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Archive for the ‘tomatoes’ Category

Throughout the month of June, we had our deck replaced, as well as some other work done on the rear wall of our house.  Because the contractors were out there every day, I didn’t tend my garden quite as attentively as I should have!  As they finished the work, I decided that the jungle-that-was-my-garden needed to be tamed.  I put the kids in the inflatable pool right next to my garden patch, pulled on my long sleeves and pants, and got to (the HOT) work!

Before:

After a couple weeks of "neglect"-- I made the excuse of not working in it because of the deck remodel-- the garden was looking really overgrown.

After a couple weeks of "neglect"-- I made the excuse of not working in it because of the deck remodel-- the garden was looking really overgrown.

After a couple weeks of “neglect”– I made the excuse of not working in it because of the deck remodel– the garden was looking really overgrown.

After:

the garden after a big weeding, pruning, and tying up spree

the garden after a big weeding, pruning, and tying up spree

the garden after a big weeding, pruning, and tying-up spree

I was pretty proud of how everything looked–weeded, tidily pruned and tied up.  I was also excited to see how many of my plants were on the cusp of producing yumminess!!

Cherokee Purple tomatoes

Cherokee Purple tomatoes

flourishing cucumber vines... but no cucumbers yet!

flourishing cucumber vines… but no cucumbers yet!

the kids' tomatoe plant-- in a pot in the middle of the garden!

the kids’ tomato plant– in a pot, now in the middle of the garden!

Super Fantastic tomatoes

Super Fantastic tomatoes

Tami G grape tomatoes

Tami G grape tomatoes

On Sunday 7/17, I made my first harvest from the garden!  –a small handful of grape tomatoes, three cucumbers, and some cherry tomatoes from my kids’ plant!  I was so excited for the harvests to come!

First harvest! A tiny handful of grape tomatoes and three cucumbers.

However, the bounty hasn’t materialized for us — at least not yet.

We had a dry spell (and I am notoriously lazy about watering, even though we have a lovely rain barrel to provide us with “free” water), and even though I was collecting large numbers of cucumbers (as many as 7 every few days), they were so bitter as to be inedible (even when peeled).  Since we’ve had some rain, the cucumbers have improved, though!!  So thankful.

Today's harvest: seven(ish!) cucumbers. Thankfully they are sweeter than earlier cucumbers we've gotten.

Harvest 8/5: seven(ish!) cucumbers. Thankfully they are sweeter than earlier cucumbers we’ve gotten.

Even more disappointing– not one large tomato, and only about 5 grape tomatoes since that first harvest!  The tomatoes are literally disappearing– both green and also when they are just about ripe.  We have a strong suspicion that a deer is coming and making a smorgasbord of our plants.  Even though we’ve never had a problem with deer in the past, it’s the only explanation we can think of for why ALL of the tomatoes– even the ones in the back of the garden– are disappearing.  Husband thinks that they are stepping right over the fence to reach the ones not along the edge.  The deer in our area are quite bold– we actually saw one come up to our garden in the middle of an afternoon!  I had to go out onto the porch to shoo it away (knocking on the window wasn’t enough), and even then it stopped at the edge of our yard and stared back at me as if it was sizing me up (I’m having flashbacks to my rodent wars days!).

EDIT: My neighbor told me that it’s actually squirrels!  They are carrying off the produce one piece at a time!

I haven't had the motivation to take very good care of the garden, since it seems as though a deer is eating every single tomato that approaches ripeness...

Sadly, since it seems as though deer (and the squirrels!!) are eating every single tomato that approaches ripeness, I haven’t had the motivation to take very good care of the garden.  The deer (and the squirrels) don’t seem to mind, and I’m not going to trim up the garden just for it!  It’s a bummer that we aren’t getting any tomatoes for ourselves; however I am glad that the cucumbers are improving.  I guess next year, we’re going to have to put up a deer-proof fence! (and do something about those pesky squirrels)

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Now that the weather is consistently warm (yay!) the garden is thriving and growing quickly!  Here are some photos from a few weeks ago.

The garden today.

The garden on June 3.

The garden today.

Another view of the garden on June 3.  

zucchinis are finally coming up (from seed)!

