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Jailed Tomatoes

Grandpas Garden By June 19, 2016 Tags: , , 16 Comments

Jailed Tomatoes

What? You don’t’ keep your tomatoes in protective custody?  Well…mine are on lock down.  That is because of the #@$!#* deer!!!

I don’t live in the country and my house doesn’t border the forest, I actually live by the beach.  So where do the deer come from?  I suspect they swim across from a tiny island a mile or so from land.  It is supposedly home to some of Billy the Kids buried treasure.  To add to the bury treasure intrigue, low tide exposes a sandbar, for short periods of time, allowing access ttomato-garden1o the island by foot. If deer can’t swim, then that must be how they get across – the land bridge!

My family rolls their eyes at my theory.  Yet, last month I visited Fire Island, NY which is surrounded by the ocean.  There are signs posted, in the sand dunes, with a warning, DO NOT FEED THE DEER!  Ha…maybe my theory isn’t so crazy after all – beach deer do exist.

tomato-garden2I guess it doesn’t matter how they get into my yard, they do.  They wait until the tomatoes are just ripe enough (when you think, ‘tomorrow I will pick it for my sandwich’), they remove the fruit and the branches they are attached to.  Basically, destroying my dreams of a bacon, lettuce and tomato and the possibility of the plant producing more tomatoes.  This inspired my husband to create the jailed tomato fix.  He built a cage around our tomato garden, when the plants get taller we put screens on top to keep them from getting munched. tomato-garden3

Our system works pretty well.  Once in a while an unsuspecting tomato plant wants to stretch its branches beyond the border, which is a mistake, it will be gone by the next morning.  Last year I discovered that deer must not like onions. My scientific evidence?  The tomato plants with onions bordering them did not get touched.  So this year I increased the onion protection patrol and planted two bags around the tomato plant parameters.  I didn’t mess with onion seeds, I used bulbs so they would come up faster.

I take guarding my tomatoes seriously.  Hopefully, my efforts will be fruitful! 😉

Does anyone else have this issue?


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A Vintage Tomato Memory

Grandpas Garden By September 24, 2015 Tags: , , No Comments

When I was a little girl, my grandmother had a big tomato patch in her backyard.  That is what she called it, I imagine because she grew up on a farm in Missouri.  Looking back now, I realize that what she called her backyard was probably more like an acre of land. The plants were arranged in rows and columns, making a nice, neat rectangular pattern.  All she grew were tomatoes.  As a child peering into the patch, it looked more like a dense forest of stems and leaves than a garden plot. My grandmother would send me into the middle of it (where she couldn’t easily reach) to pick the ripe tomatoes.  I am sure I disappeared from view once I was in the middle.  Eventually, I would emerge with an arm full of juicy, ripe tomatoes.  We would fill the old, large mixing bowl and then head inside to the kitchen. There she would make us tomato sandwiches for lunch.

If you haven’t tasted a juicy, ripe tomato picked fresh from the garden or had a tomato sandwich made from them…you are missing out.  Until I was a young adult, I didn’t realize a home grown and a store bought tomato could taste so different.  But they do!  Besides picking them from your own personal garden, delicious, home grown tomatoes can be found at the local farmers market.   Pick some up, you won’t be disappointed.  Here is a super, simple recipe for making a tomato sandwich (like my grandma made for her grand kids – back in the day).


Making a Vintage Tomato Sandwich

  • Toast two slices of bread (toasting is not necessary)
  • Slice a ripe tomato into thin slices
  • Generously spread mayonnaise onto the toasted bread
  • Then layer the tomatoes on top of the mayonnaise (sprinkle with salt if desired)

Today I might add slices of avocado and a variety of lettuce or spinach leaves. But that is not how we ate them, decades ago, in my grandma’s kitchen.  Yum!

Did you eat tomato sandwiches growing up?


