Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Leaping Lizards

Okay, this one did not actually leap, but the title was catchy!  Found this lizard hanging out on the bean trellis.  He has had some sort of run-in with a predator because his tail is missing.

These guys only just showed up in the yard 2 years ago.  I am guessing our winters were too cold prior to then for them to overwinter.

He is a welcome addition to the garden.  He looks like he will make a mighty bug eater.

Anybody know what kind it may be?  I am guessing a brown anole.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Harvesting Vermicompost

Our big harvest this week wasn't veggies.  Instead, it was our first batch of vermicompost!

Harvested vermicompost

Last fall my husband repurposed an old cupboard that we pulled out of our laundry room.  It was about 2' wide and ran floor to ceiling.  He drilled holes in the bottom and added some dividers so it had 5 compartments.

Fast forward to this spring when I ordered red wigglers, aka composting worms.  I didn't do enough homework and didn't ask the right questions.  As a result I got worms and packing material (1 lb. total) instead of 1 lb. of worms + packing material.  Oh well, live and learn.

After the worms arrived I added torn newspaper and cardboard to one section of the worm cupboard.  I then added the worms and fed them kitchen scraps for the next 3 months.

I was very happy to see that my worm herd had increased substantially.  I had planned to weigh them but the batteries in the scale died.  You can also estimate weight by volume.  A cup equals about a pound of worms, which is about 1,000 worms.  They were a mucous-y mess, though, and I couldn't bring myself to use a measuring cup from the kitchen.  Of course I would wash it but I would always know they had been in there!  I would estimate that there are 1.5-2 cups of worms in the pile above.

Vermicompost in recycle bin

I was shocked at how much vermicompost they had made.  It didn't look like much in the bin but I harvested almost a small garbage can full!

I divided the worms and now I have 2 compartments in the worm cupboard going!  After the next harvest I hope to have all 5 in production.

Pop on over to the Harvest Monday bloghop at Daphne's Dandelions to see what everyone else is harvesting.  Probably more veggies and less worm poop!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Costata Romanesco Zucchini Review

After reading rave reviews about Costata Romanesco zucchini I decided to try it this year.  I am usually ambivalent about zucchini.  I plant it.  I get a few and then it dies about 1 month into production from SVB.  Honestly, that is fine with me.  I do not love zucchini so I don't miss it once it is gone.

Not this year.  I have been very impressed with Costata Romanesco and will definitely plant it again next year.
Costata Romanesco Zucchini
Costata Romanesco Zucchini
Here is why:

1.) Squash Vine Borers (SVB's): It has done very well against SVB (note: I am not saying it is immune or resistant).  SVB's are around.  I have seen the moths and the white scallop that is inter growing with the zucchini has them.  I haven't done SVB prevention or surgery and I still have a thriving zucchini vine well over 10 feet long 4 months after I planted it.  This is unheard of for me. Maybe I just got lucky?  Maybe not?

2.) Taste:  I will admit that I am not a zucchini connoisseur and only note a slight difference.  However, three people who have eaten it commented on the flavor without being asked.  They said it was the best zucchini they had ever eaten.

3.) Production: It is very prolific.  Since it is an heirloom it probably produces less than hybrids.  However, we have gotten over 95 lbs. this summer (and one vine is still going strong).  That is more than enough for us.  We pick an average of 1 good sized zucchini every day or so.

4.) Disease:  It has had powdery mildew since early July and is still producing.   I sprayed with Serenade once and then decided I was sick of zucchini and it would be alright if it died.  Production has dropped (from 1 day to 1 every other day) but it is still going strong!

The only negatives about it are that it is a very big plant and the zukes go from manageable size to baseball bats overnight (especially if you get a good rain).  Honestly, these are not really negatives in my book so that is why Costata Romanesco is getting a place in the garden next year.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Annie's Salsa Recipe

A few weeks ago I posted photos of some of the stuff I canned.  A few people asked for recipes so I thought I would share one in this post.  This recipe is for Annie's salsa.  I stumbled upon the recipe on GardenWeb's Harvest Forum where it is legendary.  It was developed by the now famous Annie who was awesome enough to pay to have it tested.  I tried it a few years ago (but did not can it) and it lived up to the hype.  It sort of tastes like Pace Picante sauce (but better).

