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Archive for the ‘tomatoes’ Category

It all started because I felt the itch to see something growing. A bit of stress relief for me, and an activity for the kids as pandemic news was starting to skyrocket.

I had recently found a tiny packet of carrot seeds among some papers in my kitchen, and I thought it would be fun to plant them in a pot that we had outside.

And then, about a week later in mid-March, my kids’ school closed.

At that time, we had no idea that school would be closed for the rest of the academic year, and that our school system wouldn’t start any sort of distance learning for a LOT of weeks. But I wanted to do some fun but still “learning” activities in the meantime, so one of the first things we did was dig out some more old seeds and plant them in some seed-starting soil I had on hand.

We planted some lettuce seed that I had leftover from my second garden ever (way back in Illinois, on the balcony), as well as parsley seeds and a few different tomato varieties from packets leftover from various years.

At this point, I had no real plans for these seeds, just some vague ideas that maybe this year, without ankle troubles to hinder me, we might be able to use our garden plot again.

I had warned my kids that the seeds were pretty old (and they hadn’t been stored perfectly and had been through a couple of interstate moves), and so we couldn’t be sure if they would actually sprout. I think that made it even more exciting when they did sprout!

Of the lettuces and the parsley, only the arugula seeds in the mesclun mix sprouted. It took an extra long time for the tomatoes to germinate, and I had given up on them, but in the end, we had two Best Boy tomatoes and a few Tiny Tim tomatoes– what a happy surprise!

I had also given up on the carrot seeds outside (the theme of this whole garden is seeds that are at least 5 years old!), but we were thrilled to see them sprout and watch them start growing.

Now that we actually had some seedlings growing, I needed to actually decide what we were going to do with them! But that’s for my next garden 2020 post!

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Well.

Compared to my garden in 2016 (recall, I had no garden in 2017), the tomatoes did okay.  I’m actually not sure whether this summer’s tomato harvest was better or worse!  In 2016, I had a bowlful of green tomatoes at the end of the summer, but I’m not sure that I will get that much this year.

However, I did only have one regular-size tomato plant as well as the Tiny Tim plant I’d had on my windowsill for a good long while!  So perhaps I didn’t have such a bad year after all.

This is what we got:

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three Tiny Tim tomatoes.

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two slicing tomatoes (unknown variety).

The slicing tomatoes were yummy.  I did pick them a bit early– seems like that’s the only way I get them before the local wildlife does!– but I let them ripen a bit more on the counter before we enjoyed them!

I’d really like to have more success with my tomatoes in this garden, but I fear it means a lot more work than I’ve been putting into my garden in recent years!

 

 

 

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So.  I wasn’t really planning on having a garden this summer!

But when a friend from church posted in our online marketplace that she had some extra seedlings to give away to whomever wanted them, I changed my mind 🙂 She’d advertised pumpkins, but on the Sunday she brought them in, she also brought yellow squash and tomato seedlings, too.

I picked up one yellow squash, and one tomato, and two pumpkin seedlings.  And after about a week of rain and cold, I finally cleared out the weeds in the garden plot and put them in.  I also added the Tiny Tim tomato plant that I’ve had growing on my kitchen counter for months (or more?), which has produced flowers but no fruit.  Our kitchen is being renovated this summer, so it didn’t really have a good place to live indoors any longer.

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freshly planted garden on May 20

After that, I basically ignored my poor garden for several weeks, except for when my daughter brought home a lima bean plant she’d started during a science unit in her kindergarten class.

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proud of her tall lima bean plant!

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We decided to plant the lima bean on the reverse side of the trellis from the yellow squash.  

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She planted the lima bean plant all by herself, using my garden gloves!

Unsurprisingly, when you leave a garden to its own devices and add in copious amounts of rain, it starts to get a little jungle-y out there.

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Can you even tell where the yard ends and the garden begins, except for the stakes for the fence?

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The weeds were weighing on my mind, but quite honestly, I was dreading tackling them.  Mosquitoes find me especially appetizing, and I was not relishing the thought of providing my flesh for their feasting.  However, one day, I spent the morning outside with friends, and I used bug spray.  Also during that same morning, we were talking about gardens, and the weediness of mine was again at the forefront of my mind.  After lunch, since I still had the bug spray on my skin, I forged ahead and started the 1.5+ hour process of weeding my garden.

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phew!  about halfway through… you can see the lima bean plant and the yellow squash to the right in the photo. 

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finally finished with the weeding!

I didn’t want all that hard work to get overgrown too quickly, so a couple days later, I got some mulch and spread it over the garden.

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the garden on June 30, right after I mulched

The mulch has done wonders for keeping the weeds mostly at bay.  I’ve watered my plants a few times, and three weeks later, the heat+rain has helped my garden plants increase dramatically in size!

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garden on July 22

The lima bean plant is almost completely engulfed by the yellow squash. Both tomato plants have green fruit on them (I’m surprised and delighted that Tiny Tim is bearing fruit after so long). I also saw a squash starting. The pumpkin plants continue to increase in size and have lots of flowers. I’ve never grown pumpkins before, so I’m interested to see how the fruit develops.

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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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