Thursday, June 26, 2008

Veggie Patch Update

First off, can anyone help me identify if the photo below this is a zucchini plant? I made a mound of compost and then planted zucchini seeds in it. When they started to germinate I realized that I have some kind of squash or melon seeds in my composter and they started to germinate as well. I think I have thinned the right ones but I have no clue what a small zucchini plant should look like.

As sides from my zucchini mix up things are going well. The peas have started to form baby peas which is exciting, I have never eaten a fresh peas before. The beans have climbed about 2 feet up the trellis so I suspect they should start leafing out along the tendrils soon. My potatoes are getting massive, almost 3 feet high!

I have started to blanch my celery plants, I have read conflicting things on weather you should blanch celery or not but I am going to go ahead and try. My first through was to use PVC waste pipe but I could not find any that was wide enough. I ended up using 1 gallon perennial containers with the bottom cut out of them, they seem to do the trick. They seem a little small so I think I will keep a look out for larger containers but for the time being they do the job.

The heirloom tomatoes all have 3 clusters of flowers per plant and I am patiently wait for the kings of the garden to form and ripen. The photo below of the tomato blossom has to be the largest tomato blossom I have ever seen, they are larger then a quarter. The plant is the Hillbilly Potato Loaf tomato, I think I bought these seed last year just because of the name and it turned out to be a very nice tomato.

Now for the failures, my butter crunch lettuce is in the composter. It formed lettuce that looked more like romaine and only one plant formed a butter crunch head about the size of an onion. I think this was caused by using lettuce grown in cell packs because every lettuce that I planted from transplants did poorly well the lettuce that I seeded in the ground grew get. This fall on, I will only grow lettuce from seed not from the nursery.

My beets still have leaf miner, it doesn't seem to be as bad as it was but they are still munching away. This probably would not be the case if I keeped up my spraying schedule, shoulda woulda coulda I guess. I did a posting on garden web and was told that leaf miner should not kill the beets and that it would be okay to just leave them be. That is what I am going to do and hopefully still harvest some kind of beets.

I think I will end on a lighter note by protesting my jealousy of all the zone 7-9ers that are beginning to harvest many things. Going though all these harvest posts makes me want to move to a warmer climate. I think I would kill for a warm tomato right off the vine right about now. With all the magazines starting to publish recipes for things like cucumber gazpacho, tomato watermelon & feta salad, pork tenderloin with charred tomato salsa and so on doesn't help. That made you hungry didn't it?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Strawberry Time!

It is such a nice day today that my Mom and I went Strawberry picking this morning. The berries seemed a little small this year, this maybe because it is still early in the season through. We ended up finding a place that is just on the edge of our City this year which is rather convenient. The last few seasons we have drove about 40km round trip to a farm that is to the west of us. With the amount of gas the truck burns combined with the price of gas it is really not very cost affective anymore to drive that kind of distances just to pick strawberries, low food miles are all the rage now.

We ended up picking 15 Liters (approx. 16 Quarts) of berries so we should be stocked up for the season. I am going to make my strawberry jelly again this year, the recipe is on my Mom's baking blog if anyone is interested at the following link. I have also been eye some recipes for strawberry cannoli, ricotta strawberry muffins as well as a savory strawberry chutney to be paired with fish, pork or chicken. I will keep you posted with what I try and the links to the recipes as I am sure everyone is craving everything strawberry this time of year.

Well thats all folks, Tomorrow I will do an update on my veggie patch!

*sent from my patio via WiFi, oh the beauty of technology.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Home Made Recipe for Caesar Dressing & Croutons

When I notice that I needed to harvest some of my romaine because they were growing to closely I decide to finally try to make my own caesar dressing and croutons. I have always wanted to do this but never tried so I figured if I am making the effort to grow romaine I might as well make the effort to make my own dressing.


ciabatta buns or bread
2 garlic cloves
salt to taste
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese

Start off by cutting your Ciabatta into large bit size cubes, this type of bread can be found at most groceries stores and is a drier bread with large interior holes. Then add a few glugs of oil to a pan and turn on the heat. Once it is hot add two whole, halved clovers of garlic.

When the garlic has lightly browned remove and set aside for later use. Now add the bread cubes to your flavored oil and toss until nicely browned. Lastly mince one of the browned garlic clovers and add it back to the croutons along with the parmesan cheese and salt. Toss and let cool well you are make the dressing.

