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.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Progress Report

Just a quick progress report on what's growing on in my garden.

Black Pear is looking fantastic. She's even got little flower buds on her. I received this plant from a fellow gardener, who obviously has an incredibly green thumb! You can read more about her garden and green thumb here. It wasn't on my list of tomatoes this year, but how can you say no to a nice healthy plant?

My drip water set up. I saved a bunch of these 2 liter milk jugs all winter to use in the garden this summer. During the colder weeks of April and May, they were filled with hot water to regulate the temperatures in my row tunnels at night. They did the trick, and now they are pulling another shift as watering bottles. I poked two holes in the bottom, with a screw, and planted them between the tomatoes, not quite half way. When I want to fertilize or water, I just fill them up, and the water trickles out the holes. Caps are on to keep bugs and dirt out while they're not in use. I timed it, and it takes about 5 minutes for the bottles to empty out. It doesn't look the prettiest, but it should do the job.

Silvery Fir Tree was also a last minute addition this year. I wanted to grow it, did some research and decided against it (finicky, not a great producer, just plain old a real pain in the ass kinda tomato - not what I want), and then I was sent some seeds! Go figure.
Out of twenty or so seeds, two germinated. It was already living up to its reputation! This one is looking pretty good though, so I'll see what happens with it. It has very distinct, lacy foliage, hence the name and the reason I wanted to try it in the first place. My little garden helper also does double duty as the official tomato taste tester, and she can't wait!

We've had a few off of the 'Galina's Yellow' that I have been growing since Christmas, but the plant is definitely not GY. The tomatoes are small, orange tasty little things, and the foliage is not potato leafed, as is GY. The seeds must have gotten crossed, who knows with what, but we like the result! My plants are open-pollinated, so if I do save seeds to trade, to sell plants or to preserve that particular variety, I will bag the blossoms. If it's just for me and my future growing, it's no biggie to have crossed seeds. Whatever it produces will be eaten!

Pictured here are the Santalina's I've mentioned before. The first three are the ones planted with the compost and epsom salts. The last three don't seem to be very happy. I think I'll pull them to make room for something else. You can also see a patch of Swiss Chard in there. No neat, organized rows here!

And finally, my grid garden, which used to be the sandbox, aka the neighborhood cat litter box. We dug out most of the sand, and emptied one of the small square raised beds into it. It now contains three squares of carrots, three squares of lettuce, green onions, bok choy, spinach, snow peas, snap peas, basil, parsley and a bunch of strawberry plants. It is surrounded by delicious red raspberry plants that wandered over from my neighbors and I welcomed happily into my yard. He has since dug all his up, and seeded his yard with grass.

In the front bed, my baby Brugs, grown from seed, now two and half years old. They should flower this year. V.Peach X Frosty Pink, so there might be something there, or they could be all white. I'm going to plant some other annuals in there to keep them company. Maybe just throw in some marigold and cosmos seeds. And I need to get some more mulch.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Getting them in the Ground

Step by Step Transplanting

Select your spot and dig a large hole.

Add a few trowels of compost, from your composter or purchased compost. You can buy all kinds at the nurseries and garden centers, from shrimp to cow to sheep, even leaf mold compost. I don't have any particular favorite from the purchase list, whatever is cheaper is usually my motto. My own kitchen compost is free! And probably much higher in nutrients because it is pure compost. I'm always amazed by how much kitchen waste we generate and how fast it turns into useable garden material. Just imagine if we threw it out in the garbage instead!

I also added some epsom salts to the compost. Then mix it up with a bit of the existing soil.

Place the tomato plant in the middle of the hole, and gently tease out the roots a bit, to encourage them to spread out.

Bury the root ball with the soil, and gently but firmly pat the soil down. Try to make a slight bowl effect with the soil around the plant, to help the water saturate the root system when you water. Once you've got them all in, water generously. Try not to hit the plants or leaves if using a watering can or hose. The best way to water is with a drip hose, which will give a steady supply of water, without any splash back on the tomatoes. Many diseases particular to tomatoes are soil borne, so you can avoid or at least minimize them with good watering techniques.

Once you are done, stand back and admire all your hard work.

The end result: planted tomatoes!

I tend to plant closer than it is recommended. (It's recommended to plant them at least two feet apart.) I can prune later if needed, but I have so many varieties that I want to try, that I cram them in. Production may be slightly more limited, but if you do plant closer, just remember that they will be competing with each other for water and nutrients, so it's up to you to provide it. Air circulation is also important for disease prevention, so pruning helps if they start getting too close.

