August Gardening Update

Our gardening season is coming to close. We’ve reached that point in the year where it’s hotter and dryer and keeping the garden watered is a daily chore. So this is usually when we just quit watering and allow nature to take it’s course. Whatever we end up with at this point is fine with us. Then we’ll pull it all up and turn the ground over before it starts getting cold.

I’m sure there are many people out there who push through the heat and keep their gardens going. And many people are probably planting their fall gardens right now. Maybe one year we’ll do the same. But we’re satisfied with what we’ve gotten so far despite the fact that we only really had success with the tomatoes.

Our squash plants were totally decimated by an invasion of squash bugs (see below). I tried my best to control the pests (without giving into using insecticides), but my efforts were unsuccessful. We only ended up with a few decent squash which we cooked immediately, and that was the end of it. 

Usually I find squash bug eggs on the leaves, but they can be deposited on stems as well. You can see a few squash bugs in this photo – one just above and to the left of the egg mass. This plant was too far gone to save, so I pulled it up. The same fate eventually met the rest of the squash.

Our green beans also didn’t turn out like we were hoping. We managed two decent pickings off of them, but the beans didn’t cook well. We will be trying a different variety next year. My mom offered to bring back a bushel from the farmers market in Asheville this weekend, so I still have plans to can a few quarts of green beans.

We only planted two cucumber plants, one of which did very well. We ate the cucumbers fresh as they came in. We didn’t plan on making any pickles, because none of us really like pickles that much. The plant is still producing at this point, so we’ll probably get a few more cucumbers before the season is over.

Now for better news, the tomato plants were highly productive this year, particularly the cherry tomatoes and the Cherokee Purples. I’ve been using the cherry tomatoes in our salads, and drying the rest of them with the dehydrator. All the other tomatoes have gone into making canned tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and salsa – one canning of each so far. And the plants continue to produce despite the fact that we have quit watering them, so we may end up canning one more batch of tomato sauce before the season is over. Overall, I’m please with how everything turned out.

Diced tomatoes – 4 quarts and 4 pints.

It’s also been a great year for the fruit trees and grapevines that grow in our back yard. These were planted by my grandfather many years ago. It’s been several years since the pear and apple trees have produced any fruit worth eating. But this year, the pear trees have done exceptionally well. We spent an entire afternoon knocking all the pears out of the trees and ended up with probably a couple hundred pounds worth of fruit. We’ve just begun to start canning and haven’t even started to make a dent in the stockpile of pears in our kitchen. It seems like we’ll be canning for weeks!

8 pints so far. Many, many more to go.

There are three grapevines in our yard; one concord and two muscadine. The concord grapes have looked better this year than they have in several years. This morning, I made four pints of grape jelly. I plan to make at least one other batch with the grapes that remain on the vine. The muscadines haven’t produced much at all, but they are also in need of some severe pruning. Project for the winter? I think so!

I love the color of the finished product. Concord grapes make the best jelly!

Canning is still not something of which I would claim to be am expert . My husband and I are learning together, which is the best part about the whole process.  I don’t mind canning on my own. But I think one of the reasons I enjoy canning so much is because I enjoyed learning from my parents. Jelly reminds me of making candy apple jelly with my mom at Christmas. Canning green beans always brings a memory to mind of my dad showing me how he added the salt on top of the beans before closing the jar. And I have countless memories of my parents canning their very own “soup mix” that would complete a pot of vegetable beef soup every winter.

Canning feels like home. It makes me feel grounded and industrious. I know we’re doing a good thing as a family and really taking advantage of all the hard work we put into the garden for the last three months. And now that we’re composting, all the peels and leftovers from the canning process can still be useful in next year’s garden.

Perfect compost material right here.

I’m a little sad that our gardening season has come to a close. Maybe next year we’ll consider extending it out and having a fall garden. Pumpkins possibly? Lettuce and cauliflower… maybe. Already the ideas are spinning in my mind. 

As far as canning goes however, we are nowhere near finished. Future plans include more pears, pear honey, pear butter, apple butter, more tomato sauce, more concord grape jelly, and green beans.

What are you canning this year? Any cool recipes to suggest? Check back in for a canning update in a few weeks.




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