Friday, May 8, 2015

New for 2015

Hi Folks
After another long winter, The Tomato Patch is ready to go.  We will be at the Covent Farmers Market and the Western Fair Farmers Market starting tomorrow thru to the second week in June.  New this year, we are selling a small selection of other heirloom veggies.   Throughout the month of May we will be providing a couple of different selections of cucumber, pea and pepper plants. We will also offer Congo watermelon plants and celery plants.  We will have a very limited supply at the markets so come early to ensure you get some.  Below are a couple descriptions of the veggies we will be selling.

Also for 2015, we are on Facebook and Twitter.
Twitter: @TheTomatoPatch

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Preparing your Heirlooms for Planting

A re-post of the videos on planting your heirloom tomatoes.

The below movie walks you through the pruning process in preparation to plant

Preparing the Soil for Planting

The movie below discusses soil, in preparation for planting your Heirlooms

Putting your Heirloom Tomatoes in the Ground

The below video gives directions on how to plant your Heirlooms into the ground... enjoy!

Planting Early With a Frost Protector

Last year I Planted a Siberian Pink Honey and a Carbon Tomato in Mid April. Using a frost/ wind protector it increased the growing season by over a month.  See the video below.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Transplanting your Heirloom

 May 24th is fast approaching... historically this is when we are free to plant as the chance of frost is very low.  Click here for more information.  At this point you should be bringing your heirlooms outside on nice days and keeping them out overnight if the temp stays above 10 degrees C (somewhere sheltered from potential wind).  If you are finding that your heirloom is getting really big and it is need of watering once or twice everyday, you should think about doing an intermediate transplant for the last 2 weeks.

Why do an intermediate transplant so close to the final garden transplant?
The main reason for this transplant is because your heirlooms have outgrown their pots and become a bit root bound.  If your heirlooms are still in the 3.5" potter from purchase and they are bigger than a foot high, you should probably transplant.  Below are a couple of pictures of a plant that should be transplanted for the next couple of weeks.

 This heirloom is about 1.5' high.  As discussed in one of the planting videos, height is important because we want to plant deep so the heirloom creates feeder roots along its stem.  It should be noted that this is unique to vine plants only.  If you are planting peppers for instance, do not bury the stem deep... you will kill the plant.

Notice the root ball is starting to wrap around itself.  Before transplanting, we need to loosen the roots so they spread outwards into the new soil.

Releasing the roots to spread outward is key.  Like a parent, be firm but gentle.  Release some of the dirt from the bottom and gently massage the roots away from each other.  The picture below shows what it should look like.

What Size pot should I use?
For the intermediate transplant, use a pot that is just a bit bigger than the original planter.  It is not recommended that you transplant into something large because excess soil will keep excess moisture which can promote root rot.  You are also planning to replant into the ground in a couple weeks so you want the soil to hold together.  Try to use a good quality potting soil or triple mix that is light a fluffy.  Don't use the dollar store stuff that come in a small bag but seems to weigh 10 pounds... It will hold too much water and promote root rot.  After transplant, keep your heirlooms out of direct sun for 24 hours as it adjusts.  Keep the soil moist so the roots can get settled in to their new surroundings.

5 Reminders to Prepare for Planting

With the May 24th weekend coming up and the long range forecast looking good after Wed, many of us are considering planting this upcoming weekend.  Below are a few tips to remember before planting your heirlooms.  Remember, this upcoming weekend is only a guideline, see this article for more information.

1. Choose a Sunny Spot:  Tomato plants need lots of sun 6-7 hours/ day minimum.

2. Use well amended soil:  Compost, bone meal, egg shells, aged manure and sand (in clay conditions).  In sandy conditions add extra organic matter to hold the water (leaves, grass clippings, compost). Once again be carful of purchasing compost by the yard.


3. Soil pH Level: Try to obtain a pH level of 6 - 6.8.  Tomatoes like slightly acidic soil.  If your soil is too acidic, add lime to bring the pH up.  If the soil is too alkaline you can add sulphur, cottonseed meal, peat moss, or iron sulphate (be carful not to get it on anything like your cloths or sidewalk).  Many municipalities buffer their water supply up to a ph of 8, to increase the the life of the water pipe infrastructure (Including London see water quality report).


