Monday, October 21, 2013

Color, Frost, and Freezing Peppers: Autumn in the Kitchen Garden

Autumn colored harvest from the October kitchen garden -
The last of summer's bounty color coordinated for fall and ready for freezing, roasting, and munching.

Realization of the Day:
I managed to go all summer without posting anything here.

Thankfully it wasn't because there wasn't anything going on in the garden; just the opposite in fact. Except for the tomatoes, which didn't like getting 14 inches of rain during two weeks in late July and August (something I didn't even know could happen in Missouri), this was actually one of my best summer gardens in years. And thanks to some timely August seeding, autumn has been great so far too.

For the last few weeks we've even been celebrating that rare occurrence around here: lettuce and tomatoes in the garden at the same time. Such a treat.

On Friday, though, we had our first patchy frost—which wasn't surprising since our official frost date is October 15th—and yesterday morning everything was white. In anticipation, I picked the last few baby eggplants (how cute are they?) and a bunch of sweet peppers on Thursday.

I froze some of the peppers, which is so easy to do.

More below. . .

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Recipe: Lemony Tuna and Artichoke Picnic Sandwiches with Fresh Basil

Lemony Tuna and Artichoke Cooler-Pressed Picnic Sandwich Recipe -

These Lemony Tuna and Artichoke Cooler-Pressed Sandwiches are my new favorite lunch—and they aren't just for picnics. Tuna packed in olive oil is combined with marinated artichoke hearts, lemon, and fresh basil on crusty baguettes for a scrumptious, no mayonnaise twist on tuna sandwiches.

They travel well, taste delicious, and can be made several hours ahead. I even like them the next day, when the lemon flavor is more pronounced. They're perfect for toting on picnics or hikes, to work, or just out to the backyard.

They're also the perfect way to celebrate the first homegrown basil of the season, especially if you don't have any ripe tomatoes yet. And if you really want to make your sandwiches special, you can bake your own baguettes using my easy recipe for Four Hour Classic French Baguettes.

Love fresh basil?
It tastes great in herbed yogurt cheese.
Or try this Big Bite of Basil Herb Dip or Salad Dressing.
What to do with purple basil and my favorite basil pesto recipe here.

©, bonkers for basil, impatiently waiting for juicy, vine-ripened tomatoes. Grow, grow, grow.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Growing in the Raised Vegetable Beds Right Now: Kitchen Garden Journal 6/12/13

In the kitchen garden on 6-9-13 (1) -
Eggplant, peppers, basil, volunteer lettuce, and our new cat, Jasper, who loves to march through (and roll around in) all the garden beds.

Want to see more? You'll find photos of what's happening each week in my kitchen garden (and all around the farm) in the Friday Farm Fix series on Farmgirl Fare.

Realization of the Day:
Every few weeks this spring I've been taking pictures of each of my raised garden beds, but I never get around to posting them. Sometimes I forget, sometimes I'm busy in the garden, and sometimes parts of the garden are kind of a mess and things just don't look good enough. (You may have noticed the overgrown walkways, unsightly cardboard mulch to kill/prevent weeds, and tangle of tomato cages with last year's dried tomato plants still clinging to them in the photo above).

That "good enough" nonsense needs to stop.

Real gardens aren't perfect—at least mine never will be—and it's the imperfect details that often teach us the most. And any garden journal photos are better than no photos. It's amazing how much stuff I completely forget I even grew until I see old photos.

Realization #2:
I am apparently incapable of writing a short garden blog post, even when it's mainly supposed to be pictures.

It's hot and humid, 90 degrees in the shade and headed higher. There's a saving grace breeze, but by late morning it feels like a giant noiseless hairdryer. Joe is out on the tractor raking up our second cutting of hay. All the animals are napping in the shade.

We've reached an annual turning point in the kitchen garden, and it's time to face the truth. Most of the seeds you ordered are still sitting in the freezer. It's too late to start any more spring or summer crops, and the rest of the poor little tomato plants you bought back in April and still haven't put in the ground (or transplanted into bigger pots, or even fertilized) have turned a disturbing shade of purplish black.

