Midsummer kitchen garden: update

For every perfect tomato we pick we find another half eaten. We assumed it was squirrels until stumbling upon the actual culprit - a mouse! A brave little mouse who continued to chomp away as we stood beside him with the accusing beam of our flash light baring down on him. So while the above harvest looks good it's a little disappointing that there were really twice as many but half had to be thrown away.

A few tomatoes will become BLTs, more will go into a panzanella I'm bringing to a cook out tomorrow and most will be canned. We're planning to roast and stuff the peppers. 

Life at home

Life in Grant Park, Atlanta. Summer 2014. Our almost century old home is half way between the Braves stadium (leaving) and the Cyclorama (leaving) with an amazing view of the downtown skyline. A lot of people might be surpised that everything you see below is living and growing in the center (literally) of one of the Southeast's largest cities. 

This summer our urban "homestead" includes:
• 4 Ameraucanas
• 3 Silkies
• Peppers: Thai, Poblano & Red
• Tomatoes: grape & several heirloom varieties
• Corn (not shown)
• Strawberries (not shown)
• Eggplant (not shown)

Early summer kitchen garden: update

Four years of garden updates have accumulated into my own personal farmer's almanac. Which is great because it's helpful to know what I planted when and how successful that timing was. Three summers ago I planted my strawberries. The first two summers were lack luster, but this summer, this summer the plant is finally producing hearty and plentiful strawberries! Fingers crossed the chipmunks stay away...

Brussel Sprouts in the garden

It's been almost 8 months since I planted brussel sprout seeds in the garden. They sprouted quickly but I made the mistake of waiting way too long to thin them out (we're talking months too long). When they were finally thinned the remaining plants began to take off. Those with the most hours of sunshine clearly growing the fastest. The snow and ice storms didn't phase them at all and by February we finally began to notice little brussel sprouts forming between leafy stalks. Unfortunately, the warm days have caused the plants to bolt and looks like our chance of eating any these is officially over. Even without the tasty homegrown meal I still consider the experience (perhaps it should be called an experiment) a success. We'll try this again in late summer, implementing what I've learned, and hopefully finally getting it right!

Sunday in the Park (Grant Park, Atlanta)

Sunday morning we woke early and hopped on our bikes. We by-passed the Grant Park Farmer's Market and headed 8 miles out to Your DeKalb Farmer's Market. With paniers in place we planned to do our weekly grocery shopping while also getting a work out and enjoying the mild sun of an early summer morning. 

Back home a few hours later, we rested a bit with lemonade-beers before heading out into the now blazing sun. Our goal: rip out our fading summer plants and clean up the yard. After prepping the soil I planted seeds for a few late-summer/early fall vegetables. Fingers crossed for brussel spouts and radishes!

In the evening Oliver canned the dozen remaining banana peppers that had been harvested earlier that day. He paired them with our homegrown carrots, okra and grape tomatoes. (I'm hoping they'll make a great Bloody Mary mix/garnish later this fall.) 

Dinner was grilled Amber Jack, brussel sprouts, okra and a Founder's jalapeno mango beer. As of tonight, Tuesday, our little lettuce seeds have already started to sprout!  I'd write more - but I'm exhausted... Good night.

Blooming Artichokes & Bumble Bees

The garden's chaotic state is evidence of my busy few weeks. As you can see, the artichokes bloomed and a herd of fuzzy bumble bees moved in. A few of them seem to have overdosed on the pollen and died wedged into the flowers. Since these photos were taken the plants have turned black. I'm hoping to pull them out this weekend and replace them with something for the fall.

I'll post an update soon with pictures of where I've been (Detroit, Port Huron and Grocery on Home) and what I'm planning (a hootenanny).

An Estate Sale & Garden Update

On Thursday my next door neighbor and I drove an hour south of Atlanta to check out the estate sale of a retired antique dealer. This collector had moved from upstate New York to middle Georgia in 1981 but left her four shipping containers of treasure unopened and in storage for the next thirty two years. The company organizing the sale posted snapshots of box contents and as soon as I saw the piles of vintage greeting cards I requested the day off from work.

My neighbor and I arrived an hour early in an effort to get a good spot in line. Even so, we were numbers 93 and 94 and they were only letting in forty at a time. The crowd gathering outside was awesome to watch. A "storage wars" type excitement was in the air. We were definitely not the only ones who'd driven far to be part of this sale.

When 9am rolled around the shipping containers were opened and the first forty 40 shoppers pushed into the old one story clapboard home. One shipping container was full of glass items, very old sewing notions, sheet sets and quilts. The others were full of amazing furniture. In the back a shed was floor to ceiling with tools and old suitcases. Once inside the home there was an entire room, wall to wall, laid out with 1950s Christmas items; ornaments, unopened boxes of tinsel, greeting cards, stockings, etc. 

