Welcome Spring

Edible Garden BeginsToday thin green spinach seedlings popped out of the seed starter soil, a perfect start to Spring. During our late winter snowfall last week,  I planted seeds for our summer kitchen garden.  I found this wire rack at the Goodwill and thought it perfect to hold our seedlings.  This year I plan to make our raised beds more visually appealing with a mix of flowers planted among vegetable plants.  I picked attractive vegetable plants including peppers, eggplants and spinach for our garden below the deck.  I will grow patio tomatoes in pots on the deck to keep them from getting unruly.  I learned my lesson from last year.  My son requested his favorite flower, Forget-Me-Not, so we started those from seed, too. My husband planted garlic last fall, and tall green stalks are appearing around the raised beds already.  They will be harvested in July, so I am hoping they will not detract from the plan to have a more beautiful garden that invites relaxation.  The snow in this photo has melted.  Spring is here bringing many garden dreams!

Tomatoes gone wild

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Tomatoes (left) and Peppers (right)

Plants with branches slumped and sticky hold plump cherry and grape tomatoes in our kitchen garden.  The full sunny days and shower refreshed evenings kept all growing. Over four feet in two months!  Our tomato plants grew beyond their cages and almost touched the deck before they toppled on themselves as vines will do.  We gave string and stake support a little late.  We did not anticipate such rapid growth so they kind of went a little wild beyond their cages.  They needed a supported space – a ring of rope to grow up into.

A reminder for me to anticipate growth as I seek to provide an effective supportive space for my preteen son. He is growing fast, almost as tall as me now.  How will I support him as he looks beyond our home to friends and middle school?  What kind of support can a give to him as he reaches beyond?

A prayer:  Lord, I need your wisdom and guidance to show me how to provide structure and support suitable to the unique talents You gave my son.  May He reach His full potential and grow into a courageous, kind, faithful, loving and fruitful young man. 

Never underestimate the potential for growth in all that you nurture and care for.  You will be amazed!

Garden Journal Catch Up

Our garden plot produced lots of vegetables in June.  I gave up trying to weigh all our produce. We harvested lots of beets, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, kale, lettuce (gourmet blend and buttercrunch), parsnips, and turnips.  At the end of June, just before we went on vacation, we had our biggest harvest day so our mature crops would not spoil.   A friend and her two young kids joined us for the big harvest.  My son was thrilled to have a “play date” at our garden plot. It was a joy to watch children have a blast pulling out root vegetables. They tugged then giggled as their buried treasure appeared out of the dirt.

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Baby carrot (my son planted the carrot seeds)

Our best early season crop this year was the cabbage. We grew green, savoy and red cabbage. I estimated that our 15 cabbage plants produced over 50 pounds of crisp, sweet cabbage.

our cabbage patch
our cabbage patch

My mother-in-law and I had a “play date” in the kitchen. We got creative with the cabbage! We made sauteed cabbage greens (with garlic, onion and chopped apple), stuffed cabbage leaves (with ground beef, onions and tomato sauce), shredded cabbage salad. I even tried substituting pasta with sauteed strips of cabbage. The cabbage leaves were al dente and tasted delicious covered with sauce and cheese. Cabbage is a great low carb alternative to pasta!

Stuffed savoy and green cabbage leaves
Stuffed savoy and green cabbage leaves

Lots of Lettuce

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We harvested almost 6 pounds of lettuce over the past 3 weeks.     The wet and cool spring keep the greens growing.  We have a gourmet blend of  salad greens, kale and butter crunch lettuce.   We planted kale and butter crunch lettuce seedlings and sprinkled gourmet salad blend seeds.  My son and I could not see the tiny seeds on the ground after we shook them out of the seed packet.  I hoped for the best as we lightly tossed dirt over the invisible seeds.  The next few days it rained.  I did not expect the gourmet mix to produce.   But it sprouted a lovely variety of mixed greens similar to the type I buy at the grocery.   The butter crunch lettuce grew into heads of  tender light green outer leaves and crispy pale yellow inner leaves.   More light green leaves grew even after the head was picked.

We eat lots of lettuce in our home.  Typically, my son will eat all the salad before eating the meat or other food on his plate.   Recently, my son announced, “I am a vegetarian, you know.”   Salad has to be one of my son’s favorite vegetable to grow in the garden since planting it is so quick..shake out the seed packet and toss down some dirt.

Fall Gardening – Broccoli, Kale and Woolly Bear


We have Kale, Broccoli, Fennel, weeds and wooly bear caterpillars growing in our community garden plot now.  Last weekend, we pulled the weeds, picked a pound of kale and found a couple of baseball sized broccoli bunches sprouting. The row covers are keeping the bugs off the plants, but I did see a brown and black fuzzy caterpillar wiggle toward the green plants when I took off the row cover for a moment.

My son informed me, ” its a Woolly Bear caterpillar.” He learned about it at the Howard County Conservancy Nature camp he attended last Friday.  I thought he invented the cute name, until I researched it online. Check out this blog for lots of facts about the Woolly Bear.  I learned it is not a pest in the garden and it hibernates over the winter by producing a sort of anti-freeze. My son discovered it tickles, too.  He scooped a rolled up woolly bear into his hands, then quickly dropped it when it uncoiled and started to move. Eeeeeeeeekkkkkkkkkkk!!!!!!!

