August 15, 2011

Canning, Preserving and Freezing, Oh My! (And a Simple, Yet Fabulous Recipe for Refrigerator Dill Pickles!)

Canning, Preserving and Freezing, Oh My!

It's that time of year again...The time to save some of your harvest for use during the winter. My three favorite methods include canning, preserving and freezing. I also dry things like fruit or tomatoes from time to time too.

Living on the side of a mountain has its perks. It's cooler up here than down in the valley, even though we've had some miserably hot days this summer all together, we tend to get a bit more rain and you can't beat the view! Well the view isn't really a perk I suppose, but it's enjoyable none the less. I'm an ocean/water girl by nature, but I have to say this view has really, really grown on me.

The bad thing about living on the side of a mountain in the middle of nowhere Central Maryland is the wildlife! Daily residents in our yard include ground hogs, who are voracious little rats, rabbits, who are pretty voracious themselves, deer, who well are pretty voracious too, along with a sundry other creatures (including a few SNAKES eek!) that all mill about. The thing these beasties have in common? They love to eat anything that I plant in my "garden"!

Meet one of our resident groundhogs:

One of our resident groundhogs: AKA Satan

Or Satan as I have dubbed him. Sure he looks all sweet and cute sitting there munching on rotten apples that have fallen from the tree, which I'm more than happy to share with him and his little fuzzy family, but he's really an evil little thief of massive proportions! Don't let his charming little demeanor fool you...This guy is trouble!

Despite having numerous tomato plants this year all of the ripe ones have been eaten by the deer, ground hogs and rabbits before I have gotten to enjoy them. Luckily we have a few nice Farmer's Markets around the area each week as well as a nearby orchard that has a multitude of various fruits and vegetables so I've been buying my tomatoes from them.

I have beautiful tomatoes:

Green Tomato

But once this sucker starts turning the least bit red one of my yard critters will end up eating it before I get the chance. Excuse me while I grumble a moment about evil animals.....

Where was I?


The only type of tomatoes I've grown this year they haven't munched is my cherry tomatoes:

Cherry Tomatoes

And let me tell you these little guys are good, but sometimes you want something a little bigger than these little gems.

Tomato Sauce

For the past few years toward the end of summer I've purchased bushels upon bushels of what they call "second tomatoes". What are second tomatoes? They're the tomatoes that grow into a weird shape, or have a blemish here, or a spot there. There is nothing wrong with these tomatoes, but some people can't see past their "ugly" (And I use this term sarcastically...Who cares what it looks like as long as it tastes ok??!!?!) exterior. You may have to cut a spot out here or there, but they are still perfectly good tomatoes to eat, can or even freeze. Don't let the look of something fool you. You know like the groundhog we mentioned above! ;oP

The National Center for Home Food Preservation has a bevy of information if you're interested in preserving your own food. They have detailed information on the methods you need to use and their instructions on canning is invaluable. The recipes, the techniques and everything are right there. My mom got their "cookbook" a few years ago and I've used the soup out of that thing! I use their water bath method to can my tomatoes and tomato sauce.

I also like to take fresh fruit and make fruit fillings for desserts during the winter by freezing them for use later. So far this summer I've froze several jars of peach, cherry and blueberry fillings. It's extremely easy to do these, you just cook them with a little sugar until the berries are soft. You remove the fruit from the heat, let it cool (it will thicken as it cools) and then place the mixture in a wide mouthed quart sized glass jar with an inch of head room at the top, put the lid on and then freeze them.

How easy is that?

To use the fillings you just take them out of the freezer, let them thaw and then you can make pie, cake, pastries, sauce, ice cream, etc. The blueberries just go in whole, with the juice and zest of a lemon, the cherries just have to be pitted and the peaches peeled, pitted and mashed. As I mentioned above you add a little sugar and cook until the fruit is soft. These little fillings are pretty easy to do and taste better than anything you'd ever buy at the grocery store.

Another favorite thing this time of year for me is pickling cucumbers! These cucumbers have such a lovely, crisp, fresh taste and as their name implies they make fabulous pickles! I'm going to share with you a really simple, quick refrigerator pickle that are simply fabulous! Let's get to it shall we?

Refrigerator Dill Pickles

What You'll Need For The Refrigerator Dill Pickles:
1/4 cup of black peppercorns
1 tablespoon of sea salt
2 teaspoons of organic cane sugar
2-4 cloves of garlic, crushed (optional)
2 tablespoons of dried dill
1 bunch of fresh dill
Pickling cucumbers (Note: These are the smaller, crisp cucumbers that are abundant during the summer.)
1 1/2 cups of vinegar (Note: I like apple cider vinegar for this, but you can use plain white vinegar instead.)

Place peppercorns, sea salt, sugar, garlic and dill in a quart sized canning jar. Slice cucumbers and add to the jar until you reach 1/2 inch from the top of the jar. Pour in vinegar and then fill up the rest of the jar with water. Give the jar a shake to mix up the ingredients and place in the fridge for at least 24 hours before serving.

Pickles last about 2 months in the fridge.

Notes: You could also add in some red or Vidalia onion strips to the mix as well.

Posted by Dianne at 3:27 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

August 12, 2009

What's For Dinner? Plus Week 13 Of Our CSA And A Peak At What We're Harvesting At Home!

First up let's take a peak at our CSA bag this week!

CSA Week 13

We got zucchini, squash, another melon, some more hard necked garlic, more basil, yellow snap beans, fingerling potatoes, peppers, tomatoes and edamame!

The basil went in with the basil from the previous weeks:

CSA: Three Weeks Worth Of Basil!

