Everything is still going well on the home front.  LOVING this garden and what it means to be outside in it, working, harvesting, pulling weeds/grass, enjoying the sun.  Yes, it’s hard work, but how gratifying it has been.  I worked a lot yesterday, almost all day, in the garden, re-installing bean poles that had fallen due to wind damage, fertilizing with fish emulsion, etc.  When I stepped back away from it yesterday after all the work I had done, I was so awestruck at where it is now from how it began.  I unfortunately don’t have pictures for you this post because I neglected to take my camera with me yesterday, but things are moving right along.  No more trouble with bugs really.  I’ve had a few tomato worms, but none to cause a lot of damage.

This has definitely been a learning experience in my first organic garden.  When you don’t use chemicals or fertilizers, it does take a little more thought and effort to prevent things from happening to your plants, or on the flip side, to get them to flourish.  The soil where my garden is not the best.  I really should’ve tested it before we planted to see what nutrients it was lacking because it’s obvious to me now that something is missing.  I’ve added fish emulsion twice now (you apply it once a month) and I have seen a difference in my pepper plants, which have not done as well as I would have hoped.  Two just stopped producing all together, one of which came from Tune Farm.  It was the healthiest plant when I bought it because of the rich soil it had grown in.  After a few weeks after transplanting it to my garden, it started to weaken.  This was my first clue that my garden is lacking some key nutrient.  It produced one bell pepper and hasn’t produced since.  My others are now producing and I think it’s because of the fish emulsion.  The peppers are not big, but at least it’s putting out.  Same with my jalapeno plant – it just halted a while back.  I’m finally getting two or three peppers at a time now, but it should be producing in large amounts.  If anyone has had a similar experience, I would love to know what you did to improve the situation.  I already know some things that need to be done differently, like fertilizing from the get-go with the fish emulsion, making sure at the beginning after transplanting that they get plenty of water (because it was SO, SO, SO hot here shortly after planting them with no rain) and preparing the soil with compost and good stuff for it to absorb before planting ANYTHING.  This was a learning experience this time and I’ve learned so much!  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…HEALTHY SOIL EQUALS HEALTHY PLANTS!  Treat the soil with care and you’ll have healthy, nutritious food!

I am now preparing to attempt four season gardening.  I have begun my search for the organic seeds I want to purchase to plant.  So far I have settled on romaine lettuce, carrots, broccoli and garlic.  I don’t want to over-do it since this will be my first time planting for fall/winter.  When the spring/summer stuff is finished, I plan on pulling all of it and adding it to our new compost pile, which I will be starting ASAP.  The compost tumbler did not work out for me, so I’ve had no compost to add to the garden all summer.  I’m thinking of using chicken wire and shaping it into a square or circle and putting all of our scraps and compostable materials in there, turning it with a pitch fork.  Others seem to have had more success with an open air compost bin.  I’ll keep you updated on this.  Once the spring/summer stuff is pulled, I want to till the garden using what little compost I was able to get out of the tumbler and cover it with hay for the fall/winter.  I’m going to plant my fall/winter crops within the hay and see how that works.  Just leave a little open space for it to sprout.  I have got to get this grass under control for next year and I’m hoping this will smother it out or at least lessen it.  We’ve got a while before this will happen, but since about a 1/4 of the garden is just about empty, I thought I might experiment with using this method.

I have tried my hand at preserving this summer, as well.  Just one more thing I’ve found that I thoroughly enjoy.  I have mostly canned salsa, but I’ve also canned dill pickles, tomatillo salsa, diced tomatoes and spaghetti sauce.  My husband even learned how to dry basil, so we have a lot of that now!  I thought I might share my salsa recipe and canning method for those that have never tried to do this before.  It is certainly not as hard as I thought it would be, but it does take prep work and time.

This is a mild salsa recipe using fresh ingredients from my garden and some grocery store ingredients, preferably organic.  I will not include numbers of ingredients because I have had to vary this on how much I get out of the garden that day.  However much you have, cook it up and can it.  I mostly do half-pints to make sure I have enough to make at least one jar.

You will need:

Tomatoes (I’ve been using mostly my San Marzano tomatoes…yummy canning tomatoes)

Bell Pepper


1 jalapeno with seeds (mine are not that hot)

Cilantro (1 bunch will typically do you)

Lime (just need the juice)

Vinegar (1 tsp for a pint; I use white or apple cider vinegar, whatever you like best)

Before you prep any ingredients, boil water on the stove in a pot to 180 degrees and place your jars, bands and lids in the hot water.  I use a candy thermometer to test the temperature of the water.  Let them stay there until you’re ready to start actually canning.  Everything must be hot.  I go ahead and have my funnel and  magnetic wand to lift lids out of the water ready by the stove for when I’m ready to start canning.  You can purchase these things in a kit at Wal-Mart for around $7.00 by Ball.  I also go ahead and get my water bath pot ready, on the stove, preparing to boil.  The water must be boiling in the water bath to properly seal the lid.  I fill it with water, turn it on high and put the lid on the water bath.

Peel the skins off of all tomatoes and put skinned tomatoes in a bowl.  Dice your bell pepper, jalapeno and onion and place in your food processor.  Now put your skinned tomatoes in the food processor.  This allows the peppers and onion  to get chopped well without mushing up the tomatoes first.  Add your vinegar.  Pulse in the food processor until it is blended to the consistency you like.  Pour your salsa in a pot large enough to hold what you’ve made  On the stove, bring your salsa to a boil and reduce heat to simmer for 10 minutes.  While the salsa is still hot, take one jar at a time out of your 180 degree water and pour salsa into the jar using a funnel to about 1/4 inch away from the lid.  Do not overfill.  Clean the rim of the jar removing any drips.  Place a lid securely on the top of the jar and then screw on the band very tight.  Continue this until you have filled as many jars as you can fill with what you’ve made.  Put the hot jars into the water bath using jar tongs (also in this Ball kit at Wal-Mart).  Make sure the boiling water is covering the tops of the jars completely.  Leave jars in the boiling water bath for 10 minutes each.  Remove with jar tongs and place upright on a towel.  Leave there for at least 24 hours.  After 24 hours, you can remove the band and test the seal of the lid by pushing up on the lid to make sure it isn’t loose or coming off easily.  Also make sure the button in the middle of the lid is concave (pushed down).  Just test for a proper seal.  Your salsa is now finished!  I store mine in a cabinet.  I also label on the lid (because you can only use the lids one time) what is in the jar and the date I made it.  Typically you want to eat what you’ve canned within a year, so this helps you keep up with when you made it.

I’m looking at a bag full of tomatoes ready for canning tomorrow!  Looks like I’ll be making some tomato sauce and diced tomatoes tomorrow!


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