The Giant Squash

When I was pregnant with our son two years ago, I attended the Orange County Fair for the first time. I was blown away by all of the giant fruit and vegetables that home gardeners entered into the fair. I was so excited to see so many competitions for gardeners. There are plenty of photography and art competitions everywhere, but gardening competitions seem pretty rare around here. I was determined to enter a giant vegetable in the fair the next year. Unfortunately, I didn’t have anything to enter last year after 11 months of pregnancy and post-partum bed rest. We went to the fair last year and had fun, but I was pretty disappointed that I wasn’t prepared to enter the competitions yet.

This year, our backyard garden remodel took way longer than we expected. My new vegetable beds did not get installed until the very end, leaving me no time to prepare any vegetables to enter into the fair. I was quite disappointed, until I noticed that some vegetables were sprouting up as volunteers from the homemade compost that I mixed into the flower beds. There was one baby squash plant in particular that I could tell was going to grow quite large, so I let it grow and nurtured the little surprise planting. As luck would have it, that little surprise ended up growing my biggest squash to date. I started getting excited once I realized I may have a good entry for the fair.

The night before I was planning to bring my squash to the fair, I started reading online about winners of largest squash competitions. I read that there is a man on the east coast who regularly grows 1000+ pound squashes. My “little” 10 pound squash suddenly felt inadequate, and I considered not bringing it at all. In the end, I figured I may as well bring it because even if it was not the world’s biggest squash, it was the biggest one that I have grown in the 30+ years since I started gardening, and I figured that was something worth celebrating.

I usually spend my early mornings working in the garden, before our son wakes up. I get up at sunrise and tend to the garden, hang clothes and diapers on the clothesline, etc. It is my peaceful time of the day. The garden in the early morning hours is my favorite.

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E is thankfully a late sleeper. He was not initially very thrilled that I pulled him out of bed, but once he realized it was for pictures, he was quite cooperative. 🙂 Apparently he thought that we were about to cook this squash since I finally cut it off the plant, so he got his “cooking utensils” ready!
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Then he started talking to the squash and petting it. Silly boy.
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I tried to get another angle with my camera….No, Mommy! No standing on chairs!
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So then I was quite surprised to read, not only did my “little” squash win first place as biggest squash, it also won Division Winner for the whole squash category! I was beyond honored and excited. Not bad for my first time entering a gardening competition, right? 🙂
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My squash’s ribbons motivated me to get myself in gear and enter a few more items for the last week of competition for the fair. More on that coming to the blog next week!

Easy Garden Fresh Lunch!

I have to admit, when I find something amazingly easy and super tasty, especially with seasonal garden fresh ingredients, I made it quite a few times in a short span of time.  This is my new favorite weekend lunch for two.

For the drinks, it was just ice water with a little crushed apple mint and lemon juice.  I sauteed the abundant summer squash with a little garlic and vegetable broth.  A perfect summer salad…peeled and sliced cucumbers, diced tomatoes, lemon juice, salt & pepper.  Lastly, the super tasty sandwiches:  mozzarella & cheddar cheeses with fresh tomato and basil, all grilled in whole wheat bread.

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Gardening Lessons Learned the Hard Way: White Powdery Mildew

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I had an experience with white powdery mildew on my tomato leaves last winter at our old house, and found an easy solution.  I make a mixture of warm water, and about a tablespoon each of baking soda and olive oil in a spray bottle.  I spray the mixture lightly on the affected leaves, and it very easily gets rid of the mildew.  I recommend spraying the mixture early in the day so it has time to dry out.

You may have noticed that I mentioned that my previous problem occurred on tomatoes in winter, which may have seemed a little strange.  My husband and I both love tomatoes, and I cook a lot of Italian food, which means a year-round supply of tomatoes is very much welcome in our house.  The weather here where we live in Southern California is generally frost-free, so last year I decided to try to grow tomatoes in winter in our greenhouses.  It worked out okay until I closed all of the windows and greenhouse doors to try to keep out a cold storm.  The lack of circulation brought on some white powdery mildew.  We will be trying out a few different methods this winter to try to keep the greenhouse warm, but still keep some air circulation going.

The white powdery mildew pictured above is actually a recent picture from one of my summer squash plants.  All of my vegetables are growing much larger in our new garden than I have ever had experienced in any of my previous gardens, due to the warmer temperature and more sunlight.  I underestimated how large my plants would grow this year, and did not space them accordingly.

I have been hand watering everything so far since we have been having some irrigation issues around here (full post coming soon).  I always try to set the hose on the soaker setting and water near the base of the plants.  One particular day, my back hurt too bad to bend over to move the hose around (I had a bad fall after I tripped on some of my husband’s construction equipment in the kitchen).  I figured watering the plants from above for one day couldn’t cause too much harm.  The combination of the plants being too crowded and the watering from above brought on some powdery white mildew the very next day.  I had to go through and spray all of my squash and tomato plants, and thin out a lot of their leaves.  They are all doing much better now that they have been sprayed and thinned out a little. 🙂

Recipe: SautĂ©ed Salmon with Garden Veggies

Our amazing dinner last night:  sautéed salmon with garden veggies (kale, spinach, green bell pepper, and yellow summer squash).

Recipe:
-Zest and juice of 2 lemons
-3 tablespoons olive oil
-1/4 cup water
-3 garlic cloves, finely minced
-1/4 tsp salt
-1/4 tsp pepper
-2 salmon fillets
-4 summer squash, sliced
-2 cups of mixed greens, chopped (kale & spinach)
-1 green bell pepper, diced

I just added all of the ingredients listed above in a sauté pan, and cooked until the vegetables were tender and the salmon was light and flaky.  So easy and so amazingly tasty…this is definitely going to become a regular on the menu at our house!  The best part was that I was able to harvest all of the vegetables from our garden. 🙂  An added bonus:  I recently read that salmon and kale when paired together are like “companion planting” for cooking…when you eat them together, they help bring out more nutrients in the other, making the meal even healthier!

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