Posted by: JerseyOrganic | August 1, 2011

Rainy days were made so gardeners can get the housework done!

As the east coast gets hammered with rain I’m thankful to be on vacation and not concerned about someone properly watering my plants! It seems every other day during this two-week vacation of mine, we’re getting destroyed by those late summer storms. And it is just fine with me!

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Every vegetable is growing rapidly with the long hot days and damp weather. Pumpkins and gourds are getting bigger by the day!

Before I took my vacation break I harvested all the peppers I had and put them up! I made pickled jalapeno slices and whole pickled pepperoncini. Using my mandolin I sliced up about a pound of jalapenos and put them into sterile jars. I used a hot pack pick of water and vinegar in a 1:1 ratio. Then water bath canned them for 15 minutes. In a few weeks we’ll be eating yummy peppers ūüôā

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Other than that it is still a waiting game. Cukes are just starting now which seems late in the season. I am thinking they don’t get enough sun and potatoes have died back and are sitting for a week under the soil to cure.

I will be updating soon with some pictures.. happy harvest everyone.

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Posted by: JerseyOrganic | July 25, 2011

I’m sorry I disappeared.

July was a rough one. After my tomato end rot issues AS WELL AS squash bugs killing my zucchini I fell into a slump. Feeling defeated and as if I put all that hard work, time, and effort and this is what happens!?

But what can you do? Its time I pick my head up and stop stressing out. I might have lost my zucchini, corn, and romas¬†but I’ve been growing an abundance of string beans, cherry tomatoes, jalapeno and pepperoncinis, and carrots! I can not assume my garden is going to be like Longwood Gardens, its my second year! Like Chuck told me. ‘ This is only your second year and the garden is doing 100 times better than it did last year. So learn from your mistakes and do even better next year!’ He is totally right. I mean, My tomatoes are 10 feet tall, I have HUGE carrots, lovely string beans, endless amounts of jalapeno¬†and baby onions. So what my romas didn’t work out, I’ll just plant a different variety next year.

Besides, it’s only July 25. My cukes are halfway up the fence and starting to produce little cucumbers. My bell peppers have flowers ALL over the place, and my potato plants have almost died back.¬†Not sure if¬† it’s too early for them to be dying back but whatever lets just see what happens. I know there are little baby potatoes down in that dirt.

Heres some pictures of whats thriving in the garden as of today!






 

 

 

 

 

Pumpkins are THRIVING. My one plant has taken over the small area its in and already producing decent size pumpkins. I have never grown pumpkins before and am excited to know that I’ll be saving money on fall decorations.

Speaking of money.. I have been selling Jam at work in¬†a little basket for 7 bucks a jar and sold out my first day! Today I’ll be labeling the rest of my jars and bringing them in all week to sell. Perfect time¬† for a little extra cash before we go on vacation next week.
I plan on making more jam with whats in season. Peach jam, soon I’ll try my hand at homemade apple sauce, pears, and pickles. I’d also like to make roasted red bell peppers. Over the next few months I will have recipes on how to do those things at home.¬† ūüôā

Over the past few weeks that I’ve been neglecting my blog I’ve planted a fall crop of basil for pesto, mesclun mix, and parsley in one of the corn beds that didn’t work out.
I would¬†¬†like to harvest as much basil as possible so I can make pesto and then freeze it in ice-cube trays. It’s a great way to make dinner in a¬†hurry, just pop one out and mix it with a serving of pasta. Also, my mesclun¬†salad mix was delicious this year but I let it get bitter and now it is wasted. Lesson learned.

I decided to grow a ton more of parsley and blend that up with water to freeze in ice-cube trays. It’s a great way to have fresh herbs all the way through winter.

Clearly everything is just fine in the garden. I will be making another post this week (PROMISE) about my community garden plot as well as some before and after pictures.

I hope everyone’s gardens are thriving and no one is getting discouraged. It’s not worth it, especially when your biting into a delicious home-grown Jersey Organic tomato or just snapped green beans. Well worth it.

Posted by: JerseyOrganic | June 30, 2011

The Community Garden

It has been a beautiful week here in zone 6B. South Jersey is HOT! Luckily the humidity went away as well as my tomato end rot! Reason to celebrate with the upcoming holiday weekend. With the 4th of July right around the corner, gardens are thriving and starting¬†to bear¬†fruits and vegetables. ūüôā

Here are some new pictures of my garden in late June.

