Garden Journal – 1st Week of August

Garden Journal – 1st Week of August

It was another busy week in the garden as more onions came to harvest, the weeds seemed to accelerate their invasion of the garden, yet more seeds were planted and the tomatoes got some TLC a week prior to our annual “Tomato Lovers’ Dinner”.

RED ONIONS READY FOR HARVEST

RED ONIONS WITH THEIR TOPS BENT OVER – THEIR WAY OF SAYING “I’M DONE. GET ME OUT OF HERE

“Red Zeppelin” Onions Ready for Prime Time

The gardening week started with another onion harvest.  I pulled the “Red Zeppelin” onions, set them out to dry and then cleaned them up so they could join the Walla Walla onions in our kitchen pantry.  I love red onions; in salsa, in salads and cooked dishes like roasted beets and red onions with balsamic vinegar.  For some reason, this year’s harvest has been fantastic.  Most of the onions are in the 3″ diameter range with very few small ones.  I will end up giving away two thirds of the harvest because my wife is not a fan.  That’s OK.  I can make a lot of people happy.

HARVESTED RED ZEPPELIN ONIONS

RED ZEPPELIN ONIONS – CLEANED UP AND READY FOR THE PARTY

SHALLOTS READY FOR STORAGE

I CLEANED UP THE SHALLOTS WHILE I WAS AT IT.

Planting More of My Wife’s Favorite Radish – French Breakfast/Radish d’Auvignon

I can’t believe how fast we burn through each planting of French Breakfast radishes.  Yes, they are mild, but they seem to evaporate in the fridge.  We are quite fond of slicing them thin and putting them on top of a piece of baguette slathered with Kerry Gold butter.  Works for breakfast, works as an hors d’oeuvre with wine or cocktails, works as a snack with a beer.

I planted two rows, 8″ inches apart.   I planted the seeds 2″ apart in the rows.  In about 25 days we will begin to harvest.

SOME FRENCH BREAKFAST RADISHES HARVESTED EARLIER IN THE YEAR

SOME FRENCH BREAKFAST RADISHES HARVESTED EARLIER IN THE YEAR

This Time of Year, the Tomato Plants Need Love

With one week to go before our annual ”Tomato Lovers’ Dinner” I have been spending a lot of time watering, fertilizing, pruning and spraying fungicide on the tomato plants.  This year, I will be offering eight varieties of heirloom tomatoes during the tomato tasting portion of the dinner.  The dinner itself will feature marinara sauce made with our own plum tomatoes.  The salad will feature yet another tomato; Matt’s Wild Cherry.  All together, we are talking about 40 plants.  I know what your thinking,  Greg’s a little crazy.  OK, you might be right.  I’ve actually started thinking that it might be time to dial it back little.

That said, this week I found evidence of early blight on at least six of my tomato plants.  I sprayed OXIDATE fungicide using a curative concentration (1 oz. to a gallon of water).  Hopefully, that will slow down the disease long enough for me to harvest the ripe fruit I will need.

EARLY BLIGHT ON TOMATOES

EARLY BLIGHT ON MY GREEN ZEBRA TOMATO PLANTS

Despite the Blight, Tomato Season is Upon Us

This week we have enjoyed the following tomato varieties:

Black Ethiopian

Green Zebra

Rose

Nebraska Wedding

Matt’s wild Cherry

Margherita Plum

Roma II Plum

NEBRASKA WEDDING AND ROSE TOMATOE3SW

TWO OF OUR FAVORITE HEIRLOOM TOMATOES – NEBRASKA WEDDING AND ROSE

PLUM TOMATOES

RIPE PLUM TOMATOES

Processing Plum Tomatoes

I picked some plum tomatoes every day last week.  By week’s end we had enough fruit to process.  We use two different methods of processing.  The first one involves setting up a line consisting of a boiling pot of water, an ice bath, a cooling bin, a cutting board, a discard bucket and a clean bowl for the finished product which is either diced tomatoes or tomato halves.  We the  put the tomatoes in plastic bags, vacuum seal and freeze them.

