A Comfort Food Day

Monday was what I call a “comfort food” day and one of our favorite comfort food lunches is Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese.  Keeping with our gardening goals we like to grow food that can be preserved for use later.  We make our own tomato soup base and freeze for use on days like yesterday.  Here is the recipe for the soup base.

Tomato Soup Base
4 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
1 sliced onion
4 whole cloves
2 cups chicken broth (homemade is best!)

In a stockpot, over medium heat, combine the tomatoes, onion, cloves and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, and gently boil for about 20 minutes to blend all of the flavors. Remove from heat and run the mixture through a food mill into a large bowl, or pan. Discard any stuff left over in the food mill.
Proportion into freezer bags. Remove as much air as possible and seal bag. Soup base can now be frozen for use later.
To make Tomato soup, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a stockpot using medium heat. Stir in 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour to make a roux. Continue cooking until the roux is medium brown. Gradually whisk in a bit of the tomato mixture, so no lumps form, then stir in the rest. Season with sugar and salt to taste. Serve with your favorite grated cheese on top and some fresh basil.
Use your favorite flavourful tomatoes. We have used Brandywine, Scotia, and Lemon Boy. Lemon Boy provides for different colour and less acid taste.

Make your favourite grilled cheese to accompany the tomato soup. We use 5 year aged cheddar, sliced baked ham, and tomato jam.  (I add an extra tablespoon of tomato jam to the plate for dipping.) The tomato jam is made from our own tomatoes and “put up” for later use. It is great with burgers, sausage, almost anything you can spread it on! Here is the recipe for the Tomato Jam.

Sweet Tomato Jam
6 fresh tomatoes
1 “thumb” (2.5 cm) ginger root grated
4 shallots, sliced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
½ cup brown sugar (125 ml)
½ cup cider vinegar (125 ml)
½ cup water (125 ml)
1 pod Star Anise

Place all ingredients into a saucepan and cook at medium heat until water evaporates. Usually takes 1 to 1½ hours. Continue to cook until jam stage, about another 20 minutes Do a drop test. Put a bit of jam onto a plate and place in refrigerator for two minutes. If the jam sets than the jam is ready. Place in jars and process for 15 minutes.

One small way to enjoy your garden all year around.




Find the Magic

In an earlier post, we shared our gardening goals (Garden Planning – Set Goals for Your Garden).  People will choose to garden for whatever purpose meets their needs. People will garden in different ways.  From patio containers to large agricultural production.  Traditional rows to raised beds and square foot gardening.  Some like us will experiment with many ways to meet our gardening needs.

There are many other reasons people choose to garden.  Activity and fitness, stress relief, get outdoors, 10806484_403419183141005_5096243297421317243_nenjoy nature, are all reasons people garden.  Whatever your reason or purpose is to garden,  we hope you can find the magic!  That childhood sense of wonder that exudes from your garden as the landscape evolves from barren earth to green foliage bearing colourful fruit.  The miracle of tiny seeds to giant sunflowers, or the white blossom to the deep red strawberry warmed in the summer sun and exploding with sweetness.  The wondrous creatures that visit our gardens or inhabit the subterranean world.  With no slight of hand, the magic unfolds before our eyes every day we are in the garden.

Believe in the magic of your garden and you will find it.  Bring your children or grandchildren to your garden and discover the magic with them.  Perhaps it is this “magic” that brings gardeners to the patch of earth we so enjoy.

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”
― Roald Dahl

 Until next time

Tom and Di

Satisfying the Gardening Itch

Our planning and preparation continues.  Seed inventories done, and browsing seed catalogs and seed websites continues.  New asparagus roots ordered, vegetable seeds ordered, and some seeds have already arrived.

Both gardens now have four feet of the white stuff snuggling them.  Hard to believe that spring is only nineteen days away.  There are some positive signs that spring is near, the light of day has grown longer and the warmth of the sun continues to increase, spring training has started in baseball, and there are only two months left before the Stanley Cup Playoffs are over.

The other sign for gardeners is that itch Garden 003to get scratching in the dirt.  The desire to get started and smell the earthy aromas of soil and rotting compost.  Here in New Brunswick we will have to wait another six to eight weeks. There are, however, some things you can do to help satisfy those urges.

