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Tag: canning

Gardening Update 11.07.21

Gardening Update 11.07.21

A lot happened in the garden since my last post in July which can be found here. We had a large crop of green tomatoes, lots of greens, successfully grew two nice sized pumpkins and many other vegetables. We continued to battle pests throughout the […]

Covid – 10 Months and Counting

Covid – 10 Months and Counting

We are about 10 months into dealing with Covid and things don’t seem to be letting up any time soon. I was looking back over pictures from the year today and I was struck by how sudden everything was last Feb/March when everything shut down. […]

Gardening Update 09.05.2020

Gardening Update 09.05.2020

As the nights get cooler and the days shorter our summer 2020 garden is winding down for fall. This summer our vegetable garden stepped up a notch and I planted way more than previous years. We also had a huge pest problem with rodents, ants, slugs and pill bugs decimating some of the plants. I planted a full packet of green beans and got only one viable plant. I was very bummed about the lack of green beans this year. Fresh green beans off the vine are one of my favorites!

 

Zucchini harvest.

 

We had a bumper zucchini crop this year with so many grown that I contemplated becoming one of those gardeners that leaves baskets of zucchini on neighbor’s doorsteps and runs but seriously, we shared the wealth with relatives and the local food pantry during the height of the season and my husband became an excellent maker of zucchini fritters and muffins which everyone loves. My goal this weekend is to blanch and freeze a bunch of it and maybe try canning but honestly I am not sure if we will eat it once it has been canned. The PNW is scheduled for our annual September last gasp heat wave next week and once that is over my summer squash plants and tomatoes will be pulled to make room for fall crops. I will miss checking the zucchini plants daily with my kids to see how many we have and how big they are but we are getting just a little bit tired of eating it so it will be nice for a change.

 

 

Cabbage harvested from the garden.

 

This was our first year growing cabbage with mixed success. My Nappa cabbages were much anticipated but didn’t end up working out. All of the ones I direct sowed into the garden were munched to the base by slugs and the couple that I started indoors were crowded out and then eaten by a variety of bugs and not good to eat. We did however get a couple of nice green and red cabbages although they were pretty small. I have started some more cabbage seeds for the fall garden and hopefully they will work out better with the cooler weather. We had a massive cabbage butterfly problem at the start of the summer and my daughter and I spent weeks scraping off butterfly eggs by hand every day to keep it in check until the cabbage plants were big enough to fend them off which made me pretty sad because we love butterflies but there were literally hundreds of eggs and the cheeky butterfly in question was aggressively laying eggs while we were scraping so I am sure a few made it to the end.

 

 

Our potato harvest.

 

I should probably confess my massive impatience with our potatoes. I may have been super eager to free up some garden space and to see if our potatoes had actually grown and dug them up a little bit early. I probably should have left some of them longer so that we had some larger potatoes but overall I am pretty happy with the harvest. I wish I had measured the pounds of everything we harvested this year but that will have to go on the list for next year. Our potatoes did mediocre for how many spuds I planted. We ended up with about 20 plants and got about 3/4 of a dish pan of potatoes total. I went back through the potato beds a few weeks after our harvest and dug up about 15 more small ones. There were also quite a few starts that I left in the dirt that might sprout next year for some surprise potatoes but if they don’t I am not worried. I am formulating a better plan for potatoes next year. We need to move them to a different spot that is easier to harvest and I need to leave them in the ground much longer. I haven’t decided where to put them yet but I am definitely thinking about it!

 

 

Brussels Sprouts
Brussels Sprouts

 

Our Brussels Sprouts our growing slowly but surely. This is our first year planting these and we did have a huge slug problem with a couple of the plants but now they are growing really well and I am hoping to be able to harvest in another month or so but honestly we haven’t done these before so I am not sure when they will be ready. I may have over planted these just a little bit with 5 in a decent sized pot but I was running out of space and I really wanted to try them this year. A large part of our garden this year was experimenting to see what works and where to put plants. I am not sure if we will grow these again next year because it was a lot of work and it looks like we will only have a few meals worth of sprouts. Our space may be better off growing something more prolific but I am waiting to see how they turn out once we harvest them. If I do Brussels sprouts again next year they will be in the ground and not in pots though. It was too hard to keep them watered and they need more soil.

 

 

Pumpkin!