Caesar Dressing

1/2 teaspoon salt
1 reserved, browned garlic clove
1-2 anchovy fillets (Optional)
1 tablespoon grey poupon or dijon mustard
2 egg yolks
1/2 - 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
pepper to taste
3 tablespoons grape seed oil or any light flavored oil
parmesan cheese

In a large bowl add salt, garlic, anchovies and use a fork to grind the ingredients into a fine paste. I omitted the anchovies because I ended up purchase sardines by accident, all through I am not a fan of anchovies they are authentic in Caesar dressing and apparently does not make the dressing taste like fish.

Add the mustard, egg yolks, 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice and pepper to the paste and then use a whisk to incorporate well. Now it is time to make an emulsion, with your whisk in one hand and your oil bottle in the other start drizzling the oil into the bowl, whisking briskly to incorporate. Continue this until the dressing is the thickens of typical dressing, approx. 3 tablespoons of oil.

Once the dressing is to the desired thickness, taste it to check for tartness, if it needs a little more add the other 1/2 tablespoon of lemon juice and whisk in. Lastly add Parmesan cheese to taste and mix in.

(thickness reference & of course tasting)

Now you can toss your romaine right in your dressing bowl, serve on plates, then top with the homemade croutons, crispy bacon and I also add grilled chicken to make it a whole meal.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Harvest time, a few days to late!

I was out looking at my broccoli yesterday and noticed it had started to change colour slightly. I started a post with a picture on garden web to ask when you should pick broccoli and sure enough it needed to be pick. I was told I should have harvested 5 days ago and I must say I agree. The heads had not actually started to flower but it was getting very close and the heads had started to loosen a bit. They still were very tasty, just not as firm as usual.

I just harvested the center head and left the plants in. They all have very tiny buds starting between the stem and leaf joint that will turn into mini broccoli heads within a few weeks. Once I harvest these I will then compost the plants and hopefully by then my transplants will be ready to fill the empty space.

I think next year I will try a little different strategy for my brassica's. This year I planted 8 broccoli, 4 brussels sprouts and 2 cabbages with a second broccoli crop pending. Next year I am going to forgo the cabbage all together, hold off on the brussels sprouts and plant 14 broccoli plants in early spring. Then when this time of year rolls around I can harvest the broccoli and then replant 10 broccoli plants and 4 brussels sprouts for the late crop. I have read that it is better to plant brussels sprouts later so they develop in the warm days, cool nights of late summer and so the frost can hit the plants well the sprouts are still some what young.

I have also harvested some of my romaine lettuce, they have about 50% of there growth so I pulled some up so there is more room for the remainder to develop. I will follow up in a day or two with a recipe for homemade caesar dressing & croutons.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Stormy, Steamy Hot Weather Equals Little Gardening

We have had at times record breaking heat and numerous large storms since my last post. The one storm created a tornado in a town about an hour from our home and took down a massive oak tree in the treed lot behind use. The tree is well over a century old and had a trunk diameter of 14-15 feet around. Between the heat and wet weather I have not been up too much in the vegetable garden. There really has not been much needing attention aside from watering on the non rainy days.

I have hilled the potatoes because they have been growing like crazy in this heat. The red potatoes have grown the most and the fingerling potatoes have kind of grown leggy with varying heights, I am not sure weather this is usual for fingerlings or not. The pole beans, lime beans and cucumbers have also really started to take off in this warm weather. I think I planted them out at the perfect time to take advantage of this warm weather.

The broccoli heads are really starting to form and I am hoping they keep chugging along, we eat a lot of broccoli so the more the better. I have also started my new broccoli transplants this week from seed, they have spouted and I have them out in part shade so they do not burn up in the sun. I am planning on a plant out date of July 15 for the second broccoli crop so I can take advantage of the secondary side shouts on the first broccoli crop.

The tomatoes have also really started to take off as well and have tripled in size since I planted them out. They always have done really well in the pots so it is business as usual. One tomato I added this year that I have not done previously is a cherry tomato that is hanging off our redundant old chimney in a basket. I am trying this because although heirloom tomatoes have great tasting tomatoes they do tend to produce less so the cherry tomatoes can fill in the spot when I am out of large tomatoes.

Now about my poor beets, I think I have taken care of the bugs but I mixed the soap solution too strong and it has burnt the leaves. They have started to rebound through and I think I will spray again soon but this time with half the amount of soap.

The peas have just start to flower and have almost out grown my pea brush I put in, but the nice thing about this system is all I have to do is put some more sticks in. Lastly my lettuce has been kind of iffy, the butter crunch has kind of crapped out in the heat but the romaine is doing well so I will be able to start harvesting some soon. I will have to try more lettuce in late summer-fall when the weather is better for lettuce.

