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Posts Tagged ‘beans’

Early Summer in my Small Kitchen Garden

Black raspberries

My big garden project last spring included installing a bed of black raspberry plants. Rabbits ate about 1/3 of the plants last autumn—but just what was above ground. The roots are strong and new canes have emerged. Unfortunately, black raspberries produce fruit on canes that emerged in the previous season, so I won’t get a huge harvest this year. On the other hand, the harvest has begun! Immediately after capturing this photo, I ate the two darkest berries you see in it.

In January of this year, I learned I had pancreatic cancer. The tumor was removable, and I had an operation called a Whipple. A surgeon cut out the tumor, part of my pancreas, and my gall bladder, and re-routed my digestive tract, introducing challenges to eating.

With help from my wife, my kids, and friends, I’ve continued to garden, and things are in pretty good shape. However, just over three weeks ago I learned that my cancer has returned and spread. It’s incurable and I’m on a chemotherapy regimen I hope will buy enough time for our medical complex to come up with an effective way to keep the cancer in check—or maybe even cure it.

In the meantime, I’m gardening. Where many activities challenge my stamina or my ability to focus or both, when I’m in the garden I tend to keep working even if it means collapsing on the soil for a break or crawling from place-to-place to reduce the number of transitions from up to down and back.

I’ve chosen photos that show what’s up in my garden as summer gets started—nothing from the community garden; these are all growing at the Cityslipper Ranch. Captions fill in details. I hope your garden is doing well. I’m excited for what’s growing here, and I’d love to hear about what’s growing in your garden. Please leave a comment with details if you’re so inclined. Thanks for visiting!

First blueberry harvest of 2016

We have at least nine blueberry plants in our yard, and they’ve been beat up by rodents every winter for years. I finally got adequate protection around them, and this year the plants show promise of developing into actual blueberry bushes. At best, we’ll score a few hundred berries; these are the first. I was chewing on them seconds after I snapped the photo: so sweet and delicious.

Cinquefoil blossom

At some garden center last summer I found a potted cinquefoil in the “oops, we forgot to water it” bin. I think I paid a dollar and I set the plant in a decorative bed next to raspberries I’d planted with my wife in mind (she loves raspberries on her morning cereal). I had no idea cinquefoil produces blooms—though why wouldn’t it? The plant shows vitality, and the first blossom it produced is gorgeous.

First raspberries of 2016

Those raspberries I planted for my wife? Here are the first to ripen… but Stacy beware! It’s not icing on that raspberry. A bird managed a direct hit. The raspberry plants are growing strong, and next year’s harvest should be impressive. This year’s should be about right for many weeks of cereal bowl berries and they’ve started ripening at the right time: Stacy has been traveling in the Philippines for three weeks and arrives home this weekend.

Fig trees regrowing from roots

This is the third season for my fig trees. Their first winter was amazingly cold and I hadn’t gotten the trees under cover before they froze back to the soil line. They rebounded last year and tried to make figs—which all froze before they were ripe enough to harvest. This winter, I got the plants under cover early but made a silly mistake: The tent I made to prevent freezing also kept moisture from reaching the soil. My fig trees dried out… but not as badly as they’d frozen two winters ago. They’re putting out a lot of new growth, some of it from last year’s growth more than a foot above the soil line. I doubt there will be figs to harvest this season, but perhaps with one more winter under cover (and properly watered), these fig trees will have a fighting chance to produce fruit.

Young fredonia grapes

Two summers ago, I found a beat down Fredonia grape plant priced very low at a local garden center. I failed to plant the vine, and it languished through winter and looked dead when the snow melted. Last year, near the first day of summer, I noticed growth on that beleaguered grape vine. I planted it at the end of my black raspberry bed and it grew strong. This spring, it erupted with new growth and it holds many small bunches of young grapes. If things go well, there may be a few pounds of Concord-like grapes to harvest in September. This spring, my wife and I planted four additional grape vines next to the black raspberries: Riesling, Zinfandel, Pinot Gris, and Cabernet Sauvignon, all grafted onto American grape root stock. Perhaps by summer’s end I’ll have erected a trellis to hold the vines as they mature in future seasons.

Wando peas

My wife prepared the soil, and I planted three 13 foot long double-rows of peas at the beginning of April. My wife erected the trellises with some difficulty and it’s hard to tell whether the trellises are holding up the pea plants or the pea plants are holding up the trellises. More troubling: a rabbit came and went as it pleased and ate at least half a row of pea plants before I repaired the fence enough to slow it down (it has since given birth to three rabbit puppies inside the well-fenced planting bed… go figure). Despite the problems, the pea plants are at full height—they’ve grown three feet above the tops of the four-foot-tall trellises and fallen back—and they’re producing well. I made a vat of new potatoes and peas a few days ago and we’ve eaten through it, and I froze about 3 quarts of peas yesterday. Tomorrow I expect to harvest about a half gallon of pea pods which should be enough to make another vat of new potatoes and peas. (Here’s how I make this iconic Pennsylvania Dutch delicacy: New Potatoes and Peas)

French Gold Filet Pole beans from Renee's Garden

I planted climbing beans two weekends ago, and many have sprouted. I’ll fill the empty places with more seeds this weekend. “Pole Filet Beans French Gold” from Renee’s Garden, are my favorite of all bean varieties—a tender, tasty wax bean that you don’t have to bend over to harvest.

