Things we’ll do this month: February 2020

Second month, second post of the year. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a trend!

I love the beginning of the year. I know it goes against the grain of popular opinion, but I think January is great. And February – February is one of my two favourite months of the year.

I’m using my TWDTM post to help vault me back into the habit of posting at least semi-regularly. Before writing this, I looked back into the history of these posts. I’d thought I started in 2017, but it was actually 2016 when I posted my first which means we’re coming up on a four year anniversary – fruit and flowers. I can get down with that.

Goal setting is fun. It’s great motivation to sit down and hash out the things we want to do and fantasize about the roads that will take us there. When we talk about goals, we talk about money and career and real estate and competition, but we rarely talk about good, old-fashioned leisure. What I’ve found is that having some fun and light-hearted goals is a nice way to interrupt the monotony and drudgery of obligation. Month to month, I will publish a list of things I would like to do during the month ahead. Of course, this list doesn’t take the place of all of my standard goals related to health, wellness, money and spirituality, but I reserve the right to, in some cases, blur the lines.

  • Post my 20 for 2020 & one little word
  • Super Bowl (my contribution to the snack-fest: almond butter rice crispy treats, veggie chili, sourdough biscuits, cookies)
  • Celebrate a milestone birthday for my Mom
  • Road trip to Seattle
  • Make and send Valentines
  • Valentine’s Day/Smackdown
  • Pancake Day!
  • Hike
  • Snowshoe
  • Make gluten-free sourdough bread
  • Take more photos of people
  • Replenish seed collection
  • Finish my personal commandments
  • Day trip to the valley

January was a very inwardly focused month. I did a lot of personal work, focusing on meditation, healing, calm and stillness. I found a way to perfectly balance the needs of my largely introverted personality with the part of me that wants to create and maintain meaningful relationships. For the first time in a long time, I was able to go out regularly without feeling completely drained by the experience. I want to continue with that internal growth and it’s time to start integrating my experience by wading further out into the world again while trying to maintain that feeling of peacefulness. I think this month’s list will really nurture that combination.

What do you have planned for the month of February?

Testing new foods

I can’t remember if I’ve already mentioned this or not, but at my last appointment with my ND, we established that my health plans have mostly had the desired results and we talked about my plans for the future.

I really want to do the next step in working on my digestion and she supports that, but the challenge is that it’s a pretty intensive three-month eating a supplement plan. Since we have travel happening all throughout the fall and into winter and I really want to have a little freedom during those times, I asked if we could defer until the new year. She was a-okay with that.

In the meantime, I get to start to introduce new foods to see if they show inflammatory results when I do. The thinking is that the anti-inflammatory diet I’m following cuts out all of the foods that most commonly cause an inflammatory response, however, as unique individuals, we all have our own responses. What works for me may not work for you and vice versa.

Even though she gave me the green light to start trying things out over a month ago, I still haven’t really wanted to disrupt the diet. It felt too risky, like I had too much to lose. Dr. Shannon’s advice was to pick a food that I really miss. I joked that it was pizza. In truth, one food that I’ve been really thinking about a lot is tomato. I thought of it even before we had the discussion and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. I promised myself that I’d wait to test it until the tomatoes on our deck started coming in. We’re getting closer by the day and I can practically taste them every time I go out there to water.

Soon.

Too many tomatoes!

For years I didn’t have a garden. I lived in a fantastic apartment that had only one flaw: no balcony. I had nowhere to grow anything other than a few houseplants. I was good at that, but I really craved more.

When Kevin and I first moved in together, we lived in a two floor townhouse that had a little wooden deck in the back that got afternoon and evening sun. We moved there in June and settling in distracted us from the possibility of a real growing season that first year. Towards the end of July, we picked up four straggly plants from the nearly empty garden centre nearby: two tomatoes and two strawberries. It was mostly a charity purchase. Their prices were way marked down and we bought them because we felt sorry for them. We took them home, repotted them into fresh soil and put them out on our tiny deck. We were so surprised when they shot up almost immediately and actually produced some fruit (though not much) by the time the season was over.