Pickles – the Food of Generations

Grandpas Garden, Recipes By September 2, 2015 No Comments

My family loves pickles. From my oldest granddaughter all the way up to her grandpa.  Are they picky about their pickles? Why, yes they are!  Not just any old pickle will do. So, I was a bit nervous when I decided to take on the role of Pickle Chef and make pickles from the cucumbers in my garden. Since I didn’t have all the equipment to actually process them with a heat bath, I decided to make the refrigerator kind.

I purchased an entire case of quart canning jars from Walmart, I noticed (afterwards) that some places actually sell them individually. However, since these pickles won’t be canned (put under heat and pressure), any jar that you have in your cabinet should work.  Like old jars from pickles you bought at the store!  Make sure to thoroughly wash any jar that you use, including the new ones you just bought.

The ingredients:

  •       3 ½ cups of water
  •       1 ¼ cups white vinegar
  •       1 Tablespoon regular sugar
  •       1 Tablespoon regular salt
  •       4 cups cucumbers (cut into spears or slice
  •       2 cloves of garlic (whole, but pealed)
  •       Fresh dill (4 or 5 sprigs or individual stalks)


In a sauce pan stir together water, vinegar, salt and sugar.  Bring to a boil.  Remove from heat and let it cool down completely.

Meanwhile, fill your jar with cucumber spears, dill and garlic.

Pour cooled vinegar mixture over cucumbers in the jar.  Put on lid and refrigerate for at least 3 days.  *adapted from a recipe found on

Tips and Hints:

  • Fresh dill seems delicate and turns bad quickly.  I suggest you use it the same day you buy it.  Gently rinse it when you get it home and let it drain.
  • The original recipe called for 2 heads of dill, this confused me. Since the dill divides naturally into individual stalks (sprigs) I translated it into that measurement.  I added dill on the top and to the bottom of the jar.
  • If you are impatient and want your vinegar water to cool faster, stick it in the refrigerator.
  • I let my prepared pickles set in the frig for a week before we tried them.
  • If you want a little kick then add a sliced jalapeno pepper or dried red chile pepper to the jar.

The result:  Everyone liked them, from the granddaughter to the grandfather and everyone in-between.  I even gave a jar away to friends. That’s confidence!





Me and Elmer Fudd

Grandpas Garden By August 28, 2015 Tags: , , 2 Comments

Back in May or early June, I saw the cutest thing, a bunny sitting in my yard. We see squirrels all the time and I know we have stealthy deer but I have only, on a rare occasion, seen a rabbit. I stood there watching it, smiling and sipping my coffee until suddenly it occurred to me…rabbit…garden….oh no!!!! I was hoping it was just a coincidence, that it was just hopping through my yard on its way to someplace else, like the beach to sun itself. But no, it had taken up residence in a pile of wood scraps my son had assembled at the back of the yard. Why?!! I am not in the woods or even the country. I don’t have a lot of trees or bushes and I live on a noisy street. But the story gets worse, there are two of them! I had visions of rabbits taking over my yard and eating everything green in their sight.

We discussed ways to remove them, humanely. I hoped every time we mowed the lawn that it had somehow scared them away. But they would either hide or return. The good news is that they didn’t seem to be bothering my garden. So, I just ignored them and let them be. Until today.

I have been trying to grow cucumbers for several years. Last summer, the deer came and mowed them down just as they were starting to show promise. This growing season I tried again and I have been able to harvest multiple cucumbers from the vines. But this morning, when I went out to collect a few, this is what I found.


My cucumbers had been nibbled on! This wasn’t a deer. Deer chomp the leaves and stems or just rip the whole plant out of the ground. They are not dainty. No, this was done by a rabbit!

You could hear me mumbling under my breath “that wascally wabbit”. I was stomping around the yard like Elmer Fudd, annoyed at the audacity of this furry creature. Had I been tricked? Had I been lured into a false sense of security?

No matter….because I am now digging out the black, bird netting, the baby powder, the dryer sheets and the coffee grounds (all off these are supposed to help deter animals from eating your garden) and forming an attack plan. We shall see who will outwit whom! That wascally wabbit!

Do you have varmints in your garden and how do you deal with them?