What Will I Do With All These Tomatoes?

They all seem to come at once and by the time the tomatoes start to ripen, they just keep coming! Small ones, large ones and crazy colored ones. Traditional types and unique varieties. The tomato harvest is upon us and there’s no turning back now. What will you do with all these tomatoes? Leave them on your neighbors porch? Let them rot on the windowsill? I don’t think so. Let’s get in the kitchen and use those tomatoes!

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Canning and Freezing

One of the best ways to preserve your tomato harvest is canning. From spicy salsa to sauce, relish to tomato jam, there are endless ideas for creating winter pantry delights. Bottle your own tomato juice, soup or Bloody Mary mix. Can stewed tomatoes for future winter soup and chili recipes. Your local Extension office website is a good source for canning guidelines.

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Use those tomatoes!

If you are like most of us though, there is very little time for the whole canning process. Chopped or whole tomatoes can be frozen in freezer bags. Homemade sauce can be frozen in containers. For more information on preserving tomatoes in the freezer, go check out my post Quick Food Preservation Tips. This article has time saving ideas for tomatoes, herbs and refrigerator pickles.

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Place tomatoes in zipper bag to freeze.

Get Creative in the Kitchen 

It may feel like you need to cram tomatoes into every meal of the day to eat them all. I too have been eating so many that my mouth is getting sores! I like to slice tomatoes for sandwiches, cold ones or in hot grilled cheese sandwiches. Some of us could eat this every day for lunch. So many combinations. Cucumbers, ricotta, cheddar cheese…BLT’s! They are all so good this time of year.

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A simple Caprese salad.

Salads present countless opportunities for the addition of fresh tomatoes. Smaller cherry tomatoes add so much flavor to a garden salad. Chop them into a bowl and add chunks of mozzarella, basil, balsamic vinegar and olive oil for a scrumptious salad that everyone will love. Comfort food like bruschetta can be a light and speedy summer supper.

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Roasted tomato soup.

Winter isn’t the only time for soup! Try preparing a fresh tomato chili or garden veggie soup. This week someone was suggesting roasting the tomatoes with herbs and olive oil. When the tomatoes are finished, put everything into the blended for a thick and savory roasted tomato soup. I tried my hand at it and it’s wonderful! I may have to do a recipe post for all of you in a few days!

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A bountiful harvest!

How about using all these tomatoes in the form of a pie? A light frittata or a flavorful quiche? A tomato pie, tart or a colorful heirloom tomato galette? This can elevate the tomato to center stage instead of just an addition to a salad. Fresh tomatoes of any size are so  wonderful on homemade pizza. Either use them for a topping or slice them to use instead of sauce. Mix up the cheese for all kinds of different flavors. Feta, cheddar, goat cheese…all of this tomato talk is definitely making me very hungry. Do you have any ideas yet?

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They just keep coming!

While canning tomatoes is a fantastic way to preserve them, it doesn’t take much time to add them to your weekly menu this time of year. There are endless recipes out there if you just look. From snacking to meals, it’s not hard to figure out what to do with all of these tomatoes! For some fabulous garden to table recipes try The Four Season Farm Gardener’s Cookbook. Full of gardening advice along with recipes for everything that may come from the garden.

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A variety of beautiful tomatoes.

This week has been a hot one! Feels a little unusual for late September but we’ll take it. With no major frosts in our zone 5b area, the garden has been able to keep going. It sure has been easy to pretend it’s still in the middle of summer! The leaves have begun to change to their golds and reds so fall is coming for sure. We had a chance to visit the Common Ground Country Fair last weekend. I have to say that I didn’t get to see nearly enough. When you bring a little boy it’s all about the farm animals and sheepdog demos! No gardening talks for me! Oh well…maybe next year! Thanks for joining me this week and use those tomatoes! Hey, and don’t forget forget to subscribe in the sidebar for more great fall posts!

Hilary|Everlongardener

 

Dreaming of Next Years Garden!

I know what you are thinking. Why is this girl thinking about next years garden? She is crazy! You’re right, my garden, like yours is a wild, dry jungle. Sometime my fails seem to outweigh my successes. Many veggies are ready to be pulled and composted. I can’t help but think that right now is the perfect time to make an honest assessment of what you want to do next year.

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While everything is still fresh in your mind, or still clinging on for dear life in the garden, walk through and see what did well. Are there any of the veggies that you would plant more of next year? Are there varieties that performed poorly?

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Morning in the garden.

Where there vegetables that thrived even through dry conditions. Did you have any flowering plants that were particularly good bee magnets? Where certain tomatoes more susceptible to blight? Do you have any greens that beat the heat?

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A bountiful harvest!

How effective was the compost that you used? Does the soil need any improvement? Any experiments you need to report on? These are just a few examples of how to gather data for future garden success.

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Kale in the garden!

Bring a notebook and a pen out to the garden with you. It’s a great idea to keep a garden journal from year to year. This way, it’s easy to look back and learn from the information that you accumulate. Try to record the varieties that you planted and how they did. This helps when ordering seeds during winter.

