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Garden Update: Hail Recovery and Pest Control

More on the adventures in our garden! Things have been recovering nicely since the wicked hail storm a couple weeks ago.

Seeds that I had planted before the storm are sprouting nicely. These pictures I took are awful but I’m out of light now! Anyway, lots of alfalfa:

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Looks ready to eat!

Onions:

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They’re tiny but they’re there!

Carrots:

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Not as many seeds survived, but carrots do germinate slowly so maybe we’ll get more?

The tomatoes are flowering and there are tons of little green tomatoes coming out! I see the speckled trucks, though, and I wonder if they’re lacking nutrients. Last week I sprinkled crushed egg shells into the soil all around the garden (although I’ve read that it takes a really long time – a season? – for the shells to get much calcium into the soil) and today I gave them some epsom salts. Hopefully that will nutrient them up.

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Future tomato sauce

The broccoli is also flowering, unfortunately. We’ve had a couple hot days and of course I planted it too late in the season so it is bolting. I want some of it to bolt because I really want to get into seed saving… but I’m not sure if I’m ready! I need to do more research on it but when is there time? I’m trying to do too much right now as it is!

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Purple broccoli!

Other things going on in the garden…. the green caterpillars who were eating my kale, romaine, and chard that I wrote about last time haven’t been spotted in awhile. Although today I was watering the chard and spotted a dead white moth. It didn’t look like it was green caterpillar because I didn’t see a green body, but it still freaked me out a little. I haven’t been as diligent with my daily inspections for bugs, so I need to stop rushing through the morning garden chores!

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So pretty!

We’ve had other bugs – red shouldered or box elder bugs. Apparently they are harmless but they love to annoy us when we’re outside. I have looked for ways to move them along without killing them, but I didn’t have much luck. Mr. Handsome just got a play structure for the kiddos, which the bugs seem to love, so we really don’t have much choice but to spray these guys out of our yard.

Of course I don’t want to use chemicals, though, because we use the yard a lot! I found a solution – water and a bit of dish soap (I use Seventh Generation right now, but I thought about using Castille soap). Yesterday I sprayed their favorite spots a few times throughout the day, and today their numbers are vastly reduced. Apparently these guys are suseptable to drowning, so you have to get them pretty wet. If the water doesn’t kill them, the soap will deteriorate their exoskeleton and get them eventually. Poor little guys. Just move out of my yard!

Baby2 enjoyed helping in the garden last night while I pulled weeds and took pictures. Such a good helper!

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My helper

Garden Happenings

This year we are growing more than we ever have. We have more space now than we ever have and we are taking advantage of it! We built three 3’x6′ raised beds and have filled them with all manor of foods, including…

  • Carrots
  • Tomatoes
  • Basil
  • Onions – yellow and spring
  • Rainbow chard
  • Romaine
  • Kale
  • Butter lettuce
  • Head lettuce
  • Rosemary
  • Pumpkins
  • Sage
  • Pole beans
  • Thyme
  • Broccoli

And there’s a ton more that I have seeds for and want to grow but haven’t had time to get in the ground. Almost everything we’re planting is from seed, but I did cave in to buying a couple tomato and romaine starts since those are my prize crops this year. I scored a bunch of free seeds with a coupon code. Sometimes it pays to be on the internet in the middle of the day!

Anyway, even though I had some free seeds I still needed to buy a couple starts because I procrastinated horribly like I do every year. I always have grand plans to start a bunch of seeds indoors but… I don’t know… it’s like I chicken out every year! I never think I can get the soil warm enough or have space to put starts in front of the window with a curious toddler hovering nearby. So I put it off and eventually just end up sowing seeds outside so I don’t have to transplant anything either.

Right now, though, I’m kind of glad I have procrastinated, because this crazy hail storm happened earlier this week:

 

That’s a whole lotta hail, enough to turn the ground white almost all over, slamming down hard into my plants. I really wanted to go out there and cover my plants, but I wan’t subjecting myself to that firing squad either!

