She blinded me with Science: A guide for ripenning green tomatoes

30 09 2015


How many of us are stuck with dozens of green tomatoes.  “Oh man!  What are some green tomato recipes, quick!”  Last year I made 11 jars of green tomato chutney and, while delicious, I still have 9 jars.

I want the goods!

And now I know how to get them.  Thank you science and me-remembering-stuff!

I had learned that the ripening of most fruits releases a gas called “ethylene”.  And, thank you positive feedback loop, ethylene ALSO initiates and starts ripening fruit as well.

Last week, I picked some tomatoes.  Night temperatures hovered around 0 and my plants were hit hard (though not full on dead).  I thought I’d collect a few tomatoes and try some things out.  Well, I’m happy I did that.

It requires patience and a blind eye but you CAN get those green tomatoes to ripen.  Here is what I did.

I got a paper bag from the Safeway bakery (the ones you put the bulk buns in).  I put, maybe 15-20 tomatoes in it that were mostly green and a few that had a tinge of yellow to them.  Next I put 2 very under ripe bananas in the bag and rolled it closed.  My thinking was that as the bananas released ethylene, it would begin to ripen the tomatoes (since they are a fruit after all).  I kept it rolled up and put it under my kitchen table (I don’t know for certain if light is important but I’m not convinced heat is a good idea so I kept it shaded and room temperature).  I didn’t touch it for about a week.

I opened the bag up today and what do I find?  About 4 tomatoes that are COMPLETELY ready to eat, all of them looking a slightly different colour and ripening and two bananas that are perfectly ripe!  When I put them in the bag, the ripest tomato looked like the green (with touches of red) tomato in the top left.


I’m pretty jazzed about this because it means, not only that we will still get to enjoy many tomatoes over a longer period, but that I “discovered” something that will get a bunch of other people enjoying red tomatoes too!  I put discovered in quote marks because I don’t know for SURE if those tomatoes would have ripenned equally without the bananas in the bag.  It’s supposed to snow this saturday, so I’m going to try it again but this time, I’ll do a comparison with a few tomatoes around the house to figure out whether the bananas actually had an impact.  Needless to say, I AM happy that the tomatoes are going red, whether that’s from the banana in a bag, or just the inevitability of life and death.

And, just because it’s nice to appreciate the simple things; here’s a beautiful tomato:image


The “Before” half of “Before and After 2015 Garden Year”

10 06 2015

I’m a bit disappointed that I haven’t posted any pictures of the greenhouse OR garden yet this year.  Well, I’m going to start a couple months in.  Next week, I’ll be posting some past pictures of greenhouse sheninagans.  Let’s just say it could have been so much more (as any good learning process will indicate, right?)  Otherwise, almost all good news!


Finally the Hosta appeared!  It’s called “Emperor Wu”.  It will be about 5ft across (if it behaves well) and will green up an otherwise boring and messy corner of the yard.  It has a companion that will be growing up our walls!


Engelman’s Ivy is climbing up the wall.  I’m trying to direct the suckers so that more of the wall is covered up.  The tag of the hosta is just to the right.  I’m hoping this corner no longer looks terrible in 3 months!

This garden beside our sitting area is always populated by sunflowers.  And yet again it is,  This year, we have petunias right in front of it.  We’ve also placed a delphinium right in the front at the rounded corner.  I’m not convinced it’ll get that big THIS year but soon enough, no doubt.  The planter has petunias on the bottom and lavendar in a pot sitting on the soil.  The back corner is actually a bit bare, come to think.


My broccoli are doing pretty dang good this year.  One seems to have not got enough water on it and may not be salvageable but the other 5 are doing fine!  A few already have some heads forming.  And, of course, problems with either slugs OR cabbage work are making little crunchy crunch marks in the leaves.

The soaker hose twists through the corn and lettuce; like a river valley meandering through slowly breaking ground.  This is my first year with the soaker hose.  I think once we put the hay on top, I’ll feel much better about the whole affair since I think the UV rays may be fryin’ this stuff a bit.


The greatest lesson, I think, a garden can teach, is the lesson of delayed gratification.  Week to month to season and year; changes happen.  The best part about those changes is that they only unfold when you reflect on what you started at.  If you don’t think back, you may not notice it.  Not only that but you are actually always looking forward when you garden.  Almost everything you do in a garden is meant to help “later”.  On that note.  oct 2, 2011 133

This was our first year in the garden.  We’d just planted the two honeyberry bushes and would put in the strawberries in next spring.  A few stocks of corn are growing behind the rain barrel and sharp looking mulch of wood chips.  That first garden has long since been harvested and weeds let go apparently.  In the bottom right corner, the hose that connects the two rainbarrels is seen sneaking under the mulch to remain unnoticed.  That was autumn of 2009, as I recall.

In June of 2015, let’s say it’s filled out a bit.


It’s a bit unfortunate that I missed the proper comparison angle but in the bottom corner, you can see a few strawberry blooms and plants reaching for some sun.  They’re shaded out by some monstrous honeyberries.  The bushes REALLY just need a GOOD pruning and shaping.  It’ll sacrificed one good year of berries for bette shaped bushes.  And it HAS been 5 years so really, it’s due for a hard prune.  Certainly an improvement since 2009.  Rhubarb hides out the rain barrel.