  • March is the time to start seeds indoors. White, Red and green onions will be started this week. Several of our flowers will be started as well. Check the frost dates for your area and the planting instructions on the seed pack.  Generally seeds are started indoors four to eight weeks before the last frost date.  We use May 15th as a guide, so if the seeds need to be started six weeks prior to the last frost, we will start on or before April Fools’ Day!
  • Get a start on new projects you are planning for the gardens.  Our new plans include:
    • 2 trellises for the cucumbers
    • Stacking boxes for the vertical potatoes experiment
    • Crates for the straw bales experiment
    • New stakes and row markers
    • More tomato cages
    • New cold frame for large raised bed.
    • 2 new raised bed boxes
  • On the stormy days or evenings, grab a gardening book and Garden tipsdiscover new tips to add to your gardening knowledge.  A good one to spend time with is 1,001 Old-Time Garden Tips edited by Roger Yepsen.  The book includes “timeless bits of wisdom on how to grow everything organically, from the good old days when everyone did”.
  • Then of course is one of our favourites, browse the garden centers.  This usually results in some new and neat tools being added to the shed!

If you have any other suggestions, please share in the comment section.

Until next time,

Tom and Di

Using the Garden Planner

We continue to use Grow Veg’s  Garden Planner software and truly believe that it’s use has enabled continued success in our gardens.  It is easy to use and you can plan this year’s garden using the free trial.  Here is a repost of our February 2015 blog.

In an earlier post, “Time to Plan the Garden”, I referred to the use of an excellent tool called the GardenUpper Garden Planner.

The illustration is of our Upper Garden (still in the planning stages).  A raised bed garden where we experiment with Square Foot Gardening, as well as locate our garlic and asparagus beds.  This year we used the Garden Planer to plan the irrigation system.  Once everything was located, the Garden Planner produced a materials list detailing what was needed to complete the irrigation system.  This materials list was very helpful to review our current inventory of irrigation parts and enabled us to order new.

This is one of the great features of the Garden Planner that we have come to like.  In addition to producing a materials list for the irrigation system, the Garden Planner will produce a seed and plant list for our garden making it easy to determine what we need to buy for the 2015 garden.

Learning how to use the Garden Planner is easy and to help you get started there are nine training videos available detailing all the features of the Garden Planner.

The Garden Planner is available at GrowVeg.com.


Tom and Di

Garden Planning – Set Goals for Your Garden

As I plowed out the homestead today, I had the radio tuned to Stewart McLean, host of The Vinyl Café.  Today’s show focused on Daydreaming. (You can listen to Stewart here.)   Ann Murray sang “Daydream Believer”, and later, The Loving Spoonful joined in with “What a Day for a Daydream”. Those tunes took me back to the Sixties for a while and then the mind began to wander to warmer days and into the garden.  It was more of the “I wonder” kind of daydream.  The kind of thoughtful daydream that one can allow the mind to explore the “whys” of why you choose to do things.  Like, “Why have a garden?”

When we initially started our garden there was not a lot of thought or planning.  We jumped in and created a garden.  You may recall how the seed display at Home Depot became our plan. Since then we have put careful thought into what we wanted to achieve.  We thought out and wrote down goals for our gardens.  The four main goals dealt with production, learning, leisure, and diversity.

  1. Production – We wanted a garden to meet our defined needs. Fresh, nutritious, organic produced food, for canning, pickling, freezing, and winter storage.  And for fresh salads, beet greens, HodgePodge,
    Hodge Podge
    Hodge Podge

    strawberry pie, etc.

  2. Learning – We wanted to gain knowledge about gardening.  Experiment with raised rows, raised beds, square foot gardening, vertical gardening, and straw bale gardening.  Learn about composting, mulching, and soil development.
  3. Leisure – Create a relaxing environment.  A garden for reflection, observation, and of course daydreaming.  (our lower garden plan includes a hammock under the pergola!)
  4. Diversity – Our garden will include vegetables, fruit, flowers, and shrubs.  We will experiment with different varieties, colours, tastes, and textures.

Having these goals allows us to focus on what is important for us.  The goals are like the cornerstones for our garden planning and allow us to establish specific objectives each year.

Looking at the Upper Garden covered in two feet of snow it will be awhile before we will be digging in the soil. Maybe time to relax and daydream about this summer and our gardens.

What are your goals for this year’s garden?

