Wascally Wabbits

I need some advice from the gardening gurus out there.

I have planted vining Blue lLke green beans. Those dog gone rabbits keep eating the leaves off, so the plants are not growing like they should be. I have sprayed the plants with soapy water, garlic spray, and cayenne pepper. I have also posted the plastic forks which have worked well with all of my other plants. For some reason, none of these things is working with my vining beans.

Does anyone have any other great ideas?    Garden Granny

Advertisements

harvest

This past week, I attended the International Leadership Association’s (ILA) Leadership Education Academy (LEA). It was an amazing event, a cross between a conference and a work development program, created specifically for leadership educators. I met some creative, inspiring leadership professors, people who teach leadership skills to youth and young adults, and leadership professionals who teach within their organizations. The staff, all leadership professors, was fantastic, and the content of knowledge we learned is extremely helpful. You know… It was information that I will use, and use often in my career. I was so inspired and leadership focused… until I got home.

As you can imagine, in Indiana, the most important time of the harvesting season starts mid-July and runs throughSeptember, or even October… and even sometimes into November, if the weather holds out! I made sure that I had harvested everything available the day before I left for Denver.

I was gone for five days, and I was shocked at what needed to be done to get the garden caught up. As you can see, I had a boatload of green beans and peppers, as well as cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplant, and blackberries to harvest. Before taking that photo, I gave away two dozen peppers, a dozen tomatoes, and six cucumbers, and I cooked down enough blackberries to freeze two gallons of juice. I also set a few dozen tomatoes on my ripening table that you don’t see here. It never seems like so much is ready when I work on it, every day, but skip a week, and WOW!

Now, it’s time to decide what to do with it all. Wednesday, I will be teaching a certification class in YOUTH Mental Health First Aid, so I will be able to serve some of the peppers, cucumbers, and tomatoes with our lunch. I have a boatload of kale ready to be harvested, too, so I will also take some of it to the class. I have been pickling sweet yellow and banana peppers, lately, and I have enough for a year’s worth of my family’s use. I recently saw a recipe for sweet and hot peppers which I might try, though, and I will start canning my jalapeno peppers, since they started producing. The red Cayenne peppers will be dried and used by my son on all kinds of yummy (and spicy) foods.

The tomatoes that I grew from plants are ripening, nicely, but they are mostly table tomatoes. Since my family eats a lot of fresh tomatoes, we are using them up or giving them away to friends and family. My parents could eat fresh tomatoes, especially the german- or beefsteak-style tomatoes, at every meal, so yes, they get used up, quickly. I also like to make some of the extras into stewed tomatoes or salsas.

The tomatoes that I planted from seed are a week or so behind the other tomato plants, even though they were planted at least six weeks after the others. They are they types that I turn into pasta sauce, salsa, and soups. They have very little liquid and very few seeds, so they are easy to process and have lots of meaty flesh to use. The breeds I planted were a Roma-style called “Big Mama” and “Super Sauce.”

Super Sauce is, by far, my favorite saucing tomato, because it is huge (up to 2.5 pounds each) and tasty, which make less work for me. I have made tomato sauce that fits in one quart-sized jar with just two Super Sauce tomatoes! The ones in the garden are so big on some plants that the stems started bending over, because the plant couldn’t hold them up without help. As you can imagine, I have been outside tying the heavier stems up on the stakes I use to support the plants.

Well, I guess I need to stop gushing about this harvest, because I need to go can some green beans! I have a lot to do. Anyway.. I wish you Happy Harvesting and Preserving!

Rogue Tomato Plants

cherry volunteer 2It should be no secret to anyone that I plant a lot of tomato plants, each year. I prepare and can enough pasta sauce, tomato sauce, salsa, stewed tomatoes, tomato-basil soup, vegetable soup, chili, and hot sauce for my family to eat for the entire year. My parents, who live next door, love fresh sliced tomatoes and tomato-cucumber salad, and Dad and I eat tomato bruchetta like it is going out of style when basil and tomatoes are fresh and in season. I even toss in a few other tomato recipes on occassion. Two years ago, I found a recipe for dried italian tomatoes in my new dehydrator manual that are out of this world (Imagine eating a chewy dried tomato slice which tastes like a piece of pizza as a snack). Needless-to-say, I need many tomato plants to meet our needs.

