Thursday, December 2, 2010

Give Yourself the Gift of a Vegetable Garden

My friend, Dale D'Souza, decided last Christmas to start a vegetable garden during this past summer. Below is his guest post about his experience making his 15' x 15' garden.

It all started last Christmas when a friend gave me a mason jar of tomato sauce as a gift. I love making pasta sauce and decided that I would try to make my own tomato sauce the following year. In the age of 'Google' I decided to do my homework and see if I could make a true scratch tomato sauce by growing my own tomatoes. I discovered that there are two types of tomato plants: Determinate (provides fruit once, in the fall) and Indeterminate (provides fruit throughout the season). It was obvious that I would need all my tomatoes to be ripe at once so as to simplify the sauce making day.

So off I went to the local garden centers. Nobody at the big box garden centres knew what the heck I was talking about. Then I met a lovely lady, Barbara Lawton, who owns Taylor Nurseries. Barbara is a certified horticulturalist and knew all about tomatoes! Based on her advice I purchased 24 Roma tomato plants for about $24.

Now for the big challenge!
  • 3 yards of top-soil
  • Bone meal
  • Miracle Gro
  • Tomato cages
  • Chicken wire
  • Wooden stakes

My daughter has a keen interest in gardening and helped me with the planting and layout. Full sun for these babies! We planted two rows of 12, keeping enough space in between to prune and weed. Miracle Gro once a week, daily watering and weeding regularly was our new routine.

In late July we had our first harvest of about 400 tomatoes, followed by a second harvest a few weeks later of another 400 tomatoes. I did have to freeze the first harvest as we were still a few weeks away from sauce. The last harvest before sauce-making produced another 100 tomatoes.

We made the sauce under the guidance of Rob P. (pure Italian) using some pretty cool equipment that he has developed over the years.
The frozen tomatoes did not yield as much sauce as the moisture had crystalized and 'bled' into the pot when thawing.

Total yield was 14 - 1Liter mason jars. I added a couple of leaves of Thai basil which we grew as well.

I plan to plant 48 tomato plants in the spring and see what I can generate in sauce.

All in all a great experience that I highly recommend!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tomato Plant Prunning Silliness

My tomato plant obsession continues ...

Before Prunning
The other day I came across a video showing how to prune tomato plants. I knew that the "sucker" branches at the bottom of tomato plants should be removed. This video, however, says that once your tomato flowers are set, all branches that don't have flowers should be removed. This apparently allows the plant's energy to go to the ripening tomatoes. I decided to give it a try.

After Prunning
Now for my silliness (idiocy?) - for some reason I thought he said remove the leaves on non-flowering branches! So I spent an unreasonable amount of time trimming off leaves instead of branches - should have had my computer with me to look at the video while I was doing the pruning. I was thinking that pruning the branches of leaves was ridiculous - and it was!

Not sure if I went far enough or too far. Still, it did give the plants more breathing room and already the green tomatoes of a couple of days ago are red or almost red.

Here is the video - and remember, prune the non-flowering branches, not the non-flowering branches' leaves!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

What to do with your fresh tomatoes now that you’ve peeled them

Make a tomato sauce of course!

Here’s a quick tomato sauce recipe.

Into a food processor, put the following:

18-20 of your peeled, and if so desired your seeded, fresh tomatoes
1-2 onions quartered
2-4 peeled garlic cloves
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
1-2 tbl. fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Process all ingredients to puree.
  2. Transfer to a pot.
  3. Bring to a boil then lower heat to simmer, on low, for 2 hours.
  4. Stir occasionally.

Serve over your favourite pasta.

Buon Appetito!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Why I've Not Been Blogging Much

A Spring Memory - Muscari
I’ve not been blogging much this summer. Though I didn’t completely loose my job, I was made into a part time employee.  You would think I'd have more time to garden and blog, but no. I’ve been spending my spare time trying to find freelance graphic design/writing/marketing communications work (this is what I do when I’m not gardening or blogging about gardening!) to make up for the decrease in income.

I’d appreciate your help. Please click on the sponsored links, to the right, if you’re interested in their products. Or, if you’re thinking of buying a book, I hope you’ll buy it through my Amazon affiliate link. Thanks for your help!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

My First Crop of San Marzano Tomatoes are Ready!

Growing the San Marzano Tomato
This year I decided to plant the San Marzano variety of tomato. I chose this variety of tomato as they are favoured by Chefs world-wide and are apparently the best when used in tomato sauce.

My first harvest of lucious San Marzano Tomatoes
I’ve been pleased with the results. I planted four plants and each have yielded an impressive amount of tomatoes with more to come. The first harvest gave me about 30 tomatoes.

I’ve read they’re also one of the easiest to peel.

