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.

tomatoes

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.

seedlings

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.

photo 1 (4)

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.

photo 2 (3)     photo 3 (3)

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.

photo 2 (2)

10343988_10152127799910886_435986045_o

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.

Advertisements

The Columbia Falls Community Garden – Mid July

It is unbelievable how much a garden can grow in two short weeks.  Take a peek at just a few pictures of our progress.

1059086_10151566180660886_1421700675_n

Andrew and Lucy have a ripe tomato! Call me jealous!

1068839_10151566180845886_771511090_n

OK…and they have this perfect looking little cabbage patch. Precious!!

1058981_10151566525360886_812143841_n

A glimpse down my garden rows

1069071_10151566493775886_331643146_n

A good looking onion!

1058870_10151566490420886_608380255_n

I have so much kale…and so many kale chips to make…
Who has a great recipe for kale chips out there? I’ve tried garlic and sea salt, salt and vinegar, and sriracha.

1056948_10151566453205886_811509594_n

Climb, little cukes…climb, climb!

1060566_10151566437880886_581518759_n

Some hail damage on the zukes, but they are still producing like crazy. We ate zucchini boat enchiladas last night, and zuke slices sautéed in balsamic vinegar. Yum. What will it be tomorrow? Fritters?

1060870_10151566423545886_1886030477_n

Again, the hail upset some of the aesthetic qualities of the squash, but not the production!

 

I forgot to take pictures of the cauliflower that I planted thinking they were cabbage (I received them from a friend).  They are gorgeous–bright purple and yellow.  I will add some shots of them tomorrow.  And…since I have never eaten cauliflower, what exactly does one do with it?

I want to thank Jesse and Lauren for making some wonderful signs for the garden.  They look great! For some reason I missed taking a picture of the garlic and onion signs…sidetracked by a garden visitor.  I’ll get it posted tomorrow.

1062415_10151566408330886_1712189816_n 1061688_10151566559680886_534753934_n 1075157_10151566559455886_1849510966_n 1063652_10151566558760886_105052999_n 1075048_10151566548145886_1291781374_n 1060120_10151566559840886_1262104910_n

That’s all for now!

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…

View original post 1,037 more words

In Search of the Perfect Salsa and Tomato Sauce Recipes

My favorite things to grow in the garden are tomatoes.  I grow a lot of tomatoes–probably too many for our short growing season, as I always end up with a nook full of green ones.  They are good, but not nearly as good as the ones that ripen on the vine.

540460_10150988946080886_1943165771_nThis past year, I started 12 Romas, but I wasn’t especially hopeful–the previous year’s starts became leggy and ultimately died a lanky, scrawny death.  Therefore, I bought some plants.  I had 14 total, ranging from grape tomatoes to cherry to Early Girl to Better Boys, and of course 5 Romas.  Lo and behold, due to improved artificial light source placement, my twelve home-started Romas flourished.  I wasn’t going to waste them!  Even though I had used up the planned space in my approximately 18′ x 12′ community garden plot, I found room.  There were Romas peeking out everywhere.  I so hate to waste them. (I feel the same way about carrots–I feel a twinge with every carrot I pull while thinning–such lost potential!)

Anyway, my Romas were looking gorgeous–until the early hard freeze–really early.  It was September 12.  Can you imagine how beautifully red and delicious they would have been if we had been granted just another 2 weeks?

My book nook, knitting nook, and seasonal green tomato nook

My book nook, knitting nook, and seasonal green tomato nook

Nevertheless, I picked all the shiny green ones, put them in my tomato ripening spot, and waited.  Then the sauce and salsa bonanza began.

462748_10151059645305886_1658360509_o

Both my salsa and my tomato sauce turned out decently this year–way better than the year before, but I’m not satisfied.  I look at recipes, I play around with my own concoctions, and they are all good, but I have yet to create a salsa or tomato sauce that I found truly delectable, or one that I would actually serve/give to someone other than my immediate family.

I will keep searching, and keep combining ingredients, but does anyone out there have a recipe they swear by that they would be willing to share?  I know you can find recipes all over the internet, but that hasn’t worked for me so far.

475059_10151067171190886_52467865_o

It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato. ~Lewis Grizzard