How's that for a big bunch of basil! I have used some of it, but still haven't gotten around to drying it yet. Still no room in the freezer for pesto either! That's about 18 inches of basil from one side to the other!

Now let's give you an idea of what's starting to come in in our little front porch container "garden" every few days or so:

From Our "Garden"

Alexis usually munches on what we pick faster than I can get a photograph! Tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, eggplant, jalapeñoes and potatoes! We've also had some bell peppers, a few chick peas that we've been munching on right off the plant, some banana peppers and peas.

If you noticed in the background of the top CSA picture there are some apples that came off our trees. Out of all of our apples that the tree made, we were able to save 6 of them! The deer got the rest. Oh well! I'm going to do a garden update soon...I just need to find the time to sit down and write down what is happening!

Now let's talk about dinner!


Yesterday totally got away from me and I didn't get around to posting What's For Dinner? so I'm going to give you two for the price of one today!

Last night we had barbeque chicken from the slow cooker, roasted fingerling potatoes and fresh tomatoes with ranch dressing.

Tonight we're having turkey cutlets, yellow snap beans, brown rice, tomatoes and cucumbers.

What are you having?

Posted by Dianne at 12:49 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 9, 2009

Garden Update Three 2009

What's Happening in the Garden Graphic

So this morning we're going to do a garden update. I thought I had a ton of recipes from which to pick to share with you, but after looking at them I'm not really happy with any of them! So it's back to the drawing board on that front, but for now we'll take a look at what is going on in my "garden" so far. I'm very pleased on that front! A lot has changed since our last update so let's get started!

The Whole Shebang

First off let me show you my favorite little water girl (minus her face of course :o)):

Water Girl

For those of you who didn't know you can wear wellies with anything, including your pink night gown. Apparently wellies are an all purpose shoe as far as Alexis is concerned! ;oP

Now let's take a look at the two lavender pots! In pot one we have lavender with a pumpkin plant:

Lavender and Pumpkin

I've never grown this type of plant in a pot before. This is my little experiment. So far so good!

In the other lavender pot I planted a few sunflower seeds and one of them has actually sprouted:

Lavender and Sunflower

There's also a little faerie cap that keeps popping up there too (i.e. mushroom) that you can see there off to the right. I keep yanking it, but it keeps wanting to grow. Oh well. It isn't hurting anything.

After a slow start the sweet potato plant is really taking off!:

Sweet Potatoes

Either the ground hog or some of the deer around here have munched off a few of the leaves. Luckily they appear to have wandered on without actually eating the entire plant, or anything else on the porch. Sometimes wildlife annoys me!

The regular potatoes are moving right along too:


My favorite marigolds:


Sometimes the little things make me happy.

When I can keep Alexis from munching them all the herbs are doing their thing:


Her favorites being parsley and rosemary. She eats them right out of the pot!

The squash in the other herb pot is coming right along:

Squash and Herbs

In fact we've got some little squash!:


And the other herb pots and squash is doing great as well:

Herbs and Squash

I've been using a lot of fresh herbs. I love being able to walk out on the front porch and snip to my heart's content!

We have tomatoes galore! Mostly still green, but one or two have ripened so far. We have a bunch of little cherry tomatoes waiting to become ripe morsels:

Cherry Tomatoes

Also lots of big tomatoes and some yellow pear tomatoes too:


The zebra stripe tomato plant is growing, but so far not blooming:

Peas and Zebra Tomato

It's hanging out between the peas, which have almost done their thing, but are still hanging in there since it hasn't gotten too hot yet. They are starting to show their age though.

Now peppers! We've got bell peppers:

Bell Pepper

We've got sweet banana peppers, which are Alexis' favorites and she actually munched on right after I took this picture:

Banana Pepper

And last, but not least Jalapeños:


The eggplants are coming along:


I took this picture a few days ago and that particular eggplant has already tripled in size at least. I love watching things grow! It's amazing how fast it happens sometimes!

I've got a ton of baby cucumbers coming along:

Little Cucumber

Dill pickles here we come!

The Big Mama Lima beans (also a favorite of Miss G) are growing like gangbusters!:

Big Mama Lima Beans and Black Garbanzo Beans

They just started blooming. The black garbanzo beans are there too, but they haven't done much yet except for be a plant. We'll see how things go.

I finally got the last hanging pot planted too:

Cucumbers, Squash/Zucchini and Purple Green Beans

The only thing that I know for sure are in this pot is purple green beans, which haven't produced enough to have a batch to cook so I've been snacking on them raw. So good! the other plants could either be zucchini, squash and/or cucumbers. We'll just have to wait until they actually produce to know for sure.

So that's where I am now. How are you gardens doing?

Posted by Dianne at 9:38 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

June 9, 2009

Garden Update Two 2009: Things Are Moving Along!

What's Happening in the Garden Graphic

I've been meaning to do a garden update for weeks now, but haven't gotten around to it, so today you're just lucky! ;oP

As I mentioned in my first update I'm doing a strictly container garden situation this year. Last year I planted the big garden and due to unforeseen circumstances it got completely out of control! So this year we joined the CSA and I decided to plant a container garden as well.

This is the basic set up:

The Whole Shebang

Herbs, tomatoes, peas, spinach, potatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, peppers, flowers, oh my!

First up let's talk some potatoes! I have never tried to grow potatoes in pots before, but when I purchased my tomato "pots" I came across these potato "pots". They are made of a felt like material. You fill them up with dirt, plant your potatoes and it claims you can get up to 20 pounds of potatoes from one pot. We'll see if that actually comes to bear, but for now I'm really impressed with the progress!

This is the pot with the regular potatoes:


I purchased organic seed potatoes to try. I can't remember the exact variety I purchased, but I believe it was Yukon gold. If this works out I'll be saving a couple of potatoes for seeding next year!

