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Ripen Tomatoes Before First Frost

Ripen Tomatoes Before First Frost

Ripen Tomatoes Before First Frost

ripen tomatoes before killing frost, ripen tomatoes

It’s the last full week of August and the first frost that will hit my garden is less than a month away. I need the space tomatoes are in for spinach and other greens to keep us supplied with fresh vegetables over the winter. It’s time to ripen tomatoes before first frost and get the job done quickly.

Snip New Growth

ripen tomatoes before first frost, tomatoes, prune tomatoes

You know the first frost is coming and you still have a lot of green tomatoes but what can you do? Jump start the ripening process with two steps. The first step is timing consuming when you have more than a few plants.

You need sharp scissors. Snip off each new growth tip and all flowers. The plant’s energy will be forced into ripening rather than growth. Continue to prune suckers and snip off new growth until you have all the ripe tomatoes you’re going to get. This photo shows you the new growth that must be removed.

Sever Roots

spade, Next, you need a sharp spade. Force the space into the soil 12 inches from the stem of the plant. Continue all the way around the plant to sever the roots. Now give the stem a tug to loosen some of the roots. Stop when you hear the roots ripping.

Stems break occasionally but no worries. Hang the plant in a dry sunny place. Remove the tomatoes when the plant shrivels and wrap them in newspaper. Place them in a box and check on them every four or five days. Or, use them green and be done with it. Fried green tomatoes? Yes, please.

Each year I tell myself I should stick to determinate varieties of tomatoes so that they ripen within a short time and then the plants die. I can’t convince myself to give up varieties like Juliet or Pruden’s Purple tomatoes. They’re worth the extra effort, especially when the grocery store tomatoes return to hard, pink, dense, unripe, tasteless, disgusting imposters.

Coming Home to Food

Coming Home to Food

Coming Home to Food

I spent last week in the Adirondacks, tucked away in Cabin 3 at a women’s writing retreat. There’s always something to learn, and learn I did. A lot. I don’t have Pam and Deb giving me ideas on what words to write in the next five, ten, 25 minutes so I have to create or find my own prompts. There isn’t anyone to cook three meals a day for me now. But then there’s the garden. The garden had a to-do list waiting for me when I pulled in the drive at almost ten o’clock Friday night. Coming home to food we’re growing re-grounds me.

Walking through the yard, garden and high tunnel early this morning was a nice way to slide back into homesteading. The raspberries were ripening when I left. I picked two and a half quarts Saturday morning before being stung by a yellow jacket and quitting for the day, and today there are three or four or more quarts waiting to be picked. I picked one cucumber, sprinkled it with sea salt and promptly devoured the whole thing. I pruned most of the cucumber vines Saturday morning but more are waiting for me. Coming home to food re-energizes me. I’m ready to get back to the garden today.

So Much Food!

The zucchini will have to wait until Tuesday; growing another inch or two will give us more to eat in Tuesday night’s supper. The peas, well they’re not waiting. I’ll have to pick them today. I’m over peas, thank you very much. I’ll pick them one more time, throw down some lime, climb up on the tractor, and rototill the weedy, pea viney mess into the soil like I planned to do last week. Next week I’ll plant the fall peas…or not. I’m not sure I want to deal with more weeds this year.

Come for a walk around the homestead with me. We’ll start outside the high tunnel.

Watching Food Grow

July in the High Tunnel

The high tunnel is my favorite garden. It provides food year round when I keep it planted for winter, as I’ll do this year. We’re about to tear apart a raised bed that isn’t raised anymore, rebuild it and fill it with good soil that we’ll amend in the process. Seems like we grow as much food in 1,000 square feet as we do in the wide open garden. I’m experimenting this year. Corn in the high tunnel? It’s growing, and so I think it will work.

Tomato Variety Reviews – To grow again or not to grow again

Tomato Variety Reviews – To grow again or not to grow again

Tomato Variety Reviews

These tomato variety reviews appeared as a post in the old blog. It’s worthy of updating a little and giving it a spot here.

