Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Green Beans

Green Beans
Originally uploaded by rarichard
My garden is finally at the summer bounty point. That point where you have to get a bit creative about how to use a ton of vegetables. There really aren't tomatoes or chiles or eggplant yet, but there are a lot of green beans, cucumbers, and squash. There is also a ton of basil, New Zealand spinach and probably some other things that I can't see because it is such a jungle in there. I spent a half hour pruning the tomatoes today. I did the whole "Square Foot Gardening" method of planting the tomatoes very close together and training them upwards, but it's still crazy. I might actually pull out a few of them that don't really have any fruit yet.

Since I've literally been picking beans by the bucketful I've taken to stewing them with tomatoes. This is an especially good way to prepare beans that have gotten quite large because you've been out of town or they have been hiding out deep in the hoophouse jungle.

Stewed Green Beans:

Saute an onion in a liberal amount of olive oil in a large pan (with high sides) or pot. Once the onion is softened, add chopped up fresh tomatoes or chopped up canned tomatoes (I use a big can or 1-2 pounds fresh), a half bucket of green beans or so (1 pound?), chopped up garlic (1 or more cloves, I would do at least 3 large cloves), and assorted herbs: thyme, bay leaf, salt & freshly ground pepper, dill, parsley, etc. The recipe is flexible. If you want to add basil I would add that at the end to keep the flavor alive. I think I tossed in some spanish smoked paprika yesterday as well -- something spicy would be good too like cayenne or red chile.

Then I add some broth (chicken or veggie) or water (1/2 to 1 cup, could do even more) so they have plenty of liquid to stew in. I cover and simmer over medium-low heat for at least a half hour. If I'm in a hurry I steam the beans before I simmer them with the other ingredients. You want them to get soft and start falling apart a bit before you serve them.

Berm with Abelia shrubs and ornamental grasses

We purchased four yards of compost/top soil mix, I had way way way too much dirt. But we were fortunate. We were going to buy eight yards because it was such a great deal compared to four yards. I had a nightmare about eight yards of dirt that night, and the net morning John said, "You know, maybe we should just get four." I agreed. I have NO IDEA what we would have done with eight yards. We would have had to just dump it in the neighbors "lake" for them or get people to come and truck it away.

Anyways, this (most likely homeless/nomadic) dude who reminded me of the motorcyle guy on the Everest reality TV series walked by and said he would put in a berm on the side of the yard if he were me. He said it would hide the neighbors driveway. I thought it was a great idea, and I hope he walks by again and sees that I took his advice.

Not only does it hide the neighbors driveway, but it also meant we only had to move the dirt a few feet away from it's current location.

I planted shrubs and ornamental grasses on the berm. The shrubs are abelias. They have pink flowers and a reddish green foliage, and are supposed to look pretty good till January or so. The helpful woman at Reem's Creek Nursery helped me pick out the shrubs. I had wanted to plant oakleaf hydrangeas on the berm, but she told me they need to have partial shade and this location ges full sun.

I liked the idea of ornamental grasses but didn't want to ust put them in as it seemed like it might be out of place between the boxwoods that "punctuate" the berm. I bought a bunch of these tall grasses with a red hint to them ( I forget the name right now), and fountain grasses.

Gardening up high in Asheville

I'm back, it has been a long time since my last post. I was in North Carolina for two weeks where we kind of accidnetally now own a house. IT's a long story and I'm not going to go into it! I did get to do a little gardening in North Carolina which was fun. In some ways it is like New Mexico but mostly it is entirely different. The only similarity I found was the solid clay soil that both places have. Asheville has soil you can make bricks out of. Red, with little shiny specks, and you can basically just dig it up and stick it in a mold and fire them to make bricks far as I can tell. In Los Alamos, you can similarly make adobe blocks.

That is about all the similarities though. Asheville's soil is acidic, whereas New Mexico is alkaline. There is no layer of hardpan or tuff 1 foot down, just clay for miles as far as I can tell. Instead of making a shallow depression to catch water, you do the opposite with a mound so that the plants don't drown in the 48 inches of rain Asheville gets every year.

I did some landscaping around the house. We will sell the house in a few years and rent it in the meantime. I wanted to put in some trees and plants so that they are more mature when we sell it which should raise the property value.

I downloaded a PDF about Western North Carolina rain gardens. They have a list of plants that can handle wet conditions, as well as plants that are so tough they can handle wet and dry conditions once they are established. I figure those will be some plants that are easy to keep alive.

I planted a buffer strip along the front of the lawn. I put in perennials like Phlox, the always dependable Nepeta (catmint), Red Hot Poker, Lilyturf, and many more. I tried very hard to use a lot of the same plants to keep the garden from looking haphazard. I also put in a number of butterfly bushes in the front and backyard. I put in a hydrangea at the end of the sidewalk strip as well.

One amazing thing was as soon as I brought a bunch of these plants to the house, they immediately started attracting butterflies and bees. In fact, so many bees that I managed to step on one and get stung while killing the poor little thing. I tried to wear my Chacos more after that.

I also put in plants along the front of the house. Again, perennials like Phlox, Echinacea, Poker, and Monarda (Bee Balm). Many of these plants grow in New Mexico as well. They are all tolerant of wide range of moisture conditions for the most part.

And we bought a crepe myrtle as well, which John remembered his mom had growing at their house in Virginia when we was a kid. They are beautiful shrubs/small trees with gorgeous pink, white, or red flowers in August. I enjoyed getting to plant a number of plants that you just can't grow in New Mexico because they need acidic soil.

In the back yard I put in a River Birch and a few plants around it in a little type of "island." River birch grows fast (1 foot a year), gets up to 60 feet tall (the backyard is huge), and is tolerant of wet and dry conditions. I planted it in the low point of the yard so I figure it gets more water there then most places.

This was a LOT of work. I got kind of sick of gardening, which doesn't usually happen. Part of it probably was the many trips to the nurseries and Lowe's. As well as trying to get rid of the huge pile of compost before it killed all the grass.

Overall the front yard looks great. The only part that is worse than before is where the grass died -- the truck that brought the compost had to drive on the wet lawn, which left track marks, and we had a tree removed that had at one point been cut back to just the trunk about six feet tall so it only had these water shoots coming out and looked like shit. So there is also no grass where the tree was. The grass under the compost is a bit worse for wear but hopefully it will bounce back.