Kale

I almost stepped on the Woolly as I picked two kale plants down to stem skeletons. I left the stems in the ground, curious to see if they will get new growth.  Later that day, a friend told me that homemade kale chips are delicious.   I found an easy recipe on the gluten-free cooking website, Elana’s Pantry.    Hoping my son would like the nutrient rich kale chips as much as Elana’s sons, I tried the recipe. The chips were thin and crisp, similar to roasted seaweed.  There was a good chance my son would like them since he likes roasted seaweed. “Mom! this is not seaweed, yuck!” He did not like the kale chips, but my husband and I did. We ate them all. They were light and tasty!

Roasted Peppers

What do you do with 15 pounds of assorted peppers? Roast them! My Italian in-laws wasted no time when we arrived home from picking peppers at our garden plot last week. They quickly cleaned and cut up three bags of peppers, piled them onto cookie sheets, drizzled them with canola oil and Italian spices, then roasted them in a 375 degree oven for about 30 minutes (making sure to check and stir them about every 5 minutes). The peppers were done when soft, yet a bit firm. We enjoyed them between two slices of crusty bread. Pepper sandwiches are delicious hot or cold!

Garden Gifts

We are overflowing with peppers (bells and cubanelles), eggplants (neon, Italian, Chinese and globe varieties) and another 40 pounds of tomatoes.  We can not keep up with the processing of all these veggies.   We  shared with friends, family and the food bank.   I spend my free time searching for recipes, chopping, freezing or canning.    We canned 30 quarts of tomatoes and 11 pints of salsa.  We have several gallon freezer bags filled with chopped peppers and roasted eggplant slices (some plain or coated with bread crumbs).  The eggplant slices can replace the noodles in lasagna.

We are grateful for this wonderful veggie bounty, but the best gift from the garden came today.  It was not the 45 more pounds of veggies we picked (not in the photo).  It was when my son eagerly helped me plant the fall crops of broccoli, cauliflower, romaine lettuce, kale and fennel.  He put on gloves, tucked in each newly planted seedling with a handful of fertilizer and a smile!

Tomato Harvest

“Want a date night canning tomatoes, honey?!”
50 pounds of tomatoes first

then another 50 pounds!

We harvested 100 pounds of tomatoes in one week! Our 15 Olivade tomato plants look quite weary now. We did not expect such a big harvest this year. So far, my husband and I canned 13.5 quarts of tomatoes from a little less than half of the tomatoes.

Check out Daphne’s Dandelions to see harvests from other gardens around the world!

Plenty of Peppers

“May I have a pepper?” I slice the top off one of our homegrown cubanelle peppers, take out the seeds and give it to my son for a snack. I hear him crunch and mumble, “mmmmmm, this is good!” My gardening heart fills with joy. All his complaints about the plot – “I do not want to go there! It is dirty, stinky, hot, and boring!” – are quieted for the moment. I can give up the idealistic dream of my son working beside me, picking, watering and weeding (he would rather pound dirt and find bugs). He is eating fresh vegetables and learning how good food is produced, that is what is important. We will keep our garden plot growing!

This is our best year for peppers! They are large and prolific. We are amazed. What did we do right? Maybe it was the hot and stormy summer? Could it be the organic fertilizer – fish emulsion and Garden Tone? My husband threw handfuls of organic fertilizer (10-2-8) into the soil when he turned it over in April. I gave the pepper plants a quarter cup of Garden Tone (4-4-3) in June, when I planted them and again at the beginning of July. We also put organic black plastic down around each plant after we planted them. Once the peppers are picked, it is best to store them in the refrigerator if they are not going to be eaten or preserved immediately.

Harvest totals last week:
Bell Peppers: 0.65 lb,
Purple Peppers: 1 lb,
Cubanelle Peppers: 9.75 lb,
Tomato: 8.0 lb,
Eggplant: 5.0 lb,
Red Onion: .75 lb.

Overall produce: 47.25 lb (mixed veggies)

Preserving harvest: Cubanelle peppers: canned 8 pints marinated and 5 quart bags frozen.

Harvest Monday – July 23, 2012


Eggplants and peppers are abundant in our garden plot. We have plans for all these veggies. The eggplants: stuff and roll up – slice, dip in egg and bread crumbs, broil, spread with mixture of egg, ricotta and parmesan cheese, roll up, place in baking dish, cover with tomato sauce and bake; transform into spaghetti – slice and sprinkle with olive oil, broil, cool and cut into strips, top with sauce; pickle and spread onto bread or crackers, roast, grill and saute . The peppers: chop and freeze, pickle and preserve in jars, stuff and bake and slice in salads. Some of the peppers and eggplants will be donated to our local Food Bank. But I must admit my favorite plan for the peppers is … slice and give to my son. He eats the sweet crispy cubanelle and bell peppers like a sliced apple. I am thrilled! They are loaded with vitamin C.

Harvest totals for this week:
Cubanelle Peppers 4.5 pounds
Bell Peppers 2.25 pounds
Eggplant 7.0 pounds
Zucchini 8.5 pounds

To see amazing harvests from gardens around the world, stop by Daphne’s Dandelions, the host of Harvest Monday.