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!