I also started a pot with sweet potatoes:

Sweet Potatoes

As you can see the sweet potatoes aren't going as fast. I couldn't find seed potatoes for sweet potatoes so I'm trying it on my own. These may not actually make anything but pretty green leaves, but we'll see!

This pot has two green zebra tomatoes sprouting:

Green Zebra Tomatoes

I'll move one of them if the little one makes it. Right now he's not showing signs of doing anything but sprouting.

Lots of tomato blooms too!:

Tomato Blossoms

Some little tomatoes too, but I didn't get a good shot of them...I so miss my DSLR!

I have four hanging bags with things in them right now. Here are three of them:

Tomatoes, Peppers, Cucumbers and Eggplant

As you can see they are moving right along. Two of the hanging bags have various types of tomatoes, one has various types of peppers:


And one has cucumbers and eggplant:

Cucumbers and Eggplant

The other bag will be planted with green beans, squash and cucumbers that are still in their sprouting containers:

Parsley, Cucumbers, Squash and Green Beans

I plan to get these planted in the next day or so. By the way, yogurt containers make fabulous sprouting vessels!

The spinach is growing, growing, growing!:


I'll be harvesting this today.

The peas are blooming away:


One pot has shell peas and the other has snow peas.

I also planted some black chick peas and Big Mama Lima beans:

Chick Peas and Lima Beans

These are two of Alexis' all time favorite foods!

The herbs are herbing:

Herbs and Squash

Herbs and Squash


As you can see I've got a couple of squash plants tucked in there too! I've been using some fresh herbs too. I just love being able to walk out and snip a little of this and that!

The roses are blooming:


Funnily enough I don't really care for store bought roses, but I do love the home grown variety! How can you not love this?:

A Rose By Any Other Name...

I didn't actually plant these...They "came with the house"! But I'm enjoying them all the same!

And now the petunias!


I have several pots of petunias, this is just one of them, but I love them none the less! I normally plant purple, white, red and a purple/white hybrid, but this year I couldn't find the red variety or the purple/white hybrid, so it's just white and purple.

I also ended up with lavender in pots on either side of the front door:


This was a complete accident! I had meant to get rosemary, and that's what I normally plant next to the front door, but I happened to grab two lavender plants instead, which were sitting right next to the rosemary. Oh well. Lavender doesn't normally do anything the first year. I doubt they will make it through the winter in pots, but we'll see.

I also have some marigolds sprouting:


I'll most likely transplant some of these to the flower bed. These remind me of grandfather, though I couldn't tell you why.

So who else is gardening this year? Who isn't, but wants to be? Do you have a traditional garden or are you doing something a bit unconventional? I'm curious....

Posted by Dianne at 10:56 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

April 7, 2009

Garden Update One 2009: It's Spring! So Now It's Time To Start Gardening!

What's Happening in the Garden Graphic

It's that time of year again...Time to start having garden updates! This year I'm going to do things a little bit differently. I will update about my garden every week or so. I'm planning on doing container gardening this year exclusively, but you might be surprised by some of the things I end up planting!

As I plant I'll fill you in on what's going on and my garden entry will be my entry for the day. It's fun for me to be able to see what I've planted, what worked, what didn't, how things are progressing, etc. I know many of you enjoy it too because you e-mailed me last summer after I stopped updating about progress when my garden got out of control due to some unforeseen stuff that popped up in our life and I didn't want to show you my big bunch of weeds! ;oP

So let's get start today shall we?

As I mentioned above this year I am going the container route. This weekend I got two containers of spinach, one container of snow peas, one container of shell peas and some herbs planted. I also moved most of my pots outdoors to either the patio or the front porch.

First off let me show you the planters I like, and also tell you what kind of potting material I like to use.

Garden Update One 2009: Ready To Plant

As you can see above I like to use rectangular planters for the most part, especially for spinach and peas. These are also great for petunias too, but we're not quite to petunia season yet! These guys are great because they can fit over the rail of a porch or a deck. Unfortunately our front porch rails are slightly raised in the middle so I can't use them in that capacity right now, but they look great sitting on the ground too as you'll see in a bit.

To start out with I like to use a good organic potting mix. I also like to combine some compost in if its available. In a few weeks if needed I'll add some all natural fertilizer. You don't always need to add it though. You just need to keep an eye on things.

Last year I mentioned that I make up an organic pest control solution and several of you asked me about it, but I forgot to share. Well better late than never I guess! ;oP

Here's my mix/method:

Grab a big stock pot. Fill it up with garlic and hot peppers (I normally use cayenne peppers that I've grown and dried the year before and saved). Cover it with water, bring to a quick boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and let cook for 30 minutes to an hour. Remove from heat, let cool completey and strain the liquid before putting it into spray bottles. Use to spray directly on your plants. It works great! If you don't want to make your own though you can always check out hot pepper wax too.

Another good pest solution is marigolds and garlic. You can plant marigolds and a clove of garlic here and there to help ward of pests too! Marigolds work particularly well with tomatoes and herbs. I like to plant garlic with my flowers and herbs too!

I always plant several planters with herbs. You can NEVER have too many herbs in my opinion! Saturday at My Organic Market I picked up a basil plant and some potted chives. I decided to add them into my planter that already had peppermint sprouting again from last year!

Garden Update One 2009: Herbs

Now the trick is keeping Alexis out of it long enough for it to grow! I've already caught her twice munching on the basil! She is SO my child! ;oP This is the first of several herb pots that will come together over the next few weeks.

