Monday, August 8, 2016

What's growing on Farm Fresh Feasts?

What's growing on Farm Fresh Feasts?

A peek into the back yard garden to see what's been happening so far this summer.

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You might think, with a website entitled Farm Fresh Feasts, that I live in a home that looks like this.

looking down a lane to a farm surrounded by corn fields and woods

Not at all close!  That spread, in northwest Wisconsin, belonged to my Grandpa. My daddy grew up on a dairy farm. I'm a generation removed from daily farm life, however I sure like to grow my own food. The dirt (ahem, the amended soil like my Daddy taught me to nourish) is metaphorically under my fingernails. (The nurse in me couldn't handle actual dirt remaining under my fingernails for long).

Instead, I grow crops in raised beds in my small back yard. The yard is big enough for the dogs to get up a good speed while chasing bunnies and squirrels, but small enough that my son can mow it in 10 minutes.  [Fifteen if he's actually paying attention, twenty if he does a decent job]. Kids are a work in progress.

These raised beds were made by my spouse. He upcycled the unwanted old cedar fence boards from a tilting privacy fence we replaced before we brought home our first dog. I've now got 5 beds that are about 2 feet by 4 feet, with space between so I can reach into the beds from 3 sides. All of this fits behind our house on our small city plot.

a small cucumber on a vine

I figured I'd show you around how the garden is growing thus far this summer. As with every year and every garden, I've got some crops that are doing well and some that aren't. I've got surprise volunteers from my compost and from the local wildlife.

cucumbers growing in a raised garden bed

Let's start with what's doing well. If you follow me on FB or Instagram you'll know that I've been putting up piles of pickles. So far I've got a gallon of refrigerator dills--both slices and small whole pickles--in two half gallon canning jars (with these handy dandy plastic storage caps--Amazon affiliate link) in the back of the fridge. I've got 8 quarts of one kind of spicy dill pickle, and 6 quarts of another kind of dill pickle, downstairs in the basement. I will keep on pickling until the cukes give up!

dill seed heads ready for harvest

Along with the cucumbers I've got dill going to seed. I put the dill seed into the pickling jars, but I've just learned a terrific way to store my dill heads while I wait for more pickles. Simply put them in a paper bag and pop into the freezer. How cool is that? Thanks, Aunt Jan!

tomatillos growing in a raised garden bed

The tomatillos are also growing like crazy, though I haven't harvested any yet. It's OK, I can wait until the Hatch chiles appear before I put up my salsa verde. In the meantime, I just keep checking on those beautiful balloons and waiting for them to burst.  [Silently, so as not to give anyone a little fright.]

raspberry canes in a backyard garden

The raspberries had a terrific season. I used black raspberries in a wide variety of recipes and put up a bunch to enjoy now that their season is over. Check out my Raspberry Recipes Collection for ideas for your raspberries.

raspberries and strawberry plants in a patch

In fact, the raspberries decided to take over the strawberry bed! I'm not so sure how I feel about this, but I let them grow this year. If I am happy with the harvest next year I won't pull them out. But if the strawberries want their space back, they'll need to step up production . . .

sunflowers and tomatoes in a raised garden bed

Volunteer sunflowers have been both a blessing and a curse. After 3 years of deliberately planting sunflowers where I wanted them to grow only to have nothing sprout, I opted to let the birds do the planting by filling my winter feeders with only sunflower seeds. It worked--we now have sunflowers in many places in the yard, and goldfinches are regularly spotted eating the seeds. However, the presence of the sunflowers is hampering the tomatoes in the bed above--leading me to a pretty dismal tomato harvest compared to this time last year. I'm not too worried yet--it's only August after all--but I may need to buy some tomatoes from our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farmers to put up this year.

tomatoes growing in a raised bed in square red cages

While the tomato plants are not as vigorous as I've had in previous years, the fruits they bear do look pretty terrific so far. I'm sure they will taste amazing. For more recipes using red tomatoes, please see my Tomato (Red & Yellow) Recipe Collection for ideas.

a close up of a red hibiscus flower

I've got plenty of flowers planted around the yard to attract pollinators and make me smile. I tend to grab whatever's marked down without thought to coordinating colors, but things tend to work out every year.

herbs growing in a landscaped area of a garden

My herb area, above, has also been hit or miss. The parsley and chives are doing well, coming back after several cuttings. The cilantro pooped out well before salsa season, as it tends to do. More dills volunteered in this area after last year's deliberate planting, leading me to high hopes for next year.

a garden bed with a mystery squash vine, celery, sunflower and tomatillo plants

I've got 2 mystery squash vines this year. The one above is none too happy and will probably get yanked before the next yard waste curbside pickup so that whatever is bothering it won't spread in my compost bin. The one below, nicknamed tree squash, is probably a pumpkin and is doing fine.

a panoramic photo of squash vine climbing a tree, a peach tree, raised beds and a compost bin

Thanks for taking a tour around the garden with me!

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  1. I like the garden tour. This needs to be an annual post. My squash is looking sad, partially because I keep forgetting to water it and then when I remember, I drown it. My tomatoes are coming and I've got some green bell peppers popping out. My basil is popping although my cilantro is going to seed. I can never keep him alive for long. Such is garden life.

  2. You have such a beautiful garden! It's nice to see all of the pictures together on one post. But the updates through Instagram are always fun. I love the idea to incorporate flowers into a garden. Whenever I have the chance to have a larger garden, I'll have to remember that!