July 29, 2015

NCR-SARE Announces 2016 Farmer Rancher Grant Call for Proposals

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From a SARE press release:

The 2016 North Central Region – Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (NCR-SARE) Farmer Rancher Grant Call for Proposals is now available online at http://www.northcentralsare.org/Grants/Our-Grant-Programs/Farmer-Rancher-Grant-Program.

Farmers and ranchers in the North Central region are invited to submit grant proposals to explore sustainable agriculture solutions to problems on the farm or ranch.  Proposals should show how farmers and ranchers plan to use their own innovative ideas to explore sustainable agriculture options and how they will share project results. Sustainable agriculture is good for the environment, profitable, and socially responsible. Projects should emphasize research or education/demonstration.

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There are three types of competitive grants: individual grants ($7,500 maximum), team of two grants for two farmers/ranchers from separate operations who are working together ($15,000 maximum), and group grants for three or more farmers/ranchers from separate operations who are working together ($22,500 maximum). NCR-SARE expects to fund about 40 projects in the twelve-state North Central Region with this call. A total of approximately $400,000 is available for this program.

NCR-SARE will be accepting online submissions for the Farmer Rancher Grant Program. More information about the online submission system can be found in the call for proposals.

Interested applicants can find the call for proposals online as well as useful information for completing a proposal at http://www.northcentralsare.org/Grants/Types-of-Grants/Farmer-Rancher-Grant-Program. You can find more information about sustainable agriculture at http://www.sare.org/ or take a free National Continuing Education Program online course about the basic concepts at http://www.sare.org/Learning-Center/Courses-and-Curricula.

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Proposals are due on December 3, 2015 at 4 pm CST.

Potential applicants with questions can contact Joan Benjamin, Associate Regional Coordinator and Farmer Rancher Grant Program Coordinator, at benjaminj@lincolnu.edu or 573-681-5545 or 800-529-1342. Applicants should also contact Joan Benjamin if they need a hard copy or an email version of the call for proposals. We make revisions to our calls for proposals each year, which means it is crucial to use the most recent call for proposals.

Each state in SARE’s North Central Region has one or more State Sustainable Agriculture Coordinators who can provide information and assistance to potential grant applicants. Interested applicants can find their State Sustainable Agriculture Coordinator online at http://www.northcentralsare.org/State-Programs.

NCR-SARE
UMN BioAgEng Bldg. Ste 120
1390 Eckles Avenue
Saint Paul MN 55108
Direct Phone: 612.626.3113
Office Fax: 612.626.3132

On the web: http://www.northcentralsare.org/
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NCRSARE
On Twitter: https://twitter.com/ncrsare 
On YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/NCRSAREvideo

April 30, 2015

Grow Rhubarb!

Rhubarb is an easy to grow perennial that grows the best where the weather is cool for part of the year. It is one of the first crops that come up in the spring and is commonly baked into pies and other sweet dishes that need some tartness, such as muffins. Rhubarb has also been used for medicinal purposes since ancient times and the name “rhubarb” comes from the Latin rha barbarum, “Rha” being the ancient name for the VolgaRiver in Russia where the plant was native, and “Barbarum” denoting the people of the area whom the Romans considered barbarians.

 

Rhubarb Plant  Photo: Purdue University

Rhubarb Plant
Photo: Purdue University

 

Rhubarb is generally used as a fruit in dessert dishes but rhubarb has a savory side and can be used in sauces for meats and in braising. In fact, in 1947 a New York court stated that since rhubarb is used primarily in the way a fruit is used, it is therefore a fruit. Obviously the part of the rhubarb plant in question, the part used for culinary purposes, the leaf stalk, is within the bounds of the vegetative part of the plant. The fruit of the rhubarb is a sort of winged seed that grows on a stalk after the plant flowers. There are in many ways to cook rhubarb though and its versatility should be explored.

Rhubarb  Photo: Purdue University

Rhubarb
Photo: Purdue University

The cultivation of rhubarb involves planting the roots that have been divided from a parent plant. You can find rhubarb roots at most garden centers or you could just plant roots that a friend dug up for you from their own stock. The rootstock should be dug so that there are plenty of roots on the plant to help it get started. Rhubarb seeds will grow if planted but this is not a great way to start the plants as the seeds will probably not come back true to the parent plant. Seed propagation of rhubarb will more than likely result in stunted plants or plants with stalks that are stringy and flavorless.

