Second Summer Gardening

Timing the garden is hard. Planting out tomatoes and peppers has to be done when the nights are no longer cold and all danger of frost has passed. You start getting excited when the first warm days of April come, but it’s still too early. Around here it is late April to early May, but some people still wait until Mothers Day. And then, all of the sudden, it is June, and the weather is a steady dose of “hazy, hot, and humid”, and the time for planting is over.

Well… not really.

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Here in Virginia, zone 7, we can have two plantings of summer vegetables. A second planting of tomatoes, melons, squash, cucumbers, to keep you in hot weather veggies up until frost. Yes, technically a tomato plant will bear until frost. But one planted in late April will just be done by early September. For me at least, it will either be overtaken by blight, knocked over in a severe thunderstorm, or just be tired and have given up on life. You can do multiple plantings of corn and beans of course, too.

The time to be planting the late summer garden is now. Late June and early July is ideal because the plants need to be a good size before the days shorten and growth slows down. So even though you have yet to harvest a tomato or cucumber, it is time to plant another batch.

Where to put all this? Peas, broccoli, cabbage, spinach, and onions should be finishing up so when those get pulled, some people put in new summer planting’s. I do not. I need that space to replant all those things for the fall garden in late July! That means that to get your second summer veggies in, you have to have empty space ready now. Maybe you could fit something super quick in early in the season like radishes. But I just have space waiting in the same area. My row of tomatoes has four spots waiting, my melon patch has a full empty row, etc.

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Now for a little crop by crop overview of vegetables that are a good candidate for a second summer

Tomatoes- They need to begin by the fourth of July for our area.  They can be direct sown in late June, or you could go through the whole seed starting in tray process in early June.  OR, you could do the easy thing and root some cuttings in a cup of water and then plant in the moist soil as soon as roots appear.  People may wonder what in the world you are doing with tomato branches cut like they are flowers, but oh well.

A smart person would probably grow MORE tomatoes as their fall crop so that they can they do their canning when it is a little cooler.  I have never done this, and get too excited in the spring to hold back. (Actually, a smart person would probably buy canned tomatoes.)

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Who needs sunflowers when you have tomato leaves?  Me!   Speaking of…

Sunflowers- Branching sunflowers, despite being inferior to single stem sunflowers in most ways, have the distinct advantage of putting out many flowers over the course of the summer.  They don’t do so forever, though, and a second planting is beneficial.  They should be direct sown, and you may want to plant darker, more autumnal colors.  I like Chianti, Autumn Beauty, and Soraya for late summer and fall.    (Do some more zinnias too!  White, red, yellow, no pink.)

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Melons- Full size watermelons are around 100 days to maturity, so planting them mid June will give you late September melons.  Plenty of time.  Smaller ones (Little Darling is THE BEST), are more like 70 days and will bear in late August.  They take up so much room, so make sure you have left a good amount of space.  They are direct sown also.

Cucumbers- They will get huge too, and can actually benefit from three plantings over the summer as they mature so quickly.  You will want to space out pickling cucumbers too, because refrigerator pickles are the only acceptable pickle and you will want them for as long a time as possible.

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And two plants that are a month behind:

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Corn- Corn is a bit trickier because two different types cannot be maturing at the same time as the seeds will cross and affect the taste.  (This is because you are eating the seed part, unlike with other vegetables).  So you can either plant one kind and stagger it, or be sure that your other varieties will be at least 2 weeks apart in maturity.  A simple plan would be to plant twice, two different varieties each time.  For example:

May 1st, plant American Dream (75 days, matures July 15th) and Silver Queen (93 days, matures August 4th)

June 20th, plant American Dream (matures September 5th) and Silver Queen (matures September 23rd) again

Remember it must be planted in blocks, so this will take a lot of room.

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Pumpkins- Not a second planting, just the only planting.  A May 1st planted pumpkin will mature in August.  No thanks.

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And one month from now it will be time to put in the fall garden!  Yes, this is a whole different thing.

It is really not that much work to put these things in a second time, and you will be SO glad you did in September.  Just think of it as one more chance to get it right.

Have a good weekend!

