Home Grown Cantaloupes

 

cantaloupes


My second favorite item in the garden is home grown cantaloupes. My garden is winding down and I’m feeling a little sad.  So, I sooth myself when I’m closing the garden for the year by planning my garden for the next season.  I spend months deciding what I want to plant and that usually cheers me up. Yesterday, I pulled my last squash and cantaloupes. I have tons of tomatoes and green beans left.  As a result, I will can and freeze those next week-end.  I see tomato sauce and salsa on the horizon too.  Great way to use some of my garlic, basil and oregano too.

Back to my harvest, this was my first year planting cantaloupes, and I’m so glad that I did.  These are Hale’s Best, which is an Heirloom seed, and they are delicious.  I’ll be having fresh cantaloupes for the next few days.  I started the cantaloupe plants under grow lights in mid-March and moved them into the garden in June.  However, you can direct the seeds when the soil warms up.  I mulched around the plants and left about 6 feet of space for them to spread. I harvested eight cantaloupe from 2 plants. Not bad for a pack of $1.00 seeds. I’ll be saving seed from these melons to plant next year.

 

I’m a frugal gardener, I put my garden in for pennies by purchasing Heirloom seeds and than saving the seed from year to year. Purchasing plants from garden centers can get expensive.  I choose what I want to splurge on, and groceries is not one of those things. If you plan to save seed from your garden, make sure you don’t purchase or use Hybrid seeds or plants.  You want the same characteristics of the parent plant versus inbreeding/cross breeding. Heirlooms are the way to go.

I planted Belle peppers, which performed nicely.  After picking them off the plants, I chop and freeze my peppers. I like to get them into freezer bags as soon as I pick them off the vines. The sooner you lock in the freshness the better. Did you know that orange, red, and yellow peppers are green before they turn into these beautiful colors.

Yep, they start out green.  Patience is a must if you want then to reach the red, yellow or orange stage.  Additionally, there are also male and female peppers.  Check out how to determine and use male and female peppers here.

10 Reasons I Preserve My Garden Vegetables

I

preserving garden vegetables

 

There’s nothing like fresh veggies and fruits that have been preserved for winter use.  Gardening is hard work, but oh so worth it.  I just chopped 2 quarts of belle peppers for the freezer.  Yes, you can freeze peppers.  Here’s how:

  • Wash peppers thoroughly and dry.
  • Remove the core and seeds.
  • Place peppers in a quart freezer bag. Be sure to remove the air from the bag.  To keep the peppers from freezer burn, double bag the peppers.
  • Write the date on the bag with a permanent marker.

I love using fresh belle peppers in my dishes.  The best way to freeze them is to place the peppers on a cookie sheet.  Place the sheet in the freezer so the pieces can freeze before placing them in the freezer bag.  However, you can just place them in a freezer bag as shown.  Just give them a good whack with a kitchen mallet to break them apart when I needed.

To prevent freezer burn, I double bag them.  You can place them in a quart size bag, and than place the quart size bag in a gallon size freezer bag.  Make sure you get all of the air out of the bag.  Most importantly, make sure your peppers are dry before you freeze them.

Gardening gives me a sense of fulfillment.  Being able to serve organic, fresh veggies and fruits to my family is a blessing.  Each year I preserve herbs, squash, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, corn, green beans, peaches, apples, jams, applesauce, and cobbler filling.  Check out my other gardening tips too.  Here’s why I preserve my harvest:

  1. Fresh vegetables and fruits are more flavorful than grocery store purchases.
  2. I use fresh tomatoes in chili, pasta sauce and salsa during the winter.
  3. Fresh peppers are available for omelets, meatloaves, spaghetti sauces and casseroles etc.
  4. I have fresh garlic available for spaghetti sauce and other dishes.
  5. Fresh apples and peaches available for warm cobblers during the winter.
  6. My vegetables and fruits are all organic.  I don’t know what’s on the vegetables and fruits in the grocery store or where they were grown.
  7. I save hundreds of dollars on my grocery bill.
  8. My family raves about my dishes. It’s the herbs and other fresh vegetables and fruits, but don’t tell them it’s a secret.
  9. Fresh vegetables and tomatoes make the best soups on those cold winter days.
  10. Nothing like fresh herbs to toss in dishes during the winter.

