Okay, okay, so the plants are in containers. I cannot tell a lie. When it was time to transplant the tomatoes and peppers this spring I planted a dozen in large pots. So while the ones out in the garden are just starting to think about blooming, the potted plants already have tomatoes and peppers set on them! It is so exciting for us to see those stocky plants with baby fruit hanging happily from the vines. Garden planting continues; I’ve got more rutabagas, sweet corn, green beans, Swiss chard, all the broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kohlrabi, dill, cucumbers, melons, and kale in the ground now. Tomorrow, God willing, I’ll be starting in on potatoes. As our potatoes kept so very well, it’ll actually be fun picking out the ones to set out. I’ll be sorting out the different varieties, cutting those that are large potatoes, being sure there are at least two eyes per set, then putting them in a shallow box in the greenhouse for a few days to help the sprouts develop color and get sturdier from the sun. This treatment does take a few days, but those potato sets seem to jump up and do so well.

I just love spring, but oh how busy we are!

Readers’ Questions:

Garden flooded

First time garden… it flooded what do I do? HELP! flooded and in fear!

Stephanie Kresin
Port Huron, Michigan

Don’t be fearful; plant again. And again, if necessary. Last year we had a real crappy spring, and I had to plant our potatoes and corn several times. In fact, our potatoes finally got planted for good on JULY 1st!!! And guess what? We ended up with 550 pounds worth of great ones! Just plant varieties that are quick producers like 65-day corn, 55-day beans, etc. You’ve still got a lot of time; we made it last year and you can this year. Whatever you do, DON’T give up! — Jackie

Freezing strawberries

My strawberries (June bearing) are coming in and I was wondering if I should wash them before freezing to get enough for jam or put in freezer without washing.

Catherine Miller
Livonia, Michigan

Rinse your strawberries to rid them of dirt and any debris. After you freeze them, it’ll be harder to rinse them off before making your jam, as they’ll start to “mush up” as they thaw and the dirt will cling to them. — Jackie

Crisp pickles

I have recently started to can and am really enjoying it. I have a question about the use of a crisper in pickles. I made a batch of kosher dills. I wanted to make sure they were crisp so I packed them in ice before canning and also used a crisper powder when packing them into the jars. The pickles came out great but with a little after taste of some sort. Its not bad but I think I might have put to much of the crisper in. Any idea how to make this better.

Colgan Wilson
Hampton, Virginia

The crisper powder you used was probably alum. It has an astringent, bitter taste and you might notice it in your pickles if you did use too much. What you could do is when you open a new jar of pickles, pour off the old vinegar brine and fill the jar with new brine, with a little dill added (fresh or dill seed). Then let the pickles sit in the fridge a day or so. I think this will lessen the alum flavor. — Jackie

Bread loaves splitting

I have been using a sourdough bread starter which I made using a recent recipe in Backwoods Home. The bread is excellent, but I have problems with the loaves splitting along the edge of the bread pan on one side only when they bake. I follow the directions, let it rise properly before baking etc. It almost looks like it explodes apart on one side while it bakes. What causes this to happen?

Donna Clements
Hoquiam, Washington

It may be your oven. Try turning the loaves halfway around about halfway through baking and see if that helps. Some ovens have a hot spot. My wood range does and I have to rotate nearly all my baking. — Jackie

Burying deer guts

Last November, I buried a pile of deer guts in my garden (I had to; long story). The pile was packed really tightly and covered with cinder blocks to keep dogs from rooting in it. This May, I took a shovelful of soil from the top of the pile and discovered that it smells kind of like…sewage? Almost compost? It doesn’t smell good, at any rate. What should I do? Aerate the area? I’m really scared about what I might find down there. It seems like the kind of location that zombies come from.

Also, what do I do with all of the golf ball-sized rocks I pick out of the garden? They’re big enough to get caught in a rake and big enough to make a carrot grow sideways. Can I frame the garden with them, or will I unwittingly make a home for chipmunks or other critters? Any other suggestions? Any reader suggestions? (We grow lots of rocks in New England.)

Kristina Dickinson
Montague, Massachusetts

It’s really not a great idea to bury any meat by-product in your garden, as it takes a LONG time to rot away. Guts don’t make “compost,” they simply rot away and that’s not nice. I would NOT work up the area, but keep it under cover and leave it alone this summer. In the fall, take another “peek”/ “sniff” and see how things are coming. When it finally stops smelling bad, you’re over the worst. It should be okay to till lightly next spring. Of course, DON’T plant root crops over THE SPOT. (Zombies just may be lurking down there!!!)

As for the rocks — we haul most of ours to a low spot in our driveway, dump ’em in, and pile dirt over them. We, too, are “blessed” with tons of rocks. But after 5 years now, there aren’t so many. You have to walk a few steps to pick one up now. Before, you could pick a wheelbarrow load from one spot! Lining the garden or beds with small rocks isn’t a great idea. What happens is that you’ll end up with lots of weeds between the rocks that are hard to get rid of. Big rocks, with a layer of cardboard or plastic under them, are great — no weeds. — Jackie

Canning tomato soup

Comment on tomato soup, April issue.

Here is a recipe that I use. I just canned it and so far it looks good. Sealed good.
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
10 carrots, chopped or grated fine
1 large onion chopped fine
1 1/2 tablespoons dried basil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 28 oz. cans diced tomatoes
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups canned milk
salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese to garnish

Cook carrots onions and garlic in olive oil until softened, then puree in a blender. may need to add a little liquid to it. Puree tomatoes in blender and add all to a large stock pot. Bring to a simmer. Put into jars and hot water bath pints 50 minutes. When ready to eat garnish with Parmesan cheese. First time I have canned this but we eat this soup a lot. It is one of our favorites.

Basic recipe came from the prudent homemaker.com

Rose Cafin
Robinson, Illinois

It does sound good, however I am a little concerned about using a boiling water bath canner to can a recipe that not only contains meat broth but also carrots. I’d feel happier about it if it were pressure canned, not knowing for sure if the acidity from the tomatoes would cover the low acid foods in the recipe. — Jackie


  1. Donna Clements: You need to score your bread before you bake it! You know those pretty decorative cuts you see in breads like baguettes? They’re not just for decoration. They serve the purpose of encouraging the bread to split at that weakened point to avoid exactly the exploding action you’re talking about.


    Scroll down to the fourth or fifth photo in this link. That will show you how to score bread.

  2. Jackie, you are so smart — and kind to share your knowledge so freely. Beautiful in every way. Thank you! It makes me happy knowing you are in the world.

Comments are closed.