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Crispy Buffalo Wings

Every Thursday at our house we have pizza and wings.  Sometimes we mix it up and do sweet Asian wings or garlic parmesan wings, but 90% of the time it is these classic buffalo wings.  They require very little hands-on time and come out just as crispy as anything deep fried, even though they are baked.  I love my deep fryer and hate healthy food but have found no reason to switch to frying wings because the oven method is easy and good.

I see a lot of wing recipes that talk about cutting the wings and discarding the tips but I get mine at Costco in a 10 lb. bag of frozen wings.  There is nothing to cut up or discard. You can grab however many you need out of the bag and defrost them in a bowl of cool water.

Sometimes I set some aside without the sauce to be dipped by the kids in barbecue sauce or ketchup (gross).

You will need:

-20 wings

-2 cups all purpose flour

-2 teaspoons seasoned salt

-1 teaspoon finely ground pepper

-1/2 cup Frank’s or Texas Pete hot sauce

-1/2 cup (one stick) of salted butter

-1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Directions:

  1.  In a large ziplock bag, mix the flour, seasoned salt, and pepper together
  2. Place the wings inside.  They should not be wet, but there is no need to obsessively pat them dry.
  3. Shake until the wings are well coated, them put them back in the fridge for at least an hour, up to 24 hours.
  4. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees, if you have a convection setting this is a good occasion for it as it really crisps them.
  5. Prepare a baking sheet by covering it in foil and generously spraying with a non stick spray.  Place the wings on it without them touching each other
  6. Bake for 20 minutes, then flip them individually.  Bake another 15-20 minutes.  They should look crispy.
  7. Towards the end of the baking time, prepare the buffalo sauce by melting the butter in a large saucepan and adding the hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce.  (Worcestershire is not being highlighted by spell check, is it possible I have spelled it right TWICE?)
  8. Toss the baked wings in the buffalo sauce, right in the sauce pan.
  9. Serve with blue cheese or ranch.

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Don’t Forget Me’s

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(Maddie has a habit of using the wrong word for things in a way that is cute and gets picked up by the whole family. She calls flank steak “Franklin steak”, binoculars “noccis”, and forget me nots “don’t forget mes”.)

I have a real dislike for signs and sayings that joke about being messy in the name of good parenting. Such as “please excuse the mess, the children are making memories”, or the one about good moms having sticky floors and happy kids. Yuck. But I definitely have a tendency to go too far in the other direction. I love my kids, but I don’t like kid stuff, don’t like playing kid games, and find that I too often expect them to behave like small adults. Sometimes I feel that I vacillate between managing my children and entertaining them, when neither is quite right. Yes, sometimes I want to be left alone. Sometimes I need to be correcting, teaching, or disciplining. But mostly I want us to be together companionably… you know.. “making memories”. I have not figured that part out. (But my floors are spotless.)

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Well I am about to get my big chance to work on it as my middle daughter’s preschool year has ended, and my first grader will be home for the summer in two weeks. Religious education is over for her, soccer has ended for both of them, and ballet ends at the end of June. So I am trying to plan some fun activities for all of us to do, just me and the kids, during the day. I am good at putting things like this off and then never doing them, so I decided to list my ideas on paper.

Summer goals for the kids. I wrote.

Hmmm. Get everyone a well child appointment and tooth cleaning. Yes, but not really what I was going for.

Take the kids camping. They have been begging to do this, but I don’t know anything about it and should just leave it up to Matt.

I felt stumped. I wanted it to be something that was me, something that would be a real part of their childhood, but something I would enjoy. I am not athletic and my tolerance for parent-directed kid crafts is very low.

Take the kids to the library every Wednesday. Okay, better. Not very creative.

Take the kids to daily Mass every Wednesday, and then to the library.

Get quality children’s audiobooks from the library for them to listen to during their quiet time….Can I think of anything that does not involve the library?

And then I was suddenly on a roll.

Help kids do a show: pick a story, have them make costumes and a set.

Teach kids to play checkers

Take kids to historic gardens nearby and let them take pictures with my phone

Help them make two elaborate desserts of their choosing

Be brave and invite two new friends over with their mom and siblings (ahhhh!)

Send out one handwritten letter with pictures per week to family member

I like it. That’s enough.

