Wednesday, April 4, 2012

tomato starts

Homer is always experimenting. He is a tomato lover: from the little yellow pear to the 2 pound mortgage lifter he finds ways to consume the 12 varieties of heirloom tomatoes that we grow.

Every year we work to have tomatoes as early as possible. The varieties we grow are classified as indeterminate: which means they grow and produce until the cold stops them. The cold in the fall kills them..but in the meantime we work to fill in as many months as possible with fresh tomatoes.

Earlier this winter a neighbor removed 2 sets of French doors. He did not like how they fit and replaced them with newer, tighter sealed models. He wondered outloud to Homer about what to do with them.

Homer brought them here, and used them to make a cold frame inside the hoophouse. Inside it he planted spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage..and tomatoes. All have done beautifully with this double layer of protection, and he has been able to move the tomatoes, now each too large for their space inside the coldframe, to their own spots. Not our entire planting, this selection is the early planting with more started since then. The later starts are in the basement, under lights, over heat pads. Using electricity. It certainly looks like Homer's experiment using glass doors as a second layer of protection has worked, and next year it could be all that we do..cutting back on electric consumption, one of our favorite activities!

We do wonder if the winter had been colder, if there had been more snow would the results have been the same. It is amazing what a layer of glass and a layer of plastic can do. It has been described to us that an auxiliary heat source was a must for early tomato starts, and Homer used 50 gallon drums of water buried inside the coldframe as a heat sink. No additional power.

If we are to profit as farmers we must reduce our expenses while still producing tasty and timely food. We prefer no tomatoes to what is offered in the store now. We canned a fair number last year and in August will can many more this the jars, opened and the contents added to a piece of our beef or pork or chicken in a Dutch oven on top if the stove, allowed to cook on low for hours, finished at the end with fresh herbs from our garden is a fantastic meal. Easy: dump it all in a pot, forget it, dinner is ready. We want more of that, and more spaghetti with our tomatoes and all different kinds of Keswick Creamery cheese on top..every week next winter!

And fresh tomatoes all summer. We would love to have a glass cloche for each of these beauties, to keep them warm at night until it is warm enough they don't need covers. For now, we will use 5 gallon buckets with holes in them. Over the plants at night and next to them during the day. We have already seen Mason bees, bumble bees and honey bees out and working. Can hardly wait to see these beauties flowering and being pollinated..only good things happen after that!

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