Simple Refrigerator Pickled Peppers

Recently, I was having a lunch with some great friends.  There was an interesting array of jars of pickles, pickled peppers and spicy mustard spread over the dining room table to go with our lunch.  As I was sampling everything in site, I spooned some pickled hot peppers onto my plate.  After trying them I felt the urgent need to try making some simple refrigerator pickled peppers!

As my friends watched me pile on the peppers, it was soon brought to my attention that some of the peppers in that jar where Ghost peppers (Bhut jolokia).  Once, this pepper was considered the hottest pepper in the world!  Turns out, I did not eat all of them, but I did try one.  They were tasty, although there was a fair amount of forehead sweat and burning ears!

The gears in my brain started turning!  What if I adapted my refrigerator sweet pickle recipe to a hot pepper version (minus the Ghost peppers!)?  During my next grocery store stop, I bought some jalapeño and chili peppers.  The red and green colors are gorgeous together.

Jalapeño and red chili peppers.

Normally,  peppers don’t do too well in my garden.  If I start them from seed they seem to grow too slow.  Last year, I was determined to do better.  I purchased an assortment of sweet and a few hot pepper plants from a local greenhouse.  I had the best harvest ever!  There was a tip that I read somewhere about planting them close together in a block and this worked well for me.  I’m excited to try some more varieties this season!  I’m also curious about vertical growing for peppers.  I’d love to grow some habanero peppers for our homemade barbecue sauce.  We used to make frozen habanero cubes for making our own sauce.  Here’s how I made the pickled peppers!

Simple Refrigerator Pickled Peppers 

7-8 fresh peppers of your choice

1/3 cup sliced onion

1 tbsp. kosher canning salt

1/3-1/2 cup sugar

1/8 tsp. each of mustard seed, turmeric and celery seed

White vinegar, at least 5% acidity, good quality

Carefully slice peppers and layer them in a pint canning jar with the sliced onions.   Gloves and a dishwasher safe cutting board are helpful.  Do not touch your eyes!

Jar of peppers and onions.

Sprinkle in the dry ingredients.

Had to get out my tiny measuring spoons!

Add enough vinegar to fill the jar.

Add the spices!

Screw on cover and turn upside down a few times.  Place in fridge for 3-4 weeks.  I turned to jar every time I thought of it.  The green peppers will turn an olive green color when they have fully taken on the flavors in the jar.  This recipe can easily be doubled or adapted to any size jar.  Use store purchased peppers or homegrown.  Mix it up a bit and experiment with the flavors!  This recipe delivers a sweet/hot pepper.  Serve with sandwiches, salads, appetizers or on pizza!  They are excellent stuffed into a grilled cheese.

Finished pickled peppers!

This is a great way to preserve peppers without canning.  Try some of my other simple ideas in the post Quick Food Preservation Tips.  There you will find some great tips for the busy gardener!

Have you finished planning your garden yet?  I’m still working on mine.  I’ve been thinking about starting some onions soon.  Do any of you start onions or do you direct seed or use sets?  Leave me a comment, question or advice below.  I would love to hear from you!  I hope you try this recipe and like it as much as we did!  Thanks for following along and subscribe for free in the sidebar.

Hilary|Everlongardener

 

 

No-dig Gardening

Before we get into what no-dig gardening means, let’s investigate the following scenario.  This coming spring, you hire someone to rototill your vegetable garden.  The soil is rich and brown.  A perfect blank canvas for this years garden!  But, in a matter of weeks, the inevitable happens.  Tiny weeds come growing in like a carpet.  What can be done? More tilling?  Hours of weeding?  These are some of the reasons why I’ve begun to investigate no-dig gardening!

I had heard about gardening without work years ago.  I even have Ruth Stouts book Gardening Without Work.  Her method involved mulching with old hay.  She had some fantastic ideas.  It’s worth looking up some of her old interviews.  After helping the local Seed Saving group mulch a garden in this way, I didn’t like the hay method because it seemed to harbored snakes. Not my thing!

