first of two big bowls of blueberries from our eight bushes! A total of four pounds so far and we are not at the peak of the ripe berries yet. Compared to last year when I got none. There weren't many to begin with then, the birds got most and I was remiss about getting out there and picking them. This year I threw some deer netting over the bushes and I believe it has helped keep those pesky cowbirds from making off with so many berries! I'm looking forward to many more pickings. We have six baby blueberry bushes that are too young to produce yet, but hopefully in a few years will add to the yield.
 I forgot to take a picture of all my gooseberries when they were first harvested. Mine tend to be small so it was a real bit of labor cleaning them. They have to have both stems and blossom ends removed and it took hours. I canned six quart jars of them, but one jar didn't seal, so it's in the fridge waiting to be used. Last year I made gooseberry jam which I love, but I don't go through jam very fast and I still have a few jars from then, so I didn't make any this year. Most of my family and friends don't care for it, but my German friend and my mother (also German) love it as much as I do. Guess it's more of a European taste.
 Another really good way to enjoy gooseberries is as a torte. I made it the way my mother always did, with a shortbreadish base known as muerbeteig (I don't know how to make the German umlaut dots on my computer, so I'm spelling it the English way.) You serve it with some nice sweet whipped cream and it is just wonderful! I'll include the recipe in case you'd like to try it. It can be made with fresh gooseberries or canned drained berries.
Gooseberry Torte:

First, make the base. Knead together 1 stick of butter, 1 and 1/4 cups flour, 1 egg, 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 teaspoon baking powder. Pat this evenly on the bottom of a 9 inch springform pan.
Now cover the entire cake with a single layer of gooseberries. If they are canned, just drain them and use. If fresh, it's a good idea to parboil them a minute or two in sugar water and let them cool in the water. Then drain and put on the cake base. Generously spoon sugar over the berries. This is important because gooseberries are so sour. You need to treat them like rhubarb! Bake the torte at 350 degrees until the crust is nice and brown and the sugar melted. I will put a large cookie sheet under the springform pan in case it wants to leak.
Let cool then serve with plenty of whipped cream! Enjoy! I hope you are all enjoying the berries of the season!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Mid-July Harvest Monday

I honestly don't know how I managed last summer to get my Harvest Monday posts done early in the day. Maybe the weather was better! Right now my early mornings are consumed with garden work because it's just too darned hot and humid to do it later on. I was out there from six to nine this morning doing the chores. I see the beginnings of disease everywhere due to the high humidity we've had non-stop for the past three weeks. But there was a good harvest despite some disappointments and having yet to see even a blush of color on any of the tomatoes. Last year I'd harvested my first one on July 11 and the year before on July 13. No such luck this year and I tell you, it's maddening!
But here is what I did get:
 I harvested my potatoes today! Not a bad amount, but most are still drying out in the garden and tomorrow I will find out how many pounds were grown this year.
 Broccoli heads have all been harvested, but I am getting plenty of side shoots and they are good sized too.
 Another garden surprise: a few raspberries from a stand D. planted years ago but we haven't really taken care of, so they are choked with weeds and the birds get most of them. This is a terrific year for berries (although we dropped the ball with our strawberries; they were riddled with pests) so we even managed to get some of these beauties. The blueberries are just coming in and look like there will be a lot.
 Two days ago I pulled the sugar snap pea vines up, but not before getting another pound and a half of peas. Next to the bowl are my first two cucumbers, some shelling peas, more broccoli and a small bowl of blueberries and raspberries. Also the very first green beans.
 This morning I picked almost four pounds of kale. Five varieties of the stuff. Kale chips perhaps?
 My second zucchini was harvested today. I wonder if there'll be more, given all the problems I'm having with the squash. I also got four more cucumbers, a small handful of green beans and some more broccoli shoots.
 These onions were leftovers from last summer that never grew much and overwintered. I pulled them because I was out of onions and refuse to buy any. This year's onions look wonderful and will be harvested in early August.
 The beet greens are looking sick, so I pulled most of the remaining beets. I have a second and third planting coming along, but I rarely get any bulbs from these. Maybe this year will be the charm.
And last but not least, I have here a bushel of lettuce. It is starting to taste bitter and some of the plants had begun to bolt so were pulled up entirely. I still have a small late planting, so hopefully we will still have some decent salads for another few weeks. It would be nice to have a few fresh tomatoes to go with them, but I had better stop my bellyaching and be grateful for what I have! Head on over to Daphne's Dandelions to see what other gardeners around the country and the globe are showing off for Harvest Monday!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Losing at Zucchini...Again!

