Autumn Vegetables and Ornamental Grasses

Last Sunday I pulled up the tomatoes, beans, and zucchini, and after the hard frost last night I pulled up the cherry tomato plant, the eggplants, and the peppers.  Still, there are vegetables to eat until the really cold weather comes.

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I left some stumps when I pulled out my really huge cauliflowers earlier in the year.  The leaves are still edible and this week I noticed all these baby cauliflowers starting to form.  I’m not sure how big they will get before I will need to eat them, but it was fun to see!

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Winterbor kale.  The leaves will die when it gets really, really cold, but so far each spring the stalk has started sprouting again, for a second season of kale.

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We have four lacinato kale plants around the yard and they have kind of a tropical feel to them.

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Here is what the lacinato kale looked like after the frost.  However by late afternoon the kale was looking normal again and is not giving up that quickly.  We cooked a big pot of kale soup yesterday.  Of course it had a lot of other vegetables and beans in the soup.

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I left a half-dead turnip in the ground earlier in the summer and while I was not paying attention it grew big.  The leaves are looking a little tired at mid-day, but this made some nice soup, earlier this week.  You can tell we eat a lot of vegetable bean soup!

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The brussel sprouts also don’t mind a little frost.

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I have been cutting of 6 or 7 sprouts every time I make soup, but there is a lot more to eat all the way up the stalk.

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Frosty turf grass.  We used the mower to mulch up all the leaves on the grass and got the compost pile heaped up again.

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The little bluestem grass, a native grass, turned red/orange recently and has been capturing my attention.

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The ‘morning light’ miscanthus grass must have been about 5 feet tall this year.  The seed heads are red now.  We have two of these large plants in our yard.  They add privacy, beauty, and provide straw for paths and the strawberry bed in the spring.

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The sparrows decided to move back into the bluebird house again.  One of the bedding materials they love are the seed heads of the zebra grass, which are quite soft.  The sparrows perform some interesting acrobatics bending the grass stalk and trying to break off a bit of the fluffy stuff to carry away.  The zebra grass is probably 7 or more feet tall.

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Sparrow gathering zebra grass seed head for nest.  They don’t seem interested in the crabapples.

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The squirrel was interested in crabapples though.

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Sparrows feed on burning bush berries.  One day I was sitting at my office desk and heard a scratching sound.  I was curious enough to pull up the shade and I found a flock of sparrows gobbling up the red berries on the burning bush – Euonymus alatus.  These plants are somewhat invasive locally, so I really want to get rid of them, but have not gotten around to it yet.

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I noticed this black swallowtail caterpillar, that did not look like it made it, on my parsley this week.  However, I was listening to “Nature” this week on TV and heard about caterpillars in the arctic that freeze and thaw for 7 years before they are finally ready to turn into moths, so I wonder about my little guy.  If he is dead I hope a bird had a good meal.

Winter Vegetable Hoop:  I probably won’t be putting the hoop up when the snow flies.  The kale that was under the hoop last winter has grown large and is spreading over the lawn, so I don’t think I can corral is back to the area where I put the holes for the stakes for the hoop.  Still, we will see what happens.  I might just throw the plastic over the kale and hold it down with some rocks to keep the kale edible for as long as possible.

Cucumbers, Tomatoes, Zucchini, and more

All of a sudden I am seeing red show up in the garden and the tomatoes are coming.  It is time for the summer vegetables and they are coming quickly.

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Marketmore cucumbers.  The vine went through the fence and we have cucumbers hanging in the easement.  Phil and I are each eating about one a day.  We peel the skin and remove the seeds and it is a refreshing summer food, whether in a salad or just as a snack.

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This tomato is called “Amish Paste.”  I expected a smaller plum tomato like I see in the supermarket, but all the tomatoes are huge in my garden, it seems.  I also planted “gold medal” tomatoes that each weigh a lot and are yellow.  It looks like I will be making spaghetti sauce next weekend.

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“Black beauty” zucchini flower.  There are three bugs taking refuge here, a bee, possibly a cucumber beetle, and a really small bug of some sort.  I had two zucchini that got really huge before I saw them and I just threw those in the compost pile.  Otherwise we are trying to catch up on eating the zucchini.  Now that we have finished eating all the cauliflower we can probably get to these.  There are also a lot of green and wax beans in the fridge.  I have given some away and put bunches of them in cauliflower soup.

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Speaking of cauliflower, I was finally cutting back the old cauliflower leaves and putting them in the compost.  I noticed that beside most of these plants there are new cauliflower plants coming up from the roots next to the mother plant.  I am not sure if I will get cauliflowers out of these, but may get some nice greens to use.

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The brussel sprouts are coming along well.  The little sprouts are forming along the stalk.  We will see if the little tomato cage will be able to hold the weight.

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Jimmy Nardello sweet peppers.  I love these!  These long peppers turn bright red and are a great snack.  I ate several last week.  I ordered my peppers and tomatoes as transplants from Seed Savers.  I like the variety they have a little more than what I get locally, though I sometime end up with local transplants, too.

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It looks like I have a few “Ichiban” eggplants to throw into some recipe.  I have another eggplant, an American variety, that seems to be producing its first fruit now.

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This interesting picture is not from a visiting cat or dog.  They are mushrooms on the sight of our former silver maple tree.  Mushrooms are fungi and this is the above ground representation, maybe like a flower or fruit.  I am happy to have mushrooms in the yard and I think it is a good sign of life in the soil.

