Possible Rise in Tomato Prices

I was reading MSN.com today and came across this article about tomato prices increasing.  Not sure how this situation will turnout, but I am glad I picked up a second garden plot at the Ocean Beach Community Garden so that I can grow a whole plot of heirloom tomatoes.

This is the first post since September…sorry for the huge gap.  Brian and I are going to start blogging much more frequently now.  At the end of September, I joined the OB community garden and have been gardening there since.  My next few posts will be about how it’s gone at the new garden.

Feel’s good to be back at Agridude.com again!

Heirloom Tomatoes with Basil and Goat Cheese on a Crostini

Agridude - Garden HarvestOne of my favorite appetizers is using our heirloom tomatoes and basil from the garden and make a modified bruschetta with goat cheese.  You will need a loaf of french bread or sour dough, some heirloom tomatoes, basil, and goat cheese.  It’s a pretty easy recipe.  You cut the bread into small slices and butter each side and bake at 400 for 4-5 on each side.

Agridude - Buttered Bread Ready to Bake

The picture above is of the tomatoes we used.  Using home grown tomatoes in this recipe really makes this taste superb.  We have used grocery store tomatoes (trader joes heirlooms) and they just don’t compare.

 

 

Agridude - Diced Heirloom Tomatoes and Basil LeavesTo the left is a green zebra diced up into small pieces.  The basil leaves are to the right and still need to be minced.  You will be blending the cream cheese with the basil and spreading it on the bread, so the finer the better.

 

 

Once the bread is done (done is as crunchy or soft as you want it), you can start spreading a layer of the goat cheese and basil mixture.  Once you are done putting the spread on all the bread, spoon the diced tomatoes on top and eat when you finish.  Here are two pictures that show what they should look like

Agridude - Heirloom Tomatoes on Crostini with Goat Cheese and BasilAgridude - Heirloom Tomatoes on Crostini with Goat Cheese and Basil 2

Cape Mayhem Gardens Update – Tomatoes nearing the End

Agridude - Garden Full ViewSo this is the most recent picture I have of Cape Mayhem Gardens.  My camera was dropped on my birthday and broke so I am using Kelly’s.  I would love for this to be the reason I have been slow to post, but I have just been too busy to make a post…sorry.  As you can tell, the tomatoes are not looking so hot.  I think they will be ‘done’ soon, but I am waiting to see if any more fruit will come.  I am also debating putting in a few tomatoes that I had in pots to try to sneak in some late season tomatoes.  The rest of the garden is still doing pretty well though and I have been taking a gardening class at the Solana Center in San Diego.  I am getting excited to give my first full time effort to grow cool season crops like Broccoli, Cauliflower, Brussel Sprouts, etc.

Agridude - Cucumbers FlourishingI am going to start by showing off the newer parts of the garden that are doing well.  To the right are my cucumbers.  I have been trying to train them to grow in different directions in order to help airflow and reduce the chance of powdery mildew.  They are doing better than the last group of plants, but I still find myself removing a few leaves every time I’m at the garden that have mildew on them.  We have had some heat here in San Diego the past few weeks and the cucs have been loving it.  Tons of new growth at the ends of the vines and lots of flowers.  The corn below is doing well too.  I can see where the ears will be and I’m hoping that they are not empty.

Agridude - Corn GrowingAgridude - Spicy PeppersTo the left is one of my three hot pepper plants.  These turn red and I like to try to get a variety of colors for my hot peppers.  I have yellow, black and red.  The yellow peppers are just coming along and the blacks are still flowering.  I also grow these because I noticed that uber hot peppers sell for 50 cents a piece in grocery stores.  These plants produce so many peppers that I give quite a few away.

Agridude - Weak Looking TomatoesAnd we’re back to evaluating the tomatoes… This happens every year and I wonder if I can stop it some how?  The plants are bear for the most part.  You can see tons of fruit and healthy growth on the top of the plants, but the bottom 75% are barren.  I harvested quite a bit of fruit on Sat as you will see in the next photo even though the plants look like this.  I think the issue is that I didn’t cage the plants in the beginning.  You can see how many vines are running up from each plant.  I let them get bushy, then trained them to grow tall, and now they can’t supply enough energy/nutrients to keep all the vines healthy.

