Beginner Gardening Series: September Edition

September is the month where you can look at your garden and take stock of what worked and what didn’t, harvest the remaining produce growing in the garden (except for a few frost loving plants, will talk about that later) and put your garden to bed for the winter.   If you live in some of the warmer climates, you can now restart your garden!   For the plants that like the heat (like tomatoes and peppers), start the seeds indoors or buy starter plants. I, however, live in zone 5-6, so no replanting of the garden here.  I will be taking the steps to put my garden to bed and do what I can to get it ready for next Spring.

T A K E  N O T E

Get yourself a cute little notebook (don’t we all buy one everytime we go into Target?!) and take note of your garden.  What grew well in the garden this season?  Did your tomatoes get enough sun?  Did your squash plant succumb to mildew?  These are observations that will help you in planning your garden for next year!  Your placement of plants may change based on your observations.  For me, I need to move where I planted my squash because it was affected by mildew.  So…I need to find a place that gets more sunshine to prevent this from happening again.


W H E N  T O   H A R V E S T

Are you daily looking at your peppers wondering if they are ever going to turn red??  While it is ideal to let peppers, like tomatoes, ripen on the vine, there does come a time when all the peppers and tomatoes need to be harvested from the garden and left to ripen indoors, out of direct sunlight.  So yep, harvest your tomatoes and peppers, even if they aren’t perfectly ripe and let chemistry do it’s thing indoors. Now with this said, if you have planted some “cool crops” you can leave them in the garden until after the first frost.  Some cool crops are Kale, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Brussel Spouts, Spinach, Collard, Asparagus. A quick Google search of “cool crops” will provide a great resource if you are wondering if any crops you have planted are considered a “cool crop”.

 

 

 

TIP: you can leave carrots in the ground through the Winter (they may actually get sweeter as the carrot holds on to it’s sugar to combat the cold), however, you will need to harvest them before Spring as they will go to seed and not be edible.

P U T T I N G  the  G A R D E N  to  B E D

One thing I always need when going to bed is a blanket, your garden likes one too!   There are a couple of ways you can create a “blanket” for your garden.  You can grow a cover crop.  Stay with me here, this sounds much more complicated than it really is.  A cover crop is as simple as tossing some seeds on your cleaned out garden bed.  This helps create a barrier between the Winter elements and your garden soil.  Cover crops also give back vital nutrients that were taken from the soil to produce all your yummy veggies!  A seed that I recommend is Cereal Rye.  Sprinkle the seed ideally 4 weeks before the first hard frost, or as soon as you can after cleaning your beds.  Literally let nature do the work and watch it grow.  If planting another crop has you rubbing your temples, then a nice layer of straw or some other type of mulch will also provide a sufficient barrier for your garden soil against the harsh winter elements.

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Beginner Gardening Series: September Edition

Beginner Gardening Series: September Edition

September is the month where you can look at your garden and take stock of what worked and what didn’t, harvest the remaining produce growing in the garden (except for a few frost loving plants, will talk about that later) and put your garden to bed for the winter.   If you live in some of the warmer climates, you can now restart your garden!   For the plants that like the heat (like tomatoes and peppers), start the seeds indoors or buy starter plants. I, however, live in zone 5-6, so no replanting of the garden here.  I will be taking the steps to put my garden to bed and do what I can to get it ready for next Spring.

T A K E  N O T E

Get yourself a cute little notebook (don’t we all buy one everytime we go into Target?!) and take note of your garden.  What grew well in the garden this season?  Did your tomatoes get enough sun?  Did your squash plant succumb to mildew?  These are observations that will help you in planning your garden for next year!  Your placement of plants may change based on your observations.  For me, I need to move where I planted my squash because it was affected by mildew.  So…I need to find a place that gets more sunshine to prevent this from happening again.


