Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Grilled Corn Salsa

A great recipe to use fresh veggies from your garden!

5 ears of corn on the cob
1 bell pepper, any color
1 jalapeno
1-2 poblano peppers or another similar pepper.
1 red onion
1 lime
Olive Oil
1/2 bunch of Cilantro
Salt, to taste

Lightly oil corn and place all veggies on the grill. Turn veggies often and cook on medium high for approximately 15 min until charred. Place peppers in a brown paper sack or closed container and let steam for 15 minutes to help remove outer skin.  (Make sure you also remove the seeds) Cut corn off cobs and put in a bowl with chopped peppers, onion and cilantro. Season with squeezed lime and salt. 

Can be eaten with chips as a salsa or serve over tacos. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Garden Scrambled Omelette

One of my favorite things about gardening is finding ways to use the fresh vegetables in our cooking. Omelettes are so versatile because you can add whatever ingredients you like and the options are endless. It's also healthy and filling! 

3 eggs
2 T. milk
Shredded Cheese
Cherry Tomatoes
Bell Pepper
Jalapeno Pepper
Red Onion
Butter to sauté vegetables
Bacon, cooked and crumbled 
Salt & Pepper

Crack eggs into a bowl, add milk and whisk until combined. Add salt and pepper to taste and set aside. 
Chop all vegetables to equal approximately 1/3 cup. In a fry pan on medium heat add a little butter and sauté veggies for 1-2 minutes. Pour eggs over veggies and sprinkle with bacon and cheese. Slowly stir until eggs are cooked to desired consistency. Plate and enjoy.

What is your favorite combination of ingredients for an Omelette?

Flower Planters

This year I have been focusing a lot of my time to learning everything I can about flower planters. Working part time at a green house helped me to ask a lot of questions and learn some basic skills about planting flowers, growing environments, fertilizing, watering and deadheading. For 16 years I've bought flowers at the green houses and arranged pots in a way that I thought would look best but it was so much fun to learn about simple growing principles that hadn't crossed my mind.

A few notes:

Begonia's love shade. The flowers are edible! I think they have citrusy taste and would be a good edition to salads. Begonia's have a male and female flower and of course the male flower is larger and more full than the females. If you want larger male flowers simply pluck the females off once they have bloomed. 

Begonia leaves do not like can aid in dry ugly burn marks on the leaves. It is best to water underneath the leaves close to the roots. 

My youngest loved coming over to visit us at the greenhouses and even got to plant her own planter. She had the best time walking around deciding which flowers she wanted in her pot and arranged them beautifully!

Can you spot the hummingbird? They love planters, especially these beautiful fuchsia flowers. If you want to attract hummingbirds and bees, add more variety of flowers to your yard! They are so much fun to watch. Fuchsia do better in part sun environments so mine have struggled a bit in this hot summer weather but I couldn't resist trying because they are so beautiful.

Normally the garden center I work for doesn't provide a service of planting herb containers but a lady talked us into it and I had a lot of fun planting and watching these herbs grow. It probably would've been best to plant 2 separate containers because some herbs grow better together than others but she wanted a little of everything so here we go! 

A shade planter...I love the colors!

A picture of the planters right after I moved them out of the greenhouses. They had been growing for about a month. It's important to water full sun planters every day and fertilize once a week. You can tell the difference below how much the flowers have grown over the pots. I love how they drape onto the ground. 

Sweet potato vines are the bright green leaves. They thrive in sun and definitely don't like cold weather. We had a cool spring and had to protect them a few times so they wouldn't die. Bugs also love sweet potato vines and will eat holes thru your beautiful plants so its best to spray a bug preventative every couple of weeks or more if they are downright pesky.

Lastly, when deciding what to plant remember 3 things.....thriller, filler, spiller. A thriller is something that will grow tall in the middle such as a spike, Canna Lily or Ornamental Grass. Second, you want to add fillers around the thriller such as Begonia's or Geraniums. And lastly, the best things to grow around your edges are spillers such as Sweet Potato Vine, Bocapa, Lobelia's, Verbena's or anything else that likes to drape beautifully over your pots. 


Monday, August 29, 2022

Green Beans


One of the first decisions you need to make when deciding to grow green beans is if you want to grow Bush Beans or Pole Beans. Bush Beans are just that....a bush. They do not need some sort of trellis to grow up and they stay low to the ground. Pole beans are a vine and they love creeping and crawling up something.  My husband added this trellis to the garden when building our garden boxes and it is one of my favorite things. I love seeing what vegetables love attaching themselves to it and to see how far they decide to grow up. It is a 6 1/2 ft. trellis and usually the green beans can get almost 3/4 the way around. Watching the beans grow and hang is a really fun sight. 

