Monday, October 31, 2011

Harvest Monday

This week we greeted our first frost here in South Carolina.  I've still been harvesting strawberries and I'm surprised that they are still producing, but no complaints!

I also harvested some peppers (covered during the cold nights) and some peas:

I have never grown turnips.  How do I know when to harvest??  They don't look as big as I thought they would be, but I don't want them getting woody. 

My main causality in the frost was the basil:

I've got plenty of pesto frozen and plenty of dried basil to get me through the winter months, so the frost wasn't a tragedy.  The basil is now my Halloween decor!

I hope everyone had a Happy Harvest Monday!  To see what others are harvesting check out Harvest Monday at Daphne's Dandelions.

Revisiting those October Garden Goals

A new month is sneaking up around the corner, so it's time to check on those October gardening goals.
  • Clean-up garden:  I finally parted with the tomatoes, still have some paths to rid of weeds and grass.
  • Harvest peanuts:  Peanuts are drying at the moment, one more week until roasting and eating!
  • Dry herbs: Mint, basil, and oregano are currently drying in the potting shed.
  • Plant garlic:  I didn't plan ahead with my garlic and did not order any, so I ended up going to the grocery store and buying a couple of organic garlic bulbs.  I've never grown garlic before and I'm hoping they will grow!
  • Order bulbs: Sadly, bulbs did not fit into my budget this year.  I had some way too expensive car repairs (very angry at Toyota right now!!) and decided that flower bulbs were going to have to wait until next year :(
  • Add compost: I got my alpaca manure and added it to the beds I cleared.  There will be more to do as the fall crops finish and I clear the eggplants and peppers. 
  • Plant cover crops: I have three beds with cover crops growing.  Just planted the peanut beds with cover crops and hope they will germinate.  I had read about planting cover crops around fall crops.  I tried this with my brussel sprouts, but it seems the cover crops are taking over!  I do like the look of cover crops.  Nice to have something green instead of exposed dirt.

  • Mulch:  The trees haven't dropped many of their leaves yet, so this is going to have to wait until next month.
  • Make cold frame: I'm having two cold frames.  For one I am using the bottom of the trellis frame for the structure.  The other I assembled with plastic tubing and rebar.  I will be covering these with Agribon+ AG-19 row covers.  Hopefully this will work!

  • Finish planting fall garden:  Fall garden planted!  I realized I've never grown turnips and even though they look smaller than I expected I'm afraid those lines might mean they are getting overripe.  Should I pull them??  

  • Paint potting shed trim:  Definitely made progress, but not completely done.  One more side of trim to paint.
Not too shabby for October!  November should be a bit less busy, which is  good because I`m ready for a break!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

First Frost!

Last night brought our first frost to the Piedmont of South Carolina. 

During my morning visit to my garden, I was greeted with ice in the birdbath,

 frozen droplets dotting the pea leaves,

and frosty strawberry leaves.

Our average frost date is Nov 6th, so this was a week early.  I had made a cold frame for my lettuce bed, but didn't actually cover it!  I'm hoping they recover.  The romaine looks fine and spinach can handle it, but the looseleaf lettuce and some of the mesclun blend look a bit sad.  The forecast predicted 33 degrees, but I guess it got down to 28 degrees.  I did cover the pepper bed because I'm not ready to part with them.  I had a late start with my peppers this year, so they were slow to produce and there's still quiet of few ripening peppers.

The rest of the garden is fall crops that should be able to handle the frost although I should probably mulch for some extra insulation.  There's suppose to be another frost tonight and then warm up for the rest of the week.

I think its time to have a steaming cup of tea and curl up under a fleece blanket.  Wish all my garden plants could join me.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Harvest Monday

I can't believe its almost the end of October!  That first frost is probably lingering around the corner in a couple of weeks.  It is definitely cooler and downright chilly in the morning.  I finally said goodbye to the tomatoes, but still haven't pulled the peppers or eggplants.  This week's harvest is all about the peanuts.  I finally finished digging up both  4'x6' beds of peanuts.  The front bed did much better than the back bed, although I still don't know for sure until they dry and I crack into the shells to find the peanuts. 

Here's the freshly dug peanuts from the front bed:

The front bed does get more sun and I think more importantly has better drainage.  It is in one of the highest parts of my terraced garden, so several feet of fill dirt separate the peanuts from the clay soil below.  The back bed is almost level with the soil and does not drain well.  According to what I've read about peanuts, they prefer sandy, well-drained soil.  However, the first time I ever grew peanuts it was in dense clay soil and they still produced.

