Tuesday, September 27, 2011

My First Fall Garden Post for 2011.

Fall is upon us so we can expect things to slow down a bit in the garden since the warm weather is changing to sustained cooler temperatures. Sunshine becomes more important now to finish out the harvests we want out of the garden. Moisture is important too, but in the last 8 days, it has rained 7 of them here. It's way too soggy to try to plant in the soil when it's like this. I'm waiting for it to dry a bit before I begin planting my broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and the remainder of my collards.

The giant marconi peppers are slowing down quite a bit in their production. This week I was fortunate enough to harvest twelve of them that weighed a total of one pound.

I'm contemplating pruning these pepper plants when the leaves fall off in order to prepare them for going dormant through the winter. There are two ways I am considering doing this:
1. I'm considering heavily mulching them around their individual bases, and then using an oversized diameter piece of black pipe insulation and sliding it over the remaining stalk after the branches are cut off at the top. The plants are so woody, that I think they could survive a winter here if protected. I anticipate that the pipe insulation, while open at the top for some air, would prevent bitter cold winds from freezing the stalks and killing that portion of the plant.
2. Another way would be to cut the stalks off at the base, leaving a couple of inches sticking up, then cover that heavily with the compost. In the spring, they could grow more quickly since the roots would be already established. When they begin growing in the spring, they would need frost protection every night until all danger of frost has passed.

If anyone has tried these methods, I would really like to know what your results were. You can email me your specifics at veggiegardenblogger@gmail.com .

This is the last harvest of the sweet banana peppers for this year. The plants are coming out to make room for a row of collards.

The lack of sunshine this past few days has slowed the okra down too. I only got two this week and they weighed one and a half ounces.

The heritage raspberries seem to be holding their own this week. This is one of two bags that weighed a total of four and a half ounces.

This is the time of year when I really put out the compost all over the garden. During the spring and summer growing seasons, I'll work some into the soil for individual plantings or place it in a row and then till it in before planting seeds. This pic shows thirty 5 gallon bucketfuls of cured compost spread on one of the plots. As soon as I distribute the rest, I'll be starting a large batch of compost for use around some of our other plants to help insulate the roots from the coming winter temperatures.

I have attached a few pics of my remaining tomato plants showing their rejuvinated growth.

There are many small tomatoes that have formed on the vines. I know that at least they will develop into large green tomatoes before the first frost hits in mid to late November.

The vines have even grown over the tops of the cages and almost down to the ground before turning upwards again. When the soil dries a bit, I'll tie these vines up so they can continue to produce.

This shows how large some of the tomatoes are already. New blossoms can be seen in the left of the picture.

These are the tops of the vines. Notice how healthy and vibrant they are! Tomorrow they'll all get another helping of organic tomato fertilizer.

Here are some more healthy vines reaching for the sky with their blooms.

Remember those grapes I told you about in a previous post? Well, here they are.

There aren't many of them, but I'll take what I can get. They're still a bit sour, so I figure at least another week to ten days before I can pick them.

I thought I'd include a pic of my brown turkey fig tree that survived Hurricane Irene. It did pretty well!

For my regular readers, remember the cucumbers that I was going to try to hand pollinate? I'll never know if it worked because the vines are all dying because of too much water. They are yellow and very soft, so they're done for this year. Zero cucumbers. I can't believe it!

That concludes my first fall blog post for 2011. I hope you enjoyed what I have to share with you! Thanks for stopping by and as always, feel free to share a comment.

Have a great vegetable gardening day!
Veggie PAK

Thursday, September 22, 2011

My Last SUMMER Garden Post For 2011. (Fall will be next!)

This year I am growing okra for the first time. I think fried okra is great, but now that I'm growing some I expect to find many more recipes for it that we will enjoy. At the end of this post, I have included some additional status on other plants as well.

This is the half-barrel I use for growing my okra plants. If they were not in this barrel, they would be dead from Hurricane Irene's high winds. I rolled them into my shop for protection, and as you can see by their condition, that worked perfectly! In addition to the okra, you can see the Egyptian walking onions (courtesy of Frank)  that I have planted in the same container. Since the remainder of the growing season is short this year, I'm using those for scallions for dips right now. In the spring, I'll replant the onions in the ground.

