Last Night, We Had Our First Frost

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Combs Canyon in August

I woke up to frosty cold temperatures this morning. I knew it was coming. That’s why yesterday evening, I harvested 6 more okras and 3 impossibly small jalapeños. Folks, I’m calling it. The gardening season is over.

A few weekends ago, we had put away the tomato containers and pulled up the smaller okra plants and bell pepper plants. We left the 3 big okra plants and the jalapeño plant because they were still blooming and producing. I also made the decision to leave in my zucchini plants. They were planted late and I had hopes of getting at least one small zuke from them. This weekend we’ll probably pull up these lingering plants.

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The last of the cherry tomatoes.

I started recording my harvest this year. My hope is that I can be a better garden planner–actually put in the right number of plants so I get enough cucumbers, peppers or okras at once to pickle. I just spent some quality time with my calculator and now I have the totals for our 2017 garden.

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I bet there’s an app for this, but there’s something satisfying about a physical chart.

Cherry Tomatoes (5 plants): 1,457 (a little less than 300 of these were picked green, but are ripening in a brown paper bag on our counter)

Yellow Squash (2 plants): 10

Bell Peppers (3 plants): 2

Okra (6 plants): 93

Pickling Cucumbers (4 plants): 84

Jalapeños (1 plant): 18

 

Lessons Learned, Ideas for Next Year & Thoughts:

+I’m so glad we only planted cherry tomatoes this year. I’m trying to convince my husband that we need another container (2 plants) of cherry tomatoes so that we can have a surplus and then I can be the “tomato lady” of the neighborhood. I’d sell fresh-picked pints of tomatoes and even deliver them. Who wouldn’t want to buy homegrown tomatoes from a neighbor? Not much tastes better!

+I’m planting zucchini earlier.

+No more bell peppers. These did not do well at all. I have some seeds for lunchbox peppers, which may do better since they’re a smaller pepper. I may try those next year before I decide to not bother with peppers altogether.

+Half of my okra plants were powerhouses. I saved the insert-thingy from them so I can remember the variety. I’m going to hold out for that particular variety next year.

+While I never harvested enough okras at once to pickle them (my dream) I have a bunch in my freezer and I’ve already made a batch of gumbo!

+Ditto with pickling cucumbers. I never had enough at once to pickle, but we pretty much ate these as we harvested. They’re really tasty. Next year, I’ll plant more and have something ready to replace them once they’re done.

+My first batch of jalapeños I made into refrigerator pickles. They were so good! I did the same thing with my second harvest and they were unbearably hot. What? I like spicy, but I don’t like food so hot that I can’t enjoy it. What to do? I just may put in another jalapeño plant next year because this year’s did so well and I really want pickled slices! Maybe I’ll figure out how to “tame” them.

Overall, this year’s garden was successful. If I didn’t get a good yield, I at least learned a lot and have notes for next year.

 

 

Tips & Tricks: Compost

Have you ever discovered a technique that makes you feel like a genius even though you didn’t create it? Or at least, once you start doing it and realize how much easier it makes your life, you ask yourself why you didn’t start doing it earlier? I have!

I know freezing your food scraps for composting isn’t anything new, but I started doing it this year and every time I put another banana peel or cucumber end or apple core into the grocery bag in my freezer, I feel like I’m somehow beating the system.

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Banana peels! Eggshells! Cherries past their prime!

My compost bin is nothing fancy. The top is hard to get off. Although, raccoons figured it out, prompting me to keep a big ol’ rock on it. Worse, it’s at the bottom of what I call our “canyon,” which is at the back of our backyard.

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You can sorta-kinda see the compost bin sitting there in the shadows at the edge of the woods.

This picture is deceiving. It’s a steep hill and such a pain to walk down just to deposit an apple core. Not too mention mosquitoes and the possibility of snakes (I’ve seen one before). I don’t like going down there. And, I’ve done the counter-top compost container to hold scraps. Blech. As if I need a pot of mold sitting on my counter.

I am a lazy composter. I don’t bother with making sure my ratios are right–adding enough “brown stuff.” And, I rarely turn it. I let Ricky Raccoon and his family do that. See, they chewed through a vent near the bottom and every time I add, they come along and scoop whatever their creepy little paws can out of it.

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Raccoon Aftermath

I feel like I’m somewhat co-existing with these creatures. Because they get compost scraps, they don’t come up the canyon. (Although, we had a teen-aged raccoon in our garbage can twice this summer, prompting us to put a big ol’ rock on top of THAT.) They end up “mixing” my compost because when I make my journeys down the canyon, I’m always sure to use a shovel to scoop up all the debris they’ve scattered.

Anyway, because I’m now freezing my food scraps, I only head down to the bin once a week. Maybe every week and a half. It’s wonderful! Why didn’t I do this sooner?!

Jalapeños from Garden to Jar

On a whim, I added a jalapeño plant to my garden. I figured I couldn’t go wrong since I love spicy foods. This past week, I had 4 gorgeous jalapeños ready to be picked.

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Four beauties all in a row.

I mean, my crappy phone pics taken with range hood lighting just don’t do the deep, lustrous green color of these peppers justice.

The problem with just having one plant is that I’ll never get enough to do anything significant with. I doubt I’m going to make poppers with just 1 or 2 or 4 jalapeños. And, that’ll never be enough to can.

That’s why this year I’m doing this:

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Garden Chart

I’m recording how much I’m harvesting this year. It should give me a good idea of how many plants I need if I want to can the produce.

I digress, though, back to the jalapeños. I did find this recipe from Simply Scratch for refrigerator jalapeño slice pickles. It looked easy enough and it didn’t make a gallon of pickling juice, so I was in.

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I didn’t do anything crazy to increase the heat like roll them and I wore kitchen prep gloves, because I’m not a fool.
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Warming everything up.

Let me tell you how much I love garlic. I love the smell of fresh garlic. Maybe next year my garden will be all jalapeños and garlic. I was concerned about the amount of sugar, though. I didn’t want these to be sweet. But, in the end there’s just a little hint of sweetness that is perfect!

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Into the jar they go!
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It’s a good thing my older sister cans and sends us jams and jellies for Christmas. This half pint jar that originally held her creation was the perfect size.

My 4 peppers didn’t even fill a half pint jar! It may or may not be because I taste-tested a couple of rings while they were soaking in the warm juice. These are so good. I am so happy with how they turned out! They’ll be perfect for topping pizzas, adding to tacos, or shoot, just for snacking.

I’ve never done refrigerator pickles of any sorts, but I’m adding this recipe to my repertoire for when I don’t have too much of anything to do a big batch of canning. I love growing pickling cucumbers and I already have visions of doing spicy pickle slices. Mmmmmm!