Here's the harvest from the back bed- lots of peanut plant, but not as many peanuts:

Now just two weeks of drying and then the roasting and eating will commence!  Here are the dried peanuts from the first rows I harvested a couple of weeks ago:

I will weigh all the peanuts after drying and picking.  Here's hoping there are plenty of peanuts hiding in those shells!

I hope everyone had a Happy Harvest Monday!  To see what others are harvesting check out Harvest Monday at Daphne's Dandelions.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Alpacas in the Garden

No I don't have alpacas grazing in my garden, but I am adding their manure to my soil.  I went to Happy Hills Alpaca Farm to pick up bags of manure and got to see, pet, and hang out with the poop providing alpacas.  They are so soft and adorable!  Just look at that face:

They also had several baby alpacas, including this one that was only three days old:

I wanted to take an alpaca home with me!  Like this shy and fuzzy little guy:

I've never used alpaca manure in my garden before.  Usually I get horse manure, but supposedly alpaca doesn't have weed seeds.  If that's true I love alpacas even more!  It also doesn't have high nitrogen so it can be added directly to beds without composting.  I'm planning on adding it now, planting my cover crops, and then have fabulous soil for the spring!  Seems like a win, win situation: nutrients for my garden and visiting adorable alpacas!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

What To Do with Thai Eggplant?

With the weather cooling, my eggplants seem to be happier and more productive.  I ventured away from growing the traditional eggplants this year and picked up Thai eggplants at the farmer's market.  I had never tried a Thai eggplant, but thought it would be fun to grow something different.  So I did.

I find them cute, but what to do with them?  So far I have used them in stir fry and roasted them.  I find them less bitter and less seedy than the large purple eggplants.  I do tend to pick them when they are young, if you wait too long they will be a cute ball filled with hard seeds!

Tonight I wanted to try something new.  I found a recipe for Thai Eggplants in a Peanut Masala at the FatFree Vegan Kitchen and I love peanuts so it sounded like a great recipe.

As I assembled the ingredients I realized that I was lacking cumin seeds and I didn't have fresh, frozen, or dried coconut, but I did have coconut milk.  I was also lacking tamarind concentrate and ended up substituting lemon juice.  Here's my adjusted ingredients:

There are a lot of ingredients, but it is mostly just throwing them into the food processor and making a paste to cook the eggplant and chickpeas in.  Here's what Thai eggplants look like cooking:

For some reason it took FOREVER for my eggplants to soften.  I lost track of total cooking time.  I kept setting the timer for five minutes, stirring, adding water, and cooking some more.  Here's my Thai eggplants in a peanut masala:

Yummy!  The sauce is very tasty even with my substitutions and missing ingredients.  Now I don't want frost to come and take away my Thai eggplants.  I want to make more of this!  Next time I think I'll put it in the crock pot and let it cook away for hours.

Check out what others are making from their harvests at The Gardener of Eden's Thursday's Kitchen Cupboard.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Planning the Winter Garden

I've never grown a winter garden, so this is going to be an experiment and adventure.  Since our winters are generally mild in 7b, it seems that it should be possible to grow some cold hardy veggies.  I think it'll be fabulous to have fresh vegetables in the middle of the winter.  I've been daydreaming of fresh salad in December.  To try and make this dream a reality  I am reading The Winter Harvest Handbook by Eliot Coleman.  It's amazing how much he grows during the winter in Maine!

So if it's possible in Maine, it has to be doable in SC.. right?  My concern is that with cold nights, but daytime temperatures much higher than in Maine, I could end up cooking my winter crops under plastic.  I also found this article on Extending the Salad Season helpful because it is in Zone 7.  Based on this article I decided on Agribon+ AG-19 row covers and ordered a 10' x 50' row from Johnny's Seeds.  This is far more than I really need and of course my first thought was to increase the number of winter garden beds.  I was originally going to have one or maybe two, but with that much row cover material I could have five!  Then I had to tell myself not to go overboard since I've never grown winter crops- start out small so that it isn't overwhelming. 

Step one of winter gardening is now complete: order row cover.  The next step is to decide what to plant.  I did order a few seeds along with the row covers: Napoli carrots and Pak choi, which were recommended in The Winter Harvest Handbook and Easter egg radishes because they look so pretty!  I am concerned that the salad garden in Zone 7 was seeded in September.  I hope to get mine planted by the end of October and hoping that's not too late!

If anyone has any suggestions about winter gardening- what to plant, when to plant, or any words of wisdom- I'd appreciate some guidance. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Belated Harvest Monday

Monday was a busy day and I didn't get home until after dark.  A whole day without setting foot in my garden- I don't like those kind of days!  However, today is much less hectic, so here's my belated Monday harvest:

I picked the first few peas today.  They are so yummy fresh!

