Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Late Summer Garden Roundup

Most of these pictures have already been posted on Facebook or Instagram so forgive the lack of new content.  I wasn't originally planning on doing a post about the garden but I've gotten a few requests and figured I'd be glad next year when I had all my thoughts here to refer back to so here goes nothing.  This is going to be a long post, so great your reading glasses on!

This year I started with the basics and figured I'd "fake it until I could make it".  I've never gardened before.  My parents ever had a garden when I was growing up, though my mom says she had one before we were born, and other than the Wares, I don't remember anyone else ever having one.  So I sort of started out by doing some reading, and talking to a co-worker about where to start.  Then I picked what I knew we would eat and went from there.

So, just what did I plant?

- 5 raspberry bushes.  Only 3 have survived the summer (I blame the dumb dogs) but I'm told they will spread in the years to come so they should be ok.  Raspberries take a few years to start producing fruit so I wanted to get them in the ground ASAP.
- 35 strawberry plants.  Like raspberry plants they take a season before you can let them fruit.  So we didn't have a strawberry crop this year, but I'm planning jam and all other strawberry sweetness for next summer.  Oh, and strawberries over ice cream?!?  Count me in!
- 40 feet of asparagus.  Again, this plant takes a few years of establishing before you can actually harvest.  Next year we should be able to eat a few shoots but likely we will have to wait til the following year.

Ok, on to the stuff that we actually got to eat this year!!  Jeesh!

-3 types of potato plants.  I planted Red, Yellow, and fingerlings.  I was able to start harvesting the red (or new) potatoes early in the season, around the 4th of July.  The remaining ones have already been pulled out of the ground and we've been using them here and there for dinners.  Next year though I think I will plan more red potatoes since those tend to be the ones we like best.  I also liked that they came up so early.  Perhaps I'll do half the bed with red potatoes, and then use the other half to try out pumpkins of squash for next year.

-3 tomato plants.  I bought some specialty plants from Jungs Garden Center out of Wisconsin.  They were grafted and touted larger crops.  Boy were they right!!!  I had tomatoes coming out of my ears!  I planted Romas and two other types.  I swore I planted grape tomatoes, but they came out larger than I'd expected, maybe they were cherry tomatoes?  The third type was a bit larger and I would not plant them again.  Next year I will probably do 3 plants again but I'll make sure to grab grape ones.  Oh, and green tomatoes!  I didn't grow them this year (or know to pick them before they were ripe) but Abby's sitter shared a fried green tomato with me the other day and I was hooked.  These babies are in my gardening future.  I'll talk more about what I did with them all in a bit

-1 cucumber plant.  This made just the right of cucumbers for our family, until I decided to start pickling them.  I felt like I had too many cucumbers to eat myself so I started asking around and although I though mine were to big to use, I tried anyways, and they turned out great!!  I used this recipe and they are so good.  I've got a few jars left for sharing if you want to try them!  Oh, and this plant came from seed!  Yea me!  I'll probably do 2-3 plants next year and plan to pick them small for pickling.

- 10ish red onion plants.  I bought the starts from a local farm stand/grower (Klein's for anyone local).  They were perfect and I'd do them again, though I'll probably add yellow onion next year as well.

- Spinach and Arugula.  I started these both from seed and neither of them took.  I didn't end up with any crop of these this year, so I'll try again next year.  I'll probably try a Musclun instead and see how that goes.

- 20ish plants of green beans.  I started these from seed as well and they actually grew!  Who knew!  I planted three different kinds, regular green beans, yellow beans and then these really flat larger ones.  I'll probably cut my crop in half and plant only the normal green beans next year.  Either that or I need to figure out how to can before next year.  I had too many beans to count.  I ended up blanching them and freezing them in freezer bags for the winter.  It works fine, but I need a bigger freezer.

- 40ish carrots - these guys are NOT making the cut for next year.  They were impossible to get out of the ground, a pain because I was always having to thin  them out and we just didn't eat the ones we finally harvested.  Ry likes carrots, so I did them for him, but honestly, they just didn't do it for me.  Maybe I'll try to do baby carrots and see how that goes.  I'll start small next year though!  But, i did grow them from seed, so bonus points for that!

- 5 green pepper plants - YUM!  These guys I started from seed, inside, and moved them out when it was finally warm enough. I got tons of yummy peppers.  Have you ever checked the price of organic peppers at the store? It's crazy!  Next year I will mix it up though and grow some other colors, like purple (yep!  They have those), yellow and orange.  5 plants is probably all we need though.  I sliced and froze quite a few bags for the winter.  I wouldn't eat them raw after freezing though.  I'll likely use them for cooking with.  And, I'm going to plant at least 1 jalapeno next year.  We aren't fans of really hot food, but I do use them occasionally, so why not grow them myself?!?

- 30ish beets.  Like carrots these need to be thinned and were sort of a pain.  But they are oh so good!  I can probably cut my crop in half next year, or can them, but they are so tasty.  Ryan's not a fan though so I can only eat so many on my own.  I used them this year to make beet salad a few times and as a side for dinners.

And, I think that is FINALLY the end of the list.  I'm really happy with most of the choices we made, though I pointed out a few changes I'll make for next year along the way.

After all that, you're probably wondering what I ended up stocking for winter right?  Here's the down and dirty on that.  I've got the pickles that are dwindling fast.  Though, that's ok.  They look canned here, but they technically aren't sealed and shelf stable.  They are refrigerator pickles so they'll last awhile in there, but we do need to eat through them here sooner rather than later.

I've got the bags of beans and peppers that I talked about above frozen and ready for winter.  And then the makings from my tomato cash crop!  I decided to keep it simple and stuck to three simple types.  I've got pizza sauce, spaghetti sauce and salsa packed up in bags and bags (and bags) for the winter.  We better start eating it now or we'll never finish it.  Plus, I need my freezer space back!  I debated between trying to do something from scratch but in the end it ended up just getting these spice packs and calling it a day.  I had a full weekend of just boiling, skinning and prepping to make the three combos.  I'd say it took me around 10 hours to put up just the tomatoes this year, so this process is not for the faint of heart (or for someone who has 10 bazillion projects coming out of her ears, like raising a baby, knitting, quilting, blogging, weekly photo projects, and a life that tends to lend it self towards being gone on weekends!), but I did it!  And I'll do it all again next year...with a few tweaks.

Anybody want to volunteer for helping next year?  You can take some of the spoils home at the end!  I see canning in my future for sure.

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