Tomatoes – Part 2 (2017)

I feel like I am sooooooo late in getting my next round of Tomatoes sown… But realistically, I’m well within the 6 week starting period… And if we have a cold spring, I’m well within the 8-10 weeks before the last frost… Its just with the beautiful Spring weather we have been having the last week or so, I feel behind. I feel like the grass should be mowed (its not even growing or green or even de-dog-pooped yet). It feels like real Spring, but realistically, this is Alberta, and we could still get snow anytime in the the next two months.

But before I go on and on and on about my weird feelings about Spring sowing… Let me tell you about the next round of Tomatoes…

So Today (April 4), I’m sowing (in peat pellets, as per usual):

  • Sub-Arctic Plenty
    • Sowed: 4 peat pellets
    • “Developed in Alberta for Prairie climates, this cultivar is an early, upright tomato. It will set fruit, even under cold conditions! Bountiful yields of 56-70g (2-2 1/2 oz.) tomatoes. Keep well fed and watered. Determinate. No staking required. Heirloom.” McKenzie Seeds (2016)
  • Tiny Tim
    • Sowed: 3 peat pellets
    • “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.” McKenzie Seeds (2015)
  • Tumbler F1
    • Sowed: 1 peat pellet (because I only had 3 seeds left… better stock up for next year)
    • “Excellently suited for hanging baskets and containers, cascades of wonderfully sweet, 2.5cm (1″) cherry tomatoes tumble down over the edge. Also a great producer in the garden, this early ripening bush variety can product up to 2kg (4.4lbs) of fruit per plant. An exceptional and tasty tomato! Determinate. No staking required.” McKenzie Seeds (2015)
  • Black Russian
    • Sowed: 1 peat pellet
    • These seeds were from a trade, so I don’t have a seed packet to quote here for this one.
  • Principe Borghese
    • Sowed: 1 peat pellet
    • “This Italian variety is the traditional variety used for sun dried tomatoes. Plants stand up to high heat and produce plenty of tomatoes for drying, fresh eating and sauce making. Determinate – no staking required” McKenzie Seeds (2015)
  • Manitoba
    • Sowed: 2 peat pellets
    • “Very Dependable early variety, 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 that the root system will be less affected by fluctuations in soil moisture. Determinate. No staking required. Heirloom.” McKenzie Seeds (2014)

Okay, so I really wanted to sow more of the Tumbler, but I’ll make up for it next year. They always produce a crazy amount of cherry tomatoes, throughout the entire summer. They are also usually the very first to set fruit and ripen, and sometimes the very last to give up to frost.

The Sub Arctic Plenty produced fantastic last year, so I sowed 4 of them again. Since it was developed here, that is probably why it grows well. If you also live in Alberta, or another cold area… Or want some tomatoes earlier than you would otherwise, give this one a try.

Tiny Tim’s are just awesome. Grow them. Trust me. They are so cute and also delicious. Since they are tiny little plants, you can keep them in some smaller containers. So if you only have a tiny area to grow things in (like a sunny front stoop, or a balcony), they are a great choice.

I threw the Principe Borghese into the mix. Hopefully I can keep the squirrel’s greedy little paws of them this year. I really want to try and make my own sun dried tomatoes… and by sun dried, I mean dehydrator-dried.

And, I threw the Manitoba in just because.

I was also keeping an eye out for “Green Envy” which was a Hybrid I found a few years ago by Burpee. They were so sweet and delicious and some of the best cherry tomatoes I have ever had. They were a little hard to tell when exactly they were ripe, since they are green. If I see them again, I will pick up a pack for next year.

I think this will be it for the tomatoes this year… unless I have a sad tale of germination to tell you. As it is, this is more than enough tomatoes… But I do hope to be able to make (and can) some fresh Bruchetta from my own tomatoes.

Do you have any tomatoes I should try? Want to make a seed trade? Add a message in the comments with any tips, tricks or encouragement.

(Just a note, the featured photo is from 2014 I think. I had an amazing tomato crop that year, because I had an amazing greenhouse to grow in… Too bad it was owned by legitimate crazy people)

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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

 

IMG_2619
‘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)

 

Early June Tomato Update (2015)

All the tomatoes are officially out in their final places!

One new thing I have done this year is to mulch them. It is looking like this year may be dry, so I am trying to minimize the amount of watering I will have to do. This should also help stop any soil splashing up into the leaves and introducing diseases.

Normally, my tomatoes would be up against our garage wall because it is the warmest place of the yard, and also the most protected from hail. However, since we are re-doing the patio at some point this year, I didn’t want to have to move them part way through the growing season. My solution: Tomato Island! I have grouped all the containers around our old fire pit, and stashed (almost) all the tomatoes there. They get a little more sun here, but are a little more exposed to the weather. I am keeping my fingers crossed that I can get them covered in the event of hail.

But for now, I am just going to go variety by variety and update on their progress so far.


Tiny Tim

This micro little plant is on the back steps. Tiny little flowers are just starting. My mom has the other plant I started, and I’ll be interested to see how it grows for her too. (This is a determinate variety, so I won’t be pruning suckers off of this little guy) the photo is deceptive on size, so I added a second showing the flowers just starting. It should give you a better idea on how tiny this plant really is…. And how good it is at collecting Ava’s hair (Ava =my big dog). Also, because little Tiny Tim is a bit purple, that is a sign that I should get some food to it pretty soon.



Tumbler

This is the winner in ‘First to set fruit’ completion. Soon I’ll be able to tell you how they taste! But it is pretty great to be able to have some tomatoes set in May! These are also in a hanging basket on the garage so I will have to move them once Patio construction starts, but they are easy to move, so can stay where they are up until I am forced to move them.


Green Envy & Chadwick’s Cherries

These are growing fantastic and I think they will start producing flowers soon. Currently residing on the patio, but will be moved to Tomato Island as soon as I get some ambition to do so. 3 plants in this pot was probably too many, but I will be feeding these to keep them going… They should do fine.


Yellow Pear & Principe Borghiese
These are also growing fantastic, and also have to make the move to Tomato Island. I also have 3 plants in this pot, which may be too many but we’ll wait and see. The Yellow Pear has flowers growing in front of your eyes, and the Principe Borghiese plants are starting to send out flowers too. I also notice from looking at these photos that I should get in and prune some of the suckers out before they get too big.


San Marzano

I was worried about these sensitive little snowflakes making it through the frost setback, but they have done it. Because of the setback, I will probably leave the 2 bottom suckers on each plant to grow. Also, I put the 3 plants in the largest pot to spoil them a little. Hopefully they will reward my little bit of generosity with a glut of paste tomatoes.  This is probably the best example of how/where I trimmed the frost killed bits off of the majority of the plants hit by the frost.


Mortgage Lifter

Flowers are just starting on this one, and they are huge! Luckily the frost didn’t get this plant, so my hopes of having a giant tomato from it are still alive. I plunked my Habenero pot bottom into the soil in this pot, so I hope this tomato doesn’t mind its spicy new neighbour.


Black Krim

This little guy is coming back from the frost quite well, so I hope to have a good harvest if I can keep them safe from any bad weather we may get.


Cherokee Purple 

Also made it past the frost, and is looking strong. I am keeping my fingers crossed these are successful and I can finally taste one of the worlds favourite heirloom tomatoes!


Marglobe

I left this one a little taller when I chopped the frost bitten bits off, and now every sucker has taken off! Which is good, because it is a determinate variety and I need to remember to leave them on anyway.  It was too hard to get a decent photo of the whole plant… but you can see some more of it in the background of the Cherokee Purple picture.


Manitoba

This was the only tomato in the greenhouse unaffected by the frosts. It is also a determinate variety, and we should have tomatoes from it in 55-60 days.

Now looking at the pictures and editing this post, I have noticed that I should probably get out and feed the tomatoes with a little liquid fertilizer, and prune the suckers. I should also mark out which are the Determinate varieties to remind me to not prune those ones.

Well, that is the tomatoes so far! I’ll try and get you updated again as soon as we have some more fruits set. Or if disaster strikes, I’ll update you on that. Also over in Tomato Island is the peppers, so I’ll upload an update on them next.

Tomato Update (Early May 2015)

 

 

 

I figured it was about time I did an update on the tomatoes.

They are way overdue to go outside, but outside isn’t ready for them just yet.

I’ll go through the update by variety, as I need to get the tomatoes all sorted out anyway. So I went out to start the hardening off process, sort through the tomatoes, and get some pictures for this post… If only it had been that easy. Tomatoes started toppling over, and started to break from the top weight. So I decided to move them out to the greenhouse to start getting used to the night temperatures (with candle heat to keep the frost off) and for the extra growing room in there for them. The cherry tomato varieties will still be in the kitchen for another week or two, depending on the night time temperatures.

Mortgage Lifter

Sown: March 7

These started off a little spindly and slow, but then they took off. I potted one up, and we’ll see how they take to this  new change of scenery.

Black Krim

Sown: March 7

I mixed these up with my Black Russian seeds last year, so I’m excited to see (and taste) these this year.

Cherokee Purple

Sown: March 7

I probably grew these last year, but I have no way of knowing forsure, as they came from a rainbow pack of seeds.

