Saturday, 19 August 2017

Pickled Hot Peppers


Pickled hot peppers.... 

The entire family, sans me, loves pickled hot peppers. I mean, they really love them! They slap them on pizzas, sandwiches, burgers, potatoes, hot dogs, even on baked ham ... just about everything. 

A blend of mildly hot peppers...

I believe the recipe originally called for banana peppers, but we make our just a titch hotter, with a blend of Hungarian Hot Yellow Wax, Pepperoncini, Cyklon Hot, and Beaver Dam. 

Black Hungarian Peppers

If you do not mind the look of black rings in your mix, you can also add Black Hungarians. They have the perfect amount of heat for pickling, too. Sadly, my son eats with his eyes and is very picky conservative. Everything has to look exactly like it does at the store, or he will not eat it. 

Last year's Pickled Hot Pepper Rings

Pickled Hot Pepper recipe...

6 cups white pickling vinegar
4 cups water
6 tsp salt
1-2 garlic cloves per jar
Hot Peppers

Heat up the brine to boiling. 
Toss a bunch of garlic cloves into the hot brine.
Chop the peppers into rings, remove the seeds.
Fill jars with peppers. 
Scoop out one or two cloves of garlic for each jar. 
Fill with brine, add lid, seal in hot water bath. 

*I just have this recipe copied onto a plain recipe card with no note as to where it came from, so am unable to give credit where credit is due, I'm afraid.

Is a very simple recipe and everyone says they taste great. As I do not eat anything with heat, I'll take their word for it. I just grow 'em ; ) 

These lovely pickled pepper rings will be as mild, or as hot, as the peppers that you decide to use. If you want a hot mix, add some Jalapenos, they have more of a kick to them. If you want to keep it very mild, stick with either pepperoncini, banana, or a blend of the two. 

  This year's pickled pepper rings
  

Monday, 7 August 2017

August Greenhouse Ramblings

This is the second one of these new monthly Greenhouse Ramblings posts. Bits and bobs about what I do in my greenhouse each month, plus additional tips and ideas for what what you can do in yours.

Caspar eggplant 

What to do during the dog days of summer... otherwise known as August ; )


The new shade cloth we had installed last month has proven to be a real godsend. Before the cloth, my fan went off pretty much all day long just trying to keep the space cool enough. With the shade cloth at half mast, my fan rarely goes off and the plants are thriving in the cooler conditions, even the peppers. So, I save money on my hydro bill and the plants love it : )

While you want your greenhouse to be nice and warm and bright in spring, fall, and winter, you need to be able to keep it well ventilated and moderate in summer. A sauna-like greenhouse creates stressed out, unhappy plants that will not thrive, and sterile tomatoes ... no more flowers or fruits. What good is a greenhouse with no tomatoes, eh? ; )

Use fans to move the air, offer shade with tall plants or shade cloth, open all windows and doors for cross breezes and ventilation. Water floors in the morning to keep things cooler and increase humidity.

What to do now... 


The Tomatoes... 

My tomato vines are clambering up their stings, reaching for the roof line. They are loaded down with fruits which just started ripening about a week ago. Everything is so much later this year, partly due to my crazy spring schedule and partly due to our long, cool, grey spring.

I am currently watering every 2nd or 3rd day, and feeding with an organic tomato food every week or two. Whenever I remember to do so ; ) Remember that over watered tomatoes are more prone to BER (blossom end rot) and will produce bland, tasteless tomatoes.

Don't forget to pull off the bottom leaves if they begin to yellow or look spotty.

Harvest regularly to keep them producing. Towards the end of the month, you may want to 'top' the tomatoes. Take off the tips of the tomatoes to make them stop growing and flowering, thus putting their energy into ripening the existing tomatoes.

Quadrato d'Asti sweet yellow pepper 

The Peppers...

I was a bit worried about how the peppers would like the shade cloth as they seemed to really thrive in the stinking hot ... however, all seems to be just fine. They are fruiting, flowering, thriving.

I water once a week, letting them go dry in between, and toss a tablespoon of Epsom salts on top of the pots once a month. I only feed with the tomato food if the foliage starts to look limey.
 