The zucchinis are finally coming up (from seed)!  –June 3

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Since all but one of the cucumber starts I purchased got eaten(? by deer??), I poked some old cucumber seeds from a previous year’s garden into the ground at the base of the trellises. And they’ve come up! Hooray!  –June 3

The kids' tomato plant

The kids’ tomato plant looks hale and hearty.  –June 3

The kids' tomato plant

There are even a few flowers on the kids’ tomato plant!  –June 3

A week later, the kids helped me to water the garden. Look how much the plants grew in that short time!

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On Monday (almost three weeks from the first set of photos), I took some more photos of the garden– it never ceases to amaze me to see how quickly plants grow in the summer heat!!

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The garden today — June 20 I haven’t been out in it much, since our deck is being redone. We’ve moved the kids’ container tomato to the middle of the in-ground garden for now!

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The garden today — June 20.

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The cucumber vine (from the purchased seedling) is starting to bloom.  It’s the biggest vine, though the sprouts from the seeds I planted are catching up! –June 20

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There are even female flowers on the biggest vine! Hoping to have some cucumbers growing soon. –June 20

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The Tami G Grape tomatoes are flowering.  The flowers are so delicate.  –June 20

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The kids’ container tomato is looking good… –June 20

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…and there are some baby fruits forming. –June 20

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I planted my 2016 garden last Sunday!

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I purchased tomatoes and cucumbers at Home Depot and planted some (probably very old) Burpee zucchini seeds.  I had seriously considered decreasing the number of plants I put into the garden, but Husband (easily) convinced me that if we were going to put in a garden at all, we might as well plant 6 tomatoes again.

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To be planted! zucchini seeds. TamiG grape (hybrid) tomato Cherokee Purple (heirloom) tomato Super Fantastic (hybrid) tomato Burpless (hybrid) cucumber Husky Cherry Red (hybrid) tomato (for kids’ pot on the deck)

Since we put the weed-blocking cloth down last year, it was so much easier to get the garden set up for this year!  Wow.  I just had a few weeds to pull, and I was good-to-go.

garden before.  the weed-blocking cloth actually worked really well!

garden before. the weed-blocking cloth actually worked really well!

 

Garden after.  Everything is planted!

Garden after. Can you tell??  Everything is planted!

This year, I decided to switch the sides on which I planted the tomatoes and cucumber/zucchini.  I don’t know, call it crop rotation or something!  I just had the idea that it might be good to switch.  Otherwise, the planting is exactly the same as it was last year– I separated the layers of weed-preventing fabric and planted the seedlings (and in the case of the zucchini, the seeds).  We bought new metal wire trellises for the cucumbers this year, since the wooden ones we got for our first garden in this location had lived their life.

Garden after.  Everything is planted!

Garden after.  Everything is planted!

We’ve had so much rain here recently that I was easily able to water the whole garden from the rain barrel!

After I had the in-ground garden planted, the kids “helped” me to plant their cherry tomato in a pot on our deck.  I helped them to use the spade to replace the soil around the plant, and they took turns watering.  I hope that they will really enjoy watching their plant grow and have a fun (and delicious) time eating its fruit!

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...and then they took turns using the watering can!

...and then they took turns using the watering can!

...and then they took turns using the watering can!

...and then they took turns using the watering can!

Varieties:
TamiG grape (hybrid) tomato
Cherokee Purple (heirloom) tomato
Super Fantastic (hybrid) tomato
Burpless (hybrid) cucumber
Husky Cherry Red (hybrid) tomato (for kids’ pot on the deck)

 

 

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This summer’s garden was pretty successful, I’d say!  All summer long, I had grand intentions of posting photos of my harvests and how the garden was growing… but that didn’t happen.  As autumn sets in and the gardening season ends, I thought I’d do a post “reminiscing” about the garden this year and all the lovely things we collected from our plants.

For a good portion of the summer, I actually kept up with my goal to prune the tomatoes and keep them tied up.

healthy garden!

Early in June, I went out and did all of my tending, but ran out of ties.  When I stepped back into the garden, I noticed this little beastie buried in the mulch!

As I was out taking care of the garden today, I discovered this little beastie buried in the mulch. Joel came out and using gloves, got it into a bucket and released it into the brush behind our house. I think it was a bunny?

