Sunday, September 28, 2014

Winter pending...

We're still continuing to collect tomatoes, eggplant, and cherry tomatoes from our garden. We're still lucky not to have had a hard frost yet, so the fruit is still sweet and delicious! Our freezer is full of frozen bags of roasted tomato sauce, and we're looking forward to tasting the flavors once the snows set in. All-in-all, it's been a very productive year for our little garden that started early this year when I decided to take a chance on growing seeds in my basement. It was never intended to be a money-saving, or money-making venture, but has resulted in lessons we've learned about planning the garden layout, using rainwater collected in our rain-barrels to keep the soil moist and the plants happy, celebrating the first vegetable flowers and fruit, harvesting the fruit of our labors and sharing with neighbors and friends.

We're still considering an expanded garden next year so the plants and herbs can stretch to their full potential. But, for now, we're enjoying this end-of-season phase of harvesting, canning, and sharing our bounty. A wonderful ending to these warm summer months.

Happy tasting!


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Saturday, August 16, 2014

How does your garden grow?

Removing the peat pots was the best thing we could have done. Once they were able to establish their roots again, the plants took off!

With continued watering from our trusty rain barrel, and fertilizing, the changes were fast and remarkable! The garden produced healthy plants of dill and basil, plus tasty fruit of green beans, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, and eggplant!

It was a great, productive summer in our little garden! So much so, that we're thinking of adding another bed next year to expand the variety of tomatoes, and add more green beans. In the end, we learned a lot about how to garden effectively, and how to enjoy the vegetable bounty that we produced.

Until then, we're enjoying the tastes of summer, and sharing recipes we discovered along the way, thanks to Food Network, and friends. Try them out! You won't be disappointed.

Slow-Roasted Tomato Sauce

Roasted tomato sauce, though it takes an hour, is the easiest way to make sauce for storing. The tomatoes are cored, tossed with oil, and packed into a roasting pan with salt, pepper, crushed garlic and basil. They nearly collapse in the oven, and release quite a bit of liquid. After they cool, place them in a blender and chop them till blended (or peal off the skins and crush them with your hands to break them up). Pack the tomatoes, and their liquid in plastic containers, or plastic freezer bags for storing in the freezer. To use as sauce, simmer for 10 minutes. The flavor is remarkably sweet and complex from the long roasting.

12 tomatoes, cores removed
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup chopped fresh basil
2-6 tablespoons chopped garlic to taste

Set the oven to 400 degrees. Have a roasting pan large enough for all the tomatoes. Add the tomatoes to the pan, drizzle the with oil, and shake the roasting pan so the the tomatoes are coated all over. Sprinkle them with salt, pepper, garlic and basil. Cover he pan with foil.

Roast the tomatoes for 1 hour, or until they've collapsed completely. Remove them from the oven.

When the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, place them in the blender, or peal the skin off and crush the meat of the tomatoes in your hands. WARNING: Do not place hot tomatoes, or hot juice in the blender - Wait until they cool completely! Chop on blender setting and pour into containers for freezing.

When cooking the sauce, bring the mixture to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Taste for seasoning - add tomato paste and spices, as needed.

Bon appetit!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Peat Pots and potential risks to seedlings

Back from vacation. Nice to be away, but temps were still chilly at the seashore.

Once back home, I checked on the garden, which didn't look much different from when we left:-/ My husband and I pondered the situation, and an idea popped into his head - "Did you plant all of these in peat pots?" I had. He started digging each of them out of the garden with peat pots intact, and removed them from the pots. Lo and behold, these little seedlings were root bound! The roots were unable to make their way through the peat pot walls. As a result, the plants were stagnate while we were away.

As my husband gently removed each plant from their respective peat pot, he replanted them in the bed. I think they'll now be happy and grow. "Inch-by-inch, row-by-row, we're gonna make this garden grow..." (Pete Seeger)

Lesson learned: Peat pots may not always be seedling friendly. Watch for plant stagnation and take alternate action, if needed.

Happy gardening!


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A home for the seedlings:-)

We constructed (or, I should say my husband constructed) a raised bed for my vegetable garden. So, I transplanted my seedlings of tomatoes, basil, peas, beans, dill, parsley, cilantro, and cherry tomatoes. They all look so tiny now, but the heat of the summer will bring them to life. This is the first raised bed garden I've had, and I'm seeing the benefits of planting and keeping critters away from the young seedlings in a bed that rises above the lawn. Hopefully, we'll be able to enjoy the harvest of vegetables come mid-summer:-)

 Happy gardening!


Monday, May 5, 2014

Still waiting...

