Garden Tips and More

Tomato Sauce Gardeners, Issue #001 -- "Get Ready" in March

Tomato Sauce Gardeners brings you timely garden tips, recipes and featured tomato varieties to help you grow a healthy, bountiful tomato sauce garden and cook up delicious treats from your harvest.

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Issue #001, March 2009

My first e-zine. Who says you can't teach an old gardener new tricks?! It's only taken me since November to figure out how to do this but procrastination is probably more my problem than slow comprehension. Anyway, I'm excited to present the first of many months of e-zines to come to your inbox.

As I'm writing this, we have a new light dusting of SNOW that arrived overnight! Not an easy time to think about growing tomatoes but spring is just around the corner...right?!

March is "get ready" month for seed starting and garden bed preparation.

Get Ready for Seed Starting

Here is my list of to-do's, not in any particular order:

--Go through your containers from last year. If you're like me, you have to find them first...garage...greenhouse...laundry room???

Give them a good soak in a weak bleach solution. Pick up any needed replacements from your local plant nursery, order them online, or start saving and sanitizing recycled food containers.

Click here for information on the seed starting supplies you'll want to have on-hand.

--This is a good time to shop for seeds for the best selection either locally or online. Click here for a list of my favorite sauce tomato varieties and seed companies.

--Next, I will be ordering my organic seed-starting soil-less mix (Natural Beginnings) this month from Gardens Alive Company

You should be able to find other brands in your local nursery or garden store. I would recommend staying away from brands that have synthetic fertilizers included in the mix if you wish to garden organically. Other brands for organic gardeners include Whitney Farms and Gardener and Bloom.

Using an actual "seed starting mix" is important to avoid organisms that could be present in other types of soil that can prevent germination or kill young seedlings.

In the Garden: Bed Preparation

Now is the time to cover your garden beds in thick, clear plastic. This will warm up the soil so when you are ready to plant in a couple of months, the soil in the covered bed will be several degrees warmer than uncovered soil would be. Click here for more info on preparing tomato garden beds.

If you are creating a new garden for tomato sauce, this would be the time to put on your long underwear and parka and go out there and start building. You want this done early enough to apply the plastic for 2 months of soil warming. Click here for info on building raised tomato garden beds.

This month's featured sauce tomato: San Marzano Redorta

San Marzano Redorta is an heirloom italian variety named for a mountain, Pizzo Redorta, in Bergamo Italy. It is related to San Marzano and Super Marzano but bears larger fruit with a much better taste. It has an indeterminate growing habit. That means it requires support to prevent sprawling on the ground, grows fairly tall (4-6+ feet), and continually produces fruit until killed by frost.

This tomato plant bears very large, thin-skinned, oblong fruit (somewhat pepper-shaped with a point at the bottom) that can weigh up to a full pound in some cases. The tomatoes are delicious eaten fresh off the vine or cooked in sauce--the larger size will produce much more roasted puree than smaller fruited varieties. In other words, on a given day, even if you only have three ripe ones--you'll have plenty of sauce for dinner! The consensus from my garden club was a resounding "thumbs up" for this variety!

Two sources I have used for San Marzano Redorta seeds:

1) Franchi Sementi--available by calling Eda Muller, West Coast Distributor at 650.726.4980 or e-mail her at FranchiSeeds They are working to get a website up at Seed packets are very large with plenty of seeds for this year and next year and maybe even the year after that. These seeds are from Italy and only available in the U.S. through a distributor.

2) Tomato available for ordering online. Tomato Fest offers all heirloom, open-pollinated seeds including many unique varieties. They also have tomatoes available for ordering during the season.

March Recipe: Our kids' favorite Friday Night Homemade Pizza

Since we started making our own pizza, our kids (ages 10 and 15) refuse "take out" pizza of any brand. Making mini-pizza's using this recipe is also a great activity for parties for kids of any age.

Pizza Crust Recipe--makes 1-14-inch thick-crust pizza or 2 12-inch thin-crust pizzas or about 6 mini 6-inch medium-crust pizzas.

1) Combine in a large bowl:

--2 Cups Bob's Red Mill Organic All-Purpose Flour

--1 package undissolved rapid rising yeast

--3/4 teaspoon Kosher or Sea Salt

2) Stir into dry mixture:

--1 Cup very warm milk (120-130 degrees, F)

--2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

--2 Tablespoons Honey.

--Add more flour, if needed, to make a soft dough.

3) Knead on lightly floured surface for ten minutes.

4) Sprinkle pizza stone (best) or pan with cornmeal. Shape dough into a smooth ball and then divide and roll dough to fit required pans.

5) Bake crust at 400 degrees F for about 10 minutes. Pull out to cool and then add sauce and toppings. Return to oven for 20-30 minutes or until desired doneness.

Pizza Sauce Recipe

--12 ounces Roasted Garden Tomato Puree

--Fresh basil, finely chopped

--1 clove garlic crushed

--2 Tablespoons brown sugar

--Splash of red wine

--2 Tablespoons olive oil

--Sea salt to taste if there was none added when you roasted the tomatoes

1) Lightly brown garlic in olive oil in large pan.

2) Add remaining ingredients and turn down heat to simmer for about 30 minutes.

3) Can be refrigerated or frozen until ready to use.


Add whatever you like on your pizza. Our favorites are homemade mozarella cheese and Principe Borghese tomatoes from our garden--fresh or dried, plus just about any vegetable in season from the garden. Especially eggplant, peppers and fresh basil (better added after baking). Get creative and enjoy!

Comments? Ideas? Feedback? I'd love to hear from you. Just reply to this e-zine and tell me what you think!

See you next month!

Robin Wyll