As with the tomatoes, over-watered peppers are bland tasting and hot ones will have little to no heat. They also produce more peppers if the soil is allowed to go dry between watering.

Pick your peppers as they ripen so that they keep on producing. Peppers can be eaten at any stage. If you want green bell peppers, pick them green. If you want sweet yellow/red/orange, wait till they colour up. Hot peppers will get hotter when you leave them on to fully mature, but if you want a milder pepper for your fresh salsa, pick them earlier.

Earlidew Honeydew Melon

The Melons...

Picked my first melon this week, a honeydew melon. They mature in just 80 days, so I'm eating melons before beefsteak tomatoes! Amazingly juicy. Will be growing these guys again next year.


The cucumbers

I only have two cucumber plants in the greenhouse this year, one slicer and one long English style. I will have to plant more next year, as the greenhouse grown cukes produce much sooner, and are so much tastier and sweeter than the garden grown ones are. Both vines are growing up the roof line and putting on a good amount of cukes each week.

Keep harvesting in order to keep them producing, the more you pick, the more they make.

Water every second day, feed with tomato food on occasion, and keep an eye out for bugs like thrips, spider mites, and whitefly.


The flowers

My beautiful geraniums, those half priced sales ones from last month, have doubled in size and are flowering their hearts out. They have not required any fertiliser yet, just the tlc that they received when I bought them.

To see what these guys looked like just a few short weeks ago, see HERE!

Sweet potatoes with sawfly larva (rose slug) damage. 

Other bits and bobs...


Check for bugs. Common summer-time greenhouse pests are aphids, whitefly, and spider mites.  If you feel you need to use some kind of control, please do not spray during the daytime, while the bees and pollinators are active in your greenhouse.

Start with a strong jet of water first. If that does not work, use organic controls. I stick to the Safer's soap sprays. They still kill the good guys as well as the bad guys, but are much less toxic and easier on your lungs.
 
Do not use the yellow sticky strips in summer time as they will also trap bees, beneficial insects, and have even been known to do in (humming)birds and bats.


Propagating new plants...   

August (and September) is a good time to take cuttings for next year's flowers and shrubs. You do not want the soft new growth, but neither do you want the really woody bits. You are looking for the semi-ripe bit between the two.

Play around with propagating, it is a lot of fun and you get extras of your very favourite plants. Take more cuttings than you think you will need, as they will usually not all take. For a more in-depth how-to, please see this old post from years ago HERE!

What to take cuttings from...
- begonias
- fuchsias
- lavender
- pelargoniums
- rosemary
- scented geraniums
- succulents
- most all shrubs and houseplants, too, can be propagated now.


Put in orders...

Order your pre-chilled hyacinths and paperwhites now so you can pot them up soon for Christmas.


  Happy Greenhouse Growing




Saturday, 5 August 2017

August Garden Ramblings

The month of August rolled in with a big ol' heat wave and smoky, hazy skies from all the scary forest fires burning on the mainland. We are praying for rain but there is nothing in sight, just more high temps, according to the weather man's forecast.

Ruby Tuesday is checking out the Canada 150 Zinnia bed

It feels like all I do at this time of year is water, water, and then water some more. Luckily, most of the cutting gardens and perennial beds are full of drought tolerant flowers. They look great and require very little additional tlc from me. Whew!

This gorgeous red and white 'Canada 150' colour theme is from Renee's Garden Seeds. They have the very best seed combos! Perfect for those of us who like to colour co-ordinate our gardens, or prefer to avoid adding certain ugly hues colours (like yellow, ugh!) into our yards ; )


Watering and more watering.

I am thrifty about my watering, and very selective. The edibles are my first priority always.

Living in an area that has drought all summer long, it is prudent to be water wise. Most all of us, here on the island, let the lawns go dormant in summer, till fall rains green them up again, and we mulch our trees, shrubs and perennial beds to retain moisture and save water where we can.


So how much water do your veggies need in order to thrive? 

Some vegetables only require an inch of water per week to thrive. This would be plants like corn, beans, peppers, eggplants, and root veggies such as carrots, potatoes, and onions. However, this prolonged dry spell along with the heat wave, is making our gardens dry out much faster than usual, so water a bit more often, if you can.

