Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Autumn means canning!

I have been crazy busy this month, away almost every weekend, but the garden continues to produce!  My tomatoes are just about done, but as you can see from the above photo, I got a nice harvest this week! I also picked my last zucchini, some beautiful cherry hot peppers, and lots of green beans this week. My herbs are still doing nicely, too.

My fall garden, that I planted in August is starting to produce radishes, and the lettuce and spinach is looking good too.  The squash has flowers and if we don't have a frost in the next week or so, I'm expecting to see some squash.  Once the fruit starts growing, they can take a gentle frost, but at the flower level they don't like frost at all.

As busy as I am all of these weekends in September, I am enjoying my mornings prepping my harvest for use this winter.  This week I have frozen several quarts of green beans, and have made and canned salsa from my tomatoes and peppers.  I have also made and canned applesauce and pickles this week.  No, I didn't grow the apples or cukes, but Vito and I did handpick the apples at Applecrisp farm in Hampton, NH, and I got a great deal on the pickling cukes at the market this week. 

Here is a photo of the food I put up this week, as well as the bottle of basil and garlic infused olive oil I made.

Would love to hear what others are doing with their bounty!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Harvest time!

Spring and fall are my favorite times in the garden!  Spring, because I've been itching to get my fingers in the dirt and my face in the sun, and March, April and May give me plenty of cool, sunny days to get out and prepare my beds, tidy the yard, and just enjoy tending to my little spot on planet earth.  I love watching the seeds I have planted turn into seedlings, and mature as the weather warms.

I do not, however, love the hot summer months.  I am extremely sensitive to the sun, and can only take it in very small doses, so it makes it difficult for me sometimes in the summer to keep up with the weeding, and supporting plants that have gone wild.  But come September, ahhhh, the garden and I become fast friends once again.  The garden is providing me with an over abundance of her bounty, and I lovingly come back and spend hours caring for her, pampering the late bloomers, and enjoying the harvest.

Right now, like most everyone else, I have lots and lots of tomatoes, my second planting of green beans is flourishing, cukes, zucchini, carrots and kale are still doing well too, and I'm finally getting some peppers! We can't eat it as fast as we're picking, so it's time to get creative in the kitchen.  I spent much of Labor Day prepping my harvest to have over the winter.

Canning and freezing are what I do most, although I like to dry my herbs.  Yesterday I put up 4 pints of salsa, froze a couple of quarts of green beans, roasted and then froze cherry tomatoes,  pickled more cherry tomatoes, made a couple of quarts of tomato sauce, and several gallons of soups.

Here's a great resource for preserving your harvest:

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Our little garden on busy Eastern Ave!

Here is my son standing in front of our garden on Eastern Ave.   Our tomatoes have gone crazy, and I was definitely not prepared for all the staking they would need.  They quickly outgrew their standard size small tomato cage, and I've started using anything and everything that I can find to keep them upright!  My tomatoes are already starting to ripen, however some of them are splitting (see the picture below).  Why is this happening?  Can anyone tell me?

After catching 2 groundhogs in our yard (in a have-a-heart trap), I am now starting to see cucumbers, and Minnesota Midget cantaloupe melons appearing!  

I also have some valencia onions growing, but they are small (about the size of a ping pong balls) and sticking out of the ground a bit.  Does anyone know when I should pull them up?  Are they supposed to stick up out of the dirt like that?

Thanks for checking out this post, and I appreciate any help you can offer me!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Kale can't eat just one

I was a little apprehensive about growing kale. Mainly because I don't really like kale. Or I should say, I don't really like sauteed kale. I am pretty much a once a year sauteed greens (beet, kale, chard) kinda lady. So growing kale would mean finding new uses for it. After seen pins all over Pinterest for kale chips a few weeks ago it would seem that others are looking for new things to do with kale also. I decided to try kale chips with small bit of kale in case we didn't like them. First I washed and dried the kale. I used only the leaves (more later on what I did with the stalks) and cut them up into what I thought would be manageable size "chips". I tossed the kale with 1tbs of olive oil (or until they are coated) and sprinkled with 1/2 -1 tsp of salt.
Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Keep and eye on them so that they aren't burning. The kale will get darker as it cooks.
Once cooked, cool and store in an air tight container. The chips only keep for about a day or two before they start to get soggy so I make small batches. Turns out kale chips are good. I actually had to stop myself from eating them so that there would be chips for my family to try. My kids love them. But, I am pretty sure that kids love anything called a "chip".