Over at the Community Garden of Gloucester Township my plot is looking more and more bountiful. I have decided to let my Baxter Bush Cherry tomatoes grow without pinching off the suckers.
*Lesson-¬†Basically, when a tomato plant grows, it grows as a vine. You will have a main stem and side shoots. In between¬†the main stem and side shoots Suckers grow. I pinch off these suckers when just a few inches, thus leaving my plant with one main vine and side branches. Pinching these off will give you a more manageable plant. I am able to plant my tomato 1.5′¬† apart because they just grow up bamboo instead of out. My harvest will also come earlier.

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† –¬† you can see the sucker between the main stem and branch –

I have chosen NOT to pinch off suckers and to just let the plants do their thing over at the community garden because  I would like to see what the differences are in harvest, time of fruit production, and overall growth. As of right now no tomatoes have formed yet. Interesting right?

As for my peppers… they are in pepper heaven! I have come to the conclusion my community plot gets more sun than my garden at home. My pepper plants are bigger, wider, and production more flowers. I have lots of jalapenos already.

Pumpkins are also in full gear at the CG. Although I hope they do not creep into my neighbors plot! I am still unsure if my pumpkin plants are orange pumpkins or gourds? I guess we will see when they start to fruit. All 8 of my so-called¬†pumpkin plants have amazing flower production. I have a feeling I will be growing all of my fall decorations ūüôā Next year I will buy organic seeds and eat them!

Last but not least Corn. I finished all my successions in my Kitchen Garden and finished my seeds off at the CG. They are just a few inches tall thus completing my community garden plot. All I have to do is hope no critters get to them.

The Gabriel Davies Tavern (where to CG plot is) is located in the most beautiful historic site near a waterway. Today I saw a deer about 20 feet away as I watered. As well as turkey vultures, rabbits, groundhogs, and many other animal¬†life rule this pristine area. It’s nice to¬†have an area to escape and be around nature. I just hope they don’t want any of my food ūüôā

It’s funny all¬†this hard work over the past six months in my grow room, building the new beds, bringing in dirt, hardening off plants, planting transplants, and constant watering and care… now I just wait. Nothing to do, just wait.

After the holiday I will have a step by step tutorial on pickled jalapeno as well as before and after pictures. A blog on “This is what your plants should look like now”. Enjoy the weather everyone!

Posted by: JerseyOrganic | June 23, 2011

First fruits of the season.. with some blossom end rot

Canning aside its time to talk about the  veggies in the garden!

As fruit begins to grow and flowers begin to drop little critters and physiological problems start making their way into your garden; as well as disease, parasites, and pests. Lucky for us there are organic methods to solving these problems.

Good news first- Everything for the most part is doing well. I have little zucchinis that are growing inches every day! Cherry tomato plants have arms of green tomatoes growing. Onions have started bulging out of the ground and tiny string beans have started to show. Even my peppers are bearing small fruits. It is all very very exciting!

  

The bad news ūüė¶¬†¬†¬† -Some¬†of my¬†San Marzano¬†tomatoes¬†(aka Roma) have Blossom End Rot and¬†this is very upsetting. : /¬†¬† As you can see in the pictures following some of the tomatoes are starting to turning brown and black on the bottom part where the flower would have fallen¬†from. I believe the reason for this is the abundance of rain we had here in Southern New Jersey over the past week. These are my first yields of tomatoes¬†and it is not unusual¬†for this to occur. I picked off each “infected” plant and are closely monitoring watering conditions. Remember we want about one inch of water a week. Blossom End Rot or BER is also mainly caused by a calcium deficiency¬†which can be treated with an immediate application of bone meal or some compost tea done both¬†by ¬†foliar application¬†and at base of plants. Hopefully with a little tlc the plants will snap back into shape. If your tomato plants look like this you have Blossom end rot!

Lets not get discouraged if this occurs all we need to do is supplement plants and make them happy! More to come soon.

Posted by: JerseyOrganic | June 20, 2011

Canning 101

I apologize for my lack of posting within the past week, it has been crazy around here! My sister graduated high school, I had to can large quantities of jam and I started a new schedule at work. I finally can make a blog post.

So today I am going to really just talk about canning. How do it, what to make, and when to make it.

This week I had to fill many orders for jam. Since strawberry season is now officially over I had to pump out as much as I could. Last Sunday I went and picked 40 pounds of strawberries as well as blueberries from my own garden, raspberries and blackberries.