 

The plants should be planted in a hole approximately the size of a five gallon bucket and the hole should be filled with a good mix of compost, soil and organic matter. The plants should be spaced 24 to 48 inches apart in rows 36 inches apart. The beds that the rhubarb is grown in should be slightly raised to provide for good drainage. Mulching the plants with compost or straw will keep weeds down and will ultimately feed the plants as well.

It will take a few years for the rhubarb plants to mature enough for any significant harvesting. Rhubarb will produce for years after it is established but it should be dug around every 5 years or so to trim the number of buds. This will help keep the plants vigorous and you can also separate the plants at this time to produce more rhubarb plants. One thing to keep in mind about rhubarb is that only the stalks are edible. The leaves contain large amounts of oxalic acid that can damage the kidneys and are toxic.

Rhubarb Stalks Photo: University of Minnesota Extension

Rhubarb Stalks
Photo: University of Minnesota Extension

Rhubarb is also somewhat decorative and can be used to border a garden or can be grown in other spots in the yard to fill in a blank space. Rhubarb has many uses beyond the traditional dessert and will produce for years. It is a great addition to any garden.

 

http://www.rhubarbinfo.com/growing

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhubarb

http://web.extension.illinois.edu/fjprw/downloads/5597.pdf

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March 31, 2015

Hooked on Fish – A CSF in Chicago

A CSF, Community Supported Fishery is an alternative business model for selling fresh, locally sourced seafood. In other words it is the CSA of the fish world. It is an idea that has been around for a while on the coasts and is a popular way to locally source seafood, but obviously in the Midwest, which does not have as large of a fishing industry as the areas bordering the oceans, an idea such as this seems to go against the grain of the “local” food movement. There is another side to local food though, and that is the “sustainable” part of it. As the bi-coastal CSFs have been champions of sustainability, and it is not possible to source 100% of all the food a Midwesterner consumes locally, some people have taken the sustainable part to heart and have started Midwestern CSFs.

Capture

CSFs have been popping up in the mid-section of the country as of late in various places, including one on Food and Wine’s “Best Food Artisans” of 2014, Sitka Salmon Shares in Galesburg, Illinois. Another one right here in the Windy City that has been getting a lot of notice is Hooked on Fish. Hooked on Fish is a CSF that started up in the spirit of community-supported organizations and like a CSA, it is a membership based operation. Its members sign up in advance for 4, 8, or 12 weekly deliveries (as well as single deliveries for the uncommitted) of about 1 pound each. Each week they offer 3 types of fish that is sustainably caught or farmed. According to Karen Wollins of Hooked on Fish, they work with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, an organization who raises public awareness about sustainable seafood issues through consumer guides, website, mobile apps and outreach efforts.

I asked Karen why fish and why the CSA model? She said:

“I love fish, and I also want to know where my fish came from, how it was caught, and that it is super fresh. Here in Chicago, there are only a few places dotted around the city that are reliable. I decided on the CSA model because of the convenience for those who sign up of having a pick-up point—they can pick it up on their way home from work. And we don’t have a lot of waste because I provide only what our members need. We’ve supported CSA’s for several years and love the community engendered by it. It has forced us to cook with new vegetables, such as tatsoi and rutabagas that we now love. In the same way, I hope that we can introduce people to other interesting fish that are just as good – or better – than the basic shrimp and salmon that most of us have been eating for a long time.”

She went on to say that they “aim to provide ONLY fish that is sustainably caught. We do provide farmed fish, but only if it is farmed responsibly, following guidelines established by MB Seafood Watch, Marine Stewardship Council, NOAA, and other sources.”

Hooked on Fish sources their product from a variety of sources each week trying to make one of that week’s featured fish a local choice. Featuring fish that is lesser known, their products come from the US and Canada, but also from Europe, and to a lesser extent, Australia, New Zealand, and Asia. Some of the fish that they offer are chosen because they provide a good sustainability story. For example one week they offered Pacific rockfish, which was depleted, but has now made a comeback due to responsible fishing practices. According to Karen, one of Hooked on Fish’s goals is to introduce people to new types of fish (such as the Pacific rockfish) or even popular seafood that is produced in different ways. They have had whole fish which were gutted and ready for cooking along with shrimp, mussels, clams, and oysters.

