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Posts Tagged ‘vegetables’

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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Post Produce, Feb 2012: Anticipation for a Kitchen Gardener

The top shelf of my larder gets crowded with empty canning jars as winter drags on. I’ll be dragging those boxes down when my fresh garden produce is ready for packing.

My Post Produce article this month is a bit different; it’s about transition in Your Small Kitchen Garden blog. Just a few days ago, I sorted through the canned produce in my larder and organized it onto two shelves so one shelf would be clear. Then I hung a daylight spectrum shop light and planted cauliflower and broccoli seeds in a tray that I cut from a gallon milk jug.

Just two days ago, the cauliflower and broccoli seeds sprouted, and today the sprouts hold promise for a future harvest.

Small Kitchen Garden as the Circle of Life

A few years ago, my larder was nothing more than shelves to hold canned goods, canning gear, and other random stuff. Then, when I was contemplating another winter of starting vegetable seeds on my ping pong table, it dawned on me: by late winter, I’ve used up a lot of my canned goods; there would be room on my shelves to start seeds.

Above the soil for only two days, the tiny sprout in this photo could produce enough cauliflower to feed my family for three meals.

I love that the larder doubles for seed-starting. Just like my small kitchen garden, it knows all the seasons: It accumulates empty canning jars year-round, with most rapid growth in the dead of winter. Then, as winter becomes tedious, my larder comes alive when seeds sprout and grow until the garden is ready. With the earliest spring fruits—rhubarb and strawberries—I put up food while we continue to consume produce that won’t be available fresh for months. When all goes right, we use the last jar of tomatoes within days of canning the new season’s early fruits. Later, we use the last jar of sweet corn as the first ears come fresh out of the garden. Transitions within this cycle are so smooth, so seamless, that it almost doesn’t seem to have a beginning.

Celebrate Produce

This is what inspires me to write about kitchen gardening. This is why I encourage others to participate. With February’s post, I’m celebrating the kitchen garden’s circle of life and looking forward to seeing what produce my fellow gardeners are enjoying—or planning to enjoy—in coming months.

My repurposed milk jug planter holds 10 cauliflower seeds and 10 broccoli seeds on a shelf above canned tomato sauce and other goodies. I planted head lettuce seeds yesterday and in the next month I’ll start several hundred seeds including peppers, tomatoes, and squashes.

Post Your Produce!

The 22nd is the day to Post Produce. Join the celebration of homegrown food and share whatever you’re consuming from your garden. Whether it’s still growing, you’re harvesting it for a meal, you’re preserving it, or you’re taking it out of your larder for dinner, share it in a post and then link to it below. For more information, follow this link to the Post Produce page.

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Abloom in Your Small Kitchen Garden in July 2010

Yes, some of the broccoli has gotten away from me. I’ve planted the same variety for two years, and in both years it has produced tiny heads. I kind of loose interest in it, though we do eat most of the side shoots. This winter I’ll be shopping around for a breed of broccoli that makes giant heads… the tiny yields I’ve had lately aren’t worth the garden space.

It’s Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, an event that happens on the 15th of each month. Founded by Carol over at May Dreams Gardens, Bloom Day beckons garden bloggers the world over to post photographs of what’s abloom in their gardens. Most of these posts have pictures of beautiful flowers in gorgeous ornamental gardens. Alas, my small kitchen garden isn’t about pretty.

Still, I love the blossoms nearly as much as I love the vegetables… and seeing them heightens my anticipation for the harvest that’s likely to follow. Things are doing extremely well this season. Early heat followed by drought has finally relented to several days of rain and more typical summer temperatures.

Here are the flowers I photographed this afternoon in my small kitchen garden:

 

I haven’t planted dill this year, but there are many dill weed blossoms in my small kitchen garden. The flowers attract all kinds of insects. If I let the dill go to seed as it did last year, I imagine the planting bed will be a veritable lawn of dill sprouts in the spring.

 

The oregano jungle has rebounded from some autumn and spring culling. The flowers are delicate and they provide beautiful contrast for nearly half the growing season. Still, I need to be more aggressive culling this fall; the oregano patch increases about a third in size in a season.

 

Onion blossoms make me happy. The globe of tiny flowers emerges in late spring and lingers for weeks. I cut a bouquet of onion flowers for the dining room table, and they’ve filled the room with a delicious onion aroma for nearly a month. I don’t encourage you to harvest your onion flowers; I had missed a few bulbs last fall, and what sprouted this spring needed to go to make way for the 2010 crops.

 

We’ve eaten bell and poblano peppers from the small kitchen garden this year, and there are dozens of banana peppers ready to harvest. Happily, there are many pepper blossoms which portend a massive harvest. I expect I’ll pickle a lot of peppers… and probably give away a whole bunch of them.

 

This sad specimen is an early cucumber blossom on a plant growing in a container. This is the first time I’ve grown cucumbers, so I’ll probably do some research to learn about what bugs eat cucumber blossoms… I haven’t seen this kind of abuse on my winter squash blossoms in past seasons.

 

The potato blossoms here stand above the background of the cardboard tube in which the plants are growing. I wrote about this project in a post titled Plant Potato Towers in your Small Kitchen Garden. In two of three planters, the potato plants have grown up through an accumulated 3 feet or more of soil. I’ve stopped adding soil, and the plants have gone on to grow well above the containers and produce flowers. One of my neighbors has asked me to invite him when I tip the containers over and dig out the potatoes. He’s as curious as I am to see how things come out.

 

Oh, the tomato blossoms abound! This has been the season of the great seed-starting debacle: I planted a whole bunch of seeds indoors, and they didn’t sprout. So, I planted again as many. This second batch sprouted about when the first batch sprouted; I ended up with double the seedlings I’d intended. After giving away many tomato seedlings, I crammed 84 plants into my small kitchen garden where I have traditionally planted 24.

 

While photographing flowers today, I found the very first barely pink tomato of the season! This may be the largest chili-pepper-shaped paste tomato I’ve harvested, and many more on the plants are just as big. Why did I pick it when it’s so under ripe? I explained last season in a post titled The Vine-Ripened Tomato Lie. This baby will finish ripening on my dining room table.

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Visit the PA Farm Show

Sure, you can see fresh produce all winter in any local grocery store… but can you see vegetables that have been awarded blue ribbons?

Winter owns central Pennsylvania, but even for a kitchen gardener there is respite: The Pennsylvania Farm Show opens to the public in Harrisburg on January 9. I wrote several posts about the 2009 Farm Show in Your Small Kitchen Garden last January. It won’t look much different this year… and that’s a good thing.

Kitchen Gardener’s Haven

The Pennsylvania Farm Show is all about agriculture. Sure, there’s a preponderance of exhibits and competitions involving farming: tractors, horse livestock trailers, cultivators, and harvesters. There are horses, cows, chickens, ducks, geese, rabbits, sheep, goats, and pigs… there are even llamas. If none of these appeal to you; if you’re interested only on growing and eating your own produce; the PA Farm Show still delivers.

You’ll find exhibits of gorgeous vegetables, mushrooms, fruits, and nuts. You’ll find honey products and demonstrations by apiarists. You’ll find gardening gear and supplies, exhibits of cut flowers and potted plants, and even “box gardens;” table-top displays assembled to resemble full-sized courtyards and backyard patios.

At the 2009 Pennsylvania Farm Show, there were dozens of tiny gardens planted in wooden boxes. It’s a compelling idea: can a landscaper create a miniature yard or courtyard using live plants, and pass it off as a full-sized garden in photos or video?

Food at the Farm Show

For a kitchen gardener, gardening and produce aren’t the whole story. The Pennsylvania Farm Show understand this and includes exhibits and vendors of all kinds of cooking-related products. You’ll find terrific cookware, hundreds of bottles sauces and seasonings, and a whole bunch of free samples of foods you might want to use in your own kitchen.

Even if your garden has suffered because of a pesky wabbit, it’s hard not to enjoy a stroll among the rabbit cages at the Pennsylvania Farm Show. This rabbit looked capable of devouring a 14 foot row of carrots in a single sitting.

The Farm Show has a Kitchen Stage where area chefs and culinary students perform cooking demonstrations… and even Iron-Chef-style cooking competitions. You can relax and leave the kitchen stage area with ideas to apply in your own kitchen.

Finally, the food court at the Pennsylvania Farm Show features food that’s produced in Pennsylvania: Honey ice cream and waffles; potato donuts, fries, and baked potatoes; milkshakes, ice cream, and fried mozzarella… the list is too big to include all of it here. I like to grab good eats at the food court and carry them to one of the livestock arenas where I can enjoy a horse show or competition while munching the local fare.

Join me at the Farm Show

I’ll be at the Pennsylvania Farm Show the afternoon of Tuesday, January 12. I expect to attend at least one other day as well… and I’d love to have company. So, if you have any interest in meeting up at the Pennsylvania Farm Show, please contact me. Use this blog’s Contact Us form, or send a tweet to @cityslipper.

Did I mention? IT’S FREE! There’s no charge to attend the Pennsylvania Farm Show, though to park anywhere near it, you’ll pay $10 per car… so take a family of five (or a bunch of friends), and get a day’s entertainment for $2 per person.

Follow this link to the full schedule of Pennsylvania Farm Show events.

More information from the PA Farm Show:

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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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