Agridude - Garden Harvest

You can see the green zebra’s, crnkovic yugoslavian’s, and black carbon’s.  They are all delicious.  I can’t tell you how much better these tomatoes taste than store bought.  We make bruschetta, caprese, or another version of bruschetta with goat cheese pretty much everyday now that we have the tomatoes.  I put two slices of a black carbon on my sandwich for work today and it was amazing.

Well, I will try to do a better job at posting more frequently.  I have one more recipe for tomatoes with goat cheese and some worm updates for you.  I will hopefully get a new camera soon too.

Cape Mayhem Gardens Update – Vermicompost, Beans, Corn and Lady Bugs

Agridude - VermicompostSorry for the uber late post…This was from 2 Sundays ago after I did all that worm work.  It was my birthday last Friday and the celebration started on Thursday which didn’t leave a lot of time to post.  I ended up going to the nursery for a few supplies and ended up buying a 6 pack of pole beans and an edamame plant, a bunch of lady bugs, and 2 giant stakes to tie the tomato plants to.  The picture on the left is the vermicompost that I harvested from my Worm Factory 360.  I bought the lady bugs to eat the catepillars that were eating the tomato leaves and fruit.  After learning that legumes put nitrogen back into the soil, I decided to buy some bean plants to help put some nutrients back in the ground.  I also want to experiment with the Native American method of the 3 sisters garden, except I’ll only be using corn and beans.

Agridude - Holes for VermicompostThe directions from the Worm Factory 360 say to dig holes near your plants and then fill them in with the vermicompost that was harvested.  To the right, you will see a hole next to my green zebra tomato plant.  By placing the vermicompost in the whole, when I water moving forward, the water should pass through the compost and bring the nutrients down to the roots.

Here is a picture of me filling in the whole with my vermicompost:

Agridude - Applying Vermicompost

Agridude - Corn GrowingTo the right is my corn growing.  I think it is doing pretty good for the late planting it received.  The three sisters garden is a Native American technique of growing corn, beans, and squash or pumpkins together.  The corn acts as a pole for the beans to climb, the beans put nitrogen in the soil for the corn to grow, and the squash provides ground cover to retain moisture.  You can’t see the beans in this picture, sorry, I’ll get a better picture next time.

Agridude - Lady Bugs on CornIn the picture on the left, you can see some lady bugs crawling on the leaves.  I noticed some holes in our tomatoes and on leaves on many different plants.  We have had this in the past and we used to look for the caterpillars by hand, but I learned last year that lady bugs will eat them.  I bought a pint size container of them from my nursery and dumped them on plant leaves in the evening.  They will stick around the garden as long as there are bugs for them to eat.  I saw some on Saturday so I was happy that they are still hanging out.

Here are two pictures of my tomatoes.  I am trying to show how bare the bottoms of my plants are.  Do they look normal?  Seems kind of bare to me…but there is tons of fruit so I’m not sure…

Agridude - Spindly Tomato VinesAgridude - More Spindly Tomato VinesIn the above picture, notice the one ripe tomato, it’s a Crnkovic Yugoslavian’s, we used this tomato for a topping on our burgers that night.  Here is a picture of Mike and I near the grill, and the second is of  kelly cutting the tomato into slices for the burgers:

Agridude - Mike and Paul Grilling BurgersAgridude - Kelly Cutting Tomato for BurgersNext post Ill update you guys on the beans, how the new cucumbers are doing, if I still see lady bugs around, and if I see any noticeable difference in the plants after using the vermicompost

