Gardening Phase 2

Its been a very rainy and cold April and May for Michigan. We finally had a nice weather day on a weekend and I took full advantage of it. My family and I started by hitting up my favorite greenhouse and nursery to pick out our plants for this year.

We ended up leaving with a ginger ficus bonsai tree, Bush green beans, zucchini, “trusty rusty” coleus, roma tomato, and cayenne chili pepper for gardening at our home. For my Grandma’s house we pick up a flat of white and a flat of purple alyssum flowers.

Then, like a crazy person, planted everything, at both houses, in 1 afternoon. Normally I would break this up between 2 days but the weather forecast had thunder storms, flood watches, and tornado warnings. So we had a mad dash to get everything in the ground before bedtime. The good thing though is that since the weather was horrible I had the entire day to treat my extra sore muscles.

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This is my new vegetable garden! We had added some wood fencing, since gardening phase 1, to the sides to help with keeping the critters away from my veggies. The only additions we plan to make from here is a little rain guard. The water the dripping off the roof of our home is a little forceful for these young plants.  We also plan to stain the sides so it looks pretty.

One of the green beans needed a little TLC. The stem was a bit bent over because it could not support the weight of the leaves.

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Since it did not actually break the stem I was able to get some crafting sticks and a pipe cleaner to support the stem so that it can repair itself. It very important to have the stick wrapped tight enough that it wont easily fall off, but not so tight that the stem is being crunched by the sticks. Th is trick works for most young plants.

After we planted the veggies we saw that we had 1 more spot open for a single plant. My fiance and I went back to the greenhouse early in the morning to pick out a jalapeno plant. I had just enough time to get the jalapeno home and in the ground before the rain started up.


Gardening at my Grandma’s house has been an interesting situation for me. Some days I get a lot of things done and sometimes I’m just really depressed to be there. In the end though its still very weird doing  gardening without a shadow behind me telling me that I’m doing things the wrong way.

It felt kind of silly to plant a vegetable garden in my normal veggie garden space. Instead I decided to fill in this space with white and and purple alyssum flowers.

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I felt that alyssum were a good choice for some ground cover around the Peony bush. Especially since I am not really a fan of petunias or begonias. It was a lot of working trying to figure out how much space to leave each plant while trying to fit all of the plants into the garden space. I like the end result I just hope that these flowers continue to grow instead of just die in the upcoming summer heat.

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While we were there I was able to dig out and move a Rose of Sharon bush. Last Fall, Grandpa had decided which one I should have and which one my mom should have. We had decided that spring would be better to relocate the plants to give them a little more time to grow and mature before such a drastic change. So I up-rooted mine and moved it to my home.

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I assure you it is growing perfectly fine. Last year this particular bush kept getting snagged on anything that was remotely close to it. I guess it learned it lesson because it is trying to shed the wonky parts and grow all straight and nice.

By the time the rain storm hit, I had put around 80 plants into the ground in pretty much 1 day. Man was I so sore the next few days! But now I can sit back and watch the plants grown while I try to decide on what I should make with my upcoming harvest.

Got any comments or recipes? Please hit me up by clicking the contact link.

Gardening Phase 1

I’m back folks!! Life has been really chaotic since my grandfather passed. Trying to take care of the lose ends and legal bits, as well as getting grandma settled in her new living situation. Amoung all the sadness and stress, I do have some amazingly good news. I got engaged to my wonderful boyfriend! We are very excited and very happy to be planning a wedding! But until wedding crafts begins, we shall have lots of fun planning out the gardens at our home.

The weather is finally starting to act like spring in my area which means I can finally begin all my gardening work. Its still a bit too cold to start my vegetable garden but it is warm enough for flowers!

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I decided to start with my smallest garden. Well miniature planter pot is a better description. My soon to be Mother-in-law got me this cute little planter with Petunia seeds for Easter. It was a complete kit that included a planter pot, dirt disk, and seed packet. All that needed to be done was wet the dirt disk, fluff the dirt, and plant the seeds.

