Monday, July 18, 2016

Little Harvests And So On

This weekend's Growing A Greener World (website HERE) was about extending the growing season into the winter months by bending electrical conduit to make supports for row cover.  They even showed a handy pipe-bender that is sold by Johnny's Selected Seeds for about $50 plus shipping. 

This kind of ties into what I had planned to write about next, and that is about the fall garden.

I have made several feeble attempts at trying to get a fall garden started and so far I've not been met with much success.  Experienced gardeners in Texas do this all the time, as they are in Zones 7 and 8 and that gives them probably two months longer to their growing season, and thus, two gardens: Spring, and Fall.  Because come July and August, it's hotter than the bejeezers and most gardens planted in the spring are done by then and what's left of them just dries up and blows away.

Me?  Zone 6A.  Oh, I get that intense heat and dry in July and August, a lot like in Texas.  And usually lots of wind that added to the heat and dry would put any dehydrator to shame.  Are you familiar with the song, "Ohhhhhhh-kla HOMAH, where the wind comes whippin' down the plain...."  Deed it does, let me assure you.  We leave our air-conditioned houses in our air-conditioned cars to go to air-conditioned stores or work-places.  And we hurry whenever we're in between.  The grass, which is Bermuda, unless you live in an expensive home with timed sprinklers and all that, turns yellow-beige and lays there in a mat.   At least it doesn't have to be mown.  But it burns quick and the fire moves fast if somebody throws a cigarette out the car window.  I can't say that there's one thing I like about this time of year.  Sometimes, it's so hot outside you don't even feel like you can BREATHE. 

And another bad thing about it is that apparently cool-weather crop seeds do not like to germinate in this kind of heat. 

So what can we do? 

So far, I've tried sowing Roodnerf Brussels sprouts, blue kale, winter spinach, Packman broccoli, and Broad Windsor fava beans.  I've gotten a few of the beans to germinate, but they took FOREVER.  Out of twelve started, six came up.  They were transplanted into the garden and within ten days, I was down to two.  I replanted and got three, which I set out, and covered all five with curtain sheers.  I don't really hold out much hope. 

I even dug up the beans that hadn't germinated yet, and they were all mushy, but the last two had a seedling attached to the mush, which I damaged when I dug it up.  *Sigh*.  It's the price of education.

Of the others, the only one that came up well at all was the blue kale, and even that was only about half the seeds I sowed.  I sowed about twenty seeds in little 3" pots, thinking they could help each other stand up and I could separate them when I was ready to transplant.  Plenty of germination time has passed, especially since I soaked these seed in water overnight before planting. 

So now I've soaked some more seed, and replanted, and they are under a grow light in my office, where it's cool.

A lot of things that don't transplant well can be started in newspaper cups, because the whole thing can be set down into the hole in the garden and none of the plants even know they've been transplanted.  Yes, indeed, I have said this before.  Things like beets and carrots can be a little tedious if you plant one seed in the middle of each newspaper cup.  But wait.  How about four seeds, one in each corner of the cup? 

This is now Monday.  Today while I was weeding, I noticed the soil is really, really dry.  I will have to use my weeding time watering, tomorrow.  I've been trying to delay the need by towing several gallons of water in the wagon behind me as I go to harvest and weed.  Yesterday I gave the blackberries another good drink.  Today it was the Long Island Cheese pumpkin and some of the pepper plants.  I got half the section between the two bean "fences" weeded, and then I put some cardboard down on top of it.

And I did my harvesting.

The picture turned out fuzzy and I can't retake it because some things have been processed.  These are the last of the beets and they are small.  So, more greens and those onions sautéed together in the iron skillet and frozen.  I cooked and peeled the beets and put them in a small container, I'll warm them in the microwave and have them with a little salt, pepper and butter soon.  Cukes were tucked away in the crisper, I've distributed Bread And Butter pickles to most of my neighbors and have been doing a pretty good job of keeping fresh ones consumed with Ranch Dressing.  Still not tired of that yet.  Blackberries were washed and added to the bag in the freezer.  Tomatoes and peppers were lined up on trays in the dining room to ripen.  All the ones that had any hope of ripening were picked.  It's that or let them boil and rot in the garden.  I noticed some of the tomatoes and peppers on the tray from several days ago have ripened, so the tomatoes were cored and cut in half and tucked into the freezer for tomato sauce-making this fall.  I ladle off the "tomato water" and can it separately, adding a little salt and citric acid to each jar.  I like to drink it.  I don't like thick tomato juice so it suits me just fine.  Peppers were chopped and tucked into the freezer.  I like to let them turn color if they will.  They are so much sweeter that way. 
These red ones make wonderful pimiento cheese sandwich spread.  Just grate some sharp cheddar cheese, add some finely chopped red pepper that has been sautéed in a little water in a skillet till soft, and enough mayo to make it spreading consistency.  Spread on toasted homemade bread.  Yum-O.  The orange ones will do in a pinch, you'll get the same flavor, but the color is not as much of a contrast.  Just close your eyes, you'll be OK.....

The red noodle bean finally made 3 long beans sized big enough to pick.  And I took a few TenderGreen beans, though they were not as big as I would've liked.  I don't think I'll grow these again.  Lazy Housewife beans, the few that have survived this far, have still not made anything worth picking.  Since I only am getting a few little beans at a time, I just break the ends off, string the TenderGreens and break the Noodle into pieces.  They all went into my freezer bag without blanching or anything.  They will be ok if not stored too long before they are cooked and eaten.  Hubs loves green beans, and I haven't had a decent bean crop in a long time.