A friend gave me Lee Reichs book Weedless Gardening.  His strategy calls for more mulching.  Definitely some great ideas for taking a lot of the backbreaking work out of growing vegetables.  I have even used grass clipping for moisture control.  But, I hear what you are saying, aching backs and worn out knees just go hand-in-hand with gardening.  Don’t worry, there is still much to do.  Just no digging!

Ready for next springs planting!

This spring, I was introduced to the term no-dig gardening.  I really didn’t understand because how do you have a garden if you can’t dig in the compost?  Or how do you harvest potatoes and parsnips?  I always thought that any ground good for planting had to be cultivated as far down as possible.  I had never subscribed to idea of double digging, too much work.  Then I began thinking about my own beds.  Raised beds that I occasionally top dressed with manure or compost.  Two of my beds were built on top of rocky ground.  With a cardboard layer spread out to squelch any grass beneath, layers of loam and compost made my two above ground beds.  So essentially, besides mixing in compost, I was doing a lot of the things recommended in a no-dig garden.

Salad greens.

As I became more interested in no-dig gardening, I decided to start reading a book by no-dig expert Charles Dowding, How To Create A New Vegetable Garden.  The book meticulously chronicles how to start beds without digging in at all.  Using layers of materials to achieve fertile planting ground for all sorts of flowers, herbs and vegetables.  Trial gardens demonstrate side by side comparisons of tilled gardens next to no-dig beds.  Amazingly there is little difference in productivity.  Vivid photos and commentary on how he transformed the abandoned gardens at his Somerset, England property called Homeacres.  Mr. Dowding came upon the idea many decades ago after tilling up a garden and then he was faced with a question:  Would he till it again next year?  What would happen if it was just mulched?  This was the start of the no-dig garden.  He has used this way of gardening at many properties.

One of the negatives of tilling is that the disturbed soil is a perfect place for weed seeds to germinate.  Tilling can also mix in weed roots and get them mixed deeper into your garden.   I tend to fight this no-dig gardening idea because nothing looks better than freshly cultivated soil.  But, I’m trying to rethink some of the traditional methods.  We are forced to think that if we want any productivity we must break our backs to get it.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s still plenty to do in the garden.  Yearly top dressing of aged manure, starting new beds, harvesting and watering.  The idea is that you don’t have to dig everything to get your garden to produce.  Have I lost you yet?

Raised Bed Gardens

If you already have raised bed gardens, no-dig is easy to incorporate.  Simply top-dress your garden beds every season with well aged manure or compost.  Most raised beds don’t need much cultivation anyway.  Any small amount of weeds can be removed while you are working.

Take the work out of gardening!

When plants are ready to be removed, a twist and pull action is recommended.  Most crops do not not need a shovel for harvest but a garden fork may be used for vegetables like parsnips.

Traditional Garden Beds

To create a new garden bed, blocking out grass and weeds is a top priority.  Boards, tarps or cardboard can be put down in advance to kill off vegetation.  When you are ready to start, add layers of cardboard and compost right on top of the ground.  If the garden has paths, use cardboard.  A thick layer of wood chips would be a great addition.

Perennial border.

Creating new flowers beds can be done in the same way.  Permanent flower gardens love yearly applications of compost.

Top dress beds with compost or manure yearly.

In The Greenhouse

You may want to consider using no-dig if you have a greenhouse.     There are enough new nutrients in the organic matter near the top of the soil where the crops need it most.  Such fertile gardens are a nice home for worms and beneficial insects.

Summer in the greenhouse!

Along with the book that I mentioned earlier, related reading includes Veg Journal and Salad Leaves For All Seasons.  Look up ‘no-dig’ on YouTube and you will find some excellent info to think about.

Some reading on the no-dig garden subject.

When I was in the Master Gardener course, the instructors where always talking about tilling being a necessary evil in the garden.  Chopping up worms and destroying soil structure.  Now I’m beginning to see how gardening can be done in a more natural way.  It just makes sense!

A bountiful harvest.

