Thursday, February 26, 2009

Starting Tomatoes

I planted my tomato seeds this evening. It seemed like the right thing to do on a raw, snowy day.

Tiger Mountain is not a good location for growing tomatoes. The nights are cool (rarely above 50 degrees), the ground stays even colder on account of the numerous springs and seeps just below the topsoil . Still, I wouldn't be much of a gardener if I weren't willing to rise to the challenge.

Over the last 10 years I've learned a few tricks to keeping the tomato patch a little warmer than the rest of the garden. And this will be the fourth year that I've hedged my bets by planting a few tomatoes in the greenhouse where I can really coddle them. Every once in awhile we have a warmer than usual summer, and I'm blessed with all the tomatoes I can possibly eat and preserve. And every year around this time, hope trumps experience and I start seeds of varieties that, if it's a warm summer, will maybe give me a few really nice slicing tomatoes, probably in September.

San Marzano is my standby for cooking and canning. It's loaded with pectin, and not very juicy at all so it makes wonderful thick sauce. This one is most reliable in the greenhouse, but I get bigger harvests from the ones I plant outside.Fortunately the green ones ripen well indoors.
Stupice isn't the tastiest tomato by any means but I know that no matter how cold a summer we have, I will get some ripe tomatoes from this plant. They'll be small and misshapen, but by god, I will have my tomatoes!
Ferline and Legend are my hedge against early blight if we have a wet summer with cool nights. I can't tell the two apart, but I continue to plant both, and marvel that a disease-resistant tomato of such perfect appearance could also taste so good.
Loveheart, because one must have a cherry tomato.
Sungella is like the popular Sungold cultivar, but a little bigger, about the size of a hen's egg. It produces reliably no matter what kind of a summer we're having, and it's so good I don't know why I bother with Stupice, except that the undergardener is deeply suspicious of tomatoes that are not red.
Early Goliath is the only beefsteak-type tomato I have ever gotten to ripen outdoors here. It's worth battling the slugs for these. They're that good.
Marmande is getting a second try. I've tasted this one and know how wonderful it is, but I didn't get a single ripe one last summer.
Anna Russian is another "stretch" tomato. Last year I didn't get any ripe ones. Two summers ago I got a few, and they were so good I just have to try again and hope for a hot summer.
Early Girl, only because the seeds were free and I remember growing this one in Utah, where just a couple plants bore well enough to give me a 5 gallon bucket of tomatoes every few days.
Costeluto Genovese is a new one for me. It's an old Italian cooking variety and I don't know what I was thinking. The climate here is nothing like Genoa.

Last year I surrounded my plants with gallon jugs of water. The idea was that the water would heat up during the day and keep the plants a little warmer at night. It seemed to help. This year I'm going to paint the jugs black so the water will get even warmer during the day. And I'm going to erect a cloche over the bed to keep the plants covered at night and on cool days.

This is going to be the year for abundant ripe tomatoes. I can feel it. I have hope.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

GBBD February 2009

Not much to write because this behemoth is working its way through a couple acres of neglected pasture right now and it's fun to watch it chew up years of overgrown brambles.

In the garden: snowdrops (almost), cyclamen coum, hellebore, and black pussy willow

In the woods: hazel (so why won't my garden hazels bloom for me? They have far better growing conditions than these nut trees!), and skunk cabbage.

To see more pictures of what's in bloom around the world, head on over to Carol's place.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

February Harvest

Updated to edit photo of garden bloggers. ;)

Looking a little weatherbeaten but still very edible, brussel sprouts and kale (winterbor, red russian, and tuscan black). I used to regard brussel sprouts that didn't form nice tight buds as a failure until I discovered this recipe, which is actually easier to prepare when the sprouts are loose and leafy than when they are firm and rolling around on the cutting board.

From the ground: scallions, turnips, carrots, rutabaga, jerusalem artichokes, one beet (the rest were too small to bother with), and one potato that I missed when I dug last fall. I dug around in vain to find some more parsnips but I must have gotten them all last month. The potato, which grew from one I missed the previous year, is in better shape than the ones I have in storage, making me think that some varieties, at least, might be better off left in the bed and dug as needed.

Celery, garlic chives, and miner's lettuce are still going strong in the (unheated) greenhouse.

The jute coffee bean bag on the ground represents a harvest of a different kind---a wonderful crop of new acquaintances, courtesy of the first Seattle Area Garden Bloggers Meetup, which some of still cannot resist calling SAGBUTT. We're a diverse bunch, ranging from professional to amateur gardeners, from talented artists and designers to the aesthetically-challenged (that would be me), from people who love to write to those for whom writing is like passing a kidney stone (that would be me, again). We all left the get-together looking forward to the next one, our heads full of shared ideas, and our arms full of shared produce, flowers, and the wonderful jute bags that Paula brought, some of which are now keeping the grass down on some of my more challenging garden paths. Thanks, Karen and Melanthia, for helping to bring us together.