Tom & Di

Time to Plan the Garden

If you have not already started to plan your 2015 garden now is the time to start.  Here is a great tool to help and is a valuable educational resource as well.  We used the free version last year and chose to subscribe this year.  It is the “Garden Planner” from GrowVeg.com

Here are the features we like about the Garden Planner.

  • easy to draw out your vegetable beds, add plants and move them around to get the perfect layout
  • works for traditional row planting, raised beds, raised row or square foot gardens.
  • as you add vegetables the space they need is clearly shown by the colored area around each plant and it calculates how many plants will fit into the area
  • crop rotation is easy as the Garden Planner warns you where you should avoid placing each vegetable based on what was in your previous years’ plans.
  • enter your address and the Garden Planner adapts to your own area using a database of over 5000 weather stations.
  • print a planting chart showing how many of each plant and when to sow, plant and harvest them
  • the Garden Planner sends email reminders of what needs planting from your garden plans
  • you can organize which crops will follow on from others using the succession planting feature
  • add customized varieties with their own spacing and planting dates
  • acts as a garden journal by adding your own notes about what and how your garden grows.

This is our “lower garden” designed with the Garden Planner.  (More on the lower garden in a future post.)

 Lower Garden - Garden Planner
Lower Garden – Garden Planner

Have a look at the Garden Planner in action.

Setting up your Garden Planner account is easy, and there is no obligation to subscribe.  If you find it useful the annual subscription is $25.  We have found the Garden Planner a great tool for a successful garden and subscribed for two years for $40.

Subscribe to the Garden Planner at GrowVeg.com

Enjoy planning your garden.

Tom and Di

Buying Seeds

When we first arrived on the Homestead one of the first things we chose to do was put in a garden.  Our garden planning began in front of a seed display near the entrance of the Home Depot.  Captured by the colorful images of beautiful vegetables, we proceeded to select the seeds for our garden.  Although we were aware of terms like heirloom, hybrid, organic, hardiness zones and planting times, we continued to select and plan our garden based on the beautiful pictures on the seed packets.

We did have a reasonably successful harvest and we did enjoy some fresh vegetablesIMAG0579 throughout the summer.  We also were over planted, under planted, wasted a lot of seeds and had a lot of seeds left over.  It is from this experience that we suggest the following tips when it comes to buying seeds for your garden.

  1. Carefully plan your garden before you purchase your seed. Know how much space you have, how much sun you have, frost dates, and growing season.
  2. Evaluate what you grew last year. This emphasizes the importance of keeping a journal of what you planted, where you planted it, and how it performed.
  3. Select seeds to grow food that your family eats. If they don’t like Brussel Sprouts, don’t buy the seed.
  4. Choose varieties that meet your needs for storing, pickling, canning and your favorite dishes.
  5. Share information with other gardeners in your area. Find out what varieties work best for them. Make friends with the oldest gardener in your area!
  6. Check your seed inventory. What do you have left that you can use this year. Learn what you can about seed viability.
  7. Choose a local seed company or mail order suppliers in the same or similar geographical and climatic zone as your garden.

A few more considerations

  • If you plan for succession gardening buy the seeds you need for the growing season
  • Buy heirloom seeds and learn to save your own seeds and properly store them
  • Check seed suppliers for the Safe Seed Certificate and their policy regarding GMO.
  • Buy organic certified seeds.sniegocki-garden-journal-2-e1336703846515
  • Experiment with one or two new varieties each year.
  • Keep a journal.

Remember, quality seed will produce quality food.

Tom and Di

Welcome to the Creative Garden Patch

Welcome to the “Creative Garden Patch”.  We left our home of 32 years in Northern Canada to return to the family homestead in New Brunswick.  We are the fourth generation to occupy and work the land.

This blog will document our efforts, our successes, and our “mess-ups” as we dig our way into our gardens.

Raised Row Lower Garden
Raised Row Lower Garden
Raised Bed Garden
Raised Bed Garden

Follow us as we learn, create and develop our gardens on the shore of Washadamoak Lake.  We will share our experiences on raised bed gardening, raised row gardening, straw bale gardening, garden structures, composting, anything and almost everything to do with vegetable and flower gardening.

You can expect information on garden planning, seeds, garden pests and helpers, and delicious recipes for put ups and other eats.

Please join us by clicking the “Follow” button in the sidebar.

Tom and Di