I’ve been a vegetable gardener since we bought our first house in 1972. Record keeping is important to me as I evaluate varieties of plants, planting times, and what works in this climate and terroir and what doesn’t. So, I initially built this site for myself, to record plant varieties, planting and harvest dates, and anything else that might be useful for future gardens. I find web entries easier than notebooks and it’s hard to put pictures in written notes. With my smartphone, I can access this information anywhere, which is not the case with written data.

Planting and working the garden is in itself therapeutic, and thus has a lot of value. But harvesting the crops provides healthy foods and a connection to friends and neighbors who also benefit from the abundance of my garden. Here in the midwest, having a way to create a longer growing season is important. Hopefully, good record keeping will help me to that end.

But of course, once the data is recorded, there other thoughts and reflections that come into my mind and I have recorded those here also, because, as it has been since the beginning, gardening is not only good for the body but also good for the soul. My original purpose was an online notebook for my own use, but if you find any of this useful or inspirational, welcome.

Roasted Tomato Soup

Ingredients for Roasted Tomato Soup in the pan and ready to be roasted in the oven.

The garden is starting to wind down. I’ve been giving away the more perfect tomatoes and had a bunch that was bruised, cracked, or had other bad spots, so it was soup time. This is the second batch this season. My friend Danielle had this recipe on her blog and it is simplicity itself. This is my slightly modified version of the recipe.

8-10 medium sized tomatoes quartered
1 onion quartered
5 whole cloves of garlic skins removed
1 large roughly chopped sweet red pepper
1 roughly chopped hot pepper (if desired)
A bunch of fresh sage leaves (about 20 leaves)
Fresh or dried thyme and/or oregano to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil

Put them all in an oven-safe pan and rub with the olive oil until coated. Then roast them at 425°F for 25 or 30 minutes until the tomatoes start giving up their juice and the onions start browning.

While the vegetables are roasting, cook some pasta. The original recipe called for tortellini, but I used 8 oz. (dry) of whole wheat macaroni.

When the vegetables have been roasted, add a cup of milk and a cup or more of grated sharp cheddar cheese and puree with an immersion blender. Adjust the seasoning to your taste and add the cooked pasta. Serve with chopped basil on top.

Labor Day Update

Well, here we go into September. As usual, I’ve backed off on garden care as other priorities and mosquitoes have kept me away. We had the Honey locust tree removed a couple of weeks ago and Greg’s crew did a superb job of removing the tree that was mostly hanging over the garden. Only a little minor damage.

It has been a very dry summer. We had storms and 2 1/2 inches of rain the second week of August, and that has about been it. The second storm after we returned from St. Louis knocked power out for about 13 hours and trashed my editing computer. After a couple of days of messing around, I replaced the P/S to no avail. Then I needed to replace the MOBO and that fixed it. With that all of the software updates, I lost a couple of weeks of gardening, and then it was one thing after another.

August 6th, 2021 Harvest

Tomatoes over the old compost did well. I had moved the Champion and Early Girl there this year from their previous spot next to the Horseradish and they were falling over from tomatoes. I took about ten pounds to the Project Hope food pantry on August 7th and they have been abundant ever since, even with me giving a lot away. The tomatoes next to the Horseradish are barely alive. It’s the same pattern as last year, even though I had worked a lot of compost into that last row. I looked up if Horseradish could be causing the problem, but most of the effects of having horseradish around are beneficial.

The zucchini has been very productive as have been the peppers. My seven Jalapeno plants aren’t enough. Shishito peppers have been prolific, but most of them are hot this year. Strange. They are again from Bonnie Plants.

The eggplants failed again, I harvested just two small ones. I think they didn’t get enough water. After the peas failed I planted Lazy Housewife pole beans which came up quickly and were starting their climb up the trellis when they were eaten to the ground, likely by rabbits, even though they were fenced in. I guess I need to redo my fencing.

The broccoli bore well all summer, I should have picked it in a more timely manner, though. The tomatillos started bearing near the end of August and they are doing very well.

I never got to staking the blackberries which bore relatively well. The early ones that were overripe were loaded with Picnic Beetles, so picking was a slow process. As more got ripe the Picnic Beetles seemed to go away. But because they weren’t staked, they were difficult to get into and many were near the ground. It would be good if I did may staking this fall after cleanup. Cucumbers are doing well even though they got in late. The lemon cukes are just starting to bear. I won’t need a potted cucumber next year, but two potted tomatoes would be better.

The potted plants were looking yellow and bad, but one shot of fertilizer really greened them up. I need to make watering easier and need to do and need to do better at picking and watering come August.

I didn’t keep up with the Herb gardens very well because of the time spent constructing the mint garden. I definitely need to learn more about growing basil. I spent lots on plants with multiple replantings and the crop was horrible.

Here’s what I found. Basil likes well-drained, moist soil. I probably need to prepare the soil to a greater depth with lots of compost. I should water and fertilize more often.

Summer Breakfast

Summer breakfast, August 27th, 2021. This is my morning breakfast most summer days – Whole-Grain Toast, Olive Oil Mayo, and Trader Joe’s Mexican Street Corn seasoning. Gold Medal Heirloom tomatoes, today.

