Friday, February 5, 2010

trail setters: planting begins!

Today marked the kick-off for our tomato starts' migration outdoors. My family was able to wheel barrow out several plants fairly earlier than last year's bunch due to the mild winter the Pacific Northwest has been having. We filled the first greenhouse with six long rows of Trust Beefsteaks and shall be planting more tomatoes in the next few days and weeks, dependent on variety and start-size. Working as a team, my step-dad, Neil, used a bulb planter to create aligned holes for the tomatoes while my mom and I lovingly planted each start, gently covering each with a blanket of well-tilled soil and dark, rich compost. It was also quite warm in the greenhouse today with the sun shining overheard... almost 70 degrees Fahrenheit! This warmth, combined with the feeling of cool, moist dirt on my hands, the scent of tangy tomato plants and earthy alfalfa grass, and the sight of happy little earth worms squirming about...well, it certainly made for a good day.

Friday, January 15, 2010

trail setters: baby tomaters

My family's tomatoes are starting to sprout! These lil' greenies will grow into thick, 8 foot tall, 20 foot long plants, transforming the insides of my family's greenhouses into jungles in due time for the market season. I love it when I walk into the greenhouse on a mid-summer afternoon and have to yell, "MOM!?" in order to find the lady. Often I'll see her raise her hand up, waving over the vines, exclaiming, "I'm over here!" Anyway, this year we're growing 'Trust Beefsteaks' (a hearty, fat sandwich slicer), mini yellow 'Golden Rave Romas' (imagine the sauce you'll get from these honeys!), some plum tomatoes and black cherry tomatoes (!). There's also some 'Camaro' English cucumbers sprouting, but that's a tale for another day.

As far as getting the whole process going, the tomatoes are planted indoors right after Christmas. The seeds are lovingly dispersed around seed flats placed upon heating mats and are showered with lots of bright, LED light. These seeds thrive in a soil pH of about 6.8 and are heavy-feeders. Keeping the soil's phosphorous levels up makes for a happy tomato plant and my family also supplies the seedlings with beneficial fungi known as mycorrhiza. Mycorrhiza basically aid the roots of the tomatoes in mineral and water absorption via a mutualistic relationship. When the plants reach about 10inches tall they'll be moved outside to their new greenhouse homes. This should be around Valentine's Day- another tomato milestone to look forward to this winter! Oh! And you can read an article about my family's farm here: