How We’re Getting Ripe Tomatoes with the Cooler Season this Year
By Jenny Brown
The past two summers have been much cooler than I remember them ever being. In our little farmville, it seems there is griping every spring about the cold temperatures, it’s as though we all have never fully accepted the fact that our area doesn’t warm up until June. Mentally, we believe that spring should start in April.
But, this year the complaints were legitimate. Everything in the garden has been, on the average, a full month later than usual. I’m normally hanging out in the mulberry trees turning my feet and hands purple by July 1st. This year I didn’t taste a mulberry until August.
If you’re like me and count on your garden to provide for you through the winter, you know how CRITICAL tomatoes are. They are the base of so many of my canned foods that feed our family throughout the entire year. Preserving a year’s supply of diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, various salsas, and spaghetti sauce is dependent on my tomato plants producing boxes-worth of those juicy red globes. I MUST HAVE TOMATOES!
“Turn red. Turn red. Please turn red. ”
If we want to see any ripe lycopersicon fruits this summer, the plants are going to need a little more heat. But, buying materials for a green house, hot house or even those plastic hoop row covers easily exceed our garden budget. A 4×8 greenhouse or a 6′ plastic hoop tunnel that costs as much as $20. a foot is a joke when you are growing enough plants for the purpose of food storage.
At the rate we were going, it looked like we would be eating fried green tomatoes, green salsa, and green colored pizza all year.
We found some free (yes, free!) old and ugly aluminum framed windows that someone was happy to get out of their garage and reclaim the floor-space. Before I knew how long this cool weather was actually going to extend, I wasn’t overly excited about the idea. I knew it would look rather shabby next to the lovely greenhouse my husband built out of old wooden farmhouse windows. Kind of like the run-down rental next to the Custom built home. But when the summer temperatures were sitting in the 70′s for several weeks, the greenhouse alone wasn’t going to cut it if I wanted to fill my pantry shelves.
So, here it is, our not just inexpensive but ‘free’ little cage we built for my paste tomatoes. With a few screws and 1×2′s laying around, my husband had it up in about 20 minutes. We didn’t even wash the windows. The dust is keeping the tomatoes from burning under the glass. You won’t find anything like this in Better Homes and Gardens. We stayed in our garden budget (budget?) and I’ll have my boxes of tomatoes! Green pizza does sound interesting though.
What creative and inexpensive ideas have you jerry-rigged to keep your tomatoes warm this year?