Garden Frustrations Abound, But Plenty of Positive Going On

After my “I hate my garden” hissy-fit the other day, I just spent 6 hours manicuring our strawberry beds. Loving them! They look like they are going for round two. It’s times like these that I have to remember all the positive going on so these problems don’t get the better of me. It IS My Garden Haven after all.

First, the bad that is driving me crazy:

  • Root Knot Nematodes are still in our salsa garden. They are affecting our tomatoes. That, coupled with very cool, overcast conditions so far this summer = tomato harvest at risk!
  • Bolting: Arugula, mustard, tatsoi, cilantro, spinach (see “bolting” in positive things below)
  • Container veggies  (tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans): They hate the potting mix I concocted. Creativity and penny-pinching turned around and bit me.
  • Ants and aphids in the artichokes. I spray them off every day, then they are back. It is the black aphids.
  • Bagrada bug: Southern California’s latest organic gardening menace! It has decimated our radishes, arugula, and alyssum.

    Bagrada Bug
    Bagrada Bug
  • Not enough time or energy to do everything needed
  • Tomatoes have escaped their staking
  • Tomato leaves have spotted white mildew on them
  • Heirloom tomato plants are big, but all blossoms have dropped thus far
  • The over-watering dilemma
  • The planted-too-close-together dilemma
  • Blueberries aren’t producing
  • Snap peas not well. They got all covered in white (powdery mildew?) and stopped producing. Good while they lasted, though.
  • Our crazy kitten chases insects and lands on plants, damaging them. I know it’s her.

Things making me happy:

  • Giant sunflowers are giving needed afternoon shade to plants in all day sun, plus welcoming butterflies :D

    Butterfly on sunflower – took me 30 minutes to get this shot
  • Bolting (see above): Actually also positive because the flowers are attracting beneficial insects and will give seeds to use this winter!
  • We harvested our first garlic crop and it is hanging to cure!

    Garlic Harvest
  • We planted peppers where the garlic was, and they seem to like it there so far.

    Peppers!
  • Thanks to my husband, we now have two additional water faucets in the back yard, making my job much easier
  • Strawberries really put out this year and they look like they are going for round two!
  • We have blackberries!
  • Our Anna Apple Treehas produced so many apples, there are plenty to share. Several people have said they are the best apples they have ever had. I need to make applesauce!
    Micah reaches for an anna apple

    Oh yeah!
  • We are growing kale for the first time and it’s going well! We have made several homegrown kale green smoothies.
  • Basil has turned the corner and is doing well! We have Genovia, Lemon, Thai, and Italian
  • We have learned how to use our new dehydrator and are dehydrating a lot of our own fruit and herbs
  • Raspberry patch: One cane has baby berries :)
  • The bees are very very happy workers in our garden

    Image courtesy Ken Shortridge
    Honey bee in our succulents
  • Planted tomatoes in the ground from their containers and they are coming around
  • The Sungold cherry tomatoes are delicious!
  • NO tomato hornworms (thanks to borage)
  • Jalapeños are coming on
  • I found a perfect place for planting dill. It really loves the semi-shade spot.
  • We had our first BLT with our own tomatoes (Pastured bacon of course)
  • It smells herbalicious everywhere! Oregano, rosemary, basil, cilantro… Love working the soil and smelling those smells!

Ok, so that is enough positive to shut my mouth!

What do you do when your garden is driving you crazy?

-Anya

PS: A lot more is happening over at facebook.com/mygardenhaven – it’s so quick and easy to post photos and such… Have you “Liked” yet?

Garden Frustrations Abound, But Plenty of Positive Going On

Got Kale? What to do before it goes bad…

When our local community got its own farmer’s market last year, it was a “Yippee!” time for me. I would do a happy dance all the way to and fro each Thursday. I think I still do :) I could now regularly feed my green smoothie addiction with dinosaur kale – my favorite. It is great for smoothies and kale chips. A few times, however, I overestimated how much kale our household would actually use that week, and found my kale, which I consider gold, turning an awful shade of yellow… 

A lot of kale can make an expensive addition to your compost pile

Although fresh (and local) kale is best for green smoothies, and offers the most nutrition, I figured that freezing the overabundance before it went bad was better than an expensive addition to the compost pile. So after making some kale chips, I tried a variety of ways to freeze and store the kale.

Kale chips are easy to make and surprisingly delicious!
A little coconut oil (or olive oil) and sea salt is all you need.

First I tried blending the kale in our Vitamix, put it in a jar, then froze it. While it did freeze, getting portions out of the huge frozen mass proved too frustrating to be practical. There is still a jar of frozen kale our freezer. Yeah…


Next, I tried freezing the kale in shot glasses. Again, that proved impractical due to having so many shot glasses in the freezer all over the place. Ice cube trays would be too small and too much work. 


The solution that finally worked is outlined below. We’ve done it twice now. Another “Yippee!” moment and happy dance :)


Blend up your kale. If you have a Vitamix, fill it up with kale – no need to chop it, just stuff it in. Add a little water. I added about a cup of water. Blend on high, using your tamper to push it through the blades. Only blend it enough to liquefy. Small pieces of kale should still be visible.


Pour into cupcake tins, leaving about 1/4 – 1/2 inch at top (The second time I did this, I thought it might be better to use cupcake paper – the photo below shows that. NOT necessary. It made no difference and just created a waste).

Cupcake paper NOT necessary

Put the cupcake tin in your freezer until firm, 30 minutes to an hour.


The trickiest part of this whole process is removing the frozen kale from the tin. We found that placing the tin on a hot stove top for a few seconds loosens the discs enough to get them out easily. Don’t leave it on the stove but for a few seconds, or the kale will liquefy. 

Kale discs
Place the discs into a freezer bag, or better yet, vacuum seal them.I didn’t feel like getting my vacuum sealer out. :P
Put the discs into freezer bags, or use a vacuum sealer
Your kale is now, not wasted, but ready for your next green smoothie! Or soup. Or ???
Single servings of kale ready to use!
I’m a visual person. So, this little outline might seem simplistic, but hopefully it will help you see how easy it is to preserve your kale. You could use this process with about any green. Try it with spinach, borage, beet tops, radish tops, you name it. The concentrated nutrition of these greens is too good to waste on the compost pile! 

-Anya @MyGardenHaven
Got Kale? What to do before it goes bad…