Tomato Matters

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Things I Learned in the Tomato Garden

Posted by on Oct 2, 2015 in gardening, homepage, tomatoes galore, Uncategorized | 0 comments

For most people growing tomatoes isn’t a full-time job. Growing 150 tomatoes, though, takes a whole different level of commitment. For many years I was basically at home so filling my days with tomato and garden tasks became my life.

Then, I went to work. I mean a job that not only takes me away from home but where I travel all over the country two to three weekends a month.

Not wanting to give up my tomato obsession I decided that I would have to be very organized about caring for the gardens and would definitely need some help. I scheduled my teaching trips around the typical dates and biggest periods of harvest.

Lesson #1 – there is no such thing as typical and there are no weather patterns that can be counted on. My first harvest came late and, of course the majority of the big tomatoes seemed to be ready to pick right when I was boarding a plane.

This year, I grew 125 tomato plants instead of my usual 150. I harvested almost as many tomatoes as I did in years past.

Note to self: 125 plants require as much work as 150, so don’t think you’ll be saving time.

Lesson #2 – the key is to plant the right tomato varieties. Plant those tomatoes that you will use. And, plant the varieties that are usually good producers. I had a couple of plants that gave me some really delicious fruit, but is it really worth it to grow a plant for 5 delicious tomatoes?

I am always a sucker for the different cherry varieties. They’re all so cute, they sound so good and you can just pop them in your mouth for a snack when you’re out in the garden. Sounds really good until you need to pick all of those cherry tomatoes. Now, THAT takes time!

Now, about help…I have some great helpers in the garden. Even so, things didn’t always get done the way I might have done them.

Lesson #3 – Yeah, yeah, if you want something done right, do it yourself. And then you’ll still make mistakes. Things will go wrong. Make that part of the process and it doesn’t have to be so painful.

Lesson #4 – And this is the really important one – gardening and growing tomatoes is a really fun way to make the most of the magic of nature. Sure, we can take care to maintain healthy soil, water properly and keep the bad stuff down to a minimum. Don’t let it become such a chore or so stressful that it diminishes your pleasure. Enjoy it for what it is.

The fact is, there is only so much that a person can do to grow a great crop of tomatoes and then the rest is up to, you guessed it, nature.

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Growing Tomatoes From Seeds

Posted by on Feb 12, 2013 in gardening, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Start your tomato seeds now – It’s almost time to start planting!

And, so,  it begins…

Typically in the San Fernando Valley we will plant tomatoes outside around the end of March or beginning of April. Counting back 6 – 8 weeks from that target date is, well, now! That means it’s time to start tomato seeds and nurture them  indoors until nighttime temperatures are consistently in the mid-fifties and the seedlings  are strong enough to be planted in the ground.

 

Tomato seeds

Last weekend I started 18 varieties of tomatoes from seed.  That’s just the beginning.  I’ll start more seed but I also will allow plenty of room in the garden for tomatoes that I buy at seedling sales.  Going to the sales and searching for new varieties that I haven’t yet tried is one of my greatest pleasures and I’ll never stop doing that!

We had a lovely afternoon on Sunday and I took full advantage by doing my seed work out in the garden.  Frankly, the mess is easier to clean there so, if you can be outside or in a greenhouse to get your seed started, all the better.

I began with a huge plastic tub full of the ingredients that go in my seed starting medium.  I like the plastic tub because it’s easy to move, easy to add water to and the high sides contain my potential spills.   If you’re really doing a lot, you might find mixing the medium in a wheelbarrow very convenient.

Seed mix

Into the tub went equal parts organic peat moss, organic vermiculite and organic perlite.  When mixed together the combination will provide a light medium that will retain enough moisture to encourage germination  without drowning or rotting the tiny seeds.

Guacamole and Seed Starting 014

Using my hands,  I lightly lifted and tossed the ingredients to combine.

 

Then,  I gently added water and mixed again. You want the medium to be moist when you add the seed.

Adding water to seed mix

Next,  I took my containers  (I like little pulp pots) and scooped some of the growing medium into them.. I gently pat it down without compacting and then added more to fill each cell to the top.

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Using the end of a pencil, I made three holes in each cell.  The holes were about 1/4 inch deep.  I dropped one seed into each hole and then carefully covered them up with the potting mixture that was displaced when I made the holes.

Planting tomato seeds

I immediately added markers to each tray of seeds so I would know what I was growing.  Seems like a no-brainer,  but even though I do this right away I  somehow always end up with one mystery plant! I included the name of the tomato and my start date on the marker.

Using a spray bottle filled with room temperature water,  I moistened the growing mixture, taking care to spray each cell.  The growing medium should be  moist but not wet.  To help retain moisture,  I then put the trays into ziploc bags.  The bags are left open so air can circulate.  Guacamole and Seed Starting 022

My grow lights are set up (but not turned on until the little plants begin to appear) and heat mats are turned on.  I’ve put the bags with the seedling trays on top of the mats as seeds need heat to germinate. Now,  I’ll give a light spray of water each day and watch and wait.

