Sunday, September 30, 2012

Fungus Among Us

One of the things I was really looking forward to with our move here was having a garden. We planned and we mulched and we built and we planted. But I have to say, it was a dismal year for our garden.

I was most looking forward to the tomatoes. I planted 6 tomato plants and thought we'd be eating garden-fresh tomatoes July through August. I thought there would be an abundance of tomatoes and I would cook and freeze spaghetti sauce, and can diced tomatoes.

But, between a late frost and a really harsh hot wave, white flies and tobacco hornworms (which look just like tomato hornworms, but the horn is a different color), I think we harvested about 15 tomatoes. Total. I pulled off the last of the green ones today because the garden boxes are not getting enough daylight and the days are not hot enough for them to really ripen up. We'll force them ripe indoors.

The only thing that did really well was the basil. I think next year I will focus my gardening efforts on establishing a thriving herb garden. I started noticing how much we were spending on herbs while we waited for the basil to establish itself, and now that I've learned the deer typically do not eat aromatic plants like herbs, I won't have to worry quite so much about fencing them out.

I'm thinking of building up a rock garden near the kitchen side of the house, and now I am considering having the area do double duty by planting herbs in the rock garden. I know for sure I'll plant some mint in a container since it's very difficult to find in our local grocery stores. I'll do basil again, and I also use quite a bit of thyme. I use a lot of parsley and cilantro, too, though they may not grow as well in the space I am looking at using. At least I know I'll save some money by not buying herbs. (It just really cheesed me that I was buying tomatoes all through the growing season.)

And I'm thinking I should look into mushroom farming—it's the one thing that seems to grow here without any effort. Or at the very least, I should brush up on mycology to see if the mushrooms growing here naturally are even edible. (The deer seem to enjoy them.)

I spotted this bright, white mushroom from the kitchen window; it was peeking from behind a tree. It was so bright, I actually thought it was a piece of trash or a plastic bag that had blown into the yard.

It's nearly as big as my hand!

And they just seem to pop up all over

In addition to the basil, the okra seemed to do really well, though I still need to work on how to tell when they're ready for picking. We got some really big okra, but they were dry and tough as wood when I tried cutting them up to cook with.

But we managed to put them to good use as entertainment.

Additionally, we learned that the cages on our garden boxes were too low to allow several of the plants to grow to full height. If we do the vegetable garden again next year (and I'm pretty sure we will) we will build a 10' fence around the garden area to keep the deer out instead of using the chicken wire cages we built. Live and learn.


  1. well. live and learn is true. as I lived in the south for many years, there are a few things i can help you with. Okra should be picked when it the length of your thumb or fingers, when allowed to get too big, , it gets tough stringy and gross.
    as for your green tomatoes, I have fell in love with the 'herdez' brand of green salsa.. It is SUPER AHMAZING on pork. I brown some tenderloin /chops whatever on the stove on all sides in a cast iron skillet , then I pour the herdez on them, turn the heat down,cover and let them simmer. YUMM!! But since I have found my new found love for herdez,I decided I didnt want to keep buying it,, and wouldnt you know? its made from green tomatoes , cilantro , etc.. the ingredient list is on the side of the jar and it doesnt have 50 big words in it either. so I plan on canning my favorite green sauce with our abundance of green tomatoes. so theres my tip for the day.. Have a great one.. TOODLES! ( lol I just had to do that! )

  2. Thanks for the tips, Coco! Funny you should mention Herdez, I have a bottle of the green salsa in the fridge now. I use it for tortilla soup, but now I'll have to try it on pork, too. And I may even try my hand at making it myself.

  3. tortilla soup? I dont use it in tortilla soup.. how?

    1. oh phooey, neither do I! LOL! I use it to simmer taco filling. (I had tortilla soup on the brain because I was planning to make it for dinner.)