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Charming East Gloucester Family & Gardens

   On Wednesday evening I had the great pleasure of visiting the Bushfield family, parents Joanna and Tim, and their four children; Justin, Tessa, Jeremiah and Trey.   Joanna and I have been corresponding through e-mail, and I thought I was going to meet someone I didn't know.  What a great surprise it was to find out that I had met Joanna and Tim last winter when Tessa and I were working on a play together.

Upon arrival, Joanna served me the most delicious lemonade I have ever had.  She had infused it with basil she grows in the garden, it was so refreshing!  We then headed over to her delightful garden.  The vegetable garden is on the side of the house, and is set up in such a way that there is a lovely path that ambles through it into the back yard.  All of the vegetables were producing beautifully, and we're planted in such a way that every nook on both sides of the path held wonderful surprises.  

  In the center of one side of the path is the arbor that Joanna and Tim were married under thirteen years ago.  It is now being used to trellis green beans that feed their family.  On the other side of the path, another delightful green bean trellis balances the first.  Joanna and Tim made a tee pee like structure out of bamboo stakes, and planted beans around 3/4 of it.  The vines and leaves are now covering the  stakes, yet leave a door like opening where the children can crawl in, and have a fabulous fort in the midst of the garden.  Five year old Jeremiah especially loves spending time in the garden, and spends lots of time in the green bean fort.  He told me that the best thing about it is " if you get hungry while you're playing, the fort feeds you.
In addition to the green beans in the vegetable garden, the Bushfields grow squash, zucchini, several varieties of tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet peppers, jalepeno peppers, seranno peppers, eggplant, garlic, onions, broccoli, carrots, and pumpkins (and I'll bet I'm forgetting some!)  Some of the spring crops like spinach and lettuce have already gone by, but as I mentioned earlier, the rest of the garden is flourishing!  They also have an apple tree, cherry tree and peach tree at the end of the garden, next to the back yard.  The peaches are just now ripening, and ten year old Justin picked one for us to try.  It was so juicy and delicious!  Here is a photo of the children picking peaches while we visited.

 After we spent time admiring the vegetable garden and the fruit trees, nine year old Tessa brought me into the back yard to show me her herb garden.  She got the idea of an herb garden from a children's book series "Warriors," about clans of cats.  In the series there are medicine cats who use various plants and herbs to help heal their fellow cats, and Tessa loved the idea of using plants that she grew to aid in healing.  Tessa shared with me some of her "sugar" leaves, that were a sweet treat!

 After our tour of the gardens, Joanna treated us to some delicacies she whipped up from her harvest, a delicious tomato salad, and some Spanakopita that was to die for!  If that wasn't enough, to top off the evening she served homemade sorbet, infused with bourbon for the adults, and with grapefruit and tarragon for the children.  As we sat on the Busfield's gorgeous farmers porch, we chatted about (what else?) gardening, an I learned that Joanna and the kids are also part of the Garden Club at East Gloucester School.

I asked each of the children to share their thoughts on gardening, and each had some insightful thoughts on the matter:
When I asked Justin what his favorite food from the garden was, he exclaimed "Zucchini Muffins!"  He will eat other vegetables, but he would prefer them in the form of something yummy like muffins.  Justin is old enough to remember the house the family lived in before they bought this home three years ago, and recalled how they grew tomatoes, their first try at gardening.  Mom laughed and reminded him how she and Dad used to think that Justin loved the tomatoes, until they found that he was picking them to throw them.

