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The End of Tomato Season

September 25th, 2011

At the end of September, about two months after the appearance of the first vine-ripened homegrown tomato of summer the time has come to dismantle the garden before the cover crop is sown. Frost is coming: fermentation and decay are in the air. Plants have fallen down, top heavy, and many tomatoes look like sad sacks, flaccid and drained.

-Amy Goldman (The Heirloom Tomato: From Garden to Table: Recipes, Portraits, and History of the World’s Most Beautiful Fruit)

Come mid-September, the tomato plants are no longer the stars of the garden. The Vines are starting to look like exhausted from their summer of bounty. I still have a few plants that are nice and green, but the majority of them are looking pretty rough.

Tomatoes don’t taste as well this time of year when the night temperatures start to drop. I have noticed that they’re not as sweet as August tomatoes and the depth of flavor just isn’t there. That’s the main reason I no longer keep the vines around until they are killed by frost.

Today I plan to spend my afternoon clearing out the two rows of tomatoes in the garden. All the green tomatoes will be put in the basement on shelves to ripen slowly. They won’t taste like vine-ripened tomatoes, but they’ll be quite delicious roasted with garlic and olive oil. The ripe ones will be canned into something delicious, most likely my new favorite recipe for them, Roasted Tomato Passata from the The River Cottage Preserves Handbook.

A few years ago I stated pulling them out in mid to late September to make way for cover crops or overwintering crops like garlic or shallots.

When do you clear out your tomato patch?

Plant Spotlight: Goldenrod

September 24th, 2011

Baroness Matilda and all the children showed me over the whole estate on their first free afternoon. When we passed by a large bed of tall yellow flowers, Rupert said proudly:

“This is echte amerikanische Goldrute (genuine American Goldenrod). Papa says it is quite expensive, and we are not supposed to pick it. Pepi, our gardener, takes special care of it with a special kind of manure mixture”.

I admired wholeheartedly this noble guest from America, whose golden blossoms attracted all the bees of the neighborhood.

– Maria Augusta Trapp The Story of the Trapp Family Singers

Goldenrod is a truly beautiful plant, especially at this time of year when most other flowers are waning here in the Northern parts. It provides a bright pop of color and blends beautifully with the colors of fall, blooming just before the leaves start the change. Most people consider it a weed, but it’s really a native wildflower, actually an herb. Goldenrod is a beneficial plant, playing host to butterfly larvae and repelling other insects considered pests. Being a vital source of both nectar and pollen for pollinators, it’s allowed a place in the gardens of Chiot’s Run.

Goldenrod is a member of the aster family, along with joe pye weed, chicory, black-eyed susan, liatris and many others. It produces food for a wide variety of insects: monarch, clouded sulfur, American small copper and gray hairstreak butterflies as well as a wide variety of other pollinators like: bumblebees, wasps, soldier beetles, honeybees, syrphid flies and others. Lucky for the the monarchs it’s blooming everywhere during their migration through Ohio so they have a plentiful source of food for their journey.

Goldenrod is under appreciated and even vilified by many people. Those will fall allergies often blame goldenrod for their sniffling, but ragweed is actually the plant they should be cursing. As with many “weeds”, goldenrod is actually an herb. Traditionally it was used medicinally for it’s anti-inflammatory and diuretic effects. It was also used because on wounds because it helps promote healing.

Interestingly enough, while researching for this post, I found out that goldenrod contains rubber. Inventor Thomas Edison tested a number of plants looking for a source of rubber after being asked to find a native source by his friend Henry Ford. He finally settled on goldenrod because it contained the most and through his experiments was able to produce a 12-foot-tall plant that could contained as much as 12% rubber. The rubber produced was long-lasting resilient, examples of it can still be found in his laboratory, elastic and rot free after more than 50 years. In fact, the tires on the Model T given to him by Ford were made from goldenrod. Edison turned his research over to the U.S. government a year before his death, goldenrod rubber never went beyond the experimental stage. Which is quite a shame since the synthetic rubber based on petroleum became the material of choice for car tires.

Many people shudder when they think of goldenrod blooming in their gardens, but I welcome them. They can become invasive since they spread by both seeds and underground rhizomes, but I find that they’re easily pulled out when the need arises. I don’t let them grow in my cultivated foundation gardens, at least not in large numbers, or in the vegetable garden. They do however, spread freely along the edges of the woods and in the more naturalized garden areas. We actually have a couple of the 125 different species, it’s quite interesting to note the differences between them.

Do you incorporate any native wildflowers in your gardens? Any goldenrod?

