Photo Gallery index > Growing Tomatoes

  • This gallery depicts some highlights from 2012, our best tomato growing season so far. Despite the summer rains we had a great year - call it 'trial by flooding.' Some tomatoes split and some didn't, facilitating selection of split resistant varieties. We built four small hoophouses for the first time, but mainly grow our tomotoes out in the garden. This photo was taken on August 22nd, showing Stupice ready for a harvest.
  • Starting tomatoes early doesn't have to be fancy: here we see four 72 cell plug trays under various fluorescent lights, along with a tray of Genovese basil and a tray with four kinds of peppers. Germination is enhanced by heat mats for all of them - especially the peppers - and they like sunlight when they can get it. These were all started March 23rd, and this is what they looked like on May 27th, waiting for the nights to be warm enough to transplant them.
  • We experimented with some covered raised beds for tomatoes and peppers this year, made with 2 x 6 lumber, recycled irrigation hose and 'vapour barrier' poly film. This allowed us to transplant early on June 4th, keeping the plastic on during the evening and morning, and taking it off during the day when the bed could overheat. This photo was taken on the summer solstice, when the transplants were well established.
  • When transplanting we remove the leaves half way up and bury the tomato stems in the ground at an angle, spacing them 30 cm (12 in) apart. The tops will grow straight up, while contact with the moist earth makes roots sprout from the newly buried stalk, encouraging nutrient uptake and sturdy anchoring. This photo was taken on June 29th - note the lower plug root ball and the fresher whiter roots above that had grown in the three weeks since transplanting. This plant was rogued out because it did not produce flowers, and was the only such mutant we've seen.
  • To keep seed pure we use 'pollen bags,' which are applied to the best plants over natural groupings of tomato flowers before they open, preventing pollen transfer by insects. Tomatoes are normally self pollinating, so seed set may be enhanced by gently tapping or otherwise vibrating the flowers to disperse their pollen (electric toothbrushes have even been used). This photo was taken on July 22nd. The bag should remain on until the flower dries and falls off, revealing tiny tomatoes. Remove the bags before the fruit grows too large - we had to tear a few off last year. The special branches should be tagged with a twist tie or other marker to distinguish it from 'OP' seed.
  • We use the natural fermentation method of cleaning tomato seed: scoop out the seed with juice into one bowl and pile the cooking tomatoes up in another. Pour the seed, pulp and juice into a jar and let sit for two to four days until the surface is proper mouldy. It is good to stir the mix once a day with a stick. The jar should be labelled and covered with a cloth so it can breath without collecting flies. The microbial action digests the germination inhibiting gel sac which surrounds each seed, and can also prevent some seedborne diseases. We let our seed tomatoes get slightly overripe before picking, so it was July 26th when our first seed harvest, seen here, was ready. Some varieties, like the early Glacier and Stupice - or black tomatoes like Paul Robeson and Black Prince - can be ripe when they still have green shoulders.
  • It is surprisingly easy to transform a nasty jar of mouldy mess into beautiful clean tomato seed: fill the fermented jar with clean water - a garden hose works well, but watch that froth. Give it a stir with a stick to encourage any good seed to sink to the bottom. Pour off the top liquid until you get close to pouring off the good 'sinker' seeds, then fill the jar with clean water again. Give it another stir with the stick to encourage any remaining immature seed or bits of pulp to float to the top, let the good seed settle, and pour off the floating debris until nothing remains in the jar but white seed and clear water. Strain, drain and spread seed on plates or glass pans. Rearrange the seed every day until truly dry, then label and store in sealed glass jars.
  • OK, now that we've grown them, what to do with all of those tomatoes? Taste testing - preferably with salt - is always fun, appreciating the nuances of flavor of each variety. Cherry and other small fruit lend themselves to dehydrating and oven roasting. Bruschetta works best with a low juice paste style, while soup (one of our favorites!) and the classic canned tomatoes - whole, sauce and salsa - can be made with any reasonably sized fruit. We also recommend 'Gratin,' seen in the photo below as a veg layer of buttercup squash and zucchini with oven roasted tomatoes, sitting atop an onion and garlic sauté, and ready for its bread crumb topping before being baked to perfection (see recipe link at top of Resource page).
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