Tessa's favorite vegetable from the garden is carrots. In addition to her herb garden, she likes to make fairy houses throughout the yard.  Anyone who knows me, know that fairies are a subject close to my heart, an so I am sure that Tessa and I are kindred spirits! 

Jeremiah (or Jer Jer, as he said I could call him) loves spending time in the garden, and likes all aspects of gardening.  Mom said that Jeremiah is the one who spends the most time with her in the garden.  In addition to the green beans he eats from his fort, he enjoys tomatoes, and zucchini muffins.

Two year old Trey might not be much help in the gardens, but he enjoys spending time outside with his parents and older siblings.  He likes tomatoes, and showed me how he could eat a green tomato to prove his point.

Joanna shared that she has only been gardening for a couple of years, and is enjoying learning new ideas, and ways to use her harvest.  Her dad was an avid flower gardener, and she said that growing up she could never understand why he got so much pleasure from gardening, but now knows exactly what attracted him.  The spiritual aspect of gardening, the intimate closeness to God and his creation is very appealing to Joanna.  Justin said that gardening helps him feel closer to God too, especially watching the perennial plants come back year after year helps him to relate to the ressurection of Jesus.

I had a wonderful evening getting to know the Bushfields.  I love this family!  I am looking forward to updates on the gardens, and recipes that Joanna has promised to post for us.  Thanks Joanna, Tim, Justin, Tessa, Jer Jer & Trey!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Stuffed Zucchini Recipe

This year we had an abundance of zucchini from our garden. We got tired of fried zucchini and wanted to try a new recipe. After researching some recipes, we found one for stuffed zucchini. This recipe is absolutely delicious. The preparation for this recipe is well worth it.  This is one recipe that we will keep. Enjoy it!

2 medium zucchini or 2 baby eggplants
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, sliced (about 1 cup)
1 medium carrot, diced (about 1/2 cup)
1 cup cooked quick-cooking brown rice
1 1/2 cups of your favorite Italian sauce
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano leaves, crushed
4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise. Using a melon baller, scoop the pulp out of each zucchini half, leaving an 1/8-inch-thick shell. Dice the pulp and reserve the zucchini shells.
  • Heat the oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot and zucchini pulp and cook until the vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in the rice and 1 cup sauce and cook until the mixture is hot and bubbling.
  • Spoon the vegetable mixture into the zucchini shells. Place the filled shells into a 2-quart shallow baking dish. Top with the remaining sauce. Sprinkle with the oregano and cheese.
  • Bake at 400°F. for 30 minutes or until the zucchini shells are tender. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

What are you making with your harvest?

I'd be really interested to read some of the things folks are doing with their harvested vegetables.  Please share recipes!!!!

Today I harvested over a pound of Kale, so I thought I'd share the Italian/American soup version of the Portuguese classic Caldo Verde, that I have waiting in the crock pot for dinner tonight.  It is yummy!


Olive Oil, 2 tbsp
Italian Sausage, pork, 1/2 pound , sliced  
Onions, raw, 1 large, chopped
Garlic, 1 clove, minced
Red Potatoes, 3 small, diced
Beans, white, 1 can
Chicken Broth, 64 fl oz
Kale, 8 cup, chopped
Old Bay Seasoning, 1 tbsp
Salt & Pepper
In a saute pan, heat 2 tbs of Olive oil, add the onion and garlic, and saute for about 3 minutes.  Add the diced potatoes, and continue sauteeing for another 3 to 4 minutes.  Remove the vegetables to the crock pot, and add the sausage to the pan and cook approximately 5 minutes. Add to crock pot.  Now add beans, broth, and seasonings to crock pot and set to low for 6 - 8 hours.  About an hour before serving, add the kale.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Have you planted your fall garden yet?

 It makes me sad when I look at my garden, and I have empty spaces where the early veggies have already gone by.  The good news is, this is the perfect time to plant your fall garden!  Leafy greens, such as cabbage, spinach, broccoli, kale, cauliflower and brussel sprouts do well  in the cooler, fall weather. Try beets, early carrots, peas, turnips, and radishes, too, as they also do well in cooler weather. They all grow well when planted in August and harvested later in the fall. Also, the cool weather enhances the flavors of these plants.  You can even try peas, and green beans that are early maturers to harvest in early October before the first frost.

