Tackling our zucchini glut (it’s a struggle)

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These got out of hand…

In previous years, I’ve complained about how our zucchini plants give up and die after producing only a handful of vegetables.

Not this year.

We came home after not even a week away to four XXXL zucchini, each give or take 4 pounds. Since then, I have found one more mega squash hiding under the leaves and have harvested many more regular ones that are perfect for grilling or spiralizing.

I’m still going through the XXXL ones, though. They can be turned into an awesome, super-moist chocolate zucchini cake, and you wouldn’t know there was zucchini if I didn’t tell you (I like to tweak it with lots of ginger plus fresh cranberries that were stashed in the freezer around Thanksgiving). It’s been so hot, though, that I haven’t wanted to turn on the oven much. No excuse for not grating them all and freezing them, though.

I don’t have the recipe handy right now and can’t find it online, but I’ll post it in an update.

The bigger question is why has this year been so much better. More rain? More heat? That we used upside-down tomato cages to get them to grow upward first, before they started sprawling? Did any of that keep the bugs away? Or the steady stream of eggshells I crushed and dropped around them?

Finally, zucchini plants are heavy feeders, and this year I was determined to give them some nutrients. We had perhaps 11/2 bottles of Terra Cycle’s worm poop that a Master Gardener neighbor had given me a few years back that I would repeatedly forget about until it was really late in the season. This year I was determined to use it all up … and I have. Is that the reason?

9BA8AD47-7522-4A3D-8883-16CB96490A03To be fair, I have not used this natural fertilizer on our cucumber plants, which have been way too prolific for my taste. We came back from that same vacation to 10 cukes. I gave a bunch to neighbors. Maybe two weeks later I gave away another dozen…

Oh, and then there is the rhubarb. We have the green kind. We’ve been better about harvesting it this year, though unfortunately we have been less successful about pairing it with strawberries in something yummy, like pie. Good thing there’s a freezer.

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Fourth of July tomatoes — yes!

Is this the earliest yet for us? Five Sungold tomatoes harvested on the Fourth of July.

I admit they aren’t as uniformly golden as ones we will harvest later on. But wow were they good!

We’ve also been harvesting cucumber, peas, arugula and basil, but it’s the tomatoes I’m most excited about.

Here’s what the tomato bed looks like:

tomato plants july 4 2018

 

Ah, garlic scapes

0F4B6E9F-260A-4D1C-8DED-F4624BA9BA46I harvested 34 garlic scapes earlier this week and just added another two that I’d overlooked.

I’m now looking for ideas beyond garlic scape pesto. What should I cook? Any suggestions?

I admit I’m mostly hoping for fat garlic bulbs when I harvest in a month or two. Probably closer to two given how weird the weather has been.

 

What’s this giant turtle doing in our garlic bed?

turtle in garlic bedAs I left the house this morning, I glanced across the yard. Mostly I thought about all the clover in the lawn this year and that I needed to look up what it signals (lawn needs nitrogen) and how to fix it.

And then I noticed something dark spilling out of the garlic bed.

A paw? But we don’t have bear (and cubs) here. The groundhog? He wasn’t scurrying off at the sound of the garage door.

So I carefully approached.

It was a giant turtle with one “arm” over the wooden frame, not moving, flies all around. Dead? That wouldn’t be fun to move. Ah, a small movement. I snapped my photo and wondered how much damage would be done. It had already dug out a hole … was it laying eggs?

garlic bed after turtleWhen I came home tonight, the turtle was gone. No sign of eggs. But one garlic plant had been uprooted and a couple others were flattened to the ground.

I set them all upright weeded and now hope the bulbs will fatten up over the next six weeks or so, so we have some healthy garlic to harvest.

If Duke Farms can live with dandelions, should I?

183B6D70-D1D0-40C1-98C6-54610F440B89I finally visited Duke Farms in Hillsborough. This is the former estate of tobacco heiress Doris Duke, which until not that many years ago was only open for tours. The foundation that runs the place has made some changes — her house has been torn down, and the focus is even more on sustainability and native plantings. Clearly that includes no (or perhaps minimal) pesticides, and their gardeners have not been charged with digging up dandelions or my other nemesis, hairy bitter cress.

Given that I filled the better part of a five-gallon bucket with dug-up dandelions yesterday and have another two giant recycling buckets full of hairy bitter cress just waiting for the monthly yard waste and brush collection, should I just learn to chill?

I hope to be back in a few months to see the meadow in bloom. But do not come here looking for a traditional garden with lots of flower beds.

Here are some other images from the day:

A ruin? The foundation of the mansion James Duke stopped building after his tobacco business was broken up.

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Another ruin? The remains of the burned-out hay barn and what I think sums up Doris’ taste in sculptures:

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The coach barn (first for horses, then for cars) … because every garage needs a clock tower.

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No, this wasn’t the house.

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The Durham bull, to pair with the one I saw on a bike trip through Durham

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Can I have a piece of this hosta? I like variegated ones.

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And some brilliantly colored orchids in the Orchid Range (Doris was big on orchids).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leeks, and a resolution for next year

IMG_1395(How did this not get published when I wrote it in November??))

The leeks we bought in Maine in June have been amazing!

No work, most did really well (and I will take the blame for those that didn’t, because they ended up having to fight with tomatoes). I don’t know that we have ever had some this thick and with this much white.

Next year I will call the place in late May/early June (unless we find ourselves headed to Maine) and mail-order a flat of 72 or whatever it takes. At 16 cents a plug, and a healthy one, not like a hair strand, is there a better deal? I’m sure we can find room in the beds. Even at the expense of tomatoes– famous last words! (Kale could shrink first?) And if you want to be part of my order, speak up.

Here are some other late harvests: a mixing bowl of hot peppers (guess I better freeze some) and lemongrass headed for a pot to overwinter (will see how freezing some stalks works out).

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See what vegetable in our garden survived the winter

92331542-26ED-4E80-AD9D-1A56C5993EF2Back a few months ago, when it was regularly falling well below freezing, I decided to try to save some kale that was still growing in one of our raised beds. I knew kale was hardy, but just how hardy? I pulled out some old sheets to create an ad hoc row cover. It rained, then snowed and snowed some more. The wet sheets stayed in place for about three months, as much out of inertia as any snow cover that would disappear within a few days.

Finally, as the calendar (if not the weather) turned to spring, I pulled off the covers.

Most of the kale stalks had rotted. But to my surprise, some were showing little shoots of green leaves. Now that I’ve given them more time and light, they’ve gone even greener. Time to start eating from the garden again (or adding this to my favorite Instant Pot recipe of the moment, Melissa Clark’s Moroccan Chickpeas with Kale.)