Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Starting Tomatoes from Seed

Part of a the crop from LAST year.

This is the Year of the Tomato here on the Little Farm!  We've got 70 (yes, you read that correctly) 7-0, little beauties in the ground out there and they are all looking great.  If you are doing a bit of quick math in your head, you are realizing how many tomatoes we may end up with come September.

Do we have a tomato death wish?  Are we envisioning paying for the Young'uns college education through tomato sales?  Have we been tipped off to some worldwide tomato shortage by the International Tomato Advisory Council?

No.  Actually, not a bad idea....hmmmm.  And no.

We just really like tomatoes and things made from tomatoes.  We like them raw - I even eat them like apples.  (In fact, I cannot wait for to eat them raw.  I haven't bought a fresh tomato at the store since last summer.)  We like salsa and tomato sauce and ratatouille and tomato soup and "sundried" tomatoes and the list goes on. 

We also like making the above items with tomatoes we've grown ourselves.  Homemade and home canned salsa and sauce and soup is AMAZING!  Not to mention cheaper than the swanky comparable stuff in stores and, well, I know everything that goes into it.  I like that, too.

Last year, our tomatoes did pretty poorly and we actually, I am not proud to admit, had to BUY tomatoes.  It was still worth it to us, but it did sting our "farmer" pride and pockets.  This year will be different!

How's that for optimism?

One of pots with seeds that didn't make it.

We ordered several types of tomato seeds from Fedco so if one doesn't work, something else surely will.  Also, variety is one of the great things about growing your own food.  Have you ever noticed there are pretty much only 3-4 types of tomatoes at the grocery store?

After making my nifty little paper pots , we planted 93 of those pots with tomato seeds. 

Here's what we planted:
Opalka Paste Tomato
Jet Star Tomato
Gardener’s Delight Cherry Tomato
Principe Borghese Cherry Tomato
Ida Gold Tomato
Pink Brandywine Tomato
Amish Paste Tomato
Rutgers Tomato

All the duds- ready for the compost pile.

I'm especially excited about the paste tomatoes which we've never tried before!  Homemade spaghetti sauce - here we come.  I'd love your secret family recipe if you have one...

A sweet friend offered to house all our little tomato babies in her amazing greenhouse.  They did great -thanks to her diligent watering and care (she'll be getting a bunch of salsa this Fall) and came back to us all ready to hit the ground.

Of the 93 pots we planted, 23 didn't make it.  We've never planted this many seeds before, so I'm no expert on whether or not that's good.  It made me happy, whatever the germination rate.  We spent about $42.00 on seeds (ALL our seeds, not just the tomatoes).  Getting 70, mostly organic, all non-GMO tomato plants for less than $42.00 is a steal!

The final result - 70 plants and 23 bummers.

After spending a few days getting used to living in the real world, they all went into the ground.  It seemed touch and go with many of them for about a week, but now all the inhabitants of tomato land are thriving.

 So, for now, all is good.  Come September when I am up to my neck (hopefully) in juicy red goodness and I complain a bit, feel free to remind me how excited I was in June.

Welcome to the Year of the Tomato!

Close up.  Isn't it interesting how different the leaves of each variety look?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Farm Report

The Farm is 90% planted!  We're about 2 weeks behind in getting the garden, but so are most other people around here as are the REAL farmers. 

Getting seeds and plants in the ground 2 weeks late isn't a big deal in some place warm, but on the Little Farm where the growing season is pretty short, it's a bit scary.  We're hoping for a long, warm Fall.  The bounty of our garden isn't our sole source of food, but it does help make a BIG dent in our grocery budget for the year.

Time will tell.

Before the raised bed.
This dependence on weather is one of those things about gardening that has made appreciate and stand in complete amazement of those families who lived a hundred years ago and depended 100% on what they could grow for their livelihood.  How brave and courageous they were!  For them, 2 weeks late could mean the difference between full stomachs and being hungry for the whole winter.  Amazing!  What faith!

We've made a major improvement to the garden this year.  We made the entire perimeter of the garden into a raised bed.  The inside of the garden has had 7 raised beds for several years.   The new bed looks great and should help keep things a bit drier in the spring, which means we might get things in earlier in the years to come and not have to worry so much about 2 weeks late...

After  boards were added, before dirt to fill it up.
One of the great things about our new raised beds is that they cost us about $4.00 total.  Our backyard fence is falling down (thanks to the previous owners of our house who didn't sink the posts in cement).  We've got plans for a new backyard fence and plan to use lots of the former fence to make it.  However, we won't need all that wood, so we were able to use the excess to make the raised beds.  The $4.00 we spent was for a box of screws. 

As usual, it's been an all family affair. The fence sections were torn down, nails removed and pieces stacked neatly by the male Young'uns.  The slats (or whatever you call the up and down boards that form the walls) were screwed together by yours truly.  I felt so handy wielding that drill!  The 2x4's which held the slats were cut and turned into stakes by The Big Guy.  He also put the stakes in the ground and screwed the slat pieces I made onto the stakes.  The dirt was hauled from the yard waste place and put into the plots by The Big Guy and the 2 oldest Young'uns.  Whew!  It was a project - but it looks great!

Farmer Ron hard at work.  He hates it when I do this.  Can you see the flowering fruit trees behind him?  We've got big orchard news!