See how easy it is?  Now, go get set up to start your seeds. And, check back often.  I’ll keep you updated on the progress of my seeds and the next steps of this seedling adventure.

Tomato seedlings

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Gardener’s Holiday Wish List Day 8 – 2013 Tomato Growing Guide Calendar

Posted by on Dec 14, 2012 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

My favorite holiday gift for every tomato lover!

This may be really obvious…but I’m suggesting the 2013 Tomato Growing Guide Calendar as the perfect holiday gift for tomato lovers because it is just that! 

Tomato Growing Guide and Calendar

Created just for tomato lovers, the 2013 Tomato Growing Guide Calendar serves two really important functions.  Yes, it is a monthly calendar for the new year and there is plenty of space on each date to note events and appointments.

Calendar Pages InsideIn addition, each page of the year includes a beautiful picture – all are photos taken by me in my garden.  Every month also has details about what to do in your tomato garden and it’s coded for different growing regions across the country. There are 17 years worth of tips and suggestions that I share from my tomato growing experience. With ample room to jot down notes it also becomes a helpful record keeper.  This is most definitely a helpful tool for everyone growing tomatoes.

The 2013 Tomato Growing Guide Calendar hits home with tomato growers and people who simply love to enjoy eating tomatoes. The recipes included are easy to prepare and delicious. Whether you grow tomatoes and need the gentle reminders about tomato care or have fond memories of hand-picking vine ripened tomatoes in your Grandfather’s garden this is a gift that’s sure to please.

Tomato Growing Guide Calendars are shipped via US Mail unless you have some special delivery needs (we aim to please). 

To order, click here!

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Gardener’s Holiday Wish List Day 4 – Garden Aprons and Tool Belts

Posted by on Dec 9, 2012 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Garden aprons and tool belts help me keep it together!

I don’t go out to the garden empty handed…ever! At the very least I’ve got a bottle of water, cell phone (so I can take quick garden photos) and pruners.  More often than not I’ve got garden tape, clips of some sort and a paper and pen as well.  Sure, I could keep a lot of those things in a tool box, but I want them on my person so I can just grab them and use them when the need presents itself.

So, how do I manage all this stuff?

Garden Aprons and Tool beltsI like to wear some kind of adjustable gardening apron or tool belt – something that isn’t binding or cumbersome.   This needs to have lots of pockets – at least one wide and deep enough for a bottle of water and one shorter so I don’t have to go digging around for my phone.  Then there are more pockets for gloves or my notepad – whatever I need to get your garden work done.  Some aprons also have clips which are really handy for holding scissors or other tools.   Garden aprons can be pretty and cute or strictly utilitarian in appearance.  As long as it does the job, I’m not too concerned with what it looks like.

I have several aprons/tool belts but I can’t say I ever bought one for myself.  No reason, really…I do think they’re brilliant and that every gardener would love to have at least one.  So go ahead and buy an apron for the holidays – your gardener will love you for it!

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Gardener’s Holiday Wish List – Garden Gloves

Posted by on Dec 5, 2012 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Wondering what the perfect gift would be for the gardener in your life? 

I’ve put together a list of some of my favorite things that I think every gardener would enjoy.  I’ll post one a day (eight nights of Hanukkah) and if  I get really inspired, I’ll add four more (twelve days of Christmas).  No matter how many great items I write about, giving some, if not all of them to your special someone, will make you a Holiday Hero!

If I’m not gardening or cooking, I’m needlepointing or working on someone’s stationery order.  I absolutely  love and enjoy doing all of these things, but each one of these activities is murder on my hands!  That’s especially true this time of year when household heat and drinking less water naturally make my hands look dry and old.

Gloves make a great gift for GardenersI try to wear gloves as often as I can…always when I wash dishes.   I wear medical exam gloves when I clean a chicken or clean and chop vegetables..    In the garden I find that different gloves work better for some chores than others,  so I have quite a collection.  In my opinion, every gardener needs to have several pairs of garden gloves so there’s always a pair available,  even when some are in the wash or temporarily misplaced.   My glove collection includes some to keep me safe from injury (the gauntlet style that I use when pruning roses) and some that allow for maximum dexterity (the MUD gloves that are cool, breathable and so comfortable I can wear them all day).  There are waterproof gloves and even ones with UV protection. I like to have several pair of cotton gloves on hand so I can throw them into the washer and dryer after getting them good and muddy.

Garden gloves range in price from beyond the budget to dirt cheap!  Want to do something a little bit more?? Add some nice hand cream or a certificate for a manicure – someone will be very happy.

Check back tomorrow for another great  gift idea for your favorite gardener.

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