Starting Seeds in March

This has to be the longest winter I can remember. In 2008 we had lots of snow but it didn’t stick around for 3 months as it has this year. We can’t even put up our third greenhouse yet due to snow on the ground! Did I mention it is March 3rd?

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Above are pictures of our tomato babies, as yet unborn. There are approximately 5000 seeds in the various gray cells. We bottom watered them with almost a gallon of hot water for each flat on March 1st and then the were moved to the shelves under the lights. In about 7 days they will germinate. It’s actually quite exciting checking them everyday, most times twice a day, to see if they’ve raised their tiny, green heads.

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This is a close up of some of the cells. I spent several hours every day spreading the tiny seeds in rows of 50 to 35 seeds in each cell. This year I even used tweezers to keep them orderly. Doing it over a couple days saved my back big time!

Once they get their first set of true leaves, I will transplant them into 3.5″ pots and they will go out into the greenhouses.

One very important tip when starting seeds: Use a sterile seed starting/germination mix. It will help tremendously in not getting damping off. Nothing is worse than seeing them lush and healthy one day and watching them fall over the next. Very sad. It doesn’t matter whether you are starting tomatoes or petunias in a greenhouse or inside your family home. Since I started using a sterile mix I haven’t had damping off. You can get it at NW Seed and Pet and possibly other big box stores.

Freaky Fruits: Seeds Sprouting Inside Tomato – Garden Culture Magazine

seeds-sprouting-inside-tomato-1Interesting article. I’ve seen seeds germinating inside of tomatoes but NEVER to this extent.

What’s the real cause of seeds sprouting inside tomato fruits? It’s not normal, at least not in years past. Is it a GMO thing, or something else entirely?

Source: Freaky Fruits: Seeds Sprouting Inside Tomato – Garden Culture Magazine

What I do With My Tomatoes – Canning and More Canning

2014-table-of-tomatoes  Here is a picture of one day’s harvest of tomatoes, which finally started ripening, (I swear in our neck of the woods it’s a fall crop now). I canned 31 quarts of tomatoes, so far and there will be many more2014-canned-tomatoes-2.

I like to do it this way because I can use them for just about anything, sauces, as an ingredient in a recipe, pepper steak, even soup. I mix all the colors together which I think is very pretty and strengthens the flavors, making it more complex.2014-canned-tomatoes

End Of Season Advice for Tomatoes

Here in the Inland Northwest, our weather is extremely variable.

Here are several ways to motivate your tomatoes to ripen their fruit. Remember that the plants main purpose in life, is to procreate and it panics when you do one or more of the following:

Cut back on watering

Shovel pruning – cut the roots about a foot from the plants on two sides. If it’s really late in the season, do all four sides.

Start picking off extra blossoms. One caveat: if it is a cherry tomato leave them alone since they take very little time to go from blossom to ripe fruit.

Pick off tomatoes that you know aren’t going to have enough time to get big enough. These would be the very large, whopper size tomatoes such as Mortgage Lifter, Aussie, Big Rainbow, Rose etc.

Pinch off growing tips as to focus their attention into ripening what they have

Watch the weather like a hawk protect the plants with row cover, bed sheets, tarps, blankets, anything to keep the frost off the fruit. tomatoes-with-tarp

Here we have used blue tarps.

Once frost touches the fruit they will rot rather than ripen.DSCF9210

This what a frost damaged tomato looks like. 

Before a hard, plant killing frost, pick all green ones and bring them inside, most will ripen, the rest you can use for fried green tomatoes or a green tomato relish.

How I Keep Track Of My Tomatoes In My Garden

This year I only wanted 10 tomato plants in my garden. Not so much, the belt laid plans of mice and men, right? So I have more than that. When I plant, I try to mix up the colors and the shapes and the sizes so that I can keep the varieties straight. Let’s face it, a medium red looks like a medium red, except for taste. Even to The Tomato Lady.

Another thing I do is to make a map. There is now way I can rely on the markers: they fade, fall out or, and I am pretty sure this happens, at least to me, the squirrels think it’s funny to switch out the markers. Probably because I pull out all the walnut trees they try to plant in my yard. Sigh.

Below is a picture of my original map as I walked through the garden making notes.

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This what it looks like once I transfer it to my computer. I include frames of reference such as raspeberries, arbor, greenhouse so that I can orient myself. Works like a charm and I have records from years past. Works for anything you want to keep track of.

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The Letter of the Day is Z; “Z” is for the Zebra Twins, Black and Green

Black Zebra

A natural and stabilized cross between Green Zebra and a black tomato by Jeff Dawson.

