Tag Archives: Tomato

Double your tomato production

Try cloning tomatoes

tomato stem

Clip tomato branch. Remove flowers to encourage root growth.

To extend the tomato season, consider cloning your favorite tomato plants. The new plant will produce tomatoes just like it’s parent.

Here in the heartland, zone 6 we are about half way through the summer growing season. I think I have about two and a half months left before our first frost.

If you haven’t planted tomatoes yet, ask a gardening friend for a cutting of their tastiest plants. As I stake my tomatoes, I zometimes break off unruly stems that won’t be supported by my tomato stakes.


This heirloom started out as a cutting. The plant produced as heavily as the parent plant.

Put that broken tomato plant branch, or cutting directly in the ground at least six or eight inches deep. Place a stake beside the stem. The big tomato stake or cage will stand as guardian over your little cloned tomato plant. Since this new plant has no roots yet, you MUST keep the soil well watered. At first, the cutting or broken branch that you stuck in the ground, will be limp. Don’t give up. Keep watering the planted stem at least twice a day. Shading your cutting will reduce the stress as your new tomato plant starts making roots.

Cloning plants will get you tomatoes faster than starting from seed at mid season. It is too late to start tomatoes from seed.

I broke off a branch of a Carbon tomato plant about a month ago. The black heirloom tomato plant is named Carbon and I am happy to have more of these large, rich tasty tomatoes.

Starting warm season plants midsummer, means that fruits will be developing during the cooler, end of summer weather. Be prepared to cover or protect the heat loving tomato plants during cool nights.

Book Review: Tomatoes Garlic Basil

PBHobson2 Patsy Bell Hobson is a garden writer and a travel writer. For her, it’s a great day when she can combine the two things she enjoys most: gardening and traveling. Visit her personal blog at and read her travel writings.

In my Zone 6 garden there are always three kinds of tomatoes: a paste tomato for sauces, a cherry tomato, because these small tomatoes are always the first to ripen (and later, when the big tomatoes are producing, these small ones will be dried), and a big, meaty tomato for eating fresh (and for bragging rights). I love tomatoes and when I saw Tomatoes Garlic Basil (St. Lynn’s Press, 2010), I judged the book by its cover. It is beautiful. Eventually, I was tempted to open the paperback tribute to the garden and kitchen’s favorite produce and I’m glad that I did. The book only gets better!

Tomatoes, garlic and basil are the holy trinity of the vegetable garden.

Doug Oster’s Tomatoes Garlic Basil is a love letter about our favorite home garden produce. If you are one of the millions of backyard gardeners who grow tomatoes, this book is for you. Tomatoes are the star of the show. And, just like most gardens, basil and garlic have strong supporting roles in the book that magnify the magic of home grown tomatoes.

The book will not overwhelm you with soil science and plant genetics. It will give you some good advice about soil preparation and plant selection. The pleasure of reading this book grows as Oster offers us many choices with these three simple garden staples.

Like most gardeners, Oster is generous in sharing his experience and recipes. If you are new to gardening, try the simple combination of these three plants. He also encourages people who do not have garden space and shares some planting options. Each chapter begins with a garden or food quote that ties into the chapter. In Chapter 2, I was inspired by “Summer Celebrations” and looked forward to incorporating some of his ideas as I create new traditions for my own family. And by the time you get to the great advice in Chapter 9, which is about soil preparation and weed control, Oster will feel like an old neighbor

Oster is still on the big adventure of trying some different tomato plants every year as well as growing his favorites. It’s a good idea and you will never run out of tomato varieties to try. After reading this book you will be able to speak about basil and garlic as well as tomatoes with any home gardener.

This book would make a great gift for either a new or experienced gardener, as well as for the recipients of your produce bounty. (I recommend you buy the print version to enjoy the artful photographs.) The only difficult part is deciding whether to put this book with my cookbooks or on the shelf with the gardening books. I decided to take the book into the kitchen and try the recipes with my own fresh tomatoes, garlic and basil.