 

We have three pumpkins growing this year. Two of them are pie pumpkins and we got one medium sized jack-o-lantern one whose shape is pretty lopsided. I love getting a bunch of pumpkins for Halloween so we will be buying more from the store or hopefully from the local pumpkin patch if they open. I would love to grow a bunch of varieties of pumpkins but they take up a bunch of space and we just don’t have the room. Our ripest pumpkin should be ready in a couple of weeks and our kids are pretty excited about it. I am really hoping that they don’t get eaten right before I pick them since we have been watching them all summer to see how they grow.

 

 

Tomato

 

We had mixed results with tomatoes this year. I could not get my cages to fit in the pots we planted our tomatoes in so they were not very well supported and lots of branches were broken. I won’t be doing them in pots next year because the amount of watering needed was ridiculous. I had to water twice a day most days this summer and even that wasn’t always enough. We planted three varieties which were cherry, roma and beefsteak. Our cherry tomatoes are doing well and we are getting a handful every day which the middle child promptly eats. Our roma tomato plant has lots of tomatoes on it but only a couple are ripe. I have been trimming the flowers and I put a sprig of ripening cherry tomatoes over the romas to try and speed up ripening but I am not sure if they will ripen quickly enough. After our heat wave next week I am pulling all of the tomato plants and hopefully any that aren’t ripe will ripen indoors.

 

We have one sad small beefsteak tomato on our plant and I am not hopeful that it will be remotely ready in the next week. For some reason this plant did not flower until a few weeks ago even though we used the same type of soil and fertilizer as the others. It was actually the healthiest plant but only produced leaves. I am doing more research into tomatoes for next year and hopefully we will have a better crop next year. Everyone in our area struggled with tomatoes this year though so I am not surprised our crop wasn’t that great.

 

Spaghetti squash

 

Our spaghetti squash crop has been surprisingly great this year. I almost pulled the vines in late June because they simply weren’t growing but I am really glad I didn’t. I have harvested 4 or 5 good sized squash so far and there are several more on the vines that should be ready in the next couple of weeks. We also lost probably 4 or 5 smaller ones to squirrels and slugs which was pretty sad and I am harvesting the last few a little bit smaller so they do not get eaten. I had better luck with the squash that were up off the ground this year, even though in the past it wasn’t an issue, so next year I am planning on trellising these somehow. We grow spaghetti squash every year and it is one of my favorites. The variety we grow does not get that yellow color you see in the store but once the rinds are hard they can be stored for a up to a few months. I keep them on my kitchen counter so I don’t forget to eat them.

 

 

Massive sunflower.

 

By far our most impressive garden growth has been with one of the five sunflowers I got to grow this year. I planted about two packets worth but most of the seeds were eaten by squirrels and the rest that came up were chomped down by the slugs. I have a few smaller ones that were planted in the kids’ fairy gardens but only one of those will flower in time. I am not sure if our massive one is an American Giant or a Mongolian Giant sunflower since I planted both varieties but I do know that it is so tall I have to go to the neighbors yard to check the status of the flower. I am really hoping it will open soon and we will get a few seeds from it. Next year I am going to start my seeds indoors and hopefully we will get more sunflowers but this year I was late starting my seeds and magically out of sunflower seeds when I went to do my spring seeds. I ordered a bunch more seeds for next spring already in anticipation of shortages again next year.

 

 

Winter Squash

 

We are not huge fans of winter squash at our house but I ordered some buttercup squash seeds from Territorial Seeds this year to try. I was low key worried about supply chains last spring and I figured since we were expanding our garden and trying to grow new things that adding a couple of winter squash in there wouldn’t hurt. Seeds were in short supply when I ordered them in March and there weren’t a lot to choose from so I got buttercup squash since they store well and are easy to cook. They are very dense and I have accidentally picked three of them just trying to see how heavy they are. We did cook one of them a few weeks ago and it tasted like winter squash for sure so we may have some difficulty eating these. There is at least one more small one on the vine and this variety is supposed to produce four to five squash per vine that are about four pounds each. I did weigh our largest one and it was about 3.5 pounds which is pretty good. These plants did not appreciate our wet spring and early summer and a large number of the first fruits they put out rotted on the vine. I am going to have to plant these away from the summer squash next year and farther apart so that water on the plants dries faster and to prevent rotting.

 

 

Apple tree crop.

 

We are going to have a decent amount of apples this year mostly because I did not thin them enough. We have a tree from Costco that produces several varieties of apples and it looks like the Fujis are the most prolific this year. I am not really sure when they all will be ripe but we have been harvesting a few and picking up the windfalls and so far I would say we have picked about 5 pounds of apples and there are still lots more on the tree. I am making applesauce out of some of them this weekend and maybe fruit leather. We are having an issue with our apple tree leaning heavily to one side and I have been researching ways to fix it. We cleared out all of the bushes that surrounded the tree and we are going to try staking it to the house as well as doing a meticulous trim of the branches after all of the apples have been harvested this fall. I cut it back every year but it grows so fast that I can’t really keep up. I am going to work on the shape of our tree and thin the apples much better next year so that the tree isn’t so overloaded.