I’d almost stepped on it, which shook me up a bit.  I guess it was there the whole time I’d been working before!  Husband came out and using gloves, got it into a bucket…

As I was out taking care of the garden today, I discovered this little beastie buried in the mulch. Joel came out and using gloves, got it into a bucket and released it into the brush behind our house. I think it was a bunny?

…and released it into the brush behind our house. I think it was a bunny?

tomatoes

I’d say we had a pretty good year with our tomatoes.  I did keep track of how much I harvested in my planner, but I didn’t make a spreadsheet like previous years!  I kept thinking that I would, and then I never did… oh well.

yum-- grape tomatoes (Tami G variety)

yum– grape tomatoes (Tami G variety)

We had the most success with our grape tomatoes and the Golden Jubilee tomatoes.  The grape tomatoes were everything I’d hoped– sweet, firm and prolific.  Yum.  I’m going to miss them!

I can’t believe it, but I didn’t take a single photo of my lovely Golden Jubilees!  They were the perfect shade of golden yellow, large and meaty, and really, really delicious.  I definitely could see myself having these in my garden again in the future.

First tomato harvest. I should have watered more consistently, as evidenced by the bad blossom-end rot on two of the three Beefsteak tomatoes I harvested.

Our first tomato harvest was the Beefsteak tomatoes.  I should have watered more consistently, as evidenced by the bad blossom-end rot on two of the three Beefsteak tomatoes I harvested.  I must admit, even though I knew it was a problem, I still didn’t make it a priority to get out and actually water my plants.  I would use the excuse of “oh, it’s going to rain tonight…” and then it wouldn’t!  While the other tomatoes didn’t seem to suffer at all (though perhaps they would have been even more successful if I’d watered them more), these Beefsteak plants just went downhill all summer long.

Patio tomato

Patio tomato

Vivian picked her first tomato!

Vivian picked her first tomato!

V enjoyed having her tomato plant on the deck again this year.  I hadn’t realized that it was more of a slicing-tomato-size variety, so I don’t think she enjoyed eating them nearly as much as the tiny cherry tomatoes from last year.  But she was always excited to pick the next red one!

cucumbers and zucchini

The big disappointment this year was the cucumbers!  They look lovely and healthy in this photo, from early in the summer, but this was as far as they went.  They died so quickly, I didn’t even have time to figure out what was going on!  Since cucumbers are basically my favorite thing from the garden, I was pretty sad.

But if the cucumbers were a disappointment, the zucchini made up for it in spades!  (I’m not sure if I should intend that pun or not ;-))

Our very first harvest (before any tomatoes) was these two lovely zucchini…

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…and they just didn’t stop after that!

Wow! Lots of zucchini!

I obviously am not going to show photos of them all (I didn’t even take that many harvest photos this year, in general), but I would get multiple fruits every time I went out to check.  And not infrequently, one would grow stealthily under one of those big leaves until it was a 4 or 5 lb whopper!

This monstrous zucchini (4 lbs, 5.5 oz) was hiding in our garden!

I made a LOT of zucchini bread.  These big ones aren’t very good for much else… and each one would make at least 4 batches of the recipe I have.  I honestly lost count of how much zucchini bread came out of my oven this summer…  I made it in loaves and in muffin tins… I substituted part or all of the oil with applesauce…  I shared it and gave it away, and I froze a bunch, too!  (I think we have at least 1 dozen muffins and four loaves in our freezer right now).  The muffins are great, because you can freeze them and take out individual servings to thaw in the microwave for occasional breakfasts…with cream cheese…yum…  I even froze some plain shredded zucchini so that I can make some more this winter, haha!  It’s a good thing Husband reminded me that our food processor has a fine grater attachment, because the first time I shredded one of these monstrous zucchinis, it took me about an hour!  haha.

