Tag Archives: tomatoes

The Snarky Gardener is now selling seeds online

snarkyorange
Snarky Orange cherry tomatoes available online

Heirloom and non-GMO seeds are now available for purchase with free shipping.

All have been raised and saved at Snarky Acres.

Click here to order today!

IMG235

Seven Top Turnips – Heirloom grown just for their tops, though the Snarky Gardener has used the roots in soups and stocks.
tendergreenseeds
Tendergreen – Heirloom determinate bush beans ready in 60 days or less. Plant several times in a season to get constant pickings through the summer.
 

How to Succeed with Your First Garden

Want to garden but don’t know where to start?

The Snarky Gardener is here to help!

IMG266
A nice sunny spot with just a little afternoon shade and lots of leaf mulch

1.  Chose a nice sunny spot

Spend some time to observe your chosen spot.   You are going to want at least 3 hours of direct sunlight a day with more than 6 preferred.  If you can’t get the minimum 6, then look for plants that will be OK with a little shade, like lettuce, herbs, Swiss chard, kale, spinach, turnips, and mustard greens.  Another option is to plant in containers and move them to the sunny spots throughout the day.

IMG350
Next to the house, a small shade herb garden (mint, chives, etc)  which only receives a few hours of direct sunlight a day.

2.  Start small

Don’t go hog wild with a giant garden first thing out.  Keeping it small will allow you to learn what grows best in your area without a lot of investment of time, money, and effort.  Containers or a 4 foot by 4 foot raised bed would be a good place to start.

IMG_20130712_172856[1]
Zucchini, corn, and beans (around the corn) – three of my favorites to eat
3.  Grow what you like to eat

Sounds straight forward, but I’ve known a few snarky gardeners to grow things before they know how they taste (like me with my sunchokes).  If you think you want to grow it, buy it from the store first.

snowpeas
Easy peasy peas

4.  Grow easy stuff

Some vegetables are easier to grow than others, by a significant margin.  Talk to people in your area to learn what grows well in your area.  For instance, in Northeastern Ohio (my neck of the woods), cherry tomatoes, beans, peas, onions, zucchini, potatoes, and turnips do well with little trouble.  Broccoli, watermelons, Brussels sprouts, peppers, and eggplants are much harder to grow, to the point I’ve given up on some.

LawnSweeper20131109
The lawn sweeper makes gathering leaf mulch simple

5.  Mulch a bunch

Mulch is anything that covers the ground around your plants.  Straw, grass clippings, newspapers, wood chips, and leaves (my favorite) all make good mulch.  You can also use plastic mulch, but it won’t make your soil better over time like organic materials will.  Covering the ground is important as it will keep weeds from overtaking your edible plants plus it holds in moisture which will keep you from having to water as much (or at all!)

wpid-IMG_20131104_151114.jpg
Snarky Acres in the fall

6.  Visit often

Gardens are probably ruined by neglect more than anything else.  Visit a few times a week to keep up with the weeds, watering, and ready to pick food.  Think of it as that exercise your doctor keeps telling you need to do.  I find the garden as a quiet place to get away from it all.  Also, try to plan around the weather (early or late on hot summer days, etc).

7.  Learn about food seasons

IMG277
Turnips love the cold.
wpid-IMG_20131222_101858.jpg
Turnips at Christmas in Northeastern Ohio

Some plants can tolerate and sometimes prefer cold (like spinach, turnips, onions, peas, potatoes) but don’t like heat and others can’t handle frost (tomatoes, peppers, corn, beans, squash, pumpkins, okra) and love warm weather.  It still surprises me that this isn’t common knowledge (it wasn’t for me when I started).  Your frost dates (last frost in the spring and first frost in the fall) are the most important gardening times.  They tell you when you can plant certain vegetables and when they need to be reaped.  Too early or too late and you’ll be sad, sad gardener.

