What Will I Do With All These Tomatoes?

They all seem to come at once and by the time the tomatoes start to ripen, they just keep coming! Small ones, large ones and crazy colored ones. Traditional types and unique varieties. The tomato harvest is upon us and there’s no turning back now. What will you do with all these tomatoes? Leave them on your neighbors porch? Let them rot on the windowsill? I don’t think so. Let’s get in the kitchen and use those tomatoes!

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Canning and Freezing

One of the best ways to preserve your tomato harvest is canning. From spicy salsa to sauce, relish to tomato jam, there are endless ideas for creating winter pantry delights. Bottle your own tomato juice, soup or Bloody Mary mix. Can stewed tomatoes for future winter soup and chili recipes. Your local Extension office website is a good source for canning guidelines.

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Use those tomatoes!

If you are like most of us though, there is very little time for the whole canning process. Chopped or whole tomatoes can be frozen in freezer bags. Homemade sauce can be frozen in containers. For more information on preserving tomatoes in the freezer, go check out my post Quick Food Preservation Tips. This article has time saving ideas for tomatoes, herbs and refrigerator pickles.

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Place tomatoes in zipper bag to freeze.

Get Creative in the Kitchen 

It may feel like you need to cram tomatoes into every meal of the day to eat them all. I too have been eating so many that my mouth is getting sores! I like to slice tomatoes for sandwiches, cold ones or in hot grilled cheese sandwiches. Some of us could eat this every day for lunch. So many combinations. Cucumbers, ricotta, cheddar cheese…BLT’s! They are all so good this time of year.

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A simple Caprese salad.

Salads present countless opportunities for the addition of fresh tomatoes. Smaller cherry tomatoes add so much flavor to a garden salad. Chop them into a bowl and add chunks of mozzarella, basil, balsamic vinegar and olive oil for a scrumptious salad that everyone will love. Comfort food like bruschetta can be a light and speedy summer supper.

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Roasted tomato soup.

Winter isn’t the only time for soup! Try preparing a fresh tomato chili or garden veggie soup. This week someone was suggesting roasting the tomatoes with herbs and olive oil. When the tomatoes are finished, put everything into the blended for a thick and savory roasted tomato soup. I tried my hand at it and it’s wonderful! I may have to do a recipe post for all of you in a few days!

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A bountiful harvest!

How about using all these tomatoes in the form of a pie? A light frittata or a flavorful quiche? A tomato pie, tart or a colorful heirloom tomato galette? This can elevate the tomato to center stage instead of just an addition to a salad. Fresh tomatoes of any size are so  wonderful on homemade pizza. Either use them for a topping or slice them to use instead of sauce. Mix up the cheese for all kinds of different flavors. Feta, cheddar, goat cheese…all of this tomato talk is definitely making me very hungry. Do you have any ideas yet?

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They just keep coming!

While canning tomatoes is a fantastic way to preserve them, it doesn’t take much time to add them to your weekly menu this time of year. There are endless recipes out there if you just look. From snacking to meals, it’s not hard to figure out what to do with all of these tomatoes! For some fabulous garden to table recipes try The Four Season Farm Gardener’s Cookbook. Full of gardening advice along with recipes for everything that may come from the garden.

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A variety of beautiful tomatoes.

This week has been a hot one! Feels a little unusual for late September but we’ll take it. With no major frosts in our zone 5b area, the garden has been able to keep going. It sure has been easy to pretend it’s still in the middle of summer! The leaves have begun to change to their golds and reds so fall is coming for sure. We had a chance to visit the Common Ground Country Fair last weekend. I have to say that I didn’t get to see nearly enough. When you bring a little boy it’s all about the farm animals and sheepdog demos! No gardening talks for me! Oh well…maybe next year! Thanks for joining me this week and use those tomatoes! Hey, and don’t forget forget to subscribe in the sidebar for more great fall posts!

Hilary|Everlongardener

 

Dreaming of Next Years Garden!

I know what you are thinking. Why is this girl thinking about next years garden? She is crazy! You’re right, my garden, like yours is a wild, dry jungle. Sometime my fails seem to outweigh my successes. Many veggies are ready to be pulled and composted. I can’t help but think that right now is the perfect time to make an honest assessment of what you want to do next year.

