If you’ve been poring over seed catalogues, trying not to drool on the photos of tomatoes, you may have noticed that tomatoes can be classified according to whether they are determinate or indeterminate. If you’re wondering what this means, read on.
It’s actually fairly simple. Tomato plants that are indeterminate will keep growing until hit by frost. These are the tomato types that are grown year-round in greenhouses. They can grow to enormous heights – a friend who worked in such a greenhouse said they can get 15 or 20 feet high, pruned and trellised on twine. They use ladders to harvest them! In the home garden, though, they will most likely die at the end of the season, after their sprawling vines have taken over a good portion of your garden. You’ll want to stake these ones, unless you want them vining through your beans and lettuce.
Determinate tomato plants have a set life cycle; they grow, they flower, they fruit, they die. If you want to grow tomatoes in a pot on your patio or balcony, look for determinate types. My favourite is in the photo above: Silvery Fir Tree. The tomatoes are a normal-looking slicing tomato, bright red and tasty. The leaves, however, are the most delicate, feathery, pretty-looking tomato leaves. The photo below shows a comparison between normal leaves and Silvery Fir Tree leaves.
Last year I put together an info sheet about growing tomatoes. If you’d like a refresher, please follow the link below for a printable PDF. The blog post is here.
I’ve got some seedlings started now. They’re about 2 inches tall and wanting to be transplanted into bigger pots already, since they’re tired of sharing space. I planted the seeds in batches together, rather than in containers that would keep the individual seedlings apart. Tomatoes are easy enough to separate, but I need to transplant soon or the roots will be a tangled mess.
Some of my favourites, along with Silvery Fir Tree:
Chocolate Cherry (indeterminate): My kids request these EVERY year since we first grew them. A very tasty tomato that has darker patches.
Snow White Cherry (indeterminate): A pale yellow cherry tomato that has mild flavour. This year I’ll be planting them beside ‘Black Prince’ …. just because.
San Marzano (indeterminate): A paste tomato that is just about DRY inside when you cut it open. Cooks down into sauce very quickly.
New ones for me to try this year:
Humph (indeterminate): Awesome name, isn’t it? I can’t remember the description but I knew I had to have these. We’ll see how they turn out.
Orange Fleshed Purple Smudge (indeterminate): Just what it sounds like, I’d imagine. Another one I just had to try.
Eros (determinate): I’m a sucker for names. Tomatoes used to be called ‘Love Apples’…. so… you know… had to try this one.
Happy growing! Let me know what you’re up to. Join the Kitchen Garden Club on Facebook, or like the Sarah’s Kitchen Gardens page to stay in the loop. OR get these posts via email: sign-up link is to your left.
Of all the herbs and spices I use in my soup, Bay is the one whose absence is most strongly felt if I happen to forget it. And it’s the only one I don’t grow myself (yet). Why? Because it’s a tree. A warmer-climate tree.
I’ve been wishing for a Bay tree, though. One in a pot that I can bring indoors for winter. Since I’ve been reading up on the topic, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned so far.
1. Bay is slow-growing. Patience is required for germination: it could take up to 6 months, according to one source. (WHAT?!!) Once it’s germinated there’s the waiting for it to grow large enough to actually harvest from (years). On the plus side, it can live in the same pot for 5 years at a time!
2. Bay actually likes living in a pot. This is good news for me, since that’s the only way I’ll actually be able to have my own tree. There are cautions against using terracotta pots, though, which I’m assuming is due to evaporation of water since the next sentence from that source is about using a good water-retentive potting soil.
3. Bay is not picky about soil. Again, great news. I’ll be using organic potting soil with well-rotted manure added. Nice to know I don’t have to do any pH tests on the soil to make sure I’m within a narrow range. Bay can handle a pH of 4.5-8.3. Suggested nutrition includes fish emulsion fertilizer, and kelp. Another source recommends replacing the top layer of potting soil with fresh compost every year.
4. Bay likes to be kept warm during the germination process. There’s disagreement between sources about the right temperature range. If I include them all, the range is 10-21 degrees C!! More research needed here, but my gut says the warmer end will win. 10 degrees? Really? For a warmth-loving plant?
5. Bay needs humidity. Dry air in winter can cause the leaves to drop off. Misting with a spray bottle can help prevent this.
6. Bay used in cooking has the latin name Laurus nobilis. Any other type is not for eating.
Lots to plan for, if my Bay tree is going to grow successfully! I was hoping to grow little Bay seedlings and sell them this spring, but now I think there’s not enough time. And, possibly, I could easily fail in my efforts to actually germinate them. We’ll see how it goes. If I can pull it off, you’ll be the second to know. (Facebook is always first to know the exciting stuff. Join the group. Or like the page.)
Would you buy a Bay sapling next year, if I’m successful? Let me know.
Also: I will be emailing my posts from now on. If you’d like to know what else I’m researching or learning by doing, please sign up to receive the emails. If you know someone else who might like to join the email list, please share it with them. My plan is to post something every week, maybe even up to 3x depending on how the week is going. Lofty goals, I know. Feel free to poke me if I’m inactive.