-First thingis to decide which kind of jam to make. Because New Jersey, specifically zone 6B, has a quick straw berry season (May-June) I am canning Strawberry Jam mixed with other fresh berries. It really doesn’t get any fresher.
-First you need to hull all your berries. Do this simply by cutting off the green or using a paring knife to cut away the stem.


I do not wish to give away my recipe but there are, different recipes that can be found online or in books. “You Can Can” by¬†Better Homes and Gardens is a great starter book.¬†The basic ingredients are fruit, pectin, sugar(or sugar substitute).

-Once the proper amount of berries are hulled, set aside and get the water bath canner ready. Fill 3/4 of the way with water and bring the water to almost a  boil.
-Get the mason jars ready; I use Ball jelly jars for this. They are 8 ounces or half pints. First you must clean with hot soapy water and take off lids
-Using the proper canning gear sterilize each jar in the hot water (not submerges) for a few minutes. Make sure each jar has some water in them to help weigh jar down

 
-Wash the berries and start mashing away with an old school potato masher.

-Make your jam in a  8 quart saucepan. Mix the berries, sugar, and pectin and bring to a boil. Scooping any foam that may form.*Some people add some butter to help keep from foaming. Let the mixture come to a rolling boil for a full minute before taking off the heat.

-Take out sterilized jars and get ready for jam. Slowly and carefully ladle out the liquid in the jars being careful not to make a mess.

-After the jars are filled leaving a 1/4″ head space wipe down the tops so the lids can be cleanly placed.
 

-Take each lid with the magnetic tool and dip in boiling water for a second or two. Put on top of jar and put on screw cap. Make sure not to screw the lid too tight. The lids will tighten up on their own while being sealed.

-Process in  water bath canner (submerged) for 5- 10 minutes or whatever your recipe calls for. When complete take out with tool and let cool on wire rack or towel.
 

-It may take a week for jam to get that jelly consistency and remember to shake the jars every now and then to avoid separation until settled.

The varieties I did today include- Strawberry, strawberry-blackberry, strawberry- blueberry, and triple berry which is straw, rasp, and blueberries. Of course they are ALL made with Agave which is great for anyone monitering their sugar levels. It also cuts the calorie content way down.

All in all making jam is pretty simple, it’s a¬† little work but a great reward!
And people LOVE jam. I was considering selling some on JerseyOrganic.com but I¬† have so many orders through word of mouth I don’t need to! Although if anyone is interested feel free to e-mail me or leave a comment and I will send you some. 8 Ounce jars are 7 dollars a piece and are only available while supplies last. Since strawberry season is over, I can only sell what I have until next year. Yummy yummy!

In other news, the vegetable garden is doing quite well. My pea plants are starting to die back, leaving room for my pumpkin plants and we have been eating delicious salads from my salad garden!My tomato plants are bearing green fruit as well as peppers. I will update again soon, I promise! Until next time ūüôā

Posted by: JerseyOrganic | June 8, 2011

Jam and Peas

Its going to be 98 degrees today in New Jersey, nice and hot. But thanks to  all this wonderful sun and my new watering system my garden is thriving! Some veggies and fruits will be ready for harvest soon including blueberries!

Everything is on its way to fruiting including Jalapenos, potatoes, carrots, and tomatoes!

Little Peppers are forming:)

Today was my first REAL harvest of Shelling Peas(also known as English peas) …mmm.. peas. Because peas have a sugar to starch make-up they need to be blanched and frozen or cooked immediately.

Below are step by step instructions on how to do just that:

1) Harvest peas in the morning by using two hangs to pick off each pea from the plant. If your unsure of ripeness open one up and eat it! Your looking for a sweet pea.
2)Bring inside and get a pot of water boiling filling less than half way, also have a bowl of ice water ready.
3)Shell each pea by snapping one end and pulling the string down the back, this will open the pea pod up easily.
4)Blanch in boiling water for 90 seconds
5)Put peas immediately into ice bath for 90 seconds
6) Freeze in freezer safe air tight Ziploc bags and your ready to eat yummy peas anytime.
When your ready to use pop them out and lightly saute in some olive oil maybe serve with new potatoes or carrots? Delicious and easy.
*You can store fresh peas for 2 days in fridge or frozen for 6-12 months depending on how air tight you container is.

    
   

On another note my jams have been quite successful. I have already sold everything I made last week. The Agave is a hit in all flavors. As the season continues I will be making whats fresh at the time. Monday will be another day of strawberry canning as well as raspberries next month. I am currently taking orders for jam now. Hopefully soon I will have a spot on my blog for sales as well as pricing information.