Would love to see pictures of your place!

The Greenhouse Door

22 03 2015


Well, the last piece of the puzzle, the greenhouse door was put up a couple weeks ago.  It is solid in place though it does seem to be catching a bit on the bottom.

The high today was -1C.  I did some seeding in the greenhouse today (flowers and a few veggies).  It was 18.4C inside.  That seemed pretty incredible (though it was very sunny).  The next step will be to make some kinda heat sink (like, say just a black water barrel).  I have a distinct impression though, that I will not be using the FULL potential of this greenhouse (i.e. not starting in the greenhouse earlier).  That’s okay though.  It’s all improvement right?

I think that thing is going to fry in the summer.  The tube above the door is actually the previous “door”.  It’s a 2×2 post rolled up in a plastic sheet that rolled to “cover” the opening.  This door is doing some serious work for me!

First post of the garden year (You won’t believe what happens next!)

8 03 2015

Well, that’s weird.  My account seems to have lost a LOT of drafts; like a dozen or so.  Not sure where all those posts just ended up but I guess it’s a great little metaphor.  Clean slate!

Garden Season 2015 is about to commence!  Keep your eye on the temperature folks.  It appears to be SOLIDLY above 0C for the next 2 weeks.  That seems promising.  Even moreso for the greenhouse.  I can get ready to put it to the TRUE “how long will you extend my season” test!

I have a plethora of seeds this year, many of which I’m excited about.  A few new flowers and a little bit of new veggies. I AM very excited for our family to grow our “kimchi” garden.  I will definitely post about the kimchi process when that time comes (later summer I believe).  I had my daughter chose 3 flowers from the catalogue for her little circle garden.  One of her choices were some nice gladiolas.  I’m excited for her to see those.  She’ll be totally in charge of that one.

I am also happy to be testing out a new “uber convenient” watering system.  I currently have 2 water barrels hooked up together (hoping for one more).  I plan to have a submersible pump in there and a soaker hose (Gilmour) attached that will be under a mulch of hay or leaves (to be determined).  So hopefully, I turn the thing on for 30 minutes and boom, watering is done while I’m weeding.

I am not excited about the cherry bushes.  Some [expletive] cute white rabbits chewed ALL the growing buds off all three plants.  I’m fairly certain it’ll get new buds but now I see that these plants need protection.  I was very unhappy to see that.  I’m hoping they can be rescued.

I will be getting this HUGE hosta plant; 5ft apparently.  It will be tucked in the darkest corner of the backyard (virtually no direct sunlight) that stays fairly moist.  It’s such an ugly corner and I really hope that thing gets huge and we don’t have to look at it anymore.

Lastly, I am very much looking forward to all the plants I got from my coworker making their first appearance in our yards.  Most of them were put in the front but there were definitely bits in that back as well.  All manner of colour size and shape!  Very excited!

What are you looking forward to this year?

Creating our beds

8 03 2015

Here is the basic process, in picture form.  We did this to create the last picture (that is all within a 12 month time frame).

About 1/3 of all the cardboard I needed.

About 1/3 of all the cardboard I needed.

I used an electrical cord to make the shape of the bed and then laid cardboard all over the place.

I used an electrical cord to make the shape of the bed and then laid cardboard all over the place.

The little one soaked the cardboard.  It's kind of important to do that.  I think it dries out the soil or it just breaks down slower.  I dunno.  Sumpthin'

The little one soaked the cardboard. It’s kind of important to do that. I think it dries out the soil or it just breaks down slower. I dunno. Sumpthin’

A LOT of dirt to get both our front beds.

A LOT of dirt to get both our front beds.

A layer of leaves.  (Note:  We did the beds on separate days (I couldn't get all the cardboard home).

A layer of leaves. (Note: We did the beds on separate days (I couldn’t get all the cardboard home).

The upper bed in the front yard ended looking like this in the spring (you can see a few seedlings and plants.

The upper bed in the front yard ended looking like this in the spring (you can see a few seedlings and plants.

Bada boom.  There's the lower front bed.

Bada boom. There’s the lower front bed.  That is a wood chip mulch.

The upper front bed

The upper front bed.  The flowers in the front right are liatris.  They have a beautiful purple spike bloom

Our rhubarb plant was big.

Our rhubarb plant was sooooo big but we had to move it.

Leaves and a New Tool

18 02 2015

Ohh la laaaa!

Go ahead and be a bit jealous folks.  Cause I got a leaf shredder. shreds leaves.  How do you like them apple’s…..LEAVES?  Shredded too!

It’s a Worx WG430.  I did a bit of youtube and amazon review research and it seems like these are okay.  I found it on kijiji for the fantastic price of 65$ (seen them up to 160$ new) and swooped in for it.  A few of the online complaints are about the frequency with which you have to change the string.  Well, I did about 6 bags and while the strings have shrunk, it’s still doing a fine job. There were recommendations to use edge trimmer thread which I fully plan to do.  After that first string broke down, I found that they only lasted about 15 minutes.  So, despite the frequency of changing, it still provides such a desirable product really quite easily.