When planting for fall, it’s best to pick a spot that will receive as much sun as possible, since fall brings not only cooler temperatures but shorter days. You should also be prepared to protect the plants at the onset of the first frost. This means keeping an ear tuned to weather reports and being ready to spread mulch or some sort of cover to protect the plants.

I love canning, and it is so very satisfying to go out in the garden in September and harvest vegetables to put up for the winter.   I'll be sharing some canning tips and recipes in a few weeks, and would love to get some ideas from other readers too!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Welcome 1st Time Visitors

Welcome to My Backyard Grows, a blog for and by Cape Ann gardeners, big and small!  We are hoping that this will be THE place for those who love gardening. Those who are looking for some help or info about gardening.  Those who have experience to share their knowledge about gardening.  Those who want to share their gardening joys, woes, and triumphs.  Those who,  oh...well, know, just anybody on Cape Ann who loves gardening!

It's easy to follow us,  all you need to do is sign in to a google account (if you don't have one, don't worry, it's free and easy), then click follow on the blog.  If you are more adventurous, and would like to add some of  your own posts, send me an email at, and I'll send you an invitation to become a contributor. 

Come and help, or be helped making Cape Ann Backyard Gardens Grow!


Monday, August 6, 2012

In our backyard, there is a "Hibiscus" also referred to as a "Rose Mallow" which is in full bloom from August to early September. This is a beautiful 9" flower which grows to 24" tall. This spectacular vibrant "Hibiscus" attracts to butterflies and humming birds and it is excellent in mixed perennial gardens. This year we have many buds on the plant which are about to bloom.   

Saturday, August 4, 2012

A recipe from cousin Debbie


4 cups thinly sliced, unpeeled zucchini
...1 cup coarsely chopped onion
1/2 cup of butter or margarine (I use butter)

1/2 cup of fresh chopped parsley or
2 T of dried parley flakes
1/2 tsp of salt
1/2 tsp of black pepper
1/4 tsp of garlic powder
1/4 tsp of dried basil
1/4 tsp of dried oregano

2 eggs, well beaten
8 oz (2 cups) shredded mozzarella cheese

1 8 oz can refrigerated crescent dinner rolls/keeping cold until use
1 tsp of dijon or prepared mustard

Heat oven to 375 degrees. In 10inch skillet melt butter and add zucchini and onion until tender
about 10 minutes. Stir in next group of ingredients.

In a large bowl beat eggs well and then add shredded cheese

Separate dough into eight triangles and place in ungreased pie dish, pressing across bottom
and up sides of dish forming crust. Spread bottom and sides of dough with mustard.

Pour mixed ingredients into pie dish and bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes or until knife inserted
into the center comes out clean. Let stand for 10 minutes before slicing.

NOTE: because this recipe has a tendency to drip over the dish I place a cookie sheet under it while baking.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Meet the Settipani's

When I first put out the word that I was in need of some local backyard gardeners to visit & share their stories with fellow gardeners, Matt and Mary Lou Settipani invited me over to their home in the Trask St. area of Gloucester. They brought me out to their backyard, and showed me their lovely flower gardens first, pointing out the plants currently in bloom, as well as the spring flowers that have gone by, and the fall flowers yet to come.

This red beauty is currently in bloom, however neither I, not Matt and Mary Lou are able to identify it.  We are hoping somebody out there knows what it is.  What we do know is that it is a bulb, and Matt has been bringing the bulb in each winter.  We are hoping that one of you will be able to identify it for us!

Next Matt brought me over to his perfect vegetable garden.  It is beautiful, weed free, in perfect rows, and everything is producing magnificently!  The Settipani's grow lettuce, tomatoes, green peppers, cucumbers, eggplant, bush beans, zucchini and garlic in the veggie garden (and have strawberries, parsley and basil  in hanging pots.)  The lettuce has all been harvested, and in it's place Matt has planted another crop of bush beans, so he will have continuous beans for several months.