For now I have the spinach, herbs and peas pushed up against the house since it is still getting a bit cool at night to keep them somewhat sheltered:

Garden Update One 2009: Spinach, Herbs And Peas All In A Row

The two metal pots on the windows are herbs and strawberries. We planted them a month or so ago as one of Lex's science experiments. I decided it was time to move them outside as well!

In a few weeks I'll pull the planters out to the front of the porch.

I also plan to do some experimenting with hanging/upside down plantings this year! That will come in a few weeks once it warms up enough to start planting vegetables! So stay tuned!

Now let's oh and ah over some spring things! They may not be edible, but humor me! ;oP

You may or may not know that my favorite flower is the daffodil. The house we live in now actually has two varieties growing!

First there is a pale whitish petal with a yellow center:

Garden Update One 2009: Daffodils

And there is also a yellow on yellow variety:

Garden Update One 2009: Daffodils

We also have several varieties of crocuses including some that are purple:

Garden Update One 2009: Purple Crocuses

And some that are white:

Garden Update One 2009: White Crocuses

There were a few more colors too such as a yellowy orange, but they were past their prime so I didn't bother with pictures. There are tulips sprouting too, but they haven't bloomed yet.

Finally after I finished puttering around planting and exploring it was time to sit on the front porch swing and enjoy the view:

Garden Update One 2009: The View

Isn't it amazing? I can't wait to see what it looks like once the trees actually have leaves!

So that's where I stand now on the gardening front. Who out there is gardening this year? What are you planting? How are you planting? Tell me! I just love this stuff!

Posted by Dianne at 9:06 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

June 7, 2008

Garden Update: It's In!

Last night we decided to get up early and get the rest of the plants in the ground. We wanted to get ahead of the smothering heat/humidity forecast for today. When we woke up it was also foggy and thankfully it stayed that way until about the last 25 minutes we were finishing up. Even at 7:20 it was sweltering! Seriously hot!

Foggy Morning

How's that for a foggy, sticky morning?

Thankfully my Wellies came yesterday and trust me they came in handy!


What? Your garden boots don't have polka dots all over them? ;oP

Anyway, let's get started with the containers on the front porch first! Alexis is beside herself because we finally have peas!


Of course you're lucky to get to see one or two of them, because if Alexis sees them first then they are an immediate snack! ;o)

Our experiment pimento plant (i.e.the one that was put in the garage last fall and pulled back out this spring) is going great!

Experiment Pimento...It's Working!

It bloomed and we've got baby Pimento peppers! You can see them there in the picture if you look closely. They are roughly the size of tic tacs right now.

The spinach is still going strong:

Peas and Spinach

As you can see the spinach is just hanging out there next to the peas, both of them are just doing their thing.

The herb box on the front porch is doing superb!

Herb Box

I ended up adding the chocolate mint to this box next to the spearmint, since mint of any variety in the ground is just a recipe for it taking over everything. Seriously if you've never grown mint before keep it in containers because it's VERY, VERY, VERY, VERY, VERY, VERY and did I mention VERY invasive! It will end up everywhere! Mint is the perfect container plant and nine times out of ten it will come back each year, but if you plant it in the ground you'll end up with it trying to take over your garden and then it will move on to your yard and then it will move on to your neighbors yard and then...Well you get the picture.

Now where were we? Oh yes...So that's it for the porch right now. Let's stop off at the apple tree on the way down to the garden:


The apples are about the size of quarters right now. Ultimately these apples end up about the size of large plums. They are miniature for the most part.

Here's the garden completely planted. It's a bit hard to see the little plants in the middle, but in a few weeks you'll see a great change there!


I planted 40 tomato seeds back at the end of March and 39 of those seeds sprouted! I planted one of the cherry tomatoes on the front porch for Alexis and the other 38 were planted this morning in the garden...38 tomato plants! What was I thinking? ;o) I also picked up a few tomatoes plants here and there so I'm not quiet sure how many I have total, but there are a lot of tomatoes plants there!

Baby Tomato!

Oh yes...I remember what I was thinking...Lots of tomatoes! Some for canning, some to enjoy fresh, some to make salsa, some to make sauces with, some to make ketchup, some to share with people I like...Need I go on?

The tepees in the back have zucchini, cucumbers, yellow squash, 2 tepees of various kinds of beans and peas. Behind the tepees are the two rows of corn we planted. In between the tepees are either leeks and/or onions depending on where you are looking. To the left of the tepees are the watermelon and cantaloupe and in the middle is mostly tomatoes, but also herbs and a little bit of everything else.

We've got variegated sage:

Varigated Sage

Funny thing about sage, I love to grow it and usually end up with loads of it, but it always ends up that I use it only on Thanksgiving...I think I'm going to have to find something else to do with sage! ;oP

We've got thyme:


Dear lord I love thyme! And I have no trouble at all finding things to do with that! ;oP


Broccoli Plant

It's probably a little hot for the broccoli. We'll see how it does, but they really like cooler weather. I mean seriously it's almost 100 degrees and the humidity is at eleventy billion percent, so most likely these little guys won't do so well, but we'll see.

More marigolds:


These are from my Mom's marigolds. She brought me some seed years ago and I keep pods every year and replant them. I have no idea why, but these remind me of my grandfather every time I see them.

So that's where we are right now. I didn't take a picture of the peppers, but I'll do that next week. I'll also try to get a shot of the watermelon and cantaloupe. I need to do some weeding this week, but I'm going to wait until it cools off a bit toward mid week!

How are your gardens coming along?

Posted by Dianne at 1:48 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

June 1, 2008

Garden Update: The Garden Is Going In!

