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Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

In October 2016, I left the garden that readers of this blog are familiar with. I grew there–plants and children–for 30 years.

And then I had to give it up.

I’ve spent the past year chronicling the new garden, a “chapter” a month. I decided to post here, for old time’s sake, two posts a month, from December to April, starting with the first night alone in the new house, sitting in an empty living room surrounded by boxes.

It’s a strange, affectless moment, that first evening in a new house. The past is a closed door, and the future one with new locks and an unfamiliar key. All the boxes are labeled and placed in their appropriate rooms, and the checklist for how-to-move-out has become a checklist for how-to-move-in. Everything looks strange—the furniture shrugs itself uncomfortably into new spaces, there are too many pots for the kitchen cabinets, and there’s a street light right outside the bedroom window.

As if you were going to be able to sleep, anyway.

0- Intro

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I can ferment sauerkraut with my eyes closed, but I have had a hard time with fermented pickles in the past (didn’t turn out well) … I just keep trying. Instead of using whole pickling cucumbers I decided to try my luck and go about it differently, so I sliced the cucumbers this time.

I did not plant cucumbers this year. I talked to my neighbor/friend about growing cucumbers this season because I grow most of my peppers and the zucchini in their garden and he agreed that this year we could share the cucumbers too. He has been growing Armenian cucumbers (actually in the melon family) for the past few years and he always has way more then he needs. The Armenian cukes are nice, but I want to grown pickling cucumbers again.

Fermenting - Day 1

Fermenting – Day 1

Back to my experiment… I sliced the cucumbers and put them in a glass gallon jar. I added the herbs and spices that I wanted (dill seed, celery seed, and garlic) and poured the brine over the top. The brine was 1 1/2 T to 4 cups water.

The big thing with fermenting is that you need to keep the vegetable below the liquid to avoid bad bacteria from growing. I could not find a jar that was big enough, yet small enough to fit down through the opening of the gallon jar. I had to resort to using a gallon zip-top bag with a little water in it, then I sunk a pint jar into the bag and filled the jar with some water also. I am not a big fan of plastic, but it worked. I will be either looking for the perfect jar to weigh things down or a different glass jar. As I type this and thing about it – I really could have used my fermenting crock.

The past issues that I had when fermenting pickles in the fermenting crock that I have is the weights. The whole cucumbers are so buoyant and the ceramic weights are a bit on the smaller side that the cucumbers can sneak up on the edges. Then they are exposed to air and things go quite wrong in a hurry.

It worked! I have successfully fermented cucumber slices (three times now!) Boy are they good! We now have a ton of them in the refrigerator and we are munching our way through them fast. I have shared several quarts with our neighbor/friend.

Day 7 or 8

Day 7 or 8

Next year I look forward to canning some pickles so we can enjoy them throughout the winter too, but in the mean time we are enjoying these fermented ones. I know they have more benefits to them (chuck full of healing probiotics!) I also look forward to the fall and winter garden to ferment some of the root veggies like carrots, turnips and onions.

Other post on fermenting:

Anyone else out there fermenting things?

Sincerely, Emily

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We have a few neighbors and friends that like to garden. One of them brought us some fresh onions the other day.

fresh onions

fresh onions

They were beautiful. A beautiful gift.

What treat are you enjoying from your garden or local farmer’s market?

Sincerely, Emily

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I mentioned in my last post (about the chard stalks) that I have worked to shade parts of the vegetable garden this summer.  Creating shade for the garden has been on that endless list of mine for the past 2-3 years.

Not only are our South Texas summers hot, but I have full open exposure to the garden to the west, so everything is in the garden roasting until the sun goes down and that is really hard on the plants. There is a magnolia tree that is growing on the west side of the garden. It was planted before we moved in, and it is growing well, but it will be many, many years before it is tall enough to provide any afternoon shade for the garden.

Over the past few years I have cooked up a lot of idea for creating shade in the garden. A few years ago, I had lambsquarter growing on the west side of each raised bed to provide shade. While that helped, it just wasn’t enough.  We had a friend that lived with us a few years ago, and I was thinking that he could weld up a frame for over the top of the garden and then I could put shade cloth over the frame. I think that one would have worked, but he doesn’t live here anymore….

Shade Cloth with rebar

Shade Cloth with rebar

This year I though of two ideas. One was to create a “wall” of shade cloth on the west side of each raised bed. That would create shade from the west sun, and also some of the morning sun, limiting the amount of direct, hot sun the plants would get throughout the day. The other idea I had was to purchase a 10′ x 20′ car canopy and put it up inside the garden fence. I really thought both ideas would work. Both of my gardening neighbors sort of laughed and chuckled when I told them about the shade cloth “wall.” They didn’t seem to have a lot of faith in them. I did, so I went out and bought the supplies and moved forward.

Car Canopy shade

Car Canopy shade

The shade cloth “walls” I could mostly do on my own, but the car canopy I needed help to put up. One neighbor helped me by cutting the rebar to the length that I wanted, and my husband helped me put of the car canopy.

Shade cloth walls Pros:

  • With the shade cloth wall, the plants are exposed to some direct sun throughout the day.
  • When it rains, the plants benefit from the rain.
  • I can leave the rebar in place and just take the shade cloth off for the winter.
  • I could set it all up on my own (other then the neighbor that helped me cut the rebar – We did have the tools for that, so technically I could have done that too)

Shade cloth walls Cons:

  • I was able to tie one of the rebar posts to the garden fence on one side – without that, the structure would be more wobbly, and I would have had to add one more vertical rebar support post in the center (not a big deal, just another post for each box)
  • Having the wall of shade cloth on one full side of the raised bed, you are limited to harvesting from the other side. My beds are 3′ wide, so this hasn’t really been a con for me.