 

We have had a great time gardening this summer and it has really broken up the monotony of being stuck at home. It has been a great bonding experience with my kids and we have loved eating food that we have grown! My fall seeds have been started indoors including cauliflower, cabbage, onions, kale, and broccoli so I am eager to get those in the ground in a few more weeks. Look for an update after our fall seeds are in the ground and happy gardening!

 

Helpful links with no affiliation, just things we enjoy:

 

Seattle Urban Farm 

 

Territorial Seed

 

Buttercup Squash Recipes

 

June Gardening Update

 

 

 

Gardening Update 6.14.2020

Gardening Update 6.14.2020

This year is the first one in a while I have been excited about my garden. Working from home for the past few months due to the Corona virus has greatly reduced my commute time from 3-4 hours a day to nothing and this means […]

A Not So Brief Hiatus

A Not So Brief Hiatus

About eight months ago I took a break from blogging. There were many reasons, the most pressing being a complete utter lack of time while trying to maintain balance with both Mr. Oscoey and I working full-time with small kids. To say it was difficult […]

Indoor Seed Starting Resources

Indoor Seed Starting Resources

Indoor Seed Starting Time

 

It is that time of year again when I start to think about what seeds I need to start indoors. This is our third year gardening at our house and the second year for us starting seeds indoors. Last year we started tomatoes, ground cherries, spaghetti squash, sunflowers, cucumbers, zucchini, louffa, gourds, pumpkins and watermelons. Our biggest successes were our squash plants and the beans we direct sowed into the ground. This year we have decided to just buy our tomatoes and ground cherries from the store since we put a lot of effort into growing not so healthy plants last year.

 

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Seed Starting Indoors
Seed Starts 2017

 

Seed Starting Basics

 

When starting seeds indoors there are some basic rules and tools you will need. First off you need seeds (of course), pots, a shovel, soil and a grow light. There are many different types of pots you can use from plastic cups to toilet paper rolls and when you are first starting out it is best to try out a couple of different kinds and see what works best for you. Last year we used red plastic solo cups since we had a bunch lying around but ultimately biodegradable pots such as these here are better for the environment. You can also buy one of these seed starting kits to use as well:

 

Some people also use warming mats but we start our seeds inside the laundry/furnace room which is very warm and we haven’t needed a warming mat. Our grow lights also came from Amazon and you can find many different types that work but we bought one very similar to this one:

 

We buy our soil from Costco and mix it with this seed starting mix. Our seeds come from a mish mash of places. This year we have a bunch left over from previous years, seeds I saved from our vegetables and some an easy grow seed set from my mother-in-law for Christmas that has a few varieties that we were missing but if I were to order seeds I would from Seed Savers Exchange. They have a mission to grow heirloom varieties and have a program in place to help their members propagate and grow rare varieties of seeds to preserve plants that might otherwise be lost. I am a huge fan of them and my favorite time of year is when their catalog comes in the mail. It gets me super excited for spring!

 

The basic rules for starting seeds indoors are to:

  1. Start them at the right time according to the package (You can find your first frost date here)
  2. Make sure they are getting the right amount of warmth and light according to the package
  3. Water from below to prevent mildew forming on the leaves
  4. Don’t forget about them until they are root bound (I may have some experience with this)
  5. Harden your seedlings off gradually outdoors before planting in the ground
  6. Be gentle when transplanting them to avoid damaging the roots.

 

Seed starting is a skill that takes practice so don’t be discouraged if your first few tries are not successful! Even expert gardeners have trouble with particular batches of seeds or if the weather decides not to cooperate! I am a firm believer in practicing something until you figure out a way to make it work so my best advice for starting out is to pick a few easy to start plants such as zucchini, pumpkins, lettuce, radishes or peas and see if they work. You can always go to the garden store later to grab a few pre-started plants if you seeds don’t work out.

 

seed starts
Seed starts in the garden

 

Here are some excellent resources for your seed starting adventures!

 

Homestead Bloggers Seed Starting Resource Page

A large list of seed starting resources.

 

The Rustic Elk “8 Vegetables you Should Start Indoors”

This is a great list of vegetables that do well when started indoors and tips for growing them.

