Saturday, May 31, 2014

Today's Harvest: XXL Zucchini

While investigating around the zucchini today, to check if it was on the mend from the squash vine borer incident, (side note, I actually found ANOTHER borer larvae in the zucchini plant and pried it out - hopefully the plant will now be on the mend, assuming that was the last larvae)... I found a GIGANTIC zucchini.  Somehow the zucchini had been hidden from site the last few weeks, and grew to State Fair Blue Ribbon - Winning proportions. The beast weighed in at over 3 pounds!

Also harvested today:  Bush Blue Lake 274 Green Beans, Mucho Nacho Jumbo Jalapeno, and Gypsy Sweet Pepper (the first of the year).

Once summer squash get this big, they aren't the tastiest.  They are still fine, but just lose a lot of tenderness and flavor.  It is best to use overgrown squash in recipes that call for other spices and flavors.  So, I made some zucchini bread!

This is my first time making zucchini bread, and I think it turned out pretty good.  Only trouble is, two loaves only used about 1/2 of my gigantic zucchini (3 cups shredded), so I still have plenty of the large squash left.  Looks like I'll need to make another batch!

Harvest Totals (since April)
  • 5 lbs Cherry Bell Radishes
  • 3 lbs Giant Fordhook Swiss Chard
  • 3 lb 5.5 oz Pic-N-Pic Summer Squash (5 squash)
  • 5 lbs 6.3 oz Black Beauty Zucchini (3 squash)
  • 13.7 oz Mammoth Melting Sugar Peas
  • 5.1 oz Mucho Nacho Jumbo Jalapeno (6)
  • 1 lb 0.2 oz Bush Blue Lake 274 Green Beans
  • 5.3 oz Gypsy Sweet Peppers (2)

Here's the recipe I used:


  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 cups grated fresh zucchini
  • 2/3 cup melted unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • Pinch salt
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
  • 1 cup dried cranberries or raisins (optional)


1 Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Butter two 5 by 9 inch loaf pans.
2 In a large bowl, mix together the sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Stir in the grated zucchini and then the melted butter.
3 Sprinkle baking soda and salt over the mixture and stir it in. Add the flour, a third at a time, stirring after each incorporation. Sprinkle in the cinnamon and nutmeg over the batter and mix. Fold in the nuts and dried cranberries or raisins if using.
4 Divide the batter equally between the loaf pans. Bake for 55 minutes (check for doneness at 50 minutes) or until a wooden pick inserted in to the center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes. Turn out onto wire racks to cool thoroughly.

End of Month View: May 2014

As we close out May and head into June, it is time to join Helen at The Patient Gardener, as well as other garden bloggers for the End of the Month View of the garden.

This month's view shows a lot of growth over the past several weeks, thanks to all the rain that Central Texas has gotten (you can even see the mini 'pond' we have in the park behind our house, thanks to all the runoff in the neighborhood).  It is great to be able to take a look back at how much the garden has grown since last month.

Veggie Beds
The vegetable beds have definitely seen the most growth.

The tomato bed is an absolute jungle.  Most of the tomato plants are close to 6 feet high.  Thank goodness I have my sturdy tomato cages to contain them.  Most have fruit, but nothing ripe for the harvest, yet.  I've started harvesting some peppers, and the eggplant fruits are starting to grow.

The squash bed is starting to overflow with vines.  A couple of the plants have succumbed to the squash vine borer and mildew.  I'm trying my best to combat both, but I foresee a new planting of squash in my future.

The peas are about finished, so I'll rip them out of Bed 3 soon to make room for my cucumbers, cantaloupe, watermelon and okra that is starting to grow.  Bed 4 (foreground of picture below) has some green beans that are producing well, and a second sowing of beans that should be producing in no time.  The collards and spinach that was planted earlier this spring hasn't done much, so I think I'll pull them soon to make room for something else that will be more fruitful.