Sundrop blossom

I told the story of my dad’s sundrops in a post titled A Patch of Sundrops. I’d collected several plants from his garden and left them in a bucket for more than TWO MONTHS! Finally, I planted them three weeks ago—a day or two after my wife left on her Philippines trip. The plants showed no sign of transplant shock and have already flowered… the photo shows the first blossom about four days ago. I trust rhizomes are already spreading underground and there will be a dense patch of these pretty yellow flowers under the apple trees within two years.

 
Small Kitchen Garden – Early Summer in my Small Kitchen Garden

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Bloom Day Photo Challenge

Flower bed at a community garden

Back in August and September, I started telling the story of my Community Garden experience: Small Kitchen Garden Goes Community and Tilling in the No-Till Garden. Many long-time renters at the garden plant ornamental borders around their vegetable plots, and I found this combination quite pleasing.

It’s the last Garden Bloggers Bloom Day of winter and there are flowers in my garden. However, the day is overcast and I’m still wincing my way through recovery fully six weeks after having a Whipple: surgery to remove a pancreatic tumor and re-route my digestive tract.

Shortly after surgery, I gave myself three of those “7 days, 7 photos” challenges and I haven’t delivered. I’ve been working on them; got one posted. But I’ve spent bits and drabs of time over many weeks selecting photos from 2015 and organizing them into categories. Now, rather than just three challenges, I’m working on seven.

Last night I got really close with seven landscape photos, but I didn’t finish, and today it’s Bloom Day. Coincidentally, one of my challenge categories is “blossoms.” So, from many hundreds of flower blossom photos I created in 2015, I’ve chosen seven to feature for my blossom photo challenge on Bloom Day. Captions may not identify the types of flowers, but they provide background on where I found them.

Kylee's garden

Not a remarkable photo, but it’s special to me because I captured it while visiting Kylee Baumle at her home in Ohio. I “met” Kylee away back when on Twitter, and it was a great privilege to meet her in person and tour her garden. Kylee blogs at Our Little Acre.

Giant Magnolia blossom

In June of 2015, Garden Writers Association sponsored a regional meeting at the Morris Arboretum in Philadelphia. It was an unseasonably hot day, but the arboretum was well worth the sweat. Among the many amazing trees, there was a Giant Magnolia in bloom, with several blossoms low on the tree (though inconveniently shaded). The blossom in this photo would easily cover a dinner plate.

Magnolia in bloom

Two doors north of the Cityslipper ranch stands a vacant house once owned by a WWII vet who shared stories with me about his combat experiences and about the character of the neighborhood—he had lived here many years before we moved in. There is a robust magnolia tree next to the driveway, and I’ve taken liberties over the years to capture photos of the gorgeous pink blossoms in early spring. I could fill a photo album with magnolia blossom photos, but this one from spring of 2015 is one of my all-time favorites.

Hydrangea blossoms

Here at the Cityslipper ranch, I’ve acquired several hydrangeas over the years and have had miserable luck with them. Each has grown vigorously in its first season, and then gotten chewed back to the soil line in early winter. This particular plant got eaten two or three years in a row before I finally put a fence around it and several other hydrangea and rose bushes. Starting on second year growth in 2015, the plant didn’t add much bulk, but it produced this single cluster of blossoms that hung on for at least three months. I loved the variety of delicate colors and captured, perhaps, 30 or more photos of it throughout the season.

Climbing bean blossoms

Also at the Cityslipper ranch, I make a concerted effort each year to capture unique photos of my food plants. This photo is of bean blossoms. I grew climbing beans in the garden annex extension where they received direct sunlight sporadically throughout each day. One day when most of the annex extension was in shadow, these blossoms caught a bit of sunshine and begged me to take some photos.

Water lily in bloom

I see a lot of photos of water lilies. No doubt these flowers are popular subjects because they’re gorgeous. I go a bit gaga when I have an opportunity to capture photos of them because they’re not common—it’s a great pleasure to visit water gardens that feature these delicate beauties. This summer, my wife and I enjoyed a day at the legendary Longwood Gardens. Among the many sights there is a large courtyard of pools hosting all kinds of water plants including both day-blooming and night-blooming water lilies. This is one of my favorite photos from that day.

