July is a great time to see the rewards of what you planted in the garden a couple of months ago. Many of the plants that take a while to grow, bloom and fruit are reaching their potential. When I was planting the seeds and starts in my garden, I remember worrying that I wasn’t planting enough. Looking at my garden now, I realize that I should have given some of my plants a wider birth (I’m looking at you, borage).
Tilling is a great workout. After two months of being covered by old carpets, the soil in the garden next to my current garden has fewer weeds and was ready for a good tilling. I used a digging fork to get deep into the soil, which was much easier to break into than it was a few months ago, to unearth rich soil. It took me most of the afternoon to double-dig the 8’ by 10’ plot, pulling up rose and weed roots as I went. Then, on Monday, I planted some snap peas, sunflowers, beans, radishes, cilantro, parsley and transplanted some strawberries. Eventually, most of the garden will become a strawberry patch, but for now I’ll grow some yummy vegetables.
Forget plain ice cubes. Since my borage began to flower, I’ve been cutting the best buds and freezing them in the ice cube tray. They add some life and color to regular water and make me feel a bit fancy. Since the cilantro I planted is growing like gangbusters, I cut them back to encourage more growth and then chopped and froze the leaves of the clippings in an ice cube tray. Fresh cilantro from the garden all year round!
That’s plum crazy! I finished up the plum preserves the other day. One full tree of plums has yielded 9 half pint jars of plum butter (with an assist from 5 Granny Smith apples) and 8 half pint jars of plum jam (with an assist from 3 Granny Smith apples). While the butter has a wonderful tartness with a sweet aftertaste, the jam is smooth and not too sweet.
All in all the jam was easy to make. While it did involve a lot of stirring, it wasn’t as labor intensive as I feared it would be. I was worried that it wouldn’t set well—while I was ladling it into the jars, I was worried that it wasn’t thick enough. After it had time to set, it did so perfectly. It’s my new favorite jam.