Monday, February 14, 2011

This Year's Tomato Selection

I've finalized my selections for this year's tomatoes.  Last year I leaned heavily towards unusual colorations.  This year my primary focus is excellent taste and decent productivity.  I also want to make sure that I am not selecting too many late season varieties.  I like to start my salsa consumption in June!  With sunny spots being at a premium, I have to keep my selections limited.  Here is this year's winners:

Striped Roman:  Pictured above.  Highly productive, delicious and very meaty.  Superior to paste type tomatoes as far as I am concerned.  It is returning this year after being found to be excellent in 2010.

German Red Strawberry:  New for me this year.  This variety is well known for its excellent production of big hearty shaped, excellent flavored tomatoes.  On the sweet side.

Pineapple:  New for me this year.  Its a bicolor, on the sweet side with big fruits.

Matina:  Returning.  I've now tried both Stupice and Matina for an early.  I think Matina slightly edges out Stupice both for taste and productivity.  I grow this one to assure I have tomatoes before July first.

JD's Special C-Tex  New for me this year.  Described as a purple-black slicer with excellent productivity and outstanding flavor. Midseason.

Black Cherry:  I tried to grow this last year but Bakers Creek sent me mislabeled seed so I'm trying seed from this year.  This is the only cherry I'll be growing this year.  Its described as a black with excellent flavor.
NevesxBrandywine: New for me this year.  A midseason red purported to be in the OMG arena for flavor.

 Chocolate Stripes:  A regular in my garden every year.  Delicious, beautiful, productive and healthy.  This year I'll be growing from seeds I saved from a particularly luscious fruit last year.

Aunt Ginny's Purple: Described as a vigorous, pink potato leave of outstanding flavor.  On the sweet side.  This one is new for me this year too.

Anna Russian: Heart shaped pink with good flavor.  New for me.

Teton de Venus: New for me.  Really meaty red heart.  Very sweet,  Very delicious. 

Earl's Faux: New for me.  Mid-season potato leafed pink with good production and excellent taste.

Brave General:  Returning.  Among my most productive last year with 84 pounds yield on a single container plant.  Its a rich tasting mid-season pink.

Dawson's Russian Oxheart:  A big meaty bi-colored heart with good productivity and excellent flavor.  New for me.

Brad's Black Oxheart:  Elongated black hearts with very good flavor and mixed productivity.  Early for this size tomato.  New for me.

Sylvan Gaume: Huge red heart of excellent flavor.  New for me.

Shuntukski VelikanBig Russian red with traditional tomato taste.  New for me.

Midnite In Moscow:  Prolific, early black Russian  of excellent flavor.  New for me.

Galinas Cherry:  I forgot I ordered this one!  Potato leaf, yellow cherry with huge yields and excellent flavor.  Said to do good in cool weather.

Heart Shaped BrandywineReceived this as a gift from  I know nothing about it other than it is a mutation of Brandywine.  Should be fun!

 Well that's the list.  If I end up with more room I'll be adding Vorlon and C. Yugoslavian which were excellent for me last year.  Thanks to Tatiana's Tomato base for helping me remember why I ordered these.  Her site is the best on the web for zonal descriptions of heirloom tomato performance. 


Saturday, February 5, 2011

Backyard Ice Rink

Its bitter cold outside, the yard is covered with snow.  What's there to do outside?  How about ice skate!  I've always wanted to attempt an ice rink in the backyard.  The fear of dead grass and a ton of work is what has held me back.  This year I decided to do some actual research on making one of these and learned that they can be as simple or as complex as you like.  I favored really simple, and it turned out to be just that.

This picture shows the gist of the process.  Find the flattest area of your yard.  This is really really important.  Small slopes make a huge difference in how much water you use.  Our rink is about nine inches deep in the back right corner and three inches in the foreground.  Once you find an area, use a snow shovel to scrape a rectangle out.  Leave about an inch of snow down to protect the grass.  The snow around the edges help provide support for the tarp.  We used a single giant sheet of 6mm plastic that we got from Home Depot.  get white if you can.  Black heats up fast and melts the edges.  Some websites say that you can use only snow to hold up the tarp.  We found that with the depth that we needed, that we needed some boards too.  We just stuck scrap boards in the snow around the perimeter and draped the plastic over it.  

The next step is to add water.  This should be an easy step.  It won't be if you didn't put away your hoses in the fall and they are filled with ice.  We thawed them out in the laundry room sink.  We did not use an outside spigot to fill the rink, we were worried about pipe breakage.  Instead we connected to the spigot just before our water softener and ran the hose out a window stuffed with towels around it to keep the draft out.   It works well, not only for the initial filling but also the homeboni process.

It didn't take that long to fill the rink but you'll want it to freeze for a few days before going on it.  Aim for at least three inches of depth minimum.

Maintenance is simple.  After skating or after snow, shovel the surface.  Then resurface it with another coat of water.  For the smoothest surface, do this in the evening when snow is not blowing around.  Make sure that the water you are using doesn't combine with snow on the surface or you get rough spots.  You can either prevent them by using hot water or just making sure your surface is clear enough.  That's it!  It took us a couple of hours to set up and takes about five minutes of time to resurface after each time we skate.  So worth it and its creating lasting memories of our winter garden.