Tomato season should have some sort of national event and cause for celebration. It takes months to get from the tiny seed to a ripe tomato. Planting, watering, transplanting to larger pots, transplanting into the garden, more water, weeding, staking and tying, pruning. It’s a lot of work. It’s worth it when that first tomato is ripe and ready to pick. This is the only time of year that I’ll eat tomatoes. I’ll wait, sometimes impatiently, for really good tomatoes. My tomato variety reviews should help you choose and maybe avoid varieties for your garden and kitchen.

Bobcat Beef Steak Tomato

Bobcat is a big favorite. This F-1 hybrid beef steak variety has a lot going for it. It’s an easy to control determinate that has done very well in the high tunnel. I wasn’t going to plant any tomatoes outside this year but had a few extras and plopped them in the ground. They’re not ripe yet but the sprawling plants are growing well. The tomatoes I’m picking average 8-10 ounces and are ripening evenly. I won’t need six plants next year. This variety, as is typical of determinates, is producing a lot of ripe fruit at once. They’re so prolific that I used them in the stewed tomatoes I made and canned over the weekend. A slice and a half is all you need to cover a sandwich. This is as close to perfect as a tomato can be and deserves second place in the tomato variety reviews.tomato variety reviews, JetStar tomato, Bobcat tomato

Vilms Heirloom Paste Tomato

Vilms is an heirloom paste tomato. It’s a little more tart than I like for a paste tomato but very good. I knew I had more tomatoes ripe than I had time to can over the weekend so I relied on the information I read and left them on the plant. The claims that Vilms holds well are true. Three days later, the tomatoes show no signs of over ripening or stress. A fun aspect of Vilms is its mismatched shapes. Some of the plants are producing pear shaped fruits while others are plum shaped. I thought I’d made a mistake by mixing up seeds of two varieties but that isn’t the case. I went back to read the description. Vilms hasn’t shown any signs of blossom end rot in spite of a very dry July that limited how often I could water without stressing the well.

Luci 2103 Tomato for the High Tunnel

Luci 2103 is a great F-1 hybrid variety for high tunnels. It lived up to Fedco’s claim of being able to replace Buffalo. The seeds are less expensive than I used to pay for Buffalo. Luci ripens uniformly, has strong stems that do well with clipping to strings, is easy to control to two main stems with pruning and not at all fussy. A few tomatoes cracked when I over watered but that was my fault. I like Luci a lot but I’ll stick with Jet Star.

Casady’s Folly Heirloom Paste Tomato

Casady’s Folly is a huge failure. If I’d started growing heirlooms with this variety I would have given up the first year. Fifty percent of the fruits were small, about an inch long, and all but a few had blossom end rot. I’ve never grown a tomato as susceptible to blossom end rot as Casady’s Folly. No other variety in the high tunnel has BER. This variety has thick, tough skin. During a hot spell, the blossoms dropped, something I don’t often see in tomatoes. The flavor is great but this variety is too fussy to deserve a spot in my garden. tomato variety reviews

I grew my favorites this year, Jet Star is my all time favorite for a small, found, red, always dependable tomato. I like it better than Early Girl and other “choice” varieties. And Opalka, the paste variety I can’t do without. Opalka peels easily without being dunked in hot water. It’s meaty, has excellent flavor, is a large tomato at 3” x 5” and a heavy producer. If water stressed, it might have a little blossom end rot but that seldom happens.

Old Favorites

Juliette is my dependable grape tomato that is excellent in salad, stewed, and in sauce. If it were larger and peeled easily it would replace Opalka as my favorite paste variety.

Tomatoes haven’t been planted in one of the tunnels for the past two years but they’re growing this year. An orange cherry tomato, smaller than most cherry varieties, is blocking a wide path in the tunnel. I stopped stepping over it and started walking on it when it was wider than my legs can reach. Abuse hasn’t slowed this plant. I have little idea of what it might be. I grew Sun Gold for several years but that’s a hybrid variety that wouldn’t grow “true” as a volunteer. The fruits are half the size of Sun Gold. This tomato isn’t prone to cracking. I didn’t plant it, don’t need it and don’t take care of it, yet it’s doing exceptionally well. I water it when I think of it by tossing the hose to it. I’ve over watered many times and not one tomato has cracked. tomato variety reviews

I never tire of tomatoes even though I don’t eat a lot of them. I love to grow them and am fascinated by what I get when volunteers grow. What’s your favorite tomato? tomato variety reviews

Self-Seeding Vegetables – Garden Volunteers

Self-Seeding Vegetables – Garden Volunteers

Self-seeding Vegetables – Garden Volunteers

Self-seeding vegetables are probably more common than you knew. We’re usually pretty good about cleaning up the garden at the end of the season so we don’t give self-seeding veggies a chance to replace themselves. Most gardeners who grow tomatoes have missed one or two during fall clean-up. When that happens, you find a clump of seedlings commonly called “volunteers” in the garden the following year.