One thing we have learned with a trellis is that as the vegetables grow it creates a canopy of shade which can be a good and a bad thing. It takes some planning ahead in the spring to decide what vegetables will survive the late summer and if the green beans or other pole climbing plants will shield lower growing plants from the extra needed sun.

Two other words that are thrown around a lot are determinate and indeterminate. Determinate usually means that the crop you plant is going to be harvested all at once while indeterminate will keep producing over its entire growing season, continually adding new flowers that turn into beans. Bush Beans tend to be a determinate plant with flowers and beans developing at the end of the branches while Pole Beans are classified as indeterminate because the vines will continuously keep growing while adding additional flowers and green beans over a longer period of time. 

Bottom line is they are both great! The decision usually rests on what you have garden space for and personal preference. I know people who only prefer the flavor of canning Bush Beans. I love using trellis plants to use my space more effectively. This year I planted Bush and Pole Beans in different spaces and they both have been producing continuously. Go figure! One of my favorite things about gardening is the trial and error and all the surprises a long the way.

When we can't keep up with eating fresh produce I usually do 3 things: share with a friend, freeze or can. Freezing Green Beans is the fastest way to preserve your garden produce if you have the space. Simply break off the ends, blanch in boiling water for 3 minutes, cool for several minutes in cold ice water to preserve freshness and color, drain and then package in your favorite freezer bags to store in the freezer (6 mo to a year). I love using a food saver machine because the bags and sucking out the extra Oxygen help protect the food long term and from freezer damage. 

What is your favorite way to use Green Beans? 

Sweet Success Cucumbers

Our cuc vines have been pushing out some great cucumbers this year. These Sweet Success Cucumbers are so mild and sweet that they have quickly become a summer favorite. Sometimes when cucumbers get too big they become bitter to the taste but even when these sneaky cucumbers don't want to be found until they are giants we have been surprised to find they still have plenty of juice, crunch and continued mild flavor.  

I like to find ways to use them in drinks. The easiest and most refreshing way is simply by adding a few to your water. Throw in a couple lemon slices and mint leaves and you have a beautiful and energizing flavored water to keep you going throughout the day.

My kids can't pass up an after school snack and slicing up cucumbers with some of their favorite dips helps curb their hunger until dinner. Some of their favorites are simply ranch dip and hummas. Or why not sprinkle a few with salt, Tajin or drizzled with a bit of lemon?! Adding flavor keeps my kids from remembering they are eating something healthy. 

Do you have a favorite appetizer or beverage using fresh garden cucumbers? What is your favorite variety of cucumber?

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Fall Gardening

Usually when late summer hits I start to experience a bit of burnout with gardening. It takes a lot of work to keep those plants beautiful and thriving. The thought of planting a fall crop seems exhausting but I had the space and time this year and decided to give it a try. Two of the most important things to think about if you are considering planting a fall crop is to know the first expected frost date for your zoned area and to know which plants have the shortest and fastest growing season so that your vegetables will have time to mature before cold weather sets in. One of the easiest ways to do this is to check your packets for an approximate expected harvest date. Radishes are one of the quickest growing vegetables and can mature in as little as 23 days. You will want to find other vegetables that can mature around 45-60 days. All vegetables have different varieties that will mature in shorter or longer amounts of times so don't expect all cucumber seeds to mature at the same rate. Some have significantly longer growing seasons. These are some of the vegetables I decided to take a stab at growing this fall. Since we can't predict the weather, it's not always a guarantee that we will make it to a harvest date for every vegetable but practicing is half the battle! All of these vegetables listed their harvest dates in less than 60 days. Our weather currently has been hot but we've had a lot of cloud cover which I think has helped significantly with keeping the soil wet enough to germinate seeds. I planted a week and a half ago and everything is popping up nicely. Fingers crossed that we have a mild fall and everything will keep producing!

Some of my red onions decided they were done growing so we pulled and laid them out on a drying surface in the garage to cure. This allowed for some extra space to grow radishes, carrots, green onions and beets.

Also have lettuce, swish chard and spinach growing where our spring crops were done producing and we cleaned out. I think the tomato and tomatillo plants will provide the extra shade needed for these cooler weather crops if we still have some lingering hot days of summer.