After our tour of the gardens, Matt and Mary Lou invited me to sit with them on the tented deck overlooking the yard, and served me some of their homemade white wine and fried zucchini Mary Lou made up just before my arrival (both delicious!)  We chatted about our gardens, what we had the most success with, and what area gives us trouble, and shared tips.  Matt stated that weeding was the most difficult task, and admitted that he had spent several hours Saturday morning weeding the gardens for my photo shoot.  I took a little bit of joy in his  admission, because there are always weeds in my gardens, and as I mentioned earlier, there wasn't a lone weed in Matt & Mary Lou's garden.

The Settipani's have been married for 31 years, and have been gardening since they were first married.  Mary Lou's father, Jerry Scola was an avid gardener, and taught Matt and Mary Lou how to have a successful city garden.  Mary Lou shared how her dad, a Gloucester fisherman, used to bring home the fish remains to fertilize his garden.  What those old school gardeners knew, we are all learning again, I swear by Neptune's Harvest Fertilizer,  same idea!

I asked Matt and Mary Lou what it was about gardening that kept them at it all of these years.  Matt said he enjoys spending time outside, and how it helps clear his mind.  Mary Lou was of a similar opinion, "It is like a breath of fresh air for my brain" she said. Before I left, the Settipani's gave me two lovely green peppers right from the garden, oh and they were quite tasty for dinner the next day!

 Matt and Mary Lou have promised to share some of their zucchini recipes with us, so look for them posting here soon!  Thanks for the wonderful hospitality Matt & Mary Lou, and sharing your garden with us!!!!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Saturday, July 28, 2012

My Best Gardening Assistant

Meet Sophia, my best gardening Buddy.  Sophia has been gardening with me since shortly before her 3rd birthday.  In the photo on the left, she is inspecting the new raised bed we put in this year.  We had so much fun with the original bed, we wanted to expand this year!  Sophia is very serious about our gardening, and she reminds her mother and grandmother every Saturday morning that she needs to come over to garden.  You can tell how serious she is by those fabulous gardening Wellies she's sporting!  In the photo on the right, she is showing off how well our grape tomatoes are doing in that same bed.
When I asked Sophia what her favorite part of gardening is, she said it was the planting.  Don't get her wrong, she loves watering the gardens, and enjoys harvesting too, but like me, she loves getting her hands in the dirt, planting the seeds and seedlings, and finding bugs, and determining if they are good bugs or bad bugs for our garden.  We had loads of fun this spring finding worms to put into our new garden bed.  We found one that was at least 8 inches long, and chubby as he could be.  Sophia likes worms, lady bugs and butterflies.  She doesn't like bees, but she understands how important they are for our plants.

Here's another shot of Sophia (with her Great Uncle Vito - my second best gardening buddy) harvesting zucchini this morning from our new bed.  She is not particularly fond of eating vegetables.  I had hoped she might be willing to try some of the ones she grew, but right now she would much rather give her crops away than eat them, and her parents, grandparents and aunts and uncles are always delighted to get some delicious treats from Sophia.  She might not like many vegetables, but she loves fruit, so this year we planted strawberries, blueberries, melons and pumpkins.  Sophia is delighted each week when she can pick a few strawberries.  She and her Uncle Vito enjoy them very much!  We can't wait until next year when they spread, and we get even more strawberries.

Sophia and I wanted to share a fun project we've done with our pumpkins.  A few weeks ago we carved Sophia and her baby cousin Owen's names into the skin of two of the pumpkins, and we are having fun watching how their names are getting bigger as the pumpkins grow.  Here is a picture of Sophia standing in her strawberry patch pointing out the pumpkin with her name on it, and a shot of Owen's pumpkin. 

Sophia and I enjoy working and playing hard in the gardens, and we would love to hear some of the things others who garden with young children do in the gardens to help make it a magical experience for the kids!

