Monday, July 30, 2012

How to Use Cherry Tomatoes: Sun Dried Tomatoes

I think the cherry tomato is the one plant that is guaranteed to provide you with a bountiful harvest. While everything else in my garden is refusing to produce because of the drought, the cherry tomatoes just keep on chugging! This year I planted Large Red Cherry Tomatoes. These things are ginormous! There was no way I could just use them for salads, so I had to come up with a way to use them up. Well, I made a batch of salsa with them because I had a packet of store bought salsa mix laying around. That used up about 6lbs of them, but they were still pouring in.

So, I decided to make "Sun" Dried Tomatoes. I admit, I cheated. They would never dry out in our Indiana sun (although they might have during the heat wave last month!) so I popped them in the oven!

These are super easy to make. They take very little prep time, five minutes hands on and the rest of the time they just sit in the oven.

Simply wash and slice the cherry tomatoes in half. I tossed them in a little bit of olive oil, Italian seasoning and sea salt.

 Spread across a baking sheet and let them sit in the oven at about 150-200 degrees F for several hours until they are dried out. If your oven can't go that low, just put it on as low as it will go. You will need to keep a close eye on it though. The second batch I made was a little crispier than I would have liked, but they are still delicious!

This post is linked to:

The Country Garden Showcase

Barn Hop #73

The Country Homemaker Hop #31

Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways #38

Little House in the Suburbs DIY Linky #10

Freaky Friday Linky

Growing Home


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Gardening in a Drought

This year's garden has been disappointing. I have been diligent in watering the garden every few days or so as the soil begins to show signs of drying out. I mulched the garden with straw to cut down on weeds and to help retain moisture. Unfortunately, all of this isn't enough when you combine heat in the 100's and weeks without water. We ended up getting some rain a couple weeks ago, and have gotten a couple sprinkles here and there. All of this really puts a lot of stress on the garden.

My green beans are simply producing flowers and dropping the off without growing any beans. This is from the dryness and the heat. My tomatoes have been doing excellent, in particular the Large Cherry Tomatoes. The Amish Paste (Roma type) have been doing fairly well also. The ones that I do get are absolutely HUGE! Even with 6 plants of each though, I am having to freeze and can these at a later date because I am simply not getting enough at a time to do anything with them. My Brandywine tomatoes have been really disappointing though. They aren't getting any larger than maybe 4", if I'm lucky.

I have lost all of my zucchini and squash, so I am planning on putting a fall garden where these were. This will be my first time planting a fall garden. I have no idea why I have never tried it!

In the meantime, we are headed for another 100+ degree heatwave again!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Battling Squash Bugs

UPDATE: It seems that I have two issues at hand. Although I do have squash bugs, they have not been causing the damage I believed them to be. A reader was very helpful in pointing out that the problems I am having are more likely to come from Vine Borers! Although I do have the Squash Bugs, I haven't seen any damage that is associated with them. (Not that I'm gonna let them continue eating my plants! lol) Please see the comment below by "elle mental" for a wonderful explanation and solution if your vines are being eaten from the inside out by Vine Borers.

I cannot believe it has taken me this long to figure it out. For the last few years, I have been so frustrated with my squash crops.

This year I have finally figured out what is wrong! Squash Bugs are my nemesis. I was checking out some favorite Facebook page and saw someone reference the little "stink bug look alikes" and decided to check mine for them. What did I find? Armies of little bugs eating up my squash plants!

Since then I have lost one of my plants, and I don't think my others will survive the season. I am so grateful to finally know what was causing the sudden die off of my plants though. Since I discovered them, I have been picking off the visible bugs, toss them in a cup of water and feed them to the chickens. Boy did they enjoy that! Some other ideas I have found for ridding your garden of Squash Bugs without insecticide are:

  • Use duct tape to peel the eggs off before they hatch
  • After watering, walk through the plants and pick off the bugs. They will climb to the top when the plant is soaked from the water.
  • Use a mixture of Dawn/water in a spray bottle and spray the base of the plant where the bugs live. It supposedly kills them in seconds. I have not tried this method.
The main thing to remember is to start preventing them early! If I had realized what was attacking them earlier, I could have saved my plants. Now I know what to do next year. This is what I love about gardening, everything is a constant learning process!

Linked to:

Frugally Sustainable