The last few weeks have been rough on everyone’s gardens in the Seattle area. There has been no rain and we had a massive heat wave a bit ago with temperatures well over 100 degrees which is super unusual for this area. I watered like […]
Hello and welcome to the first gardening update of 2021! This year my goal was to expand our vegetable garden and add in more pollinator friendly plants. My usual spring garden supply budget was much larger than usual because we ended up needing a large […]
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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 […]
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 […]
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 this year we will definitely be making some changes. This year is our third year working on the garden and every year we learn a little bit more and improve our garden space.
Some things that worked for us last year were squash, green beans and pumpkins. Our pumpkins took up way too much space though so next year instead of planting four plants I will just stick with two and I am going to put them in the side yard so they can grow all the way down our hill. We loved our green beans and squash but I am embarrassed to say we did not eat all of it in time. Since we didn’t get enough each day to make a meal out of it or to freeze in a decent sized batch, some of our beautiful produce ended up in the compost bin. We still have one pumpkin, two decent sized spaghetti squash, and a few tomatoes that slowly ripened on our window sill left but other than that everything is gone.
My plan for next year is:
1. Organize my garden planning with a garden journal
This has been on my list for the past two years and I just haven’t followed through. I even bought a beautiful notebook and colorful pens to make wonderful drawings of all the plants we will grow but besides a few lists of what we planted (I think) it hasn’t been touched. I am pretty sure I wrote down what I planted at the beginning of the season but my notebook has been collecting dust since last spring so at some point in the next week I will get it out and start recording for this year. This year I want to have some simple diagrams of where we plant things for crop rotation and a better list of what grew where. I absolutely love how organized Annie over at 15acrehomestead is. She has tons of great posts for organizing your homesteading projects. I especially love this one where she lays out how to plan your projects for 2018.
2. Plant enough zucchini, green beans and peas to freeze for the entire year
This one is a little ambitious. We did not plant peas last year so I don’t know how well they will do in our space but I am hoping to find somewhere they do well. We need probably two more zucchini plants for a total of four to grow enough for the winter. I am the only one who eats it so we don’t need a whole lot but the challenge will be getting it processed every day. Last year we got quite a few green beans but the way I planted them made them hard to harvest and we did not inoculate at all (whoops) so I think as long as we get enough plants growing at the right time and I stay on top of picking and processing them we will be able to produce enough green beans to feed us all year. I am really excited about the possibility of green beans from our garden next winter! It turns out they are the only green beans my son will eat and it was a sad day when I cooked the last of them and then he refused the ones I bought at Costco as a replacement.
3. Remove the ivy from all of the trees in our backyard
We got a good start last summer pulling English Ivy off of the trees in our backyard and this year I would love to finish. I would also like to remove all of the ivy off the ground which is doable but it will constantly grow back so it will be an ongoing battle. English Ivy is a horrible invasive species here in the Pacific Northwest and many of the trees in the greenbelt behind our house are covered in it. If we don’t girdle the ivy on the trees near our house at some point the ivy will weaken the trees enough to cause them to topple over in a windstorm. We have frequent windstorms in our area so the possibility is definitely real. Every day I drive down the street behind us and look at these giant trees that are covered past their lower branches with a ring of ivy at least 3 feet thick all the way around. I know some day soon at least one of those trees will fall and completely block the road. I am really hoping that nobody gets hurt when it happens.
4. Continue to replace our high maintenance ornamental bushes with food producing ones
The lady that lived here before us densely planted these gorgeous ornamental bushes that are very pretty but require constant pruning and I am sure fertilizer. They also require a large amount of water in the summer which is pretty wasteful to me. The one thing I love about all of our flowery bushes is the healthy bee population they support. All spring and summer our yard is buzzing with friendly bees that easily pollinate our fruits and vegetables. The amount of pruning and watering they require is too much for us though so we are slowly replacing them with lower maintenance native plants.
5. Continue to keep our berry bushes and fruit trees in top shape
We love our fruit at this house! Last year we planted some raspberries, a pear tree, a blueberry bush and some strawberries in addition to the apple tree and blueberry bushes we already had. At this point we really don’t have room for much else without a major front yard overhaul so our goal is to keep them healthy and producing throughout the summer!
