Apr 242012
 
Delicious homegrown tomatoes
Delicious homegrown tomatoes

We love a salad of different kinds of tomatoes

by Avis Licht – A fresh picked, ripe, delicious tomato is one of the best foods in the garden. They are soooo much better than store bought and so easy to grow, that they are one of the most widely grown vegetables. Here are a few tips that will help insure you get the best, tastiest and healthiest tomatoes.

1. Pick a sunny site. You can’t make up for lack of sun.  Look for at least 7 hours of sun per day.

2. Tomatoes prefer well drained, neutral  to slightly acid soil.  Add lime to acid soil and sulfur to alkaline soil. Make sure your soil drains well. They don’t like sitting in water.

3. Pick several varieties that are suitable to your climate.  For instance, if you live near the coast and fog, it’s better to grow cherry tomatoes that don’t need a long, hot season.  The larger the tomato, the longer the season. There are plants known as determinate and indeterminate.  Determinate types are bushier, need little or no staking and tend to bear all their crop at once.  They do well in pots or containers. Indeterminate grow taller and need staking.  They bear their crop over a longer period of time.  If you plant some of each you will have tomatoes over a longer period. Check out this site for varieties of heirloom tomatoes.

Young tomatoes

Stake your tomatoes early and keep them off the ground to reduce rot and pests

4. Set out your plants after all danger of frost has passed.  The biggest mistake people make is putting out their tomatoes too early, during a warm period in early spring. They get whacked by a late frost, or just cold weather.  Tomatoes like warm soil.  Put the plants in and after the weather warms up a little, then mulch them.

5. Give tomatoes well aged manure or compost.  They don’t need a lot of nitrogen, but do need the micronutrients in the compost for good flavor.

6. HERE’S AN IMPORTANT TIP: Give your tomatoes regular water.  If the roots dry out, they don’t take up the calcium in the soil, which results in cracked fruits and end rot.  However: when the plants are getting ripe, you can cut back on the amount of water. Mealy, watery tomatoes are usually a result of OVER WATERING!


moisture meter

Best tool ever. This will save you time, water and money. Click on the picture to buy it!

I use this simple, inexpensive gauge to let me know how moist the soil is.  You can’t tell by looking at the surface if you need to water.  The top of the soil can be dry and the soil at a few inches below may be wet.  Check first before you water. Believe me, this is one of my most used tools.

 

7. When you finally get your delicious tomatoes – DON’T put them in the refrigerator.  It ruins their flavor. Keep them out on the counter out of the sun. Hardly anyone knows this. But you know it now.

Cherry tomato

These cherry tomatoes start bearing early, give a lot and last until the first frost.

 

Sep 152011
 
Heirloom tomatoes

Amazing Heirloom tomatoes at the Expo in Santa Rosa

On Tuesday, September13, I went to the Heirloom Exposition in Santa Rosa, California. It was truly amazing.  There were many vendors from seed companies, tool companies, produce, nurseries, irrigation, master gardeners, farms, gardens, restaurants. And everyone there was interested in healthy, organic food.  The ripple of movement towards healthy food is becoming a tidal wave.

The keynote speakers were Jeffrey Smith from the Institute of Responsible Technology, talking about genetically  modified foods and the dangers they pose to human health and the environment, Alice Waters, the pioneer of the local food movement and the Edible School  Yard, and Dr. Vandana Shiva from India, who founded the movement to protect the diversity and integrity of living resources, especially native seeds.

Heirloom gourds

A mountain of gourds at the Expo defies description

Seed Savers Exchange defines heirloom seeds and plants as follows:

The genetic diversity of the world’s food crops is eroding at an unprecedented and accelerating rate. The vegetables and fruits currently being lost are the result of thousands of years of adaptation and selection in diverse ecological niches around the world. Each variety is genetically unique and has developed resistance to the diseases and pests with which it evolved. Plant breeders use the old varieties to breed resistance into modern crops that are constantly being attacked by rapidly evolving diseases and pests. Without these infusions of genetic diversity, food production is at risk from epidemics and infestations.

This is just the tip of the heirloom iceberg. How we grow plants, what we grow, how we take seed, how we harvest, sell and preserve this food is all part of the big picture of growing healthy, safe food, that is good for all living beings and good for the earth.

The simple act of planting food in your own home garden is an important step you can take to make a difference in your lives and your children’s lives. Choosing what to plant and how we take care of our gardens is up to each one of us.

Over the next few days I’ll be telling you about the wonderful seed companies, tool companies and more that I found there.  Just know, that you’re on the cutting edge.

Herbs in box

Herbs in box

Even a small wooden planter box can supply you with healthy, delicious herbs for the season. Start small and keep on going.

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