I exercised as much restraint as I could. Even so, I walked away with $50 worth of ephemera that I have no need/plans for and handful of things I think I can resell for profit. My FAVORITE (okay, one of my FAVORITE) finds is the pair of vintage garden books picture above. The embossed covers are beautiful!! And the knowledge inside is still relevant and noteworthy. Not a total waste of money, right? SOMEDAY I'll have a coffee table to put them on...

In other news, this is the RAINIEST summer I can EVER remember in Atlanta. (And I'm from here, so I can remember a lot of them.) For better and worse the garden is hanging in there. A few tomatoes have burst from all the rain but mostly the vegetables seem desperate for a little sun. No signs of root rot yet. Fingers crossed we get a little reprieve this weekend.

Happy Saturday!

June 30th: Garden Update

Looking good! Strawberries are finally thriving (well, at least by our standards). Banana peppers and green peppers (green not pictured) are growing faster then we have plans to use them. One giant okra. Many artichokes - though we're not sure when they're ready to harvest. Tomatoes have us anticipating a few great sandwiches in mid-July. Watermelon and eggplants are slow goers but I still have high hopes!

May 23rd 2013 Garden Update

The garden is a little overgrown...  Leeks and arugula are flowering. Spinach and lettuce have shot up and need to be pulled out. Artichokes are huge. Tomatoes need to be staked. Carrots are looking good (but really, who knows). The strawberry plant is pretty but I'm starting to doubt we'll ever pick any fruit; I can't get the little guys past the green phase. 

Longer update later. Check back soon. Be sure to follow us on Pinterest - that's where the vast majority of our content goes nowadays.


End of summer garden update

Three of the four tomato plants have made a surprising recovery. In the next two weeks we'll have at least another dozen new tomatoes ready to pick. But as the weather grows cooler my enthusiasm for tomato sandwiches wanes while my ardor for the rose-like beauty of a mature cabbage grows. The seasonal changes in my garden never cease to amaze me.

Garden Update

To make room for the cabbage and lettuce I had to pull out three leeks. Aren't they pretty? With their ombre' coloration they're quite trendy too! Hopefully we'll be able to use them with dinner tonight. Oliver suggested caramelizing them to use as toppings for Labor Day hot dogs!

The following photos show everything in our front yard garden as of Labor Day 2012. There are still tomato plants and pumpkin vines in the "side yard". I'm looking forward to adding arugula as soon as I find more space.

Watermelon and Pumpkin

Since April our watermelon and pumpkin vines have gone from this:

to this:

All that time and not one single little fruit. Boo.  Lots of blooms. Never a little melon or gourd. So those guys are outta there! Today I plan to replace them with the cabbage and lettuce. Hello cool weather vegetable garden! I'm ready for some salad and slaw!

Late Summer Garden: Week Fourteen

It is the last week of August and our garden is looking a little rough. A few very dry weeks did a bit of damage to our tomatoes. Three out of the four plants are almost dead. But the fourth, an heirloom, is doing great. Over a dozen plump tomatoes are slowly ripening. The pumpkin vine has performed exactly like it's watermelon buddy. Which is to say: it's a giant healthy looking vine with plenty of flowers and no sign of fruit. Boo! The eggplants, peppers and leeks are great; they're definitely our garden stars. 

I think I'll spend next weekend ripping out the pumpkin and watermelon and filling the spaces with winter vegetables. Is it cabbage-time again already!? Yay!

Pruning tomatoes

As usual our tomato vines have grown into a big, jumbled mess. Two of them are 7 foot tall tangles of branches, leaves, fruit and twine. It's containable - for now. But by the end of August we'll probably have given up trying to tame the wildness and will just let the plants spill onto the ground.

Pruning the tomato plants is not something I've given much thought. I only have a vague understanding as to why we pull off the "suckers". A conversation last night with Oliver's cousin has gotten me thinking about changing my ways. He explained that a well pruned tomato plant produces more fruit. As evidence he showed me a photo of his well trimmed tomato vine and then one of of the huge pile of gorgeous tomatoes he'd already picked. 

Motivated by what I learned I did some research on the internet this morning. The following video provided a great lesson about which suckers to pluck, why and what you can do with them (stick them in ground and they'll grow a new plant!!). It's probably too late to make difference for us this year; but I'll definitely apply this knowledge next summer. 

Our tomatoes as of mid-July 2012:

Summer Garden: Week Seven

We planted a handful of pumpkin seeds this week; they're all coming up nicely. Hopefully they'll do better then our watermelon. The watermelon vine goes on forever, has plenty of blooms but not one fruit. Our strawberries suffered a similar fate; in the end we didn't get even half a dozen berries. Fortunately strawberries and watermelon are the only plants we've had problems with this summer. Everything* else is going great.

*Two varieties of eggplants, four varieties of tomatoes (two heirloom, two hybrid), green peppers, hot peppers, leeks, basil, mint, thyme and parsley.