Rivertime
The wild and allusive Toy Fox Terrier digging up my garden
IMG371
Groundhog making a run for it.

8.  Watch out for critters

If you notice animals in your neighborhood, know that they may think of your garden as a free meal.  A small fence (2 or 3 feet tall) will keep out rabbits, but you will need a taller fence (6 feet or more) to deter groundhogs, raccoon, and deer from invading your space.  There are also garlicky sprays and fence clips that will deter them some.  Most animals don’t like strong smells, so planting herbs and garlic/onions on the outside of your garden is not a bad idea.  Also, keep an eye on your plants for damage, as even the best fencing can be leaped over or dug under.

wpid-IMG_20131222_215024.jpg
Cherry tomatoes inside the house – 12/22/2013

9.  Think outside the box

There are a lot of different ways to garden besides the standard “till up the backyard and plant in rows”.   Indoor gardening can be done with systems like the AeroGarden. Containers or individual planters work well for situations where you can’t plant into the ground (apartments, limited sun, etc).  If you don’t have a tiller or want to go to the trouble of tilling, you can build gardens on top of your grass, whether it be raised beds, straw bale gardening, or lasagna mulching.  And don’t be limited to your backyard.  Front yard gardens, if done tastefully, are a possibility as long as there are no prohibitions where you live (like city ordinances or home owner association rules).

Good luck and happy gardening!

Have any questions about your first garden? Please leave a reply.

The Great Indoor Tomato Experiment Bears Fruit

wpid-IMG_20140101_200531.jpg
Chocolate Cherry Tomatoes – 1/1/2014
wpid-IMG_20140101_200459.jpg
Snarky Orange (on the left) and Chocolate cherry tomatoes – 1/1/2014

The Snarky Gardener saw more progress on the indoor tomato front.  Both plants reached the top of the fully extended AeroGarden hood (2 feet), so it’s just pruning from here on out.  The Chocolate Cherry has 4 or 5 green tomatoes on it (yeah!).  They are tiny but are a hopeful sign of things to come.  The Snarky Orange has several flowers but has been running behind the other since the beginning.

The Great Indoor Tomato Experiment Continues

Alternative title:  The Report of My Tomatoes’ Death was an Exaggeration

Other alternative title:  It’s a Winter Solstice Miracle!

wpid-IMG_20131222_215024.jpg
Snarky Orange (left) and Chocolate cherry tomatoes doing much better – 12/22/2013
wpid-IMG_20131222_215309.jpg
Flowers turning into baby tomatoes on the chocolate cherry tomato plant – 12/22/2013

After a scare with droopy branches, my tomatoes continue to soldier on.  It was a case of over-fertilizing and once I replaced the water, the two plants recovered with only some leaf damage.  As you can see from the picture, the Chocolate Cherry on the right seems to be doing better, but it’s a more robust variety anyways.  I probably should have removed the flowers from both to help with the recovery, but my quest for winter tomatoes overpowered my logic and common sense.  The chocolate cherry tomato plant’s flowers are turning into little tomatoes (yum!).  Now all that’s left is the waiting (and waiting and waiting).

The AeroGarden’s hood is a full mast (2 feet high) so now I’ll have to keep up with the pruning.  I finally put in the trellis system, which is why they look like marionettes.  The vines have been sucking up all the water I pour and then some. Most of the time, AeroGardens can go a week or 2 before you have to refill. These are so needy, but soooo worth it. Hopefully the next post will show fruit ready to pick.

