Thursday, October 24, 2013


I've been so negligent in posting, mainly because I haven't needed to spend much time in the garden and therefore hadn't taken any recent photos. I had every intention of snapping a few pictures this morning. Nothing fancy, just beet tops and fennel that I've observed at dusk when I can't manage a decent photo. So imagine my surprise when I awoke to this...

Any idea what this might mean for the beets? Or the kale, fennel, or cauliflower? I think we are a little past "frost" at this stage, no?

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Cleaning up for Fall...

Two things happened this week to bring back my general optimism about gardening.  The first is that I talked with an old friend who is a much, much more experienced gardener than I am.  She lives in the same area that I do, suffered through the same weather this summer, and reports that she got less than 12 tomatoes.  We commiserated over how it was such a bad season, and it made me feel better.

The second thing is that I remembered it is time to plant garlic!  Even the garlic this year was kind of a disappointment - I didn't even document it on the blog, since the yield was so lackluster (and what I did get was kind of small, both in quantity and actual bulb size).  I didn't want to risk planting cloves from such a lame season, so I went to the garden store the morning and bought a few new cloves to plant.  

Even though it was rough work in hard, dry soil, I enjoyed digging the 48 holes for this year's crop.  Here's hoping that we get enough to eat and give away to family and friends (which I did 2 summers ago, and this summer, when people asked for more, was each time reminded of what a yucky season it was).

In addition to digging all these holes, I completed last week's cleanup and pulled up all the remaining plants (and weeds).  Here's our very last summer harvest (sorry it's such a crappy photo):

I don't know that anything positive will happen with the green tomato, but the chiles are at least close enough to ripe that they might make it on the windowsill.  You're also looking at the only eggplant of the entire summer, out of 4 plants total.  It had better be tasty!
I also feel optimistic about the beets I planted - I forgot to take a picture, but some of them have nice green tops about 4" tall.  Not feeling quite as hopeful for the cauliflower and cabbage that I planted (something is chewing on them), but we'll see. 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Season's End

I'd like to say that I'm not quite as negligent a gardener as I am a blogger.  I've been taking care of my plants, but there hasn't been much to write about.  In all honesty, this summer was a big bummer and I've spent the past several weeks trying to figure out what went wrong.  Sure, the weather was a big factor -- the "cold" spell we had for much of August was the worst possible timing for the hot-weather plants that I'd filled my garden with.   Also, the soil -- I had set out for this to be a "re-building year" of sorts, but I still expected things to grow.  I probably harvested less than 2 dozen tomatoes from 10 plants.  I will maybe get one eggplant.  

This year's artichoke experiment was a failure as well.  The plant was neither pretty nor contained artichokes (but it did grow to be HUGE).

But, as down as I feel about this now, there were some successes and a few surprises.  The cucumber plants started out shaky but in the end they were my highest-producing plant, and we now have plenty of pickles!

I also harvested enough cayenne peppers to get us through several football seasons (my favorite use is to dry them and use in chili), and the mystery squash turned out to be a spaghetti squash. 


Over the next week I'll work on cleaning out the garden and then throwing down a nice layer of compost before I research cover crops to plant.  I'll take whatever measures I can now to ensure a better season next year.  

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Lesson learned.

Quit stressing about the plants!  They will come around.  The tomatoes have, and now the cayenne peppers are turning red with plenty of time to be dried for chili season! 

Friday, August 23, 2013

The tomatoes are here!

...and now we are enjoying them in (clockwise from upper right) frittata, pasta, sauce, pizza, and salads!

I would like to officially put the word out to God, Mother Nature, the Great Pumpkin, or whoever is in charge of such things that I totally would not mind spending part of my Labor Day weekend preserving tomatoes.  Thanks.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The mystery squash has multiplied!

I was gone for approximately 48 hours this weekend, and I returned home to this:

A rather large (about 8 inches) very pale green squash!

There is another one on the way...

After some extensive research (aka: a Google search for "pale green squash") I think I've narrowed it down to what's referred to on websites as a "Lebanese-type" squash.  But is it Magda or White Vegetable Marrow?  Or is it a spaghetti squash that just hasn't turned yellow?  (this would be something that may have been in our compost pile to start with... the other two, I've never eaten)  I'm trying to get info so I can figure out how large to let them grow.  Any ideas?

(Sorry the pictures are pretty terrible!  This sucker is tough to photograph well.  Color in the top picture is more accurate - very pale green)

Friday, August 16, 2013

Freaky Friday II... it's growing!

Well, something is definitely growing on the Mystery Squash Vine that I recently discovered:

Any guesses as to what this will turn into?  Do yellow flowers always mean zucchini?  I don't have enough squash-growing experience to know...

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Pickles, pickles, pickles!

Maybe all is not well in Tomatoville, but I've been enjoying plenty of cucumbers!  It was a rocky start, but the plants have been very fruitful and I'm a little sad that they seem to be heading towards the end of their run.