I harvested my first zucchini last week. I should have harvested about ten by now, judging by the little babies I saw, but to date I have
The thing is, last year was the first and only year I ever had success with zucchini, or any summer squash for that matter. And it was not give-a-ton-to-your-kicking-and-begging-for-mercy-neighbors success. It was we-have-plenty-for-our-own-use-for-once success. As in more than one zucchini success. This year I seem to be reverting to the bad old days, although I am still holding out hope.
Here is what I see on my plants one day:
 And here is what I see the next day:
 There is blossom end rot going on here! I have been valiantly fighting every pest known to squashdom too: gray squash bugs, squash beetles, cucumber beetles and Japanese beetles. Then I came down the other morning to find this:
Believe me, it actually looks better in the photo! Leaves turning yellow and sick. I had to pull out two plants that were far enough gone in an effort to isolate the other plants from the disease. Things are looking grim.
I have not entirely given up yet. There are a few small zukes that may make it to harvestable size by tomorrow or the next day. And I do have a second planting in another bed that if I can keep them healthy and bug-free may give me some summer squash in August. There are also two Trombocino squashes coming along too if they don't succumb to blossom end rot. One can only hope!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Harvest Monday

I'm a little late getting my Harvest Monday post up because we are in a heat wave here (nothing like as bad as the west coast has had, but hot enough with high humidity) and the mornings are the time I have to be out in the garden getting the work done. If it isn't done by 10am in this heat it won't get done! After the garden work I had a meeting to go to and then had to wait my turn to get to the computer. But finally: Harvest Monday, hosted by Daphne's Dandelions each week where fellow garden bloggers share what they've been gleaning from their gardens this week. Head on over and be inspired!
It has been a productive week in the garden despite the heat with some of the cool weather crops petering out and the warm weather plants getting ready to ramp up production.  I am still harvesting lettuce of the heat tolerant variety, but unfortunately I accidentally deleted my photo of it. Some lettuce is beginning to bolt and some is getting slightly bitter, but still pleasantly edible. I have a variety called Pablo that is a reddish-pinkish summercrisp type that takes the prize for being non-bitter even in temperatures in the 90s.
 I'm still picking peas, sugar snaps, snow peas and shelling peas, but they are really just about done and I'll be pulling the last of the vines sometime in the next week. Seems like I just planted them yesterday and they're done already.
 This week saw my first zucchini, a Jackpot. I had three others that developed blossom end rot, but today I saw a few that look like they'll be healthy zukes. You can see my first three celery plants, a nice variety called Tango. They don't get terribly large, but have plenty of flavor for soups and salads. I harvested a few sad Kolibri kohlrabis, but they have not done well this year. Earlier in the season I had a fantastic crop of French Breakfast radish and we powered through them in our spring salads. Above are a few much smaller results of a second planting.
 Some shelling peas from a climbing variety called Tall Telephone are shown above and they are still producing, although not a large amount. I am getting side shoots from the Blue Wind broccolis that I harvested last week.
 I have a great beet crop this year and picked a few pounds of them this week. They go straight into the oven to be roasted, then I peel them after they're cool enough to handle. The skins just slip right off. We use them sliced up in salads, or in borscht or I slice and freeze the excess for use in winter salads. I also cook or freeze the nicer looking beet greens. Next to the basket of beets is a basket of my first kale harvest.
 I was curious to see what was going on under the potato plants, so I pulled out three little spuds, two Red Norland and one Yukon Gold. Wonder what kind of overall potato harvest I'll get this year?
 I harvested all my Farao early cabbages this week. They are small but tender and delicious, averaging about a pound and a quarter each.
 And I dug up all my garlic. I think I harvested a little early, but I was concerned that I might be waiting too long with all the excessive rain we had last month. They were a pretty good size and I have quite a heap of them curing in a workshed we have. The blue tape you see on each garlic is a label indicating the variety so I can tell which is which when I eventually save some bulbs for seed. There probably is a more efficient and less tedious way to do this, but for now that's what I do.
 Sometimes the garden likes to surprise us. My bush beans are far from ready for harvest, only just beginning to blossom this week. I had given up any thought of scarlet runner beans, because I planted them late and it became so hot out. I figured I just had a nice ornament for the garden. But today as I walked past them I was thrilled to see some beans that seemed to have appeared overnight! They aren't very big or very many, but at least I will discover what they taste like.
And finally, here is another shot of some of the broccoli harvest. These are Tendergreen and their heads are nowhere near as large as the Blue Wind I harvested last week. I have another variety called Belstar that looks like it'll be ready in a few days and my Fiestas have a ways to go yet.
So that's it for this week's harvest! I'm anxiously awaiting that first tomato and cucumber. There are babies out there that just need to size up and ripen. Hoping for a little rain and a break from the heat in the days to come!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Our New Tenants

