Gardening, The Great Outdoors

No Plans Like Garden Plans {companion planting and crop rotation}

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Hello everyone 😄

I am so wonderfully excited that it is spring. Wonderfully isn’t even a good enough adjective to describe how excited I am.

I’m over the moon.

I. love. gardening. so. much.

I’ve not been as active on the blog lately and this is partly due to the fact that I’ve been spending all kinds of quality time with little green things…and the little brown things that they come from 😛

Little seedlings🌱🌱🌱 below (picture captions are still being glitchy).

Clockwise from left: radish sprout, hot pepper plants, radish and carrot sprouts, marshmallow, dill sprouts, tiny beets, and alllll the tomatoes.

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I have done a lot, and I mean a lot of work on my garden. I’ve expanded it, which is a short phrase to describe a long and back breaking process associated with the relocation of S-O-D.

But you don’t want to hear about that.

**Just for the record, before I dive in. I’m in a zone 6, so planting usually doesn’t happen till memorial day/late May. 

 

Crop Rotation

For a visual on my expansion and what I’m growing this year vs. last year check this out.

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This ⬆⬆⬆ is last year’s garden. Dimensions are about 12×13′.

(In an additional garden bed #8 by the house I grew sweet potatoes and marigolds.)

And I got bored of it.

I read in The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible: Discover Ed’s High-Yield W-O-R-D System for All North American Gardening Regions, (by Edward C. Smith) that if you find you are bored with your garden, add more to it. Woo hoo!

So I did.

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Here ⬆⬆⬆ is this year’s garden plans. It measures 20×17′. New garden beds this year are #s 2, 3 and 7.

So the old beds that I rotated are #s 1, 4, and 6.

Confused yet?

Here is a better description:

Bed #⬇     2017➡2018

  1. Corn ➡ cucumber, nasturtium, bush beans, carrots
  2. (New bed)
  3. (New bed)
  4. Tomatoes, marigolds ➡ cauliflower, dill, carrots, radishes, onions
  5. (Unchanged)
  6. borage, cosmos, thyme, basil ➡ borage, echinacea, marshmallow, bee balm
  7. (New bed)
  8.  Sweet potatoes, marigolds ➡ spinach, strawberries.

Basically, it’s all about taking care of the nutrients in the soil so the plants grow better. And It’s also about planting the right things together so that they benefit each other.

I understand it’s mostly rotating the heavy feeders with the lighter feeders.

 

Companion Planting

And that’s crop rotation. But what about companion planting?

Companion planting is just planting things in the same bed or row that will benefit each other. Those plants are friends. They grow up together and make each other happy, either by keeping away pests, or giving each other nutrients or both.

Q: How did I implement companion planting this year?

A: Pretty much any way I knew how to.

Companions

Bed #⬇

  1. cucumbers & nasturtium. Bush beans & carrots.
  2. sweet potatoes & marigolds, onions & tomatoes.
  3. tomatoes, onions, hot peppers and basil all go together.
  4. Cauliflower & dill, carrots, radishes and onions. The onions area divider of sorts because dill and carrots do not go together.
  5. (Unchanged.)
  6. Most herbs go together, especially bee & butterfly friendly flowers. 💐 🐝
  7. See above.
  8. Spinach & strawberries. 🌱🍓

 

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Found some spinach randomly growing in the garden…didn’t want it there, so I picked it and ate some!

Got any garden plans? Do you have any fond memories of gardening as a child, teen (or even as an adult)?

What do you think of crop rotation and companion planting?

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canning, Food, Seasonal Food

Canning Homegrown Black Vernissage Tomatoes (Small Batch Without a Kitchen Scale)

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Lately I have been super enjoying canning. And while I’ve canned before, there is something about canning what you’ve grown yourself.

I’m bursting with pride (probably unflatteringly so) over my little 13×13 foot garden. It’s tiny, but it’s mine and I tend it with care.

I’m growing a variety of things but currently the tomatoes are the ones that are producing like crazy. Which is a relief because when I transplanted them this spring they were quite scraggly.

They are now a tomato jungle.

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See? Jungle.

Today I had over 30 tomatoes ripe and sitting on my counter. Hmm. Lately I have been canning the black ones. Those are plants # 1, 3, 5 and 6 in the above photo, starting from the left. Plant #2 is a Sungold (yellow cherry tomato) and plant #4 is a Goldie (huge yellow tomatoes I wrote about in my BLT post).

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Black V. tomatoes ripening on the vine.
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Size compared to a cherry tomato.
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Size compared to a medium sized tomato I got from a produce stand.
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The black tomatoes are fairly juicy and do not hold their shape well during cooking.
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33 tomatoes, washed and sorted.

I knew I was canning them and I had a recipe in mind. I’ve been using this book called Foolproof Preserving: A Guide to Small Batch Jams, Jellies, Pickles, Condiments & More (by the editors from America’s Test Kitchen) from the library and I love it so much I want to buy it. But it’s nearly $20 😦 Maybe I can find a deal somewhere…

Anyways.

The recipe I wanted was for crushed tomatoes. But it called for 14 lbs of tomatoes to make 4 quarts canned and I knew I didn’t have that much. But with a bit of brain power I figured that if I cut down the ingredients to 1/4 of the recipe, it would be about right.

I had canned these tomatoes whole and I knew it would take about 14 to make 1 pint. Thus about 30 tomatoes to make 2 pints, or 1 quart. My other canning book said that it takes 2 1/2-3 1/2 lbs of tomatoes for 1 quart canned. So I figured I had about 3 lbs.

The only other ingredients were bottled lemon juice and salt. Easy.

And no, canning isn’t easy at first. I’m no veteran but I’ve been learning a lot from anyone willing to chat about canning. This is my first year canning tomatoes. Before I stuck to just fruit. (*Haha looking back on this post I realise that tomatoes are also fruit! 🙂 Applesauce, peaches, peach butter, blueberry butter. That’s about it 🙂

So I followed the directions to prepare for cooking the tomatoes.

Filling up pots with water, washing jars, prepping tomatoes, blanching and chopping them.

Now they were ready to cook and here is what the completed “sauce/crushed tomatoes” looked like⤵⤵⤵

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Ready to can! The burner under the water bath canner had been turned off already. So now…canning prep!

Prepped hot jars, sterilized lids, lemon juice and salt in jar, filled jars, left headspace, wiped rims and lids and made sure lids were properly loosened.

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Jar 1
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and jar 2.

Then the jars were carefully lowered and I placed the lid on and waited for the water to boil.

While I waited, I made lunch. Last nights leftover burrito filling…rice, black beans and seasoned ground beef mixed with the remaining 2/3 cup of crushed tomatoes. Yum.

The water boiled after a bit and judging by the directions I went with a 45-minute processing time. It was the correct time for my elevation for quart jars so I just went with it.

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Finished product!

I love listening for the jars to pop. I didn’t hear these ones pop but I will test them later. Both are indented and not raised, so that’s a good sign 🙂

Whew. All that work for 2 pint jars. But it’s still quite a bit of tomatoes. And I love preserving the fruits of my labor. I hope they taste good when I use them in a recipe later!

Do you can? I’d love to hear what you are preserving this year 🙂 Do you can by yourself or do you have help?

~Rachel