So that’s it for now. I will be updating on my community plot by the end of the week. Not much to do now other than sit back and enjoy!

Posted by: JerseyOrganic | May 31, 2011

Memorial day weekend!

Happy Memorial Day everyone! A big thank you to all our vets past, present and future for all you have done. This holiday weekend we have accomplished a lot here in the yard.

But first thing first I want to go over a few…errors.¬† These are errors I think many home gardeners might encounter. I planted my potato bed in front of my string bean bed (which is getting 7 plantings¬† throughout summer) and my potato bed is growing HUGE potatoes! They are almost 3 feet tall and it is almost June. First problem because I am worried that the potatoes will keep growing and shade my beans. I am also having the same situation with my cukes¬†which are growing in 3 gallon pots up the fence located behind the pepper and bean plants. I am¬†hoping the sun stays high enough in the sky to bathe the cukes and beans in sun without the shade¬†from the other plants. We will see…
How I planted my potatoes:
In case you don’t know I planted my potatoes in a 5×4 bed and when they grew to a foot tall I put another 5×4 box on top and filled it in with dirt. unbeknownst to me, they’d grow another foot almost immediately. I, just today, filled the bed more with weed free straw (which is my main mulch of choice).

Also, as you see in the pictures below I have a stray pumpkin plant growing against the bed. I found 7 and transplanted them out. Three were planted in front of my peas and 4 will be going to the community garden.

Speaking of the community garden this weekend Chuckie and I got out there and tilled then amended soil. I will be planting mid-week! I am very excited.

Like I said, it has been a busy weekend. But to top it all off we were able to put in the irrigation system. This system is crucial; it’s what is going to fuel the entire garden. After multiple trips to Home Depot and Lowes¬†we got about 100 dollars worth of fittings and drip lines and stakes and main lines.. but one hundred dollars is WELL worth it. It would be impossible for me to hand water all these plants. We spent hours running a main line around the garden and are watering from 2 zones. One zone waters the berries, peppers, potatoes, onions, peas, and lettuce and the other waters the corn, jalapeno, beans, cukes¬†and carrots. Each bed has 5 drip lines coming off the main line. These lines drip 1/2gallon¬†per hour every 6 inches. The cukes¬†have 1 gph emitters and I plan on running both zones once a day for an hour. Twice a day when days are over 90 for 30 minutes each. Hopefully this works wonderfully. ūüôā

   

On Monday, Memorial Day, I went strawberry picking and WOW was it hot. After gathering 12 pounds of strawberries I decided to try my hand at some Agave Jam.

I made Strawberry Agave, Strawberry sugar Jam, Blackberry-strawberry, Triple berry with straw, blue, and raspberries and in both agave and sugar. In a few days I will taste test each to try to¬†come up with the best recipes. I hope the Agave Jam works out.. it would be nice to have a treat for those who have to monitor sugar levels and it is a lot healthier. Can’t wait to try them out!
  

 

What a great end to the weekend. Beautiful weather and good fun, now back to the grind tomorrow. Hope everyone had a great day!

Posted by: JerseyOrganic | May 22, 2011

Community Garden Plot

Good news! I was able to score a plot at the new community garden of Gloucester Township. For those of you who don’t know Gloucester Township is a very large township and the community garden just happens to be right around the corner! I’m very excited because it takes literally less than a minute to get there. The garden is located at the Gabriel Davies grounds. I assume there are no chemicals hanging in this soil since the surrounding grass is all weeds. But what a beautiful site; its quiet, gets plenty of sun, and located in a historic spot.

It’s a little late in the season to start a new garden, and we really can’t plant anything for about two more weeks due to the fact that there is no water access yet. I, however will have no problem filling my plot because¬†I know¬†I am going to have extra plants, specifically peppers and Baxter’s bush cherry tomatoes. I also have pumpkins popping up all over my garden. Lesson learned- Do not till in pumpkin without taking out the seeds! But I am not that upset about it because I will transplant a few out and bring to community garden. I also plan on sowing corn and string beans at the new garden. My successions plantings¬†at home will continue through mid-July. Hopefully I can grab a couple watermelons and I’d like to plant some cucumber seeds in pots outside. Hopefully they grow in time to grow properly at the¬†new garden.
The garden plot is about 12×15 and is in the far north-eastern corner. I was hoping for NW but as long as it’s on the north fence I’m not complaining.
Hopefully the irrigation gets done soon as well as the fencing.The fencing is lifted off the ground about a half-foot¬†and any creature could go right through. As soon as that happens I can till and amend the soil. It’s basically ground with a 1/2″ topsoil on top. Not quite a garden yet..I have a lot to do.
    