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While everything is still fresh in your mind, or still clinging on for dear life in the garden, walk through and see what did well. Are there any of the veggies that you would plant more of next year? Are there varieties that performed poorly?

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Morning in the garden.

Where there vegetables that thrived even through dry conditions. Did you have any flowering plants that were particularly good bee magnets? Where certain tomatoes more susceptible to blight? Do you have any greens that beat the heat?

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A bountiful harvest!

How effective was the compost that you used? Does the soil need any improvement? Any experiments you need to report on? These are just a few examples of how to gather data for future garden success.

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Kale in the garden!

Bring a notebook and a pen out to the garden with you. It’s a great idea to keep a garden journal from year to year. This way, it’s easy to look back and learn from the information that you accumulate. Try to record the varieties that you planted and how they did. This helps when ordering seeds during winter.

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Take garden notes…

This is a great time of year to pick up plants that are on sale. Think ahead to next year when browsing perennials, shrubs and trees. Is there empty space in your garden or landscape? Will you be eliminating or adding a garden bed? Maybe you’ve always wanted a hydrangea or a rose. Do you have room for a fruit tree or two? How about starting a row of raspberries? The fall season is the perfect time to plant for next year. Even if you find some bargain plants and don’t have a place just yet, simply make a small temporary bed somewhere in the yard. They can always be relocated in the spring. I’ve actually used empty vegetable garden space for this purpose many times.

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Sunflower from the garden!

I started a new garden journal this fall. I’m trying to carefully record the greens that I plant. It’s easy to run out to plant, then promptly forget which varieties are which. When the garlic gets planted this fall, a garden map will show me what’s what. It may sound tedious but it only takes a few moments to make a rough drawing. Then you won’t have to rely on your perfect memory! Ha!

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Apples are ready!
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Pumpkin everything…

The Autumn season begins next week. There are small traces of fall in the air already. Apples are turning red and people are talking about going picking. Pumpkin flavored everything is everywhere you turn. Red leaves are starting to dot the green landscape. Did I mention that I love fall? Anyway, I hope my dreaming of next years garden gets you on your way to garden success for the 2018 gardening season! Thanks for your interest in Everlongardener this week.

Hilary|Everlongardener

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Beau is always ready!

 

Simple Season Extension Ideas

Did you ever wish that the garden harvest could keep on going? Ever wonder how to incorporate season extension into your yearly garden routine? If you’ve been reading Everlongardener for any amount of time, you know that I’m crazy about wintering over salad greens. We are still harvesting kale that I sowed last year at this time. Seeds have germinated for this winters greens. It’s the rhythm of the seasons around here for us. I know that many are just ready to pack it in, especially after such a dry season. Let’s get organized and rethink how we can extend that garden harvest.

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I often find myself not wanting my readers to be overwhelmed by me constantly talking about winter gardening. Recently, I was listening to an interview with Monty Don, British gardening expert, about this subject. The journalist who was interviewing him was a Swedish gardener named Sara Backmo, who personally grows much of her family’s food, including greens through the winter. She wanted to find out how important season extension was to Monty. I think she was satisfied with the impressive information he relayed to her. As I listened, I felt really good about my efforts with greens but not so great with the other winter hearty veggies. I do realize that I can’t take it all on and local growers do have a lot to offer when it comes to seasonal produce.

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‘Ruby Streaks’ mustard loves winter weather.

I’ve published countless articles on the topic by now but many readers are still learning the ropes of four season gardening. In my post Plant Now For An Extended Harvest, I outline what to plant right now to ensure a continuous harvest. All it takes is a few types of leftover seeds to make a winter salad garden happen.

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You can’t fight the winter from coming!

Get Planting

Pick a space in your garden that is currently not in use. Maybe where your garlic was growing or where you’ve ripped out your green beans. Select some cold hardy greens such as spinach, kale or cold loving lettuces. This is the perfect time to get your greens established before the snow flies. Think about all of the warm autumn day for growing we have ahead of us.

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Planting cold hardy seeds.

Plan Your Covering

Whether you plan on purchasing a greenhouse kit or coming up with your own structure, now is the time to figure out what you will do to extend your garden season. We use a 12×20 gambrel style greenhouse with raised beds and we build a mini greenhouse over an outside garden bed each fall. Both have their advantages and both work really well. There are countless plans out there so just look around online for one that suits you.

