This year is the first year I have made a real effort to keep my garden healthy and managed. In years past I would plant and then come the end of July or August take a peek at what nature did. Most of the time I’d end up with a garden full of weeds, lots of tomatoes and very little of anything else. Because I want to be able to use more home-grown food in my canning, I decided this year I was going to give being a “real” gardener a shot.
So far I have been somewhat happy with my efforts. I have no idea what my bounty will look like, but the plants look healthy and are growing for the most part. I have no idea how fast some of my plants are supposed to grow, so if they are not where they should be, I guess I’ll figure that out when they don’t produce anything.
Canning any type of vegetable takes a lot of that vegetable, so in May I worked on expanding our current garden and collecting pots being thrown out so I could plant tomatoes, peas, beans, and scallions in those. The garden expansion has been a great success. I planted beets, carrots and sweet potatoes there and so far they are thriving better than anything else I’ve planted.
The sweet potatoes are a little too successful however. They are taking over the new section of garden, covering the carrots and beginning to smother some of the beets. Something needed to be done. Also, the tomato plants I planted in the pots are not getting as big as I’d like. When I’ve planted them in the ground in years past, I would have more tomatoes than I’d know what to do with, having just four plants. This year I have three times that many plants and so far I doubt I’ll have enough to can.
My long-term gardening plan was to add a new section of garden next year along the back of our property. I bought some extra bags of mulch that I laid out on the lawn where the section would be, in hopes that the grass beneath would die and be easily removed in the spring. With the sweet potatoes spreading and the tomatoes stalling, I decided this plan needed moving up and set out to start removing some of the grass under the bags of mulch this morning.
Although the grass under the bags was yellow, it was still very difficult to remove. I worked for about two hours and managed to clear away a 10‘ x 2‘ section. My goal is to have a 16‘ x 8‘ garden. When hubby got up this morning and found me struggling with the sod his first comment was “Why don’t you just spray the grass with Round-Up, cover it with dirt, and then plant.” Okay, so perhaps this would be the easiest route, but I wanted to plant today. Patience is not always something I’m good at, especially when the summer countdown clock is ticking and the number of days left before fall is upon us are few.
Well, after hubby reviewed with me my options — his way which was the “smart” way or my way which we’ll refer to as the “hard-headed” way, we headed out to Lowe’s to buy some landscape timbers and spikes to outline the new garden section. Tomorrow he will spray the RoundUp (as it rained this morning) and then in three days I can have top soil dumped right in the new section, spread it out and plant.
So why didn’t I discuss the new garden section with hubby in the first place? Other than being stubborn or “hard-headed” as he refers to me, I don’t like “my” projects becoming “his” projects. He has more than enough on his plate already, that I really just wanted to do this and not have him have to do anything other than tell me how great it looked. Thankfully, the way he suggested we complete this new garden is a whole lot easier than my way and the amount of time and effort he’ll have to put forth is minimal.
In preparation of the new garden, I spent over an hour this evening trimming my sweet potato plants and planting the slips. Thanks to Sarah at Coffee To Compost and her post How To Start Your Own Sweet Potato Slips I learned how to do this. The sweet potatoes were taking over the entire new section of garden, but when I was done, they were back to a manageable carpet of green. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to cut them back as much as I did, but hopefully they will still produce lots of potatoes underground.
The new section of garden will be for all the tomato plants I have in pots, which will be carefully transplanted, and my sweet potato slips. With any luck, I’ll have enough sweet potatoes for an entire year. Between drying, canning, and freezing, I think I can definitely handle whatever nature rewards me with.
After cleaning up the garden and transplanting a few more tomato suckers for the new garden, I decided to enjoy a glass of fresh Watermelon-Lemon Refresher. Similar to some of the lemonade concentrate recipes I’ve been making lately, I was happy to come up with a way to use the last of the watermelon juice I extracted from the watermelons I bought last weekend. It is lighter than the berry-lemonade concentrates and not as sweet, thus the reference “refresher.”
Watermelon-Lemon Refresher Concentrate
3 Cups Strained Watermelon Juice
4 Cups Lemon Juice
6 Cups Sugar
3 Drops Pink Food Coloring (optional)
Puree the watermelon, put in stock pot and bring boil. Boil for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and strain watermelon pulp through a jelly bag for 2-3 hours.
Combine strained watermelon juice, lemon juice, and sugar in stock pot. Heat until it reaches 190° but do not boil. Add food coloring.
Ladle hot concentrate into jars, seal and process in water bath for 15 minutes.
To reconstitute: Combine 1 cup concentrate with 3 cups water (or more to taste). Serve over ice.
Today was a good day and I am very excited to be working on our new garden section. Hubby’s help and advice will save me a ton of work and now this project is not only “my” project, but “our” project, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.