Tag Archives: cucumber

Of Pickles and Preservation

8 Jul

Good news, bad news.

First, the bad news, because it’s quick. Pepper plants never really took off. All three look scrawny, never settled in. Leaves are still green, but they just didn’t grow. Yeah, that scrawny thing in the middle is a pepper…that should have fruit on it by now. Because it didn’t grow, everything else around it had a chance to get big. Debating pulling them now.

Photo Jul 02, 4 14 17 PM

Now, the good news. I have lots of cucumbers, herbs, and onions! I actually discovered a few cucumbers today that I hadn’t seen before. I picked 7 of them last week, and I’ll probably get another 5 or 6 again this weekend. Might have been a few too many at once, sooooo……


Photo Jun 26, 1 17 25 PM Photo Jul 01, 9 32 25 PM









This is the pickle recipe I put together after reading some others online:

1 1/4 cup water
1 1/4 cup apple cider vinegarPhoto Jun 26, 2 26 03 PM
1 T kosher or sea salt
1 T sugar (2 T if you like sweeter pickles)
1 tsp whole peppercorns
2 tsp dill, dried (or 1 T fresh, chopped)
3 cucumbers, 5″ to 6″ long, sliced into 1/4″ chips
1 large or 2 small cloves garlic, chopped

Microwave water and vinegar until hot, not necessary to boil. Add salt and sugar and stir until dissolved. Add peppercorns and dill. Allow to cool for a few minutes.

Layer cucumber slices and garlic in a sterilized 1 quart jar. Pour in brine mixture and tap the jar or gently stir with a skewer to remove most of the air bubbles. Seal the jar and refrigerate.

Pickles will be ready after 24 hours, but are tastiest after at least a week. This batch is two weeks now and is really good.
Photo Jun 26, 2 34 14 PM
Another fun preservation method, and possibly my favorite, is dehydration.

I planted the roots of organic green onions I had purchased from the grocery store, and a few weeks later I had huge green onions. One even split into two! I chopped those up into rounds and used the screens that fit on the trays to prevent smaller leaves from falling through. I set my dehydrator to 135 degrees, and after a few hours, I had dried onions that I can use for anything! Dip, soup, bread. Whatever.

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I also made kale chips in the dehydrator. First time I’ve used it for kale. In the past I’ve made them in the oven, but it’s super hot out now IN JULY, so dehydrator it was. Am I growing kale on the roof? No, no I’m not. Kale has come in my CSA box from Great Country Farms in Bluemont, Virginia for the past month, and I finally got tired of it. Plus, chips last longer and are fun to eat! After cleaning them very well, I spun them dry and added some extra virgin olive oil. Then I spread them out on the trays and sprinkled on some sea salt. Wound up about 10 hours at 125, which I thought was a long time. Next time I’ll put it up higher. I did rotate the trays after a few hours.

Photo Jul 02, 9 59 47 PM

I’ve also been drying herbs. They take a few hours on about 110-120. Sage, rosemary, basil in this batch and yes, I did dry them all together. Used the screens here as well. Worked nicely. I’ve also dried mint and oregano.

Photo Jun 30, 3 02 57 PM (1)


Gnome Watchers

22 Jun

A bit of catch up here.

First, I’d like to introduce my gnome friends. They do a good job in the garden.

You may remember Norman and his watering can and sleepy Winston from earlier seasons. They got face lifts, courtesy of some acrylic paint and UV spray. They are in the tanks. My neighbor refers to Norman as…..Gnorman.

Photo May 24, 5 32 51 PM   Photo May 28, 2 36 52 PM

Because the tomatoes and more herbs are now on the other side of the roof, we needed some workers over there. Pierre is doing well tending to the basil with his snail. Maurice is a bit timid and won’t let go of his frog though. I think it’ll take him a bit longer to get comfortable.

Photo May 28, 2 42 47 PM   Photo May 28, 2 43 37 PM

Next, my cucumbers are doing very well, spreading out and grabbing everything they can. Tomatoes need daily watering, but they look much better in the buckets than they did when they were in the tanks. I am starting to get some nice looking veggies, including my first yellow squash!

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Photo Jun 16, 8 54 52 PM   Photo Jun 21, 5 55 13 PM

Oh, yeah, so we may possibly need to have to have the whole deck redone. Not good. But, from this I learned that it’s not as hard as I thought to move the tanks. They will slide fairly easily. The guys were very careful moving everything around.

Photo Jun 22, 11 07 10 AM   Photo Jun 22, 11 02 31 AM

New Homes for Little Plants!

8 May

Plants have been moving into their new homes over the past week or so.

I finally moved the parsley and basil into the pot with some other herbs. They seem to be loving it!  I saw that the cotton flannel I put in the bottom of the pots to prevent dirt from falling through was starting to disintegrate, and some roots were able to pop through. Very happy there. Also helped keep everything together.

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Here they are, all together.

Photo May 05, 5 24 51 PM

Baby cucumbers moved into their tank, too. Only four of the six survived, so I’m starting two more inside. I hope they’ll be able to move out in about two weeks. That will also help me stagger the harvest a bit.

