2.5 years ago tomato
While going searching my logs I noticed the query in the topic. My first response, in my sarcastic mind was, “Uh red paint, maybe a red permanent marker?” After some more serious thought I did get some more helpful ideas.
Don’t be greedy: I know it is hard when you want to get as many delicious tomatoes as possible and you let your plants go wild producing as many fruit as possible but unfortunately you hit the end of your growing season with 70% of those tomatoes to never to become ripe before the first frost. You can prevent this by pinching off any suckers that are not part of the main vein of the plant. Sure you may not get as many fruits but your plant can spent more of its energy getting that fruit red instead of growing more green tomatoes to throw in the compost.
Be light on the nitrogen: Do not give your plants too much nitrogen during its growth period. You will get a big beautiful plant, but unfortunately fruit will bear too late in the season to mature into ripe red tomatoes.
Get supermarket quality tomatoes from your garden: Of course tomatoes ripened on the vine will have the better taste but when your season runs out and your tomatoes are still green what can you do? One option is to take any flawless tomatoes (no bruises, no cracks) place them very gently in a cardboard box padded on bottom with newspaper and place in a cool humid location. You may also add a ripe banana to speed up the process by adding a little extra ethylene. If you are luck in a couple/few weeks you should have some red tomatoes.
Just eat the green tomatoes: If all else fails there is always the option of breading them with some bread crumbs, salt, and pepper and fry up until golden. There is also the green salsa option which I am planning on trying out this year…ok I may have been a little “greedy” this year.
It is really easy to save tomato seeds is a little more difficult that other vegetables seeds, but with a little patience and the right technique you can save your seeds with very little effort.
Step 1: Get the seeds. The easiest way to get to your seeds it do cut the tomato across the hemisphere as shown below.
This will give you easy access to the seeds, though if you are slicing your tomatoes at a different angle you can easily pull out some seeds with a prong of a fork or spoon. The cutting board will normally hold more than enough seeds than I will need for the following year.
Step 2: Get the junk off the seeds. The seeds have a gel-like substance that surrounds the seeds along with some pieces of flesh that you did not take the time to pick out. There are a couple of techniques to do this:
- Add some water to the seed mixture, cover with plastic and let them ferment for a few days.
- Mix tomato seed mix with equal amount of powdered disinfectant cleanser and let sit for 30 minutes
Given the fermentation methods can stink up your kitchen and the powdered disinfectant methods doesn’t exactly sounds organic I went with my own method I call the soak and rinse technique.
Drop the seeds in a small bowl with some water and let soak for a couple hours. Pour off anything floating to the top (seeds too they won’t germinate) into your sink
Pour what remains into a strainer and give a quick rinse with water.
Repeat the soak and rinse process twice a day and notice the amount of gel decreasing.
Once the seeds look like the ones below (about 2-2.5 days) they are ready to be dried.
Step 3: Drying the seeds. I do this by spreading the seeds on a labeled coffee filter trying best to keep seeds from touching. Once they dry (couple days to a week) store them with your other seeds.
With very little effort and a few days of waiting you can collect seeds to use/share/trade for next season.
On of a common questions I still get is, do you still grow tomatoes upside down? Does that really work better than just planting in the ground?
Well I decided to do a little experiment and start several tomato plants from seeds and grow two in an official Topsy Turvy planter, two in the ground with fertile soil, and one in a homemade self watering container.
Each plant was placed in the same area in my yard and was watered the same amount at the same time. About every 10 days I would also water with a diluted solution of water with fish emulsion. You can see some results in the pictures below.
Upside Down Planter
Self Watering Planter
Overall the upside down planters by far are having the best yields getting fruit 3 weeks before other plants. The self watering planters had the healthiest looking plants though yields were decent though taking their time. The plants in the ground are having some serious issues though still producing some tomatoes though doubt the plant will survive to have red fruit.
After this and previous years results I really don’t think I will be planting tomatoes in the ground in the near future…
There appears to be a tomato flying 4.791 miles per second, 230 miles above our heads which is probably a first. If you are wondering how it go there…
Astronaut Koichi Wakata has the answer: "One fresh tomato for dinner makes us happy in space. It came up with us on Soyuz TMA-11M two weeks ago." I wish I could have tomato salads in space too.
Given it costs $20,000 – $30,000 to send stuff up to the International Space Station sure this would be the most expensive tomato as well.
In my area, the tomatoes and cucumbers plants are starting to take off and are in desperate need of some additional support. After walking the aisles of my local home improvement store I couldn’t make myself pay the $15-30 for a single support. Sure they look real pretty but at that price it could take a few seasons to even break even for an inexpensive vegetable like cucumbers.
For this build I wanted something that was inexpensive and would be strong and hold up for years to come. My first thought was cattle panels they are made of 1/4 inch steel. You can find them even thicker if you want, but this size was perfect for my needs and is much easier to work with.
Note: For those observant people out there you may see some similarities between the cucumber/tomato cage and my pea tower…well they are the same thing and in my case I even reused my pea trellis tower to use with my cucumbers when my peas stopped producing. So this is a great multi-tasker in the garden.
