Chocolate Stripes Tomato

Chocolate Stripes Tomato

I’ve been chowing down on the chocolate stripes tomatoes in my garden. It has a rich flavor, low acid; quite meaty too.  I don’t think it really has a smokey flavor essence, which the Filipino #2 does. We’ve had a cool summer and I think that’s kept it from ripening earlier. Truly a beautiful variety; it looks a lot like some of the Wild Boar Farms tomatoes, but it came to me free via   Not a heavy producer, but the plant has grown quite vigorously, probably due to my ultra compost fertilizer. Average size is about 2/3 of my fist,  which is to say about two hockey pucks stacked up together.

It seems to be a tad prone to cracking and scarring.  It ribbed nature is pretty cool, but when you do have the scarification it’ll make straight slices (one of the best ways to eat it) a little ugly.

Will likely plant again.

Growing Garlic Indoors Like a Boss

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Why indoors?
Most of us aren’t totally homeless and have some inside space. Not all of us have, or want, outside land to farm. Some of us just want to start indoors and then transfer outdoors. To each, his own.
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The Seed
By seed, I mean bulbs. Starting from literal seed is WAAAAAAAAY too hard.  Buying garlic heads is much easier, and you know exactly what it’ll turn out to be when it grows up (look at the cloves). I buy mine from the Salt Lake City farmers market (I think the Sandhill Farms guys are there, and they’ve got good stuff). The stuff in catalogs is typically overpriced, but you can do that if you must. And if all else fails, your grocery store has them. Once you’ve got your garlic head, just break it apart and separate the cloves, but don’t remove the outside papery skin.
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The Planting Receptacles
Pretty much anything will work – 16 oz tomato cans are a nice start as you can use a can opener (the triangular pokey kind) to facilitate the desired drainage situation. Tin cans have an added benefit with plants started indoors, but meant to transfer outside: you can open the bottom end and slip out the whole thing, instead of attempting to dig out the plant from the top.  Pretty non-invasive, unlike some plastic seed starting trays.
A lot of people on the net like cutting open 2-liter bottles, making “self watering” containers and such.  Moisture control is critical for indoor plants;  I’ve seen a lot of plants go rotten because of excess water in these setups. Its difficult for me to gauge how the water will actually flow/get wicked up at time of construction, so their is a lot of manual fiddling.
You can also do hydroponic setups, but without liquid nutrients as the plant will only grow the green tops. Having never done that personally, I also speculate that the bulbs might not grow all that well in just water, even with the added mojo. The internets also support this view.
Planting the Cloves
You can soak the cloves to give them a kickstart, or use old refrigerated cloves that have already sprung up.  Or go au naturel.  No bid deal here.
If you are planning on a larger pot, plant bulbs 2 inches down, 5 apart. Otherwise, one per small container.  Use some good soil.
You can grow the garlic to full maturity indoors, either under lights or next to a sunny window.  Since I have some earth to call my own, I transplant the started garlic outdoors. No matter what you do, as the plant top grows, gently brush the stalk with your fingers, simulating wind – it’ll make it sturdier.
On Timing

Here’s the deal. If your growing all indoors, it doesn’t matter when you decide to get on your garlic crusade.  Plants don’t use calendars; only temperature movements, light cycles,  rainfall, etc.

When considering outdoor transfer, remember that planting garlic in the fall is for noobs.  Why?  To get all Game Of Thrones on you, winter is coming and the night is dark and full of terrors.  You never know how miserable winter will be. Plus, you may not know exactly where/if you’ll plant the stuff.
I can hear a faint voice from some petulant garlic-know-it-all in the distance, “But if garlic doesn’t have 30 days of below 40 degree weather, it won’t properly vernalize and split into cloves when growing! This of the yields! You have to plant it in the fall!”
Ha!  A noob would say that. Solution to all your problems*?  Just use a highly regulated temperature/moisture storage unit: your fridge.  You can easily start cloves there. Or transfer already growing cloves for a cold weather period to increase future growth.  I understand how fall sowing, done right, can increase the size of your garlic. However, I believe you still get good bang for your buck in terms of size, ease, versatility and predictability when planting indoors with a brief stint in the cooler.
As for the exact timing on spring planting, the USU gardening maestros declare: “plant the cloves as soon as the soil can be worked and the threat of very hard freezes has ended. ( “
*And by all, I certainly mean all.  There is no room for hyperbole here. NONE.