Just one of the happy fat worms that I found while digging:

A few final notes for transplanting your tomatoes:

  • Blood meal or bone meal are also excellent additions to the planting holes. Some people recommend adding wood ash - if you have it- but I'm not sure if it's a good idea. Theory being that as the trees clean the air and the roots take up water and nutrients from the soil, they consume a lot of toxic chemicals, which build up in the trees as they grow. When you burn wood, the chemicals are still there, and will be even more concentrated in the ashes that are left. If you use it, the tomato plants will then take up the chemicals. I've never seen a study done that proves or disproves this theory, but I figure on the off chance that I shouldn't. Wood ash is still fine for ornamental beds, so I use it there. You can decide for yourself.
  • Mulch is an excellent idea! There are many commercial mulches available, and some that you probably have laying around the yard, that you didn't realize you could use. Got leaves? If you have a shredding lawnmower, a big pile of leaves can be turned into fabulous mulch. And the bonus is that you are feeding your soil at the same time. They will eventually break down, and become part of the soil, thanks to worms and time. Pine needles also make a great mulch. The myth that they are too acidic is just that. A myth. Hay or straw can also make a great mulch. If you know a farmer, or live close to an agricultural area, you could easily purchase a few bales. Just be sure to ask what type of hay or straw it is. You don't want one that is full of seeds, that will sprout and become next year's weeding nightmare. Mulch serves a variety of purposes. It helps keep moisture in the soil. It helps regulate the soil temperature, warming when it's cool, and cooling when it's hot. It will eventually break down, thereby adding valuable nutrients to the soil. It helps to prevent splash back when watering, protecting plants from some diseases. It helps prevent weeds (thereby lowering your workload in the garden!!)
  • When you water, water deeply and less frequently. Rule of thumb is two inches a week. There are little water gages that you can purchase, that measure the amount of rain we get, or you can make your own very easily. If you mulch, the rain should provide enough water that you won't have to supplement except in the hottest, driest weeks of summer. Drip watering is the best method whenever possible. You should water the transplants immediately though, just to help them get established. After the first week or so, they should be on their own. Deep, less frequent watering will encourage the roots to grow deep to search for moisture, which will make for a strong root system.
  • Tranplanting is best done on rainy, cloudy days! It's easier on the plants, who won't have to cope with the heat and moisture loss while they are recovering from transplant shock!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Time to Plant...Maybe

First, let me say that I realize my posts have gone off track a bit. Spiders and ladybugs may be helpful and even interesting companions in the garden, but what do they have to do with tomatoes? So on to planting.

I had decided that I would finish planting in the raised beds yesterday, but life got in the way. Now I really wish I had, because today is a miserable day for it, cold and rainy, and no one likes to garden or be planted in this kind of weather. But if I want to follow the moon phases (kind of an experiment this year) I have to get them in today - Full Moon tonight, or wait until after June 3rd, which is the next New Moon. What to do...?! Both, of course!

The flats that have been living in the row tunnels will have to be moved to a green house shelf to make room for the plantees, and that way I will still have plenty of back ups in case they aren't happy being planted out in the raised beds just yet. I'll keep the row tunnel covers on for wet, cold days like this morning, and remove the plastic when it gets too warm, which is what I've been doing for the flats anyway. Hopefully it will warm up a bit today, and the rain will ease off.

I am growing some Santalina's as an experiment this summer. They are a small cherry tomato from the supermarket, that taste pretty good, so I decided to grow them out just for kicks. They have been planted for a couple weeks now. I've made them my test bunnies for different planting methods and fertilizers as well. The first three were planted with a handful of epsom salt and a trowel full of my kitchen compost in the planting hole. The next three got nothing, poor things. One of them even had the stem snapped but not completely broken - thanks to an eager helper.

So far the difference is absolutely amazing. The first three are a good size, and much larger than the last three, as well as much greener and healthier looking. The last three look okay, but very purple. The color could be a result of a magnesium deficiency in my soil, or in the plants' inability to access the nutrients. The second is usually a result of colder temperatures, which has not really been the case here, so I have a feeling it's the magnesium. I'll give one of the last ones a good soaking with the Muskie fertilizer, and another a Miracle Grow feeding. (I try to grow organic as much as possible, especially for food plants, but I have Miracle Grow on hand which I use mostly for houseplants and the Brugs.) The broken one will get an epsom salt feed. I'm not sure if epsom salts could be considered organic? I am sure the compost made a difference as well. It's interesting to see the differences.