If volunteer seedlings are offspring from hybrid plants, you won’t get the variety of the parent plant. If you grow a single heirloom variety, also known as open-pollinated varieties, your volunteer seedlings will be the same as the parent plant. If you grow more than one variety you’ll probably get hybrid seedlings.
self-seeding, tomato, tomatillo

Tomatillos are self-seeding and so good at it they can become weeds. One missed tomatillo can lead to dozens of seedlings. I planted them in the high tunnel in 2010 and haven’t had to since. I let one volunteer grow to give meenough tomatillos to make salsa verde, and pull the rest.

self-seeding, tomato, volunteer tomatoes

Garden Tip: Self-seeded tomatoes will tell you when to plant the rest of your tomato seedlings. If the soil is warm enough for volunteers it's warm enough for the seedlings you grew or bought.Click To Tweet

This spring I have beautiful seedlings in the grass in front of a high tunnel thanks to a self-seeding lettuce in the tunnel. A thunder storm moved through with wind strong enough to blow seeds out the door.  Lettuce is great for school gardens because you can start a cold-tolerant variety in early spring, eat the lettuce before the school year ends, and leave it to self-seed over the summer. Kids can enjoy lettuce again in the fall, and I’m sure there’s a science fair project in there.

Onions, leeks and scallions (alliums) are easy to let reseed. They are self-seeding biennials that will overwinter, break dormancy in the spring and put their energy into flower to produc seeds. The flowers are beautiful in shades of white, pink and purple. They require little care other than weeding and watering. Mature seeds are located in the flowers. They seeds will scatter when the breeze blows. I let my onions grow where they fall and thin as needed. They do well in the spot they’re already growing so I leave them there year after year, amending the soil with compost before the seeds drop.

Self-Seeding Root Crops

self-seeding, beetsBeets are another biennial that will self-seed if the beet root survives the winter. I let one or two overwinter in a high tunnel. The plants get big and fall over so they’re in the way. But for a short time, I don’t mind stepping around them.  They’re hardy and germinate while the ground is still cold. This spot in the high tunnel hadn’t been watered for weeks. I planted the oregano, Spicy Globe Bush Basil and sage, watered them well, and a few seeds germinated. They’re crowding the plants I put there but they aren’t hurting anything. I’ll pull the beets to eat soon.

Radishes are one of the simplest vegetables to self-seed. The radish root will probably split as the seed stalk begins to grow. Don’t pull the radish, it will be fine. The flowers are small and pretty. They stand out in the garden and attract pollinators. Each pod on the stalk has seeds.  After the pod dries you can crack it open and shake the seeds onto the ground.  I haven’t found that any of the varieties of radishes I grow need cold stratification.

Carrots are biennials I let self-seed, but it’s a longer process than the other plants I use. The plant resumes growth, sends up the seed stalk, flowers and is pollinated, and the seeds are collected from the flower. I tend to forget about them, my enthusiasm for seed collecting waning later in the season. I’m seldom disappointed when a hybrid reverts back to the parent.

Self-Seeding Vine Crops

Pumpkins, zucchini and squash are my favorite self-seeders. It’s fun to watch them grow and figure out what the parents might be and what they’ll look like, how big they’ll be and whether they’ll taste good. If they aren’t worth eating, they’re at least an interesting fall decoration.

Cucumbers are self-seeding if you leave them on the vine to ripen. We pick them when they’re long and slender and typically green when we’re going to eat them. If you want to let them self-seed or want to save seeds, let a cucumber grow. It will turn from green to yellow and possibly to orange depending on the variety. This is the third year I have seedlings resulting from the original seeds I planted two years ago.