The Slow Goodnight Kiss of Winter

So far the cold and frostier nature of November has been abated in favor of milder, playful days and temperate nights. Even though the days are short, many things in my garden still march on, refusing to believe that winter’s gloss and subsequent tantrum will ever come.

For example, my saffron crocus bulbs.  I planted them late October due but they still managed to bloom.

Saffron Crocus blooming in November

Also, my “winter hardy” German thyme still remains the grayish green from summer. The lavender is in full blown denial, still going bananas.  Then there is the new greenhouse my father built from a kit.  Soon I may start some seeds via the wintersown method.  If you’re not aware of the method, or just want some free tomato seeds, check them out.

Grow on my friends, grow on.



Hungarian Sweet, King of the North Peppers


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Left to right: Hungarian sweet, King of the North, Albino Bullnose

I’ve grown some Hungarian Sweet (not the “wax” or “hot” variety) peppers and they’ve turned out well.  Good yield, small-medium fruit, good heartiness. They started out a pale yellow and I was afraid they’d never turn colors – I grew them to make sweet paprika and yellow would just not do.  They turn red/orange a week or so after they seem to stop growing.

The King of the North peppers have been satisfactory as well.  Medium green fruit, decent production (better than California wonder bell peppers).   I stuffed a batch of the earliest peppers for baking (I couldn’t wait to check them out) and they turned out really nice.  The Hungarian peppers tasted young, lacking the sweetness that they do when they start to turn, but still quite tasty.

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Roma: 3, San Marzano: 0

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Since 2011, I’ve been attempting to farm San Marzano type tomatoes in my garden.The Italian sales pitch convinces me every year that the San Marzano tomatoes are the real and best sauce tomato. However, every year they get trumped by regular Romas in flavor, robustness, and yield.  In our area and soil, the SM are very susceptible to blossom end rot.  In the same conditions (even in the same raised bed), Romas exhibit no signs of BER.  The SM produce about 25% of the volume of the Romas.  The flavor of each type is really similar, and if you got the best specimen from each tomato type each harvest, it would be a tie.

Maybe you’ve had success with your San Marzanos and can share your tips with me.  Until then, the Roma will stand as my go-to sauce tomato.

Growing Garlic from Store Bought Cloves

Step 1: Buy garlic from the supermarket, storing in your fridge. Either wait till it sprouts on its own  or separate the cloves, wrapping in a  damp paper towel and put in a cup in the fridge

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Step 2:  When the look sufficiently sprouted, plant in soil with the clove fully buried.


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Step 3: Water on a regular basis. You know, regular gardener stuff.

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Step 4:  When the leaves on the garlic start to die, its probably time to harvest.

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Step 5:  Cure and store, or enjoy immediately.

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Starting Seeds Indoors

The 2-Liter Self-Watering Method


You can have the soda bottles self-water through a punctured cap, submersed in a bath of water (left) or have some twine wick up water through a stoppered, but open neck (right).  When you just submerge the neck all in the water (left) you will cut the bottle in half; when you want to regulate via the wick method, you need the top 1/3 so it doesn’t dip into the water, because the whole top part will drift down a bit before snugging up tight.



Above, some traditional seed trays, along with two Gatorade bottle starters.


Kids with Chickens


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Above, a young Chicken Catcher with some young Ameraucana pullets. You should Chicken Catcher now (below) – she wrangles the birds with ease.

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A few months later, the Little Chill gets surprised as the chickens softly nibble at his small fingers.

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The kids and I feed the chickens some scraps.  Just like the former, if you feed them, they grow up in no time.