Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Garden Harvests - August 30th

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It is miserably hot around the garden these days. We have not seen a drop of rain in the last few weeks. In spite of that, the garden is still giving me harvests. I harvested some more peppers and purple hulls, my first eggplants ever, and a surprise watermelon.

Here are my first eggplants ever. These are the black beauty variety. I took these two and made Eggplant Parmesan for my wife for her birthday. It actually turned out better than I expected with my culinary skills. I will make it again for sure. The plant has other fruits growing on it right now, so I hope to try it other ways too.

Another nice batch of purple hulls. I am almost up to 9 lbs. shelled for the season.

This watermelon weighed in at 12 lbs. and was literally the exact size and shape of a basketball. I can't wait to cut it open, but I am waiting until I finish off some store bought watermelon first.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Trading Dirt for Oil and Grease

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So where have I been for the last few weeks? I have traded my free time getting my hands dirty with garden dirt for getting them oiled up and greasy on a new truck I bought.

The truck is not new, but it is new to me. I bought a 1998 F150 and I have been busting my butt trying to get it in tip top shape. Changing plugs, wires, fuel filter, fuel injectors, alternator, oil, air filter. You get the idea, I have turned back into a grease monkey. I actually worked in one of those quick lube places for about 4 years. This was before I became a white collar man. Busting knuckles in the August heat made me remember why I became a while collar man too.

It has been fun though trying to get my new project all up and running. The picture in this post is of my existing work truck. It is a 1984 F150 and I hope to sell it to fund my new truck. My new truck has A/C, a radio, and a lot of other things ol' red doesn't. Hopefully I can post a picture of my new truck when I am all done with it.

In the meantime, I hope to get back to the garden and post more frequently. It has just been so hot and dry, we really need some rain

Monday, August 22, 2011

Garden Harvests - August 22nd

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Is it fall yet? That is how I feel these days with the summer days of August. I am ready for cooler temperatures. I am trying to prepare the garden for fall despite the heat.

I am mainly harvesting peppers, but I am getting a few squash here and there. The squash plants will probably be done in the next few weeks. The squash vine borers have pretty much destroyed them. The last and final batch of purple hulls are beginning to harvest. I am still waiting for tomatoes, the plants are growing great but I think it is just too hot for tomatoes to form.

Here is a batch of jalapenos and one lone squash

Here is one of my cowhorn pepper plants. These things are loaded with peppers, looks like the triple phosphate fertilizer is doing its job.

Nice batch of cowhorn peppers with a few jalapenos and peas.

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Sunday, August 21, 2011

A New Beginning in the Garden

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There are two times that I really enjoy being a gardener. The first and most obvious is at harvest time, the time when I reap the benefits of all my hard work. The second time is during planting, the time when my expectations soar and my imagination runs wild on how this planting is going to be that bumper crop.

This week the old was cast aside for something new. Let the expectations begin.

The two front beds and one back bed were planted with purple hull peas and they were just sprawling all over the place. They have produced well, but their time had come and I decided to rip them out and plant some baby limas.

Here is one of the beds after the initial cleanup, pretty big mess.

What a sight! All clean, amended with manure, and ready for some seeds.

The front two beds have been going for about a week now. You can see the lima sprouts coming up.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

An Eggplant Experience

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I only have one eggplant plant and it has been a long wait to see the first fruit set, but it looks like they are finally here. Two fruits appeared out of no where, both are about the size of a baseball. This is the standard black beauty variety of eggplant and I am not sure how much longer before they are ready to harvest. I can't wait, and I already have a recipe for eggplant parmesan that I want to try.  The plant is loaded with flowers and I hope I get some decent pollination and more fruit.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Garden Harvests - August 15th

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This was a pretty good week in the garden for harvests. I harvested the last of the corn from my second planting of Peaches and Cream. The second planting of purple hulls produced like crazy this week. I also got a good batch of jalapenos. A great week from the garden, I am blessed.

The final count was 50 ears of corn out of a 4x8 bed planted with 72 plants. These where the runts of the group, but were still pretty good looking. I am happy with 50 ears out of 32 square feet. I was hoping for 72, but that may have been too much to ask.

I am now an expert pea sheller by hand. Every night this week I would pick a big batch of purple hulls and I would have about 30 minutes of shelling to do. This picture was the nicest from the week. That is a pretty huge mixing bowl full of pods.

Here is my first good harvest of jalapeno peppers. The top row is a no heat variety and the bottom row is regular jalapenos. I could definately tell a difference between the two. The no heat variety should be called low heat because they still had a little bite to them.