W H E N  T O   H A R V E S T

Are you daily looking at your peppers wondering if they are ever going to turn red??  While it is ideal to let peppers, like tomatoes, ripen on the vine, there does come a time when all the peppers and tomatoes need to be harvested from the garden and left to ripen indoors, out of direct sunlight.  So yep, harvest your tomatoes and peppers, even if they aren’t perfectly ripe and let chemistry do it’s thing indoors. Now with this said, if you have planted some “cool crops” you can leave them in the garden until after the first frost.  Some cool crops are Kale, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Brussel Spouts, Spinach, Collard, Asparagus. A quick Google search of “cool crops” will provide a great resource if you are wondering if any crops you have planted are considered a “cool crop”.

 

 

 

TIP: you can leave carrots in the ground through the Winter (they may actually get sweeter as the carrot holds on to it’s sugar to combat the cold), however, you will need to harvest them before Spring as they will go to seed and not be edible.

P U T T I N G  the  G A R D E N  to  B E D

One thing I always need when going to bed is a blanket, your garden likes one too!   There are a couple of ways you can create a “blanket” for your garden.  You can grow a cover crop.  Stay with me here, this sounds much more complicated than it really is.  A cover crop is as simple as tossing some seeds on your cleaned out garden bed.  This helps create a barrier between the Winter elements and your garden soil.  Cover crops also give back vital nutrients that were taken from the soil to produce all your yummy veggies!  A seed that I recommend is Cereal Rye.  Sprinkle the seed ideally 4 weeks before the first hard frost, or as soon as you can after cleaning your beds.  Literally let nature do the work and watch it grow.  If planting another crop has you rubbing your temples, then a nice layer of straw or some other type of mulch will also provide a sufficient barrier for your garden soil against the harsh winter elements.

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4 Ways to Enjoy Your Peaches + Peach Storage and Preservation Tips.

It’s likes peaches are natures last kiss of summer.  There really isn’t much that beats the sweetness of a peach enjoyed straight from the tree.  So no argument here, the best way to enjoy a peach is straight from the tree!  But…we have found 4 amazing recipes where the peach is still the star of the show.  So get ready because you are going to want to try all of these!  Before we get into the recipes, here are a couple of tips on how to best store and preserve these summer sweets!

S T O R A G E

When you get your peaches home, rather than storing the peaches on the counter, where fruit flies will think you threw a party just for them, store the peaches outside, out of the sun or on a shelf in your basement.

Be sure to not stack your peaches as these little guys are sensitive to bruising.  Single layers in a box is the way to go when storing your peaches.

P R E S E R V A T I O N

Not one to can your peaches?  Peel ’em, slice ’em and freeze ’em.  What better way to combat the bitter cold of winter than with summer fresh peaches in your oatmeal, cobbler or morning smoothie.

Another way to extend the life of your summer peaches is to dehydrate them with a food dehydrator.  The Spruce has a simple and tasty method that can be found here.

R E C I P E S

Here are 4 amazing recipes that will highlight the sweetness of the peach 4 different ways.  My personal favorite is the Peach Salsa, but the Bourbon Peach Slushy is a VERY close second.

Peach Salsa

recipe+photo credit Dinner at the Zoo

This recipe for peach salsa is the ultimate summer condiment. Juicy ripe peaches, herbs, and a bit of jalapeno creates a sweet and spicy salsa that’s perfect with chips, on fish or chicken, or even on a sandwich!

Course Appetizer

Prep Time 10 minutes

Cook Time 1 minute

Total Time 10 minutes

Servings 4 servings

Calories 63 kcal

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of peaches diced

  • 1/4 cup minced red onion

  • 2 teaspoons minced jalapeno remove ribs and seeds before mincing to reduce the heat level

  • 1/3 cup chopped cilantro

  • the juice of one lime or more to taste

  • salt to taste

Instructions

  1. Place all of the ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 day. Serve with chips or use as a condiment for chicken or fish.