I have read that okra produces seed in the second year of its growth. I'm planning on keeping these plants stored inside through the winter and when spring arrives, I'll bring them back out during the day. Then every night I'll bring them in to protect them from frost until that risk passes. It should be very interesting to see how they produce next year. Hopefully, I'll harvest some seeds. With the roots and stalks intact, I anticipate a bountiful harvest, but only time will tell.

Here are some of the 60 pieces of okra I've harvested this year weighing a total of 2.6 pounds. I have to pick them every couple of days due to their current growth rate. However, I believe they are getting ready to surge ahead with additional points of harvesting.

As you can see from the following pics, the okra is still vigorously being produced at the tops of the plants.

 The plants are now developing new shoots that are bearing their own okra farther down the length of the main stalks.

The end result should be plenty of okra for use in whatever recipes I decide to try out. Overall, I would say the okra is a big success for this year.

Other Plants 

After the recent 1  1/2 pound harvest of Sorrel reduced the foliage down to the nubs, it's growing again nicely.

I found some Swiss chard plants at the feed-n-seed so I bought them and replanted them into a large container. During the hardest part of the coming winter, they will be stored inside my shop for protection.

This is my California Wonder bell pepper plant. It only produced 4 very small peppers that when combined wouldn't even amount to the size of a large banana pepper. For some unknown reason, I cannot successfully grow bell peppers in my soil. You can enlarge the picture and see the blooms and little nubs that will not develop into nice peppers. I'm going to try to keep it protected in place through the winter and see what it will do next year. After the leaves drop, I'll heavily mulch the base and wrap it in burlap for some protection.

These are the three remaining Chuck Hayes Gardenias that I grew from seeds that were in a pod on a gardenia in our front yard. There were about 30 seeds in the pod, and initially only nine germinated in early summer. Slowly they dwindled down to these three, and one is looking a bit poorly. Don't know if that one will make it. It was fun trying though! They have a wonderful scent when they bloom. They're one of my wife's favorites, if not THE favorite!

This is the Russian Sage that my mom sent last year from Hudson, New York. As most of the flowers are gone from the garden now, the honey bees and bumble bees take advantage of having this one still blooming. As luck would have it, there are no bees in this picture. Last spring, this plant was just a single brown stick in the pot, but it's doing very well now. I need to store it properly this winter so we and the bees will enjoy it next year as well.

That concludes this last post of my "summer" garden info for 2011. I hope you found it interesting and informative. I'm always open to suggestions on how to increase the yield from my garden. That's what it's all about. Growing our own food. If you have suggestions that would benefit my harvests, please feel free to share an email with me at veggiegardenblogger@gmail.com .

Watch for my next post which will be "My First Fall Garden Report For 2011."

Have a wonderful and safe vegetable gardening day!
Veggie PAK

Monday, September 19, 2011

Our Last Harvest Before Fall Arrives.

Once again it is time to be grateful for our weekly harvests of home-grown vegetables. Sustained cool weather is coming closer each day that goes by on the calendar, so we have to harvest all that we can while we have the opportunity. A small fresh vegetable in my hand is better than a larger one that went bad on the plant, so this time of year I tend to play it on the safe side and pick the smaller ones too.

I was able to pick 27 giant marconi peppers that weighed a total of 2 1/2 pounds. The wind is beginning to affect my tall plants even though I have them tied up, so some of these picked were the smaller ones.

When preparing the peppers, I save the crowns from the larger peppers in order to dry them out and save the seeds. Although it looks like a lot of seeds here, many of them are immature and are not capable of germinating. After they are dry, I will sort them out by size. I figure that the larger the seed, the higher probability of successful germination in the spring.

The sweet banana peppers did well again. I got 67 of them and they also weighed in at 2 1/2 pounds. There are still many blooms as well as very small peppers (about 1 inch long) on the plants. They'll keep until next time I pick, which I expect to be in about ten to twelve days.

The heritage red raspberries continue to do well. This week I picked 4 1/2 ounces of them. That gives me a total so far this year of 2 1/2 pounds! There are dozens more still forming on the canes.

This is my first ever harvest of Cherokee Purple tomatoes! These three totaled just a few points under a full pound for all three, not each. There are several smaller ones still on the vines.

