Thursday, September 6, 2012

September Garden Update

I'm in love with gardens. Not just the small one we have out on our patio, but just backyard gardens in general. Whenever Zach and I take a walk, I always look to see what people have blooming or growing in their yards. Vegetable gardens are still new things to me, and I find them so fascinating. I grew up in a city where space is scarce so not many people have the luxury of growing their own food. I've lived in Indiana for fourteen years and this is the first time I've ever planted a seed. Our garden has changed the way we view food and the way we eat. My desire to plant everything has resulted in a very crowded patio. Too many pots crammed on the one side that receives the most sunlight. We have so many things growing in such a small space that it's getting quite hard to make sure we attend to every plant. Thankfully some plants are just hardier than others, and they pretty much are content with sun and water. The bugs and worms leave them alone and they grow happily, undisturbed. 

patio garden
just a section of the patio ...

When I visited with my friend Corrinne earlier this week, she took me to see the giant patch of pumpkins growing in her backyard. She said the patch was an unexpected discovery that grew from a pumpkin they had left out last year. See, gardens are magical.

Here's what's been happening in our garden since August

goji berry

The wolfberry seeds I experimented with grew! The seeds are tiny so I scattered way too many in the small pots that I have. Now we have the difficult decision to make -- which ones get to continue growing, and which ones get yanked out? By the way, caterpillars, the same ones that attacked my yu choy, love to feed on these baby plants. We have to be extra vigilant about picking them out so they do not kill our seedlings!


And speaking of caterpillars that devour baby plants, we're losing the battle with the cabbage worms that have been feeding on my kai-lan (Chinese kale). There are so many of them and they are not easy to spot (can you see the two that are in this picture?). I'm going to have Zach pull out these poor plants so we can start some new. And oh, for those of you who are familiar with my infamous tomato hornworm incident, I am proud to say I have a new way of dealing with the creepy crawlies I find. I pick them out with scissors. And if I accidentally snip them in two, oh well. (I apologize if that just grossed you out! haha!)
Another experimental yield. I planted some quinoa seeds and out popped these beautiful specimens. The plant on the left is from a white seed, and the one on the right sprouted from a red seed. I read somewhere that you are supposed to sow quinoa no more than one-quarter inch deep, so I took the lazy way out and just scattered some seeds on the surface of the soil. Guess that works too! :)

These are garlic chives (also known as Chinese chives). I bought some seeds and thought I'd try them out but these have been super slow to grow. Neither Zach and I pay much attention to these. They don't get attacked by bugs or worms so we just leave them to do their own thing! I hope the upcoming cooler days will accelerate their growth. I've been waiting to make this recipe

container chamomile

This is Roman Chamomile, a relative of the more popular German Chamomile. We bought this on a whim at our local farmers' market, brought it home, and stuck it in a small pot. It wasn't doing much for a while, but lately it's been on a growth spurt and threatening to spill out of its container. I think chamomiles are happier when planted in the ground, so I might have to find these a new home soon. 

container dill

A single flower off of our dill plants. Zach planted these when we got back from Singapore and they have been growing super well. I love the cheery yellow flower so we decided not to pick it off. We've been adding dill to the yogurt sauce we serve over grilled salmon. It's absolutely delicious! Dill is also great to use in egg salads. Yum!

container shiso

OOOooohhhh, our long awaited shiso. I planted a bunch of seeds way back in June and it took forever before a small seedling even surfaced (and that lonesome seedling stayed tiny for a long time too!). I didn't think we were going to get any shiso plants so I moved the pot into the shade. And suddenly, bham -- that lonesome shiso grew by leaps and bounds! Now it looks like the other seedlings are growing strong too. Don't quote me, but I think shiso grows better in cooler, shaded areas of the garden. Zach has asked me what we're going to do with the shiso. Frankly, I don't know yet. I'm just happy to see it growing!

container tomatoes
Our small Big Boys on the left, and our big Sweet Baby Girls on the right. They're still flowering and growing, and we still find the occasional hornworms. Yuck. Zach and I have decided that we're growing more sweet baby girls next year. They taste delicious and are delightful!  

container chili pepper

No more jalapenos and pepperoncinis, but this chili pepper plant is still producing a good size crop. These little suckers are plenty hot. I use them in modest amounts in almost everything we cook. I hope we have enough to dry at the end of the season! They would be nice to have in the winter time when we take out the crockpot to make lots of spicy stews and soups. 

container okra

Okra (we call them ladies fingers in Singapore)! We chose the Clemson Spineless variety because the nice folks at Bennett's Greenhouse told us they were the best kind to grow in containers. Our plants look like they are about ready to flower. I can't wait to harvest okra. I know they'll be great in gumbo but I also want to see what else I can make with them. I'll have to get in touch with my uncle Simon to see if he has some fail-proof recipes for me!

herb garden

We have a large herb collection and we use every bit of it. There is almost always herbs in everything we cook. They seem to enliven even the most boring recipes! I know we'll have plenty to dehydrate and save for the winter. And the first moment after the last frost next year, we'll be planting lots of herbs again! I decided that we should feature a picture of our oregano for this post. The leaves are starting to turn red and they look really pretty. 

My aloe vera plant. It looks great, it's easy to grow, and absolutely nothing bothers it. Not even the cat!

container blueberry bushes

One of our four blueberry bushes. We didn't have any blueberries this year, but hopefully we'll get some next year! We are pretty clueless about how to care for these plants. We haven't monitored the pH levels of our soil, neither have we pruned or fertilized. We'll do some research over the winter and try much harder next year!

dwarf thornless raspberry

Zach's surprise raspberry shortcake bush! I know how much he loves raspberries so I bought him a Brazelberry thornless red raspberry bush from White Flower Farm. It arrived in the mail today and it's looking a little sad right now.  We're going to stick it in a pot tomorrow and shower it with lots of love and attention and hopefully it can recover from its travels.

Things we've gotten rid of so far: Our lettuce -- bolted in the summer heat. Our yu choy -- we ate them all! Our jalapeno plant. Our pepperoncini plant. Our red and green pepper plants look like they're done too.

Stay tuned for an October update. We're planning to grow some new Chinese veggies soon!


Cat's Ceramics said...

What a lovely post! I can feel your enthusiasm and completely agree- there isn't much better than growing and then cooking your own food and you look like you are doing a great job! Best of luck with all the rest x

Nixon K said...

You might not have to sacrifice any of your goji berry plant -- just un-pot the whole thing and gently separate the plants making sure to keep the roots intact and then replant them in separate containers. Looks like you have to buy a new place with land so you can plant more food. I miss a tropical garden though -- love the mango, papaya and guava tree that used to grow in my grandmother's garden in Malaysia. Good luck and enjoy the rest of the warm days!

Nixon K said...

Have you ever made Okra with Sambal?

Mindy said...

Hey Nixon, I love okra with sambal! Here's the problem ... the last time I tried to make it at home, it got all slimy and it wasn't very good. Any idea how to keep it "dry"?

Nixon K said...

So, some have said that adding vinegar will get rid of the slime. I typically steam the Okra till it is just cooked and add it to the fried and fragrant sambal and just stir it in without really cooking it some more. Hope this helps!

Mindy said...

Thanks! I like the steaming idea. But the vinegar method definitely sounds like it might work ... I've heard that adding vinegar to fried rice makes it less "wet." Looking forward to okra season!

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