Worm Factory 360 – Adding my 3rd bin

Agridude - Finished Vermicompost TrayOn Sunday, it was time for me to add the third bin to my Worm Factory 360.  I have had this bin up and running for the past 3 months.  The picture to the left is my bottom tray aka the processing tray.  One of the reasons I bought the Worm Factory 360 was because it’s supposed to be easy to harvest the vermicompost when it’s ready to be used.  The worms are supposed to migrate to the higher bins where the food scraps are being put.  This would mean there are no worms in the processing tray and I could just take the compost and use it easily…but this is not the case in my tray.  As you can see in the photo, there are quite a few worms in there.  I have read online that the way to harvest is to put the processing tray on top of the working tray (top tray), and then scrap the compost into piles which will ‘force’ the worms to move down in the bin and allow us to collect the compost.  Agridude - Build Pile to HarvestI tried doing this but was limited in time so I only took out half a gallon or so of compost.  You can see my attempt in the picture on the right.  I will add another post when I do the full harvest and show you what i mean.  One exciting thing that I noticed while doing this was that there are tons of worm cocoons which means the worms are comfortable enough in this environment to be able to reproduce.  I have also noticed that the worms are much bigger than when I initially purchased them.

Agridude - Cleaning the Worm LadderWhile trying to harvest the vermicompost, I looked in the collection area for the leachate and where the worm ladder sits for worms to climb their way back into the bin.  It was full of castings as you can see.  I put this in my ziploc bag along with the other compost to take to my garden and apply as side dressing to fertilize.

Agridude - Take Two Scoops from Top BinOn to the new bin preparation.  Take a couple of scoops from your processing tray and throw it on the bottom of the new tray.  This is supposed to ‘jump start’ the new bin by providing some beneficial micro organisms and a few worms.  You can see I just used the rake that came with the bin and took from the middle of the bin.  I took some bedding and compost for the base layer of the new bin.

Agridude - Put in New Bedding - Moist Coir and Shredded PaperYour next step is to put in enough bedding to cover the bottom layer of the tray.  I still have some coir from when I first bought the bin, and I have been collecting shredded paper scraps for a while now so I put some of those in too.  You are supposed to soak the bedding for 24-48 hours but I’m not sure why.  I have not done this and will do it the for the next tray or when I have to add bedding to this tray again.

Agridude - Food Scraps on top of BeddingI then added a bunch of food scraps that I had saved over time.  Some of it was really ripe and that’s why I was wearing those sexy yellow gloves… You can see some pepper scraps, tomato pieces, banana peels etc.  They eat mostly anything, but we’re not supposed to put dairy, meat, greasy things, too much citrus, or a lot of grains.  You can also see that I took bedding out of the 2nd tray and moved it up here just so that this tray wouldn’t sit on all that stuff.

Agridude - Egg Shells and Coffee GroundsOnce I covered the food scraps with the bedding, I added a lot of coffee grounds, egg shells, and the pumice that came with the worm bin.  I am not sure if I’m supposed to put these things on the food scraps or not… so I decided that I should mix it up the contents of the bin with the rake.   I was still careful to keep a lot of the bedding on top of food scraps to keep down the fruit flies.

Agridude - New Processing TrayThis is what the processing tray looks like now.  The new tray I just prepared will sit on top of this one.  You can see there is still quite a bit of work for the worms to do before this is useable.  That’s ok though, I’m not in a rush to use it since I have a whole other tray of compost to use. Below is a picture of a lot of dry bedding on top to keep out the flies as well.  Hope you enjoyed the post.  I have another one to make for what I did with the harvested compost…coming soon!

Agridude - Finished Working Tray

 

 

 

Cape Mayhem Garden Update – Tomato Questions

Agridude - Garden OverviewIt’s been 2 weeks since I last updated everyone with how our cape mayhem garden is doing…sorry about that.  I went up to San Fran and Napa for a 5 day vacation, then to Big Bear for Grant’s birthday blowout.  Ill show you what’s going on in the garden, but my main focus is going to be on the tomatoes.  This year I have been removing the yellow leaves/dead branches on the plants.  I’m not sure if I should be.  You can tell in the picture on the left that the bottom third of so of my plants are pretty bare (notice how there are no leaves in the next two pictures).  I think as the tomato begins to fruit, it focuses on giving the water and nutrients to the fruit versus old branches/leaves.  Can anyone confirm this to ease my concerns that I’m doing something wrong?  This year I have also been watering way less than years past, just once or twice a week.  I wonder if that has anything to do with it.  To see if that is the issue, I have begun watering every other day.  I am going to buy some mulch this weekend as well to help with water conservation.  I will let you know what happens.

