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Archive for the ‘cucumbers’ Category

I am so excited with how my garden is producing this year!  Just look at my harvest from last Sunday afternoon!

today's harvest

Burpee cucumbers on the left, Ferry-Morse cucumbers on the right

That’s NINE cucumbers, people. 

So what do I do with this bounty?  Well, besides just eating the cucumbers in their pure and natural gloriousness, one thing I like to whip together is creamy cucumber salad.

creamy cucumbers

My aunt used to make this for big family dinners, like at Easter.  It was one of my favorite dishes at those meals!  The recipe is very simple.

Creamy Cucumbers

Dressing:
4 oz. sour cream
1 Tbsp. cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. white sugar
1 tsp. salt
freshly ground black pepper

Whisk dressing ingredients together in large bowl.

Cut several cucumbers into approximately 1/4″ slices.  Slice a small amount of onion (1/4 to 1/2 of a small yellow onion).  Stir onions and cucumbers into dressing.  Serve immediately (if the salad sits too long, the liquid in the cukes leaches out and it gets watery).

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Here’s how my garden looked early on Wednesday morning of this past week.

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The zucchini plants are monstrous!  It’s fascinating to me to see the difference in the leaf shape between the two varieties.

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left: Burpee brand zucchini, right: Lake Valley brand zucchini

My cucumbers are also doing well, as you can tell from the produce I’ve reported so far.  The Burpee variety is my favorite, though.  Thankfully, it’s the bigger plant!

2013_07_17_cucumbers-Edit

left: Burpee brand cucumbers, right: Ferry-Morse brand cucumbers

All of the tomato plants have little green tomatoes growing, but nothing turning red yet. The Jelly Bean plants are kind of spindly.

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The Fourth of July plants are not quite living up to their name!  But they are looking healthy.

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The Burpee Best Boy tomato plants are also doing well.  I’m looking forward to trying this new variety (for me) this year.

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I am pleased with how my stakes are working out with the tomatoes.  They seem sturdier than the wire cages I’ve used in past years, and I’m using strips of old pantyhose to tie the plants to the stakes.

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first (real) cucumber!!

Our first cucumber!!!**  YUM.  This is a cucumber off of the Burpee plant.  It was delicious.  Having recently had a store-bought cuke, I could really tell the difference between it and this homegrown one.  Our cucumber was sweeter and seemed more delicate.

After that first lovely cuke, I harvested two more Burpee cucumbers:

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three Ferry-Morse cucumbers:

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and one Lake Valley zucchini:

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Nerd that I am, I have decided to keep a spreadsheet of the produce I harvest from the garden this year.  I’m curious to see what sort of “return for my investment” I get from having my own produce in my own backyard.  My idea is to count/weigh the produce and then, using an approximate average grocery store price, calculate how much I would have paid, had I bought them instead.  At the end of the season, I’ll write more about it.

As excited as I am about the zucchini and cucumbers, I am also so excited to see that I have tomatoes forming!  Here’s a peek.

 

There are Jelly Beans (my favorite):

the garden today

And a Fourth of July or two:

the garden today

 

**I should say that I did prematurely harvest two zucchini and one cucumber at the very end of June, and while they were fine, they were not quite ready to be picked.

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Garden today

garden: 30 May

The garden is coming along nicely!  (pssst: you can see a sneak peek of our rain barrel in the photo above!)

 

herbs on the porch railing

herbs: 30 May

My herbs are relatively happy on the porch railing.  I am a bit worried about my basil… It doesn’t seem to be growing much, which is sad, since I have a lot of recipes that would be awesome with fresh basil.  I have discovered that chicken salad made with fresh parsley and dill is amazing.  We have yet to use the thyme, but I’m sure we’ll use it soon, since a lot of the ATK recipes call for it!

The tomatoes are coming back nicely.  Yes, I said “coming back.”  There was a while there where I was sure they were dying.  I probably put them in the ground too soon, but my rationale was that they didn’t have enough soil and nutrients in the cups where I started the seeds.  Since it was pretty warm here, I decided to just put the seedlings in the ground and see how they did.  At first, they seemed to just sit there.  They weren’t keeling over, but they weren’t very green, either.  Then around May 22, I noticed they were getting green again!  Hurray!  Husband speculated that maybe they were “concentrating” on putting down roots…  who knows.  All I know is that I am happy that my tomatoes are healthier looking and seem to be growing.  Something I’ve noticed is that my back row plants are bigger than my front row plants.  I don’t have a theory to explain that!

