Post # 137 Garden Tales

July 10, 2013 at 3:53 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post # 137 Garden Tales

I love my garden.  But you already know that.  What I most love about my garden is that it’s what I’d judge a success and I did it all myself.  The Arizona sun isn’t a friend to very many plants, but it seems that the ones I chose for my garden are the ones that do well.

When I chose the plants, I chose varieties I figured my family would enjoy.  I grew radishes and they were the first things to appear.  I harvested a ton of radishes, but when I planted more, they didn’t do well.  I watched closely and discovered that ants were eating them.  The first crop were grown before the ants migrated to my garden.  I thought about getting rid of the ants, but decided “live and let live” and left them alone.

I chose tomatoes and selected three kinds:  cherry, plum, and goliath.  Fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes are better than candy.  Cherry tomatoes are the M&Ms of the tomato world.  Plum tomatoes, or Roma tomatoes are the work horse.  They can be used to make sauces, soups, etc. and have a huge tomato flavor.  Goliaths I chose simply because I wanted a large tomato for sandwiches.  What a lucky choice that was!  I also decided to try something new and raised a bunch of cherry tomato plants from seeds.  Yeah, that wasn’t such a good idea.  They never really thrived, and although they put out a ton of tomatoes, they were all so small they weren’t worth picking.  The plum tomatoes were the first to ripen, and I had to fight off the birds for them.  I’m still getting plum tomatoes by the fistful.  The goliaths, though, are an OMG situation.  I’ve pulled four dozen tomatoes off those plants and there’s easily another four dozen green ones still waiting to ripen!  I was told that once July hit, the tomatoes would stop producing because it would get too hot.  Yesterday, I gave a dozen tomatoes to my neighbor.  I have a dozen on the windowsill ripening up just a bit, and I made 3/4 of a gallon of salsa fresca (more on that in a minute.)  So the tomatoes are a big hit!

I planted purple tomatillo seeds.  Never saw them at all.  Not a one.  I also planted green beans, or string beans.  They did okay, but not one of the beans ever grew larger than two inches.  They tasted good, but now the sun is burning them up so if I do beans again, I’ll either give them more shade, or plant them later in the year.  We all like beans.  Just wish they had done better.  I planted carrots because, well, I just like carrots.  Carrots take a long time.  I’m harvesting them tomorrow morning whether they’re ready or not, but I’m sure they are.  The tops are green and full and the experiment I pulled two weeks ago tasted great!

I also planted a bunch of herbs.  I planted cilantro so I could make fresh salsa.  I planted sage to use in cooking, but bought the wrong kind.  I planted oregano and basil and parsley, but not much really worked except the cilantro and basil.  Go figure.  Today I noticed that a bunch of small birds were sitting on the basil bush eating the seeds and having a good time.  The sage I planted was actually an ornamental so this weekend, I’m going to try an experiment and see if I can dig it up and repot it.  If it grows, it will be a beautiful addition to the patio.  Later, I also planted some sweet basil in a pot in the garden, and it’s doing great!  So, it’s a live and learn type of thing.  I’ll keep an eye on things; harvesting what I can; and when things stop producing, I’ll make decisions about whether to keep going or pulling them up.

I also planted sweet peas in a pot, but if you’ve read this blog before, you’ll know that the peas never did well.  I found out later that peas only really grow in temps less than 70 degrees.  So there’s another thing I’ll try in the winter.  My peppers did great until the puppy decided they looked too good to pass up.  He chewed on whole plant down to the root, and another just the top part.  Then he got real sick.  But the others produced a lot and I was able to make salsa when I wanted.

My pride and joy is always my mints.  This year, I had my standard peppermint the same plant I’ve had since 2006.  I also have spearmint, lemon balm, and chocolate mint.  Mint loves water and does okay in heat as long as you water it.  And the uses for mint number in the millions.  As long as you water it, mint will do well.

So yesterday, I had to harvest tomatoes.  Or else let the birds have them.  So I harvested a couple of dozen tomatoes and gave some away.  But I also made nearly a gallon of salsa fresca.  I made it different.

I’ve said before that the way to make a recipe yours is to make it as written once or twice to get familiar with how it’s “supposed” to work.  Then make it about another dozen times, changing things up as you go until you get something that you like.  Here’s what I did:

You’re supposed to take the seeds and pulp out of the tomatoes and peppers or the salsa will be to soupy.  I kept everything in.  You’re supposed to chopped the onion roughly.  I cut on in half, then used a vegetable peeler to create long, narrow, thin shavings of onion which I cut into smaller bite-sized chunks.  Then you’re supposed to roughly tear the cilantro.  I took all the leaves off the stems and rolled them tightly and cut them into a chiffonade, basically an extremely narrow ribbon-like cut.  I used only half the amount of cilantro and added lemon balm leaves that I treated exactly the same way.  Because I left the tomatoes whole, I cut the lime juice and olive oil in half.  The salsa was a little soupy, but not nearly as bad as it might have.  I chilled it and served it with dinner which was basically just tacos.

There was about a half cup of salsa left at the end of the meal.  I guess we were really in the mood salsa.  It was good.

One final note on the garden.  I had notice the puppy the day before digging at the fence around the garden.  The fence is not substantial and is mostly designed to make sure the puppy knows his boundaries.  If he ever wanted to get into the garden, he could very easily.  So far we’ve been lucky and he’s stayed out.  So when I saw him digging at the fence, I got concerned.  But not concerned enough to actually go outside in 110 degrees to stop him.  I tapped the window pane which distracted him enough that he left the fence alone for the rest of the day.  The next morning, as I was watering the garden, I noticed birds gathering at one end, and when I looked a saw about a gazillion ants swarming around.  Whee.  Then I saw that they were eating a dead lizard.  The poor guy had tried to get through the tiny mesh of the fence, got stuck, and died.  It must have happened while I was gone for the weekend.  You wouldn’t believe the reek a small dead lizard will create.  I took the section of fence apart and after several minutes, I managed to dislodge the lizard in pieces in the trash can in the alley.  No more birds, no more ants, no more stench.

I love a good garden story.

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