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Viburnum dentatum ‘Christom’ blue muffin berries are ripening for the birds.  Keeping the birds fed is part of the plan in having an ecosystem full of biodiversity, that works without pesticides or herbicides.

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While cleaning up this weekend I came across this caterpillar which I think might be a silver spotted skipper caterpillar.  When I first saw it I thought it was a cabbage moth caterpillar.  But when I looked at the picture of the butterfly it looked like a butterfly I had taken a picture of earlier this past week that I could not identify.

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Silver spotted skipper butterfly on agastache ‘blue fortune’ giant hyssop.

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The zinnias have been attracting a lot of wildlife this week.  This very bedraggled swallowtail butterfly has been visiting all week.  I know it is the same one because it is missing a good part of its right wing.  I read this week that butterflies only live 8 – 10 days.  Then another website said that swallowtails live about a month in the summer. In about five minutes yesterday afternoon I saw four different kinds of butterflies in the yard.  I can’t get pictures of all of them and they are all so different.

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The bees also love the zinnias.

Empty birdbath:  The birdbath has been completely empty this week.  No robins, sparrow, finches, starlings, or any other birds visited it, as far a I noticed.  I changed the water several times.  I seem to remember something like this happening last August.  Where have all these birds gone?  I saw a few sparrow gather on the fence yesterday, but then they flew off.  Is there something else exciting happening?  Is it pesticides?  However I do have two kinds of birds visiting in the yard.  The cardinal couple have been around all week making clicking noises in the bushes on the northwest side of the yard.  The goldfinches are also busy working on the zinnias and other flowers they can pick apart for seeds.  The mulberry tree continues to attract birds, but they are far up in the branches.

Fall vegetable planting:  I got out today and planted several patches of lettuce and kale.  It is a little late, but hopefully we will get this plants going so we can have a nice late harvest before the snow falls. I would plant more, but the garden it full!

Snake:  Dan said he saw a little brown snake in the yard by the unmowed grass yesterday.  Glad to know they are still around!  If you made it this far in the blog – Thanks!

Feasting From The Garden

A big goal of our garden is to feed ourselves.  We have been eating a lot of lettuce recently, but now the spring vegetables are coming to and end, and the summer vegetables are getting going.  As far as berries go, the strawberries are mostly done, but all the other berries are abundant.

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This is a picture from about a week ago, so we still had quite a few strawberries.  Today I picked a bowl of serviceberries, mulberries, raspberries, and a few blueberries.  We usually add them to our oatmeal in the morning, but sometimes I eat them in the evening with a little ice cream…  The view from the kitchen window shows you the change from those winter snow pictures!

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Juvenile robin in the serviceberry bush – Amalanchier laevis.  There were several robins in the serviceberry bush having a great snack this morning.  Now that the bush is becoming a tree, and there are a lot of plants near the base, it is hard for me to harvest all the berries without getting eaten by mosquitoes.  Anyway, I am glad to share this abundance with the birds.

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The neighbor’s raspberries are ripening and I am getting a handful each day.  I eat the ones on my side of the fence and sometimes reach over for a few on the other side if they don’t seem to be eating them!

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The vegetable garden is getting crowded now.  I need to clear out some of the spring vegetables to make more room.  In the patch in front that was covered by the hoop over the winter we are still eating a little of the kale and some lettuce, which is starting to bolt.  I have planted a cantaloupe, and if it takes off I will clear out some of these old plants and let the melon take over.  In the main garden you can see how tall one of the tomato plants is already.

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Looking closer in the garden you can see the two tomato plants to the left of the path.  I did not plan very well this year and the zucchini is already blossoming and filling up its spot to the left of the tomatoes.  It is going to be a challenge to get in there to harvest!  I plan to clear out the turnips and lettuce on the right of the path soon.  I am thinking of making a turnip salad, sort of like potato salad, and see how that goes!  On the front left are brussel sprouts and in the very far back the cucumbers are blossoming and getting going.

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Tokyo cross turnips.  It looks like I’d better get these harvested!

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The other day I brought one of these big turnips in for Dan to cook along with his kale and collards.  When I started washing it, four little earwigs crawled out. So we always have to watch what we bring in the house with us.

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Here is a sink full of bok choy we sautéed up with some garlic and soy sauce the other night.  It looks like an earwig or spider was on the back of one of the leaves on the left, too.

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I thought I had bought a nine-pack of collards this spring, but when I got home I noticed the little cauliflower label I had missed earlier.  We ate the leaves as collard leaves for a month or so, but now are leaving them as a little protection for the cauliflower that is developing.  Some of the plants have white cauliflower that looks ready to eat pretty soon.  I have never grown this before, so I need to do some research.

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I planted my pole beans on the usual green teepee poles I have used the last few years.  But every year the teepee gets too heavy and it all starts falling over, so I bought some large stakes and we put up additional material for the beans to grow on.  The incrediball hydrangea is looking great right now.  In the back you can see the orange butterfly weed, which had a visit from a monarch butterfly today.

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I planted a lot of bush beans, that are yellow wax beans.  There are a lot of bean flowers and little beans developing now.  I like these little yellow marigolds, too.

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I was hoping to put some compost on the vegetables this weekend, but it was not quite ready yet, so I turned it and with the coming hot weather it should be ready before long.