One Skillet Peach Glazed Chicken

Recipe+Photo credit The Seasoned Mom

Prep 5 mins

Cook 30 mins

Total 35 mins

Author The Seasoned Mom

Yield 4

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs

  • 1 ½ tablespoons canola oil, divided

  • 1/4 cup finely chopped sweet onion

  • ½ teaspoon minced fresh rosemary

  • 1/3 cup coconut palm sugar (or can substitute with brown sugar)

  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard (I used one teaspoon each of wholegrain mustard and smooth Dijon)

  • ½ teaspoon salt, divided

  • 3 medium ripe peaches, pitted and chopped

  • ¼ teaspoon pepper

Instructions

  1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil to the pan and swirl it around to coat. Sprinkle chicken with ¼ teaspoon salt and pepper. Add chicken to the pan and cook for about 7 minutes per side, or until cooked through and golden brown. Remove chicken from skillet and set aside on a plate. Cover with foil to keep warm.

  2. Do not clean out the skillet, but add another 1 ½ teaspoons oil. Add onion and rosemary; cook for 1 minute or until lightly golden, scraping up the bits from the bottom of the skillet as you stir. Add coconut palm sugar, vinegar, mustard, ¼ teaspoon salt, and peaches; cook 12 minutes or until peaches are softened.

  3. Return chicken to the skillet and heat just until warm, spooning sauce over the meat.

  4. Serve chicken thighs with peach sauce.

Homemade Peach Jam (no pectin recipe)

Recipe+Photo credit Scattered Thoughts of a Crafty Mom

Ingredients:

  1. 3 1/2 pounds peaches (1 lb = 3 to 4 medium peaches), peeled, pitted, and cut into chunks

  2. 2 1/2 cups sugar (remember, you can start with less sugar and add more if needed)

  3. Juice from one lemon (Lemon juice is naturally high in pectin and will help the jam set.)

Directions:

  1. Add peaches and lemon juice to medium sauce pan.  Bring to boil over med high heat, using a spatula or masher to crush peaches to desired consistency.

  2. Reduce heat to medium.  Add sugar.  Bring peaches back to a boil, stirring frequently.

  3. Continue to boil and stir, until peaches reduce and reach desired consistency.  (Anywhere from 15 to 25 minutes – jam should stick to spoon when lifted and turned sideways.)

Bourbon Peach Slush

Recipe+Photo credit Recipe Runner

  • 3 cups frozen peaches

  • 1 cup ginger ale

  • 4-6 ounces of bourbon, depending on how strong you want your drinks

  • Juice of a lime

  • 1 tablespoon of sugar, more if you want it sweeter

Instructions

  1. Place all of the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

  2. Serve immediately.

Cheers to the sweetness of Summer that can be found in just about any peach!

Beginner Gardening Series: August Edition

August is such and exciting time in the garden!  Your garden is hopefully overflowing with goodness and rewarding you daily with fresh veggies to enjoy.  I understand that this is a “beginner” gardening series and some of you may not have this Garden of Eden to which I refer, that is ok!  You have garden goals for next year and I bet you have been able to harvest a few things from that “beginner” garden of yours!  But the garden party isn’t over!  Along with all the fresh garden goodness you get to enjoy right now, now is the time to prepare for Fall crops.  I have eaten nearly almost all of our Spring beets and this week I am going to get more beet seeds in the soil and hopefully be able to enjoy homegrown beets well into the Fall!  So read along for the When, Where & What you can be growing to enjoy garden fresh veggies well into the Fall.

W H E N

Ideally the first week of August is when you would want to plant your Fall crops.  However, with the warm weather predicted, I am going to get seeds in the ground this week.  This week, being the third week of August.

I am planting in the beautiful Pacific Northwest zone 5-6.  For a great reference on what you can plant in August by zone, check out this link from the Spruce.

W H E R E

As you harvest your crops from your garden, you may find that you have room for your Fall Crops. Many Fall crops give back vital nutrients to your soil and will benefit your Spring garden next year.  You can start the seeds indoor and transplant starters in to available space in your garden.  However, be sure to keep on eye on the leaves of the these little starts as they will not do well under scorching summer heat.  If the leaves are looking stressed, you can create a shade by putting a canvas over the garden or some other material that will create the same effect.  You can also sow seeds directly into the soil.  The seeds will only need to be planted about 1/2″ deep.  In order for these seeds to germinate, the soil needs to remain very moist, which may require multiple watering’s a day during the hot days of August.  A fresh layer of mulch is another way to help keep your soil moist.  Unlike the fragile starts, seeds need full sunlight to warm the soil and promote germination.