Each year a few tomatoes rot on the vine or get escorted away by some insect or worm and the seeds end up in my garden beds. The following year, after the beds have been turned and planted, we end up with some volunteer tomato plants growing from those forgotten seeds. Some years those plants have been so prolific that we started calling them “Rogue” tomato plants. Until a few years ago, I just removed them, because they were, in essence, weeds. For the past three years, however, I let them grow to see what would happen.

So how many rogue plants is a prolific amount? Let me see… Last year, I gave away 1150 rogue tomato plants to various organizations and individuals who didn’t mind that they would not know what type of tomato to expect. That wasn’t even half of the plants that grew! I kept some of them and put them in garden beds by themselves in order to be able to keep them separate from the tomatoes I grew on purpose and to be able to rotate my crops to keep the soil healthy. I just wanted to see what would happen, and I ended up with some very good, healthy, delicious tomatoes. Some of the people who took the rogue plants later told me that they were enjoying a variety of types of tomatoes.

This year, I only let the rogues grow in two beds, while I gave away a few plants and composted the rest. My mission, this year, was to grow only certain types, the kinds I knew we would use an abundance of. The rogue tomatoes that I did keep, this year, were only grown in specific beds, last year, so I could guess what they might be, and so far, I am right. The one in the photo grew in my mom’s garden where I had planted only one cherry tomato plant, last year, and it’s a cherry! I also am enjoying the sight of several plants of Romas and a couple of Super Sauce. I am still waiting to hear from recipients of this year’s rogues to see what types they got, and I hope they are as excited to see tomatoes on them as I am.

You might hear about my purposeful tomatoes in a future blog. What did I plant? Yellow tomatoes are my favorite cut tomatoes, so you know I have those. Then, the Rutgers and German Lady tomatoes are the favorite of the parents, next door. I also bought Jet Star plants for a general, easy table tomato. I grew 100 Big Mama plants and 150 Super Sauce from seed for my canning projects later in the summer. mmm mmm mmm

Blossom End Rot Not Shattering Tomato Dreams

End Blossom Rot

Until this year, I have not ever had a problem with blossom end rot in any of my crops. From what I understand, blossom end rot occurs in many different types of fruit-bearing plants. Cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, and squash are the most common plants which suffer from it in Indiana gardens. After doing a little research on the Purdue agricultural websites and talking to an extension agent (EA), I learned that the problem stems from plants not getting enough or not being able to use enough calcium.

Big mama TomatoWhile I am particularly interested in tomatoes, since this is the only plant I am experiencing blossom end rot, I am finding that only one variety of tomato that I planted is having the problem, the Big Mama hybrid. I planted both Big Mama (photo on the left) and Super Sauce (photo on the right) hybrid tomatoes from seed, this year. I planted the seed directly in the ground as soon as the soil was warm enough. Super Sauce tomatoesI also bought German Lady, Rutgers, Lemon Boy, and Jet Star tomato plants, and have a few Roma and Cherry ROGUE (volunteer) plants, all of which are producing fruit with no problem with blossom end rot.  Last year, I bought Super Sauce plants from Burpee Gardening, and they were, not only tasty tomatoes, but extra-large and with very little extra water and few seeds, so they are easy to use and provide little waste, with less effort, to make sauce and salsa. Super Sauce are heavy producing plants and do well in the Indiana climates. I decided to try the Big Mama tomatoes based on reviews of people who liked the Super Sauce, since it also produces extra large Roma-style fruits. So far, the Big Mama plants seem to be loaded with tomatoes, but I have lost dozens of them them to the blossom end rot.

end blossom rot starts 2

Blossom end rot starts out looking like a brown water spot on a ceiling at the area that the flower blossom was when the tomato started growing. The end of the tomato dies off and dries up resulting in the bottom 1/3 to 1/2 of the tomato being discolored and hard.

