Epic Garden Update, April 2017, With Pictures!

It is time for the semi-annual “Oh crap! I need to do an epic garden update!” post. Because I know how much you all love getting overwhelmed with an 8 billion word post, with pictures, about what’s going on in the garden. However, as a lot of the blog posts serve as record keeping for me and the DreadBrewer, you’re out of luck. So here’s what’s going on in the garden in April of 2017.

First and foremost, this is how I finally got the time/energy to update the blog:

If I sit outside and stare at the garden, with rum punch and laptop at hand, then an update should be easy-peasy, no?

So on to what we’re up to, here at BeerCat Farm…

Doesn’t it look idyllic?

As regards our berries, it’s sort of hit or miss this year. We had serious issues with our raspberries last year, which we determined was due to lack of drainage coupled with poor pruning practices. In an attempt to remedy the situation, we tore out the old bushes, tilled, and then built brand new 4′ x 24′ beds (x 2!!!) for a new batch of plants. (We actually started with one 10′ x 24′ bed that I agreed to without considering the actual dimensions thereof. Once built, DB and I both were appalled at the sheer quantity of soil needed to fill said bed and agreed to split it into two beds, with a walkway, in order to make it ever so slightly less insanely large.) 

 

The canes look pretty pathetic now and we won’t get any berries this year, but it’ll be worth it if we can erase our mistakes.

Our blackberries are looking phenomenal this year…

However, they looked really awesome like this last year and then we had a semi-drought and a semi-heat wave and they withered on the plant. Hopefully we can avoid that this year and get a bumper crop of blackberries to offset our lack of raspberries. Though if the new raised bed works well for the raspberries, we may be looking at two new 4′ x 24′ blackberry beds in 2018.

Also, our blueberries are looking phenomenal:

And we have like 18 million berries. IF the birds don’t eat them when they’re 75% ripe and not fit for human consumption. Because birds are assholes like that. We’re planning on trying to drape bird netting over the plants AND making a scarecrow out of a discarded mannequin that DB acquired (don’t even ask) in the hopes of thwarting the little buggers. Because 4 years without more than a handful of berries is just too much to bear!

And I totally forgot to take pictures of the new strawberry bed but we have one! DB planted a 5′ x 10′ strawberry bed this year for the girls with about 15 strawberry plants. We might get some this year but most likely next year will be a bumper crop. (Fingers crossed!)

Next up: cucumbers!

 

Yes, this is empty. I know.

We are going to transplant our cuke seedlings tomorrow! DB is growing me a pickling variety this year, in addition to a new striped cultivar. I am really going to try and tackle the dill pickle conundrum in order to satiate our pickle appetite during the winter months without shelling out $3/jar for Claussens. However, even if we only manage to eat them all fresh, any reduction in our outlay for grocery store cucumbers will be a Godsend.

Beans!

We have two beds of bush beans going in succession, as well as our lima beans in the background of the 2nd pic. On the list for tomorrow is thinning the bean plants, a much dreaded but much needed task. Bush beans are one of my absolute favorite things to eat out of the garden but one of my least favorite things to harvest. Dang, I hate picking beans. They’re itchy and there’s a million of them and the bending over makes your back hurt… they just suck to harvest. Unfortunately, the girls all ADORE green beans, as do DB and I. And they are also insanely easy to preserve, be it by freezing or canning. So we grow oodles of them. And I curse them continuously while picking and praise them continuously while eating and it just seems to be the way of the world in our garden.

Lettuce and Spinach:

We attempted to use up a lot of old seed this year with our lettuce, which resulted in some patchy growth. The Buttercrunch didn’t germinate a bit, even through two attempts, so 2 years is apparently the limit for lettuce seed storage. I’m wresting with the problem of how to transport leaf lettuce farther then the kitchen – it gets wilty and limp so damn quickly that I don’t know how we would ever include it in a CSA (a not-so-distant possiblity if I have anything to say about it). Any tips on lettuce storage would be greatly appreciated. Our spinach, on the other hand, is awesome. I’ve been harvesting it not just for salads but also for these amazing muffins we’ve all been inhaling as quickly as I can bake them. I promise the recipe is forthcoming in another post.

Garlic: 

The garlic looks like it’s doing so well! Though DB says that he refuses to believe it’s doing great until it’s harvested and into storage… The left side of the bed is garlic we grew from our own sets and the right side is garlic grown from purchased sets; I’ll be interested to see which side wins when it comes to shelf life.

Artichokes: 

And yet again this year, DB is attempting to grow artichokes. I think this is madness for many reasons, not least of which is the fact that neither DB nor I has EVER had good luck cooking fresh artichokes for consumption. The canned, low-salt ones are much more palatable and a hell of a lot easier, in my opinion. But, I tend to give DB free reign in what he grows, as long as a few requests of mine are accommodated (cherry tomatoes, please!) so I can’t really say much when he wants to grow artichokes.

Tomatoes and Marigolds: 

We planted our tomatoes and marigolds over the last few days. I think we have at least 8 different cultivars of tomatoes, which we can hopefully narrow down into favorites for next year. DB being DB, he grew a ton of seedlings of each, so my dad and mother-in-law were both recipients (willing or not) of multiple tomato seedlings. Even after giving those away and planting a bunch in pots to put on the front porch, we still have a bunch we won’t be able to use. We also grew some nematocidal marigolds this year and put those in the tomato bed in an attempt to cut down on root-knot nematodes. We’ll see if they have any impact.

Napa Cabbage:

So I realize that these plants look nothing like the Napa cabbage one sees in the store. I’m not sure what cultivar DB grew or what went wrong (or right) with the type we planted, but they look like they’ll be delicious whenever we eat them.

Brassicas:

Today we planted our broccoli (Aspabroc and Tender) and cabbage (Wakamine). We are SO CRAZY LATE on getting these in the ground, especially considering it was 90 degrees here today but better late than never, right? Unless, of course, all of your brassicas bolt and go straight to seed and then taste like bitterness embodied in brassica form… and then yes, late really really sucks. Fingers crossed that we have enough cool days before the hammer of summer in North Carolina pounds down on us with a vengeance. (In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a lot of “plant it and hope” that goes on at BeerCat Farm.)

Leeks and Onions: 

Leeks and onions are looking amazing! Except for the ones DB tried to grow from seed, which are looking pretty pathetic at the moment. I’m not sure what it is but the man can grow every single crop imaginable from seed except for leeks and onions. Those he can only manage to sprout and kill. But even Achilles had a vulnerable spot, so I guess this is DB’s. Thank God for Dixondale and Natural Gardening, because they can grow leeks and onions from seeds. And again this year we planted ridiculous quantities of both but whatever. Why mess with an overabundance of alliums if it works?

Okay, I’m fairly certain that covers most of what is going on in the garden. We did get 10 cubic yards of cedar mulch delivered and have spent quite a bit of time putting that down in between the beds. We got cedar in the hopes that it would help keep bugs down, since it works that way for clothing. It may be a baseless supposition but at least the garden will smell really good for a while.

That’s a LOT of mulch

Crazily enough, we have used nearly all of it just filling in the walkways between our beds. We have just a bit left that we will use to fill in between the raspberry beds and then we’ll be all out. We could probably have used another 5 cubic yards if we wanted to do all the places in the yard that have (and need) mulch but oh well. We’ll most likely get another 10 cubic yards delivered next year to re-up the paths and then mulch the yard bits.

And there you have it, the most recent epic garden update. If you ever wonder why I don’t update as frequently as you (or I) may like, you can simply reference this page, add in three children 5 and under as well as a full time job and running for physical and mental health, and you’ll understand. But I am so so glad we do it. Even if just for the savings in cucumbers….

2016 Summer Garden Update

Just a warning that this post is photo heavy and insanely long, but we all know I love to talk and I love pictures. Did you expect anything less?

Garden June 2016

2016 Summer Garden

Overall, I think the garden is doing phenomenally well. The DreadBrewer never seems as proud of his green thumb as I think he should be – he has a tendency to downplay the awesomeness of our garden and think that it’s not really anything special. think that our garden is amazing and that he should be exceedingly proud, if not downright boastful, of what he’s accomplished. Granted that each crop we grow has good years and bad years and we never seem to have a year that everything does well, but I’m pretty sure that’s the case with any garden. Being able to get all of this planted and tended with two small children in tow is nothing short of a miracle, in my opinion.

But since when does the DreadBrewer listen to me?

Anyways, crop by crop and bed by bed, here’s a rundown of what’s going on in the garden. (Just a FYI, the captions will always list what’s in the pictures from left to right and front to back. In case you’re not adept at identifying plants by foliage alone.) 

Parsnips, Beets, Peppers, Okra

Parsnips, Beets, Peppers, Okra

Parsnips: After their miserable germination rate, the parsnips have been putting on an impressive show with tall, beautiful leaves. We finally picked a few yesterday afternoon and, again, I was disappointed with the effort put forth by these underachieving root vegetables.

Parsnips July 2016

Because really? That was the best that parsnip could come up with based on that amount of leafy top? DB pointed out that we’re not growing the behemoth varieties you see at the grocery store and that’s actually how they’re supposed to look. All I can say is that they better be delicious.

Beets: DB grew some cultivar of beet that I believe is not actually red, as the tops of the beets that I can see out of the soil are sort of pale-ish purplish. We haven’t harvested any yet to have, but it’s coming soon. I managed to thin these down to appropriate spacing (something I detest doing) and that will hopefully translate into lots of delicious, not crowded beets. We’ll see soon.

Peppers: The peppers are doing so-so this year. We tried buying our seeds from a new seed company and both DB and I have been less than impressed with their performance. Additionally, we had to actually buy two or three pepper plants from the big-box growers as ours were so pitiful – which was a total waste of money, as those plants had to be torn out yesterday due to disease. We’ve gotten a few jalapenos and a lot of our plants are laden with peppers, we’re simply waiting for them to turn the appropriate shade of red/yellow/orange/purple prior to harvesting. Additionally, the DreadBrewer – never one to be discouraged by an initial less-than-stellar outcome – started over with more seeds and now has about 20 pepper seedlings in the garage that will either go into a bed that has been recently freed up or repotted into larger pots and kept going on the seed rack indefinitely. We’re both hoping that the garage peppers could produce for us far longer than the garden peppers and thus extend the harvest. DB has vowed multiple times that we are going back to our traditional pepper seed supplier next year and this sub-par pepper plant situation will never happen again.

Okra: Our okra is just getting ready to start inundating us with pods. We’ve picked a few here and there but you can see that the plants are about to go crazy. Which is pretty cool as the plants are only 2-3 feet tall at this point and our previous cultivars of okra didn’t produce until they reached 3-4 feet. We’ve found a couple of recipes to try and keep up with the bounty this year without always falling back on the tried-and-true breaded baked okra. Though given the way that the Littlest Brewster and BIT inhale the oven okra (and eggplant and zucchini), I’m a little disinclined to mess with a good thing. Supposedly if you split the pods lengthwise, toss ’em with olive oil, and roast ’em until they are crispy, they are unimaginably delicious and not slimy. I have a feeling that soon we will be trying anything we can to plow through the okra harvest and will have plenty of opportunities to try both cooking methods.

Garden 2 July 2016

Carrots, Peppers

Carrots: The carrots did great and they’re all just hanging out in the garden, waiting for us to need them. This is one of the beds that we put hardware cloth on the bottom of to foil the voles and some of the longer carrots have grown through the mesh, leading to a broken off tip when we pull them. In my opinion, that is a very small price to pay for giving the voles a two-fingered salute and I figure that the bits of carrot left behind will just decompose into the soil for next year. We are toying with the idea of adding another level onto one or two of the front beds to make an extra deep, vole-impermeable bed for parsnips and carrots but we have to look into the necessity of crop rotation and these root vegetables. It wouldn’t do us much good to screw the voles only to screw ourselves out of carrots as well.

Peppers: See above. This bed of peppers is doing much better than it’s counterpart, but DB and I are still not blown away with their performance this year.

 Turnips, Eggplant, Zucchini, Cucumbers

Turnips, Eggplant, Zucchini, Cucumbers

Turnips: Turnips are one of those crops that the DreadBrewer decided to grow just to see if he could. And apparently he is a turnip growing champion, as we have more turnips than we can shake a stick at. Unfortunately, I have yet to find a way of preparing turnips that either of us likes, though I will admit to having given away most of our turnip harvest rather than finding new and delicious ways to eat them. We still have a ton though, so if any of you has some amazing way to prepare turnips that will make me a fan please share.

Eggplant: The DreadBrewer hates eggplant. Actually, the DreadBrewer hates American eggplant. Those great big bulbous bitter beasts that overwhelm gardeners every summer. But I really wanted to try eggplant and see if we could make it in a way that wasn’t yucky, so we compromised and planted a Japanese eggplant variety that is very, very yummy. We only planted 4 or 5 plants but we have already gotten more eggplant than we can reasonably eat, so I doubt we expand the number of plants in the future. Thus far, the most popular cooking method has been to bread and bake them – they get really, really crispy and the kids devour them – but there is a miso and sake eggplant stir fry, as well as a chili and garlic one, that are on the menu for the next two weeks.

Zucchini: This is another instance where we changed which company we ordered our seeds from this year and we have been sadly disappointed. The plants are pathetic – puny and yellowish and easily killed off by various bugs or other afflictions. On the bright side, this has meant that we’ve only been able to harvest as many zucchini as we are able to eat and I haven’t had to ding-dong-ditch with bags of zucchini through the neighborhood. But I’ve been so accustomed to having enough zucchini to give away and freeze for future use and make loaves upon loaves of zucchini bread that it smarts a little bit to get, like, one zucchini a day. One! What kind of pathetic seeds are these people selling? The Littlest Brewster has gotten to be an accomplished squash bug egg finder and delights in helping her dad hunt for eggs (and grown bugs) every evening. She’ll even pick the adult bugs off the plants and bring them to DB for disposal in the Jar of Bug Death (a jar of water with a few drops of liquid soap).

Cucumber: Our cucumbers are another one of the crops that is giving the DreadBrewer fits. Every year we’ve had amazing cucumbers and, without changing a thing this year, we’ve got pitiful cucumbers. There will be no pickles this summer. No tzatziki. No sharing. Every time we get a cucumber (still Suyo Long cultivar in this bed), either the kids promptly devour it or DB and I make a cucumber tomato basil salad and it’s gone. I don’t know where we’ve gone wrong with our cukes this year but it’s depressing.

Garden 6 July 2016

Cucumber: (2nd bed thereof) This is our attempt at growing pickling cucumbers this year and it’s just embarrassing. You can barely see what the plant is trying to pass off as a cucumber on the 3rd one from the left. I think these cucumbers must be in league with the parsnips and they’re both trying to get a free ride while producing as little as possible to earn their keep. It’s appalling to have to listen to my dad gloat about his bountiful cucumber harvest (“I made 5 quarts of pickles yesterday!”) but it’s all going to be okay because I think our tomatoes will trump his and we all know that’s what really counts in a garden.

Garden 4 July 2016

Tomatoes

Tomatoes: Though you can’t tell it from that sad-looking plant that’s fallen over in the front of the left hand bed, our tomatoes are actually doing very, very well this year. (Unfortunately that happens to be our yellow pear tomato plant, which is exceedingly depressing to lose as they are super delicious. C’est la vie in a garden, right?) Not having totally thought through the implications of planting our tomatoes in beds with hardware cloth on the bottom, DB and I were taken by surprise when we were unable to use our handy-dandy tomato cages to support the plants. (We couldn’t get them down far enough without ripping the mesh and thus defeating the purpose of both the mesh and the cages.) So we looked into various methods of holding up the plants and we’re trying twine and fence posts, with variable success. The times that we get out there and get a level of twine up before the plants are in desperate need are the times that the twine supports them much, much better. We have a tendency to get side tracked and forget to add twine until the plants are groaning under their own weight, so the whole twine-support experiment has been less successful than we might have hoped but I think we’ll do better next year. The tomatoes are just starting to hit and I am super excited. I have big plans for these tomatoes and can’t wait to start making homemade salsa and tomato sauce. If they don’t all get eaten in salads or straight off the plant…

Green Beans

Green Beans

Green Beans: Have I told you how much I detest picking beans? Detest. Loathe. Abhor. Unfortunately for me and my deep aversion to bean picking, everyone in my family (myself included) loves eating beans. The girls absolute favorite vegetable in the whole wide world are green beans, dipped in ketchup of course. Oven roasted green beans and garlic are so delicious that it should be illegal. Green bean pesto pasta is amazing. And all of these things mean that, every 2 to 3 days, I find myself out there picking beans and mumbling terrible things under my breath. Thankfully this year the DreadBrewer had a modicum of sense and staggered the bean plantings so I’ve really only been dealing with one side of the bed at a time. Because picking 50 square feet of beans is bad enough, but 100? Oh heck no. Each time I pick, I’ve been getting anywhere from 8-10 pounds of beans, giving us plenty to eat now, freeze for the winter, and give away. I went out this morning and only got 4 or so pounds, so I’m thinking we’re nearly done for the season with beans. My aching back rejoices.

Garden 7 July 2016

Bunching Onions

Bunching Onions: Fairly self-explanatory; these have done really well and will be a welcome addition to our eggplant stir fries, I’m sure.

Garden 8 July 2016

Lima Beans

Lima Beans: God must have known how relieved I was that our green bean harvest has almost passed and had a chuckle to Himself, knowing that our lima beans are about to hit. Luckily for me, we only have one teeny tiny 4×5 foot bed of lima beans. After struggling through the bush beans, I have a feeling that these will be a breeze. We’ll see when they’re ready for harvest in a week or so.

Onions July 2016

Onions

Onions (Red and White): I only pictured the red onions and then only part of the harvest, as I’m sure you guys remember the ridiculousness that was our onion harvest. They’ve gotten pretty dry, so we went ahead and trimmed the tops and roots and rearranged them for the final bit of drying. Red onions are more difficult to dry and store than white or yellow, but I’m hopeful that most of the harvest will make it. We were able to give away a bunch of fresh onions and I was really surprised at how excited people got about them. But as DB pointed out, a high percentage of savory recipes call for onions and people love free, fresh, useful produce. I was just glad that we were able to offload the ones we were unable to dry for later.

Garlic July 2016

Garlic

Garlic: Poor DB had to harvest the entire 10×10 bed of garlic himself while the girls and I were out of town or risk having them rot in the ground. Having harvested garlic with him for the past few years, I know what a long process it is and I was super grateful that he did himself (and not a little relieved to have missed it). We’ve gotten them all laid out in front of the fans in the garage and are just waiting for them to dry thoroughly. After the great garlic debacle of 2014, when all of the heads I had braided rotted, I believe we’ll just trim them and store them loose. We’ve been using some fresh and it is so good. I think this is one of the few instances this year were we tried a new supplier and have actually been happy with the switch. (For those of you who are interested, I’m trying to put together a list of what cultivars we planted and where we got them; it’ll be another post sometime in the future.)

Not Pictured: 

Berries: Our blueberries have produced about one half pint total this year, which is 1000% more than any other year and has made all of us very happy. The raspberries are getting ready to have their first production of the year – they had to recover from being mowed to the ground last fall and are lagging behind. And the blackberries were hard hit by a late frost and the first wave of berries was reduced by half. Luckily, there is another wave of berries ripening as we speak that looks like it will be amazing. People that DB works with have asked him what happened to the berries he used to bring in and he always answers, “I have two kids now. We don’t have any extra berries.” Which is totally true because LB and BIT can spot a ripe berry from 20 paces. We’re lucky if we get any of the berries for ourselves before those two greedy girls eat them all.

Shallots: The shallots are happily growing in grow bags on top of the septic system. For once, the DreadBrewer didn’t put twice as many plants as recommended into the space so I’m hopeful that the shallots will be able to grow to a reasonable size before we harvest them. In past years, we’ve been stuck with a ton of teeny tiny shallots, which are a pain in the butt to peel and use, so larger shallots with more bang for my buck (so to speak) would be much appreciated.

And there you have it. An extremely long, picture heavy update on the garden. And I actually didn’t even touch on the basil, the leeks, the kale, the cabbage, the lettuce, the kohlrabi, or what happened to the asparagus bed. Even my ability to ramble on has its limits. (You’re welcome. ;))

Happy growing you guys! What’s doing well in your gardens? What are you cooking to use up your bounty?

Garden Update

Despite the mild neglect our garden has suffered recently, we’ve been having a fairly fruitful growing season.

Harvest

LB with her harvest for the day

Here’s a rundown on what’s thriving and what’s struggling in our backyard. Naturally, I’ll list our crops in alphabetical order. 🙂

Garden July 2014Asparagus: Nicely ferned, getting some berries. I just recently added fence posts and wire around the patch to support the ferns and this has made a big difference, both in the neatness of the bed and in drastically reducing the amount of breakage.

Basil: Our basil is out of control. We had planned on making a couple of big batches of pesto yesterday but got rained out. I may try to whip some up myself this week to use up the basil before it goes to flower and seed. This year, we’re going to try making it with walnuts instead of pine nuts because, with the amount of basil we have to use up, I’m not spending $39/pound on pine nuts. I also want to try my hand at drying basil for long-term storage.

