Sunday, August 29, 2010

Fall is in the air.

We still have a fair amount of summer left but you know Fall is approaching in North Idaho when the pumpkins are maturing and the corn crop is ready to harvest.

This is a pic of one of our Atlantic Giant pumpkins. According to giant pumpkin grower, Howard Dill, the trick to getting a big pumpkin is to only allow 1 or 2 blossoms to mature into fruit and to make sure the fruit is "set" by early July. This means you have to decide early on which pumpkins look the healthiest and most promising as far as size and shape goes. Then, you will have to continually cut any new blossoms off. Another thing to consider when growing the giant pumpkins is fertilizer. Early in the season, it's best to provide the plants with a water soluble fertilizer that stresses phosphorus such as a 15-30-15 mix. Once the fruit sets you should switch to a balanced blend such as 20-20-20. Then in late July switch to a fertilizer that is heavy in potassium like a 15-11-29. Some competitive growers fertilize at a rate of 1 to 2 lbs per week from the time the fruit sets to the end of the growing season. We didn't go that crazy with the fertilizer this year but perhaps next year we will be a little more aggressive with it. Trimming vines is also a crucial to growing these giants. You should start pruning early in the season. Essentially, what you want to prune are the main vines once they reach 10 to 12 feet beyond the set fruit. The side shoots off the main vines should not be longer that 8 feet and apparently burying the cut ends of the vines helps to prevent water loss.

Last year we had a couple decent size pumpkins but we hope to surpass that this year....we still have a month to go, so it looks promising.

On another pumpkin note, we grew about 10 sugar pie pumpkin plants this year. They are just starting to turn orange and I can't wait to try cooking with them. Last year we adapted our own pumpkin pie recipe from this site's recipe and it was fabulous:

I want to try new pumpkin recipes so I would love to hear from anyone that has a great recipe to share.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The market: what's hot and what's not.

Here's a few pictures of some of our veggies we sold last week at the market. This year has been a learning experience. I have learned that some items just don't sell as well as others. For instance, it seems that the market is saturated with carrots and zucchini...go figure on the zucchini : )

However, other items seem to be in great demand right now...If I had enough ripe tomatoes to sell I'm sure I would sell out each weekend. The tomatoes are a slow go this year as June's weather took its toll on the heat loving plants.

Another hot item at the market are the Walla Walla Sweet Onions. We have sold out of them nearly every weekend. As such, next year I will definitely have to increase our onion crop.

It seems that many market shoppers like a wide variety of produce that you just can't find in the grocery store. Take baby corn, for instance. I wasn't sure how it would sell but it did quite well. I often use it in stir fry dishes and suggested that to my customers. I know they will be pleasantly surprised by the flavor.

The purple tomatillos are starting to fill out their husks. They should be ready for market by next week or the week after. I can't wait to try them in salsa.

Our purple podded pole beans aren't doing as well as hoped... I'm going to give them some organic fertilizer and hope they start producing more beans soon. The bush beans are producing a ton so I don't know why the pole beans are being so slow this year.
The Hill County Red Okra have the most beautiful flowers on them. I only know a handful of people who even like okra so hopefully it will sell. If not, then I will get busy pickling it. (Goes well with a Bloody Mary.)

The mammoth dill plants are at least 5 ft tall now and covered in ladybugs....a good sign. : ) I won't sell much of it at the market since we usually make lots of pickles for ourselves.

The celery is not doing as well as last year's crop. This year we grew it in rows rather than raised beds which made it more susceptible to the cool weather and bugs. Oh well, you live and learn. : )

Cucumbers have been a good seller ....I grow mostly Straight Eights but also grew a few pickling cukes, Izniks, Cucinos and Lemon Cukes.
People around here love the Lemon Cukes so next year we will grow lots more.

I am glad that I had the opportunity to participate in the market this year. It's been loads of fun and I can't wait to do it next year too....I have learned a ton on what sells and what doesn't. I have learned that presentation (thank you Daisy Girl for your artful displays) and great customer service will draw people in and bring them back. I have learned that gardening is definitely my passion and my calling in life. I want nothing more than to provide the community with healthful, tasty food that contains no chemicals. And doing it for a living would be a pretty sweet gig. Peace : )

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Gardens and barbecues

I can't believe it's August already. It has been a whirlwind of activities at our house this summer; the farmer's market, barbecue competitions, a new grand baby, and of course all the normal summertime activities. It appears that things won't be slowing down anytime soon either. I'm not complaining but I do wish there were more hours in a day. Lol!

The garden is really starting to produce some veggies just in time for round two of the farmer's market.The first batch of bush beans have been harvested twice now and the second crop of beans are about ready to pick.

We have harvested lots of zucchini and several peppers and tomatoes. I am hoping the Red Okra and the Rosa Bianca eggplant start producing soon. The flowers on the Red Okra are sure pretty.

I'm pleased with the growth of the Walla Walla Sweet Onions. I harvested some to sell at the market and they were a huge hit. The cukes are the next vegetables to explode in production...they are already taking over the garden.

In other news...Bent and team attended the 2010 Idaho Barbecue Championship at the Boise Music Festival in July. They placed 5th on ribs and 13th over all. Bent let famous pitmaster Harry Soo, borrow some of his equipment for this competition. In return, Harry gave the team grilling tips and he engraved the two Weber Bullets they lent him. Needless to say, the team was thrilled to be cooking side by side such a famous competitor. I'm told that lending your barbecue to Harry is like letting Eddy Van Halen borrow your guitar to play at a concert. Lol!

Hopefully the last picture doesn't offend anyone....this was a whole pig roast that Bent and host cooked for practice. (Of course the boys had to put green olives in the place of the poor piggies eyes).....The practice cook was a huge hit and everyone ate a ton....It was soooo good!