Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Backyard Farming W e e k - veggies & herbs

Hello, friends!
We're home from Colorado, rested and centered. I can't wait to share some of the pictures we took along the way- camping, hiking, and spending time on the open road.
Before we left, I started Backyard Farming Week. I believe the Veggies & Herbs are where I left off.

This year, I planted radishes, carrots, jalapenos, beans, sweet banana peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes, strawberries, and a handful of herbs: basil, rosemary, patchouli, mint, dill, parsley, cilantro, and cat nip. Here are a few pictures over the last few weeks around the garden.

My cucumbers I planted from seeds that I got from Grandma. She seeds all her plants, and lots of veggies and herbs around my little farm are transplants from her own garden.
When you plant cucumbers, give them lots of room. I had about 10 plants, which was about 7 plants too many. It was my first year to plant them, and I worried that a lot of the seeds wouldn't make it. Well, they did. And I ran out of room. I let them climb up a few tomato cages we had laying around, and they started to fruit. Make sure you give them something to climb, they'll love it.

In no time you'll be making salads, or filling jars to make pickles.
The yellow blooms are what turn into the cucumber, so look for lots of healthy flowers.

My jalepenos are out of control. I planted 2 plants, and next year I'll cut it back to one. Even though I love to cook Mexican food in the Summer, there's only so much of these little guys I can throw into my nachos, homemade salsa, and omelets. I had about 6-8 jalepenos per plant, every week and a half. That's way too hardy of a crop for me to be able to use them, so I've been giving them away by the handful.
They love the heat, and are tolerant of dry soil. Which means that in Oklahoma, they grow like weeds. The longer you leave them on the plant, the hotter they get. Pick them young for a milder flavor, and leave them longer to burn the taste buds.

Most types of peppers grow under the same conditions. My sweet bananas also grow like weeds. I have one plant, which is just right for the two of us.

My beans were incredibly short lived:

In fact, that one bean is the only bean I got from the entire batch. You might be wondering what the plants are doing laid out on the kitchen counter. That was a result of one run through the garden, thanks to Hunter.
Please keep your labs out of your gardens :) Mine managed to wipe out an entire group of plants in less than 10 seconds.

My tomato plants took off, like always. Tomatoes are one of the easiest things to grow, and I'd really suggest them to beginners and part-time backyard farmers. Not to mention the smell of a tomato plant is one of my favorite smells in the entire world. I even had a tomato plant candle one time.

Give them a couple feet of space, a cage to grow on, and let them get busy on their own. They love the heat, and it's the mid-Summer warm, dry afternoons that really help them produce.
Be careful not to plant them too early. Our soil stayed cool for a long time this Spring, and for the first month I fought yellow leaves and droopy plants.

This year I bought a couple plants from the Farmer's Market, like I always do. A month into Summer, I noticed that I had eight volunteer plants coming up. I was amazed, because three years ago I bought my plants at the Farmer's Market, and these were the third generation babies of those plants. My rule of thumb is, by year three, the plant is considered mine.

I was slow to move them to better locations, and made a huge mistake in the farming-front. Carelessly, I moved 4 of my plants to where my beans once were, after they had already started to bloom. That night when I called my Mom, she was mortified of my news. Here I was, thinking she'd be proud of my green thumb for sprouting all these new little plants.
I think her exact words were: "Aura. Why didn't you talk to me and Grandma first?"


Sure enough, my fears were confirmed. She gave me a grim diagnosis for my tomato volunteers, and confirmed that moving a plant after it has already bloomed fruit in the dead of Summer is a death sentence for the plant.
I spent the next three weeks trying to save my little plants. I went over to Grandma's, so she could give me a lesson on how to save them.

She suggested I build a shade canopy over the plants, because the sun would burn them. She said the heat was enough to keep them alive. She also went to the cupboard and pulled out old bottles full of vitamins, shoved a handful in my pocket, and told me to bury them around the plants. She said to keep an eye on the plants, and sent me home to save them.

Over the next three weeks they plants wilted, and neared death. One had 17 little green tomatoes on it, and I was so sad that it would certainly die this season.
But it's been a month, and not only did they bounce back, but the green fruit is turning red. Once it was safe I pulled off the shade, and let them take care of themselves.

