Winter Gardening

potted tomatoes

It seems somewhat ironic to me that, although I enjoy researching, planting and growing tomatoes, I do not like to eat them. Melissa, my wife, enjoys just about any type of tomato; from a green zebra or tiny siberian to a beefy big boy; if it is a tomato, she will probably eat it. I grow them, and she eats them – it works out to be a low-waste working arrangement. I have two tomato plants that seem to be carryovers from the summer time. I planted both mid-summer, but never brought them outside. One is a large, siberian heirloom (pictured) and the other is a black prince (from fedco seeds).

As it turns out, other of my tomato plants are of Russian heritage – both hail from Siberia, as well. The siberian is doing well from a foliage standpoint, but have only produced two tomatoes. It is most likely not getting the right amount of sunlight. Even though the tomatoes hail from Siberia, I am pretty sure they were not originally grown during the winter months. It may also be a flowering issue. The siberian is a determinant tomato variety; meaning, it sets all its flowers at once as opposed to an indeterminate variety which has a continuous or staggered setting. If a round of flowers fail to set fruit on the siberian (or any determinant), you will have to wait for new growth to take place and a new round of flowers to appear. The black prince, on the other hand, has yet to show any flowers let alone having flowers set into fruit. It is growing better, now that I moved it to a different, more southerly-exposed window.

In addition to the tomato plants, I have several varieties of peppers growing, as well as lemon balm, sweet basil, italian thyme, sage, a single container of rudbeckia, four potted paperwhite narcissus bulbs, as well as a potted amaryllis variety called ‘apple blossom’. The peppers seem to be a relatively standard crop for me in the winter. They usually take all winter to grow and will fruit late spring or early summer. The varieties include Habanero (Scott Bonnet), Aji, Cayenne, a sweet-white-colored pepper called "Dove" and one that had "mezcla picante" on the seed pack – which just means "spicy mix". The only ones that are not doing well are the Habaneros. I would just guess the less than balmy 65 degrees F in the kitchen is not cutting it for them. The peppers, for the most part with the exception of the Habaneros, are easy to grow. I use clean, empty 24 oz plastic yogurt containers (it is a good reuse of these sturdy, plastic vessels). A bit of garden potting soil, a pinch of some good fertilizer, regular watering and a nice sunny spot seem to work just fine.

The herbs seem to be slightly more of a hit or miss. I am not sure if it is a temperature issue or a light issue or perhaps, both. I had a pot of basil and a pot of lemon balm fail to grow anything. One of the lemon balms is going great guns, but it was started in the late summer. Crushing a leaf or two between one’s fingers releases the delightful smell of lemon from it. Melissa and a friend of hers used some of it in a batch of soap they made. Although, I do not think they used enough, it makes for a great idea for a future batch of soap.

The italian thyme just continues to chug along. I planted it from several years ago, and the set the pot on the window sill in the kitchen. It makes for a excellent addition to just about any tomato-based sauce or even a vegetable/tofu or bean soups. I use the sage less now that I went mostly vegetarian – it is an herb that lends mostly poultry but can work well with fish, too.

Next time – Snowshoeing in Judge Magney State Park