5. Soil Temperature: Try to make sure the soil temperature is close 62 degrees Fahrenheit or 17 degrees Celsius.  If you do not obtain this temperature your heirloom will struggle to uptake vital nutrients including phosphorous, which is key for root growth.  Use a digital cooking thermometer to test the temp of the soil.  Remember to the dig the hole before you do this.  Keep in mind, the deeper you dig, the cooler it will be.  If you have raised beds or are container planting you have a distinctive advantage in the spring soil warm up.  If your soil is too cold, leave the hole exposed for a few sunny days.  You can also poor some warm water in on a daily basis... be sure not to use hot water as it will kill the biological microbes that your soil is teaming with.  If you have a frost protector, set it up over the hole for a few days prior to planting.  It will quickly warm up the soil below.

5. Harden off your Heirlooms:  If you have had your heirlooms inside in a window, you will need get them outside to acclimatize them back to outside conditions.  For more informations on hardening off your heirlooms... Click Here

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Website Issues

Hi Folks
Thanks to all who came out to the markets this past Saturday.  For those of you who are trying to access the website  we are having some technical difficulties which are getting worked out as we speak.  Hopefully this is just a brief blip due to increased usage.  Once again thanks to those of you who came to see us, hope to see you again next weekend.


Friday, May 9, 2014

Market Update

Hi Folks
With some consistent warm weather, Heirloom planting is around the corner.  A number of people have  contacted us about which markets we are attending this year.

The Covent Garden Market: Starting Saturday May 10th we will be at the Outdoor Market, we will continue to be there every Thursday and Saturday into June.

Western Fair: Sorry about the confusion on this one, but we are happy to finally received conformation that we will be outside the Western Fair Market starting Saturday May 17th.

**NEW** Ogilvies Food and Artisans Market: We are very excited to announce that we will be at Ogilvies Market on Hyde Park starting May 17th.  We will be there every Saturday and most Sundays into June.  Holly, a new member of The Tomato Patch team will be working there.

New Staff:
Holly: We are thrilled to have Holly working with us, she is an outgoing young lady, with a keen awareness about the environment and polyculture gardening.  She enjoys gardening and hopes to hone her backyard gardening skills this season.

Brian: We are very happy to have Brian working at The Tomato Patch this season.  Brian is a great guy who has taken up an interest home gardening.  He enjoys time spent in the garden with his kids and the harvest of fresh, organic produce.  Brian will be working different markets throughout the season.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Winter... on your way!

Well it's mid April and it seems Spring has finally sprung.  Most of the snow recede and our thoughts turned to spring activities in the garden.  Before we know it, mid-May will arrive and it will be time to plant our heirlooms.  The Tomato Patch has some new and exciting tomatoes this year including a limited supply of dwarf tomatoes.  We are very excited to offer these very cool plants for the gardener with limited space or planning to plant in pots.  These tomatoes have been bread to be small and compact but produce lots of wonderful, tasty tomatoes.  These are not heirlooms but be sure that they are all grown organically and in no way genetically modified.  We have limited supplies so it's best to get your hands on them early before we sell out.  The website is in the process of getting updated and by the end of the Easter weekend should be done.  We appreciate those of you who have emailed us asking when we will be setting up at the Western Fair Farmers market.  We hope to be there for the start of May through to mid-June.  We will let you know as soon as we get conformation.  See you soon.