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Take garden notes…

This is a great time of year to pick up plants that are on sale. Think ahead to next year when browsing perennials, shrubs and trees. Is there empty space in your garden or landscape? Will you be eliminating or adding a garden bed? Maybe you’ve always wanted a hydrangea or a rose. Do you have room for a fruit tree or two? How about starting a row of raspberries? The fall season is the perfect time to plant for next year. Even if you find some bargain plants and don’t have a place just yet, simply make a small temporary bed somewhere in the yard. They can always be relocated in the spring. I’ve actually used empty vegetable garden space for this purpose many times.

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Sunflower from the garden!

I started a new garden journal this fall. I’m trying to carefully record the greens that I plant. It’s easy to run out to plant, then promptly forget which varieties are which. When the garlic gets planted this fall, a garden map will show me what’s what. It may sound tedious but it only takes a few moments to make a rough drawing. Then you won’t have to rely on your perfect memory! Ha!

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Apples are ready!
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Pumpkin everything…

The Autumn season begins next week. There are small traces of fall in the air already. Apples are turning red and people are talking about going picking. Pumpkin flavored everything is everywhere you turn. Red leaves are starting to dot the green landscape. Did I mention that I love fall? Anyway, I hope my dreaming of next years garden gets you on your way to garden success for the 2018 gardening season! Thanks for your interest in Everlongardener this week.

Hilary|Everlongardener

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Beau is always ready!

 

Dealing With Drought In The Garden

Late summer tends to be an exceptionally dry time of year for many of us. It’s hard to believe that we can have near drought conditions in Maine, while in Texas they are suffering from horrific flooding from hurricane Harvey. Not to mention Irma right on it’s heels. Whether we are in a real drought or not, water conservation and drought tolerant plants should always be a part of our garden design.

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Water Saving Tips

If all summer weather were ideal, we would have ample rain at night and endless, sunny warm days. We all know that doesn’t happen! We had a pretty wet, cool start to the growing season here in Maine but soon enough it turned very dry. Many plants in the garden are struggling to thrive.

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Gardens generally need water.

What are some great ways to save water when it comes to the garden? If you ever grew up with a well that gets really low every year, you know how creative a family can get when conserving water. If you choose to water with a hose or sprinkler, remember to water deeply so you won’t have to water as often. Using soaker hoses in strategic places can be an efficient way to water. Some gardeners install irrigation systems designed to come on only when they want them to.

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Soaker hoses gently water the garden.

Consider saving water inside the house by placing a dishpan in the sink to catch any water left over from hand washing or cleaning off garden produce. Simply take the pan out to a thirsty plant when it’s full. Some folks have constructed rain barrels to collect water for the garden use.

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A split valve helps you select which bed to water.

When we had some rain the other night, we placed all of the potted porch plants on the lawn so they would be watered with rainwater. If you are planting any new shrubs or larger plants, form a berm around the base of the plant with soil. This way, you can fill the space with water gently for the plant to soak up the water gradually. The berm acts like a moat around a castle. Mulching your gardens will help to keep moisture in. Some useful mulches are bark mulch, grass clippings, chopped leaves or hay.

Perennial Gardens

Some trusty favorites for perennial garden design are rudbeckia, echinacea and yarrow. For some real color, try gaillardia also known as blanket flower. Bees love it and it blooms right through the fall frosts. Perovskia or Russian sage is a woody plant with a crazy spray of lavender branches.

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Echinacea and Russian sage.

Sedums, whether short, tall and in between, thrive in dry conditions. Colors range from burgundy to yellow. With their succulent foliage and late summer flowers, members of the sedum family are a three season addition to any flower bed. The foliage comes in shades of green, blue and burgundy.

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Late blooming sedum adds so much to the garden!

Asclepias or butterfly weed, is a wonderful garden perennial which comes in several varieties. With its showy pink, yellow or orange blossoms to its quirky seed pods, this plant offers continuous interest for the eyes.  Butterflies, especially Monarchs and other pollinators flock to this bushy plant! It self seeds readily and is hardy to gardening zone 3.

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Black eyed Susan’s grace the late summer garden with endless color!

Some other fantastic perennials for the drought tolerant garden include euphorbia, helenium, lychnis, ecinops or globe thistle and members of the towering perennial helianthus (sunflower) family. Try ornamental grasses like ‘Blue Fesque’. Most of these plant species offer late summer and early fall flowers. Perfect for those dry times in the garden. If drought tolerant perennials are dispersed throughout your landscape, late summer color will continue. Late blooming shrubs like hydrangeas and hardy hibiscus bushes such as Rose of Sharon put on a brilliant show this time of year. Flowering shrubs bring structural interest to the flower garden year round.

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Hydrangeas!

Annual Flowers 

There’s nothing like dressing up a garden with sturdy annuals that seem to take care of themselves. Annuals such as cleome, tall verbena bonariensis and zinnias make a huge impact as perennials start to fade. In most cases, the more you cut, the more they flower.

