Square Foot Gardening Goals for 2010

On the coldest day of the year, I decided it was time to put together a list of goals for my 2010 Square Foot Garden.  We’ve hit bottom (I hope) and all uphill to spring now.

1. Grow More Heirlooms - I have always had a nice selection of heirloom tomatoes, but didn’t use heirloom or vintage varieties for my other vegetables.  My favorite heirloom tomatoes are Cherokee Purple, Riesentraube, and Kellogg’s Breakfast. I plan on using heirloom from everything from my lettuce, to my peppers, and even my carrots.  The two main sources I use for seeds are Baker Creek (www.rareseeds.com) and Sand Hill Preservation (www.SandHillPreservation.com).

2.  Start Early - This has always been a goal, but I am going to work hard to get it done this year.  I have missed some great cool weather vegetables growing time the last few years.  In addition to early lettuces and cauliflower, I want to get jump start on a few tomato plants.  I am going to a wall of water for the first time this year.

3.  More Herbs - This has been the most neglected item I can grow that we use a lot of.  I am going to focus on Basil, Dill, Mint, and Rosemary.  I plan to use heirloom varieties of these herbs (see goal #1).

4. Pickles - I am going to have Dill, I might as well put it to good use.

5. Grow Something New - I am leaning toward peanuts, but still need to do some additional research.   The backup plan is eggplant.  Not exciting, but new to me.

6.  Use my compost - I have made it over the last two years, but didn’t take full advantage of it.  I am going to make more and use more in 2010.

7.  Flowers - I will start and use more flowers in my garden and around the yard this year.  Last year was the worst year for flowers for me…I will rebound in 2010

8.  Have Fun - I will have fun with the garden.  The kids have been picking out things to grow.  I might even have them have a grow their own 4×4 Square Foot Garden.

2010 will be a great gardening if I meet some of the goals and the weather cooperates.  Good luck with your Square Food Garden.

My 2008 Tomato List

It is that time of year again when I have to pick a few tomatoes from a list of thousands to grow.  You have to consider previous performance, others reviews, determinate vs. indeterminate, color, heirloom vs. open pollinated versus hybrid, among others.  It can prove to be a difficult task.  After going through seed catalogs from Baker Creek, Sand Hill Preservation, and Burpee I think I have my mind made up.
This year I will doing a few things differently than last year.  All of my tomato plants will be planted in Square Foot Garden’s instead of splitting them with the homemade earth boxes.  This decision was not made, because of poor performance with the earth boxes, but to use the space saving advantages of vertical gardening.  The other change will be type and number of plants.  I was overwhelmed with tomatoes last year.  I had a ton of cherry tomatoes and average tasting colored tomatoes, but too few slicing tomatoes.  I do plan on growing melons this year so the space dedicated to tomatoes will be less.  I do plan on growing at least 8 indeterminate plants on the trellis this year.

You can find my 2007 list here (http://allaboutsquarefootgardening.com/?page_id=13 ).  The tomatoes I plan to carry over are:

  • Kellogg’s Breakfast - Great tasting orange tomato.  This tomato produced well for me and was unique.  It was the most difficult to start from seed, but well worth it.  I can not see a year when I will not grow Kelloggs Breakfast.
  • Cuostralee -A wonderfully large red beefsteak tomato.  It started strong and finished strong.
  • Cherokee Purple - A nice dark tomato that has a very good tomato taste.  The production wasn’t the best, but the plant was strong and healthy.  Its timing on producing blossoms was a little off with the weather.
  • Jet Star VF - This hybrid is early and good.  The 8 ounce fruits are meaty and low in acid.  This will be the third year I grow the Jet Star tomato.
  • Aunt Ginny’s Purple - This plant failed for me last year, but it was my fault.  I want to try this one again due to the great reviews.

These tomatoes will be new to me in 2008:

  • Brandy Boy Hybrid - I am interested to find out if this tomato is really that to close to an heirloom taste.  The production and size of the fruit looks good.  They also claim a thin skin.  I hope this one will work well so I can give a good review in the future.
  • Tommy Toe - Last years cherry crops taste was unimpressive at best.  The Piccolo was the only real stand out.  I plan to grow Tommy Toe this year on the recommendations of others.  It looks like the most difficult thing to grow this tomato is to find the seed.
  • This last definite is up for grabs.  You can post a comment on what you think I should grow.  I don’t care what kind of tomato it is… I only want it to be good.  Let me hear what you think.

So that is my 2008 Tomato List for my Square Foot Garden.  I will have 4 4×4 SFG’s this year with a trellis on each.  This should be plenty of room for the tomatoes, melons, and cucumbers to be able to get along.

