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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Late Summer In My Greenhouse

It´s been a long time since my last post. I was very busy not only with my tomatoes but also with other plants that I have in my garden. It is almost the end of summer but it is still very warm and sunny. Nights are cold though and tomatoes do not have perfect conditions to grow and ripen anymore but they still look good;) 

This summer was exceptionally warm and sunny and I needed to water my tomatoes quite often. The conditions were perfect for my plants but not everything turned out so perfect... I used a new fertilizer which was especially dedicated to feed tomatoes. Unfortunately, it was not as good as I expected. Actually much worse... After several weeks of dosing it my tomatoes started having symptoms of lack of various elements or overdosing some of them on their leaves. Luckily fruits did not seem to be affected. It is difficult to guess what is your plant problem. The best solution would be to analyse the soil and add what is missing but that was too complicated for me -after all I am not a professional gardener and I do not have ambition to be one;) I wanted to fix it in some simple way. First, I stopped using the new fertilizer. It helped. After some weeks on a "diet" I gave them the old fertilizer and it turned out to be a good decision because my tomatoes went back to norm and the new leaves looked good. Of course both - the old and the new fertilizer are ecologic. 

Now I just wait till the end of season. I pick ripened tomatoes and get rid of old plants.

I weight every fruit from every plant and keep a record of this information. I also note which ones are tasty. After picking the last tomato of this season I will compare them to see which sorts were most productive and tasted the best. This should help me to plan which sorts to pick for the next year. I will describe them in this blog before the next year.

And here are some pictures from this season:

mixed sorts of my tomatoes

A peculiar tomato sort called "reise tomato"




The greenhouse in July

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

My Tomatoes Are Starting To Fruit

My tomatoes had grown so high that I had to tie some of them to the construction of my greenhouse roof. One of them fell down and was laying on the pot because its fruits had become so heavy. Now it is back in a vertical position tied and hanging like the rest.

Fruits on one of my tomato plants started getting ready to be picked. I picked the biggest and the most soft one of them. It looks ripened but has green skin at the stalk area. I remember from the last year that black tomatoes look like this even when they are very ripened. Yet I will wait a little while before eating it to check if the green area disappears. I want to make sure that I do not eat a green tomato. Now it is laying on the kitchen windowsill teasing me;) 


Most of my tomatoes are still very green

The most ripened tomatoes - Black Sea Man

Black Sea Man - weight 310 g. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Everyday Care

My tomatoes are growing very fast and are quite high now. All of them started blooming some time ago and some already have little fruits. It does not mean I can relax now and wait until they are ready to be eaten. I have to take care of them almost every day.

So far they are my biggest tomatoes


The most important thing is watering. Tomatoes need regular watering. It does not mean one has to water them every day but it can be 2 - 3 times a week depends on the weather. Water should be poured directly to pots, not on leaves because they should not get wet. 

Another important thing is to help tomatoes pollinate. I do this by hand: I just shake a little the plants that have flowers and to make sure I touch every flower.

Tomatoes flowers fade some time after blooming and usually stay in this stage on growing fruits. Sometimes they fall down and land on the leaves. This can be dangerous because rotting flowers can affect the plants and that can lead to diseases. Therefore I pick the fading flowers and throw them away. I also pick yellow or damaged leaves.

Old flower


The other parts of my tomatoes I pick are suckers which grow between the stem and leaves. One theory says that they just take energy from the plant and do not give anything back. Another one says that one should leave them alone because they are OK. I do not want to have bushy tomatoes because it will be too dark in the green house at the end. Tomatoes need lots of sun so I pick the suckers and some big leaves when I see that it is getting too dark inside.

A sucker


I also give my tomatoes a natural fertilizer for tomatoes that supplies them with all mineral elements they need.

My greenhouse before I cut bushy leaves

My greenhouse now
Leaves removed from the plants




Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Moving Tomatoes To the Greenhouse

I transplanted my tomatoes to big pots and moved them to the greenhouse over a week ago. I did  not have time to write because it was much more to do in the garden and home than just taking care of the tomatoes and writing about them;).

First, I will write about the evil spider mites that attacked my plants. Before I received the spider mites removal I had washed affected leaves with water with soap using a sponge (they advice to do that when you find these creatures on your plants). That was definitely a mistake. Leaves did not survive this treatment. Probably they suffered more from this than from the spider mites;) I think it work with most plants but not all. I did it before with paprika and bananas plants and they were OK after that. Two days later I sprayed them with a special anti spider mites liquid and it helped. 