I have been throwing the damaged tomatoes into the composter, but I read, today, that once the tomato turns red, some people just cut the bad part off and eat or use the rest of the tomato. Maybe I will try to use the good part of the tomato when this issue occurs just to see how it turns out. I stopped counting Big Mama tomatoes at 1200, this morning, and I would hate to throw away all of that goodness just because of the blossom end rot. It’s at least something to think about.

So what can be done about the blossom end rot? Well, it turns out that there is not a hard and fast answer to that. It depends on the reason it is occurring.  For our gardens, it turns out that we have simply had so much water that the plants can’t keep up with or use the amount of calcium being flushed up into the affected plants. It happens that the rest of the tomato varieties we are growing happen to be blossom end rot resistant, so they aren’t having the same issues. Since my garden beds are already raised and filled with great soil which drains well, and we have no control over the amount of rain we are getting this year, I can only pray for the rain to reduce a little and August to dryer.

For others, I suggest you ask an area EA to come look at your beds and test your soil. They are full of great information to help you decide if you should do something or not. For people who have drainage problems, your EA  might suggest you try adding peat moss or large garden grade vermiculite, elevating your garden beds, or  relocating them to support good drainage. For those of you who have a calcium problem not related to drainage or too much water, you might try adding calcium to the soil with a soil suppliment or clean eggshells. If your plants have simply grown so fast they can’t keep up with nutrient uptake, using less nitrogen-based fertilizer might help. While many think that simply adding calcium will stop blossom end rot, you might find that the problem with calcium isn’t about adding it at all, but a simpler change… or Mother Nature’s changes that you can’t help… will be the solution.  I am hoping for happy tomatoes for the rest of the summer!

My Little Place of Pleasure

DSC_0065

LindyMal sent me an email, asking to see some of my garden, so I thought I would share a little of my little gardening world. Many people have different ideas about gardening. When I was a little girl, our family had a garden, because it helped us to eat good food and lower our grocery costs. I was the one who loved to work in the garden and preserve some of our food.

2015 Garden

Much of my adult life has been a challenge. Gardening offered me some relief. Not only is it good exercise, but it provides food as clean and organic as I choose. It helps me save money and have some control over the health of my family. I find gardening to be therapeutic, and it offers the opportunity to be creative (See the potato bags I tried?). My favorite benefit comes when I watch the kids and grandkids working and helping, getting excited when their seeds break through the ground, and spending time with me.

Harvest

I get to try to grow… and eat… food that I may not have ever tried. Sometimes it is an accident! For example, I planted what I thought was zucchini, this spring, but it grew into a beautiful, yellow crook-neck squash. I had to ask my FaceBook friends what on earth to do with crook-neck squash. It turns out that anything you do with zucchini, you can do with crook-neck. My first crook-neck adventure was to make a chocolate squash cake which was beautiful, moist, and delicious. Yummy!

DSC_0027

Another valuable characteritic of gardens is that it gives me the opportunity to share. I created one garden bed for my mom and four smaller ones for kids to grow their own items. Many people who are driving or bicycling past our house, often stop to ask about the garden. It’s always funny when I meet a stranger and say what neighborhood I live in, and they ask me if I live close to the crazy lady with the big garden. Yes, folks. That is me.

Like my garden, I am a work in progress. I spend time there, thinking, learning, and finding ways to better myself. Some days I work hard, and other days I am kind of lazy. Gardening has taught me much about patience and the joy found in delayed gratification. The only thing I don’t do there is sleep. I love my garden, and I hope that you get as much nutrition and pleasure from yours as I do from mine.

Ketchup and Fries Plant!

DSC_0045

I wanted to share this plant with you. I wanted to try this and will keep you posted on its progress. This is a ketchup and fries plant. It was created by grafting a potato plant on the bottom and a tomato plant on the top. Supposedly (can you hear my skepticism?)… the potatoes are supposed to grow down into the pot and the tomatoes will grow above ground. I am skeptical, because when I grow potatoes, I have to continually pile straw or compost up the stem as they grow up, since potatoes grown on the stems, not the roots. This will be interesting to see for sure… More later!

