The Potager

The Potager

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hurricane Over

This photo was taken from my back door during the beginning of the hurricane. It hit us around one in the morning, so I slept through most of it. But at this stage the Potager was flooded.
The next day, not too bad. Thankfully we are inland 30 miles or so and the winds had weakened before it got to us. The rain flooded the yard, but we have sand under the garden, everything had drained off within an hour of the rain stopping.
The flowers in the Perennial/Herb Garden are flattened. But bees and butterflies are already flitting around them. (Where exactly does a butterfly hide out in a hurricane?)

Psalm 107: 29 He caused the storm to be still, 
So that the waves of the sea were hushed. 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Waiting on Irene

Garden clean up has been halted as Irene is expected in the next 12 hours. We'll see what damage she does before I spend time cleaning up. All potted and hanging plants have been relocated to the shed, anything that could fly away has been secured, we have supplies to carry us through any power outages and evacuees in the spare bedroom. My niece's wedding was supposed to be today, but that's been postponed. Time to just ride it all out.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Thinking Fall

Summer is winding down, but my schedule isn't. I was away all weekend visiting my youngest daughter (which was wonderful) and when I got back I was shocked to see how bad my garden looked. Not in three days, in all honesty. We've had storms in the evenings, or I've had things to do, and when you only have weekends to get out there, things can fall apart quickly.
However, I did use a spare hour or two last weekend to clean up some spent plants, add some manure and plant some fall crops.
This weekend the seedlings have come up.
These are snow peas. They will climb the fence behind them. In the middle of this bed I planted lettuces, which are coming up now, and radishes in the front, also sprouting.
This bed has turnips coming up.  I still need to plant kale, more lettuce and pak choi. This coming weekend is a family wedding, so I don't know how much time I'll have then, and then it's Labor Day weekend! How can that be? Summer zoomed by!
A pleasant surprise waiting for me when I returned was this gerbera daisy blooming in the concrete planter in the center of the Potager. I left that plant in there all summer hoping it would re-bloom at some point.
One bit of loveliness in a whole garden of messiness. I have my work cut out for me this week!
Before and after photos to come!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Foodie Friday - Roasted Tomato Sauce

We all have them, those tomatoes that have a spot or two, or big cracks, or that just don't look pretty. Here's what I  did with mine. I cut them up, keeping the good parts and getting rid of the wonky parts. I chopped up some peppers from my garden (not as many bad looking ones, but they would work in this recipe too) and some garlic and an onion or two and mixed them all in a metal baking pan with extra virgin olive oil - about 1/4 cup. I then sprinkled on salt and some crushed red pepper flakes.
This went into my oven at 375 for an hour.
It ended up looking like this:

I then stirred in a lot of basil and some oregano from my garden and put it back into the oven for another half hour. When I took it out it looked like this:
This got dumped into my food processor and was processed until smooth.
We mixed it with pasta for a yummy meal, but this would also be great as a pizza sauce. There's a lot of olive oil in it so I would only make it occasionally, but the taste was out of this world.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Freezing Summer Squash

I am definitely in preserving mode here in the garden. The Potager is producing more than we can eat of some things. Other things are not doing as well as I had hoped.
But this has been a great year for summer squash. My late planted yellow squash and ambassador zucchini is just starting to produce, but the white scallop squash and the eight-ball zucchini faithfully giving us daily squash. I have gifted it and baked with it and had it for almost every meal. And it still keeps coming. It's time to preserve it for the winter!
I honestly don't have time to do the baking and canning I would love to do, but freezing squash for a vegetable side dish this winter? That takes no time at all.
So before work yesterday I gathered what I would need:

A pot of boiling water, a bowl of ice water, washed squash, a cutting board and knife, metal baking trays and ziplock freezer bags.

