September 21, 2009

Putting the Veggies Up and Other Lessons My Garden Has Taught Me

My garden, though planted late, has been flourishing. And I have been learning many things as a result.

I have learned how to freeze squash and zucchini and beans. Tomorrow I am going to attempt to freeze tomatoes. Perhaps one day this week I will make tomato sauce. I have many new talents.

Weeding is not among them, but thankfully, we are nearing the end of weeding season.

Freezing squash and beans and zucchini (oh my) is actually pretty simple. It's just warm and time consuming. Basically, you get everything ready the way you want to cook it and then you drop it into boiling water for three minutes and then stick it in ice water for six. Remove it from the water and drain the water off it. Measure it into freezer bags (in the amout you want to use later), and freeze. Super easy. Easier if you have a blanching kettle. I am working on getting one. I am currently using a pasta scoop.

Another thing I've learned is that sometimes it helps to follow the directions. Now, I grew up on a farm, so I have a basic idea of how to plant a garden. You read the directions on the little packet and sort of follow them. Except that if you follow them, it actually works!

So, next year, I'm going to do these things that I learned from this year:

1) Plant your tomatoes in cages; otherwise, they go to vine. Your mom, like my mom, might have said, "Pshaw, cages." This is probably why she's not very successful at growing tomatoes. Cages keep the tomatoes from crawling all over the garden, dying prematurely (at least I hope so--perhaps that was blight), and getting awful spots and bruises. Seriously, cage the tomatoes. Or suffer as they cause you great pain.

2) Don't plant part of your garden behind a tree. No matter how much you hate to kill a living thing, chop down the tree. Things can't ripen behind a tree. Especially yellow peppers.

3) If your plants aren't labeled, but they are in a certain section of the nursery, but you think that they look like something other than what it says, don't buy them. They've probably been abandoned there by someone who doesn't know the difference between cherry and banana peppers. Pick one that looks less pretty but has a label.

4) You can never have too much basil. Especially if you intend to make pesto from scratch. And you do. Trust me, you do. Especially with cashews instead of pine nuts.

5) You probably don't need to weed as much as people say you do, but you do need to weed a little.

6) Give things enough room. Maybe your cucumbers won't die like mine did, but they could, so give things enough room.

7) You really only need one zucchini plant. Really. And you probably don't need five or six squash, either. I'm glad two never came up.

In general, it's been a lot of fun. I love love love going out every day to look at my garden and see what's growing, and I love putting up the vegetables for the winter. I love seeing them stacked prettily in the freezer. I can't wait until next year when I actually plant it on time. I have frozen salsa for the winter, and I love it!

I very much enjoy the garden. I did not enjoy it when I was a kid on the farm, but I did follow a few simple rules. I didn't plant anything I don't like to eat. I didn't worry too much about weeding it. If I think it might work, I try it. And that's it.

I've purchased three cookbooks, one of which is here. I currently have The North End Italian Cookbook. The Buca cookbook and 660 Curries are on their way to me. I got inspired by Julie and Julia. :) We'll see if I accomplish anything.

In case you were wondering how I have time to be so domestic, for the first time in like seven years, I'm only working 40 hours a week. I'm not going to school. I'm not working overtime. I'm not working two jobs. I'm not doing any special projects. And I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I really like the free time. On the other hand, I feel pretty useless, especially because Ben is working again and going to school. And because I'm not busy every waking hour like I have been for the last seven (and four before that) years.

So, on the whole, it's been a change of events. And I dig the garden. And I dig in the garden. ;) And I do dig the free time even if it means I have to develop a new set of skills (i.e., keeping house because I have no excuse not to). If you need any tips (or have any tips), let me know in the comments, kids.

Posted by LoWriter at September 21, 2009 08:45 PM

woo-hooo! congrats on the successful garden, lo! :o)

things i've learned about the few garden items i experimented with: i second your need to cage the tomatoes. unless they are cherry tomatoes, they need a bit of guidance. this year my solution was to hang them upside down - it worked well for an apartment porch with limited space! oh, and it negated the need to weed. cucumbers are hard to grow. i cant figure them out!!! next year i may just do zucchini. and only one as you suggest. i also second your basil comment - MOOOOORRREEE! my single small rosemary plant was more than enough for me & my roomie. the cilantro dies early in the season if not harvested correctly. i cannot seem to tend flowers.

that's about it. high fives for more garden time this year! i think your choice to putz in the house and garden instead of in an office will eventually seem like "work" to ya - you just get paid in a different way. ;o) enjoy it while you can!

Posted by: dr g at September 22, 2009 09:28 AM

Things I've learned from my gardens... 1.) You can never have too many tomatoes. Have a good mix of Cherries, romas, and big ones. Your neighbors will love you. I had 16 plants this year and it was enough for 3 households. 2.) You can get two crops of cool season plants (lettuce, pea pods, etc). One in the spring and another in the fall. 3.) Plant your herbs in containers near the kitchen. I have mine in containers on the deck just off the kitchen. I frequently just run out with the scissors and snip some off. Oh and speaking of herbs, many taste better if you trim off the flowers so that they don't go to seed. Although with Cilantro, when it goes to seed it is Coriander. Garlic also has two parts, scapes and cloves.

Posted by: jeff at September 23, 2009 11:14 AM
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