 

Photo: http://oceaned.org

 

It hasn’t all been easy to get sustainable fish to Chicago and offer it to the public. There have been a few issues with obtaining the licenses and permits needed to run a fish mongering CSF. Right now Hooked on Fish cannot sell at farmers’ markets without getting another permit. According to their website and other sources, the public have been positive about the products that Hooked on Fish offers and the idea of a CSF. So maybe as this catches on it will be easier for to start businesses such as this.

Karen Wollins said that in her opinion “it is important to find a fishmonger that you can trust. If they can’t tell you when and where the fish was caught, how it was caught, or if it was responsibly farmed, then don’t buy it.”  Hooked on Fish provides recipes with every order to help those who may have not have had experience with cooking fish. According to Karen “if you can’t cook the fish the night you receive it, put some ice cubes in a deep dish, covered with plastic wrap. Place the fish on top of that and cover with plastic. Just make sure that the flesh of the fish doesn’t touch the ice, and replace the ice as needed.”

Albacore Tuna

If you are interested in what Hooked on Fish has to offer or just curious about a CSF, more information can be found at: www.HookedOnFishChicago.com. Currently, Hooked on Fish has several pick-up points around the city, and are adding more. The Chopping Block (at both the Merchandise Mart and Lincoln Square), Flatts & Sharpe, as well as several others. For those who find that the current pick-up points are inconvenient, six customers can come together to create a new pick-up point. A pick-up point can be either a home or business.

Photo: Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch www.seafoodwatch.org

March 17, 2015

Long day or short day onions?

There have been more than a few people I know that, when starting a garden, opt for the bag of onion sets one finds at most garden centers or big box stores. Later in the season the tops die down, a usual sign that your onions are ready for harvest. When the onions are dug the gardener gets the disappointment of having small onion bulbs or even no bulbs at all. What happened? The gardener did all the right things, used compost, watered well, planted the onion set per the instructions on the package, so why no onions? There may be a variety of reasons behind this, but what the gardener may have not taken into account is the difference between “short day” and “long day” onions.

Onion Photo: Wikipedia

Onion
Photo: Wikipedia

Onions are one of the first crops that are set out by gardeners as they are pretty cold tolerant. Onion sets and plants are the most popular way of growing onions by home gardeners as the plants are already started, thereby cutting out the work of starting the seeds, however, seeds would obviously be the way to go for those wishing to save heirloom varieties. Seeds are also available from most stores and seed catalogs and should be started in flats before setting out. Onion sets and plants arrive in the stores usually in early spring and you may be tempted to grab what catches your eye, although if you live in the northern part of the country you should be on the outlook for long day onions.

Onions form their bulbs in conjunction with the length of the day. In the summer as the days get longer, onions start to store the energy of the sun in their bulbs. Long day onions need about 14 or so hours of daylight to bulb. This happens normally in early June. Short day onions need about 10 hours of daylight. You would think that the short day onions would then do better in northern areas, but that is not the case. Once an onion starts to bulb, top growth slows. Since the day length in the north is already 10 hours a few weeks into the growing season, the plant has not grown large enough to glean enough energy from the sun needed to form a full bulb. The result is small bulbs at the time the plant goes dormant.

Onion Planting Zones http://www.groworganic.com/

Onion Planting Zones http://www.groworganic.com/

Short day onions, grown in the south, are planted during the cooler months when the day is shorter. As the day lengthens in the southern latitudes, the onion bulbs out. This is normally during a different time of the year than it would be happening in the north. Unfortunately, many stores in the northern part of the country stock onion sets and plants started in the south. Many times these are actually short day onions and will not do so well for the northern gardener.

There are also varieties that are day neutral. Day neutral onions form bulbs regardless of daylight hours and produce well in most of the country. A good seed catalog or garden center will label different varieties of onions with the appropriate day length label. Note that some may refer to the latitude range that the onion variety does best in.

