This past fall Nate sold his house (with a yard and a garden) and bought a downtown condo. While I miss being able to use his yard for my gardening purposes, he’s really loving the downtown life and the fact that he doesn’t have a yard to mow.
My apartment doesn’t have any outdoor space, so I’ve decided to make the most of his 5′ x 10′ balcony. I’ll post more on the balcony garden later. Today I’m excited about the plant markers I finished this past weekend.
I’m always pinning cute markers that I think I could make myself, but never get around to making them.
I usually draw a few pictures to remind myself where things are planted, and by the time things start coming up I can usually tell what’s what. Since this garden is on a balcony rather than tucked in the back corner of a yard I’m trying to keep things looking clean and organized. I’m probably a ways from the balcony being magazine worthy or anything like that, but the markers really help to unify everything.
While some of the example I pinned are pretty fantastic I decided to keep my investment low and the style simple. Here are the ones I made and how I made them.
Black and Gold Homemade Garden Markers
Craft sticks from Dollar Tree (I used wide ones)
Black paint (I already had some cheap chalkboard paint from Michael’s on hand)
Foam brush (also had on hand)
Gold (or whatever color you’d like) permanent marker (I found mine in the dollar section at Target a while back, but I think a sharpie style marker would be great)
Paint two coats of paint on each side of the craft stick also paint the edges. When they’re dry go crazy labeling them for all your plants. One note about your permanent marker. I tried several different paint pens and even a white grease pencil, but finally settled on my gold pen because it wasn’t too liquidy (which caused the paint to run in the groves of the wood) and had a fine enough point to look nice (I’d read some good things about the grease pencil, but decided against it in the end because the point was unreliable).
Now there’s no telling how well these will hold up outside, but I’m ok with that considering I spent $1 (even if I’d had to buy everything I still would’ve been under $5). I’ll report back at the end of the summer, but I also suspect someone in a traditional garden may experience more wear and tear on their markers than I will on a balcony.
I’ve been a pickle making machine lately. My grandma gave me several cucumbers from her garden so I turned them into several jars of bread and butter pickles (above). Then I visited my parents several weekends ago, and my dad had well over ten lbs of cucumbers. So we got to work and spent a good portion of the day Saturday pickling. We made a batch of sweet, bread and butter, and dill. I’ve tried some from each recipe and have found them all to be quite tasty!
I’ve canned a few different things and keep being surprised how easy it is. It takes some time and a bit of reading to make sure you know how to properly process your jars, but it is not rocket science. Honestly it doesn’t take all of the fancy tools either. I use my biggest soup pot with a steamer basket fanned out in the bottom for processing my jars. My mom did buy my dad the special jar tongs and they are really handy, but I don’t own a pair and my regular tongs do the job.
If you’re interested in some recipes check out Putting Food By. My grandma has a 1970s copy that I have a couple of recipes photocopied from. It also includes lots of great instructions and tips on canning, so it might be good to check out from the library if you’re going to give canning a try.
Sweet Pickle Chips – This is the updated recipe of the one I used. I generally don’t care for sweet pickles, but I didn’t mind these. The addition of the Allspice gives them a bit of a different flavor than a store-bought sweet pickle.
Bread and Butter – (pictured above) I couldn’t find a copy of this one online, so you’ll have to buy or borrow the book. It includes turmeric, celery seed, and mustard seed. The cucumbers in this recipe are put on ice before canning. I may be wrong but I think that it helps keep the pickles crunchier. Next time I make the dill recipe below I think I’ll add a similar step to the beginning of that recipe.
Dill – This recipe was recommended by my friend Shannon. They’re incredibly easy, and I wish we’d made more because I’m down to just a few pickles left! I like that the recipe is very basic, so it leaves room for tweaking the spices. I actually emptied a jar a few nights ago, and decided to make some refrigerator pickles with the left over juice.
The garden got a bit of a late start this year with all the late frosts, so it’s pretty mellow for the most part (peppers, tomatoes, okra, basil, mint, cucumber, watermelon). I did dump a bunch of compost in the garden and some sort of squash plants have sprouted. I’m curious to see what they make.
We’ve picked a few things. The carrots and garlic were actually left over from last summer/fall. There was some lettuce too, but it was really bitter tasting.
Last night I pinched off a bit of basil and made a caprese salad. I’m looking forward to the garden tomatoes being ready so the caprese salads are extra tasty.
Do you have any big weekend plans? I’ve got a few things going on and some other exciting tidbits.
Some people get very excited about Easter candy hitting the store shelves. I do enjoy picking up a bag of Starburst jelly beans which you can find this time of year, but this has been the first year I’ve hunted down a specific Easter candy. I discovered Cadbury’s Royal Dark Mini Eggs last year and have been checking shelves for them all month. My dad finally found some in Kansas, and when I went for a visit last weekend I stocked up on a few bags. A friend said she found some at Target in OKC, so I’ll have to check there the day after Easter and see if I find any on clearance. Do you have a favorite Easter candy?
I purchased my first DSLR camera today! My little point and shoot camera stopped working a while back and I’ve been getting by borrowing from friends when necessary. My Nikon will take a week or so to arrive, and I cannot wait!