New Tomatoes for 2014
Rejina Yellow
Orange Heirloom
Dwarf Blazing Beauty
Rosella Purple
Fantome du Laos
Iditarod Red
Yukon Quest

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Sun Dried Tomatoes (without the sun :-)

Over the last month, most of us have hopefully seen a ripening up of our heirlooms.  One of my favourite  heirlooms is the Principe Borghese.  Originally from Italy, this heirloom is know best for being the "sun drying" tomato because it deep tomatoey taste that intensifies during the drying process.  While a great characteristic steeped in tradition, this heirloom is very versatile plant.  First, its productivity is excellent.  Its fruit is un-blemmished and very rarely cracks.  The taste has a wonderful balance of acid and sweet that is true to an old world heirloom tomato.  Below is a picture of my son who got his hands on a bag of freshly harvested fruit.  Needless to say, he enjoys the Principe Borghese straight off the vine.

Fresh is great, but I had to try sun-drying this heirloom in the true tradition of Italian sun dried tomatoes.  So I picked a bakers dozen, cut them in half and laid them out on baking sheets to let them dry.  In a couple of days, I should have beautiful, sun dried tomatoes.  Unfortunately I quickly realized that it might not be as easy as the term "sun dried" sounds.  With a quick internet search, I learned sun drying is specific to a low humidity climate which we do NOT observe here in SW Ontario.  Quickly, my sun dried endeavours wilted with mold and flies... I had to figure something else out.

The Oven
While I hate using the oven during the summer, it can maintain a very consistent low temperature that a bbq cannot.  I also am lucky enough to have a convection option which makes it very simple to circulate air for the purpose of drying.

Here is how I did it:

1: Wash and cut a bowl of your finest Principe Bourghese tomatoes.

2: Set your oven to approx. 60 degrees Celsius or 140 degrees Fahrenheit.  Depending on your oven you may need to increase or decrease the set temperature.  If you do not have a convection oven you could wedge the door open to create some air flow to help dry out the tomatoes.  Inevitably, the temperature will drop and you will need to turn it up.  If you have a convection oven you're set.  In both cases it is advisable to monitor the oven for the first hour or so you achieve the desired temperature.


3: Once your oven has warmed up.  Set your sliced heirlooms on a baking sheet and fire them in the oven.

Finally:  Hurry up an wait  

After 2 hours

After 4 hours

Try to maintain the oven temperature

10 hours later your sundried tomatoes should have the
consistency of a raisin.  Chewy with an intense tomato
flavour.  You can store them in a ziplock bag for months.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Its been a while

I have to say, its been a long couple of months since I last posted.  Unfortunately my attention has been devoted to a ruptured Achilles tendon that I managed to snap playing touch football.  While its has been a difficult couple of months, (much of which has been off my feet) I've realized how much I enjoy being out in the garden.  Against DR's orders, I have managed to do some gardening and got many of my heirlooms in before "the snap heard round the field".  The little bit of gardening I have done has rendered a messy yet productive garden full of cucumbers, spinach, broccoli, beans, herbs, lettuce and of course... heirloom tomato plants. While we haven't had the most ideal tomato growing spring and summer here in SW Ontario, many of us are starting to see our heirlooms begin to mature.  This is the time of year that our spring garden labouring begins to pay off.  All in all, I'm happy to be back blogging just in time for harvest season.  Below are a few pics I took towards the end of July.

Black Crimson potted heirloom July 24, 2013

My out of control heirloom Cucumber plant

Hawaiian Currant starting to ripen

Red Robin dwarf heirloom with my less than
dwarf Coon dog "Daisy" in the background
Jaune Flamme heirloom potted

Jaune Flamme late July

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Tomato Problems

I was looking my heirlooms the other day and saw some aphids on the leaves.  It's heating up and problems are starting to arise.  This article will help to identify common tomato problems and solutions.  The good thing, heirloom tomatoes have been around for a long time.  My very simple and unscientific theory is that heirloom strains have been coping with these problems for decades and centuries... they have built up a bit of a resistance to many issues.

Growing fresh tomatoes is one of the true joys of the vegetable gardener. But tomatoes can suffer from all kinds of diseases and pests. Problems growing tomatoes are often the result of weather conditions and small predators lurking under leaves and in the soil. This is something that is out of the gardeners control. Tomato diseases are rarely fatal, if the proper management is employed. It is important to catch any tomato disease early, before it spreads to all of your tomato plants and possibly other plants. Mulching is the most effective way to limit disease.