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I went outside to do my evening chores, was weeding the garden and enjoying the sunset. It was our second day of sun after a week of rain and clouds. I got curious about my potato plants, dug around, and pulled out three good sized red ones that I was unnaturally excited about. I then stood in the garden for a good ten minutes wondering if I should plant any more light colored sunflowers or if I should switch to burgundy and deep orange for the rest of the season.

Back to thinking about my garden, my decorating colors. my self.

Then I hear a little voice from the open window, and see a small person waving furiously. “Hi mom!” She calls down. “There’s a kitten following you!”

Don’t forget me.

I wave back and hold up the cat to wave a paw at her too. “I love you! Meow!”

I won’t.

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At Home, May 2018

Just a monthly update I am doing to document some moments with the family, the house, and the garden.

Family

We had two birthdays this month, two days apart.  I had decided that only one child in the family would get a birthday party each year.  So this year we did little things for the non-party receiving birthday child.  Went out to dinner, went on a beach hike, did cake and presents at home, went out to lunch with my mom.  Well by the time it was all over I should have just given her what she wanted… a birthday party.  Next year I will.

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We also took a family trip to Colonial Williamsburg, which I loved but the birthday children did not.  (Maddie loved it like I did, and learned a lot.)

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We made some truly terrible cupcakes (America’s Test Kitchen, I continue to hate your recipes for baked goods), and bought some at the grocery store that were scrumptious.

The House

I ordered myself some pillow covers from Jenny Steffens-Hobick’s online shop which I love.  I am going to get more but wanted to see the fabrics in person first.  I was needing some big pillows and some color, and they fit the bill.  The square is 22 inches with a 25 inch insert from Wayfair.

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I also got some clear bottles from her shop because I just love color.

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(SO MUCH BETTER.)

I am also going to embark on a painting adventure, both the foyer and dining room.  The foyer is going to be a colorful shade of, um, cream.

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(The swatch is Benjamin Moore Mascarpone.  The walls right now are Sherwin  Williams Accessible Beige and it is drab as can be in this room.)

The dining room is going to be Stratton Blue.  I picked out a few swatches from olive green all the way to a medium blue and let Matt pick.

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He picked the second from the bottom, which looks totally crazy to me, but we are going for it.  (I wanted one of the two middle blue ones, the small squares, which he claims are gray.)  The bottom half of the walls will be white so it might tone it down a little.

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Not sure if I can handle this.

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Maybe I like the beige!

Garden

I accidentally planted a dwarf variety of snapdragon so all my bouquets look like this:

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We are harvesting peas, broccoli, spinach, lettuce, and cilantro.  It is hot and humid with very little sun and the tomatoes will definitely be showing signs of disease any day now.  It is pretty unavoidable.  I am thinking of spraying with a fungicide but we have so many ladybugs that I don’t want to.  So instead I am in the house, reading.  Maddie keeps yelling at me for laying my library books flat like this.  I’m just trying to keep from dog-earing the pages, a habit I can’t quit.

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My container flowers are looking good!  I am proud.

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Our pool is opening tomorrow.  By which I mean our plastic water trough is being filled up with well water and some chlorine tablets.  Then I can return to the outdoors.

Go Caps!


Broccoli Salad for a Crowd

Broccoli is an interesting vegetable to grow. First of all you are eating unopened flower buds, which is strange. But what is really neat about it is that after the main harvest of big cauliflower-like heads, nine or so inches in diameter, you get little side shoots for a month or so. You can really get quite a few servings out of the side shoots, and there are plenty of recipes for steamed and roasted broccoli that are great for when you have just a few servings worth to cook.

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This recipe, however, is for that first exciting harvest, when you have a lot.

It is adapted from a Trisha Yearwood recipe that I copied out of a library book. It is very good.

You will need:

1/2 lb. of bacon

2 lbs of broccoli florets, raw

1 cup mayonnaise

1 T. apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup white sugar

1/3 cup chopped red onion

3/4 cup raisins

Directions:

1. Cook the bacon, drain on paper towels. When cool, crumble and set aside.

2. Mix the mayonnaise, sugar, and vinegar to make a dressing. Add the chopped onion and raisins.

3. Gently fold in the broccoli.

4. Cover and refrigerate 2-4 hours.

5. Fold bacon in just before serving.

Best eaten the day it is made.

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(I served it with Rachel sandwiches for an easy, no cook meal.)