I still don’t know the full damage, since I had planted another round of seeds a few days earlier and none of them had germinated yet, so I hope they are still doing okay under the surface. I can see the damage done from the outright assault by Mother Nature on my leafies, though. Here is the damage done to my kale. Most of these leaves didn’t have any holes at all. Some had a couple holes – I’ve been battling green caterpillars. I think I’ve been winning for a couple weeks now, but sometimes I catch a little tiny one under a leaf. They are so persistent! I hope it is because the greens in my garden are just so yummy. Whatever their motive, I can’t kill them with chemicals because this is an organic garden, so I just go out every day and look under allllll the leaves for stow aways. It takes about ten minutes and it’s worth every minute. Oh, right, the hail damage. Observe…

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I quickly harvested those and made my second batch of kale chips. Here’s a picture of the first batch:

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I’ll tell you the recipe, too, after I share I picture of my sad pumpkin plant.

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Those pumpkin leaves were beautiful, I was so proud of how the pumpkin is doing because it is in the ground, not the raised beds. Our soil is very clay textured and compacted, so it must be really fighting to dig in. The romaine was shredded, too, but it mattered less as long as the whole leaf was still present. A couple leaves did almost just melt away from the hail, though. It went on like that video for at least five minutes, because I was taking a video of the front yard for a minute, then I got distracted by the World Cup game, then I took that video above of the backyard and it was a minute or two long originally.

So that’s the story of how Mother Nature helped me make dinner by pre-shredding my romaine salad.

And now for the Kale Chips! This is a version of a recipe I found on this blog via Pinterest. I do it like this…

 

Kale Chips

Ingredients:

  • Kale – about two quarts worth of washed and dried kale with the middle stem removed and cut into chip-size pieces (they will shrink a little too)
  • 2 Tbs apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbs oil – I have used melted coconut or olive oil, both are great but I think I like the olive oil a little more
  • Salt

Equipment:

  • 4-quart size bowl (or small bowl if you don’t have a big one – this is used to mix the oil and vinegar but also to toss the kale in the mixture if you want)
  • Knife, cutting board, washing/drying equipment to prep the kale
  • Dehydrator. I have an inexpensive Nesco dehydrator that makes perfect kale chips. You can also make them in the oven but I burn mine every time that way. Seriously, I have sat there and watched them bake before and I still burn them. The oven lies.
  • Storage. I can fill a half-gallon mason jar with a dehydrator full of kale (a few pieces don’t make it from the dehydrator to storage, though).

Directions:

  1. If you haven’t followed the directions in the ingredients already, wash and dry your kale, remove the stem in the middle (that’s the bitter part) and cut your kale into chip-size pieces. I like pieces that also fit into a half-gallon mason jar because that’s what I keep my chips in. I haven’t tried storing them in a paper bag but I imagine that would work too.
  2. Put ACV and liquid oil (melted coconut, olive oil, whatever you’re into) in a big bowl. I use a four quart stainless steel bowl because I like a lot a room to toss the kale in the oil/vinegar. You could also use a small bowl and rub the oil onto each piece individually. Either way you have to do a little rubbing because you want to make sure the oil/vinegar mixture thoroughly coats the kale pieces.
  3.  Fill up the dehydrator trays with oil/vinegar coated kale. They will shrink a little so you can pack them in tight but don’t overlap the pieces or they will stick together and not be crispy in those spots.
  4. Give each tray a little dusting of salt. Mr. Handsome likes Alder Smoked Seasalt. I recently read that Himalayan pink salt is the one you want because it contains all the minerals. ALL of them. Okay, not really all, but a lot.
  5. Close up the dehydrator, put it somewhere away but near an outlet so the sound won’t bother you and you can plug it in. Turn it on and wait a couple hours, three to four probably. You’ll know the chips are done when they’ve reached your desired crunchiness level. It’s okay to open the dehydrator and check. I do it and both me and my kale chips seem fine.
  6. Turn off the dehydrator and transfer the kale chips to storage, sampling them along the way, of course. Offer fresh kale chips to everyone in your family, even though they will probably refuse them again. Do tell them how yummy the chips are though!

I used to make my chips with just oil but then I found this ACV way and it really does help with the flavor. I find I can use less salt now that I’ve added the ACV. Experiment with your recipe and find your own favorite. I haven’t made these twice yet and I like them more and more every time!