Tomatoes 2016 – Part 3

I feel behind on my tomato seedlings this year. I think the combination of having started later (to try and prevent my usual tomato forest) and the ridiculously nice Spring we have been having so far is what is making me feel this way. Either way, Everything will get going pretty quick, so I shouldn’t be too worried.

Either way here we are. Third round of tomatoes are being sown today. Round 1 has their first true leaves, and Round 2 is starting to put on theirs. So in a couple weeks I should have an update on all the tomatoes together.

Today (April 3) I am sowing:

  • Sub Arctic Plenty (New for me this year)
    • McKenzie Seed: “Developed in Alberta for prairie climates, this cultivar is an early, upright tomato. It will set fruit, even under cold conditions! Bountiful yields of 2-2.5 oz tomatoes. Keep well fed and watered. Determinate. No staking required. Heirloom.”
    • Days to Maturity: 40-59
  • Tumbler F1 Hybrid (Trailing)
    • McKenzie Seed: “Excellently suited for hanging baskets and containers, cascades of wonderfully sweet 1″ cherry tomatoes tumble down over the edge. Also a great producer in the garden, this early ripening bush variety can produce up to 4.4 lbs of fruit per plant. An exceptional and tasty tomato! Determinate. No staking required.”
    • Days to Maturity: 55
  • Tiny Tim
    • McKenzie Seed: “Extremely early scarlet red, miniature cherry tomato. Deep well-drained soil is best. Perfect for decorating salads and vegetable trays. Determinate. No staking required. Heirloom”
    • Days to Maturity: 45-55
  • Manitoba
    • McKenzie Seed: “Very dependable early varity, excellent for the Prairies. Bright red, juicy fruit. Deep, well-drained soil is best. Eliminate blossom end rot problems by deep watering the plants so the root system will be less affected by fluctuations in soil moisture. Determinate. No staking required. Heirloom”
    • Days to Maturity: 55-60
  • Green Envy
    • Burpee Seed: “Meaty & Tangy Fruits. Green when ripe, these sweet 1″ long cherries fruit in abundance. Indeterminate.”
    • Days to Maturity: 60

I have grown all of these last year, apart from the ‘Sub Arctic Plenty’. Last year, I’m sure my ‘Tumbler’ tomato in the hanging basket produced way more than 4.4lbs of delicious cherry tomatoes. It was also the first to fruit – I had tomatoes in June!

‘Tiny Tim’ was a sure favourite. It is a miniature tomato plant. And it was COVERED in tomatoes.

I was going to skip growing the ‘Green Envy’ this year, but they were some of the sweetest little cherry tomatoes I have ever had. When I thought about not having them this summer, I was a little sad, so I figured I could fit them in somewhere. I also only had 3 seeds left, so why keep them around. I’ll have to search for more seed, because I won’t be able to save them, as they are a hybrid.

‘Manitoba’ was great. I didn’t get a ton of fruit from it, but the pot it was in got blown over once or twice, and it mangled the poor plant a bit. The fruit I did get was delicious. We mostly ate them fresh from the vine along with fresh lettuce on burgers, and it was great.

Just for reference later in the season, I sowed these in peat pellets (as I always do):

  • 1x Green Envy
  • 2x Manitoba
  • 3x Tumbler
  • 3x Sub Arctic Plenty
  • 3x Tiny Tim

 

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‘Tumbler’ was the first tomato I harvested in 2015… in late June. As you can see they are a larger cherry type.

The first ‘Manitoba’ of 2015

‘Green Envy’ (2015)

‘Tiny Tim’ (2015)

First ‘Tiny Tim’ of 2015 (and my Index finger showing how tiny they are)

 

Just a quick note about determinate tomatoes. While they don’t need staking for crazy growth like indeterminate varieties, they usually do still need some support, especially once they have set fruit. It is best to stake them when you are first putting them outside because you won’t damage any roots. Then the support is already there when you need it later in the season to help support a full truss of tomatoes. Determinate tomatoes are a little easier to manage then their indeterminate friends. You don’t need to prune them to try and control their growth. Generally, they grow to a certain height, set all their fruit, and then die back (or the frost gets them first around here). So as long as you are taking care to keep them evenly watered and provide them with the other things they need to live (like adequate sunshine), you will get a harvest with hardly any work. (And while you can leave indeterminates un-pruned, it is beneficial to your final harvest in a shorter growing season to try and get the plant to use its energy on fruiting rather than on green growth)

 

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Tomatoes 2016-Part 1

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Some of the very first tomatoes I grew in our yard here. 2011 or 2012

Part 1 of the Tomato Saga began on March 15. It took a lot of willpower to make it to this point. And I only let myself sow the longer season tomatoes.

I started by making 3 piles of my tomato seeds. Pile one was “Yes! Growing For-Sure!” Pile 2 was “Maybe/Replenish seed if space allows” and Pile 3 was “Not this year”

I would share what varieties ended up in each pile, but it is honestly a never ending battle to not grow EVERY kind. So I’ll just keep you up to date on which varieties I have started AND how their germination is (because some of the seeds are getting older).

2 years ago, I found an ad on Kijiji that was selling (or trading) heirloom seeds, and so I asked if he would be interested in trading. I had lots of Red and Pink Brandywine seeds, and a few other heirloom varieties, to trade with. In return, I received: Black Russian, Orange Wellington, Boxcar Willie and Golden Cherry. He also threw in a surprise of Purple Nodding Onion. This year, I am going to try and grow them again, so I can keep up my seed stash. Hopefully the germination on them is still good so I can replenish them.

So, on March 15, I started (in peat pellets):

  • 1x Orange Wellington
  • 1x Black Russian
  • 2x Black Cherry
  • 2x Beefsteak
  • 2x Pink Brandywine
  • 2x Rutgers
  • 2x Cherokee Purple

Here they are starting to sprout – March 20 (5 days)


The Black Cherry, Beefsteak and Rutgers are all new-to me varieties. I’m really excited to test them out. Cherokee Purple is one of my very favourites, so of course I have to grow it again.Orange Wellington, Black Russian and Pink Brandywine are all around for replenishment… and because they were delicious.

Next up will be the slightly shorter season tomatoes. Stay tuned.

Some of the heirloom tomatoes I grew in 2014.  I wish I had saved seed of the Yellow one in the photo, it was delicious, and it came from a mixed pack of seeds.

Saving Seed – Aunt Molly’s Ground Cherries

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After a couple years of looking at the seed packet for these ground cherries and ultimately talking myself out of buying them, I finally took the plunge this spring. I started them in early March and planted them out in the Greenhouse. These things TOOK OVER. It was kind of amazing. Next year, I will give them much more space. They have a sprawling habit, but apparently do quite well if you steak them like heirloom tomatoes.

And the fruit is amazing! I am baking a pie with them as I type this.

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Since I was so happy with these, I wanted to save some of the seed for next year.

Turns out, it is super easy.

I used the less appetizing ripe fruit. The ones who were a little wrinkly and I didn’t want to use in my pie.

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You just squeeze the fruit so the seeds come out. Drop them into a little dish with some water in it. Use your finger to mash the fruit so the seeds come out. Good seeds will go to the bottom of the dish, and the rest will be easy to drain off, or pick out with your fingers.

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Then you can put the drained seeds onto a plate to dry. I put some wax paper to help the seeds from sticking to the plate.

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Once they are dry, I will put them into an envelope, and stash with the rest of my seed collection.

March 22/2014 Garden Update

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It was feeling a lot like Spring around here. Gophers have started to wake up and are chirping away out in the fields. The Geese are making their pit stops here, en masse. The snowbank/drift in our back yard from the storms at the beginning of December was down to about 3 feet tall at its highest point… We could see our patio again. And at work… MUD… So much mud! Then the first day of Spring happened and Mother Nature decided we were getting too used to this “Spring” thing, and hammered us with a winter storm again. Lucky for me, I have Spring in my windowsill. Everything is doing amazing. Now if Mother Nature would co-operate, I can start putting the plants for the Greenhouse garden out there. (We are hopefully getting our soil preparations done later next week over there)

But, without anymore chatter, Here is the updates on my little seedlings. (Tomorrow I’ll cover the Herbs and flowers, just like last week)

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TOMATOES

I may have developed an inability to control myself around seeds. I bought more. But only because I saw the Yellow Pear ones that looked so amazing on the many gardening blogs I read, and I just really wanted them. Right next to them in the display were some Marglobe ones that are an Heirloom determinate variety that I think would be great for my mom. Right next to those were some “Green Envy” cherry tomatoes, and I said to myself “why not”. There may have also been an heirloom pepper in there too, but we’ll cover that in the Pepper section. Then I may have allowed myself to trade some Heirloom seeds… “Boxcar Willie”, “Golden Cherry” and “Black Russian” should be here any day now.  I can stop anytime, I swear (she said unconvincingly).

It took 5 days for the Yellow Pear and Marglobe to start sprouting. Pretty excited for both of these. Green Envy should be up by Monday. 5 days seems to be the general length of time it takes for my tomatoes to sprout.

The Cherry Tomatoes (Hybrid Mix of yellow, orange and red) took a little longer to sprout than I expected (more than 7 days), but once they broke through the soil, they took off! They are very leggy, but I can just plant them deeper when they get potted up.

The Pink and Red Brandywine’s I sowed last weekend, Sprouted on March 20. The Pink ones were a day earlier. Black Krim and Bonny Best are also sprouted. The Black Krim had some spotty germination, but I have 4 solid little seedlings out of the 6 that I sowed.

The Rainbow blend and Roma’s that I had potted up last week, are doing AMAZING. I am experimenting a little with using 1L containers that the coffee cream comes in, so my seedlings can have a very developed deep root system, but I’ll tell you more about that later in its very own post. Also… the Rainbow blend may not be just Brandywine tomatoes… Some have standard leaves and not potato leaves. Weird.

Needless to say I am very-much looking forward to my tomatoes this year!

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Tomato seedlings

PEPPERS

My Cayenne Peppers are doing amazing. They all look like little pepper plants now. I should have a great crop of peppers from them if I do everything right, since I have about 10 plants… AFTER thinning and downsizing to only the healthiest ones.

My Jalapenos are a little slower than the Cayenne, but still great. They were started a little after the Cayenne’s so they have that excuse. I have 4 still in the peat pellet starters and I will be potting them up this weekend.

And since I have minimal self control around a seed display, I have some heirloom Hungarian Wax hot peppers. I started 2x 3″ pots of these on March 20th. Since its been a little colder around the window because of the snow, I wont be too surprised if these take a little longer to germinate.

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Cayenne Peppers in 4″ pots

LEEKS

Amazing as ever! I may need to think about thinning them again soon… REALLY need to not sow the entire package of seeds next year.

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Leeks – almost need thinning again

STRAWBERRIES

Super slow. Not much new to report from last week. The few that have true leaves are getting stronger though. I will be sowing more of these in the Fall, so that they are stronger healthy plants by the time Spring comes around.

EGGPLANT

Did I tell you I found some Italian Eggplant? “Violetta Lunga di Napoli” is sprouting!

My Asian Eggplant “Ping Tung Long” has sprouted and is slowly moving along. I’m down to 4 of those rather than 6. Two of them couldn’t break out of their seed shell and were not looking good, so I put them out of their misery.

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“Violetta Lunga di Napoli” Eggplant sprouting

GROUND CHERRIES

These are working on their true leaves. I am looking forward to them. They are definitely not something you can find in the grocery store around here.

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Cayenne on Left x3
Ground Cherries on Right x6

SWEET POTATO

The sweet potato experiment from last year, is getting a do-over this year. I have a sprouting potato on my fridge, so I should get some good slips from it. The question will be whether I can keep them warm and happy enough to produce some potatoes.

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Sweet Potato producing slips

POTATOES

I waited too long to order my Pink Fir Apples. We went to place the order and they were sold out… So sad. Next year I won’t wait so long. Now the potato plan will probably just be regular varieties you can buy at the garden center. My Pink Fir Apple dreams will have to wait until next year I guess. I will console myself with more tomato plants.

ICEBERG LETTUCE

I had an old packet of Iceberg lettuce, and I thought I would challenge myself to try and get an actual head of lettuce from it. We’ll see how it goes. At the very least, I will end up with something green to eat. They have all sprouted. Soon, I’ll try and pinch out a few to grow on and hope for heads. The others I’ll just have as salad leaves.

Check back here tomorrow for the update on all my Herbs and Flowers.

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Left – “Ping Tung Long” Eggplant
Right – Jalapeno Peppers