Simply Grateful Gardener

Gardening To Fill The Pantry!


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Two Days Of Harvesting

They might not be the biggest harvests, but yesterday and today I was able to go out to the garden and pick vegetables! Can it get any better than that? Finally all the hard work is paying off.

Yesterday I picked 3 cucumbers, 3 Romanian bell peppers, and 3 large zucchini that I can’t believe ballooned up so quickly. They were just finger length three days ago.

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Then today I went out and found 4 more cucumbers, another huge zucchini (where did this come from), the first two cherry tomatoes, and peppers.

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I actually wasn’t planning on harvesting the peppers yet but the plants are so full I needed to thin them so the peppers could actually grow. They were all crammed against the stem and beginning to curl.

The banana peppers will be canned so they can be picked at any size really. I was just hoping to wait a bit so they’d turn red and I could have a variety of colors in the jars. Oh well, looks like there’ll be more to come (lots more) so I’m sure I’ll get the chance.

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The Anaheim I’m not sure if are ready or not. There are some websites that say to wait until they are red, while others say the green ones are fine. They sell green ones in the stores, so I’m assuming picking them will be okay.

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These I’m going to roast tomorrow and can — or if Hubby is real persuasive I might make him some chili rellenos.

Lastly, I picked what might be the last of the peas. Some of the plants are beginning to dry up and there aren’t too many flowers. I’m not sure if I should leave the plants in the ground and wait to see if they’ll produce again in the fall or if I should pull them out and plant a new crop for the fall. Any suggestions?

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Seeing the fruits of my labor really helps keep gardening in perspective and boosts my spirits in lieu of all the difficulties we’ve had this week, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.


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Taming My Zucchini

This is the first year I have planted zucchini in our garden. Last year I was given some from our neighbors and found so many wonderful uses for it, I knew I had to plant some for myself.

Being part of the squash family I felt fairly confident I’d be able to grow this, as I’d planted pumpkins in the past and enjoyed some success. Plus, everyone told me it was easy to grow and I’d have so much zucchini I wouldn’t know what to do with it.

Really? I wouldn’t know what to do with it? Well, over the winter I began collecting recipes for canning, freezing, and cooking with zucchini. Believe me, whatever the zucchini gods have in store for me, I’m ready.

Anyway, planting the zucchini wasn’t much of a problem. I just hilled up some dirt, put in the seeds, watered, and waited. Fairly quickly the seeds germinated and quickly filled in the area around the tiny a-frame I built for it. It grew and grew and grew and grew. And I just watched. Never did it occur to me that I should be doing something. The leaves were beautiful, full, and spreading like wildfire.

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Unfortunately, spreading is something I hadn’t really taken into account when I planted the zucchini. I figured it would climb the trusty A-frame and remain civil toward all the neighboring vegetables. How naive of me. Zucchini is quite a bully when it comes to being confined to a designated space. Actually “bully” is probably the wrong term here. Non-compliant would be more appropriate.

Fairly quickly the zucchini plants spread into the beets, radishes, and carrots. This might have been tolerated but when the zucchini leaves spread into the peppers and began covering several of them completely, I knew I couldn’t allow things to continue. Something had to be done.

I checked several of my gardening books, but none of them talked about pruning squash plants or how to control their spreading. They all however warned to be sure to give them enough space to grow. Oops! Was that there before? I must have skipped over that part.

The internet wasn’t much help either. Most people who pruned their zucchini had much smaller plants and they were through producing their first crops. Pruning I learned would help assure a second crop and continual crops through the summer and fall.

I also learned that most of the pruning was being done on leaves that were covered with fungus or drying up. My leaves were perfect. Aside from one Japanese beetle I found this morning, the leaves couldn’t have been in better shape. My concern was whether or not pruning a perfectly healthy plant would stunt or even stop the zucchini’s growth.

Still…I had to consider the rest of the garden. Left unchecked the zucchini would spread far into the peppers and definitely hinder growth and production. I had to chance it.