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Zinnias in hot colors!

Cosmos, marigolds and bright calendula seemingly do there own thing in the garden. Needing little more than some light dead-heading. Cosmos come in so many pretty varieties including ‘Double Click’ and ‘Cupcake’. Marigolds come in tall, medium and small varieties. The ‘Gem’ marigolds may be a solution if you are not a marigold fan. It has a tiny flower with a lemon scent. We have been using a light cream marigold called ‘Vanilla’ for a few years now. It looks great with purple. Prolific portulaca and nasturtiums also thrive in drought conditions.

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Calendula bloom nonstop and are beneficial.

For barrels or deck containers, try lantana, angelonia, mandevilla, sweet potato vine or salvia. Garden centers sell many foliage plants such as annual ornamental grasses that work well too. Remember the rule of thumb for container growing, use some plants that fill, some that spill and a few that thrill!

Vegetable Garden 

For most vegetables, water is required for production. We’ve probably all seen shrivled up cucumber and bean plants scorched by the summer heat. Most salad greens have gone to the compost bin by now unless they are particularly heat tolerant. Many things are holding there own like the copious amounts of tomatoes, carrots and leaks.

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Garden harvest!

Some other veggies have needed continuous water. The squash, cucumbers and beans have really struggled. I’ve hand watered them as needed to save water instead of watering the entire garden.

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Green beans.

For more ideas on sprucing things up this time of year go to Late Summer Flower Bed Care. For some choices for fall color in the garden, see my top picks in 5 Perennials For Fall Color. Remember, your garden is never beyond repair…usually!

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Fresh rain on the hibiscus.

This past week our new pup, Beau, has been learning all kinds of new things. Mostly pushing us to our limit! Or trying to attack my hostas! We’ve been taking him just about everywhere that we can for socializing. Our schedule is a little off because our son has started kindergarten.  It seems impossible that this day has come. All of the usual anxieties are floating around in my brain. I’m sure I’ll settle into my new routine soon! Our garden is still producing but dry conditions have been slowing it down. I’m hoping this rain will get it through the next month or so. There is that familiar chill in the air in the morning and evening all of a sudden. Those warm fuzzy fall feelings are starting to creep in! Have a great gardening week everyone!

Hilary|Everlongardener

Garden Harvest 4 Bean Salad

Summertime and the living is beany! I know, I’m so corny that I make classic songs into lame gardening jokes! Maybe I’ll just stick to gardening. If you have a garden of any size and you grow green beans, you know how huge the garden harvests can be all at once. Sure, you can freeze or can them but how about eating your fill of them in fresh dishes? This week I’m sharing my Garden Harvest 4-bean salad recipe, filled with garden fresh veggies and lots of flavor.

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Ingredients List

  • 1 cup green beans
  • 1 cup wax or yellow beans
  • 15 oz. cooked kidney beans
  • 15 oz. cooked black beans
  • 1 tbsp. finely chopped dill
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped bell pepper
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 2-3 tbsp. sugar or preferred sweetener, optional
  • 1/2 tsp. each dry mustard, celery seed, crushed red chili flakes
  • salt and pepper to tastewww.everlongardener.com

Directions For the Salad 

Assemble all of the ingredients to make the salad. If you are using canned kidney and black beans, drain and rinse them.

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Peppers and onions.

Snap the beans and cut into 1 1/2″ pieces.

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Snap the beans.

Place the beans in a saucepan and put in enough water to cover the beans. Cook over high heat and boil for 2 minutes. Immediately drain beans to prevent overcooking. You can even shock them with cold water. We don’t want mushy beans!

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Steamy beans.
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Cooked beans.

In a large bowl, mix all beans together. Add onions and peppers.

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Add peppers and onions.

In a small bowl, make the dressing. Whisk all wet ingredients and spices together.

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Whisk the dressing.

Pour over bean salad and completely combine.

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Pour dressing over beans.

Cover bowl and place in the refrigerator. Allow to sit for at least 4 hours or overnight. The Garden Harvest 4 Bean Salad keeps for days and gets better the longer it marinates.

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Tucked into the fridge!

This salad makes a wonderful side dish to bring to gatherings, an addition to your lunch or eaten as a snack. 4 bean salad is a fantastic lunch on the go.

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Beautiful salad!

Packed with tons of tangy flavor, hearty beans and the freshness of summer, you’ll want to make this again and again. It’s inspired by traditional bean salads and my friends pickled dilly beans that we grew up eating. There’s nothing like garden fresh produce to help inspire all of us in the kitchen. I make this in winter if any decent looking beans are a available. Mix up the type of beans that our use to your liking. The kidney and black bean combo is my fave but you can use whatever you like or have on hand. If you would like to start growing beans, get some tips in the post Green Beans. They are one of the easiest veggies to grow!

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Great bean flavor!

