Saturday, April 24, 2010

Starting Plants

Paste Tomato

I don't know about in your area but around here you aren't going to get a tomato that looks like this at any commercial greenhouse. I'm really sold on the plant the tomato in the bottom of the pot and keep mounding up soil as it grows until it out grows the pot and then start over method in a bigger pot. A large amount of roots develop to nourish the plant and eventually the tomatoes.

Look at the thick stem on this Siberia tomato I mislabeled as Siberian.

With that thick stem it should withstand the windy weather we have around her even though our daughter's trampoline didn't. Yup, the 45 mile an hour wind pulled all those pieces that just fit inside each other but weren't bolted together apart into lots of pieces and scattered them for 200 feet beyond our property. The base which I had anchored was still sitting where we'd set it. You'd think the wind had fingers the way it dismantled that trampoline. With that in mind, we'll see how well the Long Keeper tomatoes do. They are suppose to store really well for a long period of time but can they withstand the wind and colder temperatures remains to be seen with their wimpier stems.

As for the Siberia tomatoes, they are another experiment. They are a determinate, thank you, thank you. Why the melodramatics? Well, I had a choice of indeterminate or indeterminate at the greenhouse last spring and I spent all summer trimming the 18 plants for a much much smaller crop of tomatoes than I've had in the past. That experience along with others in trying to find tomatoes that will grow well in our area has led me to the conclusion that to do it right you have to do it yourself. The tomatoes the greenhouses get are those reported to do well in a lets say 5 to 10 state area around you. I wouldn't grow the same tomatoes over the mountain four hours away that I grow here. The weather isn't windy over the mountain where I was raised. Here it seldom isn't. The weather extremes are more dramatic and the growing season shorter.
My goal is to work vegetable type to vegetable type to figure out what does best in our soils, in our climate, and foremost that I can save seed from so that I can repeat the success. Long time gardeners have gardened long enough to have some of their favorite seeds no longer sold by the seed companies they buy from. And to watch the price of those seeds rise when our income isn't keeping up. I don't fault the seed company as I buy from small companies or the farmers who are just trying to survive. But I want to learn to breed plants like we've bred livestock raisng the things that work best for us. It's all part of the self-sufficiency movement we have been undertaking since we married over 30 years ago.
So the Siberia tomato is one that looked promising to try. The catalogue says it is extremely dwarf which would work awesome as an indoor tomato plant. Another of my goals is to grow a small garden indoors in the winter. Salad greens and the like. Another is to extend the season in the manner that Eliot Coleman does. Though this year the greenhouse will not see a cover on it due to other projects taking precedance and so I'll experiment in other ways. I start Siberia tomato seeds again the beginning of June in pots and bring them indoors to put under my expensive grow light that I bought a couple years ago having saved my money for some time for it. I'll also try forming a double layer mini greenhouse with row cover and another layer above that of plastic and let the plants in the garden go into the fall. They hopefully won't be too big for this method. Other varieties would need the full sized greenhouse and so that is an experiment for another year. Wonder how long they'll last as they are to set fruit in very cool weather. The catalogue said reports of 38 degrees. The fruit are 3-7 oz. It sounds too good to be true. We'll see.

The other tomato I'm trying that's new is Glacier which is from Sweden, the home of my grandparents. It is to have excellent cold tolerance also.

Besides the paste tomatoes which always do well and reseed themselves in the garden but come up way to late to mature, I'm returning to growing Washington Cherries. A LARGE cherry tomato that was very popular in this household two years ago. Since just getting tomatoes to ripen before frost is a real pleasure, I don't grow the large beefy ones since they would still be green when the first frost hit. They don't tend to get very big since we lack the length of season and the heat that is required. On the other hand if I lived in Worland, Wyoming I might just try them but then you can grow lovely roses there also. Here you'd better stick to the hardy bush varieties.

My plan is to put some of the tomatoes out two weeks early in wall a waters which equates to mid May and then place those wood window frames in a tepee shape that have plastic in them that I got off the construction site over the top. The anchoring of them I don't quite have fully worked out yet but Kirk bought the hinges to attach two together. It will be really exciting if the double greenhouse effect works well in giving the tomatoes an early start. Wall of waters are great for protecting the plants but they still don't grow very fast in them at first. That's where I'm hoping to make the change. The faster they get big the sooner I'm hoping to be eating a ripe red tomato.


I put up a new grow light this year, the traditional starter light, and I'm hoping to get some lovely fresh herbs going well under it along with growing salad greens this winter. The traditional starter light is far less expensive and is much larger than my other light and should therefore allow me to start more plants along with keeping herbs and salad going all winter. I figure I'll just do a bunch of smaller pots so that I can stagger the plantings to keep a steady supply going. For now I'm just doing two plantings. Two plantings, two hatchings. Maybe I have a fixation for two this year.

As for the cucumbers, I started this year instead of direct seeding in the garden, well, I should have read the label. Do not start until a few weeks before frost. Okay the label didn't exactly say that but it should have because boy are they going to be big when I set them out. I hope they can withstand the cold. I plan on putting them along the east fence where it gets hot and draping clear plastic I've recycled from the hay shed down off the fence and over them forming a mini greenhouse. Just in case I tucked a few more cucumber seeds in soil today for a later planting. Beside them under the plastic will be cantaloupe that I just seeded and will lay plastic on the ground around them to raise the soil temperature. Never had a ripe cantaloupe before.

Also today, I planted some broccoli since larger plants with stand the dreaded flea beetle better than smaller ones. Into pots went two kinds of pumpkin seeds a red heritage one and a cooking kind. I started some more pepper plants, some more herbs, and even one lone zucchini. Usually I direct seed my pumpkins, and zucchini but last year the pumpkins did so well from the plants I received from a friend I thought I'd do it this time only with different varieties I'm trying for the first time. Actually what I think was the catalyst for all the seed planting today was the room left over under the new grow light I just put up. I just couldn't resist filling in the space. Kind of like the freezer thing I think. Anyway in this country you need all the jump you can get on the growing season and I refuse to feel guilty about it. Now if only I can figure out where I'm going to put all these plants in the garden space I have.

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