Garden Update (08-21-2020)

Our backyard organic raised-bed and container garden is doing pretty well considering it’s getting to end of the summer. I’ve already pulled most of my Spring/Summer plants as they just won’t continue to produce and thrive in this heat (95 F with heat index over 100 F). We had tons of tomatoes, tomatillos and cucumbers already this spring/summer. We also got to enjoy some squash, eggplants, cantaloupes, (new) potatoes, ground cherries, beets, carrots and some fresh green beans. Erin will have some good fall decorations from the ornamental corn we grew, although the sweet corn didn’t do too well this year. The squash plants produced well early but the squash vine borer grubs killed those plants and some succession planting of squash as well. They also killed some gourd plants. All in all, we had a good spring/summer garden harvest with peppers and okra really enjoying the heat now!

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Partial view of the raised bed garden

We need to start preparing for the Fall garden. One of the things that I always do in the Spring and in the Fall is put pine straw down in the walkways to keep the weeds down. I’ve used red pine bark in the past but that tends to float away from where it was placed due to the heavy downpours we often have.

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Placing pine straw on walkways to help keep weeds from growing
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Croix likes the pine straw

We’ve also need to start thinking about planting some seeds for our Fall garden. I’ve gotten started with some Cauliflower and will plant some Broccoli and Cabbage seeds this weekend. I will be planting some garlic like the last few years but will wait until around Oct 1st. Other plants for the Fall garden include beets, turnips, lima beans, brussel sprouts, chinese cabbage, carrots, kohlrabi, lettuce, sweet peas and spinach. What else do you like to grow? Hint: Check your state’s recommendations on when to plant crops. For example, LSU’s AgCenter has a planting guide for Louisiana.

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Cauliflower plants from seed (almost 2 weeks old)

Finally, to get ready for Fall planting, I’ll work in some of my own compost from my compost tumbler, along with composted cow and chicken manure, mushroom compost, some perlite, and some sphagnum peat moss or coco coir to increase quality and volume of soil. I usually mix in a little Azomite Rock dust for a micro-nutrient boost.

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Fall garden compost and pine straw

As for the existing plants, the jalapeño peppers are doing quite well. I’ve got a couple of varieties including Craig’s Grande, Orange Spice, Pumpkin Spice and Brown Jalapeño peppers. I’ll make cowboy caviar (a sweet and spicy mix) and can them along with stuffing some with cream cheese and sausage and maybe wrap some bacon around them for appetizers.

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Craig’s Grande Jalapeño Pepper
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Pepper, Orange Spice Jalapeño

I have some Ozark Giant and Purple Beauty Bell Peppers growing as well.

Pepper, Purple Beauty

I planted a couple of varieties of mustard greens and they are coming up fast. There’s also a some collard greens mixed in. I’ll wait another few weeks and plant some more (succession planting)

Japanese Giant Red and Green Wave Mustard Greens, along with a few Georgia Southern Collard Greens

I have some cucumbers on a “cattle panel” trellis that have been very productive but are slowing up now due to the heat. Earlier in the summer they were so productive we couldn’t eat and give enough of them away.

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Tokiwa “Tokyo Green” Cucumber

I planted two varieties of watermelon, Sugar Baby and Stars and Moon (Cherokee). I have this Sugar Baby but can’t wait for the Stars and Moon watermelon to get to size.

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Watermelon, Sugar Baby

The okra is doing well as it loves this time of the year.

Okra, Jing Orange

The squash vine borer has already taken out all but one squash plant and it is has been invaded as well (see picture). I cut 6 of these grubs out from this squash plant. Do any of you have this problem? How do we stop them? This bug is so frustrating!

I have a number of items planted in containers including a Tamarillo tree, Improved Meyer Lemon tree, Goji berry bush, Calamondin Orange, Sam Sweet Cherry tree, figs and blueberry bushes.

Tamarillo fruit on the tree
Goji Berry (looking kind of rough but has been fruiting all summer)

I always have around some herbs as well and use them often in our cooking.

Basil, Thai and Purple
Sage

I always ensure to intersperse various flower varieties to attract pollinators. Without them, most vegetable plants would not fruit. Some flower species, like Marigolds, actually deter certain pests from getting on your good plants so that’s a good flower to plant in the middle of beds.