In that white thing by the basket are some zinnia flowerheads.  I cut the flower heads when their color fades and they start looking dry.  Sometimes only the petals around the outside edges have seeds attached to them.  But hey, one seed produces a bushy plant that makes several flowers, and if each flower only makes six or eight seed, that's still a population explosion in my book.

Last night I cleaned the Coriander. 

Coriander is what you get when Cilantro goes to seed.  HERE is a webpage of information about it's uses, both culinary and medicinal, by Whole Foods.  Apparently I need to keep them in the freezer for optimal retention of all it's good stuff.  Enough seed dropped on the ground in the garden that I'll probably have volunteers in the garden next year, like I had with dill.  OMG.....  And here's the thing: I grew those plants from coriander out of my spice cabinet.  And yes, it was 'way past a year old.  The fennel, which was also from my spice cabinet, has made umbels and is just now beginning to form seed, and they have made bulbs.  Don't that beat all??  HERE is a YouTube about what to do with the bulb.  Apparently if you cut the bulb above the roots, and the roots will regenerate.  I've not harvested the bulb yet because I want the seeds. 

I hope the bulb will still be edible after seeds have ripened.  It actually looked a lot better a couple of days ago.  No experience with this one.

The storm we had a few days ago caused two of my rhubarb plants to flatten and splay out.  I cut all the stalks of one of them, chopped and put them in the freezer, thinking I'd make strawberry-rhubarb jam with them come fall, using the gallon of cut strawberries I have stored in the freezer.  But then I started wondering if there was a good reason why we never seem to see rhubarb in the stores except in spring.  And now I have learned that it's because the oxalic acid is weakest then.  So I'm not sure whether it's safe to make anything with these stalks or not.  Some places I've seen say that concentration of oxalic acid is not good to ingest and may cause stomach cramps and so on.  Some of them say you can boil them in water and throw out the water to reduce the oxalic acid content.  Others say it's perfectly OK to consume the stalks, but of course never the leaves, up until the heat of the summer makes them tough, and they make no mention of the boiling water thing.  I don't want to make, like, eight pints of strawberry-rhubarb jam and then find out it's inedible.  These stalks are green with red at the bottoms and I've made jam with stalks that were green-colored and not red before without any problems.  So.....  I don't know.  Do you?

The storm also played havoc with our electricity.  It went off and back on several times, but never stayed off.  I know this sort of thing is hard on our AC unit, our electronics and electric appliances.  It happens out here every time there's a storm, and we've had to replace our answering machine, our big TV and our big freezer since we have moved out here.  Then we heard on the news that a house in Tulsa burned down to the ground, not because lightning hit it, but because a power surge ignited something.  Yikes!  So I asked Hubs to talk to Joe about whether getting a surge protector for the whole house would be a good idea, and he did.  Joe said he thought so and quoted a price, which isn't as much as replacing one freezer or one AC compressor.  So Joe's going to fix us up when he can work it into his schedule. 

Just now, I realized I hadn't checked the oriental pears today, and OMG, the birds and the wasps are ALL OVER the tree!  So I picked all the pears except the half- and three-quarter-eaten ones, and the very littlest ones.  Looks like about a peck, some of them yellow, the green ones blushing yellow.  I would've rather left them on the tree to grow a little more, but it's pretty hard for them to grow when they've got a big hole chewed out of their sides.  These will ripen just fine and I guess I'll can some of them when they're ready.  We sure enjoyed those canned Bartlett pears last winter.  Some we mixed with some pineapple and peach chunks and made our own fruit cocktail.

We love the birds, but truly they need to be eating bugs, not our fruit.  I just checked the Bartlett pear tree, and there are only about five pears left.  They are VERY green, hard, and small.  It got nipped by frost so there weren't many on to begin with, and then there were those the storm knocked off.  So, I'll let the birds go ahead and knock themselves out on this one after they've devoured what little is left on the oriental tree. 

Well, this has been a long, busy day and I'm tired.  The 5:00 news just came on and Hubs will be wanting his supper soon.  It's just leftover roast with vegetables tonight. 

Till next time, Rock on, we'll do the same.  Hugs xoxoxo


  1. I don't know the answer to the rhubarb question since I am barely able to get one harvest before it disappears from the garden never to be seen again!

    The pears look good. I suspect my pears will now become the target since I harvested the peach tree. I will check daily.

    It's a struggle!

    1. I was just thinking maybe I should've left those ugly peaches to dangle on the tree till I got all the pears. Seems like I didn't start having any trouble till I took off all the pears and pruned the tree. We have some kind of blackbird now, they're about the size of a large robin, maybe a little bigger, and when they fly they have a kind of a "rudder" that hangs down in the back. Their females are a rust color. Those birds are not afraid of anything and you can get almost close enough to touch them before they fly off. They'll land near you and walk toward you as if they expect YOU to run from THEM. I saw them in the pear tree this morning, pecking at the remaining pears.

      My rhubarb have done pretty well in the herb garden, where they get partial shade, up to now. If these don't make it, I won't try again. I think this is the wrong climate for it. I was able to grow it when we lived in northern Indiana.

    2. Oops, I meant to say, "took off all the peaches", not "pears".

  2. This heat-humidity is a challenge in so many ways. Rhubarb is one of my favorite things but the climate here is not great for it so we planted ours on the shady side of the house and it seems to be doing okay for now...we started it from seed and hope to get the first harvest next spring.


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