For the past couple of weeks there has been much going on in the garden. Last month the kids and I spread all sorts of leaf mulch over the entire area. I’d love to have wood chips, but the city guys brought leaf mulch this time. The worms love a good chopped up leaf mulch and it does a fair job of keeping the moisture in, so onto the garden it goes! Whenever wood chips come, they will go on top of this mulch. That’s the beauty of Back to Eden gardening. Whatever you have on hand, spread. There is no mixing, tilling, digging. It’s all about laying down a cover, layer by layer. Everyone got in on the action, even the littlest Gloria enjoyed a day out in the sun. All the seedlings have been set out….lettuces, kale, spinach, kohlrabi (one of my favorites!), cabbage, broccoli, chard, brussel sprouts. Really here in Tn it gets too hot too quickly for these cool weather plants to thrive. They do much better in the long fall and mild winters. But I am always so anxious to get working in the garden, I give it a try. Some years have been better than others, but it’s always fun to watch with anticipation.
I. Just. Can’t. Resist.
All the gardening catalogs stuffing my mailbox. Enticing me.
The rich, loose soil of the garden, albeit freshly tilled. Calling me.
The high piles of leaves and wood chips. Taunting me.
I must give in. I dream of planting. Of fresh greens. Of rows and rows of tall corn. I dream of cover crops. Of new ways of beating the ‘coons to my sweet corn. Of weed-free vermicompost. I dream of soil-blocking seedlings. Of brewing compost tea. Of row-covers.
So today, the girls and I started making homemade seed tape. The tiny seeds of carrots and lettuce are so difficult to spread evenly in the soil. And so many of the precious seeds are wasted. I hate to thin. To cut down tender new plants. You can buy seed tape from any garden catalog but it is pricey. And so easy to make it yourself. Seed tape is a bit of a fussy job. But a fun way to spend time, when it’s still too cold to be outside in the garden. An appetizer of garden work, if you will, before the real season begins. Using just a dot of glue (or a flour/water mixture) and toothpicks, gently place one or two lettuce seeds on a length of toilet paper. I placed my seeds rather close because I prefer to harvest my lettuce as a salad mix/baby head mix. So, the work is done now, inside. And later, when the soil warms, the tape is quickly laid out and gently covered with a thin layer of soil. I also plan to start some seeds in the greenhouse. Very, very soon!
I’ve been starting seeds for the fall lately. I’ve direct seeded lots of stuff in the garden already but I wanted to start some spinach and romaine seeds to transplant later. Meet my new friend…the soil blocker! This little guy makes little, compact blocks of soil, with a little divot to put the seed in. Because there is no pot or anything, transplanting is a breeze. I really like growing in the old tobacco trays, which encourage long, strong roots, but the cost of those little spongy inserts adds up quickly. The soil blocker works with most potting mixes, but I used a mix of compost, vermicompost, greensand, blood meal, peat moss and soft rock phosphate. We leave for camping soon, but I hope to see little seedlings before we leave!
Tomatoes still going strong. I’ve been lackadaisical about tying them up and they are quite a mess, running into the aisle. Colorful peppers! Jade beans finally starting to flower. Little pickles! Jeremie and I have been chasing down wood chip trucks because the utility company was working down the road from us. I baked up a fresh pan of cinnamon buns, but no one came Well, the kids were happy to snack on the buns at least.Volunteer watermelon plant is racing the cold weather. These potatoe plants are looking good. I hope they flower before it frosts.Beautiful butterflies have been loving the flowers all summer long.
Most everything has been pulled up to make room for fall planting. I’m waiting a couple weeks before I start sowing beets, carrots, kale and spinach. These tomatoes are still going to strong! I’m leaving the last of these cucumbers on the vine to collect their seeds. This is the new planting of cucumbers, looking really good. This eggplant is so funny. I planted 5 eggplants by my peppers. And they got EATEN UP by bugs. Like there was nothing left of them. Someone told me that sometimes people plant the eggplants specifically for the bugs, so they leave the peppers alone. Well, I guess, that strategy worked because my peppers weren’t bothered a bit by pests. But now, late in the year, my one lone eggplant is making a comeback! A tiny little fruit. We don’t love eggplant, so it was no big deal to lose them to bugs, but I am happy to see this one and hoping we get just a couple more! Fall pumpkins, surrounded by wood chips waiting to be spread around. These beans are looking gorgeous! And this is the last planting of beans, a new variety called Jade. I think these potatoes are sprouting from the ones I haven’t harvested yet. I keep meaning to harvest the main crop, but life keeps getting in the way. Now these new lovely green potatoes are shooting out of the ground. They must be from the potatoes that should have been harvested, right? Well, we’ll see on Thursday, when I plan to harvest! I love fall gardening. There are fewer pests and cooler temps.