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Salvia, Victoria
Zinnia
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Strawberry Fields Gomphrena
Tornado Red Cockscomb

I will provide a garden update post every month or so. Please let us know how you like this post or have suggestions on future posts. If you have any questions on any of the plants shown, feel free to drop a comment.

Enjoy! Remember, if you can dream it, you can do it!

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Roasted Salsa Verde – From Garden to the Jar

Salsa Verde is a sauce or salsa made from tomatillos that you might recognize as that delicious greenish salsa you dip your tortilla chips in at your favorite Mexican restaurant.  Other common uses include as an enchilada sauce, salsa for tacos, and a cooking sauce for chicken, pork or fish.  There is nothing more satisfying than growing your own produce, using it to cook up something delicious and canning it to last throughout the year.  This post will show you how to do just that.  Please see our YouTube video for more information on how to make Roasted Salsa Verde.

Tortilla chips with Salsa Verde
Eggs and Bacon – with, of course, Salsa Verde

Each year I grow tomatillos in the garden to use for my Salsa Verde.  I start the tomatillos from seed about 6-8 weeks before the last freeze in my area of Louisiana, which is Zone 9A.  I grow Amarylla (yellow), Verde (green), and Purple Coban (purple) types of tomatillos.  They are very prolific and produce lots of golf ball sized or smaller fruit and will keep producing until fall.  You know when they are ready to be harvested when you see the outer papery husk splitting showing the ripened fruit.  They can be found at most grocery stores and some farmer’s markets if you can’t harvest them from your home garden.  You will need about 2 lbs of tomatillo’s. Other items from the garden include 3 to 4 jalapenos (seeds removed), 2 medium sized onions, 2 bell peppers and 4 to 5 cloves of garlic or fewer if you use elephant garlic.

Ripe Amarylla Tomatillo from the garden
Unripe Tomatillos growing in the organic backyard raised bed garden

The first step in the cooking process include roasting your tomatillos and other vegetables.  Tomatillos can be roasted whole or quartered, depending on the size.  I put the tomatillos and other vegetables on a sheet pan lined with aluminum foil, sprayed with olive or avocado oil.  I put them in the oven and roast them about 10 to 15 minutes on 550° F roast setting.  I keep an eye on them to make sure they are getting a bit of char on them while not burning.  Char, not burn, equals flavor.

Roasted Tomatillo’s
Roasted onions, bell peppers, jalapeño’s and elephant garlic

Next step, I put all the vegetables and their juice in my Ninja blender and blend to a slightly chunky consistency.  You can blend it to whatever consistency you desire.  Transfer over to a non-reactive pot on the stove.  Add in a 1 cup of distilled vinegar, juice from a fresh lime, and finely chopped cilantro.  Add about a teaspoon of  ground cumin, a teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to taste.  Mix it up and bring the Salsa Verde up to a boil and let simmer for 20 minutes or until desired consistency is achieved.

Note: This version of Salsa Verde is not a green as typical as I used red and yellow bell peppers and jalepeno’s. Don’t get hung up on the color, rather focus on the taste!

Salsa Verde cooking on the stove
Salsa Verde cooking on the stove, with fresh cilantro about to be stirred in

Meanwhile, prepare your jars by placing in boiling water or in your dishwasher.  I use a pressure canner myself but have used the boiling water canning process as well.  Pour the hot Salsa Verde into your hot jars using a canning funnel leaving 1/2 inch minimum of head space (from top of jar to the level of the Salsa Verde).  Always use a clean and new lid.  Finger tighten a ring onto the jar. Carefully lower the jars into the hot water bath with at least 1 inch of water covering the jars.  Process the jars for 20 minutes.  Remove from the hot water and allow to cool completely.  You should here a “tink” as the jars start cooling.  If one of them does not, you will want to refrigerate that jar and use within a week or so.  Also, please make sure you label your jars so you know what it is and when it was canned. Otherwise, the Salsa Verde will be good for up to a year.

The canned Salsa Verde along with some others from the garden.

Now, with your favorite beverage, pop open a bag of chips, and indulge in something made with your own two hands.  Please let us know how you like this post or have suggestions on future posts. Please visit our YouTube channel for video content of this post.

Enjoy! Remember, if you can dream it, you can do it!

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