I have a series of before-and-after shots (comparing May 22 and May 30).  They’re small, and the tomato plants are tiny, but maybe just maybe (if you squint), you can see how much the tomatoes grew, even in a week!

Jelly Bean variety:

the Jelly Bean tomato plants today.  They are coming back to life!  Hurray!

Jelly Bean: 22 May

Jelly Bean tomato plants

Jelly Bean: 30 May

Fourth of July variety:

the Fourth of July tomato plants today.  They are coming back to life!  Hurray!

Fourth of July: 22 May

Fourth of July: 30 May

Fourth of July: 30 May

Best Boy variety:

Best Boy: 22 May

Best Boy: 22 May

Best Boy: 30 May

Best Boy: 30 May

Far more dramatic is the change in size of the cucumber and zucchini plants. (Cucumbers are in the back row, by the trellises, and the zucchinis are in the front row.)

cucumbers and zucchinis: 22 May

cucumbers and zucchinis: 22 May

cucumbers and zucchinis: 30 May

cucumbers and zucchinis: 30 May

 

I definitely need to thin the zucchini and cucumber seedlings.  There are two or three zucchini plants growing in each “spot” in the photos above (it should be one plant per spot), and I need to reduce the number of cucumber seedlings beneath each trellis to about three.  Thinning seedlings always makes me sad, though!  Haha, it’s silly, so maybe I’ll head outside right now and get the job done.

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At long last (I was beginning to worry that my seeds had failed), I have cucumber sprouts coming up!  Hurray!  I spotted these on Tuesday, May 7.

Burpee cucumber sprouts!

Burpee cucumber sprouts!

 

Ferry-Morse cucumber sprouts!

Ferry-Morse cucumber sprouts!

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For the sake of completeness and reference, here is the “official” plan for our garden this year:

garden2013diagramThe two left columns have cucumbers in the back row and zucchini in the front row, and the three columns on the right are tomatoes.  Here are the varieties:

C (B) = Burpee Hybrid II cucumber

C (FM) = Ferry-Morse cucumber

Z (B) = Burpee’s Fordhook zucchini

Z (LV) = Lake Valley Seed dark green zucchini

T (JB) = Ferry-Morse Jelly Bean tomato

T (4th) = Burpee Fourth of July tomato

T (BB)  = Burpee Best Boy Tomato

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The 2013 garden is officially planted.  Hurray!

Note: This is a long post with lots of “repetitive” photos.  I will post an “official” diagram and list of seed varieties separately. 

On April 21, I raked the soil in the garden plot ’til it was smooth(er).  We measured carefully and added the trellises for the cucumbers and the stakes for the tomatoes in the proper spacing (3 feet on the long axis and 2 feet on the short axis).   You can also see the stakes for the fencing in this photo:

planting spots marked, trellises and stakes in place

After that was accomplished, Husband installed some (hopefully) rabbit-proof fencing.  This wire fencing (which comes on a roll) has increasingly small spacing from top to bottom to prevent the smaller “rodents” from getting through.  We’ll see how it works.  There are bunnies all over the yard in the evenings, and I’m hoping that my garden won’t become a smorgasbord for them.  It’s not as pretty as a non-fenced garden, but I think it’s a necessity.  It is hard to see in this photo, but you can see its shimmer at the closest corner:

rabbit-proof fencing installed

We bought some mulch, which I’ve found to be pretty important for keeping the soil from drying out quickly… and it also dramatically keeps the weeds at bay.  I spread it out that evening and took some photos the next morning:

garden mulched

Right after I’d put down the mulch, I direct-sowed my cucumber and zucchini seeds.  The cucumbers will grow (hopefully) up the trellises, and the zucchini plants will be in front of them.

 

cucumber and zucchini seeds planted

As of the writing of this post (April 30), I haven’t seen any sign of sprouts.  I did plant some extras this weekend (April 28) and mixed in a bit of random potting soil I had on hand because I was concerned that the soil may have dried out.

