Archive | Perennial Produce

Use Up Those Summer Tomatoes

Garden Fresh Tomatoes

Garden Fresh Tomatoes


Here’s a great way to use up those summer tomatoes that may be stacking up and attracting fruit flies.

This peasant salad from Tuscany requires above all a good country bread that is a day or two old. In Tuscan dialect Panzanella  means “little swamp”, which is a description of the juice soaked bread. A good sturdy country loaf that is a day or two old can soak up the tomato and cucumber juices without becoming soggy.

Panzanella Salad Recipe


  • 1/2 loaf of day old country bread like Como, or a Pugliese
  • 4 large tomatoes cut into 1″ dice
  • 1 TB Capers
  • 1/2 C good olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 cucumbers peeled and seeded and cut into 1/2″ dice
  • 1 bunch Italian Basil, chopped
  • 1/2 small red onion sliced thinly
  • Sea Salt + Coursely ground black pepper, to taste

The best thing about this recipe is that it can be assembled in a matter of minutes, which works great in busy households or in the event that you are just too beat to cook when you get home from work.  Here’s how to put it together:

  1. Cut the bread into 1-1/2″ thick cubes, set aside
  2. Mix together the tomatoes, cucumbers, capers, onion and basil
  3. Mix together the oil and vinegar and pour over the vegetables
  4. Add the bread, and mix all ingredients until coated with dressing
  5. Add salt + pepper to taste

Refrigerate salad for up to 1 hour.

If you are excited about growing your own tomatoes at home, you should check out our Kickstarter Campaign, where we are raising funds to bring our very first product, TogetherFarm Blocks™, to you.  If you have a small space you can use these to quickly build a custom garden box without tools or carpentry experience.  Check them out!

TogetherFarm Blocks™

TogetherFarm Blocks™

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How to grow and prune grape vines

How to grow and prune grape vinesGrape vines are quite easy to grow. The basic elements you will need to successfully grow grape vines are sunshine, a good trellis to support the vines, mulch, and some pruning shears. Here are the steps for how to grow and prune grape vines so that you get years of fruit as a result.

1. Choose your grape

There are numerous grape vines to choose from. Some are good for wines while others are good for eating fresh. Still others have seeds and some varieties don’t. Obviously there are green grapes and red grapes and black grapes too. So, to choose your grape vine, decide what you want to use the grapes for. I choose two varieties that are good for eating fresh and that have no seeds. One type is a green grape and the other is a red grape.

2. Plant your grape

Now that you have selected your grape variety, you will need to choose a location to plant the grape vine. The base of the vine doesn’t necessarily need to be in a sunny place as long as the vines can grow to a location that has sun. My vines are planted in a shady spot along the fence between me and my neighbor’s property. Over the past couple of years, the vines have grown along the fence and the majority of them are now in a full sun location. When you select the location to plant your grape vine, dig a hole twice the diameter of the  pot size that the grape came in. Dig the hole twice as deep as well. Now, amend the soil by adding in some compost and organic fertilizer (composted chicken manure and some blood meal and bone meal works great). Then, plant the grape making sure that the vines will be able to reach the trellis. My grapes are close to a chain link fence and I used the fence as a trellis for the vines. I loosely tied the vines at various points to the fence and then let the vines grow along the top of the fence.

3. Mulch your grape

Once you have planted the grape vine, be sure to add lots of mulch around the base of the plant. I usually try to have about 4 inches deep of mulch around my grapes. This helps to retain moisture and keeps the roots from drying out. Over time, the mulch also breaks down helping to provide some nutrients for the grape vine.

4. Prune your grape

Now, the waiting game starts. Grapes take a few years to get established. Don’t expect to start eating grapes off of the grape vines for at least 2 or maybe 3 years. My grapes are currently in their 3rd year and I finally have a really good crop that set on. Each year, you can prune the grapes by cutting off the little runners and training the vines to go the direction you want them to. My second year of growing grapes, I had a few bundles of grapes set on but they ended up shriveling and falling off. I asked a gardener friend of mine what happened (he is about 75 years old and has been gardening for decades and has lots of delicious grapes every year). He gave me a secret trick that he uses. He prunes the vine 2 nodules past where the grapes are setting. So, this means that wherever you see a bundle of grapes forming, you will want to prune the vine beyond where the grapes are setting by count two nodules past the bundle of grapes (essentially, two leaves past the bundle of grapes). Then, cut the vine off at that point. What this does, he told me, is to allow all of the energy of the grape vine to go into producing the fruit rather than growing the vine itself. I tried this trick this year and it has worked amazingly! I have the best crop of grapes setting on and I’m excited for them to get ripe.

