Posts tagged tomatoes

Warning of the Three Frozen Kings

    When it was sunny and 80 degrees for a brief day or two in April,  I heard from several people asking if they should go ahead and plant their gardens. In Iowa, that’s fine for many vegetables, such as cabbage, peas and potatoes, but I warned them to hold off on the tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and other tender plants. Those plants might actually have been OK during the past couple weeks, as it’s stayed fairly warm, so gardeners who took a gamble will be ahead of the game. But old-school gardeners often heed the warning of the Three Kings.     

   This is something that I ran last year on this blog,  but as it’s often asked, here’s what I’ve been told about the legend of the Three Kings:

    The Three Kings, or Three Frozen Kings, is a Czech legend that serves as a warning to protect tender plants against a possible late frost.  In one of various forms, the story says the three kings or saints (Pankrac on May 12, Servac on May 13 and Bonifac on May 14) were frozen when the temperature dropped while they were fishing at sea.

    On May 15, St. Zofie came along with a kettle of hot water to thaw out the three frozen kings.

    Since Czech immigrants found Iowa similar to their home country, those traditions carried over, and, whether or not the story makes sense,  it  seems sensible in many years to heed the Three Kings warning.

     Knowing the last average frost date for your area can also help. That date can vary, however, depending on the source. I’ve seen that in northeast Iowa, the last average frost date is May 10. East-central Iowa is April 30, and southeast Iowa is April 20. Those might seem early in some years, but look accurate for 2009.

    A U.S. Climatography report placed northern Iowa, around Decorah, with a last average frost date of May 26; central Iowa, around the Cedar Rapids area, at May 13 and southern Iowa, around Ottumwa, at May 3.

    Climatologists say the average can vary,  even within the same county. The last frost date might be a week later in low-lying areas or a week earlier on hilltops.  Because the frost date is only an average, your safest bet might be to heed the Three Kings warning and wait until May 15 to set out those tender plants.

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Plant it and it will grow

    Linn County Master Gardener, Kay McWhinney, sent the following on the 2009 Creative Gardening Series:

 

    Each year since 2003, the ISU Linn County Master Gardeners bring well-known speakers in the horticultural realm to the people of Cedar Rapids and surrounding area free of charge. This year, the presentations will be at Kirkwood Community College, Cedar Hall, in room 234. The first of the three presentations will be 6:30-8:30 p.m., Tuesday, March 31, and will feature Bud LeFevre, a horticulturist and part owner of Distinctive Gardens, Inc. in Dixon IL. The title of Bud’s talk is “Plant It and It Will Grow-Basic Vegetable Gardening.”

     Bud will rouse us out of the winter doldrums and get us almost tasting luscious ripe tomatoes, fat green peppers, and other tasty veggies as he prepares us for the 2009 gardening season with knowledge and enthusiasm on his favorite topic. Bud will speak to the beginner as well as the experienced gardener. Being in the same growing zone as Cedar Rapids, he understands our difficulties and triumphs in growing vegetables. Companion gardening and succession gardening as well as some organic practices will be discussed.

     With the evolution of the “Green” movement, advice from economists and nutritionists to eat food produced locally, what better way is there to feed our families with great, fresh vegetables than planting that vegetable patch in the back yard.

     Come to this first of three presentations. The second program will be Tuesday, April 7, the third on April 14, same time and place. There will be more information forthcoming on these programs.  Come, see how to start a vegetable garden or improve your garden skills as we get fired up about planting those veggies.

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Worm poop challenge

It’s December and I still have a few homegrown tomatoes, picked just before the first frost when they were still green.

Tomato challenge

Tomato challenge

  

 

 

  Some of them came from test plants I grew with vermicompost from TerraCycle.  Last spring, the company’s James Artis had sent samples of TerraCycle products, including a liquid form of vermicompost, also known as worm poop.

   Worms create a rich fertilizer and I wanted to test out TerraCycle’s on my tomatoes.

   I planted containers with Snoberry, cherry and Tomatoberry varieties – two of each kind. On one of each variety I used Terracycle weekly, along with regular watering. On the other, just regular watering, but no fertilizer of any kind.

   It wasn’t the most scientific experiment, but worked well until the containers, on my back porch, were beset with problems. Two were taken out when a screen fell during a windstorm. The others survived, but were neglected to an extent after Iowa’s catastrophic floods in June. The floods didn’t reach my house, but kept my attention diverted elsewhere.

   So I was surprised when doing fall cleanup to find some of the plants had actually produced tomatoes. I believe they were the Terracycle plants, but didn’t have much to compare them with at that point in time.

   Hopefully in the future I’ll be able to conduct a more thorough test, or maybe some of you have used TerraCycle or other vermicompost and could describe your results.

