The Potager

The Potager

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Early August Happenings in the Garden

That header shot of the Potager is several years old. This is how it looks now. Some of my zucchini and squash have succumbed to the squash bug and are gone.  Weeds are taking over my path. I need to fix that soon. The kale is gone and I pulled out the bush beans. The Tomatoes and peppers, both sweet and hot,  are producing well, as are cucumbers. We are still getting beets, green beans and kale.
I planted peas and carrots for the fall this weekend. It was perfect weather for that.
Then I reworked the strawberry beds.
I was a bit disappointed with my June Bearing strawberries this year. Even though I had thinned out the plants last year, the yield was not great and many of the berries were quite small. The larger berries in the photo above were the ever bearing berries.
Even the ever bearing bed was a mess, matted plants. They were acting like June bearing plants, only making one rush of berries and then they were done. I knew something had to be done. I decided to restart the June bearing bed and simply thin out the ever bearing bed.
Last month I had put pots of dirt under several runners from the June bearing bed.
Once they were firmly rooted, I cut them away from the mother plants and hubby pulled all the old strawberry plants out of that bed. We composted them. Strawberries only bear for 5 years and all my beds are older than that.
I am going to move the little plants to a new bed in late August.
I pulled out most of the ever bearing strawberry plants, and then mulched the bed with a compost and manure mix.
They seem much happier now. I hope they show that by giving me large juicy berries next spring!

Monday, August 10, 2015

cheery cherry tomatoes (and a recipe)

What gardener doesn't love a cherry tomato plant? While you wistfully gaze at those big green tomatoes, willing them to ripen, the cherry tomato is already giving you sweet little gems to munch on. Anyone who has grown cherry tomatoes knows that for a family of two, one cherry tomato plant will suffice. Maybe two.
We have five. Yes, five cherry tomato plants.
You may ask why we planted five cherry tomato plants.
And we would tell you we didn't plant any cherry tomato plants. When we went out to plant in the garden in the spring, there were tomato plants everywhere. We knew that they must have been from last year's cherry tomato plant, because, quite frankly, it got away from us last year. Lesson learned - you do not need to plant cherry tomatoes in March, because the seeds winter-over just fine. the plants grow in early spring and produce cherry tomatoes the same time as  everyone else's cherry tomatoes, that were bought at a green house, start producing cherry tomatoes.

We have five. That is, we have five that we are tending to. There are more growing outside the potager that we missed during weeding that are growing just fine. If we tried to plant out there, the deer and the ground hogs would decimate them, but there they are. Maybe the deer and ground hogs had their fill of them also.
 Hubby transplanted two, I found a bunch of tomato plants growing in my asparagus and left three. Two of the three were cherry tomatoes. I have read that asparagus and tomatoes are good companion plants. So far, it seems that the asparagus is holding up the tomato plant and the tomato plant is supporting the asparagus. I usually have to tie up my asparagus ferns by this time in the season, but not  this year.
In June, when I looked under the row cover protecting my kale,  I found a healthy cherry tomato plant already in bloom, so I removed the row cover and left it. That was a death sentence for my poor kale, which got infected with cabbage moths. But the tomato did fine.
We also pulled out scores of others and continue doing so to this day.

Last year we planted super sweet 100 and a grape tomato. We have no grape tomatoes, but we do have one that is larger than the other cherry tomatoes. We think it is a campari tomato that came from the compost pile. No grape tomatoes came up, so we believe the rest of our cherry tomatoes to be super sweet 100 cherry tomatoes. Or a variation thereof.
So what happens when two people have five cherry tomato plants?
You end up with a lot of cherry tomatoes!
I think we will all agree that the best way to eat a cherry tomato is to pluck it off the plant while gardening and plop it in your mouth. We do that. Often.
The second best way would be in salad. Cherry tomatoes don't make your salad soggy like a cut up tomato does. We make a lot of salads.
My third favorite way would be to roast them and make a pasta sauce.
This is so easy to do. Simply pile them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (for easy clean up) and add what ever you want - in this instance fresh garlic and peppers from the garden. Toss all with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in a 400 degree oven until all the skins have burst.
Then add fresh herbs (basil! oregano! thyme! parsley!) and cook a bit longer. This smells divine!
Toss with whole grain pasta and grate Parmesan cheese on top!  Perfect recipe for Meatless Monday!
Or, if you don't want to eat meatless, grill up some sausages and slice them into your pasta. You will be amazed at how good this is!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Historic Longstreet Farm

What a beautiful day Saturday was! It felt like an early fall day rather than an early August day, so hubby and I put the top down a drove up to Historic Longstreet Farm in Holmdel, NJ. It is a 9 acre living history farm that is part of the Monmouth County Park system.

