Archive for the ‘organic gardening’ Category

Scarecrows – not so scary protectors of the harvest

Saturday, October 11th, 2008

When I was growing up, scarecrows used to make their appearance in just about every garden when the first leaves of lettuce poked up or as soon as the first berries turned color. They could be quite elaborate in appearance, dressed like real people with hats and fluttering scarves, so that walking past on a foggy day or when the light was getting dim they would scare the daylights out of us kids. Over the years however, these creatures have become a rare sight. At best we see crudely crossed sticks, maybe covered with a t-shirt and some tin cans dangling from strings to make some noise. So when we drove past a vineyard recently I was excited to see the effort some people had put into creating these dangly people-like creatures whose main function is to keep flocks of birds away from the harvest.
To think that all I did was to hang a few CDs from strings to protect my tomatoes! It did the job, just wasn’t very creative. Oh well <sigh>. Maybe next year.


Friday, August 29th, 2008

Fall is definitely on the horizon once the peaches are ready for picking. And if that isn’t one of these glass half-full / half-empty kind of things! Peaches with their fuzzy skins are a delectable fruit, but fall? Oh no, that could wait a while before making its entrance. And so peaches always trigger somewhat mixed feelings in me.

While these peaches may not look as perfect or be as large as their store-bought cousins, their aroma and taste is far superior. Locally the trees are often planted between rows of grapes in the vineyards, hence their name ‘vineyard peaches’, they propagate easily, just toss a pit and a couple of years later you are ready to harvest. This is exactly how I wound up with 4 little peach trees that generate an amazing amount of fruit. Mostly we just eat them, their smaller size make them a perfect snack food, but I have also stewed them with cloves and a little cinnamon and a bit of lemon zest for a delicious treat. And these peaches are also special in another way – I never have trouble finding takers for the overflow. Once they are ripe you have to eat them quickly, and only rarely do you see them for sale in local stores. So for about 2 weeks in August we are in peach heaven, and just about when we think we cannot possibly eat another one, the season is over.

What’s for dinner?

Friday, August 22nd, 2008

not sure what else, but definitely something with tomatoes and cucumbers ;)

How easily things come together in the kitchen when the garden provides. I am really excited about the variety of tomatoes that seem to appear all of a sudden. Now, if I were a truly organized person I could of course predict what I am growing. But since most of the plants come from seeds that I picked out of interesting looking tomatoes bought at an Organic Foods Market in Florida last winter, the surprises keep coming.

August – harvest time

Friday, August 15th, 2008

when everything seems to ripen in the garden at once; cucumbers are pulling down on their vines,  tomatoes are coming into their own, red and sweet and juicy, and let’s not even talk about zucchini.  At times it makes one wonder if in springtime we set our hopes a little too high, wished for a little too much ;)

But there really is no such thing as ‘too much’ in a garden, is there? What we cannot use or put up for the winter months we can give to friends or neighbors or the health food market around the corner – the last being the preferred site because they are not lieky to try to foist some of their bounty on us in return. Sometimes the temptation to approach an unsuspecting stranger with the overflow of our garden – specifically these long green squash kind’a things that produce at the rate of rabbits in May – is overwhelming. And yet, on that cold, snowy, sleety, blustery day in February, when winter has a firm grip on us, we will get melancholy and wish for the days when the next meal was as simple as strolling through our garden and picking what it had provided.

The season’s first Beefsteak tomato

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

There is something relaxing about activities that don’t require a lot of thought and concentration, where the mind can meander freely. For instance gardening. So recently, while I was pulling some weeds, it occurred to me that, maybe, this might just be the first bunch of beefsteak tomatoes growing in a vegetable garden in Austria. I first got acquainted with these beauties my first summer in New Jersey. They glowed from roadside farm stands where I used to buy them by the bushel to take home where we feasted on them. You’d bite into them and could still taste the sunshine that made them grow big and red and luscious. And so, after leaving New Jersey behind, these beautiful tomatoes also remained just a fond memory. Until I found a packet of seeds while on a trip to the U.S. last winter. And finally, after fussing about the small plants, hoping that nothing untoward would happen to them outside, that nobody would decide to take a bite out of any one of them,  the very first beefsteak tomato is ready to enjoy. And isn’t it a beauty!

