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August 14, 2022

One of the joys of getting a bit older is having the time to putter around in the garden. Below is my garden blog. This site also contains sections of recipes, feature stories, and how-tos about specific, and often obscure, gardening lore.

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Friday, August 12, 2022 - More Relish and Canned Tomatoes

Canned sweet relishCanned whole tomatoesOther than picking some tomatoes, I really didn't garden today. Instead, I had sweet relish brined and ready for canning and a lot of ripe tomatoes to process. Eighteen cucumbers canned out to eleven and a half pints…except that one pint jar broke in the boiling water bath. Other casualties of the effort were a slotted spoon, a spatula, and a strainer rather permanently stained yellow. :-) Considering that a similar amount of canned pickle relish we made in 2018 kept and lasted until early this year, we should be good on relish for a few years.

What Do We Use Relish In?

We like sweet relish on hot dogs, of course. But we also use a good bit of it in ham and chicken salad and homemade tartar sauce.


I canned 7 quarts of whole tomatoes this afternoon. Again, one jar broke in the water bath canner. I need to figure out what is breaking those jars during canning.

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Thursday, August 11, 2022

Chopping cucumbersCucumbers briningToday was another relish day. I got started early coring cucumbers and running them, some peppers, onion, and garlic through our rarely used food processor. I went with the food processor instead of our Pampered Chef Food Chopper because I had lots more cucumbers to chop than last time. The food processer doesn't do as fine a chop as the food chopper, but it's quicker and far easier on my arm.

When I list using seventeen (or eighteen as I did today) cucumbers for a batch in our recipe, one needs to realize that our cukes are Japanese Long Pickling, with many of the cucumbers being eighteen inches long. While a bit too long for ideal slicing, that's just about perfect for making relish or pickles. The eighteen cukes chopped with some peppers, onion, and garlic filled an eight quart kettle.

I was done chopping before eleven. I added ice and canning salt and moved the relish mix to the fridge to brine. I'll let the mix sit and brine until tomorrow morning.

Weather Underground Extended Forecast August 11, 2022

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We just may get a break in our rainy weather that has limited our gardening lately. Usually any rain in late July into August is a godsend, but what we've experienced has been frustrating gardening wise. I dumped about three quarters of an inch of rain from our rain gauge on Tuesday, and a local weather reporting station showed an inch and a half of precipitation over a two day period.

While I'll be hoping for rain once I get our main raised garden bed tilled and planted, the predicted dry spell gives me a nice window in which to get our fall garden started.

Terracotta Composting 50-Plant Garden Tower by Garden Tower Project

Monday, August 8, 2022

Majestic Red or Better Devil and Barbados lettuce ready to cut for seedBags for drying seedI picked six or seven JLP cucumbers this morning and a dozen or so Earlirouge tomatoes. While outside, I saw that our Barbados lettuce was ready to be cut for seed, as well as the Majestic Red or Better Devil. The lettuce went into some nifty paper grocery bags with handles which are ideal for hanging and drying light crops.

While harvesting the seed lettuce, I pulled some weeds and discovered that the soil in our main raised garden bed had dried out enough for tilling. After sitting in the sun a bit and a little cajoling with starting fluid, our twenty-eight year old MTD rear tine tiller fired up. While it didn't chew up the tall, well rooted grass weeds like Troy Bilts do in TV commercials, it did a pretty good job for an old girl.

I interrupted my weeding and tilling to move two clusters of mature snapdragons to a better spot. I severely cut them back, hoping they’ll take where I moved them.

Getting back to our potential lettuce seed saving, our Jericho romaine and Crispino and Sun Devil head lettuce aren't quite ready for seed saving. The Jericho and Crispinos are in full bloom, while the Sun Devils are just beginning to have blooms open on their seed spikes.

Jericho lettuce blooming Crispino lettuce blooming Sun Devil lettuce putting up seed spikes

I wound up my outdoor gardening around one in the afternoon. The temperature had reached the nineties and the heat index was over a hundred. I was worn out, so main bed reclamation will have to continue tomorrow.

Main raised bed cleaned up some

I'm not in such a hurry to plant, as I considered the calendar today. My plans for a fall crop of Encore peas will have to be set aside.
Encores are a 64 days-to-maturity variety. And we have just 67 days until our average first frost. With the week or so extra that has to be added to days-to-maturity figures to account for the shorter days of fall sunlight. the numbers just don't work. Fortunately, there's still plenty of growing days left for fall plantings of kale, carrots, spinach, and lettuce.

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Saturday, August 6, 2022

Onions - 2022Water CharityI trimmed, bagged, and brought in and hung our onions today. I wonder if I waited too long to do the job, as I had to cull a lot of red onions with white mold at the base of the bulb and roots. I haven't had that occur in the past. Other onions with soft spots or other problems went with the cull red onions and all the trimmings to our compost pile.

This year's onion harvest yielded just over thirteen pounds of good, storable onions. That's a far cry from the thirty-five pounds of onions we harvested last year. Around half of last year's harvest went to our local food bank. That won't happen this year, but they'll get a lot of garlic from this year's bumper crop.

The jar of whole tomatoes that didn't seal yesterday was joined with a quart from last year and a pint of purée to make some pasta sauce. Fresh onion, garlic, basil, parsley, and oregano went into the sauce with some not-so-fresh black and red pepper. I make enough sauce for spaghetti one night and lasagna the next.

