Saturday, November 10, 2012

Our Fall Garden Harvests.

This time of year the harvests have really fallen off in volume. However, we got a few items in for the harvest tally.

Meager as it is, we got 1/2 ounce of raspberries this week.

The absolute last harvest of willow leaf butter beans gave us nine pounds eight ounces of beans.

Since this was the last harvest due to the cold nights, I wasn't expecting very much. We were fortunate to get three pounds one ounce of shelled beans. Many of them were small, but with the very chilly nights, there was no hope for them to fill out any larger, so I picked them all. I saved the dried ones for seed for next year.

I made two batches of green tomato relish with each batch using eighteen pounds of green tomatoes.

Those thirty-six pounds of green tomatoes turned into twenty-eight pints of delicious green tomato relish!

If you would like the recipe, here it is as I have modified it:

Green Tomato Relish
(Recipe Yield Approximately 12 pints)


  • 18 pounds of green tomatoes
  • 3 red bell peppers, halved and seeded
  • 3 green bell peppers, halved and seeded
  • 4 pounds of sweet onions
  • 3 tablespoons celery seed
  • 3 tablespoons mustard seed
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 5 cups white sugar
  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar


1.  In a grinder, coarsely grind tomatoes, red bell peppers, green bell peppers, and sweet onions. (You may need to do this in batches.) Place two large colanders in a sink and ladle in the tomato mixture to drain for 1 hour. (Pouring the mixture in risks spilling some of it into the sink thereby losing it.)

2.  In a large, non-aluminum stockpot, combine tomato and pepper and onion mixture, celery seed, mustard seed, salt, sugar, and vinegar. Bring to a boil and simmer over low heat 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

3.  Sterilize enough jars to hold relish (approximately 12 one-pint jars, or 6 one-quart jars). Have the lids ready in hot water to prepare them for a good seal. Pack relish into sterilized jars, making sure there are no spaces or air pockets. Fill jars to 1/2 inch head space. Screw on lids.

4.  Place the sealed jars into a boiling water bath canner with hot water already in it, making sure that there is 2 inches of water covering the jars when they are all in there.  Bring water to a full boil, then cover and process for 40 minutes.

5.  After 40 minutes, turn off heat, remove lid from pot and let cool down for 5 minutes before taking jars out of the pot. Remove jars from pot and place away from drafts on cloth-covered surface, two inches apart, until cool. At this point, I use folded paper towels and let their weight touch the remaining water on the lids to absorb it. I do NOT press on the lids to wipe them off at this stage. Once cool, wipe off jars with a warm dishcloth, let air dry, and mark contents and date on the lids. Relish can be stored for up to a year.


Some of the roma tomatoes ripened after I had picked them, so I made pizza sauce using Mrs. Wages packaged mix. It turned out very nice.

I ended up with six pints of pizza sauce, with each pint having enough sauce for two pizzas each. That was fine with us!

Now I have to remove all the tomato vines, butter bean vines and associated fencing. Then I can plant the Vates collards that I was fortunate enough to find an entire flat of.

So for our winter garden we'll have collards, butter crunch lettuce, curly kale, broccoli and sugar snap peas. With the continued nightly lows in the low 40's, everything else is shrivelled up, including the cucumber plants that I was trying to nurse along.

I'm still having difficulties with Blogger to the degree that I am questioning my continued use of it.

Regardless of all that, have a great vegetable gardening day!
Veggie PAK

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Garden Preparations For Hurricane Sandy.

As I thought about the effects of the approaching high winds from Hurricane Sandy on our garden, I thought I would make a few preparations to protect our harvests.

I picked the figs that were ripe/close to being ripe, because the tree location is such that the figs would probably be whipped off the tree. The high wind would be bad enough, but the wind gusts are concentrated as they buffet off the side of the house and into the fig tree. These beauties weighed eight ounces.

I picked one ounce of what may be the last of the heritage raspberries for this year. They are somewhat protected from the winds by the house, so I'm hoping that I may see the new berries ripen for picking.

The Green Beauty Snow Peas have grown some, but I didn't see any blooms on them so I'm letting them ride out the storm as they are.

The cucumbers have exploded with blossoms! I just had to do something to try to protect them from the storm. They are too heavy to move, so I did the next best thing that I could think of.

I wrapped them up!

I took a painters dropcloth and wrapped it around the wire cage while at the same time overlapping the top edge of the wire fabric in order to help hold the cloth in place. After putting the cloth in place, I tied a rope tightly around the top of the wire cage to bind the cloth so it wouldn't slip down. Then I tied that to two of my raspberry fence posts in order to keep the cage from being blown over. The weight of the wet dropcloth should help hold it in place.