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Forbidden Fruit: equal rights for veggies

The following on equal rights for European veggies is from FoodNavigator.com

EU scraps regulations on forbidden fruit

By Gavin Kermack, 13-Nov-2008

Ugly and misshapen fruit and vegetables are to be permitted for sale in Europe for the first time – but equal rights are still a dream for many grocery items covered by separate regulations.

 

The European Commission has torn up its much-maligned 100-page document providing legislation on the shape, size and texture of fruit and vegetables, meaning that from 1st July 2009 consumers will be able to purchase 26 items, including onions, apricots, Brussels sprouts, watermelons and cauliflowers with as many knobs, bumps and curves as they like.

“This marks a new dawn for the curvy cucumber and the knobbly carrot,” said Mariann Fischer Boel, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development at the EC. “In these days of high food prices and general economic difficulties, consumers should be able to choose from the widest range of products possible. It makes no sense to throw perfectly good products away, just because they are the wrong shape.”

A further ten items, including tomatoes, lettuces and endives, lemons, limes and apples, will still be covered by the regulations. However, EU member states will be free to allow shops to sell them as long as they are labelled with words to the effect of ‘product intended for processing’.

These ten products account for 75 per cent of the value of fruit and veg trade in the EU.

FoodNavigator.com has learned that the continued segregation of deformed citrus fruits was a compromise reached by the EC in order to avoid a qualified majority of votes against deregulation.

16 of the 27 member states – including France, Spain and Italy – voted against the move.

Streamlining

Peka Pesonen, secretary general of Copa and Cogeca, which represents farmers and agricultural cooperatives in Europe, said that the move ignored the interests of the European fruit and vegetables sector.

“The use of objective parameters such as size and uniformity helps put a clear and univocal price on each quality, at both the producer and consumer level,” she said. “We fear that the absence of EU standards will lead member states to establish national standards and that private standards will proliferate, which will only hamper the smooth running of the single market and hinder simplification.”

The EC has been criticised in the past for over-regulation of foodstuffs. “[This is] a concrete example of our drive to cut red tape,” said Fischer Boel. “We simply don’t need to regulate this sort of thing at EU level.”

The decision has been welcomed by many in the food industry. A spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said, “Defra welcomes this decision. It is a sensible first step on the way to further streamlining of the regulations.”

It’s bananas

Tim Down, a fruit and veg wholesaler from Bristol, UK, was outraged in June when he was forced to throw away 520 Chilean kiwis after being told by the Rural Payments Agency that they did not meet industry standards.

Some of the kiwis weighed up to four grams less than the stipulated 62g.

“Standards are necessary,” Down told FoodNavigator.com, “but they have to be implemented in a sensible way.”

“How anyone ever sat down in an office in Brussels and got paid an enormous amount of money to decide on the correct curvature of a cucumber beggars belief.”

Commission Regulation (EC) No. 1677/88 previously stated that Class I and Extra Class cucumbers were allowed a bend of 10mm per 10cm of length, with Class II cucumbers being allowed twice as much bend.

From next year, though, even bent cucumbers will be allowed into Europe.

However, we will not be seeing abnormal bananas just yet. One famous regulation, (EC) No. 2257/94, which states that bananas must be “free from abnormal curvature of the fingers”, is to remain.

“This is a step in the right direction,” said Michael Mann, the EC’s agriculture spokesperson, told FoodNavigator.com. “Perhaps we will come back to bananas in the future.”

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Practical Farmers

   Practical Farmers of Iowa will host a two-part event on Saturday, August 2. The field day will begin at 4 p.m. at the home of Eric and Ann Franzenburg. Discussion will include: culture and post-harvest handling of medicinal herbs, high tunnel tomato and flower production, adding an enterprise to the farm, making more profit on fewer acres, corn boiler heating systems, and organic certification.

    At 6:30, the event will move to the Tara Hills Country Club for a gourmet fundraiser dinner by Ben Halperin, executive chef and owner of the acclaimed Augusta restaurant. Reservations are required for the dinner. To register, contact Cedar Johnson at (515)232-5661 or cedar@practicalfarmers.org

    Eric and Ann Franzenburg started farming in 1993 with Eric’s parents Don and Pat. They added herbs to the conventional farm in 1995 as a way to diversify and increase profits. The new enterprise was quite a success, and the Franzenburgs now grow 130 acres of medicinal herbs. 2008 will be the third year of tomato production on the farm, and the first year for flower production. The Franzenburgs constructed three new high tunnels on the farm this year to accommodate their new enterprises.

   Ben Halperin recently moved to Iowa via New Orleans with his wife Jeri. They opened Augusta Restaurant in Oxford this past January. The restaurant, serving “comfort food with a Cajun twist,” has become a destination place for many. The gourmet dinner Saturday evening will feature food from local farmers.

