Category Archives: Gardening by Month

75 Pounds of Peaches

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I’m finally staring at the bottom of my last box of peaches.

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So far I have made peach jam, blueberry peach jam, and peach pie filling. On the to-do list for today is plain canned peaches, more delicious peach jam, and freezing those peaches in need of emergency attention. If I still have some left, I hope to make some syrup for sweetening iced tea, and maybe a batch of spiced peach butter. I’ve already posted recipes for the peach jam and the blueberry peach jam, but I plan on posting a recipe for the peach pie filling soon; it’s really tasty! Also, I’ll let you know how the peach syrup turns out. If it turns out as good as it sounds in my head, it should be a really really good summer beverage.

What would you do with 75 pounds of peaches? Did I miss one of your favorite recipes? Let me know!

Oh, and I have my first ever video in the works! Stay tuned!

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Are these muscadine grapes? Or am I about to poison my family?

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UPDATE: These are indeed muscadine grapes. I have been harvesting and eating them. Yummy!

I noticed these grape-like vines growing above my garden. I guess I have never tasted a purple one before, maybe in years past I have just sampled them at the green stage?

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The fruit grows in clusters of just a few at a time.

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Picture of the vines and leaves.

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Everything I’ve read seems to support the muscadine grape theory. I took a little taste of one, and it seemed sweet.

Can anyone confirm? I picked almost a pint the other day, and I’d like to know if they are surely edible or if I will surely die.

A $0.75 Cover Crop

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Right now I have a few summer crops growing: okra, basil, yard long beans, eggplant, pink-eyed purple- hulled peas, and cherry tomatoes. However, my soil is in desperate need of replenishing, so I decided to plant the bare spots with nitrogen-fixing legumes.

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I found this bag of pinto beans at the grocery store and decided to plant them as a cover crop.

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I’ve already got some popping up! Hopefully they will fix nitrogen in the soil, shade out summer weeds, and provide good organic matter for the soil. The plan is for them to be tilled under around the beginning of September, then to let them set and compost in place for a few weeks, then to plant my fall garden. Growing beans from the grocery store – what an inexpensive way to plant a cover crop!

North Florida Gardening: July To-Do List

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It’s time to make a decision. Take the summer off or keep on gardening?

There are many crops that can still be grown during the hot, humid days of our summer. However, if you want to take the summer off, be sure to plant some cover crops to improve the soil and keep the weeds from taking over your garden.

I plan to do a little of both. Southern peas such as black-eyed peas, pink eye purple-hulled peas, and cow peas, make great cover crops. As they grow, they put nitrogen back into the soil as well as providing a tasty crop. This summer, I’m growing many different varieties of southern peas, okra, eggplant, jalapenos, peppers, and basil.

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In the shed bed, the cherry tomatoes are actually thriving over here in the partial shade, the green beans have produced a decent crop, and as you can see the flowers are doing very well.

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In the large garden, the beans are producing well the tomatoes are just about done, the cucumbers are dwindling, the Southern peas are thriving, hopefully we will be able to harvest them soon.

See that large row of weeds? Yep, sometimes that’s reality, folks. I must do a better job with my mulching, as it really makes a difference in discouraging weeds. There’s this short but pointed post on Why I Mulch; I really should follow its advice. 😉

I am planting as much of the surface with Southern peas in an effort to improve the soil.

I figure I can plant peas, let them grow until mid-August, till them in, let them rot for a few weeks, then plant the fall garden in September. Even though I lose a few weeks of productivity, I hope that a great fall garden will make up for it.

The soil is really poor over here; it’s a wonder I actually harvest anything.

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Despite the sandbox conditions, the Roma tomato plants have been the best producers this year.

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Some yard long beans are should hopefully be climbing the trellis soon. I saved a few precious seeds last year, and so planted some in flats to ensure a good stand. Ordinarily I don’t start beans in flats, but I’m not taking any chances.

I did not get to taste very many of those beans last year, because I was more concerned with saving the seeds for this year, but this year I’m hoping for many meals from them.

