Welcome to NakedTomatoes

All about tomatoes, heirloom and home grown.
With a bit extra thrown in about Brugs and bread, growing and baking, and other semi-relevant thoughts. And maybe a few recipes.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The View...under construction

There used to be a deck here, that was slowly rotting away, partly due to our weather, and partly due to the incompetence of the builders. We are thinking of putting a few tons (probably more) of pea stone down, and adding some flagstone or some molded concrete slabs on top, but settled in, to make a pathway and a seating area. It's our summertime project, that has been two years in the works. Nothing new at our house. Things go slowly.

The outdoor look of my mini low tunnel greenhouse. The tulips in fronts are all courtesy of the Tulip festival people and a friendly neighbor up the street who shared her score with me. They dig them out every year, and give them away in Ottawa, after the Tulip festival is over. These are the gift from Holland that Ottawa gets every year, as a thank you for things Canada did during the war. Free if you know where to go (and I'm not telling!)

The view from inside

PS. If you ask nicely, I'll tell you where to go to get those Holland Tulips. Just know that you have to give them a couple years to build up the reserves to flower again. They dislike being treated as annuals.

Friday, April 25, 2008

What to Plant....Now

This beautiful April weather has got my garden begging to be planted. It's early, it's still too early, I tell it, but it just doesn't want to listen. You've built the greenhouses, I can withstand some cold, even a little snow if it comes to that, my garden says. I'll keep the tomatoes warm enough. Trust me.

Famous last words.

Okay. Peas. You can plant peas now, they are the traditional first crop to go into the garden. They are tough and hardy. Even if it snows.

Although I haven't tried it yet, broccoli, beets, chard, lettuce, carrots, potatoes and spinach are also supposed to be good candidates to go into the ground now. And I will be planting some this weekend just to test it out, so if it works or not, I'll post results later on. And these will be in my smallest square raised bed, which has been planted with some peas already and they seem to be doing well. I may cover it if we get frost warnings, but it will be left open to the elements in all other cases. Every thing except the potatoes will be from seeds. The potatoes are supermarket potatoes that have sprouted in their forgotten corner of my cupboard. I figured why not? Did the same thing last year, and got some nice little baby taters.

I've also been busy transplanting some of the tomato seedlings from the cell packs to 4inch pots. It always surprises me how much longer it takes than I think it will. Might have something to do with the fact that I take my own sweet time doing the transplanting, mainly cause it is something I enjoy doing. Doesn't feel like work when you like it. Still have plenty of flats to go, and lots of sunny days coming down the road.

I want to thank another Aylmerite for identifying my 'toe-biter' aka big ugly bug. Scroll down to April 11 to see the description. This is also a pretty cool site for all bug id's.

Apparently he lost his way from down by the river, and somehow found himself in my yard. Hope he made it home safely after his photo shoot.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Russians Are Coming....The Russians Are Coming

It is a very cute old movie from the 1960's that probably stirred some of my interest in all things Russian, and has little to do with any of the big Russian thinkers or writers that I admired in my younger days. But now my interest extends to Russian tomatoes. I was given a few different varieties by various people, and one that I am particularly amazed by is 'Siberian'. This little plant was seeded at the same time as the others shown in the picture, but it is only about 2 inches high. Leafed out much nicer than it's companions and stocky as all get out. Communism may not have panned out, but they sure were onto something with their tomatoes!! I'm also pretty impressed with 'Moscow Suburb' (on the left of the above picture) and 'Moscovitch'. They're looking good!

Who the hell is this guy???? He tried a triple flip, double quad landing on my bloody head tonight. Needless to say, I did a double flip when he landed, cause the damn thing was huge! Three inches long at least. Scared the crap out of me, while I was innocently sitting outside, enjoying the evening, and my Carl Hiaasen novel.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Greenhouse tunnels

This is what I did over the weekend. It didn't take long to build, and they are pretty sturdy. I think they will withstand any heavy rains and winds, but it'll be a test this spring I guess. I used scrap wood I had kicking around to frame it, so it didn't cost much. The plastic was $30 at a local renovation/construction supplier for 10 ft by 100 ft, and I still have more than half the roll left.

I checked the temperature inside today, and it was over 50C. It's around 22C outside, so that's pretty hot. I opened up the plastic to cool it down a bit, as I don't want to cook the poor worms in there. The soil is not as hot, but still plenty warm. I'll check the overnight inside temperature tonight, and if it stays warm enough, I'll plant some tomatoes tomorrow.
Yay!!! And it's only mid-April!!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Garden Treasures

The snow is almost completely gone, and the weather has been incredible. It wasn't just warm today, working outside, it was hot. I was digging through the raised beds, pulling out some of the dead plants from last year, and shoveling some of the kitchen scraps off of the bed and into the compost bin. I tend to use one bed to dump kitchen scraps in the winter, as it is easier to access than the compost bin when we have a lot of snow. While I was shoveling, I realized I was actually wiping sweat of my forehead. It was hot in the sun.

I found the biggest, juiciest worm in the bed. Even my daughter thought it was pretty cool. It's a very good sign to see big happy worms. It means your soil is pretty healthy, and lots of worms = lots of worm castings = lots of plant food.