FROM RIGHT TO LEFT - TOMATOES, BOILING WATER, ICE BATH

FROM RIGHT TO LEFT – TOMATOES, BOILING WATER, ICE BATH

The tomatoes are placed in boiling water for one minute and then removed and placed in the ice bath to make removing the skins easier.  One of us man’s this station.

PROCESSING TOMATOES, STATION 2

THE SECOND PROCESSING STATION RIGHT TO LEFT – COOLING RACK, CUTTING BOARD, DISCARD BOWL AND BOWL FOR FINISHED PRODUCT

AFTER REMOVING THE SKIN, I CUT THE TOMATO IN HALF LENGTHWISE AND REMOVE THE GREEN PORTION OF THE STEM AND THEN REMOVE THE SEEDS

After seeding I will either dice the tomatoes or leave them in halves for freezing.

VACUUM SEALING TOMAOTES

WE VACUUM SEAL THE TOMATOES USING OUR “FOOD SAVER” MACHINE.

It took Catherine and I approximately and hour to process our first batch of plum tomatoes, including vacuum bagging and clean up.  We froze 5 pounds of diced and 3 pounds of tomato halves.  Next time, we will use method number 2; roasting tomatoes in the oven for 30 minutes, cooling and then running them through a food mill.  The end product is puree.

Here’s wishing you all a great harvest and good times sharing with friends and family.

All the best,

Greg Garnache

 

 

Garden Journal – 3rd Week of July

It’s hard to believe that nearly two weeks have passed since my last post.  We’ve been in travel mode; first to New Orleans to see our new grandson Theo and then out to the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts for some culture.  Needless to say, I came home to a vegetable garden in need of some love.  Thankfully, most of the love involved harvesting.

Garlic Ready for Harvest

Before we left for New Orleans, the garlic plants were beginning to look like they were ready to be pulled.  I noticed traces of browning on the leaf tips.  When we returned from our trip the garlic patch was definitely ready for harvest.

BROWN TIPS ON GARLIC PLANTS

THE GARLIC PATCH READY FOR HARVEST. NOTICE ALL THE BROWN TIPS.

One of the first things I did when we returned from our trip was to pull the plants and let them dry out a bit in the sunshine.  After a couple of days I cut the garlic heads from the stems with a pair of pruners and trimmed the roots off with kitchen scissors.  I then wiped off the dirt with a towel and separated the heads by the number of cloves in each.  Most of the heads had five or six cloves.

My ultimate goal is to set aside the largest heads with the largest number of cloves to use as my seed stock this Fall.  The smallest heads of garlic will be used first for cooking.

RECENTLY HARVESTED GARLIC

NEWLY HARVESTED GARLIC SEPARATED INTO 4, 5 AND 6 CLOVE HEADS

The Hot Weather Crops are Starting to Rock

We came home to cucumbers, peppers (both sweet and hot), zucchini, tomatoes and eggplant.  Some of our heirloom tomatoes are beginning to produce.  As expected, “Black Krim” is one of the early arrivals, as well as “Black Ethiopian” and an early “Rose” tomato.

OUR HARVEST BASKET ON THE FIRST DAY OF OUR  RETURN FROM VACATION

OUR HARVEST BASKET ON THE FIRST DAY OF OUR RETURN FROM VACATION

BLACK ETHIOPIAN TOMATOES

BLACK ETHIOPIAN TOMATOES ON THE VINE

Last year, I received some eggplant seeds from Italy as a gift.  We are growing the same variety this year with great results.

ITALIAN EGGPLANTS

ITALIAN EGGPLANTS

Walla Walla Onions Ready for Harvest

After three months in the ground, the Walla Walla onions were finally ready for harvest, just in time for making salsa.  These mild white onions have been a favorite around our house for the last ten years or so.  We are talking “Vadalia” mild.  Do you want to add some “rock-n-roll” to your burger?  Try a nice thick slice of Walla Walla.  They are also great in salads.  Walla Walla onions don’t store well so we will try to use all of our harvest before the end of the summer.  I also enjoy making a simple cucumber and onion salad  using the Walla Walla onions.  In addition to the Walla Walla’s, we also grow red onions and a yellow storage onion which both need a couple more weeks in the ground before harvest.

WALLA WALLA ONIONS

OUR WALLA WALLA ONION HARVEST DRYING IN THE SUN

The Tomatoes are Doing Fine

One of the advantages of being away for a week was the impact of a week’s worth of growth of our tomatoes.  Many of the plants grew at least a foot with some growing 18″ or more.  Some varieties are just beginning to produce ripe fruit.  We are three weeks away from our annual “Tomato Lovers’ Dinner”, which we offer as an auction item at our church.  I’ve lined up a professional photographer to shoot this year’s event and will devote a couple of posts to this event.  We start off with a tomato tasting.  This is the adult version of kids in a candy store.  Doing a tomato tasting is a blast.  People love trying new tomatoes and are surprised at the different taste notes that each variety displays.  If you grow a variety of  tomatoes, especially heirlooms, think about doing a tomato tasting for your friends.  Trust me, you will become a hero.

BLACK ETHIOPIAN TOMATOES

BLACK ETHIOPIAN TOMATOES GROWING ON THE BACK OF THE SUNSHED

I would love to hear from you.  How are your tomatoes doing?  What varieties do you have?  Have you seen any signs of disease or the dreaded tomato horn worm?

All the best,

Greg

 

 

 

 

Garden Journal – 1st Week of July

Garden Journal – 1st Week of July

Heading into the holiday weekend, I had another wonderful week of gardening, harvesting, and maintaining my crops.  At this time of year, each week brings the debut of some new crop.  This week brought the first harvest of cauliflower, our first carrots, the first golden beets and the first raspberries of the season.  We also continued to harvest peas, asparagus, lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, radishes and Glacier tomatoes.

Replacing the First Planting of Peas with Beans

It seems like only yesterday that I planted the first peas.  After giving us a couple of very productive weeks, it was time to pull those plants.  I was very careful to scrape off the nitrogen nodules on the roots of the pea plants so that they wouldn’t go to waste.  After all, that is one of the main reasons to grow peas and beans; they fix nitrogen in the soil so that next year’s leaf crops (lettuce, cabbage, spinach, mesclun, kale, corn, etc) can thrive.  They all love nitrogen.

A SECOND CROP FROM PEA PLANTS

THE ROOTS OF A PEA PLANT WITH NITROGEN NODULES ATTACHED

I replaced two rows of peas with two rows of “Vermont Cranberry” beans for drying.  We have been making more stews and soups as the years go by.  Dry beans are a great resource to have heading into the colder months.

Transplanting “Golden Treasure” Tomato Plants to the Garden

As I’ve mentioned in some of my earlier blog posts, I have been looking for ways to extend the gardening season, especially the harvest.  Regarding tomatoes, I start my season with “Glacier” ultra early tomatoes, which we have bee enjoying since the third week of June.  On the other end, I grow a storage tomato called “Golden Treasure” which actually ripens slowly in storage.  I start seeds about a month later than my main season tomatoes and put the seedlings in the ground about a month later as well.  We have enjoyed “Golden Treasure” tomatoes as late as Christmas Day.  This variety comes from “Territorial Seeds” in Cottage Grove, Oregon.

Tomato Maintenance

One of the things I take pride in is the attention I give to my tomato plants.  Aside from loving the taste of tomatoes, I spend time working with my plants to assure that there will be a good crop to support the many tomato tasting events we will be hosting in August.  For the last five years, we have offered a “Tomato Lover’s Dinner” as an auction item at our church.  The dinner has become quite popular.

We start the evening off with a tomato tasting, offering seven or eight heirloom varieties to our guests.  I really enjoy serving the slices of tomato along with stories about the origins of each variety.  We also do a series of tomato tasting potluck dinners for our friends.  At the moment, we have a total of six events planned.  I will keep you all informed as we get closer.  I have even lined up a professional photographer to shoot this year’s dinner.  I will host a dinner for him and his friends the following weekend.