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Saturday, August 13, 2011

How To Know When Corn is Ready to Harvest

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I recently harvested another batch of corn, and I feel like I am getting better at knowing when my corn is ready to harvest.  Now there is tons of information on the web about this topic, but I am going to share what I have learned.  I hope this will help some people because even with all the information out there on this topic, I was still unsure at times on when to harvest my corn.

Lastly before I describe the steps, DO NOT rely on seed packet harvest recommendations or certain time frames on how long ears should form.  The batch of corn from this post is a perfect example.  It was peaches and cream corn and is supposed to be 83 days to harvest.  This batch came in at 61 days from start to finish!

I will break this information into three categories on how I tell when my corn is ready:  Size and feel of ear, silk color and dryness, and most importantly kernel fluid.  I have posted pictures showing examples of each category.

Step 1: Size and Feel of Ear -  This is what I use as a starting point.  How big is the ear?  Does it feel full and do the kernels feel formed all the way to the top of the ear?  Is the plant leaning toward one side?  This for me is the least reliable of all methods, but this is where I start when I think ears are getting close.

Step 2: Silk Color and Dryness - What I have found is that you can't just look at the silk color and when it is brown pull the ear.  What is brown?  Are we talking light brown, medium brown, dark brown?  Each variety of corn is gonna vary so the color isn't as reliable an indicator to me as the dryness.  When the corn silks first form they have kind of a glossy sheen to them.  When an ear is ready to be picked the silk will look really dry almost like straw.  If I find an ear in this condition, I move on to step 3 for my final judgement.

Step 3: Kernel Fluid Color - This is the final and most important step.  I expose the tip of the corn ear and then pierce one of the kernels with my finger tip.  If the fluid comes out milky, then it is perfect and it is ready to harvest.  If the fluid comes out clear, you are a little too early, cover the ear back up and wait a few more days.  If no fluid comes out, but squirts starchy gunk then you have waited too long.  There is nothing wrong with the ear at this stage, it just won't be at the optimal sweetness.

I hope this information is helpful, please see the pictures below for details.

Step 1:  See how this corn plant is leaning.  You won't always have this, but this actually prompted me to take a closer look at this batch since this corn was only sixty days old.  Sure enough 75% of the corn was ready to be picked upon further inspection.

Step 1: This is the ear of corn from the leaning stalk.  Look at how big and full it looks, you could feel the kernels too at the tip.

Step 2:  From the same batch of corn, here is a perfect example of what the silk will look like when ready to harvest.  Notice how dry it looks, but it is not necessarily dark brown.  Color is not always the best indicator.

Step 3: I expose the tip of the ear, and you can see the kernels were fully formed to the tip even though there was some damage on this ear from ants / silk worms.  This is why I do not trust feel alone, many times bugs will eat away the tips of your ears and they won't feel full at the tip even though they are ready.

Step 3:  Finally, I pierce a kernel and look for milky discharge.  This is just right.

If you follow the three steps listed above, you should have great looking corn picked at its peak like this.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Great Jalapeno Poppers - A New Favorite

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I have been waiting all week for this Friday because I knew I would have enough jalapenos to try and make home made jalapeno popper appetizers. I had everything ready for when I got home from work today: rubber gloves, sour cream, cheese, and bacon. I write this post now after scarfing down several poppers and I am really impressed with how good they tasted. I will be making some more batches this weekend for sure.

Here are the peppers I picked for the poppers.  The top row is a variety that has no heat and the bottom row are regular jalapenos. You can see that the regular ones are darker green.

Here is one of the four plants I have, as you can see I still have several peppers to harvest even after todays picking.

Here are the poppers all ready to go. I stuffed the inside with a cream cheese and shredded cheese mixture and then wrapped the outside with precooked bacon. The precooked bacon worked great because it cut down on how much grease was produced during cooking. I also only had to broil these in the oven for about 10 minutes and they were ready.

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Monday, August 8, 2011

Blogger Changed My Page Width

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Has anyone else noticed that their right hand navigation on their blog is narrower than normal?  Mine definitely changed  sometime today and I had to go into template designer to adjust it back.  I checked a few other blogs and they looked narrow too.  Just giving everyone a heads up.  Here is where you adjust your page widths in template designer.

Garden Harvests - August 8th

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Here are my harvests for the week.  I got my first tomato, a few jalapenos, and my second set of peaches and cream corn.
Harvesting corn never gets old, I just love it.  Here are more pics.

Two jalapenos, I need many more so I can make jalapeno poppers.

My very first tomato ever, this is a Roma paste tomato.

I am picking purple hull peas every night, this is my third bag this season
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