Gardening : Veggie Patch Update

August 8, 2011 05:54 by ehouston

Back in the middle of June I posted about the progress we had made with transforming our smallish garden plot into two larger raised beds.  To catch up you can click here.  Not only had I taken our old dilapidated railroad tie bed and turned it into two raised beds, but I also added a wider landing to the backdoor from the garage.


Shot from the left side of the backdoor, mid-June.


Shot of the landing, right outside of the backdoor, mid-June.


Shot of the right side of the backdoor, mid-June.

At the time that I was sharing this project things had just begun to take off in the garden.  I had planned to take some more pictures in mid-July to show off how things had progressed at that point.  Well, that time came and went and I took some pictures.  Unfortunately they were not of a stunning and vibrant garden.  It was more like what I would image Sanford & Son had out back between the piles of junk.  Did I just date myself?  Actually, I think I watched mainly syndicated episodes as a very, very young child.  ;o)


Here are the same plots in mid-July.  Left side of the backdoor.


Backdoor landing, mid-July.  I had already pulled down the sugar snap peas and they are part of the weed pile on the ground to the left of the landing.


The jungle to the right of the backdoor.

Anyway, I snapped these shots right before going on a clean-up rampage, weeding and pulling out spent crops.  The lettuce would not die out, but had gotten to the point of being more wilted than edible.  The spinach never did much of anything and our sugar snap peas literally dried up and died on the vine.  The worst issue was sharing garden space with Mr. Mole’s home. 


As you can see in the picture above (all the dark spots) he burrowed his way out of the beds each night and had a smorgasbord.  First he striped my bush beans from the bottom of the plants up.  What we got off of those plants was so good and we were very disappointed that he killed those plants before they even hit their prime.  Next Mr. Mole moved on to the carrot patch.  What was strange was that he would come out at night and eat the tops, but then leave the bottoms.  So, despite the damage to the tops, I pulled them up and used them shredded in several meals.  He left many of the larger carrot plants alone for a week or so more and they ended up being a pretty good size when I finally pulled them out.  He ate all the parsley, but left the sage.  I don’t know why, but he has not even touched the other planting bed at all.  Thank GOD!


You can see one last bush bean plant, way in the back to the right, hanging on the end of the little trellis for dear life.  The lettuce was flowing out of the front and back of the bed and the sunflowers were starting to get a bit too heavy at this point. 


But, the basil at the far left was ready for the first big harvest!

Just on the other side of the backdoor to the garage, the tomatoes, squash and cucumbers are thriving through the heat. 


The green peppers and jalapenos are still growing, but not producing like we had hoped.  We did finally get one nice big green pepper just this week and we have been pulling one or two jalapenos off every week.  Which, it turns out, is enough for our palates….at least mine and the Little Guy…The Mister likes things scorching hot!  The problem is that the squash went completely insane and took over the bed, drowning out  the peppers.  I even had to put in a piece of the metal fencing between the squash and the rest of the bed because it wasn’t just shading the peppers, it was growing up and over them.  I have since trained the squash over the metal fence along the front of the bed and out into the yard.  I would have pulled all of the metal fencing from that end of the bed if the cucumber vines had not completely covered it.  They even started growing into the peppers, using them to hold on to as they lurched up and over those plants too.  Cucumbers and squash are like Seymour from “Little Shop of Horrors”.  They just get bigger and bigger and want more and more.  They are a little bit scary to deal with!  Although they have turned into nuisance plants they have been giving us a steady stream of produce, so I am not totally unhappy with them.


The one planting that did disappoint, aesthetically anyway, were the sunflowers.  If I plant them again, I will definitely do so next to a sturdy fence or trellis.  I thought this variety did not get very tall, but I must have actually grabbed the wrong packet of seeds because pretty much all of them are in the 6-8 foot range and have 1.5-2 inch stalks.  They are HUGE and heavy and they keep falling over into the other plants, breaking things on their way down.  Plus, they have added shade where we really did not need any.  So, this one was a “lesson learned” sort of planting.  Again, next time I won’t count on stakes to help hold them, I will just put them by the fence for support. 


We are looking forward to all those seeds, though.  Not only did the stalks get big, but several have nearly foot wide heads on them, so we hope to collect the seeds for snacking.  I will let you guys know how that goes.