Will these cooler temps ever leave us?? I was finally able to get my plants outside, and the forsythia is out, but my veggies and herbs are still pending. They haven't yet taken away the 'frost' warnings for us this year:-( So now they're in a transition planter trough. I take them out during the sunnier time slots in the afternoon, and bring them in at night. We've ordered a raised bed planter framework to use once the weather softens temps, so there will be ongoing photos and updates throughout May, and beyond.
Stay warm until the nip is out of the air.

Happy gardening!


Friday, April 4, 2014

Let them grow!

Happy Spring!

I was finally able to repot all of my seedlings into larger peat pots. The tomatoes transitioned very well; the herbs were touch-and-go. I'm hoping that they find their new space a welcome upgrade, and that they'll begin to flourish. Time and patience will tell.

I also started a new round of seedlings: oregano, basil, thyme, and peas. So, I will be keeping watch as they begin their slow climb through the soil. I'm also thinking of seeding for larger tomatoes that I'll be able to use for canning in the fall.

Right now, the plants that have sprung to life will need to be conditioned for the outside temperatures so I can move them outdoors. For the time being, they're still under the grow light. I'm so proud;-)

Happy Gardening!!


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Reaching for the Sun

The seedlings have found their stride - Early Bird tomatoes are leading the pack;-) I started moving the tomato seedlings to a larger moss container 1 week ago, and was going to capture my progress in a snapshot to post it along with this blog post. But since they looked so anemic, I decided to wait for them to spring back to life. And, they have:-) So, I decided to move the herbs to larger moss containers today (which look even more anemic) and will wait for them to fill out. Then, I'll capture the healthy assembly in a snapshot and post. I will be thrilled if all of the herbs pull through - dill, cilantro, and parsley can be fussy when growing from seed. But, all good things come to those who wait (and pamper the seedlings). And, just maybe, this snow will melt before I have to move them outside!

Happy Gardening!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Inch by inch, Row by row...

My seeds are beginning to sprout! I'm reminded of a time many years ago, when I first learned the joy of starting seeds in my living room window, and humming this wonderful song by Pete Seeger (link and lyrics posted below).  His lyrics still roam around in my head - even today - as I check on the seedlings.

Enjoy your gardens wherever they may be. And hum Pete's little garden song. I hope it will put a smile on your face and in your heart:-)



Inch by inch, row by row,
Gonna make this garden grow,
Gonna mulch it deep and low,
Gonna make it fertile ground.
Inch by inch, row by row,
Please bless these seeds I sow.
Please keep them safe below
'Till the rain comes tumblin' down.

Pullin' weeds and pickin' stones
We're all made of dreams and bones,
Need a place to call my own
Cause the time is close at hand.
Grain for grain, sun and rain
I'll find my way in Nature's chain
Tune my body and my brain
To the music of the land.

Plant your rows straight and long,
Season them with prayer and song
Mother Earth will keep you strong
If you give her love and care.
Old crow watching from a tree
Has his hungry eyes on me
In my garden I'm as free
As that feathered thief up there.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Stepping into Spring In my basement

These 'surprise' snowstorms just won't leave New England! After this last one, I became even more itchy for Spring to get here. So I took matters into my own hands, headed down to the basement workroom, got my Burpee seed growing trays out, got my seed packets, and started my first 'seed'lings of the Spring season.  

My husband set me up with a grow light to help the seedlings along and to make sure I had a basement 'environment' suitable for growing.

So, I began the process by adding the starter dirt disks to the tray compartments. Since this is a self-watering system, I also had to saturate a black cloth-like mat with water and lay it in the bottom of the container tray. I then added plastic risers to the trays and set the tray with the starter disks on top of the risers. Next, I poured warm water (a little over a gallon) evenly over the dirt disks to saturate them, and waited about 5 mins for them to expand. I then popped the expanded disks down into each tray compartment with my finger to fill the spaces.

Once all were filled, I setup the 'seedling map' of the tray to document the type of seedlings in each compartment. Since I was only planting a handful of seeds to start (Dill, Cilantro, Italian Parsley, Early Bird tomatoes, and threw in some Marigold seeds for good measure), I chose to plant in tray zones (9+ compartments per seed type).

Once complete, I put the plastic cover on the tray and setup my map as a guide. The plastic cover, water and grow light will provide the seeds with the warmth and moisture they need to germinate.

I'll be watching over these babies daily to make sure there's enough water and warmth.  In a few weeks, I'll start another new tray with more veggies, and (hopefully) move the seeds that germinated to larger containers for Spring plantings. 

Looking forward to positive results!

Happy growing!