I enjoyed the humorous and serious gardening stories and there are plenty of artsy photographs throughout the book. I will definitely put Doug’s recipes and gardening tips to use this summer.

Cherry tomatoes are heavy producers.

Book Details

Tomatoes Garlic Basil: The Simple Pleasures of Growing and Cooking Your Garden’s Most Versatile Veggies by Doug Oster
• Paperback: 272 pages.
• Publisher: St. Lynn’s Press; 1st edition, ISBN-10: 0981961517 and ISBN-13: 978-0981961514
• See Doug Oster’s Blog at http://www.dougoster.com/books/ to read “My favorite story from Tomatoes Garlic Basil.”

Granny’s Got the Blight and She’s Got to Go

Granny Cantrell is on her way out.

The story of these rare Granny Cantrell tomatoes is that a soldier brought home the seed when he returned from Germany after WWII. Lettie Cantrell grew those tomatoes from seed every year since the 1940s. It was the only kind of tomato Lettie Cantrell of West Liberty Kentucky, grew.

She grew those “very large and tasty” tomatoes until her death in 2005 at the age of 96. And I’d say that’s proof enough that gardening – especially growing tomatoes, will help you live to a ripe old age.

The sad news is my tomatoes got early blight late this year. The plants will not live a long life, because I’ll be pulling them up very soon. It’s a shame too because this is the first time I’ve grown this variety of heirloom tomato. Today I shared a couple of tomatoes each with two of my neighbors and had one more sliced at dinner. That’s five red tomatoes, thin skinned, with very little core and bright red, solid fruits weighing 13 to 14 ounces each. All of my Granny Cantrell tomatoes weighed in under a pound this year, though I was not trying to grow the really big ones.

If you want to know my secret to growing big tomatoes, I’d have to say neglect is the key. Once a tomato plant shows signs of blight – late blight or early blight, any blight, it will quickly spread to all the tomato plants. I ripped out the first tomato to show signs of early blight, then carefully cleared out any sign of the doomed tomato plant, but the rest of the tomatoes still ended up with the disease. Sure, you could try to blast the plants with chemical treatments, but there really is no practical way to get rid of this soil borne disease.

This year I grew only rare heirloom tomatoes. A lot of those plants are susceptible to early blight. Heirlooms like “Brandywine,” and “Old German” have been around a long time, but the older varieties don’t have a lot of disease resistance.

Plants with early blight slowly lose their leaves. Right now, the infection is not severe, so I am harvesting mature tomatoes. The immature tomatoes are stating to show signs of the disease. Soon, I’ll pull up all the tomatoes and put in a cover crop for the cool season. Next year I will rotate the tomato crop to a different location, probably growing different varieties.

The German Red Strawberry tomatoes are growing in the straw bale garden next to the Granny Cantrell. Both tomatoes are struggling with blight. But for this week, I’ll have more big tomatoes to share and to eat fresh.

The grounds keeper has requested Gazpacho from these last few weeks of big tomato harvests. It’s a great way to use a lot of fresh tomatoes and a summertime favorite.

Baker Creek and Southern Exposure sell the seed. Abundant Acres sells the plants. These red beefsteak type tomatoes won “Best In Taste” at the Baker Creek Fall Festival 2006. A rare variety, that can reach 2 ½ pounds.

This is the German Red Strawberry tomato. It needs another day or two f warm sunny weather.

Baling out of the perfect garden dream

The No Longer Secret Garden.

Early this year I announced my bale garden project. The advice of garden expert Rose Marie Nichols McGee has some great advice about bale culture. The Gardeners Pantry Blog is the best straw bale information you can get. Plus there are some very good recipes.

We both got busy with the many things that gardeners do. I neglected the blog entries I had promised because the bale garden was failing and I was away from the garden all of June. At first, the seeds I sowed in the soil atop the bales flourished in the spring. It looked like I would have a guaranteed success. The neighbor was where no where in site.