Blackberries: Unfortunately, a bit of a dry spell hit when there were a ton of berries getting ready to ripen on the bushes. We didn’t realize that we would have to water the plants or the berries would dry up on the plant (even if the rest of the plant looked like it was tolerating the lack of water just fine), which is exactly what happened. We had gotten a ton of berries before losing the second half of the harvest, so I’m not as angry over losing those berries as I am about what happened to our blueberries.

Blueberries: The DreadBrewer and I were so excited – the bushes were full (if not technically laden) with berries and they were thisclose to being ripe enough to eat. And then he and LB went out to check on them one afternoon and found this:
???????????????????????????????The damn birds got them. Pretty much every. single. berry. I was so mad. Based on the recommendation of a friend, I bought this holographic tape from Amazon in the hopes that it will scare the little bastards off and we can maybe have a blueberry or two of our own at some point. If this tape works, I’m buying another 10 rolls and it’s going all over the garden. I love birds, but I love my homegrown veg even more.

Cucumbers: Our cucumbers are reaching the end of their productivity, done in by the semi-excessive rain and high temperatures of late. This year we grew Suyo Long and Diva cultivars; the Suyos were the hands down winners and will definitely be coming back next year. With the abundant crop of cucumbers, I tried my hand at making pickles for the first time with reasonable success. (Not the yucky sweet refrigerator pickles my mom made, though. I made a pretty good garlic dill pickle.)

Leeks: After the initial battle with the voles, our leeks did really well this year, even though we didn’t blanch them as well as we should have. Most of the bed has been harvested and I’m planning on making and freezing a huge batch of Potato-Leek soup this afternoon to use them up before they spoil in the fridge.

Melons: Our melon plants are taking off and growing like crazy, though there aren’t any melons yet. Hopefully we’ll still have enough hot days this summer that I get at least one cantaloupe (technically a muskmelon) out of the patch.

Okra: If anyone with little to no gardening experience is wondering what to grow in order to feel like the most prolific gardener ever, grow okra. The amount of okra that we harvest on a daily basis from our one okra bed is insane. Sadly, I don’t know what to make with it other than breaded okra so we’ve given a lot of it away. And composted the rest. Note to self: research okra recipes…

Peppers: The peppers are just starting to hit their stride, though the jalapeños have been producing like mad for a few weeks now. I’ve started looking up ways to preserve peppers for the winter and I’m torn between freezing and canning. I’ve also been making huge (and frequent) batches of salsa to use up peppers and tomatoes before they go bad.

Potatoes: We had our first encounter with the Colorado Potato Beetle over the weekend. A veritable army of the little buggers had invaded the potato bed and gone to town on the foliage. Luckily, we’re getting ready to harvest the spuds anyway, so they didn’t do any lasting damage. And the Littlest Brewster and I spent an enjoyable half hour picking the bugs off the plant and putting them in a bucket of water to “swim.” The batch of soup I’m making today will use up the last of the potatoes from the grow bags and make room in our larder (and by “in our larder” I mean “on our kitchen counter”) for the next harvest.

Raspberries: I don’t remember if I already told you guys this or not, but our raspberries were terrible this year. And it’s all our fault. We were super lazy and didn’t prune the bushes last year like we should have, resulting in lots of canes with very few berries. The DreadBrewer actually mowed down most of the rogue canes (who knew raspberries were so aggressive about sending out new shoots?) and ruthlessly pruned a lot of the official patch, which has resulted in a late and very tiny amount of raspberries. Needless to say, we won’t be making the “Oh, it doesn’t really need to be pruned!” mistake again.

Squash (Zucchini and Winter): After nearly consuming my weight in zucchini, I finally see a light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe. The first round of zucchini plants have mostly been pulled up and mowed, which gives me a bit of a break from zucchini before the second round of plants go in the ground. This year we planted our old zucchini standbys Scallopini and Dunja and tried a new cultivar – Desert. All three cultivars were excellent producers, so I’m sure we’ll stick with these varieties in the future. Our winter squash (I think it was an acorn cultivar called “Honey”?) didn’t do nearly as well – we only got one squash that is roughly the size of a softball. But we’ve never had good luck with acorn squash, so I’m not too disappointed.

