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Beautiful Black Krims

7 Jul

We recently picked the first of our black krim tomatoes. This deep-hued heirloom variety has a much more assertive flavor—more tart, acidic, and bright—than a regular tomato. They’re delicious and simply gorgeous.

The rest of the garden is doing gangbusters. I’ve already spent many hours this summer chopping tomatoes and making marinara sauce. Here are some shots of the garden taken yesterday afternoon. It’s come a long way.

Romas…

Lemon boys…

Our largest tomato plant, which is taller than I am (I’m 5’7”) and long-ago outgrew its tomato cage…

Corn…

and our blackberry bush…

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Backyard Marinara

27 Jun

This week we had our first large crop of tomatoes from the garden (plus lots of bell peppers and giant marconi peppers), and I spent part of both days this weekend making marinara to freeze for later. Here’s the process in pictures.










Garden Update

7 Jun

Since the last time I posted about the garden back in mid-April, which was a few days after we planted, it has grown crazy-big. It’s gone from this…

…to this. The magic of seeing these plants grow never wears off. The ones in the back few rows are various types of tomatoes while the front includes assorted peppers and herbs.


The one on the left below is a Roma tomato plant and the one on the right is a bell pepper plant—you can see some of the baby bells beginning to grow (!!).

And here’s the corn. It’s come a long way.

We’ve already picked a couple peppers and some of the basil, and I think we’ll be overwhelmed with tomatoes very soon. I’m looking forward to it!

Composting

25 Apr

I’m not sure why, but I used to be kind of intimidated by composting. I thought it would be complicated and expensive to set up or that it would take a lot of time to maintain, but once I got started I discovered how amazingly easy and truly low-maintenance it is. I started with these basic instructions—just nine steps—and set up my composting bin in about 30 minutes for around $5.

The only cost was the $5 (or so) I spent on a 24-inch-tall plastic bin. (A bin that’s 24 inches or taller is recommended so you can easily stir the compost and add new materials.) I drilled eight holes in the bottom of the bin, eight in the top, and a few in the sides.


I then filled the bin one-fourth of the way full with shredded newspaper (that was the most time-consuming part of the process), shoveled dirt from the yard on top of that filling it half full, and put it in our shed in the backyard. I sprayed it with a bit of water so it would be moist but not soaking wet.

The moisture level in your compost is really important—you don’t want it to be too dry or too wet. If it’s too wet, the excess water inhibits the microorganisms in the compost from breaking down the added food scraps and yard clippings, but these microorganisms do need some water to operate so you don’t want it too dry either. Does that sound complicated? It really isn’t.

Here’s the basics: If your compost bin starts leaking water, begins to smell, or looks really wet, then add in drier materials like leaves, weeds, or grass clippings to absorb some of the moisture and hold off adding any wet materials like banana peels, tea bags, or tomato scraps until your bin looks back to normal. You could also place your bin in the sun to warm it up and help some of the moisture evaporate. If your compost starts looking dry or dusty, add the wetter materials or spray it with a little water and hold off adding the drier ones. It might take a few days to get things back to the right consistency. Just give it time. Here’s what ours looks like at the moment:

We keep a small garbage can next to our larger one to collect food and material that can be composted. I try to include a variety of materials so the moisture level is a mix of dry and wet (banana peels, onion and garlic scraps, tea bags, corn husks, dead flowers, leaves, egg shells). When adding it to the compost bin, I first stir the compost to aerate it and then pile it to one side…


…add in the scraps…

…and cover them completely with dirt.

That last step is key. Exposed scraps won’t break down as quickly and can also start to smell.

There are tons of different composting methods (go here to learn about a few more of them), but I found this was an easy and unintimidating way to get started. All the steps and tips I’ve mentioned above are the methods I’ve found work for us and keep us composting.

Have any of you tried composting? What methods or tips have you found helpful?

Our Garden

13 Apr

This weather in north central Alabama was gorgeous this past weekend, so we spent a majority of our Saturday planting our vegetable garden—55 plants total (tomatoes, bell peppers, basil), which doesn’t include the jalapeños, habeñeros, and corn that we still have yet to plant. Here’s what we’ve got so far:

That little tilled square in the back of the garden is for the corn. Planting it in rows at least 4 plants wide x 4 plants long is supposed to help it grow better with the help of cross-pollination.

This is the third year we’ve had a vegetable garden and each year it gets bigger and bigger—our garden this year is easily six or seven times the size of our first garden three years ago. For comparison, we had eight tomato plants our first year, 16 our second year, and this year we have 30. The abundance of tomatoes from last year’s garden and the subsequent hours I spent in the kitchen making marinara sauce was the inspiration for this drawing:

This is how the kitchen looked pretty much all summer. I’ll be doing it again this year in a much bigger way. I hope our freezer is ready.

We planted some blackberries and a peach tree that first year and now have a large and rather wild-looking blackberry bush (you can see it in the top left of the picture below) and a tree that currently has some baby peaches growing. It won’t produce this year, but it’s on its way. This year, we transplanted a handful of fig trees to our yard that a friend generously cut and rooted for us.

We keep things as organic as possible and don’t use any pesticides. We also compost, which has proven to be a very easy process. I’ll share how I set ours up in a separate post. It’s inexpensive and supereasy.