Did you buy an extra cucumber this week - get extra in your CSA bag- or have a surplus in your garden? Here is an easy recipe for refrigerator pickles with no canning involved - and ready in two days.
I large cucumber - or two smallish
3/4 cups white vinegar(Rice wine vinegar works great too)
3 tablespoons sugar(can use agave syrup or stevia)
1 tsp spice of your choice - garlic, fresh dill, horseradish, celery seeds, red pepper, jalapeno, etc. Mix and match as you please.
Instructions - Mix together vinegar, sugar, salt/pepper and cook until sugar dissolves - won't take long - use stove or microwave. Add spice(s). Set aside.
Slice the cucumber(s) very thin(or use food processor). Put slices in a ball jar or covered vessel of choice. Pour the liquid over the top - put lid on tightly and shake. No need to cover all the cucumbers - as it sits the liquid from the cucumbers will expel and it will be covered with the liquid. Store in fridge. Shake/swish every so often the next two days - and that's it . They are ready to eat in just two days but will last in fridge for a month!
Wait for warmer weather – beans hate the cold . . .about a month after the last spring frost or around Memorial Day in Western NY. First of all – you plant the seed - Plant beans in rows (against a fence structure if they are pole beans – they need to climb), with 4-6 inches between each seed. Plant the seeds 1-2 inches deep and be sure to water the soil immediately and regularly, until it sprouts. Keep them watered and help pole beans wrap around the fence at first (Just be gentle and guide with your fingers so they grow around the fence – no need to tie with anything) Once they get big enough to pick – keep picking them and they will keep producing. Don’t wait for them to get too large or they will be tough. If you miss a few and they get too big – keep them on the vine until they yellow – then pick and dry for seed saving. Last year my whole raised bed of green beans was not thriving and turning yellow – so I added a sprinkle of Epsom salts over the plants(then watered to sink in) It worked and in a week they were greener and much stronger.
Green beans are super easy to freeze. In fact I like the taste much better than canning. Just wash and cut(or snap) the ends off. Blanch – by boiling/steaming in hot water for 3-4 minutes until a brighter green – than place in ice cold water to stop the cooking. Drain well and stick in freezer bags. I put enough in one bag for a meal. We eat delicious and fresh tasting beans all winter!
You can have your berry bushes brimming with new fruit on them one day and the next they can be all gone from some hungry birds. You can put netting over the plants but the easiest and cheapest way is to get an old computer disc/CD – tie a string or fish line on – and hang on the tree like an ornament. When the wind blows – it turns the disc – creating a reflection. Birds see that and think it’s a predator and stay away. Your neighbors may think you are weird but you will have fresh berries to eat!
Tomatoes come in all shapes and sizes. I usually plant a larger variety for canning(love Roma for sauce) and smaller ones for eating earlier – especially in salads – like the cherry tomatoes. I like to sow seed directly outside after Mother's Day/Memorial Day in Western NY area but you can also buy plants from the nursery if needed. Try to get heirloom so you can save the seed next year and plant your own on a warm and sunny windowsill in your home early or directly plant outside.
If needed - begin hardening the plants to the outdoors if they were indoors only. Simply – just take them outside daily to get them used to the weather – then bring them in at night. Before planting outside in pots or garden - I like to pull off (very gently) all but a few leaves on the top and plant most of the seedling in the ground. This increases their root system and makes them a sturdier plant in the long run. You want tomatoes with sturdy stems – not tall and lanky – because one good wind storm and they will break. Plant only one tomato per pot(it will get big) or space at least a foot apart from others. I use tomato cages and place around each plant after I put them in soil. As they grow you can tie (with old panty hose strips or fabric) for extra support. If you don’t want to invest in tomato cages – you can use three sticks and form a teepee around the plant for support.
I plant my tomatoes with broken eggs shells for added nutrients and to keep slugs away. Raw eggshells can be broken down – but it is easier to use hard boiled egg shells. Just break down and place right on top of the soil. The next time you make hardboiled eggs – keep the egg water – cool down – and water your tomatoes with it. They love that calcium filled water! Coffee grounds on your tomatoes give it a boost of nitrogen that they love too. No need to buy any chemicals to feed your tomatoes - just get in the kitchen. Starbucks also save coffee grounds for you if asked - and many times I see bags waiting at the pick up area labeled for gardeners!!
Prune tomato suckers as they grow to get a stronger stem, more fruit, and less branches.Tomato suckers, or side shoots, are the growth that appears in the crotch between the stem and a branch.
The process of taking your normally discarded produce scraps, coffee grounds, fall leaves, etc. - - putting them in a composter(or compost pile) and having it produce beautiful sold(black gold to me) in a few months is a wonderful full circle of life kind of thing. OR you can throw it in a garbage bag ( that by the way costs money) -then store with your garbage stash for the week – then have to take out to the street for the weekly pickup- then bring the trash cans back in after pick up. Composting sounds like an easier process and a beautiful way to honor the earth– rather than throwing out to the trash.
Things that can be composted: Vegetables/Herbs and scraps, Shredded paper – not glossy/colored, Coffee Grounds – with or without filters, Grass clippings, Eggs shells, Tea Bags, Pet hair, Fireplace Ash, Leaves, Wood Chips, Hay/Straw, Chicken/Cow/Horse Manure(any animal that is a vegetable eater only), Paper towels/napkins, Flower petals and stems, Fruit peels.
Things that shouldn’t be composted:
Dog or cat feces or any carnivorous animal (can carry parasites), Meat and Bone Scraps
Mayonnaise, salad dressing, peanut butter and other oily foods, Dairy products, Glossy colored paper
As far as composting process – that is so easy. Just take your scraps, paper, leaves, etc out to the compost bin and dump in. I like to have a contained bin that I just take off the top, dump in and turn occasionally to mix. You can also have a contained area that you can turn with a pitch fork or shovel once a week to speed the process. Your area can be built anywhere except up against a structure such as a shed or a solid fence. Worms and bugs help your compost but you don’t want them in the shed or the house. Even a garbage can be used – I would just drill some holes for ventilation first.
There is a science to composting to make it break down easier. The microbes responsible for breaking down your compost pile need a balanced diet of nitrogen and carbon. Brown items such as leaves, straw, hay, shredded paper and sawdust are high in carbon. Grass clippings, manure and kitchen scraps provide nitrogen. The microbes responsible for breaking down your compost pile need a balanced diet of nitrogen and carbon.. A ratio that contains equal portions by weight (not volume) of both works best.
It should be damp- not wet. Place in the sunlight for quicker breakdown.
Keep a large coffee can or indoor composter under your kitchen sink for kitchen scraps. It can sit a few days before any odor starts. Coffee grounds have a pleasant smell that hides most other odors - keep them in the paper filter, it will break down too!
If you are afraid of snakes – put human hair around the pile to keep them away. Next time you are at the hairdresser – ask for your hair back or use your families if you trim your own.
I have used this process in my garden for several years. It is especially useful for squashes, pumpkins, etc. that are planted in mounds/hills.
Place a sink pot (empty plastic nursery pot with holes) in the middle of your garden to create a well for easier and deeper root watering. As the roots mature, they get deeper and deeper into the ground’s soil, making it harder for the water to reach in a dry climate.
So easy to water garden - just fill up the pot! Easy if you have your kids water the garden!