The day I have been waiting for since March

After being in New York for the past week, I returned to a somewhat unruly garden with so many things that were ready to harvest. I'll admit I was getting a little discouraged by the garden because although everything was getting bigger, pretty much the only things we have been able to harvest were radishes, lettuce, spinach, kale and chard. I grew some of those because people said they were easy to grow, not really because I actually like eating them. In fact, part of the reason, we didn't get a CSA share this year, was because in the past we'd gotten so much kale and chard each week that I had come to dread searching for new ways to use those ingredients. Today was the day I have been dreaming about since March; harvesting things I actually like to eat. First I dug up our potatoes. It was so satisfying to dig through the dirt and find all of the potatoes under there. Unlike so many of the things that grow above the ground in the garden where you can actually see the progress, there was no way for me to know if the potatoes were going to be a success or not. Even the beets and radishes have given me some kind of indication on how they are doing as they peek through the top of the soil. But potatoes were a leap of faith and I was so happy to find about 30 regular sized red bliss potatoes and some smaller ones. Somehow in my head there would only be six potatoes since that is how many eyes I had put in the ground. Remember, this is my first foray into gardening. While I was weeding, I also noticed some of the beets were ready to harvest as well as some calendula flowers, cherry tomatoes and blackberries. I cut some basil, tarragon and kale because I had some time this afternoon to prep them for our winter kitchen. It may sound ridiculous, but I am most excited about the potatoes. If you know me, you know I love potato. If you ask my kids what they are most excited about, I am pretty sure they will say the blackberries!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Calling all backyard gardeners

It's the height of the summer growing season, and I (and I hope others) are interested in how everyone's garden is growing. I realize everyone is busy, and blogging may not fit into your schedule, or maybe you are too shy to post. I would love to start a weekly spot here at My Backyard Grows featuring local backyard gardners, big and small, to share successes, failures, tips, and questions. I Am looking to visit you, at your convenience, ask a few questions, maybe take a picture or two of your garden, and share your experience with other like minded folk here on the blog. Please email me at if you are willing to help me out. Look for my first featured gardener here this Sunday!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Fruits of my labor

Today's havest, washed and ready to eat!   Been busy this summer, and I haven't had much chance to post, but my little backyard here in Downtown Gloucester is thriving.  This is the end of the lettuce and pea pods, but the beans and onions are in their prime, and the cukes and tomatoes are just starting to produce.  The tomatoes are loving the heat this summer, and we have lots and lots of tomatoes coming in a few weeks!  We've been eating zucchini for weeks,  still plenty growing, just none harvested today.  Pepper plants are small, but flowering, so we're hoping for the best!  Going to plant more lettuce, spinach and beans this week!  I love gardening season!!!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

This land is your land... This land is my land...

The Beacon Street Farm family is off to New Mexico for a couple weeks. If I get a chance maybe I'll post some farming-in-the-desert pictures. In the meantime, here's what happens when you get a lot of rain:
The east-side garden bed
Potatoes in the backyard

Monday, June 11, 2012

Latest development on the farm

We raised the height of our rain barrel to experiment with gravity-fed watering. This rain barrel is located on top of our compost bin, which is inside the chicken coop...

So beautiful, it hurts....

Red-veined sorrel

Shelling Peas are in

Want your kids to eat vegetables? Sit them down with a colander of shelling peas and watch them get devoured...

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Great Salad Wall of Beacon Street

The lovely Amanda Cook sent me a link on how to create vertical growing walls using pallets. Here is my work in progress at the Beacon Street Farm.

Here is the link Amanda sent me: Life on the Balcony

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

More on The Open Door

Last week Grace and I and a couple of our dedicated garden participants harvested a huge amount of spring greens to make way for our summer crops, most of which are interplanted with what's left of our spring crops. Here are some pictures of spring crops before the harvest...

Here are some of our spring crops that haven't matured yet or we're waiting for them to get bigger before we start to harvest...
Snap peas

Bush beans


Swiss Chard & Kale

The harvest! 

Summer crops interplanted with remaining spring crops...
Tomato seedling interplanted with radishes

Eggplant seedlings interplanted with lettuce