    Direction to the farm: 6925 19th Ave., Van Horne. From Hwy 30, turn north on CR-V42 for 3 miles. Turn north on CR-E44 for 4 miles. Turn north on 19th Ave. for .7 miles. The Franzenburgs’ farm is on the right.

   Directions to Tara Hills Country Club: 1846 70th St., Van Horne. From the Franzenburgs, go south on 19th Ave. for .7 miles. Turn west on CR-E44 for .4 miles. Tara Hills is on the left.

   This event is sponsored by the Ceres Foundation. Sustaining sponsors for Practical Farmers of Iowa Field Days are the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Iowa State University Extension, Iowa Pork Producers Association, American Natural Soy, Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service, Midwest Organic Services Association, Henry A. Wallace Endowed Chair for Sustainable Agriculture, and the CROPP Cooperative of Organic Valley/ Organic Prairie Family of Farms. Major sponsors for the Field Days are Wheatsfield Cooperative Natural Foods Grocery, Hubbard Feeds, Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, Iowa Forage and Grasslands Council, King Corn and Mosaic Films, and the North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education. 

    PFI is a non-profit sustainable agriculture group dedicated to farming that is profitable, environmentally sound, and healthy for consumers and communities. Founded in 1985, PFI has over 700 farmer and non-farmer members throughout Iowa. For more information, call (515)232-5661 or visit www.practicalfarmers.org

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Free plants

For people traveling to the Decorah area in northeast Iowa, Seed Savers Exchange still has some free pepper and tomato plants available.

 

Abe, at their visitor center, said this morning that a few flats of the plants are left. Already, Seed Savers has given away hundreds of plants to people whose gardens were flooded. Keep in mind, if your garden was flooded by rainwater, it should be safe to continue gardening. If the floodwaters were contaminated with raw sewage, etc., discard any produce that was growing, including root crops like turnips. You’ll need to wait at least 90 days to replant (pretty much the rest of the growing season here) and may want to have your soil tested before you proceed.

 

This is the notice Seed Savers Exchange sent after the flooding in Iowa earlier this month:

 

SSE thanks everyone for their concern about flood damage at Heritage Farm and we hope not too much damage occurred in your gardens, farms, and homes.

 

The gardens at Seed Savers Heritage Farm escaped the floods with minor damage, but the landscape down the valley was damaged along with many trails, bridges and fences.

 

SSE has many tomato and pepper transplants left from the spring sale.  Many are very tall but still healthy and in need of a garden.  If anyone is still interested in replanting, the plants are free.  Unfortunately they are to tall to be mailed, but they can be picked up at the Lillian Goldman Visitors Center at Heritage Farm.

 

Again SSE hopes everyone is safe and recovering from the floods of 2008.

 

Please come visit and take advantage of our surplus of transplants at the Lillian Goldman Visitors Center at 3074 North Winn Road, Decorah, Iowa.

 

Best wishes from the the staff of Seed Savers Exchange.

 

Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of heirloom seeds.

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Legend of the Three Kings

      As back and forth as our weather has been – is it spring, is it winter, is it summer? – it can be tempting on Iowa’s warmest spring days to jump the gun on gardening. While it’s safe to plant perennials and many hardy plants by now, it might be wise to hold off on tomatoes, peppers and other tender plants until May 15 in this area.

    The Three Kings, or Three Frozen Kings, is a Czech legend that serves as a warning to protect those tender plants against a possible late frost.

    In one of various forms, the story says the three kings or saints (Pankrac on May 12, Servac on May 13 and Bonifac on May 14) were

frozen when the temperature dropped while they were fishing at sea.

    On May 15, St. Zofie came along with a kettle of hot water to thaw out the three frozen kings.

    Since Czech immigrants found Iowa similar to their home country, those traditions carried over, and, whether or not the story makes sense,  it  seems sensible this year, at least, to heed the Three Kings warning.

     Knowing the last average frost date for your area can also help. That date can vary, however, depending on the source. I’ve seen that in northeast Iowa, the last average frost date is May 10. East-central Iowa is April 30, and southeast Iowa is April 20. Those seem early, especially for this year.

    A U.S. Climatography report looked more reliable. That placed northern Iowa, around Decorah, with a last average frost date of May 26; central Iowa, around the Cedar Rapids area, at May 13 and southern Iowa, around Ottumwa, at May 3.

    Climatologists say the average can vary,  even within the same county. The last frost date might be a week later in low-lying areas or a week earlier on hilltops.  Because the frost date is only an average, your safest bet might be to heed the Three Kings warning and wait until May 15 to set out those tender plants.

 

 

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