I only water my pepper plants every 5 to 7 days, as they actually produce less peppers and can be kind of bland and tasteless if watered too often. Growing hot peppers? Let them go dry between each watering.

The juicy veggies, like tomatoes, cucumbers, melons and squash need to be watered more often, soak them twice a week.

Make sure to soak the beds very thoroughly. I use weeping hoses in my beds, but this time of year will also hand water the corners and sides of the raised beds, where it dries out the fastest.

Water before 4 pm, ideally in the mornings, so that plants do not go into the evening with wet soil or wet foliage. Moisture at night brings on powdery mildew, fungal issues, and perhaps even blight.


Watering Fruit trees...

If your trees are new, planted this year or last, you will need to water them once a week during this hottest, driest time of the year. Do not water every day or you will end up with shallow rooted, weak plants, plus maybe even root rot. You want the trees to start putting down nice deep roots and going after their own water.

Encourage these deep roots by giving them a good deep soak when you water, then let them go dry in between. If, like me, you do not have your trees on a drip system, place the hose at the drip line at a slow trickle and leave for 20 minutes. Move on to the next tree (do the same with shrubs and roses, too).

If you have well established fruit trees, you can probably get away with no additional watering. My old plums and apples get no water from me at all, and yet they continue to thrive and produce like mad.


Hanging baskets, planters, and container gardens ...

This is a good time to toss a bit more slow release fertiliser on your containers, if you have some on hand. You will still need to feed every 10 to 14 days with a regular water soluble fertiliser for happy baskets/planters with lots of blooms, but the slow release helps keep things looking fine in case you forget once in a while.

Water hanging baskets and containers daily. For more information on keeping your baskets looking great in the summer heat, see HERE!


Tomatoes...

With all this heat, the tops may wilt in the late afternoons, but do not fret, they will soon bounce back again as the cooler evening temps prevail.

Tomatoes require less water than you might think, every third day should be plenty, as long as you water well. Tomatoes that are over watered are more prone to BER (Blossom End Rot) and also tend to be bland tasting.

Keep removing suckers from the axles so that plants put their energy into fruiting rather than making new branches.

If growing tomatoes in pots, make sure to feed them every week or two with a good tomato food. Top dressing the pots with a couple of handfuls of manure is also a good idea.

If growing them in the garden, you can side dress around the plants with manure or compost, if an extra boost is needed. The nutrients will be dispersed as you water. You can also give them a foliar feed with a liquid seaweed solution, spraying the foliage in mornings only.


Onions... If your tops have folded over, you need to lift them, whether they are of a good size, or not. They stop growing once the tops topple and will just rot if left in the beds.

Lay them out to cure with your garlic. They like the same conditions .. a shady place with good air flow.

Some onions, like sweet Walla Walla, are not good storage onions, so will not keep long. Pick them and use them straight from the garden throughout the summer. If you need to store them, for best results, cure well and store in a cool, dry spot for up to three or four months. Store in panty hose, in paper bags, or open baskets.

Kohlrabi in the garden

What to sow from seed this month?
- Beets
- Cabbage
- Greens, such as pak choi, mustards, arugula, cress
- Herbs, cilantro, dill
- Kohlrabi
- Lettuce
- Peas
- Radishes
- Spinach
- Spring onions

Transplants - You can plant your fall and winter starter plants this month, too....broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts.


When sowing seeds in the dry heat of the summer, is hard to keep them moist till germination occurs. Covering with burlap sacks will help to retain moisture longer. For more information on how to start seeds in the dead of summer, see HERE!


When cleaning your cured garlic, take out any that have small nicks, bruised, dents, or flaws. Use those up with your canning and cooking.

Use smaller bulbs in the kitchen, as your culinary garlic, saving the biggest and 'bestest' ones for planting. Always plant your best ones in order to grow the biggest, healthiest bulbs.
   
Order more garlic for fall planting : )

Beautiful organic Caspar eggplants. 

Have a greenhouse? Stay tuned for the new Greenhouse Ramblings post.

Happy Gardening! 

April Garden Ramblings

The cold and damp spring has kind of dampened this ole gardener's spirit. Time to haul your citrus trees out from the greenhouse  ...