Thursday, July 28, 2011

2011 Vegetable Garden - How Many Zucchini and Tomato Plants Do I Need?

squash, cucumbers, zucchini
I planted 6 tomato plants this year. One came up volunteer, so that's a total of 7. From those plants, I harvested 12 bags of tomatoes. I typically add them to fried potatoes or to spaghetti sauce. I purchase organic jars of spaghetti sauce and a bag of organic tomatoes from my garden stretches it twice as far. I could use up one bag of tomatoes a week, so 52 bags wouldn't be too much to put up each growing season. I certainly could've done with a lot more tomatoes. Next year, I hope to plant 28 tomato plants.
frozen zucchini
We're not quite through with the growing season yet. So I might get another bag or two of tomatoes out of the garden.

I had 3 thriving zucchini plants and from those I've got about 28 bags of zucchini. That was enough for me, and I also made 12 cans of sweet zucchini relish. If I'd had one more zucchini plant, I'd have had plenty to share with family. Next year, I hope to grow at least 4 zucchini.

This year, I also grew ornamental gourds and I have a ton of those. They're pretty but they're really not very functional. I don't have any purpose for them and the vines took up a lot of garden space that could have been used to grow something else. Note to self - Don't grow ornamental gourds again.

Next year, I hope to have at least 1 pepper plant. I've never had a lot of luck with peppers, but I should try again. I just bought organic peppers at the grocery store today. $5.85 for 2 green peppers and $6.50 for two red peppers. Ridiculous!

Using a Kid's Pool to Water the Garden

Each year, I reuse water from our kiddy pool to water the garden. At the beginning of the gardening season, I set up to my children's pool by the garden so that it might be easier to transport the water.

I was hearing complaints from other gardeners that the growing season had been too dry. Their garden's had dried up, but mine was thriving.

Later, we decided to actually use our pool and I moved to the pool closer to the house and clean it. As soon as I did that, my garden suffered. I think I accidentally discovered a great way to keep the garden healthy. Our gardens slopes downward. I placed the pool at the top of the slope. Each time it rain it just got that much more water and definitely benefit in our garden.

I didn't have to water this year until I moved the swimming pool. After moving the pool the garden looked terrible. Time to put it back!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Identifying Vines in the Garden and Using Zucchini

My grandfather taught me to plant straight rows of seeds and mark the end of each row with a stick. Tacked to that stick should be the seed envelope for identifying the row.

Twenty years later, I'm still not planting straight rows and it is a bit of a surprise what each vine will produce. You see, I save all my seeds from this year's produce to grow next years produce.

I wish I could say that I label the dried seeds in an organized fashion, but I do not. I jumble my dried seeds together.

While I do plant the seeds in rows, they rarely stay confined. Vines like pumpkins, cucumbers, and zucchini sprawl all over the garden bed. This year I took photos of the leaves of each vine. Learning to identify the leaves, certainly cuts down on the mystery! 

Here are some pumpkin leaves above and on the right. They've just started to bloom at the beginning of July, so I hope they will have some pumpkins ready for me in October.

Zucchini is my favorite type of squash. It is hearty and thrives when my other vines have taken all the summer heat they can handle. It grows taller than a cucumber and doesn't sprawl around the garden quite so much. On the left are the zucchini leaves as it grows. They are bigger and greener than cucumber leaves.

Friends often ask what I do with zucchini. My favorite way to eat it is fried with potatoes. Below is a photo of last nights dinner. I fry it in real butter (never margarine). I also add other vegetables such as corn, onions and tomatoes.  Here is the full recipe I typed out for a friend:

Fried Zucchini (and other vegetables)

  • Melt 1/2 a stick of real butter in the bottom of a pan. 
  • Take it off the heat while I slice the vegetables. (I use a food processor to do the slicing.) 
  • Slice 4 medium pototoes, 2 medium zucchini and half an onion. 
  • Cover it and let it cook on medium low heat until the potatoes are tender. 
  • Uncover and add the quartered tomatoes. 
  • Cook it another 5 minutes uncovered. (If you add the tomatoes to soon they cook down into nothing.) 
  • I also throw in seasoning at this point. Dried sage, sea salt and garlic powder are 3 of my favorites.
frozen zucchini slices
I can easily save enough zucchini each summer to have fried zucchini and potatoes all year long. I just slice it in the food processor and put it in the bags. That's it! You do not have to add anything and it doesn't turn brown. It is slightly soggier than fresh zucchini after being thawed, but I am frying it, so I simply leave the lid off the frying pan a little longer to cook the sogginess out of the zucchini.

You can also shred zucchini before freezing it. This comes in quite handy for making zucchini bread.
I also use zucchini to can sweet pickle relish. I use the relish all year long in tuna, pasta, potato and bean salad. I never have to buy sweet relish. The relish I make from zucchini tastes just like cucumber relish. Delicious!

Here is the recipe for Canning Zucchini Relish. It uses organic bell pepper, organic zucchini, apple cider vinegar, and brown sugar. No high-fructose corn syrup. (Gross!)

A friend also shared a tasty recipe for:
Zucchini Milano
2 T. Oleo
1/4 c. green pepper
4 c. Zucchini (1/4 slices)
1 c. Shredded cheddar
1/4 C. chopped onion
1/2 tsp. oregano
8 oz. tomato sauce
Salt, pepper & a little sugar to taste

  • Saute onion & pepper in butter until tender
  • Add squash, cover & cook about 15 minutes on low
  • Add tomato sauce and spices
  • Fold in cheese
  • Stir

But, enough about zucchini. I have one more vine that I haven't shown you from this year's garden. It's on the right and it is a gourd vine. The leaves have milky white veins running through them.  

I believe I bought these seeds this year in order to make things (bird's nests, canteens, etc) from the dried gourds. 

Have you ever made anything from a gourd?

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