Tomatoes in the greenhouse


Before I moved the tomatoes to the greenhouse I let them stay outside during the day and inside at night for three days. It was supposed to harden them off. This is a very important step when you move tomatoes from a warm cozy place to much colder and harder conditions. Leaving them outside without hardening off can be a shock to them and it is not good at all. I kept my plants on the terrace where usually it is not too windy. The weather was not too sunny either which was also good. Unfortunately, it was more windy than I thought and two of my 24 plants broke just above the roots. Actually, three of them broke but I decided to keep the third one and transplant it anyway to check if it can regenerate. There was just a little bit of its skin connecting the stem and the root. One day after planting it it looked like it was dying. I wanted to throw it out at once so it would not start rotting and spreading diseases in the greenhouse but I was too lazy and I left it for the next day. When I came to the greenhouse on the next day it was alive! It looks healthier with every day. I guess it has developed new roots and everything is ok:)

Still alive and getting better:)


Last but not least - there is one little tomato growing on one of my plants:)

My first visible tomato:)








Saturday, May 11, 2013

Alarm! Spider Mites Attack!


My tomatoes grow very fast and some of them have already cute little flower buds (!). The tomatoes are almost too high to maintain. Wooden sticks that are supposed to support them are much too short and they do not help much. Luckily the plants support each other now and only the ones that grow outside the crowd fall down a little. Soon I am moving them to the greenhouse where they will get real support. 


My tomatoes yesterday

flower buds


Unfortunately, there is a bigger problem than unstable plants... - my tomatoes have been attacked by spider mites. Spider mites are little evil creatures (less then 1 mm in size micro-spiders) that eat plants and build spider nets on them. I have noticed the first signs of their presence but I know they multiply extremely fast when they have good conditions so I have to stop them as soon as possible if I want to eat my own tomatoes this year. Last year they attacked my paprika plants. I had 5 or 6 paprika bushes and none of them survived because I did not use anything professional to fight the parasites. Spider mites spread over paprika plants very fast because they have smooth surface. Tomatoes have more hairy stems so these little creatures have problem with moving fast on them so they do not attack the whole plant at once. Spider mites prefer high temperature and drought so my tomato plantation is a real paradise for them. There is over 25 °C degrees (77 F) and dry air there because there are the best conditions for tomatoes too. Tomatoes should not grow in humid air because when their leaves stay wet they can develop various fungal diseases. Therefore I avoid pouring water on them while watering. 

attacked leaf

attacked leaf
spider mite on one of my tomatoes leaves


There is very little time to act. I have ordered a special organic anti spider mites product that is supposed to kill them without affecting the health of the other house residents. I ordered it on line so it will take some days for the parcel to come. So far I can only wash the plants with soap water. This should slow down multiplying of these awful creatures. I have to conduct this procedure in the morning so the tomatoes leaves can dry fast in the sun. I will write how everything worked after I see some results. I hope it works.






Monday, April 29, 2013

Supporting Tomatoes

Tomatoes grow fast and quite quickly become tall. When they grow indoors by a window they tend to turn to the sunlight which can cause that they bend and fall down because they are too heavy to keep standing in this uncomfortable position. It happened to a few of my plants. I used to turn them around to keep them in the straight position but it did not work in all cases and some of them collapsed anyway. This is an example of my laying tomato:



The longer time a tomato plant lays down on the ground, the more difficult is to lift it up again. I have read that one can actually replant a tomato in this position but the plant should be planted deeper then usually so the whole laying part stays around 10 cm underground. That helps to develop a stronger plant. I used to have such curvy tomatoes in the previous years but never replanted them this way. I must try this trick when I transplant my tomatoes to big pots.  We will see if they get stronger than the other plants. 

The part under the red line is going to be planted underground

I will write about it more when I transplant them in May. 

I decided to prevent my plants from further collapse. I used shishkebab sticks to support every plant. I pushed sticks in every pot and tied tomatoes to them with yarn. The tomatoes actually lean on their sticks so the yarn is only additional help in case the plants change position and form. 