Annie's Salsa
Annie's Salsa

Annie's Salsa Recipe

8 cups tomatoes, peeled, chopped and drained
2-1/2 cups onion, chopped
1-1/2 cups green pepper, chopped
3 - 5 jalapenos, chopped
6 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons cumin (For taste only.  Can be reduced or left out)
2 teaspoons ground black pepper (For taste only.  Can be reduced or left out)
1/8 cup canning salt (For taste only.  Can be reduced or left out)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped (Can be reduced.  DO NOT INCREASE)
1/3 cup sugar (For taste only.  Can be reduced or left out)
1 cup 5% apple cider vinegar (Can substitute equal amount bottled lemon or lime juice)
2 cups (16 oz.) tomato sauce (For texture only.  Can be reduced or left out)
2 cups (16 oz.) tomato paste (For texture only.  Can be reduced or left out)

Mix all ingredients, bring to a boil and boil for 10 minutes. Pour into hot pint jars, seal and process in a boiling water canning bath for 15 minutes.
Makes about 6 pints (do not can in quarts)

Notes:  You can alter the type of peppers as long as you do not have more than 1 3/4 cup total of peppers.  If you want hotter use more jalapeño/less green pepper.  You can also sub types of peppers (serrano for jalapeño).  The key is that your total combined amount of peppers does not exceed 1 3/4 cups.

Not only does Annie's salsa taste good but it has been tested and is safe for canning as long as you follow the directions.   Don't alter it outside of the parameters noted above.  Remember you can always tweak it after you open and refrigerate it.  I leave the cilantro out when I can it and add it when I open the jar.  We also add a little fresh lime juice.

For a thorough discussion of the recipe, including answers to many FAQ's, check out this post in the Harvest Forum.

Monday, August 6, 2012


Its Harvest Monday again but I am running short on time.  Also, still not motivated to take more tomato/zucchini/eggplant, etc. photos.  So I thought I would instead show you what my son snuck into his small garden in the front yard.

My son and his pumpkins
Seems he was able to grow pumpkins this year.  He won't admit that he actually planted them.  We don't grow pumpkins and have never had a compost pile in that area so the idea that it is a volunteer is highly unlikely.  He probably knew I would tell him they would get too big so he planted without asking.  Seems he has already figured out it is better to beg forgiveness than ask permission.

I am pretty surprised he was able to do this since we always get SVB's.  Makes me wonder if I should try my hand at some winter squash next year!

I have no idea what kind these are or what to do with them. Looks like we have a lot of pumpkin pie, bread, and soup in our future!  Suggestions about what to do with these are greatly appreciated.

Pop on over to Daphne's Dandelions to check out the Harvest Monday blog hop.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

My Jaime Lee Curtis Garden

Back in 2002 Jaime Lee Curtis did a photo shoot where she wore no make-up, didn't have her hair done, was photographed without strategic lighting or poses, and wore regular clothes.  In short, she was photographed like a real person. Somehow seeing her like this made me feel a little bit better about myself.

Well, I have decided to show you my Jaime Lee Curtis garden.  Most garden photos show gorgeous, flawless gardens.  Perfectly straight rows.  Not a weed in sight.  Healthy green foliage and perfectly shaped produce.  I have now learned to spot some of the photoshopping that goes one (especially in garden magazines).  Also, seems most people have more time to weed their gardens before they take a photo than I do (I do not begrudge them this, I envy them).

This is what my garden looks like now.

The upper left quadrant has solanaceous crops; the upper right has cucurbits (now jut squash and zucchini); lower right are legumes, and lower left is sweet potatoes.

It is not pretty.  It does not look like the headers on blogs or photos in magazines and catalogs.  The plants are overgrown and the paths have disappeared.  The zucchini has grown all the way to the neighbor's fence so we cannot mow around the garden.  There are more than a few weeds.  Also, lots of the plants are showing their age.

But...I love my little garden.  It has produced so well this year.  I feel bad that I have not done better by it but it has been so hot I spend as little time in it as possible.  This is what a real garden looks like (especially if you work and have kids)!  Maybe this photo will make someone else feel a little better about their garden.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Itsy Bitsy Spider- Not!

Spiders in the garden are a good thing.  They don't eat your plants but they do eat bugs (some of which eat your plants).  Every year I have some spiders in the garden.   This year is no exception.  The only problem is that I have 2 of these smack dab in the middle of the vegetable garden!

argiope aurantia, black and yellow spider, garden spider, writing spider
One of my 2 garden spiders with two meals in her web.
This is argiope aurantia.  You may know her as a garden spider, a writing spider, or a corn spider.  You have probably seen these since they are found throughout the continental U.S. and one of their preferred habitats is the garden!  Females (which are the big ones) get as large as 28 mm (that doesn't include the legs).  Males are teensy weeny and you probably don't notice them.

Turns out she is harmless to humans.  When threatened she is much more likely to duck and run than sink her fangs into us.  In fact, you really have to be messing with her to get bitten.  If she does bite, she ranks up there with a bee sting (or at least that is what the literature says, no way I am going to test that out).

Somehow, this knowledge doesn't bring me comfort when I have to go near her web.  I hate big spiders.  They totally creep me out.  It is a small comfort that it does not have fur.  I don't mind snakes, roaches, bats, etc. (which is not to say I like them).  When I have to pick something near one of these the hair on my neck and arms stands up and my stomach starts churning.

We have, however, worked out a compromise.  As long as they do not touch me, I will not touch them (with a big, long stick).  Hopefully, we can all get along!
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