We were so lucky, and those who weren't (those east and north of us) have been in our thoughts. So, as Irene recedes, as the clean up continues (and as we eye the next monster looming to our east....), things are winding down in the garden. Cucumbers and squash are done, one last row of beans may or may not make it....I am leaving some eggplant on each plant to turn gold, ripen and provide seeds to carry on. Sweet Peppers are hanging in there but are looking a bit tired - hot peppers just won't quit! The tomatoes? Really, really tired looking - though I've picked some nice Indian Stripe (the real thing - from plants I set aside) and Casey's Pure Yellow (delicious!), and the occasional dwarf - Coorong Pink, TastyWine, Dwarf Emerald Giant and Dwarf Sweet Sue gamely persevere.....
As for the fall garden, the planting of young Brussels Sprouts seedlings are settling in nicely (even though a bird or two topped a couple of plants). I am just about to go and transplant my thickly sown lettuce, arugula, chard, beets and spinach into less densely populated 4 inch pots, hoping to get seedlings into the garden in a few weeks. How they do will be anyone's guess - the angle of the sun means slower growth, but maybe that's a good thing, especially for the greens.
So all that will be left is pondering the outcomes, deciding what to plant for next year, clean up of the driveway (I hate that part!), and dreaming of a bountiful harvest of all things vegetable next season!
As for this blog - I will be a bit more intermittent, but there is lots to talk about - what's next for the dwarf project, my growing plans for next year, deciding which seedlings to sell......so don't go away!
As the 5 PM advisory comes in, it appears as though Irene is sacrificing power for girth - meaning staying at a Category 2 (the Outer Banks really needed that at least relatively good news), but about to spread some much needed rain further inward. But all eyes will be on those to our east, and all along the coast to the north. Having lived through Fran far inland, and still experienced the fury of nature through so many downed trees, any sort of storm of this magnitude is a serious matter. Get out of the way and stay safe, everyone.
I just did a reasonable picking of this and that tomatoes, and a pretty big harvest of beautiful sweet peppers. Anything that can blow away in the yard is secured. We are ready - although I will likely grind a batch of coffee tonight in case we lose power for any length of time (during Fran I ground the beans in a mortar and pestle!).
We will never, ever forget the visit of Fran in 1996. From the incessant screaming of the wind, the cracking of trees and branches, the odd thump of transformers blowing, to the smell of fresh pine - then waking up to a back yard of pick up sticks that were once tall pines and oaks. It is early yet - storm paths can and do change - but we are doing what we can to be ready. Stay safe, everyone in the path of this potentially dangerous storm.
That's enough weather (I don't need to add Meteorology to my avid hobbies - though it is certainly an interest of mine!). As I type this on my deck, a dry, refreshing, nearly cool breeze is blowing. The watering is done, and lawn is mowed - sweet peppers are nearly done dehydrating in preparation for another batch of home made paprika. Most seeds are saved - a few straggler tomatoes and peppers remain, as well as most of the eggplant. Cukes are about done, as are beans - and squash nearly so. The Brussels Sprouts seedlings I planted are looking great - they got a nice cultivation and fertilizing this morning. I also cultivated the two back rows in preparation for lettuce, spinach, arugula, chard and beets. And those seedlings are all up and thriving in my office window, and are nearly ready to ease into the sun - then to transplant once prior to setting into the garden.
The calm before the storm?.....
Gardening activities will be a bit light and laid-back today. After the requisite morning blueberry Dutch Baby and spin through the NYT mag crossword (spectacularly unsuccessful so far), and the weekly coffee roast, I plan to:
water and feed all of the pots and big garden
tie a few of the more straggly tomato plants
pick whatever I can find of squash, cukes, and tomatoes, as well as a sampling of sweet peppers and eggplant
That's it....also starting on my tomato talk for the SSE tomato tasting on Labor Day weekend, and my book proposal. The Red Sox play this afternoon, so I suspect I will have to peek in on that as well.