You can try the shade method for yourself, if you'd like. Since we have very hot, burning Summers where the sun feels like it's literally eating everything in sight, I don't think it's a bad idea at all. Grandma keeps her entire garden covered every year:

And every year I'm amazed that a woman that just digs a hole in the ground and throws in seeds can produce the kind of amazing tomatoes, cucumbers, and herbs that she does. That's my Grandma.

My radishes were huge this year. Look at that monster! They were hot, too. One time my Mom told me that the hotter the weather is, the hotter the vegetables turn out. Radishes like cooler soil, and because I let some of mine mature well into Summer, I think they turned spicy under the conditions.

As far as herbs go, they are easy as pie to grow. Some herbs, like parsley, rosemary, lavender, and mint come back year after year on their own.
If you're having trouble with any of your herbs, you might look into what they need to thrive. Sometimes you can be over/under watering, not giving them enough sun, or planting them with plants that they're not compatible with. Here is a really good guide to the herbs you need to know about.

Persians eat a bowl of herbs with every meal, so it was in my blood to grow a huge herb garden.

The cats love their nip. I got out once a week and snip off a couple leaves, and bring them inside. I probably shouldn't get as much satisfaction as I do out of seeing my cats totally high on the good stuff.

If you've been following along with my gardening posts, you'll know that I tried to completely rid of of basil this year. I planted it in my garden year #1, and it has come back and plagued my ever since. The stuff is out of control, growing almost as tall as me, and spreading over the entire garden.

If you don't want this to happen to you, don't let your herbs (especially something so hardy like basil) go to seed. If you see them bloom into flowers, they've gone to seed, and already started leaving their little babies all over your garden.

This year I went ahead and let them go to seed, again. Next year the flower & herb garden is getting a huge overhaul, and I don't know that any of those seeds will make it past my big plans.
Basil is actually quite pretty, it smells nice, and it's a mosquito repellent, so it's not so terrible to have around. Just be careful of how invasive it can be.

When you bring your herbs inside to eat, soak them in a bowl of water for about 30 minutes before you chow down. I have a habit of walking around the yard, grabbing things, and eating before I even look. The other day I made the mistake of pulling a carrot out of the ground and assuming that a little shake would be enough to not make for a dirt-filled, crunchy mouth. Dirt never hurt anybody, but one day I almost ate this little creature on a sprig of cilantro.

That was thanks to Grandma, who also lives a little on the dirty side. My Mom immediately scolded her for not soaking her herbs in water before bringing them over.

Around the veggie garden, I made a handful of mistake this year. By year 5, I hope to have my official green thumb. For now I'm still learning, making mistakes as I go along, and correcting them with each year that comes. This year my biggest mistake cost me a handful of plants early on in the season.
When I started my garden, I planted my plants in wet soil. My impatience to get them in the ground led to some hardening of the mud, and then the quick snapping and death of one tomato plant, and multiple others along the way:

Plant in the morning, in dry crumbley soil.

I also managed to attract lots of pests this year, and because I didn't chose to deal with some of them early, they became an issue.
For my pesky little birds eating my strawberries, we built this contraption around one portion of the garden that holds my berries, and most of my tomatoes.

Unfortunately a few birds still managed to get in, but it only took me leaving them out there, trapped inside the enclose with all their friends watching for an hour to keep them at bay after that. I really do believe in the power of making an example out of one poor, innocent pest. Don't worry, I didn't cut off it's head and shove it on a stake at the entrance of my garden. No birds were harmed.

We also had ants like you would not believe this year. In my next landscaping post, I'll tell you about my failed efforts to keep them away.
They didn't do a lot of damage to the garden, they're just annoying to have around.

The mice proved to be the worst. Big, fat field mice that got into my enclosure and ate all my strawberries, gnawed on the tops of my radishes that stuck above ground, and pulled sweet tomatoes off the plants.
I have yet to come up with a solution on these little rodents. I considered taking Fig to the vet, loading him up on shots, and turning him into a mouser. Ultimately I decided that I would have to come up with something else. I don't have the heart for traps, so I'm kind of stuck when it comes to the field mice.

Caterpillars didn't seem to be much a problem, this year. We just had a few visitors around the yard that didn't stay for long.

