The Generous Garden

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Lush green seedlings under a grow light
Seedlings under a grow-light, growing big enough to go into the garden. We’re probably the only people in Colorado using their grow-lights for vegetables (and not marijuana).

My garden is still going crazy! I planted heirloom seeds this year instead of buying plants from the nursery like I usually did. Since we have a very short growing season here, I started them in the house before moving them to the garden in late May, when the soil reached the minimum warmth. I was very proud of how well my plants did in the house since my efforts last year were not very good. I used a different growing medium, started sooner, and kept them in the house longer this time, which helped. When they went into the soil, they looked good! Some of them became a sumptuous buffet for unidentified insects, so we didn’t have any peas and only a few green beans this year.

Roma tomatoes in a sink full of water
This sink held about 1 1/2 bushels of homegrown, organic Roma tomatoes.

We had a crazy freezing spell in June and had to cover all the plants to protect them. My husband helped me with that, and the plants sailed through with flying colors. I was looking for freeze-protection fabric for the usual early fall freeze. Since it hasn’t hit yet, it is unlikely to be a hit-and-run freeze and will probably be a here-to-stay freeze, so maybe I’ll put off the freeze-protection clothes until next year.

manual tomato press in the middle of making sauce
Making tomato sauce with an old-fashioned crank press. We’ll use it later with a different attachment to juice our grapes for jelly, too.

I had a great tomato harvest last week! My freezer is full of pitted cherries, diced tomatoes, and tomatillos, so I had to get some guts and try canning. My husband brought his mother’s canner home a few months ago, and to my amazement and complete gratitude, he did almost all the work canning 11 quarts of crushed tomatoes with me last weekend. Since I’m barely tall enough to see into the tall canning pot on the stove, and he is a foot taller than me, I had to admit that he was better suited for managing the big boiling pots. He approached it like an engineering project and was fast and efficient. We are now plotting our next, more complicated canning projects. Since I know I will have his help now, I can focus more on the finished product going in the cans. The tomatillo plants have been prolific, and the grape vines are also doing well. I think that tomatillo salsa and grape jelly will be next. And I’ll can rather than freeze my next batch of tomato sauce. I’m going to have to buy more jars!

tomato sauce in glass containers with airtight lids,  ready for the freezer
Homemade organic tomato sauce, ready for the freezer.

All of this is to say that our backyard garden has been generous this year, and I’m delighted to have some help with it. I often feel like gardening is like taking medicine – a necessary unpleasantness. It has taken me several years to begin enjoying it. My husband built me a second raised bed last year that is a joy to work in, and that didn’t hurt. The seeds I planted this year were heirloom varieties, and I’m a bit surprised at the difference in the plants I see. The heirloom varieties appear larger, more prolific, and hardier. I did not expect that! It is still a bit of a novelty to grow my food. For many years, we only got one or two of any vegetable at a time, so they really felt like a curiosity more than food. I found some great amendments to our poor soil, though, and they are going strong now!

quart and pint jars of home-canned crushed tomatoes
Canned crushed tomatoes

We commiserated with our young peach tree this year. A poorly timed freeze meant that there were no peaches this year. I was very disappointed since the peach harvest was the highlight of my summer last year. I consoled my sweet tree this year, telling her not to be sad; it is a growth year. Next year she’ll be in even better shape to grow peaches. We’ll wait.

Ripe peach still on the tree
This sweet peach from our tree last year is inspiration for the next.

26 comments

  1. I am so excited for you. That is a great haul! I love that your husband helped with the canning and I think that the correct way to do it is approach it like an “engineering project”. There is a lot of planning and exact timing and . . . (all that complicated stuff) that goes into it so I think that is the way to do it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I thought I was following you but never saw you in my reader. Must have thought you weren’t posting. Then I was looking around for some other things and came to your blog. This has happened in more than one instance and others are having trouble posting and liking or losing track of followers or those they follow. Blame it on WP. I have refollowed.
    What wonders you perform with the fruits of your garden. I cook with cans of tomatoes often. Sure would be nice to have home made ones. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t see how I would have enough energy to do everything! But then, setting the timer and prepping the tomatoes was all I had to do. Yipee! My excellent husband saved the day!

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  3. Congrats on such a bounty. The tomatoes have been amazing this year. I dread when they’re all gone and cold weather hits. While not a canner, I did try my luck at sundried tomatoes and hoping they’re as tasty as they look. While it’s been a prolific year in the garden, I’m ready for it to be over and have cut back branches I know won’t ripen before first frost. September is the month where you just run out of juice for gardening, unless you can it! Happy autumn and enjoy those canned goods this winter. I’m so jealous but really have no place to store that much of a harvest.

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  4. Each year is so different regarding what flourishes and what doesn’t. I guess I’m still learning. All our apples fell off the tree prematurely and I have no idea why! No groundhogs here, and there was. O sign of squirrel damage to them. Last year, we had a big crop. Oh well. We had a bumper crop of squash last year, and this year, almost nothing. It’s a good thing that we are not farmers!! Hello, grocery store!

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        1. I don’t eat many raw tomatoes, but I cook with them. My husband’s family had a gentleman’s farm growing up, so he thinks it’s a treat to eat some produce fresh off the plant. Me, not so much!

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  5. You did great! We have groundhogs that climb trees. After a few years of getting a half dozen peaches (from the bushels on the tree) we cut them down. Tomatoes have always done well here. Not so much cucumbers. Potatoes were an interesting item to grow. No work until you dig them up and they are wonderful! When my mom was alive we canned together. We made the best pickles. (She could grow cucumbers in her yard!)

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