Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Fresh Tomatoes for Christmas?

I know it's crazy but let me explain. Last September we were at a home improvement store nearby and I noticed they had heirloom tomato plants for sale. I bought a handful, along with the usual winter plants like broccoli, greens and such. I planted them all, not really knowing what to expect, especially with the tomatoes.
Well, it wasn't long before I had blooms and lots of little green, baby tomatoes all over my plants. But, along with the prospect of fresh tomatoes was another problem. We were about to get our first frost and if it's one thing tomatoes hate, it's cold weather. So I began covering them every night with old sheets and removing them each morning when it warmed up enough that it would not damage my precious tomato plants. If you've ever tried to keep this vigil up for very long, you know what a pain it is. So I devised a plan. I would build a hot house over my tomatoes!
I recycled some old concrete rebar, a busted up wooden frame cover from a duck blind and some roll plastic from Tractor Supply and wallah! We have ourselves a hot house, complete with fluorescent lights and a heater (don't ask how much these tomatoes are per pound when I figure in the cost of electricity). I placed a thermometer in the hot house and the temperature, even when it has dipped below freezing, has stayed between 70-90 degrees. I water them once a week with Miracle Gro, and used some of the shavings from my daughter's show goat as mulch around them. They seem pretty happy!
So, on Christmas day, we had fresh grown tomatoes from the garden to complement our salad and I've had sliced heirloom tomatoes with balsamic vinegar and feta cheese. I wish I had enough to share with all of you because I think these are some of the best tomatoes I've ever grown.