After cleaning up the garden I was left with a pretty significant empty space in the bed on the left side of the backdoor.  If it had not been for the extreme heat and Mr. Mole, I had planned to attempt some second round plantings.  I even considered transplanting the peppers so they could breath a little.  I was advised against the transplanting and sowing anything else from seed, simply because the heat would not allow for germination.  Since we discovered that our dog was the one eating the strawberries I decided to try placing the pots up on the bed in the empty spots.  And, because Mr. Mole had been so selective in what he ate, I figured it was worth a shot to see if he was even going to be interested in this new addition.  Also, one of the strawberry pots had tons of runners, so I thought they might take root and I could eventually cut them from the main pot and let them do their own thing. 


So far they are still alive, but languishing in the sun.  We have experienced some cooler nights, but now we don’t have much rain.  If it’s not one thing, it’s another!  So far the mole does not seem interested in the strawberries, and since only one of the pots is producing anything I am not really sure if he just hasn’t noticed them yet.  I just keep watering everything and pulling off the ripe stuff as it comes along.

The basil transplants from the end of June have done very well and we have made four batches of pesto to enjoy at least one night (and several lunches for me!) a week.  Between the pesto and the juicy, ripe tomatoes we have been in backyard veggie patch heaven.  Those are the main things I long for when digging, weeding and planting.  So, I guess I can say that even with the issues we have faced this summer the garden has been pretty successful.  Now, to talk The Mister into adding some more beds!  I think we could use some eggplants and zucchini!  Mmmm…..

So tell me, how does your garden grow?

Kitsch Krafts

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Eating - “Sun-Dried” Tomatoes

October 20, 2010 01:24 by ehouston

Well, this time I’m not eating actually.  We had a bunch of tomatoes left over from our little veggie patch and I was determined to do something different with them.  We have eaten our weight in BLT’s and I didn’t want to make any more pasta sauce or soup.  I got the bright idea that I would dry them.   I found lots of instructions online and read through several before settling on a plan.  Most agreed that you just had to slice them, lay them out on a baking pan and set them in an oven at the lowest setting for 10-20 hours depending on the humidity and thickness of your slices.  Some suggested adding salt, pepper, garlic and other seasonings as you liked, to give them a little added flavor.  I chose to sprinkle the pans with some sea salt before laying the slices out and then I gave them another sprinkle, along with some black pepper. 

All seemed good. 


I was super excited.  The thought of these treats mid-winter was pushing me over the edge.  I was sure they would not even last a month after I finished drying them out.  I just knew a simple veggie pasta or pizza would be calling their name in the coming weeks.  But, that was okay since I would not have to open a $7.00 plus dollar jar containing about four slices.  I was going to have a TON of my very own “sun”-dried tomato goodness.  Well, 10 hours into the process and this is what I had:


Not only were they turning a terrible black color, but they appeared to be permanently seared onto my fancy pizza pan and slotted broiler pan top.  To make matters worse, my whole house smelled like roasting tomatoes.  I have since learned this is not a sent I enjoy in the slightest. 

Oh well.  It’s another live and learn moment in the Kitsch Designs world of “Eating”.

Kitsch Krafts

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Eating – Tomato Soup : Homemade And Homegrown

August 13, 2010 06:22 by ehouston

I realized I have not talked about any food I have made lately and with the tomato avalanche that is going on at our place I figured I would share the latest tomato soup recipe.  This actually stemmed from my mother’s arrival the weekend of July 4th with a pile of veggies from her North GA garden.  We ate what we (or, I should say I ate, since The Mister shuns most veggies) could before it was time to start coming up with ways to put up the rest before it spoiled.  The freezer is full of bags of shredded zucchini and jalapeño peppers, and we just finished up the onions.  Everything was delicious and much appreciated, but I had one dilemma regarding all the tomatoes.  As many of you know, when you grow tomatoes, unless you can them or gift them to others sooner or later you are going to have way more than you can eat in a timely manner.  This happened with roughly a large Ziplock bag full of tomatoes.  In desperation to keep them for a later use I threw the bag in the freezer and hoped for the best.  I figured I would come up with a way to use them before they took on a funny “came from the freezer” taste.  Well this is the recipe was just the trick.