Finally, do you preserve fresh fruit and vegetables for winter use?  If not, would you be interested in gardening with me next season?  Nothing big unless you want to, but fresh herbs in your window sill is a good start.  A tomato plant on your deck or patio so you can freeze them for winter use. You decide.  Not interested in vegetables, how about a sunflower challenge?   It’s more fun if you have someone to exchange tips, idea, successes and failures with.

 

Leaning Tower Of Pole Beans

green bean trellis support, how to support a green bean trellis

I stepped onto my deck to take a look at the garden and thought my eyes were deceiving me.  Was the pole bean teepee trellis was leaning?  Shielding my eyes, I squinted to get a better view.  I was still unsure, so I headed toward the garden.  I found the leaning tower of pole beans.  The weight of the vines was pushing the teepee trellis forward. It looked as if it could tumble anytime.  


I had to find a quick remedy, oh what to do.  I noticed the extra t-posts leaning on the wood fencing and ran to grab one and stuck it in the ground inside the teepee.  Now how do I tie this baby to the t-post.  I notice a lone tie on the gate of the garden and ran to grab it.  My strategy pays off, I leave a few ties scattered around the garden just in case I have to tie up a plant.  I pushed the teepee back praying that it wouldn’t fall apart and tied the t-post to the back of the teepee.  

 

It is saved, and now stands erect.  Thankfully, it looks just like it did when I imaged it being covered with the vines and beans exploding on the plants.   

The weather in my area has been quite cool for July.  If we don’t get hotter weather soon my garden may end up being a display of greenery with no produce.  We are barely getting into the 80’s here in zone 6B.  I have tons of tomatoes, but they’re not very big and ripening slowly.  I have only harvested 1 tomato, 1 cucumber, a few squash and that has been the extent of it.  

This time of year, I’m praying for somebody, anybody to take zucchini off my hands. I have tons of cukes for pickles and salads, but not this year.  I’m now praying for 100 degree days in August so I can produce tons of fresh veggies.  

Check out this post on how to build the pole bean teepee, and be sure to incorporate this remedy into your set-up before the vines add weigh.  

Sunflowers and Finches In The Garden

sunflowers

I love sunflowers.  They make me happy, look at their beauty faces.   They dance in the garden and add brilliant color among the greenery.  This is a my second year growing sunflowers, and I’m in love.  The first year, I didn’t have one seed germinate.  However, I changed my method of growing them, and bam!  I use bottle greenhouses to germinate my seeds now, and than transfer them to the garden.  I have had great success using this method.  Check out my other sunflower gardening tips too.

Below are some of my favorite sunflowers.  I plant them every year. The Gold Finches love them too.  I love sitting on my deck watching them feast on the seeds.  Unfortunately, the lens on my camera doesn’t capture the beauties in the garden.  I guess I shouldn’t blame the lens, I need to learn how to use it, lol.

 

Autumn Beauty

 

sunflower varities

                                                                                           Mammoth

 

sunflower varieties

        Lemon Queen

 

So, my favorite sunflower is the Lemon Queen.  It’s smaller compared to the Mammoth, which grows 10 – 11 feet and the Autumn Beauty.  The Lemon Queen grows to about 5 feet. In a few weeks, the centers will be filled with sunflower seeds and the American Gold Finch will have a new feeder.  Right now they are enjoying the Nyjer Seed.

American Gold Finch

 

Furthermore, when the sunflowers mature, the finches will eat every seed on the stalk.  However, they’re so beautiful, I just let them eat until their heart is content.  Take a close look at the pictures, because there’s 2 males and a female in this picture.  Additionally, the female is the dull colored finch at the top.  However, the males turns the same dull color as the female in the fall/winter.  They color up in the spring and summer to the brilliant color shown.

Also, this feeding station is outside my bedroom window.  Unfortunately, the finch preferred the $1.99 sock.  Had I known, I could have saved my money on the tube feeder.  So, lesson learned.  They will feed from the tube feeder if the sock is completely occupied with feathered friends, so I guess it isn’t truly wasted.  I enjoy watching them feed upside on the tube feeder.