I don't know who this guy was, but when he noticed I was taking his picture he stopped, turned to stare at me, then turned back around to go on with his business. After that, I felt like I had been warned and didn't take any more pictures of his angry, red face. Sorry, dude.

Well, those were a few of the veggies around the yard. When I finish up Backyard Farming Week, I'll show you guys some pictures of my crops, and the bowls of veggies I have been bringing inside to eat with all our meals.

This time of year it's easy to get lazy under the heat of Summer. I have only been in my garden every few days, picking veggies and pulling the occasional weed. I always start to get sad around this time, when my plants start to dry out, and I'm reminded that only a few weeks are left of Backyard Farming.

This Spring, you should plant a garden, friends. I promise you'll love it.


sarah said...

what a bounty! it's lovely.

a little black cloud in a dress said...

I hope by next year, which will be my third year, I'll have this down as much as you do! I just ripped up half of my garden the other day because I decided if I couldn't eat my veggies, the ants weren't going to either.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I'm inspired to make my sad little veggie patch some friends! :)

Although, I've never, in my entire life, been able to grow ANYTHING from a seed though. It's quite depressing!


Winter is almost over here in Oz, so I will be excited to start a spring patch, and I'm definitely hoping to get into flowers as well. :)

Thanks for your tips and inspiring photos and stories. I really appreciate them. :)

bex said...

You are quite an encouragement to get my gardening act together. I made my first attempt at a garden this year and made way too many mistakes to count that left me with a dead messy garden. I keep telling myself there's always next year, I'm determined to have a green thumb ;)
thanks for your garden posts they are very helpful!

Steph said...

I just saw you posted and said "Yay!" out loud. Glad you guys are back and getting centered, can't wait to see your pictures and hear stories about your trip. Our container garden is doing really well - we have purple peppers and lots of cherry tomatoes!

homesprout said...

Keep in mind that your advice is for a southern garden. I often forget that when I'm writing about my garden also (we live in the NY). Basil definitely isn't evasive here. Also, tomatoes are hard to grow in NY! :)

However, my beans were pretty...

Elizabeth - said...

Maybe it's our town this summer, because I had the mice as well. And a really, really bad turn out in the garden :(

Kelly@TearingUpHouses said...

I envy your garden! I so miss having one.


Aura said...

Thank you, ladies!

Hollie- That's not a bad idea. I know you ripped them up for spite, but I think the sooner they know there's not food for the, the sooner they're gone. Have you considered spraying chemicals now that your plants are up? As soon as fall hits, I am treating my entire yard. Heavily.

Annie- I don't have good luck with growing seeds indoors and then transplanting them in the ground, but I have had great luck with sowing seeds directly into the ground!
I love all my Australian blog friends, it's so neat to get to see you guys in a completely different season than us. Although I'm always insanely jealous in the dead of winter as you guys are enjoying your war, sunny days :)

Bex- Don't let the mistakes get you down! I made more than I can even count this year. I swear every year I make more and more, but I think it's because I have too high of expectations for myself. There's always room to improve with gardening, you just have to be happy with what you know and take it one growing season at a time. :)

Aura said...

Lindsay- Before I started I considered talking about zones, but I figured most people would figure out that I am a Southern gardener by all my heat talk!
Why are tomatoes hard to grow for you in New York? Do you have a short Summer? Sometimes mine take so long to kick off that I have to constantly remind Michael in his attempt to move us to Colorado that I couldn't grow tomatoes there! :)

Elizabeth- I think a lot of us had a bad season. I have a ton of clients who garden, so every year I get really great statistics on what the norm is around here. We had a very cool Spring that made for some cold soil, then it quickly turned scorching hot, and lets not even mention the torrential downpours/hail. Our poor gardens!

Steph- I so wanted to ditch garden week and just post Colorado pictures :) Coming soonish!

John Dearden said...

That is a beautiful garden you have there. Mine started out like that but living in Phoenix in the summer, the plants can only take so much. I hope to plant more in late summer-start of fall.

Lindsey said...

Oh, you make it sound so wonderful! My grandma taught me to love the dirt on carrots too, but she's not really around to mentor me the way yours is. And mom doesn't live in my climate. But I think I'll try planting something this spring. You are inspiring in your endeavors.

Unknown said...

That sounds like such fun! How do you find out when you can plant what for any particular climate/area of the country??? I'm near Phoenix, if that helps. :) PS- welcome back!

debby emadian said...