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Our greenhouse last winter.

The smaller greenhouse that we construct has a wooden frame and is covered with plastic for the winter. Access to it is not always easy but it protects the greens very well. As long as you have the plastic secured at the base everything will be fine.

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Our quick greenhouse is very effective.

A simple cold frame can be a small start in season extension for the beginner. Usually built from wood with an old window or glass door on top. This method gives the garden  protection while allowing sunlight in. If the glass is setup with a hinge, it’s so easy to vent the box on hot fall days. You can even make a temporary cold frame with 4 bales of hay. Just make a box out of the hay around the garden and lay the window on top. Instant season extension protection! Here is an example of a basic cold frame made from wood.

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An example of a cold frame. Greens are protected from critters with netting.

The second layer is also the key to extending the harvest. Eliot Coleman started out by building cold frames inside a big greenhouse. He found this to be costly so he started working with floating row cover under a simple plastic covered hoop. The results were more than unbelievable. Just using the row cover for fall and spring frost protection can be a real benefit. There are many ideas out there so just find a few that will work for your garden!

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Harvesting spinach in the greenhouse.

Preserve What You Have

Do you have root vegetables like carrots and parsnips in the ground? Why not leave some under a protective layer of insulation? Construct a make-shift cold frame over the garden bed. Or cover the crops with a thick layer of hay. It can be as easy as that.  The crops will be cold but probably not freezing. This will allow you to harvest the vegetables throughout the winter months if it’s accessible.

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Homegrown carrots are the best!

Four season growing need not be elaborate or complicated. If you have one successful season of it you may be hooked. Feel free to browse other articles under the category of ‘season extension’ in my archives. During these warm late summer days I have been out planting when I get a few minutes here and there. Planting those seeds makes me think of the salads we will enjoy during the coming fall, winter and spring!

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Winter salad is the best!

Our tomatoes are really starting to ripen over the last week or so. Pretty soon, I’ll have to decide how I will be using them. For the moment, the smaller cherry and grape varieties have been in every salad or they just get popped into my mouth as I walk by. Larger tomatoes get stuffed into grilled cheese sandwiches or just sliced with salt and pepper. Yum! I’m glad I grew out of my childhood hate of tomatoes. I can’t tell you how many years that I just ate bacon and lettuce sandwiches, not even with mayonnaise! On that note, get planning what you can harvest through the winter with season extension! Thanks for sticking around and don’t forget to subscribe for more seasonal info!

Hilary|Everlongardener

Beau the gardening sidekick!

Dealing With Drought In The Garden

Late summer tends to be an exceptionally dry time of year for many of us. It’s hard to believe that we can have near drought conditions in Maine, while in Texas they are suffering from horrific flooding from hurricane Harvey. Not to mention Irma right on it’s heels. Whether we are in a real drought or not, water conservation and drought tolerant plants should always be a part of our garden design.

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Water Saving Tips

If all summer weather were ideal, we would have ample rain at night and endless, sunny warm days. We all know that doesn’t happen! We had a pretty wet, cool start to the growing season here in Maine but soon enough it turned very dry. Many plants in the garden are struggling to thrive.

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Gardens generally need water.

What are some great ways to save water when it comes to the garden? If you ever grew up with a well that gets really low every year, you know how creative a family can get when conserving water. If you choose to water with a hose or sprinkler, remember to water deeply so you won’t have to water as often. Using soaker hoses in strategic places can be an efficient way to water. Some gardeners install irrigation systems designed to come on only when they want them to.

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Soaker hoses gently water the garden.

Consider saving water inside the house by placing a dishpan in the sink to catch any water left over from hand washing or cleaning off garden produce. Simply take the pan out to a thirsty plant when it’s full. Some folks have constructed rain barrels to collect water for the garden use.

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A split valve helps you select which bed to water.

When we had some rain the other night, we placed all of the potted porch plants on the lawn so they would be watered with rainwater. If you are planting any new shrubs or larger plants, form a berm around the base of the plant with soil. This way, you can fill the space with water gently for the plant to soak up the water gradually. The berm acts like a moat around a castle. Mulching your gardens will help to keep moisture in. Some useful mulches are bark mulch, grass clippings, chopped leaves or hay.

