A Splashy Tomato Plant!

variegated tomato.jpg

I was wondering if tomato innovators would eventually run out of new and improved things to with the amazing fruit, but I guess not!

I am helping out with the dwarf tomato breeding project this year, and a couple of the plants that I am growing for the project are ‘variegated.’ That means that the leaves, and stem, are partially green, but also partially white-which really looks cool.

Beautiful! I can’t stop admiring the leaves. The partially-white leaves also look like they have purple veins, which is spectacular. I must have spent twenty minutes taking photos of the plants one day. I just couldn't get over how beautiful they are.

What tomato wonders will be next? I’ll keep looking and keep you posted!



Tomato Suckers

 A small tomato sucker ready to be pinched out!

A small tomato sucker ready to be pinched out!

Tomato suckers really do suck. In my garden, they are a lot of work to deal with. Probably the most work of all other things tomato.

But what are tomato suckers? Tomato suckers are side shoots that grow between the stem and leaves. Their hope is to become another main stem...if you let them. If you let them grow, they eventually become another stem full of more flowers, leaves, and of course, more suckers. They'll give you more fruit too.

I don't want them because I'm trying to grow as many different tomato plants as possible in a small space. If you don’t want them, pinch or snip them off while they’re still small.

In my garden, I prune off most of the suckers. Even though I have a big backyard, and a big garden, it’s never big enough to grow everything that I want to grow. And I have 130 tomato varieties this year! So I grow my tomato plants really close together, sometimes only a foot or less between them. Then I make them to grow up--instead of out. By keeping my plants to one stem, I can easily twist that stem around twine, tie it to a stake, or weave it up through a cage.

Not everyone pinches out suckers. Not pinching suckers can increase your yield, and save you time and work. If you go to a market garden, you might see tomatoes with all sorts of stems (suckers that were allowed to grow) growing all over the ground (instead of up a stake). And that's OK if you have the space!

 

From Dirt To Dishes. Kids Grow and Cook

I'm really excited about my new video project!

I'm working with my friend Ty from Pennsylvania. He's my age, and he loves cooking.

On our YouTube channel, From Dirt To Dishes. Kids Grow and Cook, you'll find videos of me showing kids how to grow vegetables, and Ty showing kids how to cook.

Please Subscribe! Here is our latest video, about lettuce!

Two Plants in One

I HAVE ANOTHER GREAT PROJECT TO TRY! I was talking to veggie gardening expert Ken Brown at a garden writers meeting in March. Because Ken knows I'm crazy about tomatoes, he suggested I try tomato grafting some myself.

When I asked Dad about grafting, he said I should talk to Alice at Log House Plants, a wholesale grower in Oregon. Their specialty is unique plants.......including.......grafted tomatoes!! They call theirs the Mighty 'Mato.

Alice explained that grafting is the process of putting two plants together. For tomatoes, you put a strong, disease-resistant plant on the bottom (it's called the rootstock) and a favourite variety on top.

Attaching your favourite variety to a stronger rootstock gives you more fruit production, more disease resistance, extended harvest, and increased water and nutrient intake. The rootstock is often tomato varieties that don't have great fruit,  but they have really powerful, cold-tolerant, or disease-resistant roots. See the picture Alice sent me below.

Mighty Mato.jpg

My plan is to try grafting myself. I will put some of my more disease resistant varieties with some of my favourite varieties! And Dad said to try grafting coleus for practice too. 

I'm also going to buy pre-grafted plants. Here in Canada, Dad and I tracked down a nursery that will ship grafted tomatoes by mail, Phoenix Perennials in BC. They ship pretty soon, so if you're thinking of trying grafted tomatoes in your garden and want a ready-to-go plant, order soon. Click here for their grafted tomato page.

Litchi Tomato

 Thorny and mean! But the litchi tomato is sure delicious!

Thorny and mean! But the litchi tomato is sure delicious!

Dad and I always enjoy a visit to Martin Farms to check out what they're growing for garden centres, and to find out what veggies they're testing in their trial garden.

I thank Chris Gark at Martin Farms for introducing me to a favourite of mine that I first saw in his trial garden: the Litchi Tomato, also called Morelle de Balbis. I finally grew it myself for the first time last year.

It's sure "thorny and mean," as Chris described it. With thorns all over, on the stem, leaves, and flower buds, I think it's crazier than Dad's rose bushes.

Even though the fruit are hard to harvest due to this plants defences, they are delicious. These red fruits about the size of a cherry, and have the texture of a cape gooseberry, and the flavour of a cherry.  

 Litchi tomato in my rooftop garden

Litchi tomato in my rooftop garden

When most people hear the name Litchi Tomato, they think tomato flavour. But it's different. I have several friends who don't like tomatoes (which I don't understand at all!) but they love this unusual fruit. Chris and I, and my tomato-disliking friends all agree that is a "favourite odd ball plant," of last year.

It's easy to grow, and dangerously delicious! 

Top Five Tomatoes to Grow Again This Year

 I am using my notes from my 2017 tomato tasting to choose which tomatoes to grow in 2018

I am using my notes from my 2017 tomato tasting to choose which tomatoes to grow in 2018

THE 2017 TOMATO SEASON ended with my first ever tomato-tasting event. Our good friends Fariba and Shahriar came over and I picked every single ripe tomato in the backyard.

I set each tomato on a labelled paper plate, and we went around the table tasting and admiring the tomatoes. I worked my way around slowly, taking notes, and pictures as I went.

I went through my notes. Most of the tomatoes were worth growing again--and here are my top five:

  1. Florentine Beauty: A Beautiful, highly ribbed, bright yellow tomato. A very vibrant addition to my garden.

  2. Great White Blues: An unbelievable tomato. A tomato that mixes two of the most unusual tomato colours together. With a white bottom, and blue-purple shoulders, this is a spectacular, must-grow tomato.

  3. Yellow Currant: I can't believe the production of this plant! Every 3 or 4 days I would harvest over 100 tomatoes off only 2 plants! These tiny currant, or pea sized tomatoes have a thick skin, and a nice flavour. They are perfect for lunches, snacks, and people who never have enough production for the tomatoes to make it to the house.

  4.  Matt's Wild Cherry: A cute little cherry tomato with a great flavour, production, and disease resistance. An absolutely delicious addition to the garden.

  5. Reisetomate: This unusual looking tomato is an alien addition to the garden. It looks like lots of little red cherry tomatoes moulded together.  It really stands out from the other tomatoes.

There are lots of really cool tomatoes I've grown and want to grow. The tasting this year will have even more tomatoes!

On the Radio Dec. 26 Talking about Fruit

Dad and I will be on the Urban Forestry Radio Show on December 26th talking about easy to grow, no-fuss fruit you can grow in your backyard (or front yard!). We talk about some bushes like currants and Nanking cherry, and then a couple of my favourites like ground cherries and cape gooseberries. These are fruit crops that are easy to grow--even for kids!

You can listen to the Urban Forestry Radio Show live at 1 pm ET, or as a podcast later.

 

 I love Nanking cherries! We have them in our front yard, where we have haskaps and serviceberries too.

I love Nanking cherries! We have them in our front yard, where we have haskaps and serviceberries too.