This year, I slightly adjusted the configuration of the plant beds in the kitchen garden.

  1. Strawberry Bed – The main bed contains only strawberry plants. My hope is for a repeat of my first attempt, which yielded enough to make strawberry jam. The triangle part of the bed has been sown with the first batch of salad bowl lettuce – which is nearly always successful.
  2. Sweet Potato Bed – Does not contain sweet potatoes yet. I planted snap peas in late March, not knowing the spring was going to be so cool.  Still, I may get some snap peas before installing the sweet potato plants.  Sweet potatoes can be planted during the summer, with plenty of time to mature for a good fall harvest.
  3. Shade Bed – So named because of the oak tree standing in the middle, was also planted with snap peas. The rationale was the plants might have enough head-start before the leaves were too full on the tree.  It just wasn’t enough time. Not to worry, though. I still might get a few peas, and then the entire bed should be full of lettuce during the hottest part of the summer.
  4. Tomatoes Bed – The only change from last year was to add more onions and to plant garlic for the first time. Given the amount of garlic used in the kitchen, I wonder why I waited so long before adding garlic.  In addition to tomatoes and garlic, there is (or will be) oregano, basil, onion, jalapeno peppers and tomatillos.

As a kitchen garden, the plants are all edible, however, they are arranged in a geometric pattern to make the garden attractive as well as functional. When selecting the plants, I was looking for plants that would do well together. Interestingly, tomatoes, basil, oregano, garlic, and onions make good companion plants. The jalepeno peppers do well also, and this just seemed like a more suitable place than, say, the strawberry bed.

Tomato Garden Bed

Tomato Garden Bed

Last year, the tomato yield was a bit disappointing, probably due to insufficient watering.  My hope is this year will be more like our tomato yield from two years ago.  The Roma tomatoes from 2011 were so bountiful that we decided to make our own canned tomato sauce.  We continued to enjoy the summery flavor of that sauce throughout the following year.

Tomato Bed 2012

Tomato Bed 2012

Recipe for Tomato Sauce

The recipe for the sauce is simple. The ingredients are: Olive Oil, 1 Onion, 4 cloves of Garlic, 3-4 small sprigs of Oregano, and lots of Tomatoes – about 1.5 to 2 pails (2 gallon size), or about 8 quarts chopped. To make it:

  • Wash the tomatoes and remove stems;
  • Cut the tomatoes into 1-2 inch chunks, placing in a bowl;
  • Dice the onion into small pieces;
  • Place a large pot onto the stove with low to medium heat (2.5 on gas power burner);
  • Pour in 1/3 cup of olive oil;
  • Add in the diced onion;
  • Crush-in the four cloves of garlic;
  • Saute the onions and garlic until soft, but not browned;
  • Pour in the tomatoes, a few quarts at a time, stirring together with the onions and garlic;
  • After the tomatoes have been added, cook until the tomatoes are well heated, stirring occasionally;
  • Reduce the heat, cover the pot and let simmer;
  • Once the sauce is done, perform the canning process.

Postscript (Dec.2013):

Avoid overcrowding the tomato bed, and remove the basil from the center.  The density made it too difficult to access the tomatoes. Next year, array the tomato plants around the fenced sides. Strengthen the fence so the plants can be tied up and spread across the sunward side. Onions and garlic are still good companions, and may be planted in the interior.