This may be a foreign way to garden for you.  I know at first I had trouble wrapping my mind around it.  There are many of you out there that I know struggle with getting your garden going and have a hard time producing vegetables.  Just consider what less work in the garden could mean for you and your subsequent harvest.  We all have different ways of gardening but we never stop learning!  I’m sure this is not the last you will hear about no-dig gardening.  Thanks for checking out Everlongardener this week!  Remember that you can subscribe for free in sidebar!

Hilary|Everlongardener

 

Plan Your 2017 Garden Now

What gets me happier than garden planning?  Not much!  Some girls are into fashion and manicures, but not me!  Planning my garden in winter is one of the best parts of the gardening process.  What are your plans for the upcoming garden season?  Do you need help with your 2017 garden plan?  Let’s start planning now!

Get Your Plan on Paper

How many times have I mentioned the idea of a garden journal?  There are many benefits to using one.  It doesn’t have to be fancy, just a place to record what you’ve done and plan your future gardens.  This way, you can look back to see what you planted last year.  A journal helps immensely with planning for crop rotation and deciding how much you can plant.  Have any of you tried a garden planning app?  I haven’t yet but if I found the right one it could be a thing.  Some gardeners map their garden plans out on the computer in grids.  I’m still in the notebook phase.  Graph paper is great too.

Garden planning.

After making a list of flowers and vegetables of your choice, map out your existing or planned garden spaces.  I have many raised beds, so I draw each one on my paper, make note of what was where last season and go from there.  Remember that a garden can be beautiful as well as practical.  Leaving room for beneficial flowers and herbs can help your plants along and host many pollinators.  You may have room for Succession Planting.  Any structures added to your garden for support can bring style and grace.

A rough sketch of the garden is all you need.

Choosing Seeds and Plants 

As you plan your garden, try to determine what you will grow from seed and whether you will start or buy seedlings.  If you have poor success with starting seeds indoors, maybe you won’t want to put so much effort into it.  You may want to purchase a few seedlings at the greenhouse.  Winter is the perfect time of year to order seeds.   Order early for best availability.  Many of our local garden centers have vast seed displays to choose from.  Mail order is still a very popular way of obtaining garden seeds.

Seed order brings hope of spring!

For more than a few of us, pouring over seed catalogs is a cozy winter pastime.  This is the stuff gardening dreams are made of.  With snow falling outside,  a warm blanket, cozy fire and a hot cup of tea.  Catalogs and pen in hand…let the circling begin!

Seed catalogs coming in the mail one by one!

There’s no need to go overboard though.  First, do a seed inventory.  Figure out which seeds are still good for planting in your collection.  Assess what you need and make a list.  If you have a small space, you may only be able to plant one or two varieties of each crop.  A larger plot will allow more than that.  Catalogs can be a bit overwhelming for a new gardener.  You will need to decide things like how many days to maturity, perennial vs. annual plants, bush or climbing types.  I addressed this in my article Decoding The Seed Packet.  The post includes just about all you ever wanted to know about selecting seeds.  With so many seed companies out there, why not try a company close to you?  Some companies specialize in heirloom varieties, some cater more to market growers.

Some varieties I’m trying this year.

Be Realistic

If this is your first vegetable garden, plan to start out small.  What should you think about when Getting Started In The Garden?  Many ambitious spring gardeners are left feeling exhausted by late summer because they took on too much.  Why not focus on 5 or 6 reliable vegetables, then you can build upon that next year.

Choose a site that offers 8-10 hours of sun a day, a site that is well suited to your landscape and one that is not too far from a water source.  You may even need to observe throughout the day how much sun your intended garden spot will get.

Will you be able to deal with the harvest?

Another question to ask yourself is about the harvest.  Of course, in the spring we are very eager to see all of those seeds we sow in the ground start to produce.  But let’s not forget that garden planning involves planning for the harvest.  If you will not be able to pick lettuce every few days, maybe that’s not the vegetable for you.  Or if you aren’t planning on canning tomatoes, should you plant 10-20 tomato seedlings?  Just some thoughts.

Garden harvest.

I have to say that I’m really excited about this years garden.  I’m not sure if it’s because of this blog or the new ideas that I would like to incorporate.  If anything else, I hope to spark some enthusiasm in all of you.  Not just to grow your largest garden ever, but maybe a garden that’s better than last year.  No matter how much planning we do, factors such as weather and pests can effect the outcome of our garden plans.

