Monthly Archives: August 2013

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GARDEN JOURNAL ** FALL PLANTING ** Seeds to sow in August for a Fall Garden

Mixed lettuce

Mixed lettuce

For me, here in Julian where we get our first frost around mid November, late August is it for fall planting. The seeds I sow now must really like cold weather. Long Standing Bloomsdale and Winter Bloomsdale Spinach, Bronze Arrowhead Oakleaf Lettuce and Rough d’Hiver Romaine Lettuce, Evergreen hardy Scallions and a few last minute Bolero Nantes and Little finger Carrots all went into the garden yesterday.  I sowed Bright Lights Chard, Roquette Arugula and Calabrese Broccoli seeds last month from seeds I saved from my early spring crop.

GARDEN JOURNAL ** FALL PLANTING ** Iris Rhizomes

Iris Rhizomes ready for planting

Iris Rhizomes

I don’t usually plant non-edibles but often neighbors and friends ask me if I need or want something they have dug up because they have to many or they are doing garden remodeling. I really can’t say no and irises are lovely;  so today I planted a bunch of irises a neighbor gave me in a bed where I already had daffodils. It was perfect timing. The ground was still wet from the rain so the soil was easy to dig into and late summer is a great time to plant iris rhizomes. Iris rhizomes only get planted about four inches deep and they like to be well watered in.

 

Yellow Iris in full Bloom

Yellow Iris in full Bloom

 

 

 

 

 

GARDEN JOURNAL ** After the rain pull out the Bermuda Grass!

Bermuda Grass roots and rhizomes coming off a shoot and

Bermuda Grass roots and rhizomes coming off a shoot and

After the rain is the best time to go after Bermuda grass (and if you are brave poison oak or ivy). Why, what do these two undesirables have in common? Runners! Both of these plants spread from rhizomes or root crowns. This means they send out shoots and where those shoots touch the ground there is the potential for roots to grow from that shoot thereby starting a new plant that then establishes itself and starts sending out runners or shoots of its own. It just keeps encroaching deeper and deeper into your garden if it’s not weeded out. If you don’t want to use herbicides in your organic garden then after the rain is the perfect time to go out and pull up the Bermuda grass that may have been sneaking into your garden this summer. This happens in my garden because it was a converted (shudder) Bermuda grass lawn. I compost just about everything EXCEPT Bermuda grass (and poison oak). Bermuda grass has a strong will to survive, there is a reason it is used to cover sports fields! If you toss your pile of Bermuda grass weeds into your compost pile, over the neighbors fence or leave it just sitting in a corner of the garden new plants will grow where the pulled up weeds  touch the ground. They will start to propagate themselves all over again, SO Bermuda grass is one of the few things I bag up and send off our property.

SEASONAL RECIPE ** How to make Refrigerator Dill Pickles. It’s easy!

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Mixed Cucumbers for Refrigerator Dill Pickles

I grew and gleaned (with permission) from my neighbor’s garden a mixed batch of about 15 medium to small cucumbers for making 7 pints of refrigerator dill pickles. Some of my cucumbers I left on the vine too long and the seeds got big and tough so I had to put those aside to dry for seed saving.  Only 3 of my cucumber plants made it this year. I’ll plant at least a dozen small (approx. 1o”x10”x 4” high) hills of 3 cucumber plants each next spring to make sure I have enough cucs for pickling, but if you don’t have that much space in your garden plant what fits and make small batches of pickles.

I made dill pickles last year and they were a big hit. They are well worth delegating real estate in the fridge and to tell the truth 7 pints usually gets eaten (or given away to friends and family) within a month although they last up to 2 months in the fridge. I did notice as they aged they lost some of the crunch.

You will need:

6-7 Sterilized Mason jars – You can sterilize your jars in a water bath of boiling water or in the dishwasher – Use Ball brand or Kerr jars with coated metal lids with rings. For refrigerator canning I reuse lids I have on hand (when I can veggies and fruit in a hot water bath I ALWAYS use new lids to be sure food stored on pantry shelves stays safe to eat months later). Simmer (not boil) your coated metal lids for 5 minutes for sterilization. (Note: you can now buy BPA free lids)

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Ball jar, magnetic lid lifter, jar funnel, coated metal lid and ring

magnetic lid lifter comes in handy to lift lids that have been simmered.

Large wooden or plastic spoon  

jar funnel comes in handy too. Not just for this project but for all canning projects!

Cucumbers: Exact amounts are not necessary when making refrigerator pickles. Ideally you want about 15 small to medium dark green, firm, warty looking cucumbers to make 6-7 pints of pickles.  Bloated cucumbers, cucs that are puffed up so the bumps are all flattened out, are overripe and soft pickles. You can use regular cucumbers or pickling cucumbers, pickling cucumbers have a bit more crunch to them. I use what I have on hand; just don’t use the “burpless” variety. Frankly not all my cucumbers were ideal for this batch and the pickles still came out tasting good and crisp! You can cut them up any way you like. I do spears, rounds and chunks, I like variety. For spears cut them so you have about ¼” to spare at the top of the jar.

You can buy pickling mixes but I like to make my own. It’s really easy.

Combine the Mix ingredients listed below in a non-metallic bowl:

2 cups vinegar – It can be apple cider vinegar, white distilled or a combination of both depending on your taste. I used white distilled this time. Hopefully I will scrounge up more cucs before the end of summer to make a batch with apple cider vinegar just for variety.

1/3 cup organic sugar – Amount of sugar can be adjusted to taste and tolerance for sugar.

1/3 cup salt – not iodized. Sea Salt or Kosher Salt works best.

½ cup packed fresh dill – I use leaves and green dill seeds from the dill in the garden. I don’t use the dried seeds.

3 white onions – I was out of white onions and so I used scallions (the bottom white part of the scallion) which I had in the garden. They worked just fine.

3-4 chopped up cloves of garlic –This is to taste. If you like garlicky pickles double the amount!

1 tsp dry mustard seed –I’ve also seen recipes that used celery seed instead, experiment and use what you have in the cupboard.

Heat the Mix in a non-metallic pan, glass or ceramic is best. Teflon works too, just not my first choice. Cast iron, aluminum and stainless steel pots all react to the vinegar and make your pickling solution turn cloudy. Heat your mix to just barely simmering for only a minute or two. This releases the flavors of the dill, garlic, mustard seed and onions into the vinegar solution. Some recipes don’t call for the mix at all so if you are into all raw you can skip heating the mix.

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Time to pack the jars!

If you have them put one grape leaf in the bottom of each sterilized jar. The tannins in grape leaves inhibit the pectinase enzyme (a chemical that breaks down and softens the structure of the pickle and you end up with less crunchy pickles). Some folks say this is not necessary but if you have grape leaves why not? If for no other reason the leaves look pretty in the jars!

I like to put some of the mix in the bottom of the jar and then pour the rest on top.  I had enough mix to fill most of the jars about half full. The ones that were a bit short I added more vinegar to make the jars all half full then I topped them off with drinking water up  to a ¼ inch from the top. I use filtered water. I sealed them with the sterilized lids, let them cool down on the counter then popped them into the refrigerator. Now the hard part…wait 48 hours before eating!

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Pickles packed in white distilled vinegar, dill, onions, garlic and mustard seed.

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Jars filled with dill pickles ready to put into the fridge.