This week in the garden we’ve received just a bit of rain to soothe the very thirsty ground. We could definitely use more. The cucumbers are finally beginning to produce and salad green seeds are in the ground for future cool weather harvests. Tomatoes are ripening like crazy. The new pup has been attacking my hosta plants and the low branches of the hydrangeas. This too shall pass! I forgot what it was like to have a baby in the house! Have a great gardening week everyone!

Hilary|Everlongardener

 

Plant Now For An Extended Harvest

With the summer gardening season marching right along, it’s easy to think about packing it in soon. Did you know that it’s actually no time to hang up your gardening hat? By planting certain seeds now, you have a chance to extend your garden harvest through the fall and right on into the winter. Join me for the amazingly simple way to harvest more food, even during the colder months!

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Timing Is Everything

As cooler fall weather creeps in, it’s time to sow seeds for cool weather crops. By planting now, you have a good chance of extending your harvest window. As spent plants get pulled out of the garden, plant fall and winter crops in their place. They will have time to become established before the really cold weather sets in, providing a potential harvest right through the winter. I live in US gardening zone 5b. Those of you in colder climates will want to plant earlier in the season, while gardeners in the lower states can plant even later. Around here in Maine, the middle of August through the beginning of September are excellent times for planting.

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Luscious fall and winter salads await!

Where to Plant

So, you don’t think you have room to plant more? How about using the area where you harvested your garlic? Do you have space where a crop failed? Amend the soil and get planting! How about a vacant cold frame? Do you have access to an unused greenhouse or hoop house? These are some of the options. Just make sure that whatever you pick, the space can be easily covered in a few months.

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A cold frame can be an excellent place to winter over veggies!

What to Plant

Within different types of cool season vegetables are varieties that do well in cool and even freezing temperatures. You may think that a carrot is a carrot but read some of the descriptions in your favorite seed catalogs. You may see the terms ‘cold-tolerant ‘ or ‘for overwintering’. Many varieties are conducive to cold weather. These cold-tolerant veggies don’t even mind the freeze and thaw of winter conditions. Check with your local greenhouse to see what they have for leftover seeds.

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Turnip greens love fall weather.

We are not talking about beans, corn and tomatoes here. Think about the first things that you are able to plant out in spring. Carrots, beets, kale, brassicas, radishes, spinach and all sorts of salad greens. Some garden centers even sell fresh fall seedlings these days. If you have time you could start your own. Since that first winter that I successfully protected salad greens right through to the spring, I’ve been working on improving my growing situation.

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Radish harvest.
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Lovely salad greens thrive through the winter.

Extra Protection 

I will say that some years are better than others. Sometimes my setup isn’t quite right. Some years I lose the battle with mice. But, I will say that for the most part wintering over greens is pretty simple and once you get the hang of it becomes second nature. If you are an avid gardener, you will relish the challenge. If you are a beginner, you will find that trying season extension doesn’t have to be hard.

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Winter garden harvest.

By giving the plants an outer layer of protection and then when temps go down providing a second layer, you can have season extension success. The first layer can be as elaborate as a greenhouse or as simple as a quick hoop constructed of re-bar or wood. Just make sure it can take a snow load. 6 mil. plastic or real greenhouse plastic will do the trick. The second layer consists of a product called ‘floating row cover’. This is a breathable, self-venting, spun poly fabric that can be found at most garden centers. When this fabric is suspended above the plants, it creates a snug environment for overwintering. In the photo below, I actually used hula hoop halves to suspend the row cover. Greens can be harvested in spring and will continue producing until hot weather hits.

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Floating row cover suspended over greens.

For in depth information about this subject look for the books The Winter Harvest Handbook by Eliot Coleman and The Year Round Vegetable Gardener by Niki Jabbour. Both are excellent guides to extending the garden harvest. Over the past few years, Everlongardener (also known as The Salad Green Queen) has had extensive posts such as How To Harvest Salad All Winter, Project Greenhouse and 4 Season Gardening, What to Expect. Subscribe and stay tuned throughout the next few months for more season extension tips.

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Row covers over greens in the greenhouse.

If you missed my post last week it was because I took a break. A few days spent by a roaring stream was just what our family needed. A place to leave all troubles behind, reflect and rest. I was pleased that upon my return I hadn’t missed the ‘Casa blanca’ lilies. A pure white oriental lily with a strong fragrance that drifts onto the porch in the morning and wafts through windows on warm summer nights. The beans needed picking and things needed watering but everything did pretty well. Thanks for checking out my post on season extension this week. I think a few of you will want to try your hand at 4-season growing this year! I’ve included a few garden photos and a picture of our adorable new gardening companion, Beau! Have a great week!

Hilary|Everlongardener

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My new ‘helper’! Photo cred. D. Gifford.
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The last of the day lilies.
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Cutie!
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‘Casa blanca’ lily.

What Your Garden Needs Right Now!

Although around here it seems like summer has just barely started, the growing season Maine is about half over. Most of us have people coming and going, summer trips to go on and all of the other obligations that we already have. On top of that, you planted a garden with big hopes and dreams of fabulous harvests. So, with that being said, what does your garden need right now for success?