Good news - the lettuce, spinach, arugula, beets and chard that will constitute our fall garden are up, up and away! In a week or so I will do a transplant into plug flats - then into the newly dug rows. This will be our FIRST fall garden ever! Excited about the possibility of good salads, greens
A good day.....wishing for a few thunderstorms!
Got lucky with the camera on my deck today....
OK....now off to water and weed and start tossing more dead tomato plants! Lettuce I seeded a few days ago (for our fall garden) already germinated. And yesterday I managed to plant 24 Brussels Sprouts seedlings in the rows previously inhabited by beans and mis-planted Sprouts.
Not much of the garden remains to be weeded - just the tangle area of squash and cukes. The rear two rows, (previously for beets) will be redug in preparation for the fall lettuce, chard and beets. And on we go!
The flyer is a pdf - here is the text. If you are in the area, stop by, say hello and bring your questions!
Heirloom Plants and Seed Saving:
Preserving our Heritage
Join Us: Friday, August 19th from 6-8 pm
@ the Recyclique Retail Shop/CommunEcos Center
2811 Hillsborough Road
NC Tomato Man, Craig LeHoullier will be speaking
about the virtues of Heirloom Varieties and Seed Saving.
Bringing heirloom species back from obscurity has been Craig's passion for the
past 30 years. His pursuits have led to the rediscovery of varietals such as Anna
Russian and Cherokee Purple.
“The realization of what treasures these and hundreds of other varieties
were, the urgency to grow them, see them, taste them and share the seeds
with others, was what drove me deeper and deeper into this hobby. It is an
adventure that always seems to have an exciting new chapter with new
things to discover and share.”
Come share the adventure with Craig as he talks about the importance of
Heirloom varietals, seed saving and the preservation of our cultural and
agricultural heritage. To learn more about Craig and his efforts, please visit his website“From the Vine”at: http://nctomatoman.weebly.com/
Yesterday was a productive day...one thing about garden weeding - it is hard to stop. You just keep going and going as long as there are weeds. By lunch time, a full 25% of the plot is now well weeded - and I am pondering on taking that to 50% today. Where will I be after completing this? Two former bean rows and a Brussels Sprouts row ready for digging in preparation for beets and lettuce and chard, one just planted bean row starting to size up....a row of Fowler beans staying until the pods fully ripen, for a good supply of saved seed.....one tattered but living row of basil, and the 3 tomatillo and 3 Sungold plants in front, all doing fine (and the tomatillos are finally setting fruit!). While I was weeding, I decided I like the type of weeding where you can grab a handful of tall, shallow rooted weeds and yank them out, thus clearing a large space. Least favorite type is the so-called individual weed pull - those that grow amidst the bean plants. Did plenty of both yesterday, and my hands are sore!
The rear 50% is a bit of a mess, but shouldn't be too hard to remedy - there are half a dozen tired looking summer squash plants, three hills of very tired looking cucumber plants, Somewhere in there is a Moon and Stars watermelon plant with one developing fruit. Aside from a small patch of half a dozen intrepid Chard plants, it may be best to pull everything, get out the weed whacker, then just drive the mower over it all to chop up the greenery (and suck as much of it into the mower as I can). I hope to dig the rear two rows for the fall Brussels Sprouts. So that will be the fall garden - lettuce, beets, chard (which I hope to seed today indoors), and Brussels Sprouts...no garlic this fall.
Ah, the Gazpacho - we use a very basic recipe that was developed by our friend Sarig, chef at Zely and Ritz. The ingredients are tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, sweet peppers, salt, pepper, basil and sherry vinegar - and a final embellishment of pesto. Great, refreshing soup - but our tomato supply (or impending lack thereof) means it was likely the last one of the year. Can I say that I am already in eager anticipation of next tomato season?!