Onions fresh from the field Photo: Spurgeon Veggies

Onions fresh from the field
Photo: Spurgeon Veggies

One more thing about onions and day length varieties: many people are aware of this distinction but still get confused as to which variety is grown in which parts of the country. They assume that since the southern parts of the country are generally warmer, that means that the days are longer. This may be true in a way during the winter months, nevertheless not true in the summer. The further north you are in the summer, the longer the day is. For example, on June 21st, the day length north of the Arctic Circle is 24 hours!

Onions Photo: Wikipedia

Onions
Photo: Wikipedia

January 26, 2015

Winterize your Chickens to Keep Them Healthy and Laying

As we are now well into winter, those who keep chickens may see a drop in egg production from your flock. Hormones produced by a chicken dictate the amount of eggs produced and as we get shorter days and overcast skies the chicken will produce less hormones, and thus less eggs. The colder temperatures can also stress a bird slowing egg production and even affecting overall health. If you are worried about your chickens being left out in the winter cold don’t stress, there are ways to protect your birds and keep the eggs coming.

 

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When raising chickens, the basic needs are adequate food, fresh water, and shelter. This is true all year, but it can be a challenge when there is six inches of snow on the ground and the temperature does not get much above 0. If you free range your chickens, as I do, then obviously food can be a concern. There are less bugs, blades of grass or weeds for them to eat so food has to be supplemented.

Chickens nibbling on some scrap carrots

Chickens nibbling on some scrap carrots

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A good layer feed with 16% to 18% protein will help keep chickens healthy and laying. An addition of cracked corn will give them energy to face the cold. Table scraps can also be used to supplement as chickens eat almost anything and things like carrot peelings, egg shells, and old bread will provide much needed vitamins and minerals.

 

Heater watering bucket Photo: www.valleyvet.com

Heater watering bucket Photo: http://www.valleyvet.com

 

Submersible tank heater Photo: www.valleyvet.com

Submersible tank heater Photo: http://www.valleyvet.com

 

Submersible tank heater

Submersible tank heater

Water is a problem in the winter as it will freeze and thus be of no use to the chickens. Freezing can also damage a plastic or metal watering can from the expanding ice. One thing anybody raising chickens in the winter should invest in is a heated water bucket or a submersible tank heater. Having to break the ice out of a watering bowl is not much fun and using a heated bucket will give your chickens a continuous supply of water. As many heated buckets are made for larger livestock, be careful that the bucket is not too deep or if it is deep, a platform for the chickens is provided. Smaller or bantam chickens will tend to roost on the rim of a taller bucket and stand a chance of falling in and drowning.

Chickens enjoying themselves under a heat lamp as snow and sleet fall outside.

Chickens enjoying themselves under a heat lamp as snow and sleet fall outside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shelter for your chickens should provide protection from the wind and cold but should still provide good ventilation. A heat lamp can provide extra warmth for chickens but be careful that it is high enough that it will not start a fire and the chickens, in a frenzy, will not knock it down. Straw or other bedding should be provided. A good rule is to provide much deeper bedding in the winter for both warmth and to absorb the increase in waste products produced by the chickens. Chickens will not go outside as much when there is snow on the ground and there should be a way in place to account for longer hours inside.

 

As I said above, chickens slow their egg production due to shorter days. Chickens evolved to produce eggs when the chance of a chick surviving is the greatest. When days are longer the weather is warmer and chicks have a greater survival rate. Chickens should have approximately 14 hours of light to produce eggs. You can trick your chickens into thinking that the day is longer than it is by providing light that mimics the daylight. I use a florescent light with a full spectrum bulb. You can get by with just an incandescent bulb as well. You just need to have the light on in the evening when the chickens are starting to roost.IMG_0479

 

Raising chickens can be fun and rewarding for anybody with the space to do it. And with a little extra care, your chickens will give you eggs all year long!

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Further information:

 

http://www.agriculture.com/livestock/poultry/feed/feeding-freerge-chickens-in-winter_292-ar28128

 

http://www.localharvest.org/blog/50346/entry/winter_egg_production

 

August 20, 2014

Illinois Stewardship Alliance is celebrating its Annual Harvest Celebration!

