Friday, September 28, 2012

Summer's Final Friday Failure

Remember the replacement zucchini?  Well, it did eventually flower, and there seemed to be progress...
...until there just wasn't any progress.  They stayed looking like this for about 2 weeks, at which point, with a great sigh of resignation, I pulled the plants out of the ground.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

So I planted some mystery seeds...

My mother-in-law received some seeds from a woman she used to work with.  One of these was for something called "Bitter Melon."  I Googled it and found that it is often found in Asian cuisine and is good for people with diabetes (it somehow regulates blood sugar, which seems a rather unique claim).

What I didn't Google, stupidly, until after the plants had started to grow, was "how to grow bitter melon."  Weeks after planting I learned that these things need scaffolding.  Right now there's only one plant that's grown to any significant size, and it is climbing the deer netting around our garden.
Given that it is recommended to grow these on overhead wooden lattice, I highly doubt the net is going to support the eventual weight of the fruits.  While I have no interest in building a scaffold, or investing much money and time into a plant that I have no idea if I will even use, I do plan to let this one grow and see what we can do to support it along the way (physically, not emotionally).  I am also not sure if we've planted it at the right time of year or if the cool weather of fall might end things prematurely.  I'm hoping it will make it, since I'm kind of interested to see what we end up with.

The melon itself is s funky-looking thing.  This is a very zoomed-in photo of one that is perhaps an inch and a half long right now.  It is one of several on the vine you see pictured above.  It seems like an ingredient straight off of Chopped.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

sunday centerfold

After all the negativity of this past week, I thought I'd post some pretty photos of other sunflowers that are thriving! (these are about 3 feet tall, babies compared to the giant growing by our deck)

Friday, September 21, 2012

The sunflower incident

Over the past 2 weeks, the hits just kept on coming.  Things were looking up when we finally got some rain.  But... it was hard rain, with a lot of wind, and it sadly brought down our no-longer-flowerless sunflower.  I am not using "brought down" as a euphemism, either.  I went outside the morning after the storm to find the flower totally uprooted and laying horizontal in the driveway. 

By this time the flower was, no joke, close to 8 feet tall.  Because it appeared as though the roots were intact, I tried putting it back into the ground, shoveling some soil over the top and then watering it a little.  I also tied it to the deck railing to stabilize it.

2 weeks later, this is what's going on:
It looks sad, which is pretty much how I feel about the fate of our one-triumphant sunflower.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The swiss chard incident(s).

Sigh... my precious Swiss Chard, which at first I didn't know what to do with and have now grown to love (especially since I planted the colorful kind) and want to add to all kinds of foods, seems to be under attack from... something.

Exhibit A

Exhibit B
As you can see in Exhibit A, above, there is a sizable chunk missing from the leaf on the left.  This leads me to believe it is not just a bug, but an animal of some type. So, I have been frequently spraying the Swiss Chard with my favorite pest repellent.

And as you may remember from the beetle incident (same link as the one right above, but here's an opportunity to click again if you didn't the first time), I also planted a ton of radishes because I read that they were a natural cucumber beetle repellent.

The good news?  No more beetle sightings! (and no more little holes from beetle chewing either)

The bad?  An overwhelming radish crop that threatens to take over the chard if not trimmed back regularly.

Swiss Chard is at the bottom of the photo.  All the other green stuff is radish tops!
Some would say, oh, at least you are getting radishes out of the deal!  But sadly, in my house we don't like them and so these little guys are on their way to becoming compost.

If you need a radish, I might have some.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The cauliflower incident

Despite the lack of postings, there is still action in the garden.  Unfortunately, some of it comes in the form of pest-related problems.  I have had 4 cauliflower plants growing since... uh, March.  So far they don't look anything like cauliflower, but one in particular looked downright nasty.

(beware, sensitive readers!  explicit content after the jump...)

Monday, September 10, 2012

The cabbage looks like cabbage!

Remember this?