 
Small Kitchen Garden – Bloom Day Photo Challenge

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Thanksgiving 2012 Post Produce

Green beans for casserole

Every bean in the casserole came from my small kitchen garden! I harvested and froze several gallons of beans in 2012. Most were yellow wax beans, but I had enough green beans to make a double-sized casserole following the French’s Fried Onion recipe that my mom used when I was a kid (except I use cream of chicken soup instead of cream of mushroom soup).

Post Produce landed a few days late this month. People trying to manage link parties do well to anticipate holidays so they don’t leave participants hanging. I’m not well enough organized for that. I’d have broken several natural laws if I’d written my article early and set it to post automatically while I was baking pies.

It occurred to me: Why not make Post Produce about Thanksgiving? I hope at least some of you used homegrown produce in your Thanksgiving meals. Even more, I hope you’ll  share your stories about it! Thanksgiving gives me extra thrills when I can serve goodies that I grew myself.

Photos tell the story. I hope you’ll have a look and then write your own Thanksgiving post. Once your post is up, return here, scroll to the bottom, and add a link back to your article. What did you eat from your garden this Thanksgiving?

homegrown sweet potatoes

My homegrown sweet potatoes looked reasonable, though they hadn’t filled out completely. Sadly, many had started to rot—which you couldn’t see until you peeled and cut into them. So, we (my son, actually), cut out large sections. By the time the pot was full, it contained seven or eight commercial sweet potatoes and as many of my crummy homegrown ones. I hope next year to plant sweet potatoes early and harvest them before frost; two things I failed to do this year.

neck pumpkins in rocking chair

Not surprisingly, neck pumpkins played a role in my Thanksgiving dinner. These three grew in my garden, and I used the largest—a 17 pounder—to make pumpkin pies. I cut up the squash on Tuesday and baked it for about 90 minutes. Then I pureed the flesh in a blender, and packaged the very smooth pumpkin mash in two-cup portions, most of which I froze. I saved seeds from neck pumpkin and will include them in a giveaway on my blog(s) in January or February.

pureed neck pumpkin for pie filling

I was a machine filling sandwich bags with pureed neck pumpkin before I realized I’d filled too many. I managed to put the last portion in a reusable container which I stored with one bag of puree overnight in the refrigerator. On Wednesday, I used these four cups of neck pumpkin puree to make pies. Sandwich bags, by the way, aren’t impermeable enough to preserve food in a freezer. Each holds enough puree for one pie, and I put four or five bags in a single gallon-sized freezer bag.

pies on the day after Thanksgiving

Didn’t think to snap photos before the gang had dessert. After lunch on the day after Thanksgiving, I photographed what remained of five pies I’d baked on Wednesday. We had already finished off a sour cherry pie (frozen during cherry season), and a pumpkin pie. What remained was part of an apple pie, most of a second pumpkin pie, and about half of an apple/pear/raisin spice pie I improvised from stuff in the fridge. To be clear, only the pumpkin pie contained homegrown produce, though I made from grapes the raisins I used in the apple/pear/raisin spice pie.

Post Produce on your blog, then return here and add a link back to your post. Because Post Produce is late this month, think of it as Post Produce weekend rather than Post Produce day! Share the produce you served at Thanksgiving from your own garden:

 

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Canning and Freezing: How Big Should Beans Be?

Three types of wax beans grow this year in my small kitchen garden. The one on my fingers is a Golden Wax Bush bean. The one in the middle is a Kentucky Wonder Wax bean that’s a bit young; these can grow longer and thicker without becoming woody, but I like to catch them right when they turn yellow. The bean on my palm is the Mystery Wax bean – that is, I don’t know what variety it is. I work a lot harder to fill a canning jar with the Mystery beans than I work to fill jars with the other varieties.

Beans are still growing strong in my small kitchen garden, though frost may be no more than two weeks away. I’ve learned a few things about beans this year which surprised me just a bit because I’ve grown beans for the past 18 years, and I’d participated for ten years in my mother’s kitchen garden where she grew beans.

Wax Beans in my Garden

I prefer wax beans over green beans, so I usually plant more of the first than the latter. This year, I planted about twice as many wax bean seeds as I did green bean seeds, but I planted three varieties of wax beans: Kentucky Wonder Wax Pole, Golden Wax Bush, and a mystery variety (it’s a mystery because apparently I threw out the seed package when I used up the seeds; I hate that).

I’d never seen a climbing wax bean before this season and I was very pleased to find Kentucky Wonder Wax Pole bean seeds at a local garden center. The beans grow quite large, but they’re more pleasant to eat when I harvest them before they’re obviously mature. They start green and turn white as they plump up and I prefer their texture when I harvest right as they turn. They’re just as good when a bit green as they are when they turn white.

Just a few weeks after planting, seeds of climbing (pole) beans produce lovely stems that wave around in the air until they find something around which to curl. The plants spiral upwards as they grow and they put out more and more stems that eventually cover everything within reach.