Perennial Gardens

Some trusty favorites for perennial garden design are rudbeckia, echinacea and yarrow. For some real color, try gaillardia also known as blanket flower. Bees love it and it blooms right through the fall frosts. Perovskia or Russian sage is a woody plant with a crazy spray of lavender branches.

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Echinacea and Russian sage.

Sedums, whether short, tall and in between, thrive in dry conditions. Colors range from burgundy to yellow. With their succulent foliage and late summer flowers, members of the sedum family are a three season addition to any flower bed. The foliage comes in shades of green, blue and burgundy.

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Late blooming sedum adds so much to the garden!

Asclepias or butterfly weed, is a wonderful garden perennial which comes in several varieties. With its showy pink, yellow or orange blossoms to its quirky seed pods, this plant offers continuous interest for the eyes.  Butterflies, especially Monarchs and other pollinators flock to this bushy plant! It self seeds readily and is hardy to gardening zone 3.

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Black eyed Susan’s grace the late summer garden with endless color!

Some other fantastic perennials for the drought tolerant garden include euphorbia, helenium, lychnis, ecinops or globe thistle and members of the towering perennial helianthus (sunflower) family. Try ornamental grasses like ‘Blue Fesque’. Most of these plant species offer late summer and early fall flowers. Perfect for those dry times in the garden. If drought tolerant perennials are dispersed throughout your landscape, late summer color will continue. Late blooming shrubs like hydrangeas and hardy hibiscus bushes such as Rose of Sharon put on a brilliant show this time of year. Flowering shrubs bring structural interest to the flower garden year round.

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Hydrangeas!

Annual Flowers 

There’s nothing like dressing up a garden with sturdy annuals that seem to take care of themselves. Annuals such as cleome, tall verbena bonariensis and zinnias make a huge impact as perennials start to fade. In most cases, the more you cut, the more they flower.

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Zinnias in hot colors!

Cosmos, marigolds and bright calendula seemingly do there own thing in the garden. Needing little more than some light dead-heading. Cosmos come in so many pretty varieties including ‘Double Click’ and ‘Cupcake’. Marigolds come in tall, medium and small varieties. The ‘Gem’ marigolds may be a solution if you are not a marigold fan. It has a tiny flower with a lemon scent. We have been using a light cream marigold called ‘Vanilla’ for a few years now. It looks great with purple. Prolific portulaca and nasturtiums also thrive in drought conditions.

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Calendula bloom nonstop and are beneficial.

For barrels or deck containers, try lantana, angelonia, mandevilla, sweet potato vine or salvia. Garden centers sell many foliage plants such as annual ornamental grasses that work well too. Remember the rule of thumb for container growing, use some plants that fill, some that spill and a few that thrill!

Vegetable Garden 

For most vegetables, water is required for production. We’ve probably all seen shrivled up cucumber and bean plants scorched by the summer heat. Most salad greens have gone to the compost bin by now unless they are particularly heat tolerant. Many things are holding there own like the copious amounts of tomatoes, carrots and leaks.

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Garden harvest!

Some other veggies have needed continuous water. The squash, cucumbers and beans have really struggled. I’ve hand watered them as needed to save water instead of watering the entire garden.

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Green beans.

For more ideas on sprucing things up this time of year go to Late Summer Flower Bed Care. For some choices for fall color in the garden, see my top picks in 5 Perennials For Fall Color. Remember, your garden is never beyond repair…usually!

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Fresh rain on the hibiscus.

This past week our new pup, Beau, has been learning all kinds of new things. Mostly pushing us to our limit! Or trying to attack my hostas! We’ve been taking him just about everywhere that we can for socializing. Our schedule is a little off because our son has started kindergarten.  It seems impossible that this day has come. All of the usual anxieties are floating around in my brain. I’m sure I’ll settle into my new routine soon! Our garden is still producing but dry conditions have been slowing it down. I’m hoping this rain will get it through the next month or so. There is that familiar chill in the air in the morning and evening all of a sudden. Those warm fuzzy fall feelings are starting to creep in! Have a great gardening week everyone!

Hilary|Everlongardener