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My next project required a little assistance from my fiance. I had won/acquired 2 centerpieces from a baby shower. There are planter shelves along the outside of our home from previous occupants. These shelves are designed for starter plants that aren’t quite ready to go in the ground yet, so we retro fitted one of these shelves to hold something a little larger than a starter pot. I am still undecided if I want to keep all the decorations in these planters or to relocate them to the front garden. I’m just glad that the flowers are outside and doing a lot better than when I originally took this picture.

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The front yard area is pretty bare so I started sprucing it up a bit with these red bricks to enclose some garden space along the front of the house. Its not much right now but once the plants start growing it’ll looks awesome! Inside the garden area I added these:

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Otherwise known as Loyalist Hostas. My grandfather had a bunch of these in his front yard until he had his driveway re-paved. I’m hoping these will sprout up and do well in this garden.

On either side of the garden space I planted these neat looking flower bulbs.

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Hopfully these will grow well. It has been raining a lot so the area I ended up planting them was heavily flooded the next day.

Thats all I have done for now. My fiance and I are working on our plans to build a vegetable garden box. We have a lot of feral/domesticated cats, squirrels, and skunks that run rampant around our house so we have to have a raised garden bed with a netted top. Otherwise there will constantly be critters in the garden

Any tips or suggestions? feel free to leave a comment or contact me!

Tomato Jam

Probably my last ripe tomato harvest for the season. I decided to go with a long term use of turning these tomatoes into a delicious tomato jam.

These guys are pretty big and at various stages or ripe. I somewhat followed a pintrest recipe because time and ingredients were an issue.

General basis of this recipe is chop up the tomatoes, throw the other ingredients into the pot and let it simmer. The original recipe said to simmer for 4-5 hours. I really dont have that kind of time to hover over a pot waiting for liquid to evaporate so I used a higher heat for a longer period of time before switching to a simmer.

This process helped evaporate a lot of the liquid quickly in under 30 minutes and without compromising texture too much. In the end I was able to get it all done in about 2.5 hours and boy is it tastey! Through some experimentation, we discovered that our favorite way to consume this jam is to replace it as the BBQ sauce on top of Meatloaf.


Tomato Jam

Ingredients

  • 4-5 large tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground corriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 (or more) Mason Jars w/lids

Directions

  1. Rinse and chop all tomatoes. I also removed all the seeds. Place chopped tomatoes into a medium stock pot on medium-high heat. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Stir frequently until the pot begins to boil. Reduce heat to medium and continue to stir frequently for 30-40 minutes. This help to evaporate the liquid faster. Once it begins to look a little thicker, reduce heat to medium-low and allow to simmer. Once the texture has thickened up to a jam-like consistency, remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes.
  2. Prepare and clean mason jars. Be sure to dry out all wetness from cleaning. Carefully transfer the jam into each mason jar. Allow to comletely cool before adding lids and refrigerating jars.

Tomato Sauce Night!

I started my week by picking a bunch of ripe heirloom tomatoes from my garden. Since there was a lot of them I decided to let them sit for a week to soften up so I could make homemade tomato sauce.

I started by cutting, trimming and peeling all the tomatoes. I then smooshed all the chunks through a wire mesh strainer to make all the seeds and white parts easier to remove from the tomatoes.

Added all my spices and let it simmer for a while. It really smelled wonderful while this was simmering. Even my dog Taco was interested.

The final result! A little thicker than normal but it looked great over the pasta for dinner. ❤


Homemade Tomato Sauce

Ingredients

  • Minimum of 4 large tomatoes, cleaned, peeled, and cut into smaller pieces
  • 5-6 basil leaves, thinly cut, or 1 Tablespoon of dry basil
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced or in little chunks
  • 1/2 tablespoon dehydrated onion, or 1/4 of diced onion
  • 1/2 tablespoon dry oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Cooked pasta