As the seedling roots reached deeper into the bail, they died or just stopped growing. I was not going to take a picture of this sad failure until I had an answer as to why the lettuce seeds were dieing. I continued to plant beans, cucumbers and summer and winter squash seed on top of the bales. There were no signs of insects on the plants. The seeds that were sprouting then struggling to survive.

The neighbor planted tomatoes. At first, I thought it was a fun and friendly competition because I always win. Not this year.

I planted tomatoes in the bales when the weather got warm enough. The tomato plants did not grow. The neighbor, who had red ripe tomatoes in his garden a full month before my garden, was down right joyful at his success. His success was a bellwether for my garden.

Most insulting of all, he kept offering me tomatoes from his garden. “I’ve got plenty of ’em,” he said.

Then, the natural baling ties began to fall apart. If I had bales with synthetic twine, the bales may have lasted for two seasons. The tomato plants were simply not growing. I finally figured out that the straw had been treated or sprayed with some herbicide. After the seeds got past the top soil on the bales, they started to die very quickly. Even weeds would not grow on the bales.

I abandoned the project, not mentioning it at all in this blog. The tomato plants were just not growing in the bales. A few shallow rooted chard plants grew on top of the bales. In July, the heirloom tomato plants began to grow. And one winter squash plant began growing fast and blooming like crazy. By August, early blight hit all the tomato plants in the garden, and in the bales.

In September, the tomato plants and the lone delicata squash are producing. That is the bale garden at the top of this blog. Because the surviving plants have been struggling all year they are weak and more susceptible to disease. A couple of the tomato plants on the bales aren’t even producing at all. Bugs are eating up the few remaining bean plants on the bales, and the squash bugs are in need of some serious crowd control.

Of the several marigolds that I planted surrounding the bales, only two of the marigolds lived. They are growing at about the same rate as the other marigolds around my other gardens. Nothing will slow down the growth of those hardy marigolds until frost.

Finally, I am now getting some good sized tomatoes from the bales. The success will be short lived because of the blight. The bales are slowly imploding, collapsing in on themselves.

The story of the bale garden ain’t pretty. Not all gardening projects go as planned. I’m not baling out. The project was enough of a success that I am going to learn from my mistakes and try again next year.

The short, frustrating story of gardening on bales ended by growing with some of my biggest tomatoes of the year.

Fried Green Tomatoes

These 2-4 ounce Matina tomatoes start producing before the big beefsteak tomatoes and keep on fruiting until frost. No need to pick them green.

Too Many Tomatoes?

This tomato vine broke under the weight of so many tomatoes. The solution for that is fried green tomatoes.

You know I never get tired of talking about America’s favorite homegrown vegetable. I always thought fried green tomatoes were the finale to a tomato growing season. Not so, I learned when I started growing the big heirlooms.

Fried green tomatoes are what you do with tomatoes that haven’t ripened by the first killer frost of the season. They are a fall food. Or so I thought until I ended up with a bumper crop of tomatoes this year. To keep the tomato laden branches of the plant from snapping under the weight of its bounty, remove several tomatoes that are green. So as not to waste food, make fried green tomatoes using the basic recipe.

This year, I “oven fried” them, which I liked even better. Spray a cookie sheet with oil, place the egg and flour dredged tomatoes on the cooking sheet, not touching. Lightly spray the tomatoes, then broil or bake. Turn the tomatoes over and brown the other side. Watch closely. They will burn fast once they start to brown.

Prepare fried green tomatoes like you do pan fried squash or okra. Slice, dip in an egg and milk wash. Roll in a cornmeal and flour mixture with salt and pepper. Double dip and dredge, repeating the process for crunchier fried tomatoes. Fry in a light oil (canola).

There are a million variations, but this basic recipe will get you started on a seasonal treasure from your garden. Aunt Betty uses Japanese Panko bread crumbs and buttermilk, uncle Jim adds a pinch of cayenne. Brother Mark insists of a side of Ranch Dip. My secret ingredient is a smidgen of garlic salt. So, add a secret ingredient and make this recipe your own.

These are Carbon tomatoes. The flesh is solid and very complex. I think it is one of the best black tomatoes.

