Friday, July 29, 2011

A Tiny Harvest

We harvested a couple of baby eggplants, and four ripe cherry tomatoes last night, to go with some steak on the grill.  The tomatoes went in a salad, and we grilled the eggplant alongside the steak.  They were delicious.

I'm hoping we'll get to harvest a zucchini soon, but the largest still didn't look ready to go with our tiny feast.
And the cucumbers are just getting started.
We had our first blossom on the butternut squash today, but it will be many months before we will be enjoying those.
The plant has tripled in size in the last week or two.  It's exciting.
I have been feeling like the vegetable garden has been slow to grow, but it's kind of nice to know that this is just the beginning.

Have a nice weekend!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Ten-Minute Tidy Up

I haven't had much time to do anything around the house lately (and therefore have had little to write about).  Every time I have pulled into the driveway for weeks now, I have been eyeing the rock wall in front of our house, vowing to find time to do some sprucing up.  After all the ubiquitous orange daylilies are gone, we're always left with a bunch of sticks that take away from the view of the remaining daylilies.

I spent, literally, ten minutes snipping stems, and some of them were dry enough to just pull out of the ground. 
And now everything looks much better.

I planted six coneflower plants this spring, to extend the blooming season around the rock wall.  Four out of six started out okay, but now something is eating them. 
I'm hoping with a little care they'll be established and thriving by next year.  Those I planted in a side garden last summer are looking very healthy. 
The white one in the back there is called "Milkshake," and they are my favorites, if I have to choose.

Do you prolong doing little chores that would take only 10 minutes to cross off your list, like folding the laundry when it comes out of the dryer, or going through the mail?  What's the one you never find time for, but gives you the biggest sense of accomplishment once it's done?

Friday, July 22, 2011

When Turkeys Fly

It's been 100 degrees and humid, and when we got home last night, all of the plants were wilting.  Also, somewhat oddly, it was quite windy, and there were branches down all over the yard.  We went out back to inspect the vegetable garden, and found our largest and fastest growing cherry tomato plant on its side. 
As I looked over the rest of the garden, something felt remiss, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it.  And then one of these fell from the sky. 
And then another one.  And we looked up.
Can you see him?  How about here?
Or here?
He was about 60 feet up there, so kind of hard to see, but we photographed him for a while, wondering if he was stuck.  We see turkeys in our yard almost every day, and I've seen them run FAST, and I've seen them fly over a stone wall, but I've never seen one 60 feet up in a tree.  Should we call Animal Control to save him?  Would they care?  I also began to wonder if he was responsible for the toppled tomato plant, or even eating the edamame, which I had blamed on the deer.  Did he fly up there because I startled him, because he was guilty?  If so, I would be content leaving him there.   After a while he mustered up the courage (or got tired of being photographed), and made a break for it, rather adeptly. 
Okay, that's a really poor action shot, but it's all we've got.  He flew across our yard and our neighbors yard into another tree of equal height.  We went about restaking our tomato, vowing to get cages next year.

Sometimes I wonder if all of the trouble is worth it, when things just don't grow, or the vegetables you were looking forward to eating get eaten by bugs or large animals first, or when you have to spend half an hour in the late evening being mauled by mosquitos while you carefully tie up tomato vines.  It totally makes sense that we have grocery stores.  But then I get to see a turkey in a tree.  And every once in a while there's the excitement of finding something new. 
Itty, bitty eggplants!  There are about a half a dozen of them, and the biggest is only an inch and a half long, at best, but I think they've grown since last night.  I wish I could remember what variety they are.  I usually save the tags, but I can't find this one.  I think they were called "fancy."  I plan to keep a close eye on them, and harvest a few small ones as soon as they're big enough to eat.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Make Your Own Hydrangeas

I was down at my mom's over the last couple of days, visiting with family, eating well, and admiring her hydrangeas.

I also made my second annual attempt to propogate some of them, so we, too, can one day have a summer yard full of floppy blue, pink, and purple flowers.  I tried two different batches of 10 last year, and we have three new established plants to show for it.  Well, definitely two.  The third is still kicking, but not growing as well as the rest.  I still have faith it will pull through, though.

There are lots of instructions out there for how to propagate hydrangeas, and little consensus.  The one point everyone seems to agree on it that it's easy to do.  Whether you succeed or not, it requires little effort or cost, which is my kind of project.  Also, the debate over how best to propagate tells me that there's more than one "right" way to do it.  That means I'm less likely to really screw something up.  (Doesn't it?) 

Here's what you need:
a bunch of small pots (I used those our vegetable seedlings came in, and a few others I had around)
a potting soil with perlite in it (we use something called Coast of Maine around here)
a hydrangea bush to cut from (it's best to have permission, but I'll admit I've snipped without asking)
rooting hormone (everyone says this is optional, but I figure I might as well take all the help I can get)
scissors or clippers
a wet paper towel or cup of water
1. Select a branch that hasn't flowered this year.  Lots of experts recommend looking for new growth.  The root hormone directions recommend finding a stem with some wood (established growth) on it. 
2. Snip off the lowest leaves.  The roots will form from those nodes.
3. Snip off the newest growth at the top, because that takes energy away from developing roots. 
4. Cut the remaining leaves in half.  Again, this reduces energy being used to support the big leaves.
5. Dip a stem in water, and then in rooting hormone.  Meanwhile, create a hole with a pencil or bare branch, so the rooting hormone doesn't slide off when you place it in the soil.  Pat the soil down to secure the plant. 