Mid-Season Evaluation

I am seeing an explosion in produce this week as the tomatoes are coming into their own. I picked the first of the heirlooms a couple of days age netting a couple of large, delicious Cherokee Carbon tomatoes and a large Lemon Boy. There will be more today and a lot this week. Zucchini are coming in at a reasonable rate and Natalie made stuffed zucchini last night. The cherry tomatoes are producing in abundance. I needed to run a rope from the top of the large cherry tomato cage to the crossbeam of the hanging basket support on the deck. The plants are almost 8 feet tall. I picked the first chocolate cherry tomato yesterday. I tied up the San Marzano tomatoes, but the tomatoes are still small.

The Champion and Early girl plants stopped ripening over a week ago, but now are starting to produce. It is strange how they will produce some fruit right away and then stop for a while.

First Broccoli

We had the first head of brocolli last week and I will cut two or three more today. I am ready to pull up the second batch of beets. Peppers are producing well, the Shishito plants are loaded and there are 3 or 4 large green peppers ready to pick. The rabbits (or squirrels) have been attacking the Jalapeno plants. There are some small eggplants and at least one should be ready in about a week.

I pulled up the peas which were a total bust and planted “Lazy Housewife” pole beans. I learned how to massage Kale with salt and oil and we used some on Bacon, Kale, and Tomato sandwiches and it was quite good.

I’ve been munching on blackberries when I am out in the garden and probably will pick some today.

Tomatillo plants are growing well and have lots of fruit, but ripe fruit is still a couple of weeks off.

All in all, it’s been a good gardening year so far except for the Alaskan Peas and the fact that I couldn’t find any Okra plants. I’ll plant it from seed next year. I’ve been able to keep up with the weeding – I am hitting the tomato patch with the string trimmer which seems to work well if I pull the weeds close to the plants by hand. The rest of the garden is either my hand or with the hula hoe.

More Garden Photography

This is a night shot of the mint garden with all of the lighting installed. LED solar lighting is relatively inexpensive, and the installation cost is almost zero in time and money. Material cost here was between $150. and $200.
Overhead shot of the garden with my Mavic Air 2S taken on its first flight.
The whole garden from another angle.

Catching Up on the Garden

Other than harvesting and watering, the garden has been somewhat neglected as I’ve been consumed with getting the mint garden done. The mint garden is done just in time, as the daily harvest is increasing and I need to make sure that the garden is picked and that I use the vegetables or give them away.

Mint Garden Progress

Making good progress, almost all of the plants are in, roots are removed and garden graded. Started the walkway on July 4, 2021, hope to finish tomorrow.
The garden is done except for the finishing touches and more planting. Finally finished it this afternoon on July 11th.
Here is the front view of the finished garden. I started it a little over three weeks ago. Not bad.

What’s in the mint garden? A lot of different mints for openers! My yard has been invaded by escaped lemon balm for a number of years and I’ve had a pot of chocolate mint growing on my deck for a number of years. But a couple of years ago, my good friend, Danielle, got me into drinking mint tea, or “weed water” as it is called in her blog post. <https://www.makeaheadofmonday.com/blog/weed-water> So, it has become our summer drink of choice, as opposed to regular iced tea. I am also working mint into different recipes.

I wanted to experiment with the different types of mint, and bought the varieties that were available at local nurseries. Here are the mints in the garden: Chocolate Mint, Sweet Mint, Spearmint, Mojito Mint, Apple Mint, and Pineapple Mint. I didn’t plant any lemon balm as it is already everywhere. The mint is planted in the steel rings that are buried 1 foot in the ground to help control unwanted spreading. I also have Lemon Verbena, Pesto Perpetua Basil, regular Basil, Mexican Tarragon, Bronze Fennel, and Pineapple Sage, as well as a few ornamentals for some color. Cucumbers are planted along the trellis at the back of the garden.

This area was overgrown with invasive plants and neglected for a lot of years so I am happy to finally have it beautiful and productive.

Beet Harvest

I pulled up the larger beets today, which was about half of them. We made a beet salad with goat cheese and arugula from an Ina Garten Recipe. It was not bad, but I’ve had better beet salads. We saved the leaves for future salads.

Beginnings of the Mint Garden

This was the beginning. I cut down all of the weeds, buckthorn, etc., and rototilled the best I could and got the cucumber trellises in and the cukes planted 0n June 21st.
This is after the installation of the first ring on June 24th. There are lots and lots of roots in the middle of the garden.
Semi-completed mint garden front view. June 25th.
Mint garden in progress, from the side.

I got started on the “Mint Garden” a couple of days ago. I bought four galvanized steel fire-rings from Tractor Supply on Wednesday to contain the mint. It required two trips, as I could only haul two at a time.

On Thursday, I got the first ring installed which was a real pain as I ran into a stump and roots from a maple tree that we removed about 4 years ago. I was able to cut through them with my trusty Ryobi reciprocating saw, but it was a lot of work. I planted it with sweet mint and planted the three clumps of ornamental grass to the east of the ring.

We had a lot of rain Thursday night and Friday morning, but I went out in the mud on Friday afternoon and got the second ring installed and planted two pots with trailing petunias that were 1/2 price at Goebbert’s. There were some roots, but they were old and I was able to cut through them with my shovel. I needed to add more soil to the ring but ran out of time and energy.

I am designing as I go. I’ll have a path through the garden and in front of the cucumbers with 16 X 16 pavers. Hauling those is going to be a pain. I am guessing it will take at least 3 or 4 trips to Home Depot to get them all. But I have two more rings to install first and rain in the forecast every day for the next week.