W H A T

There are many Fall crops that will taste sweeter after the first frost, isn’t that amazing!  Kale and Brussel sprouts lead the pack in this cool phenomenon, but there are other veggies that also sweeten up to the cold temps.  Leeks, along with some root vegetables like carrots and parsnips also change flavor for the better after a first frost.  Cauliflower and broccoli have also been known to get better as the temperature drops.  Wish I got sweeter after the first frost….

So if you have made room in your garden for some of these cold weather loving veggies, get them in the ground and give them a try!  If not this year, make a note to plan for Fall crops next year.  As for me, tomorrow’s To Do’s include getting beets, Brussel sprouts and kale seeds in the dirt.  Until next time!

Your Simple Guide to Great Tomatoes

There is no wonder that nearly  93% of those that garden in America grow tomatoes: homegrown vine ripened tomatoes are the BEST!!!  A homegrown tomato and a little salt is the best way I like to enjoy a tomato, or…maybe in a Bloody Mary.  Either way, they are simply delicious!

So what can you be doing to make sure that your tomato plants keep giving you plenty to enjoy throughout the Summer?  Here are some tips and guidelines that will help give you the best chance to enjoy this garden treasure all Summer long.

Water

With just about everything that we grow outside, our watering habits play such a huge role in the plants success.  So what do your tomatoes like?  Tomatoes like to be watered at the roots.  By watering the tomato plants at the roots, you will help reduce the risk of spreading disease to your tomato plants. 

In the heat of Summer, you may experience several consecutive days of above 90 degree weather.  Your tomatoes like heat, but this can stress your tomato plant (I get ya little guy, this lady needs a pool after too many 90 degree days).  So when you are in the heat of summer increase the frequency of water but not the quantity.  If your tomatoes get too much water they will likely crack.  A way to test this is to make sure that the soil around the base of your tomato plant is moist about 1 1/2-2″ deep. 

Harvest

Vine ripened tomatoes might be one of the most anticipated veggies (or fruits) tomato-tomoto.  So how long do you have to wait to enjoy?  As hard as it may be, try and let your tomatoes ripen on the vine as long as they can.  For some of the larger varieties, you may need to harvest before they are fully ripened as the weight of the tomato will stress the vine.  In this case, look for the burst of orangeish/reddish that first appears on the tomato and store the tomato in a brown bag or wrap it in newspaper if you need it to ripen quickly.  If you are not in a rush, just set it in a bowl on your counter and let chemistry do its thing!

*TIP make sure to store any of your tomatoes on the counter and NOT the refrigerator.  Placing your tomatoes in the fridge will change the texture and make them mealy.  No one likes mealy tomatoes! 

Enjoy

This is the best part, right?! Enjoying the sweetness of a homegrown tomato! Like I mentioned before, a little salt and that’s all I need with a garden fresh tomato. But I am going to share a few way that are pretty delicious as well!!

-Tomato and Mayo sandwich
Toast either sourdough or multi-grain bread. Spread both slices with mayo. Add thinly sliced tomatoes with some salt and yum! I like to enjoy it open face. So simple, but I am telling you this is delish!
– Tomato/Bagel/Laughing Cow
Toast a bagel, spread some Laughing Cow cheese on both sides of the bagel, add some spouts and sliced tomato and wow, so good!

*TIP dont’ think you are going to be able to enjoy all those tomatoes before they spoil and your neighbors have had enough?? You can core your tomatoes and just pop them in the freezer. Easy peasy! And the best part…the skin comes off easily when they thaw. Simmer these babies up into a tomato sauce and enjoy the taste of summer during the
L O N G cold winter months.

