Friday, July 16, 2010

Who knew a "Black Thumb" could plant a garden?

I planted a garden this year, which is a major accomplishment for me (I’m the person who has killed an African violet, a cactus, and zucchini…all things that are supposed to be incredibly hard to kill). It started out small, just some tomato plants in a few five gallon buckets. I also got a couple of cucumber plants, and I figured that was plenty. I wanted lots of tomatoes so that I could can them and make spaghetti sauce and salsa from fresh tomatoes year round, and I’ve been eating lots of cucumbers lately.

This is how my garden started, all in pots.

After I bought all the potting soil, pots, plants, etc., and planted them all (by myself), the Husband decided he wanted to grow some chili peppers this year, and maybe some heirloom tomatoes. Keep in mind he has never had a garden. Also keep in mind that I tease him mercilessly because when he starts a new hobby, he goes all out…there is no easing into something new for him. Needless to say, my small bucket-garden was transformed into a 4’x16’ raised bed, completed with four heirlooms, three cucumbers, five roma and beefsteak tomatoes, two okra (for no reason other than that he liked okra when his grandma fried it when he was a kid, although he hasn’t had it in over 20 years), one bell pepper, and several (too many to count) Serrano, jalapeno, poblano, and God knows what other kind of peppers (we ran out of room because someone planted so many peppers, so my cherry tomatoes all went to my parents).

Our first harvest - Poblano peppers on the left, banana peppers on the right

Don’t get me wrong – I wanted the raised beds, and I’m thrilled to have them. However, you’ll notice I didn’t get raised beds until Husband decided to plant peppers; he was more than content with my tomatoes hanging out in buckets. You may also be wondering why he planted so many peppers. Well, he wanted to try different varieties, so instead of buying a few at the grocery store and trying them, he planted his own (multiple plants of each variety, did I mention?). He also decided he’d make hot sauce out of them. Finally, and I warned you earlier he goes all out when he tries new hobbies, his main desire to grow chilies was to try growing the hottest chili pepper ever created – the Ghost Chili. My dear husband went online, ordered seeds, and nurtured these seeds like I’ve never seen him nurture me or the dog. You have to wear gloves to even pick these ghost chilies, so I don’t know who in the hell is going to be eating them. He also got a few other varieties online, some of which died, some of which are growing nicely (damnit) in our over-crowded garden. (Oh, and let me just say here, we discussed how this was our “experimenting” year, so we probably wouldn’t have so many plants next year. Last night he told me he wants to build more raised beds for next year. Our backyard is beyond miniscule, and there’s already a patio and a raised bed. There is NO ROOM for more raised beds, unless he wants our children to play in them instead of the small patch of grass that currently remains.)
Jalapenos, banana peppers, and tomatoes

Anyway, back to the reason I wanted a garden. I LOVE canning things, but there aren’t many things I can successfully can and eat later – beans, butters, and tomatoes are about it. Other veggies that you might can taste weird to me, because I mostly like fresh, crunchy produce. Oh and I like jam. So, I have a water bath canner, but I was thinking about canning tomatoes, and have decided I’m going to make batches of spaghetti sauce, then just can the sauce; when the baby is born, I’m not going to have time to make sauce from scratch, so I thought I’d just make it now and be good to go. Once you start adding stuff to tomatoes, it changes the pH balance, and they say you need a pressure canner to can tomatoes once you add anything, as their pH balance is on the cusp anyway.
This is what my garden grew to after Husband got involved. I'll have to take pictures of it tonight so you can see how big everything has gotten; this is right after we planted.

I’m going to buy my pressure canner this weekend (so excited!!) and last weekend I bought a food mill, in preparation for canning (and because I watched Barefoot Contessa make a vichoisse and it looked amazing, and I’ve wanted one for awhile. It’s just a cheap one ($30) but it works great! I made spaghetti sauce last night from some tomatoes we’d picked this weekend, and the food mill was AWESOME! Part of the tomatoes I’d boiled, shocked, and then peeled over the weekend. But, half of them I threw right in the pot and let them cook, then put through the food mill. SO COOL how it takes the skins right off!! Husband said it was the best spaghetti he’d ever had last night, all made from tomatoes out of our own garden. Pretty cool.

I can’t wait to can this weekend. What are you going to be doing this weekend?

1 comment:

  1. I so wish I could have a garden, but I have a few factors working against me. 1 - I'm never home. 2 - I rent. 3 - I kill everything I get my hands on (including a cactus - how do you kill a cactus? I found a way). I'm so jealous of your awesome garden!

    Oh, and if you have a bumper crop of anything, I'll gladly take surplus off your hands! I'll pay too..... :-)


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