This way, the cuke plants could get the rain and the blossoms would be protected from the strong winds.

Another concern of mine was wind damage to the tomatoes that were still on the vines. I know from their position in the yard that the wind would blast the remaining tomatoes right off the vines and onto the ground, bruising and damaging them. To alleviate that concern, I simply picked all the remaining tomatoes. Canning Green Tomato Relish is in my immediate future! Oddly enough, we finished the last jar of our canned green tomato relish from last year the same day I picked all these.

Here is the tally from this tomato pickin' time:

     Green Celebrity Tomatoes                -       16 pounds
     Green Roma Tomatoes                      -    12.5 pounds
     Green Park's Whopper Tomatoes    -       41 pounds
     Ripe/Almost Ripe Romas                   -      8.5 pounds
     Ripe/Almost Ripe Park's Whoppers -         5 pounds
     Total Pounds This Picking                        83 pounds!

At this point, I think the garden is ready for Hurricane Sandy. I wouldn't mind if the storm made a sharp turn out to sea, though.

Stay safe and be careful during this "event".

Have a great vegetable gardening day!
Veggie PAK

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

I'm Happy to be Posting Again!

First and foremost, I am not a computer geek. That being said, during August and September I haven't been able to upload pictures to my blog as easily as I had in the past . I thought maybe it was because I hadn't updated to Blogger's new templates. So I thought I would explore them and see if there was a new template that appealed to me, and at the same time I thought that utilizing a new template might alleviate the picture loading problem. While exploring the new templates, I tried one specific one and to my dismay, I couldn't get rid of it. There was no way to go back. There were no drop down menus or buttons to click on to go back, or even to do anything. I was stuck! I couldn't sign out or in but the only thing I could do was to scroll up and down. That was it. I went to the Blogger Forum and posted my problem, hoping to get some guidance. After a few days with no answers, I posted there again. Finally on October 23rd, someone posted a reply to my questions, only to say that they too, were having major problems uploading pictures.

I decided to try loading Google Chrome to see if that made a difference. It did, but only to a point. I ended up being able to select a template that was able to overwrite the problem one, but the font was tiny. I changed that and it worked in design mode, but when I viewed my blog the font went back to being tiny. I figured that I would learn to live with that, so I went on trying to see what changes went into effect using Google Chrome. Ultimately I found that I was able to upload pictures but was unable to change the font on my blog. I saved it all and closed it out and went out of IE as well. I went back in to Blogger via Google and opened my blog, thinking that I had successfully changed something that would now let me use my blog. I found that I still couldn't upload pictures there. It occurred to me to go back to Google Chrome and open my blog and upload the pictures there. It worked. But I still couldn't make the font change stick. So what the new post process has evolved into for me is this: Go into Google Chrome, try twice to get the "sign in" text to appear, sign in, upload my pictures, save and close it, go to regular Google, open my blog, sign in and do the editing there and save it. The process is tedious and frustrating, but at least I can still do my blog. At least I hope I can. If successful, this will be my first post using this method.

Now for my garden post:

This is what my willow leaf Lima bean plants look like now after the tops have crossed over the rows and continued growing on top of the next row of fencing. After going through a period of several weeks where there were no beans there to harvest, we were finally able to pick some beans.

I picked six and a half pounds of butter beans last Saturday morning. We were excited to get them and to see that there were many, many more pods on the plants that will hopefully fill out before we get the first frost in middle-to-late November. There are even more flowers than pods on the vines at this writing, so the potential is there for good future harvests.

Those butter beans shelled out to be two pounds seven ounces. I'm delighted to have that as a harvest at this time of year.

The Beauregard sweet potatoes have been looking healthy all during their growing time. I only planted seven plants and this is the size their vines grew to. I'm not sure what we'll find when we harvest them shortly.

This is the only sweet potato flower that I have seen on the vines all during their growth. I wasn't sure if that meant there would be few potatoes or none at all.

Much to my surprise, I had some nice sweet potatoes! I wasn't sure what I would find under all those vines after reading all that I did about the yields that you could expect. I had read that some people lift the vines every so often so they won't begin to grow fingerling size potatoes. I didn't lift mine, but found that there were both sizes under the vines. The nice sized potatoes in my right hand in the picture were dug from the outermost perimeter of the potato bed, not from under a main plant.

When I reached one of the main plants and pulled it and hand dug the soil away, this is what the sweet potatoes looked like.

This is the yield we got from the seven plants that I started with. Thirty-three pounds of Beauregard sweet potatoes. Most are nice sized, but there are many fingerling ones as well.

I found a very handy use for two stackable bread racks that I had in my shop. I use them for curing my harvest during the day in the shade and then bring them in at night so the dew won't settle on them.