Squash and cauliflower plants are thriving in the warm soil.  Keep growing!

Do you plant a fall crop? What have you been successful at growing before cold weather hits?

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Cucumbers and Pickling

Gardening is one of my favorite things to do. I love researching and planning out ahead of time what I want to grow for the year. Creating a map of where I think things will grow best in our raised garden beds helps me to be prepared when it comes time to plant. Watching things grow from a tiny seed to a beautiful plant that my family can eat is hugely satisfying. I feel like the more years I garden, the less I really know. Gardening takes trial and error, patience, practice and not giving up but the rewards are addicting. Some years we'll have great success with tomatoes and then the very next year do the same thing but might end up disappointed. I love the problem solving aspect with trying to figure out which plants need the most sunlight or shade, best watering techniques, getting rid of pesky bugs, best times of year to plant depending on your growing season, and how to fertilize. One of my favorite aspects of gardening has always been with how to maximize smaller spaces to get the most produce possible.  We've been working on adding trellis's to our garden which creates an added dimension as you watch these beautiful green plants climb high into the sky.  

One of my favorite things to grow this year has been cucumbers. They are sneaky little buggers. Ive been watching on the trellis for weeks thinking we weren't going to get any and then all of a sudden they were there.....giants! Normally at this size my cucumbers would have a bitter taste but these Sweet Success Cucumbers have been fantastic. I would definitely recommend this variety! 

What is your favorite way to eat cucumbers?

One complication I have been working on is where my herbs can thrive. Some herbs are super temperamental in how much water and sunlight they like to receive each day. This year I have had a lot of success with keeping most herbs in individual pots on the west side of our garden. Other taller vegetable plants have given them extra shade and they have thrived on the extra hot summer days. This dill plant has been a god-send when we decided to can pickling cucumbers last week.

I have been hesitant to can pickles. Crunch is important to me and the more I read about preserving and other people's fails, the less confident I felt about the effort in canning pickling cucumbers and creating something my family would actually like and eat. Here are 2 recipes that were successful for us this year and the things I learned.

1. Stick with tried and true recipes which include recipes from the Ball canning book/website.
2. Use 1/8 tsp. xtra crunch pickling crisp granules for pint jar and 1/4 tsp. granules for quart jar. This helps the cucumbers not get mushy.
3. You can use dry dill but I prefer fresh. 
4. If you want to can and store vegetables long term you need to plant multiple plants that can produce higher yields in a shorter amount of time. Getting a couple cucumbers off 1 plant each week isn't going to be worth your time. This year I planted 3 plants and I'm still not getting enough pickling cucumbers to equal a batch worth processing. My brother planted 20+ pickling cucumber plants. This allowed him to process several batches each week and then share....because they keep coming! The first week I processed 25 pint jars of dill and bread and butter pickles. Last week with 4 gallon ziplock bags we processed 11 quart jars. 

Dill Pickles

8 lbs. 4-6 inch pickling cucumbers, cut to desired length
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. canning salt
1 quart vinegar
1 quart water
3 T. mixed pickling spices
green or dry dill (1 head per jar)
garlic cloves
1/4 tsp. xtra crunch granules per quart jar or 1/8 tsp. per pint jar)

Wash cucumbers. Slice off ends and cut to desired length. Combine sugar, salt, vinegar and water into a saucepan. Tie spices into a spice bag and put into the vinegar mixture. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add dill and a garlic clove to each jar. Pack cold and cut cucumbers tightly into hot jars. Ladle the hot liquid over cucumbers, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Add xtra crunch granules to top. Remove air bubbles and clean off rim of jars. Put on lid and ring. Process pints and quarts for 15 minutes in a boiling water canner.Turn off heat and remove jars. Let cool for 12-24 hours. Check lids to make sure they have sealed.

Bread and Butter Pickles

3 1/2 lbs. pickling cucumbers (about 14 small to medium)
2 1/2 c. vinegar
2 1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. Bread and Butter Pickle Mix

Wash cucumbers. Slice off ends and cut to desired length. Combine vinegar, sugar and Bread and Butter Pickle Mix to saucepan and bring to a boil.

Pack pickling cucumbers tightly into a jar and then add liquid, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Add xtra crunch granules to top. Remove air bubbles and clean off rim of jars. Put on lid and ring. Process pints and quarts for 15 minutes in a boiling water canner. Turn off heat and remove jars. Let cool for 12-24 hours. Check lids to make sure they have sealed.