Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Muscadine Time

Over the past couple of weeks, we have been harvesting muscadines at the little farm where we do some volunteer weeding and other work, and those little Southern fruits have been a great addition to my weekday lunch basket. Hearing other people's reactions on seeing them is interesting, too. The locals all are interested in finding out where I was able to find these Southern grapes, so they can have some, too, but people from "up North" tend not to have taken to the thick skins and stronger flavor.

I am not from here, either, and it took some time to adjust, but, really, how could I not fall in love with all that wonderful fruit? The vines are nearly trouble-free, and they are very productive.The only drawback I have seen is that finding the fruit in the mass of foliage can take some time. On walking up to the trellises, not much fruit is visible. To find the most in the least amount of time, I press my face right through the foliage, as though I were snorkeling, to get the clearest view.

It probably helps that I wear glasses, which protect my eyes. Also, moving slowly, as though taking a leisurely swim over a shallow reef, helps to keep the wasps (who also are interested in all that sweet fruit) from becoming startled.

In the yard at home, harvests of summer vegetables are slowing down, and the first leaves of some  cool-season crops are coming up -- even the beets!

Hope all is going well in the other gardens out there!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Planning for More Good Food

Twenty pound "Luscious Golden" melon from our front yard.
My not updating the blog for 3 weeks doesn't mean the garden isn't still a productive and wonderful place. It is, actually, providing surprising quantities of good food, considering that it also has been a little neglected.

We are running short-staffed at work, during our busiest time of year, and work-stuff has spilled over into my non-work time. However, the bosses have interviews lined up to fill at least one vacant space, so we are hopeful that the whole "short-staffed" thing will be short-lived!

In the meantime, I am thinking more and more about the fall garden. Last weekend, I amended some areas with compost, planted seeds for chicory, beets, parsley, green onions, and one last patch of bush beans, and I started seeds (late!) in a flat for broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, more beets (in case the outside seeds don't make it -- they can be finicky), and bok choy.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Vegetable Abundance

Yesterday's harvest from the front yard.
This is a time of abundance in the garden, which means we are busy in the kitchen. I put up tomatillo salsa in jars over the weekend, and I blanched more green beans for the freezer. Joe has kept the dehydrator full and humming with tomatoes and okra, and he's smoked some of the hot peppers, then dried them and ground them to powder to store the full, amazing flavor in tightly sealed jars.

Even though the garden still is fairly bursting with good food, it is time to begin the transition to cool season crops, which will provide fresh vegetables in winter.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Mid-Summer Garden

July 6 tomatoes, Rutgers  PHOTO/Amy W.
Since the beginning of the month, we have enjoyed meals that included zucchini, beans, potatoes, tomatillos, shallots, onions, garlic, tomatoes, salad peppers, and cucumbers from the summer garden.

We have pickled peppers - both Jalapeno and Poblano - and made several batches of fermented cucumber-pickles. Beans have been blanched for the freezer, and we have been giving away our extra zucchini.

We also have begun thinking about where to plant the cool season vegetables that will provide fresh food in the coming fall and winter. It seems so soon. The tomato harvest has barely begun! If there isn't a plan, though, it usually turns out that no room is available when it is time to plant the seeds for carrots, beets, lettuces, collard greens, and other cool-season crops.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Fruits for ( and some not for) North Georgia Yards

New isn't always better, especially when it comes to choosing reliably productive perennial fruits for our yards and gardens, but "the new" certainly is appealing. Here in North Georgia, we are able to grow many kinds of fruits, and some of those need very little care, but the list can feel limiting to the more adventuresome gardener.

Our little-care list of reliably productive fruits includes blackberries of many varieties, Heritage red raspberries (and Dormanred, but those are not great to eat), Rabbiteye-type blueberries, mulberries, June berries (aka: service berries), muscadine & scuppernong grapes, some varieties of plums (Methley is an old-reliable, and Auburn has developed several good varieties for the South), some pears (the old "sand pears" and a few others are quite hardy), persimmons (both American and Asian), the tart cherries like Northstar (sweet cherries don't do as well here), strawberries, and probably a few more (pawpaws, for example, would make the list if I knew of any that were very productive).

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Eye of the Beholder - Bumblebee Love and Garden Update

Bumblebee on dahlia that also has fed thrips and Japanese beetles.
The bumblebee in the picture to the right doesn't care that the petals of the dahlia have been ruined by thrips and Japanese beetles. The bee is after the abundant pollen, and the petals are relatively unimportant compared to the sweet spot in the center of that amazing flower.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Insect Activity This Week

Insect activity in the garden can be good, and it can be unwelcome, depending on the insect. This weekend, I made the first sighting of the season of a most unwelcome moth, the squash vine borer. She is pretty, but her babies devour the insides of squash vines, eventually leading to the demise of the plants.

Squash vine borer adult. The red can be viewed as a warning to gardeners!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Squash Beetles and Bean Harvests

Squash beetles look a lot like pale ladybugs.
It looks like a "good year" for squash beetles, because I have smashed a lot of them already. They are on both the zucchini and cucumber plants.

My camera hasn't wanted to focus on the little beetles, so the picture at the right is a bit fuzzy, but if you imagine a "washed out" looking ladybug, with seven spots on each side of its body, and it is eating a plant in the the squash/cucumber family, then you pretty much have a good picture in your mind.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Summer Harvests Begin

Provider bush beans, 27 May 2015.
I took the pictures to the right yesterday morning, early, before the sun was fully up and before I drove to work. The lighting, as a result, is a little weird, but the idea comes across: The first of the summer crops are ready to harvest!

We still are eating lettuces and other spring crops from the garden, but three days this week my lunchbox has included home-grown green beans. Soon, our home-grown zucchini will join them, then raspberries, then cucumbers, onions, garlic, potatoes, blueberries...

In my mind, I can see our garden crops coming into the kitchen in sequence, like waves rolling to shore. 

Meanwhile, I am still planting warm season crops. The okra and nasturtiums went into the ground just this past weekend.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Corn, Planted in Nests

Sunfish nest in the Brazos river, last summer.
This spring, when I planted my corn, I worked with a vision of sunfish and warm, Midwestern streams in my mind.

The connection may seem obscure, until you see that my corn is planted in shallow saucers that look a lot like the nests that sunfish make. A major difference, though, is that my saucers are on dry ground, in the garden, and not underwater.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Twisty, Narrowed, Thickened Leaves and Other Weedkiller Damage

New growth on tomato made weird by persistent herbicide in manure.
Cabbage growth stunted and warped by persistent herbicide in manure.
There seems to be a lot of weedkiller damage in gardens this year. I've seen twisty, narrowed leaves on rose bushes (from two different yards) that were probably exposed to 2,4-D before the plants even leafed-out in spring; I've seen shortened, odd growth on hydrangeas (same cause); and I've seen vegetable plants whose growth has been stunted and made odd by a group of herbicides that persist in hay, grass clippings, and manures.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Salad Days

A tasty part of tonight's supper.
I went out early this morning to harvest lettuce for our lunchboxes, and again after work for our supper. When I went out in the early dark, the air was heavily perfumed with honeysuckle. This evening, the fragrance was less pronounced, but it was there -- glorious.

In the garden, lettuces are looking great, we still have radishes to pull, and there are a few green onions remaining.

Future supper ingredients.
 The peas are looking ever more promising, too. Pods are are hanging on the lower sections of the vines, while the tops of the plants are still covered in blossoms.