Finally, next year I hope to add additional varieties of sunflowers to the garden.  Do you grow sunflowers? What variety do you grow?

How to Create Garden Compost From Leaves

gardening, garden compost, vegetable gardens



Having rich soil is essential in vegetable and flower gardens.  I started composting several years ago.  I have 2 compost bins that I use for kitchen scraps, yard cuttings, grass etc.  The compost bins weren’t breaking down fast enough for me, so I started composting my neighbor’s leaves.  I’m not sure that I will return to the compost bins after seeing the results of the composted leaves. I love how the leaves break down.  They’re easier to compost and they don’t require any work unlike the compost bins.

Just leave them in lawn bags and let them do their thing.  My neighbor brings me 15 – 20 bags each fall.  I use them to mulch the garden in the fall to keep the weeds down in the spring until I’m ready to till.  The top picture is a bag that I use around my garden plants as mulch.  This year I created paths in the garden to keep the weeds down with them. Normally I use straw, but I didn’t purchase any this year so I had to use my leaves.

 
Here’s a picture of a bag that has broken down into black gold.  Every gardener wishes for black gold. This bag is beautiful and full of worms. It took a year for the leaves to break down to this state, but it is so worth it. The compost in the bins isn’t close to being this rich after 3 years.  I must say that I have not given the bins the attention that they require.  Compost bins must be heated up by using a certain amount of greens and browns, such as cuttings from the lawn, leaves, kitchen scrapes, newspaper, etc. It also requires water and turning.  My bags of leaves just require storage space, and nature does its thing. The longer you leave them, the more they break down.
Because I have 5 – 10 bags of black gold for the next year’s garden, the other bags can sit and decompose this year.  You can have black gold too. Stop burning those leaves and find a spot for them to decompose.  It’s easy:
1.  Remove large sticks, pine cones etc. from the leaves.
2.  Use inexpensive lawn bags to house them.  I purchase cheap ones from the Dollar Store.
3.  Crumble the leaves as much as you can while placing them in the bag.  Because my neighbor gives me her leaves, I have to open the bags and crumble them myself.  If you have kids let them crumble them.  It gets them involved in gardening.
4.  Wet the crumbled leaves thoroughly, seal the bag and place it in a spot where they won’t be disturbed. I use a stick and punch a few holes in the bag so it will get water from the rain and snow during the winter months.
 
Finally, I hope that you found the post on garden compost beneficial.  So, just remember that composted leaves will enrich your soil and help produce nice flowers and vegetables. You can either till it into the garden or place a scoop into the hole before adding your plant. I’m going to add more of this compost around my established plants this week.  I use a small hand trowel to dig the compost into the soil around the plant. Finally, if you use this method make sure you don’t dig too deep.  Digging too deep may damage the roots or the plant.  Most importantly, the compost is organic and it’s free.

My Kitchen Garden Is Thriving


I spent some time in  my kitchen garden checking on my babies and pulling weeds.  The only negative that find in gardening is weeds.  In the above picture are Sugar Baby watermelons, cantaloupe, and a yellow watermelon which I have never grown before.


I cut down on my peppers this year.  I have an orange, red and green belle.  I lost my white belle. I have a Tabasco and a jalapeno planted as well.  


My Blue Lake pole beans are starting to climb.  Hopefully I will have a good crop.  I did remove the weeds and laid a path of newspaper and leaves to help keep the weeds down.


My sunflowers are getting huge.  I started these in bottles during the winter.  You can see my post on Greenhouse Bottles here.


I have a small bed of lettuce, which is looking good.  I have a shady spot, that receives some sun, so I’m going to start another bed this week. Homegrown lettuce taste so much better than store brought.  

 



My cucumbers are starting to climb.  A few have latched onto my make-shift trellis, but it looks like I will have to train one.  I used left over rabbit fencing for my trellis staked with 2 fence posts. Last year I used a bamboo trellis, it didn’t work very well.  I have Marketmore, Lemon, Boston Pickling and Salt and Peppers cukes in this area.  