1. Blossom End Rot

Symptom : This is a common problem with homegrown tomatoes. It initially appears as a depressed, leathery, brownish area the size of a dime to a half dollar on the blossom end of the fruit.

Cause: It is caused by a calcium deficiency coupled with wide fluctuations in available moisture. Training and pruning the tomato vines may also increase blossom end rot.

Remedy: Remove the affected fruit so other fruits on the plant will develop normally. Keep the plants well watered. Mulch to maintain a more uniform moisture supply. Avoid cultivating, or hoeing, near the roots of tomato plants. Some gardeners like to add crushed eggshells to the transplant hole to fortify calcium intake.

2. Yellow Leaves

Symptom: Yellow, uncurled leaves

Cause: If yellow, uncurled leaves appear at the base of a tomato plant, it may just be a sign of the plant aging and beginning to die off from the bottom up. It may also be caused by a nitrogen deficiency in the soil. On occasion, other factors may cause yellow leaves including pest, fungus and bacteria infestations.These three causes usually produce other symptoms besides plain, uncurled, yellow leaves at the base of the plant. For example, if the leaves are turning yellow or brown higher up on the plant, it may be a sign of early blight. Have your soil tested at a local nursery to confirm the nitrogen-deficiency diagnosis.

Remedy: If the soil does have a nitrogen deficiency, supplement the soil with well-rotted manure or compost, both of which are high in nitrogen. You can also apply a nitrogen-rich fertilizer.

3. Flowers Form But Drop Before Fruit Develops

Symptom: Tomato flowers fall off prematurely causing very little or no fruit to actually develop.

Cause:"Blossom Drop" is usually caused when the tomato plant experiences a sudden change in the weather, typically when night temperatures are lower than 13 degrees C, when day temperatures are higher than 35 degrees C, or when night temperatures remain above 24 degrees C. Hot drying winds and a sudden lack of moisture for the plant may intensify the problem.

Remedy: Add mulch to keep the soil moisture even. Use TOMATO BLOSSOM SET SPRAY, an all-natural plant hormone that helps blossoms set fruit in spite of poor weather conditions, producing larger, meatier tomatoes with fewer seeds. Use early in the season and get tomatoes up to three weeks earlier. Spray when tomato flowers are fully open. Improving weather conditions may also solve the problem without action.

4. Shiny, Sticky And Deformed Leaves (Aphids)

Symptom: Leaves are deformed, sometimes yellow, and appear to have a shiny, sticky substance on them. Young tomato plants are especially vulnerable to this "small" problem. Do not confuse this with "rolled" leaves which is a normal occurrence and not harmful to many tomato plants.

Cause: Aphids are small, pear-shaped insects that congregate on the top growth or undersides of leaves. Aphids damage tomatoes by sucking plant sap and excreting a sticky substance on the foliage and fruit. Inspect the deformed leaves or normal leaves in the vicinity and you will be able to see these insects. Whiteflies and spider mites are also nearly invisible insects that can cause similar symptoms and can be treated as described below. Spider mites cause many small yellow specks and fine webs on leaves. Whiteflies will actually take flight when you brush the plant. They may appear as dust or fine residue shaken off the plant.

Remedy: Use NEEM OIL or INSECTICIDAL SOAP CONCENTRATE to control aphids or whiteflies. Removing weeds around the tomato plants will also help.

5. Tomato Skin Splitting Or Cracking

Symptom: The skin of the fruit develops sudden large cracks

Cause: Splitting or cracking typically happens when the fruit experiences accelerated growth, which can be brought on by a sudden increase in moisture after being too dry, like a sudden summer rain after dry periods. Cracking also may occur when the fruit is overripe.
Remedy: The good news is that splitting or cracking does not affect the flavor and the tomato can still be eaten, however unsightly it may appear. To avoid the problem, provide consistent moisture to the plant.

6. Early Blight - Brown Patches On Leaves

Symptom: Black-brownish spots on plant leaves; leaves drop off; sunburned fruits.

