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Organic Gardening

Get dirty, have fun and grow more food with great gardening tips from real-life gardeners.

Tomato Tastings, Fall Garden Starts, and Getting Ready for Garlic

heirloom tomatoes 3 Ira with tomatoes 

We are in the thick of harvesting tomatoes and attending local Tomato Tasting with samples from the many varieties in our trial gardens.  Last week we were at Monticello for their Annual Saturdays in the Garden Tomato Tasting.

They usually have the tomato tasting at the edge of the orchard near a row of fig trees laden with ripe fruit, but after a rainy ending to the tasting last year and many 100°F days recently the event was moved to the Woodland Pavilion. Surrounded by shade trees and comfortable chairs in a lovely room with natural light and air conditioning in reserve, I think I like the change. With 30+ participants and over 30 varieties of tomatoes the tasting is a low key version of the tasting at the Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello

, coming up on Sept. 15, 2012. 

heirloom tomatoes 2 striped tomato  

Here are some of the varieties we tasted and talked about last week at the Saturdays in the Garden at Monticello:

Varieties from our Southern Exposure Seed Exchange Trial Gardens: 

Amys' Apricot
Old Virginia
Dwarf Rosella Purple
Matts' Wild Cherry
Red Cherry
Radiator Charlies' Mortgage Lifter
Black Cherry
Hungarian Italian paste
Amish Paste
Red Pisa Date
Green Zebra

More varieties from Southern Exposure: 

Cherokee Purple
Georgia Streak
Yellow Brandywine
White Wonder
Paul Robeson

Varieties from Monticello: 

Purple Calabash
Costoluto Genovese
Large Red
Black Krim

Varieties from Ann Eddins, local tomato grower: 

Granny Cantrell's German Red/Pink
Mortgage Lifter Halladay's Strain
Mortgage Lifter Bicolor
Dr. Lyle

Plus last minute additions from participants.

We have another Tasting Scheduled for the Edible Orange Fest and our own on Farm Tasting for local customers later this month. Of course we will have lots of varieties for the Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello and the Mother Earth News Fair at Seven Springs in PA. What a great way to share the taste of heirloom tomatoes.
 drip irrigationkale red russian 

When we aren’t busy picking, eating and preserving tomatoes, pepper, beans, eggplants, and more we are trying to keep the weeds under control and everything watered. I felt like it was all worth it when I went out to the partially shaded area where I maintain my seedling beds and start especially tricky fall crops like snap peas. How sweet it is! The snap peas have blossoms and are setting little peas. Our broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and other brassicas that were just little sprouts last month are sturdy little plants growing well and just waiting for cooler weather to really take off.  If you haven’t started your cabbage family seedlings yet some should begin to appear in local garden centers and farmers markets soon.


The long string of 90-100°F days has cut down on how often we can have salad, but we do still have lettuce. As soon as the new planting are big enough for cut and come again we should be back to daily harvest.

We just prepared the area for our garlic planting and sowed it with a quick cover crop of buckwheat. In October, we’ll till under the buckwheat, add more compost, and wait a few weeks for everything to break down before planting the perennial alliums.

allium sorting  

I love alliums. We plant garlic, elephant garlic, yellow potato onions, white multiplier onions, several varieties of shallots, and perennial leeks. They are all easy to grow if you prepare a rich well drained bed, mulch them, keep them well weeded and watered. So order your planting stock and start preparing your perennial onion and garlic beds now.
 alliums hill 

We’re trying to use up the last of the produce we have in storage, as we’ll soon be replacing it with our fall plantings of carrots, beets, radishes and other winter roots. One of the things we enjoy is pickled carrots. It is a good recipe for using now or in winter.

Refrigerator Dill Carrots 

1 pound carrots, peeled
1 1/4 cups water
1 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
2 garlic cloves, lightly-crushed
1 1/2 teaspoons dill or 2 tablespoons fresh dill weed
1 1/2 tablespoons coarse salt
2 bay leaves

1. Cut the carrots into sticks approximately the size of your fourth finger. Bring a medium-sized pot of lightly-salted water to a boil. (Use a non-reactive pot.)

2. When the water boils, drop the carrots in and simmer for one minute. Pour into a colander and rinse under cold water. Drain thoroughly.

3. Using the same pot, bring all the remaining ingredients to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for two minutes.

4. Remove from heat and add the carrot sticks. Cool until room temperature, then put into jars and chill.

Carrot sticks should be made at least one day in advance, and will keep for up to four weeks in the refrigerator.

Thanks for stopping by and we hope you’ll come back often to see what we’re growing and cooking. ___________________________________________________________________

Ira Wallace lives and gardens at Acorn Community Farm, home of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, where she coordinates variety selection and seed growers. Southern Exposure offers 700+ varieties of non-GMO, open pollinated, and organic seeds. Ira is a co-organizer of the Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello. She serves on the board of the Organic Seed Alliance and is a frequent presenter at the Mother Earth News Fairs and many other events throughout the Southeast. Her first book the "The Timber Press Guide to Vegetable Gardening in the Southeast" will be available in 2013.