For those of us who choose to live even a little bit self-sustainably, summer can be a time of too many zucchinis, wars on pests and dirty fingernails. Ah, the joys of gardening. While it is exciting to watch a tiny seed grow into something that produces more juicy goodness than you can handle, there are hardships in gardening.
Here in Southern California, I started seeds in February and had my seedlings in the ground by the end of March. The months of April, May, and June saw several harvests of green beans, cucumbers, sugar snap peas, kale, zucchini, and strawberries. Not to mention the peaches and oranges from the trees in our rented yard. How’d we get so lucky?!
Gardening in SoCal isn’t as easy as one might imagine. The abundance of sunshine, year-round 70 degrees. What’s not easy about that one might ask.
What I learned from my first year of gardening in SoCal?
They were right, soil is the most important component to growing healthy plants.
Back in Missouri, I can’t ever recall Mom having to “amend” the soil. Although she may have, I was too busy throwing dirt at my brother. For the most part the soil there is dark, holds moisture, and doesn’t need a whole lot added to it to grow bountiful crops.
If only the same were true in SoCal. It’s a combination of mostly sand and very dry dirt. It’s light brown in color and doesn’t retain water very well. We did what we could with the time and money we had by compost trenching, but adding a pile of scraps to a beach of a yard won’t grow healthy plants.
For our fall garden and final spring garden next year, we’re hoping to get our hands on a ton (maybe literally!) of composted soil and nutrient-dense products for an even more bountiful harvest.
Remember the soil and how it doesn’t retain water very well? Well pair that with an extremely hot sun and you’ve got a lot more work on your hands. It’s not just the average 70 degree temperatures that we enjoy here, it’s also the lack of rain. Which is great, if you’re not a gardener. I ended up having to water my garden at least two times a week.
We ended up buying one of these drip systems that hook right up to the water source and is programable. It saved me so much time!
Pests love dry, sandy soil
Specifically, gophers and ants. The gophers successfully pulled a whole box of carrots down into their dark and mysterious lair. Yes, before we put in our raised beds, we’ll put chicken wire down! I’m not worried about the big ugly mounds they’re leaving in my yard, but when they started going after my food, I was not happy.
As much as I wanted to be rid of those gophers, the occupation of ants has been much worse! There are millions of them and they are everywhere. If there’s a crack in the corner of a room, they’ll find their way in. They successfully ate dozens of strawberries, uprooted kale, and have covered green bean plants and cucumbers.
One thing that did well despite the heat and pests were tomatoes. Gotta love those hearty toms! If you’re looking to use up some tomatoes be sure to try my Whole Tomato Ketchup recipe. Oh, and the thing you actually came for, Marinara Sauce!
Single Use Marinara Sauce
approximately 4 pounds tomatoes (or two 28-ounce can of whole tomatoes)
2 tablespoons cooking fat (butter or bacon fat)
3 tablespoons dried basil
1 teaspoon each parsley, oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
S&P, to taste
Place an “x” on the bottom of tomatoes using a knife, add to a pot of boiling water. Remove after 10-15 seconds, allow to cool. Then remove skins. Easiest way to skin tomatoes!
Melt butter over medium-low heat, then add garlic. Once garlic becomes fragrant (it won’t take long), add tomatoes. Increase heat to medium, once bubbling add herbs. Mix well. Allow to simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
Using a blender, food processor, or immersion blend, blend well. Taste and add more herbs as needed.
Depending on how meaty or juicy the tomatoes are, you may need to add some water. My tomatoes were very meaty with little juice, so I added about 1/3 cup of water after blending. This sauce stores in the fridge for 3-4 days or freezer for 6+ months. Enjoy with Creamy Paleo Lasagna or your favorite dish.