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The Illinois Stewardship Alliance will be celebrating its Annual Harvest Celebration on Sunday, September 14th in Springfield. Six Central Illinois chefs will be preparing small plates featuring fresh, seasonal, local food. Each of the chefs represent restaurants that feature locally sourced products. Included in the lineup are:

  • Dustin Allen, Edge by Dustin Allen, Peoria
  • Aurora and Jordan Coffey, American Harvest Eatery, Springfield
  • Alisa DeMarco, Prairie Fruits Farm, Urbana
  • Michael Higgins, Maldaner’s Restaurant, Springfield
  • Ryan Lewis, Driftwood Cocktails and Eatery, Springfield
  • Josh Lanning, Harvest Cafe, Delavan

In addition to the food, there will be live music and a silent auction. Obed and Isaac’s Microbrewery, Rolling Meadows Brewery, and several Illinois wineries will provide beer and wine for the event.

The Illinois Stewardship Alliance is also looking for sponsors. Companies or organizations that do sponsor the Harvest Celebration will have their logo featured prominently in all event signage and in the program for the evening. Sponsorship opportunities are available at varying prices.

All proceeds raised from the Annual Harvest Celebration will go to Illinois Stewardship Alliance to help them continue their work promoting and increasing access to fresh, local food; providing education on conservation practices; and advocating for policies that aid small, family farmers.

The Illinois Stewardship Alliance Annual Harvest Celebration will be held Sunday, September 14th at 5:00 p.m. at the Inn at 835, located at 835 S. Second St. in Springfield.

Purchase tickets by September 9th. Prices are as follows:

$75 for members

$85 for non-members

To learn more click here.

HarvestDinnerInvitation-page-001_zps692c398c

– See more at: http://www.thelocalbeet.com/2014/08/20/illinois-stewardship-alliance-is-celebrating-its-annual-harvest-celebration/#sthash.NBQfw0Ok.dpuf

June 23, 2014

Illinois Governor Quinn Approves Legislation Supporting Farmers Markets

Chicago, IL: With summer officially here and Chicago’s 61st Street Farmers Market as the backdrop, on June 21st Governor Pat Quinn signed into law HB5657, an important new piece of legislation that sets in motion a number of reforms that support farmers market and Illinois farmers. HB5657 was unanimously approved by both the Illinois State Senate and House of Representatives this spring.

“This is a really important step when it comes to supporting farmers markets and community development, and a long time coming. Farmers, farmers market managers and those that support the burgeoning local food movement have been asking for and working towards a number of the reforms included in House Bill 5657 for several years,” said Wes King Executive Director of Illinois Stewardship Alliance. “These reforms will help to support and sustain new and current farmers markets, the jobs they create, the business they incubate and the farmers, young and old, that call them home.”

 Gov. Pat Quinn Photo: WLS

Gov. Pat Quinn
Photo: WLS

 

Illinois Stewardship Alliance has been working alongside the Illinois Environmental Council, local health departments, the Illinois Department of Public Health, and the Illinois Public Health Association to develop HB5657.

 Galesburg Farmers Market  Galesburg Register Mail

Galesburg Farmers Market
Galesburg Register Mail

 

The legislation, sponsored by Representative Mike Tryon (R-Crystal Lake) and State Senator David Koehler (D-Peoria), who first introduced similar legislation in 2009; includes a number of provisions aimed at supporting and sustaining farmers markets and the farmers and vendors that attend them:

 

  • Consistent Statewide Farmers      Market Rules – creates a timeline for      Illinois Department of Public Health’s (IDPH) Farmers’ Market Task Force      to complete recommendations for statewide rules and regulations for farmers      markets and strengthens that task force’s authority and process for      developing and finalizing said rules and regulations. The task force was      originally created in statute by the general assembly in 2011. The bill      gives the task force until December 15, 2014 to create their      recommendations. Currently food safety rules and regulations vary across      the state from county to county and city to city, sometimes dramatically,      creating a patchwork quilt of regulations for farmers and entrepreneurs to      navigate.
  • Statewide Sampling Program – Sampling of products is critical to any food      business including those at farmers markets. HB 5657 authorizes and      instructs IDPH and the farmers market task force to develop a statewide      sampling certificate program that would allow a farmer or entrepreneur to      offer product samples at any farmers market in the state under one      certificate, and just as importantly, under one consistent statewide set      of rules. Currently related rules, regulations and permits are highly      variable from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and few farmers market vendors      offer samples.
  • Product Origin and Transparency      Provisions – Consumers at farmers markets      may assume that products sold at these markets are locally grown, but      there are some vendors that are actually resellers selling the same out of      state product as most grocery stores. HB5657 requires farmers market      vendors that sell unprocessed produce to have a label that states the      address where their products were physically grown. If the vendor can’t      disclose that, the vendor must list where it was purchased from.
  • Cottage Food Operations –      Cottage food – or non-hazardous foods made in home kitchens – is a growing      business in Illinois. Caps the fee that local health departments can      chargecottage      food operations for registering at $25 per year to minimize costs to these      small businesses.

