Be it ever so humble…

I am back from the unexpected hospital visit. I have things to say- many of them, but I am currently too wiped out to do so. So please enjoy this picture of a “hobbit house” instead. 🙂

Garden Update

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Shortly after I wrote the last garden update, the first frost came, and with that, the end of the season. It was a good second season, despite some challenges.

Here’s what the cleanup looked like:

Image 1:

The buckets and colanders before the first rinse. I still need to bleach and rinse them again before putting them away. I chose feed buckets a couple of years ago because they seemed sanitary enough. I was using organic soil, so I thought, “may as well keep things as neat and clean as possible”. I went with the 12 quart size, based on what I read & what I could afford. They were expensive and, in retrospect, possibly unnecessary, but I like them. The colanders are for drainage. The tomatoes really seemed to take to this system the first year, which was why I kept using it. I like it and the plants like it, so I see no reason not to continue.

Incidentally, I wouldn’t call myself an organic gardener, although I think everything I used on the tomatoes happened to be organic. It was by design originally, but this year, I was just working with what I had.

 

Image 2:

Tomato cages, obviously. These are 42″. I also use garden twine to tie the plants to the cages. This was more of an issue when the leaves were huge, and less so once they had permanent buzzcuts, though the cages were still necessary to support the fruit. I also had to anchor the buckets and cages against the wind this year, so next year, that will be on my set-up list.

 

Image 3:

The remaining tomatoes in their storage bag. It’s been a little while since I put them in the fridge. Hopefully, they’re still fine.

 

Images -4-7:

The marigolds were amazing this year. Even with the stems half-gone, the flowers were still cheerful! I trimmed them to the bases, then pulled them out. What a root system! I also cleaned and recycled the bottles I was using for drainage. As I mentioned before, I don’t plan to use that system again. It worked just fine, it just seemed redundant.

 

Happy Harvest! 🙂

 

An Autumn Stroll

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The past couple of weeks have mostly been about putting away the garden (yes, finally), visiting friends, and celebrating the beauty of the season. I have taken pictures of all of these things, but the fall colors were beckoning and it’s a show that has a very limited release… so, this is what I was doing rather than writing. I’m sure you understand. See you next week! 🙂

Garden Update

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The tomatoes are still hanging in there! I am still fending off the black spot problem, so I haven’t been able to use every tomato that has ripened. I also am still trimming infected leaves. What this means is that I basically have little tomato trees at this point, rather than bushes, but they’re still producing! All in all, it’s been fun. It’d be nice if I can get in another mini-harvest, but if not, even these last few tomatoes are more than I’d hoped for.

After I wrote this, the forecast came in. It’s looking like the frost is coming, so this might be the last hurrah!

 

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The marigolds are preparing for their exit with a few beautiful last-minute puffs of flowers. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I let them grow at their leisure, without too much intervention, and it’s really starting to show, now that they are on their way out. I did a little trimming after this was taken. Next year, I will probably take out the extra drainage to allow them more room to grow horizontally.

 

Happy Fall! 🙂

 

Quick Garden Update

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Just a quick picture today: this is what it looks like when I let the tomatoes ripen on the vine.

I was able to keep about 2/3 of the second harvest- which was fine by me, considering I wasn’t even sure there would be a second harvest at all. 2 or 3 split, the others had black spots… not bad for a beginner. The plants may not look pageant-worthy, but I’m just happy that they’re still hanging in there.

I might be able to make a second batch of tomato sauce yet!

 

Garden Update

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Tomatoes:

Here you can see some of the new growth on the cherry tomatoes. These pictures were taken after the plants had been fed. Production is still slower than before, but there are plenty of flowers and tomatoes coming in. The blight is still a problem- they pretty much need daily treatments to look like this. I skipped maybe two days after this was taken, and a few of the leaves are yellowing again. I’m not sure I want to trim the plants further, because it takes a while for them to get back up to speed. These are indeterminate plants, so I do have a little more leeway. This is one of those things where I have to look at them again and then decide.

 

Marigolds:

The marigolds are doing just fine, I’m happy to report- big, beautiful puffs of flowers! I have been dead-heading them, as advised, which really seems to have made a difference. I do feed them now and then as well. This year, I’m letting them grow as they please, so pardon the floral acrobatics.

I had rigged a drainage system underneath the soil in the flower boxes, which is why the marigolds haven’t grown sideways. It is basically a variation of what I did with the tomatoes, (which have colanders in the buckets). To make it, I cut a spring water bottle vertically, then poked holes in each half, then set them horizontally into the planters, with the narrow sides facing outward.

In retrospect, I’m not sure going to that much trouble was necessary, but it was in response to the condition I’d found the planters in. I had excavated and bleached them prior to re-use- they had gotten very moist and it was disgusting. They were originally lined in plastic, which is great if you want to grow beetles, incidentally. The flowers seem perfectly happy with unlined containers, though. Next year, I will probably skip the drainage system altogether, since these homemade planters are (obviously) not water-tight.

 

Cherry Tomato Sauce: First Try!