Not looking too healthy.
On a recent day off I made a huge batch of Garlic Dill Pickles -- 6 pints total.  So now I can officially say that I have a Windowsill of Pickles! (add that to the 4 pints already on the shelf, and the 2 in the refrigerator, and I probably need to start giving some away...)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Well, it's official...

On August 14, I harvested the very first tomatoes of the season!

Whatever will I do with such a haul?  (here's hoping that others are not far behind, though today's weather of 60 and cloudy probably isn't helping much...)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Freaky Friday!

Even though not much is happening in the actual garden, I found a nice surprise in the heap of weeds near the compost bin...

I didn't get a great picture of it, but this is just part of a squash plant that has spontaneously popped up in an extra-weedy corner of the yard!  It is pretty big, and if this photo were of a better quality, you'd be able to tell that those blobs in the center are actually squash blossoms!  The irony of this is that for 3 years I tried unsuccessfully to grow zucchini... and the one time I didn't even bother, it seems to have spontaneously generated from my compost!  It'll be interesting to see if anything comes of this.  What a punch to the gut if all the plants I slaved over from seed yield nothing, and this rogue vine from a pile of kitchen garbage bears fruit!

Progress? (please say yes!)

For the most part, the garden remains at a standstill, as do the temperatures in Cleveland.  We've had steady 70-ish, partly cloudy conditions for a solid 2 weeks now, and the tomatoes stubbornly refuse to play along with this weather!  There are the slightest hints of color, but considering how long it's taken to even get this far, I'm not holding my breath that I'll soon be harvesting tomatoes...

I'd gladly post more pictures if there were more than 2 tomatoes with any color.  This is out of ten plants!  I am so worried that I won't get any ripe tomatoes! 

...and don't even get me started on the eggplant.  Three plants, and only one flower on August 8?  My stomach sinks at the thought that there might be... nothing.

Is this happening in any other part of the country?  Next week's forecast is more of the same... partly cloudy, highs in the mid-70s.  I know I shouldn't look, because it only discourages me further... but this time last year is when I had my first windowsill of tomatoes.  Ahhh!  What's a gardener to do?

Friday, August 2, 2013


Hmmm.  It's finally hitting me that the early fall-type weather that I've been loving so much is not the greatest for my vegetables.  NOTHING is ripening.  Last weekend I was bemoaning that everything was green and this week it is more of the same.  I'm starting to worry.

San Marzano tomatoes a-plenty... but they are all totally green

SO MANY cayenne peppers... if they'd ever turn red!
There does not seem to be any end in sight to this weather... and honestly, were it not for the garden, I'd be thrilled!  But those low temperatures are concerning.

But there's not much to do about it, so instead, Butch and I spent some time outside and made room for fall crops - beets, cauliflower, cabbage, and more fennel.

I've gotten some beets recently in our CSA subscription and have enjoyed roasting them for salad.  So, for a few dollars I decided to buy two packets of seeds - Chioggia beets, which are a gorgeous red and pink stripe, and golden beets.  I planted them where the spinach never really came to fruition, next to the second planting of Toscano kale:

A-a-and... that's all, folks!  I wish there were more to report (and eat!).  Hopefully there will be soon.

Sunday, July 28, 2013


There's not much to report this week... I've not been posting as often because not much is happening.  The same things are just... still growing.  I'm looking forward to maybe seeing a little red in the garden (hint hint, cayenne peppers and tomatoes!) sometime soon.  In the meantime, I will rejoice that my cucumber plant has yielded enough for me to make my first batch of pickles!

I used the recipe for Garlic Dill Pickles from the website Food in Jars but did not bother to process the jars in a boiling water bath because we are going to eat them ASAP.  I had enough cucumbers to make one pint jar and one quart jar of pickles.  Mine also have a little something extra in them, because I mistook dried oregano for dill and added it by mistake to one of the jars.  Possibly a tasty error?  I placed the jars in the refrigerator and will let them "steep" for a day or two.  Cannot wait to enjoy these soon! The next batch I will definitely process so they can be saved for another time of year.  And with hope, the next batch can be bigger! (but the recipe is so easy it is no problem to make just 1 or 2 jars at a time)

Both coins and spears for my eating pleasure!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

What a busy week!

Leaving home during a major heatwave and then returning 2 days after a substantial rainstorm has its benefits.  All kinds of things are growing like crazy!

There are tomatoes all over!  Every single plant has at least one, and most have many more than that.

The cucumbers are growing like crazy.  While they have taken the hint to grow vertically, I did have to spread these out a little since they are really favoring the right side.  But, messy or not, these plants are starting to yield some fruit!

Okay, two to be exact.  They aren't beautiful, but I'm growing them for pickling anyway and I think these will do the job!

If you'd like to see pictures from my vacation, you can visit my other blog.  I'll be keeping up with the garden updates here but will be posting my personal content on the other site for simplicity's sake.  If you share my dual interests in vegetable gardening and health/fitness, you may have found the right place!

