What an interesting growing season this has been.  It’s hard to believe that we live in a desert with it raining like 3 times a week and all.  Being a water conservationist it’s hard for me to complain about the rain, but the long cool spring has definitely affected the growth of my plants. While the tomatoes came on late, some of mine are now 8′ tall and producing pounds every other day.  Bring on the tomato glut!

                                              "Tomato Matrix," Hunter Merritt, 2011

What hasn’t bounced back so well are my peppers.  They are just dinky and sad this year with small fruit and very low yields.  I have one pepper plant that never grew over 4″.  One problem I have every year is my peppers ripening unevenly.  To compound this problem, it seems half the peppers get sun-scorched ta boot, rendering half the pepper inedible.  Anyone have any pepper growing suggestions?

                                                     Hunter's Garden, 2011

For some reason my okra JUST sprouted a week ago.  I thought I had bunk seeds.  It grows crazy fast and is already producing pods.  Eggplants are doing reasonably well with the hybrids putting my heirlooms to shame in terms of production.  The pinto beans have been producing steadily and I’m drying the beans for storage.  My edamame plants look large and healthy but have only recently started putting out pods.  A star performer for me this year has been spaghetti squash, yay!

As far as fertilization goes…

I’m pretty good about using liquid fertilizer every 2-3 weeks.  I started off with straight fish emulsion, then began adding Morbloom when the plants started flowering, and now I’m giving them straight Morbloom.  Let me clarify that I only use half the recommended dilution when using Morbloom.  I’ve gotten grief form my friends that Morbloom isn’t organically derived, but it’s what I had left from last season and it works.  The  12+ tomatoes on each plant verify this.   One of the arguments I heard against it was that non-organic fertilizers destroy the healthy soil bacteria and fungi.  My engineer brain can’t resist a good research project, so I tried to verify this claim on the interwebs.  While there is much anecdotal ballyhoo on Organic gardening websites about this, I could not find any scientific research to back up this claim.  In fact, I found a few legitimate studies that effectively demonstrated no change in the concentrations of soil organisms when using chemical fertilizers.  If anyone has some more information about this, please share…


“Cuc’s and Eggplant,” Hunter Merritt 2011

Speaking of soil biome and fertilization, I mounded mulch around all of my plants a few weeks ago and the results have been dramatic. My rows are spaced closer than I’d like and I had been noticing that the soil around the plants was getting compacted because of walking on the clay-ey soil.  I was kind of chintzy when I top dressed my garden with compost before planting; only putting down a 2” layer or so.   If you can pick out the eggplants in the picture with the cucumber trellising, the one on the right is at least twice as big as the one of the left. As you can guess, the one on the right got a mound of compost mid-season, and the one of the left inadvertently didn’t. I never really thought much about adding compost midseason but I’m here to say it works!

Hunter

So is anyone else having trouble keeping up with the produce in their garden? I’m so excited for harvest season- you finally get to see the fruits (literally) of all your labors!  My tomatoes are finally changing color, the basil is getting bushier, I’ve been harvesting beans and cucumbers the last month or so, my peppers are going crazy and now I’ve got zucchini to deal with….  Along with the steady supply of kale, chard, beets, micro greens and carrots supplied in my CSA from BUG Farms, I’ve started falling behind in actually eating and preserving all of this nutritiousness.

And it’s just the beginning of harvest season!

So what to do?  Tell me.   How do I keep all this stuff from going to waste?  Eat more veggies right?  And maybe do some canning or something?  Right.  But it’s not that easy, as I’m sure you all know.   Don’t get me wrong, I do my fair share of veggie crunching, but you can only eat so many raw veggies before needing a change in texture.   Let’s face it, a lot of veggies taste better when they’re cooked or prepared in interesting and delicious ways.   That’s why humans invented the art of cooking- and it is an art!  As much time as we’ve all spent on our garden, now we’ve got to put just as much effort into cooking, preserving, freezing, drying and eating our yummy fruits and veggies.

So let’s make a deal and help each other.  I’ll share some recipes if you share yours!

Together we will become culinary artists of the masterful kind.

Here are some ideas I’ve come up with so far:

Fresh Bruschetta- one of my all time favorites!

Baguette, olive oil, fresh mozzarella, garden fresh tomatoes and basil leaves, salt, pepper.

Slice fresh baguette, brush or rub with olive oil, add a slice of fresh mozzerella, tomato, salt and pepper.  Put basil leaves on top.  Enjoy!