Join the garden club for more conversation about plants! Everyone is welcome in this group.
More about Bay:
There are plenty more tips on the sites where this information came from.
Our family had a great time this morning at the Freeschool event in Erin, run by the Transition Erin group. They are a chapter of the larger Transition Town movement that emphasizes local food and an independence from fossil fuel as much as possible. I presented an ‘organic gardening overview’ as part of the virtual space workshops event. More on virtual space here.
I’m putting my whole workshop online, for those who missed it and for those who might want to refer back to it.
Here’s the slideshow from the workshop:
OGO freeschool ppt
And here’s a white paper, 1 page PDF that contains all the same information plus more detail about the topics in the slideshow:
Enjoy! Please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have. There’s a contact form here on the website, which sends your questions and comments right to my email.
AND – please join the Kitchen Garden Club – by SKG facebook page for more community support! There are lots of experienced gardeners and people who are willing to help out with questions and who will celebrate with you about anything related to gardening. Please join us!
I planted a few sunflower seedlings, but somehow only ended up with one big sunflower head for seeds. I think there may have been squirrels involved, because one of the stems looks like it was chewed off at one point (before they became like tree trunks). The plants did fairly well, though, tucked between the greenhouse and the neighbour’s fence. Fairly sunny if you considered how the light could actually pass through the greenhouse. And the flowers are so tall they can reach the sun anyway. They were tall and spindly at first, but filled out as the season progressed. I actually forgot about them most of the time. It was a pleasant surprise to find the largest sunflower head I’ve ever seen! It was planted in the former location of our rabbit hutch and, I have to say, that rabbit manure sure works well. With the frost coming, I thought it might be best to take the seed head indoors to continue ripening away from potential seed-stealers in my backyard. We’ve got quite the selection of birds and squirrels who would love to take care of our seeds I’m sure.
Before I brought it in, I cut a stem about 2 feet long or so, and scraped off all the dead flower bits from the seeds. You can see in the photo, I’ve done a bit of it already. This was to prevent all those bits from littering my living room floor. Once it was all cleaned off, with seeds still embedded in the seed head, I brought it indoors and hung it up with all the hot peppers I’ve had up for a few weeks.
I will leave it here for a few weeks, most likely. Until they’re dry and rattle a bit.
I’m really happy with the way my hot peppers and paprika have ripened indoors. Back when frost was threatening, I pulled up many of the hot pepper plants in the garden (and paprika, which is a sweet pepper) and brought them indoors to continue ripening. I basically shook the dirt off the roots (outside) and when I brought them in I covered the roots with plastic bags. This was mainly as a precaution to keep my living room from turning into a filthy mess. Once the bags were on the roots (taped on with duct tape, of course) I hung them upside down in staggered lengths so they could continue ripening.
I have to say this is working really well. The large round paprika peppers you see in the photo were all pale yellow when I brought them in. Now they are red and ready for me to dry them and grind them into paprika! All the hot peppers have done really well too, although some are starting to dry right on the plant. For me this is ok, because I was going to dry them anyway.
So, if you are worried about frost because you still have unripe peppers on your pepper plants, pull them up by the roots, shake off the soil, and hang them upside down somewhere. If you don’t want to bother covering the roots you can always find a basement corner for them. Although they would probably appreciate warmth better than a slightly chilled basement.
You can also overwinter hot peppers in pots, keeping them alive indoors until spring.
You may recall the lazy potato post, where I described my not-yet-tried method of growing potatoes in a box with some straw. It was something new to try, since I had been gifted some potatoes and wasn’t sure where to put them. I also hadn’t rototilled this year, so my soil was not very fluffy. Any root veggie should have the fluffiest soil possible (along with good nutrition of course) and so I didn’t want to just dig a hole and bury them.
So I have a few comments for myself for next year, and I thought I would share them with you as well.
1. Plant earlier (right after last spring frost date), so they have more time to grow larger. Mine were on the small side.
2. Maybe add a bit of soil/compost in with the straw, to help retain moisture. This summer was very dry in parts and I mostly forgot about watering them.
3. Water them when it’s dry out; potatoes like even moisture.
4. Try again next year, using this method as well as a few others, just to compare.
I know some people mentioned that they might try this….. do you have any comments to add?
This year, I don’t have this problem. Past years, though, the garden would fill with Swiss Chard as my husband and children watched in trepidation. Since I’m the only Chard lover in this house, I didn’t plant much this year. Then what little I did have was eaten by rabbits. So, I won’t get to try this recipe this season. I thought I’d pass it on, though, in case someone else was blessed with an overabundance of Swiss Chard. If you try it, please let me know how it goes!
You’ll want to use older larger leaves for this recipe, about 2 cups of them when roughly chopped. Put them in a blender with hot water to fill the blender, and whizz away. Strain out the leafy bits and put them around the base of your plants. Then wait for the liquid to cool and use that to water any plants that look like they could use a pick-me-up.
