Tiny farming: tomato

Volunteers!

Volunteer cherry tomatoes

[From 5-Aug-2012] Volunteer cherry toms – weed toms, really – ahead of this year’s planting. Cool. Not sure if these have crossed, we had many varieties planted close together last season. These are not hugely sweet, instead, super little bursts of mildly tart tomato-tasty!

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Shrouded against the cold

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[From 11-May-2013] Shrouded against the cold: Not much to look at, but nice for the tomatoes, peppers and other seedlings on the tables underneath. It’s a double layer of medium weight floating row cover, tried and true, a familiar spring sight in the unheated greenhouse, good for a few degrees of protection in the forecast overnight near-freeze. Three days of chilly nights, they say.

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Monster tomato leaf

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[From 27-Jun-2013] It’s a monster tomato leaf. There’s not much in the pic to give it scale, but some of these leaves are around a foot long. Way bigger than I’ve seen before. This is the first year I’ve tried tomatoes in the greenhouse, throwing in about 25 leftover tom seedlings and a few eggplant to see how they do. So far, they’re just blowing up, way ahead of the pack in the open field, apparently loving the heat. Nice!

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Basic BELT (bacon egg lettuce tomato)

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[From 8-Sep-2012] More incredibly simple and tasty local food: the basic BELT – bacon egg lettuce tomato – all local except for salt, pepper, butter, and mayo. Bacon from the farmers’ market. Eggs and veg – heirloom tom, second cut baby lettuces and a smattering of arugula – from here. Organic 7-grain bread from a mid-size local indie bakery available at both farmers’ market and supermarket. When you have INGREDIENTS, everyone’s an instant chef!

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Bare-root transplant

Bare-root tomato transplant

It’s out of the moist paper germination environment, and into the wilder world of the cellpak. This is a baby golden cherry tomato—can’t you tell?!—going into standard sterile seedling mix of equal parts perlite, vermiculite and peat. As long as the root hasn’t gotten too long, I just plunk ‘em down, cover and water in, letting the roots find their own way down (a few years back, I probably would have made tiny holes and painstakingly inserted each one, but really, they seem to do that work a lot more efficiently). On a side note, I think I heard that perlite or vermiculite (maybe both) have made it into some people’s not-so-environmentally correct category, along with peat. So complicated—I will look into that. :)

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Bare root seed starting

Bare-root seed starting

It doesn’t get simpler than this for seed starting in controlled conditions: the bare root approach. Spread seeds on paper towel, place another paper towel on top, mist with a spray bottle, roll up (don’t forget to mark the rolls if you are doing more than one), and place in a ziploc-type sealable plastic bag.  Then, put the bag in a warm spot, light not required. Be sure to check on the seeds daily, as they can use the oxygen! Within a few days, you will see the little white radicle tip emerge, and from there it is root growth in action. When to take them out is open to experimention: all the veggie seeds I’ve come across are pretty tough and wanting to grow, given the minimum reasonable conditions, so you can plant right at germination, or a couple days down the line with more root. As always, there are lots of variables to consider, play around with, and so forth, but you should be generally fine no matter what. Since I usually only do this for germination tests, I don’t actually plant them (cruel, huh?!). Other materials than paper towels (they shred easily when wet, an advantage when separating if roots start growing into them) and plastic bags could be used—kinda interesting, a while back I checked the book and called my certification agency to see whether there were organic standards for the paper towels used with this method, since they are in such intimate contact with the seeds at such an early stage and who knows what’s in the paper, but no…this is not covered, anything goes, if you’re certified, this would be, well, certified organic. Anyhow, this year, these seeds are for production: here, it’s sweet peppers, eggplant, and tomatoes! We’ll see how it goes!

Germination in ziploc

NOTE: Yeah, I am still messing around with my phone camera and the sometimes cheesy photo filter effects in Instagram for Android…

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