Archive for July, 2010

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holy romaine empire

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

It’s been a great week for picking lettuces. As in, it is so hot and humid out that I can barely keep up with trying to keep the lettuce going. So I pick. And pick. And pick. Every night after work, I pinch off the romaine leaves that are the most wilted in our lettuce patch. But I love having garden lettuce on hand. We’ve been having really yummy salads with fun toppings. And the romaine is great on sandwiches for lunch.

romaine lettuce

Sorry, I just couldn’t help myself with the title of this post. A little veggie humor for yee.

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Posted in Cooking Adventures, The Growing Season | 3 Comments »

garlic of plenty

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

So how did we celebrate our 1-year wedding anniversary yesterday, you ask? We pulled our garlic plants! Time to harvest!

We planted the original garlic cloves from one bulb of organic garlic that my Mom had given us from her local CSA last fall. It was sometime in November when I planted the four big cloves in the front of our long raised garden bed. We covered the cloves with the dead stalks and leaves from our lillies to create a kind-of hay mulch to protect the cloves over the winter.

And then we waited. And waited. And it snowed. And it was cold. And we waited some more.

And then in late March, the garlic plants poked up out of the soil.

As they grew taller and taller we got more and more excited about the prospect of harvesting garlic. But especially garlic scapes, the part of the garlic that grows squiggly out of the stem to eventually create the garlic flower. We cut the garlic scapes before they flowered and feasted on them sautéed in butter during the month of June. So good.

Once you cut the scape, the rest of the garlic plant knows to concentrate its efforts on producing a nice fat garlic bulb with new cloves at the base of the plant. And after more waiting and waiting, the plant finally starts to turn brown and shrivel leaf by leaf.

browning garlic

Earlier this month—the garlic browning process began!

Here’s what our garlic plants looked like yesterday.
browning garlic

browning garlic

This non-stop heat has done wonders to help the dying process along.

The trick is to time it perfectly when to pull the garlic up and out of the bed. Traditional wisdom says to wait until there are only 3 to 5 green leaves left. Which meant yesterday it was time! Wahooo!

Here goes nothing.

about to pull garlic

I firmly grabbed the plant about 6 inches from the base and gently tugged to loosen up the plant. And then I pulled!

freshly pulled garlic bulb

Here she comes! Freshly pulled garlic bulb!

I cannot tell you how much fun Craig and I had pulling up the garlic. We each did 2 bulbs. I swear to you, I could do that all day long. So satisfying to loosen up the soil and coax the garlic plant out of the raised garden bed. It’s been in there 9 months! Garlic baby!

freshly pulled garlic bulbs

The dying brown leaves are what makes up the part of the stalk that also creates the layers of garlic paper you see around a garlic bulb that you peel off before using.

pulled garlic

After you pull the garlic, you should set it aside in a cool, dry place (hah! good luck finding that around here!) to allow the bulbs to cure for a few weeks. Once the garlic are cured, you clip back the roots, trim the stalks down to about 6 inches, and then they are ready to be savored.

I am curing them in our basement right now. With the dehumidifier going, it’s about the only cool, dry place I can think of.

Of course, first I had to pose with them.

me and garlic

I wanna giva you-a some garlic paper for our first wedding annahversahrrrrary!

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Posted in The Growing Season | No Comments »

how to make your wife happy

Monday, July 19th, 2010

Hand-pick wildflowers* on your way home from work and give them to her to celebrate your anniversary. Simple, heartfelt, and amazing. Thank you, Craig.

anniversary bouquet

Happy first wedding anniversary to us! One year ago we climbed Mt. Washington and got married at the top. I wore hiking clothes and a gaudy 80s-style wedding veil that flapped
around everywhere in the wind. Craig wore hiking clothes and a vintage tie.

*Just not the endangered wildflower kind. Stick to black-eyed susans like Craig did or perhaps daisies or lilacs or queen anne’s lace.

Posted in The Daily Balance | 6 Comments »

i call it gardens of disgust

Monday, July 19th, 2010

Happy Monday! Hope you had a relaxing, rejuvenating weekend.

There are so many things I want to write about right now. My mind is in a jumble, and I am not sure what to write about first. Usually I would write about all the things we did or accomplished or avoided doing over the weekend. But, and sadly, first and foremost on my mind is the state of my garden squashes. Disclaimer: Usually when I write about the garden, I am happy. Thrilled! Bursting. Today, not so much.

My squashes are ill. Sick. Dying. I know I sound dramatic. But, alas, it is true. And if you spend as much time as I do nursing the garden each day, then you might be just a tad bummed out by this latest discovery.

My squash have been invaded by squash vine borers. A grody garden worm pest that basically bores into the squash vine and sets up business within your plant, robbing the vines and developing squashes of hydration and livelihood. It’s icky.

And it’s gross because no one wants to imagine wormy things taking over their squash plants. And I’m at a loss because my fellow gardening blogger, Nourishing Words, had warned of this problem about a week ago when she saw it happening in her garden. And I was all, “So sorry to hear!” instead of closely inspecting my own squash patch. I even wrote 3 days ago about how I thought my squashes were thriving.

Big mistake.