 

 


Shredded Beet and Carrot Salad

I haven’t tried this one yet, but I have a lot of beets and carrots to eat.  Doesn’t it look beautiful?  Check out the link.  I think adding apples to this would be delicious.

Kale Chips

Put parchment paper or aluminum foil on baking pan.  Chop stems off kale, chop in smaller pieces if you’d like.  Drizzle and toss with olive oil.  Add salt and pepper to taste or Cajun seasoning.  Bake at 400 F until crispy or desired texture.  About 15-20 min.

 

 

 

Sauteed beans and greens

Chop and string beans, chop off stems and chop up kale, chard, pok choi and/or spinach greens.  Saute garlic first in butter or oil, then add beans.  After 5 min add greens.  Saute for about 5-10 more min, just until wilted and bright green- don’t over cook.

Veggie Lasagna with Zucchini and Chard

I made this last week and it was amazing!  The recipe is in “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone” by Deborah Madison I substituted the eggplant for zucchini.

Pickles, “Dilly Beans” and Pickled Peppers

I use this recipe for all three except I add a spicy pepper per jar, grape leaves (1-2 per jar) and sometimes powdered alum (these two help keep them crunchy).   I like to cut the cucumbers into spears and cut off the ends.  The beans I cut off the ends.  The peppers I put in the jar whole.

Here’s a great resource I found about  freezing, drying, canning and storing produce from Wasatch Community Gardens…

Also some good canning and preserving info from Utah State University Extension.

I need to do more freezing.  And get a bigger freezer.  Freezer salsa is next on the list!

Ok, now it’s your turn.  What do you do with all of your produce?


So let me start off by saying….I feel a little embarrassed.  Maybe that’s why I haven’t written for a while.

Here’s what my “giant” pumpkin looks like right now:

And here’s what an experienced giant pumpkin grower’s giant pumpkin looks like right now:

The bees are doing there job, so that’s not the problem.


I’m just a little behind…What can I say, I’m a beginner at growing gigantic pumpkins.  And I got a late start this spring….Hey, we all learn from our mistakes.  Before you throw me a pity party, let’s remind ourselves that my goal was to grow a pumpkin boat, which if I’m not being too idealistic, I think I might be able to pull off with maybe 200-300 lb pumpkin.  Maybe.   The experienced pumpkin growers, like the one growing the beautiful pumpkin above, on the other hand, are looking to grow a record breaking pumpkin- upwards of 1000 lbs!  So hey, let’s not give up hope for my little pumpkin quite yet.   I’ve still got some time right?  Even if it frosts in September as it sometimes does, I’ve got a whole month of growth left.. If mine grows as fast as most giant pumpkins do, I think I should be able to pull off at least a tiny version of a giant pumpkin in comparison….If the frost stays away till October, which it sometimes does, I might even still have a chance at growing that pumpkin boat I’ve been dreaming about.  Who knows?

Keep your fingers crosses and let’s wait and see!

Lessons from the giant pumpkin:

-Get a head start. Build a hoop house; start the pumpkin in the hoop house in April.

-Be diligent about training the vines (let the main vine grow straight down the middle, and carefully but diligently bury the secondary vines to help grow more roots and bring up more nutrients from the soil).  I started doing this, but haven’t kept up with it…giant pumpkin growing can be a full time job.  Already have one of those:)!

-Don’t grow anything else in your pumpkin patch
(you can see in my picture that I let some volunteer tomatoes and other squash grow in the same space [remember all of that fresh compost I added to my new garden? looks like it was full of seeds!] – they’re doing well but taking nutrients away from the pumpkin plant).

-Don’t give up hope! Keep fertilizing and maintaining your pumpkin patch even if you get behind:)

-Krystal

It may be hard to imagine cooler weather right now in the midst of the hot August sun, but believe it or not, NOW is the time to plant all of your cool-weather-loving crops for fall harvests.  In fact, this weekend may be even the perfect time.
Average planting dates for fall crops range from July 1st-August 10th depending on the crop, so you’ll still make it into this  planting window if you plant within the next 5 days.

Check out what we planted yesterday in our new demonstration grow boxes at our warehouse!

Beets:



Early Wonder                                Chioggia                                                      Bull's blood
48-60 days                                      55 days                                                            55 days

Beans:

Top Notch Wax                Blue Lake Lake Bush 274
50-55 days                                     58 days

Lettuce: