Tag Archive | tomatoes

Looking Backward and Forward

ice tree

It’s January, so you know what that means for gardeners: Time to pull out those new seed catalogs and dream of spring! But before I pull out the order forms, I’m taking a look back at last year’s experience.

It began wonderfully and I had high hopes for the best garden ever. The lettuce and broccoli were tasty and productive. However, the rains in May lasted through July. It rained so much that I had to dig potatoes, onions, and carrots much earlier than usual because they were rotting. Our tomatoes became diseased and set very few blossoms. The watermelon, pumpkin, and cushaw plants grew much less than normal and also set very few blossoms. When the rains finally stopped in September, I ended up a great crop of fall lettuce. I think it tasted even better than the spring crop! All in all, it was a tough year for all the gardeners in our area.

I can’t control Mother Nature, but is there lesson to be learned from last year? The first step in answering the question is to look at what I planted, when I planted it, and where I planted it.

The first thing I’m going to do is admit that my back no longer tolerates long sessions of hoeing. I had a difficult time keeping up with the weeds last year and my overzealous hoeing resulted in strained back muscles. I’m giving up my large hill garden that’s full of clay anyway and keeping my smaller, more fertile barn garden. I may try to do more container gardening.

One small garden means I’ll need to be more selective in what I grow and where in the garden I plant it. I will map out the garden this winter and plan my crops.

Tomatoes: I will plant mostly disease resistant varieties and only a few heirloom.

I will (try at least) be patient and not start the tomatoes too early in the season.

My garden teaches me something new every year. Sometimes the lessons are hard and disappointing, but mostly they are fascinating, fun, and tasty. Every spring I believe with all my heart that is will be the best garden ever. And every year, at least one crop does better than it has before. Last year the lettuce was terrific, and at lunch today we had green beans I had frozen from last summer that were delicious. I’d forgotten about the green beans until today.

It’s not too early to begin thinking about spring. Two below zero is our forecasted low temperature tonight. Bring out the blankets and the seed catalogs!

Bee in Asian Lily

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Time to Plan and Plant

crocus 2013

The northbound geese are incessantly honking overhead, the bluebirds are inspecting how well I cleaned their house this past winter, and the crocus are bursting in bloom. No matter what the calendar says, spring has already sprung at our place. For me, it means I can buy seed packets without sales clerks muttering, “Little early, ain’t it?”

Over the years, I’ve learned planning in the spring is almost as essential as planting when it comes to getting the most satisfaction from my garden. Obviously, growing veggies we enjoy eating is a priority, but so is sharing. Of course, some vegetables are more fun to share than others. Most people love to take those extra tomatoes off your hands, but when you bring in a bucket of zucchini those same people run to the hills.

What are your plans for your garden? Are you going to make relish out of those zucchini? If so, be sure to plant plenty of onions and peppers. Same goes for your salsa and pickles. Will you try to grow all of your ingredients including the herbs?

Here are a few other things to keep in mind when planning your garden:

Do you have any summer picnics or barbecues scheduled? Perhaps you’d like to serve something fresh from the garden, such as sweet corn, watermelon, tomatoes, or cantaloupe. We normally have family get-togethers in June and in September. New potatoes, onions, broccoli, carrots, and lettuce usually are ready for the early summer meeting. In early September, tomatoes, peppers, onions, zucchini, and watermelon are big hits.

Would you like fresh flowers on the table this summer? I’m planning a cut-flower garden that I will use to provide a weekly bouquet for our church altar as well as brighten our kitchen table. Easy-to-grow flowers such as daisies, zinnias,zinna 2012 and bachelor buttons are great not only for bouquets, but also to bring bees in to pollinate. The zucchini are especially appreciative of these bee-magnets.

Don’t forget autumn with Halloween and Thanksgiving holidays. Would you like to decorate your home with Indian corn and gourds? Don’t forget pumpkins for jack o lanterns and pie. How about sweet potatoes? At our September family gathering, it’s fun for everyone to go out to the garden and pick their pumpkins and gourds.

What about Christmas? It’s not too early to think about Christmas gifts. It may sound strange, but a quart of canned tomatoes makes a great gift. It’s a taste of summer during the cold winter. Creative, “crafty” gardeners can use gourds to make birdhouses or paint for use as Christmas ornaments. Luffas can be grown to use as a natural sponge. All gourds require a long growing season, so you’ll need to start them as soon as your growing zone allows.

