Friday, December 5, 2014

Preparing for Winter in the Garden

I pulled everything out last week except for the kale. I've had such success with the Ragged Jack kale that I'm going to see what happens to it when it starts getting really cold (and snowy, if this winter turns out to be anything like last).  And there's also a few garlic cloves in there too. If I get to it before the ground freezes, I'll dump a bag of compost on everything. 

I got my first seed catalog of the season already.  Thanks Pinetree. 

Merry Christmas everyone!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Garden Harvest Backlog from Brunswick Street

So it seems as though my posts from September and October failed to publish. So you've missed seeing all the goodies that I've pulled from the ground, snipped from the stem, and plucked from the vine. 

Crazy carrots were part of the harvest. I was never thrilled with the flavor of the Amarillo yellow carrots and will stick with orange Nantes in the future. 

If anything was consistent this season, it was the kale and those volunteer bottleneck cherry tomatoes. Both were unstoppable and made sure we had homegrown salads on the table almost every night. 

A few times we gussied up the salads with nasturtiums. Fancy!

I picked a few tomatoes that were just beginning to ripen and then removed all the green ones and cleared the plants out of the plot. Yesterday I pickled the green tomatoes with some hot peppers. 

The last of the carrots also came out. The plot is clear except for the kale (still looks perfect), some lettuce, and my perennial white salvia that keeps the bees happy all summer long. 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Garden Cat in Flower Pot

If you've ever had cats, then you know how they're kings of comfort. They'll find a comfy bed in any situation or circumstance. I think we lost all of our house plants when Mao Mao was a kitten because there is something irresistible about snoozing in a pile of dirt and stem. 

Looks like garden cats feel the same way. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

NJ State Fair Cuteness Recap

At the beginning of August, we visited the old Sussex County Farm and Horse Show and of course I had to document the cuteness going on in the animal tents. 

I guess bunnies like pinecones!

This stack of bunnies were all set for judging. We saw some getting examined and scored by 4H officials. I'm guessing there's more to it than just being adorable, because competition was tight in that regard!

The chicks were doing their part too. We happened to walk by while some eggs were hatching. Ahhh, the miracle of life. 

They even look good when they grow up!

I never get tired of these quackers. I was happy to see that they've gained in popularity. Several afro-sporting ducks were being shown this year.

In addition to the classic farm personalities, several exhibitors brought the new kids on the block to the show. 

See that sign in the background? This isn't a zoo, folks!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Cool August Nights

The kale never took a break this summer. It grew tender stems and leaves in June, it continued to leaf out under the sunflower long bean canopy in July, and now it's appreciating the cool August weather we've been having. Mao Mao and I are both very thankful for the greens that just keep going. 

My little melon is still growing. It hasn't made much progress since last week. Maybe all this sunshine will speed things up. 

A few carrots, a handful of tomatoes, and enough greens for a salad. Perfect!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Ladies and Gents, We Have a Melon!

After many weeks of blossom profusion, one tiny melon has finally decided to take shape. It's about the size of a small plum as of this afternoon. This variety is a petite muskmelon, so I'm thinking it won't exceed grapefruit dimensions, and it should have a "netted" exterior just like a cantelope. One can only hope!

The Philadelphia Fish peppers are also taking off. I might try my hand at pickling with these guys. 

I did some major chopping in the garden earlier this week. People don't realize how ruthless gardening can be sometimes. At a certain point, plants that aren't performing well, have already put on their big show, are crowding out new things, or are just overstaying their welcome must be pulled out. Bye bye sunflowers, long beans, and massively bushy marigolds. It's time to let the eggplant, hot peppers, and fall lettuce have a turn!

Last week I pulled in a huge long bean harvest and I think we've all grown a little tired of them. It seemed like the plants were producing tougher pods so the decision wasn't a hard one. The kale however is still leafing out like crazy with tender, flavorful foliage. How about those carrots? I'm not impressed with the flavor of the Amarillos despite their reliability. They are nowhere as sweet as the orange type. And the volunteer bottleneck tomatoes are as sweet as can be. I'm definitely letting a few fall into the bed for next year. 