Illinois Stewardship Alliance will be developing some materials on it to educate farmers and market managers about the impacts of it and we plan to host a couple webinars later in the summer with the Illinois Farmers Market Association to educate attendees about what is in the law and what are the potential impacts.

Illinois Stewardship Alliance is a nonprofit organization that promotes environmentally sustainable, economically viable, socially just, local food systems through policy development, advocacy, and education.

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Illinois Stewardship Alliance:

www.ilstewards.org

https://www.facebook.com/ilstewards

Illinois Farmers Market Association:

http://ilfarmersmarkets.org/

– See more at: http://www.thelocalbeet.com/2014/06/23/governor-quinn-approves-legislation-supporting-farmers-markets/#sthash.hhHBTuSg.dpuf

May 16, 2014

A Swan of a Chick

We had a chick named Camille that we bought at the Knox County Illinois Scenic Drive. In the human world this chick would be described as developmentally disabled.

Patrick1She was not active and seemed narcoleptic. She would just sit and pass out constantly and did not seem to know how to do the things chickens do. She was also small and a runt.

Patrick2We gave her away last year. The person who took care of her could not keep her any longer because she was actually a he and he started to crow constantly.

Patrick3We got him back.

Patrick4Now named Patrick, he is very active, feisty, and has incredible feathers.

Patrick8A complete transformation!

I am sorry that I do not have any “before” pictures to show!

Patrick5Patrick6Patrick7

April 25, 2014

Not Much Space to Garden, Try Tomatoes in Containers

Most people enjoy garden fresh tomatoes. The flavor of the home grown fruit of Solanum lycopersicum is far and above anything one can pick up at the local supermarket. For apartment dwellers or others who are spatially challenged as far as land for small scale tomato production is concerned, you are in luck. For there are many varieties of tomatoes, as well as many other vegetables, that can be grown in a very small space or even a container.

Container Gardening  Photo: Joel Gruver, Western Illinois University

Container Gardening
Photo: Joel Gruver, Western Illinois University

We in Northern Illinois are now entering the primetime of tomato planting season and so if you would like to grow tomatoes or peppers in containers there are a few things to consider. One is the size of the container. The larger the container, the happier the tomato plant will be. A three gallon container is probably the smallest type container to use, but with a five gallon or larger container you will probably do better. The container should allow for drainage so if whatever container you use does not have drainage holes, holes should be drilled into the bottom.

The soil should be a mix of good garden soil along with compost along with a little sand to improve drainage. This is especially true if you use a plastic container, such as a bucket or a storage container or tote. Feed the plants with any fertilizer labeled for tomatoes but keep in mind that the leaching rate will be faster in soil kept in a container. This will make it necessary to increase the feeding rate. It is also important to keep the soil moist but not too wet. Again, keep in mind that a container made of wood or other porous material will allow for water to evaporate faster than a plastic container would.

Tomatoes grown in containers Photo: www.insideurbangreen.org

Tomatoes grown in containers Photo: http://www.insideurbangreen.org

There are many tomato varieties out there that have been bred especially for use in a container. These varieties will of course do well in a container setting, but many heirloom or hybrid varieties will also do well and should be tried. Determinate varieties will grow better if you also have limited height in the spot that you are planting the tomatoes, such as on a balcony. If you are growing your tomatoes on a patio or a place with no such restrictions then you can use any type of plant as you can stake the plants, or use wire cages, as you would in a traditional garden or field.

I have tried a few tomatoes in containers and the following I have found to do great.