One of my favorite comedians, Jim Gaffigan, is coming to OKC this weekend and we’re going to see him. I think there are still tickets left, so if you need something to do Sunday night it should be a good show!
I am super close to finishing the t-shirt quilt I’m making for my friend Elyse. Eight more seams.
I’m making Cheesy Zucchini Enchiladas for dinner tonight.
Some friends are getting married this weekend at IAO. I think an art gallery would be a cool venue to get married at, so I’m looking forward to seeing how everything looks, and the fun time celebrating with friends!
Source: IAOgallery.org via Flickr
My grandma was telling me about her garden and a book she got, Lasagna Gardening. So I’m going to pick up a copy from the library on the way home for some light weekend reading.
Have a good one!
I had two more pickled pepper recipes I wanted to try out after the first one that I’m told wasn’t bad, but wasn’t the best.
Several months ago I made a few jars of each with the last of the garden’s peppers. The first recipe is from Love.Peace.Happiness.Cooking for Pickled Cayenne Peppers. I used mostly Cayenne the first time I made the recipe, but I made a few more jars for gifts at Christmas with store bought Jalapenos, and as far and I know it didn’t hurt anything.
The second recipe is from My Kitchen Addiction for Pickled Jalapenos. I begged Nate to pick a favorite of the two recipes, but he claims they’re equal. I did love the idea in this recipe to stick your spices in a tea ball though (since you throw them out before putting the liquid in the jars anyway).
I got excited last weekend that my lettuce is growing really well and picked some. When I started picking I decided it probably wasn’t quite big enough and there wasn’t nearly enough for a proper salad. Oops! I picked a couple bowls of cherry tomatoes and a couple cucumbers too, so I made the tiniest salads. I joked that they were fancy restaurant salads – more for looks than to fill you up.
We planted, I think, 12 pepper plants in the garden this year. Cayenne, bell, and jalapeno. As usual the cayenne and jalapeno produce a lot. I’m not a fan of spicy foods so I don’t eat any, but Nate throws them in everything from ramen to vegetable soup. In an effort to help him not let peppers go to waste I pickled a couple of jars worth.
The original site I grabbed the recipe from seems to be down but I found it here. You have to wait four weeks after canning to open them, so we just opened them last week. Nate says they’re pretty good, but a little sweeter and more vinegary than he prefers. We’ll have to try a different recipe out next time. They sure look pretty in their jars though.
My one tip: when they say wear gloves to cut the peppers they’re not joking! The pepper juices burn your skin and cause pain like a heat burn does!
The garden had some rough patches this summer with the heat, and the zucchini hardly had a chance with the vine borers and squash bugs. But here we are in September, and the plants that are still alive are doing quite well. The tomato plants are doing the best, and it looks like we’ll probably get a second crop! I did find probably a 3in long tomato hornworm on one of the plants (I should’ve taken a picture but I was too grossed out and didn’t think to) just munching away. He took a nice sudsy bath in a bowl of soapy water. Ick!
The weather has been gorgeous the past two weekends, so I got out and got some fall veggies planted (various lettuce, spinach, carrots, fava beans, peas, turnips, and endive). I haven’t ever done a fall garden and I realize some of these are going into the ground a bit late, but we’ll just see what happens.
Nate also got a fall corn patch planted.
I’d still like to pick up some garlic and onions to add to my fall garden. And I’m wondering when this watermelon will be ready?
I started growing basil last year after my grandma gave me some plants from her out of control basil plant. I didn’t have a plan for it, but I rarely turn down a free plant! We soon realized how easy it was to grow and how easy pesto is to make. I found this pesto recipe and just very slightly adapted it to the one below (mine just leaves out parsley because I never have fresh parsley on hand).
Very slightly adapted from Baked Bree
3/4 cup basil leaves
4 garlic cloves
1/3 cup Parmesan or Romano cheese grated
3 Tablespoons pine nuts
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil
Add all ingredients to a blender or food processor and pulse until smooth.
Off the same blog I got the Pesto recipe from we’ve made this yummy Corn, Pesto and Tomato Pizza several times. This year making the pizza was extra exciting because the basil, garlic, corn, and tomatoes for the recipe all came out of the garden. We also made a second pizza that night with tomatoes and zucchini. So it was pretty close to a garden feast!
It’s been pretty hot lately, so rather than turn on the oven and heat up the kitchen Nate fired up his grill and heated the two pizzas up there. They turned out just perfect!
Like I said the tomatoes have been ripening like crazy. We’ve been discussing different things to make with them, and I’ve been trying to remember what all my family would make when we found ourselves in the same predicament growing up. The other day I remembered bruschetta. My family has a couple of recipes we love that came from our neighbors, the VanderVelde’s, who used to live across the street. This bruschetta recipe is one of them.
From the kitchen of the VanderVelde’s
Sliced bread (French or Italian loaf is what I like to use)
Tomatoes (romas work very well)
1. Chop the tomatoes and mix with just enough olive oil to coat them, basil, oregano, and salt. Let this mixture sit for a bit so the flavors mix.
2. Toast the bread under the broiler and then rub each slice with a cut open clove of garlic.
3. Top bread slices with tomato mixture and enjoy immediately.