My Garden, 2014
Last year I tried planting a vegetable garden for the first time, and while it was a learning experience and a lot of work, overall I was happy with the results and enjoyed getting outside, maintaining it, and reaping the benefits. I got a decent amount of plum tomatoes and peppers, handfuls of herbs, and some zucchini and pattypan squash. This year, I was inspired to plant a garden again and went to nearby Volante Farms toward the end of May to get the best selection of tomatoes (by the time I'd decided to plant last year, plum tomatoes were just about the only variety left). I kept the tomatoes inside until June just in case of too-low overnight temperatures.
I decided to plant along the side of the house this year instead of in the backyard (because we had visions of trying to get our backyard into some kind of shape), so I had a little more room to work with but wanted to keep things simple. I picked out a variety of tomato plants, all of which would yield bite-size tomatoes (my love of mini foods extends to vegetables as well!) -- Sun Gold, Yellow Pear, Red Pear, Sweet 100, Sweet Gold, and Golden Sweet -- some cubanelle pepper plants, and some basil and thyme.
I prepared the area with some gardening soil and then put my tiny plants in the ground, setting up a stake beside each one, which I would use when the plants got a bit bigger and needed some support. (I definitely underestimated just how much support they'd need!)
I diligently watered and checked on my plants, usually rushing over after work each evening to see what was going on. On June 14, just a week after getting my plants in the ground, I spied a few tiny green tomatoes. The Sun Golds were first to come in, followed by the Golden Sweets (which turned out looking like miniature yellow plum tomatoes).
All the plants had grown a little bigger by then but nothing drastic.
Another week later, on June 29, I started to see a major difference. They were filling out so much. This is when I started pruning the tomato plants and trying to keep them under control.
Then on July 5, I found my first pepper growing.
And so many more tomatoes! (These are Yellow Pears and Sun Golds.)
And I was shocked to see that the plants were now up to the siding on the house. They'd come a long way from the little seedlings I'd put in the ground just a month earlier.
The very next day I started see signs of color on the tomatoes. And soon after that, I was finding fully ripe tomatoes. I even lost a couple of Sun Golds because I left them on the vine too long. I learned that they split if they stay on too long and get too much water, so I started picking them before they fully turned and let them ripen on the counter.
Around the same time, my first cubanelle pepper was ready to pick. (These peppers are awesome grilled or fried and we had this one with sausage and onions.)
My basil has also been growing like crazy. I've been cutting it often to use in dishes and turn into pesto.
Yesterday I went out to work on my tomato plants -- I actually had to get more stakes for them because they are so weighed down with tomatoes, and there were tons of happy bees out there flying from plant to plant.
I cut back lots of non-fruit-bearing branches and Jeff helped me re-stake and velcro a bunch of the plants and their crazy off-shoots. I'm kind of shocked at how well they're doing. I never considered myself someone with a green thumb.
The tomato plants are now up to window and most of them are taller than their stakes. I'm already trying to devise a better plan for next year. I might try cages or see if my dad can help me build some sort of tomato trellis that I can fasten them to.
While I started off finding a tomato here and there, lately I've been harvesting them by the handful.
I've been throwing them in salads and using them in pasta dishes. I recently made a version of my pasta with summer squash, garlic, and basil, using Sun Gold tomatoes in place of the summer squash.
And I made a fun colorful Caprese salad using all the varieties. I also roasted some of the tomatoes and did a farro bake with them, which I'll give you the recipe for in an upcoming post.
I think I have a little better handle on gardening and am enjoying it even more this year. Don't get me wrong… it's not easy, but it is fun in its own way There's something therapeutic about pruning tomato plants and pulling weeds. And I love that it gives me a reason to spend some time outside and makes me feel productive, especially when I'm piling up all my ripe tomatoes. The little tomatoes and peppers we've been getting taste amazing -- even more so when I think about how I grew them myself.
Tell me all about your garden!