With pruning shears in hand I headed into the jungle this morning and began cutting. I cut and cut and cut and cut. Pruning is one of those things that I probably shouldn’t do, because I typically get carried away. You might recall my incident with sun scald last year on my tomatoes because of my over-zealous pruning tendencies (check out my post My Tomatoes Are Sunburned). Learning from my mistakes, however, especially in the garden, is something I have tried to force myself to do.

I first pruned all the largest leaves because I knew that they were the oldest and the outer most leaves. This gave me some room to work in as well as thinned things out considerably. Then I pruned away any leaves that were starting to turn yellow because they’d been buried under the over abundance of foliage.

Snip, snip, snip.

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Cut, cut, cut.

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Prune, prune, prune.

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Stop, stop, stop.

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Okay, an entire garbage can full of leaves later I could actually see some zucchini!

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In fact, I was able to pick 6 right away and counted more than 15 babies that will probably be ready in a few days.

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Much better! You can actually see the tiny A-frame now.

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Now the garden isn’t being over taken by the zucchini, my pepper plants are free to grow and bask in the sun, the beets have gained their ground back, and I have zucchini in hand to eat and play with. Could it get any better? Not for this gardener, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.


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The Incredible Inedible Radish!

For me growing radishes has been fairly easy. I put the seeds in the ground, cover them lightly, water and then wait a few days. It usually doesn’t take more than that for the little plants to sprout and begin their short growing period until harvest. Typically within a month to 6 weeks we are enjoying wonderfully fresh radishes. Then I replant and we wait again.

This year, however, has been a little different and I didn’t give it much thought until yesterday.

After bringing in the morning harvest I set to work on cleaning the radishes and getting them into some cold water. Anxious for my first taste of our second crop of radish I popped one into my mouth. About 10 seconds later I was spitting it out in the sink and my mouth was on fire. Never in my life had I had a radish that was so hot that I couldn’t at least choke it down. For about 15 minutes my mouth burned and even milk and bread didn’t help to sooth it.

This is part of the second planting of radish.

This is part of the second planting of radish.

Now for a bit of history, the first crop of radishes were somewhat hotter than last years crop too, but I figured it was just the variety I planted and possibly the fact that they were in a new part of the garden with different soil. Although hot, they were by no means inedible. So when the time came to replant after harvesting most of the first crop I went out and bought a package of mild non-GMO seeds. This way I figured we could actually enjoy the radishes.

To my dismay, the new crop of radishes is not only hotter than the first, but inedible. Even Hubby who can tolerate a lot hotter things than me, couldn’t stomach the hotness. Why? What in the world is going on?

Thank God for the Internet! I did a little research and learned that there are several factors that could affect the hotness of a radish.

  1. The length of time the radishes are in the ground.
  2. The radishes may have grown too slowly.
  3. The radishes are too old.
  4. The weather was too hot. Radishes need cool weather.

Well, I didn’t need to go any further. With temperatures close to 90 for nearly the past month it’s not hard to see why my radishes were so hot. I never gave it a second thought when I planted my second crop of radishes at the beginning of June when the weather was really beginning to heat up. My crop was picked just as soon as the radishes were more than a dime in size and rounded out and grew in precisely the amount of time indicated on the package. The heat is the only explanation for this.

Last year we had a much cooler summer, thereby explaining why the radishes were not even close to as hot as the ones this year.

My solution? Well first and foremost I am not going to be replanting radishes again until fall, or the 15 day forecast promises much lower temperatures. Second, the rest of the crop that is in the garden will remain there, unpicked. I will let these go to seed to enrich the soil a bit and possibly gather some seeds for planting in the fall or even next year.

True to form, gardening is a process of learning, trial and error, and an exercise in patience and perseverance. My radishes might be down, but this gardener is by no means out, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.


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July 6, 2016 Garden Harvest

Although the unrelenting heat and humidity here in Michigan has been reaping havoc on my garden, at the same time it is truly making up for it in bounty. This morning I picked radishes, carrots, peas, and beets.

