First, Last & (Hopefully) Always

As I write this, I am witnessing my first tomato in the garden this season and the last can of tomatoes from last year's garden. It's bittersweet.

My first year of gardening, I'll admit, my yield of edibles was pretty dismal. I was new to EVERYTHING. I got a few tomatoes, but I don't think any of them arrived until late September and I only got a few. My peppers shriveled practically after they started producing. It seemed that I did not have much of a green thumb. But, I kept at it and was determined. If some things didn't work, I'd try different things next year. Different tomatoes, different peppers, different techniques, different everything. 

Fast forward a couple of years and I was SWIMMING in produce. Last year, I sent the following email:

Dear friends/neighbors,

It has become apparent that my lettuce plants are threatening to take over the back yard. (I believe they are plotting a coup of some sort and are in talks with Putin on next steps as we speak.) Even my husband, who pretty much eats salad for dinner every night, has had to admit defeat and can no longer consume as much as this garden produces....

I am hoping that, as you read this, you're thinking, "OH, I only WISH I could eat more fresh salad." If that's the case, boy are you in luck! We're running a special on lettuce this week.. All you can eat for FREE! And that's not all......We deliver too!!!

I'll be picking some in the next day or so and would be happy to deliver some garden fresh, organically grown lettuce this week....right to your doorstep! 


The Overzealous Gardener

My overabundance of lettuce....taking over the garden.

My overabundance of lettuce....taking over the garden.

I also had an abundance of tomatoes. I had thought about canning for a while, but it seemed so complicated and dangerous. What if I poisoned people with my poorly canned tomatoes? But, I was left with no choice. Yes, I could have made sauce and frozen it, or called on my neighbors again, but I decided to take the plunge and try canning. You can see from these photos, why it seemed necessary.

This happened on a weekly basis.

This happened on a weekly basis.

Crawling out of the woodwork.

Crawling out of the woodwork.

Thinking of trying canning? The good news is that tomatoes are acidic, so you can use a large pot, hot water, lemon juice and only minimal canning materials for hot water canning method. So, no need to spend money on a pressure canner if you're not sure you're ready to take the long-term plunge.

I'm reluctant to repost canning instructions, since there are so many out there already. For tips and techniques for canning, check out Despite the use of "Comic Sans" font on this one, this site from may serve useful in getting started. 

Being able to enjoy summer tomatoes in the dead of winter for sauces, soups and chili is amazing and well worth the effort to can your garden goods at their peak. My favorites for canning were my San Marzano tomatoes. They are great for sauces.

My San Marzanos from 2014

My San Marzanos from 2014

This year, I may even can some of the peak-season fruits and veggies I get from farmer's markets - just to capture the flavors when they're at their best.

Hmmm...What should I do with that last can of tomatoes? Let me know in the comments.

I'm Catherine, a small-space urban gardener in New Jersey (Zone 7a) who started gardening out of upcycled wooden wine boxes. For years, I wanted to try gardening, but didn't know where to start. I got up the nerve to give it a try - starting small with a single wooden wine box that turned an idea into reality. That reality quickly turned into my filling every sunny inch of space of my postage-stamp size lawn and turning it into a garden oasis. I grow mostly vegetables and herbs with some exception for fruits (when the squirrels and rabbits don't get to them first). I love learning from gardening communities (and lots of trial and error).

I hope one day to take all that I'm learning and apply it to a larger plot of land. To help me get there, I'm extending my learning through the University of Massachusetts, Stockbridge School of Agriculture's, Sustainable Food & Farming program. (I'm addicted to learning as much as I am to gardening.)

This blog isn't just for gardeners (although I hope it inspires some of you to try growing a plant or two). The recipes (food & cocktails) in theRecipes section of this blog contain ingredients that don't have to come from your own backyard. If you like visiting your local farmer's market(or even your grocery store) and would like to get some new recipes you can use with the fresh produce and herbs you get from your local growers, this blog will have plenty for you too.

In addition to gardening and cooking, I also love to visit and photograph my surroundings. I feel fortunate to have so many amazing places here in New York/New Jersey, where I live and work. Visits to local farms, farmer's markets, and cycling through rural farming areas help me feel connected and refreshed. share these experiences in theExploring section of the blog so that you might visit through proxy or be inspired enough to visit yourself. 

With very few exceptions, all of the photographs on this site are ones I have taken myself. (For the photographers out there, I shoot with a Canon 7D and sometimes with my Lumix  DMC-ZS15 compact camera.) 

I hope this blog inspires you to grow, create, explore, and try something new. The best way to stay up-to-date is to follow me using the social buttons above, or click Subscribe and sign up for my email newsletters.    

Happy Gardening and Healthful Living!

- Catherine