This week I got two snow white, tender and delicious eggplant off a plant that's been overcrowded since June. I did most of my hacking in hopes that the plant will put on a couple more performances before it gets too cold. Speaking of cold, it's been getting pretty chilly at night here and I'm wondering if we're going to have an early fall. That won't be so great for the eggplant and peppers but the leafy stuff might love it. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Vegetable Exhibit at the Fair

Last weekend we spent the day at the New Jersey State Fair out in Sussex County, NJ. One of the highlights for me each year at the event is the gardening pavilion. Of course they have a zucchini contest for those forgotten fruits that balloon on the vine. I'm more interested in seeing different gardeners' bounty though. 

This lovely basket received a blue ribbon.  It showcases an impressive variety of veg grown in a home garden. We hit the fair during the first weekend this year so although that kohlrabi is already looking a little limp in the leaf, everything on display was pretty perky. 

This huge eggplant plant blew my socks off. It's hard to tell from the photo, but the thing had to be at least 4' tall and was covered with blossoms and tiny white eggplants. 

There are several different competitions in the garden tent. I think the gist of this one was to create a container garden in an unconventional container. I like the idea of possible seeing the root growth in this fish tank planter. 

This cooler tomato looks really happy so something about the container must be working. 

We had a great day with our 5yo niece in tow. I might do an animal post next from the fair!!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Brunswick Street Garden Cats

These two are brothers. I remember them when they were kittens. Looks like I caught them during bath time. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Growing Food in the Garden

I've been pulling in some sizable harvests over the last few weeks. This week's haul of long beans was split and half wound up in a batch of long bean antipasto in a friend's kitchen. The other half is destined to show up in breakfast (smoothie), lunch (veg soup), and dinner (fresh in salad or steamed side) for the next few days. When we get really sick of them, I'm making a batch of refrigerator dilly beans.  Why did I feel the need to also plant green beans?

A few weeks back the lettuce was going strong and the green beans were a novelty. Chard, kale, carrots, and a tomato also made it home that day. 

The first tomato basil salad of the season tasted divine. 

Josh doesn't enjoy fresh tomatoes so these will be all mine!

Isn't it wonderful when you can supply your family's fresh vegetable intake?  It doesn't happen often, but this year has been special. The weather has been cool enough to keep the lettuce happy but sunny enough to satisfy the tomatoes and eggplant (coming soon).

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Growing Chinese Red Noodle Beans

The beans are here!  It's been about 70 days since sowing the seeds back in May and I had my first official harvest yesterday. I pulled the three fattest beans, measuring in at 16" long. They were surprisingly bendable - just like a noodle. For dinner they went raw into a chopped salad. The flavor was similar to any string bean but slightly more nutty. In the future I might pick them when they're smaller and slightly more tender. 

This is just the beginning of the harvest. I had an amazingly successful germination rate (about 100%) and all of the plants reached maturity (even those planted in the shade of some massive sunflowers).  

The bean begins with a flower, pale lavender to white, almost shaped like a clamshell. After pollination, a threadlike bean begins to form. 

It doesn't take long for the beans to stretch out and adopt that signature red color. 

After about a week the Chinese Red Noodle Bean is nearing 18" and ready to pick. They can be eaten raw, steamed, or sautéed just like a regular bush bean. One to two beans per person is plenty.  The plants are quite heavy producers so I'm trading my beans with other gardeners for what they've got too much of. 

The plants are also fast growers and I've supported mine with an unfortunately unattractive combination of tomato cages, bamboo canes, and willow branches. Some of the vines are trained up a few tall sunflowers in my plot too. If I had a proper trellis they'd probably be at least six feet tall. Right now they've begun growing back down on themselves so harvesting will be at a slightly more manageable height. 

The verdict? They're easy to grow, they make lots of beans, and they're fun to look at. I recommend!