First I started with a 4 foot by 8 foot cattle panel which ran me about $6 at Home Depot.
Given the panel had sharp edges and my largest vehicle is a pretty new minivan with leather seats I planned ahead and started the construction in the Home Depot parking lot (yeah got a couple funny looks) Taking a piece of scrap lumber I brought with me, I placed it on the 5th cross section on one side and bent it up until it was perpendicular to the ground then repeated with the other side.
The I carefully placed the bent panel into my minivan and brought it home for the remaining construction which pretty much was adding a zip tie in the middle to make a isosceles triangle and then tucked both ends to interweave with the other open side of the tower.
Next I used some pliers to not have as many sharp pointy parts for my kids…probably more likely me to poke myself with and also filed down any ends that seemed overly sharp. If you happen to have an angle grinder this would be a great way to quickly take care of these
Now you have everything constructed all you need to do is carefully place this over your tomato or cucumber plants and they shouldn’t have any problems climbing up this structure. I also just used my foot to push the pointy ends on the bottom into the ground to provide some additional support.
You might also see in this case I am also using a self watering 5 gallon bucket for my planter for this cucumber plant which has been working awesome. Just top off the water every few days and every two weeks include a little fish fertilizer in with the water to keep the growth vigorous.
Due to the size and shape of this design it should remain very stable the entire season and many more to come and at just $5-6 a piece and about 5 minutes of work a great value as well.
Tomato Plants are not known for being forgiving. They are not beginner plants. Tomatoes give seasoned gardeners nightmares. So why is it that I keep torturing myself by trying and trying to grow them?
Maybe I like a challenge.
Maybe I think that I’ll do better with a difficult crop, since my luck with “easy” plants is sporadic at best.
Maybe I really like Salsa.
Ok, so it’s mostly that last one. I like to do things for myself, and making salsa with my own tomatoes would be awesome.
Of course, my need to do everything for myself is part of my problem. When I first decided that I was going to take on tomatoes, I wanted to start from the very beginning, no pre-grown seedlings for me. I read up on how to grow my own seedlings and then I found the tip that was going to save me time, effort, and frustration.
I could direct-sow my seeds right in the garden as long as there was four months between frosts in my area! That was perfect! As soon as it started to get warm I would plant my seeds and I’d have tomatoes in no time.
So I spent the entire second weekend of March preparing my “garden” (an unearthed portion of my back yard). I had the hose system all prepared so I wouldn’t get water on the leaves or fruit; I’d read about those nasty black spots. I had chosen an area that had a decent sun/shade ratio, so I was happy with that. I had chosen the perfect tomato cages for when it was time to use them. I sat down Sunday night, exhausted, but with the taste of homemade salsa on my mind.
That Wednesday my heart broke because of frost. I swore I’d never enjoy snow again.
I looked at the weather report. I read gardening blogs. Looks like I had jumped the gun. Apparently Mother’s Day is a really popular day to plant tomatoes. Seedlings, of course, but supposedly it only took 5-6 weeks to grow seedlings. I still had plenty of time. But I wasn’t going to take a shortcut this time. I decided to pot them.
Two weeks later, I had managed to drown all of my newly planted tomato seeds. I was told by a friend that there was no way the seeds could survive the daily dousing I’d been giving them, so I didn’t end up living with false hope that I’d have tomatoes any time soon.
By this time, I was frustrated. I stayed home from work for two days and read everything I could about planting tomatoes. I was going to try this one more time.
I used a special seedling soil mix. I kept my plants in a warm, but dark area. I watered less often, but was sure that my seeds didn’t get dry.
They sprouted. I repotted them in a 6-pack, each plant in their own little home. I had a special spray bottle for my tomato plants. After germination, I had them in the light almost constantly, but not quite, after all, too much light was as harmful as not as much.
All that was in my head were facts about tomatoes. I coddled those poor plants, but they were making it. I fertilized them. I petted them so to “train” them to be strong. I may have talked to them a bit. I was getting ridiculous.
I of course had been depriving myself of salsa because I knew my own homemade salsa would be worth waiting for. I finally caved and made some from store-bought tomatoes. That moment (hour) of salsa-goodness reminded me why I was doing this, and I remembered to relax. After all, gardening is supposed to be good for you.
3 of my plants made it to my garden. 2 bore tomatoes. Many of those tomatoes were either spotted or devoured by bugs. But I did have one nice batch of salsa to show for all my hard work.
Since then, I’ve given in and bought seedlings. Some years I still start from seed. To my dismay, my second year yielded fewer tomatoes than my first. But then the third year was pretty good. I’ve learned lots of tricks, and I’ve turned my focus to other plants, but tomatoes have probably taught me more gardening lessons than any other vegetable. Most of all, they’ve taught me that I need to relax and have patience. I’ve also learned that the world doesn’t end when plants die, as sad and frustrating as it can be.
What gardening lessons have you learned?
Mackenzie Kupfer has been a lover of all things green since the age of six when she began gardening with her Nana. She is currently an online publisher for the tomato cage supplier, Avant Garden Decor. In her free time, Mackenzie enjoys attending garden shows, hiking, and collecting ceramic tea sets.