So we started putting in the garden this morning. We worked for about 2 1/2 hours and we're about 1/3 of the way done. We got two rows of corn seed planted (2 kinds of sweet corn and some popcorn), part of the tomatoes and peppers, watermelon, cantaloupe, pea seeds, cucumbers, zucchini and squash. We have more tomatoes, some beans, carrots, lettuce, herbs, peppers, eggplant and marigolds yet to plant. We plan on working on that later this afternoon once the sun isn't high in the sky and it's a bit cooler.

It's important to note that at this time last year my garden had been in the ground for two months. It's bee so cool and rainy this spring that we just couldn't get it done before now. The seedlings have however grown a lot on the front porch, so that's good in the grand scheme of things.

So on to the garden itself! Let's take a look at what we have so far.

First off let's look at the peas on the porch are blooming!

Pea Blossom

An before we get on to the garden let's take a look at one of the apple trees:

Apples Galore

These are known as "baking" or "cooking" apples. It appears we are going to have a bumper crop!

Now let's move on to the garden itself. In terms of size we were thinking big this year. We started out by digging and that was getting us no where fast. Jamison dug a rectangle that was about double the size of our old garden (12 X 6). We realized quickly that this we would be digging this time next year at the rate we were going. So we decided to rent a tiller:

Getting the Garden Started

So we had several issues right off the bat. One the belt kept slipping off the tiller so Jamison had to stop and put it back on every few feet. Another issue that arose was that the tiller lost a bolt or two...Obviously this tiller we rented wasn't in the best of shape, but oh well.

We also discovered that part of our yard is also under the water table, so the garden is slightly misshapen, because there were areas that could not be tilled, but we didn't know it until we started. In case you don't know what under the water table means, if you start digging your hole it fills up with water. This is both a plus and a minus...A minus in that we had to rethink the size a bit, a plus in that it's easier to keep the plants moist. So we rolled with the punches and this is what we ended up with:


The above pictures were taken from the breakfast area of our kitchen which is two stories up. It's hard to get a good idea of the size and to be honest I haven't measured the final outcome, but it's big. That little groundhog in the picture...I think he and I are going to get on each other's bad side quick! He lives down by the creek, which is not far behind the garden.

Is There A Fox Near My Garden?

Do foxes eat groundhogs? Because he lives down there near the creek too! ;oP

Anyway, we had to cart the plants down the hill to the garden. I told Jamison that I wished we had a wheel barrow and he suggested using Alexis' wagon...Why didn't I think of that?

Wagon One

Wagon Two

The seedlings took two loads to carry down the plants and Jamison kindly rolled them down for me. I also have/had some seeds to plant too and as I mentioned I already planted from seed 2 rows of corn, some beans, shell peas and snow pea pods. If you'll notice some of the plants are already blooming. We've got small squash and tomatoes on some of the plants.

Sqaush Blossom...I think!

Isn't that gorgeous? I just love squash blooms! Or it may be a zucchini, but you get the idea none the less!

So this is what we started with:


Right behind the garden is a massive patch of honeysuckle and the whole garden area smells sweet! It's heavenly. Once I get everything planted I will show you an after picture.

The marigolds are doing really well too. I'll plant these underneath the tomatoes. They help ward off nematodes and things like that that can bother and/or destroy your plants.


I also plant herbs and garlic and things for bug protection as well. I'll share my "recipe" for organic bug spray later on. It is a mixture of garlic, cayenne pepper, etc that you boil and then steep for a while. It works like a charm!

So that's where we are right now. In a couple of hours we'll go back out and hopefully finish up the rest of the garden today...Stay tuned!

Posted by Dianne at 2:13 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

May 18, 2008

Garden Update: We're Still Not Planted!

Dianne's Dishes Garden Update Graphic

So rain...We've had a ton of it! Given we were in a drought status last year and we've more than caught up now I'm trying to look on the bright side, but the garden is still not done! The ground is too wet to till and we realized rapidly that we were going to have to do just that...Till! The garden area is just too big, not that big is a bad thing when it comes to gardening. This weekend was wet and cold again so it's been a bust. Yesterday the sun did actually come out, but the ground just didn't dry out fast enough before it began raining again last night.

Today we'll take a look at how the container plants are doing and my have they grown since our last update! That's why I love doing these little garden updates. It lets me see how far things have come even when it might feel like things are sitting still!



They are growing nicely. I'm expecting them to dip over the sides of the box and start their downward decent any day now. No blooms yet, but they should be along soon.


Spinach Box

The spinach has really come along! We've been harvesting small snacks and I even used some to make quesadillas the other day! There's enough now to make a salad, so we'll be having a spinach salad along with dinner this evening.

The tomatoes:

Tomatoes and Cucumbers

All 40 seeds I planted came up. I've already taken one out and planted it in a pot for Alexis, but they have done really well so far. The plants next to them are squash, cucumbers, pumpkins, watermelon, etc and as you can see they're doing ok too.

More tomatoes, herbs, cucumbers, peppers, squash, watermelon and cantaloupe:

Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Herbs, Squash, Etc.

When we realized the garden was going to be a bit larger than I had first anticipated we decided to buy a few plants to supplement the ones I grew from seed. We got several tomato plants, some cucumbers, some peppers, more herbs and a couple of melon plants. And if you're curious the plant behind them is indeed a pineapple! ;o)

Some of the tomatoes are already blooming!

Tomato Blooming

I think this is a "Better Boy" or "Big Boy" or something along those lines. The Carbon Tomato (black) is also blooming.

The herb box is coming along nicely:

Herb Box

The herbs are really growing and the thyme has really spread out...Just what I wanted to see! I've been using some of these here and there.

The herbs for the garden...