Marglobe

Sown: March 7

These gave us a huge harvest in the greenhouse last year, and also did well out in the cold at my Mom’s house. So this year in my backyard, I am hoping to get a good harvest from them again. One bent over, as I mentioned in the begining of this post, and I am crossing my fingers that it will survive. The damage didn’t seem too bad, so hopefully they will keep growing.

San Marzano

Sown: March 7

I had such high hopes for these last year, and only one plant out of 6 actually grew to produce any tomatoes. This year, I am keeping my fingers crossed that we can get a decent harvest. I really want to make my own tomato sauce with these for next winter if we have a big enough harvest.

Manitoba

Sown: March 23

Pretty excited to try this hardy variety. I potted these up today after the big tomato disaster. They didn’t fall over, as they are the youngest plants out of the lot, but they needed something different. They are out in the greenhouse now too, and should be fine since they are hardy.

 

Getting into the cherry tomatoes now, I actually got some pictures of these individually. Not great photography, but at least something to judge the differences in the plants.

Principe Borghiese

Sown: March 22

Don’t ask me how to pronounce this, because I have no idea, but they are the tomatoes typically made into sun dried tomatoes. I thought they were worth a shot, and hopefully they can handle our weird and wonderful Alberta weather.

Tumbler F1

Sown: March 22

I am pretty excited about these. They are bred for hanging baskets, and the trusses of tomatoes tumble over the sides of the container. We’ll see how they taste… and if I can keep them watered in the hot sun. I planted one in the hanging basket I will be keeping it in and moved it out to the greenhouse. The other plant will be in the kitchen window until I can take it to my mom.

Yellow Pear

Sown: March 22

These were awesome last year, so I had to give them another shot this year. They are leggy, but should do fine once they go in their final containers. One of these is destined for my best friend Cal.

 

Tiny Tim

Sown: March 22

I am pretty excited about these too. This is the variety my mom and I would usually pick up from the garden centre when I was a little girl. While the other plants are all shooting up and getting super leggy, these are staying as nice, compact plants. Depending on the taste, I will probably sow more than just two plants of these for next year.

 

Green Envy

Sown: March 22

These were the stars of the taste test last year, so I HAD to grow them again. The foliage is quite delicate, and you expect that the plant wont produce much, and then you get these wonderful little green tomatoes, that taste phenomenal. Again, they are leggy, but should do great once in their final containers.

Chadwick’s Cherries

Sown: March 22

This is another new variety so we will see how it goes. I couldn’t stop myself from picking up another new tomato to try this year, and I have zero expectations about this one.

 

To read the original tomato posts from this year, click these links: Beefsteak/Paste, and Cherry. You won’t read about the Manitoba variety there, as I sowed them after I was a little too rough with one of San Marzano seedlings, and killed it. To make myself feel better, I sowed some Manitoba seeds.

Now hopefully I won’t have to write about a mass tomato disaster in the following nights of the tomatoes being in the greenhouse.

Potting up the Tomatoes

It seems when I get around to the potting up stage that Spring really is on the doorstep. I realize that it is technically spring right now… And this year it certainly feels like Spring now.. but this is Alberta, and we could get 2 feet of snow tomorrow if someone really made Mother Nature angry. Bottom line… Its not safe to plant many things outside just yet.

Inside however, my seedlings are starting to take over. Despite completely scaling back on the amount of planting I have done this year, I still have a very full windowsill.

This year, I have only grown 24 tomato plants. AND I’m not even keeping them all. Some of them are going to my mom and to my best friend. Which is really a mutually beneficial situation. They get strong healthy tomato plants, and I get the satisfaction of being able to put seeds in the soil and start gardening early, without the guilt of “where the hell am I going to put this plant?”

I am potting them all up into home-made newspaper pots… Partly because it is free, compostable and easy, and partly because I don’t have enough pots for ALL the things. The other great thing about newspaper pots, is you can make them whatever size you want, so I can get some more height in my tomato pots than a traditional black plastic pot.

Place the tomato deeper than it was planted before. It will grow roots out of the stem, and help to anchor itself into the soil. Just be sure to remove any leaves before you hide them under soil, as it can help introduce disease into the plant. (You can see in the photo above how the stem is trying to root itself.

Once they are in their new homes, I firm the soil around them a little (not much, just to keep everything where it should be). and I tend to top-water as needed for the first week or so. Then only bottom watering unless the newspaper starts to get too dry. I top water because I start them off in the peat pellets, and I believe this helps keep the peat more moist, helping the roots to expand out into their new space. If I pot them up a second time (or started in soil to begin with), I will only top water once, just to help the soil fill in any big air pockets I may have left.

One last tip: I tend to stake them with bamboo skewers as I am relying on a mostly East facing window for their light and they tend to get a bit leggy. The skewers just help keep them in their own spaces. I just gently tie them with a cotton butcher twine.