Garden Tips and More

Tomato Sauce Gardeners, Issue #002 -- "Start Your Seeds" in April

Tomato Sauce Gardeners brings you timely garden tips, recipes and featured tomato varieties to help you grow a healthy, bountiful tomato sauce garden and cook up delicious treats from your harvest.

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Issue #002, April 2009

Ezine number two is a little late off the press! Sorry but the sun came out around here finally and we've been working to get the garden in shape and deal with all of the landscape plants that didn't survive our unusually cold winter.

This Ezine is all about getting your seeds started plus some reminders from last month to get those garden beds prepped.

April is "seed starting" month! Yayyy!

Seed Starting

Starting your seeds this month will give you good size tomato plants that are ready to go into your garden beds after any danger of frost is past. Here in the Pacific Northwest, the tradition is to plant out tomatoes on Mother's Day. Around here, it's better to wait until the beginning of June just to be safe...unless, you are going to grow your tomato sauce garden the way I do--in protected garden beds. In that case, they can go into your beds as soon as the soil temperature in the beds is at least fifty degrees. Click here for info about my covered garden beds. Starting tomato seeds is really easy and won't take you more than an hour, if you have everything on-hand. Click here for information on the seed starting supplies you'll want to have on-hand. Basically, you need to fill your plant cell tray or container with seed-starting mix, then place one or two seeds on top of each plant cell or a couple of inches apart in a tray or container without cells. Cover the seeds with about 1/8" of more seed-starting mix. Mist with water and cover with a clear lid that will hold in the humidity. You can place the container on a heated surface such as a seedling heat mat or a warm refrigerator or rig up a light bulb underneath the tray and that will make your seeds sprout a lot faster.

Once sprouted, you need to remove the lid and provide a light source. Inexpensive shop lights work really well for this.

After about three weeks, move each seedling individually into a 4-inch container and bury the stem up to the first true leaves. Put the plants back under the lights and start watering them with a weak fish emulsion solution. For more detailed information and photos on starting sauce tomato seeds, click here. In the Garden: Continue Bed Preparation

If not done already, make sure to cover your garden beds in clear plastic. This will warm up the soil so when you are ready to plant, the soil in the covered bed will be several degrees warmer than uncovered soil would be.

In the Garden: Bed Preparation

Now is the time to cover your garden beds in thick, clear plastic. This will warm up the soil so when you are ready to plant in a couple of months, the soil in the covered bed will be several degrees warmer than uncovered soil would be. Click here for more info on preparing tomato garden beds. This is also the time to create any new tomato sauce garden beds in your yard. We just completed an additional covered tomato sauce garden that contains two beds and covered it in plastic so it is all ready for planting. Click here for info on building raised tomato garden beds.

This month's featured sauce tomato: Saucy

This is an heirloom, open-pollinated sauce tomato seed from Irish Eyes Seed Company, based in Ellensburg, Washington. Irish Eyes are "short season seeds for an early harvest." The Saucy variety is a determinate bush-type tomato plant. Determinate also means that the plant will fruit and ripen all at once and then it's done. The seed packet says 65 days till harvest. More information includes, "heavy yielding, plum-shaped, 2-3 oz. red sauce tomato. Fruits are meaty and borne in clusters of 5-10 fruits. Fruit set is concentrated to one picking, and fruit pulls off the plant easily when ripe. Perfect for a big salsa or ketchup canning session. Flavor is very good both fresh and processed. Strong plant holds fruit well off the ground. Bred by Dr. James Baggett, Oregon State University, from a cross of Santiam X Roma." Personally, I prefer to grow mostly indeterminate tomatoes to get the most sauce in my freezer before winter, but I also like to grow a few determinate, short-season plants in order to get my tomato sauce "fix" as quickly as possible! This will be my first year growing this version of Saucy. In the past, I grew a Territorial Seed Company version also named Saucey (but with an "e") and it was actually our favorite fresh-eating sauce tomato in our family taste test. Now that I am focussed on growing heirloom varieties, I am very excited to try this one out.

April Recipe: Roasted Tomato Puree

If you are new to growing tomato sauce, it's possible that you have not yet tasted the wonder of roasted tomato puree. Therefore, I recommend that you try my recipe for creating this gourmet treat using tomatoes from the store right now. Of course the taste will not even come close to matching the exquisite flavor of homegrown tomatoes from your garden. However, I'm pretty sure that it will inspire you even more to grow your own or at least locate a local farmer's market this summer. Plus you will experience how easy it is to roast up a batch of puree for your favorite recipes. For step by step instructions along with photos, click here.

Comments? Ideas? Feedback? I'd love to hear from you. Just reply to this e-zine and tell me what you think!

See you next month!

Robin Wyll