August Garden Update

We have had a string of days with temperatures over 100 degrees and with the heat index around 110 degrees F. We’ve had very little rain but have a slight chance for showers tomorrow. The last rain was about ten days ago and even though it was a nice shower it didn’t last very long. The ground is cracking in places where it is not covered -parts of the garden and where flowers previously were blooming. This is not unusual for August in Texas.

Cracked ground.

What is unusual is the quantity of lima beans and purple hull peas we are still getting. Yellow cherry tomatoes are continuing to come in also. Our yellow squash and cucumbers have just died off, which may be due to the fact that we went to Alabama several weeks ago and instead of being watered the usual four times they would have been, they only got watered twice.

Normally, we still have okra and peppers which are better in the fall because they have more time to actually ripen and turn colors. Everyday we are getting more than a meal of okra so we have plenty to freeze for use in the winter and spring.

This morning we checked our watermelons. They are getting close to being ready to pick, but we think they need a few more days to a week. We are going by the tendril nearest to where the stem meets the vine. Some are about a quarter inch from being completely brown. When it is completely brown, we will pick one to check it to see if it is ripe enough to eat, and hopefully not overripe.

The most anticipated vergetable for us this year is our butternut squash. It’s only been about six years since we first tasted this winter variety of squash. But once we did, we knew that we wanted to grow them. Not only do they taste good, but they last a long time in storage – and even longer in the freezer. Butternuts are very versatile, but using them for soup is my favorite way to eat them. In the future, I will post a recipe.

This year has been a good one for our garden. Even though a few vegetables did not do well, most of them have lasted longer than they usually do.

Okra: Love It or Hate It

I think of okra as the raw oyster of vegetables. You either love to eat it, or the thought of doing so makes you sick. It’s just so slimy!! Luckily, I love it. My favorite way to eat it is to make gumbo with it. I also like to boil it or saute it with onions and tomatoes. You can help to make it less slimy by cooking it with tomatoes.

My husband grows lots and lots of okra. There is more in another area of our garden. We freeze it and eat it all year long. The above picture shows our plants when they are small. It is just about time to trim the bottom leaves off the plants. Rubbing up against the leaves makes you itch, so he tries to keep the leaves to a minimum while having enough of them to produce the vegetable.

The actual okra pods start producing from the bottom of the plant and move upward as the year goes by. Okra likes really hot weather, which we have no problem with here in Texas in the summer. It will produce until a frost kills the plants.

Blanching Vegetables

Although we didn’t grow the corn shown in the picture, we do blanch and freeze many of our vegetables, especially green beans. The first step in blanching your vegetables is to pick and clean them. Then you want to separate them by size. Bring water to a boil and drop the cleaned vegetables in for about three minutes. Times may vary depending on what you are blanching. Then immediately scoop them out and dunk them in ice cold water for the same amount of time. After removing them, dry them off as best as you can and pack them into containers for freezing. One thing that we used to forget was to label the items with the name of the product and the date. Labeling helps to rotate the food we eat and always use the oldest first to prevent waste.

Unusual Vegetable

Several years ago, we started growing a vegetable that I have heard very little about. It looks like a lemon, but it actually is a cucumber. It has a much milder taste than a normal green cucumber, and it’s compact size makes it perfect for a snack. Sometimes I want to make a salad just for me, and most cucumbers are too big for just one person. This little cucumber is perfect!

So if you’re feeling a little adventurous or even just a little curious, you might want to try a lemon cucumber!

Garden Update

While I was away on the trip, my husband stayed at home and took care of things. His hobby is gardening. The produce began coming in and has not stopped. Here are pictures of some of the things that we have right now.

Cucumbers and Squash
Red and yellow tomatoes, potatoes, peppers
Onions and potatoes

We have already shared at least this many onions and potatoes with other friends and family members. We’ve also given away some squash.

Usually, we have many more beans: green, lima, and purple hull. For some reason, the beans have not done well this year. The weather stayed cooler for much longer than usual and it has been raining almost daily. Every year is an adventure!

A Little Fun For a Friday!!

A few years, I went out to the garden and picked a whole lot of cherry tomatoes. When I got inside and started sorting them, I ran across this guy! He is straight off the bush. The only thing I did was prop it up on the closest thing I could find and take the picture. I hope this brings a smile to your face and brightens your day!

Our Love Hate Relationship with Squirrels

In general, we love squirrels.  They are so cute and playful.  They entertain us for hours.  There is nothing like watching a squirrel as it bounces through the grass when it’s tall enough to tickle their tummies, or they jump when they are scared.  In hot weather, squirrels will sometimes sprawl out on a branch trying to cool off.  If they feel threatened, they will fuss and shake their tails at us.  Squirrels actually help us because they spread nuts and seeds.  They forget about most of these, and in the process plant new trees which is good for the environment.  Another benefit to having squirrels is that they are a food source for many other animals, such as hawks, coyotes, and owls, etc.

But, squirrels, as cute as they can be, are pests. First, they chew on anything – trees, wooden swing sets, eaves of houses, fences and even electrical wires.  Squirrels also eat birdseed, birdseed that you pay money for and want to feed the birds with.  I had to build an obstacle course to keep them from our birdseed because they were taking the lid off the feeder and reaching in and grabbing handfuls of seeds – greedy little critters.  We taped the lid on the feeder, but then they just hung from it eating through the holes.  This kept the birds from eating so I had to do something.

And finally, as a gardener, squirrels are always eating our crops.  This year our tomatoes are having a rough time.  There just aren’t that many of them.  We have covered them with netting to protect them from the birds and other critters.  Well, it just isn’t working.  Every day we see squirrels carrying off green tomatoes.  Sometimes they just take a bite or two and drop them right under the plant.  We are not even sure how they are getting in the netting.  It’s weighted down with bricks!

It looks like this year we are growing tomatoes for those pesky squirrels! 

If you have any suggestions, other than killing them, on how to get rid of the squirrels eating our produce, please comment below. 

Our Backyard Garden

The first things to come up in our garden every year are the wildflowers. My husband originally planted them behind the fence in our backyard. They were beautiful, and they saved cutting a little part of the grass in the yard, which is pretty large. But soon the neighbors were commenting on how wonderful they looked, and even the walkers and bikers just passing through the neighborhood were stopping and taking pictures of them.

Next my husband started a vegetable garden. It began as just a small area, and we grew some tomatoes, green beans, eggplants and squash. Then each year, he expanded the garden a little more. The next year he cleared an area behind our shed where he grew more beans and okra. Then he expanded it to an area along the fenceline – in front of the fence and on the fence – all one hundred and sixty feet of it. After that, he dug out twelve more beds, some four feet by eight feet, others twelve feet by twelve feet. Finally, we built two raised beds to grow lettuce, beets, carrots and radishes in. I’m sure, by now you have an idea of exactly how massive this garden has become. It’s a whole lot of work!! But there is nothing like picking a vegetable or herb and either eating it raw or cooking it right then. It makes eating so much more enjoyable, and do we like to eat!! The health benefits of knowing where the food comes from and what has or hasn’t been put on it are unquestionable.

These are some of the early veggies from this years garden. The radishes are some of the prettiest that we have ever grown. This year, it has stayed cool for a longer period, and we have received much more rain than we ususally do.

I decided to pick a few green beans for a meal so I came in with just a small amount. My husband came in a few minutes later and said that he had potatoes and onions to add to the meal. All of these were grown in our backyard.

As we pick more vegetables, I will ocassionally update you, but for now, have a wonderful and safe day!!