How to Plant a “Spaghetti Sauce” Garden.
One of my husband’s favorite quotes in the summer is, “There ain’t nothing better in life than true love and homegrown tomatoes”. I would have to agree. No matter how good those nice, plump, red tomatoes look in the store, they will never measure up to the ones you grow in your garden. A large part of our vegetable garden is planned for an abundant crop of tomatoes. The tomatoes in our garden are grown for the enjoyment of summer eating and snacking, but there’s also a much bigger plan. Our tomatoes will be made into spaghetti sauce to be enjoyed all year long. My husband and I come from a long family line of canners. Our parents, grandparents and great grandparents preserved their harvest for the winter months. We may not go to the lengths they did, but we still do our share of canning. My goal each year is to can about 30 to 40 jars of spaghetti sauce. This way, we can have spaghetti about twice a month throughout the year, plus my kids steal a few jars for their dinners. This makes a quick, easy meal that everyone loves.
“There ain’t nothing better in life than true love and homegrown tomatoes”.
In order to have easy meals throughout the winter, it takes a little work to set up the garden. Each summer, I plant at least 8 tomato plants. I try to find a tomato plant variety that has the shortest growing season because we live in the Inland Northwest so our growing season is a little shorter. A few varieties that I like to plant are Early Beefsteak and Celebrity, but I am always on the lookout for new early tomato varieties. Make sure you read the labels to see how many days it takes to get to harvest before you buy the tomato plant. I also buy about 6 green Bell Pepper plants, and a bunch of Walla Walla Sweet onions. Look for onion sets that are about the size of a dime.
Once I’ve purchased the perfect vegetable plants, it’s time to get the vegetable garden ready. The first thing I do is look back as to where I planted everything the year before. When I am planning the layout of my garden I consider where each plant was planted the year before. This is because it is important to rotate your crops each year for two reasons. The first is because it will keep your soil healthy and fertile. Planting the same thing in the same place year after year drains the nutrients from the soil that the plant needs in order to thrive and produce big harvests. The second reason is that rotating plant families helps manage soil-borne diseases like verticillium wilt, and soil-dwelling insects like corn rootworms. These types of diseases and pests prefer certain kinds of plants, and the longer the plants stay in the same soil, the better the chance that these enemies will show up and cause trouble. I draw out a simple map of where I plant everything each year and keep it in my Garden Journal. This way, I have a resource to refer to each Spring that is easy and quick.
It is important to rotate your crops each year
A long time ago, I bought some heavy duty tomato cages that I love. The cages are made of small angle iron, so they will be passed down to many generations of Bosma’s who like to garden. I like these cages because they are super sturdy and can hold up the weight of the tomato plants. The cages give the tomatoes the support to grow up. This way the tomatoes are not laying on the dirt and roting It’s important to spend time loosening up and preparing the soil for the tomato plants. Then, I space out the tomato cages and mark where each tomato should be planted. Each tomato should be planted in a hole about 6 inches deep. I only want about 4 inches of the plant to be above the soil, so I carefully trim off all the leaves that will be under the soil when planted. Dropping a small amount of plant fertilizer in the hole and mixing it up with a little dirt before you plant each vegetable plant is a good idea. Set the plant in the hole and fill it with dirt and firm the soil gently around each plant. Water well. This deep planting method helps to encourage a better root system, which benefits the tomato plant during prolonged drought and/or hot weather.
I plant my peppers about a foot apart. When the plants are mature they like to have their leaves touching. I like to think of it as if they are holding hands, this just makes you like bell peppers even more, right? The onions sets should be planted about an inch deep, about 3 to 4 inches apart.
I think the fun part of gardening is planting and harvesting. The middle part where you are weeding, watering and keeping the bugs away can be more work, but is super important so we can have spaghetti sauce. Here is the spaghetti sauce recipe that I received from my friend Kristi. Your family will love this sauce and might even be more willing to help you out in your “spaghetti garden” next year.
weeding, watering and keeping the bugs away can be more work, but is super important so we can have spaghetti sauce.
Spaghetti Sauce for Canning
20 tomatoes, chopped (scald & remove the skin first)
2 large onions, chopped
3 green peppers, chopped
2 large cans tomato paste
2 pkgs. Mrs Wages spaghetti sauce seasoning
¼ cup vinegar
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp. Garlic powder
1 tsp. Oregano
1 tsp. Basil
1 tsp. Salt
½ tsp pepper
Mix all ingredients in a large pan. Bring to a boil, then simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring often to prevent burning on the bottom of the pan. Be very careful during this time, you don’t want to burn all of your hard work. Pour sauce into hot jars and seal, using boiling water canning method (about 30 minutes for pints and 40 minutes for quarts – check canning chart for the exact time in your area). Let cool and remember to label before you store them away.