These tomatoes are vigorous, plants that produce 4 oz., 1 1/2”, juicy, round tomatoes with purple/mahogany colored skin and green stripes. 

Great smokey and sweet flavor. 

Indeterminate

Mid-season

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Green Zebra

Customer favorite

This is one of the most unusual variety you’ll ever grow! 

Fully ripened fruits are bright green, with stripes of a still lighter green. 

Round, smallish, 2 to 4 oz. fruits have excellent, tart, “real tomato” flavor. 

Plants are vigorous. 

Determinate

Mid-season

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The Letter of the Day is X: “X: is for Xtra Large Tomato Varieties

My Love’s Pink Oxheart

Vigorous vine produces big bunches of huge pink tomatoes which are oxheart shaped, meaty, and have fantastic flavor. They have a good balance of sweet and acid. The plant is unlike otheroxheart tomatoes, it has sturday foliage, not wispy like some oxhearts. This tomato has several large, large fruits that weren’t yet ripe. I was hoping to take them to the fair last year but they didn’t turn until several days right after the fair. I would have won the largest with one of them, it topped out at over 3 pounds!

Indeterminate

Mid-season

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Rose

I won the largest tomato of the 2011 Spokane County Fair with this one.

A large leafy heirloom that produces deep, rose-pink, 3″, meaty globes with a taste that rivals those varieties heralded most for their luscious taste.

Seed is from a doctor in PA who got it from one of her Amish patients.

Indeterminate

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Delicious

A favorite

An excellent slicer, with most fruits over 1 pound – many 2 to 3 pounds – and still holds the world record of 7+ pounds for a single fruit! Not in our neck of the woods, probably somewhere south where they have lot sof heat and a way longer growing season.

Produces smooth and solid fruits that seldom crack, with small cavities, nearly solid meat, and excellent flavor.

Developed from Beefsteak after 13 years of careful selection.

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Rocky

A favorite despite the late maturation date. We had loads of them for canning in September.

Simply amazing! These were enormous tomatoes in my garden. Some were so big, you could have used 3 or 4 in one quart jar and a joy to slip the skins for canning.

Good producer of 2 x 3-inch (and bigger), 1 lb., red, paste tomatoes.

Sweet, tangy, meaty fruit. One of the best flavored sauce tomatoes.

Indeterminate

Late season

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The Letter of the Day is M: “M” is for Mortgage Lifter and Maules Red Hot, a Cayenne Type of Pepper

Mortgage Lifter

These long time favorites are also known as Radiator Charlie. They produce good yields of large, smooth, pink-skinned fruits and have few seeds, even in times of drought. Mild and delectable sweet flavor.

I like these a lot, last year we had 1-2 lb. tomatoes. Yummy. The back story on this is very interesting and one of the reasons I like heirloom tomatoes. In a nutshell, during the Depression there was a gentleman who raised these tomato plants and sold them for $1.00, a hefty sum back then, and was able to pay off his $6000 dollar mortgage in 6 years. It is also known as Radiator Charlie due to the fact he owned a radiator shop.

Indeterminate

75-85 days

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Maules Red Hot

Great for Northern areas, these peppers will give you loads of 10” long cayenne type peppers. They mature from green to red with a flavor that is excellent for hot sauces or making dried pepper flakes.

these were a bonus seed that I rec’d from a seed company. Any variety that works well in the north with it;s shorter season is something I want to promote.

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The Letter of the Day is K: “K” is for the Tomatos, Kellogg’s Breakfast and Kosovo

Kellogg’s Breakfast

this is one of my daughter’s favorite tomatoes. Lovely, pale-orange fruits are solid and meaty throughout, packed with mild, superb-tasting flesh. A long-season producer of large, beefsteak-type fruits, up to 16 oz., with solid centers that have just a few seeds at the edges. We had 2 pounders one year. This is great tomato for both cooking and eating fresh. Indeterminate, 80-85 days

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Kosovo

This is another one that I love. Big oxheart shaped red tomatoes. Good flavor. This wonderful variety came from a former U.N. worker in Kosovo, who passed it down to Carolyn Male. Huge, deep pink heart-shaped fruit that has a sweet rich flavor and is very meaty while still being juicy. Production is excellent and the tomatoes are simply beautiful, but it is the delectable and intense tomato flavor that really makes this one special. Tomatoes can grow up to 1 pound, with ranges from 10 to 18 ozs. Indeterminate, 75-80 days

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for more information about these tomatoes, go to www.thetomatolady.com