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Be Mindful of Watering

Probably most of us want to be conservative with water. Whenever I wash salad greens I quickly bring the wash water out to water something. Does anyone else do stuff like this? It seems like they keep forecasting rain but we don’t really get anything. A good soaking can do wonders for a struggling garden.

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Thirsty hydrangeas!

My peas will be done soon but I’ve been keeping them hydrated so they can produce as long as possible. Any new garden plantings will need to be watered until they become established. We expanded a few areas this year and the few perennials we planted have needed daily watering. Of course, I would love to depend on regular rainfall to do the work for me but you can’t always rely on the weather.

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A split valve.

We have been using soaker hoses in our gardens that are furthest from the house. This has proved to be a real time-saver and they are really efficient if positioned properly. We simply run a long hose that goes by each garden. A split valve allows a soaker hose to come off at each garden and then ends up at the greenhouse. The greenhouse houses most of our tomatoes and the climbing cucumbers. Watering in the early morning allows the garden to dry out during the day. This way, the plants don’t sit in water all night. With tomato blight being an issue here, drier conditions are better. Removing the lower leaves of the tomato plants is helpful for keeping the plants disease free.

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Soaker hoses can be real timesavers!

Thin Garden Seedlings 

It might be time to thin carrots, beets or anything else that’s crowded. Carrots may need an inch or more between them for maximum growth. Beets need many inches to reach their full potential for fall harvest. Turnips, parsnips, onions…just do an inspection and see what needs attention.

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Overcrowded turnips.

Feed Your Plants

Even if your soil is top-notch, a boost of nutrients never hurts. I usually make up a bunch of fish emulsion fertilizer to feed my garden. You could also make a batch of worm casting or manure tea. Whatever you choose to use, a shot of fertilizer here and there may be just what your garden needs to get it through the rest of the summer.

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A little fertilizer!

Our garlic is nearly ready for harvest. Last week I gave it a nice drink of fish emulsion for the final week or two before we pull them up. There’s nothing like pulling up those fat garlic bulbs!

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Garlic likes a little shot of fertilizer.

When annual flowers are tended at a commercial greenhouse, they are usually given daily doses of fertilizer. After a while in your own garden, they may go through withdrawal from lack of nutrients. Next time you water, give them a feeding. This will help with continuous blooming for the rest of the season.

Garden Maintenance 

Weeds can quickly choke out crops, so pay attention to any weed situations. It can be difficult to pull tiny weeds. Sometimes I leave them till they are a bit bigger so that I have something to pull. A garden claw or collinear hoe can be very helpful. If weeding is not an option for you, consider mulching weeds with grass clippings, hay or newspaper.

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Pullin’ weeds…

Some early crops may need to be pulled. This makes room for fall planting. Succession Planting can really extend your garden harvest. Plants such as tomatoes may need staking or pruning. Climbing veggies such as beans or cukes can be repositioned for better growth.

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Pinching tomato suckers!

Flower beds can be spruced up too. Peonies and iris can have their stems trimmed. Anything that looks sprawling and ugly can be tidied up. You can find more tips in my article Late Summer Flower Bed Care. Dead-heading plants can keep them looking spiffy. A quick weeding in the front of a bed can make all the difference.

Harvest Time

Many herbs and other crops may need harvesting. Things don’t hang on forever, so grab them while they are at their peak. Basil and parsley keep on producing as long as you keep harvesting. Peas need to be picked or they will grow too large and bitter.

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Borage!

These are just a few helpful tips to keep your garden going through the heat, drought or any other situations that might come up. There seems to be a bit of a lull right now in my garden. The salad greens have been slowing down. Some crops are stunted this year, possibly due to the slow start to summer. Soon we will be overrun by tomatoes and hopefully many zucchini. Always something to look forward too! What’s going on in your garden? I would love to hear from you. Give me a shout in the comment section. Make sure to subscribe so you don’t miss any upcoming posts. I will be writing about local produce and other seasonal topics soon! Thanks for joining me this week!

Hilary|Everlongardener

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Rudbeckia.
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Day lilies!

 

Gardening With Kids

“Why try to explain miracles to your kids when you can just have them plant a garden.”~Robert Brault.

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One of my earliest gardening memories is standing barefoot in the soft dirt of my neighbors vegetable garden. We were picking carrots for canning. I remember picking potatoes bugs with a childhood friend. My grandmother always had garden chores for me to do. All these little things contributed to my love of gardening. The thrill of watching things grow! Where am I going with this? Never underestimate how much gardening will effect a child. When I say  gardening with ‘kids’, I don’t mean baby goats, I mean children, young people, tiny humans! Those little people that mean so much to us.

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Kids love to plant!

Why Garden With Kids?

Kids ask a lot of questions. Hundreds a day in fact. As I think about the opening quote, I realize that my son doesn’t really ask much about gardening. He’s learned so much already. Since he was a newborn, he’s been in a carrier or in the stroller watching me work. As soon as he could, he was digging in the dirt. The beauty of sharing gardening with children is that they get to see first hand how things grow. They don’t need to ask where carrots come from or how they grow. They even know that all food doesn’t have to come from the grocery store. It can come from their own garden, a neighbors garden or a local farm.

