Marja-Leena Rathje
Home ::: growing vegetables

growing vegetables



Or, really, the trouble with growing some of your own vegetables....

Why did we, a month ago, book a short holiday for next week, at the busiest time of the gardening season? Spring had been so cool that my tomato, pepper and cucumber seeds in the solarium had a slow start but have taken off recently with more sunshine. The 8 cucumber and 36 root-bound tomato plants in small pots are now starting to flower. I don't want to pot them up into larger pots for I don't have any more room indoors. I should plant them outside, but the nights are still below 10C and there is a threat of rain on the weekend. What to do? I may have to move them downstairs to a cooler shadier area to tide them over until we get back. At least daughter is at home to water them.

Why 36 tomato plants, you ask? I think every seed germinated, and there were more that I already gave away. Last year at this time, we were in the UK and I had only a few tomato plants to come home to, and really missed them, so I kind of got carried away this year, I think. Our deck will be so crowded with vegetables in pots that there will be little room for humans. Such is the life of this artist when not in the studio in the summer.

Marja-Leena | 12/05/2010 | 14 comments
themes: Being an Artist, Canada and BC, Home


In Portland, the danger of frost persisted until May 15. This may not be so where you are, because you are closer to the water, even though you are farther north.
And there we found that our tomatoes usually did not have time to ripen.
Around here, tomatoes succumb to all kinds of strange pests and diseases, so we always buy commercially grown ones, which are good and available all year around. I believe they are grown hydroponically in shade houses, but I will check to verify that.

Do you too find it impossible to throw away seeds which have germinated? I have similar problems with the greenhouse being hot, but the overnight temperature outside dropping like a stone.

I don't know how the veg. will go this year, as my attention cannot be there as it should, but like you I miss them if they are not there.

And it really is worth the trouble - I still have tomatoes from last year in the freezer.

Hattie, that last-date-of-frost is pretty similar here. If you are higher up in the mountains it can be a little later, I'm not sure. But the problem is that tomatoes should not be set out before the night temperatures stay above 10C or 50F. Our generally cooler nights here make it more challenging to grow heat loving plants like tomatoes and peppers (which I don't put out until June).

And the sundeck is the hottest location, retaining some of the day's heat and with less night dews. I choose the short season cold resistant tomato varieties that mature early enough to avoid the dreaded late blight if we should have wet weather in late summer. We too get lovely greenhouse grown tomatoes, peppers and cukes here spring to fall but I still prefer my own. Actually this is only my second try with cukes, and maybe the third with peppers. Space issues.

Olga, yes, I don't like to throw away any sprouted seeds! I'm slowly trying to grow more veggies by starting a few vegetable beds in the back but it's hard because the yard is mostly shady. It does take time and effort, I know!

Lol !! yea, there's has been crazy weather lately. I had a touch of snow last sunday. It's been chilly instead warm this week too. The week before I was in the 80s. I do hope for a break real soon.

The most difficult thing for me - not an accomplished gardener - is to thin out seedlings. I love plants that thrive on neglect and do their thing with minimal encouragement from me. Last summer in northern BC, my two tomato plants, purchased in pots, each produced one huge tomato (after much pampering) and a number of smaller ones. I plan to try a different variety this summer that will produce smaller tomatoes. Any suggestions?

O my, that is burgeoning garden in your window. I have no advice about what you can do, but I commiserate with you about the odd weather that throws a wrench in the works for gardening plans. I thought about starting my first veggie garden this year, but we too had odd weather here in Northern California, then we have to travel and the deck has to be fixed, so my garden might have to wait until next year to bloom.

Cathy, oh dear, you ARE having mixed up weather! Hope it all settles into a fine summer for you.

Loretta, you are probably buying your tomato plants up north. The garden stores surely will be selling plants suited to the climate and can offer suggestions for those loong days and short cool nights? It's late now but if you are ever thinking of seeds, I get mine from West Coast Seeds though I think they are more suited for the southwest of BC.

Maria, a cold spring there too? That sounds strange. Let's hope next spring will be easier all around! Now I just hope we have a decent summer after having such a mild winter so these babies will produce well.

ML: yes, up north - I hope to get better advice on tomatoes this time! I have had good luck with a small patch of lettuce, different varieties.

Your plants certainly look happy and healthy. I hope one day I can try growing some vegetables too which is something much more easily done if one has space outside :-)

Loretta, I wish you luck, pleasure and tasty vegetables from your northern garden!

Susan, for you I wish a special, rich space for growing lots of vegetables! Perhaps in Halifax?

While we don't have 36 tomatoes, but I get what you're saying; I've got 4 each of 5 tomato varieties, 2 of one other variety, plus 4 each of two varieties of eggplant, 4 each of two varieties of peppers, and 4 each of two varieties of tomatillos. We have a greenhouse now, so we've been able to migrate the starters out to the greenhouse, but we have been slaves to the weather otherwise. We live in a frost pocket here where our latest frost date is more like end of May than the advertised end of April. I only just started our squash family crowd, as they will have to go outside, and there's definitely point in trying to get them out before early June around here.

And I took about three years to figure out how many plants I needed. I think it's a bit of overkill this year, but eh, whatever! It's fun! And ok, I spend a lot of time making salsa in the fall :)

Good luck with the dilemma; it's tough.

Hi Amie! You do have a lot of plants! And a fabulous greenhouse to grow everything in all summer - great for all the heat loving veggies without worry!

Oh, I still have to start the squash seeds and make a new bed for them, yikes!

One summer, I tried growing some cucumbers in the solarium but it was too hot, they scorched. And I wondered about fertilization of the flowers and went around with a cotton swab :-) Got just a few cukes for all the trouble so now I'm trying some new bush types on the deck.

No time for printmaking these days, eh?

See, it sounded like a good idea and now it's turned into a burden. You are hag-ridden by agriculture. Me, I eat vegetables, it seems the obvious thing to do. Intellectually they offer very little and I see no advantage in developing a relationship with them before they go into the pot. Even TV game shows provide more diversion. Time to clear your decks (after all what's the point in having all that expensive hard wood if you can't see it?) and cuddle up to a block of marble. Examine it from all sides until you can see the sculpture within. In typing this I am visited by a wonderful conspiracy theory: everyone who goes in for this prairie-in-the-yard activity always ends up with far more stuff than they can consume and is compelled to give huge amounts of it away. Thereby sustaining the North American tradition for reckless charity. A conspiracy that starts at the garden centres.

BB, hehehe, I think there's a hint of truth here, for some. If I tried to be a farmer, for instance. I'd want some labourers to help, like husband. Methinks it's that latter role that you speak of with such horror, for I remember you writing about your dislike for yard work? No worries, my vegetable garden won't get that big.

Oh, and about that marble, if you got me one, I'm sure I could find room for it somewhere in between the tomatoes or, even better, by the roses!