Monday, May 9, 2011

T Is for Tomatoes

Home grown tomatoes

If I had to choose just one plant to grow in my garden, the tomato would win hands-down. Nothing says summertime to me like home grown tomatoes.

Those pinkish to red colored globes supermarkets sell during the winter resemble their summer counterparts for the most part, but once you slice into them, all bets are off. The insides of hot house tomatoes are frequently light pink to white and the texture is mealy or hard. If you've only eaten hot house tomatoes and decided fresh tomatoes aren't for you, I completely understand.

Visit your local farmer's markets to try field-grown tomatoes in season, or better still, grow your own. There is nothing to compare to the flavor, texture, and juiciness of a freshly-picked, home grown tomato. In my mind, it is a food of the gods.

I've planted three varieties of tomatoes in this year's garden: Early Girl, Rutgers and Better Boy. I'm also planning to plant some San Marzano tomatoes--they are the preferred by many chefs for making tomato paste and sauce because of their meatiness. The other three varieties that I've planted are good eating/slicing tomatoes and can also be used in various ways.

What tomato varieties have you grown or experimented with? Do you have any tips on canning or preservation that a newbie like myself could learn from?

Picture Credit: Kenneth Allen; Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Unicorn in My Garden

When I am in the garden, I feel as if I am in a world of my own. I'm able to let go of the concerns of the day and enjoy my time outdoors. My imagination runs free and all sorts of silly, happy thoughts come to visit.

What if a unicorn came to my garden? Would I be frightened? Likely not. We have horses, and unicorns must be somewhat like horses. Would the unicorn stay while I tended the garden? Maybe if I didn't frighten him on his first visit, he would return again.

Is it a secret I would keep, just between him and I? I think so; unicorns are magical creatures. Talking about them aloud to others probably ruins the magic. Besides, no one would believe me. Other people would say I had been out in the sun too long.

But there is magic in the garden. You can feel it when the first sprouts peek up from the ground. There's life there, where there had been none. A garden is filled with possibilities, even of spotting a unicorn.

Friday, May 6, 2011

V Is for Victory Garden

During World War II, American citizens were urged to grow their own produce--vegetables, fruits and herbs. The government's reasoning for this was to decrease the demand on the public food supply.

The engagement of so many American men in the war effort decreased both the labor and transportation markets. Not only was it difficult to harvest produce in the fields; it was equally difficult to process and ship produce to national markets. There were rations on food items such as sugar, dairy products, eggs, meat and canned goods.

Americans at home were encouraged to grow a garden, whether living in rural or urban areas. And grow gardens they did; 20 million Americans responded by growing their own food in their victory gardens. Part of the positive response was due to need on the part of the citizens, but many also felt it their patriotic duty to support the war effort at home.

Today, victory gardens have taken on a new meaning. Victory over high food prices, victory over the quality of taste and nutrition, and victory over chemical pesticide and herbicide use on produce. I've planted my garden this year for all of these reasons, but my real victory will be in watching my garden plants grow and harvesting their bounty.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

W Is for Watering

With the exception of a xeriscape garden, flower and vegetable gardens need adequate water to not only produce their best, but to prevent wilting and withering altogether. In reading gardening forums and from personal experience, I've found that drip irrigation/watering is the preferred method for providing moisture to your garden.

Drip systems and soaker hoses allow water to be slowly provided to the plants and earth. This watering system allows the water to slowly soak into the ground, so no wasting of the precious liquid in puddles or run-off. A drip/soak system ensures that there is minimal evaporation of water, so more of it it available for your plants.

Another benefit of watering at the base of the plants is the avoidance of wetting plant leaves, so there's less danger for leaf disease.

Whether you're paying for city/county water or watering from a well, the drip/soak systems make the most efficient use of water resources.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Compost: A Green Practice that is Good for Your Garden

Compost: A Green Practice that is Good for Your Garden


A gardening blog is a tough place to find an "X" word for the Z to A in May Blogging Challenge in which I am participating, but I think I've found my word. Xerophytic. The word is an adjective meaning something is able to withstand drought.

Given the drought conditions here in central Oklahoma that is only slowly improving, I hope that my vegetables prove to be xerophytic. Not that I won't be watering them when necessary, but there's nothing like a long, quenching rain to see the lawn, flowers and veggies perk up in a way that watering doesn't seem to bring.

I've not read any science on the matter, but through observation I've noticed that electrical storms seem to inspire growth in outdoor plants. Have you ever noticed this, or do I have an overactive imagination?

Monday, May 2, 2011

You're Really Going to Do This?

I am a procrastinator and a dreamer; those two attributes sometimes cause those near and dear to me to doubt the veracity of my statements. I found this to be true when I made up my mind to put in a vegetable garden this year.

People listened to my plans and nodded their heads in agreement, but I could tell it was only half-hearted. I can't blame them; I've wanted to do things in the past and never got past the talking-about-it stage.

This year was different. I enjoy being creative and gardening allows me to fill that pleasure. Prices of fresh produce are high at times; growing my own would allow me to save some money overall. Home grown, freshly-picked vegetables provide the best taste and highest levels of nutrition. In growing my own produce, I can control what chemicals are or are not used.

Yep, I had all those reasons, and still the people said, "You're really going to do this?"

It wasn't until I had dirt under my fingernails and rows of seeds planted that these doubting Thomases really believed I was going through with my project.

Did I say I was going to save money? I did forget about the start-up costs of getting some basic equipment to work and water the garden. Maybe I'll learn to can some of the garden goodies--wonder how much those supplies cost? And a food dehydrator--I want one of those, too.

Okay, well home grown, freshly picked produce has the best taste and...

My Place of Zen

Many of us look for ways to manage the stress brought about by daily life. In planting my vegetable garden, I have found a place where I can leave my daily concerns behind me. My garden is my place of zen--of peace and serenity.

Which is not to say that having a garden, whether it be vegetable or flower, is not work--but then I don't necessarily believe you can only achieve serenity by being still. Taking care of a garden is a daily task, but a pleasant one.

Even a vegetable garden is creative. You get to choose what you want to plant and where. You can have rows, you can plant on trellises, in containers--there's lots of possibilities. Your method of weed and pest control is specific to your needs. You water when you see fit.

And best of all, you can watch something that you put into the ground as a small seed emerge from the ground. It was fascinating to me as a child and it remains fascinating to me to this day.

While your busy tending to the needs of your garden, you are free to let your mind wander. Sure, you could take the concerns of life to the garden with you, but why? What will be accomplished by doing so? Isn't it refreshing to take this break with nature and enjoy the sights, sounds and scents around you?

I hope you find a little bit of zen in each of your days.