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My tomato plants were obviously more prolific prior to the onset of black spot (which I treat by trimming the plant and applying fungicide). Still, I managed to accumulate 3 soup bowls full of tomatoes in the weeks prior. By the time I had that many tomatoes, I knew I wanted to try a sauce. Plum tomatoes are typically used, but I don’t grow those. So, I looked up a recipe that called for cherry tomatoes and gave it a whirl. You can find that recipe here. Please note, it is a recipe for a sauce, not a gravy. As I understand it, gravy contains meat drippings, whereas sauce does not. I’ve also been told there can be a difference in thickness- a sauce can be thinner, but doesn’t have to be.

All my life, I’ve had a taste for homemade sauces. I’ve been lucky enough to be able to occasionally eat at Italian restaurants featuring generational recipes. I’ve also watched sauces being built from scratch, happily taste-tested, and have a sense of what goes into a good one. For years, I’ve dreamt of making a sauce myself, but the amount of patience and meticulousness involved was a turnoff. Sure, I can savor it on the table… but to work for hours building it? I just wasn’t sure…

All this to say, my personal bar is rather high for homemade sauces, so, naturally, I personalized the recipe.

 

Method and Modifications:

*I read the comments on the original recipe, which influenced my choices when making modifications.

  • Because so many people commented that 425F was too high, I dropped it down to 400F and baked for 45mins.
  • Because others mentioned the liquid that would result from the cooking, I opted for a lasagna pan & lined the pan with foil for easy cleanup.
  • After baking, there was an excess of watery/oily/tomato-y juice in the bottom of the pan. I used a slotted spoon to retrieve the tomatoes & used the drippings for garlic bread. More on that later.

*I had some leftover plum tomatoes, so I sliced them & added them to the cherry tomatoes.

*Obviously, a single row of tomatoes was out of the question.

*I seasoned the tomatoes before cooking because I wanted the seasonings to seep in. I did not have fresh basil. I went heavy-handed on the garlic, dried basil, and oregano, and light-handed on the onion powder before baking.

*I may have used too much olive oil. I had a coating of garlic-infused evoo on the bottom. Then I drizzled plain evoo on the top, and stirred to adhere the seasonings to the tomatoes.

*I fried one pepper and about 1/4 cup of onion for taste, and added them to the tomatoes before I pureed them.

*I used a mini-chopper instead of a blender.

*Even though I drained the tomatoes before pureeing them, the sauce was too thin for my taste.

*Many sauces use tomato paste as a thickener. I had about a cup and a half left from a mixture of chunky commercially produced sauce with a can of paste added, so I used that to thicken the pureed tomato mixture.

*Finally, I added more seasonings after thickening- including ground black pepper.

 

Picture Key:

  1. Raw tomatoes over garlic-infused olive oil
  2. After seasoning & adding more oil
  3. After 30 minutes
  4. After 45 minutes
  5. After pulsing
  6. After adding tomato paste & sauce mixture to thicken

 

Post-script:

If I were to make this again, I would intentionally set out to establish a hybrid recipe. This means looking up a traditional recipe just in case I’m missing anything. Even though I ended up knowing a lot more off the cuff than I thought I did, it’s still nice to have the security of something written down to reference.

One of the things I liked about this meal was that it was entirely made from things I already had around. I served the sauce atop leftover ziti noodles that were mixed with peppers and onions, with the garlic bread on the side. Needless to say, it was delicious. I had about a week’s leftovers from the original leftovers+harvest. Yum!

 

Enjoy! 🙂

Garden Update

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After not being totally sure how this little experiment would go, I am pleased to report that the marigolds have taken off. …So fulfilling to see! I have been trimming them- in fact, I trimmed them again, right after the pictures were taken, but I liked these pictures better. I even remembered to take pictures of the labels that were in the starter packs.

*Just a little FYI: I haven’t asked Google if, in fact, the labels and the plants match. So, if you like them and decide to try planting them, please check with a reputable gardener first to ensure you have the variety you want. This is my first year with them, and I’m learning as I go.

As far as the tomatoes… I had a little setback. I skipped their treatments a few times quite by accident, and the blight reared its ugly head again. I know the fungicide only keeps it at bay. So, yes, stopping the treatments, however unintentional, lead to a wild fungus party.

So, they got buzzcuts… again. But, they’re coming along, which I’m glad to see. To the untrained eye, they look spindly, which is why no picture this time around, but there are little baby leaves and baby ‘maters poking their little heads out. I expect them to return to being blog-worthy in the next few weeks or so.

Hope you are enjoying your summer! 🙂

Garden Update

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Here is the garden after the tomatoes got their haircuts & the marigolds produced some more flowers. Even though the “sheared” tomato plants look a little silly right now, they’re coming along. I already see signs of new growth, which gives me great joy, let me tell you!

I’ve been vigilant about applying the anti-fungal treatment and am hoping it’s working. I will know more once the new growth comes in, but at least I’m getting some gorgeous little cherry tomatoes in the meantime.

The tomatoes are in various states of ripening because I usually pick them as soon as they start turning. This is to deter pests from getting at them before I can. I also have a few accidental trimming and caging casualties this time around. I’ve since given up on caging any branch already bearing fruit. I plan to just make little loops for them & secure those loops to the cage itself.

I wish I had a great recipe for you, but I keep eating them as soon as they ripen. There is nothing like a fresh tomato from the garden. Fantastic! 🙂