Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tomato harvest

The freezer is starting to fill with roasted tomatoes.  It's a couple of trays each day.  It's maybe not the most energy-efficient way to preserve tomatoes, but they're tasty.  We came through this year with only two small bags remaining from last year's harvest, before the onslaught of this years.
Today's harvest (yikes!)
Check out the really big tomatoes- they're Brandywine
The yellow pineapple tomatoes are incredibly prolific, as are the cherries and plum tomatoes.  The two giant Brandywine tomatoes I harvested today are probably the only ones that the vine will produce.  Impressive, but not productive.

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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Blogging with an iPad

No, I'm not on an iPad currently, but I'm interested in being able to travel with my iPad and camera on an upcoming trip, and doing an occasional blog post, without dragging along a laptop.

I hadn't realized that the Blogger interface wasn't really iPad-friendly until I tried it.  It's not. There wasn't a way to upload photos via the browser interface.  Hmm. What's the point of that?

That's where a second party app called Blogsy comes in.

They're a top rated app for most of the familiar blogging platforms, and it seems easy to use (at least after reading the How-to's).

With Blogsy, a Picasa Web Albums app (to upload photos that Blogsy will find), and the USB connector from the iPad Camera Connection kit, I'm there.  (Happily, the USB connector with the normal camera cable works with my sturdy (but old) Nikon D100, which uses Compact Flashcards, not SD cards). Hooray.

I did a couple of test runs that seemed successful. Woo-hoo!  If it continues to work, my laptop will stay at home, and I'll be traveling and doing garden posts on my iPad.

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Cherry tomatoes

I've been harvesting tomatoes for weeks now -- big Cherokee Purple and Pineapple heirloom tomatoes, small plum tomatoes, and a hybrid Pompeii Roma tomato.  The Pineapple tomato is a yellow tomato, and quite tasty (MUCH better than the equally productive Garden Peach variety that I grew last year).

But the cherries are perhaps the stars -- Sun Gold, Sweet Million, and Black Cherry.  They're all delicious, but the Black Cherry tomato is a keeper -- yum.

This bowl of today's harvest looked photo-worthy!

cherry tomato medley

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Saturday, July 28, 2012

Heliopsis helianthoides

Hmm, this is a test post to see if traveling with an iPad, camera, iPad camera connector, Blogsy, and Picasa web albums might actually work. I don't know yet if my venerable Nikon D100 will work with the camera connector, nor is writing especially fluid on an iPad, but it certainly would be nice not to have to worry about having a laptop!

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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Squash, beans, eggplant, and tomatoes

There's a steady stream of vegetables coming from the garden now.  They're abundant enough now that I'm trying to get more creative with what I do with them.  (I roasted and froze a couple of trays of tomatoes yesterday).

Mixing the harvest together for a vegetable medley is fine, but tends to be a bit boring after awhile, even with homegrown garlic and basil, so I'm venturing into single vegetable dishes at the moment. 

Keeping the young tromboncino and tatume squash separate from the eggplants is fun, and gives us a sense of what each vegetable is like.  Today's bean harvest will wait for tomorrow (there were some big scarlet runner beans that had been hiding!)

My favorite dinner dish at the moment is fresh tomato, basil, and garlic sauce over pasta.  Doing it in a no-cook manner is delightful and easy, and hard to beat with a variety of fresh tomatoes.  Basically, it's chopped-up fresh tomatoes with chopped up basil leaves, and pressed garlic, with a bit of pepper, then the hot cooked pasta thrown in.  Perfect.

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Images from the Olympic garden plantings

These photos are linked to The Telegraph's photo gallery of Olympic park plantings (where they were downloaded).  They look like remarkable gardens!


Monday, July 23, 2012

Olympic garden plantings

I've been immersing myself in learning more about 'New Wave' naturalistic planting design in Europe (and the inspirations for them), and was impressed by the new plantings for the Olympics in London (following google hits for James Titchmough and Sarah Price).

They're well worth taking a look at. Here's the Telegraph photo essay.

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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Rampant squash

I've had such poor luck in recent seasons with squash (even the squash vine-borer resistant varieties like Tromboncino) -- uh, woodchucks love it -- that I overplanted this year in the mountains.

What was I thinking?

The vines are rambling everywhere, down the slope, up trellises, through tomatoes, etc.  Yikes!

Tromboncino squash rambling down the slope, along with Butternut and Delicata
Tatume on the right; Tromboncino on the left
But we've had some tasty squashes for a change -- Tatume, Tromboncino, young Butternut and Delicata, and a couple of Eight-Ball (Ronde de Nice) before the plants succumbed to borers.

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Friday, July 20, 2012

Understanding plant communities & creating pocket meadows

The heading titles were my gardening companion's message and mine at the Cullowhee Native Plant Conference today.

It's been such fun to connect with avid native plant people of all persuasions (novice to expert!) over the last few days.

Learning is always good, at whatever point in the process of learning about native plants that we are:  as native plant enthusiasts, garden designers, nursery owners, and home gardeners.  There's a great mix of participants in the conference, representing all of these, and more.

