DH has been busy(/ier)

A bit ago, a house in our neighborhood got a new deck. Their old deck wasn’t so old, and yet was left completely disassembled on the curb for pick-up. Well, DH didn’t mind lending a hand to the collection crew that week and picked it up.

What does one do with old decking? Apparently, so many things.

Work station
You set up a work station in the beautiful weather.

Wire
You might even unmake my unsightly “compost bin” (also known as “that ring of fencing in the middle of the backyard held in place by two stumps.”) No worries. I can reuse the fencing as trellis later in the season.

Compost bin
And make a more incognito one…

Composting
And even turn the compost, fill the bin, water it, and top it with leaves!

I often say aloud in the real world how very lucky and spoiled I am, and I do mean it. In so many ways, I am spoiled rotten and ever so grateful for DH.

And then, he keeps going…
New garden bed

And going!
Second new garden bed

A new compost bin and two new garden beds…I am even more excited for spring than I was before. Especially since his construction came out a lot sturdier (and more square) than my lasagna bed I built. Now if only I could decide where to put the new beds, or if I’d remembered to bring home some cardboard…

Tools Needed:
Box of screws
Free decking
Saw
Drill
Measuring tape

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Breaking summer ground for fall.

I grew beans in this bed in March and April.  I gave some new squash varieties a go as well as took my first real stab at some melon. It was all done by June.

Had I planned better,  I would have had some more pepper starts ready to go in. Next year, I hope to remember this. As it stood, I had some late-arriving sweet potato starts come in the mail and they took center stage.

Slowly the summer raged on. The sweet potatoes showed themselves to be slow growers. One melon, the Tigger variety, held on much longer than the Kansas or the White Cushaw.

Every where else in the Left Bed the weeds set up shop. The squishy ones that DH calls “ice plant weeds” and the sprawly ones that remind me of some sea fans. We wonspeak of the wild  morning glories or the other ivy. Then there are the two tall types I couldn’t guess at varieties for.

Thankfully, having ignored the bed for the last bit of our triple digits, the weeds pulled easily,  like they were rooted in sand.

The lowlands between the raised beds have served as walkways this season and as such needed a little loosening.

I’d added in a couple of inches of leaves this spring to the pathways. Over the course of months of rain and breezy days the leaves went underground. Digging yesterday unearthed them once more. Evidence of a summer spent under damp soil was all around. The leaves had made a layer of decomposed soil-food. Digging through it brought cakes of matted leaf material to the surface only to join forces with new compost and be turned under once again.

I’m still in the “getting to know you” phase with the soil in this bed. Upon first meeting, it came across as angry and weak . Someone had abused it previously and it showed. I started the spring by adding organic soil from a local source, manure, and compost. I was in a hurry and didn’t have the time to wait for the county extension office to run any tests. Over the summer I’ve learned that the soil is much sandier than my beds the short two miles to my backyard. It’s also full of tiny pebbles. Just below the sandy, pebbly, crumbly soil is what I’m used to working with – thick, cloying, stick-to-your-shovel clay.

So I worked in even more compost, breaking up clods of dirt (playing at being rocks) along the way.

Watering the base layers,  burying them, and watering again is my attempt to not irritate the earthworms too much.

I worked the compost into these holes made by burying the compost in the trenches. Then I worked it all together, evening it out into one bed. Trench be-gone!

These beds (this one and it’s twin across the sweet potatoes) are now ready for kale, broccoli, beets, onions, and garlic!

Those sad sweet potatoes? Those are the ones I ordered as starts. The pantry-potatoes? They’re happy as can be.

How do you prep your soil between seasons?

An Anaheim Tower.

Speaking of plants that can withstand  the heat but are admitting their guilty pleasures (6″ inches of rain in 30 minutes) – the Anaheim has gone bonkers!

I picked all the Anaheims last Sunday, and this Sunday – these aren’t even all of them. DH already had the grill fired up for some hot sauce brown sugar chicken, so they found their way over the flames and into our bellies less than an hour from harvest.

The rest of the peppers aren’t to be outdone!

We have three little poblanos that were left to redden-up on the vine, a purple bell that decided to go a little green?, and an orange bell that’s looking more red to me. Oh, and a pile o’ jalapenos, fish peppers, and cayenne. As you can see, the tomatoes have slowed down. The Cherry Chadwicks are still going, the yellow pears are making an effort, and a previously unproductive red cherry variety (whose name I lost track of) has just started up. I lost a few multi-pound Black Princes, Zapotecs, and others to the birds and the bugs during my neglect, but that’s ok. They’re thirsty, or hungry, and my freezer has plenty of tomatoes in it already. (Unless the hungry bugs are squash bug nymphs. Then it is most definitely not ok and they find their way under the sole of my boot in no time.)

Ever planning ahead as I look behind, I can’t forget to show my appreciation for the prolific output of this plant by saving its genes again for next year.

For anyone who hasn’t saved pepper seeds before, it really is that easy. Scoop them out, lay them on a paper towel (label your paper towel!), and let them alone until everything’s dry and crunchy. Fold up the paper towel, wrap a rubber band around it, and store it with any other seeds you sow at the same time.

Sweet potatoes bought and grown.

In the foreground are the sweet potatoes, followed by the pepper patch, and finished up with the tomato jungle. Nevermind the leaning shovel and sunhat taking center stage.

Isn’t the foliage on the fish pepper lovely? I didn’t expect a varigated leaf from the description on the seed packet, but am absolutely adoring this plant (and it grows a lot of peppers!) DH says they taste like “a jalapeno bite without the jalapeno heat.”

The things I’ve read on sweet potatoes say how much they don’t need watering once established. They sure do seem to like the water we’ve had lately though. They’re trying to escape their bed, climb the corner post, and move into pepper territory.

Those are the sweet potatoes that sprouted in my pantry, that I cut into thirds, dusted with diatomaceous earth, and buried. I did buy some sweet potato sprouts this year as well. Let’s check in on their progress…

Unless the pantry potatoes are all show and no potato, I know what I’ll be doing again next year…

Putting up harvests, eating our colors, and late fireworks.

I’m going tomato-picking again tomorrow! Last harvest was a few days ago. Any guesses how many pounds we’re up to?

These went to DH’s mother, the freezer, a giant batch of pico, and some grilled peppers.

I learned on a Victory Garden episode a few years back about dehydrating unusual things. One of those things was zucchini. The idea being you can dehydrate zucchini, carrots, and other things in season, store them in the pantry, and then when the winter doldrums set in and you’re needing to make soup – voila! You have some summer sunshine in your soup.

I have yet to make the soup, but am starting on the dehydration experiments. My first batch was actually dried last year, and is still in tact – dry and happy.

It’s a handy way to store some of that summer squash excess a few of you in cooler climates may be in the throws of. I cut these about 1/8″ thick, laid them on a cooling rack (like for cookies) and left them in a rarely-used cupboard, forgotten. Last week, we had a few too many squash in the fridge about to turn. I took out the mandoline, set it on the “paper thin” setting, and went to town. 24 hours in our turned-off gas stove later and…

I’m not sure how these will reconstitute in a soup. They’re nearly translucent, and I’m thinking they may simply mush when they hit the soup this winter. Only time will tell.

What about what we’re eating now? We’ve been playing more with the mandoline and making fries! We’ve made beet fries from some Chioggas, which also just came in the mail in the form of seeds to sow soon! I didn’t grow any of the tubers in the pan below, but perhaps someday.

Here we have some organic sweet potatos – orange and white, and some blue potatoes as well. Can you just picture that same pan with some Chioggas in it?

And, after all the worry over how the summer would be this year after last year’s insane heat and drought, we’re having a nice (and surprising!) July. The thunderstorms that passed over our heads week after week last year without letting loose a single drop (only to unleash on the midwest and cause horrendous floods) are unzipping their buckets of water almost every other day these days.

For being drought tolerant, this spongy-leafed sprawler sure puts on a show with regular watering.

These are blooming just outside our garage door. The very same door we propped a ladder against to climb on the roof and watch the fireworks two weeks ago for Independence Day. A little delayed reflection of the explosions in the sky.

Delicious homecoming!

Coming home is always so nice. Aside from DH and the boys being here, it has so many reasons that I love coming back. It smells like DH’s cooking. It has the right pillow. I have gardens to walk through.

More reasons?

Sprouts!

This is the cauliflower pan. As many varieties as I like to grow of peppers and tomatoes, so far I’ve only grown one variety of cauliflower – Amazing.

And the delicious part of coming home?

Bell peppers from the garden! Orange and purple, even.

And those tomatoes? Still going strong. We broke the 40 lb mark and still can’t keep up. I’m taking more to work tomorrow to give away, and still have too many. What to do? The internet says you can freeze cherry tomatoes, which is about all I have time for currently. So as much as I’d like to try my hand at canning tomatoes for the first time, I didn’t grow any typical canning varieties and honestly don’t feel like blowing up the kitchen with my canning shenanigans. (If anyone knows how to keep the kitchen moderately clean while canning, I am all ears.)

So, I removed the stems, and put them in a strainer for a quick bath.

I gently rolled them on a tea towel to dry, placed them on a cookie sheet, and started to put them in the freezer…ooops! No room! So I made room by taking out the peaches I just froze and putting them in a ziplock for longer storage.

Oh, and making sure your cookie sheet actually fits in the freezer? Good idea BEFORE  you put the rolly-polly tomatoes all over it. Also, because you don’t own a cookie sheet with edges, right? Right. (I don’t.)

So carefully tuck the cookie sheet into the freezer…and then! The chicken doesn’t fit. Luckily those tomatoes are rolly-polly! So I rolled them over, and the chicken made friends.

But not all the food is a success. This was my second year attempting melons, and my first year with melons setting on the vines. I think I may have planted them out too late though. They’re ripening while still tiny-sized. One Tigger Melon ripened and went bad in a day. The other? Ripened at the size of a golf ball. And this poor guy, a Kansas Melon, was growing nicely and we hit 102 this weekend. Boom. Ripe and bug-infested. But doesn’t the flesh look lovely?

The Farmer’s Market here is a good gauge for me as to when things should be ripe. I try and work backwards from when things at the Farmer’s Market are available to when I should be sowing similarly plants. The melons were ripe here about a month ago. I direct sowed these melons…where are the notes…that I didn’t make on the melons! Ha! My timeline shows that I intended to sow them March 15th. With how this year has gone, I probably sowed them about March 30th. So next year I’ll start them indoors Feb 1st and see how that goes. We have gotten a freeze in March once in the last nine years (for a few hours) but this year we didn’t have a freeze after…December?

And today we hit 106.

Home, hot, sweet, delicious, home!

 

P.S. If anyone remembers to remind me, I do not care for Jiffy Organic Seed Sowing Mix. It’s like powdered dirt it’s SO light and fluffy. I couldn’t recall if I liked Jiffy and didn’t like MiracleGro’s Organic, or vice versa. I’ve just re-learned my preference, but that doesn’t mean I’ll remember it.

Succession sowing.

There are plenty of things I could stand to do better, the top of that list for what I want to do better is planning my succession sowing. Each year I have the best of intentions, and each year I forget.

I just came across this super-helpful post from A Way To Garden about doing just that!

I’m linking here for reference for myself as much as for helping any of you that may need a little reminder, inspiration, or information on the topic.

If you’re an expert succession sower, how do you remember to do so? Do you add a calendar reminder to your phone? Write it on your kitchen calendar? Just have that impressive of a memory or that much experience that it has merely become habit? Any tips or tricks you have would be greatly appreciated!

For instance this year, I learned that I should have started more melon and squash plants to put in after the beans were done, and more peppers to add after the squash had called it quits.