The thought of peeling a bunch of tomatoes usually daunts me so I don’t bother. This year, however, I decided to give it try. I read that the San Marzano variety are one of the easiest types of tomato to peel and it’s true!

See how to peel tomatoes
Watch my video to see how easy it is to remove their skins. I noticed when previewing that the complete video screen is not showing - have to make some design adjustments. Until then, if the complete video screen doesn't show you can view it on YouTube.

You can also see full instructions below, good for any type of tomato that needs to be peeled.

Instructions to peel tomatoes
  1. Cut an ‘X’ into the top of the tomatoes.
  2. Boil a pot of water.
  3. Place tomatoes into boiling water in batches as necessary.
  4. Boil for 1 minute.
  5. Remove from boiling water (I used a sieve).
  6. Then immediately plunge tomatoes into a bowl of ice water.
  7. After about a minute they’ll be cool enough to handle.
  8. Peel the skin from each tomato.
What's your favourite kind of tomato to grow?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Fresh Summer Herbs Are A Must!

If you cook, then you'll want to grow a kitchen herb garden.

The other night, I whipped up a fresh pesto sauce with the Basil and Parsley I'm growing. Then I made Grilled Peppers with Pesto, from License to Grill by Chris Knight and Rob Rainford. Yummy!

Grow your favs!
You should grow herbs that you know you'll use. Italian and French cooking are my favourites, so I've planted:
  • Parsley
  • Tarragon
  • Thyme
  • Basil
  • Chervil

I transferred the herbs to larger pots, putting a layer of gravel first for drainage. The soil I used was labelled potting soil. I got four bags for $10. Though most of the herbs are doing well, the Basil is not happy!  I believe I should have used the "soilless" potting soil instead. Last year I used the Miracle Grow potting soil. All my plants flourished. So, I guess the lesson is, don't cheap out on your soil!

With gardening, you live and learn.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Zucchini as Torpedoes?

I was telling my DH about the "mere gardening incident". He is not really into gardening but always has an opinion. I don't necessarily pay attention to his opinions, but here are his thoughts on the matter:

If you don't identify yourself to whom ever is selling you large quantities of fertilizer you could be  a suspect in a bomb plot. Before you know it, the RCMP or CSIS  could be on your doorstep! They are going to take a very close look at your zucchini, wondering if they're really torpedoes. And are those pumpkins disguised bombs? So, be careful if you buy fertilizer in Canada - they'll be watching!


Missing fertilizer a "gardening incident"

As you may know, the G20 Summit is being held in Toronto. Amidst the preparations for this, a tonne of fertilizer went missing! It was purchased by a man who had a European accent,  limped and had missing fingers. Hmmm. That got me worried since large amounts of fertilizer can be used to make a bomb. And the description of the suspect was right out of an Agatha Christie novel.

Thankfully it's turned out to be a "mere gardening incident". Who would have thought gardening could be full of so much intrigue!
You can read the whole story here.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Flowers as organic pest control

Did you know companion planting flowers with your vegetables can help to naturally control insect pests? In my quest to organically deter various garden interlopers, I've discovered that planting certain flowers with my vegetables will aid in controlling various insects. This year I put a couple of marigolds and planted nasturtium seeds in my vegetable garden.

I've read that marigolds are great near tomatoes as well as asparagus, cabbage and beans. They will send these pests packing:
  • Beetles
  • Worms
  • Flies
The nasturtiums serve two purposes. They will, apparently, hold at bay:
  • Moths
  • Beetles
  • Squash bugs
  • Aphids
These lovely blooms are good companion plants to squash, pumpkins, beans and flowers.
Their second purpose: they're edible! They look fabulous in a salad or as a garnish.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Victoria Day Games Begin!

In preparation for this Victoria Day weekend, last night, Friday night, I visited one of my favourite nurseries. I go to this nursery when I want something interesting and unique. Or to get ideas. The plants are luscious and of high quality. The prices are not!

So last night I did some scouting after work at this nursery. I get ideas for my baskets from their baskets. I was shocked at their prices this year. Prices were no less than $20 CAD for a basket, though I have to say, they were gorgeous.

For herbs, there were some nice sized and beautiful looking organic plants, but they wanted $6.99/ea! I think not! At a local supermarket, I spied a deal of 5 herb plants for $10. I'm going there for the herbs, since I've not this year started my own from seed.

I did find something I've been wanting at this nursery. San Marzano tomato plants. I've been reading that they are the best for tomato sauce so I picked up four of them. They were reasonable. If I had more room I would have bought more.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Get Ready for the Great Canadian Planting Weekend!

