Tomatoes, Cubed

Last year I planted Baker heirloom tomatoes from seed, a gift from my nurseryman friend, Doug. They produced beautifully through the early fall.

orange tomatoes 2013

Tomatoes on the vine, 2013

Tomato seeds are small, so I left a glob of wet seeds together to dry on a piece of cardboard.  I usually dry seeds on wax paper, but I was fresh out, so I used the back of a tea box instead. Once dried, all the seeds stuck to the paper.  No worries.  I just stored them in a glassine bag, cardboard and all.  Earlier this week I planted the seeds along with the cardboard in my mini green house.  We’ll see how it goes.

Tomatoes, squared:

In order to hedge my bets, I bought a packet of seeds from fellow blogger Stacey Weichert at Down To Earth Digs.  The seeds from Stacey’s garden are  also heirloom.  She calls them Natures Riddle.  They came packaged in a cute paper envelope. You can check them out at her Etsy shop.

Tomatoes to the third power:

While busy saving and buying seeds, my garden bed had a good chuckle and then planted a few of its own.  They’re  spaced nicely, too so minimal thinning required. Prior experience tells me that these volunteers will be a hardy bunch.  Since I planted five or six varieties last year, I don’t know which ones will come up.

Volunteer tomatoes

Volunteer tomatoes

Tomatoes cubed:

The mathematical goddess of tomatoes is really having a good time with me.  One small tomato plant seeded and grew out of the bottom of my cylinder composting bin.  I don’t know what it’s chances of survival are, but I’m inclined to let it grow and see what comes of it.  Plenty of people grow tomatoes upside down in Topsy Turvy containers.  Why not a compost bin?

Compost tomato

Compost tomato

tomato in compost bin

Composting bin, the long view

In the world of gardening, anything can happen between now and tomato time. Blight, tobacco horn worms, the Cosmos.  Preferring the optimists path however,  if things work out I’ll be giving away little tomato plants all over town.

I’ll leave you with this funny quote:

“Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing that a tomato doesn’t belong in a fruit salad.”

― Miles Kington

You Say ‘Tomato,’ I Say ‘They’re Planted!’

Baker Creek Heirloom SeedsLife is busy lately, putting a crimp in my gardening vibe.  I’ve been fitting things in here and there, but long for an uninterrupted day to catch up on a few projects.  I started to worry that I’d never get the tomatoes into the earth.

Timing is everything when it comes to planting. April is prime seed-starting season in our neck of the woods so I needed to get to it. This week I did!

Once again, I started my crop in a pair of City Pickers. Much like the Earth Box, but double the size, the City Picker is an all-in-one planting system. Further, the boxes are portable, so they can roll from place to place for maximum sun.

My friend Doug, a nurseryman at a local garden center, gave me half a dozen Baker Creek heirloom tomato seeds a few months back. He received two sets of seeds from the Baker Creek rep and generously passed on one of the sets to me. I am one lucky gardener.

Of course I’m a stress case now, because the pressure is on. Will they sprout? Will they grow big and tall?  Will the squirrels, birds, rats, mice, snails, etc., let them be? The seeds sat on my desk for several months, full of promise and potential.  Now they’re out in the real world, no longer abstract. Grow babies, grow.

You say ‘tomato;’ I say ‘please grow.’ I’m thinking of changing the name of my blog to ‘The Worried Gardener.‘ What do you think?

City Picker Tomato Collage

Here are the steps for planting your City Picker:

1. Assemble as shown
2. Fill with potting mix (not potting soil) to about two inches below top
3. Add a thin layer of Dolomite (Agricultural Lime)
4. Create a two-inch trench down the center of the planter.
5. Add 3 cups of organic fertilizer.
6. Mound with dirt.
7. Plant
8. Cover with plastic mulch
9. Stake your tomatoes early. After a couple of hot days, you’ll turn your back and they’ll have grown like weeds.

Garden Guffaw: Plotting Tomatoes

Heirloom Tomato Seeds

Heirloom Tomato Seeds

I walked the garden with my husband this morning as we made summer plans. We’re enjoying a warm, sunny day with highs climbing into the seventies. I wish you could be here along with me, especially those of you snowed in.

In order to maximize the planting boxes, we’ve agreed on a place to relocate the raspberry vines. I’m always angling for more planting space out back, so I’m pretty excited.