Backyard Beds
The butterfly garden is full of zinnias, lantana, and some butterfly/hummingbird wildflower mix.

The bulb bed has a couple of gladiolas that have blossomed, as well as my Black-Eyed Susan, which was planted last year, but this is the first year it has bloomed.

Front Yard
All of the plants that were planted in the front beds last month after the new landscaping are doing well.  They are slowly filling out the space.  It is good to see the progress, if only a little bit.

You'll see our flags are up -  in honor of Memorial Day and will stay up through July for Independence Day.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Memorial Day Bouquet

My family came to visit over Memorial Day weekend.  My parents and youngest sister drove down from my hometown in Wisconsin, another sister flew in from Atlanta, and the other sister and her husband stopped in from Killeen.  I wanted to add some extra beauty to the house for their stay, so I looked to my backyard for some inspiration.  The zinnias are in full force, so I collected a nice assortment of the varieties that I have sprinkled in my veggie beds.  They made a pretty lovely bouquet for my family's stay.

Today's Harvest: First Green Beans

I grew and harvested my very first green beans this year, and they are DELICIOUS!  The first harvest was on May 18, and I've gotten a couple servings worth of beans each week since then.  I planted about 15 Bush Blue Lake 274 plants from seed directly into my 4th garden bed (the shadiest one - it gets about 3 hours of light in the morning, and maybe another hour as the sun is setting) back in early-mid April.  So far the plants are doing great.  I planted a purple bean variety a couple weeks ago, so I'll be interested to see if they fare as well.  I'll definitely be planting more green beans next year!

Harvest Totals (since April)
  • 5 lbs Cherry Bell Radishes
  • 3 lbs Giant Fordhook Swiss Chard
  • 3 lb 5.5 oz Pic-N-Pic Summer Squash (5 squash)
  • 2 lb 4.2 oz Black Beauty Zucchini (2 squash)
  • 13.7 oz Mammoth Melting Sugar Peas
  • 1.0 oz Mucho Nacho Jumbo Jalapeno
  • 10.1 oz Bush Blue Lake 274 Green Beans

Sunday, May 25, 2014

RED ALERT - Squash Vine Borer Invasion

The dreaded day has come.  My worst enemy (other than Bermuda Grass) has arrived - the abominable squash vine borer.  I first noticed some of my squash leaves starting to turn yellow - the first sign of trouble.  I then inspected the vines, and sure enough, there was the dreaded yellow "saw dust" - the sure sign that the squash vine borer larvae had burrowed into my beloved squash plants and was eating and killing it from the inside out.

I couldn't just let my squash plants die... they had been producing so well!  I just wasn't ready to throw in the towel.  Drastic times call for drastic measures - I had to perform surgery on my plants if I wanted them to have any chance of survival.

I grabbed a sharp knife and cut into the base of the vine, where the "saw dust" had accumulated - the most likely place where the larvae was hanging out.  I tried to keep the cut as small as possible, to limit the trauma to the plant, but large enough to see and dig out the larvae.

Sure enough, I saw the little bugger in there.  My first cut wasn't wide enough to dig him out, so I had to cut away a little more of the vine, but I finally got him out... SUCKER.

I then covered the base of the vine up with some dirt, hoping it will heal from the horrible incident.  I'm really hoping the plants bounce back.  I was able to extract larvae from my zucchini and acorn squash plants.  I'm pretty sure the borer got to some of the other squash as well, but I couldn't find the larvae, so it might have been too late.  I'll have to wait and see if my efforts did the trick.  I might end up ripping out some of the dying vines and try to get another planting in.  One thing is for sure, I'm going to use row covers next year to keep those nasty squash vine borer wasps off my plants.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Today's Harvest: First Zucchini and Peppers

The first zucchini (Black Beauty) and pepper (Mucho Nacho Jumbo Jalapeno) this year have been harvested from the garden!  I also picked another Pic-N-Pic yellow summer squash.  The first Pic-N-Pic squash I harvested a couple weeks ago had a very tough skin that I couldn't eat.  It looks like this second one will be more edible, but I'll just have to wait and see after I cook it up!

