Category Archives: tomatoes

Prepping for Tomatoes Before Christmas

I have had great success pushing the season outdoors by planting tomatoes on the vernal equinox and reaping ripe fruit before Christmas Day. This year is no different although it has been a struggle to do so.

This is what we started with: a sodden, compacted, clay lawn with poor drainage around the house foundation.

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I started by preparing to improved the drainage while also building more garden beds.

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This process took a while as there was lots of soil to move. Simultaneously I was making a cubic metre of compost where one of the garden beds would go.  Screen shot 2014-09-23 at 5.25.12 PM

The hot compost we make takes about 30 days to mature.

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I had a helper for part of the job.

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Finally ready by September 21st, the vernal equinox, to put in the tomatoes.  Screen shot 2014-09-23 at 5.26.34 PM

I had some plastic sheets that our new ceiling insulation came wrapped in. I used it to suppress some of the grass before cutting it to an X and then skimming the turf.

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As the soil was severely compacted, I forked it to help with aeration. These will be no dig garden beds once established.

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I always plant my seedlings with a litre or more of compost. Screen shot 2014-09-23 at 5.27.12 PM

Fold back the plastic…

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…and cover with mulch. Mind you, the plastic will only be in place for this one growing season. After the sod is killed and the tomatoes have done their dash, I will remove the plastic, fork the bed again, add compost, and then just treat it as a no dig garden bed.

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These first six plants are Early Girl. They will bear ripe fruit around the 10th – 15th of December.

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The next six plants are Money Maker. I have good luck with them as a consistent, heavy cropper and relatively good a resisting plant diseases.

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Peace, Estwing

Seven Months of Fresh Tomatoes: Mid-WInter Update

At first I was pleased with five months of garden-ripened tomatoes… and then I was thrilled with six months of garden-fresh tomatoes. But as of today, we actually have seven months of ripe home-grown tomatoes without a glass house. I’m speachless.

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It may not look like much, but they are still producing… and they still taste good.

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And the plants are still flowering.

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Apart from that, we have the usual winter veges growing.

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Especially lots of broccoli.

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Additionally, the rhubarb seems to be pumping.

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And we are getting our first real orange crop.

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Many of our native trees are putting on new growth.

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And others are flowering.

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I really love these purple hebes.


Peace, Estwing

5 Months of Home-Grown Tomatoes

We have just reached a milestone of five continuous months of fresh, organic, home-grown tomatoes without a glasshouse. Our first ripe tomato appeared on 13th December.

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As of now, we have a small bowl of tomatoes on our counter and a few more outside on some very tired looking but still living plants.

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We use a combination of sun traps, timing, compost, mulching and successive planting to maximize our production while minimizing inputs. I’ll include more details in another post.

Successive Planting: Summer/Autumn Transition

One way we are able to produce large amounts of healthy food on a small amount of land is our approach to bio-intensive annual gardening. A combination of 80 mm (2.5 inches) of topsoil and copious amounts of high quality compost have allowed us to grow large, healthy and abundant vegetables.

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Another way that we achieve high yields is by successive planting. In other words, as soon as one crop comes out another goes in. For example, after harvesting broad beans last spring I immediately planted pumpkins in mounds of compost.

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Both of these strategies rely on abundant, high quality compost in order to replenish soil fertility to make up for the food removed. We use a hot composting system called the Berkeley Method that ‘disappears’ meat and roadkill in a matter of weeks.

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 Sometimes we use our lawn clippings in our compost, and sometimes we use them for mulch.

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This week I have taken out some tomato plants that were in the ground since the 21st of September – 6 and 1/2 months – and replaced them with broccoli.

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 You will notice there are still some capsicum (bell peppers) in the ground, and I even left two of the eight tomato plants rooted as they were still producing. I simply laid them on the ground on top of dried grass mulch.

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 Each broccoli seedling is planted with a large dollop of compost.

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 The tomato ties – old bed sheets torn into strips – are collected and stored for next year.

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And my helper and I carry on with the next chore.

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Peace, Estwing

Health Benefits of Heirloom Tomatoes

A friend of ours who lives in Whanganui is active in researching the health benefits of tomatoes and apples. I’ll write about apples in a few weeks, but here is a blurb about their tomato research:

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This research is looking to find the best open-pollinated tomato varieties in the world for human health, particularly those highest in lycopene for cancer prevention.
The research is also seeking to determine whether hybrid tomato varieties (and vegetables in general) are nutritionally deficient in comparison with traditional open-pollinated varieties.

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Here is a bit about their findings:

Discovery of the Real Tomato (12 April 2013)

We are delighted to announce a break-through in our understanding about the superior health benefits of specific tomato varieties.

Two types of lycopene can be found in tomato. All-trans-lycopene is commonly found in red (and other colour) tomatoes; and tetra-cis-lycopene (also known as prolycopene) is found in some orange heirloom tomatoes.

Read more here.

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I stopped by to visit him last week, and took pictures around his glasshouse. There are some really amazing varieties.

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Peace, Estwing

What’s For Dinner: Tomato-Zuchinni-Chicken Bake

One of the most popular questions we get from people who read the blog or articles is – what do you eat?

They are usually surprised to learn that we don’t have a very strict dietary regimin. We certainly like our cheese too much to be vegan, and after a brief wwoofing experiment with raw food, we decided that wasn’t for us. Our eating principles are as follows, in order of importance:

1. Avoid GMOS

2. Eat Local

3. Eat Organic

We also tend to loosely agree with the Nourishing Traditions folks in the fact that we drink whole fat milk, use butter instead of marg, use real sugar and salt, and eat meat – all in appropriate quantities of course (or maybe silghtly more than appropriate) – and all following the above rules as closely as possible.