At this time of year I concentrate on removing suckers and leaves that touch the ground.  Also, I keep securing the tomato plants as they continue growing to their full height.

A LARGE LEAF POINTING DOWN TO THE GROUND WITH A LARGE SUCKER  ABOVE.  BOTH NEED TO BE PRUNED

A LARGE LEAF POINTING DOWN TO THE GROUND WITH A LARGE SUCKER ABOVE. BOTH NEED TO BE PRUNED

TOMATO SUCKER

A CLASSIC EXAMPLE OF A SUCKER ON A TOMATO PLANT

After pruning, I sprayed all of my tomato plants with Copper fungicide to prevent “early blight”.  I take this precaution because my garden has been subjected to attacks of blight over the years.  Next week I will alternate my spraying with a product called “Oxidate” which works by oxidizing blight spores.

Transplanting Lettuce, Cabbage, broccoli and Fennel Seedlings to the Garden

The beat goes on.  In order to have a steady supply of crops throughout a long growing season I start seeds on a regular basis so that I can replace harvested crops with new stock.  This is especially true of leaf crops.  This will continue into early fall.  I can’t live without my cole slaw.

SEEDLINGS READY FOR THE GARDEN

LEAF CROPS READY FOR TRANSPLANTING OUT TO THE GARDEN

I find that using soil blocks to start the seeds makes the transition out to the garden easier for the seedlings.  The lettuce will be available for harvest in August.  The cabbage and broccoli will be ready in early September.

All the best,

Greg

 

 

 

 

Garden Journal – 4th Week of June

Garden Journal – 4th Week of June

A Grandson is Born

We were blessed this past week by the birth of our second grandchild, Theo.  Born in New Orleans the day after Father’s Day, Theo weighed six pounds, 10 onces and was twenty and one half inches long.  We are looking forward to seeing him in person in the next couple of weeks.

A GRANDSON IS BORN

GRANDSON THEO MINUTES AFTER HE WAS BORN

Harvest Time at Greg’s Garden Party

We’ve been enjoying lettuce, kale, asparagus and peas.  This week we added cabbage, beets, Jalapeno peppers and “Glacier” ultra early tomatoes to the mix.  I grow “Tender Sweet” cabbage because it is tender and sweet and makes the best cole slaw on the Planet.  Check out one of my earlier posts entitled “The Best Cabbage for Cole Slaw”.

I do love my beets.  I’ve waited patiently.  Beet season has finally arrived.  Last Friday night, we made some slaw, grilled some chicken, par-boiled the beets and finished them off on the grill.  Slightly charred, ever so lightly enhanced with smokey flavor to go along with their earthy freshness;  We live for these treats.

FINISHING PAR-BOILED BEETS ON THE GRILL TO ADD SMOKEY FLAVOR

FINISHING PAR-BOILED BEETS ON THE GRILL TO ADD SMOKEY FLAVOR

“Glacier” Tomatoes, the First Tomatoes of the Season

After experiencing some “critter” problems, I surrounded my three “Glacier” tomato plants with plastic chicken fencing last week.  Finally, I am eating tomatoes from my garden.  C’ant say enough about these babies.  For an early tomato, “Glacier” has great tomato taste.  This is a salad tomato, approximately 1 1/2″ in diameter, weighing in at about 2 oz.  “Glacier” is a great way to start the tomato season.

GLACIER SALAD TOMATO

A FULL SIZE GLACIER ULTRA EARLY TOMATO

THE FIRST TOMATOES OF THE SEASON

FEASTING ON GLACIER TOMATOES WITH SALAD

Tomato Plant Maintenance Continues

This week I fed all of my tomatoes and other fruit crops with organic fish fertilizer.  In addition, I pinched off new suckers, pruned the plants to rid them of leaves close to the ground and sprayed them with Copper Fungicide.

