Archive for December, 2011

Lovely landscaping

Now that our veggies were happily growing, some of the community gardeners turned their attention to the area surrounding the garden. Lovely!

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Fresh tomatoes, red peppers, onions and garlic.

When I started to harvest a lot of tomatoes, I pulled out my recipes and found one for fresh tomato soup, but it involved peeling and de-seeding the tomatoes. Too much work! I looked around for another recipe and found this gem that includes red peppers. So easy, I couldn’t believe the tomato skins and seeds remained in the recipe. I adapted it slightly so that all the work is in the roasting. It brings out all the wonderful flavors of summer!

Ingredients
2 pounds ripe tomatoes, cut in half
2 red peppers, cut into chunks
olive oil
kosher salt
black pepper
1 large onion
6 garlic cloves
2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
fresh basil leaves, chopped
fresh thyme leaves

Directions
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spread the tomatoes, red peppers, onions and garlic on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast for 45 minutes.

Transfer the roasted vegetables to a soup pot with their juices, and add the vegetable or chicken stock. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes with fresh thyme and basil leaves. Blend in food processor.

Serve with garnish of grated Parmesan cheese, more chopped basil or a dollop of plain yogurt. Delicious!

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I doubt there was any more excitement among the community gardeners than when the first tomatoes began to ripen. We eagerly awaited harvest time, because I think for a vegetable gardener, a tomato is like the crown jewel of the garden. Truly, there is nothing better, juicer, or tastier than a fresh, vine-ripened summer tomato. I planted several varieties including Roma, Beefsteak, Cherokee Purple (heirloom), cherry, and a sweet and fruity variety called a pineapple tomato.

The tomato harvest was thrilling, but unfortunately brought with it a problem not uncommon to urban and community gardeners — thieves. Here and there, tomatoes started disappearing and we didn’t know if our thief had 2 or 4 legs. I soon found out when I encountered a homeless man in our garden one evening with a plastic shopping bag, helping himself to our tomatoes. I exchanged a few words with him but soon realized that he wasn’t all there and quickly left the garden.

He was observed one other time, headed down Lexington Ave, this time with a garbage bag full of tomatoes. We figured he planned to sell them. Our mentor at the Civic Garden Center said that this is a common problem of community gardens. We worked with the police, and although easy to climb over, put a lock on the gate. Signs went up saying, “Members only, no picking.” I don’t know what happened to the homeless man but the problem seemed to go away. Most of us, I think, would have been happy to share the fruits of our harvest with anyone truly hungry, if asked.

Those gorgeous tomatoes continued to come, well into late October.

Delicious summer tomatoes! My favorite, the Cherokee Purple, is shown top middle.

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June 25-26 was the weekend of the 2011 East Row Garden Walk, an annual tour of some of the lovely flower gardens in my neighborhood in Newport, KY.  There were 11 home gardens on the tour, and our community vegetable garden was a point of interest. Weeks prior, I had planted seeds for small sugar pumpkins on the west side of my garden and made a small trellis out of bamboo. My garden neighbor smiled when he saw it and commented that I should have built the trellis twice as high. Really? I thought, they’re just little sugar pumpkins. The square foot gardening book says they only need 2 squares.) More on that later!  : )

The home garden tour was lovely and inspiring. And all of the community vegetable gardens were inspiring as well! For the first time I saw Brussels sprouts growing. A fascinating plant!

Whaddya think? Is that pumpkin trellis tall enough?

Beautiful Brussels sprouts!

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In the center of our community garden is an herb garden that all of the gardeners share. It’s a circular structure built with salvaged antique bricks collected by one of the gardeners, a brick enthusiast. (Yes, he collects old bricks!) Each gardener contributed an herb plant and we had a planting day just before the 2011 East Row Garden Walk. In the garden layout below, the herb garden in the center. (My garden is “N”.) I think the herb garden ended up larger than planned (a good thing!) which you can sort of see from the photo. My garden is in the foreground with the circular herb garden beyond.

The layout

Late May / Early June

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Our abnormally wet spring (24.78 inches for March/April/May) was GREAT for our garden plants, but not so great for scheduling fence-builders. That’s okay, because it gave us time to figure out how we were going to get our water situation worked out. The community garden is on land donated by the City of Newport, and we had no money for digging water lines. The Civic Garden Center suggested a big plastic tank donated by Coca-Cola, which would have been a less than ideal option. Our neighbors across the street, the East Row Pool and Social Club, came to our rescue and allowed us to tap into their water line on a separate meter. We pull the hose across the street, hook it up, and we’re good to go. See hose in foreground which came just when all that glorious rain stopped. And finally the fence went up.

De Fence

 

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Early May

Wow. Stuff grows from seeds! And I didn’t kill it! In the foreground are tomato plants (okay, I’ll admit it…I bought those). Then lettuce (from seeds), and all the way in the back are strawberry plants (yep, bought those too). I read about square foot gardening and am giving that a try. They say one tomato plant per square. Hmmm, we’ll see how that works out…

Let's have salad for dinner

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