Agridude - Crnkovic Yugoslavian Tomato ClustersTo the right are my Crnkovic Yugoslavian tomatoes.  I have eaten 3 of these and they are uber good.  I just realized that I should take pictures of the whole plant so that you can see how many tomatoes are on this plant, they are everywhere.  Can’t wait for full on harvest mode so that I can eat caprese or bruschetta pretty much everyday. I brought in a green zebra and one of these in to work for an afternoon snack and everyone enjoyed it.

Agridude - Cherry Tomato Clusters RedHere’s a picture of our cherry tomatoes.  Again, I’ll take a picture so you can see the whole plant.  These are great for salads, I pulled 8 this morning.  One thing I have been noticing is that when I pick these, the skin splits.  Am I picking too early?  Are they just too juicy and bust the skin open?  Am I squeezing them too hard like Chris Farley in Tommy Boy?  After watching that clip, I need to watch this movie again ASAP.

Agridude - Corn GrowingTo the right are my 6 corn plants.  They are doing surprisingly well.  I poured a bunch of blood meal in this part of the garden to help the corn grow.  Blood meal contains tons of nitrogen and that is what makes plants grow.  I have been reading that you need a lot of corn plants in order for them to pollinate each other.  Anyone know if 6 is enough for that to happen?  Leave a comment or I’ll figure it out by the end of the season…

 

 

 

Agridude - Hot PeppersTo the left are my first super hot peppers forming.  I have this one in a pot at the garden and we should get plenty of these devils this year.  I cannot handle spicy food so I give most of these away.  Last year we made the mistake of using them in Mike’s chili and it was fiery hot and we ended up making rice to help contain the heat.

Agridude - Small Strawberry

 

We have 6 strawberries growing in pots and I found a few berries in there.  I honestly can say berries straight from the garden are the best tasting.  So good…wish we could get more out of the plants.  I also don’t know why, but they don’t grow very large for us.  Maybe it’s just my variety.

Agridude - Pete and PaulHere is Pete and I posing for a picture last Sunday after I was in Big Bear.  The hat I’m wearing is his although I should probably pick one up for myself.

This weekend I am going to the nursery, going to add my 3rd tray to the worm bin, try to ‘use’ my finsihed vermicompost in the garden and go to the Muir Street block party on Sat.  Should have lots of material to post on here next week.  Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Grant’s Birthday Weekend in Big Bear

Agridude - Vegetable HarvestLast weekend, Grant and I and our girl friends went up to Big Bear Mountain and Lake for the weekend to celebrate Grant’s 31st birthday.  We both brought up veggies from the garden to use for meals/appetizers over the weekend.  To the left, you can see a zucchini that Grant grew, a few small red tomatoes from Grant, cherry tomatoes from both of us, green zebra tomatoes from both of our gardens, and jalapenos and serrano peppers from my garden.  We got up there late on Friday night and had some burritos with sliced up zucchini from the garden thrown in with peppers and onions.  They were tasty.Agridude - Grant Wake Boarding  On Saturday, we woke up and cooked waffles and eggs before heading out to rent a boat and do some tubing and wake boarding.  You can see in the picutre on the right that Grant was having a good time and definitely did the best of all us that went wake boarding.  Big Bear is very nice, it reminded me of northern Minnesota with mountains.  Agridude - Paul Wake BoardingThe next picture is of myself wake boarding.  I was going to water ski but our boat driver said that is for sissies and I should agridude up and get on a wake board.  This was my fifth attempt and by far my best one.  I will tell you that it is not that easy to get up when you are one half of QT…. I also want to note that I am still UBER sore from wake boarding.  My back and arms feel like I did 200 pull ups and everyone knows that would be impossible for me. Agridude - Grant and Paul TubingAfter everyone went wake boarding, it was time to bring out the tube.  Grant and I had a blast out there.  Tubing really reminds me of being 8 years old and having fun on the water.  Our driver took it easy on us until we were tired of the joy ride and Grant thru up the finger to get buck wild.  I was the first to bail on a full speed nasty turn.  I think I did a cart wheel after I bounced off the water.  Good times…