Harvest Totals (since April)
  • 5 lbs Cherry Bell Radishes
  • 3 lbs Giant Fordhook Swiss Chard
  • 1 lb 0.1 oz Pic-N-Pic Summer Squash (2 squash)
  • 8.8 oz Mammoth Melting Sugar Peas
  • 15 oz Black Beauty Zucchini (1 squash)
  • 1.0 oz Mucho Nacho Jumbo Jalapeno

Friday, May 16, 2014

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - May 2014

Welcome to what's blooming in my garden right now in Round Rock, Texas, hardiness zone 8a.  Thanks to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting GBBD!


The zinnias are really going strong.  I love planting zinnias and marigolds on the corners of my veggie beds to attract pollinators.  They also really add a pop of color.

The milkweed has produced extra blooms, but no sign of any butterflies, yet.

The butterfly seed mix that I planted this spring is starting to blossom.  The orange cosmos are especially doing well.

The various squash plants are putting out quite a few blossoms.  Whenever I see some female flowers, I always try to do some pollinating by hand, just in case the bees haven't gotten around to it.  I want to maximize my harvest before any squash vine borers take over.



I really love the deep purple leaves of the oxalis combined with their delicate white flowers.


Skull Cap

Autumn Sage

Wind Damage Follow Up

We ended up hiring some tree experts to cut up and haul away the tree that had fallen during the strong storms last week.  Not only did they haul away the fallen part of the tree, but they cut down the remaining 2/3 of the tree that was still standing because it was rotten enough on the inside and needed to be removed before the rest fell in another wind storm.



It is always sad to lose a tree, especially one that has been growing since the house was first built in 1981.  But, it means there is an opportunity to plant something new.  I'm thinking I might plant one, or maybe a couple fruit trees in its place.  I already have a Florida Prince peach and a fig tree and I'm considering planting a pomegranate tree here.  What do you think?  Do you have any thoughts on what fruit tree I should plant in my Central Texas garden?

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Wind Damage

Storms blew into Round Rock on Thursday night, bringing some much needed rainfall to the dried-out landscape.  However, it also brought some strong winds (26mph with gusts of 40mph).  The wind was so strong that it caused a very large branch (about 1/3 of the tree) to break off of our backyard tree.  The section of the tree that snapped off fell onto our fence and into the neighbor's backyard.  The tree is obviously very heavy and fell with some force, because it caused some major damage to the iron fence.  Thankfully no people or pets were hurt.

Taking a closer look revealed that the tree probably already had some rot, which made it especially vulnerable to the strong winds.  

Jon will have his work cut out for him this week in sawing up the fallen tree and hauling it out of the neighbors yard.  We'll then need to replace a section or two of the iron fencing.  Oh, the joys of being a homeowner!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Today's Harvest: First Peas and Squash

Today in the garden I harvested the first peas and squash of the season - Guisante Mammoth Melting Sugar peas and Calabacin Pic-N-Pic Hybrid to be exact.

The great thing about having a vegetable garden is that as soon as you pick the veggies, they can go directly into a delicious home-cooked meal.  Tonight I made a delicious chicken stir fry with today's veggies (which I slightly altered to use the vegetables I had on hand, and egg noodles instead of rice).  The peas were flavorful and tender.  Being summer squash, I left the rind on the squash when I cooked it, thinking it would be soft.  It was not.  I'm hoping the rest of the crop will be softer, otherwise it will be a difficult squash variety to cook with and I probably won't plant it again if it takes a lot of prep work in the kitchen.

Harvest Totals (since April)

  • 5 lbs Cherry Bell Radishes
  • 3 lbs Giant Fordhook Swiss Chard
  • 5.7 oz Pic-N-Pic Summer Squash
  • 2.3 oz Mammoth Melting Sugar Peas