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This eggplant will be ready for harvest soon.

Here’s my to-do list for July.

1. Get rid of weeds, then plant more southern peas in the bare spot.

2. Tear down the cucumbers when they’re done producing and replace with yard long beans.

3. It’s peach season, so I need to make more peach jam, peach pie filling, and maybe even some spiced peach butter. I still have some blueberries so it is a good time to mix up a batch of peach – blueberry jam-so yummy!

4. When the tomatoes are done producing(they’re almost done now), replace with Jackson Wonder lima beans.

5. Figs are also in season, and I plan to experiment with fig preserves, roasted figs, gingered fig jam, and strawberry fig jam. I’ll let you know how it goes. 🙂

Do you have any favorite fig recipes?

The Summer Garden in North Florida

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Are your squash plants struggling? Tomato plants looking raggedy and not producing any new flowers? Cucumbers starting to get covered in powdery mildew?

Time for the summer garden!

Here in North Florida, frost doesn’t signal the end of a gardening season; the intense heat and oppressive humidity kills the plants.

You don’t have to give up gardening in our “winter” season, as there are many crops that actually thrive in the heat.

1. Okra– I love this vegetable! It’s not just for gumbo; if you don’t like the slimeyness, try my no-slime okra recipe.

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2. Eggplant– The classic way to prepare it is as Eggplant Parmesan; but I like to dice it, saute it with olive oil and garlic, then use it like mushrooms in omelettes and sauces.

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3. Sweet potatoes– I bought plants once, and since then have propagated my own if I wanted more plants. You can also start your own. Of course I like to eat the potatoes, but did you know that you can also eat the leaves as a nutritious summer green?

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4. Southern peas– These peas are not to be confused with the little green peas known as English peas and garden peas; Southern peas include legumes such as black-eyed peas, pink-eyed purple-hulled peas, crowders, and lima beans. I made some amazing succotash last year with my fresh limas.

I am growing yard long beans again this year. I am really excited about them, so expect an update soon!

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Even if you’d rather take the summer off from gardening, I recommend you use these as a cover crop. Since they are legumes, they will put nitrogen back in your soil. If you don’t cover your garden with either a thick layer of mulch or a cover crop, the weeds will take over.

Frugal cover crop tip: buy a bag of beans from the grocery store and plant them. They may be pole or bush, but either way you will be feeding the soil and shading out the weeds.

5. Peppers- I have had good success with jalapenos and banana peppers in the summer.

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I plant bell peppers in the spring, but they usually just limp along until the fall, and then produce like crazy. You can start some bell peppers now, but don’t expect much of a harvest until it gets a bit cooler.

These are the fuss-free crops that have done well for me in the summer. In the summer, I may pop out to water them occasionally in the morning or evening, but I really don’t want to be out for hours in the afternoon heat.

For a great chart of many other crops that can be planted, organized by month and region, click here.

Oh yes, one more summer crop.

6. Basil– This herb loves the heat and it is great for pesto!

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How about you? Do you keep gardening in the summer, or do you take some time off to rest?

The Pickleworm Has Arrived

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Hmmm, what is this gooey clearish gunk on my cucumbers? It seems to be coming out of this little hole…

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There’s a worm on my cucumber!!

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It can be a bit disconcerting to decide to enjoy one of  your fresh cucumbers and discover that a caterpillar beat you to it.

The first sign that you have a pickleworm problem is the clearish frass (technical term for poop).

There are some ways to deal with these freeloaders, though.

1. Super Organic: Eat the cucumber, worms and all. Embrace your inner insectivorous self.

2. Mildly Organic: Wash the cucumber and cut off the wormy part. If you harvest your cucumbers little and often, they will not have gotten very far into the cuke. Slice it up and serve in a Fresh Cucumber Tomato Salad with Basil.

To prevent the moths from laying eggs on them again, you can cover them with netting at night (when the moths are actively laying eggs) and remove it early morning so the bees can pollinate the crop

Alternatively, my Michelle from Pensacola Permaculture said that she had good results from rubbing off the faded flower once the cuke had been pollinated.