So there you go, some simple things that you can do to make the most out of your tomato plant and enjoy them all year long!

Beginner Gardening Series: July Edition

It’s just been that kind of month; a July Gardening Series post on the last day of July…oh well!  It is a small victory that that this post made it within the month deadline!

July in another exciting time in the gardening world.  Most often, you are beginning to see the fruits of your labor.  Veggies are being harvested from the garden, fruit is being picked from trees and bushes and blooms are at their brightest.

What can you be doing to enjoy this plentiful time in the yard and garden and make sure the harvest continues throughout the summer?  Here are 3 tips that will help ensure that your veggies are at their fullest and your blooms are at their brightest!

1. WATER

Watering is so key this time of year.  While sunlight is critical to the growth and vitality of your plants, it can also be the downfall if watering needs are not met.  Try and give your veggies a good drink of water in the early morning hours.  Watering in the heat of the day is not as effecting as so much of the water evaporates.  Your potted plants need even more water!  If you can, water then in the early morning and again at dusk.  This ensure that minimal water is evaporated by the sun’s heat.

2. Deadheading + Pruning + Weeding

Deadheading and pruning is a necessary chore for both your veggies and blooms to thrive.  I like to walk my garden as the sun in setting and check for suckers on my tomato plants and pull any unsightly weeds.  I also visit my potted plants and deadhead any spent blooms as this will encourage the plants to keep producing the color that we love all summer long!

3. Feed

Not all your veggies need an extra dose of fertilizer this time of year, but tomatoes will take seconds if offered.   There are different ways to feed your tomatoes after they are established; you can spread slow release granules that will not burn the plant but will…wait for it…release slowly and give your plants the extra nitrogen, potassium or phosphorus they need.  You can also give them what is called side dressing.   With this method you dig down and give them food at the root level.  Be careful, however, not to disrupt the established root system.  There is also liquid fertilizer.   This method leaches into the soil very quickly and may require more thank one application.  My favorite liquid feed for my tomatoes is Haven’s brand manure tea.  You can find more information here http://www.manuretea.com/

I hope that you have found this info helpful!!  Here’s to a plentiful harvest and bright blooms all summer long!!!

Beginner Gardening Series: June Edition

It is tempting to just sit back and watch your garden grow  the month of June.  While there is some of this, it really is a time to fine tune and grow (no pun intended here!) your gardening skills.  This is the month where you will observe how your plants and veggies are responding to the soil and watering levels.  The maintenance and observations that happen in June will impact the size of your harvest July, August & September.  June gardening is all about mastering the 3 W’s! 

Watering

Your fruit and veggies need a drink of water every day.  Make sure the soil is moist and does not completely dry out.  However, you can overwater which will be a problem for your veggies.  It is ok if the top of the soil looks dry, but stick your finger down into the soil a few inches and make sure it feels somewhat moist.  It the soil is dry a couple of inches deep, you need to increase watering frequency and/or duration.

Weeding

Don’t let these pesky greens disrupt your beautiful landscape!  Weeds will draw important nutrients away from your plants and veggies.  Spending even 10-15 minutes each day pulling these guys from your landscape will keep them under control and prevent weeding from becoming an overwhelming task.

Watching

Yes, just like your kiddos (if you have them) your garden needs to be watched, fed and cared for.  You may notice that some of your flowers are looking a little sad, feed them a little fertilizer and see how they respond.  This also goes for your veggies, are they looking a little sad?  Check the mulch around the base of the plant, maybe they need another layer of protection.  Are their little critters that have been helping themselves to the leaves?  These are problems that if caught early, can often be managed easily with little disruption to your veggie production.

A specific tip for your tomato plants: be sure to remove the suckers (pictured above).  This is SUCH an important task to make sure you have garden fresh tomatoes to harvest and enjoy.  You can have an amazing looking tomato plant that just won’t produce fruit, which is SOOO frustrating.  Suckers are a main culprit.  Be sure to go out at least every other day and remove these guys.  You want to enjoy garden fresh tomatoes this summer don’t you??