Herbs and Flowers

There are a few flowers in there too, but they are ready and waiting to go into ground...IF it ever stops raining! ;oP

And lastly today we'll look at our little garden experiment if you will...Last year's pimento!:

Experiment Pimento

I always grow several peppers and tomatoes in pots for Alexis. She knows that these are "hers" and she can snack at will so that she leaves the garden alone until it's time to harvest. This was one of her peppers last year. Last October I stuck the pot in the garage for the winter and this spring I drug out the pots and the pimento started putting on leaves! I don't know if it will bloom again or what, and thus the experiment of the whole thing, but Alexis and I are having fun watching it to see what happens. Learning is fun! ;o)

So now that I've bored you with the update I'll let you be! ;oP These updates thrill me far more than they do you, but hey it gives me a way to keep track of what's happening and have visual tracking of what's happening. :o)

I hope you all are having a fabulous weekend! I am despite the rain. :o)

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May 10, 2008

No Gardening Today...


Unfortunately there was no gardening today. It rained all night so the tiller was a no go. We're supposed to get rain through Tuesday (up to 4 inches eee gads!) so it's going to have to dry out a bit. I'm going to pick up the tiller later this week. The sun is actually out right now, but it's not supposed to last long. I think we may need to build a boat... ;oP

I hope you all are having a wonderful Saturday. I'll catch up with you on Monday.

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April 25, 2008

Garden Update...Spring Has Sprung!

Let's talk a little gardening this morning shall we?

Apples in the Making

Spring is finally here! (Even though it's supposed to get cooler this weekend again. Hhmmph!) And despite my spring allergies, which seem to get worse every year (what's up with that?), we are in high gear getting the garden ready!

Most of the seeds I planted have sprouted. The only thing that didn't fully sprout were the marigolds, but that's ok. I probably over planted those anyway, though I may add some more along the way! I actually ended up buying a few herb plants yesterday and as you can see above the apple trees are just covered in blooms so it appears we will have a bumper crop of those as well!

Now let's take a look at some of the seedlings. First up lets look at the little tomato plants:

Tomatoes and Stuff

I think only one of the seeds didn't sprout, maybe two. I also have removed one of the plants for a Yellow Pear Cherry tomato and planted it in a pot on the front porch for Alexis. The plants on the other side are the tray with the pumpkins and watermelon and such.

Next up are herbs and flowers:

Herbs and Stuff

These plants are still small (and why I bought some actual plants to get things started...I'm impatient what can I say?), but they are doing just fine and will go directly into the garden soon.

The sunflowers are sort of falling over as they grew too fast, but here is a shot of the marigolds:


I use the marigolds for both pest control and let's face it they are pretty too! We'll be direct planting a few more sunflowers as well. I'm going to try and salvage the seedlings too.

Now let's look at the pea box on the front porch:


Peas do wonderfully in a window box type container. They end up cascading over the sides and Alexis loves to munch them right off the vine!

We also planted spinach in a window box type container:


As you can see the spinach is still in the sprouting stage, but it grows pretty quickly so it should be busting out any day now.

I also planted an herb box:

Herb Box

I planted Italian Flat leaf parsley, rosemary, English thyme, spearmint, dill and rosemary. I usually plant several window boxes and hanging pots with herbs each year and place them on the front porch so I can go out and snip what I need as I cook. I've got two hanging pots planted with herbs, but so far they chives are the only things that have sprouted there so far.

Let's take a closer look at the herbs. First up spearmint!

Herb Box Spearmint

I LOVE spearmint! I don't really cook with it, but I love the smell and the taste is fabulous too! Alexis likes to munch the leaves right off the plant for a little snack, but then again she does that with all of my herbs! I can't think of a single one of the herbs I grow that she doesn't nibble on.

Next we have English thyme:

Herb Box English Thyme

Usually I don't have to buy sage, thyme or rosemary because it comes back in my boxes, but my main herb box was blown off the porch in high wind over the winter and it obliterated the herbs inside so I had to start over from scratch. Thyme is one of my all time favorite herbs! I actually like fresh thyme better than dried, even though I do use dried thyme too, but when it's fresh there is just no comparison!

Ah rosemary...

Herb Box Rosemary

Rosemary is probably my all time favorite herb! I've often joked that if I could figure out a way to chocolate coat rosemary then I'd be in heaven. (Though it might not be too bad...Perhaps I should experiment a bit! A friend of mine tried chocolate covered blue cheese truffles and says they are to die for so who am I to question? ;o)) I love the smell of rosemary, it's just heavenly and much like thyme I prefer it fresh, though I do use it dried as well. If you plant rosemary in the ground it become a shrub and a great smelling shrub at that!

Next up we have Italian flat leaf parsley:

Herb Box Flat Leaf Parsley

Parsley is a vastly under estimated plant. Some people simply turn their nose up at parsley, but it really has such a wonderful fresh and clean flavor! It's not just a garish people! Try some parsley in a salad or even on a sandwich along with, or in place of, lettuce! You'll be amazed at how it makes things pop!

And last but not least dill...

Herb Box Dill

Dill is another all time favorite of mine and I like it fresh and dried. In fact I like it so much I'd have to say it comes in a close second to rosemary in my book. This year I'm hoping to have enough dill and cucumbers to make some pickles. The garden should be big enough so fingers crossed!

And speaking of gardens...Last night Jamison started digging! One of the gentleman at work mentioned that this area has a lot of rocks and such and you'd likely tear up a tiller. So far we have only unearthed one rock and it wasn't that big at that, so I think we are going to try and rent a tiller this weekend to finish the job. Once it's done I'll show you the plot, but for now I'm very happy to report that the soil is rich, brown and with every shovel full a bunch of earthworms are showing up!