For a long time, I was taking a picture of this cabbage every Monday, to track its progress.  Then, to be honest, it got really boring.  That seedling in the top picture is from March.  I planted them in peat pots and grew them on my porch, then transplanted them into the garden in early May.  I had just about lost hope on this one, but then, this week...
The color is prettier than this picture, taken on a really overcast day, indicates.

The cabbage started to look like cabbage!  It is still, at this point, a very small head of cabbage.  I have 4 of them growing and one seems to attract spider webs, which is kind of disgusting (I do clean it off regularly, but still...).  Given how much space these are taking up in my garden, and the nearly six months it has taken them to grow... well, I'm not sure I'll do this again.  But, like all other gardening projects, it has been educational.  I don't know if my cabbage is just slow, or if there is something wrong with it (both distinct possibilities)... but if all cabbage takes this long to grow, I am surprised it does not cost a lot more when you buy it in the store.

Friday, September 7, 2012


I've been doing some research lately on what I can plant now that will grow in the fall weather.  One crop that seems to do well in cooler weather, and that I have actually been consuming a lot of lately, is kale.

I planted these seeds a few weeks ago and they are just starting to resemble kale.  I use it primarily in juice but it's apparently really good baked into chips as well.  Kale is not expensive to buy in the store... but at $.99/pound, when I can get a whole packet of seeds for $1.29... it will save money over time.  And, it is always nice to have things you use frequently literally right outside your back door.  So far, so good with this one.  I read that it actually tastes best after a frost... which means I could perhaps safely put in some more seeds now. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012


Fennel (or anise, as it is also known) is a little-known and under-appreciated vegetable, in my opinion.  It is also kind of expensive to buy in the store.  So last year I decided to buy some fennel seeds and see what happened.  It was a success, so I planted fennel again this year. 

Fennel starts out looking a little like a fern.  Even when it is just a few inches tall, the fronds (as the green parts on top are called) and very fragrant, with a kind of licorice-y taste. 

There are two parts to the fennel, the frond (top) and the bulb (bottom).  As the bulb starts to grow, you are supposed to keep it covered with dirt.  I also keep the fronds trimmed so that the plant spends more of its energy developing a large base.

You can see the white bulb developing on the bottom of this plant.  After taking this picture, I mounded up some dirt around the base of the plant to cover it up.

I frequently see recipes where fennel fronds are paired with fish.  I personally don't eat fish, but I do throw the fronds into soups or especially when I am making homemade vegetable stock.  I use the bulb in vegetable stock as well.  It is also good added to the "mire poix" in any soup or sauce - that is the mixture of carrots, celery and onion that you frequently saute at the beginning of a recipe.  I have mixed chopped fennel bulb into mushroom stroganoff and also use it in my favorite lentil soup. 
The picture above is of a big, fat store bought (the horror!) fennel bulb that I used last weekend when making homemade ketchup.  Mine probably won't get to quite that size, but they do appear to be healthy and growing. 

Also, if you let the tops grow and go to seed (and they grow like crazy... several feet tall if you don't cut them back), you can harvest fennel seed from them and use it to grow more fennel, or in cooking.  I've never tried this, mainly because I forget to let one go that long, but this year I'll see if I can!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A lot can happen in a week!

It had seemed like a slow week, one in which work sadly took priority over photographing my vegetables.  But before I knew it, the weekend was here... and it turns out that in gardening, as in life, much can transpire in 7 days.  Take the progress of the no-longer-flowerless sunflower as an example!

Sorry, I can't do anything about my neighbor's chimney and antenna in the background... but hopefully it's the HUGE YELLOW FLOWERS that grab your attention!
We've done literally nothing to help this plant, with the exception of occasionally watering it with the hose.  I think it just finally outgrew its predators and it looks like we are going to have at least 10 yellow flowers!  It is gigantic.  I worry that once there are actual sunflower seeds in there, these stems are actually sturdy enough for an industrious squirrel to climb... but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.  Until then I am enjoying the view.