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Planting peas is always a fun spring activity!

What to Grow With Kids

Young ones can help with growing nearly anything but some things are easier to do than others. When planting, the bigger the seeds the better. This way little hands can grasp the seeds. Peas and beans are a great start. Pumpkins, cukes and zucchini are all easy to grasp and push into the ground. Potatoes have been one of the favorites around here to plant and to dig up. Radishes and carrots are exciting to harvest. When choosing your vegetable varieties, why not appeal to the eye with bizarre colors and shapes. Purple string beans, pink and white radishes or rainbow carrots!

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Picking small fruits.

Gardening doesn’t have to be limited to veggies. There’s nothing like that first strawberry, raspberry or blueberry! Start a strawberry or raspberry patch. They may not make it to the house but little fingers love plucking berries. Another idea is growing flowers. Try a few bold choices such as sunflowers, gladiolus or marigolds. You could even designate a garden just for them.

Peas on the vine.

Gardening Chores

Not all things grow well after they’ve been dug up and replanted. Not all things like to be run over with a dump truck. For several years now I’ve utilized fencing for our gardens. Some things just can’t be disturbed. On the other hand, there’s lots of things for kids to do. Give them a watering can, they’ll water everything! Have your little one pick beans, cherry tomatoes or peas.

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Watering.

We have acquired an assortment of child sized tools. Not only are they easy to work with, it really makes them feel a part of things. No matter what task is at hand, he can go grab a trowel, a leaf rake or a hoe. These pint sized tools are even great for adults when cleaning out tight spaces. We’ve even found gardening gloves in tiny sizes.

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Kids gardening tools.

Have Fun!

There are so many ideas out there for gardening with kids. Try growing a bean teepee. Grow a whimsical sunflower house or start a miniature garden. Many of our summer and fall activities are agriculturally based. Strawberry picking, hayrides, corn mazes and apple picking. Take these opportunities to educated them about food and growing. Talk about bugs and worms. Most of all, have fun when gardening with children. Take the opportunity to teach. Use these moments to explain things. Even if they never grow up to garden, the skills that you share can last a lifetime. If you don’t have children of your own, garden with the kids in your life. Nieces, nephews, grandchildren, friends or neighbors. It’s a great way to spend time with them.

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There are surprises along the way!

Introducing them to gardening at a young age can get them interested in trying new things. I had a dear young friend of mine who used to help me harvest lettuce. He needed to try every single kind. He even liked the spicy ones. Even though he’s almost grown now, I’d like to think that those memories will stay with him. My son doesn’t like to try things but he calls out flower names as we drive through town. He describes them as ‘gorgeous or beautiful’! I’m thrilled to instill a love of gardening in him!

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Stop to smell the flowers!

In our garden, the peas are plumping up. Cherry tomatoes have set their fruit and the lettuce is still coming. The peonies have been in full bloom and the roses are flourishing in the warmer weather. Booming thunder showers have helped with the watering. The nearby fields have been hayed and the corn fields are starting to get knee high! If you have some kids around you, get them out in the garden. So much awaits you! Thank you for your interest in Everlongardener this week and don’t forget to subscribe for seasonal gardening posts!

Hilary|Everlongardener

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Salvia in bloom.
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Dogwood in the morning light!

How To Avoid Garden Overwhelm

I’ve talked with several friends this spring about their gardens and many of them are feeling overwhelmed. Life is really busy…

I’ve talked with several friends this spring about their gardens and many of them are feeling overwhelmed. Life is really busy for most of us these days. Ticks and other biting insects keep us indoors. The somewhat dismal spring weather we’ve had has weeds flourishing and seeds rotting in the ground. With all of these factors working against us, how can we avoid garden overwhelm?

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Life throws us countless curve balls. By missing a week or two in your garden, things can really go downhill fast. When you finally get out to the garden, it’s hard to avoid garden overwhelm. Unless your vegetable or flower beds are completely carefree, they do need weekly attention.

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A weedy spot in our garden.

Don’t Take On Too Much

When spring finally hits we can feel unstoppable. When drawing up a garden plan it’s easy to plan way too much. When I look through seed catalogs, I circle everything that catches my eye. I reason that I have plenty of space for this or that. I know what you’re thinking. You don’t just want peas, you want green and purple podded ones. You want 4 kinds of garlic and 28 tomato plants of different varieties. The struggle is real! It’s just not possible for every gardener to grow everything. Another consideration is harvest time. If you don’t have enough time to deal with crates of tomatoes and 100 radishes all at once, plant fewer plants. You could even try planting several different types with different maturity rates.

So many things to do…

A trip to the nursery is no better. I may start out with a list but then my eyes hit those colorful seed packets and fresh, young seedlings stretching out on tables before me as far as the eye can see. You go in for a few basic things and end up with a carload. Just planting may cause overwhelm.