The Garden is Full of Them

And my precious little girly girl, who obviously has a little tom boy in her too, had a ball playing with worms! She is so my child!

So who's planting this year? How is your garden coming along? Isn't it fun to play in the dirt?!!?!?

So overall I'm very pleased! I'll be updating again soon. Tomorrow we're off to a local farm festival where Alexis is beside herself with joy because she will get to pet a cow! I may post a few pictures from that little sojourn as there are supposed to be many yummy things to sample. Also be sure and check back on Sunday for the April Daring Bakers reveal! It's a really good one even if mine didn't turn out quite as I expected...

Have a great weekend everyone!

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March 31, 2008

It's Spring! Let's Start Planting!

Sunshine and Seed Trays

As I mentioned a month or so ago I've been garden planning! For the past two weeks I've been meaning to get around to planting my seeds indoors to get them going and have a bit of a head start once the frost has passed, but we've been super busy the past few weeks and I feel like I've been going in super fast motion. Every time I think things are going to slow down they seem to speed up! Yesterday I finally got around to planting my seeds.

On Saturday morning I sat down and drew out a few grids and set up what I want to plant and in which hole it would go. For some reason I only did three plots, when in reality I should have done six! I don't know how I got off path, but that was ok. Yesterday morning when I realized my error I made two more grids. I didn't make a plot for the last 40 because I had planned to plant them all as marigolds and I didn't need a grid for that! ;o) I have three greenhouse boxes and each box will hold two trays of 40.

As I worked on the grids Alexis sat with me with her own notebook and made her own diagram. As we planted and I checked things off my grid, she did the same on hers. It amused me! ;o) She is really excited about the planting aspect of the garden this year. Last year she was mildly interested, but she was plenty interested in harvesting! This year she's all about the garden period and I love that! She even chose some seeds of her own to plant, though hers will be planted directly outside in a few weeks. It's so much fun to have her involved. Her zest for life is so contagious!

Seed Planting Diagrams

In the first tray we planted 40 tomatoes (2 Green Zebra , 2 Santiam, 4 Martian Giants, 2 Zapotec Pleated, 3 Amana Orange, 2 Burbank Red, 4 Arkansas Travelers, 2 Yellow Perfection, 4 Brandywines, 5 Matt's Wild Cherry Tomatoes, 5 Gold Currant Cherrys and and 5 Yellow Pear Cherrys....Alexis loves the mini tomatoes, thus the increased numbers of those varities.) We should have more than enough to share with my sister, some of our friends and be able to can some tomatoes for use through the winter and make some salsa as well.

Seed Planting Diagram: Tomatoes

In the next block we planted peppers, squash, eggplant, cucumbers, melons, pumpkins and amaranth. (2 Purple Beauty bell peppers, 2 Italian Relleno Sweet peppers, 2 Ring-O-Fire Cayenne peppers which I use for pest my pest control spray, 3 Pimento-L Sweet peppers, 4 Cal Wonder green bell peppers, 2 Giant Szegedi yellow sweet peppers, 2 Butternut squash, 3 Zucchinis, 3 Yellow Crookneck squash, 2 Italian Pink Bi-Color eggplants, 3 Smart Pickle cucumbers, 1 Lemon cucumber, 3 Northern Pickling Cucumbers, 1 Crimson Sweet watermelon, 1 Sugar Baby watermelon, 1 Golden Honey watermelon, 1 Desert King watermelon, 1 Hale's Best Jumbo Muskmelon (cantaloupe), 1 Jack-O-Lite pumpkin (small pumpkins), 1 Big Max pumpking (100+ pound pumpkins) and 1 Hopi Red Dye Amaranth.) Alexis and I both are pepper and cucumber fans. I'm going to try and make some dill pickles this year hopefully! I've wanted to do that for years, but in the smaller garden I never seem to have enough pickles to play with.

Seed Planting Diagram: Peppers, Squash, Eggplant, Cucumbers, Melons, Pumpkins and Amaranth

On the next grid (and this was the last grid I did on Saturday) I plotted herbs, flowers and "medicinals", which in reality are just more herbs or flowering plants in most cases. (3 Poppy Joe's Basils, 2 Forest Green parsleys, 2 English Thyme, 2 Greek Oreganos, 2 Italian Flat Leaf Parsleys, 2 Dukat Dills, 2 Bouquet Dills, 4 Russian Mammoth Sunflowers, 1 Korean Licorice Mint, 1 Borage, 2 Bells of Ireland, 4 Righteous Red Zinnias, 1 Yarrow, 2 Evening Sun Sunflowers, 3 Kablouna Mix Calendulas, 4 White Sweet Alyssum and 3 Feverfews.) I'm glad I had the grids wrong in my head though, because I had wanted to plant more herbs in addition to the ones that we are going to plant directly into pots on my front porch. I added more in the additional grids I did yesterday. I had hoped to plant the pots on the porch today, but it's too rainy. It appears it will rain for a few more days so maybe we'll get to do that later this week.

Seed Tray Diagram: Herbs, Flowers and "Medicinals"

Yesterday on the first grid I plotted out onions, leeks, celery, broccoli and more herbs. (6 Siskiyou Sweet onions, 8 Sherwood leeks, 6 Celebration celerys, 6 Nutri-Bud broccolis, 2 more Dukat dills, 2 more bouquet dills, 2 more Forest Green parsleys, 2 more Italian Flat Leaf parsleys, 2 more Greek oreganos, 2 more English Thymes and 2 more Poppy Joe's Basils.)