I must say that digging these potatoes was very hard, meticulous work. I only cut two of them, but trying to protect the ones out of sight under the soil resulted in the process being very laborious. It took me from ten o'clock in the morning to four o'clock in the afternoon to dig all these up. These potatoes occupied space in my garden for one hundred and thirty four days. That's quite an investment in garden space for the yield. In my current location, I don't think that I will be planting potatoes again. If I had a very much larger garden area, I would do it again and plant even more.

The Roma tomatoes are hanging in there into the fall. Last week I picked 106 Roma tomatoes and they weighed in at fifteen and a half pounds. I also picked twenty six Park's Whopper tomatoes at a weight of seven pounds and 10 Celebrity tomatoes at three pounds. Later this week I am going to pull all the green tomatoes and use them for making Green Tomato Relish.

I picked the last of the Black Beauty eggplant since my last post. The seven eggplant weighed in at four and one quarter pounds. I had picked some green tomatoes to try making fried green tomatoes, but I didn't get around to it quick enough and they ripened in the kitchen!

I have one row of Vates collards growing nicely. I'm hoping to get some more plants to put in after I pull the tomato vines and prepare the soil there.

I have two rows of broccoli that are growing very well. I need to get in there with the Mantis tiller and get those weeds before they get bigger.

My Green Beauty Snow Peas are doing well in one of the half barrels in my driveway. I had to move the container from the center of the driveway over to the far side so the plants would get the most sun they could. When they were in the center of it, the shadow of the house next door covered them early in the day.

Since I have had nothing but bad luck with cucumbers for the last two years, I decided what the heck and planted some seeds in a half barrel. Like the snow peas above, I moved their container so it would get the most sun hours possible.

Blossoms! Maybe I'll have success this time!

As of this writing, the raspberries have really slowed down. However, in the middle of the month they were producing pretty well.

This is three ounces of berries picked at the middle of October. There were more after that picking, but my granddaughter picked them and ate them right there by the plant. It's really special to me when a three year old child says to me, "Poppa, can I pick those?" I like that all my grandchildren know where food really comes from.

Another fruit that I have been enjoying for breakfast lately is figs. I take Molly out in the morning and walk around the garden and stroll over to the fig tree and pick two or three and enjoy them right there. There aren't many left on the tree, but every two or three days there will be a couple ready for picking and enjoying.

On the north side of our house the ground doesn't get much direct sun, so I don't have to cut the grass there many times during the year. I was surprised to find that wild asters have grown up all over the area. I really like seeing all the insects that are buzzing around the flowers, and the wild asters serve as a great ground cover. I will be letting these go to seed and hopefully they will grow back even more next year. I need all the pollinating insects I can get to make sure my garden does well. If these flowers help support their presence, that's fine with me.

Remember Molly, our little puppy?


Molly has grown!  She is now 68 pounds and a chaser of squirrels and an excellent protector of our home. We love her.

That completes this post on my garden activities. I hope Blogger will leave things alone for awhile now. It was an exasperating experience trying to overcome whatever it did to my blog. Nevertheless, I'm very happy to be back and sharing my gardening experiences with all the wonderful folks out there. I do thank Blogger for the ability to be out there with all of you!

Have a great vegetable gardening day!
Veggie PAK

Friday, September 14, 2012

Canning Some of the Harvest.

This is a short post on some of my canning activity. I had some time available so I made a batch of Sweet Banana Pepper Mustard using a recipe from the internet. It's the same recipe I've been using for a few years and it always turns out great.

I ended up with a dozen pints of delicious sweet banana pepper mustard! I used about 100 sweet banana peppers to make this batch. That's more than the recipe calls for, but time has proven that we like it better this way.

Here is a pot of boiling fig jam that I was cooking following another online recipe. This was just under three pounds of figs that I was able to accumulate over a few days time from my tree. Next year I'm hoping to have several more fig trees established to make acquiring a sufficient quantity of figs much quicker. I have one tree already planted and it has been growing all year. I have three more small ones in gallon containers that are coming along very nicely.

All that work provided me with three half-pints and seven jelly jars of wonderful fig jam. I repeated something that I had read about when I was making my peach preserves. I read that if you boil the mixture a little longer than the recipe calls for, somehow it makes the fruit not float to the top of the jars. It worked fine for the peaches and as you can see in the half-pint jars, it worked for the fig jam also.

That concludes this short canning post for today. Thanks for visiting and I hope each of you has a wonderful day!

Happy Gardening!
Veggie PAK

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Our Garden Review.