A Setback for the Great Indoor Tomato Experiment

Just when I thought things were going along peachy for my indoor tomatoes, this is what I found yesterday morning.

wpid-IMG_20131211_171021.jpg
Droopy tomato leaves – 12/11/2013
wpid-IMG_20131211_171011.jpg
Droopy tomato leaves -12/11/2013

When I saw my plants in distress, I gave them more water and AeroGarden fertilizer.  Later on during the day, I jumped on the “Internets” to see what might be the problem and found an article about overfertilization.  If plants have too much, they cannot absorb water, which is what the saggy leaves reminded me of.   So it looks like I caused the droopiness by using some homemade “Comfrey/Turnip plant juice” a few days ago.  Either this liquid mixture was too strong or maybe the pH was too extreme (should probably check, huh?).  And of course by adding even more fertilizer, I made everything worse (my overenthusiastic self did it again).  So last night I replaced all the water in the AeroGarden with distilled only.  I think this did the trick as they look a little better this morning, though we did lose some lower branches.  I’ll post more pictures this weekend.

The Great Indoor Tomato Experiment

Every fall for the last few years, I’ve restarted my indoor AeroGardens, as the full spectrum light and green growth helps to keep away the winter blues (aka Seasonal Affective Disorder).  I’m taking a new bold step this time by growing cherry tomatoes from my saved seeds.  Last year I purchased a special extra tall AeroGarden (extends up to 2 feet instead of 1) with “mega” cherry tomato seeds included.  I wasn’t 100% happy with the tomatoes it produced as they had very little taste, most likely because I was being stingy with the liquid fertilizer.  So now I’m using my own varieties plus more plant food to hopefully grow better tasting fruit.

Getting them started was the first hurdle, as I have never saved tomato seeds before.  But Mother Nature trumps Snarky Nature every time and both (Snarky Orange and Chocolate) sprang up with no issues within a week.  My next issue moving forward will be whether or not the plants will get too big for their britches. I’ll have to treat them like bonsai trees and keep them properly trimmed, or I’ll have a jungle in my kitchen. If this all goes well and I end up with flowers, I’ll spend the following month or so concerned that the Snarky Orange tomatoes won’t actually produce orange tomatoes. They are the third generation of the SunGold hybrids I grew in 2012. They volunteered this last spring and on a whim, I decided to just let them go wild. Out of four volunteer plants, two produced orange tomatoes and two produced red cherry tomatoes, which I guess is not uncommon. I saved seeds from the tastiest orange tomatoes produced but genetics are a funny and random thing. Guess we’ll all find out later this winter.  Can you just feel the excitement?

snarkychocolate

snarkyorange

GITE1
Snarky Orange (on left) and Chocolate cherry tomatoes – 11/11/2013
wpid-IMG_20131125_173037.jpg
On 11/25/2013, both tomatoes are doing well with a jalapeno start in the middle. They grow up so fast (sniff).
tomatoes20131206
Tomato experiment as of 12/6/2013. Both tomatoes plants have flowers (though neither have opened yet).  The jalapenos in the middle were grown from saved AeroGarden jalapeno seed.

Seed Saving 2013

With the start of fall comes my seed saving efforts.  With a bounty of seeds, I’ve been considering setting up some type of Internet-based sales site, but that might have to wait until late in 2014.  For now, I’m going to limit my myself to trading, swapping, and time credits from the Kent Community TimeBank.

Tomatoes:

Sylvia’s Amish Low Acid Red

Chocolate Cherry

Snarky Orange Cherry
F3 of Sun Gold (F1)

Close this window

IMG_20130924_200654[1]
Tomato Seed Saving technique
Peppers:

Jalapeno (from my AeroGarden)

IMG331

Beans:

Jacob’s Cattle Dry

IMG_20130924_201148[1]

Rattlesnake Pole – both green and dry

I grew Rattlesnake beans up my corn and my tomato cages this year.

IMG_20130712_172905[1]
Rattlesnake Pole beans on my corn – 7/17/2013
Tendergreen Bush – green

Bean: Tendergreen Improved image

Mustard:

Ho-Mi Z (Dragon Tongue)

Turnips:

Seven Top

SevenTopRiver
Seven Top Turnips going to seed

Lettuce:

Amish Deer Tongue

IMG_20130920_082550[1]
Amish Deer Tongue lettuce going to seed.