Cause: Early Blight is a fungus that survives during the winter on old vines. Cleaning up old vines from the prior season, rotating crops and spacing plants properly to allow for good air circulation are good first steps in avoiding this problem.

Remedy: The preventative measures should be considered first, ie crop rotation and cleaning up debris from prior growing seasons. If you suspect your plants have Early Blight, remove all diseased stems and foliage and dispose of in a trash bag. Do not add to compost pile. BONIDE ALL PURPOSE GARDEN DUST is an effective, organic way to control the disease if caught in the early stages.

7. Late Blight - Brown, Dry, Papery Leaves

Symptom: Water-soaked patches on leaves that turn brown, dry and papery are a sign of late blight. Fruit and stems might be spotted or have blackened areas.

Cause: Late Blight is caused by a fungus that is favored by wet weather and whose spores can travel great distances and infect large areas.

Remedy: The preventative measures should be considered first, crop rotation, proper spacing of plants and pruning to maintain good air circulation around plants. If you suspect your plants have Late Blight, remove all diseased stems and foliage and dispose of in a trash bag. If the area is severely infected, removing all plants and disposing in the trash may be the only solution.

8. Fusarium and Verticillium Wilt

Symptom: Fusarium Wilt causes leaves on one branch of infected plant to wilt and turn yellow. Verticillium Wilt first appears as yellowing between the major veins on mature leaves.

Cause: Both are caused by a fungal infestation. The fungus is inherent in the plant and is not caused or affected by external sources such as weather or care.

Remedy: Unfortunately there is no treatment for a plant infected with Fusarium or Verticillium Wilt. It will spread rapidly through the plant and eventually kill it. The best remedy is to quickly dispose of the entire plant in the trash. Do not add to compost.

9. Nematodes - The (Almost) Invisible Insect

Symptom: Nematodes live in the soil and cause swelling of the plant root, stunted plants and discoloured plant leaves.

Cause: Root-knot nematodes are soil-born microscopic eelworms.

Remedy: The bad news...there is no treatment for an existing nematode infestation. The good news...the affected plants can still grow and produce edible fruit. Preventative measures to stop nematodes in the future include selecting varieties labeled with "N" and planting marigolds with your tomatoes. Many varieties of marigolds, including' Nema-gone', 'Golden Guardian', or 'Tangerine', release a chemical into the soil that kills nematodes. (Left plant normal, Right Infected)

10. Tomato Hornworm

Symptom: Chewed up plant leaves and damaged fruits that are still unripe, huge increase of garden hornets.

Cause: Tomato hornworms are large, green-grayish caterpillars that feed off of tomato fruits and plants.

Remedy: They blend very well with surrounding foliage but they can be extremely large and once you spot them, you'll wonder how you ever missed them. We're talking big enough to saddle these big boys up and let the kids ride around the yard on them!. Pick them off and dispose of them by hand. If infested there is organic caterpillar control.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Cover up your heirlooms for the next Couple Days

The forecast for the next couple of days shows some pretty cold nights.  It would be best to cover up your heirlooms with a bucket, tarp or frost protector during the night time.  Friday and Saturday we will be selling frost protectors at all the markets for $5 each or 3 for $12.  They are re-usable for years and very helpful when getting an early start on the growing season.  Insulating the your plants from the cold and more importantly, the wind is imperative.  Again, if you purchased your heirlooms from The Tomato Patch, they have been "hardened off" acclimatized to the outside conditions.  But, it is still suggested to cover them up at night.  It will keep the soil warm and plant growing throughout this cold snap.

London Ontario Forecast

Good Luck

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Cold Snap in SW Ontario... Protect those Heirlooms

Just a reminder that 7 day forecast shows some pretty cold weather over the next couple of days.  If you have planted your heirlooms be sure to cover them up with a bucket and maybe even an old towel or blanket.  If you purchased your heirlooms from The Tomato Patch, they have been hardened off and acclimatized to outdoor weather so they can take a little punishment. BUT, still cover them up over the next couple days.
Here is the forecast for London ON