First warning sign was that my squash plants were wilting. I thought it was the heat. I mean, it has been 90°F at least each day last week. Second warning sign was that I had leaves actually yellowing and shriveling on my plants. Again, I thought it was the heat. Third warning sign was I saw squash blossoms just falling off and looking likes they were molding? Ewwww. I started thinking squash vine borers. But I didn’t know for sure.

So I picked my last “healthy” zucchini tonight.
squash vine borer zucchini

And when I twisted it off the plant like I have so many times before, I was greeted by the most fowl white grubby-looking larvae on the end all squirmy. Can’t get that image out of my head. Not what you ever want to see on the end of your beautiful zucchini.

I know, super disgusting. I won’t say anymore. And I didn’t photograph it. I had to resist the urge to scream, drop the zucchini, and run 100 yards away. Check out Nourishing Word’s post to see more in-depth detail of things to watch out for.

Gardening when all is good is amazing. Gardening when there’s a pest or a fungus or a blight sucks. What’s even more frustrating is being an organic gardener. I use organic soil and compost. Organic seed. Loving care. And still the pests come. I would not turn to chemical pesticide. But it is sort of mind-blowing to step back for a moment and ponder in awe how farmers hundreds of years before me dealt with pest after pest. When a bug or a disease meant the difference between feeding your family or starving. Between making a living selling crops or going without. And when you see it that way for just a moment, you can open your eyes to how the pesticide industry was born. Dog eat dog world. Or pest eat crop world.


I have to remind myself that I am lucky to be experimenting with organic gardening and that this is all part of the adventure. And not to swear too much while I’m busy reading a million Google pages on what to do about squash vine borers. The prognosis is grim. My plants will probably not make it. Here’s a last look at my squash bed as of today.

squash raised garden bed

Oh how looks can be deceiving. Darn squashes.

Nourishing Words suggested using Captain Jack’s Deadbug Brew, an organic treatment that features a healthy dose of spinosad. The crappy part is that I’m having trouble finding it locally. Went to a bunch of places today, and no luck.

I could order Captain Jack’s Deadbug Brew online, but by the time it gets here, my squash would be done. I have a few leads, so I am headed out tomorrow to try to track down this brew. Even by then, I fear it is too late for my squashes already. Once the larvae get in and burrow and take over the vines, it is really tough for the squash plants to recover.

Not to mention GROSS! Did I say that already. GROSS!!!

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Posted in The Growing Season | 52 Comments »

progress and proliferation

Friday, July 16th, 2010

It was just a little over 2 months ago (yikes! already!) that I planted most of my organic veggie and flower seeds. And so far I have been quite encouraged by what I’ve been able to harvest: cilantro, green onion, radishes, broccoli rabe, garlic scapes, lettuces, baby spinach, sugar snap peas, zucchini, and beans.

Everything else is still a work in progress, but coming along with a hit or miss here and there. I’ll get to my misses in more detail in a future post, but let’s just say that my carrot tops and peppers are being obliterated by some sort of munching pest. In fact, I think my carrots might be done for. I wasn’t paying them any attention when perhaps I should have been.

Not gonna dwell on carrot misfortune right now. It’s Friday! And I want to focus on all the great things happening in the garden!

Here’s a good example of excellent garden cheating. Had to do it with my corn. I originally planted 8 seed groupings of two, but only 3 plants came up.


So I broke down and bought some corn starts to supplement the corn that either failed to germinate or got eaten by chipmunks. I prefer to blame the chipmunks. They are still burrowing deep holes between the freshly planted new stalks.


I hope the newer starts will still produce even though the corn I planted from seed is much further along. I think we’re in good shape. Unless the un-mowed lawn keeps taking over. Then we’re in trouble. This weekend! This weekend! Craig, my most bestest favoritist person, will mow this weekend!

growing cucumbers

All the rain we had the other day coupled with frequent watering is helping my cucumbers along.

growing cucumbers

Craig says it’s in that looks-like-a-pickle stage.

I am definitely liking the trellis action this year. While it has given my cucumbers more growing space and it’s keeping them from spilling out onto the lawn, the watermelon and cantaloupe, however, are consuming the trellis and still going full steam ahead anywhere and everywhere the vines can go. This weekend I am going to have to go hunting for another trellis for the cantaloupe.

growing watermelon

And there she is: one itty bitty baby growing watermelon. Let’s see how long I can keep this up.

Finally after waiting and waiting, I have a summer squash starting to grow!

growing summer squash

I see more buds, so I hope the growing is just beginning.

We’ve picked 3 zucchinis so far, and I hadn’t seen any others successfully growing, so I was starting to get worried. Sometimes they start growing their little zucchini nubbin and then they turn yellow or rot. I’m sure there’s perfectly good reasons for why this happens, but I almost don’t want to know. However, after the rain I spotted new, good growth.

Hope these zucchs continue to stay healthy.

And, of course, I will end again with more flowering zinnias. They are a dwarf variety and they are pretty cute. I’m a little bummed that the flower stem part is only about 2″ long, so it kind of makes it hard to cut them for a bouquet. I suppose I could put them in a teacup? The colors are vibrant and new shades keep blooming.


Pay absolutely no attention to the giant weed right in the middle. This weekend! This weekend! I WILL weed this weekend.

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Posted in The Growing Season | 6 Comments »

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