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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Milkweed


I’m going to attempt to grow some Milkweed for the Butterflies this year.

The seed packet says to start indoors 8-10 weeks before last frost. That is right about now… I mean, our last frost date is very dependant on the year. And there are things that I can do to help protect the little plants if we have a cold spring.

The seed packet description reads: “Asclepias curassavica. Attractive to butterflies! This easy to grow cheerful flower provides large clusters of orange to reddish colored blooms along landscapes. Tolerates dry conditions. Annual”

Days to sprout: 14-21

Bloom Period: June-Frost

Since the seed packet doesn’t usually give a lot of helpful “how to grow” info if you have no idea what you are doing, I did a little googling.

This website suggests that Milkweed needs to go through a period of cold stratification. It is actually the most helpful site that I found in my quick googling so I’m going to follow their suggestions. A few things I learned:

  • Many varieties of Milkweed have a long tap root that should not be disturbed. They suggest using peat pots for this reason.
  • transplant out when plants are still small, less than 3 inches tall (because of that tap root).
  • apparently it is normal for the plant to lose all of its leaves after transplanting. The plant is building roots and will regrow its foliage after a bit. {This is a little concerning, so I’m going to have to keep this in mind, and cross my fingers that it doesn’t happen}
  • You should only have to water these just after transplanting to let them get established, and then after than only in periods of drought.

Okay, so Why grow Milkweed in the first place? For the Monarch Butterflies. According to the website saveourmonarchs.org the Monarch caterpillars only eat milkweed. Because of habitat destruction through development and spraying weeds in fields, Milkweed is fast disappearing. Thus Monarchs are fast disappearing.

Adult Monarchs do have a varied diet using other flowers as sources of nectar… It is the caterpillars that are facing the habitat loss.

From a more Canadian Perspective, Here is a link to Animal Facts on Monarchs from Canadian Geographic.

So this is what I’m going to do. I’ve put some seeds into a wet paper towel and I’m putting them in the fridge for a week or so. Then I will put them into seed starting mix in a large peat pot. I’ll start some not ‘cold-stratified’ seeds in the same sized peat pot at that time too. (I sowed/put seeds on paper towel into the fridge, on March 8th)

AND I will also be planting a few other wildflower mixes as well, but I’ll save that for another post.

I have done a little more googling since I first wrote the first part of this post. In some areas Milkweed is considered a noxious weed. So if you live in areas where this could easily self seed itself in areas outside of your growing area, maybe reconsider growing it. Check out information on your area and make your decision based on that. Please don’t blindly follow just one source on the internet. Find more, with different viewpoints and make your own decisions. I am going to still plant this. I don’t for see it escaping my yard. I might reconsider if I lived in a rural area with less containment. It is a choice, and it should be an informed one.

Front: Cold Stratified Seeds;    Back: Straight from the seed packet.


So, since I forgot to hit publish on this post when I first wrote it… As of March 29th, I have not noticed any difference between the cold stratified and the seeds straight out of the seed packet. The cold stratified ones are slightly behind, but there was about 10 days between when each was sowed into dirt. They are a little bit leggy, but I cannot adjust the height of my little grow light, so they are just doing their best.

Tomatoes- Part 1 (2017)

I couldn’t contain my enthusiasm any longer, and started some Tomatoes. There will be more started a little later, which is why this post is labelled Part 1.

As usual, I started these in peat pellets. To add a little more info into this first post, I’ll add in the description of the seed packets here as well. All the seeds in this post are from McKenzie Seeds. I have also included the year I purchased the packs as a note to the germination rate, particularly the older packages. They should all germinate fine, but if they don’t, I would like the notes of which ones did not work out well.