This year I’m planting all of my tomatoes in the City Pickers.  They worked great last year. The ability to move them around as other garden plants grow larger is a boon.  It feels great putting a plan in place.

My sister sent me the following funny story a few years ago, about planting tomatoes. It always makes me smile. I don’t know the origins, so I’ll extend thanks to the universe and the anonymous writer of this tongue in cheek tale. Enjoy!

Plotting Tomatoes:

An older gentleman living alone in New Jersey looked forward to planting his annual tomato garden, but it was very difficult work. The ground was simply too hard. His only son Vincent would usually help him but he was in prison. The old man wrote a letter to his son describing his predicament.

Dear Vincent,

It looks like I won’t be able to plant my tomato garden this year. I’m just getting too old to be digging up a garden plot. I know if you were here my troubles would be over. I know you would be happy to dig it for me, like in the old days. I’m feeling a little sad. I hope you are well.

Love, Papa

A few days later he received a letter from his son.

Dear Papa,

Don’t dig up that garden. That’s where the bodies are buried.

Love, Vinnie

At 4 a.m. the next morning, FBI agents and local police arrived and dug up the entire area without finding any bodies. They apologized to the old man and left. That same day the old man received another letter from his son.

Dear Papa,

Go ahead and plant the tomatoes now. That’s the best I could do under the circumstances.

Love you, Vinnie

I hope you’re smiling, too.

Growing Tomatoes

Growing Tomatoes

Gardening is cheaper than therapy and you get tomatoes. ~Author Unknown

Gardening with Connections

Tomato Paul Robeson Heirloom Seeds

Tomato Paul Robeson Heirloom Seeds

It pays to have connections. Especially when we’re talking tomatoes. Seeds that is. Heirloom Seeds.

Imagine my delight yesterday to find my mailbox stuffed with a slightly padded manila envelope just screaming to be opened. (I never tire of ‘real’ mail and do my part to keep the post office in business. How about you?)

One of my good friends and occasional garden advisers works at Almaden Valley Nursery.  A representative from the Seed Bank in Petaluma came by the nursery and left two complete sets of Heirloom Seeds.  My lovely friends sent one of the sets my way. (Thank you!!!)

I am so excited! The fact that they arrived on a bitter-cold winter day makes it all the more sweet. Here’s what I’ll be looking forward to:

Tomato Black Mauri (Black Moor): Described as a sweet, deep chocolate-brown, grape tomato that is sweet, flavorful with a crisp and crunchy texture

Tomato Cherokee Purple: The best for salsa. An old Cherokee heirloom, pre-1890 variety.

Dr. Wyche’s Yellow:  One-pound fruit.  Oh me oh my!

Black Giant: Big, purple-black fruit grown on “highly productive” vines.

Tomato Paul Robeson: Fascinating!  Here’s what the packet says:

“This famous tomato has almost a cult following among seed collectors and tomato connoisseurs. They simply cannot get enough of this variety’s amazing flavor that is so distinctive, sweet and smokey. Named in honor of the famous opera singer star of ‘King Solomon’s Mines’, 1937. Paul Robeson was an Equal Rights Advocate for Blacks in Russia as well as around the world. This Russian heirloom was lovingly named in his honor. We are proud to offer such a wonderful variety.”

Heirloom Tomato SeedsResources:

  • Seed Bank West coast home of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, housed in a 1920’s historic building in downtown, Petaluma, California.
  • Almaden Valley Nursery Locally owned garden nursery in San Jose, California.
  • Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds  Offers 1400 heirloom seeds (non GMO).
  • Paul Robeson:  All-American athlete, singer, actor and civil rights advocate for people around the world.

City Pickers Update: Week Three

Things are looking good in the City Pickers. I planted three starter tomatoes along the front of one box and seeds along the back. The tomato plants sprouted last week. I thinned them to one or two per planting. The second City Picker holds a different variety of seeds. They don’t seem to be performing as well, though I’m not sure why.

In addition to the tomatoes, I added one pumpkin seedling. So far, so good. Temperatures remain on the cooler side by Bay Area standards. We had healthy plants and poor production last summer for the same reason: very little heat. Here’s hoping the new planting system coupled with the reflective heat from the house and gravel add up to a warmer environment.

City Picker Tomato Boxes: May 1, 2012

City Picker Tomato Boxes: May 23, 2012