Belated June Garden Tour
March 28, 2016
Looking back at my May garden update, it is difficult to believe how quickly these plants grew. This is my first season of gardening and it only took me a few weeks to become hooked. At first, I was overwhelmed with how much there was to learn about growing food. Though I still know next to nothing, the experience of learning by doing has been fun and rewarding. Every time something goes wrong in the garden I learn a bit more about how to do better next season. Here is a garden tour with highlights from this month of gardening.
When I planted the tomato transplants, I mistakenly paid no attention to the spacing guidelines. This became a problem when they tripled in sized seemingly overnight. I didn’t have the heart to cut them down and throw them away, so luckily my sister took some of them off of my hands. We pulled half of them up and re-potted them for her deck, which gave the remaining plants enough room to grow. All 3 of the varieties I planted are indeterminate, so I have been pinching off suckers and thinning out the bottom leaves for better air circulation. Every few weeks I have been adding twine to the trellis and so far it is holding the plants up nicely. Towards the end of the month the first tomato blossoms appeared!
Another rookie mistake created a problem with the cayenne and habanero pepper plants. I planted these in pots meant for indoor use, that did not have drainage holes. When we had a few weeks of heavy rains, the plants started to drown, I thought I would have to remove the plants, but M took a drill to the bottom, and it was crazy how much water drained out. It was only a few days until they were thriving.
Organic Pest Control
This month felt like an avalanche of pest problems I didn’t even know existed. First, in mid June I noticed some leaf damage on the swiss chard. When I turned the leaves over, I found a series of tiny white rice like eggs. They were Leafminers. I tried to salvage the plants by cutting out the leaves with eggs, but they continued to spread until I decided to cut down the entire stocks. This was sad, because the chard was looking amazing, and I’m not 100% sure it was necessary. But leaf miners don’t only damage the outside of the plants, they actually burrow inside the leaves, and this was something I just could not stomach.
Shortly thereafter I found cabbage worms on the Kale. These were also difficult to stomach. Earlier in the month I recalled being excited, unsuspectingly, by the white butterflies my garden was attracting. It turns out, they were laying eggs that would become small green worms that would wreak havoc. I started plucking them off the leaves and dropping them into a cup of soapy water. One lesson I have learned is the importance of getting out in your garden and looking around every day, looking out for problems before they get unmanageable.
I never considered that my garden would be so susceptible to bug damage. However, I am determined to have an organic garden. After doing some research (Some great sources here, there are a couple of things I want to incorporate into my garden moving forward:
1. Biological pest controls:
I am already planning to incorporate herbs into my plant selection next year that will deter bad bugs and attract beneficial bugs, like lacewings and ladybugs. I found a great source on this here. Some plants that are good for this purpose are: dill, coriander, buckwheat, sweet alyssum, fava beans, phacelia, and borage. When I picked up some additional herbs, I grabbed some that should help repel cabbage worms and/or attract other beneficial insects: mint, thyme, and cilantro.
2. Crop rotation:
This one will be tricky in a container garden since the pots are all different sizes, some more suitably shaped for certain crops than others. In general, rotate the following plant families: brassicas (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, turnips, radish), solanaceous plants (tomato, pepper, eggplant, potato), roots (carrots, beets, parsnips), greens (lettuce, endive, spinach), legumes (beans, peas), cucurbits (cucumbers, melons, squashes) and corn. )
Spicy Cabbage, White Bean, and Sausage Soup
August 21, 2015
This summer my sisters and I went camping. It was my first time camping in over a decade. Two things stand out to me about the experience. First, the bugs. On the one hand, my newfound love of gardening has given me an appreciation for bugs and their role in our ecosystem and as allies in producing food. On the other hand, bugs are the worst. They were unbearable. In uncharacteristic fashion, I took relish in slathering my body with toxic bug spray. I don’t even want to know what is in that stuff. (Non-toxic bug repellent suggestions are welcome.) Second, the peacefulness. In my daily life, I, like most of us, am constantly bombarded with potential distractions, not the least of which is the perpetual need to fend off unproductive thoughts: Am I doing enough? Am I good enough? Have I made the right choices? But out in the woods, I didn’t think about any of this. It is no surprise that research demonstrates the many cognitive and emotional benefits of being in nature. Walks in the park are good, but camping takes it to another level. There is something about having to get things done, like eat, sleep and repel bugs, without modern conveniences that makes it almost impossible not to live in the present moment.
What does camping have to do with this spicy cabbage, sausage and white bean soup? Not a damn thing. But I couldn’t bear to find myself writing once again about the school work, and the attempts to find work-life balance, that have been consuming my daily life. No, writing about camping is much more pleasant. And it gives me an opportunity to post some of the photographs I took on the trip.
I will admit that spicy soup is not really a summer dish. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to be slurping down hot soup in the middle of a sweltering day – and we have had quite a few of those in the past few weeks. I could wait for a chilly day in September to post this soup, but the truth is, this soup is one of the best things that I have ever made in the kitchen. I found myself impatiently waiting to bust out the leftovers each night, in spite of the weather, and I can’t wait to share the recipe with all of you.
This recipe has been in the works for a few months now. I started working on it, you know, in the winter, when normal people eat soups. But I continued making it several times over the spring and summer because it makes good use of leftover summertime ingredients: cabbage leftover from my favourite fish taco slaws and sausages leftover from M’s favourite summer barbeques. This time, I decided to add some jalapeños that needed using up, and the heat from these peppers is really what makes this soup into something extraordinary. You can skip it if you don’t like spicy, but you would be missing out.
When it comes to beans, I always use dry. They work out to be cheaper if you cook with beans often, they allow you to avoid potential toxin exposure from BPA in can linings, and I find they just taste better. The trick is, though, to remember to soak them the night before and cook them before you start supper. If you forget, or if you are otherwise pressed for time, using canned beans cuts down on the cooking time for this recipe significantly.
Adapted from this soup at The Unorthodox Epicure
- 3/4 cup dried navy beans, (or, about 2 15 oz cans)
- olive oil
- 3 sausages*, chopped into bite sized pieces
- 1/2 large red onion, diced
- 1-2 jalapeños**, finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 head cabbage, thinly sliced
- 10 cups low-sodium chicken stock
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 teaspoon celery seeds
- handfull fresh basil, chopped
- few sprigs of fresh thyme leaves, chopped
- parmesan cheese, grated
- (Skip this step if using canned beans.) The night before making the soup, place beans in a medium sized bowl, cover with water, and let sit overnight. Drain beans, place in a medium saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and allow beans to simmer until soft, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Drain beans and set aside. This step can be done in advance.
- When ready to make the soup, put olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add sausage and saute till golden brown on all sides. Remove sausages from the pot and set aside.
- Add onion and jalapeño, stir to incorporate the sausage flavour from the bottom of the pan, saute until translucent, about 5 min. Add the garlic and continue cooking for a for another 2-3 minutes. Add the sliced cabbage and cook for another 5-7 minutes. Add the chicken stock, sausage, basil, thyme, celery seeds and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring the soup to a boil; reduce the heat to medium and allow to simmer for 20 minutes minutes, adding the beans in the last few minutes of cooking.
- Serve the soup topped with the grated parmesan. I also served mine with Peter Reinhart’s amazing focaccia bread .
* Any type of sausage will do.
** I used two jalapeños, seeds and all. It was a very spicy soup, which we like around here, but if you aren’t so keen on heat, use only one and/or remove the seeds.