We Have Winners

September 24th, 2011

The winners for the American Flags have been chosen. Drew from Tiny r(E)volution is a fellow blogging friend. Drew and his wife Crystal (and soon a new addition) are in the process of building a tiny home, you can read more about this on his blog Tiny r(E)volution. He said:
Tiffany was also chosen as a winner. She writes a blog called SongbirdTiff which she describes as: “I like to think of Songbirdtiff as my alter ego. She’s the one who skulks around thrift shops, bargains at yard sales, and clips coupons. I am simply the boring old typist behind the keyboard.” She said:

We also have a winner for the seeds from the $5 Challenge. Kristin has been a long time blog reader. Head on over to her blog Going Country where she humorously talks about all sorts of things from raising sheep and collies to all of her crazy adventures in country living. Her tip for frugal meals:

A big thanks to everyone for your great comments! If either of you winners haven’t received my e-mail use the “contact me” form on the right to send me your mailing address so I can get your flag in the mail.

Visiting Seed Savers Exchange Part Two (and a chance to win heirloom seeds)

September 23rd, 2011

While visiting Seed Savers, you will be able to see a lot of the varieties from their catalog in the gardens. There are several trial gardens filled with vegetables and flowers, they’re organized into different families. So there’s an entire garden dedicated to cabbage family plants, onions, members of the nightshade family, etc.

Even though they’re only planting a few plants of each variety and only a few of the varieties available, it really does make you realize the number of options that we have for our home gardens.

How can you not love the classic red barn and buildings? I think they provide the perfect backdrop for heirloom vegetables and poultry.

The plants are labeled well so you can note different varieties, and decide which ones you’d like to grow in your own garden. I especially loved these galvanized seed packet holders, I must find some of these!

You’ll also be able to check see some heirloom poultry and the Ancient White Park Cattle, the rare breed of cows that they keep at Heritage Farm.

After looking through the demonstration gardens and the gift shop, you can head down to the orchard to see the fruiting plants. During our visit some of the apples were ripe. They had a sign asking you not to pick apples from the trees, but to feel free to pick any up off the ground. We picked up a few and took some photos next to their labels since we’re hoping to put in orchard someday.

I’m so glad we hit the gardens when we did, the end of August. Everything was at the height of it’s beauty and production, which made up for the fact that I missed out on this in my own garden since I was gone almost the entire month of August.

Ironically as we left, we passed what you see above – field after field of hybrid and GMO corn test plots. A stark contrast to what we had spent the morning hours enjoying at Heritage Farm.

Of course, I couldn’t leave without purchasing an heirloom seed collection to give away here on the blog. After looking over all the seeds, I finally settled on the Heritage Farm Favorites Collection. It contains: Chioggia beet, A & C Pickling cucumber, Dragon carrot, Dragon’s Tongue bean, German Pink tomato, and Seed Saver’s lettuce mix. All you have to do is comment on this post for your chance to win. Winner Chosen:

If you were in charge of keeping one kind of edible plant from extinction which one would you choose?

See more from my visit:
Visiting Seed Savers Exchange Part One
For more photos of my visit to Seed Savers that didn’t make the blog, head on over to my Flickr photostream.

Visiting Seed Savers Exchange Part One

September 22nd, 2011

I mentioned on Tiny Trailer Travels Part Six that we stopped at Seed Savers Exchange on our way home. You were all excited about seeing photos from this stop. I finally had some time to sit down and go through all the photos and today is the day!

If you’ve ever driving through the northern part of Iowa, I’d recommend taking a few hours to visit Heritage Farm in Decorah – you certainly won’t regret it. Make sure you allow a few hours to walk around and see all the gardens and the orchard.

We stopped in the visitor center first, it’s full of the most diverse collection of gardening books you’ll ever see. I saw a few that I haven’t had a chance to read yet, looks like I’ll have some great garden reading this winter. They also have a collection of heirloom seeds, as well as other gardening items – and of course you can purchase or renew your membership.

It’s was drizzling slightly the day we went, but we still made it around to all the gardens. Lucky for us the new Diversity Gardens right out front that were installed this spring were in their full glory.

Since Seed Savers focusing on preserving heirloom plants, their gardens aren’t always perfect. You will see plants throughout their life cycle and in the seed setting stage. That means plants are not ripped out when they’re no longer pretty or no longer producing vegetables for harvesting. There was lettuce blooming for seed and cucumbers yellowing on their vines – no botox and facelifting for these garden – the natural cycle is allowed to carry on.

You will also find Diane’s Garden behind the visitors center. Diane Ott Wheatly was one of the founder’s of Seed Savers.

There is so much at Heritage Farm that I decided to break this post down as it was getting quite long. Be sure to allow plenty of time when you visit, you certainly won’t regret it!

Check back tomorrow for part II and a giveaway of a gift I purchased while visiting.

Are you familiar with Seed Savers Exchange? Have you ever visited their farm?

See more from my visit:
Visiting Seed Savers Exchange Part Two
For more photos of my visit to Seed Savers that didn’t make the blog, head on over to my Flickr photostream.

Seeds and Sundries
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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.