Calendar Watching

It is hard to imagine it from the blistering weeks we experienced through August that any day we could have the first frost nip back the garden, but here on the farm we have had frost as early as the first week of September.

Watching the calendar and the thermometer as the days come and go help keep me on track to harvest, dry and freeze all the summer goodness that comes from the garden. We have made it past halfway in the month and have had no close calls with frost yet and the garden is still busy producing squash, beans and loads of tomatoes.

Since the weather has cooled a bit, I have also been sneaking out to the blackberry row on cool mornings and evenings to get my share of the crop that I couldn’t get close to while the bees took over the sweet berries during the warm weather.

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Seeing Red

Tomatoes that are starting to turn colors.Last year the tomato crop came early, I had my first ripe one on July 4th. This year, it has been quite a bit slower to bring the fruit. I start the plants from seed in January each year and the plants seemed to struggle to get any growth several months.

Finally I can see some of the fruit starting to turn color, not quite red yet, but I am confident that by August 1st we will be eating delicious tomatoes.

 

Stalled Tomatoes

Seedling tomatoes on window ledge.My sad little tomato seedlings sit on the window sill as the snow flies.

Last week I had planned to set the seedlings into larger pots but the cool weather slowed their vigorous growth. I have not been able to set them outside since the temps have been hovering near or below freezing for nearly a week now.

The unusual storm has had snow on the ground for longer than most Februarys around here. Typically a dusting would be gone by 10am. and this current snow barely begins to melt before the next round of storms dumps yet another layer.

The sad little tomatoes need to hold their own for a little while longer until the sun decides to spend more time warming the landscape before the transplanting will happen.

The Magic Number

The mild week of weather has me watching the outside temperature closely. Every time we get above 50 degrees, I move the little tomato seedlings (now an inch tall) from inside the garage to outside in the fresh air. Right now, the move is as simple as setting one tray from inside the window sill to setting it on the picnic bench on the porch to drink in the sun while being protected from swirling breezes or showers. Continue reading

One Good Smear

Last fall when I was inundated with cherry tomatoes, I took a couple of the really ripe ones and smeared them onto a paper towel to dry.

Paper towel with dried on tomato.These are the seeds I will use to repeat the crop I had last year. This time I am going to be starting only about half of the amount I grew last year. Having 36 tomato plants producing is just too many, I could not give them away fast enough. (Last year was also the first year that I did not lose a single plant to dampening off, or fungus, or the will to live. Every seed that sprouted lived and I even gave away plants at several stages of their growth before planting my own garden.)

I know this is crazy early to begin sprouting the seeds but I want the plants to be gallon sized with blossoms on them before they get transplanted into the garden. Last year I began on January 1 so I am actually late this year.

Why The Tomatoes Performed Well

I was out in the garden cleaning up some of the dead vegetation in preparation for winter. When I came to the row of tires that had the tomato plants that produced so many sweet pounds of delicious fruit, I found I had a hard time pulling the dead vines from the ground.

Tomatoes are one of those plants that like to have deep roots and will grow more if the dirt gets layered in around them during the growth spurt between putting them into the soil and when they begin to set fruit.

When I transplanted the tomatoes into the ground, I already had good root growth, but added dirt around the plants as they stretched up.

The tomatoes plants have all died back with the frosts but when I pulled on the old vines the roots did not want to leave the comfy buckets and tires that they were planted in. Most plants had to be snipped off or broken apart in order to release them from the soil.

roots from tomato plantsThe extra roots madeĀ  for a very good crop this year with lots of tomatoes to share with visitors, friends, neighbors and any delivery person that happened to stop at the farm between July and September.

It is hard to believe that it will soon be January again and I will start seeds that I saved from this harvest to begin the next year of garden goodness.

Drying Tomatoes

A tray full of cherry tomatoes sliced in half and ready to dehydrate.The tri-colored cherry tomatoes are coming on strong and I’m having a hard time giving them all away.

The batch today filled 6 trays on the dehydrator. I cut the tomatoes into halves or quarters to keep the sizes are fairly uniform so they dry with about the same time for all the trays.

Once dried they are cooled and placed in resealable freezer bags. A quick handful can be added to soups, stews and casseroles throughout the winter for added flavor.