Car Canopy Pros:

  • No obstacles for picking and harvesting – completely open under the canopy

Car Canopy Cons:

  • Prevents the rain from getting to the plants
  • The canopy will disintegrate over time (maybe one summer season here) and the cost of a new canopy is around $100 (I think I could find one for less that might not fit exactly, but would work) My plan it to replace it with some other shade cloth that would allow the rain to come through but still provide shade.

There are definite pros and cons to both of these ideas. They both work and that is the good thing. With both systems, over time, I will need to replace the cloth/cover. I think ultimately the best thing would be a frame build over the top of the garden where I could over the entire area with a shade cloth of some sort that would provide great shade in the summer, yet still allow the rain to come through, and then remove the cloth in the winter for more full sun.

The garden fence is not high enough to just add a flat cover  over it – I could never stand up.

So for this year, I am thrilled to have some shade in the garden that is working.

If you need to, how do you shade your vegetable garden from the harsh sun?

Sincerely, Emily

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Yesterday was the first day I harvested something from our garden this season.image

Zucchini!!!

Peppers!! Serranos, anaheims, and banana. Sorry, I forgot to get a photo of those.

I also picked three peaches in hopes that they will ripen off the tree. The squirrels are already competing for those. Grrrrr.

What is growing in you garden??

Sincerely, Emily

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My German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) has been growing very well this year. I had a few plants come up form last years seeds and I planted a few more to increase my harvest.Chamomile 2 (Matricaria recutita)

The flowers really make me smile. The plant is so delicate looking with pinnately divided leaf – almost feather-like and small white disc flowers. I love seeing them bloom. I harvest the flower and enjoy a cup of tea using the fresh flowers, but most of them I dry to use later. When I am picking the flower heads I can’t resist giving them a sniff because they give off a nice light apple fragrance.

Chamomile, a member of the aster family (asteraceae), is native to Europe and western Asia and has been used as a medicine for thousands of years, dating back to the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. It is one of the most popular herbs used in the Western world.  I grow and use German chamomile. I dry the flowers to store and use when I need them.

Growing German Chamomile:

  • German Chamomile is a cool-season annual. In my area S. Texas, it will reseed itself. I usually help it along by crumbling up a few dry flowers in the late fall when I scatter seeds for larkspur and poppy. Be frugal, be sure to save a few extra for more seeds later, or share with a friend. The information I find on it says to “sow the seeds outside 4-6 weeks before your last frost, or as soon as the soil can be worked” or “late fall when the soil is too cold for seeds to germinate.” You can also start with a plant from your local nursery or start your seeds inside 8-10 weeks before the last frost in your area.
  • You can grow German Chamomile in the ground or in container. Whatever works for best you.
  • Can get very bushy and stand about 3′ tall. Mine is about 2′ tall
  • I likes full sun. Since we get so hot here I have planted mine where it will get afternoon shade. The plants will get very leggy if there is too much shade.
  • They don’t need a lot of water, but will benefit from it during dry conditions, and when they start to flower.Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)

My plants are done for the season already. they are not putting on anymore fresh blooms and the bottom foliage is starting to turn yellow. We are well into some summer-like temps and have already hit 98F this season. I will leave the rest of the blooms on the plant to help re-seed the area, but like I mentioned above, I will save some seed head for sowing later. the reason I do both is that I will still be putting a layer of horse manure and/or other compost on all the herb gardens and then a thick layer of mulch and a lot of those seeds will get buried too deep, so I will need to sprinkle those seeds later in the fall to ensure that I have plants popping up next spring.

So, what can chamomile be used for?  Anxiety, insomnia, canker sores (mouthwash), irritable bowel syndrome, indigestion and heartburn, acid reflux, gastrointestinal complaints, treat skin conditions and mild infections. What do I use it for? Mainly to relax in the evening to help with sleep and stress, but also for an aid with digestion. How do I use it? As a tea.

Whether you grow German chamomile to harvest the blooms or not, it is a very pretty plant and adds a nice bloom to your spring garden.

Do you have German Chamomile growing in your garden? What do you use it for?

Sincerely, Emily

 

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It’s a busy time. There seems to be a lot going on and I don’t seem to be catching up on certain things, yet I am getting other things done. So anytime I can make a quick meal, it really helps.

Celery Leaf

Celery Leaf

Spinach growing season is over here and my spinach has bolted and I am patiently waiting for seeds to I can harvest them and then get the next phase planted out there. I picked on last large batch of spinach and had plans to saute it and freeze it for meals later, but meal plans can change rather quickly around here. I also had some local chicken and carrots in the refrigerator that needed to get used up. Chicken salad came to mind, but I haven’t managed to make any bread in a few weeks.

Chicken salad

Chicken salad

As I gazed into the refrigerator I decided that the spinach would get used to make chicken salad wraps. Brilliant!

Add spinach

Add spinach

I ran out back and pulled up a bunching onion and also snipped several stalks of celery leaf. Chicken salad coming up!

Lunch!

Lunch!

The meal was quick, easy, and healthy. In fact, I am running in several directions right now and I had a repeat of this meal for dinner too! Yum x 2!

What do you do to throw together a quick lunch?

Sincerely, Emily

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