Carbon tomato: big, juicy, rich flavor

Getting close to tomato taste test party time.

I was speechless when I discovered two of my first ready-to-pick tomatoes had been ravaged by a squirrel. It’s too painful to show you the gruesome sight of half eaten black tomatoes, so they are burried in the compost pile now.

I am on the verge of Tomato Abundance. I know it is time to pick the tomatoes because this morning a squirrel ate the very tomatoes I intended to pick today. These big black tomatoes are Carbon tomatoes.

I admit to holding off for another day because usually, the first tomato that I pick every year should have waited one more day to achieve sun ripened perfection.

As soon as I started grousing to cousin Bob about these darned tomato eating squirrels, he shot back this email:


Just my bad luck that I traded in my squirrel gun for an elephant gun this week at Bass Pro in Springfield. (
Bass Pro really does have elephant guns – I’ve seen them. But they don’t take trade-ins) Admittedly, there is a very short safari season here in the swamps of Southeast Missouri. But, I digress.

Tomato Stuffed Squirrel may even be a healthy dish. Well, for me, not the squirrel. The squirrels around here have a healthy vegetarian, organic diet. This diet keeps the squirrels fit enough to outrun me. I tried not to cuss a blue streak in the garden since the tomatoes are already blushing.

Carbon tomato won a taste test of 10 heirloom tomato varieties at Cornell Research Farm. Black/Purple tomatoes are becoming more popular for the home gardener and at the farmers market. Every year I try a different black variety. The Carbon tomato is out producing last years Cherokee Purple in quantity and size of fruit.

This is one of the heirloom tomato plants from Abundant Acres. Since they grow more than 325 heirloom plant varieties, I’ll be writing to them requesting information on squirrel resistant tomatoes.

I also bought seed from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.


The Juicy Traveler

Tomatoes are not a travel story you say? Well in Southeast Missouri, this old gardener plans her travels around the gardening season.

Yes, that was me getting out of the car and taking pictures of acres of tomatoes in Homestead,FL. I have been known to stop just to smell the orange blossoms near Merritt Island. Plant City Florida’s strawberry festival, is a vacation stop for me. But now I’m back to good old MO.

February is when I read seed catalogs and plan for spring in Missouri. I’m ordering heirloom tomato plants from Abundant Acres. If you like the idea of buying locally grown plants from a Missouri business, shop online at Abundant Acres. Meet the owners and growers Randel and Pam Argella when you stop by Bakersville during the April and May festivals at Baker Creek Seed Company in Mansfield Missouri. More about the 9th Annual Spring Planting Festival, later.

Randel and Pam Agrella only sell plants online. They grow hardy healthy heirlooms that are well packaged and ready to plant as soon as they harden off and acclimate to your garden.

Randel recommended I grow indeterminate Delicious tomatoes, if I wanted to win the neighborhood biggest tomato contest. Delicious is a good all purpose red tomato and it holds the world record for the largest tomato. Much to my dismay the secret to growing the biggest tomato is clearly written right there in the description of Delicious tomatoes for any body and everybody to read.

When gardening season gets here, my travels are limited to how far I can go and get back before the plants need watering. Day trips, long weekends, fairs and festivals are this gardeners version of summer vacation. Oh, and visiting local farmers markets, orchards and garden centers.

My next trip will be a beauty. I’m going to the Missouri Botanical Garden Orchid Show. The orchid show closes March 15, 2009.

Other early spring trips include:
9th Annual Spring Planting Festival Sunday and Monday, May 3 & 4, 2009 10am – 7pm (both days)

Cape Girardeau Storytelling Festival April 3,4, and 5.

My best cabin fever cure in Southeast Missouri is going some place warm, like Orlando. Winter 2009 has been so cold in Southeast Missouri that I fled to Orlando for nearly three weeks. Even in these frightening economic times there are still travel bargains. I’ll share frugal ways for the budget conscious to take a vacation, including one of the best bets for accommodations. It’s not your typical hotel stay.

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