The Golden Wax Bush beans are what I’d consider a “generic” wax bean. These are probably what I grew up eating, or at least they look and taste the same. The beans reach four-to-six inches and they form smooth cylinders that are tender and stringless until the seeds inside start to bulk up.

The Mystery Beans started as rather small seeds; no more than half the size of bean seeds I’ve planted in past years. These produce prodigiously, but the pods are about half the thickness of any other beans I’ve grown. The Mystery Beans also tend to be shorter than Golden Wax and Kentucky Wonder beans. These beans grow smooth and stringless, and it seems they can remain on the plants for weeks without getting tough.

Grow Big Beans

What I’ve learned from my wax beans: Grow big ones. The smaller Mystery Beans grow on plants that require just as much space as Golden Wax bean plants. They take just as much effort per bean to harvest, clean, and prepare for canning, freezing, or cooking. But, 30 Golden Wax beans might just satisfy my family for one meal; 30 Mystery Beans would leave half of us without. In other words, when it comes to eating, canning, and freezing, I have to work twice as hard for the smaller Mystery Beans. In the future, I’ll choose larger beans.

Looking across my small kitchen garden at the climbing bean trellises. The low greenery in the foreground is a row of bush beans – Golden Wax to the right, some type of green bean to the left, and way off to the left, Mystery Wax beans. The towers at the left rear of the photo are climbing beans. Each tower has two types of beans on it: Kentucky Wonder Wax Pole and Blue Lake Pole. It’s impossible to tell from the photo, but each tower is a tripod made from eight-foot stakes (the preceding photo shows one leg of a bean trellis tripod).

Eschew Bush Beans

Most of my bean-growing experience has involved bush beans. Until four years ago, I’d never planted climbing beans. Climbing beans have been way more entertaining—I love the way they curl around stuff and produce food all season long. This season, I had a stunning revelation about growing beans in general: Grow climbing beans.

It can take 5 to 10 minutes to harvest from a 14 foot row of bush bean plants. During that time, you must somehow get your hands to within six inches of the ground. When I was 35 years old, bending down like that seemed like reasonable behavior. Now, in my 50s, it’s painful to stand up after bending low for 5 or more minutes.

Climbing beans don’t ask for such dedication. In fact, my climbing beans produce food starting at about knee level and going up to seven feet, which is the height of my trellises. To harvest climbing beans, I rarely bend and often reach up in lush foliage. It is never painful to harvest climbing beans.

If you desperately need to grow bush beans, build very high raised beds, build planters on tables, or install a green wall system that can nurture your plants at thigh or waist level. For me, a lazy (and old) gardener, I’ll stick with climbing beans.

 

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Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, Aug 2012!

Bean blossoms look far too complicated; I’m glad bees can figure them out. The green bush beans I planted this year have pink blossoms; a nice change from the white bean blossoms of past years. In the bottom-right of the photo, you can see a bean starting to develop.

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day originates from Carol Michel’s blog, May Dreams Gardens. She wants to see blossoms all year long, and the garden blogging community rallies: post blossoms on your blog, then link to it from her blog. It’s simple, and it helps other people find your blog!

Please enjoy my Bloom Day post. Then, come back on the 22nd and participate in Post Produce. Just as Carol does, I’ll write my Post Produce post and include a Linky widget before I go to bed on the 21st. On the 22nd, you write your own post about what you’re eating from your garden, then link to your post from Your Small Kitchen Garden. I hope you’ll join me on August 22nd and Post Produce.

Here’s what’s abloom in my garden today:

If it’s Bloom Day and tomatoes are in bloom, you’re going to find at least one tomato blossom in my post! This photo is more about hairy stems than it is about blossoms. I’ve harvested about a bushel of tomatoes so far. Barring a late blight incident, I may see three or four bushels from my plants this year.

My thyme plants are struggling a bit this year. One has some seriously involved fungus that I’ve treated a few times with the copper-based fungicide I use on my tomato plants. Amazingly, the stems of that plant touch the stems of a perfectly healthy-looking thyme plant. Too much information? This flower stalk is from the healthy thyme plant.

The mint has been in bloom for weeks. It has overwhelmed the planter holding it, and blossoms hang over the sides. I fear an impending mint invasion and will be vigilant for plants that decide to germinate next to the planter.

Bush cucumber plants I set in a deck planter have grown vines as long and tendrilly as the non-bush cucumbers I planted in my garden. Cucumber blossoms look happy against the deck flooring.

Pepper flowers are among my favorites.

For flower drama in a vegetable garden, you can always count on squashes! This is a butternut blossom, and it clearly understands flower sex. For this photo, it attracted four pollinators, though the reliable pollinator was holding the camera. Despite all the bee activity among my summer and winter squash blossoms, I hand-pollinate every female flower. The bees didn’t budge when I brushed this female flower’s “parts” with a male flower’s “part.”