Here, in Ontario, Canada, this upcoming weekend, known officially as the Victory Day Weekend, but also as  Firecracker Day or just the May 24th Weekend, is a 3-day long weekend. Some of us open our cottages, if we’re lucky enough to own one. Some of us set off fireworks, originally in honour of Queen Victoria's birthday, but now I think we do it mainly as a celebration of the warm weather.  For many of us it is the official start of the gardening season after our long winter of hibernation. Hurray!
This is the time of the last frost. The time when we can safely plant. Next weekend we will descend like crazed flower-hungry hoards on our local garden nurseries. 
Taking Stock
Today, in preparation for next weekend, I’ve been working at preparing my garden canvas. I picked up some soil this morning. I used to buy separate bags of peat moss, manure and compost and mix it myself. Now, though, I just buy bags of ready mixed triple mix. How about you?
In addition, I bought a bag of sheep manure and top soil. The sheep manure will go in my vegetable patch.
Next, garden tools. I confess, I’ve not taken care of my tools. My pruners are very dull and rusted. So I’ve invested in a new pair of pruners. I never realized how many types of pruners there are! There are anvil pruners, Bypass pruners, grass pruners and the long handled pruners, which are actually called loppers. I settled on the Bypass pruners.
Now I have to get out there. Time to turn the earth and spread the new soil around. Hopefully the heavy labour will help me loose some of this winter fat!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Fennel - one more time!

If you follow my blog, then you know about my struggles with growing fennel (anise). In the end, my attempt to grow it was a complete bust. Not only did the garden invaders cause trouble, the mammoth zucchini plants took over, blocking out all sun. Hence, no fennel!

I'm not going to give up though! This year I'm planting it in a different spot. I've also now learned that fennel grows best on its own. So, I've got a special place for it this year. We shall see what happens!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

What's Bloomin' -April 2010

Things seem to be growing slowly this Spring. Though the perennials are sprouting, there are not many blooms! But, I have to say that the anticipation of what and when a perennial will start peeking through the earth, and then watching its progress is what makes Spring blooms so special.

Today, I used Keynote on my new computer to make a slide show movie, which I've posted to YouTube, to show the blooms of my garden. You can see it below. Not very happpy with the quality as it appears on YouTube. Maybe because it was set for Mobile? It's certainly a learning curve!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Oh, To Be A Canadian Gardening Blogger

I've entered a contest to blog for Canadian Gardening. Apparently the more people who "like" or comment on my entry increases my chances of winning. I'd appreciate it if you could like/comment on my entry. It's here:

The contest closes today, April 6 at 11:59 EST so please hurry!

UPDATE - found out it doesn't close until April 15!
Thanks so much.

We now have the power to put our garden images where we want!

OK, this has nothing to do with gardening. It has to do with an annoyance I, and I'm sure many of you have also had, who use Blogger. Before, when an image was placed, it was forced to be at the top. You could not place it where you wanted, or if you could, it was not a simple process.

Today as I was looking at my blog settings page, I noticed under "Select Post Editor", that there's an option to select "updated editor". And voila, now I can place images where I want them! Not only that, I can resize them and move them around.

Another bonus - with the old editor, when you save drafts of your posts, and then publish them for instance the next day, the day you started writing your blog was used, not the date published. Now it shows the published date.
Don't know why I wasn't informed of this change. Maybe I was but I missed the notice. Anyway, I'm happy about it and I'm sure my fellow Bloggers are too.

Now if only we could add captions ...

Monday, February 22, 2010

Planting Map - Cool Gardening Tool!

I came across this great tool on the Gardener’s Supply website that I wanted to share.

Choosing from a selection of 47 items, you drag the items onto a planting map. Each of the squares represents 1 sq. ft. You can also determine the size of your garden.

Now for the cool part. Once done, you are able to generate a plan, which shows you how many seeds to plant, of each item, in each sq. ft. Love this gadget!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Garden Resolutions 2010

As I gaze out at the slushy grey/white snow, I am thinking about some resolutions for my Spring Garden. Here they are:
  • Fertilize on a regular basis
  • Plant organic seeds
  • Extend the vegetable garden – my small patch last year was taken over by zucchini!
  • Try growing garlic – something I’ve been meaning to do for the past few years.
How about you - do you have any garden resolutions you’d like to share? Please feel free to post them in the comments section.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Winter Garden & Happy New Year

Happy New Year!

The garden is covered with snow and there's not much to do outside. Temperature today is -11 ºC (12.2 ºF). Burr! This is the time of year, however, when I think about what I can do differently and better in the garden for the coming Spring. This is when I start looking at seed catalogues, and looking for ideas in books and magazines. Over the next few weeks I'll let you know of any good garden related books or ideas that I find. If you have books or ideas to share, please do!


Related Posts with Thumbnails