It’s the time of year when gardeners are starting to think about their plans for the upcoming season…no matter how cold, snowy, or icy it may be! Our Master Gardeners are no exception, and they worked hard to plan all these different beds in our Demonstration Garden over the past several weeks.
This is an overview of our garden layout with the themes for each bed. Both Beds 1 and 4 are split in halves for two different themes this year.
Bed 1 will feature Brassicas on one half in the spring and carrots in the fall. The Brussels Sprouts will grow through the season. The other half of this bed will be vegetables that have snack value and interest for children.
Bed 2 is our Tomato garden this year. The trellis and half of the cages will feature varieties that are “indigo” types. These have a gene that promotes anthocyanins and a very dark, purple-black color on the shoulders. I’ll guarantee you that the fruit will be unique! The other three varieties are beefsteak tomatoes (more than 10 oz fruit) that also happen to grow on compact vines.
The SNAP-Ed garden in bed 3 is a new project for us in partnership with our nutrition educators. This garden is also divided in half, and each half has a budget of $30 to spend, total. This includes seeds, plants, fertilizers, and any trellising structures or materials. The general plans are as pictured, but specific varieties will be determined based on what is available at retailers that can take SNAP (Vision cards / food assistance) benefits, as those on SNAP can use those dollars to purchase seeds and plants for a food garden. We will also be tracking the methods used, the total yield, and the value / return on investment of each garden half.
Bed 4 is also divided into two separate themes. Half will feature heirloom shelling beans (dry beans), with 4 varieties of pole beans on trellises and two varieties of bush beans. The other half will feature Italian vegetables and herbs.
Bed 5 is our “Miscellany” garden. In other words, things we wanted to try (or plant again) that didn’t fit into any of the other beds’ themes.
The Herbs / Pollinators garden is returning to Bed 6 this year, with some similar things and some new things, including a cascading ornamental oregano and some different types of Agastache.
After several years as our Kitchen Herb Garden, Bed 8 will be home to our Edible Flowers garden this year. Did you know that all those flowers are edible?
Bed 9 is still the Hops plant for at least one more year. Bed 10 has been designated as the “Year-Round Salads” garden. Featuring lettuce in the early spring, spinach in the late fall, and a mixture of less common, heat tolerant greens in the summer. With orach, amaranth, and goosefoot, it’s going to look a bit like a weed bed to start with!
The accessible gardens will reprise some of the plants found in other areas of the garden, but with more confined growing conditions of the planters.
The barrel planters will include some greens, herbs, and radishes.
Last, but definitely NOT least, the containers on the inside perimeter of our garden will feature a range of peppers. The goal is to start with the sweet peppers on one side of the garden, and gradually increase the Scoville (heat) level around the garden.
Not pictured or listed, we will also continue to have gingers in some of the shadier containers, as well as herbs. We will be showcasing a wide range of rosemary in one set of containers, including varieties that we can only grow as annuals. Outside the garden, the annual flower demonstrations will continue in the large containers.
There you have it, our complete vegetable garden plans for 2018! As always, we have some exciting, new, and different things planned for the year. We will be starting seeds this week for some of the earliest plantings.
How time flies when it’s summer and there’s lots of produce! It has been two whole months since I updated you on the harvests, yields, and value of the Grocery Garden bed.
Venice Beans: 3.175 lbs @ $4.00 per lb = $12.70
Purple Dragon Carrots:7.85 bunches @ $3.00 per bunch = $23.55
Yellow Carrots: 7.5 bunches @ $3.00 per bunch = $22.50
Cylindra Beets: 4.5 bunches @ $3.00 per bunch = $13.50
Gold Beets: 0.3 bunches @ $3.00 per bunch = $0.90
Red Marble Onion: 0.99 lbs @ $1.50 per lb = $1.48
Bride Eggplant: 0.675 lb @ $5.99 per lb = $4.04
Esterina Cherry Tomato: 2.025 lbs @ $4.00 per lb = $8.10
July Total: $86.77
Bride Eggplant: 2.56 lbs @ $5.99 per lb = $15.34
Esterina Cherry Tomato: 5.25 lbs @ $4.00 per lb = $21.02
Escamillo Pepper: 14 peppers @ $1.25 per each = $17.50
Red Knight Pepper:3 peppers @ $1.25 per each = $3.75
Spaghetti Squash: 7.80 lbs @ $1.50 per lb = $11.70
August Total: $69.31
Year to Date Total: $276.28
As you can see, we’ve had some great yields on many things and decent yields on others. However, our total value continues to pile up. Over $275 from 100 sq. ft is pretty good! And we have been planting for fall, so there is more still to come.
Even though I see it happen every single year, it always surprises me to see how fast things grow and change in the garden at this time of year.
This is also the time of year we typically experience a change in the weather from cool, moist spring to hotter summer temps. That tends to push our summer veggies into overdrive of growth and our spring veggies to finish up. I think the theme of this week’s post is Growing Like Crazy vs Done and Almost Done.
The tomatoes are growing like weeds. An interesting observation currently is that the non-grafted plants may be slightly ahead of the grafted in flowering. The grafted plants are putting on a lot more vigorous sucker growth. Many trials have found that grafted plants may tend to fruit slightly later and have more foliage, so what we are seeing would seem to track with those results.