When we arrived they were putting the mules out to pasture - or at least trying to. The mules had other ideas.

These beautiful 5 year old mules ran around the corn field like it was their own private race track.
Eventually the mules went into their pasture and all was well. It was an exciting start to our visit.

The cows were still in their stalls.
I fell in love with this little cutie.
Isn't she sweet!

There were all kinds of cute little farm animals....
a peacock

a very sleepy pig
a pair of draft horses

But I wanted to see the vegetable garden!
Egads! No self-respecting 19th century farm wife would have such an un-kept garden! Her family would have starved. I know the park department relies on volunteers but couldn't they find any volunteer gardeners?

Well that was a disappointment. Also the house didn't open until noon, and we were there when they opened at 10, so I didn't get to go into the house.
But the summer kitchen was open to view, and I do love to cook, so I thoroughly enjoyed that.

What a beautiful stove. I love the open shelf with crocks and jars and the hanging tin cups. I am not sure how authentic this all was, but it was cute and fun to look at.

I thought the folding table was a good idea. And the ornate clock was a bit out of place, but  I guess the cook would need a clock, so... maybe.

Next to the summer kitchen was a room where they would do laundry.
I thought it was a bit dirty for a laundry room. But I was so happy to see the wash boards.

I have wash boards in my own laundry room. Things of drudgery years ago, but they make me smile.
The park staff dress up in 19th century garb.  They have different activities and demonstrations through out the year.

That afternoon they were going to have park visitors help them dig up potatoes from this potato field.
The cat was ridding the field of moles in advance. The woman walking there told us that the horses will plow up the potatoes and the visitors can pick them and take them home with them. I told her I had my own potatoes to get home to.
And I really did.
Hubby went to Columbus Flea Market last Thursday and bought me a garden fork with non-sharp tines. I'd been wanting one for a while. I was so thrilled.

I used it to gently loosen the dirt under some potato plants.
It worked perfectly!
We had a good bunch of fingerling potatoes for dinner. No horses required!
All in all it was a lovely day. In spite of it's minor shortcomings, I would wholly recommend you visit Longstreet Farm if you have a chance. There is no admission and it is a great way to spend the day. The farm is surrounded by beautiful Holmdel Park which has plenty of trails, grassy fields, a pond, an arboretum, and picnic areas.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Monday Menu, featuring fresh dug new potatoes

Last night before dinner I went out to the potato bed and dug around. After potatoes flower you can find new potatoes. This is a real treat. The storage potatoes we are used to eating from the store are nothing in taste like a freshly dug potato. The fresh potato has not converted it's sugars into starch, so it is sweet and tender.
I roasted the potatoes whole (they are small) with olive oil, sea salt and fresh rosemary from the garden at 400 degrees. They were delicious. It was a heavenly meal!

Grilled Beef Tenderloin Steak
Roasted Rosemary New Potatoes
Fresh Garden Green and Waxed Beans
Slice of Garden Fresh Beefsteak Tomato 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Monday Menu featuring Royal Burgundy Bush Beans

Ah Royal Burgundy. A bush bean that grows purple, cooks green and has a fabulous flavor. Once I discovered Royal Burgundy I never grew green bush beans again. There is no comparison.
These bean perform so well in the garden that if I could only grow one type of bush bean, it would be royal burgundy.

Grilled Butterflied Chicken
Macaroni Salad
Royal Burgundy Green Beans

A simple menu. Have you tried cooking a butterflied chicken on the grill? It is so easy. Of course I ended up burning mine a bit because I got distracted freezing green beans. But it was still juicy and tender and oh so delicious! The recipe can be found here.