My Park's Whopper and Burpee's Big Boy tomatoes still have green tomatoes on the vines, and they even have new blooms.

Hopefully there will be enough time for these to ripen before it becomes too chilly for tomatoes to survive. I don't think there will be enough warm weather left this year for the blooms to develop into tomatoes.

I have just one female bloom on my cucumber vines.

All the rest appear to be male. I have only two vines remaining in good health, as all the rest have died already without producing a single nice cucumber. I think I'm going to try hand pollinating this one to see what will happen. I figure at this point, what do I have to lose?

Thanks to all my visitors for taking your valuable time to stop by my blog. Feel free to share a comment with me if you would like to. I enjoy hearing from you!

Have a great vegetable gardening day!
Veggie PAK

Monday, September 12, 2011

Harvest Monday for September 12th, 2011.

Remember that picture of the median strip crabapples in my last post? I successfully transformed that twelve pounds of crabapples that were in the bucket into something delicious.  I ended up with nine half-pints and one pint of crabapple jelly... that wasn't runny!

It tastes wonderful!

Next on the agenda was the fourteen pounds of freestone South Carolina peaches I bought from Beazley's Produce Stand on Indian River Road.

I blanched them in order to get the skins off easily.

Then I placed them in ice water to stop the cooking process.

After peeling them and removing the pits, they really looked tasty! No cheating though. I didn't eat any of them.

After removing the pits and skins, I cut them up into much smaller pieces for processing.

Then I mashed up the peaches while listening to some old tunes on the radio...

The finished product was nine half-pints plus two pints of peach preserves!

Now it was time for canning sliced peaches. They sure looked good!

I was able to get five pints of sliced peaches from what I had left over after the preserves. There's a little floating issue going on, but this was my first try for canning sliced peaches, so I claim it as a success!

This week I faced the task of picking the Marconi peppers that were in the garden. I had to get help from any available source. Granddaughter Celie was readily accessible and very willing to help her Poppa!

She liked picking the special red one! She thought that was neat!

Look Poppa!
(She loves going into the garden barefoot!)

Being young is not an excuse for not helping to get the harvest in. We all have to do our part, and little sister Eleanor pitched right in!

There were 26 Marconi green peppers weighing in at a total of 3  1/4 pounds. We took them in the house and prepared some right away for dipping in blue cheese dressing. They were delicious!

I picked collards for the first time this season, and they weighed in at 2  1/2 pounds. Although the leaves are small, the taste will be great!

The sorrel finally looks pretty happy and healthy in the half barrel I have it planted in.

After picking, it weighed 1  1/2 pounds which is quite a nice harvest. Sorrel soup is one of the items on the menu for tonight!

This week's figures bring the total weight of harvested organic produce this year to 286 pounds. That equates to a market value of $1,094.35.

That concludes another Harvest Monday posting from our garden. Thanks for stopping by and seeing what is going on. I hope more and more people will begin growing some of their own food.

Visit Daphne's Dandelions for some wonderful information on gardening!

Have a great vegetable gardening day!
Veggie PAK

Monday, September 5, 2011

Foraging After Irene Left.

Long before Hurricane Irene took shape in the Atlantic, I had planned to go foraging on public property looking for crabapples so I could make some crabapple jelly. I was going to be particular about selecting the fruits. Almost ripe, but not overripe and not bruised so I could get the best juice out of them. The more ripe they are, the lower the pectin, and we all know what happens when making jelly with too little pectin.

A couple of days after Irene left, I went to the median strip on a local street where I had found an abundant source for crabapples. The median is about 16 to 20 feet wide, and runs for about half a mile. All the way down the center of the median strip are crabapple trees. I think this was the first time they had been picked.

The end result was that I came home with 12 pounds of fresh "just ripe" and "not quite ripe" crabapples. That should ensure that the jelly will set just fine as the pectin level should be high. It appeared that all the crabapples that were just past ripe had been blown off the trees during Hurricane Irene, so mother nature had already done the "sorting" for me. After the high winds, all that was left on the trees was healthy young fruit just waiting to be picked. And pick I did!

Here is a pic of the 12 pound harvest from this foraging effort:

The next step will be to make crabapple jelly!

I hope everyone made it safely through Irene's path of destruction.

Have a great vegetable gardening day!
Veggie PAK