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Seed packets.

So, what can be done to eliminate garden overwhelm? Make a list and stick to it. Leave a little bit of room to possibly try something new. This year, I purchased a few geraniums for the porch and some annuals for the shed window boxes. Other years, I’ve tried to cram flowers in so many pots here and there. Then, I find I have little time to water them. It can be hard when you are staring at endless lines of hanging baskets that are just gushing with flowers. Ask yourself, will I have time to water and deadhead them? Why not choose a few high impact plants rather than many smaller ones? If you’ve been reading Everlongardener for any amount of time, you are familiar with the many ideas I’ve shared for simplifying your garden.

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Zucchini are finally up!

Check Your Garden Daily 

I know that this may sound like a lot, but checking on your garden daily can head off future problems. Just taking your morning tea or coffee out to the garden can be a refreshing experience. Try an after work detox by strolling through the garden. Maybe some post-dinner weeding during the cooler part of the day. This way you can see what needs water, check if any pests are eating leaves or you might notice that a certain weed is taking over your carrots. A few minutes a day may not even feel like work. Make sure that when you pull those weeds you get the root. This means it will take longer for them to come back!

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There’s always something to weed!

When harvest time comes, if you neglect checking on the garden, you may even miss the harvest completely. Imagine if you didn’t look over your cucumber or zucchini plants for a week! The harvest would completely get away from you.

Mustard greens going by.

It’s better to do a few things well than to do many things haphazardly. Focus on a few things if you are strapped for time. I made a few simple suggestions in 5 Easy Vegetables For The Beginner Gardener. If you can’t pull off having a vegetable garden every single year, consider joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Members pay a local farm for a weekly share of fresh produce. This gives the farm spring capital and provides the customer with plenty of weekly vegetables. I have a friend who wondered why she was growing lettuce when the farm down the road sells a head for $1.50. She has a point. Another option is to make a weekly trip to your local farmers market. Anyway that you choose, eating local, consciously grown food is one of the joys of summer!

We joined two of the garden beds last week.

Amid all that spring entails and the speed with which summer passes by, try to get out while the weather is warm. Garden if you can and if it makes you happy. Just don’t get overwhelmed. Hope you liked seeing some of my weeds this week! We’ve been picking away at one project at a time around here. Many other things are going on. We are now in for some gorgeous Summer days in mid-coast Maine. Here are a few shots from the garden. Thanks for checking out Everlongardener this week and don’t forget to subscribe in the sidebar!

Hilary|Everlongardener

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Second round of basil, hope it makes it!
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A few strawberries!
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Peonies are opening!

From my garden to yours, over and out!

Grow a Reliable Crop of Mizuna Mustard Greens

One thing about being a gardener is the opportunity of trying new veggies and interesting varieties. It’s fun, delicious and colorful to plant different things every year. From the Brassica family of Asian greens or mustard greens, comes mizuna. If you want to add color and mustard flavor to your table, add mizuna to your planting list!

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I’ve grown many types of mustard greens over the years and I really do love them all. One drawback to growing them is that they do suffer from insect damage. After a while I realized that the mizuna, particularly in shades of red, are unharmed by flea beetles or aphids. Sometimes referred to Japanese mustard greens or spider mustard, these greens are great in salads or sandwiches and you can use the more mature leaves in cooking if you like. Just treat it like spinach.

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‘Ruby Streaks’ mizuna.

My favorite variety of red Mizuna is ‘Ruby Streaks’. It’s lacey leaves have greenish undersides with burgundy red streaks stretching across the top. Mizuna is as beautiful to look at as it is to eat. This type is widely available from most seed suppliers. Other types that may appeal to you include ‘Red Splendor’, ‘Early Mizuna’ or ‘Scarlet Frills’. One review from Baker Creek Seeds describes it as being the “easiest green to grow for my tough soil/weather conditions, including shameful neglect. Grows all seasons for me (and holds in most winters) without any problems.” Sounds like a winner! I’m sure we can all relate to that part about neglect.

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‘Ruby Streaks’ mustard.

What can you expect for flavor? Well, as the name mustard greens denotes, these greens have a very mustard essence about them. ‘Ruby Streaks’ has a surprisingly sweet, hot flavor. The hotness is not overpowering though and you can still taste the flavor of the greens. Each nutrient packed variety of mustard greens that you choose to grow will have it’s own unique flavors and qualities.

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Mizuna leaves add so much to a salad!

Mizuna can easily be used for microgreens. In the garden, plant in spring through fall for a summer full of mustard flavor. Mizuna only takes 21 days for baby greens to mature and 40 days for adult leaves. Even if warm temperatures cause mizuna to bolt, continue to harvest it’s leaves as long as you like the flavor. Their pretty yellow flowers are edible too. With small sprigs of mizuna sprinkled through a salad, the mustard taste will add quite a zesty pop! Because of it’s long growing season, mizuna could quickly become one of your 4 season favorites! Mizuna is a hardy addition to a fall planted garden and will readily self-seed if allowed.