The Thai eggplants keep on producing.  I need to cook them this week- I'm going to try out a new recipe.

And then we have the reds.. strawberries, cayenne peppers and tomatoes.  I know I said last week was going to be the end of tomato harvesting, but I didn't get around to clearing them out this past weekend.  Maybe these are the last.. stay tuned!

I also started drying some herbs- basil, mint and oregano.

That's all from my garden for now, head over to Daphne's Dandelions to see what everyone else is harvesting!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Soil Appreciation Weekend

I haven't given the dirt in my garden the attention it deserves.  I spend most of my time focusing on the veggies, picking off pests, and pulling weeds.  But none of this would be possible without the soil.  We need a soil appreciation day, so this weekend is my debut of soil appreciation.  To appreciate something, you need to know and understand it.  So, I broke out some soil testing kits.  I would love to test every raised bed, but not possible.  Therefore, I picked the raised bed where corn grew well and the adjacent bed where the corn did not do so well and produced mini corn.  The soil was not the only variable.  The good corn bed was planted in spring and the bad corn bed was planted in summer. 


The pH of the soil measures its acidity.  Neutral is 7, basic is greater than 7, and acidic is less than 7.  Having acidic soil makes nutrients such as phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium less available for the plants.  Silly me took these pictures under a florescent light in the kitchen, which makes it a bit difficult to tell the true colors.  The test on the left was greener (pH 6.5) than the one on the right (pH 6.).  The good corn bed was the 6.5.  Overall a pH of 6.0 - 6.5 is a good range for most veggies, so no lime additions in my future.

Potassium (K):

I switched things up and now the poor growing corn bed is on the left with adequate levels of K and the good corn growing bed has sufficient K.  Potassium is important in plants for water transport and withstanding extreme temperatures and regulating water during droughts.  Looks as though K is at OK levels, but a bit lower for the soil that grew the mini corn.


Phosphorus is important for new growth and cell division.  Looks as though the soil in both beds have plenty of phosphorus.


Nitrogen has many important roles within plants.  It is a structural component, a part of chlorophyll, needed for many proteins, and an important component for metabolism.  Without nitrogen, plants would not survive.  My expectation was that nitrogen was lacking in the bed where the corn performed poorly because corn needs lots of nitrogen.  However, my nitrogen test was not very helpful.  My samples appear orange rather than purple as shown on the scale.  I'm not sure what to make of this test.  The color does appear similar for both beds, but I don't know how to translate to nitrogen levels. 

I hope after this weekend my soil feels a little less neglected.  I'm trying to show my dirt more love by adding manure and leaves this fall along with cover crops.  Nothing like happy soil to produce happy veggies!

I hope you can find some time to appreciate your soil!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Harvest Monday

Peanuts!!!  I started harvesting the peanuts yesterday.  Some of the leaves were beginning to yellow, so I dug them up, shook off the dirt, and now they have to dry for two weeks.  I only dug up about a quarter of one peanut bed.  I'll wait until the other leaves start to turn yellow before harvesting more.  Seemed that they produced pretty well, but it's still a mystery of how many peanuts and how big they are until after drying. 
Then I can shell, roast, and of course eat them! 

Also this week I sent some friends home with herbs, tomatoes, and cayenne peppers.  

 There were a few more tomatoes, a banana pepper, and some Thai eggplants.  This is looking like the end of the tomato harvest for the year.

And a rare photo of strawberries... normally they are eaten before a photo can be taken!  I've been getting about 4 -5 per day.
That's my harvest for now.  Check out what others are harvesting today at  Daphne's Dandelions.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Unplanned, But Much Loved

It's one thing to pick out beautiful plants to grow in my garden, but sometimes I am lucky enough to have the plants pick me.  The right side of my driveway has zero landscaping.  It is a patch  of woods with mostly sweet gums, maples, oaks, and a couple of pines.  But on the edge between the woods and the driveway are some native residents.  There is a beautiful blazing star with a dainty little white aster in the background.  This combination would make a nice addition to my flower bed.  I may try to collect seeds a get these beauties to spread.  But for now it is wonderful to have such pretty additions without an ounce of work!
Also among the wild residents are golden asters...

and the calico aster.
I'm honored that these awesome natives have chosen my little space as home.  Hopefully they will tell their friends to move here too!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Garden Guardian

Today the Garden Guardian (aka Domino) turned two.  Guardian is really not a great description for his role in the garden- he loves to eat strawberries, tomatoes, corn, and anything in the cabbage family!  In the afternoon we'll pick strawberries together- I eat one, give him one, and he doesn't mind the ones that are a bit squishy or have been nibbled on.  What he is lacking in gardening etiquette, he makes up for in cuteness and personality.  And I do have to admit he is very good at chasing away the squirrels.  If you look closely at the picture at the top of my blog you can see him on the right with his head in the compost bin- a very predictable place to find Mr. Domino!