Hello Aura, I just found your blog recently and then you went away. I'm so pleased to see that you're back.

Your blog is beautiful and honest and your garden lovely. I'm so glad that I found you. :o)

mama bear said...

Aura, I have never been fortunate enough to live in a space with a garden, other than in my childhood.

Thank you for sharing these pictures and stories. your love of the earth is truly beautiful. xx

ninja said...

Now I'll be asking for a tomato plant scented candle in every shop. Congrats on your basil, mine is an inch tall and doesn't seem to get any taller.

Johanna said...

I love these garden ramblings because they have a conversational, show-n-tell vibe.

Maybe that bug is a milkweed beetle?
I think they are cute.

I'm very impressed with your/your grandmother's tomato reviving skills.

ali said...

Welcome back!
Isn't it the best feeling to walk out into your backyard and snack on the fruit and veggies that are growing in your backyard. I love it. :)
Your garden is beautiful, I have a couple pictures of mine our my blog, check it out if you'd like. Although, maybe wait till the weekend because I am planning on doing a new garden post. :)

Sarah Katie said...

glad you had fun on vacation. backyard farming didn't happen for me this year. i wish that it had. hopefully next year i can do it. my mom firmly believes that she can't grow anything. but i'm willing to give it a try. my gramma can grow just about anything. so come next year i'm going for it.

question: do you start your seeds early in your house under a grow light, or do you just plant them straight from the seed in your garden? or do you buy the plants?

iowa gardening shouldn't be too much different than oklahoma, except i think that the air may be a bit drier. we always have super humid summers, how will that affect my plants?

Southern Charm said...

I love that you posted some stuff about your garden. I planted my first garden this year, so it's always fun to see someone elses garden!
The picture of your tomato plant that's broken off at the soil line looks like what my tomato plants looked like when they got attacked by cut worms. The cut worm wraps its little body around the stem right at the soil and literally cuts the whole plant down. Someone told me to put toothpicks on each side of the stem so they can't wrap their bodies around it. It actually worked too!
Anywho, keep up the good work! It looks great!

Charity P. said...

Hi, Aura-

I have a tomato plant that I planted in a container in the spring. I got a small crop of tomatoes (maybe about six) and then the plant looked like it was about to die. I moved it into a shadier corner of the patio, and it's green again, looking much happier. But I only see one or two flowers, and am wondering if it's normal for it to yield so little, or if I'm doing something wrong. I have a cage for it to crawl, but maybe my container is too small? Just wondering if you have any container tomato advice. :)


Anonymous said...

welcome back! i love see your gardening posts. i'm taking in all the knowledge for when i move back home and start my own. :)

siniann said...

Welcome back!

Oh so wonderful to have some many fresh things from your own garden, I would walk there everyday and just snack some tomatoes on the way.

And i'm still waiting for the camping tips posting even thought it seems that I can't go to camping this summer at least. My work accident at june has but my life away from the tracks and i can't see the bad cycle to end.

Anonymous said...

You're so lucky you have an abundance of jalepenos haha I love them! Can't wait to see the pictures from your camping trip


yours truly, melissa said...

I'm so inspired! Maybe next year I'll be brave and attempt to grow some things... We shall see.

Glad you had fun in CO. I actually just got back from visiting a friend in Denver myself last Monday. I love Colorado...

makel(los) said...

oh wow! i'm so impressed!
your garden is wonderful.
i'm so sad that my tomatoes are still green.

be blessed,
mareike from germany

a little black cloud in a dress said...

Well the only thing I had planned on doing was lots and lots of reading on what went wrong this year! I will definitely look into spraying. Thanks for the suggestion!

Mice Aliling said...

Hi Aura,

I you have a delightful garden. I live in the city with no back or front yard. I have always wanted to plant plants. But my space can only accommodate potted ones. So herbs are my only garden friends for the year.

I will be experimenting tomatoes this year. We have a humid weather in this tropical country so our enemies mostly are storms and droughts. But you can say that it's always sunny almost all year round.

Your photos are dainty and feminine that when I feel sarcasm breathing out of me again, I just pop into your site and I feel so girly girly ( this is a compliment although I have to admit sarcasm 80% sarcasm resides in me).

