Living in a northern climate like Minnesota doesn't usually evoke images of eating local food throughout the year. If I lived in southern California I may take for granted the several growing seasons every year and abundant fresh produce. However, Minnesota has one growing season and it is short. Here's how to eat garden tomatoes year 'round in a northern climate.
What You Need
- Four 2" x 10" x 6' untreated boards. Cedar and pine work well.
- Twelve decking screws and a power screwdriver
- About 36 square feet of cardboard. It doesn't have to be all in one piece and flattening old boxes works well.About 25 cubic feet of soil
- About 25 cubic feet of compost. We got ours free of charge from the municipal compost site.
- Fish emulsion or your favorite, natural fertilizer
- Full sun exposure
- Twelve plastic soda or juice bottles
- Scrap cotton fabric, about two square feet
- Twelve tomato seedlings of your favorite variety
- Twelve tomato cages, stakes or trellises
- An electric dehydrator
- Glass jars that seal well. You can use re-purposed jars or canning jars
Building raised beds can help you use less water for irrigation, spend less time weeding and grow more tomatoes during the precious growing season. Using a water-saving irrigation tube will lower your water bill while delivering water directly to the plants' roots where it is needed. Minnesota has a short, unpredictable growing season. It is important to select tomato varieties that will grow and produce fruit quickly. Buy hardy seedlings of your favorite variety instead of planting seeds in order to maximize production during the growing season.
1. Assemble your four 2" x 10" x 6' untreated boards in a square.
2. Use decking screws to attach them at the corners. Three screws per corner should be enough.
3. Lay cardboard down on the bottom of the bed if you are placing your garden over grass. This will prevent weeds from poking through your garden.
4. Mix the soil and compost in the raised bed.
5. Cut the bottoms off your plastic bottles and stuff enough cotton fabric in the neck of the bottle so the fabric doesn't fall out.
6. "Plant" the plastic bottles where you will place the tomatoes. This will be your water-saving irrigation tube.
7. Plant your tomatoes about two inches away from the irrigation tubes. Tomatoes should be planted about 12" apart from each other.
When you water the garden you'll only need to fill up the plastic bottles. This will save you time and water as well as deliver the water to the plants' roots instead of letting it evaporate on the surface of your garden. At the end of the season you will see that the roots grow into the tube.
How To Dehydrate Tomatoes For Use After The Growing Season
Raised bed gardening, water saving irrigation tubes and natural fertilizer are three ways to ensure that you will have a bumper crop of tomatoes that you will be able to enjoy throughout the year. Of course, tomatoes won't keep very long after they are harvested. I recommend dehydrating them for use in pastas, soups and warm dishes during cold winter months.
You will need an electric dehydrator. I tried to find a way to use a solar dehydrator but it just doesn't seem reasonable in Minnesota because it is so humid here throughout the summer. If you live in a dryer climate, a solar dehydrator may work well.
1. Follow the instructions that come with your dehydrator for drying times.
2. Once you have dehydrated tomatoes you can package them in air-tight glass jars.
3. You can enjoy dehydrated tomatoes throughout the year.
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(Images: Laurie McGinley)