3. Organic: Spray with neem oil. For more organic ideas, including this one, click here.

4. Not Very Organic: Spray plants with Drano. Unfortunately, this method renders the cucumber unfit for human consumption, kills the host plant, and it is not recommended that you even attempt to grow anything in that spot ever again.

5. Fit of Rage Revenge: Drench cucumbers in liquid radioactive waste. Not for amateurs. Very effective against those caterpillars, but seldom used due to going-to-jail concerns. Don’t garden in that block ever again, even if you don’t go to jail or die from the radiation yourself.

How do you deal with pickleworms in your cucumbers?

Personally, I just cut off the affected part and eat the rest. Apparently they migrate, and so if your plants survive through the infestation, you should get more once they move north.

I’ve had my fair share of them this year, and have still had enough to make some amazing refrigerator dill pickles!

My Little Corn Harvest

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We planted corn as an experiment this year, not knowing quite what to expect. Corn likes fertile soil, and, well, I’m essentially gardening in a sandbox.

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Looks like incomplete pollination on some of them, but overall I was pleased with how many ears we got from our little planting.

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We grew ‘Merit’ corn and got these cute little ears, perfect for a single serving.

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Some of these beautiful ears of corn will be boiled, slathered in butter, and sprinkled with salt.

I also plan to take some of these ( the ones that -ahem- were harvested too early) and simmer them in ham stock with some ham chunks, red potatoes, sauteed onions, and make some corn chowder!

Will I grow corn again? Yes!

Santa Rosa Farmers Market

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I was so excited to hear news of a farmers market opening in Santa Rosa County! If you’re looking for a place to get some fresh veggies, the Santa Rosa Farmers Market is now open for business. I went last Saturday to its first market and enjoyed looking at the different selections.

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I saw a variety of local produce: zucchini, yellow squash, cucumbers, snap peas, potatoes, kale, fennel, and even a few early tomatoes. There was quite a few jams offered, as well as pickles, homemade bread, and I even saw some Tabasco pepper plants for sale.
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There was a nice selection of squash, great for kicking off grilling season.

The market is from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays at the Pace Athletic and Recreation Association complex. The address is 3537 Limbaugh Lane.

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I just love farmer’s markets, don’t you?

May To-Do List

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I have some before and after pictures for you this month. The dollar weed was winning, so it was time to use a tiller and reclaim the garden.

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I planted my bean seeds expecting warmth, and we were disappointed. We ended up tilling much of it and replanting. My husband made those neat arches, and hopefully we’ll have lots of tasty cucumbers from them.

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Even if they don’t produce much, they still look cool. 🙂

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The shed bed had become overgrown with bolting mustard. I had some garlic almost ready to harvest, but I decided to just pull it up and make a fresh start. One of the bulbs made it inside and was discovered in an unlikely place-more on that later.

I had 3 blueberry bushes languishing by the back fence. That’s my wonderful husband there transplanting them. Really this garden renovation would not have been possible without him.

He was so sweet to help me. When I mentioned that blueberries like acidic soil, he carefully layered pine straw and coffee grounds in their new home. Awww… what a guy!

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Here’s some veggies that I harvested before the tilling: green and wax beans, carrots, turnips, and  a forgotten radish.

My to-do list:

  1. Till gardens.
  2. Plant more green beans, basil, okra, bell peppers, and southern peas.
  3. Mulch cucumbers with compost.
  4. Transplant eggplants.

 

How’s your garden?

 

First Green Beans of the Year!

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I love being able to make this statement in the evening: “I’m going outside to harvest some vegetables for dinner.” The fact that I can  just step outside to get ingredients for dinner is wonderful.

Last night a quick stir fry was on the menu. I love making stir fries; they are so versatile and it’s a delicious way to make good use of fresh produce.

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Fresh green beans, wax beans, mustard greens, and garlic chives were such tasty additions to dinner.

Not many nutrients lost in storage; they went right  from the garden to the cutting board. Don’t you just love fresh ingredients from the garden?

What have you made from your garden lately?