So many plans for the garden this year, so few of them actually accomplished. Again.

But then you realize that all of this no longer matters, because after spending half an hour watering out in the blazing sun yesterday morning (I love these garden hoses), you've managed to permanently sweat away your appetite.

What's planted is planted, and suddenly it seems like more than enough. Who wants to eat 56 feet worth of potatoes in July and August anyway? All you can think about are crisp, cool salads and really tall, ice-filled drinks.

And then the realization hits. You were so busy enjoying all that lovely over-wintered Swiss chard and kale, and then the spring-planted gourmet baby lettuce mix, not to mention all those big beautiful heads of volunteer lettuce from last fall's salad patch, that you conveniently forgot to start any heat tolerant greens for summer salads.

Now all those potatoes are starting to sound pretty good.

Picture perfect or not, here's what's growing in my garden right now. There are a also few herbs and flowers tucked here and there, and the homemade greenhouse is full of lemon balm and bolting Swiss chard, but this is the bulk of things. All photos were taken June 9th, except the cucumber and pepper bed which was taken yesterday because I forgot it on the 9th.

11 more photos below, descriptions of each at the end. . .

Saturday, March 02, 2013

At Last: My First 2013 Seed Order (and Two Great Gardening Books)

Bear guarding a raised bed of direct seeded beets and spring greens, taken 4-1-07
Lucky Buddy Bear guards a raised bed of direct seeded beets and spring greens, while the wire fencing laid over the bed keeps it safe from Bear—and cats and rabbits and any other destructive critters (taken 4/1/07).

I received an e-mail from Dixondale Farms the other day, thanking me for being a loyal customer since 2009, and letting me know that I normally place my onion plant order by now.

I'm a little behind in the garden department this year. I still haven't even planted my garlic, but that's because of the weather. The ground has either been too frozen or too muddy (which is why you aren't supposed to plant your garlic in January or February in Missouri), but I haven't given up yet.

On the up side, we're already just about done with lambing season, which in previous years hasn't even started until March or April, so I'm hoping I might be able to (for the first time in several years) get a jump on some indoor seed starting. (You can read about my adventures growing onions from purchased plants here and here, and learn how easy it is to grow your own garlic—assuming you actually get it planted—here.)

I did finally get my Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds order placed last week, and while I managed to show considerable restraint—because my unused seed stash is starting to grow back—I'm excited about trying several new things this year. I'm also looking forward to welcoming some old favorite flowers back into my garden. Besides attracting pollinators (and sometimes even deterring pests), brightly colored flowers add so much beauty and joy. Many of them are even edible.

My Pinetree Garden Seeds order is almost finalized, and I'll share it with you once it's actually placed. In the meantime, here's what I ordered for 2013 from Baker Creek:

More below. . .

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

How To Grow Your Own Garlic (and How To Not Get Any Planted): Garden Journal 1/1/13

How to grow garlic (1) - save your biggest cloves for planting next year's crop -
Save your biggest cloves for planting next year's garlic crop.

Realization of the Day:
December is a bad time for me to plan on planting my garlic.

Of course I knew this already. The best time to plant garlic is a month or two before the ground freezes. Here in Missouri that means October. In warmer regions, you can plant after the first frost date through early winter. Ideally you want to get good root growth but no top growth before winter, although I've had sprouts shoot up before it got really cold, and they survived just fine.

If you're gardening by the moon, you want to put your garlic in the ground on a fertile day during the third or fourth quarter. (If you're interested in learning more about minding the moonsigns, Astrological Gardening: The Ancient Wisdom of Successful Planting & Harvesting by the Stars by Louise Riotte is a great book.)

the snowy kitchen garden on 12-29-12 -
The kitchen garden on Saturday, December 29th.

Miraculously, I did actually manage to get my garlic in the ground in October in both 2011 and 2010, but this year my planting plans were waylaid. Then I missed November. And on Saturday, which was my scheduled December planting day, the ground was frozen and there were three inches of snow on it. Yesterday and today are good planting days as well, except for the old snow and the new sleet. But that's okay.

Lots more below. . .