 

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Painful Return to my Small Kitchen Garden

My artichoke plants are a semi-satisfying success in my small kitchen garden this year. I started several plants from seed indoors in February, and transplanted four into my garden in June. These plants clearly have no intention of making chokes this year, so I’ll devise cold frames or other cover to protect them from deep-freezing during the winter. Perhaps next year I’ll harvest some artichokes.

The growing season had already been tough on my small kitchen garden, and then I really let it go. I spent a week at the annual symposium of the Garden Writers Association, and left my garden to fend for itself. Things were pretty sketchy when I left, but they were downright distressing when I returned.

When I left, I had been collecting tomatoes but things had just gotten started. Plants were topping out at seven feet, and I’d harvested about three gallons of fruit. While there appeared to be many more fruits setting, some type of infection was spreading among the plants. Lesions that looked like late blight had started low on stems and leaves and they were working their way up the plants.

Small Kitchen Garden on the Brink

When I left, climbing beans were just starting to put out flowers. There were three distinct clusters of bean vines growing among the tomatoes. A too-small trellis in an ornamental bed supported too many healthy-looking, crowded bean plants,

Finding a fence panel out of position makes me a little uneasy: how long has it been this way? What classes of rodents have noticed? Is anyone now inside my kitchen garden? What might already be dying because critters have come-and-gone through this huge opening in the garden’s defenses?

When I left, a stand of sweet corn held the promise of, perhaps, two dozen ears for meals—assuming anyone harvested them as they became ripe.

When I left, my cucumber plants formed a bush of healthy green on my deck and they were flowering like nobody’s business.

When I left, my bush wax bean plants were bereft of mature beans, but there were many young beans starting, and plenty of bean flowers were open.

When I left, my winter squashes were putting out blossoms every morning. I hand pollinate my winter squash, so I dreaded missing so many days; no one in my family would be willing to pollinate the squash flowers.

The Sad State of My Small Kitchen Garden

The photos show and explain what I found when I returned to my small kitchen garden. For the most part, the garden’s situation is grim. There are some bright spots, and I’m confident things would be little different had I stayed home… sometimes the elements simply don’t cooperate with a kitchen gardener. It makes me unhappy for a bit, but eventually I shrug and look ahead to next season.

When I returned from the Garden Writers Association conference, my wife asked, “Where are your bean plants?” She had, apparently, looked for them so she could harvest beans, but she hadn’t found them. Sure enough, plenty of beans had matured beyond tender while I was away; I sorted through them to find young beans my family would be willing to eat… but it gets worse: When several of my tomato seedlings had failed in late summer, I had planted climbing beans in their places. The bean plants were healthy and poised to bloom when I left, but two plants were wilting badly when I returned. Those particular bean plants have since died.

Sure, most of my corn plants tipped during a big storm, but kitchen gardeners lament that corn always falls over. My sadness related to corn is that no one harvested any while I was away. There are, perhaps, two dozen ears that should have been eaten but that will, at best, be old and tough if I harvest them now.

I pick tomatoes when they just start to blush. These tomatoes are nearly fully-ripe. I found many overly-ripe tomatoes in my small kitchen garden after my weeklong trip… the green shoulders and cracks illustrate why I pick tomatoes at the first sign of pink and let them ripen indoors.

As sad as I was to find nearly-ripe tomatoes on my plants, this discovery made me much sadder: there’s no question my tomatoes have late blight; all my tomatoes. Many look healthy, but the plants they’re on are in horrible shape. My tomato harvest is done for this season—far too early.

The cucumbers also misbehaved in my absence. In fairness, had I stayed home they’d have been no different. Several oddly-shaped cucumbers developed, but none are compelling enough that I’d harvest and eat them. For this, I’ll concede I didn’t give them the best chance to succeed. I planted too many seeds in deck planters and they performed as if stressed. I’ll grow cukes in planters again, but I’ll set far fewer seeds per gallon than I did this season.

There is a bright spot in my small kitchen garden. Actually, it’s all over the garden: My winter squashes are in decent shape. On the left: a small neck pumpkin. In the center, two small butternut squashes next to a huge butternut; the rear-most squash (only partially visible) is at least five times the size of the one in front of it. On the right: a Blue Hubbard squash that doesn’t seem interested in becoming a giant. Still, it’s great to have several Blue Hubbards that have survived past the typical onslaught of Squash Vine Borers… I hope they survive this more than double the average rainfall for August and September.

This may be the champion squash in my small kitchen garden. It’s a neck pumpkin hanging on what I usually use as a pea trellis. The squash was about 22 inches long in this photo, and it has grown about three inches longer since I took the shot. I’ve seen neck pumpkins weighing more than 25 pounds!

