Baking chocolate chip cookies with the kids is one of my favorite family activities. When we had to go dairy and gluten free I was a little upset but I found a way to make chocolate chip cookies with some easy substitutions. Back when we […]
Summer is upon us and the vegetable garden is in full swing. My pumpkins have taken over the garden space and the spaghetti squash is not far behind it. The kids and I are harvesting berries, green beans and squash every other day. I have been blanching and freezing small batches of green beans a couple of times a week since we have an over abundance of produce at the moment. It is wonderful to have fresh produce from the garden every day! I have already noticed a reduction in our grocery bill.
I went to go take pictures of the bush beans we have been harvesting and I discovered that we had eaten most of them! There are still some smaller ones left that should ripen in the next week or two but then we will be done with green beans until our pole beans start to produce some time in the next few weeks.
We only have two pumpkins so far but this one is gigantic. I have been excitedly watching it grow over the past few weeks and my daughter finally got a good look at it the other day. We have decided that it is wonderful even if it doesn’t ripen. We will still carve it green!
There are several spaghetti squash in various stages of growth around the garden. They are definitely an exercise in patience! Spaghetti squash is a family favorite and they seem to be taking forever to ripen. Our very first one is just starting to turn yellow so I am hoping we can harvest it soon. We will be curing most of them so we can eat them in the winter but I want to try one this summer for sure!
I planted some radishes a few weeks ago and they are growing nicely. I completely forgot to write down when they popped up so I could keep track of when they would be ready to pick but I will be thinning them this week so I can check on their progress then.
They are kind of hard to see but my daughter and I planted our bottle gourd seedlings last weekend. They are doing well in their new space, crammed in front of some squash plants and an errant pumpkin vine. I will definitely need to plant pumpkins somewhere else next year. They take up way too much space!
Our pole beans finally seem to be getting some legs on them. I checked them again yesterday and one of them is already a couple of feet taller than our tepee so I will have to figure out a solution for that soon.
My ground cherry plant that I spent many months hoping would germinate and then carefully keeping healthy under the grow light has a couple of ripe fruits! My daughter was very excited to eat the first couple of them. Our volunteer ground cherries are doing well and have some of the largest fruits I have seen, some are the size of a large grape.
We have two cucumbers. They aren’t very long but they are definitely fat! We ate the larger one last night and it was delicious! I will probably harvest the other one in the next day or two. I double checked our seed packet and the cucumbers are supposed to grow to 10 inches but this particular plant had several female blossoms shrivel up so I think it can’t support too many large cucumbers at once. I have read it is better to harvest them to encourage new fruit. Our cucumber vines are still pretty small at this point but I am a little nervous for how many they will produce later in the summer!
I thought I would also post a more general picture of the garden. We have had a ton of growth since the last time I posted one. Our tomatoes are coming along nicely but our broccoli is still struggling. I am going to plant seed starts indoors ASAP for a fall/winter crop. Adding the lavender plants to our garden has really helped with pollination. Our marigolds all got eaten by slugs but I am sure we will have more next year since I think they are self-seeding. We are having a huge problem with both crows and squirrels eating a majority of the squash blossoms but it hasn’t really affected our yellow zucchini or spaghetti squash production so I am not too worried about it. They are mostly eating the male blossoms so we aren’t able to harvest and eat any but honestly we haven’t had time anyways.
I am really glad we planted such a large vegetable garden this year! I am excited for more veggies to come! What is going on in your garden this week?
This week not a lot got done in the garden besides watering and weeding. We had a busy week with the oldest daughter graduating from high school and Father’s Day so we were pretty occupied. We spent a lot of time doing maintenance type stuff around the garden so that it looked better for the party. I in no way got it looking nearly as nice as I wanted it to but the weeds were more in control and the lawn was at least mowed.
I have been really pleased with the growth in our vegetable garden. All of the plants took off when the sun came out and we have quite a few vegetables growing. Most of them are squash but now that they are starting to grow I can tell which plant is which. It is very helpful!
I pulled the last of our seedlings from the indoor grow area and started hardening them off this week. My ground cherry is growing well and has a couple of fruits on it. Yay! It looks like most of the other plants are bottle gourds. I am a little tight on space so I will have to find somewhere else to stash these. I am thinking of planting them near the hydrangeas in our front bed for now and install some netting so they can grow vertically. I also have some room over by the blueberry bushes but that area is very weedy and I don’t know if that will be a problem later. I might have to super mulch and see if that solves the problem.
The bush bean plants have gotten super tall. They seem to have grown a couple of feet in the last week or two. We have been checking them every day but we missed a day for graduation and they seemed to grow overnight.
I am really excited about our carrots. We grew this variety last year and had no luck. They doubled in size over the last few days and I am hoping that they are growing some nice roots down in the soil!
We have a few pumpkins! I am really hoping they aren’t eaten by the pesky squirrels and crows. I seem to be missing 95% of my strawberries and I think I know who has eaten them…
Our squash plants are taking over the bed. I planted way to many of them for the area. I honestly was not sure if they would even grow. We should hopefully have a bunch though so I can freeze a bunch for the winter. They are mostly summer squash so they won’t keep over winter.
Yellow squash! I took this photo a couple of days ago and they are much bigger today. I didn’t get a picture but they almost looked big enough to eat. Yellow squash is one of my favorites!
Our Luffa plants are starting to grow up the trellis. I need to trim them back a bit but I am waiting for the first flowers so I can do it all at once. These really are my experiment this year. I am hoping they do well so we can switch to natural sponges instead of synthetic.
