Sunday, June 25, 2006

I love refrigerator pickles

I made my first batch of refrigerator pickles today. They are the reason I plant cucumbers at all. I used this cute little vintage crock that just wouldn't sell on eBay. I decided to keep it since it is so perfect for my pickles. This batch is made with a cup of apple cider vinegar, 1/3 cup sugar, 1 tsp pickling salt, 2 chopped cloves garlic and some celery seed. It seems I change recipes every year trying to reach pickle nirvana -- I like them a little sweet, a little garlicky and a little hot. I'll try adding red pepper flakes to the next batch.

Unfortunately the pickles aren't made with my cucumbers. I swapped some garlic and sugar snaps with my neighbor for 2 cucumbers, a yellow squash and a cabbage from her garden. It is nice to have a gardening neighbor to trade varieties with. I had to pull out half my cucumbers today -- they had been looking so good -- then boom wilted leaves. Cucumber blight. Apparently there is no way to save them, just pull out the plant and dispose of it, before all the plants are infected. It's carried by that little striped Cucumber beetle. Hopefully it won't get all my plants. It got them last year, but I did move them to the other side of the garden this year. Oh well. I'll just have to hope Nola has a banner crop.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

How's it growin'

Here's what it looked like today -- shot up quite a bit since the last photo. Today I did work a little fertilizer around the tomatoes and peppers -- we'll see if it makes any difference. I have been quite good about going out every morning and weeding one or two squares. The humidity has finally set in though, so we'll see if I can keep it up.

Love those root crops

I seem to be having the best luck with my root crops this year -- though I did finally notice a few tomatoes actually starting on my sickly plants. Anyway -- I dug my first few garlic heads and have them hanging in the shed to cure. I couldn't resist cracking one open though and trying it -- sauteed 2 sliced cloves in olive oil and tossed with pasta and fresh basil -- so good. The heads came out very well -- nice and large considering I planted run-of-the-mill grocery store garlic last October. I still have about 6 more heads to pull -- what to do with all the garlic is now the question -- considering no one else in the house likes it (what a surprise).

They do, however, like carrots. I was thining my over-wintering Meridia carrots (supposed to take 150 days to mature) and pulled out these 6-inch long beauties. They have a great flavor too -- better than the Short and Sweet I also planted. I started a couple more rows of carrots - one in front of the tomatoes and another where I pulled some potatoes last week -- at least everyone will eat them. I have had a small success though. Emma actually eats the Bibb lettuce without complaint -- baby steps.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Golden beets

I know I am over-blogging but I just had to post about these beets. I pulled three golden beets today -- I should have left them a bit longer they weren't very big, but I couldn't resist. The rosy-gold color of the peel is so pretty -- I should take one to the paint store to get the color mixed. Anyway -- I roasted the beets in foil (425 for about 35 mins) til they were soft and sauteed the chopped greens in olive oil with a clove of garlic. Added the sliced beets at the end and tossed it all with a bit of balsamic vinegar with a tsp of sugar mixed in. I am not a person who usually eats cooked greens, but this was one of the more delicious things I have ever eaten. Note to self -- plant many more golden beets.

Sensei RIP

Poor Sensei. Maggie finally got ahold of the big koi. I found a shower of scales and a tail at the bottom of the pond this morning when I went to feed them. Maggie must have gotten her when she jumped in yesterday. I thought they were both goners, but Bailey went out and saw little Ninja II swimming around. I'm going to try to get Steve to retrieve the tail -- I don't think I can quite deal with that little chore. I'll spare you the pond photo.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Field Trip

Bailey, Maggie and I took a drive today to Bernheim Forest & Arboreteum in Claremont, KY -- about 20 miles south of Louisville. It is a terrific place with kind of a split personality -- part manicured looking lakes, gardens and collections of hollies and other types of shrubs -- all neatly labeled -- and part wilderness with miles of trails for hiking. We took in a bit of both. Leashed dogs are allowed, so Maggie was able to come with us, though she pulled so hard I thought she was going to choke. We hiked a 1.3 mile trail - a loop so we couldn't get lost - though it seemed like more since it was virtually straight up then nearly straight down. It was nice since we didn't see a single soul until we got back to the trail head -- very serene, lots of green filtered light. Bailey didn't complain (which was surprising since she fell a few times when we were on the downhill side)and I didn't have a stroke on the way up (also surprising the way my heart was pounding). We then drove down for a walk around the garden and lake. There was a nice Garden Gazebo -- all enclosed -- that reminded me of a view at Mt. Vernon -- must be the cupola -- and about 100 geese at the lake.

Not too much was in bloom, though I did find a few interesting plants and combinations. The first pic is a dwarf sage - I have a little sage collection myself, but I haven't seen that variety. The second is Stokes Aster and the third (the darker feathery foliage on the left) is Arkansas Amsonia and the last is a tall bellflower. Bailey was particulary impressed by all the tall grass in the Quiet Garden.

They have a great little visitor's center with an ice cream shop and interactive teaching displays. The building itself is a teaching tool with information about building structures that are more in tune with the environment. It has a planted, living roof to decrease run-off and to off-set the green space lost when the building was constructed. It operates with available-daylight-only lighting and they were busy constructing holding tanks for run-off water to use to flush toilets and other gray-water chores. The parking lot was even constructed so run-off was channeled through an area planted with mushrooms that break down the oil and other petroleum in the water into carbon dioxide (I think that is what it was -- well something good anyway).

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Perfect weather

For some reason the humidity has stayed away and we had just a beautiful day after some thunderstorms this weekend. I took advantage of the damp ground to pull a ton of weeds -- I also went thru the strawberries and got out most of the rotten ones -- there are still some good ones coming on. Things seem to be growing a bit better -- the cucumbers are looking okay -- with a few flowers starting, the beans as well. I have a pepper plant with a good sized jalapeno on it (though the plant itself isn't more than 12 inches tall). My experimental artichoke has even started to take off. There were a few potato plants that had withered -- I pulled them up and got 3 cute little potatoes. I had them for lunch with some parsley, a bunch of blanched sugar snap peas and a salad of garden lettuce and radishes. I felt quite virtuous after such a healthy (and free) lunch -- but totally made up for it with a big plate of nachos for dinner.

My neighbor is on vacation and I've been looking after her garden -- I must say I totally have zucchini envy. Hers are gorgeous and huge -- mine are puny and washed-out looking. And these lush tomatoes -- for the record -- are my leftover Brandy Boy seedlings. None of mine survived. I will have to get a few of hers to see what they taste like.

Saturday, June 10, 2006


What am I going to do with this dog! I blocked off the entrance to the pond garden, but she finds a way in. Everytime someone leaves a door open, I hear a splash and find her standing full in the pond bobbing for fish. I swatted her on the nose this time -- "bad dog"just isn't getting through. The fish have had it, I think. I reached in to move the flowerpots and the waterlily after one of Maggie's incursions and the big fish jumped right out of the water at me!

This second pic is only related to gardening in the most tenuous way. It is a bead and wirework peapod pendant I made last night. Beading is my other hobby. The instructions were in this month's Beadwork mag. It came out a little large -- 4 inches long. I may make it into a pin and make a couple smaller ones for a necklace.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Kitchen cupboard chemistry

Well it may very well be operator error, but the home-made pest control potion I put on my plants to rid them of hopper and aphids and the like, kind of fried the leaves. It might make a good weed killer! It was a mixture of vinegar, tobasco sauce and liquid soap. The picture shows 2 leaves on one of my cucumber plants. I did apply it on a warm day in direct sun -- probably should have waited till there was a bit of shade or until evening. It may also me that my Lavendar-scented Anti-Stress Palmolive dish soap wasn't the best form of "liquid soap" to use. Oh well, it only killed a few leaves - live and learn.

However - I was also brewing up a batch of hot pepper tea -- water, hot pepper flakes and a few drops of soap -- that is supposed to work on aphids, cabbage loppers, etc., and now am not sure if I should try it.

Another rainy day today -- I didn't even set foot out back. Yesterday I did get Emma to help me clean out the front fish pond and set the waterfall up again after Hurricane Maggie knocked all the rocks in the pond and disconnected the pump. Poor fish -- they are real survivors -- opaque water and no food for months. Now we can see them -- Ninja II and Sensei (named by anime-loving Emma). One is a koi about 12 inches long, the other is a goldfish about 6 inches long -- both spotted. I sunk a couple of flower pots in the bottom of the pond so they would have something to hide in when Maggie jumps in. I just need to remember to clean the filter ever couple of weeks to keep it from getting so disgusting. Cleaning the whole thing is such a pain.

If the rain lets up tomorrow I will work on that whole pond garden -- it's a 5 by 15 foot nook between the house and the garage -- and has been neglected all spring (we've had it blocked off since Maggie's sudden discover of the fish - it only took her 2 years). It's such a warm little microclimate that the tall lilies are already almost done blooming and the hostas are throwing up their flower stalks already.

Saturday, June 03, 2006


My 16 Red Fairy roses along the front wall are starting to bloom and this year they are finally weeping over the wall the way I had hoped they would. Now I just have to keep them from losing all their leaves by the end of the month as they have the past 2 years -- the leaves at the centers of each plant were all yellow and dropped at the lightest touch and had little black spots -- so I guess that would be black spot. I was going to remove all the foliage as was recommended -- but the pounding rain yesterday knocked them all off. I guess I will get a little rake and remove them. There is also a recipe in the Trowel & Error book for roses with black spot that's worth a try -- 2 tsp baking soda, 2 qts water & 1/2 tsp of liquid soap or Murphy's Oil Soap. The book also says that dissolving uncoated asprin in water and using it as a foliar spray works on fungus infections like black spot and rust.

On a semi-related topic I have noticed that taking pictures for this blog has done wonders for my garden. I went out to take the pics of the veg garden yesterday -- looked around and spent 2 hours weeding. I took the picture of the front walk, looked at it and went out and pulled all (well nearly all) the weeds in the cracks in the front walk and steps and took the picture again!

June 1st

I have high hopes for June. I think May weather held the garden back again -- or just me jumping the gun as usual -- some friends of mine are just now planting. The date of the Kentucky Derby is what most people go by around here -- the first Saturday in May. They say after Derby it's safe to plant. I was done way before then, of course -- likely why nothing has really taken off. After I took my June 1 progress photo we got just buckets of rain -- parts of the road flooded -- at least for a few hours. This morning it looks like things are starting to grow -- the tomatoes seem to have grown a few inches overnight and the peppers too. The Kwintus beans are also winding their way up their supports.

On the down side - all my hostas and black-eyed susans in the side garden are riddled with holes -- I'll have to figure out what's getting them. I checked this really interesting book out of the library the other day -- Trowel & Error: Over 700 Shortcuts, Tips & Remedies for the Gardener, by Sharon Lovejoy. It has a lot of interesting advice on everything from organizing your tools and handy ways to recycle items for use in the garden, to planting tips, to recipes for pest and disease control, etc. Most just use things you'd have in your cupboard -- I may try the Healthy HollyHock spray (mine always look awful) -- 1.5 tsp baking soda, 1 tbs canola oil, 1/2 tsp soap, 1/2 cup vinegar and 1 gallon of water. I have it all and it's worth a try. I may actually have to buy this book myself.