A tomato slow down

And a pepper pick-me-up.

Almost on cue, the garden is packing it in for the summer. The tomato vines are drying up. Some fruit ripens on brown vines. Other fruit dehydrates where it hangs. 

With some help and a helper’s chipper, any soil exposed by the dying crops is now mulched by the gift of a fallen limb.

It may be a bit early, but I couldn’t help myself. I have the first of the fall crop transplants sown in plugs in the laundry room. 

The outdoor oven (aka the weather) has begun. Perhaps I’ll set aside some corn stalks for Halloween. They’re drying where they stand quite nicely.

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Rise crackle flop.

The fire’s been burning for days now. There’s something primordial about a fire. There are few things that can cause a group of people to just sit in silence and stare. A fire is one of those (a newborn baby is often another.) Yesterday, I really was able to scratch the itch of generations by having bread rising on the hearth while planning the spring garden. In short order, there were fresh hoagies to polish off the last of the Christmas prime rib complete with sauteed peppers and shredded cheese.
Not these Christmas-lights-looking peppers, but close.

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I was mistaken about the last of the tomatoes. I picked a few more yesterday, although they were not immediately gobbled up. So in an odd turn of events (like sowing next year’s exactly when I’d planned to) and weather (the lightest of freezes only days ago) the tomatoes of 2015 have gone full circle and this house shan’t be without a tomato plant even in the depths of winter…provided the seeds sprout.

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I do hope to keep track of the labels from sowing to potting up to planting out this year. It’s my goal every year, and so far I haven’t done it quite as I’d like and tend to only hazard guesses as to which varieties of what end up where.

Speaking of plans, my first attempt at paperwhites (thanks to Stacey for the idea!) didn’t quite make it for Christmas blossoms.

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But this cold cloudy weather has the bulbs planning their own New Year’s Celebration.

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The lemon basil is officially a weed, and officially the most stalwart garden companion I’ve ever had. Summer drought and triple digits? Sounds good. Frost and short days? Ok, sure. Floods and wind and hail? Why not…

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The lettuce is trying…we’ll see how it goes.

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The citrus is happy, but nap time is ending and that’s all for now. Happy New Year!

Onions from seed: Attempt number six.

My fall garden is planned. It’s sketched. It’s charted. It’s timeline-ed. And this year, I’m also ready with Plan B through Plan E so that I don’t encounter the same issues as last year and spend most of my winter with an unnecessarily empty garden.

I ordered my garlic, some Chiogga beet seeds (because Cylindra was just too tiny for my tastes), and have had my seed trays going for awhile now – cat interruptions aside. I have have plenty of greens seeds, carrot seeds, and other plotted plants seeds leftover from previous trips to the drug dealers seed catalogs…

I tried to order my onion starts. Sold out.

I tried another farm. Sold out.

Another, and another. They all ship January through May and are asking me to check back this fall, to pre-order for next spring.

Well, crap. A decent section of space has been designated onion space. I know our climate will allow for onions planted in October. Apparently the climates of those who sell onion starts are a different story.

I recently learned the difference between Short Day Onions and Long Day Onions (who knew?) and that solved the Mystery of the Failed Onion Seeds of 2009. The Puzzling Case of the Attempts of 2010, 2011, and 2012? Still puzzling.

They germinate just fine, as seen here in January:

And they gain some height just fine, as seen here shortly thereafter:

And that’s about as far as I can get them. From that stage, they put out itty bitty little white legs, that may or may not be roots, and try their hardest to die while I try my hardest to keep them alive.

I have a three-pronged approach this year.

  1. Richer seed-starter mix. I learned this past spring that onions are hungry little guys, but want the food far from their root zone. This will be for the indoor attempt.
  2. The bird method. Meaning I’ll prep the soil where I want the onions in the fall, sprinkle the seed, and water if needed. Otherwise, I’m going to leave them be and see if I’m just getting in nature’s way.
  3. Order onion starts from a company that ships as early as December. If my indoor sowings and outdoor sowings both fail, we can still have onions.

Anyone out there grown onions from seeds before? Any tips to getting them from leggy little blades of green to actual plants?

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.