Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The "King" and I

After loving the wonderfully unseasonable temperatures the last two weeks it came, the cold. Whew! This morning was chilly. I pulled out the tomato and eggplant plants yesterday, and covered the peppers (which are doing really well this year!). Early in the planting season, I chose a few pepper plants to put in pots, as I had more than I could use in the garden. These plants have been in a race to see which would be the strongest and most prolific. I was forced to pick a winner yesterday, and my heirloom bell pepper, King of the North variety, was the clear winner. It has nice fruits and a few blossoms. It is my experiment pepper, I am going to baby it until next year. Peppers are native to Central and South America, so they like it warm, far warmer than Minnesota to be sure. I am going through with the experiment to see how this particular variety fares in the less than full sun and some what chilly temps that we have here, even in the house.

The fall is a great, sad time for me. I am in a rush of canning, fermenting and drying foods, trying to keep in mind all the mental notes about how the garden went and planning for next year. My first timer clients are busy with their homework as well, they are reviewing their own gardens and thinking about changes for next year. This is one great reason for a garden journal, even just a notepad to jot down a random thought, something like "The beets were very happy next to the fence this year", or "I will never again try to plant 8 pepper plants in 3 square feet of garden bed" you get the idea. The garden wrap up and planning sessions are the only lessons left for the year. The sad part is the lack of the garden and the looming cold. So, this is why I have choosen the "King" to hang around for the winter, perhaps he and the "Herbs" can arrange a gathering in the skillet.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

September Heat

This morning I picked another basket of tomatoes. Despite the blight, it seems the little guys just keep coming. It's time for another batch of canning. The September heat has been helpful in the garden this fall to say the least. Peppers, corn, squash, beans, beets, lettuce and cabbages are all doing well. Cabbages, ah yes well, the ever icky cabbage worms are in force this year. Daily picking works, but they just won't quit! Yucky little squirmy things, they smell like cabbage when you squish them. There are 2 types that I have trouble with, imported cabbage worms (pictured above)and cabbage loopers (pictured below). The worms are about an inch long, and kind of fat and eat big holes in the leaves, the loopers are shorter and slimmer and eat smaller holes. They both like the bottom side of the leaves, but the worms also can be spotted on the tops. I just pick 'em off and step on them. I have a smaller than desired cabbage harvest this year, but it looks like the fall crop may hold it's own as long as I keep picking. Today I mention the cabbage interlopers because I found two of the big worms on the kitchen counter after setting the basket of tomatoes there this morning. The little guys are so prevelant in the garden that they found their way into the house, either on the basket or the fruits themselves. So, I wish you continued happiness in the garden, bug picking and all.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

tomato blight

Although the tomatoes have done their share of producing in the backyard grocery test plots, I'm disappointed by the blight. Blight is a fungus that affects plants in the tomato family (which also includes eggplant, peppers and potatoes) The best ways to avoid getting the blight is to mulch well, to prevent "splash back" from the rain, give each plant enough room, don't water in the evening or from overhead and if the tell tale spots do show up, remove any affected leaves or branches promptly. When the season is over, be sure to remove any sick leaves and plants and do not add them to the compost pile and be sure when planning for next year to move tomato family plants to a different area of the garden.

My first time gardeners have enjoyed an abundance of tomatoes this season, all heirloom varieties that consistently deliver in the taste department. One of the most popular was the Cherokee Purple variety a deep colored tomato that ripens to purple and has a rich tomato flavor.

Heirloom varieties produce vegetables that are not your typical grocery store varieties. These are old timey plants that have been phased out of our vegetable lexicon due to their incompatibility with our industrialized mono crop farms, mechanical harvest, inconsistent sizing and an inability to ship long distances, they also have not been genetically modified. How a seed variety qualifies for the heirloom title is under debate. Many gardeners agree that a variety introduced before 1945 qualifies for heirloom status as this indicates the end of World War II, an increase in industrialized agriculture and more widespread use of hybridized seeds.

Pictured: Bulgarian Carrot Pepper, hot heirloom pepper that dries well and adds briliant color to any dish.

Monday, September 21, 2009

welcome to the backyard grocery:
we are a service company in the Minneapolis/St.Paul, MN area designed to help urban and suburban dwellers become more connected to their food, by helping them plan, plant, maintain and harvest a vegetable garden of their own.