That’s it. Let us know if you have any tips or tricks for growing or pruning grapes that would benefit the TogetherFarm community.

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Summer Produce Gardening Tips

Honey Bee on Red Echinacea

Honey Bee on Red Echinacea

It has been quiet at TogetherFarm’s blog but we’ve been busy bees on our end and in our gardens and have some great summer produce gardening tips.

So far, it’s only mid-June and all of our gardens here have exploded ahead of schedule by at least one month.  This also pertains to our animal and insect life as well as our water levels.  Will fall come early?  Will summer linger on beyond its welcome?  Will we have another snow year like we did in 2008?

Only time will tell.

One thing you can count on are great gardening tips from TogetherFarm gathered up from around the web.

Mixed Salad Greens and Peas

Mixed Salad Greens and Peas

Think it’s too late to start a produce garden?  Think again.  Portland Nursery says there are plenty of things to put in the ground in June, including salad greens, such as, “a few lettuce varieties that resist bolting include: Jericho, Lollo Rosso, Merlot, Oakleaf types, and Red Sails. Plus Arugula ‘Sylvetta’.”  Greens in our garden have (above) have done extremely well and my wife and I are eating delicious hand picked greens nearly every night and still have to give it away to friends, neighbors and just about anyone we can corner.

They also say that with  there’s still time to plant basil, green beans, corn, cucumbers, and summer squash from seeds or starts.

Being a big tomato fan, I was excited to see that others can get a head start on these delicious fruits as well as peppers and eggplants that are in one-gallon pots that are less than 65 days to maturity.  These guys will start yielding wonderful produce in September if you get a move on and plant by the end of June.   Finally, mark your calendars:  the last week of June is also your last chance to get starts of melons, pumpkins, sweet potatoes and winter squash in the ground.

Cascade, Galena and Centennial hops

Cascade, Galena and Centennial hops

I’ve also been by my local home-brew store and have noticed you can still pick up mature starts of hops in half-gallon buckets if you want to try these guys out with minimal risk.  Mine have taken off (planted back in late March) and are already scaling the twine I’ve run from the wine barrels to the rain gutters.  As mentioned in our earlier article on growing hops in your garden, it’s relatively easy to do and the plants will provide immediate shade and beautiful flower cones you can either use or pass along to that home brewer you know.

Sugar Peas

Sugar Peas

Oh, and remember that article we posted on using recycled materials in the garden?  It’s not to late to get started.  We did when we planted our peas back in early April and now they are yielding a bumper crop.  These guys certainly live up to their name and have a nice snap when shelling (if you are not eating them whole off the vine like we do) and the peas are tender and delicious.  When looking at the garden structure, the original greenhouse materials used to create the cage are no longer visible.

Peas and Salad Greens

Peas and Salad Greens

Well, enough writing for now, time for a fresh organic dinner prepared from our yard.  What have been your garden success/failure stories so far this year?  Please leave some in our comments area along with any photos you’d like to share.  Happy gardening!

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Grow your own Asparagus (year after year)

Asparagus spears should not be cut for the first couple of years to help the plant establish. When they aren’t cut, they grow into ferns that look like this.

This year is my first attempt at growing asparagus. I have a friend who gave me a plant in the middle of summer and it is doing really well so far. Since I haven’t grown asparagus before, I figured I should probably do some research and figure out how to best care for this new addition to my garden. Here is what I found out:

A new asparagus spear pushes through the soil.

Growing asparagus is quite easy. It comes back year after year once it is established. The trick with asparagus is getting it established. As with many perennial plants (plants that come back each year), it is important not to harvest till the plant has developed a good root system (2-3 years for Asparagus).  So, patience is required, but it is definitely worth the wait.

Once an asparagus plant is established, you can begin harvesting it each season. The season usually starts in late spring/early summer and will continue for 6 to 7 weeks. Depending on how many plants you have, this will give you significant yields each year for a minimal amount of effort. Once the plant begins slowing down on sending up new shoots, it is nearing the end of its production for that season. The asparagus spears can be harvested by either snapping or cutting them off above ground.I’m excited to see how my first Asparagus plant does. For further reading on growing your own asparagus, check out this link on the website (How to Grow Asparagus).

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