Aside from several handfuls of ‘Whippersnapper’ tomatoes that started ripening over a month ago there have been tomatoes here and there but not in the numbers we’re starting to see on the roof and over at the community garden plot. Despite a tray-full like this I am still eying clusters of green tomatoes dripping off the vines at the garden plot, willing them to ripen faster. I’m anxious to reach that point where the tomatoes are so abundant that we’re nearly drowning in them.
You would not believe how monstrous and prolific the ‘Zapotec Pink Pleated’ plants are! It’s been hard work keeping the plants pruned and staked. The minute I turn my back there is another fruit-laden branch flopping over and threatening to break off.
A little red and sort-of white for Canada Day courtesy of my rooftop garden. We were hoping the ‘Whippersnapper’ would be ripe and ready for eating by today’s national holiday — some celebrate with a two-four of beer, over-sized sparklers, and things that explode, we get excited about ripening tomatoes — but it looks like the first almost-there tomato could use a day or two more. Based on when I started the seeds and planted out this still qualifies it as the fastest growing heirloom determinate I have ever grown.
I am growing three ‘Whippersnapper’ plants this year: one in an upside-down container (seen in photo), one in an upright container, and one in-ground at my community garden plot. Based only on growing experience and without a taste or texture test, this variety is poised to knock ‘Sunrise III’ out as the reigning cherry-sized, medium-small (the plants are bushing but seem to need a container that is about 1 ft-1.5 ft deep) determinate champion. And it’s not a hybrid which means I can save the seeds!
I’ll let you know how it makes out in the categories of flavor and texture when the time comes.
Readers of the You Grow Girl book might recall that I love a little milk mixed with water as a tomato disease preventative. Okay, I probably didn’t go so far as to indicate a “love” for the concoction but I will say it here: the tomato plants on my rooftop garden benefit from regular applications throughout the growing season and have been disease-free since I began this experiment a number of years ago. You can’t not LOVE those results. I’d cuddle a milk and water concoction on the couch while sharing a bowl of popcorn and a movie with results like that. After the movie we’d play some non-competitive board games and catch The Colbert Report before settling into our communal sleeping bag for the night. I LOVE these results.
Here’s what I do. Organic milk tends to go bad in the fridge faster than non-organic. I only drink milk in my cappuccinos so I often have lots of spoiled milk in the fridge. I dilute the milk with water to a minimum 50:50 ratio (I often dilute much further than this) and either pour it directly over the plant leaves or pour it onto the soil at the roots. I used to put it into a spray bottle first but am too lazy to take that extra step now-a-days.
I should add that this is the only time I water tomato leaves directly. I am careful to water the soil only on all other occasions. This is because tomatoes do not like wet leaves and can develop fungal diseases as the result of too much humidity and moisture sitting on the leaves for long periods of time.
One of my favourite things about gardening is experimenting and trying to improve on old ideas. Last year I figured I might as well mix up my milk remedy with my fertilizer routine. My thought process is that perhaps it all works better when it’s mixed together. I mix the same water and milk solution and add a splash of sea kelp and a dash of fish emulsion to the mix then pour the whole thing onto the soil.
It doesn’t smell great but the plants like it. And I like tomatoes. If it means more tomatoes come fall then I’m all for it.
Hint: If you’re not a milk drinker you can make up the same mix using powdered milk. In fact many people swear by dry powdered milk mixed directly into the soil.
Gaze upon this lineup of vine-ripened tomatoes I photographed last fall in my pal Amy’s garden. Remember fresh, ripe, sweet, rich, juicy tomatoes? On toast. With fresh, homegrown basil. Don’t forget to get your tomato seedlings started so you can enjoy these babies come August!
And if you’re in Toronto next week I’ll be giving a hands-on workshop on starting seeds at Grassroots Environmental Products Store.
Get your hands dirty and learn the ins and outs of starting veggies, herbs, and flowers from seed in this hands-on, organic growing workshop. Thrifty hints and tips for beginners, apartment dwellers and small space gardeners. Participants will each take a seedling-to-be home with them.
When: Monday, April 23, 2007. 7:30 pm
Where: 372 Danforth Ave, Toronto (at Chester subway)
$10 ($5 students/seniors/unwaged)
Pre-registration and payment is necessary to reserve a space.
Space is limited to 20 people. Register at either Grassroots locations or call (416) 466-2841.
Since I have begun talking about seeds and showing photos of my little seedlings, people have been writing in to ask me what I’m growing. I have been purposefully avoiding saying too much about my choices this year because a large number of the varieties I am growing are new-to-me. I have a tendency to avoid promoting anything until I am certain I like it.
