Revival

Dedicated to reviving the lost art of self-reliance.

How to pick your tomatoes January 31, 2013

Since I LOVE tomatoes so much and am trying to grow all of my own plants this year, I am becoming a bit of an expert on the subject.  I want to pass on some of what I have learned, so here are some things you should know when choosing tomatoes for your garden.
First off you need to know what the terms “determinate” and “indeterminate” mean.  Determinate tomato vines grow to a size, determined by their ancestors.  This is usually 2-4 feet tall.  All of their tomatoes will ripen at about the same time, giving a nice crop for canning all at once.  They are sometimes called bush tomatoes because they stay a small bush unlike indeterminate varieties.  Indeterminate tomatoes will keep growing and producing fruit until the cold kills them in the fall.  If your area has a long growing season you can harvest tomatoes from the same plant for months and months.  They will need some sort of trellis to hold them up, unless you have the space to allow them to vine along the ground.  They look really cool when grown in hanging baskets and allowed to vine over the sides too.  People usually remove any extra side branches and grow one main vine, which can grow to over 20 feet in length.  Old heirloom varieties are usually indeterminate and most modern varieties (including hybrids) are usually determinate.  There are some exceptions to this rule so if you are unsure read the label or ask the seed dealer or nurseryman for help.  Sometimes you will see a tomato variety described as “semideterminate” and those will usually get about 6 feet tall and require some trellising or a good cage, but nothing as elaborate as the indeterminate varieties.
There is nothing wrong with choosing hybrid plants or seed as long as you do not care about saving your own seed.  Seeds saved from hybrid tomatoes will not usually produce plants similar to the parent plant and may grow into a plant with little fruit or have some other problem.  A hybrid is not a GMO.  I could, and maybe should, write a whole other post on that subject alone but for now I’m just going to tell you to google it.  I would like to try saving my own seeds so I am growing heirlooms this year.
Another thing to keep in mind is climate tolerance.  Tomatoes are a warm weather plant but certain varieties are more tolerant of cold or fluctuating temperatures than others.  If you have hot days and cold nights, a short growing season, or just want to get some tomatoes extra early or extra late look for varieties like Glacier and Gregory’s Altai, normally describer as cool climate or extra early.  Some catalogs will have a seperate section just for these more cold tolerant varieties.  There are also early, midseason, and late varieties.  If you have a short growing season you do not want to get late season plants that are going to need 3 months to start producing fruit so make sure you buy a type that is appropriate for your growing season. 
There are also tomatoes known for making paste out of and also for drying purposes.  A couple of well known examples are Roma and Amish Paste.  If you want to make your own paste and sauce or give drying a try, starting with the right tomato for the job will help your chances of having good results.
There are also cherry tomatoes to be considered.  In my opinion every gardener should have atleast one cherry tomato plant.  These rarely make it into the house with me around.  Just like larger tomatoes, there are determinate and indeterminate varieties.  The heirloom, open-pollinated varieties are usually indeterminate varieties but there are exceptions.  If you want an heirloom cherry tomato for your patio or hanging basket, give Whippersnapper a try.
Once you have made it this far in the selection process there is still one VERY IMPORTANT thing to consider and that is disease resistance.  Some varieties will have a cluster of letters after their name.  These letters stand for the diseases that variety is known to be resistant to.  The Roma VFN is an example of this.

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I suck at remembering what all the letters mean so here is the cheat sheet.

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Beyond this you may want to consider the mature color of the fruit or other special properties.  This shouldn’t be your first consideration but hey, who wouldn’t want a rainbow of delicious fruit to impress the neighbors and draw attention at the farmer’s market?
This is really just the basics here but I hope it helps you navigate your way through the seed catalogs and nursery plants with a little less confusion.

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First peach blossom January 30, 2013

Filed under: Gardening — revivalnatural @ 5:16 pm
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I had a feeling after the warm weather the last couple days that I would find this and actually came over here just to check. I was right and here it is. My very first peach blossom. I’m sure more will open soon but for now it is just one flower on my florida king peach.

 

Pecan update

Filed under: Gardening — revivalnatural @ 9:44 am
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I have to make it quick but here are my foraged pecans. My dog got into them and now their are only 20. I have them in a pot outside with damp peat and I am jsut waiting on them to do their thing. I hope it works but this is a first attempt so who knows.