 

Dans Bois “Indoor Seed Starting Setup”

This is a great how-to for setting up your lighting system to maximize seed health.

 

Farm Fit Living “Tips for Growing Vegetable Transplants from Seed”

A great article breaking down into detail how to start your seeds.

 

Feathers in the Woods “How to Pre-germinate Seeds”

A great piece about how to pre-germinate your seeds prior to planting them for optimal health.

 

Gardening Advice.net “Tips for Starting Gardening Seeds”

This article talks about the different ways to start your seeds.

 

Better Hens and Gardens “Homemade Seed Starting Soil Mixes”

Thinking of mixing you own soil? This is a great resource.

 

Farming my Backyard “How to Make Newspaper Pots and Save Money Starting Seeds”

Use these instructions to make eco-friendly newspaper pots to start your seeds in.

 

The Reid Homestead “A Complete List of all the Seed Starting Equipment you Need to Successfully Plant Seeds Indoors” 

A comprehensive list of what you will need for seed starting.

 

Exotic Gardening “Tomato Seed Starting Tips” 

How to start tomatoes successfully.

 

Uber Frugal Month Challenge Week 2

Uber Frugal Month Challenge Week 2

Well dear readers, week 2 of the Uber Frugal Month Challenge went off the rails a little bit. We had a busy week with sick kids and another family member was ill so I have not done the last 4 or 5 daily tasks from […]

Gardening Goals for 2018

Gardening Goals for 2018

Last week I posted a sort of list for our financial goals for 2018. Today I wanted to lay out some goals we have for our garden.  We learned a lot last year about where the best light is for our small vegetable patch and […]

Blueberry Picking 2017

Blueberry Picking 2017

We have had a super busy summer and I was really bummed that we missed the July blueberry picking season. Our bushes are only a couple of years old and don’t produce anywhere near enough berries for us to freeze. They were eagerly eaten every day by the kids with very few to spare. I was super excited to hear from another mom at gymnastics that there was a local U-pick farm that still had blueberries! We cancelled our plans to try an easy hike with the kids and headed out to pick as many blueberries as we could manage.

 

 

The farm we went to was super close and I am really glad I found it because the blueberries were delicious! My blueberry hating husband even liked them and actually ate a few. The kids of course ate themselves silly and enjoyed every moment of it!

 

 

We grabbed a couple of smaller buckets and one gigantic 5 gallon bucket to consolidate our berries into. It was a pretty hot day and we were worried about the kids overheating so we picked at lightening speed. Luckily blueberries are much easier to pick than raspberries or strawberries because you do not have to be super careful about placing them into your container.  I just placed my bucket underneath a large blueberry covered branch and let them fall into the bucket as I massaged them off of the branches.  It took us less than an hour to fill our five gallon bucket with over 20 pounds of blueberries!

 

 

The biggest issue we had was the fear of losing one or both of the kids.  The bushes were overgrown and touching each other in many places so you could not see down the rows at all.  We split up with one kid each and made the kids wear their hats for both eye protection and visibility.  I highly advise buying your kids neon hats and jackets so you can easily pick them out in a crowd of people or when you are outside with them.  It was really easy to keep track of my son’s bright orange Tigger hat even when I couldn’t see the rest of him.

 

 

I don’t remember what type of blueberry we picked but they were not organic (which I found out later on). Next time we will try and find an organic blueberry farm to pick from or I will see if the farm we went to has some that are organic.  There were tons of them on the bushes though and we did not have to walk very far to pick all that we needed.

 

 

We did however come home with two half flats of berries and I am super excited to eat them this winter!

 

 

 

I immediately started freezing our berries in batches on a cookie sheet.  We froze about three gallons total and I still have a half flat left.  We have made blueberry jam in the past but we typically do not eat enough of it so we decided not to this year.  We also have tons of raspberry jam which will be plenty of jam for us!

 

 

All week we have been eating blueberries on our cereal and our ice cream and the kids and I absolutely love it! We haven’t decided what to do with the rest of the berries yet and we may try to dry some of them in the dehydrator but I am really hoping my husband will make his famous blueberry peach pie!

 

Did you pick blueberries this year? What are some of the ways you prepared them?

 

 

Strawberry Picking 2017 Part 2: Jam Making

Strawberry Picking 2017 Part 2: Jam Making

A few days ago I posted about our strawberry picking and how we froze and dried the berries.  We have been snacking on the dried berries all week and they are delicious!  On top of drying and freezing our berries we also made two batches […]