Thursday, January 24, 2008
Haven't baked anything in a while, but today I realized we were low on bread, I had time, and didn't want to run to the grocery store. And everyone, including my lil' miss I don't like crust, likes this bread. So here it is, in all it's glory. I only ate three slices, fresh out of the oven. Two slathered with butter, the third with a tangy old cheddar. Yum!
It's your standard recipe, very simple, flour, water, yeast and salt, so I won't post it. Besides, I am a by-your-eye kind of baker too, so I don't really measure to close. You can just tell by the feel of the dough, when it's ready for the next stage.
Monday, January 21, 2008
It's a tad early for starting seeds of anything yet unless your trying your hand at wintersowing, but I really start to get itchy fingers near the end of January. I don't start tomatoes until late March or Mid April, 6-8 weeks before my last frost date. So I decided perhaps if I write about it, that may scratch the itch for a little bit. And what else would come after choosing your tomatoes? Besides waiting for the seeds in the mail, that is.
I do have one little Galina happily growing in a pot under a lamp light, sitting right beside my desk on a shelf . I must check on her at least 5 times a day. Spring really can't come fast enough!
Starting your own tomatoes from seed is pretty straightforward. The three first key ingredients for germination are soil, water and heat. And once they've popped their noses out (germination), the fourth key is light. There are all kinds of fancy set-ups you can buy, and if you're creative, you can make some pretty slick outfits yourself. But whether you're growing a few plants for yourself, or a few hundred, you don't need to spend a lot of time or money. When I get my set up out of the shed, and actually working, I'll be sure to post some pictures. It's pretty simple and didn't cost me much.
What type of container you start your seeds in is entirely up to you and would also depend on how many you plan to start. I use the plastic cell packs that fit perfectly into the nursery trays, but small pots, even styrofoam cups are perfectly fine if you're not going to start that many. I start them off in the cells, and once they have a true set of leaves (or to be honest, probably longer), I pot them up into larger 4 inch pots. I start a few hundred plants, though, so for me this is the easiest way. And I am obsessive about checking them a few times a day, at least. If you are not the type of person who obsesses over plants, a larger starting container might be better, because they will not dry out as quickly.
So now for the soil. You can buy perfectly fine, very expensive seed starting mix, or you can make your own. Guess which one I do?
Of course I make my own. It's part of the fun! I use regular black earth (cheap at Canadian Tire, or other stores), vermiculite, perlite and peat moss. The ratio is approximately 1/2 earth, 1/6 each vermiculite, perlite, and peat moss. I kind of eyeball it, don't bother measuring it out. If I have good compost around, I'll add some of that too. I mix it all up in a big bucket, and then fill up the cell packs. Now water the mix in the cells, making sure it doesn't get too wet. If that happens, just let it dry out a few days before you plant the seeds. Now I'm ready to plant!
We'll get to that next time!
Sunday, January 20, 2008
So by now I have added at least a dozen new heirlooms that I want to try. Gardeners are beyond generous when it comes to sharing seeds, and promoting their favorites. I don't even get a chance to whip out the credit card when I am perusing seed catalogs online, because I know that most of these varieties are being grown by others who are more than willing to share. But it also makes narrowing down my list even more difficult. I have to be stern and tough with myself, and throw in a little realism as well. I only have so much room!! I have two large raised beds, and a smaller square one, in which I'm supposed to contain all my vegetable plants. All other beds are perennials, or awaiting my brugmansias come spring. I did try to grow some in front of the front hedge this summer, but that wasn't quite the success I was hoping for. One neighbor did comment on the nice tomatoes, but....I think he was just being nice. So that spot is going to be for brugs in sunken pots.
So, back to trying to choose tomatoes. The biggest thing is that this family uses tomatoes in almost any way possible, so we need cherries, slicers, pastes, beefsteaks. I think I'll have room for at least 60 plants, so I may whittle my list a bit, and I may sneak tomatoes into spots where they don't really belong. I figure I can grow about 40 varieties this year, even if some are restricted to one or two plants. I've also got to look into the community garden projects this year. I was too late last summer, but it could be a lot of fun.
Now someone who wants to plan their garden a little bit better than I do should to look at bush vs. indeterminate vs. determinate plants.
Bush tomatoes tend to be shorter plants, that don't require staking. Indeterminates do, as do some determinates. The difference here is indeterminates keep producing throughout the growing season, determinates produce one big flush of tomatoes on the plant all around the same time, and then they are done. In my short growing season, I've never been able to see a difference! I'm sure if you have a longer growing season it would make a difference. I've seen pictures of plants growing well over 12 feet high. I don't think that would be possible here, in my zone 5a (Canadian zone = Zone 4 USDA) but you never know! Maybe if I babied them a little more, I would get bigger plants. But in the end, that doesn't really matter to me. I grow them for fun, so when it becomes too much like work, I tend to lose interest in the process. Gardening should be something to enjoy.