Not too much going on in the garden this week. Knocked out a few weedy areas. Pulled up some dying cucumbers and beans. Still harvesting tomatoes, beans and peppers. We made a delicious pickled jalepeno recipe with all the bounty. I love these spicy peppers in nacho cheese, on sandwiches, in eggs, in anything really. Spicy is better!
Some friends of ours offered to let us come pick some of their sweet corn from a large field that their extended family had planted. They had done a mega-day of shucking, cutting, freezing, and processing and were back in their home state of Alabama. We were only too glad to come enjoy the fruits of their labor seeing as how the racoons are eating more of my corn in the garden than we are. We waited until after 4 in the afternoon to pick, thinking it might be cooler, but not a chance. We sweated and toiled (although not very hard) under the late afternoon sun.
It didn’t take long and when we were loading the corn in the van we counted 465 ears! We have been busy shucking, washing and cutting these beautiful white ears of corn. Smothered in butter, creamed, in soups, there is no shortage of ways we enjoy this delicious vegetable. We are so thankful for friends who share their harvest with us less fortunate gardeners
Whew! Does everything come in from the garden at the same time?! My canner and propane cooker have sure gotten a workout these past few days. I’ve never canned green beans before, but I’ve eaten the bounty of others’ work before. Boy, are they delicious! So 100 jars of beans? Hope so! Here’s my favorite method of canning tomatoes. The resulting sauce can be used for a delicious marinara sauce over pasta. For a savory pizza sauce. It’s very versatile. And I love knowing that everything in it comes from the garden. First, roast washed and halved tomatoes in the oven under high heat. We’re talking hot, like 450. For 40 minutes. Believe me it’s worth heating up the kitchen for this deep, smoky flavor. A lot of the juices will run out of the tomatoes so make sure to put them on a rack on top of the baking sheet. Then take those fire burned beauties and whiz them up in the blender. To 8 sheets of tomatoes I added 4 smallish red onions, 10 garlic cloves, a large handful of basil and a couple tablespoons of salt. I kept the sauce on low in a stockpot to keep it warm while the tomatoes all were getting roasted. Water bath can them for 35 minutes. To be on the safe side you can add 1T of lemon juice or 1/4 tsp of citric acid to each quart jar. The smell in the kitchen during this process was mouth-watering!
This week’s theme? Fall planting. We have pulled out cornstalks from this area and recovered the ground with wood chips. It was absolutely brutal, pulling out all those stalks and hauling them to the pigs. The pigs have been feasting, by the way, let me tell you. Cornstalks, over-ripe cucumbers, juicy tomatoes. Makes for some good bacon, come fall.
But back to the garden. So now this area has been planted in two rows of Jade bush beans and pumpkins. The pumpkins should be ready just in time for Fall decorations, late October. Last year I planted them waaay too early and they were ready in July. It was hard to store them in the proper cool conditions in the middle of summer. I’ve heard good things about Jade beans, but have never tried them until now. It is my third planting of beans, so perhaps by the time these blossom, I won’t even have the energy to pick or can them, ha! Lots of lovely colored peppers. Purple, orange, red and white. I’ve planted some fall zuchini and squash in some newly emptied areas of the garden. And another planting of cucumbers has been started. New lettuce in the shade. Sprouted in 3 days. Hope it continues to grow fast because lettuce tastes the sweetest the faster it grows. This is the last planting of our corn. Jeremie has fenced it off in the hopes of deterring hungry raccoons. They like to steal all the cobs off my stalks right before it is ready to pick. Then they leave the stripped cobs all over the ground for me to find. I’ve tried traps and flashing red lights set up low to the ground, all to no avail. This new corn doesn’t have any cobs yet, but I’m hoping the fencing will get the job done.The tomato plants are still looking good. I need to start cutting them off at the tops because they are getting taller than my t-post supports. This is a huge paste tomato that we harvested this week. Usually paste tomatoes don’t grow that large. We’ve been harvesting about 20 pounds of tomatoes twice a week. I can most of them and sell the rest. Just as an FYI… all year long I have checked the farmer’s almanac for good planting days. Every time I plant seeds accordingly it rains the next day. I keep soaker hoses laid down in the garden but have only used them once all year. The wood chips keep the ground moist and everything this year has germinated really well. Just a thought to keep in mind. Happy gardening!