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Summer Garden and Pantry Tour

Every year, I learn something new from my friends who enjoy gardening.  It's fun to discover what grows well in our area and gather tips for organic ways of dealing with garden pests.  With patience and perseverance, we get through each growing season learning a bit more.  It’s usually around mid-August that I find myself ruminating on the lessons learned.

This year, I learned how easily the garden grows when the soil has been heavily amended with compost and the empty space in the rows have been covered with mulch. Everything grew enormously.

Row covers over the cruciferous vegetables prevented them from getting cabbage moth this year.  It's the first time we've ever used row covers. My husband found the best deal for them on Amazon and helped put in the arches and stakes to hold up the covers. I didn't think I would ever actually be able to grow broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage - and have a harvest - but we did indeed have a small harvest of these wonderful vegetables this year.  Next year, we'll grow even more.

My first attempt at making sauerkraut didn’t go so well. It ended up covered with white mold, and so  I tossed it. I had such high hopes. I’ll read up more on how to prevent mold and try again next year.

This year I also learned how to can sour cherry pie filling. We have an enormous sour cherry tree in our yard. Making cherry pie filling is easy to do - I used Clear Jel as a thickener rather than cornstarch following the recipe on the National Center for Home Food Preservation website.

Peas were enjoyed early in the growing season, and we ate them up so quickly that I decided to plant more in a fall garden.  We also harvested beautiful Bing cherries from an old cherry tree in our yard.

A number of our experimental garden crops came from free heirloom seeds that I obtained from the local public library.  The library's seed exchange program encourages gardeners to try heirloom vegetables, and experienced growers may contribute seeds back into the program.  Since each packet only contained a few seeds, I started all of them indoors.  Many of the seeds germinated and I was able to grow the plants to fruit - including a number of tomato, squash, pea and bean varieties.

Mojo our Springer Spaniel enjoys frolicking in the garden.  She's usually looking for birds.  Her forehead has a permanent green splotch from running through all the plants.  Fortunately, in all of her crazy dashes through the garden she hasn't trampled anything too badly.

The potatoes were ready to harvest way earlier than anticipated.  I pulled them all out in mid-July.  Some of them have a brown spot in the middle from growing too quickly. I ended up peeling most of them and cutting them into spears for french fries - that way I could remove any bad spots - and then I coated them lightly with olive oil and froze them on cookie sheets.  Once frozen, I put them into gallon-sized ziplock bags.  Homemade frozen french fries, ready to be baked.  Simply dump a bag full onto a cookie sheet and bake at 425 degrees F for about 25 minutes.  They are wonderful.

Our wildflower garden did fairly well its first year. We have started filling containers with flowers for the house.  I've never had so many flowers at one time on my fireplace mantel.

And of course there is the squash. Zucchini, Cocozelle, yellow crookneck, acorn, butternut and pumpkin. It's hard to keep up with how quickly these grow.  I've never had such large, vibrant green and healthy leaves on my squash.  It looks like a giant's garden.  The secret has to be the compost.  We've done pretty well keeping up with the harvest as we've been making zucchini bread, zucchini lasagna, zucchini boats and zuchinni relish.

The bean harvest is amazing.  This year I grew two varieties: bush beans and for the first time ever I grew pole beans.  The pole beans were planted in the same row as the corn, and so the corn serves as a trellis for the beans.  So far, I've canned 48 jars of green beans along with 7 jars of dilly beans. Yum.

There have been enough vegetables to share with friends, which we love doing. It's such a simple thing to be able to give away the extra vegetables that we don't have time to preserve, and everyone who has helped us avoid wasting any abundance has seemed to enjoy organically grown produce straight from our garden.