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The Democratic Front Lawn

April 24th, 2009

“Deeply ingrained within the American phyche is the stereotype I call “The Democratic Front Lawn.” This type of lawn is a perfectly manicured swath of open turf that starts at the street and sweeps back, carpetlike, up to the traditional foundation plantings that skirt the house. It’s democratic because everyone can see it all –There’s no place to hide –yet somehow there is no display of unfettered free expression–everyone conforms to the standard lawn and foundation-planting solution. Thus, many front yards give passersby little information about the people who live there. With the size of the lots shrinking, it may be time to rethink what we do with this important zone of our house. (It’s not unlike the unused space inside many over sized houses – the formal dining room that rarely sees diners or the massive great room that is shunned in favor of a cozier den). Leaving the front yard as a bland useless space is a waste of resources and ingenuity and certainly doesn’t foster a sense of neighborliness.”

–Julie Moir Messervy (Home Outside)

I’m trying to liberate my lawn to make more flowerbeds for beneficial and edible plants. I also don’t use chemicals on my lawn so the dandelions and wild violets thrive (besides, why would you spray out those lovely wild violets pictured above). I’m hoping to eventually create a landscape around my home that is both beautiful and functional with a minimal space for lawn. Check out these photos, how incredible are these undemocratic landscapes!

What do you think, a big beautiful green carpet leading up to your home, a small patch of grass for playing but surrounded by flowers or no lawn?
(New Poll)

Parade of Tulips

April 23rd, 2009

The tulips are in full bloom here at Chiot’s Run, well at least the ones the deer didn’t get to.
I really like tulips, my favorite ones are Shirley Tulips and Negrita Tulips. I have a few other colors, but purple, white and pale yellow are my favorite colors as far as tulips go.
I’m not a huge fan of primary colors in the garden, not sure why, they just seem too harsh for me. I do have some red and yellow tulips in the gardens, they were labeled ‘Mickey Mouse’ tulips when I bought them.
Here in Ohio tulips aren’t always perennials. They come back occationally but they’re usually fewer in number and smaller. So each fall I plant a few bulbs so I have a good spring showing (although last fall I didn’t plant any so I don’t have very many tulips this spring). This coming fall I’m thinking about buying some heirloom bulbs to plant, they’re supposed to come back each year.

What’s your favorite color of tulip (or specific cultivar)?

Quote of the Day

April 22nd, 2009

Turn your face to the sun and the shadows will fall behind you.

-Maori Proverb

Sometimes all I need is a little sun on my face to make me feel better, particularly after a few days of rain (like this whole week so far). Hopefully I’ll see the sun tomorrow!

What help lift you out of a somber mood? coffee? the sun? reading? family?

2009 Tomato List

April 21st, 2009

Many of you commented on how many tomatoes I had yesterday. Let me explain why I have so many plants. I have 22 different kinds that I’m growing this year, I will only be growing one plant for most of these varieties so many of these plants will be given to family and friends (any locals interested let me know, I’d be more than happy to share). I’m growing several plants of a few varieties for canning and preserving, mainly Mama Leone and Constoluto Genovese for canning and Principe Borghese for drying.
I’m most excited about my 2 San Marzano’s which were generously sent to me by Chicago Mike. I may be growing lots of these next year, they’re supposed to be great for canning. Most of the remaining varieties will be for eating fresh, we’ll decide which ones we like best and grow those next year. I’m hoping to have lots of extra fresh tomatoes to take in to the local food bank (and I’m hoping to have extra plants to take in as well). I’m sure throughout the summer I’ll lose a few plants to disease and pests, which is more common with heirloom plants.
Here’s a list of all the tomatoes I’m growing this year. Some of them have very details descriptions so the list is quite long. Feel free to add a comment if you like or dislike any of these varieties.

Principe Borghese – The Italian heirloom that is famous for sun drying. Small 1-2 oz. grape-shaped fruit are very dry and have few seeds. They have a rich tomato taste that is wonderful for sauces. Determinate vines yield clusters of fruit in abundance, perfect for selling in fresh markets and making specialty products. Determinate, 70-75 days.

Stupice (Czechoslovakian heirloom, early & delicious) – An extra-early, cold-tolerant tomato similar to, but much better than, Glacier tomato, Kotlas and IPB in terms of fresh flavor and yields. The vines are more vigorous than other extra-early, potato-leaf types; and, in part, this may account for the consistently good, sweet and tangy, tomatoey flavor that you get from the first juicy fruit to the last. From north to south, east to west, this 2-4 oz tomato is on the “Best Choice” list for its flavor and season-long production. Indeterminate, 55 days.