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The small flowers of mizuna.

What are some of the unique crops that you love to grow? Speckled beans, purple podded peas? Of course, most of us can’t grow everything but it keeps things fresh when we try new colors and flavors. With these hot days this week the garden has really shot up. Beans are continuing to poke through the ground, the peas are reaching for the sky and the irises are blooming like crazy! Along with the warmth, the evening mosquitoes are attempting to carry us away! I’m leaving you with a few garden pics of what’s going on here. Have a great week out there!

Hilary|Everlongardener

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Peonies in bud!
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The bees are crazy for the rhododendrons.
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Iris in the evening light.

How to Create the Perfect Salad Garden

If you have just a small space for a garden, why not try growing a salad garden. It is one of the best ways to utilize a tiny space. Short on time this summer? A salad garden can be the perfect solution to a busy schedule! Downsizing your garden? Just starting out? Low maintenance and with very little commitment, a salad garden may be all that you need!

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First of all, what is a salad garden? Growing salad greens? No, not just salad greens. A true salad garden uses a small space to grow all of the components of a salad. Each salad garden can be tailored to individual tastes and needs. This will give you the most crop variety using a very limited size garden. Many of these veggies take up very little space compared to beans or squash for instance.

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Several types of tomatoes!

What to Grow

The foundation of any salad would of course be the greens. Do you like spinach? Adore arugula? Head lettuce or loose leaf? Lettuce mixes may be a great place to start. A variety of colors and flavors to brighten your plate. Baby chard or beet greens can add color and flavor. Kale is another great green to put in a salad garden. Try growing 2-3 rows of various greens. Look for some heat tolerant greens for mid-summer harvests. I use ‘Summer Lettuce Mix’ from Fedco.

Kale is a delicious green for the salad mix!

A few cherry or grape tomato plants will provide your table with a continuous harvest once they start producing. Plant a few slicing tomatoes if you have space. You will probably end up with more than enough tomatoes. These fruits are known for their intensely sweet flavor from ripening in the sun. Sometimes they don’t even make it back to the house! For a smaller garden, choose 2 plants and for a larger space try 4 plants.

A bountiful harvest.

Radishes are among the quickest crops to grow in the salad garden. Spring and fall are the best times to grow radishes. They prefer cool temperatures. Their tiny seeds can be sown in between rows of carrots or lettuce. Choose radishes that are mild or spicy hot! Radish varieties like ‘French Breakfast’ and ‘Cherry Belle’ mature in as few as 25 days. That’s less that a month away from garden goodness! If you plant a few seeds every 2 weeks, you will have a continuous harvest instead of them ripening all at once.

 

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Radishes are great addition to the salad garden.

Growing a few rows of short season carrots can make a big splash in your salad bowl. Homegrown carrots have a flavor that can’t be beat. Use smaller carrots as you thin them. A quick growing type like ‘Mokum’ takes a mere 48 days to reach 5-6″ long. Grow purple, white or yellow carrots for a color show that your won’t believe.

Colorful carrots in a salad!

Get it on Paper

Measure out the area that you can use for your salad garden. Do you have room for a 3×6, a 6×6, 5×8 or maybe a more ambitious 12×5 plot? Even the smallest choice will provide a weekly harvest from the garden. Draw your space on paper to see how you will arrange it. Taller plants such as tomatoes should be in the back of the garden. A larger garden could include small amounts of chard, broccoli, peas, peppers and beet greens. Try mixing in herbs such as basil, dill or parsley for adding to salad or for cooking. Scallions or chives can be great for flavoring too! What would your perfect salad garden include?

A variety of seeds!

When you’ve decided where and what you want to plant in your salad garden, prepare the ground. If the soil needs amendments, add a few inches of compost. Plant directly into the soil. Some organic granular fertilizer can also give the salad patch a boost. For some tips on how to start from scratch, check out the article How To Start A New Garden.

Succession Planting

By leaving some space at planting time, you will be able to sow more seed for carrots, greens or radishes every few weeks. This means that you will save some of your seeds for later. As some crops go by, the new ones will be maturing. Succession Planting ensures continual salad garden success throughout the gardening season.

Tender fresh greens!

A wonderful salad garden could easily be modified for container or deck planting. If you have very little land or are an apartment dweller, salad gardening may be for you! If a large vegetable garden seems totally out of reach, why not grow a salad garden this year? It’s not too late to put the perfect salad garden in!

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Gorgeous bowl of salad greens.

I’ve been itching to get back in the garden! June is upon us! Hopefully this dreary, damp weather moves along for good! It was so good to feel the warm sun on my back yesterday! Most of the veggies are up in my garden. I still have a few things to plant. More carrots, maybe more salad greens, the rest of the onions and scallions. This weather has been great for growing weeds. Some of my wilder garden spots need attention. What’s up in your garden so far? I would love to hear from you! I very much appreciate you stopping by to read Everlongardener this week. With some warm, sunny days coming, try to get out and soak up some sun!

Hilary|Everlongardener