I'm thinking again that I don't have a image to upload - but really, my end of the talk photo is what it's about -- what do you want to see out the door?

An endnote:  currently the pdf version of my presentation along with a species list is on the sidebar.

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Monday, July 16, 2012

Visit a wildflower hotspot sometime soon!

My gardening companion and I are off to a conference focused on gardening with native plants this week (in Cullowhee, NC).  It's a great conference, and long-running (25+ years, I think).  It should be great.  I've been a number of times, but not as frequently as I would have liked.

Check out this recent article in the Wall Street Journal about Wildflower hotspots! 

Who knew that there were specific garden tours for wildflowers, but sign me up.

Here's the link to the story from Wildflower Ecology

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Saturday, July 14, 2012

Nectaring after the rain

front meadow planting
An exceptionally rainy spell (three+ days) finally broke, with bright sunshine late this afternoon.

Tiger swallowtail and bumblebee (notice how battered the flowers are!)
The swallowtail just kept working the flowers!
A tiger swallowtail was taking advantage of the dry weather to get some serious nectaring done. This individual spent almost 15 minutes working on a flower spike of this Liatris, supported from flopping by a green plant stake.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

MORE meadows, pocket meadows, and prairie gardens

I've been immersing myself in learning more about meadow gardening (and prairie gardening) and naturalistic gardens as practiced by Piet Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury and others. It's not an unfamiliar topic for me, but I've having fun revisiting it.

I'm doing a pocket native gardening program at the Cullowhee Native Plants Conference next week, so I'm wanting to be up to date.

It's so interesting that our North American natives (prairie species, but also our successional meadow species in the Eastern U.S.) have been embraced by naturalistic garden designers in the UK, the Netherlands, and Germany.

I would so like to visit Piet and Anya Oudolf's private garden this fall and some of the German gardens that are being experimental with naturalistic gardens.

I've got just enough frequent flier miles to book a flight -- perhaps that's a signal that I need to go!

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Friday, July 6, 2012

Mystery squash, easy basil, and fall vegetables

I've been down in the Piedmont for a couple of days -- for an evening hike at the Garden with a bunch of fabulous Summer Science Research high school students and a vet check-up for Woody (his partially-torn crucial ligament is being monitored -- happily, he's improving again).

Thankfully, we've had enough periodic rain that everything looks good, even though the lakes nearby (Lake Hartwell) and the ponds at the Garden are way down.

Interestingly, there's a mystery squash in the satellite garden.

I'd pretty much given up on squash in the Piedmont because of woodchucks in the back woodlot, but perhaps they've gone elsewhere now.  This "mystery" vine (quite healthy) is producing small butternut-shaped squash that have outer markings like young tromboncino squash, and were totally delicious as part of my dinner tonight, along with some young leeks and a red 'Pizza' pepper.  Yum.

I'm planning on planting long-season fall vegetables later in the month, continuing through August.  It's SO hard to think about sowing seeds and planting when the temperatures are in the upper 90's.

Young basil in flats up in the mountains have already yielded some exceptionally- tasty pesto. I hope they'll have been well-watered in last night's thunderstorms.  It's a great way to grow basil.  I've been doing this for awhile and it's totally superior to trying to coax edible leaves out of older basil plants in the garden.

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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The first beans, tomatoes, and squash

I was a bit late in planting some of the summer vegetables, but they've flourished in the initially cool late spring and now hot early summer temperatures.

Remarkably, I've harvested peppers and tomatilllos, usually a no-show until late summer.

There are LOTS of tomatoes developing and the first ones close to harvesting.  Woo-hoo!  And the various vining squashes are looking good, too -- no sign of squash vine borer moths or larvae (maybe they were confused by the strange winter and spring weather and somehow my plants will escape???)

This year, I do have mostly C. moschata squash varieties (trombocino & tatume) as well as butternut, and delicata), which are resistant to the borers, anyway, so maybe we'll have some squash this year!

Supposedly most winter squash like butternut and delicate are tasty enough as immature squash.  We'll see.  Apparently almost all squash aside from ornamental gourds (which are bitter) are at least decent-tasting, based on my limited Google search.

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Monday, July 2, 2012

Natural gardening, meadows and informal perennial borders

Natural gardening to me means mimicking nature, recreating the way that natural processes result in the plant communities and successional habitats that we see, encouraging plant combinations that work, look and feel like natural places.  It's what I like to see at home.

Meadow habitats are particularly challenging, since they're so successional, and maintained by disturbance, whether it's grazing, mowing, or fire.

But they're such wildlife-friendly habitats, and normally lovely in terms of plant combinations, flowering interest, etc. that I've wanted to keep incorporating them into our gardens.

But meadows aren't easy, since they're prone to proliferation of more aggressive species (think about species like common milkweed, Indian grass, river oats, and goldenrod, here in the SE US). They love to take advantage of richer garden soils and become thugs quite quickly, as many prairie and meadow species are inclined towards leaner soils.

the current view of the pocket meadow in the mountains

another view of a native parking lot planting at the Botanical Gardens of Asheville

So my inclination towards "pocket" meadows, more or less manageable informal patches made up of natives was kindled.

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