Wapsipinicon Peach -This unusual, cream-yellow tomato has a fuzzy skin. The 2″ fruits are very sweet with a nice, fruity flavor. The plants are highly productive. Wapsipinicon Peach tomato originally came from Dennis Schlicht and was named after the Wapsipinicon river in Iowa. Indeterminate, 80 days.

Zapotec Pleated Tomatoes – (Lycopersicon esculentum) Rare/Traditional. Named for its creators, the Zapotec people of Oaxaca, the pink fruits are large, with ruffles like a pleated dress. They can be stuffed and baked like a bell pepper, or served raw. Sow seed in flats indoors and plant out in garden in 6-8 weeks when all danger of frost has passed. Plant in rows 24-36 inches apart. Needs trellising. Harvesting tips. Pick individual fruits as they ripen. When frost threatens, entire plant can be lifted, including roots, and hung upside down indoors to ripen remaining fruits. (Soil Temp. for Germ.: 70-85°F, Days to Germ.: 10-14, Plant Spacing: 2′-3′, Days to Maturity: 80-85, Full Sun/Moderate Water)

Dr Wyche’s Yellow – Named after Dr. Wyche who supposedly lived in the mountains and fertilized his garden with manure from a nearby zoo. Undoubtedly one of the best tasting yellow tomatoes to be found. A beefsteak heirloom that produces slightly flattened, smooth, blemish-free, golden-yellow fruit with a meaty interior and few seeds. It’s rich flavor and larger size sets this variety apart from other yellow heirlooms.

Black Krim Tomato – Dark red-purple fruit, rich sweet flavor. One of the best. It always places high in tomato taste trials. It’s very juicy. An heirloom from Russia with very unique looking, large fruit. I really like the wonderful flavor. It’s popular at many markets on the West Coast; also a favorite of many fine chefs. 80 days.

San Marzano Tomato – For canning, paste, and a killer spaghetti sauce, it’s hard to beat ‘San Marzano’, a sought-after heirloom from the Campania region of southern Italy. A highly prized Italian heirloom tomato for its fruit with firm pulp and thick skin, used in the concentrate industry as well as for canning ‘peeled’ tomatoes. This is truly the Italian standard for sauce and paste and a heavy producer. The fruit are long, often mistaken for large peppers from a distance. Fleshy with few seeds, often with ‘dry’ seed cavities, and with an authentic flavor that will take you back to Italy. A vigorous grower (we couldn’t believe the size of the harvests even in zone 5), vines start bearing later in the summer but then come on fast and furiously, producing heavy, 3½-inch-long tapered fruits in clusters of five or six. ‘San Marzano’ is low in sugar and acid, which gives it superior flavor when cooked. The vigorous plants are extremely prolific and produce until the first hard frost. Indeterminate, 80 days.

Cherokee Purple – Given to heirloom tomato collector Craig LeHoullier by J. D. Green of Tennessee, it is at least 100 years old and was reported as originally grown by the Cherokee Indians. The fruits are large (twelve to sixteen ounces), dark pink with darker purple shoulders. Excellent complex flavor, slight sweet aftertaste, perfect slicer for tomato sandwiches! Try this one for real old-time tomato flavor. Indeterminate, 80 days.

Cold Set – Lycopersicon esculentum. A variety from Canada, plant plant produces good yields of 4″ size red tomatoes. Very flavorful and the easiest tomato plant you can grow. You can sow the seeds directly into garden. The seeds will withstand temperatures as low as 18 degrees in Canadian trials. Excellent for salads and sandwiches. Determinate, 65 days.

Tumbling Tom – Cascades of sweet, juicy cherry tomatoes right on your deck. Don’t let the compact, trailing habit fool you. Tumbling Tom is a heavy yielder of beautiful bright red cherry tomatoes. Perfect for hanging baskets or deck planters, and produces 15-20 gram cherry tomatoes with very good flavour. Begins yeilding early at approx 65 days from transplanting, and continues to produce throughout the summer, Determinate.

Costoluto Genovese – The Costoluto Genovese tomato is an old Italian preserving tomato variety. It’s heavily lobed and often convoluted shape is indicative of early nineteenth century tomato varieties, but makes an oddity in today’s vegetable garden. The Costoluto Genovese’s stellar flavor is intense and acidic. Because of its odd shape, this tomato is best for sauces and pastes where the skin is removed. This indeterminate variety should be started indoors six to eight weeks before the last spring frost. Sow one-quarter inch deep in flats or pots, keeping the soil mix moist, not soggy. When several leaves have developed, harden off seedlings and transplant eighteen to thirty-six inches apart in the garden. Full sun. Has ribbed fruits, about 5 – 7 ounces, Indeterminate, 90 days.

Roller Coaster Cherry Tomato Mix – Delicious and colorful blend made from varieties of cherry, pea, currant, wild types and rarities. Indeterminate, 70 – 85 days.