Tomatoes with sticks


I´m glad that my tomatoes started growing fast after planting them in the pots filled with soil because it means they are healthy. On the other hand they are not going to be too tall by the middle of May ("thanks" to keeping them too long in the propagation cubes) when I move them to the greenhouse. It is not too easy to replant a big but still very fragile plant. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Greenhouse

After I had realized that growing tomatoes outdoors in Sweden is not the best idea I decided to buy a greenhouse. I did it next spring. There are many kinds of greenhouses - from very advanced and big ones to very simple models. It might be tempting to have a big glass greenhouse which can be used also as a romantic room in the garden but not every one can or should have one. Not me. First of all I wanted something small that would not take too much space in the garden. I did not need tones of tomatoes because they were supposed to be eaten only by my family (mostly by me who is a tomatmonster). I just wanted something practical where I would be able to squeeze minimum 10-15 plants. I bought a simple model with a window in the roof. It is ca 2 m long and 1,5 m wide. The greenhouse is made of polycarbonate plastic which makes it childproof. A glass greenhouse would maybe look better but it could be easily broken by playing children. Plastic solves this potential problem. My polycarbonate greenhouse has also a UV protection layer. It blocks ultraviolet rays that can damage plants but let the "good" sunlight in. The window does not open automatically like in advanced models but it is not a problem to open it manually. Frankly speaking I keep it open almost the whole summer. I close it occasionally when it rains cats and dogs. Last year some of my tomatoes grew so tall that some of them "looked out" of that window.

The greenhouse arrived in a box. First, my husband (who is big and strong) made a foundation of concrete to make it stable and not able to fly in the wind. Then we put all parts together. When it was ready my husband made a path of concrete plates. It was very important because a natural path on the ground could easily become muddy. The concrete path stays dry and clean.

It is finally spring and my tomatoes have lots of sun. They started growing faster after planting them in little pots filled with soil. I will transplant them to big pots in the greenhouse in the middle of May. The picture below was taken last summer.

My concrete path and tomatoes in pots



Thursday, April 11, 2013

Transplanting Tomatoes To Larger Pots

My little tomatoes did not feel comfortable in their tiny cubes. They developed long roots but their growth stopped. It was high time to transplant them to bigger pots. I remember that my last year´s plants  were bigger at the same age. I will rather use some sawing soil mix next time than propagation cubes. 

I transplanted my plants yesterday evening when it was only 2 °C degrees (35,6 F) so much too cold to keep my tomatoes outside. I did not want to conduct the whole procedure inside so first I prepared pots outside. I started with putting labels with number on the pots. The numbers correspond with the tomatoes sorts I planted. Before sawing my tomatoes I had prepared a numbered list of their sorts. When they get fruits I will know which is which. After putting the numbers labels on the pots I filled them with a special planting soil mix. It contained a natural fertilizer. I did not prepare the mix myself but bought it ready in my gardener´s store. When my pots were ready then I took the first tomato plant outside and planted it quickly before it got too cold. I had to be very careful because their roots were long I did not want to damage them too much as well as I had to make sure that the roots ends are in the right position and go down in the soil. Then I put the ready tomato pot back inside and placed it on a plastic tray. Every pot has a hole in the bottom to remove excess water from it. Therefore I needed the tray. I used it instead of many regular pot plates. I repeated this procedure with every tomato. Now I have 24 pots on 3 trays. After transplanting tomatoes to the new pots I carried them to the upstairs hall where they have very good conditions thanks to roof windows that let lots of the sunlight in. Tomatoes really need it. At the end I watered them with mild temperature water. They survived the whole process and went to sleep because it became dark:) Plants don´t like to be transplanted in a sunny hot weather because it makes them tired. They need some time to regenerate. I planted my tomatoes in the evening so the had the whole night to rest:) 

Today they look OK. I hope they feel good and will start growing fast. I plan to transplant them to very big pots around May, 15th.   
Plant ready to go to the new pot


My tomatoes today. Still alive;)

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Water Tomatoes;)

My tomatoes survived 5 sunny days without watering thanks to my tray-in-tray solution. They were just dipped in water all the time. When I came yesterday it was high time to refill the water. I noticed also that their roots were hanging below the tray bottom like some seaweed. It happened because they had grown very long during those 5 days and went out through holes that are in the bottom the the tray. I pulled them up carefully and put all the roots in the cubes tray. Some of roots ends broke and I hope it did not cause shock to the plants and does not affect their growth. So far they look strong. 

I am impressed how fast seeds sprout in the propagation cubes and how fast roots grow. It happens much faster than in a regular soil. On the other hand though the whole process needs too much attention. Growing plants in regular pots with soil maybe is not so effective and it takes longer time for seeds to sprout but they really need only regular watering (not too often).

Now I try to keep the water level not too high so it only reaches the bottom of the tray. The cubes absorb water very well so they stay moist. 



Long roots of the plants


Tomatoes one month after sowing

Next step will be transplanting my tomatoes to bigger pots. I am looking forward to doing it.  