PRUNED TOMATO PLANTS

PRUNED TOMATO PLANTS

BLACK ETHIOPIAN TOMATOES NEARLY FOUR FEET HIGH

BLACK ETHIOPIAN TOMATOES NEARLY FOUR FEET HIGH

At this point, my three “Black Ethiopian” tomato plants appear to be leading the pack in terms of growth and vigor.  I will keep you updated with progress photos over the next six weeks.

All the best,

Greg Garnache

 

 

 

 

 

 

Garden Journal – 3rd Week of June

Garden Journal – 3rd Week of June

It was another wonderful week of gardening.  I can safely state that the vegetable garden is now fully planted.  Some holes in the pepper patch were filled with seedlings that got a late start thanks to some lack of attention on my part.   I neglected to check the viability dates on a couple of seed packets and was rewarded with total failure.  New seeds were ordered, planted and coaxed along, but I lost a couple of weeks in the process.

Let this be a lesson.  Every Winter, check the dates of issue for all of your seed packets to make sure that the seeds are sill viable.  There are plenty of viability charts available on the Internet and many gardening books contain them as well. I won’t make that mistake again.  I’m reminded of the expression, “There’s no fool like an old fool”.

Garlic Scape Harvest

The biggest news from “Greg’s Garden Party” this week was the harvesting of over 100 garlic scapes.  Because we grow a type of garlic known as “hard neck” garlic, we have the advantage of a double harvest from the garlic patch; scapes in June and garlic in July.  Luckily, scapes will keep well in the fridge for a month which will give us time to research new and interesting ways to use our scapes.  My friend, Vicki Dyer, is also a scape advocate and has promised me a recipe that I can share with you.

This week, we made scape compound butter, fresh pea soup with scapes, a white bean and scape dip  and a premavera with peas, broccoli and scapes.  Noodling around the Net, I found a recipe for savory Japanese pancakes that uses scapes.  Can’t wait to try that.  I also noticed that there are quite a few references for grilled scapes.  Gotta try that.

Garden Maintenance

Weeding, weeding, more weeding.  Plant supports for late plantings of peas, supports for peppers, feeding leaf crops, harvesting, harvesting, harvesting.  All in a gardening weeks’ work.  Our second and third plantings of peas are starting to come into production.   I put up side supports to keep the plants upright.  Nothing special, just using resources that I had hanging around.

PEAS

ROW OF PEAS WITH SUPPORT

Protecting the Glacier Tomatoes

Last year,  I harvested my first “Glacier” tomato on June 8.  It’s June 22 and I have yet to enjoy the first real tomato of the year.  In addition to the cat bird incident reported on this blog recently, we have been visited by a larger, four legged creature who also has an appetite for fresh tomatoes.  I discovered plastic poultry fencing at one of the “Big Box” hardware suppliers.  It is three feet tall, easy to cut and easy to apply.  I just made a surround to  enclose my three plants and attached it with large plastic clothes pins.   I have three tomatoes ripening as I type and I am going to enjoy the heck out of those “bad boys”.

A SIMPLE SOLUTPION

PLASTIC CHICKEN FENCING USED TO PROTECT TOMATOES

GLACIER TOMATO

NEARLY RIPE GLACIER TOMATO

Nurturing the Next Batch of Leaf Crops

This week I transplanted lettuce, cabbage and broccoli seedlings from 3/4″ soil blocks to 2″ soil blocks.  So that we can enjoy these crops over a long season, I start seeds every three weeks or so.  I also pay attention to the recommended season for the seeds I select.  For instance, “Bay Meadows” broccoli is recommended for Summer Planting whereas “Amadeus” broccoli is recommended for Spring and Fall.

Speaking of lettuce, I harvested the last of the “Black Seeded Simpson” lettuce which was started in early Spring.  We now have “Nancy” and  “Truchas” lettuce almost ready for “prime time”.  “Allstar Mix” mesclun direct seeded in May will be ready to harvest next week.