These are but a few ideas I try to keep in mind when planting. I hope you, too, feel the excitement and hope of a new gardening season. Gardeners are truly blessed to watch miracles unfold before our eyes.

Happy Spring and Happy Gardening!

Carrots 1

Giving Thanks for Garden Miracles

fall bucketAfter last week’s snow and frigid temperatures, it’s safe to call it a wrap on the 2014 garden season. The flowers and vegetables have completed their jobs, but I still have a few more clean-up chores left to do. I haven’t taken down all of our tomato cages yet and the garden still needs to be plowed. My most important task is actually not a task at all. It’s taking the day off to give thanks for all of my blessings, including the gifts and lessons our garden gave us this year.

Here are a few of the vegetables that I give special thanks for this year:

 

Solar Flare Tomatoes Solar Flare Tomato

What a great discovery! They were flavorful, delicious, and oh-so pretty. I also grew other varieties, but more friends commented on the wonderful flavor of these.

 

 

Carrots

This was the first year I had a spring and a fall crop of carrots. August is usually too hot and dry for the seed to come for the fall crop, but not this year. The weather was great for fall gardening. I do wish I had grown more. We kept eating all the carrots I was going to freeze!

Carrots 1

 

 

Peaches & Cream Variety

Peaches & Cream Variety

Sweet Corn

This was the first time in many, many years that we harvested enough sweet corn to put in the freezer. The raccoons usually destroy it about a day or two before it is ripe. My heart was not broken this year!

 

Yukon Gold Potatoes

I’m not sure why, but we had a bumper crop in our barn garden. However, only one hill came up in our hill garden. When the snow is blowing in January, I’ll try to figure out why. In the meantime, I’ll just enjoy my Yukon Gold mashed potatoes!

Yukon Gold potatoes

 

Jade Green Beans

I first grew Jade Green Beans last year and fell in love with them. They didn’t disappoint this year either. I think they are the perfect green bean. They are tasty, stringless, and prolific.

 

Jade Green Bean Row

Oddly enough, it’s not the fresh taste of the vegetables that keeps me gardening. It’s the miracle of a tiny seed producing pounds of food. I’ve had many science classes and know how seeds produce plants, but I still find it fascinating to watch one watermelon seed produce many watermelons weighing over twenty pounds apiece. And so this Thanksgiving Day, I’m especially thankful for the miracles that God performed in our garden…and in your garden this year.

Have a Blessed Thanksgiving!

mums

 

Solar Flare Wild Boar Tomatoes

Solar Flare Wild Boar

What keeps gardening fresh and fun for me is to grow at least one or two different varieties of vegetables each year. My pet project this year is the Solar Flare tomato that was developed by Wild Boar Farms in California. I found it while perusing my Totally Tomatoes seed catalog in the dead of last winter and was intrigued by its color and the promise of tastiness as well as hardiness. In the past, I’ve avoided heirlooms because I fight disease issues each year and feel that a hybrid would stand up to them better. The Solar Flare tomato was said to have good scab resistance, so I thought it would be fun to try.

I started the Solar Flares from seed like I did with my standby Celebrity and Abe Lincoln Hybrid varieties. My seed starting system is nothing fancy, it’s the set-the-tray-in-the-bedroom window-method. The plants popped right up, no problem and acclimated to the garden very well. However, vicious windstorms struck us many times from May through July and all of our tomato vines were beaten nearly to death. Our temperatures and moisture have also fluctuated a great deal throughout this summer. We missed nice, soaking rains that our neighbors 10 miles south of us received. Most of August has been unusually cool and very dry—until this past week. All in all it’s been strange summer weather-wise and not ideal for growing tomatoes.

 Sliced Solar Flare

Despite the adversity, the Solar Flares have performed magnificently. They have a beautiful, red with yellow striped skin and are full of juicy flavor. In fact, their taste reminds me of the wonderful tomatoes of my childhood. The tomatoes are not perfectly uniform in size or shape, but I blame much of that on the growing conditions they have weathered.

 Solar Flare Tomato

I love these tomatoes and next year plan to try additional varieties in the Wild Boar Series. I’d love to hear how your tomatoes are faring this year and if you have some favorites to recommend.