Thank you so much for inspiration through words and photos. Keep up the good work.


Geezees Custom Canvas Art said...

Your garden is so inspiring!
And your photos are amazing.
Glad i found you :)

Now and Forever said...

Hi Aura! I love that you love the smell of tomato plants. It's one of my favorite smells, too (right up there with fresh cut hay). Burts Bees actually has a tomato toner. I used so much of it on my face that it caused me to breakout and have a massive rash all over my neck and face...I just couldn't resist rubbing a cotton ball that smelled like tomatoes all over my face. Ha! My puppy loves to run in my garden and normally I'd stop her, but I can't resist snuggling with her later on when she smells like tomato plants.
Have a great day =:)

Piper Larson said...

What a beautiful post! Makes me wish I'd planted a garden this year. Although, even if I had, I don't think it would have been as lovely as this. It sounds like your grandmother is a garden genius. I love the tips and tricks she gave you. Have a great weekend!
XO Piper

Judy @ In His Grip said...

I come over to your blog from time to time and toally love your posts. But what really gets me is your photography. It is truly creative and artistic. Thanks for the inspiration.

Jodi Kendall said...

these images are simply amazing! I love the peppers and green beans. Wow - inspirational to start a vegetable garden :)

Kelly @ turned UP to ELEVEN! said...

I'm so happy you wrote all this! I can't wait until next year I will reference this again and again!

P.S. Your ring is so amazing! Very beautiful and I love the family value it holds too! ox

Country Girl said...

I keep all those extra jalapenos...cut in half, seeded and frozen. Then I always have "fresh" jalapenos on hand during the winter. :-)

yogini cowgirl said...

Your garden is GORGEOUS. And as a new transplant to Montana (formerly of Los Angeles), I'm looking forward to having the land and the time to plant one next year. You've inspired me to start figuring it out now ... there's clearly a LOT to know! Thanks for sharing your photos and stories.

Carly said...

This year was my first garden. All of my veggies were planted WAY TOO CLOSE together. Live and Learn! I think you should post this again next spring... just to remind us what we learned from this year. Sad to think of next spring ... that means winter has to come again!

Monica Robinson said...

I only recently discovered your blog and I am officially addicted. I check daily to see if you have posted anything new - just in case so I don't miss anything!

I can't wait to start my own little garden here in Adelaide, Australia. It is winter at the moment but I am hoping to get something little started soon to enjoy with my 2 year old daughter Lili.

Monica :)

DoarATAT said...

Bună Ziua ! Pentru Aura !
Minunat ... verde, natură vie, ploaia !
~ Cornelius,
PS: ... Oo ! Grădinărit ! Eu am doar flori de balcon.
Felicitări pentru realizare !
Hello! For Aura! ~ Wonderful ... green living nature, rain! ~ Cornelius, PS ... Oh! Gardening! I just flowers balcony. Congratulations achievement!! ~,
Iertare ! Am folosit traducere PC automata !
Forgiveness! I used the PC version automatically!
...Bucuresti, Romania
3 August 2010~7:45AM

erin said...

i love that you have transplants from your grandmothers yard.

Pavithra said...

you have a really cute blog with wonderful images. thanks for sharing this one. i really enjoyed learning how to better fix my veg garden!

Anna said...

What a wonderful garden. Every year I resolve to try to grow things. Then I get overwhelmed and impatient and my plants die.

Rach said...

Your garden looks so similar to ours! We have sweet banana peppers which are my favorite! If you live in oklahoma I love it there, my whole family is from there!

Findings of Favour said...

Hi Aura, just wanted to say thank you for the inspiration! I went home last night after thinking about it for weeks, and started digging up my back garden for a veggie patch! So, hopefully soon, I'll have a glorious garden like yours! You are such a cool girl!! :)

Alivia said...

I just came across your blog & lovelovelove it. I chose this post on which to comment, since I identify with it so much-- I miss keeping a garden & this has inspired me to get excited super early about next year's :) Thank you for sharing, your photos are beautiful!

Tin said...

Do your cats not go outside? Ours do and go crazy for the mice, so that's our problem solved! I'm moving to a smaller house in September, and am totally inspired by your patio garden in a previous post to keep gardening there. We will only have a small terraced garden, but if it's worked for you then I will sure make it work for me! :)