Monday, June 9, 2008

How I am going to feed hummingbirds in my yard

I put up a Humming bird feeder a week ago and I've already had some visitors that have been coming frequently in the evenings. I chose the feeder in the photo's for a few reasons, the first is it is not as attractive to bees' because their proboscis are not long enough to reach the reservoir unlike the bottle feeders. It is also very easy to clean every part of the feeder which is not possible with the bottle feeders and it has a built in ant mot. This feeder also gives you a much better view of the birds because there is not a large bottle in the middle blocking your view.

With all these features this means this feeder is more expensive, going for an average price of $30 plus tax. I got around paying this high price by purchasing this feeder on Ebay. I found it from a seller named desertginny and purchase it for around $15 , shipping include and no tax. If you are interesting in purchasing one she is still selling them and they can be found by clicking this link.

The hummingbirds are very entertaining to watch and I have
read that once you have a lot of hummingbirds coming to your feeder they start to chase each other because they are territorial. I am feeding them a mix of 2 cups of water to 1/2 cups of sugar that I dissolve on the stove, once cold I clean and refill the feeder every 3-4 days, no red colour needed. You can also make up this solution in bulk and store it in your fridge.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Trouble in Paradise

Here I was thinking that vegetable gardening is bliss. That is until the insects arrive. My beets came down with a case of leaf miner and at almost the same time that Sinfonian had leaf miner on his spinach.

I did some research on how to deal with these insects and I did not find much information that appealed to me. Most pages said to use a pesticide called sevin, I found this product and read the label, It stated something along the line of "if the person is unconscious do not induce vomiting." Needless to say I did not purchase this product. So you may say, then what are you going to do about these little buggers that are destroying your beets?

I got ruthless. First I removed all the leaves except one emerging leaf per plant and disposed of the infested leaves in the garbage.

I then took a 1L spray bottle, added 2 tsp of dish soap and 2 tsp of cooking oil then filled the rest with water and lastly I mixed till it was bubbly. Once this was done I soaked the soil and plants with this mixture and then went plant by plant spray the underside of each leaf that was left. I will repeat this every 5 days and after heavy rains for a couple weeks in hope it will take care of them.

I have had good success with this insecticide with house plants so I am hoping it will work equally as well outside. If this fails I will try pyrethrin, this is made from the chrysanthemum plant. This is organic and relatively safe for humans a few days after the spraying but it is very deadly to bee's.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Lots to update

First thing I would like to mention is thanks to every one that stops by to see how things are going, I have been getting a fair amount of hits lately and lots of people finding my blog well searching for trellis plans.

I have added a new section to my side panel to keep track of my vegetable production. I am going to try an remember to weight everything that I harvest so I can have a good idea of how much I can produce out of my little spot, so make sure you keep checking. It is at a meager 4oz at the moment but I am still excited about that!

Speaking of that 4oz, I have harvested some baby romaine, baby beet leaves and a few of the French Radishes. When I thinned the rows earlier on, I left them a little closer then is recommended so that I can harvest baby greens for salads. This way I can utilizer what would other wise be compost.

some of my first harvest

Now for the good part, My broccoli is starting to form heads! At this rate I will be blanching and freezer broccoli in about a month. I am also going to have to figure out when to start new broccoli transplants from seed so I can plant a second crop. I am not sure when I should start the seed but I do know that the Ministry of Agriculture recommends a late planting date for broccoli to be July 15th in my area. I think I will post a question on Garden Web to see if any of the smart people that frequent there can tell me when the best time to seed is.

Broccoli Head Forming

The second good part is that the pole beans, zucchini & cucumbers have all started to break ground. The only reclusive one is the lima beans, I think this is because the seeds a larger so it will take more time to plump up and shout out of the ground. Now I just have to keep hoping that the squirrels keep out of the seedlings until they are strong enough to withstand the relentless digging.

Pole Bean



Monday, June 2, 2008

June's Progress Photo's

Things are doing well, no real issues that I am aware of. The potatoes have almost all broke ground and I saw that one of the pole beans has sprouted since planting them last Thursday. I am happy to see the pole bean sprout because my seed was from my first attempt at veggie gardening four years ago and I was concerned it may not be viable any more.

This week it is supposed to be hot, Friday's is forcasted to be 31c with a humidex of 37c that is almost 99 F for all you non-metricits, yes I create my own words on my blog. There is also supposed to be some rain off and on during the week so this weather should be what the doctor ordered for the warm season crops I have just seeded.

There is not much on the to do list this week in the veggie garden, just lots of watering on the warm days when it is not going to rain. As you will tell by the photo's below I will be pushing the mower around soon but that is about it. That means lots of patio time!

Here are a couple over view photo's of the veggie patch as well as a photo of each bed.