I'll grow some other extras in containers and try all kinds of different things. I'll pick one variety that I have, so that the comparison is between the same type of tomato plant. If you want to try Epsom salts (Magnesium sulfate) as a liquid feed, the ratio is about 1 tbsp of salt to 3 liters of water. I've also heard it is extremely good for pepper plants. Worth a shot anyways. I've never had good luck with peppers, so I'll be trying it on them this year.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Plant Sale

Quick note on the Wychwood neighborhood garage sale. I'm in, selling tomatoes, hostas, other plants, and stuff I can drag out, like gardening mags and books. May 17, Saturday. Hope to see some people there.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

BOO!!! Creature Break

I've never been an arachnophobe, which is probably a good thing, considering how much time I spend outdoors. And I'm sure it's partly due to the fact that we don't have dangerous spiders in my part of the country. I bet if I lived in the land of Black Widows and Tarantulas, I'd be singing a different tune.

I've always found Wolf Spiders to be such fascinating little creatures, along with their namesake. We have a half wolf/half Malamute in the neighborhood, a gorgeous canine creature from up North (I mean the real North, the land of the 24 hour sun, and permafrost), whom I've been dying to photograph, but never have my camera when I'm out walking my dog and meet up. And my dog doesn't particularly like the wolf, so taking pictures would be difficult while trying to hold a growly Shepherd/Collie. But I'm hopeful.

But back to my spider. I love the expression on the camy face that they present to the world. Doesn't this little guy look like so ferocious? What a tuff guy! Dontcha just wanna hug 'im?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Big Daddy and I Hope She's Hungry

These are two year old 'Big Daddy' hostas, grown from seed. Kinda cool, eh? I'm amazed that they survived winter in the tray, but then again, I'm always amazed by just how incredibly tough hostas are. You could run them over with a tank and they would be fine.

Ladybugs are always a welcome site in my yard. Especially as they feast on the aphids that
live on my brugs. I debated washing the brugs down for about the tenth time, until I saw three of these pretty little things, and a few rows of eggs on the underside of the leaves. Let the eggs hatch, and the babies do their thing. What's a few more weeks of aphids to the brugs? The ladybugs are happy, and they've obviously been passing the word around as to the whereabouts of the great spring feast.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The New Brug Bed and Tulips

I spent a lot of time over the weekend digging out the old shrubs that were growing against the fence here, in the backyard. Still two to go, which I will tackle tomorrow or Thursday. These monsters are really hard to dig out, with quite a large taproot structure. I can't remember what they are, but they were pretty ugly, so no loss. You can see my 'Red Jade' crabapple in the front, almost ready to bloom. It is one of my favorite little shrubs, and it is the first tree I ever grafted, back in college. I moved it with me when we moved from Ottawa seven years ago.

All the pine needles make a wonderful mulch over the top of my very sandy soil. It should be a perfect spot for my brugs, nice and sunny, good drainage, and should be very easy to dig them up come fall.

I love these ruffled tulips. I didn't know what I was getting when I planted them, but they turned out really nice. And what can I say, they were free!

I'm not as far along with my planting as I'd like to be at this point. I planted peas a while ago, and then somehow got stuck. I planted a few tomatoes in the ground, and lugged all the brugs outside to water them really well, fertilize them, and hose off some of the aphids. Trying to give them a boost so they would get growing. They are out permanently now, unless we get a severe frost warning. Otherwise, I just haven't been motivated to get planting, despite the weather. Part of it, I think, is there is just so much to do. All the beds are already getting overrun with weeds, I have tons of little maples and oaks and pines to dig and pot up, that I had promised to friends, hostas to divide, an Iris bed to dig up and relocate, a potting bench to build, and two new raised beds to build. The list goes on. Never mind that the indoor chores are pilling up as I procrastinate outdoors. And it doesn't help that I've come down with a pretty bad cold.

Once I get going again, I will have more to write about. But I think I may take a few more days off, just taking it easy, to get better, and hopefully I'll start feeling a bit more motivated. Get done the things it occurs to me to do, and let slide the things I don't want to do. Just for a day or two.