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Keeping Propagation Cubes Moist For a Long Time

I experimented with my "tray in tray" idea and it worked out. I put the tray with the propagation cubes in a bigger tray that I used to use to propagate plants in previous years. I filled the bigger one with water. The water level was as high as it could almost reach the cubes tray surface. Thanks to that the cubes stayed very moist. My tomatoes grow on the south facing windowsill which has a radiator underneath so water evaporates quite fast. This is important to keep sprouting seeds in warmth because it speeds up this process. Unfortunately these conditions caused the drought problem and my cubes with tomatoes used to get dry so often. I was afraid that the water from the container would evaporate too quickly but after 24 hours its level did not go down too much. I did not see any signs of fungus and plants look healthy in their "sponges". They even seem to like these conditions;) I had a little problem with fitting the smaller tray into the bigger one because the bigger one was not wide enough. At the end I suspended the smaller tray between two walls of the bigger one hoping that it would stay in a horizontal position. I will see what happens after a week and will write about it...



Underwater view

Tray in tray

Monday, March 25, 2013

Sowing Tomatoes

I should have started writing this blog one month ago because my posts would be more up to date. Unfortunately, I got this idea only yesterday. Anyway better later than never. Tomatoes should be sowed in the beginning of March. I did it more than three weeks ago. In previous years I used to sow my tomatoes in a special soil mix for starting plants from seeds. My gardeners store sells big bags of this mix. This year I wanted to experiment a little and try something new and hopefully easier and less messy. It´s still very cold outside and I did not want to dig in frozen soil so I bought a propagation kit with 24 cubes on a plastic tray. 

The cubes are made of composted organic materials with micro nutrients. They have a spongy texture. They are supposed to help seeds to sprout fast and develop strong roots of the plant. There is a small hole in every cube which makes it easy to put seeds in it. I put 2 seeds in every hole according to the instruction. There are always seeds that do not sprout at all. Therefore it is better to sow 2 seeds in one cube/pot to have more chances to get at least one plant. 

Like I expected cubes were great and easy to use. I only needed to push the seeds a little with a help of a match. The other little problem was to "close" holes over the seeds. I was afraid that they might get dry. I cut  small pieces of the cubes corners and pressed them in the holes over the seeds. Maybe that was not needed but it felt more secure. My tomatoes started sprouting three days after sowing! In some cubes I got one and  in some two sprouts. Normally it takes around a week. When I had two in a cube I picked the smaller and weaker one.

Not everything is great though - my cubes need to be watered all the time. I use water in a spray bottle. The sponge cubes absorb easily small amounts of water but the rest just leaks out through wholes in the bottom of the tray. When I had my plants in regular soil pots I did not need to water them so often. Maybe once in three days. Now - at least three times a day. I work at home so I can do this but what will happen when we go away for a few days? I am going to try to put the tray with them to a bigger tray filled with water. I hope that they can suck the water through the bottom holes like a regular plants in pots do. I hope it works. I will test this today and will write about the results later. 

My tomatoes this morning

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Why I Run This Blog

In my first post I want to present my experience with growing tomatoes. I don´t pretend to be a professional - it´s just my passion and try to do my best to get great tomatoes from seeds. Every year I learn something new about it and my blog is the place where I write what I do and what effects it gives.

I have always loved taste of real homegrown tomatoes. My grandma Helena used to have a greenhouse and had the best tomatoes in the world. It is almost impossible to find really tasty tomatoes in stores. Therefore, I decided to grow my own plants. My first cultivation took place 3 years ago. I decided to check if it was possible to grow tomatoes in Sweden. Poland and my region of Sweden (hardiness zone 6) have more less the same climate so it seems possible to succeed. Though, I was a little crazy planting my tomatoes in the ground outside instead of keeping them in a greenhouse. Summer in Sweden is unpredictable - the weather changes several times a day. It rains quite often. Tomatoes don't like to be wet. Luckily, it was not the worst summer so my plants grew well. Problems started when they were still green in September. I had to pick them in this stage and keep them on windowsills. Eventually, they became red but then I discovered that they tasted awful - I turned out that I had used too much fertilizer (natural) which affected their taste. All my tomatoes landed on the compost pile but I did not give up...

Thanks to this experience and many professional publications I have learnt a lot about tomatoes. I also  get advice from my mother in law who successfully grows tomatoes in the northern Sweden (Leksand). Last two years I succeeded with my plants and I keep growing them. I test and introduce new solutions for watering, fighting pests and other potential problems that I face. I also check different sorts of tomatoes every year. I have been running a paper tomatoes cultivation diary with information about every tomato sort I have had - if it was tasty, when fruits were ready to pick, how much it weighted and how many tomatoes I got from one plant. Now, I decided to run this blog instead of the paper diary.