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Under snow in Ontario

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Under snow in Ontario

Post  Esme on 3/12/2014, 8:46 pm

Hello from a part-time gardener  happy hi 

I wander south in winter most years, and spend as much of summer as I can on an island in a wilderness park in Georgian Bay, the eastern part of lake Huron. In between, I garden a bit in southern Ontario. Right now, not so much, under drifting snow that looks level from a patio door 3' above ground level, with a wind chill factor of -25C.

I came home from Florida last week - because it was time to start the tomato seeds Rolling Eyes .
Tomorrow morning, if the power doesn't go out again, I should finish the third plug tray, and that will make me slave to about 800 tomato plants and assorted annuals that caught my fancy for the next couple of months, once things get germinating.

I'm not as insane as I sound. Our horticultural society has ever-increasing costs and never increasing grants, so we must raise funds. Heirloom and specialty tomatoes sell well.

I spend a lot of time explaining to people that in our area, a lot of luck is needed to produce long season beefsteaks. I hand out sheets with days to harvest. I twist arms and try to talk customers into taking a few early ripeners. I drive myself crazy. We make money, though.


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Re: Under snow in Ontario

Post  Goosegirl on 3/12/2014, 9:07 pm

welcome Esme!

I am with you on the seasonal factor - here in NE South Dakota my growing season is probably similar to yours.  You are in good company here, as the first thing I thought of when I read "800 tomato plants" was that you must be raising them to sell.  Those of us here definitely do not think you are crazy - at least not any crazier than any of us!   rofl   I have started my onion seeds and my basil sprouts are just starting to get their first true leaves.  By the end of the month I should have most of my other seeds in pots.  We are getting teased with a possible early spring, after this brutal winter.  Hopefully it will turn out to be so.



GG   geek 

COMPOSTING:  The only time 'Garbage In' does not equal 'Garbage Out'!


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Re: Under snow in Ontario

Post  GWN on 3/12/2014, 9:25 pm

I am a long ways from gardening as well.  I was briefly in Mexico, and had expected the snow to all be gone by the time I got home, but still 2 feet here in central BC.
I just got all my heirloom tomato plants started as well, I have 250 seedlings started, not sure if I can keep them alive, but I thought..... HEY.... where else would you be able to buy heirloom tomato starts...
SO I am going to try to sell some at our local farmers market in May.  
I am retiring this year so looking at small things I could do for extra income.

What varieties are you planting



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Re: Under snow in Ontario

Post  Esme on 3/13/2014, 3:21 pm

Hi GG, thanks for the welcome.

There's money in the plants, Janet. We price our plants inexpensively, since I don't want to babysit them for more than 2 months, and we sell most of them in 3 hours on the Saturday of the Victoria Day weekend. If I were doing this to supplement my income, I'd charge more than $1.50 per plant; but then people would want bigger plants in larger pots, etc., etc.

Last year was our second year, and we made almost $500 from the tomato plants alone. People want something they can taste. They demand beefsteaks, so we sell them, but we're starting to get some educated to looking at 'days to harvest'.

I keep some excel spreadsheets that I can use to make handouts, showing what we have by the type of plant our customers tend to ask for: Beefsteak; Cherry; Extra Early; Patio; Cool Weather Tolerant; Sauce/Salsa/Cooking. That let's us just set out the plants in alphabetical order at the sale, since some varieties fir more than one category.

I have 22 varieties planting, and am working on my 4th plug tray this afternoon. About half are new this year. The others are favourites from previous years.

Last year my new picks were Paul Robeson, Big Orange and Azoychka from TomatoFest, but none of them were good keepers, just delicious eating. We had a very bad summer, cold and wet, the worst in years; I was lucky not to get hit by the blight that wiped out almost all the local home gardens.

We found that patio tomatoes that could be grown in pots or even hanging baskets were amazingly good sellers, since even folks in seniors' residences with patios or balconies that got a little sun could grow a little summer for themselves. The best of the ones I've tried so far is a little dandy called Silvery Fir Tree from TomatoFest. It produced my earliest tomato, and just kept on producing in its little pot until frost.


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Re: Under snow in Ontario

Post  GWN on 3/13/2014, 8:04 pm

WOW that sounds great.
I have about 20 varieties, that I am growing, but am going to try to stick to some of the more well known heirlooms for this year
I am thinking of selling the tomatoes later on.  The two that I am thinking of selling are Brandywine and Juane FLamme..   I am trying to grow Yellow Brandywine this year and if it goes well will try selling plants next year.
I used to use plugs, but for the last year I have been putting the seeds out on wet paper towel and then in plastic bags.. then I write varieties on the bag and then put all the bags on top of my water heater.
So this way I do not plant anything that has not proven it can at least sprout.  thinking 

I have 3inch peat pots, but have just discovered COW POTS.... made from cow poop, dried and sterilized.
I have ordered them from West Coast Seeds and expect them in the next day or so in the mail
Have you ever heard of cow pots?


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Re: Under snow in Ontario

Post  Esme on 3/13/2014, 9:36 pm

No, I don't know cow pots. I wouldn't have the space for them. I use plug trays that have 288 spaces in a 12x24" matrix to hold promix, for germinating tomato seeds. I mix the promix with warm water (with no-damp premixed in) in small plastic garbage pails with lids.

I swear by plastic, because if I look after it, I can bleach it, and reuse it for many years. I'm a cleanliness fanatic. And I use promix because I don't want potting soil tracked through the house. I did use peat pots several years ago, but didn't like the experience. I thought they dried out, and left the seedlings vulnerable.

From Feb or March until May, my dining room becomes a propagation room. Germinated seedlings are moved to (washed and re-used) cell packs, carefully labelled, since a labelled seedling is worth $1.50 and an unlabelled one is a give away. The plug trays and the trays of cell packs go under lights in the basement, on 2 old pingpong tables. 18 lights will take 36 trays when the tables are full.

Then the plants are later moved to labelled individual pots, and the day before the sale, other club members stick labels made from address labels with pictures etc on cut up pieces of venetian blinds into the pots. I'd like to that earlier, but those labels aren't waterproof. 

By the time the plants are in individual pots, they go into my small unheated greenhouse, then later into my cold frame. Space is so limited.

It's been my experience that heirlooms would be tricky to sell for profit. They don't produce well except in hot weather, and tend to keep poorly. Nepal keeps fairly well, and tolerates extremes of weather, but that envelope of seed seems to have gone astray this spring. (The snowplow wiped out the mailboxes around here several times.)


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Re: Under snow in Ontario

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