Photo May 04, 4 25 25 PM   Photo May 04, 7 49 52 PM

All six tomatoes are doing very well! Three red cherry plants, three yellow pear. They are now living outside all the time, except when it’s really windy. The peat pots are very light. Also I am watering them twice a day because they dry out super fast. I still need to drill drainage holes in the white 5 gallon buckets that I now use for water so I can put the tomatoes into them. I think being in the smaller containers will also help them retain a bit more water. We’ll see. I bought potting soil and garden soil. I’ll do a mix of that for them.

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Dumped one bucket of compost onto the tanks last week before I put the cucumbers in, so I was able to start a new batch of compost. It’s already looking REALLY good, lots of creatures flying around and eating all the whatever. Very active.

Photo May 02, 7 33 19 PM

Finally, visitors. Apparently we have wasps up there, but Farmer Russell assures me they’re beneficial. I promise to stay out of their way. So far I’ve just seen one at a time and they don’t seem to be interested in me at all. I’ve checked the whole roof for nests, so we’re clear there. Plus, they’re gone by the evening.

Photo May 07, 11 08 06 AM   Photo May 03, 3 25 13 PM


The Delinquent Gardener – 2013 Wrap Up

6 Apr

I’ve been a bad blogger…but only because I’ve been a bad gardener. Apologies.

I got very busy in August with work and all of a sudden it’s spring. Or, “snow spring” as we had.

Before I start up new posts later this week with water news, tank redesign and pot repositioning, some quick highlights from last year.

The Soft-Bellied Tomato Pecker

Soft bellied tomato peckerAlton was RIGHT! He exists, and he’s a nasty, aggressive jerk of a Jay bird. I finally caught him on one of my tomato plants in late July. I walked over to him and yelled at him, and he yelled right back at me. Short of covering the whole tank and plants with netting, I didn’t know what to do. (Scarecrow? Maybe I’ll do that this year.) I finally got him off the plant, and he flew onto the top of the elevator lobby on the other side of the roof, still yelling at me. I have no doubt that he came back after that, probably bringing some of his posse to squawk at me just in case. I’ll share in the event that he returns this year.

Peppers, peppers, peppers

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I adopted several pepper plants from friends’ windowsills and patios. While I won’t be doing that again, I peppers sixdid have quite a harvest of various types of peppers, including bell and several kinds of hot peppers. None of the bell peppers got really big, but they had nice flavor. I used a few of the jalapenos to make spicy simple syrups.

One of my neighbors was excited to try the red chilies, so I told her to take as many as she and her husband would like. Later, I heard that the peppers made him sick. As it turns out, they had never cooked with hot peppers before, and in fact, didn’t even realize that they were HOT! Yikes. That’s an eyeball scratch I’d certainly like to avoid.

cuce collage with dollTasty cucumbers

I was very happy with my first successful harvest of cucumbers last year. I’ve talked about the significance of the cucumbers and my grandfather’s never ending desire for pickles in the garden years ago, so this year I will once again plant cucumbers. They need more water than I had been giving them, but I have a new plan for that. I’d like to actually pickle some of them this year as I did with the radishes last year. I need to pick them when they’re a bit smaller than they are in this photo, otherwise they get bitter and have huge seeds. But just in case, I also learned that Dolley is a fan of the bitter cucumber skins.


Growing carrots in the tank was so much better than in the small buckets the year prior. They were, for the most part, straight, but not very thick. All in all, however, I’m not totally happy with the volume of the carrot harvest I had last year.carrots with doll I had tried to make seed tape, but I think that didn’t work. Maybe it was using diluted school glue? I’ve seen directions for DIY seed tape that suggest using flour and water as the adhesive, so maybe I shouldn’t have used Elmer’s. Oh well. I’m not going to use it at all this year. I’m going to stick to the Kyoto Reds that Farmer Russell gave me last year (the two long carrots in the photo), as they seemed to do well, and the purple ones. They also did nicely and are very pretty.

I also need to thin the carrots MUCH MORE than I did last year. They were too squished for space, and many of them didn’t get much larger than seedling size. When I started to clean out the tanks this year, I encountered many baby sized carrots that never grew. My trusty taste tester didn’t have much feedback this time besides a hefty yank of the sample vegetable.

And finally, some lovely cherry tomatoes, unpecked by birds.


I pick a peck of pickled peppers

24 Jul

IMG_8658Well, they’re not pickled just yet. This is last week’s pepper harvest. Banana peppers from ShmErin’s plant, bells from ShmAli’s, red jalapenos from my plant. The plant currently has about a dozen banana peppers ready to pick. I’ll do that tomorrow. The bell peppers are also doing well, but they’re not getting to, like, actual pepper size. The green peppers here are supposed to be red and the red ones are supposed to be green. Some picked too early (they were starting to get soft spots) and some too late. I have actually transplanted three of the plants…more on that in a day or two.

Here are the three plants that these peppers came from. The bell pepper has been getting really thirsty since this heat wave started. I’ve been bringing it water about 2x a day. It generally responds within about 15 minutes by waving “thanks” to me.