Tools

  • Wire mesh strainer
  • Sauce pan
  • Large pot
  • Knife
  • Cutting board

Directions

  1. Cut and peel all tomatoes. Skin must be removed. It is also helpful to pull out as many seeds as possible. Cut tomatoes into small wedges and smoosh each wedge through a wire mesh strainer over a sauce pan.  This should help get the remaining seeds and any other under ripe pieces out of the way. L`et it begin to cook on medium-low heat.
  2. Chiffonade 5-6 Basil leaves, or 1 tablespoon of dry basil and add to pot. Also chop garlic and add to pot. I tend to go with something a little larger than a mince because my family likes to chomp on garlic. Measure out and add remaining spices to pot. Increase heat to medium. Allow to simmer for at least 30 minutes. Stir occassionally and taste test to adjust the seasonings. If the sauce is still too thin, you can add a can of petite diced tomatoes or sliced zucchinni or any other vegetable to help it along.
  3.  After 30 minutes is up, I begin cooking my Pasta. I allow the sauce to continue to simmer until the noodles are cooked. Once the noodles are cooked,  plate up and enjoy!

Its Pickling Time!

I finally had an opportunity to make some bread and butter pickles out of my Mexican Sour Gerhkin harvest.

I used a recipe that I found on pintrest and made a few alterations. For starters, I had to double the recipe for the amount of cucumbers I harvested. Due to availability, I could not get ahold of mustard seeds so I used ground mustard instead. I also did not submerge the jars into water to seal them.

The brine itself smelled so very yummy while it was simmering. Very aromatic! Since I did not want to locate, unbury, and clean the large canning pot I had to go with a refrigerator pickling method. After the brine was ready to come off the heat, I allowed it to cool.

After the brine was cooled it was time to fill and close the jars. 3 jars in total for this harvest and more are still growing.


Pickled Mexican Sour Gerhkins

Ingredients

  • Mexhican sour gerhkins, rinsed and cut in half
  • Kosher Salt
  • 1 Small Onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups Apple Cider Vinegar (5% acidity)
  • 1/2 cup Sugar, I used Cane Sugar
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seeds, I used ground mustard which requires another 1/2 tablespoon
  • 1 teaspoon celery seeds, add more or less to your liking
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground tumeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, add more or less to your liking

Directions

  1. Rinse off the mexican sour gerhkins. These can be pickled whole but I prefere to cut them all in half. Pat dry with a towel and place into a bowl filled with some kosher salt. This will help dry them out a little bit. Leave in bowl for an hour. Remove from bowl and rinse off excess salt. Add onion slices to cucumebr and set aside until ready.
  2. Add apple cider vinegar, sugar, and all spices in a sauce pan. Allow the brine to come to a boil over medium-low heat. Stirring occassionaly until all the sugar has been dissolved. Then remove from heat and allow to cool a little bit before pouring
  3. Clean and prepare the Mason jars. Then evenly distribute the gerhkin and onion mixture int each mason jar. After the Brine has cooled off a little bit carefully begin pouring the liquid into each mason jar. Each jar should be filled enough to submerge all the gerhkins and onions.
  4. Place clean lids piece onto jars and allow to refrigerate for at least 24 hours. This allows the flavor to get into the gerhkins and onions. Dont forget to give the jar a shake to redistribute the flavors.

First Harvest

Last night was my first harvest from my garden! Very late in the planting season I got an heirloom tomato, 5 Japanese eggplants, and 6 cucumbers as baby plants. I then planted them in one of the flowers beds at my grandparents place. I had to plant around the peony bush, but I think it turned out well.

The plants have been growing since the end of June. I honestly doubt I’m going to get eggplants this year because of the rats and squirrels eating anything that gets to be about half the size they should be.

I finally have 1 heirloom. I’ve had a lot of large green tomatoes sitting there for a long time. 1 of them finally turned red. It’s not in the best of conditions but a large portion of it should still be eatable.

I also had a very interesting surprise with my cucumber plants. I thought I had regular seedless cucumbers, after they started growing I realized that these were not normal cucumbers and did some research.

Turns out that these little guys are Mexican Sour Gerhkins. It’s a rare seed variety (in the U.S.) that only grows to the size of a grape. The skin is eatable so rinse and snack is an option. It tastes like a cucumber with a bit a citrus/sour flavor.

I think though with this amount I’m going to pickle these guys. Unless someone out there has a recipe I could try?