Happy, happy birthday Domino!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Gardening Goals: October

Fall is an exciting and busy time of year.  School is in full swing and somehow I always seem to have grading to do, its kind of like weeding: always on your to-do list, you do it, and then it's time to weed again!  Before we get too far into October its time to set some goals.  I have a love of to-do lists.  I like to show completion with a smiley face :)  Accomplishments are happy times!  So here's my October to-do list:
  • Clean-up garden: tomatoes look pathetic, but yet can't seem to part with them.  October is the month to say a final farewell.
  • Harvest peanuts:  Peanuts are probably one of my favorite things to grow.  I think it's all about anticipation and peanuts sure do make you wait.  Takes almost 6 months from seed to harvest and then you have to dry for a couple of weeks!  
  • Dry herbs: Mint, basil, oregano, thyme, tarragon- should be an easy goal to accomplish.
  • Plant garlic:  I guess this is getting ahead of myself, because first I need to actually buy some garlic! 
  • Order bulbs: I want to add bulbs to the front flower bed and have to decide what to plant and how many.  Very exciting!
  • Add compost:  Feeding the garden is always important.
  • Plant cover crops:  This is my first time planting cover crops, so I can't wait to see how they do during the winter.
  • Mulch:  I plan to collect leaves for mulching, so this will have to wait until the trees decide to give up their leaves.
  • Make cold frame: Another first.  I want to try growing some cool weather crops through the winter, so I need to assemble a simple cold frame.
  • Finish planting fall garden:  I have a few more weeks of planting fall crops.  Going to have to remember to water too.  The past week has seen no rain and that's not encouraging my seeds to sprout.
  • Paint potting shed trim:  This is one of those projects that seems to never get done, so Oct is the month!
Ok, I think its going to be a busy, busy month!  Happy October gardening :)

    Monday, October 3, 2011

    Harvest Monday

    I found Harvest Mondays on Daphnes Dandelions and I think it's a fabulous idea.  I've only been blogging about my garden for a month, so I kept telling myself I would wait and join the harvest posts in the spring.  You know- when I'm organized and my garden is pretty and prolific (aka.. never!).  So here goes, my first Monday harvest at the beginning of fall:

    This week's harvest included a few beans, cherry tomatoes, a sole Amish paste tomato, cayenne peppers, and those green balls are Thai eggplant.
    I also had a handful of beans.  Many of my beans got too wet in the past weeks and sprouted!

    And then there was the tiniest corn harvest.  I tried to grow two crops of corn this year.  The first crop was planted in early spring and harvested in July.  Then in July I planted round two.  They only grew about 3 ft compared to the 8 ft of the first crop.  Not sure what happened, but I thought the baby corn were kind of cute ;)  Cooked and ate and they were quiet tasty.
    I did have to say goodbye to the parsley today.  A sacrifice for the future butterflies...

    Snake Sunday

    This weekend I did a lot of cleaning up the garden and pruning shrubs.  A couple of weeks ago I had tackled these huge privet bushes that are at the end of the driveway.  They had grown above the 10 ft fence!  I did not plant these and I'm not sure how much longer they are going to remain.  What is saving them is the thought of how difficult they will be to remove!  Anyway, I left the clippings in a huge pile and on Sunday was clearing out the mess and found a little garter snake and a ringneck snake.  Unfortunately I did not have my camera on me, but here's a picture of a ringneck snake courtesy of Will Cook at North Carolina Herb Photos.  Garter snakes are very common, but I've never seen a ringneck snake.  Although according to everything I've read about them, they are very common.  It was an exciting critter to see! 

    But that was not to be the end of snake Sunday.  Next on my to do list was tackling the Rose of Sharon shrubs in front of the house.  I also did not plant these.  The good thing is that they are contained by a retaining wall so they can not take over the world because I'm pretty sure they would if they could!  I do have to admit their flowers are nice and prolific.  I was pruning away and not in a delicate manner.  I was hacking the shrubs because I know they grow rapidly and can handle (and need) a serious cutting back.  As I was chopping away, I almost chopped a green snake in two!!  Luckily it moved and I stopped.  It was a rough green snake.  Another snake that I've never encountered.  Once again I did not have my camera handy (this will teach me to prune with camera in reach!). Here's another photo courtesy of Will Cook at North Carolina Herb Photos. 

    Who says pruning is a boring task?  My new mantra: prune often and carry a camera! Oh and watch what you are pruning.