The ‘Peas-in-a-Pot’ that were covered in pea pods a week ago are now bare of flowers and pods. They are not bare of powdery mildew however. The yellowing and disease, coupled with the lack of production is a really good indicator that this variety has run its course and it is time to remove it. It will soon be too hot for the plants and it is done producing.
Back on the growing fast side of the equation, the cantaloupes, watermelons, cucumbers, and other melons that we have planted have germinated and are growing well. They seem small right now, but I can guarantee you that they will double, triple, or quadruple in size over the next week or two.
In contrast, the garlic is quickly approaching the end of its growing life. Typically it should be harvested and cured when about 5 leaves have died. As you can see, this variety is going to be ready to harvest soon.
This last picture is in the “FINALLY” category. We had planned to plant Aji Amarillo peppers in the Peruvian Garden, because they are the most popular pepper in Peruvian cuisine. However, the seeds we ordered never germinated, despite being planted twice. We finally gave in and ordered seeds from another source and planted them last week. Happily, we have gotten several seedlings from this batch. So this variety will be late in the garden, but hopefully we will get something.
I shared a few pepper recipes using our garden peppers the other day, but I wanted to show some other options for using the peppers as well.
A lot of hot peppers are stored or used once they are dried. The most reliable way to dry peppers is using a dehydrator, although I’ve also had good luck (sometimes) using the oven or just letting peppers dry on the counter. The biggest issue with letting peppers dry on the counter is that if there is a chance the fruit have any fungal spores on them (or any blemishes), they can rot before they dry down sufficiently to store.
On the recommendation of Denise, our Foods & Nutrition Agent, I used the dehydrator outside and set at 135 degrees. It took about 8 hours to dry the smaller, hot peppers. It took about 16-20 hours to dry the larger, thicker-walled peppers, like the paprikas and Aleppos.
The dehydrator had several racks, so I was able to segregate the different peppers onto different racks.
I dried some of the cayenne peppers, lemon drop peppers, hot paprika peppers, and Aleppo peppers.
I don’t have specific plans for any of these at the moment, other than possibly grinding them into either pepper flakes or powder.
Well…the Lemon Drop peppers I have a hot sauce recipe to try. Sometime.
I did try to spread out the peppers to start, but they ended up towards the center anyway. These are the cayenne peppers. You can still see a little of the purple coloration despite the fact that they wee mostly red.
The Espelette (Basque region) and Fushimi (Japan) peppers, I tried with simple sautéing. The Espelette peppers probably should have been dried and ground instead…like a paprika pepper. Oh well.
After cooking, I sprinkled them with salt and let them cool enough to eat. This is one of the traditional ways to prepare these Fushimi peppers and the similar Shishito peppers. YUM! I am definitely regretting the bags of these peppers that I harvested and intended to sauté earlier in the season, but never got around to.
These peppers were not all that exciting otherwise. The walls are thin, the flavor was a little “green” and the seeds were too prevalent. But you sauté them in hot oil, sprinkle with salt, and they are transformed into a delicious appetizer.
I finally had time to try a few recipes using some of our less common peppers in the Demo Garden. I still have a few other recipes I want to try as well.
I may have to plant hot paprika peppers myself, just so I can make this recipe every week. I adapted a straight red pepper cream sauce to the paprika sauce. A lot of sauces call for powdered paprika, but I wanted to try using the peppers fresh.
This was pretty much the easiest recipe that I never knew I was missing out on. You put two cups of cream and the chopped peppers in a saucepan. Bring it to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Cook until the cream is reduced by half and the peppers are soft (about 30 minutes). If you want something that is lower fat, you can use fat free half and half. (I checked with our foods agent. She also said you could use cream and just use it sparingly to accent your food, rather than drowning your food in the cream sauce.)
Then I took a stick blender and blended it until smooth. Then I added a little salt and pepper. I served it with pasta and chicken. The hot paprikas added just the right hint of flavor and spiciness. I also tried this recipe at home with plain colored, sweet peppers. It was also tasty, but not with the same depth of flavor.
I had been looking for some good recipes to try with the Aji Limon (Lemon Drop) hot pepper all summer. A Peruvian friend said that for a true Peruvian experience, I needed to use these peppers to make ceviche. While I like fish, I’m not confident in my ability to purchase good enough quality fish in a landlocked state to make fresh ceviche. So I settled for this salsa recipe. (I also have a hot sauce recipe to try out another time.)
This recipe called for 8 oz. of the fresh Aji Limon peppers, 8 oz. of yellow bell pepper, 2 mangoes, brown sugar, and a bunch of vinegar and lime juice. I’ll be honest…I was afraid of how hot it might be.
At that point, I brought back the stick blender to smooth out the lumps.
After tasting, I would characterize this as a “hot” salsa. In other words, comparable to the heat level you might find if you buy a salsa labeled “hot.” If you regularly eat or enjoy spicy foods, this will be a nice salsa for you. If you are not into spicy foods, you will probably want to steer clear. That said, as with any salsa that contains a lot of brown sugar and mango, it is very tasty.
To use some of the Tabasco peppers, I was tempted to try making homemade tabasco sauce, but I decided to be kinder than that to my office mates. I settled for making a southern-style vinegar sauce.
Then all I did was heat a cup and a half of white wine vinegar and pour it over the peppers in a jar. You could add garlic or peppercorns, but I decided to stay simple. I’ll give it a couple weeks to “steep” before trying the flavored vinegar.
Still to come in another post: the Espelette peppers, the Fushimi peppers, and dehydrating peppers.