Kale Kale Kale

Kale Harvest

I love kale. It is beautiful. It is easy to grow. It is nutritious. I like to eat it in salads, add it to fruit and veggie smoothies, and dry it into kale chips. A cup of kale has 2.9 grams of protein and no cholesterol. A cup of kale exceeds the daily required amount of vitamins A, K, and C that the human body needs, each day. It is filled with fiber, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids.

For a short time, kale was one of the most popular foods on the market and in the garden. It is one of many plants in the cabbage family: Others include cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts among others. If you want to try a fantastic dish which includes these foods, there is a great new kale and brussel sprout salad that you can currently get from Cracker Barrel. The kale and brussel sprouts are shredded and mixed with cranberries and a sweet dressing… yum!

Above, you can see two varieties which grow quite well in the Indiana garden: Lacinto kale and Scots Curly kale.

Lacinto Kale

Lacinto Kale is often called dinosaur kale or flat-leaf kale. It is a long, somewhat flat leaf which looks like the bumps and scales we often imagine on dinosaur skin, hence the name, Dinosaur kale. It is denser than other types of kale and makes wonderful chips which are closer to the consistency of thin potato chips than Scots kale.

Curly Kale

Scots kale, also known as Curly kale, is a beautiful leaf of pure goodness. I think Curly kale makes a gorgeous addition to any salad or sandwich. It’s curls hold salad dressing well, and it adds texture to a lettuce salad.

Kale Stem

I have had many people tell me that they do not like kale’s bitter taste. There are two things which eliminate bitterness in kale. Do you see that thick stem which runs the length of the kale plant? It is the bitter taste that you experience. Take that stem out: Don’t eat it! The second thing you should know about kale is that the colder it is, the sweeter it will taste. As a matter-of-fact, kale loves frost, so it is best planted in very early spring and in the autumn. When I clean kale, I clean it with very cold water, and sometimes even drop it into ice water for a few minutes before serving it.

Adding kale to your diet means adding nutrition and some variety to your diet. I am making kale chips, today… I will be posting photos! I hope you consider growing it in your garden. You can start seeds or buy plants. Seeds grow well and will surprise you.

Salad Season Has Sprung!

DSC_0003

After a long winter, I am always relieved and excited for salad season to begin. I always share my first harvests with my mother, and this year’s first harvest of salad greens was no exception. Kale, spinach, and lettuce added bit of green to a family chicken dinner.

For many years, I planted a huge variety of foods, usually including seven or eight types of lettuce, and a variety of other fruits and vegetables. My family never ate it all. For the last few years, however, I decided to plant only things that my friends and family really like or use. For example, instead of planting eight different types of tomatoes, last year, I planted a few slicing tomatoes, my dad’s favorite German tomatoes, and a lot of sauce tomatoes. This Spring, I chose to grow only certain types of lettuce: Romaine, Red Sails, and Buttercrunch, since they are our favorites. I wonder if there will be any complaints, but I can say that last night’s salad went over very well.

My first harvest of salad greens is my signal to start my second planting which will take my greens harvest into the heat of summer. In a normal Indiana winter, it is also the sign that I need to prepare to plant the more frost sensitive plants, like tomatoes, green beans, and cucumbers. Since our winter was so mild, however, I already had some of my beds prepared and took a chance, planting some of those plants a little earlier than normal. I did lose some tomato and zucchini plants to an unexpected frost, so I will make sure I have my sheets ready to cover my additional plants, if another frost is imminent.

What else can we plant early in Indiana? If you want the satisfaction of a fast-growing crop, you can try radishes. My mom and I love the bitter punch that radishes provide, but the taste is not for everyone. The great thing about radishes is that you can start pulling them out of the ground in as few as 20 days for small types and 27 days for larger ones. Another early Spring plant is the beet. Beets stay sweet as long as they grow in cold weather and are not left in the ground too long. They take longer than radishes, but still leave enough time, after harvest, for a crop or two of beans.

My mouth is watering just thinking about eating a salad of fresh greens with radishes and beets, a wonderful dressing, and my favorite toppings.