We have a couple of tiny cucumbers. I am going to have to train these with some string so they can find the fence behind them. I didn’t plant them quite close enough.
Our green beans are doing ok. They have been attacked by some slugs and many of them lost their leaves. I am going to start another batch next week and set up a beer slug trap as soon as I can get around to it. Hopefully that will help.
Do you see these? These popped up in the garden a couple of weeks ago and I have been watching them carefully. They first appeared to be weeds but I was hopeful and decided to let them grow a bit before I pulled the plug. I am fairly certain now what they are since I compared them to my seedling from the laundry room. Do you know what they are? I am pretty sure they are volunteer ground cherries from our plant last year. We planted it in this spot and many of the ground cherries were either squished or left under leaves since we had a very successful harvest last year and missed a bunch of them. I am really excited about it if they are because that means next year I can just save some seeds, I don’t have to search high and low or stress about how many seeds germinate next year. I was also really nervous about our one not so great looking plant but even though it has been growing ever so slowly it looks really healthy so hopefully we will get quite a bit from it.
That’s it for our short but sweet garden update! I may look into some netting for our strawberry plants but honestly I have spent my budget for gardening for the year and my kids aren’t missing them so I may not. Hopefully it will keep the birds off of our raspberry plants. I am excited about the possibility of baby squash to eat next week! Yum!
What’s happening in your garden this week?
When my husband and I first started really looking into our food many years ago one of the first things we looked at was high fructose corn syrup. We discovered it was really difficult to buy jam without out it so we decided to try making our own. Since we lived in a townhouse with no yard we became huge fans of U-pick farms. For a few years we would make the trek out to the farm, pick a bunch of berries and then bring them home to freeze, make jam and sometimes dry them. We stopped making jam about the time we had our second child because life got busy and we started to stray from trying to be more self-sufficient. When we had our third child we strayed even farther and a few months ago I realized although we were cooking a lot of our own food still, processed foods had crept back into our diet. Our garden is still young and we do not have a lot of mature berry plants so this year I was determined to make all of the major U-pick seasons (strawberry, raspberry, blackberry and apples).
Last weekend we went strawberry picking with the younger kids and we had a lot of fun! The key is to go after a few sunny days so the berries are sweeter and early enough in the day that the fields are not so hot that you are miserable in the sun. Our three year old is a total foodie and has inherited my love of fruit so she spent most of her time eating everything she picked. Our son will not eat fruit unless it is cooked in something or comes in pouch form so he wandered around telling me about the plants and watching all of the people. It was great because both kids had fun in their own way and my husband and I were able to pick a couple of flats in a relatively short amount of time.
The farm we went to had a little play area with shaved ice so after we picked our berries we ate a snack and some shaved ice. The kids ran around and played some more which guaranteed a nap for the youngest in the car on the way home. It was a great way to spend the morning as a family. We are also firm believers in involving our kids in the whole food/cooking process so it was great to have them help with picking berries. It was still relatively early in the season so the strawberry plants were very full of berries which made picking faster and easier than in the past when we have gone towards the end of the season.
The first thing I did when we got home was slice up our berries and fill the dehydrator. Dehydrated berries need to be very fresh and blemish free so the sooner you get them in the dehydrator the better. It also takes 8-12 hours (or more) so make sure you time it so you aren’t having to wake up in the middle of the night to pull them out. For a long time we used a small dehydrator with a top fan that had been passed down from many people and worked okay but last fall my Dad bought me an Excalibur dehydrator for my birthday and this was my first time using it. Man, there was a huge difference. My fruit was much more evenly dehydrated and having a temperature setting with a timer seemed extra luxurious. I even forgot to rotate the trays until well into the process and they still came out very evenly dry. Our old one you had to rotate every two hours and it still ended up taking way longer to dry out the food no where near as even. I highly recommend saving up for the Excalibur it was a completely different experience for me this time around. I really wish I had bought the fruit leather trays so I could have made fruit leather as well but maybe next time. There is also a dehydrator cookbook that I would like to try as well.
Our strawberries came out of the dehydrator while our kids were eating breakfast. It is important to check that they are dry before you put them into long term storage so that they do not develop mold over time. My kids were hungry so I just put the not so dry ones into a small glass dish for them to eat and honestly they did not last until lunchtime since everyone was snacking on them. My son actually ate a few pieces of dried strawberries which was a huge win! I made 5 trays of berries and it filled about 1/3 of a gallon Ziploc bag. We are not huge eaters of dried fruit so it will be enough for us.
While the fruit was drying I cut the tops off of more strawberries and placed them on a cookie sheet in the freezer. We freeze them this way so that we can take a few out as needed for smoothies. I leave them in there for a few hours then transfer them to a gallon Ziploc bag. We probably need three gallons of frozen strawberries to last us a year but we simply did not pick enough berries for that this year. I froze two trays of berries and it made 1 1/3 gallons of frozen berries. Next year I think we will pick 3, maybe 4 flats of berries so that we have enough to freeze three gallons and make some fruit leather. It is always a learning process and I am really glad we are figuring out the kinks so that in the future we can know how much we will need.
My kids love smoothies so we have already eaten quite a few of our frozen berries and they were delicious! With all of the recalls on frozen food I am really glad we have some berries stashed away for future use! About a year ago when Costco had most of their frozen veggies recalled I had to completely change how we bought our vegetables since we eat a lot of frozen peas, green beans and corn. Every year I want to add to what we grow ourselves so we will no longer be reliant on store bought fruits and vegetables. Stay tuned for our next post in the series about the delicious jam we made from our strawberries!
What foods are you replacing with your garden this year?