P.S. The big white tube thing is a downspout diverter.  We are trying to come up with a solution so that it’s not as ugly… maybe a rain barrel?  Not sure if that would be better…

Oooh oooh oooh!  I have herbs!  While we were picking up the mulch, we saw that they were on sale at our local Home Depot.  In addition to the basil I already had, I planted thyme, dill, and curly parsley (R to L) in a wooden box planter that we secured to our back  porch railing:

herb box

You may recall that I originally intended to have my herb garden on my kitchen counter, but after trying to keep some plants alive there earlier this spring, I discovered that it isn’t as sunny there as I’d thought.  This box of herbs is right outside the door to the porch from our kitchen, so I will have easy (no-shoes-necessary) access.  Plus, it’s nice and high and out of critters’ reach.

This Sunday morning (April 28), before church (which ended up being a good plan, because by the time we got home, the sun had gone away and it was raining!), I planted my tomatoes.  I decided to risk planting them out a bit early, since they were looking sort of anemic in their cups:

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I have two of each variety in the ground now:

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What, you can’t see them?  Haha, I know.  But they are there!  I promise.  I’m hoping that they have been doing okay this week.  We’ve had some nice, gentle (as far as I can tell), soaking rain, but it’s been a bit chilly.  I think the sunshine is coming back soon, though!  Hurray!  I’m excited to see my plants grow.

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A few notes for myself for this year’s garden…

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  • We’re planning to plant our garden behind our garage.  It has southern exposure, so that means lots of sunlight!
  • This year, we’ll keep it simple to see how the soil is.  The grass has looked different in that area of our lawn, but hopefully it’s just because it’s winter.
  • I will plant tomatoes (jelly bean variety + a larger tomato variety), cucumbers (please, please, please, no groundhogs!!), and zucchini (or deer!!)
  • I definitely want to put herbs on my counter in the corner under my kitchen window.  Basil and parsley, for sure, and maybe chives.  A pot for green onions, because you can regrow the grocery store ones once they’re cut.  Dill, too, if I’m feeling crazy and have the space…With all the new recipes we’re trying, fresh herbs are important to have on hand!
  • According to almanac.com, the last-frost date for my general area is April 11.  (and the first-frost date is Oct 29!!  Woooooo hoooooooo for a longer growing season!!).  I’ll need to get myself some seed packet information to start planning when I should plant seeds!

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Yesterday, Husband and I did a LOT of yard work.  Really, it was mostly Husband (he is just fabulous).  But I did get out and help, too!  There was lawn mowing and weeding, of course, but my main focus was to get the garden bed weeded, its soil loosened, and the seedlings planted.

It’s amazing how quickly the grass and weeds crept into the garden bed:

Husband and I finished up loosening the soil and digging out the weeds while Miss Vivian supervised from her stroller (don’t worry, Mom, I was wearing sunblock ;-)… and our little girl was in the shade!)

Finally, all of the weeds were cleared (I don’t have a good solution for those pesky maple seeds… I’ll just be weeding little tree sprouts all summer long!)…

…and it was time to put the sprouts into the ground.  Here’s a photo of them before I started arranging and planting:

As you can see, there are three cups with Fourth of July tomatoes, three with Jelly Bean tomatoes, two with zucchini (or maybe one-and-a-half… the second is kind of sad), and one with (amazingly enough) pepper seedlings.  The cucumber sprouts didn’t even survive to planting in the ground:

I’m not sure what happened.  It looks like they got diseased, but I’m not sure how, unless the soil I planted the seeds into was unhealthy.

I got the plants all arranged and as I planted the tomato seedlings, I inserted the tomato cages.  I put them in now so that I don’t risk disturbing their roots later when the plants are larger.

Here’s the “finished” garden plot:

A couple closeups of the peppers (when I was cutting open the cups, I accidentally split the pepper seedlings, so I decided to try for two pepper plants after all)…

…and one of the zucchini vines.

The pessimistic part of me feels like this is the last time we’re going to see this poor zucchini plant, because the groundhog and his lady friend have a little groundhoglet (spotted on Mother’s day!):

oh dear!

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The sprouts for this year’s garden are coming along.  I had to replant all of them (except the Fourth of July tomatoes) to get decent sprouts to grow.  That’s completely my fault, since I improperly stored my seeds over the winter.  I still haven’t seen any sign of pepper sprouts.  I’m going to replant those seeds one more time, and then I might give up…

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