 

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Small Kitchen Garden Bloom Day, August 2011

There are three pots of basil on the handrail of my deck. I put far too many seeds in the pots, and the poor plants grew up stunted. Still, the flowers are delicate and beautiful.

My small kitchen garden, like so many gardens in the US, has struggled through the season. Happily, things are finally moving along, though I’m afraid there is a fungus trying to kill my tomato plants.

But today isn’t about the problems, it’s about the bling! The 15th of every month is Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. You can learn more about it over at May Dreams Gardens. I failed to capture decent shots of the flowering mint and cilantro. Also, I neglected to photograph corn silk. Still, there were a lot of blossoms today. Please enjoy the photos of what’s abloom in my kitchen garden.

There are two windowsill planters of cucumber plants under the handrail on my deck. This flower snuggles beneath the handrail, and it is one of dozens that have popped in the last week or so.

A bell pepper flower appears healthy and robust. Oddly, my bell pepper plants are thriving while my jalapeno, banana, and poblano pepper plants are struggling.

Despite the appearance of something blighty on some of my tomato plants, they continue produce flowers. I don’t suspect late blight because all the lesions are on lower stems and some lower leaves. I’ve seen no signs of sporulation, so it doesn’t seem likely to move from plant-to-plant. Still, I fear for my tomato crop: it may be quite limited this season.

How’s this? I understand it’s the male flower on a corn plant. My sweet corn is growing ears, and the silk on those is, technically, the female flower. This corn tassel is red and the corn lower down on the plant is also supposed to be red. I’ve never tried red sweet corn, but I suspect it will taste a lot like yellow sweet corn.

That’s a cosmos trying to hide behind a corn leaf. I planted cosmos with my corn because I heard from an online acquaintance that this would keep away corn ear worms. The first ears are nearly ready to harvest. I don’t see evidence of worms, but they can be pretty sneaky, so I won’t know for sure if the cosmos helped until I start shucking.

As long as I’m confessing about planting flowers, here’s an even bigger sin: My wife ceded an ornamental bed to me so I could grow more climbing beans. I set about ten beans across the back of the bed, and then planted five or six types of flower seeds through the rest of the bed. From the looks of things, only two types of flower plants survived, and the first to bloom is a zinnia. The leaves way back against the wall of the house on the left are Kentucky Wonder bean leaves.

On the subject of beans, here’s a flower on one of my bush wax bean plants. The plants suffered heavy chewing by insects until I treated them with insecticidal soap. With new leaves, the plants show more vigor toward reproduction. I’ve harvested a serving of wax beans and anticipate being able to preserve about a gallon of them before the season is over.

Weed. There’s quite a bit of it near my small kitchen garden, and just a few stems actually in the garden. The flowers are pretty so it’s hard to go all anti-weed on them.

I had to finish with a winter squash blossom because it’s all that! This is the biggest squash blossom in my small kitchen garden. It belongs to a neck pumpkin plant and was one of about a dozen gorgeous blossoms peaking out from rain-soaked leaves this morning. Oddly, my blue Hubbard plants have produced about 8 female flowers and only one male flower. I’ve pollinated the blue Hubbards using male flowers from the neck pumpkin plants. So far, they seem to accept this hybrid pollination, but I can’t predict whether the seeds will be viable next year (and if they are, what the squashes might be like). Perhaps I’ll find out next summer?

 

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August 09 Bloom Day in a Small Kitchen Garden

My small kitchen garden is still fully abloom, which portends great things to come. The blossoms also provide fodder for me to participate in another Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. Carol at May Dreams Gardens hosts Bloom Day wherein she encourages garden bloggers everywhere to photograph their blossoms, post them on their blogs, and then add a link to the Bloom Day list.

My small kitchen garden this month has blossoms that are quite similar to last month’s blossoms. Still, there are a few changes, and all-new photos. I don’t really grow flowers, but if I don’t get any in my garden, I won’t get any vegetables and fruits either… and that would make me very sad. Please have a look and see what the future holds for my small kitchen garden.

 

Cilantro flowers abound in my garden. My cilantro patch is very mature, and blossoms are giving way to coriander. These cilantro flower clouds—volunteers that planted themselves last fall—float among my tomato plants. Similar volunteers are making coriander throughout my planting bed.

 

My oregano monster is in full-bloom: dozens of stalks of flowers stand above the foliage. My oregano is spreading; trying to consume the planting bed. So, a few days ago I trimmed back the edges of the monster. I’ll dig out a lot of oregano roots when my annuals die back in the fall.

 

My pepper plants this season have messed with me. Peppers I potted in gallon jugs grow side-by-side with peppers I potted in a handrail planter. The gallon juggers matured and produced fruit while the handrailers turned into bonsai pepper plants. About a month ago, I shuffled plants out of the handrail planter into an in-ground planting bed… but I left some plants in the planter. Now all are growing as though they mean it. So, August has brought a new round of pepper flowers, and I’m eager to harvest peppers in September. Most, I suspect, will end up in gumbo.