Because so many of you are looking for some direction in making your seed choices, I thought I’d put together a list of varieties I do love. I set out to give a general overview of vegetables and discovered that a post about tomatoes alone was much too long. So I’m beginning with the plant we are all most eager to get growing and will follow up in the future with other edibles. Note that all varieties are open-pollinated heirloom varieties unless indicated.
Tomatoes for Containers
Most of these tomatoes are determinates (aka the bushing tomatoes). Keep in mind that some determinates can grow to be a few feet tall, requiring containers that are at least a foot and a half deep.
Sunrise III growing in a broken watering can.
- Black Seaman – A fantastic, early, black heirloom that does well in mid-sized containers, producing good-sized tomatoes. Read my full review here.
- ‘Silver Fir Tree’ – Another mid-sized determinate with fist-sized, red fruit. Most tomato plants themselves are a bit boring but this variety is particularly stunning with ferny, delicate foliage that sometimes takes on a slight silver tone. This was my first favourite determinate until ‘Black Seaman’ came along and knocked it back to second. Keep in mind that I am a huge fan of black tomatoes — no red variety can ever compare!
- ‘Golden Delight’ – Another mid-sized determinate with good-sized fruit. I was not in love with this variety and wouldn’t grow it again but I am also biased since I am not a fan of low-acid, yellow tomatoes. I grew mine in a large metal bucket surrounded by ‘Purple Ruffles’ basil.
- ‘Sunrise III’ – Probably the only hybrid I will ever promote, we fell in love with this variety’s cute egg shape and delicious, juicy flavor. This is a true determinate that is prolific, with a low bush habit that cascades a little over the edges of a 12″ pot. I have taken to growing mine in a broken watering can.
- ‘Black Plum’ – With rich plum-shaped fruit that carry an almost roasted flavour straight off the vine, this is my absolute favourite plum variety hands-down. No contest. Regardless of space, I ALWAYS make room for at least one ‘Black Plum’ plant. While this is an indeterminate (vining tomato), I have included it here because I have always had such great success with it in very large garbage bins. Some indeterminate varieties put out a much smaller batch of fruit when grown in even the largest bins, but ‘Black Plum’ has always stepped up to the plate with a good harvest.
- ‘Green Sausage’ – If you love ‘Green Zebra’, you’ll love ‘Green Sausage.’ This variety produces a ton of really pretty, stripey, elongated fruits that are good for sauces and chutneys. I have grown them as an experiment but will never grow them again since I am one of the few who do not like green tomatoes, period.
- ‘Principe Borghese’ – I would consider this a large determinate variety. I grew this in the same garbage bins I use for indeterminate plants and would not suggest something smaller. It was very prolific producing lots of small, red fruit that are supposed to be good for sun drying. We opted for oven drying and were not disappointed.
These are the vining type. They can be grown in containers just be sure to use the biggest container you can find — I use garbage bins — growing one tomato plant per container only! Growing a few basil plants around the edges will use up that extra surface space.
- Black Pear – Last year’s new favourite. Mine were not terribly prolific in containers. I would suggest growing in-ground if you can. See what it looks like inside.
- ‘Black Krim’ or ‘Cherokee Purple’ – I can’t tell the difference between these two black varieties and have taken to thinking of them as interchangeable. I am still sitting on the fence as to whether I prefer them to new-comer ‘Black Pear.’
- ‘Purple Prince’ – I don’t want this to become the black tomato show, but I wanted to throw in one more variety that could not be left off the list. Also known as ‘Black Prince’, this variety has been successful in large bins and produces very round, dense fruit that are delicious on sandwiches. The squirrels love it so it must be good!
- ‘Broad Ripple Yellow Currant’ – Proof positive that large tomatoes don’t always grow on large plants and vice-versa. This large, trailing plant produces the cutest, tiniest, translucent tomatoes that are low-acid yet deliciously sweet and juicy — perfect for popping in your mouth while walking around the garden. And because I love a good story, it is very hard to resist a variety that was discovered growing in a sidewalk crack. A true urban heirloom. If it can grow there, it can grow anywhere!
- ‘Black Cherry’ – I really liked this cherry variety but found it did not produce well in even the largest containers. I will likely grow this in-ground at my community plot in the future. The future being this year of course. I was interested to note that what were tiny, round, cherry-sized fruit were much larger on Amy’s plants. She either has super soil, or got the wrong variety. They looked a lot alike with the same translucent skin, it’s just that hers were much larger!
More Tomato Reviews:
I could go on and on for days since there are so many amazing heirlooms around, with access to a growing number of varieties getting easier every year. Deciding on what to start from seed was particularly difficult for me this year.