Drowning in Tomatoes – Or So We Thought

For the longest time, I’ve been saying that I couldn’t wait until I had enough tomatoes to make my own sauce. I got my wish this year.

Our tomatoes did awesome. We had so many that we couldn’t harvest them fast enough. We had a few plants that never got staked up and just grew along the ground. Even with all that we lost, we still had more than we could imagine. The bucket below isn’t even all of them.

About 3 gallons waiting to be turned into sauce. / Photo: After the Knot

About 3 gallons waiting to be turned into sauce. / Photo: After the Knot

We decided to dedicate a Saturday to straining and canning what we thought would be jars and jars of pureed tomatoes.

A while back, C’s grandfather gave us his Squeezo Strainer. The postmark on it said 1987 so you know it’s awesome already. Even though it was used countless times, it still looked brand new. The Squeezo helped us by peeling and pureeing the tomatoes so when we were done, we just had to boil off the excess water.

The Squeezo in action. Photo: After the Knot

The Squeezo in action. Photo: After the Knot

“We’re going to be eating tomatoes in January!” C exclaimed.

Well, not really. We didn’t realize how many tomatoes you needed to have enough to last until January. Once the excess water is boiled off, you end up with about a half of what you started with. In this case, we ended up with 2.5 quarts of pureed tomatoes that can be used to make sauce at some point in the future. Despite all that hard work for just 2.5 jars, I’m happy for the learning experience. We finally got to use our pressure canner, which I’ve avoided touching out of fear that I’d blow up my house.

That's a lot less than we thought. / After the Knot

That’s a lot less than we thought. / After the Knot

We’ve since tilled our garden, putting all of the plants back into the earth to help feed the soil. It had become so overgrown it wasn’t even manageable. The plants had started to slow production and the risk of getting bit by a snake wasn’t worth climbing through the brush. We still have our aquaponics garden with some really great looking Romas continuing to thrive, so we aren’t at a total loss. Before the summer is over, I’d like to take another crack at canning some more tomatoes for use during the winter, but if it doesn’t happen at least I can say I finally did it.

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Fresh from the Garden: Caprese Salad

Bear with me. I’m attempting to post this from my phone using the WordPress app. Technology is so neat.

Our garden was touch and go for a while. The spring was unseasonably cold and we got a late start planting our seeds. They took a while to germinate and we lost a lot to poor planning, weather and soil. We ended up buying starter plants from a local nursery about two miles away.

The starters from the nursery and ours that survived are doing better than we imagined. Our tomato plants are doing awesome and we finally have enough to make our first batch of sauce next weekend.

Check out this awesome caprese salad I made with our garden tomatoes and basil from our CSA.

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After the Knot

That night we also had baked striped mullet from Locals Seafood and squash fritters made with yellow squash from our CSA.

Sounds good right? It was pretty great.

Are you growing a garden? How’s it going?

Upcycled Tire Planter Project

Some people look at old things and immediately find a new way to repurpose it into something really awesome. I’m generally not one of those people. Like many folks, I have Pinterest to give me those kinds of ideas.

About a year ago, C found a bunch of garden projects that could be done using old car tires. We were in the market for a few new tires so the timing worked out well.

Mechanics will usually charge you a disposal fee when they replace your old tires with new ones. So not only are these old tires free, you’re actually making a little money on them by not paying the disposal fee. We had seven or so tires that were going to see new life as something really awesome.

Unpainted Tires

And then they sat in the yard for a year. There’s nothing that says white trash like a pile of tires sitting in your backyard, next to an empty IBC and the broken skeleton of a greenhouse that was destroyed before it was finished.

The Plan

I decided to use five of the tires to plant flowers in one of the flower beds in our front yard. I would spray paint the tires white and plant pollinator-friendly flowers, like black-eyed Susans and daisies. The three ornamental bushes would be torn out and replanted along the fence in our backyard.

My plan began to spiral downward when I realize that whoever did the landscaping for my house 15 years ago did a really awesome job. It took me 15 minutes of digging to realize that the landscaper had put black netting under the wood chips to keep the weeds at bay. The bushes had grown roots on the top of the netting as well as underneath. Unfortunately, I realized this after I had cut all three bushes down to almost nothing.

After a brief discussion with C, we decided that removing the bushes wasn’t worth the effort. We’d likely need to use a car to rip them out. Truth be told, I really just didn’t care enough to do that.

The Project

Each of the tires got three coats of white all-surface spray paint. C had bought six cans for another project, but he no longer needed them. Feel free to use other fun colors, but I didn’t feel like spending money.

Painted Tires

Now, I would recommend putting down some kind of tarp or covering if you don’t want painted circles on your lawn. The area where I painted is covered in pine needles and leaves, all of which can be raked. If you actually have nice grass, I’d recommend protecting it.

When it came down to tire layout, I didn’t have many options because I had to work around the existing bushes. I have two more remaining tires that can be painted that will hopefully add to the aesthetic. For a little variety I used two large planter pots, but I’m not entirely thrilled with them. I have been moving the pots around trying to find a spot where I’m happy with them.

 

Two more tires should complete the design.

Two more tires should complete the design.

I’m a huge fan of bees and other pollinators so we planted bee-friendly flowers, like black-eyed Susans, echinacea, and Russian sage. We also planted perennials because I’m too lazy to plant flowers every year.

Since this part of the house faces north, it gets minimal sun. The sun that it could get is blocked by my neighbor’s pine trees. I took a chance and despite being flowers that wanted full sun, I planted them anyway.

A week later, they seem to be doing just fine. If their condition changes, we’ll transplant them to another part of the property and start over.

Extra Stuff

 

  • We talked about using edible plants like potatoes, cabbage or herbs, but we were concerned about the rubber leeching into the soil. We opted instead to use the tires for inedible plants.
  • We needed three large bags of soil to fill two tires and two traditional planters.
  • Planters tend to go dry quickly so make sure to provide adequate water.

 

 

Have you done anything fun with tires? Inspired enough to try a project of your own?