Container Gardens

Thursday, August 7th, 2008

Containergarden in Dumpsters

They come in all sorts of pots of varying sizes from tiny flower pots to rather large vessels. Never before however have I  seen an array of dumpsters with live flowers – OK, so maybe calling them flowers is stretching it a bit, they are a tad past their prime – but, hey, there is still one yellow bloom in there, and the arrangement has to be unique. Yes, the plants are definitely rooted in earth, and I bet you a few weeks ago this line-up of dumpsters was an eye catcher. Someone even plastered posters of an upcoming concert in Bratislava on the sides for added color. While this picture may not be practical for most of us, it definitely is unique in its approach.

Seen in Vienna, Austria, along a waterway that is lined with night clubs, coffee houses, and bars.


Sunday, August 3rd, 2008

If there ever were a contest held about the most persnickety of all plants, dill would win hands down. The seed packets use words such as hardy, easy to cultivate, grows in any soil, do not believe it! They make that stuff up, I am convinced. Not about everything, but definitely when it comes to dill. A real shame too, given the fragile grace of its leaves, the fabulous fragrance it emits from only the slightes touch, and the unbeatable flavor dill adds to so many dishes. If only it would grow as promised. Some people very nicely advise the unsuspecting gardener to plant dill in a warm spot, protected from wind. I tried that too. I painstakingly prepared a sunny spot in the garden for the seeds, not the tiniest stone to be found, nothing but good, crumbly earth. I spread the seeds, covered them with earth, sprinkled them on top, watered them, watched and waited. Nothing, unless you want to count some excellent specimen of dandelions and other not so desirables. But a dedicated gardener does  not give up. So I bought a number of seed packets, and spread the contents around the garden, regardless of wind, sun, or soil. And wouldn’t you know it, in the middle of the rose bed, mixed in with marigolds and cosmos, under the leaves of the pumpkins, dill! So I guess dill is not as much ornery as it is an individualist amongst the plants. When it decides it likes a spot the persistent gardener will be rewarded for a long time with this wonderful herb. Dill supposedly also aids in curing digestive trouble and relieving gas, which is just perfect. It may come in handy by the time dill has finally found its perfect spot in your garden.

Zucchini Ricotta Cheesecake

Friday, August 1st, 2008

being true to my word about the zucchini recipe I mentioned in my previous post, and having tried it tonight (with a few variations on the basic theme). <drum rolls please> Here, from 101 Cookbooks, Heidi Swanson’s Zucchini Ricotta Cheesecake.

It could not have come at a more opportune time with zucchinis ripening faster than we can possibly use them all. Since we rarely eat dairy products I used tofu instead of the cheeses (next time I will get the silky kind for a creamier texture), and since my pole beans seem to have gone into exaggerated productive mode I mixed some sliced beans with the zucchini, along with oodles of herbs. The result was quite enjoyable and with a cucumber/tomato/herb salad  (did I mention yet that I have a lot of herbs in my garden?) this variation of a cheescake made for a satisfying meal.

oh, what a glorious morning

Friday, August 1st, 2008

Morning Glory

How lucky to be greeted by such a lovely sight first thing in the morning.

One of my first trips on any given morning is to see what has changed in my vegetable garden during the night. Given the fact that I also visit there before I close up for the night this might sound obsessive, and it probably (definitely?) is, but what can I tell you. After watching these plants develop from sickly, pale, leggy seedlings on my kitchen window to sturdy, healthy, flowering and fruit bearing plants I feel I am entitled to a little pride.

Cukes are hanging heavy on the vines, zucchini are coming in nicely, there are more herbs out there than I can possibly use in a year, and I actually picked enough green beans to serve in meals and start our frozen stash for the winter. Tomatoes, unless something tragic were to happen, should be a banner crop; huge, albeit still green orbs, that promise many luscious salads.

If tonight’s dinner plans work out as imagined I’ll share a zucchini recipe with you tomorrow. Can’t have enough of those this time of year ;)

Growing Your Own

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

“Grow Your Own” is a fascinating article by Allison Arieff in the New York Times (July 28th, 2008). We seem to have caught the wave ahead of time when we changed our garden plots from purely ornamental to growing organic produce.