Tomatoes: The tomatoes have been sort of hit or miss this year. We had a lot of really awesome tomatoes from some of the new ones we tried (I really liked the Arkansas cultivar) but we also had about 30% of our plants randomly succumb to disease. And we had this one awesome tomato plant that produced both roma tomatoes AND cherry tomatoes (or teeny tiny tomatoes, as LB calls them) on the same plant! It was so cool and I don’t know how it happened and doubt it will ever happen again. We have a second round of a few plants to put out in the garden soon, but there probably won’t be time to get tomatoes off of them before the frost.

And though it’s not a food crop (although technically it could be), we planted a wall of sunflowers near the deck again this year. And these are the tallest sunflowers I’ve ever seen!

019They’re very pretty and have been fabulous for attracting bees to the yard. I read a mom tip that suggested planting a “house” with sunflower walls with your kids and we are so totally doing that next year.

How is everyone else’s garden going?

How goeth the garden?

Here’s a reasonably quick update on how things are going in the garden right now.

Overall, things are going well. The DreadBrewer finished getting the Dripworks set up in the front beds, so there are very few things we actually have to water by hand. (And by we I mean he.) There has been very little rain here in NC over the last two weeks or so, so I’d say we’re using the irrigation system probably 2 days out of every 3 or 4 for about 40 minutes at a time. I’ll come down to get things ready in the morning, turn on the hose, and turn it off again once it’s time for me to go back upstairs and rouse the rest of the household. I’m still waiting for the day that I forget to turn it back off and we flood the beds all day, but hopefully the giant post-it note shouting “Dripworks!!!” on my coffee maker will prevent that from ever occurring.

As far as crops go, here’s how things are looking:

Garden Bed 1Our first garden beds are the squash and garlic beds. As you can see, we’ve pulled the garlic and are letting it cure a bit in the sun before we undertake the massive pain in the ass production that is drying the garlic in the garage before braiding it up. I’ll have to look back, but for some reason I feel like we didn’t end up with as much garlic this year as we did last year. But I could be mistaken. (For those of you who are interested, we pulled 108 heads of garlic. Yes, DB counted.) Once we get the garlic out of there and mix in some more compost and fertilizer, we’ll turn that into our melon bed.

The zucchini plants are doing well; the actual zucchini, not so much. We’re having an issue with blossom end rot on our zucchini. If you’ve never had an issue with blossom end rot, this is a good article that explains why it happens with squash and possible causes. We’re looking into having our soil tested to see where exactly the issue lies and how best to fix it. What zucchini have been spared the rot are smaller than our normal zucchini, much to DB’s frustration. But they’re still delicious, so I’m happy.

Garden Bed 2Our okra are loving the heat lately. The ones on the right are ones DB started from seed and the smaller ones are ones we direct sowed in the garden – we’re hoping to spread out the abundance of okra a bit this year rather than being inundated with a million pods all at once.

The tomato plants are coming along nicely; they, out of all our plants, seem to love the drip irrigation the most and are growing lush and rampant. We have some green tomatoes on the plant but nothing near ready to eat. (It seems that my dad will win the annual tomato race yet again! Darn you, Mother Nature, and your late freezes!!!) And you can’t see it, but behind the tomato plants are our bean plants, which are still only about 6 inches high and not doing anything very exciting at this point.

Garden Bed 3These beds are our onion and winter squash bed and our catch-all bed in the back. We had a serious issue with voles (again!) earlier in the year but they seem to have moved on as we haven’t lost any onions or leeks in a few weeks. Growing winter squash is a first for us this year, so we’ll see how that goes. The catch-all bed only has two random tomato plants and our cucumbers along the back right now, but I think we’ll be putting in some other seedlings of various sorts soon.

Garden Bed 4Our leeks and the rest of our onions are thriving, now that the voles have stopped devouring them. (I don’t know if you remember World War V of last summer, but we put out all of the same traps and deterrents this year. And DB actually killed 2 or 3 voles before they gave up and moved on, so that was an exciting victory for us.)

The peppers are coming along as well. Every year I start lamenting in July that we will never have peppers, forgetting that we don’t usually get any until August or so. And I don’t know why I really care anyway, as I don’t particularly like peppers. Last year, the DreadBrewer came up with this crazy idea to grow extremely hard to find Mexican peppers – the thought being that if we were really successful, we could then expand our pepper growing operation this year and sell the resulting in-high-demand peppers to homesick Hispanics. While this is actually a pretty good idea in theory, in practice I have neither the time nor the patience for it. So I was pleased that this year, we are concentrating on growing peppers I’ve heard of and will probably use – like orange bell peppers and jalapeños, not chilhuacles.