Bring in the harvest!

Now is the time to plan your 2017 vegetable garden!  Get out some paper, make some lists and get thinking about spring!  Our weather here has been up and down, hard to know which season it is.  Our pair of snow people have both melted into a puddle.  I guess that’s what they call January thaw! Thank you for reading this week here at Everlongardener.

Hilary|Everlongardener

 

 

 

Good Intentions: Looking Ahead to the 2017 Garden

We often take on too much in life.  Sometimes this means we take on too much in the garden.  Many of our good intentions are never seen through to the end.  Although I have a fair amount of success with my garden, I actually have my share of fails each year.  Do you start out with good intentions?

Many of my readers probably assume that I’m in my garden 24/7. Although that may appear to be the case, I rarely spend more than an hour at a time in the vegetable gardens.  Spring and fall bring times for cleanup.  Flower and vegetable beds need some attention and edging. Dead heading and weeding are done here and there.  I have quite a few gardens now but I try to keep things manageable, keeping work to a minimum.

Frozen geraniums!

We all have some major fails when it comes to gardening.  It’s really part of the learning experience.  Most of the time for me, procrastination is to blame.  Every year, I say that I’m going to bring my geraniums in and I’m going to do just the right thing to keep them for next year.  Then, I put it off, only to realize that they are frozen!

Frozen pumpkin.

Look at all that pumpkin I could have put up for winter.  I kept on thinking that I would do it tomorrow!  Didn’t happen!

Another pumpkin that froze!

I also intended to turn my compost pile and start a new one.  But, there it sits.  No air circulation, compact and cold.

The compost pile…

In Maine, we suffered from very low rainfall this past year.  I never got around to hooking up the soaker hose to the upper garden.  The bed happened to be where all of our beans were planted.  I had a modest bean harvest but it definitely wasn’t as good as years past.  This year, my husband is talking about running a line up to the greenhouse and to the bed in front of it.  This will certainly help my watering efforts and maybe he won’t run over the hose so often with the lawn mower!

Then there were the window boxes on my garden shed.  They did pretty well but by August, if I wasn’t watering every day, they were toast! Maybe it’s time for some self-watering boxes from Gardeners Supply?

Digging up the irises.

Oh yes, then there was that time that I did the article on dividing irises. Well, just the other day I realized that I forgot to replant them after I divided them!  Is it okay to plant the rhizomes with snow on the ground? We will see!

Baby green bean!

Some of the top articles of this year were Growing Great Garlic In 4 Easy Steps, A Friends Garden and Growing Great Swiss Chard.  A few of you seem to identify with my ‘Reflections and Ramblings’ series including A Throwback To Times Gone By and Apple Trees in Bloom: A Window To The Past.  I know that I tend to present a variety of topics but gardening and nature appreciation involves so much of what’s around us.    Gardening involves so much more than the piece of land that we own.  I encompasses the whole area around us and beyond.

Here is a look back at some of my gardening photos for this past year.  Looks like we had a colorful year!  I have many good intentions.  My garden plan is taking shape, seeds are ordered and somehow I’m itching to begin all over again!  I look forward to more vertical growing, getting my Master Gardener status back and implementing more no-dig gardening techniques.  If you also are feeling ambitious, take it slow, put things on paper and be reasonable about the time that you have.

Some of my favorite garden and landscape pictures from 2016.

I feel that this post could have easily been called ‘Confessions of An Overwhelmed Gardener’!  A friend told me the other day that I make it look so easy.  I try to make it easy.  Otherwise I may not do it.  So, after this year of blogging, I sincerely hope that I’ve given inspiration and maybe even pushed you to keep going.  It has been a joy to present all of these gardening topics and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading along.  If anything, I’ve loved sharing my garden with all of you!  Thanks again!  I have a lot in store this coming year!  Don’t forget to follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, all under Everlongardener!  And subscribe for weekly gardening emails!

Hilary|Everlongardener