GROWING TOMATOES by Maile Arnold
Types of tomatoes: Determinate and Indeterminate Determinate varieties of tomatoes, also called “bush” tomatoes, are varieties that are bred to grow to a compact height (approx. 4 feet). They stop growing when fruit sets on the terminal or top bud, ripen all their crop at or near the same time (usually over a 2 week period), and then die. They may require a limited amount of caging and/or staking for support, should NOT be pruned or “suckered” as it severely reduces the crop, and will perform relatively well in a container (minimum size of 5-6 gallon). Examples are: Rutgers, Roma, Celebrity (called a semi-determinate by some), and Marglobe. Indeterminate varieties of tomatoes are also called “vining” tomatoes. They will grow and produce fruit until killed by frost and can reach heights of up to 10 feet although 6 feet is considered the norm. They will bloom, set new fruit and ripen fruit all at the same time throughout the growing season. They require substantial caging and/or staking for support and pruning and the removal of suckers is practiced by many but is not mandatory. Examples are: Big Boy, Beef Master, most “cherry” types, Early Girl, most heirloom varieties, etc.
Heirloom and Hybrid: Heirloom tomatoes come true from seed while hybrids do not. Tomatoes are tropical plants and do not like cold nights. They will be stressed and thus more susceptible to disease. My rule of thumb is after Mother’s Day. I only grow indeterminate tomatoes and like to train them on 4” hog wire so they are very two dimensional. Most of the suckers are removed so that there are 4 main canes with short side shoots. The leaves receive maximum sun and air circulation thus reducing disease. The fruit is easy to pick.The alternative is to cage the plants.Starting seeds: I start seeds that I have saved from the earliest and best tomatoes from the year before. I plant them in flats and transplant to deep paper cups (Vente latte cups) that have holes punched in the bottom. I put the seedling low in the cup and backfill with potting soil as the plant grows. The stem will sprout roots and the plant will have a healthy root system. The cup is easily labeled. When planting, I tear off the bottom and pull apart the side seam and leave the cup close by for ID. I like to start seeds by April 1st. After planting, the plants can be covered with Frostguard Row Cover or surrounded by 1 gallon jugs filled with water for protection from the cool nights.
Saving seeds: I smear the seeds on newspaper so that there is only 1 layer, label and allow to dry. The following year the paper can be torn and planted (think seed tape)
Dealing with the bounty: I blend the tomatoes and cook them to reduce by ½ then can or freeze the sauce. To dry, remove a strip of skin and then slice. Put them on racks in the back of the car, crack the windows and park in the sun. Remove when leathery and seal tightly.
Sources for seed: Superseeds.com, Internet
Sources for plants: Harmony Farm Supply, Oldies and Goodies (sold at Bassignani and Andy’s)
TOO MUCH FRUIT?
Peaches and Apricots: Sunshine Preserves, Frozen slices (very lightly sugared), Dried, Low-sugar jam using commercial pectin, Chutney, Leather
Plums: Sunshine Preserves, Dried, Jam, Leather
Prunes and Figs: Dried
Apples: Applesauce, Apple butter, Dried, Frozen, uncooked pies, Cider, chutney
Sour Cherries: Freeze whole with very light addition of sugar, Jam
Blueberries: Freeze whole, Jam
Raspberries, blackberries, boysenberries: Freeze whole on cookie sheet then pour into a plastic bag, Sunshine Preserves, Jam, Frozen, uncooked pies, Leather
Pears: Pear Butter, Chutney
Quince: Jelly, Chutney, Cooked until tender and frozen, Leather
Grapes: Jelly, Juice, Dried (raisins)
Persimmons: Frozen, Dried, Leather
NOTE: The interior of a car with the windows just cracked is a great place to dry fruit and vegetables, fruit leather and cook Sunshine Preserves.
SUNSHINE PRESERVES by Maile Arnold
Peel and slice fruit, if necessary. Add ¼ cup sugar to each cup of fruit. Stir well and allow to sit for ½ hour to release the juice. Place in a large shallow pan, bring to a full boil stirring constantly, allow to cool and partially cover with cling wrap and place in sunny place. Stir several times per day. When thick, bring back to a boil and pour into hot sterilized containers, seal. Refrigerate after opening. If the nights are cloudy bring inside and take back outside when warm again.
PUNA’S CHUTNEY (for apples, pears, quince)
10 lbs Sliced Fruit 1 Pkg Currants 2 Heads Garlic
10 lbs Sugar (half brown) 6 Tbs. Ginger root, peeled&minced 4 Tbs. Dr. Chile Peppers
2 Pkg. Sultana Raisins 2 Quarts White vinegar 2 Tbs. Salt
Bring vinegar and sugar to a full boil, continue for 10 minutes, add raisins, currants, garlic, chile peppers, fruit, salt and ginger. Cook at a simmer for one hour. Put in hot sterilized jars and seal.
Fall Gardening Workshop
How to grow fresh produce through the winter!
Plants to grow:
Potatoes (if planted in August)
Warm soil= growth, so try to increase your soils warmth by any means you can think of. My mom places milk jugs filled with water near her plants, which absorb heat and release it at night, this sort of radiant heating can be accomplished a number of different ways. Raised beds increase drainage and soil warmth, and are a great option for winter veggies. Again, cinder blocks work great for all sorts of garden construction projects, with or without mortar.
Crop Cover: a light mesh fabric that can be used to blanket crops to protect them from frost and warm the soil.
Mini-greenhouses: I use 1gal Crystal Geyser water bottles, cut them in half and place them over seedlings in the Fall.
Cold Frames: are easily constructed out of left over wood and windows, or plastic sheeting. Cinder blocks are make for an excellent cold frame structure as they warm up in the day and hold heat, and you can plant stuff in the holes. I often use prop old windows up against two cinder blocks to protect winter veggies and spring starts. heavy gauge wire can be used to create the hoops for a hoop house which is then covered with a fabric called “crop cover”, attached with clothes pins. You can also create a mini greenhouse using a section of hogwire as the main pole of a tent style enclosure.