Growing stuff in my smallish suburban yard

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I’ve been neglecting the garden blog, but the garden goes on

It’s been a busy summer with lots of strange weather, and even though my garden activities are now pretty much limited to watering as often as I can, there’s still a lot going on.

Basil doing well.

Tomatoes all still green.

Asian pears just starting to ripen.


Hidden zucchini.

Carrots getting big!

Mina will happily eat a carrot...

...and so will I!

Fresh steamed peas with mint

Fresh peas

Of all the things I planted this year, the peas are far and above the happiest. They’re packed into a too-small space, it turns out, but growing like mad. I’ve been picking the pea pods and eating the peas right there in the yard, usually giving the shell to Mina (she loves those and will beg for them, but so far hasn’t eaten peas right off the vine, that I’ve seen).

We have so many peas, though, that I thought it might be time to actually cook a dish with them. So I googled up this recipe, which seemed simple enough: Garden Peas with Fresh Mint. I wasn’t familiar with the idea of putting mint on peas; when I was growing up, peas came out of a can and were always a bit too smooshy for my liking. But we have mint in the garden (at least until the end of the year, when I’ll rip it out without sentiment or ceremony).

So I picked all the fat, ripe peapods I could find, and yanked up a handful of mint. It just took a few minutes to shell them all, and cut the mint up. While I worked on that, Brett prepared some tasty barbecued chicken with feta cheese on the grill. I put all the peas into a steaming pan, and steamed them over boiling water for about 4 to 5 minutes.  When they were done, I mixed them in a bowl with some kosher salt, freshly ground pepper, and a bit of olive oil, and the mint.

They were delicious! Nothing like the bland, gooey peas of my childhood!

Finished peas

They had so much flavor, just like they do fresh out of the garden. And the chicken was incredible; a really perfect summer meal. Next year I’ll plant more peas (but I did learn that it’s smart to plant them closer to the edge of the garden, not in the center where you have to reach over everything else to pick them).

Checking in!

It’s the 4th of July weekend, and it’s been chilly, wet and dreary — up until about 2pm today. Then the sun came out as predicted, and finally, finally it seemed like summer was here. Let’s check in on the garden and see what I’ve learned so far.

Spinach

Despite my positive results in making baked spinach chips, I didn’t get much use out of the spinach I planted. Before it got very big, all the plants started bolting and I was left with a lovely patch of spinach flowers. This doesn’t make for much in the way of juicy spinach leaves, unfortunately, as the plants put all their energy into trying to reproduce. I guess I could have yanked off all of the blooms, but they were so committed to the effort that it didn’t seem like it would have made much difference. So instead I just tore out all of the spinach plants and planted cilantro in that area. Because you know that even if cilantro bolts, it ends up reseeding (or you can use the seeds, of course) so it seems like less of a waste.

Lettuce

I don’t know if I mentioned it in any earlier posts, but a work friend gave me many lettuce starts, which I’ve squeezed in here and there, as well as putting some in little containers. It’s all doing very well, and pretty soon we’ll be eating little salads.

Happy lettuce

Radishes

Like the spinach, all of the radishes went to seed. So today, when the sun came out, I pulled up the entire patch of radishes and salvaged what I could for use in a salad. Many of the radishes are badly bug-eaten. I don’t know how you’re supposed to get larger radishes if they are under constant siege from underground radish-eating bugs. The biggest intact radish I got was maybe an inch and a half long. Like the spinach, they seemed doomed to fail — the flowers were kind of pretty, delicate white things, though, so I guess not a total loss, asthetically speaking.

Carrots

The carrots seem to be thriving, at least judging by the healthiness of the greenery. As I was pulling out the spinach, I unearthed a couple of nearby carrots and was surprised at how big they’ve gotten; not really long like grocery-store carrots, but certainly bigger than I expected. I saved a few of those to go in the radish salad and murmured encouragement to the rest.

A salad in the works

Peas

The peas are taking over the garden. I suspect that they may have simply bullied the radishes and spinach into early flowering just by force of their massive twining bulk. But today I had the first fresh peas and they were so perfectly delicious that I can only root for them to keep going; there are dozens and dozens of pods on the vines. I’m glad to forgo spinach for fresh peas!

It's almost pea time!

Tomatoes

I was starting to despair of ever eating a fresh tomato from my garden…with all of the wet and cold weather, the tomatoes in the ground are still stunted. The three in containers are doing much better than the garden tomatoes, though, and over the last week, the garden plants seem to be making a real effort to catch up. There are already flowers on the container plants, which is encouraging. I hope that a few more weeks of sun will even things up and I can look forward to picking tomatoes later this summer.

First tomato blossoms

Etc.

The zucchini I planted late in spring is starting to take off, which I assume is no surprise, given the plant’s reputation for doing great in Washington gardens. The corn, also planted late, is about four inches high. It’s more a novelty than anything, I guess; I’m not expecting much from it but am looking forward to whatever it feels like producing. The non-edible parts of the yard area really thriving in this weather; everything is blooming or vining or greening, as per each plant’s preference. Also thriving are the moles. One or more have made a home in the lower part of our yard, piling up their dirtmounds where grass should be. It’s not all that bad, though; it provides literally hours of amusement for Jupiter, who is now completely obsessed with the moles. He spends the day either standing over each pile, staring intently at it, digging at it with his grubby white paws, or resting his entire bulk on the area in some kind of odd cat display of dominance. He is Jupiter, King of the Moles!

Catloaf

That’s it; hopefully as the weather improves, the various plants will start producing snacks for us. It’s been an interesting learning experience this far. I suspect that the next trial will be to see if I can keep things watered once the real summer hits and we don’t see rain for days or weeks at a time. In the meantime, we can always eat the flowers.