Even with all of the zucchini bread, we still had zucchini to eat, and I tried to find some new recipes.  Along with our standby favorite of zucchini fritters, we made

  • Zucchini Parmesan
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  • Zucchini Bread Pancakes
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  • Zucchini Boats (halve a zucchini lengthwise and remove seeds; fill with ground-beef-and-marinara-mixture; top with mozzarella and bake.  There are gazillions of variations on this idea; I dare you to search Pinterest.  We really liked this simple version, and we definitely made it again.)
    zucchini boats: halve a zucchini lengthwise and remove seeds; fill with ground-beef-and-marinara-mixture; top with mozzarella and bake. Delicious!! We had so much zucchini this summer that I was on the lookout for good recipes to use it!
  • Zucchini Stir Fry
    ATK stir-fried chicken and zucchini with ginger sauce
  • Shrimp Scampi with “Zoodles” (well, ours were just shredded zucchini since we don’t have a spiralizer)– thanks, Christine, for the recipe idea!
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The garden is nearly done for the year, and I have some more thoughts to share, but I’ll save them for a future post.   As we move into fall and winter, I’m certainly going to miss my fresh tomatoes and my seemingly-never-ending-supply of zucchini!

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On Mother’s Day, I spent the afternoon taking this:

Garden: before.  All that grassy looking stuff was an awful weed that literally sprayed seeds when you brushed against it (or tried to grab it to pull it out...).

to this:

hand-tilled garden!  All ready for compost and planting.

I encountered a most vile species of weed– this grassy stuff actually fired tiny little seeds everywhere whenever it was brushed!  I literally had seeds stuck to my skin and caught in my eyes.  Yuck.  Instead of throwing it into my compost bin, I actually bagged it up to put into the trash. I don’t want that stuff propogating, as much as I can help it!

Garden: before.  All that grassy looking stuff was an awful weed that literally sprayed seeds when you brushed against it (or tried to grab it to pull it out...).

After I got out as many of the weeds as I could, I used our tiller tool to loosen the soil.

hand-tilled garden!  All ready for compost and planting.

I opened up our compost bin and spread the new soil on top of the garden.

We weren’t able to get to a store to get plants that day, so on Tuesday evening, we took a family field trip to Home Depot to get our plants.  I decided during the course of last year’s garden that starting tomatoes from seed isn’t quite working for me right now, so I planned to buy seedlings this year.  We got four varieties– three for the in-ground garden and one for our kids’ container on the deck.

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The garden layout is essentially the same as previous years’, in which the cucumbers and zucchini are on the left, and we have six tomato plants (two of each variety) are on the right.

After the jungle that was last year’s garden, we decided to lay down weed-preventing black fabric.  The day after we bought our plants, I went out and spent an hour or two getting the cloth laid, the tomatoes installed, and the zucchini and cucumber seeds planted.

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After our experience with last year's weeds, and dealing with those awful seed-spraying weeds to prepare the garden, I decided that we should use the black weed-blocking cloth this year.  Hopefully it helps tame them!

After our experience with last year's weeds, and dealing with those awful seed-spraying weeds to prepare the garden, I decided that we should use the black weed-blocking cloth this year.  Hopefully it helps tame them!

…and then I added mulch.

Garden planted and mulched!  Tomatoes from left to right: Tami G (grape), Golden Jubilee (heirloom), and Red Beefsteak (heirloom)

Garden planted and mulched! Tomatoes from left to right: Tami G (grape), Golden Jubilee (heirloom), and Red Beefsteak (heirloom)

Garden planted and mulched!  Cucumber seeds (background) and zucchini seeds (foreground) planted.

Cucumber seeds (background) and zucchini seeds (foreground) planted.  I cut small holes in the weed-blocking cloth for them.

Garden planted and mulched!

 

My daughter and I took a quick few minutes to plant a tomato in a pot on the porch an evening or two later. V helped me to move the soil around the plant and water it.

Vivian and I took a quick few minutes to plant a tomato in a pot on the porch before we headed to small group this evening.  Vivian helped me to move the soil around the plant and water it.

 

I was delighted to find, just a week later, that all of my seeds had sprouted.  I had been pretty worried, since we got a couple big rains, that the seeds may have washed under the weed-blocking cloth… but thankfully, everything seems to be in place!

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zucchini sprouts

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cucumber sprouts

My tomato plants were looking healthy, happy and growing, too!

The tomatoes are looking happy :)

 

One of my main goals with the garden this year is to make sure to prune my tomatoes regularly to keep them under control.  I really don’t want a buggy jungle this year!

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Vivian's tomato plant

 

One thing that I will definitely do again in the future is have plants in containers for my kids.  My daughter absolutely loved being able to watch the progress of her cherry tomato plant on the back deck.

