The Great Tomato Dilemma

I love growing tomatoes.  Hands down, they are my favorite yield from the garden.  We eat them fresh, and can the rest.  Such satisfaction!  Last year, I started 12 Roma  plants from seed during the first week of April.  They were amazing, if a bit behind their local nursery counterparts.  In fact, because I never trust my own seedlings to thrive, I bought 20+ “back up” tomato plants of different varieties–and then planted my dozen starts because they were doing so well.  I put up 74 jars of tomato products. It was a banner tomato year.

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Last year’s crop

Emboldened by my success, I started 36 tomatoes from seed this year during the first week of March.  Now, understand–I have shelf with two grow lights as my set up, which works fine for a seed starting tray with 72 holes.

seed starts

But guess what?  Plants grow.  And they need to be re-potted into six packs.

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And then into 4 inch containers.  It is rather a pain.  Hoping I could get the plants into the raised bed, I held off on the last re-potting.  But they were a tangled mess, falling over and breaking their stems.  Still, I really thought I could hold out.  Maybe I could make it to mid-May, as long as I covered them against the still cold nights.  So silly–I live in NW Montana!  You just don’t put tomatoes (or peppers or basil) into the ground until at least Memorial Day.  Or, as the old-timers say, “until the snow is off Big Mountain” which some summers might mean mid-July.  I vacillated about this for 2 weeks.  My poor husband and my friends had to listen to me debate myself:  re-pot one more time, or wait it out?

I decided to wait.

But then, as I was watering my beloved tomato plants, I noticed these:

tomato nodules

The dreaded root nodules

Horrid little nodules on the stems.  I used this picture, threw it into Google images and voilà!  They aren’t good.  The stress of the too-small containers were likely forcing the plants to create these root nodules.  The nodules develop because the first line of saving itself is trying to throw out more roots to gather more nutrients.  But this just wouldn’t do.  I decided that I would just plant them out–after all, I could protect them with Remay and soil warming plastic, right?  Well…even though we had just experienced 3 70 degree days, it was still too early.  I knew it.  But I rationalized that I couldn’t possibly re-pot all the tomatoes, and the seven of them that looked especially peakish would die anyway if I didn’t plant them.  So I took the four of the least sickly of the sickly plants, and, without hardening them off (because who really needs to do that?  Well, me.  I need to do that) planted them in my raised bed.  I covered the soil with red plastic, which I used successfully last year.  I placed crunched up egg shells in the trench I dug, and placed the plants in sideways as is recommended for root growth.  I put the tomato cage around the plant, watered it, and then wrapped the cage in Remay.

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My little tomato soldiers.

But you know what?  It’s way too early to plant tomatoes.  And they definitely need to be hardened off.  And I should have just gone and found bigger pots.  Because these are sad, sad little tomato plants.

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The one on the left has a chance, maybe.  Not really.  I’ll keep you posted.

On the bright side, I went ahead and re-potted the rest of my tomato seedlings in anything I could find.  Some of  the less hearty ones needed to be sacrificed for the good of the whole, which was very hard for me to do.  I feel guilty thinning carrots.

I found supports and tied my stems to them and look great.  I moved some to a sunny window.  Now my peppers have a little room, and I imagine I will be re-potting them next weekend.

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What is the moral of this story?  Wait two more weeks to start seedlings.  Maybe three.  And unless you have lovely hoop houses, don’t put tomatoes out when it is 50 degrees with wind and rain.

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6 Tips To Eliminate Weeds From Your Garden!

This is such a great blog. As strange as it sounds, I can’t wait until I get a chance to deal with weeds! Ready and waiting for you, growing season!

Old World Garden Farms

Weeds.  The enemy of gardeners the world around! They are responsible for choking the life from vegetable and flower gardens, while stealing life-giving nutrients away from our plants. Weeds are also the reason many gardeners throw their hands up by mid-summer and call it a year.

It simply doesn’t have to be that way.  In fact, some of the most time-consuming chores we have been led to believe help with gardening and weeds – are actually the main culprit to creating more!

Simply by eliminating those weed promoting practices, and replacing with a few time and labor saving methods – you can all but eliminate the issue of weeds in your garden.

We spend no more than 10 minutes a day handling all of the chores in our garden – including weeding – and that’s not a misprint! The first step is realizing that eliminating weeds in a garden is…

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How To Grow Amazing Tomatoes This Year!

One of my favorite blogs discussing  my favorite thing to grow.

Old World Garden Farms

Without a doubt –  tomatoes are the most important crop we grow in our garden.

In fact, we use our home-grown tomatoes and tomato based products nearly 365 days a year. In the summertime – we eat them right off the vine, in salads, hamburgers, sauces and more. In the fall and winter months, we enjoy the tomato juice, vegetable soup, chili, salsa, pasta sauce, pizza sauce, and ketchup that we have canned or frozen from the summer’s bounty.

Here are some valuable hints, tips and tricks we have learned over the years to grow a bumper crop of tomatoes:

1.  The When, How And Where Of Planting Tomatoes:

WHEN TO PLANT: Tomatoes are just about the last thing that get planted in our garden.  Tomatoes love warm soil and warm weather.  If you plant them too early in your growing season, they can really struggle. It’s not just about preventing…

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When Convenience is No Longer Worth It

Before I moved to Montana, I was all about convenience, especially in terms of food. I loved my prepackaged, ready-to-eat, microwavable food…my baby carrots, canned soup, Stouffer’s frozen entrees, salad in a bag, and fast food. I have a tendency towards lazy, so these products were definitely worth it. And please, don’t misunderstand–these products have their place. But I chose the convenience because it was easy and I am lazy–not because of a fast-paced, action-packed lifestyle.

When I moved to Montana, my husband couldn’t believe some of my habits. He couldn’t understand why I would buy baby carrots when I could simply cut up “real ones”. Why buy frozen pizza when you could make one? Salad in a bag? Really? He’s right, of course, although he has come to realize that it is okay to use these products occasionally.

What’s crazy is that after living here for 15 years, I’ve realized that I don’t want to eat that way anymore. Part of it has to do with my friends here. This part of Montana has a substantial population of people who want to live simply, eat freshly, and exist self-sufficiently. They are outdoor enthusiasts, protectors of the environment, and overall, just well-read, intelligent people. A little bit “hippie”, a little bit “granola” and altogether awesome. I’m not quite there yet–I am still guilty of using Miracle Gro on my flowers (but not my vegetables) and wearing make-up. I occasionally throw recyclables out. But I’m working on it.

I find great satisfaction when I look at my cubby of “put-up” salsa and pickles, or when I pull spaghetti sauce I made in the fall from the freezer. I smile a little inside when I use our freezer jam. Nothing tastes better than carrots I pulled from the ground or grape tomatoes still warm from the sun. It seems silly to me to use soup out of a can when it is so easy to make (although my boys do love canned chicken noodle) The elk that Eric provided is more delicious than almost any other type of meat (except bacon). Our milk comes from the creamery down the road. When our garage is finished, I want to start raising chickens for eggs, perhaps in cooperation with our neighbors.

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I am becoming much more cognizant of the various preservatives and additives in our grocery store food, and interested in finding ways to avoid them.

I’m not perfect about this, and I don’t want to be preachy. I’m not a health nut (not that there is anything wrong with that), nor a purist–I still love my Cheez-its and Skittles, cheddar cheese popcorn and McDonald’s french fries. My boys eat Chef Boyardee Ravioli. But I find pleasure in the knowledge that I am trying to be a healthier person, and provide some healthier options for my family.