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 […]
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?
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 of strawberry jam. My husband and I love to make jam together so it took us a couple of days to coordinate our schedules so that we had enough time to finish. We kept the berries in the fridge and they were still delicious. You can store some varieties of berries such as Rainiers in the fridge for a few days before you make jam but others such as our favorites shuksans need to be processed as soon as they are picked. We had picked regular can be kept in the fridge strawberries so we had time to wait.
If you are new to jam making it is really important to do your research first. There are a bunch of awesome books and websites out there that walk you through the steps to process your canning jars safely and with minimal risk for spoilage. Some of my favorite are:
The Ball Book of Canning (The canning Bible)
There are many many more and a quick Google search can find you what you are looking for. We used the instructions that came in our box of Sure Jell Pectin for both batches but for the second batch we added a little bit of fresh squeezed lemon juice.
We wanted a “lower sugar” jam which you can do with strawberries but it still used 4 cups of sugar so don’t be fooled into thinking it is actually low in sugar, it just means you use less sugar to process it. Before you do any canning you have to make sure all of your jars, utensils and surfaces are clean and sterile. I always wipe down the counters and put a clean dry towel down to work on. We ran our canning jars and bands through the dish washer on the sterilize cycle. Before we placed our lids on our jars we put them into the boiling water for a few minutes to warm up the seals and kill any germs on them. We used the Kerr brand wide mouth jars and lids but any of the brands are fine. We just got a good deal on them so that is what we use.
The first thing we did was measure out and crush our strawberries. For the first batch we used a potato masher for chunky jam and the second batch we used an immersion blender to make a smoother jam.
Then we measured out our sugar and spit it into two bowls and added the pectin to one.
Next we put our crushed strawberries into a pot and added the first batch of sugar/pectin.
We stirred that up and brought it to a boil.
Then we added our second batch of sugar and brought it to a rolling boil again for one minute.
Then we quickly poured it into our jars, leaving about 1/4 inch of head space. We used this Ball canning kit I found at our local grocery store to make sure we had the correct amount of head space in the jars.
Yum! Chunky strawberry jam. We opted not to skim the foam off but many people like to do that so that their jars look prettier. We won’t be giving a lot of it away so for us it wasn’t a big deal.
Next we wiped the jars clean with a paper towel so that they would seal correctly.
Then we used the little magnet thing to put the lids on the jars without touching them and screwed on our bands to finger tight.
Next we made sure the water in our canning pot was fully boiling and then we added our jars, brought it to a boil again and left them in there for 10 minutes.
This year I broke down and bought the special tongs for pulling the jars out of the water and let me tell you they are amazing. I don’t know how we went without for so long. They make it so much easier and I wasn’t worried at all about the jars slipping so if you only buy one canning tool I highly recommend the jar grabbing tongs.
After our jars were processed we put them on another clean towel to cool. We check them the next morning and only one of ours did not seal so we will be eating it this week. I am not complaining, our jam turned out delicious!
We had a great time with our strawberries this week and I feel much better about eating our own jam rather than buying some in the store that may or may not have high fructose corn syrup. I am already thinking ahead to raspberry season in July and how much raspberry jam I will be eating. Raspberry is my favorite and Costco has been out for months. I fully plan on canning a bunch of raspberry so that we don’t run out this year!
What types of jam are you making this season?
Strawberry Jam by Sure Jell
Make your own strawberry jam!
- 12 cups whole strawberries (6 cups crushed)
- 4 cups sugar
- 1 package Sure Jell Low Sugar Pectin
- Step 1 Use a dry measuring cup to measure exactly 12 cups of strawberries with the tops cut off.
- Step 2 Measure exactly 4 cups of sugar into a bowl.
- Step 3 Combine 1/4 cup of the sugar from the bowl with 1 package of Pectin in a small bowl.
- Step 4 Crush your strawberries and measure out 6 cups of crushed strawberries into a pot.
- Step 5 Add your sugar/pectin mixture and bring to a full boil on high heat, stirring constantly.
- Step 6 Stir in remaining sugar and return to a full boil. Boil exactly 1 minute, stirring constantly.
- Step 7 Remove from heat and skim off foam with a metal spoon if desired.
- Step 8 Immediately pour into prepared jars, filling within 1/4 inch from the top.
- Step 9 Wipe jar rims and threads, cover with lids and screw bands tightly.
- Step 10 Place jars into boiling water making sure they are covered with 1-2 inches of water.
- Step 11 Process for 10 minutes or adjust time based on Altitude.
- Step 12 After the jars are processed remove from the water and place on clean towels. Check the seals after the jars have cooled down.