 

Oh, beans! I harvested about a gallon of wax beans over the past two days, and there’ll be another half gallon ready tomorrow morning. The climbing beans are still flowering and producing new beans which makes more than a month of production with no end in sight; typically bush beans spew huge amounts of beans very quickly and you need to plant them in stages if you want to harvest through the whole summer. I’ve taken a one-and-done approach with bush wax beans, and they’re flowering madly even as I pluck the gorgeous yellow pods.

 

Tomato Blossom in my Small Kitchen Garden

I’ve been lucky this year to be in the one 50-mile swath of the United States that hasn’t been too hard on tomatoes. I’ve canned 1 and ½ gallons of tomato sauce, I have about 12 gallons of tomatoes ripening on my dining room table, and my plants are producing about two gallons of tomatoes each day. To keep me on my toes, the tomato plants continue to produce those demure yellow flowers. I suspect that flowers in mid August will not produce ripe tomatoes before the first frost.

 

Thistle Flower in my Small Kitchen Garden

Here’s a volunteer I really don’t want in my small kitchen garden… but it’s so pretty. I think thistle plants are quite attractive, and the flowers are gorgeous. Of course, I’ll pull this plant in a day or two and add it to the compost heap. But there it is blooming on Bloom Day.

 

Squash Blossoms Below in my SMall Kitchen Garden

The big change in my small kitchen garden from mid-July to mid-August is the overwhelming emergence of winter squash. I had set seedlings in the garden on the first weekend of July, and a month later squash plants covered a big chunk of the planting bed. The vines are maxing out. That is, they continue to put out more stem and leaves, but the new stems are very slender, and they don’t seem to support fruiting flowers. New fruiting buds are tiny, and they seem to wither and die even before the flower opens. That’s OK, there must be 15 – to – 20 butternut squash fruits under the leaves. And, despite the lack of viable female flowers, the vines continue to produce daily explosions of bright orange male flowers. I couldn’t choose just one squash flower photo for this blog post, so I’ve included three of my four favorites (the one I didn’t publish was a bit esoteric).

 

A Squash Flower Hides in my Small Kitchen Garden

A volunteer tomato plant, self-seeded from last year’s crop, makes a small jungle surrounding a squash blossom in my small kitchen garden.

 

Small Kitchen Garden Squash Flower

Few things are better in my small kitchen garden than the time I spend among the squash blossoms in August.

 

Thanks so much for visiting!

 

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July 09 Bloom Day in a Small Kitchen Garden

In the category of Flower closest to my kitchen: A bell pepper plant is just starting to set fruit. I have great hopes as there are already dozens of banana peppers and a few jalapeno peppers ripening just a few feet away.

Flowers are not the point of a small kitchen garden. However, without flowers, there are very few food products a kitchen garden can produce. So, though I often joke that I’m too lazy to plant something that I won’t eventually eat, I am very fond of flowers.

I’m also very fond of the on-line gardening community. While many participants in that community discuss their food-growing activities, it seems a majority prefer the time they spend with their flower and ornamental gardens. From the photos on their blogs, I know I’d enjoy spending time in their gardens as well… but I have no flower- or ornamental-garden to offer in kind.

And then there’s Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day started by Carol over at May Dreams Gardens: on the 15th of each month, participating garden bloggers post entries about what’s abloom in their gardens. This month, I’m joining the gang. But my post isn’t about nasturtiums, pansies, cone flowers, daisies, black-eyed susans, and clematis. You won’t find such things in my garden (sure, you’ll find them in my wife’s garden, but she doesn’t blog). Still, my small kitchen garden is blooming its head off, and I’m psyched because nearly every blossom means another goody to eat growing in my yard.

In the category of Tallest herb in my small kitchen garden: Dill weed volunteers grow where seed fell from last year’s plants. This variety of dill grows about five feet tall.

 

Small Kitchen Garden Cilantro

In the category of Don’t get me started: If I left all the volunteer cilantro plants to grow as they please in my small kitchen garden, I’d never again have to plant the herb. However, the volunteers rarely start where I’d like them to. Shortly after they flower, the plants produce coriander: the round seeds that either plant themselves in the garden or season a variety of Asian and South American foods.

 

Small Kitchen Garden Cilantro And Lettuce

Yes, more cilantro flowers. I wanted to point out that flowers aren’t the be-all and end-all of pretty in a small kitchen garden. Several varieties of variegated lettuce are still growing where I planted them, and they provide an attractive background for this volunteer coriander factory.