 


This is garlic, which I will be digging up in another 1 – 2 weeks.  This is the first season that I was able to grow it successfully.  The first season I planted in the spring, and it did not do well.  I planted this crop last fall and it has done great.  The leaves are starting to dead back, so it’s getting close to  harvest time.  I can’t wait to use fresh garlic in my recipes this summer and into the winter.  


Stay tuned for a future post on the other veggies in the garden.  I’ll be starting my seeds for my fall crops, cauliflower, kale, spinach, and collards.  What’s growing in your garden?  Leave a comment and I’ll stop by to check out what’s thriving.  

How To Freeze Fresh Corn

 

 

freezing fresh corn

 

Fresh corn will be on the market soon and I can’t wait.  So, lets not talk carbs today.  After all, sweet corn fresh off the cob is one of my weaknesses.  I love it grilled, in soup, in chowder, boiled, you name it.  My favorite is Silver Queen. It’s a late corn, but so worth the wait.  Freezing fresh corn is a yearly ritual for me.  Check out my other gardening tips too.

I shucked, boiled, cut and froze about 100 ears last year.  Preparing corn for the freezer is easy and so worth it. I wanted to share my post on how to prepare fresh corn for the freezer, so you can put some up too.  I purchase my corn from a local farmer.  He sells it at a bargain rate. He removes the corn from the stalks the day before I pick it. Doesn’t get any fresher than this. Purchasing it this way saves space in my garden for other goodies too.

 

freezing fresh corn

Once I get it home, the work begins.  I shuck and remove all silk from the corn.  In about batches of 10 – 15, I boil them for about a minute or two in a large stock pot.

 

blanching corn, canning vegetables, vegetable gardening, preserving corn


You will need to prepare an ice batch for these babies.  This should be completed before you start the boiling process.  An ice bath is imperative in your preparation of the corn for the freezer.  You need to remove the cobs from the boiling water after 2 minutes and immediately place them in the ice water.

The ice water will stop the cooking process.  This is important because you don’t want to cook it as if you’re preparing it to eat.  Although I do leave a few cobs in the boiling water, because I do want to eat them, lol.

 

blanching corn, freezer foods, freezer vegetables, freezing corn for freezer


Once the corn has cooled down about 5 – 10 minutes, cut the corn off the cob in a large bowl.  I use an extra large bowl and a chef’s knife to remove the kernels. I also use the corn holders on one end, it makes it easier to handle the corn while removing the kernels.

Once I have the kernels removed from the cob, I pack quart freezer bags.  Buy quality bags and make sure the bags are sealed properly.  I don’t bother to date the bags because they will be gone by spring.  I’m thinking of purchasing a vacuum sealer this year. If you have one, this would be a perfect time to use it.


Image-Removing-Corn-From-Cob

Quart bags are perfect for my household.  I can just pull out a bag for soup, mix with green beans, fry it or however I want to use it.  It’s as fresh as it was the day I purchased it.  Put a few bags in your freezer to use this winter.  You won’t regret it.  Stay tuned for my post on blanching tomatoes and green beans.  
 Image-Freezing-Fresh-Corn
We hope that you have found our tips on freezing fresh corn beneficial.  You may also like our tips on How to Shuck Corn in the Microwave too.

Growing Dill In The Home Garden

 

growing dill

One of the herbs that I grow in my garden is dill.  I started a few plants under grow lights this year, but it did not do well.  As a result, I purchased a plant from the nursery to place in the garden. This is what I found when I went into the garden.  Volunteer dill in several places.  I wished I had saved my money purchasing the plant from the nursery.  Lesson learned, check the garden for volunteers before you head to the garden center.  A volunteer onion is in the background.  Dill and onions are great companion plants.  Check out my other gardening tips too.

Wondering how to use dill?  I have several uses:

1.  Dill Pickles
2.  Dip for potato chips and veggies
3.  Garnishes
4.  Sauce for salmon

I’ve made make spicy dill pickles for the past two seasons and used fresh dill from the garden. This year I will be making bread and butter.   I also dry my dill and store it in an airtight container for dip.  Fresh dill can also be used on various fish, not my thing but many people love using it in that manner.