Heirloom Tomato Basics

Heirloom Tomatoes are so called because they are grown from seeds whose lineage can be traced back centuries. In the past few years, heirloom tomatoes have grown in popularity especially in the high end culinary world. They are known for their intense flavor and wide variety. Another lure of the heirloom tomato is its thick and rich meat that some people have even likened to the taste of strawberries and even mango.  These types of tomatoes are not any more difficult than todays hybrids.  The Square Foot Gardening style allows for great results, in small spaces, for types of tomatoes.

As mentioned, there is a wide variety of heirloom tomatoes. These cultivators also come in a wide array of color and even tastes. If your regular tomato comes in Red, Orange, Yellow and Green; be prepared! Heirloom tomatoes offer you colors like a deep rich burgundy that is almost black, which is sported by the Black Krims variety and has a beautiful pink tinged meat that will look great on any salad dressed with a bit of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Another Not-So-Ordinary variety found in the Heirloom tomato family is the white Cherry tomatoes that have been named as the White Wonder.

A few of the more preferred Heirlooms include the Tangerine. The Tangerine is a bright orange variety that is similar to Tangerine oranges. One of the main reasons that the tangerine tomato is preferred is the fact that they look like the grander cousin of the common tomatoes that are widely grown and sold in farmers markets.

The plum tomato is also a very popular version. An Heirloom plum tomato is the sausage tomato, the only difference being that it is elongated like a sausage. Another favorite heirloom tomato is the one called Big Rainbow. This beauty of a tomato is very low in its acid content and has very few seeds. The Big Rainbow definitely stands ups to its name with some tipping the scales at 2 to 3 pounds and has very rich meat. A cherry tomato that has been said to have a very fruity taste is the Galina. This cherry variety is known to have a much higher sugar content compared to others.

For those farmers that are situated in a very foggy area. There is hope because some varieties of Heirloom Tomatoes do well in foggy climate and one of them is the Green Zebra and the Green Grape. The tomato crop may dwindle in the hot summer months because their skins tend to crack, resulting in low quality yields that don’t even reach the bigger markets.

Sadly, the Heirloom Tomatoes are not seen as very lucrative produce. A lot of farmers shy away from cultivating heirloom tomatoes because they believe that it does not sell well in the market! This is actually true. Even Brandywine Heirloom tomatoes (considered to be the most sought after heirloom tomato) that have a dark rich hue did not get the proper recognition they needed until they were extensively promoted and written about. This lack in enthusiasm by the farmers can be easily remedied by an increase in public awareness as to how much heirloom tomatoes can offer the palate.  In recent years this has been changing.  If you are lucky enough to find some at market, don’t be shocked by the price.  I have seen them sell for 5 dollars plus per pound.  I would be easier (and cheaper) to grow them yourself in a Square Foot Garden.

Tomato Harvest

This years tomato harvest was good. I used both the square foot and homemade earthboxes. Next year I think I will only use the square foot method. The production in the SFG’s was less, but the size and quality was better. I had so many tomatoes this year!!!

Ripe Tomatoes from a SFG
Burpee’s Porterhouse, Kellogg’s Breakfast, and Cuostralee with F5 Sungolds and Piccolo


MY TOMATO REVIEW 2007

Sungold F5 - The production on the F5 Sungold was incredible. The plant was huge and produced late into the season. The taste was only average. It was a good plant, not great.

Piccolo - A very tasty red cherry tomato from Europe.  I had a nice sweat taste and was meaty.  It could be sliced and put into a salad.  I’ll grow this one again.

Kellogg’s Breakfast -  Impressed!  Good Sized Orange tomato with great flavor.  Its production was only fair for me, but it unique color and taste made up for it.  It was one of the most asked for this year.  Unfortunately, the plant did not last as long as the others.

Cuostralee - BIG Tomatoes!  These tomatoes were large and were solid.  They contained very few seeds and “goo”.  It was my favorite for BLTs.
Cuostralee Tomato Ripe Fruit

Burpee’s Porterhouse - This was a very good tomato.  It was so hyped by Burpee, I had some concerns.  I grew it from seed with no problems.  It produced a good amount of large tomatoes.  The largest was right at two pounds.  This tomatoes did have a nice sweat taste and I will grow it again.
Burpee Porterhouse Tomato
Cherokee Purple -  Good production, good taste, very realiable.  Easy call to grow again.  I also love the dark purple color.

Purple Passion - Poor production, but good taste.  I would rather grow the Cherokee Purple instead.

Lime Green Salad - Another crowd pleaser.  People didn’t understand how a green tomato could taste so good.  The plant was very smal, but out performed its size.

All and all I am pleased with this years selections despite my late start.  I will be growing some of the same next year, but will add a few new ones.