We acquired some tenants on the property this year. They live in this nice little shelter:
They really are tenants, because we don't own them and we don't have any desire to own them. They belong to my brother-in-law who took up bee-keeping as a hobby last year. He has two hives at his house and wanted a third one but didn't feel he had the room, so he asked if he could set one up at our place.
Here they are a little closer. I don't get too near, because they make me nervous, but I'm not terrified of them either. The rent they pay is to pollinate my vegetable garden. And maybe, it they're productive enough we'll be gifted with a little honey too.
Each hive is supposed to produce up to thirty pounds of honey, but my poor b-i-l, after spending tons of money on equipment and sugar last year only got about one and a half pounds out of two hives. What a bunch of slackers! Hopefully, he'll do better this year.
Get to work little bees and earn your keep! I've already seen them buzzing around my garden, but they also seem to be delighted with the hummingbird feeder. Hmmmmm! Not sure how I feel about that! I can't say I've seen any noticeable improvement in the squash and tomato pollination yet, but hopefully they will do their jobs.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Hello Harvest Monday!

It's been quite awhile since I've joined in posting for Harvest Monday and there's a lot to show and tell this week as the season of growing heats up (literally) here in Connecticut. I have lots of pictures today!
Swiss chard and sugar snap peas were big winners this week. The snap peas have peaked I think and there will be smaller harvests in the coming days. I can only hope the chard stays healthy this year! I also harvested the last of the Little Marvel shelling peas and only have Tall Telephone left to give me any more shellers. I plan to try planting some fall peas this year, but have never yet had success with them.
 I love to plant many different varieties of each vegetable and the beets are no exception. I was surprised to get those bright orange beets in the mix, but when I checked out the variety I'd ordered called 3 Root Grex I discovered it grows several colors. Do I not read those catalogue descriptions carefully or what? Well, it was a fun surprise anyway.

I have no idea how to rotate the picture above, but it is my very first cabbage of the year, a Farao which is a very tender and delicious early type, though the heads are smallish. This one is just one and three quarter pounds.

 I managed to plant the celery out this year! Yay! Most of it is in the garden, but these four that I planted in a window-box planter are doing the best. Which is odd, because I am a complete failure when it comes to container gardening. Usually what I plant in a container dies a quick and ugly death.
 These are the last of the garlic scapes. The es-scape-ees actually. I planted way too much garlic and thought I had removed all the hardneck scapes weeks ago, but found this little batch had gotten overlooked. Garlic should be ready to dig up soon.
There was a huge harvest of lettuce earlier in the week. Many of the early varieties were starting to bolt. The ones that weren't bitter yet were harvested to eat along with the maturing second planting lettuces. We have been in salad heaven!
We also got a great batch of broccoli this week. Broccoli is probably our favorite vegetable and I have high hopes for lots more to come. This year I finally grew some large heads, although I'm still getting my share of small ones too.
And, finally, here are the first kohlrabis. The variety is Kolibri. I have to say I am not impressed with the kohlrabi this year. They were early on the victims of cabbage worm attacks and few of them are really bulbing up like they should. Perhaps in the fall there'll be more.
That about covers this week's harvest. Harvest Monday is hosted by Daphne's Dandelions where you can see what gardeners all over are getting from their gardens!