My blogging rate is slowing just a bit at the moment as I take advantage of some great gardening weather to do some of the less exciting (but necessary) tasks. Yesterday I cleaned out some aggressive weeds (mostly stilt grass) that threatened to take over and consume the pots of annuals around the crape myrtle on the side yard. The hot pepper seed saving continues - that's a big and potentially painful job (my left hand glove is preventing most of the possible damage of capsacin overload, but there is still plenty of sneezing involved! I also completed a total reorganization of my office, including new accessibility of my entire seed collection, all SSE yearbooks and all old seed catalogs. There were two objectives - make the office book-writing-worthy (which it now is), and get all of my seed in a location where it is much easier to find varieties to send to gardening friends. Mission accomplished. Plus, our cat Kip seems to find my office a great place for his afternoon naps.
Work continues outside today....time to clear out the dead and dying tomato plants, and pull out the bush beans and prepare the beds for a fall planting of lettuce, beets, chard and Brussels Sprouts. (I think I will skip garlic again this fall - it ends up taking valuable garden space well into the spring, which slows down the summer crop planting.) This means starting those fall crop seeds, which I hope to do today as well. Some areas of the garden are very impressive in terms of aggressive weed growth, so it will be somewhat of a chore. Best news about the big garden - front row Sungolds continue to produce well, and tomatillos are finally starting to set lots of fruit. Worst news - no more bush beans, and very few cucumbers and summer squash. But we've no complaints - it's been a very good season for all of those things.
I am also making final preparations for a garden talk on heirloom tomatoes at CommunEcos on Friday evening at 6 PM - see my NC Tomato News page for details.
As for what I will be blogging about going forward, with perhaps a bit less frequency.....multi-part updates on my various 2011 garden projects, updates on the Dwarf project, plans for 2012 - there will always be something to talk about - so keep reading! I will be especially interested in your feedback on varieties my seedling customers grew this year - what you liked, didn't like, varieties you wish I would carry next year, and varieties that you think should be discontinued. Either post as blog comments or send me an email. This will help greatly as I make my plans for 2012.
One video is worth a thousand words...so here goes!
With an assortment of great ripe sweet bell peppers in the fridge and on the kitchen counter, stuffed peppers were just about a necessity for dinner tonight. Rather than use a recipe, I just pondered what would work....and it did! Well, I did consult the internet for the best way to prep the peppers for stuffing. But after that, I was on my own!
I cut the top from the six largest bells I had and pulled out the core and seeds and removed any remaining ribs. Seed saving was going on as I did this (of course)....The now hollow peppers were put on a steaming tray in a large pot with an inch of boiling water and steamed for 10 minutes...then sat on a rack to cool.
In a large pot, I put 3 tbsp olive oil, then over medium high heat, sauteed half a large sweet onion, chopped into small-medium chunks, 2 minced cloves of garlic, and the useable flesh from the removed pepper tops, as well as three additional sweet peppers, cut into small cubes, until tender. I then added a medium large zucchini cut into bite sized pieces and 3 medium sized slender eggplant, peeled and also cut into bite sized pieces. 1 tsp salt, a few grinds of pepper, and half tsp red pepper flakes went in and I continued the saute, with frequent stirring, for 6-7 minutes, until the eggplant and squash softened. I then added two large tomatoes cut into bite sized pieces, stirred until blended, then a good amount of chopped fresh basil, as well as about a cup of the liquid from salsa that was at the end of its useful life (very few chunks left)....then 1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice - stirred it all up and heated it through.
I placed the peppers open side up in a glass baking dish, then firmly filled the peppers with the rice/veggie filling until as full as possible (I still had 1 cup or so of the filling remaining, which will make a nice lunch warmed over!). I topped the peppers with a mixture of grated sharp cheddar and bread crumbs, sprayed with olive oil, put 1/2 cup water into the baking dish, covered, and baked for 30 minutes at 350. I removed the top for the last 10 minutes, then put them under the broiler for a few minutes to nicely brown........
Pretty healthy - no meat, no eggs, just some rice and a tad of olive oil and a dash of bread crumbs and cheese - and very satisfying, well flavored and filling! This is a pretty flexible recipe that can be modified endlessly to suit your tastes, I am sure!
As far as gardening work today, just watering....tomorrow I must pick and water some more. What I did accomplish today was to clean my office.....finally! All of my seed collection is now easily accessible - for the first time ever!