We have really enjoyed having a yard for the kids to play in. The back is pretty steep though and requires some skill to navigate safely so this year will be the first year our son is able to walk around back there on his own. The kids had fun helping me pull ivy last weekend and I introduced them to the cool space I found underneath a bush that could definitely be a fairy hideout. I am looking forward to spring and seeing the yard come alive again. What projects are you working on this year?
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 […]
We have been trying to eat both healthier and cheaper in our house and besides beans one of the ways I have been trying to do that is to add more squash into our diet. I love squash. I am really excited about our zucchini and spaghetti squash plants. The rest of my family is more than a little apprehensive. The little kids are hit and miss when it comes to squash and my oldest daughter is strongly positioned in the squash is disgusting camp. My husband is not a huge fan but he will eat it…sometimes. Costco has organic butternut squash for a reasonable price that has been cured so it will store well in our pantry. I highly recommend buying and storing a couple of butternut and spaghetti squash in your pantry as part of an emergency kit/last minute dinner idea. As long as they have no blemishes they should be good for months in a cool dry place. We usually have at least one type on hand and when we are stuck in a vegetable rut or having a lean grocery week I pull out the squash. Usually one squash is good for a few meals since they are pretty large but it depends on how excited the family is about eating it that particular week.
This week I had a craving for my vegetarian butternut squash burritos. They are super easy to make and can be adapted to make rice bowls so they are gluten free. Sometimes I add a garlic sauce or some of my husband’s white barbecue sauce but if you are trying to eat healthier they should be eaten without the sauce. We always have rice and tortillas on hand so this recipe doesn’t require and extra trip to the grocery store for us if we have avocados on hand.
First thing to do is slice your squash in half and scoop out the seeds. I usually put the rice in the rice cooker at this point as well. You can make as much as you need but I usually make 3 cups of rice since we eat it with other things as leftovers.
Next your squash needs to be peeled. They can get slippery so be careful how you hold it while you peel.
While I was assembling everything the kids played with Play-doh. Luckily they didn’t make too much of a mess!
After peeling dice the squash and put it in a steamer. We have an old Revere Ware one that we inherited from my mother-in-law that is the true workhorse of our kitchen. You can find similar ones here.
Tonight I also made some roasted sweet potatoes in case the kids wouldn’t eat their squash. Good thing I did because the kids were apparently craving them and ate most of the three large potatoes I baked on their own.
After the squash and rice were cooked I set up our assembly station. I sliced avocados to order and it was an excellent meal. My son actually ate some avocados and my daughter ate a ton of squash so overall it was a success! We had oranges for dessert which is another way to keep the meal healthy. The kids had a post-dinner snack of most of the sweet potatoes which was hilarious because our son used them to get the dachshund to chase him around the house. He found it hilarious and she got a few pieces so it worked out for her as well.
Our avocados were not as ripe as they promised to be but they still tasted delicious with the squash and rice. I am hoping next year to grow our own butternut squash but for now, the ones I find at Costco are by far the most delicious. They have a smooth texture and a not too sweet taste that I love. For some reason this combination of rice, avocados and butternut squash is really appealing to me. The three ingredients really balance each other out and it makes a quick and easy meal that the whole family enjoys!
How are you incorporating squash into your meals?
Easy Vegetarian Squash Burritos
- 1/2 Butternut Squash
- 3 Cups Cooked Rice
- Large Flour Tortillas
- 2 Ripe Avocados
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Step 1 Cut your butternut squash in half and remove the seeds. The extra half can be stored in the fridge covered in plastic wrap for a few days or you can do the next step and put it in the freezer for later use.
- Step 2 Using a vegetable peeler carefully peel the skin off of the squash.
- Step 3 Once peeled dice the squash into bite size pieces and put in a steamer pot.
- Step 4 Cook for 20 min or until tender.
- Step 5 Slice your avocados just prior to serving.
- Step 6 Assemble your burritos! Start with a tortilla and add rice, avocados, squash, salt and pepper to taste. If you have some creamy sauce around you can add that as well but it will not be as healthy. You can also skip the tortilla and make a rice bowl if you want to cut out the wheat to make it gluten free.
We have had some excitement in the garden this week. Our plants are continuing to grow super fast from our week of excellent sun and we harvested our first few strawberries. I got some more seedlings planted and we spent quite a bit of time […]