And when the first tomatoes were ripe, she picked them herself and ate them all up!

Vivian picking her first tomatoes!

Vivian picking her first tomatoes!

Vivian picking her first tomatoes!

Vivian picking her first tomatoes!

 

I think she ate every tomato that this plant produced!  I loved watching my girl get such joy out of gardening!  I definitely will encourage this in the future 😉

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Turns out, having a baby takes a lot of time!  Add in a smart and energetic toddler/preschooler, and things like writing blog posts take a back-seat role for a while 🙂

I’m popping in today to share part one of a few wrap-up posts about the garden this past summer.  I took photos throughout the summer, but it proved to be too hard for me to get them edited and posted on the blog in anything close to real-time.  So I’ll share some now, with some things I learned and want to remember as I plan my future gardens.

The three photos below show what my garden plot looked like in mid-July.  On this particular day, I harvested one zucchini– the very first piece of produce from this year’s garden!

garden today

cucumber, pepper, zucchini

tomatoes

Let’s talk about the zucchini first, shall we?

I had two varieties in my garden, a Lake Valley seed company variety and a Burpee seed company variety.  I got a grand total of one small zucchini (a strangely-shaped 1/2 pound one) from the Burpee plant, which surprised me.  The Lake Valley plant grew to a monstrous size and gave us 10 fruits!  Yum.  We grilled some, we made fritters, and of course we made zucchini bread!  The plant got quite unwieldy by the end of the summer, and started breaking when we harvested.  However, this is the first summer where my zucchini harvest even approached the “feed your neighborhood” quantity touted on the packet!

Cucumber

The cucumbers were underwhelming this summer.  After last year’s amazing yield, I was super-excited for cucumbers to come out my ears!  But they seemed to get started late, and the vines never got very full.  In fact, I got half the number of fruits off of approximately twice the garden “real-estate.”

Carmen pepper

our first carmen pepper

Also in the “disappointment” category are the peppers.  I didn’t expect much from my from-seed-seedlings, which was good: they died almost immediately (or got trampled??).  But I had high hopes for the store-bought plant.  We ended up getting two red peppers from it.

The tomatoes, on the other hand, were plentiful!

Indigo Rose tomato

Indigo Rose tomato

The Indigo Rose tomatoes (purchased plants) were beautiful to look at.  The flavor wasn’t anything spectacular, though, so I don’t think we will get them again.

Bonnie Grape tomato

We absolutely loved the Bonnie Grape (purchased plants) tomatoes.  They yielded like crazy, and we could hardly keep up with them.  The flavor was fantastic and they were perfect for salads.  Usually I am loathe to cook with delicious home-grown tomatoes like this, but we had so many that I actually tried them in a soup recipe that called for cherry-type tomatoes!

We got only a few tomatoes from the plants I started from seed (Best Boy and Fourth of July varieties).  In comparing them to the other varieties, though, we did decide that we liked the fleshiness of the Best Boy fruits, especially for things like sandwiches.  The flavor of the Fourth of July tomatoes was much better than the flavor of the Indigo Rose fruits.

Well, you can tell which half of the herb box is under the overhang...  whoops.

My herbs were a bust.  I don’t think I even used any from this box!!  How disappointing.  I was good about watering them until the baby was born, and after that, they were dependent on the rain.  As you can see from the photo above, part of the box is shielded by the second floor overhang of our house.  Bummer.  They all dried out and died really quickly.  I’m glad they were freebie seeds or I would be even more sad than I already am.

gorgeous harvest from our garden today

quite a harvest awaited us in the garden when we got home from our trip!

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We got some really beautiful harvests this summer.  The colors were gorgeous, and even though I was picky about the tomatoes’ flavor, I really did enjoy the luxury of home-grown produce.  I am most thankful to Husband, though, because he ended up doing almost all of the work for the garden this summer.  In the first part of the summer, I was so pregnant that I couldn’t even get over the fence easily, and in the second part of the summer, I discovered that if I went outside, especially into the garden, I got eaten alive by mosquitoes.  I got bitten in at least 19 places to collect the tomatoes shown in the photo with the kitchen scale!  Husband seems to be mosquito-resistant, so he graciously harvested for me.

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