Botannical Interests - Fall Gardens

Friday, August 5, 2022 - Canning

Straining relish mix of brine waterToday was devoted to canning. I started out by draining the brine from our pickle relish mix, using a wooden spoon and a fine strainer to push as much moisture out of the mix as possible. As I was doing that, some apple cider vinegar, sugar, and spices were boiling on the stove.

The strained relish mix went into the vinegar solution and boiled for about ten minutes before going into pint jars for canning. I got four pints of relish for my effort. It will need to sit and season for at least a week before we use any of it.

I give complete directions in our recipe for Sweet Pickle Relish, along with links to some other articles on making pickle relish.

Today's haul: five and a half quarts of tomatoes and four pints of pickle relishI moved on to canning whole tomatoes. That took the rest of the morning and most of the afternoon. I washed, cored, removed the blossom end and bad spots before using boiling water followed by cold water to skin the tomatoes.

Ball Complete Book of Home PreservingThe tomatoes went into canning jars with a bit of canning salt. Unfortunately, two of the five quarts jars didn't seal. Since I had the water bath canner and some extra lids out, I put fresh lids on the jars that didn't seal and processed them again. One jar sealed, but the second one didn't. It went into the fridge with some fresh basil, parsley, and oregano cut into it to make pasta sauce tomorrow. The twice failed jar will either end up holding nuts and bolts or go into the trash tomorrow.

Five and a half quarts of canned tomatoes won't last us through the winter, but it's a start. With only six tomato plants out this year instead of our usual twenty, our batches of canned tomatoes will probably continue to be smaller than in previous years.

The best instructions I've seen for canning tomatoes appear in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. Without buying the book, one can reliably use their online instructions, although they lack the step-by-step image illustrations for the task.

Morgenstern Books

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Ripe Japanese Long Pickling cucumbers and Ealiest Red Sweet peppersA2 Web HostingOn my way to check our tomatoes this morning, I found we had several Japanese Long Pickling cucumbers ready to pick. I also found three small ripe Earliest Red Sweet peppers. While I'd planned to can tomatoes today, my focus shifted to making some Sweet Pickle Relish.

There were eight of the Japanese Long Pickling cucumbers ready, along with part of one previously picked that I'd been using for salads. That was just enough to make a small batch of relish.

Making relish for me is a two day process. I worked at chopping the cucumbers, peppers, onion, and garlic before starting to brine the mix. I'll let the brining sit overnight in the fridge. Then it's just a matter of squishing the brine water out of the cucumber mix, heating some vinegar, spices, and sugar and combining and canning it all.

Seeding cucumbers Chopping cucumbers Ready to brine

I'll try and write a bit more about making the relish tomorrow. But for now, today's work left me worn out. I tried watching the NFL Hall of Fame game after a supper of Asiago Cheese & Tortellini Soup, but kept falling asleep every two plays or so! And again, I tell the whole story of making relish in our Sweet Pickle Relish recipe, complete with links to pages I used to develop our recipe.

Oh yeah, I also filled a 12 quart bucket today with ripe Earlirouge tomatoes. Our water bath canner should get a workout tomorrow.

Alibris: Books, Music, & Movies

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Weather Underground Extended Forecast August 2-11, 20221-800-Flowers Deal of the WeekOur Weather Underground extended forecast says it all about gardening for today...and possibly several days to come. The wind was howling again this morning with a bit of rain. There's enough chance of rain over the ten day period shown that may make it difficult to get our fall crops seeded anytime soon.

I picked another cucumber this afternoon once the rain had let up and about a dozen nice tomatoes. I hope to do our first canning of whole tomatoes by the end of this week.

I have a note on my to-do list to pick up more paper sacks at the grocery. They use ones with neat handles on them that are great for drying seeds where you pull branches of a plant and hang the sacks to dry. I've done broccoli, spinach, and lettuce for seed that way.

Burpee Herb Seeds & Plants

Monday, August 1, 2022

Our Senior Garden - August 1, 2022
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Crockett's Victory Garden
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The late James Underwood Crockett wrote in his August introduction in Crockett's Victory Garden, "August is the cornucopia month of the year..." While our reduced garden this year won't be a true cornucopia, we'll be doing a lot of harvesting. We hope to pick and can lots of whole tomatoes and tomato purée, cucumbers for relish and Bread and Butter pickles, and peppers for freezing, use in relish, and seed saving. For that matter, we'll also save seed from our Earlirouge tomatoes and Japanese Long Pickling cucumbers for sharing via the Grassroots Seed Network and the Seed Savers Exchange.

I'm still waiting for the soil in our main raised garden bed to dry out enough for tilling. That got set back a bit by a strong storm that moved through dropping three fourths of an inch of rain this morning.

Once I can rototill the main raised bed, I want to plant fall peas (Encore), carrots, kale, lettuce, and spinach.

I'd planned to can tomatoes today. But looking at the volume of normal size tomatoes on our Earlirouge plants, I decided to save seed from our volume of large Earlirouges that have lots of cracks and splits.

Saving Tomato Seed

Botanical Interests Burpee Gardening Required FTC Disclosure Statement: Botanical Interests, Burpee, Renee's Garden, and True Leaf Market are some of our Senior Gardening affiliate advertisers. Clicking through one of our ads or text links and making a purchase will produce a small commission for us from the sale. Renee's Garden True Leaf Market

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