 

In the category of Invasive, noxious herb: About five years ago, I planted a tiny oregano plant from one of those 1.5-inch-cubed nursery pots. There is now a five-foot diameter circle of densely-packed oregano shoots, and they have just started to flower. No doubt, this fall I’ll be excavating oregano roots to decrease the plant’s footprint by at least half.

 

Weed in a Small Kitchen Garden

In the category of Winningest weed: It’s tiny. It likes my small kitchen garden planting bed. It’s gorgeous. I had to kneel with one elbow on the ground to get close enough for the photo.

 

Small Kitchen Garden Climbing Bean

In the category of Most fun for the money: In my first year growing climbing beans, I have become enamored. The flowers look a lot like all other bean flowers I’ve grown. However, I’ve had a lot of fun tying up strings and training the bean vines to use them. The tallest climber is about to pass the end of its string and become entwined with the kids’ play set (my youngest child is 13 years old, and the play set sees play about once a year).

 

Small Kitchen Garden Tomato Flowers

In the category of Another tomato blossom photo: Yes, I’ve photographed a lot of tomato blossoms over the years. This photo is a little different as it vaguely captures the components of the tomato support system I erected this year in place of tomato stakes.

 

Small Kitchen Garden Onion Flower

In the category of It’s cool to be different: I love the round cluster of flowers that emerges at the end of a long onion stalk. Ideally, your onions don’t flower; flowering generally results in a smaller onion bulb with a short shelf life. However, crazy weather can cause flowering, and growing onions from sets can also lead to flowers. No matter. My onions are plump and I’ll use them quickly once the stalks flop to the ground. My onion flowers look grand.

 

Honey Bee on Clover

In the category of: Who’s happy on Garden Blogers’ Bloom Day? And: who doesn’t have clover flowers in their yards and gardens?

 

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A Large Kitchen Garden

not a small kitchen garden

I just returned from a visit with neighbors whose activity completely fails the criteria for a small kitchen garden: He tills a plot that is 11 yards across, and 33 yards long. He starts spring crops early, plants summer crops in their place as they expire, and goes back for another round of spring crops as summer draws to a close. She spends hours a day from late spring to early fall processing food into jars and freezer packs. In fact, as I approached this morning, they both were shucking their last ears of sweet corn—clearly enough to can or freeze.

We chatted before I began a photo shoot in their garden (click the lead photo in this post to see all the photos on flickr.com), and a chipmunk snuck under the table and tried to grab a kernel of corn from her sandal… it startled us, and we startled it with our reactions.

My neighbor’s garden is extremely traditional. They’ve lived in their house for fifty years, and simply carved a garden plot out of the yard (it’s a very big yard). There’s no transition from yard-to-garden… except that the grass ends and then there’s exposed soil. The garden is large, so you need to walk in it to reach the plants, and the rows are close together.

At the near end of the garden, I found long-necked squash weaving among tall sweet corn stalks. Sunflowers defined the garden’s edge, though they’d faded: their heads dry and drooping ground-ward. There were rows of tomato plants hugging the ground, and other rows of tomatoes staked and upright. Beefsteaks and Italian tomatoes—the first for salads and sauces, the second specifically for sauces.

bean flower

There were huge cabbages, a row of green beans, another of wax beans, and a third of lima beans. The cucumber plants were spent, but tucked next to them was a pocket of young lettuce and flowering bean plants—recent planting. Interestingly, the cucumber plants were withering where peas had grown in the spring. There was a partial row of pretty green-and-purple-leafed plants I mistook for turnips, but it turned out they were beets.

I believe she mentioned that she has already put up 50 pints of tomato sauce, but it was clear there’s another ten pints of sauce on the plants. They didn’t have much luck with beans this year as they rely only on rain for water, and it has been dry. Still, the recent rains have revitalized things, and it looks as though some bean-picking will soon be in order.

All this as the season is winding down. Still, in our hardiness zone 5b, we might not see killing frost until mid October. A lot of new beans can grow in 30 days, and you could even get some decent young lettuce if you started from seed now.

My neighbors have peach and apple trees in their yard. The peaches are all harvested, and the apples will provide enough for the season without creating pressure to preserve them. A small grape trellis holds an awesome crop of what look like concord grapes—I should have asked while I was there, or tasted one. I also failed to ask how they use the grapes, but she did comment that the grapes would be the last of the big chores before the garden is done for the season. My mom used to can a mixture of grapes, sugar, and water; we’d drink the liquid from these jars and toss the grapes. This juice absolutely rocked compared to commercial grape juice.

My neighbor’s compost heap stands about five feet deep, and must be at least 12 feet on a side. No doubt there is a thick layer of rich mulch at the bottom. As he uses no chemical preparations, he must move a lot of compost to till into the garden each year.

Yes, it’s a large kitchen garden, but even with all that space, they get more production by staging crops according to the seasons. This is an important technique especially for the owner of a small kitchen garden who wants to get the most from little space.

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