It's that easy.  They should be kept in the shade, and misted regularly for the first week, and occasionally thereafter, making sure they don't get too dry, or too wet.  They should root in about three weeks.  We planted our survivors (5 out of 20) in the ground last fall, but only three remain.  The hydrangea expert I saw (and wrote about) back in May said that he keeps newly propagated plants in the garage or shed over the winter, and puts them in the ground in the spring, which we will do this time around. (** Update: Overwintering in the shed didn't work for me.  I'm going to stick with the modest results I get planting them late summer/early fall from now on.)  We still have the three clippings he gave us from Heritage Gardens, and at least one of them appears to be doing great.   (I'll prove it to you.  They're right there at the bottom of this photo.)
We'll have to wait and see how things look next spring. In the meantime, I hope my mom will let me keep bringing home big bouquets to enjoy.
Have you ever tried to propagate hydrangeas, or something else?  Do you have any tips to share?  If you've never tried, why not give it a try?

P.S. I linked up this post on Remodelaholic.  Check out the other creative ideas out there.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Grilled Fish Tacos

I was working from home yesterday, and at around 1:30 I went out to the garden to contemplate watering.  It had felt like it was about to rain all day, and I decided to wait a few more hours.  When I went out again at 5:00, I saw that our edamame crop had been completely dessimated.  Again.  In the span of a few hours, some large predator(s) strolled through in broad daylight and helped themselves. 
There were once leaves on those sticks.  I had originally blamed the deer, but this time there were no hoof prints, and they even got to the ones I planted deeper in the garden.  Either they are very sly and delicate deer, or it's still a mystery.  I was due to re-spray, but it's clear this is not a problem that is just going to go away.

Facing the reality that we either have to build a big fence, or we'll never experience the sweet taste of edamame picked fresh from our garden, I was glad we had a good dinner planned.  I have been thinking about making grilled fish tacos for a while.  I cobbled together three different recipes, and skipped the idea of a cabbage slaw or salsa, though I might try one or both with the next attempt.  These were simple and delicious.

Grilled Fish Tacos

1 pound white flaky fish (haddock)
1/4 cup olive oil
juice of one lime
1 T chili powder (recipes called for ancho chili powder, which I wish I had)
1 t cumin
1 jalapeno, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Wisk together the above ingredients and let the fish marinate for 20 minutes.

For the Mexican crema:
1/2 cup sour cream
zest of 1 lime
juice of 1/2 a lime
pinch of salt

For the onions:
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups red wine vinegar
Let them soak for at least 30 minutes.  (We had lots leftover, but they keep for weeks, and they are good.)

For the avocado:
1 avocado, sliced

Turn on the grill.  We used a grill pan to cook the fish on medium heat for about 5 minutes on each side.  (Recipes seemed to indicate it would be less time, but ours took a bit longer.)
Grill the tortillas for 15 seconds on each side. You're looking for them to bubble.  Divide the fish among the tortillas and garnish with any or all of the garnishes.

 So good I almost forgot about our garden woes.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Lavender Harvest

I harvested half of our lavender (Grosso) this morning, and left the other half for the bees, for now.
The real reason I only took half is because I wasn't sure it was ready.  It's my understanding that if I clip the lavender spikes soon after they bloom, the plant might bloom again this year.  It smells great, but all of the little flowers haven't opened yet, while some of them are turning brown already.  I decided to put these in water to see if they bloom some more.
I'll wait to see what the rest do, clip them later, and hang them to dry.  It's all part of the great garden learning experience, where once again I hope, Next year I'll know better.  (That's apple mint in the back of the vase, by the way.  I hope the two get along okay.)

I was just at the garden center in search of more dill, because ours is not doing well, and I was hoping to have some good fresh seeds to make refrigerator pickles when the cucumbers start coming.  Their dill was as sad as what we already have, but they did have a ton of "herbs" on sale and looking for a home, including a few perennials that surprised me - catmint, Russian sage, and lavender- because I think of them more as border plants than herbs.  All three grow really fast  to be a couple of feet tall and wide, and produce various spectacular purple blooms.  For under $10, you could get one of each and have big, beautiful plants next year.  I bought the lavender above in a wee 4-inch pot last year, and now it's ten times the size.
Our Russian sage is just starting to bloom.
And the catmint has already had a haircut after its spring bloom, again hoping we'll see more flowers later.
Have a beautiful weekend!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Shasta Daisies

I never really thought much of them, but I have been loving the simple yet wild look of shasta daisies blooming alongside tiger lilies lately.  We have loads of tiger lilies, but no shasta daisies.  So, I got some to add mid-summer interest to the back of the peony bed.
To the right I also planted a "Hamlen" dwarf grass, because I like the fuzzy ends.
To the left there is one of my few propagated hydrangea success stories. 
It's growing well and looking healthy, and I expect we'll get flowers next year.  I can't remember what variety it is, but I hope they'll be blue or purple, which will add some nice additional contrast to the orange lilies and white daisies.

I'm going to propagate some more hydrangea next week.  If you've never tried it and are interested in taking directions from someone who so far has a slightly better than 10 percent success rate, I'll show you how I do it.