Here are the radishes:

I planted a different variety of radish in hopes that these would be less hot than the first.

I planted a different variety of radish in hopes that these would be less hot than the first.

Next the carrots:

I planted three rows of carrots, twice, and this is pretty much more than half of what actually came up. Not much of a harvest, but they are sweet.

I planted three rows of carrots, twice, and this is pretty much more than half of what actually came up. Not much of a harvest, but they are sweet.

The peas:

This is the third harvest of peas and the largest yet. These will be shelled, blanched and frozen, if they don't get eaten raw while I'm shelling them.

This is the third harvest of peas and the largest yet. These will be shelled, blanched and frozen, if they don’t get eaten raw while I’m shelling them.

Finally, the beets:

I really didn’t think the beets were ready, but yesterday while I was clipping the cucumbers to the a-frame I noticed several of them popping out of the ground. Although this is okay for cylindrical beets, when a round beet does this, it’s time to pick.

I used a bushel basket to carry the load of beautiful beets with their greens attached.

I used a bushel basket to carry the load of beautiful beets with their greens attached.

This is only about half of what I planted.

This is only about half of what I planted.

Hopefully the rest of the beets will be ready in a few weeks and then I can replant in August for a fall crop.

Hopefully the rest of the beets will be ready in a few weeks and then I can replant in August for a fall crop.

I was so happy with the harvest that I just had to share some of the beets with my neighbors. They were thrilled and I was thrilled to be able to share the bounty.  In the next couple of days I should be able to start picking zucchini and a few peppers. The cucumbers have tiny pickles on the vines and the tomatoes are full of green little balls.

I guess I really shouldn’t complain about the heat because it is what’s helping the garden so much. Yet I’d really love it if we’d get just a little rain.

Another successful harvest and for this I am — Simply Grateful.


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The Beginning of July and All’s Well in the Garden

Although I am still struggling with tomato leaf curl on several of my plants, for the most part, the garden is doing well for the beginning of July.

Tomatoes:

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Peppers:

There are six different types of peppers planted in the garden: Anaheim, Jalapeno, Sweet Banana, Yellow Bell, Romanian Bell, and Pablano. Of these only the sweet banana and Romanian actually have peppers. The remaining are full of flowers and continuing to grow.

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Zucchini:

This being my first year growing zucchini, I’m very happy with the results. I think that perhaps I should have given the plants more space as they are taking over the radishes, beets, and even sneaking into the peppers. Next year I’ll know better.

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The rest of the garden:

Beets:

The beets are getting big and will probably be ready for harvest soon. I’m not too optomistic, as they seem to be small. I’m not sure the ground is soft enough for them to grow.

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Cucumbers:

The cucumbers are finally big enough to climb the a-frame and there are tons of flowers already. Without many bees around though I’m not sure how many cucumbers we’ll get this year. I might be out there pollinating the flowers myself.

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Radishes:

The second planting of radishes are doing well and will probably be ready for picking in a week or two.

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Peas:

The peas continue to flourish and I’ve picked three times now and the flowers are still coming.

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Overall everything seems to be on schedule so barring anything catastrophic, hopefully by late July we’ll be getting some pretty bountiful harvests, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.


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Pickin’ Peas and Rounding Up Radishes

The garden is really coming along, after a touch and go start this year. Already we have picked the entire first crop of radishes and replanted.

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The second crop is already up and about halfway to harvest.

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The peas are beginning to come in and I’ve been picking for a few days now.

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This could go on all summer, if it’s anything like last year.

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I think I might have to make my pea fences a bit higher, as they are already at the top.

If they do stall and start to die off, I’ll be more than happy to plant a second crop to harvest this fall. Next year I think I’ll plant even more rows, as we’ve been eating them as quick as we pick them and I don’t have any left to put up for the winter.

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Perhaps a trip to the local fruit stand is in order, not a bad thing — I just love those places, and for this I am Simply Grateful.