  • Jubilee
    • “These glowing, golden-orange, mild flavoured fruits have been prized by gardeners for years. Plants produce bountiful harvests of 223g (8oz) fruits throughout the season. Indeterminate. Staking may be required.”
    • Days to Maturity (after transplanting out): 80 days
    • Sowed 2 peat pellets on March 18
    • Seed pack is from 2016
  • Black Cherry
    • “Early Russian variety. Tall 60cm (2′) plants, with oval/round shaped 2.5cm (1″) fruit. Deep mahogany to brown color. Black color develops best when hot and sunny. Indeterminate. Requires staking.”
    • Days to Maturity (after transplanting out): 80 days
    • Sowed 2 peat pellets on March 18
    • Seed pack is from 2016
  • Cherokee Purple
    • “Russian tomato names for the Crimean peninsula in the Black Sea. Slightly flattened 8-10com (3/4″) globes with dark greenish black shoulder have excellent full flavor. Indeterminate. Requires staking. Heirloom.”
    • NOTE- Pretty sure someone at the seed company messed up… Because that sounds like the description for the Black Krim tomato not Cherokee Purple… Also 8-10cm is not three quarters of an inch…
    • Days to Maturity (after transplanting out): 80 days
    • Sowed 2 peat pellets on March 18
    • Seed pack is from 2015
  • San Marzano
    • “Italian tomato perfection! 10-12 ounce plus tomatoes grow on large and vigorous plants. Has excellent tomato flavor and is great to eat fresh, make sauces or for canning and drying. Indeterminate – staking required”
    • Days to Maturity (after transplanting out): 76 days
    • Sowed 2 peat pellets on March 18
    • Seed pack is from 2016
  • Beefsteak
    • Large, meaty, solid fruit. slightly flattened and globe-shaped. Deep, well-drained, moisture retaining soil is best. Mild and flavorful for salads and table use. Keep tomatoes away from all members of the Brassica family: cabbage, cauliflower, etc. No staking required. Determinate. Heirloom.”
    • Days to Maturity (after transplanting out): 80 days
    • Sowed 2 peat pellets on March 18
    • Seed pack is from 2016
  • Rainbow Blend
    • “A sensational blend of assorted Heirloom tomatoes. Varieties such as Black, Pink, Red and Yellow Brandywine tomatoes. Well known for its size and rich sweet flavor. Indeterminate. Staking may be required.”
    • Days to Maturity (after transplanting out): 70-75 days
    • Sowed 2 peat pellets on March 18
    • Seed pack is from 2014

 

So I took a gamble with the Rainbow Blend. I’ve avoided planting it the last few years, for the specific reason of I like to know what varieties I am growing. I also know that there are more than just Brandywine varieties in that pack despite what the package says. When I grew it in 2014, We had a green variety, and a few other not potato-leaf types. But I figured it was a good year to experiment a little.

The goal is to keep any squirrels and possibly birds away so I can actually enjoy my own tomatoes this year. I will also for-sure be sowing Sub Arctic Plenty and Tiny Tim… and more 😉

 

A Note if anyone from McKenzie seeds is reading this… It would be a nice addition in the information on all the tomato/pepper seed packets, if they said that the variety was distinctly Heirloom/Open Pollinated, or Hybrid.

Kale for Days

 

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I just found this post in my draft folder. I was so sure that I had hit publish on it, but I guess not. This was my intro to the Kale I grew last year. I didn’t manage to get any growing photos of it last year (because 2016 was a giant steamy pile of… fresh compost), BUT I plan on trying them all again this year.

I love Kale. I think most of the world does now too. And the good thing, if you are also a Kale lover… Its ridiculously easy to grow. I was originally just going to group the Kale in with the other Brassicas that I am growing this year, but then I decided to dedicate a whole post just to the Kale

Rule of thumb – cover any kind of Brassica (which Kale is) to protect it from becoming a white cabbage butterfly (or moth…whatever it is) nursery. You can try and spray the eggs off with a jet of water from the hose… and then pick any caterpillars off the leaves later on if you want; But I find the easiest way to protect my brassicas is by covering them with a screen material. The one exception to this, is the Curly Kale. It doesn’t seem to attract the little buggers like pretty much any other brassica does. But be ready to cover it if you start to see the pretty little butterfly floating around them.

I’ve grown the Curly kale over-sown in a container just outside the kitchen door for baby leaves for a few years, and I definitely recommend trying that if you have no where else to grow it. So easy! You can let some of the plants grow on into full sized Kale plants too, so you can get the best of both worlds.

I’m growing 5 different varieties this year! My best friend brought me some different varieties back with her from a trip to Ontario. White Russian and the Rainbow Kale are the new additions here. They are from a seed company called “Urban Harvest” and I’m looking forward to trying all the seeds she brought me.

  • White Russian Kale
    • Sowed: April 11 (2x Hex cells)
    • “This beautiful variety has green, wavy leaves with white stems and veining. Thought to be one of the vest tasting kales. Very tender and hardy. Use baby leaves in salad and mature leaves for stir fry or steaming.” Urban Harvest Seeds
    • Days to Maturity: Not mentioned on seed pack
  •  Rainbow Dinosaur Kale
    • Sowed: April 11 (2x Hex Cells)
    • “This European Kale has been developed by Frank Morton. A cross of Lacinato (Dinosaur) & Redbor hybrid kale. He selected this diverse population that includes the leaf qualities that Lacinato is loves for, overlain with hues of red, purple, and blue-green. More vigorous and cold hardy than Lacinato. Not bitter and very tender.” Urban Harvest Seeds 
    • Days to Maturity: 62
  • Dinosaur (Lacinato) Kale
    • Sowed: April 11 (2x Hex Cells)
    • “Handsome heirloom known for its blue-green crinkled leaves, tender texture & sweet flavor. Delicious in salads, for sauteed greens, soups or braised with garlic & olive oil. Kale’s flavor is vest in cool weather; mature plants handle frost well or extended harvesting” Cornucopia Seeds
  • Red Russian Kale
    • Sowed: April 25 (3x peat pellet)
    • “Dark gray-green leaves provide more vitamins and minerals than other greens. Red and purple hues intensify after fall frost providing tender and sweet rich dark green kale when cooked. Tasty steamed, stir fried or in salads.” McKenzie Seeds
    • Days to Maturity: 60
  • Dwarf Green Curled Kale
    • Sowed: April 25 (3x peat pellet)
    • “Decorative green curled leaves. May be boiled as greens or chopped fresh for salads when young. Kale is the oldest form of cabbage, being superior to most vegetables in protein, vitamin and mineral content. Cool weather crop that likes rich well drained, moisture retaining soil. Tastiest after a light frost. Slow to bolt” McKenzie Seeds
    • Days to Maturity: 60-75

 

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So, for this year (2017), I think I will try the exact same Kale situation as I wrote about above. Which is why I left the dates I sowed them (for my own notes). As always, plans could change. At the very least, I will sow the curly, rainbow and the dinosaur Kale. At this point in my garden plan for this year, Kale will be the only Brassica I am going to grow, with the possibility of Broccoli if I can find some room for it.

If you have any Kale or other Brassica tips, share them in the comments below. Do you have a (preferably organic) way of keeping away the white butterflies? I would love to keep the netting out of my garden that doubles as our backyard landscapes, but I also know that I cannot keep up with hand-picking the eggs or little caterpillars off the plants.

Little February Update

I have no real gardening updates. When the weather is allowing, I’ve just been working like crazy making things for our little Etsy shop. We’ve had a few nice Chinook days where it makes it really tempting to pull the seeds out and start sowing. But I have been good and resisted. The cold and arctic weather between the Chinooks, has been a good deterrent as well.

The most I have done garden- related is start attempting to get some sweet potato slips. The tuber itself has made quite a few little sprouts that have grown quite vigorously. So I will have to make a little update on its own.


I have indulged in a few seed packets as well. 2 varieties of carrot (‘Purple Haze’ and ‘Little Finger’), some Dill and some ‘Diva’ Cucumber. The Cucumber is new, and I’m excited to try it. I like to grow the pickling cucumbers, but I don’t have the space to get the volume of cucumbers to make pickling all of my own worth it. Hopefully someday, but for now, I’m going to try something new.

The two carrot varieties will be heading straight to my community garden plot. I want to double (or even triple) the amount of carrots I grew last year. Fresh from the garden carrots are one of my most favourite things. You just can’t beat them. The plot there will also have beets and onions for sure, maybe more.

Now that we are heading into March, I can allow myself to take a peek at my tomatoes and other seeds. I re-purposed my little LED light I got for seed starting into a shop light, so I may have to take it back in the house for a few months to get things going.

Keep an eye out for more garden related content in the coming weeks. The season is starting to kick off and I will actually have something to write about.

Quick little tip before I sign off on this post:

When you get new seeds, write the year you got them on the package. Most seeds are viable for a few years if stored in the correct conditions, so you don’t need to purchase them every single year if you still have some left. By writing the year on them, in a few years you will know that the germination rate of that package may not be the greatest. I grew some seeds I had left from 2013 last year and they grew just as well as the new ones.