The crocus are up and blooming their heads off. The tulips are growing, and I can see the buds on the apple trees swelling. The seedlings have been going outside everyday, and I've left them out over night tonight. I've been leaving a few test subjects out over night in the greenhouse shelves for the last week, and even when the temperature dipped to -5C, they came through just fine. As long as the weather stays nice, which it is supposed to, then I will be able to start planting as soon as I get my tunnels built. Some cold weather tolerant plants can even go in sooner, such as peas, which my kids helped me plant today. These were actually sprouts I was trying to grow in the kitchen for eating, but they just didn't seem to want to grow very much so rather than compost them, it was a fun half hour planting peas with the girls.

Monday, April 14, 2008

In the Great Outdoors

My outdoor greenhouse shelves. Today was a beautiful balmy sunshiny +8 C outside. Inside these greenhouse shelf unit, the temperature was over +25 C.

The seedlings are happy to get out, and they are protected from too much direct sun by the cover on the greenhouse shelves. Weather is supposed to be nice for this week, so they will be going outside everyday. I am hoping to get one of the raised beds finished and covered with the plastic, including the 'hotpots' (what I'm calling my water jugs), which will hopefully regulate the temperatures at night. I might try some planting this weekend, I have enough seedlings that I can sacrifice them if it doesn't work out.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

My legal grow op

Here's a look at my growing/seedling station. I finally got it set up the other day, although it is still looking a bit messy. Ignore that, please. It's certainly not very sophisticated, and someday I'd like to build something fancier, but for now it works. The windows in the background are south facing, so there is a lot of sunlight during the day. The back door is two steps to the left of these windows, making the trek to the big outdoors fairly easy. The middle shelf you see in the picture has a twin outside that has a nice plastic cover, that zippers in the front and at the top, for easy access and ventilation. According to my thermometers in the greenhouse shelves, it gets up to a toasty 25 + C in the sun, even when it's only 5C in the real outdoors. The weather has been nice enough that my trays have been outside quite often.

The top shelf has a stick light on each side, and one of those hand held construction type lights hanging in the middle. The second shelf has a shop light suspended from the top. One thing that bugs me is the shop lights are four feet long, the shelf is only three. So to make it work, the light extends onto the wooden shelf to the right, where there is a very small tray of tomato seedlings growing.
If I ever get to building something, it will be four feet to accommodate shoplights. And then I'll have to get some more lights to make it work!

I do have a birthday coming up, and so far my list has two things on it. Worms and shoplights. I've been thinking about vermiculture, and it is such a great idea. Just not totally sure where I would put the worm bin. Shoplights would spur me on to building a more workable seed starting set up, and not just the hodge podge that I have now. But for now this works.

The snow has been melting at an incredible rate, and the ground is actually workable. I guess because the snow hit early and didn't stop, the ground didn't actually get a chance to freeze as deeply as it usually does over the winter. After working over the soil, I'm gonna start building one low greenhouse over the first square 5x5 raised bed that I have, and monitor the temperatures. I'm not sure what it'll be like overnight in there, but I have some ideas on how to keep it warm. I was thinking of spray painting these big plastic containers black, and filling them with water. Theory being the sun during the day will heat them up, and then at night, they will release the heat, keeping it warm enough for the plants.

Well, I've still got plenty of seeds to get planted. I'm starting to feel like I'm running late now. There is always so much to do, and so little time.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Spring has Sprung!!!

Huhrah!! The snow is melting, and the sun is shinning all day long. The temperatures have been so warm that my little tomato seedlings were allowed outside, to sun themselves, just for a little while. And the lillies are just poking out in some sheltered spot in my garden.

Which brings me to hardening off seedlings. These little guys have been growing indoors in a very sheltered and much lower light situation than what they would find outdoors. They cannot be planted out in the garden come the end of May/June, without being hardened off - which means gradually being acclimated to outdoor living. The key word here is gradual. Too much sun will mean a sunburn. Too cold or wet, will mean a chill. But it's not rocket science, and it doesn't take long to harden them off.

I am lucky that I have a fairly sheltered back yard, so as soon as the weather allows, I start the process. The seedlings went out for about twenty minutes in the full sun today. A warm filtered shade spot would be better, and then they could stay out longer, but this time of year, there is not much filtered shade that is warm. You do not want to leave them out too long or they could burn. In an ideal weather world, the temperature would remain consistent in my little sheltered spots, and the tomato plants would be hardened off in a week or so. In reality, they go out for a little bit longer everyday, if the sun is shining, and stay indoors under lights if it is not. The process takes longer, but the end result is happy, tough little tomato plants that are ready for the garden.

Twenty minutes in the sun the first day is enough. Thirty minutes the next day, sixty the next, till you work them up to all day, going in thirty minute increments , weather permitting. And once they are in the sun, you really have to keep an eye on the watering. They will dry out much quicker outdoors than indoors, but having said that, drying out a bit is not necessarily bad. It mimics the actual growing conditions they will face once planted outdoors permanently. If they do look dried up and slightly shriveled, don't give up hope, just give them a good soaking and they should perk up. For all the babying these seedlings get, they are much tougher than they get credit for.

It still early April, and I have many seeds to plant yet, but it's starting. Spring has come, and I couldn't be happier!