Ways to extend the harvest

Lowther: Ways to extend the harvest

Just because a little typhoon shredded my tomato tent that took hours to erect, the season isn’t over, it

Just because a little typhoon shredded my tomato tent that took hours to erect, the season isn’t over, it just means that I’ll have to reconsider this method. I guess this storm was worse than in years gone by.

Tomatoes still on the vine can be pulled off and stored inside. The ripest ones are stored separately so they won’t get bruised by the harder green ones. For the ones you want to ripen, spread them in a single layer out of direct light at room temperature and check them every couple of days. The other ones can be stored up to four weeks when held between 12 and 15 C, but check them regularly for spoilage. Don’t store them any colder than that or their ripening ability screeches to a halt, permanently.

Here’s another way to extend the harvest. Author Dick Raymond suggests cutting new suckers from healthy plants about now, potting them up and putting them in a sunny place and they’ll likely take root. I followed his advice this week, removed the largest leaves from the cuttings to lessen the load on future roots and trimmed the stem to fit the container and if Raymond is right we’ll be eating fresh tomatoes by Christmas.

I used Solomon’s Potting Mix that works very well: blend:

1 part good garden soil

1 part well-sifted finished compost

1 part coir (coconut fibre — available at Home Hardware)

Blend into each cubic foot (5 gallons):

1 cup organic fertilizer

¼ cup finely-ground agricultural lime

Coir comes in compressed squares that must be completely soaked in water before measuring. I like it.

I’ll water the seedlings with a mixture of diluted high-nitrogen fish fertilizer and a hydroponic fertilizer called BioVega because both of these fertilizers stimulate leaf growth. When flowers appear I’ll switch to diluted kelp liquid and Bio Flores, which stimulate fruit set. Although BioVega and Flores cost a pretty penny, I thought I’d give them a whirl this year and see if they were worth it. They did work well and I still have some, but they smell and look mostly like molasses and I don’t think they are worth getting again. I’ll stick to my compost tea made with extra amendments and the (affordable) fish and kelp liquids.

Next year when late rains threaten I’ll cut the strings at the top of the tomato vines, lay them down across a thick bed of straw and cover them with a low, aerodynamic plastic tunnel laid over hoops like the undamaged one protecting the celery and hope the slugs don’t find the tomatoes before I do. A tunnel is much easier to erect and a whole lot cheaper too.

 

Upcoming events:

Nov. 12: the Garden Club has a trip planned to Butchart Gardens, carpooling. $37.84, including ferry to Brentwood. Contact Maureen at 250-749-0154

Dec. 13 at 1 p.m.: The Garden Club will go to The Olive Station in Duncan. Come and taste their olive oils and vinegars. Possible carpooling, there’s room for 10 to 15 people. Contact Maureen at 250-749-0154

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