Monday, July 15, 2013


I am on vacation and thought I had scheduled some things to post... But I guess not! Anyway, I look forward to arriving home a week from now and seeing what surprises my garden has produced. In particular I am keeping an eye on these cucumbers... So many flowers, but no fruit yet!

Also of course my favorites the tomatoes... Some plants have gotten really tall, and there are little green tomatoes starting to grow!

Unfortunately, I forget which plant is which... So the real surprise will be discovering what is what!

Monday, July 8, 2013


When I took a gardening class this past spring, I was surprised to learn that artichokes can be grown in Northeast Ohio.  I love artichokes, but thought they were only for milder climates like California or Italy.  Plus, I'd never seen seeds or seedlings for artichokes in any of the garden stores around here so it just never occurred to me to plant them.

However, on the recommendation of the class instructor (a local professional farmer/gardener), I found artichoke seeds online at Johnny's Selected Seeds.  For less than $5, it seemed a worthwhile experiment; plus, if the seeds didn't actually bear fruit, they supposedly produce pretty plants, so why not try?  I ordered a packet of seeds and sowed them directly in the ground in early May.

Here they are on May 21st.  At this point I still wasn't sure if they were artichokes or weeds, so I let them grow (as well as several others that did turn out to be weeds).

Then, above, a few of them on June 30.  These artichoke plants don't resemble artichokes just yet, but they have been absolutely thriving in the hot and humid weather we were having earlier last week.  The one in the top picture seemed to grow a few inches in less than a week!  Something does seem to be chewing on them a little, but I removed the really damaged leaves.  Now to just sit back and watch these grow, see if they become anything that looks like an artichoke!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Unsuitable Strawberry Ice Cream

Recently, I was gifted with a quart of strawberries deemed "unsuitable for eating."  My mother-in-law had received these from someone else, and re-gifted them to me.  I didn't mind, understanding that she knew I'd give them a good home, er, recipe.  The last time she'd stopped over, a friend and I had been making strawberry jam.  While I was a little jammed-out, I was happy to think of another creative use for strawberries.  There was nothing wrong with them - they were just a little ugly and misshapen.  Easy enough to chop them up and cook them into something.  I'd had a lot of recent experience slaughtering strawberries.

This time around, I decided to make ice cream.  I was inspired by two of my very favorite ice cream flavors in the world - Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk and Backyard Mint from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams.  I highly, highly recommend her cookbook.  I combined these two recipes to make a hybrid that you could call Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk Backyard Mint.

I will not go into all the details of the recipe here.  You can find Jeni's ice cream base at this link.  I used some buttermilk in place of cream - it gives the ice cream a tangy almost cheesecake-y taste.  I steeped torn up mint leaves in the base overnight.  Meanwhile, I roasted the strawberries (combined with some sugar) and blended into a puree, which I cooled and refrigerated overnight.  One really great tip from the Jeni's cookbook is to never add actual whole or chopped strawberries - they are too full of water and become icy chunks in your ice cream.  The puree adds a beautiful flavor and slight pink color while maintaining a smooth texture.  On Day 2, I strained out the mint leaves, stirred in the puree, and let it all freeze in our ice cream maker.  It is delicious.  One mistake  I made was to not include quite enough heavy cream - I think the ice cream needed a little more fat (it came out slightly icy).  But the flavor was really, really delicious.  I will definitely make this again, as I am always on the lookout for ways to use fresh mint! (although I think the June strawberry onslaught in Ohio is sadly just about over)

Also, if you are in Ohio, or if you are so serious about good ice cream that you'll have it shipped to you - I cannot recommend Jeni's enough!  And for home ice cream artist, the book is a must! (this is not a paid endorsement, I swear)

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Bad apples.

Ugh... we really have a problem!  It is the first year that our Macintosh apple tree is producing any considerable fruit, and something is seriously wrong... Sadly, I know nothing about apple trees so am sending this out to the blogosphere for help.  Any advice is appreciated.

Soft focus for emphasis only; I wasn't trying to make this pretty.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Labor Day Weekend

No, it wasn't really Labor Day, it was June 30, but it was a day of major manual labor.   This was my unfortunate payback for not keeping up with the weeds and general plant maintenance over the past week and a half.  Last weekend was incredibly hot and humid, and the past week was nothing but rain.  So I was unable (or, on the really hot days, unwilling) to do much, and the plants (and weeds) grew unabated.  You will see no photographic evidence of the mess - it was a total eyesore.  But I will admit that it took over two hours to pull the weeds.   Butch was so exhausted from the work that he had to take a nap.
Butch likes to nap under the hammock, and prefers his water refreshed regularly, thanks.

In my several hours of toiling, I was able to clear out most of the weeds, and get things back into a presentable state.  Here's a series of "after" pictures...

The tomatoes are now tall enough for a second row of string on their trellis system.

I also pruned the heck out of the tomato plants, aiming for the one single stalk.  Just about everything below the flowers got hacked (for more info, see here).
Even the cucumbers have gotten into line, and are growing vertically along their trellis.  Except for the outlier on the far right, but what else would you expect?
Swiss chard ahead!  These are so pretty.