Several container varieties:

A cherry variety that does well in any container is Tiny Tim. It is a very compact plant but produces tons of flavorful cherry tomatoes. The seed for Tiny Tim are getting harder to find for some reason and it has been nonexistent in garden centers lately. It is an heirloom and many people have saved the seed for this tomato. The seed can still be found commercially at Victory Seed. It is an early producer that takes about 45 days.

Tiny Tim Tomato Photo: JandLSeed.com

Tiny Tim Tomato Photo: JandLSeed.com

A tomato hybrid that was bred for containers is the Patio tomato put out by Bonnie Plants. Bonnie Plants seems to have cornered the market in live garden plants at all of the big box stores so this variety is not hard to find. These plants are determinate and only grow to about 24 inches tall. It produces well and like many hybrids it is resistant to fusarium wilt (F), alternaria stem canker (A), and gray leaf spot (St). It matures in about 70 days.

Patio Tomato Photo: Bonnie Plants

Patio Tomato Photo: Bonnie Plants

Several determinate varieties to try:

Both Roma and San Marzano are determinate paste tomatoes. Both will produce well and can be found at many garden centers and most seed companies. As they are determinate, the plants are bush type plants and will stay relatively compact. This being said, you may still want to stake or cage them as they both will produce large amounts of fruit. The tomatoes produced by both of these varieties are excellent in sauces and I also like them in salad as well. They mature in about 70 days.

Celebrity is another determinate tomato that seems to do well in a container. It is a hybrid that produces larger tomatoes that are about 8 ounces and 4 inches across. It grows to about 3 feet and probably needs to be staked or caged. It is resistant to verticillium wilt (V), fusarium wilt races 1 and 2 (F), nematodes, and tobacco mosaic virus (T). Celebrity take about 65 days to mature but produces well until frost.

Tomatoes in Containers Photo:www.finegardening.com

Tomatoes in Containers Photo:www.finegardening.com

Other varieties:

Better Boy hold the world record for the amount of tomatoes produced by one plant. This plant produces tons of tomatoes and does well in a container. The fruits of this plant can be over one pound each so it would be advisable to cage this plant in a sturdy container. The flavor of the Better Boy tomato is excellent even though it is not an heirloom. Better Boy is an indeterminate variety and is resistant to verticillium wilt (V), fusarium wilt (F), and nematodes (N). It matures in about 70 – 75 days.

Better Boy Tomato Photo: Burpee

Better Boy Tomato Photo: Burpee

Green Zebra Tomato Photo: Burpee

Green Zebra Tomato Photo: Burpee

An heirloom variety of tomato that I have found does well in a container setting is Green Zebra. This is an indeterminate plant that produces smaller green striped tomatoes. They have excellent flavor and matures in about 78 days. This plant can reach 9 feet in height so staking is probably required.

As with all tomatoes the varieties listed above need plenty of full sun. They need even watering to ensure that fruit will not rot and keep in mind what was said above about what material the container is mad from.

Fresh garden tomatoes are one of things to look forward to in the summer. Just because you do not have a lot of space or a backyard to grow tomatoes does not mean that you can’t still grow your own! Try a few in a container this year!

Better Boy tomatoes  growing in containers Photo: www.agardenpatch.com

Better Boy tomatoes growing in containers Photo: www.agardenpatch.com

A few places to find container tomato plants and seeds:

Victory Seeds

Bonnie Plants

Burpee Seeds

February 19, 2014

David Rosengarten’s Chicago Comfort

This is an homage to Chicago from the host of one of my favorite early Food Network shows. David Rosengarten hosted “Taste,” an informative show about food and wine. His show aired back when the Food Network was about food and not about celebrity and contests and all the crap that the put on the network these days. From the self description at his blog:
“Journalist, television personality, and cookbook author, David Rosengarten has covered great food products, restaurants, wines, gastronomic travel destinations, and related subjects for over 25 years. He has written hundreds of articles and contributed hundreds of original recipes to publications such as Gourmet (where he was Restaurant Critic from 1996 to 2000), The New York Times, Food & Wine, Bon Appetit, Harper’s Bazaar, Departures, The Wine Spectator and Newsday.”

http://drosengarten.com/blog/chicago-comfort/

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