While turning it into veritable dust would be almost ideal for gardens (if you can keep it down in the bag), getting them reasonably ripped up and compromised will help out the most in the breaking down process.  By next spring I would find at least half of it would have decomposed into soil while the rest could either be turned in OR flipped over into the soil as well.  Next spring, I want to compare the speed of break down whether they are shredded or not.  I’m pretty sure we can just compare front beds.

I picked up 30 bags of leaves.  I have no real leaf bearing trees (except the apple) in our yards so I had to go scope some out.  I did some driving around the parts of town with more mature trees asking people for their leaves.  All different reactions from folks for sure.  Nobody cared about it but some of them pretty clearly thought it was stupid/funny or something like that.  Probably was…doing that at 8pm at night in the autumnal dark.

To be clear, shredded leaves are a great food for your beds.  In a few years you’ll have built up healthy soil that feeds plants well and helps fight off diseases.  I look forward to having more of that.

“Greenhouse Day” Part 1

17 08 2014

I’ve been thinking about a greenhouse for the last three years.  I’ve been doing my thinking, drawing, budgeting, for the last few months, slowly getting more and more excited.  It finally came together in one (long) day with two good friends.  The plans had been drawn up months ago and everything seemed to basically work.

I made sure to get one last structure-less picture of that “corner” of the garden:
imageFelt a bit borin’ dinnit?  Yeah.  Nice corn and just had a HUGE harvest of beats, carrots.  Where the shed would go we’d just put some bland carpet on the ground keeping the weeds mostly at bay.


imageThis will be the front wall.  The back wall is being finished by bum in the back.  Side wall is in the upper right.


imageThese were the two sidewalls before plywood and raising.  The whole yard was walls….everywhere.  At this point, there was still so much to do to make that wood look more like something interesting.  Don’t kid yourself though; it’s in the cutting and measuring where the greatest fits and bestest looks get produced.   It just took a long time.


None of us had any experience.  We are not carpenters.  We have not framed a thing.  I think the biggest thing my friend has build is a table; the other fellow re finished his shed.  I built a cold frame.  This was just the biggest thing any of us had build.We started to lift some stuff into place and hammered.  We had to problem solve a few things.  And it was in the building of the front wall where we saw both our cleverest moment as well as our biggest mistake.  The greenhouse glass sits about 2 inches low on the bottom.  That was not how it was designed but when we were putting the front wall up, we saw our calculations around the front of the roof to be out of kilter.  It’s not noticeable though and the greenhouse is sitting on pilings so there’s no stress on the windows.  If you look carefully, the window on the door side peaks up over the side roof as well.  Guess what?  Don’t care.  What’s that?  The whole building will crumble and fall into a splintered pile of death sticks and glass?  Yup.  That’s cool.  I’ll be fine.

My favourite thing about this structure is that it’s temporary.  This thing is not something you’d see out of the home builder mags or library tomes.  I designed it myself with the understanding that this if we would ever leave this house, I would dismantle this and it would come with us!  Now with that said, when we stood that back wall up and it TOWERED over us without the context of the other walls, it suddenly became intimidating.  It’s kind of a fine balance between temporal, and rock solid.  Painting will still need to be done and that will make the place look aces!  But there is no hard press to get that done.


imageYou would probably note a missing roof.  Clever!  That’s cause there is no roof.  I’ve been wiggling and jiggling through my choice of how to roof it.  By the time the day came to build, I still hadn’t decided and I counted for the lumber incorrectly (didn’t include about four 10′ 2x4s for the roof).  The three choices are glass (not really an option we had decided), rigid plastic corrugated sheets, or 10mm sheet plastic.

By happy happy happenstance, the current door opening is sufficient for the wheel barrow.  That will be a fantastically placed barrow in the corner.  Bonus point if you noticed there is no door!  Horray.  I’m going to have to make one of those by hand.  I grabbed a bunch of hinges from a friend’s dismantling project.  I plan to make a simple plastic door.  Again, not 100% sure when that will be done, other than, before it warms up next spring.

Certainly, you can see a bit of an over hang.  I intend to make a fascia and a guttering system so I can collect the rain water.  I’ve been thinking about putting a rain barrel inside the greenhouse as well.  A black rain barrel filled with water inside the greenhouse would be a tremendous heat sink in the early spring and late fall.  That would require extended downspoutendry work which I guess I have to learn or make up on the spot.


imageSo that is a pretty excellent result if I say.  We did trample some tomatoes and corn.  I knew that would be a problem at the beginning of the season but I still planted the corn and tomatoes as close as I wanted.  I lost a few branches and a couple corn plants.

In terms of painting and decorating I’ve been trying to think about how I could carry on the farm theme from the compost bins into the back of the greenhouse.  I had some very odd thoughts, but I like the sound of at least one of them.   It’s a secret.

So yeah.  Almost done!