Posted by: JerseyOrganic | May 19, 2011

Sunny Thursday

It’s a sunny Thursday and I have to get ready for work in ten minutes but I had the early morning to get my pepper plants hardening off. I have some in a simple cold frame I got from Home Depot. It’s not anything special but its a portable light-weight cold frame and is doing the job well. Since it’s around the high 60’s here in zone 6b I was able to leave the lid open about 6 inches to get nice airflow. The rest of the peppers are under a make shift cold frame using old window screens and a round table.

I also noticed my herb garden getting bigger thanks to all the rain this week. Everything is growing well including my first successions of corn and green beans. Here I am using the old screens again to cover my seed beds from my neighbor’s massive tree. It dropped its helicopters around May 3(always on Chuck’s birthday) and I was prepared this year. ; )


I feel prepared for whats going to come as my strawberries ripen, my tomatoes are growing, slowly curling around the bamboo stakes. Beans have grown almost halfway up the border trellis and my grow room houses only zucchini and cukes now! I think it’s officially gardening season.
Off to work!

Posted by: JerseyOrganic | May 18, 2011

2011 A new garden.

Okay so I summed up last years rocky start. 2011 would be a new year. After¬†HEAVY reading and researching¬†I bought a grow light and dedicated a spot in my basement for a new ‘grow room’. I decided I need to have constant and controlled light if I want to start my plants off right. Grow room- check.

I planted over 100 seeds this year!
-20 jalapeno
-20 bell peppers
-6 festival bell peppers
-7 Sweet Nardello peppers
-10 Pepperoncini
-10 Sweet 100 Cherry tomatoes
-10 San Marzano tomatoes
-7  Baxters bush Cherry Tomato
-6 Matina slicing tomatoes
-7 Pickling Cucumbers
-7 Straight 8s cucumbers
-2 Zuchinnis
– and all the herbs youcould imagine

They were all planted on heat mats between the last week in February and April.
In addition, I also planted some things outdoors in early spring.
-60 Pea seeds
-15 square feet worth of carrots
-My first succession of string beans AND corn(2 varieties Golden bantam and luscious hybrid)
-20 yukon gold potato tubers
-20 spanish onions
-bibb, romaine, spinach, and mesclun mix lettuce
In addition I have a strawberry patch and 4 blueberry bushes.
I also took out the composter and starting throwing my compost right into the garden creating a brand new 5×3 carrot garden fresh with a row cover. Also decided it’d be best to grow cukes up my fence and open that bed to string beans.
     

By the first week in May my basement was a jungle, for real. I hardened off and transplanted my tomatoes outside. Not enough room in the garden forced me to make a separate tomato garden. Backyard is crazy now, people slow down and stare as they drive by. Wonder what the neighbors think.

Anyway transplanting¬†cleaning out my¬† grow room leaving¬† about 40 pepper plants and some cukes¬†as well as those baxter¬†bush cherries that didn’t¬†make it out yet. Ahh.
Within the next 2 weeks I plan on hardening off my peppers and getting them out! My herb garden is in full force and now its just a waiting game.

During my free time I decided I would learn how to can. I assume I am going to have an excess abundance of crops. I’m sure I’ll be giving tons away, and the township told me I can sell produce in my driveway, I know I’ll need to preserve somehow. Thanks to Walmart I now have all the materials needed for canning. Right off the bat we successfully canned 4 pints of pickles, 2 pints jalapeno, 2 pints corn salsa, and 7 half pints of strawberry jam. MMM..¬†so¬†good. Canning- Check.
   

Now I am just patiently awaiting a phone call from the township. Apparently we are starting a community garden and I want in!

Posted by: JerseyOrganic | May 17, 2011

First Blog Post

It’s a rainy week here in New Jersey. Which means there isn’t much I have to do outside today.. there are definitely things that need to get done but I’ve been working out in the rain all weekend. My garden, even though its mid May seems to be off to a great start; almost thriving.
This is my second year with a kitchen garden and¬†I finally decided to was time to blog. Thanks to my friends and family pushing me as well as all the awesome clients at my work I’m taking advantage of this rainy day and getting started.
Read More…

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