First, let me apologize for not posting or replying to comments for the past few weeks, but the situation was out of my control. I don't know what Blogger did, but it stopped me from making any posts with pictures in them. I tried several workarounds suggested by online forums, but had no luck until I loaded a new web browser. That was suggested through an email from I loaded Firefox and was able to load my pictures into the draft blog post, and then I went back to Internet Explorer and edited the text. When I completed all that, reader's comments all the way back to August 16th popped into my blog all at once when I signed in. It was all very frustrating to say the least.

Now let's get to the Garden Review...

Labor Day has passed and the production from the hot weather crops has faded, so it's time to select the vegetables we like and to begin planting them in our garden as space allows. We're still anticipating some veggies from what remains growing in the garden.

The green onions I planted two years ago in a container are still producing scallions for us. This bunch weighed 8 ounces. Since this picture was taken, I harvested another ten ounce bunch, and in the meantime they're ready to be picked again.

Here are some Brown Turkey figs that I picked from our tree. One tree doesn't produce a quantity of figs fast enough for a nice batch of fig preserves because it takes so many, so I made some refrigerator fig jam instead.

Without having to do the actual canning, it was pretty easy and didn't take long. I used just under three pounds of figs to make this batch. It's great on toast in the morning!

I surely thought my Park's Whopper tomatoes had produced all that they would for this year, but apparently I was mistaken. The vines are growing rapidly and there are blooms all over them. There are quite a few tomatoes on the vines that are already larger than the size of golf balls, with some as large as tennis balls.

The Roma tomatoes are showing dramatic new growth and fruit as well.

Their vines are loaded with tomatoes already!

The six eggplant bushes that I planted have blooms all over them, but I've only gotten a few eggplants from them. Hopefully with the cooler weather, they will begin producing more. I think the hot weather we had affected the tomato production too.

We are enjoying the eggplants that we do get. After peeling them, I slice them to a thickness of about 1/8 inch or less if I can cut them that thin, dip them in an egg bath, then coat them with "House of Autrey's Seafood Seasoning Mix" and fry them in vegetable oil until golden brown. Boy are they good!

My Willow Leaf Pole Lima bean vines are doing very well. When I bought the seeds from Norfolk County Feed-n-Seed, they told me that this type makes a lot of vines. When the top vines can't stand up in the air any longer, they fall over and connect to the row next to them, even though the rows are three feet apart. That didn't concern me because I was very interested in the size of the beans they produced. They are a little bit smaller than the Henderson Baby Butter Beans that I had been planting for years. The pole beans had to do much better than the bush beans for me because I lost 3/4 of the bush bean crop every year to bugs and beans that I couldn't see, rotting on the ground. I would find that out when I pulled up the bushes and saw all the rotted bean pods. After that, I'm just not a bush bean fan, although I haven't ruled them out completely. I've been reading about people growing them in elevated rain gutters so they don't lay on the ground and rot. I might try that at some point. It would be interesting to see which method or bean type produced the greatest yield with the least labor.

The vines are producing hundreds of flowers, so I'm anticipating another crop, also probably due to the cooler weather. They are blurry in the picture, but you can see the beans forming in the left side of it.

I'm looking forward to a lot more butter beans from these vines!

Here are two rows of Waltham 29 Broccoli that I planted on September 1st. Hopefully I'll get some broccoli before the new year.

I also have some very nice Vates collard plants that I'll be planting in the separator row between the Park's Whopper and Roma tomatoes.  This year we also bought some Kale plants for the garden. I've only planted those once before and had terrible problems with bugs. This year I'm prepared with some organic Bt powder.

In summary, I would be very happy to get some more nice red tomatoes, but I'm not holding my breath for that. I would be very happy with a good harvest of green tomatoes so I can make green tomato relish, which I think is incredibly delicious! If I can find a comparable lima bean with fewer vines, I might try them next year. I have planted my last beet seed. I simply cannot grow beets. I think the eggplant will do well and produce a satisfactory harvest. Next year I plan to plant a full row of them because we enjoy them so much. My grapes have all died after caring for them so meticulously for three years. The last vine produced so few clusters, that I let the birds have them and then I dug up that last vine.  I pulled out one row of posts for more yard access, and the other two rows of posts will be used as part of the frame for a small greenhouse, only about 7 x 13 feet in size. My plan for next year is to reduce the east plot size by just a few feet in length so that I can put in some dwarf apple trees. I already have a small fig tree that I rooted early in the spring from the original one that I have. It's about eighteen inches high and very healthy-looking. Additionally, I have three other fig clippings that are actively growing in a container. I plan on doing several more of those.

That concludes this blog post from Back Yard Organic Vegetables. I hope you found it interesting and informative, and I thank each of you for taking your time to visit with me here.

Have a great vegetable and fruit gardening day!
Veggie PAK