 

Tomato transplanting

Filed under: Gardening — revivalnatural @ 9:42 am
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Since I started these little guys 2 months before they can be planted outside they may require transplanting one more time before going in their garden beds. Their roots were just starting to escape the peat pods and most are getting their first true leaves. At this point they begin to use soil nutrients and will appreciate fertilizer and soil amendments. Since they will be growing at my property I decided to use soil from there in the mix for their new pots. I added about 1 part peat per 2 parts soil and mixed in some fish fertilizer (2-2-2) and bone meal (6-9-0) to the mix along with a little lime and a couple of crumbled egg shells. The nitrogen from bone meal is insoluble and will slowly become available to the plants. The nitrogen in the fish fertilizer is mostly soluble and will be available to my seedlings immediately. For those who do not know nitrogen is the first number of the 3 numbers on fertilizer labels. Phosphate is the second number on the label and is very important for baby plants. The fish fertilizer also has potash which is the third number on the label. This nutrient isn’t found in bone meal so it has a 0. Bonemeal does have calcium though, which is not represented in the typical 3 numbers on the label. The bone meal I am using is 7 percent calcium. If tomatoes do not have enough calcium you will have problems with blossom end rot, among other things. The egg shells and lime are also to provide calcium. Lime is also used to lower soil ph. I haven’t taken my soil sample into the Clemson extension office for testing yet but I know it is a bit acidic and so is peat. Still I used it sparingly in the mix. I will get my soil sample in sometime this weeks and once I have the results back I will be amending the area of the future planting beds according to the recomendations from Clemson University.

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bone meal label

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fish fertilizer label

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lovely mix for my baby tomatoes

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organic peat moss to help with drainage and moisture retention

My propery has a natural layer of peat but I bought some just for starting seeds since the stuff in the bag is nice and clean and digging enough for all of my seed starting needs and cleaning it up enough to use would be a bit more of a chore than I have time for at this point. I would like to invest in enough terracotta to do all of my seed starting and transplanting, or learn more about making soil blocks but for now I am using commercially available seed starter pots that come in a tray. I will be able to reuse them a few times, but eventually these will end up in a landfill. Doint things on a budget require compromise sometimes though and I know it.

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I also bought labels you can write on. To save money and have less waste I labeled each group of seedling instead of labeling every plant. I would have just stuck to my lists but with multiple trays I think I would have ended up confusing things.

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For now I kept the soil level at the same height as the top of the peat pods. Tomatoes are one of the few plants that you can burry deeper when transplanting, but there is no need for that at this point in things. I am not thinning them yet either because I want to be able to save the thinnings and they are too tender to withstand that much handling at this point in their growth. That’s all for now, unless I give a pecan update before getting ready for work. It will have to be a quick one but I think I just might…

 

Meet Jerry January 29, 2013

Filed under: Life's Little Riches — revivalnatural @ 4:25 pm
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Jerry is a 35 year old African Land Tortise. He weighs oover 200 pounds and is still growing. They live over a hundred years. Jerry is part of a rescue group visiting from North Carolina. He is one of 6 on tour at this time. I saw him at the hardware store in Ravenel, SC. He and his friends will be there taking donations the rest of the day before heading toward Edisto tomorrow. If you are in the area stop by and check him out. Donations are accepted, appreciated, and help fund further rescues. The 6 on tour help fund care for over 30 animals. Even if you can’t make a donation stop in and learn about this wonderful prehistoric, living fosil of a creature. I learned today that unlike turtles tortise can not swim because they are too heavy. Who knew??? The man who raised Jerry from an egg, that’s who.

 

Florida King Peach tree ready for spring January 27, 2013

Filed under: Gardening — revivalnatural @ 6:51 pm
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This is one of the trees I just transplanted and it seems to have taken the move ok. I am glad for the more wintery (for the Charleston, SC area anyway) weather we have had over the last week or so. I have been really worried that it will bloom and then be frozen, ruining any chances of me being able to eat a homegrown florida king peach this summer. Check out the buds on this thing.

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I hope it either holds off a while longer or that spring is early without any major frosts. The last couple winters have been quite mild and a couple weeks ago it was in the 70’s most of the week. Some of my fruits need more chill hours so I hope it stays cool for a while longer or their buds will be immature and unable to produce fruit this year. Wish me luck. I am truely at the mercy of mother nature on this one.

 

First strawberry plants

Filed under: Gardening,Life's Little Riches — revivalnatural @ 6:37 pm
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I am sort of suprized to see this already but here it is. One of my little strawberry crowns has sent up a lovely set of leaves. I didn’t expect to see anything this quickly.

 

 
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