Garden 2015: August Update

cherry tomatoes ripening

Oh my gosh.  I cannot believe it is August.  I just can’t.  And we are already almost 3 weeks into August too.  I swear time just needs to slow down a little bit.  We have been really embracing the summer though and spending as much time outside as we can.  We live on Lake Erie so we have been taking full advantage and going to the beach a lot with the dogs so they can play in the water.  We also have some really nice hiking trails around that we like to take the dogs to.  You know what August means?  Pumpkin spice season.  It seems like August comes around and everyone is all about fall and everywhere you look it is pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin spice donuts, pumpkin spice cake, I even heard on the radio that peeps are coming out with pumpkin spice flavored peeps.  What?? Don’t worry, I will go pumpkin crazy for y’all and start getting those recipes flowing, but I like to wait until I see fresh pie pumpkins coming out of the fields and into the farmers markets.  None of that artificial flavoring crap for me.  But I will be honest with you,  I will probably succumb to at least one pumpkin spice latte at some point over the season.  Moderation.

garden bed 1 august

In the garden though, it is still FULL ON SUMMER.  This is what we are all waiting for if you have a garden.  The peppers are coming in quick, tomatoes are ripening all over the place, cucumbers, zucchini, etc are growing faster than you can eat them.  This is when having a garden is exciting.  Every day you go outside you have something to pick.  For me, that is the fun part.  I plan my meals based on what I have growing and what I need to use up.  Right now, it is tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers.  Really, I don’t have much else growing in my raised beds to be honest.  The carrots and green onions still need some time although they are coming in nicely!  My lettuce has all fizzled out by now.  It doesn’t like the hot sun and we have finally had a few days close to 100 degrees, so they were toast.  I ripped them out and planted some of my deck pots of peppers in their place.  The peppers will be much happier in the ground than in a small pot.  They won’t dry out as fast. garden bed 2 august

The one thing I didn’t plan for was my cherry tomato plant to turn into a monster.  I planted one cherry tomato plant… one.  I planted 8 other tomato plants.  All I see are cherry tomatoes.  They are EVERYWHERE.  That plant is over 6 feet tall and shooting off in every direction.  I planted it in the first row of tomatoes and the whole row behind it isn’t getting ANY sun now because the cherry tomato is so big.  So the entire back row of tomatoes suck, they are teeny tiny because they haven’t had a chance to grow.  It is the cherry tomato show all over that entire bed.  So, if you plant any cherry tomatoes, do it in the back of the garden or in a corner so that they won’t shade the rest of the garden.  Next year, I might even do mine in a pot on the deck just to keep it under control.  I had no clue the tiniest tomatoes would turn into the largest plant, haha.  I mean, we like cherry tomatoes though, so it isn’t the end of the world, but I also like larger tomatoes.  I am getting some larger tomatoes, just not nearly as many as I usually do because the plants just haven’t gotten any light.  I actually have some gigantic tomatoes hiding in the back of the bed that I am waiting to ripen, they are going to be awesome on a caprese panini.  Yum, yum, yum can’t wait!!  If you have a ton of tomatoes ripening right now, throw them into the freezer!  I use them in the winter to turn into juice as a soup base.  You can also run them under hot water when they are frozen, and the skins fall RIGHT OFF.  Which is awesome if you are planning on canning them.  It makes things a lot easier.

pinneapple tomatoes

The other thing I experimented with this year was beans.  They are actually pretty fun.  I planted them in the front row of my garden in front of the tomatoes.  So, they kinda got screwed too with monster cherry.  I got a lot of pods off the plants though but then it seems like the whole plant just shrivels up and dies all of a sudden.  All of my pinto bean plants were totally dead last night so I ripped them out.  I still have a few kidneys still half alive/half dead and my black beans are totally alive still and loaded with pods.  I read online that beans have a really short season, so I am thinking that is just what the beans do after they produce so many pods.  I am not really sure.  If you have never grown beans, you wait for the pod to change from its green youth to a yellow/marbled with color look.  The pod will start to feel dry and wrinkly, this is when you know the beans are ready to be picked and harvested.  I pull my beans out and put them straight in the freezer until I get enough to do something with them.  I am thinking of using them for chili when the weather gets a little colder.

black beans

I had planted “yard long pole beans” at the beginning of the season.  They were supposed to be a green bean which is a yard long, sounds super fun right?  Well, all of May and June the bunnies ate any resemblance of a green bean plant.  I mean mowed them to the ground over and over and over.  So, I had basically given up all hope on that.  Now, the plants are monsters.  I sprinkled cayenne pepper on some of the leaves and on the base of the plant one day to deter the bunnies and they never touched them again.  I mean these things are over 6 feet tall now.  The strange part now is that there isn’t a single bean on the plants or a sign of any beans anywhere to come.  So, now I have monster plants but I am still just as confused.  I will keep you posted on that one.  My cucumbers are  growing good, I grow mine up a trellis to save space and they do really well growing vertically.  I have been getting just the right amount of cucumbers off of my 2 plants.  I remember one year I planted like 6 cucumber plants with the goal being to can my own pickles with the cukes from the garden.  Well, that didn’t happen because I never got pickle quantity to make like 20 jars at one time and I ended up heading to a farm to pick a big batch to make pickles.  I did however get more than one person wants to eat at one time in waves all summer long.  So this year I shrunk it down to 2 plants and that is just the right amount.  I actually have a cuke recipe coming your way, I just need my current cucumbers to get a little bigger so I have enough to make a batch to photograph.  Yum, yum, yum.

cherry tomato plant

My pepper plants are doing pretty good, I have been getting a decent amount of peppers off of them. I planted a mixture of sweet and hot peppers.  Mostly bananas, bell peppers, and jalapeños.  My jalapeños have probably been the most productive so far, the bananas are pretty good too.  They aren’t quite big enough though to stuff them or make jalapeño poppers.  I think I just haven’t been waiting long enough to pick them though lol.  I see one that is decent size and I snag it for whatever I am cooking.  Now that I have a ton of peppers on each plant, I might be more willing to let some grow to full size.  Normally with peppers, I make big batches of deconstructed stuffed peppers.  So amazing.  I also freeze pepper rings or diced peppers to add to dishes in the winter.  Peppers from the freezer will cook up just fine in dishes, you can’t plan to use them raw though or in any form you want crunchy peppers because they lose their crunch when you freeze them.  If you are going to cook or soften your peppers though, frozen homegrown peppers are such a welcome sight in the winter.

hungarian wax peppers

jalapeno plants

Berry wise, my blueberries are pretty much done for the year.  I have a few stragglers here and there, but the bulk of them are done.  Most of them didn’t make it into the house, I normally just shared them with Matt and the dogs in the yard lol.  The raspberries are going insane, as always.  I am in between fruiting right now though.  The variety I have has 2 main harvests, one in the beginning of summer and one towards the end/into fall.  The first harvest is off of old wood from last years canes. This harvest is normally the smaller of the two, but if you have a big planting (like I do) it is still a good amount of berries.  I ended up with over half of a gallon freezer bag in the freezer, and that doesn’t count all the ones I ate off the vines and fresh.  The next harvest of berries is probably still a few weeks off, it is new wood from this year (green wood).  These canes will be brand new canes and are normally pretty good size, mine are taller than I am.  These canes are LOADED with berries, they just aren’t ripe yet.  That is going to be a big harvest of berries though once it starts.

blueberries

 

much love,

Heather

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