Given that information are you still curious about what we are eating for dinner tonight? Well alrighty then, I’ll tell you. But bear with me, because this is my first ever attempt at writing a recipe and my food porn is likely not up to scratch.

After taking a quick look through the fridge and garden and seeing what we have in abundance- it was decided by the head chef that tonight’s dinner would be some kind of Tomato-Zuchinni-Chicken thing.

I headed over to my favorite source of inspiration (for cooking, life, and bad-assery) and found this recipe. That Pioneer Woman, is she real or legend? I think legend. Who has the time to run a farm, take such great photos, and be so damn witty?

I dutifully followed her directions, using our homegrown vine ripened tomatoes, free range organic chicken, and top of the line boxed wine. I added some of that giant zucchini. Because it’s summer, and ever dish gets zuchinni in the summer.


But it wasn’t quite veggie enough for us yet, so I popped out to the garden to grab some green. Fresh herbs, swiss chard (silverbeet), and oh hey, a cute little ripe pumpkin! (We’ll just save that for another day).


Chopped all of that roughly and added some of our world’s best garlic and she was good to go. Image

An hour later our house smelled amazing and Eco Thrifty Baby was anxiously awaiting her dinner. Sorry kid, probably should have started dinner just a bit earlier, but time management is not one of mama’s strongest attributes.


And done. An easy healthy meal plus the chance to use my dutch oven. Sweet.


Mid-Summer Permaculture Update

Here are some images of our productive permaculture property during the first and second weeks of January. Highlights include our first apricots, first olives, and first kumara plants.

Beans, tomatoes, plums and apricots.
Our first pumpkins are ready.
Kumara: a new experiment.
Hiding this iron fence with driftwood.
Our first olives forming.
Agapanthus flowering everywhere.
Pears coming along. 
Monty’s Surprise apples. 
Black Boy peaches. So excited. 
A very attractive lettuce. 
Pretty cool mottling. 

Peace, Estwing

New Years Permaculture Update

Here are some pictures of our pumping permaculture property.

Good eats
A lettuce crop where I harvested garlic just 2 weeks ago. 
More on the vine
Bawberries, as Verti would say.
Looking forward to our first grapes this year.
Mo bawberries pwees.
Pumpkins forming.
Another cubic metre of compost.
Spuds in the ground.
“Wild” purslane.
Kittens next door.
A little colour.
Bean blossoms.
Bean blossoms.
Bean blossoms… fooled you. Apples.
Melons in the ground. Hopefully it will be hot enough for fruits to form. 
Red hot chilly peppers – blossoming.
Our first oranges.
Guava fruits forming from fertilized flowers.
Dinner tonight.
Dinner tonight.

Peace, Estwing

Making Small-Scale Vegetable Production Pay

Any small-scale organic farmer or market gardener knows it’s very hard to make anything more than a minimum wage unless one has unprecedented access to a population that is willing to pay fair prices for high quality food. Paradoxically, the land values near these population centres are extraordinarily high, basically preventing small-scale farming or market gardening.

For the rest of us, it is a hard slog for the moment. I have three pieces of advice for the aspiring market gardener who wishes to make a fair wage for their skills and time: 1) find a niche product; 2) be first to market with a common product; 3) grow the best of the best of anything.

Finding a niche product, however, can be hard so I’ll focus on the other two for the moment.

Last year I beat everyone to our local market with fresh, local, organic tomatoes by over three weeks. As such, I could charge a premium for being the first, and then drop out of the competition when everyone joined me and prices fell.

Being first to market means planting early varieties and getting them in the ground early.

It also means planting these early varieties in the hottest spots.

I would not call garlic a niche crop, but I will say that discriminating cooks will pay for the best garlic.

We will sell and give away about half, save a quarter to replant, and eat a quarter ourselves.

Peace, Estwing

Upcoming Workshops

Two Workshops, One Day. June 1st, 2013
1:30-3:30 pm. Window Blanket DIY Workshop
4:00-5:30 pm. Growing Great Garlic, Plentiful Pumpkins, and Tomatoes Before Christmas

Window Blanket DIY Workshop.
1st June, 2013. 1:30-3:30 pm. Quaker Meeting House. 256 Wicksteed St.
As effective as double-glazing but at a small fraction of the cost, window blankets are one of the best things a householder can do to make their home warmer, dryer and healthier. In this workshop, you will learn how to make your own custom fit window blanket to take home and install. You’ll also gain the knowledge and skills to make more of them at home.
All tools will be supplied. Either bring your own materials or buy them at the workshop for a small fee.
Space is limited.
Registration essential. – 344 5013
Workshop fee: $20 ($15 unwaged)
Materials fee: $8 – $16
Growing Great Garlic, Plentiful Pumpkins, and Tomatoes Before Christmas

This workshop shares  some lesser-known tips and techniques to enhance the growing of common garden vegetables organically. On our small section in Castlecliff, we grow 400 beautiful garlic and over 100 kilograms of pumpkins with very little effort. Last year we had our first ripe tomatoes on 15th December without a glass house.
1st June, 2013. 4:00-5:30 pm. Quaker Meeting House. 256 Wicksteed St.
Space is limited.
Registration essential. – 344 5013
Workshop fee: $15 ($10 unwaged)