Garden bed 5

Over here are our blueberries (which are doing awesome!), our asparagus (which is beautifully ferned), our shallots (which are nearly ready), and our new potato bed (which warrants a post all its own). Once we harvest the shallots, we’ll probably pop a few more pepper plants in that bed or maybe a tomato or two. We may not beat my dad to the first tomato, but we can certainly match him for quantity harvested.

Blackberries 1And finally, here’s a picture of our blackberry bushes. As you can see, the bushes are positively loaded down with berries. Every night we go out after dinner and we can usually find about 10 or 15 berries that are ready to eat; the Littlest Brewster is becoming a pro at telling which ones are ready and which ones aren’t. If we could manage to restrain ourselves for a day or two, we could get enough to make something with, but this way is more fun to me.

June.2.14.1

See what I mean? More fun

Sadly enough, our raspberry bushes are not doing well at all and we’ve only gotten a few handfuls of berries so far. However, we know what the problem is and how to fix it for next year – we didn’t prune back any of the 2 year canes because we got lazy, a situation that will not be repeated this year. So I expect that we’ll be back to having a ton of raspberries next summer and will have to content ourselves with blackberries and blueberries alone this year.

Not pictured are our other potato bags, our basil patch, my sunflowers, and the random things in pots DB has scattered about the deck and yard. Suffice it to say, those things are also all doing well.

Given that I’ll be out on maternity leave when most of our produce hits and thus unable to off-load the extra veg on my coworkers, I’m not actually sure how we’ll deal with the surplus this year. This may have to be the year that I conquer my fear of canning rather than be crushed under a ton of tomatoes. Which actually sounds like an exciting prospect and something I should look into. If you have any experience with canning (or know of a good resource – website or book – to get me started), let me know!

Blueberry Bushes – and a garden update

We actually managed to get the blueberry bushes planted this weekend! It was a lot of manual labor and I was absolutely pooped by the end of the day, but both DB and I were very excited to have gotten them in the ground.

Blueberries 1

Starting the long, labor-intensive process of tilling up a berry patch

Blueberries 2

Raking out the Bermuda grass

Blueberries 3

I’m sure our neighbors loved watching me work with my big ol’ baby bump hanging out

Blueberries 4

Ready to get planted!

Blueberries 5

Doesn’t our blueberry patch look nice?

Blueberries 6

DB is very proud of our berry patch (and rightly so). You can’t see it that well, but LB is actually crying behind him because we’re not paying her enough attention

We also took a couple of pictures of the garden crops, such as they are at this point. The asparagus has started to come up and since we planted two year old crowns last year, we can actually harvest the spears for the next three weeks or so! Next year, the harvest period will be even longer – I can hardly wait. We’re hoping to get enough to make a batch of asparagus soup, which will probably happen this week. The rule is you can harvest them until the emerging spears are coming up pencil-thin and then you stop so as not to hurt next year’s harvest.
Asparagus 4.14

As you can see, we’re going to have another garlic bonanza this year. It’s pretty awesome – we’re still using up the last of the garlic from last year and had saved enough big, healthy cloves to plant a bumper crop this year. It was a significant outlay for the garlic last year (if DB remembers correctly, we spent about $40 on heads) but at this rate, they’ll have paid for themselves by the end of this year.
Garlic 4.14

We put in some kohlrabi ((and shallots, but they’re still underground so you’ll have to take it on faith they’re there)) but then we had a few pretty heavy frosts that seriously stunted their growth. We’re hoping to get at least four or five good heads ((bulbs? Whatever they’re called, we want some.)) for some delicious kohlrabi oven fries, but I’m not holding my breath.
Kohlrabi 4.14

And last but not least, our leeks and onions! The leeks are getting close to the point where we’ll start blanching them; hopefully we get some lovely giant leeks this year for potato leek soup. Our onions didn’t last us as long as the garlic last year and we didn’t manage to save any for planting, but that’s okay as they were delicious nonetheless. We got both our onions and our leeks from Dixondale farms, in case you were wondering.
Leeks and Onions 4.14

We’ve also got our seed potatoes to plant and our tomatoes to put out, but we’re supposed to be in for some pretty heavy weather later today so we waited on those. And honestly, after all the planting on Saturday and moving/cleaning on Sunday, I was glad for an excuse to put it off a few days. The BrewsterMama has a sorely limited capacity for manual labor these days!