Seed Tray Diagram: Onions, Leeks, Celery, Broccoli and Herbs

Next up we planted more flowers. (2 more Bells of Ireland, 6 more Righteous Red Zinnias, 6 more Russian Mammoth sunflowers, 6 more Evening Sun sunflowers, 6 more Calendulas, 3 more Yarrows, 3 more Borages, 3 More Korean Licorice Mints and again 5 more Zinnias, because after all they are so beautiful.)

Seed Tray Diagram: Flowers

The last of the six trays was seeded with marigolds. I have two huge flower beds in front of our house, so I can't wait to see the riot of color! I labeled the back of each box so I'd know which way was the top of each grid. I also put a label on the foot of each individual plot with what was planted there so that I wouldn't turn things around and then not know what was what.

Seed Tray Close Up

Now we wait. We should have some sprouting going on by the end of the week. I'm going to be keeping track of this through the seeding on to the garden and then through the fall harvest so if you're interested check back soon for an update! I do an all organic garden as well. and we'll be planting the garden itself in a few weeks. When it warms up even more we'll plant some corn, beans, carrots, okra, etc. directly into the garden. This year most of my seeds came from Seeds of Change, but I also got a few from Gardens Alive and Park Seeds.

So is anyone else planting this spring? I love to hear what other people have planned and are doing so share if you are! :o)

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January 23, 2008

Try It You'll Like It: Garden Planning


Every year around this time I start perusing online garden sites and start deciding what I want to grow in my garden. In the next few weeks I'll start buying seeds and the planing will go into full swing! This year is even more exciting as I have a lot more room to plan! What to grow? What to grow? The possibilities are endless!

I must admit I love starting plants from seed. There is just something very satisfying about planting a seed, watching it grow and then enjoying the end result. It's also fun in terms of getting Alexis involved and letting her see where her favorite vegetables/fruits come from. We've had a garden every summer of her four years and in the last couple of years she really has understood what was going on in terms of planting the seeds, watching them grow and then eating the fruits of our labor. This year will be even more fun because she's all the more inquisitive!

Tomatoes and Blueberries Oh My!

For weeks now Alexis has been asking me when we could begin planting things. I usually start planting some seedlings indoors in early March so they'll be ready to go straight into the ground so we look at the calender and keep discussing what month it is now and when we'll start planting. Her main desires are strawberries, tomatoes, spinach, peas (both pods and snow peas), cucumbers and peppers. What's not to like about that list? This year I'd also like to plant some watermelon and pumpkins since we'll be gardening on a larger scale. I also want to plant on a scale that allows Alexis to munch, us to eat out of the garden during the summer and be able to preserve food as well. We'll see how it goes.

Sugar Pumpkins

Another passion of mine is herbs. I plant them in the garden as companion plants for pest control and such, but I also keep them growing in planters nearby the house so I can go and snip what I need as I cook, so herbs will definitely be in the mix. We'll also plant some eggplant, various lettuce type plants, okra, maybe some corn, cantaloupe, green beans and carrots. It should be fun!

I order most of my seeds from Seeds of Change, but I also get a few from Gurney's and Park's Seeds. I buy organic whenever possible and I also like heirloom seeds as well. This year I plan to save some seeds as well, which is something I haven't done in the past. I also buy products from Gardens Alive, which focuses on earth friendly, organic solutions to garden issues at reasonable prices. (If you haven't figured it out yet I'm all about organic! ;o))

So I'm planning and dreaming. How many of you out there have gardens of your own? What do you grow? Do you preserve? Do you save seeds? Speak up and let me know what you're thinking in terms of your garden. Let's talk a little gardening! Later in the summer we'll talk a little eating of said gardens! ;o)

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August 8, 2007

Wordless Wednesday


Wordless Wednesday

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July 7, 2007

From The Garden: Tomatoes!

Tomatoes Right From The Garden

There's just nothing like a vine ripened tomato straight from the garden! Oh what to do with them? Tomato sandwiches? BLT? Salad? All of the above? Only time will tell! That is if Alexis doesn't get to them first! ;o)

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June 25, 2007

From The Garden: Tomatoes, Peppers and Peas Oh My!

It's Harvest Time!


Or the beginning of it anyway! We have peas, peppers and tomatoes! The blueberries are still ripening here and there as well, but there were none to pick today.

We picked the last of the peas, most likely. It's just gotten so hot and peas most decidedly do not like hot weather! (Much like me I might add! ;o))


There weren't really enough peas to do anything with other than snack, so Alexis took care of that quite nicely. We'll plant some more peas toward the end of the summer so we'll have a fall crop as well. We'll do the same with spinach and lettuce too.

And Alexis is beside herself that the grape tomatoes are beginning to ripen!

Grape Tomatoes

She helped herself to the tomatoes too!

If it doesn't rain in the morning we're going to go over to the Farmer's Market in Annapolis and see what they have to offer. I'm hoping maybe some early cucumbers, but we'll see then what might be lurking about I suppose! ;o)

What's growing in your garden?

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June 20, 2007

From The Garden

I just love this time of year! While Summer is no where near my favorite season (I actually prefer winter), I do enjoy the fresh things that start coming out of the garden! You can't get more local than you own backyard and there is nothing like the taste of freshly picked herbs, veggies and fruit!

Right now I have herbs galore:

Hanging Herb Pot

What's not to like there? I have a ton of herbs in the garden, but I like to keep a couple of pots on the deck so I can grab some easily when I'm cooking. I have a lot of dill right now, so you'll most likely see some dill recipes quite soon! I've also got a lot of parsley, oregano and thyme. I'm going to be drying some herbs next week.

Green tomatoes too:


I feel some Fried Green Tomatoes coming on!

And my blueberries are beginning to ripen:


The blueberries ripen a few here and there, so there isn't really enough to do anything major with, but Alexis and I are enjoying eating them all the same!

What's in your garden?

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