Pretty!

This week in the garden…more rain.

We're going to have SO MANY peas.

People are starting to get cranky. It’s nearly summer, and we’ve had just a few short hours of sun over the last couple of weeks. Even people who are proud Seattle natives, don’t own an umbrella, wear shorts in December – even those people are starting to complain about this never-ending greyness.

The plants sure do love it, though. Things are out of control in the yard and garden. Last week I planted corn and it’s up already! The spinach has pretty much gone to seed, radishes are starting to sprout, and the peas are putting a monumental effort into flowering. The tomatoes are not quite as happy, though; the ones in containers are doing pretty well, but those in the garden soil just hunker there sadly,  shivering and woeful.

In a way, I feel like the garden is in a holding pattern…or at least, my enjoyment of it seems to be. I hope we get a little bit of summer before fall gets here!

Carrots are doing really well (none harvested yet, though).

The container lettuce is looking great!

I don't think this radish flower is a good thing.

Making veggies crunchy part 2: Spinach chips

Yesterday’s Radish Chips experiment went so well that I thought I’d try another little experiment. I had heard work friends talking about making Kale Chips, and since I don’t have kale, I did a little googling and found that you can do the same thing with spinach. So I did, combining elements of several recipes I found.

I picked and washed some spinach leaves.

Direct from the garden.

Dried them a bit and rubbed each with olive oil.

A little tedious but ultimately worthwhile.

Laid them on a baking sheet and sprinkled on some kosher salt.

Ready to bake!

And baked them at 350° for about 7 or 8 minutes.

They look wilted but they're actually crunchy!

They were great! A little too salty, but next time I’m going to try some spices; I read that basil is good. Or maybe garlic; can’t go wrong with that.

Finished spinach chips

Brett pronounced them “Surprisingly good!” They don’t look like much, but they’re paper-thin and pleasantly crunchy, with a nice spinach flavor.

I like this way of getting my green leafies!

Baked Radish Chips

Fresh!

I’ve been pulling one or two radishes a day out of the garden to munch on; they’re the only thing that’s ready to eat so far, so I just enjoy them raw. But they’re getting pretty crowded in their little bed, so I thought I’d better find a way to use a bigger bunch at once. I found this recipe for radish chips, and this is the story of me giving it a try.

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Baked Radish Chips

Makes 1 serving

Ingredients
10 radishes
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp paprika

Directions
1. Thinly slice radishes
2. Steam in microwave for 5 minutes
3. Put in bowl with spices; stir
4. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes, flip the chips, and bake for another 10 minutes.

———-

Ok, picked some radishes. I showed Brett and he decided he had to go and get the camera. Thanks, honey.

Here they are.

I washed them and cut them into thin slices; they’re really not that big, and there were some bug-eaten parts, so that handful ended up being less than it looks like. That’s ok, this is just a test.

Trying to slice them thin!

I steamed them in the microwave as directed, in a bowl with a slosh of water. I covered the bowl with plastic wrap, and just cooked them on high. They softened up quite a bit and puffed up a little too.

Post-steaming.

Then I poured out extra water, and added the spices – more or less. I didn’t have any chili powder, so I used a sprinkle of taco seasoning, and added some black pepper along with the paprika and garlic salt. I put a little bit of olive oil in too, because it seemed like a good idea (and I’d read that it’s used in making other vegetable chips).

I spread them out on a baking sheet and popped them in the oven.

Ready to bake.

The total of 20 minutes was too long for this tiny amount, so after the first ten minutes I pulled them out, tried to flip over the bigger ones, and put them back in for about five more minutes. That was plenty; some were already a bit too dark by that time.

After baking.

That’s it. They were pretty tasty! I’d try them without the spicy seasoning next time, to get a better taste of the radishes themselves. And I’d use quite a few more. But it was easy, and a nice little snack.

Radish chips

If you make these, or anything else interesting, from your garden veggies, let me know! I’ll be looking for more ways to use mine, even though I do really like to eat them right out of the ground.


Rain rain rain rain SUN rain rain rain…

I wasn’t planning to spend most of the weekend indoors. I had hope that there might be a last-minute chance of sun on Memorial Day weekend. But Cliff Mass, local weather guru, pretty much called it. He didn’t actually say “look for grey, crushingly bleak weather all weekend, punctuated by soul-tormenting flashes of sunlight, and then back to rain” but I imagine that’s only because he’s an academic with a reputation to uphold and so had to say about the same thing in nicer terms.

Anyway, it rained.

Wet pea vines

And rained.

Moist spinach.

And poured and there were showers and precipitation…

Damp Asian pear.

And rain.

Soggy huckleberry.

Finally, today the sun came out for  a couple of wonderful hours! I knew that if I didn’t get outside I’d feel like the little girl in the Ray Bradbury story that gets locked in a closet during her planet’s one non-rainy day in years.

I’d pretty much given up on being able to do any garden work by that time, so to get in the mood, I told myself that if I went out and weeded for one hour, I could sit in the sun (or whatever it was by that time) and play Plants vs. Zombies (don’t play this game ever, not even once. It’s video crack).

So I went out with trowel in hand and worked hard for at least 45 minutes…then I looked at my watch and discovered that only ten minutes had actually passed. But after a while I got into the rhythm, and got an entire flower bed weeded. And then I sat outside and, instead of playing my game, I brought out a bowl of fresh Rainier cherries that I’d picked up at the Lynnwood fruit stand, and stared at nothing (and sometimes hummingbirds) while the sun got fainter and fainter behind the clouds. It was nice.

Here’s the state of The Tiny Garden as of this week:

Things seem to be growing.

I even ate a radish or two this week.

Crunch!