 

growing dill

Last, we hope you like our growing dill tips.  It is an easy herb to grow, and has given me lots of volunteers this season.  It loves my garlic plants.  I have to harvest often, so it doesn’t choke out my onions and garlic.  As a result, I should have more than enough to dry and store for dip and to share with family.  If you love veggie dip, this herb will enhance it immensely.  It’s much more flavorful than store brought dill.  I’ll be sure to post my dip recipe the next time make it, which will be soon.

Backyard Birds: Barn Swallow

barn swallows

I was working in the yard this week and looked up to find this beautiful bird perched on my gutter.  I had no idea what type of bird it was so I headed to Google.  It appeared to be a female Barn Swallow.  Check out my other posts on backyard birds.

First, I’ve never seen a Barn Swallow.  I thought she was absolutely beautiful.  As you can see she has very distinct features.  Look at the long, forked tail and the color around the head and beak.  The top of the head was a bluish/black color.  Around the beak and throat was an orange color.  But, what really stood out to me was the glossy feathers.  She was quite striking.

barn swallow

Also, she had her baby with her.  However, the baby disappeared when I opened the door to go inside to get the camera and phone.  Interestingly, momma bird seemed pretty content right where she was.  When I googled the features of a Barn Swallow, I learned some interesting facts.  They like to build their nest under eaves.  So, it seemed that her nest was somewhere nearby.  Here are a few other interesting facts about the Barn Swallow:

  • Barn Swallow migrate between South America and North America.  No this is not a typo, they can travel 14,000 miles between winter and summer.
  • They usually live around 8 years.
  • The dine on insects.  They feed mostly in flight since insects are a large portion of their diet.  However, they will eat egg or oyster shells from a platform feeder.
  • Nests are made of mud and grass.  They are usually built on man made structures.
  • Barn Swallows habitat across most of the country.
  • They are very difficult to attract.  They like to be near streams, ponds and other sources of flowing water.  (My wet weather stream just happened to be running after 4 inches of rain and this may be the reason I was able to spot them).  Lucky me.

As I was writing this post I spotted a male Barn Swallow.  It was just as beautiful, but it was more black and blue in color.  Yet, the orange color on his breast was more defined than the females.  Furthermore, the male was gathering mud from my stream bed.  Again, Barn Swallows build their nest out of mud and grass.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera with me.  I am glad that I was able to get an opportunity to see this beauty up close and person.  Because it is  rare to get this close to them.

Last, are you a bird watcher?  Furthermore, what backyard birds are prevalent in your area?

 

Backyard Birds: American Gold Finch

backyard bird, gold finches, American Gold Finch

My American Gold Finch have returned more brilliant in color.  I’m amazed at how much the male has colored up. They molt in the winter and late summer, turning a dull yellow/olive color similar to the female shown at the top.  

I discovered these little fellows last season in my garden. They devoured my sunflowers.  So, I fed them over the winter using black oil sunflower seeds.  Normally they head south for the winter, but I did have a few that hung around.  


I’m hoping to see a few babies at the feeder in late summer.  The female will lay eggs in June or July.  


Lately I’ve been having problems with Starlings wiping out the feeders in hours.  So, I’ve had to replace the seed in my feeders.  I decided to go with Nyjer for the finches this summer.  I purchased this nylon bag full of Nyjer at Lowes this winter and they loved it.   

backyard birds, American Gold Finch, wild bird seed, feeding wild birds
 





I purchased the tube feeder from Amazon.  Truthfully, I could have saved my money.  They prefer the nylon sock.  They will go to the feeder if there are too many finches feeding from the sock, but it is their plate of choice.  If you’re interested in attracting the American Gold Finch you should know that Nyjer is considered “black gold” to bird watchers.  This tiny seed is the most expensive bird seed that you can purchase, but a great way to attract them to your feeder if your want to get up close and personal.  They love sunflower seed too, but so do the Starlings and Crackles and I’m not trying to attract them.  

Unfortunately, the sunflower seed is too large to place in the sock and tube feeder.  These feeders are designed for Nyjer seed only.  I may grow thistle next year as a supplement to the feeder.  As it stands, these beauties are enjoying black gold.  

You may also like:  Attracting American Gold Finch