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Urban Garden 2015 and a 'Grate' Little Giveaway

It's finally summer here on the west coast, and we went straight to the hot and dry stage early this year. Lawns are brown and crispy and unfortunately there are forest fires burning from Saskatchewan all the way west to Vancouver Island. The only things getting watered these days at my house are my vegetable garden plants and lettuce container pots, as seen above, I'm snipping fresh salads for our dinners daily now.

While I know all my plants would love a good long rain storm, everything is growing really well in the heat and it's looking like I might have a bumper crop of tomatoes in my near future. I've got twenty different varieties of tomatoes and over 40 plants growing throughout my garden beds and on the deck in containers.

After extensive research, I've decided not to remove the sucker stems this year and am letting the plants fluff out at will. So far it's a green jungle of tomato stems down there, we'll see what leaving the suckers on will do for the crop as a whole, it's an interesting tomato talking point amongst growers. I'm curious what my own home garden experimental research will reveal this year as I've always removed all suckers and kept one central stem in past years.

Half my tomato plants this year are from local veggie nursery Outrageous Edibles & Bedibles, and I selected a variety of small and colourful salad and slicer tomatoes this year. I also scored a few cool-sounding seedlings from a neighbour - how could I resist growing Green Zebras and Pineapple Fog? But the other half of this year's tomatoes.... now that's my gardening adventure of 2015.

I'm calling these ones my Zombie Tomatoes - seedlings that just popped up out of the ground this year from fallen heirloom tomatoes of my 2014 crop and started to grow. I am totally curious what kinds they will be, and what size of crop they will yield, as there are 25 zombie tomato plants growing throughout my garden now. So far they're keeping pace with the purchased seedlings and flowering like crazy, with tiny green tomatoes starting to appear now. I should be able to ID the varieties of the Zombies in a few weeks.

I'm also doing a bit of an informal potato growing experiment this year - I'm growing exactly the same number of Warba potato seedlings in three locations around my garden - in a flat garden bed, in a raised potato box and in a milk crate on the deck. All three spots are growing well so far, I'm very curious to see which location and technique will give me the best yield.

I always grow a few random things I've never tried before in the garden. Because this is a difficult space to grow in (partial sun, not great soil) I'm always happy to throw things in the ground or in a pot and see what happens. This year I'm growing okra in containers on my deck and pumpkins in the garden. I know what I'll be doing with the pumpkins (PIE PIE PIE!) but the okra is a entertaining mystery, both watching it grow (beautiful flowers that only last a day, strange spike-y veg appearing from nowhere) and figuring out what the hell I'm going to do with it once it grows.

All this early sunshine is great for the greenhouses of British Columbia too, and I'm seeing some pretty sexy looking tomatoes, peppers and lettuces popping up in farmer's markets and local grocery stores. I've been cooking quite a bit with Windset Farms Super Sweet Bell Peppers recently, which have become my new fav veggie to have on-hand in the fridge. They stay fresh a long time and have great flavour and texture both raw and cooked.

I've tried and failed to grow my own bell peppers at home multiple years - they just don't get what they need to grow in my garden, so it's great to have these sustainably-grown peppers flourishing in British Columbia greenhouses. I toss them in salads, sautee them in sauces, grill them with onions & button mushrooms for mexi rice bowls, and roast and puree them for dips. Try Sweet Bell Peppers in my Sweet Bell Pepper Hummus Trio recipe.


A 'Grate' Little Giveaway

To help keep your summer fresh and tasty, here's a little summer swag giveaway from Devour & Conquer. Enter to win a Windset Farms recipe booklet with mouth-watering breakfast, lunch and dinner recipes, along one awesome, highly useful Microplane Cube Grater in Red. With a 1 cup capacity and three blade choices - fine, course and ribbon - the Microplane Cube Grater (retail value $22) perfectly grates cheeses, vegetables and chocolate for recipes and decorative garnishes. Great for making Parmesan Crisps to top your summer salads.


Enter your email address in the Rafflecopter widget so I can contact you when you win (addresses are not saved and used only to contact the winner), then post a blog comment below with your current favourite tomato-based dish, or connect with Devour & Conquer on social media via the Rafflecopter links below. Open to Canada & USA, giveaway ends July 31st at midnight. Canadian winner must answer a skill-testing question.

Good luck and happy summer gardening, cooking and most important - eating!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure -I have been provided with Microplane and Windset Farms products for review and giveaways, but have not been compensated for this post and all product opinions are my own.

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