8 Large or 10 Medium sized tomatoes frozen and then thawed

1.5-2 cups of Chicken Broth

1/4 to 1/2 cup of fresh, chopped Basil

1/2 to 1 cup of Milk (or you could use cream)

1 can of tomato paste

Salt and Pepper (and any other spices you like) to taste

Parmesan Cheese

Squeeze the tomatoes right out of their skins into a large saucepan.  Add the spices, broth and tomato paste and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.  Once it comes to a boil turn it down to simmer for about 15 minutes.  Let cool and then run through a blender or food processor until smooth.  Poor back into the pan, add the milk and adjust the spices until you get exactly the consistency and flavor you are looking for.  Simmer on low, stirring occasionally, for another 15 to 20 minutes.  Serve it up with parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.


My homegrown and homemade soup along with a veggie pita, bursting with more homegrown tomatoes and homemade hummus.  All of this displayed on my new IKEA dinnerware in white.

This recipe was enough for three large bowls of soup, but it could easily have fed 4 to maybe even 6 if the portions were brought down a bit.  Either way it was very good, quite thick and rich, but relatively healthy.  The Mister did not realize it was homemade at first and when I let him in on the secret he said he thought it tasted to good to be from a can.  Awe, he always knows just the right thing to say.  ;o)

Hope you all are enjoying as much homegrown veggies as possible this summer!

Kitsch Krafts

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WANTED: Tomato Recipes STAT!

July 31, 2010 02:08 by ehouston

This month has flow by and our backyard veggie patch is really starting to get crazy.  Although I have picked a couple of random ripe tomatoes to enjoy most are just now prime for the picking.  Also, early on we discovered that our old dog Roxy was eating the fruit right off the vine, so our early crop was lost to that little sneak.  I put up a 30 inch high decorative (if you can call those ugly push in the ground metal mini-fences pretty) fence to try to keep her out, but things still went missing.  Finally one morning I noticed mud all along my plants and one tomato, stake and all, bent backward at a weird angle.  Well after following the trail of mud I discovered that she had figured out how to go under the deck, open the lattice that surrounds the underside and slip through into the now fenced off garden in order to pilfer the goods.  Gotta give her some credit for this one, right?  It’s pretty impressive that she worked that all out on her own.  I have since rigged up some string to hold the lattice in place and “connect” the fence to the deck steps post.  It’s not pretty, but so far she is only able to poke her head through and reach a few tomatoes at a time and cannot wreak any more serious havoc…at least so far.  I fear one morning I may come out and find the strings untied- yikes!

After installing the barricade we are now seeing our plants start to burst with fruit.  So, yesterday the Little Guy and I went out to pick tomatoes for a caprese salad we will be enjoying later today and we had a really fun time.  He wanted to pick everything, though, so I ended up having to let him “hold the bucket”.  ;o)  While using one hand and a death grip to keep himself steady on the fence (he is not truly walking yet, just standing and “walking” with lot’s of help from mom and dad) he did manage to sample some basil.  Actually he sampled, spit out and then seeming to forget his distaste for the herb, sampled again.  During this whole time, Roxy kept coming up to sniff and poke him with her nose, all the while eyeing his bucketful of her forbidden treat.


Starring hard at a poking dog.  You can see my attempt at stabilizing the tomato plant that Roxy knocked over with some string to the fence.  The brick is to then help steady the rickety fence.  Like I stated above, it isn’t pretty.


Checking out his bounty after we moved down the bed to the yellow pear tomatoes.  Moments later the basil sampling ensued.


I don’t know what was going through his little head, but at this point he raised his bucket and started squealing at the plants.  I like to think he was thanking them for all the good grub. 

Now we just need to get some more recipes so we don't make ourselves sick on BLT's.  Please, let us know what you like to do with your fresh picked tomatoes.  We love a yummy new take on an old favorite too!

Hope your July was grand and that you are enjoying your summer!

Kitsch Krafts

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Can’t Wait To…

July 7, 2010 04:44 by ehouston

Eat this..


…and this…


…and some of these!


We have already admired this…


…smelled these…


and eaten a lot of this…


and this.


So far our little efforts in the garden are paying off quite nicely.  What have you guys been up to outside lately?

Kitsch Krafts

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