Battling Ants and Aphids – Part II

In my last post, Battling Ants & Aphids Part I, an army of ants harvesting aphids had taken over my tomatoes and my artichoke.  I set out Terro Ant Baits to see if they would keep the ants at bay. Well, the ants (and the aphids) are still around.  The Terro Baits can take up to three months to work, time that my tomatoes don’t have. My tomatoes are at the end of their season anyway, so I’ve decided to pull them out and start over.  I set aside the green tomatoes to make Fried Green Tomatoes.

Sometimes pulling out your veggies that aren’t doing well feels really good.  It’s almost like getting rid of stuff in your garage that you don’t need anymore.  Once I removed the tomatoes, I added a few handfuls of Dr. Earth Start Up fertilizer, a few handfuls of worm castings and some water. I’ll let the soil sit for a few days to give it time to rejuvenate.  It’s nice to make space for new veggies.  I’ll plant some beans, lettuces, and Brussels sprout in that space.

With the artichoke plant, I need to keep it going.  Artichokes are perennials (they will last for years and produce artichokes a few times a year).  I am going to continue to keep the Terro Baits out while spraying inside the artichoke with Pyola to kill the aphids every ten days or so. Pyola is a powerful organic pesticide, so I’ll also spray worm tea on the leaves to strengthen the plant every few weeks.  Hopefully this slow and steady method will keep my artichoke alive.  We’ve harvested one artichoke so far (and it was delicious) and have three baby ones growing. It is certainly a determined plant despite its battle with the aphids.

The most important guideline in gardening is to embrace “failure.” As the Latin maxim goes, Discimus Agere Agendo, we learn to do by doing.  The only way to learn how to garden is to do it. The wonderful thing about gardening is that you can always start over and that feels great.

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Fried Green Tomatoes

When it’s time to pull out tomatoes, oftentimes there will be lots of green ones left on the vine. This is the perfect opportunity to make fried green tomatoes. I mix my green tomatoes with sweet grape or baby tomatoes for a combined taste of sweet and tangy.

INGREDIENTS:

  • Green tomatoes of any variety (as many as you want to cook – ideally at least 1 pound)
  • Baby red tomatoes (use a ratio of 1:1 or 2:1, green:red tomatoes)
  • 1 egg (more depending on the amount you want to cook)
  • Flour (1-2 cups)
  • Progresso Italian Bread Crumbs (ratio of 2:1 white flour to bread crumbs)
  • Olive Oil (for frying)
  • Sea Salt & Freshly Ground Pepper to taste

KITCHEN TOOLS:

  • 3 bowls
  • 1 platter
  • 1 plate
  • Paper towel
  • Large deep skillet
  • Metal tongs
  • Metal slotted spoon or spatula

DIRECTIONS:

Slice the tomatoes into 1/8 inch slices and place into a bowl. Scramble one egg and put into a separate bowl. Mix flour and bread crumbs into a separate bowl. Dip the tomatoes into the egg batter, then the flour and lay them individually on a large plate.  Make sure the tomatoes are fully covered with the flour mixture so that they are dusty (not wet) with flour. Meanwhile, heat 1/4 inch of olive oil in the deep skillet  (the amount of olive oil depends on the size of the pan). Heat the olive oil until it bubbles when dropping in a test tomato. Fry the tomatoes in batches for a few minutes on each side. Do not flip until one side is golden brown. If the oil is not hot enough, the tomatoes will be soggy.   Lay each batch of fried tomatoes on a paper towel to soak up extra oil. Add a layer of paper towel on the platter in-between each batch of fried tomatoes. Add salt & pepper to taste.

Serve immediately and enjoy.

Note: Olive oil has a low smoke point- do NOT overheat the olive oil.

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Starting a Vegetable Garden

Organic Veggie Garden

Here’s a simple list to get you started:

  1. Find a spot with enough SUN (minimum 6 hours). If you’re not sure how much sun you have you can buy a sunlight tester.
  2. Decide what you LIKE to eat and then plant it. I suggest starting with lettuces and greens . They’re easy and grow quickly.
  3. Start with a SMALL garden box or pot. You can make a box, buy one or use a pot.  Check out this link: All Things Cedar 3-Piece Planter with Trellis ""
  4. Get great SOIL – this is KEY.  Go to your local nursery and pick up E.B. Stone organic soil – it’s fantastic and you won’t need to fertilize for a month after you’re first planting.
  5. Plant organic seeds or buy seedlings.   You can try these greens or Lettuce Q’s Special Medley Certified Organic Seeds 1000 Seeds. Swiss chard is a great option because it’s sturdy and pretty easy to grow.
  6. WATER – Only water every few days, over watering KILLS edibles. Read your seed packet for guidance.

GARDEN TASKS:

Take a 5 minute peak at your mini-farm everyday – just to make sure they’re happy and no bugs have moved in.  If you skip a few days, it’s fine (I certainly do). And then watch your garden grow. Harvest & enjoy.