Thursday, May 21, 2009

Market Madness

Eddie the Cat supervises the loading of the van

We meant to take a lot of 'action shots' at the Astoria Sunday Market's opening day but honestly, it was a complete blur and there wasn't a moment to take the camera out!  All I remember is an enormous wave of people coming through our market booth, steadily wearing down the great wall of plants that we had brought with us that day.  If you came by to say hello and we had no time to chat or catch up, I apologize!  It was just a crazy day, but in a good way. Do come by again soon.

 I loved seeing so many people excited about growing edible plants this year, whether they were old hands coming back to experiment with a new tomato variety, or people growing their very first head of lettuce.  I think there are going to be a lot of great homegrown meals served up on the North Coast this summer.

The main topic on everyone's mind was, as usual, TOMATOES.  It is such a tragic love we have with them here, as they are such a challenge to grow on the coast.  And yet...  when it works, and you bite into that ripe, delicious tomato that you grew in your very own garden on the coast, it is the most satisfying thing imaginable.  So I get it, and want to help everyone have as successful a tomato growing experience as possible.  I got a little crazy with the number of varieties we are growing this year, but I wanted to give everyone lots of options for great, short season, smaller sized tomatoes that have a good chance of making it here.  We are close to selling out of a few varieties, so if there is one you are really wanting to try, drop us an e mail and we can reserve it for you to pick up at the next market.

We can't do anything about the weather, but we can do something about how we respond to it!  If you didn't get a chance to pick up our 'Tomato Growing Tips for the North Coast', just follow the link and it will take you to our websites plant growing tips section.  (Yes, I know, so far there is ONLY the tomato growing tips!  More coming soon, I promise.)

There were three questions we heard all day long.  

1.  "Do you have any basil?"  The answer to this is technically yes, but it is still young and we won't bring it to market until it has at least a fighting chance of surviving outside.   May is just TOO EARLY TO PLANT BASIL OUTSIDE ON THE COAST.  I know that sucks, but it just is.  Be Patient.  Summer is coming.

2. "What do you think about those upside down tomato containers?"  The answer to this is...hmm.  Well, a LOT of people seem very excited about these this year, and I understand that there have been several advertisements in heavy rotation on television recently, promising great things using this method. (We don't have cable, and thus out here we don't get television, so I miss these things.)  

I had a moment to chat with Vicki from the wonderful Sungold Farm last Sunday- they have also been getting a lot of questions about these upside down tomato growing thingys.  We both agreed that it seems kind of weird to us, and couldn't figure out the answer to the main question, "Why?!"  I guess it's a space saving thing.  And neither of us could figure this out: When you water them, where does the water run off go?!  Because it seems like it would just run out the bottom and get your tomato plant all wet, which the plant will hate.  I don't want to say they don't work, because I've never tried it, so if you have, or if you are trying it for the first time, will you e mail me and let me know what your experience is?  I will say that if you want to try it out, you would want to pick a determinate tomato variety to grow, not an indeterminate one.

Which brings me to the last question.

3." What does 'determinate' and 'indeterminate' mean?"

Tomato plants come in many, many flavors, but two basic styles- determinate and indeterminate.  Determinate tomatoes are also known as bush tomatoes- they have a finite size, and the plant will grow to that size and then stop.  It will continue to flower and fruit, the plant just won't get bigger.  These are good tomatoes for containers, because they don't get too big, and their root system isn't as big.  A lot of hybrid tomatoes are determinate, as the plants have been bred to stay smaller.

Indeterminate tomatoes are vining plants, and they will just keep growing- vines can get 8-10 feet tall if you let them.  You do not have to let them, you can prune away at the tops once they get too big.  Most heirloom varieties are indeterminate, because plant size has only really become an issue in more recent years with people wanting less rambling plants in their garden. Indeterminate varieties will need support- we like to grow our up against a  trellis, which helps with air circulation and ripening, and makes it easier to cover up with row cover fabric when those damn summer storms blow through.  And it is good to pinch out suckers on indeterminate tomatoes to control the rampant growth.

Later in the year (when we can take illustrative photos) I will post on pruning and training for tomatoes.  For now just keep them warm and as dry as you can, and hope for sun.

I am looking outside my window at a glorious early morning- clear blue sky, no wind, and the faint roar of the ocean way off in the distance.  A Good Day for Tomatoes.  After savoring the beauty of the moment, and thinking, "ahhhhhh.....", my next thought was "Tell Packy To Water The Greenhouse!!". 

Not that I'm not willing to do it myself, but I'm off this morning to give a couple of talks about Worm Composting to groups of young girls at the American Association of University Women's 'Girls Esteem Day' in Astoria.  

Handfuls of decomposing plant matter full of wriggling red worms + 8-13 year old girls.

Should be a fun morning!

Come by and see us at the market soon.  My fabulous father, Ralph-Dad Retzlaff is visiting us right now and helping out on Sundays (well mostly he is just trying to stay warm in the afternoon Astoria wind tunnel that is the market street!), and we are looking forward to catching up with old friends, and hearing about your garden adventures.

Eddie the Cat will be staying back at the farm, guarding the greenhouse and working on his tan.

Maybe this afternoon I'll get to take a nap in the greenhouse too.

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