- Step 13 Let jars stand at room temperature for 24 hours before storing in a cool dry place for up to a year.
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 […]
I haven’t posted an update about the garden in a while since we got really busy and I ignored it for a bit…I am definitely paying for it now with weeding and chopping back, I mean pruning, the massive growth on our many ornamental bushes. I was keeping an eye on the bushes but we had a few days of sun and they seem to have all grown a foot and put out their flowers so I feel pretty bad about chopping those off. I tried to just trim where it was necessary such as along paths and to keep plants from growing too close to the house. This week I focused on weeding the larger weeds, installing soaker hoses in the vegetable beds and trimming back bushes where I could.
The bushes near the front of my house are starting to bloom and it will be gorgeous when all of the white flowers are out. I started the annual spring trim of these bushes so they don’t completely take over the front of the house but I didn’t get very far since it was so hot. I am hoping to finish next weekend but it will depend on the vegetable garden.
My gigantic Hydrangea bushes in the front have a couple of flowers just starting to bloom. I love these bushes and they were a selling point for me when we bought the house. I am a little concerned though because last year I spent many, many hours deadheading these bushes and even though I cut it back pretty severely last fall it apparently wasn’t enough to prevent massive growth. It seems to be extra bushy this year with lots of new branches and each and every one of them has a flower bud on it.
I am also concerned I will have the same problem this year as last year with the blossoms being to massive for the branches to support their weight when it rains. Most of the branches fell over last year and I had to cut the flowers strategically so that the branches didn’t break. I may have to cut these back even further this year and see how they do.
Our apple tree seems to be doing well. It is leaning a bit which is concerning but it did produce fruit! There are a few apples on a couple of the branches.
I was really excited to see them but I may end up pinching them off so the tree can grow a little more since it was planted only a year ago.
Our raspberries, blueberries and strawberries have quite a few fruit on them and the kids have been checking them periodically to see if they are ripe. I know once the blueberries begin to turn blue I will have a hard time keeping my three year old from sneaking over there and eating them before they are ripe. I did a little weeding in the fruit beds and pulled some of the outlying raspberry starts. There are way too many of them and I was afraid they would crowd the blueberries or the pear tree that is planted next to it. I may have to rethink my raspberries next year and move them into a planter to keep them from taking over my garden bed. I don’t have time this year though so that would be a project for fall.
In the vegetable beds we have some quick growing bush bean sprouts and some tiny broccoli starts. The beans popped up overnight. I took this picture on Sunday night, installed soaker hoses that night, turned them on for an hour and by Monday night the bean sprouts had doubled in size. I should hopefully be able to thin them this week.
Our watermelon (lower right) seems to be doing so-so. I think I may have left it too long in the cup since it has barely grown. The soil in the garden bed was a little dry so I am hoping that with the soaker hoses the plants will do better, despite my best efforts at watering.
We have flowers on our pumpkin plants! I am hoping the yellow one was pollinated by our busy bees!
Our squash and zucchini are doing well. I was having a hard time watering them without getting the leaves wet and I had to pull a few of the leaves off of them but they still had quite a few leaves so they should recover. Our cucumbers however bit the dust. I apparently planted them too early but thankfully I still have a couple of seed starts under the grow lights that I can harden off this week and get in the ground hopefully next weekend.
My lettuce is flourishing in it’s pot and my daughter has been grazing off of it every time we go outside to play. She will not eat salad but she helped grow this lettuce and has been helping water it for me and now she is actually eating it. It really shows how getting kids involved in gardening will help then expand their palates.
It is kind of hard to see but our asparagus is also blooming. They have not sent up any new shoots besides the first few in the spring but I think that is because we have kind of neglected them. They are pretty weedy and I may have forgotten to mulch them at the beginning of the season. I am hoping to at least get them weeded this week and possibly look into a large quantity of mulch to cut down on my weeding time in the future.
I did a rather hasty soaker hose install on Sunday night using rocks to keep my hoses down. I ordered clips a couple of weeks ago from Gardener’s Supply Store but they have not come yet. I am hoping to plant pole beans, luffa and peas this week so I will be moving the hoses around a bit next weekend to get a better fit.
They seemed to work ok. I ran them for an hour the first night and will try again in the morning. My soil probably needs some mulching in this bed so it will hold moisture better.
I had to get a little creative in the corner and I will have to hand water the marigolds but after an hour the area was pretty well soaked.
Here is a view of the entire set up. It is pretty ugly as is but after I tweak it a bit it should look better. Overall it worked pretty well. The carrot starts were a little iffy with the water so I may have to continue to hand water those but everything else seemed to get quite a bit.
I am really excited to see my vegetable garden take off in the next few weeks! What’s going on in your garden?