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Planning Ahead for Fall

August 26th, 2010

About a month ago I started a new round of cucumber seeds hoping for a great fall harvest to fill the pantry with all varieties of pickles. Cucumber plants don’t like the heat of summer, they prefer temperatures in the 70’s, yet they can’t take a frost. Since we have hot hot summers here in Ohio, cucumbers seem to languish once the temperatures hit the mid 80’s, which is usually right after they start producing. Since this summer has been a particularly hot one, my cucumbers quit producing about a month ago, although I did get almost 2 gallons of pickles from my five plants. This year, I decided to try to grow a fall crop of cucumbers, I’m hoping that they get through their productive season and I’ll have tons of cucumbers to pickle in late September, let’s hope we don’t get and early frost.

I started a whole flat of cucumbers back in July, hoping to get a large number of cucumbers at once so I can make a few large batches of fermented pickles. The seed packet says they take about 57 days to produce, which should be just about right. I transplanted them 2 weeks ago. I planted about 15 plants at my mom’s house and about 20 plants here in my raised beds in the back garden.

I’m once again growing ‘Boston Pickling’ Cucumbers since I really like them. I’ve actually never grown another variety, this is the first I’ve tried and I’m very happy with the pickles that I make from them. This year I’m trying to save a few seeds for them since the place I order most of my seeds from no longer carries them. Not to mention I’ll be saving myself a few dollars, I’ll make sure I post all about it and offer some free seeds.

I’ve read that a lot of gardeners grow second crops of beans and of zucchini to extends the harvests. I tried beans last year, but an early fall frost did them in right when they were starting to produce. It’s always hard to time second crops in a short growing season and with the drastic weather changes we can have here in NE Ohio, but seeds are cheap so I’ll keep trying!

Do you have any crops you grow a second round of for fall harvests?

Slow-Roasting Tomatoes

August 25th, 2010

I don’t know that I’ve ever met a tomato recipe I haven’t liked, but there are some that I love more than others. One of my favorite ways to enjoy summer tomatoes is by slow-roasting them in the oven. You can throw these on pizza, on salads, eat them plain or my favorite, on top of some toast with an egg. When you slow roast tomatoes it deepens the flavor and concentrates the sugars. As a result you’re left with delicious jammy little puddles of tomato goodness, and making them couldn’t be simpler! This is even a great way to deal with so-so tomatoes that you buy from the store or the end of the season tomatoes that are ripened indoors and lack the sun-ripened flavor.

You can use any kind of tomato, from cherries to beefsteaks, just keep in mind that the larger the tomato the longer it will take to roast. Roma types that are dry roast quicker so check them earlier, but beefsteaks are more concentrated when roasted so they taste better. If you’re going to roast a batch, you may as well do an entire oven full to save energy and I guarantee you’ll always want more!

All you need to do it is cut the tomatoes in half, lay skin side down on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (the parchment helps get them up later). If you want to, drizzle with olive oil and some freshly chopped herbs and sprinkle with salt and pepper, or simply roast as is, it’s up to you, I do both. Roast in a 225 degree oven for 4-8 hours or until reduced in size and slightly moist, cooking time depends on size of tomatoes and your oven. You can try raising oven temp to 250, but you may get some dark spots on the tomatoes, it depends on your oven. I like to put mine in the oven before I go to bed and set the timer for 6 hours. The next morning I check the tomatoes, remove any that are finished and continue roasting any tomatoes that aren’t quite done. You can taste one after 3-4 hours and you’ll be able to tell if it’s done or not. It should taste like concentrated tomato with a slightly sweet tang. If it’s still acidic and sour, roast for a while longer.

These will need to be frozen to preserve them. I usually freeze on the cookie sheets, then store in a large bag. That way can I get one or twenty depending on what I’m making. I like to use slow-roasted tomatoes in my homemade ketchup, I find it adds a wonderful rich flavor and reduces the cooking time. I don’t roast them quite as long as when I do this since it’s much easier to extract the peels and seeds when they’re not quite as dry.

Have you ever slow roasted tomatoes?

Oh No, I have NO Internet

August 24th, 2010

Our internet connection has been intermittent since Sunday, which is why my post was late yesterday. We’re supposed to get it fixed this morning, hopefully they can figure out the problem. It sure makes blogging difficult, not just because I can’t post, but I also use the internet as a research tool. I’m constantly searching for tips on gardening and other things that I talk about here. I get a lot of questions through e-mail about different gardening topics and if I don’t know the answer I usually spend some time on the internet researching. As I read I also like to search for books that are mentioned and information and history about specific topics. Not having the internet sure makes it difficult. I’ve got a list of things to look up when it is working once again. I guess it will allow for some good work time without any distractions and it looks like I’ll have extra time to work in the garden and to can up all those tomatoes sitting on my table.

As a result I’m taking the day off, hopefully I can get this posted before the connection goes down again.

How much do you rely on the internet for your job and enterainment?

Cover Crops and Carrots

August 23rd, 2010

Last Thursday I decided it was time to till under the patch of crimson clover I had growing as a cover crop on the new front garden area. I want to plant some winter rye here for an overwintering cover crop. It should help improve the quality of the soil in this area.

The problem was I had a small patch of carrots still left in a small part of this garden area that weren’t quite up to size. I decided I’d rather harvest them small and replant the entire area with a beneficial crop. The carrots were on the smaller size, but I was still impressed with my harvest and with the carrots.

I’ll be planted the winter rye next week most likely, as you’re supposed to allow the previous cover crop to decompose for two weeks before planting something else.

Do you ever harvest things early to get something else planted?

Quote of the Day: Michael Perry

August 22nd, 2010

“This is the time of year when the countryside truly thumbs its nose at the subzero purge of winter. The greenery is full-blown, the dew-drenched morning reverberate with a tropical chirp and twitter, and everywhere there are babies: tiny rabbits beneath the apple tree, speckle-chested robins begging worms from mama, a spotted fawn by the mailbox down by the driveway, and now and then a glimpse of the pheasant hen leading her loyal brood.”

Michael Perry, Coop: A Year of Poultry, Pigs, and Parenting


We saw this fawn with it’s twin and mama a week ago in the back garden. Not that I was happy to see it since it will be eating my blueberry bushes this winter along with my apple trees and strawberries. It was peeking around the garage, that’s my cold frame right in front of it. (thanks to Mr Chiots for running out and getting this photo).

I’d have to say one of my favorite things about summer is all the activity in the garden. Bees are buzzing on every thing that blooms, butterflies flit about and you see birds everywhere. The gardens are alive with color and life.

What do you love about summer?

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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