Gardening September 2019

by Jane Ahrens

From Mélie’s Garden

This has been a strange gardening summer for me. After planting vegetables in early June, my usual crop was quite different than usual, possibly due to the amounts of rain in June. Seeds seemed to take longer to germinate and the plants appeared to be less vigorous. The squash were small and faded fast, but the cucumbers grew well probably liking the extra water. The tomato plants took forever to produce ripe tomatoes and I am overwhelmed with them all being eatable at once. There are a couple of tomato recipes below that I am using, that I hope will help if you have this same problem.

Mélie’s Japanese Iris

In July my Asiatic and Orientpet lilies in were spectacular and the Japanese iris were lovely while they lasted. Now that it is the end of summer, the mallow in the garden has been glorious! It clearly liked the early summer rains, but the Dahlia tubers did not and I have much smaller plants, as a result, this month. But it was rewarding to see a few more butterflies and bees in my flowerbeds this season, so I will continue to plant flowers that attract them again next spring.

On my early fall shopping list I have put on more mallows and I already ordered additional lilies from John Scheepers to spruce up a couple of dull spots in the beds next July. It is always good to make a couple of notes throughout the growing season to remind yourself what needs to be done in the garden to improve it next year. Once the fall comes it is almost a relief to put it to bed for a couple of months and out of your mind, but come spring it is nice to have some ideas jotted down for inspiration.

Recipe: Margaret Roach’s Frozen Tomato Sauce


2 TBS of olive oil for the pan
1 large head of garlic, whole cloves peeled
3 quarts of coarsely chopped fresh tomatoes (3 quarts is about a large mixing bowl’s contents)
Handful of torn or sliced basil leaves
Generous handful of chopped fresh parsley leaflets
Salt & pepper as desired


  1. Warm the olive oil over medium- low heat in a large saucepan. Add the garlic cloves and slowly cook until soft and almost caramelized. While cooking, leave the cover on the pan so the garlic is almost seating. Stir occasionally, so the garlic cloves don’t get crispy (later the cloves will sort of melt into the sauce)
  2. To prep the tomatoes, I cut off any dings and occasionally the stem scar if it is tough looking. Add the tomatoes to the garlic in the saucepan, and stir to combine.
  3. Cover, stirring occasionally, until the tomato mixture starts to soften slightly, about 10 minutes. Add chopped basil. Cover the pan again, stirring occasionally, until the ingredients get thoroughly soft, about 10 minutes. Remove the cover to let the steam escape and cook the sauce to thicken, stirring occasionally.
  4. Remove the sauce from the heat. Add the parsley and stir so the leaves just wilt in the hot sauce but stay bright green.
  5. This process will take about 30 minutes, longer for very wet tomatoes, prep to finish. Let the sauce sit, covered, in the pan in the refrigerator for a day or so for the flavors to meld. Then ladle it into straight-sided glass canning jars, leaving some head room for expansion and freeze. Store in a tightly sealed canning jar in the refrigerator for up to five days and in the freezer for up to 1 year. (You definitely need proper canning jars to do the freezing and I suggest always sterilizing them and the tops in boiling water first. You can also follow regular canning jar sterilizing procedures and store the jars on the shelf, but freezing the jars saves quite a bit of time and is apparently just as safe.)

Recipe: Pickled Cherry Tomatoes

dapted from Bon Appétit, July 2010, via Epicurious

Makes about 3 cups

Grape tomatoes work just fine here, and in fact that’s what I use. I’m not sure how long these will last in the fridge, but my experience with quick pickles is that they do just fine for a week or two.


¾ c. apple cider vinegar
¾ c. water
4 tsp coarse Kosher salt
2 tsp sugar
1 3½” strip lemon peel (yellow part only, remove with a vegetable peeler
12 oz cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, and/or pear tomatoes
¼ c. coarsely chopped fresh dill
2 garlic cloves
¼ tsp of dried crushed red pepper flakes


Put the vinegar and water into a small saucepan, and add the salt, sugar, and lemon peel. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt. Remove from heat and set aside to cool for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare everything else. Halve the tomatoes, and toss them with the dill, garlic, and crushed red pepper in a large bowl. Add the cooled vinegar mixture. Let stand at room temperature for at least 2 hours and up to 8 hours. Pack in a large jar and store in the fridge for a week or two.

Recipe: Roasted Tomatoes

Set oven at 275°

  • Halve or quarter tomatoes
  • Leave skins on, remove seeds
  • Place flesh side up on parchment lined baking sheet with sides to catch the juice.
  • Season with olive oil, peeled garlic, rosemary, thyme, oregano, salt & pepper
  • Roast for a minimum of 3 hours to 5 hours
  • Once finished spread on bread or make tomato sauce by adding sautéed onions
  • Or, place in plastic bags and freeze for later use in sauces, stews or soups

Featured Photo

USCG Eagle passing the Race early morning March 18, 2023 on her return from the Chesapeake Bay. Photo Credit Marlin Bloethe

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