Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Garden Check Up

Checking in on the progress of our veggie and fruit production. Yes, I have to include fruit because the strawberries are absolutely going bananas! In our patch that we planted Spring 2008, this year we are taking out 12-15 quarts of berries every other day. AND they are nice sized berries, and may I add, delicious. The neighbors and our kids love them too. Yes, we are sharing rather than making jam or freezing. Check out my strawberry pie recipe in an earlier blog if you are in the midst of berry season.

The following is my husband's garden report in a nutshell:
Have bibb and romaine lettuce galore, but with the heat it is starting to bolt.

The first sweet corn I had planned on having by 4th of July tassled out at 2 feet, so it will not have ears worth a darn. It has been too cold this spring and early summer.

I planted tomato seed the end of April and those plants are just as big as the plants I bought in May. Go figure.

I have 36 pepper plants. They are doing real well in the heat-- yellow, red, purple, brown, green.

We have eaten all the broccoli up. Now waiting on side shoots to grow out. Cabbage is just heading up. Cauliflower is still a ways off.

Beans aren't growing worth a darn, but the onions are growing great.

Watermelon and cantaloupe are just limping along.

We have little zucchini forming on the plants.

Pumpkins are going great. We have a new one this year called Knucklehead. It has warts all over it. We haven't told the grandkids yet, so that will be a surprise. Maybe they can win the Ugliest Pumpkin award at the Harvest Festival this year.

That's the run down on the garden at this point. Summer is half over. Hope your gardens are growing well. Leave a comment and let me know how you are doing. Thanks.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Broccoli Heaven

Broccoli plants in our garden taken a couple of weeks ago. The heads are now mature and ready to eat.
We have had steamed broccoli, boiled broccoli, with cheese sauce and without cheese (I prefer cheese of course). Now I am into making broccoli salad.
Broccoli is a cold crop which means we can start this plant early in the spring in Michigan. It can survive 20 degree temps. Optimum temps are between 50-70 degrees. Once the summer heat starts, the plants will bolt to seed. It takes about 6 weeks from seed to transplant, so plant seeds now to have a delicious fresh crop in the fall. Or if you want to buy plants, put them in the ground in late summer.
We keep an eye out for the little green worms that sometimes attack broccoli. They are so hard to see since they are the exact color of the leaves. I always soak the head in salt water for a few hours since that will get the critters off the florets. I have heard, but not tried, sprinkling cayenne pepper on the leaves before the head forms will deter aphids and caterpillars. This is a tip to use if you are into organic gardening.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Delicious Greens

I am beginning to pick up a distinctive nose twitching as I look in the mirror this week. I attribute it to all the lettuce we are eating now. We have had great success with lettuce crops. Not only do the salads taste good and fresh, they are so pretty too! Ted planted several kinds of lettuce with colors other than green.

He has the usual Bibb lettuce, a spotted one called Freckles, and a very deep red one called Deer Tongue. When I mix in the dark green leaves of spinach, radishes, and fresh onions, I feel like an artist designing a painting. (I never thought I would arrange lettuce to look as pretty as a bouquet of flowers.)

In the photo there are carrots and cheese, but neither came from our garden............

Swiss chard is ready now too, so today I will experiment with this in a salad. We have never grown it, so it will be a new experience. Do you grow it? If so, how do you prepare it? Fresh, boiled,???

Oh dear, there goes that twitching nose again...

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Herbs for Flavor, Herbs for Fragrance

Herbs are not veggies, so they may not actually be a topic for a vegetable gardening blog. But after extensive lolling this over in my mind, (about three seconds), I concluded that they ARE edible and should be included in this blog.

That is not to say, however, that herbs have to be grown in the veggie garden. Fragrant herbs are welcome and easily accessible in a pot growing outside the kitchen door. Perhaps you have a meditation area or walkway that would allow interspersing the plants between your shrubs, trees, rock garden.

The most important tip to pass along is definitely planting herbs in a convenient location for you to go and snip the leaves and actually use them in your cooking. After all, the purpose of the herb garden is to have fresh herbs and not those dried up leaves in a can. Make them easily available to assure that you will use them while they are fresh.

There are so many herbs to choose from and so many ways to use them, that I cannot include all of them here. Google "growing herbs" for a ton of information from the Internet. I have included a few that you may like to check out.

Creeping Rosemary--This is a perfect plant for a ground cover and is beautiful in a rock garden. Pale blue flowers from early to mid summer. Easy to grow in sunny locations and hardy to five degrees Fahrenheit. Good for flavoring meats and dressings.

Oregano-for the fragrance. Beautiful plant whose leaves add so much flavor to Mexican and Italian dishes.

Sage--Lots of varieties of sage. Sage Pineapple has a delightful pineapple scent and is a show-stopper with its stunning red tubular flowers which attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Add a few of the red flowers which are edible to your next green salad or fresh fruit salads for an eye-popping dish your guests will love.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Strawberries Under Attack

The strawberries are forming here in Michigan. I can't wait to pick these tasty ruby jewels packed with flavor. Take some precautions to protect your crop because there are others interested in getting a bite of the berry too. Basically the birds love feasting on the berries just when they are at their prime.

We cover our strawberry plants with a netting that allows the sunshine and rain in, but keeps those pesky birds out. Last year the netting worked very well, so I am recommending it to you. The netting is available at garden centers during strawberry growing season. Pick some up today so you won't be disappointed when you go to pick a bowlful of berries for your favorite strawberry dessert or cereal topping.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Taste of Spring

Woo Hoo! It's beginning to look like a garden now. In Michigan most folks wait till after Memorial Day to the first week of June to plant due to crazy frosts. Tonight, June 2, a frost is predicted in our area. Yep, DH just planted the tomatoes and peppers.......Wouldn't ya' know?
We have had delish salads from our lettuce decorated with home grown radishes. I am anxious to try a new leaf lettuce that is red and spotted, Freckles. There are so many colorful lettuces available. I know, I know. The deeper the green, the better for you. But, um, how about red??
The broccoli has little tiny heads on it now. Onions are lookin' great. And oh, those strawberries are full of blooms. DH started the corn in the greenhouse and it is standing tall right now.
Just a reminder that broccoli and lettuce are crops that can be planted later this summer and harvested in the fall. However, in our area the seed cannot be found when it is time to plant again, so be sure to buy enough seed for fall plantings now. These cold crops grow better in cool weather and the flavor is milder. It seems as the weather heats up, the flavor turns bitter. Enjoy that fresh spring taste while you can!