So about three weeks ago I asked my neighbor if she saw anyone taking my chocolate cherries. Although I’ve offered her tomatoes and herbs as she liked, she has repeatedly refused, saying I should enjoy the fruits of my labor. So, I couldn’t figure out who was stealing my cherries. Then, I noticed one of the other tomatoes on the other plant was half eaten. Then another. Could this be the elusive soft-bellied tomato pecker that Alton Brown and neighbor McGregor talked about in Good Eats episode 6, season 6, “Tomato Envy”?

Cucumbers were moving along really nicely for several weeks. I decided to pick off the little baby cucumbers once I saw one or two nice sized ones growing on each plant. It really seemed to help them along. Rather than having the plant focus on a dozen babies, I encouraged them to just pay attention to a few. Seemed to work well. I actually picked enough to not know what to do with them at one point. We sliced them up and nommed on them while biking one day. Great snack! I wound up making a cold cucumber soup. Easy and totally delish. Used cuces and onions from the garden.

But, all good things must end. After picking a whole bunch of beans one day, I noticed that most of the leaves were starting to yellow and the beans themselves weren’t looking great. The cucumbers in the tanks were also not so hot anymore, probably because it has been so hot. I’ve been bringing each tank a full 5 gallons every day, plus more for the smaller pots, but with almost a week of temps near 100, it just wasn’t working. Sadly, this tank is nearing its end.

My compost had been growing weird things…I was advised against nibbling on these mushrooms, as they are toadstools and will kill me. I’ll skip them. I also saw a number of larvae squirming around here and there. So, I got another bucket and divided the compost in half, adding several days of rabbit litter to each one. Today, both bins are doing well, no mushrooms, and no wiggly things.

Finally, some lovely garden photos…


The Pepper Whisperer

11 Jul

FYI…I’m rather enjoying Instagram and Picstitch, as you may have picked up in the last few posts.

Last week, we put up lights for our July 4 get together on the rooftop. I was really surprised at how pretty the tanks looked with the lights all around. We also made lots of snacks.


We’re really cooking now! Tomatoes, cuces, peppers, beans…almost everything is growing well up on the roof. What’s not? Cilantro. But, remember, I don’t really care, as it tastes like soap. I don’t, however, know why it died. I’m thinking it’s because those bins don’t dry out as well as the terra cotta pots or the tanks. It wasn’t a problem in the past, but I think with all of the rain we’ve gotten in the last few weeks it hasn’t had a chance to dry out, and therefore the cilantro is over watered. The parsley and peppers in the same bin are fine, it seems, but the baby onions in the other bucket seem Imageto be stunted also. Oh well. Win some, lose some. On the left here are some scenes from the most recent strong storm we had. In and out in under 45 minutes, usually. I haven’t even collected water for weeks.

Now, on to veggies I actually like.

I have become the pepper whisperer. Two friends brought their sad, almost sickly pepper plants up to the roof, and lo and behold, magical healing takes place under my watch. ShmAli brought her yellow bell pepper over maybe three weeks ago. She was keeping it on her kitchen windowsill. Once up outside, it dropped a bunch of sad leaves, and then started to regrow new ones quickly. ShmErin also had two indoor peppers, a banana and some sort of chili pepper. They had grown to about 3′ tall and were kind of lanky. They also had spider mites. Booo. After two weeks on the roof, a ton of banana peppers appeared.

Beans I wind up picking every two days or so. The smaller, thinner ones are REALLY sweet. Cuces are doing quite well. The two plants I put in the terra cotta pot and expected to die have been productive and have offered a few final products of their own. I have to pick them before they seed, as the plant’s goal is to reproduce. If you pick them before the seeds inside mature, it will keep making more plants. Same with the beans. The ones that are left on the plant too long get really dry and not tasty at all. Also, smaller seeds taste better and are less fibrous.

I’m really looking forward to the tomatoes. They seem to be the crowning achievement of everyone’s home garden, for some reason. Might be the beautiful color contrast.

The cabernet grape plant…I don’t think is. These do not have a grape shape. They are more like large cherries, but I’m excited to see how they’re going to do anyway. I think I’ll be ready to pick a few of them this coming weekend.

And, for good measure, some of my babies, via Instagram.

As always, I had a willing parsley taste tester.


Pre-Pickles and Other Growth

28 Jun

Tomatoes and beans and…is that a carrot? Oh, my.

The glass tabletop in the photo is 30″. The carrot root was about 8″ and the rest of it was all…stalk? Not sure what happened there. I will check with Farmer Russell and update. It started to flower, which isn’t a crazy thing to happen, but I haven’t had a carrot do that before. It was looking like Queen Anne’s Lace, a relative in the carrot family. I also got a really tall, tough stalk coming from the parsley, so I cut that, too.

My grandfather always wanted to grow pickles in my garden, but they were really the only things that didn’t grow there. Now, we have amazing cucumber growth, so I’d like to think he’s enjoying them.

Oh, the parsley and freak carrot? Instead of the compost bucket, they found a better home.




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