This recipe is adapted from ‘Great Garden Formulas’, a super awesome book that is available at the Kitchener Public Library for anyone who is interested in more concoctions for the garden.
p.s. Thanks Akilah for the Chard photo above!!
Hardneck garlic is the most winter-hardy type, so if you’re a garlic-growing beginner, you’ll most likely want to start with some variety of this type. Basically, the short garlic-growing story goes like this:
In October or November, break apart the bulbs and plant the cloves 4-6 inches apart in rows about a foot apart, 2-3 inches deep.
Watch for them in spring – they’ll be first out of the soil!
Keep them weeded so the bulbs have room to grow as large as they can. Be watching for scapes, the long curly seed heads.
When you see the scapes, cut them off and eat them. This will allow the bulbs to grow larger as well.
When the tops dry out, dig up the bulbs and put them somewhere hot and dry for two weeks. This curing will allow the bulbs to be stored for a longer period of time.
Enjoy your garlic! And don’t forget to save some of your very own homegrown garlic bulbs for planting the next batch!
I’ve put together a more detailed and informative pdf file with garlic growing instructions, if you’d like to take a look the link is below.
The first ripe tomatoes – Sungold. These are a hybrid variety, so they will likely be taken off the list for next year since I want to focus on the heirloom varieties.
Here you can see three different plant types mixing together: watermelon (the really lobed ones), blue pumpkin (the largest ones), and cantaloupe (the in-betweenies).
A small watermelon! EEP! Can’t wait.
The beginnings of a blue pumpkin.
I found three cantaloupes under all those leaves! Crossing every possible digit that these babies make it ok. We love cantaloupe.
Volunteer plants are so much fun. I noticed a squash vine growing in my garden where none was planted, and thought I’d let it grow and see what it was. Looks like it will be a pumpkin! Also notice another volunteer in the background – this is purslane, an edible weed. Yum!
The zucchini has given up the ghost. Not a great year for zucchini. Too little rain.
My two tomatillo plants are sprawling and loaded with fruit. I can hardly believe it, after thinking when I planted them out that they were so small and wondering if they had enough time to catch up!
Another volunteer/edible weed: lamb’s quarters.
Chinese ornamental hot pepper. So many flowers! I can’t wait to see this when all the peppers are red.
Super chili hot peppers! They’re larger than I expected them to be.
Well. That’s it for now. How is your garden growing?
The weather has been so incredibly dry this year, that my garlic has almost cured itself already in the ground. I dug it up on Tuesday evening, in the dark, because the weather forecast was calling for more rain and I was afraid it might rot, being already cured and not really much alive. The photo was taken the next morning. See how dry it is? The only green stuff is the bindweed.
I’ll still leave it in the greenhouse to dry out more, to be sure it’s cured before storing it.
I have to say, I’m happy with how it turned out, even if it is being harvested a bit early. I thought it would stay in the ground until fall, but I think this crazy heat and lack of rain has sped up the process a bit. Some of the bulbs are a good size, and some are small.
I will definitely grow it again. I’d like to try a few varieties, too – see if I can distinguish flavours of garlic! There are many to choose from, if you look in the right places.
If you want to grow garlic, you should be thinking about it in the next few months. Garlic is planted in the fall – October or November – and stays dormant during the winter. In the spring it’s one of the first things to poke through the soil in the garden, and grows well during the summer. When the scapes start to form, they should be cut off in order to encourage a larger bulb growth. I actually left the scapes on a few bulbs, to see what would happen.
Looks like it formed a mix of bulbils and flower buds. The bulbils will be genetically identical to the garlic bulbs I planted, while the flowers provide opportunity for some genetic variation, should there be opportunity to cross with other garlic plants. We’ll see if this plant survives long enough to produce seed. But if it doesn’t, I’ll save the bulbils for sure.
If anyone wants seed garlic, the small bulbs are $1 and the larger ones are $1.50. Limited supply, though, because I want to eat some of these beauties too! Let me know! They were grown organically by me in my herb garden. They have a good strong flavour. White/cream flesh with a few purple streaks in the skin.
I want to share this video of my daughter planting apple seeds: it’s completely unscripted, I just pointed the iPhone at her and told her to tell me what she was doing. Very spontaneous, it says a lot about who she is and how she sees the world. I apologize for the low sound… you’ll probably have to crank your volume.
She is a constant reminder to me that kids hear what we tell them – but also what we don’t tell them. She loves to follow me around in the garden, plant her own seeds and tomatoes, and do whatever I happen to be doing. Especially if it involves the watering can.
It is so important for children to see where real food comes from, and to know that not everything in the grocery store claiming to be food is actually food. Just because you can eat something doesn’t mean your body knows what to do with it. I really love what my friend Elin is doing in Toronto: she is a garden educator who has two school gardens in operation this year. She is the coordinator, and teaches children about where their food comes from and how to grow it. She has a list of great books on her blog that you might want to consider sharing with a young person near you.
My daughter knows that she won’t be eating her own planted apples until she’s a teenager, but she plants them anyway. She looks forward to the day when she can enjoy them, rather than dreading the wait. She is such an inspiration to me.