Agridude - Bruschetta with Heirloom TomatoesOn to the food portion of the trip…and let me tell you we ate a ton.  Here is some bruschetta that Grant’s girlfriend Jilly made.  It was so delicious.  I ate at least four pieces.  It was made from Grants red tomatoes and our green zebras, and basil from my patio garden.  We made caprese salad too but I forgot to take a picture of that.

Agridude - Stuffed JalapenosI made stuffed jalapenos again because I like them so much.  Not all of these were from the garden.  I bought 20 for 2 dollars at my local farmers market and they were uber large which made it easier to stuff and allowed for much more cream cheese in the middle.  We had a grill at the cabin we rented so we decided to grill them up versus baking them.  We also stuffed a few with burrito meat that we had left over and put shredded mexican cheese on the inside instead of cream cheese. These have the Agridude - Stuffed Jalapenos on Grillpotential to be great, but I felt they needed some type of hot sauce to go with them.  I suppose frank’s red hot would also be good on them.  We ended up grilling them almost to perfection.  I’ll post the pictures below for you to see.  The one on the left is the meat stuffed before being cooked, and on the right is the finished product.

 

Agridude - Stuffed Jalapenos with MeatAgridude - Stuffed Jalapenos Ready to Eat

Worm Factory 360 – Updates from my bin on the patio

Agridude - Moving Food Scraps AroundSo it has been WAY too long since I last posted about my worm factory 360 bin on my patio.  After I added my second tray, I learned that I was putting too much water into the bin.  To wet the bedding, I was pouring water from my watering can into the worm bin.  This was adding way to much water in the bottom tray and the drainage reservoir. I was pouring out tons of leachate from the spigot which isn’t supposed to happen.  I lifted the bottom tray and noticed that I had a pool of water there.  So I drained the leachate into jars and have been diluting it and using as a fertilizer.  I have read mixed opinions online about whether or not to use this.  Anyone have an opinion?  Leave a comment and let me know.

Here is a picture of Agridude - Tray Way too Wetthe lower bin to show how wet the compost had become.  It looks like mud and that is not what you want your finished compost to look like.  In order to fix this, I mixed in a ton of shredded dry newspaper to absorb some of the moisture.

 

Agridude - Worms Hanging between Trays

Here is a picture with the working tray being lifted off the processing tray.  You can see some of the worms dangling in between.  I have found that it takes a LONG time to move out of the processing tray.  It has been over a month and I continue to find worms in the bottom tray.  When I add my 3rd tray, I’m going to put the bottom tray on top of the 3rd tray and force the worms to move down into the new working tray.

Here is a close up of the processing tray with quite a few worms hanging out on top:

Agridude - Worms in Bottom Bin Near the TopAgridude - Food Scraps in BinThese next pics were taken last week when I decided to give the worms a large feeding before I went up to San Francisco to visit my friends Matt and Eric.  You can see that I just cut up these scraps with a knife versus my food processor.  I read that if you blend the food too much, it can be a barrier for the air and create anerobic zones that are lethal to the worms.

Agridude - Cover with BeddingAfter I put the food scraps in, I covered them with some moist bedding.  I am using cleaning gloves here because the food scraps had sat outside for a few days and were pretty ripe.  Not exactly the most agridude ish type of clothing, but I didn’t want to get that nasty smell all of my hands.

 

Agridude - Finished Working with BinHere is the final picture with a nice top layer of bedding over the food scraps.  You can see that the working tray is pretty full now.  I will be adding the third tray this week and when I do, I’ll take pictures so I can make another post.  Again, sorry for the month long gap of not posting any updates on this project.  It’s summer and I have been busy.