When your water is rapidly boiling, cut up your squash. You don't want it sitting too long before you toss it in the water. It will turn brown. I did my white scallop squash first, then my zucchini.
Throw your sliced up squash into the boiling water and time it for three minutes. We are blanching the vegetables, not cooking them, so time them from the moment they go in, not when the water returns to boiling. Immediately after three minutes, plunge them in the ice water bath. I then drained the slices on a towel because I want to individually freeze them. You can reuse the same water. Just let the pot return to boiling before you add your next batch and add more ice to the ice water.
Lay the blanched slices on metal baking trays. I had more than would fit on my trays, so I just added the extras to freezer bags. These will freeze together, but can still be used. The ones on the trays will freeze individually.
The trays get popped into the freezer. Later that day, they are placed into freezer bags with as much air pressed out as possible. If the slices stick to the tray, just give the tray a good whack on the counter.
And that's it! All before work, not much clean up and I know I'll be happy to be adding these to my meals when the snow is flying outside. 
I am linking this up to  at

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Freezing Raw Tomatoes

I would love to say that all the tomatoes in these photos were home grown, but that is not the case. Well, at least not all at my home. A relative of my employer visits the office and we got to talking about gardens and he gave me the Juliet tomato plant that I have.
This is a grape plum tomato making tons of firm small plum tomatoes. I have really enjoyed this plant. But I only have one. This gentleman has dozens. So every now and then he shows up at our office with a bag of tomatoes. I gladly take them.
I wanted to freeze my tomatoes for use in the winter and came across this bulletin from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln ( telling how to freeze raw tomatoes. That intrigued me. As I have had no time to do regular preserving this summer, the idea of freezing tomatoes with little prep appealed to me. Further research told me that I can grab frozen tomatoes and add them to stews this winter or I can thaw them. Once thawed they will separate into a watery liquid and a tomato mush. If I pour off the liquid, the tomato mush can be used to make tomato sauce, and everyone who has done this says it condenses the tomato taste.
So I washed the tomatoes, discarding any that weren't perfect and then dried them.
I then cut off the stem end and laid them on a baking pan.
The Juliet tomatoes are all remarkably the same size. The larger ones in the foreground are Amish Paste. I got my Amish Paste seeds from a seed exchange and I think they cross-pollinated because I got very few plum tomatoes from my plants. Most are rounded thinner fleshed tomatoes. It is very strange.
I put the tray of tomatoes into the freezer over-night.
The next morning I put the frozen tomatoes in zip-lock freezer bags and returned them to the freezer.
I ended up with 3 1/2 lbs of frozen tomatoes. I understand you need 2 1/2 lbs for making sauce.
An easy way to preserve tomatoes for winter use. I'm all about the easy this year!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Foodie Friday -Grilled Eggplant Sandwich

This recipe comes from the September 2011 issue of Martha Stewart's Everyday Food.
The ingredients ready to be brought outside: 1 tbsp of olive oil with salt, pepper and 2 homegrown garlic cloves, crushed; 2 more tbsp. olive oil, one eggplant fresh from the Potager, two tomatoes fresh from the Potager, 14 leaves of basil fresh from the Perennial/Herb garden, 6 ounces of fresh mozzarella and a fresh loaf of whole grain crusty bread.
We started by getting the grill going. We were out of propane - again. But charcoal worked fine. It's always good to have a back up plan.
The bread was cut in half and brushed with the olive oil with the garlic, salt and pepper, then grilled until lightly browned. The cheese was then laid on the bread.
The zucchini was sliced length wise, brushed with the plain olive oil and grilled, then the tomato was sliced about 1/2 inch thick, brushed with oil and grilled.
The eggplant and tomato were laid on top of the cheese and topped with the basil. The sandwich was cut into four servings. One fourth of this sandwich was plenty.
Even my meat loving husband thought this was a delicious and filling meal. Perfect fare for a cool summer evening on the patio, using ingredients fresh from the Potager.
As Martha would say, "It's a good thing."