What I Harvested this week

Garlic Scapes

3 Full colanders of Peas

Broccoli

lettuce

Kale for juicing

Asparagus

Tomato Plant Maintenance

Every week, I spend some time pruning and clipping my tomato plants.  Otherwise, they will quickly get out of control.  We don’t allow that here at Greg’s  Garden Party.  Seriously,  a little time spent each week caring for your tomato plants is time well spent.

This past week I also sprayed my tomato plants with “Oxidate” fungicide to prevent early blight.  Next week I will spray with Copper fungicide and continue this alternating strategy right through the season into late September.

Welcome to the new subscribers who have signed up recently.  Greg’s Garden Party now has 61 subscribers and growing.  I would love to hear from you.  Please feel free to leave comments and ask questions.  That’s what I’m here for.

All the best,

Greg  Garnache

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Garden Journal – 2nd Week of June

Garden Journal – 2nd Week of June

Pruning Tomatoes

By far, the most important task this past week was pruning the tomato plants for the first time.  With this pruning  I can dictate the growth habit that the plant will take for the entire season.   The first pruning involves eliminating any branches that are close to the ground or that project forward or backward.   My goal is to create a more two dimensional growth habit. I will train the plants to the main leader and one sucker on each side of the plant that will grow into major branches.  This creates balance.  After this initial pruning, I will prune out all future suckers that develop at the point where the branches meet the main leader.

PRUNING TOMATOES

TOMATO PLANT BEFORE FIRST PRUNING

TOMATO PRUNING

TOMATO PLANT AFTER FIRST PRUNING. NOTE THE SUCKERS ON EITHER SIDE.

Spraying Tomato Plants to Prevent Early Blight

Once all the tomato plants were pruned, I sprayed them with Copper fungicide.  I treated the entire plant and the ground surrounding the plant.  I will alternate Copper fungicide one week with “Oxidate”  fungicide the  following week throughout the growing season.  I learned this technique from speaking with the attendant in the Johnny’s Selected Seeds demonstration greenhouse at the “Common Ground Fair” in Unity, Maine,  If it’s good enough for Johnny’s it’s good enough for Greg’s Garden Party.

Harvest Time at Greg’s Garden Party

This past week was truly cause for celebration.  We enjoyed our first pea  harvest of the season.  Nothing beats fresh peas from the garden.  I shell the peas, boil them for three minutes, drain them, add butter, salt and pepper and enjoy one of vegetable gardening’s greatest pleasures.

GARDEN FRESH PEAS

THE SEASON’S FIRST PEA HARVEST

 

In addition to the peas we harvested garlic scapes , Purple Peacock broccoli, lettuce, asparagus, frisee, bulb fennel and rhubarb.  To celebrate, we hosted a dinner party featuring all of these ingredients.  We were blessed with a pleasant late Spring evening which allowed us to dine on the patio.  Fresh food from the garden, great company, a  lovely evening; what could be more perfect?  Here is the menu:

Appetizer:  Sliced baggette spread with Kerry Gold butter  and topped with French Breakfast radishes

FRENCH BREAKFAST RADISHES

FRENCH BREAD WITH BUTTER AND FRENCH BREAKFAST RADISHES

Truffle salt made these appetizers rock.

Salad:  Frisee and bulb fennel with olive oil and fresh squeezed lemon dressing topped with radish slivers, toasted chopped almonds and gold raisins.

A GREAT SPRING SALAD

FRISEE AND FENNEL SALAD WITH RADISHES, TOASTED ALMONDS AND GOLDEN RAISINS

We added shaved Parmesan cheese at the table.

Main Course:  Pasta with broccoli, peas, garlic scapes, asparagus, shaved Parmesan  cheese and Panchetta

PASTA WITH SPRING VEGETABLES

PASTA WITH SPRING VEGETABLES

Dessert:  Rhubarb Upside Down Cake.

RHUBARB UPSIDE DOWN CAKE

RHUBARB UPSIDE DOWN CAKE

All the best,

Greg Garnache