Azoychka – A very productive Russian heirloom found at the Bird Market in Moscow. (“Azoychka” is a woman’s name.) Produce indeterminate, regular-leaf tomato plants that produce an abundant crop of smooth, 3-inch round, slightly flattened, yellow/orange tomatoes with a sweet citrusy flavor. This is a delightful small yellow beefsteak tomato that matures so early it will be one of the first varieties to ripen in your garden. Beautifully smooth, lemon yellow fruit weighs about 8 ozs. and is very flavorful, rich but pleasantly sweet with a delicious hint of citrus. Heirloom variety from Russia. Our stock seed is from Craig Le Houllier. Indeterminate, 70+ days.

Mama Leone Tomato – A real old-time Italian paste tomato, this variety produces 5-6 oz full-flavored red fruit that are supreme in sauces and paste. The vines set high yields. This heirloom that was brought from Italy many years ago to New York state. 75 days.

Black from Tula – The Black From Tula is a Russian variety of black tomato that hails from the city of Tula in Western Russia. Black From Tula gives a good yield of 12 to 14 ounce beefsteak tomatoes of a dusky brown to a rich black that possess a unique, rich smoky taste. Black Tula was once a widely offered tomato variety, but is now becoming rare. Indeterminate. Matures in 75 days.

Brandywine Tomato – 80-100 days, indeterminate – It is by far one of the best known heirloom tomato varieties. There is a lot of lore surrounding the ‘Brandywine’ category of tomatoes. Reportedly it is an old Amish heirloom, dating back to 1885 and named after Brandywine Creek in Chester County, Pennsylvania. The disease tolerant, regular leaf plants yield fruits that are red, globe shaped, and full of flavor.

White Beauty – Plant produces good yields of 8 oz creamy white tomatoes. Tomatoes are very sweet and meaty. It is creamy white inside and outside, with few seeds! Add color to gourmet dishes, or make a white spaghetti sauce! Creamy white, meaty and delicious, most about a half pound. Indeterminate, 85 days.

Sub-Arctic Plenty or World’s Earliest – One of the very earliest tomatoes, the compact plants produce lots of 2 oz red fruit. It one of the best for cool conditions and will set fruit in lower temperatures than most. It has even been grown in the Southern Yukon. Developed by Dr. Harris, Beaverlodge Research Station, Alberta, Canada. 49-59 days.

Orange Amish Market – This tomato I bought at the Amish market last summer and it was one of the most delicious tomatoes I’ve ever eating. So I saved a few seeds, hopefully these tomatoes are just as tasty as the ones I bought!

Dix Doights de Naples (10 Fingers of Naples) – And Italian Heirloom with “Clusters ” of paste tomatoes! Fantastic yields of carrot/pepper shaped fruit. Tall vines produce plenty of fruits in bunches of 3 or more. This tomato does tend to show some bloom rot on its first setting of fruit, however, they are supposedly beautiful after that and well worth the small “problem”. Indeterminate, 75 days.

Goji Faranji – Very rare, Iranian ruffled red beefsteak, about 6 – 8 ounces, a bit tangy, 85+ days.

Golden Jubilee -Wonderful variety grown for decades, 3″ yellow-orange globes, delicious. Indeterminate, 70 days.
In previous years I’ve only grown 2 different kinds of tomatoes, a canning tomato and an eating tomato (usually Viva Italia and Lemon Boy), so I’m super excited about all the shapes and colors of tomatoes that will be gracing my gardens this summer. I’ll keep you posted on all the different varieties, how they taste and how the plants do in this climate.

What how many and what kinds of tomatoes are you growing this year?

Repotting Tomato Seedlings

April 20th, 2009

My tomato seedlings go through a series of repottings before they get planted in the garden. My goal is to have small sturdy healthy tomato plants by the time it’s warm enough to plant them outside.
Tomato seedlings seems to thrive on being repotted (unlike other plants), so I repot mine several times during the growing season. Each time I pot them I cut off the bottom 2 branches and bury those under the soil level. This way when it’s time to plant them I have a short tomato plant with a large root ball. If you look at a tomato seedling closely you’ll see lots of little hairs along it’s stem. Each of these will become a root if they come in contact with the soil.
Yesterday was a very productive day here at Chiot’s Run, I was able to repot about 70% of my tomato seedlings (since I currently have over 200 seedlings, that’s a lot of repotting).
I always like to do my repotting on a cloudy day, it seems to be much easier on the plants. Yesterday was perfect for repotting.
I always make sure I label each tomato pot when I repot it. I used to try to keep them organized in rows and only label the first one, but too many times I’ve had to wait until fruiting to know exactly what kind of tomato it was.
I just love the look of all the little plants. These plants signify a lot of delicious homegrown goodness!

Do you have a specific technique for repotting tomatoes or other seedlings?


This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.