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Square Foot Garden versus the Squash

I have long followed Mel Bartholomew's Square Foot Gardening methods. I space the plants out so I am getting the biggest bang for my available space.
However, Mel must not be growing the same kind of summer squash as me. According to the Square Foot Gardening book and website, a summer squash bush needs a 3' x 3' space.
So I gave my white scallop squash that much room when I planted the seeds.
And it grew well in the space. Really well.
3 x 3 couldn't contain it. It is now spilling into the path, winding through the peppers and engulfing the eggplants.
It has gone through the fence in the back and is laying on the strawberries.
It has gone through the fence on the side and has invaded the perennial/herb garden.
3' x 3' Mel Bartholomew? More like 6' x 6' for my squash!
I'm not complaining. I love searching for the squash and finding one I hadn't seen the day before.
Square Foot Garden versus Squash? Squash wins!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Hits and Misses

While I have been enjoying the fruits of my labors this summer,
I'm still not at that master gardener type garden stage. One issue is time. This has been a crazy busy summer for me. And there's that working full-time thing. I have so many plans for each weekend that the garden suffers. Another thing is the oppressive heat. Day after day of 90+ temperatures, no real "rainy days", just intense thunder and wind storms that flood the garden and knock over plants. However, I'm thankful we have those when I see the photos of drought ridden gardens in parts of the country. But there have been things in the garden that haven't gone right.

My tomato plants are turning yellow then dying by the branches. They are still producing tomatoes, but they look awful, like it's October.  But a few varieties are not being affected by this. The Ramapo and Juliet tomatoes are fine. I don't know if it's from the tree roots are were in the soil (hubs dug down with the back hoe and separated the roots from the tree to kill them off) or from the Sunflowers being in the same bed or just the weather or insects. I don't have the time to really figure it out. I raised all the plants (except the Juliet) from seeds.  So I know it's not a nursery thing.
The giant sunflowers were a hit this year. They are so amazing. Next year they will go outside the garden. Hopefully we will still have polite deer that do not venture into the backyard. Deer will eat young sunflowers. I need to cut some heads off to harvest the seeds. One of our biggest joys to observe are the goldfinches that are happily feeding off the flowers.
My vision for the flower bed under Heartstrings was a mass of pink cosmos. 
I'm not happy with the mess I ended up with. This is really my fault. I didn't thin them enough. But I won't do Cosmos here again. I need a tidier plant.
But the Zinnias in the Perennial/Herb garden is another story. They were put in because I didn't have enough perennials to fill out the bed.
But I absolutely love them. They are attracting butterflies and more goldfinches, who come and rip off the petals to get to the seeds. They will make an appearance in my garden next year for sure!
I decided to grow Marigolds from seed this year. I planted Burpee's Best Mix, 12 inches tall.
And some are. But some are 3 feet tall! I may go back to buying marigold plants. Burpee's made a mistake in their mix! This was a real miss in my book. It looks awful.

Planting more squash in July was a hit for me. My older plants are still producing, but not as fast, and I've never had them make it through August. The new ones are just starting to give me squash. I love summer squash. Hubs does not. But he eats it just about every night. Poor thing! 
If I can squeeze in some time, I'm going to try freezing some squash slices this weekend. I hear it's pretty easy. I already have leftover grated squash in the freezer from my zucchini bread baking. I have loved the white scallop squash. Just for it's uniqueness. And for it's ability to suddenly appear in a squash plant that didn't seem to have any the day before. Can you find the white squash?
Yes, the plant has gone through the fence and I found this squash in the perennial/herb garden!
I don't know if they aren't getting enough sun here or if it's the heat, but the jalapeno is not performing as stellar as it did last year. I may not have enough to make jelly. This will disappoint a lot of people. I have a long list of requests for jalapeno jelly.

I think my onions look great. I tell that to hubs and he says "That's one bag of organic onions. $1.29 at the store. Was it worth the space it used all summer?"  He doesn't always get it.
This is my first time ever growing sweet potatoes. They appear to be growing at the roots out of the soil! I hope there are more below ground getting big and sweet. I do love sweet potatoes!
And this is not in the Potager, but I want to remember this for next year. It's a Mandevilla on my patio and I love the height, color and smell it brings to the grayness of the patio. This is a hit. Even though it's been too hot to really sit out there most days.
Hits and misses, lessons learned. The best thing about a garden is you get to start from scratch the next year and correct all your failures and repeat all your successes.

"It takes a while to grasp that not all failures are self-imposed, the result of ignorance, carelessness or inexperience.  It takes a while to grasp that a garden isn't a testing ground for character and to stop asking, what did I do wrong?  Maybe nothing. " ~Eleanor Perényi, Green Thoughts, 1981