Happy Monday! I hope everyone had a wonderful Father’s Day weekend. Pete and I just relaxed, enjoyed meals out at restaurants and started season 3 of Yellowstone.
Recently, I redid my outdoor patio furniture – read about how I did it without breaking the bank here – so I want to spend as much time enjoying the patio as possible. I discovered gardening as something to do during quarantine, and it has become a relaxing and fun activity that allows me to enjoy my new outdoor space. Better yet, it provides fresh, organic ingredients to make some amazing recipes. One of those recipes is a tomato, mozzarella, basil salad. Today, let’s look at this fresh seasonal salad you can make with your home garden ingredients. As you can see, Sparky and Max clearly love hanging out with me on the back porch. Now let’s talk about tips & tricks on growing tomatoes and herbs in your backyard. Pete’s giving away his secrets…
Let’s start out by talking about some gardening tips that I have learned over the past couple of months. For starters, watch my video on how I did the spring planting during quarantine by clicking here. Something super important is the gardening tool set that you use. This gardening tool set is my go-to equipment for tending to my plants. The type of planters that you use for herbs is also really important. I use these planters to keep my herb garden growing and remaining healthy. This self-watering planter is a great option that can be used indoors or outdoors. Another random tip I have learned is that it is so important to find the perfect sun hat. I love this straw sun visor because of the cute bowtie in the back plus it is velcro! This makes it easy to wear any hairstyle while also keeping the sun out of your face. Ok, now let’s get on with the recipe!
Pete’s tomato gardening tips
I would love to give you all my secrets to growing delicious tomatoes but to be honest, Pete is the master gardener of the tomatoes every summer. Sometimes, his tomato plants produce so much fruit that we give sacks of them to our friends. If you are wondering WHY he loves to grow tomatoes its because his Italian immigrant family always grew vegetables. He has fond memories of his grandmother (Nanny) and her vegetable garden. He has allowed me to share his secrets.
- Select the largest plant you can find to transplant into your garden (minimum of 1 gallon container size)
- Pete prefers large indeterminate tomato varieties because they produce fruit all season
- He uses very large pots and plants early in the season (Dallas –>> February)
- In case of frost forecast, move the tomato pots into the garage
- Water mornings as needed; daily once temperatures reach 90 degrees
- Install the tomato cages early in growth so that the root system does not get disturbed
- Pete suggests that tomatoes get 8-12 hours of direct sunlight per day
Fresh Herb Garden Salad Recipe
3 ripe tomatoes
1 large bunch of basil leaves
12 oz fresh mozzarella cheese
Balsamic vinaigrette & Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
First, pick your ripe tomatoes and pinch the basil from your garden. Next, slice your tomatoes and mozzarella into about 1/4 inch slices. Once complete, lay them out on a serving platter (I am using this Vietri serving platter in the photo). I like to lay down two tomatoes for every one slice of mozzarella cheese as seen in the photo above. Place the basil leaves evenly throughout the tomatoes and mozzarella. Finally, drizzle your favorite balsamic vinaigrette and olive oil over the salad. You can add as much or as little as you like. Season with salt and pepper to taste. That’s it! The recipe is so simple but when you harvest your own fresh vegetables, it’s incredible how much more flavor they have.
This recipe is perfect for your menu when you are outdoor entertaining. Do you grow any fruits, vegetables or herbs? Please share your gardening tips in the comments. I would love to get your input.
xoxo – Tanya
Photo: Audrie Dollins
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Tags: backyard, herb garden, recipe, tomato salad
So, how does Pete keep the sweet little neighborhood rats out of his tomatoes :)? I went out back to harvest a red beauty yesterday and dang if the backside hadn’t been chewed by a varmint. I had surrounded my pot with netting, thought I had it all conquered. But nooooo, the little pest had a lovely dinner. I’ve tried behavior modification by spraying with red pepper spray, growing mint around it, bungee cord around the netting. I think I need a real cage with chicken wire. Curious what tips he has.
Oh, yes, terrible problem! Most folks don’t know it, but there is a big rat population around us. It’s a constant battle with the critters. For a time I thought it was squirrels eating my tomatoes, but then I found sure signs of our rat population near partially eating tomato remains. I’ve tried many things…netting, traditional spring-arm rat traps, rat poison, sticky sheet rat traps, sonic deterrents, on and on. The only thing that worked for me is to have our exterminator put out commercial rat traps. It took a bit and he kept rebaiting the traps because the rats kept eating the poison, but now I’m virtually rat free. Have not lost one tomato (that I know of) this year to the little varmints.
We planted mint for mojitos, rosemary for gin cocktails and basil for that odd twist every now and again. Also planted cilantro to actually eat.
I haven’t had much luck with a vegetable garden. I sowed some coriander seeds a couple of weeks ago, and I am yet to see a sign of life. I don’t know where I am going wrong. I am drawn to that terrarium sitting on your table. I would love to know how to grow one at home.