The next year, I bought more of the same plants, only much earlier in the year and much healthier overall. Again, success. They loved that deck!

That fall, we relocated back to New West and an apartment with a similar facing balcony. More afternoon sun, more happy gardening potential.

After two seasons of proving (mostly to myself) that I could do it, I decided to expand my goals and my season. That was the first year I invested (my money and my heart) in growing seeds. I took so much care in sowing them, watering them, monitoring them. I was thrilled when they sprouted and continued to grow. The first night I relocated them outside, I felt like a parent sending their child off to college. I think it even kept me up that night. By the time prime time summer came around our deck was a virtual jungle of tomato plants. They were everywhere!

The next year, I planted more seeds and supplemented them with nursery grown plants as well. As each new gardening season has approached, I’ve become more determined to grow more seeds and fewer ones that somebody else grew. I like the challenge of growing things from seed and it adds an extra layer of satisfaction when I’m successful. This year, I’m going 100% seed grown plants for the second year in a row.

There is one problem with this plan. It’s that I invariably grow too many little seedlings and have to find good homes for what I can’t grow on our balcony. I’ve cut back this year and am only growing on the deck – no extra spaces in community gardens or other people’s yards. I want to enjoy what I’ve grown and be able to see it every day, sit amongst it, watch its progress.

We spent part of last weekend delivering some of my extra plants to friends and family who welcomed them into their gardens. I’ve taken some to work and convinced people with access to soil, but no use for it to try growing this summer. I really don’t want any to go to waste, but every spring I can’t help but want to spread the gardening love and tomatoes seem like the best breakthrough plant to grow.

I’ve found homes for most of my tomato plants, thankfully. Enough to know that they’ll all end up somewhere even if I have to keep a few more than I’d planned. It’s good news for sure, because the peppers will be ready soon, too and then we’ll need to start all over again!


This is the first post I wrote about the easiest ways I’ve found to grow tomatoes.

12.31.18

There are a few things to cover today.

First up: thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who took some time out to send birthday wishes, stories, photos and just general good vibes yesterday. Y’all sure know how to make a girl feel loved. You’re amazing.

Kevin got it in his head that he was going to make me a birthday cake this year and that is the nicest thing a boyfriend has ever done for me. He let me in on the secret prototype on Saturday, the day before my birthday and I gave him some strategy tips, but otherwise it was all him and it turned out to be pretty damn good. Also, delicious.

Second: today continues in the birthday celebrations because I can never have my birthday without thinking of my cousin. It was on this day when my first love, my first partner in crime, my original Kevin joined me on earth 27 hours after my own arrival. He hit me with a super heartfelt and sweet birthday message – complete with photos – in the morning yesterday and gave me a good old cry. I’m pretty sure I still make this face. And his smile still lights up the world.

Finally, I’ve written a few year in review posts already – my year in reading, my year in running – but I always like to do a little overall year in review exercise as well. (This was 2017’s.) Since yesterday was my birthday, I attribute the start of my new year being so close to the start of the new year as the reason I love New Year’s celebrations so much. The fresh start, the new beginnings, the blank slate – I’m just a big fan all around.

I have some resolutions and new practices in my plans for 2019 and I’ll share some of those tomorrow, but today, on the last day of 2018, I’m going to take a look back at the things we did this year.

JANUARY

I started the year with The Bigger Yes, a course facilitated by Laura McKowen and focused on discovering, exploring and committing to your deepest callings. This gave the first months of the year a very inwardly focused dedication and feel. ❤️ I wrote my life story and that was an experience in itself. ❤️ We spent some time outdoors and moving our bodies in different ways. ❤️ I committed to writing and reading more and I followed through with that for most of the year.

FEBRUARY

We celebrated my Mom’s birthday at our place while we hosted a birthday/Super Bowl party and cheered as the Eagles hoisted the Lombardi trophy for the first time. 🧡 We headed down to Seattle for our first (and one of our favourites) race of the year, My Better Half at Seward Park. The weather was crisp and cool and the scenery was incredible. The post-race oatmeal bar was tops, second only to Kevin’s Significant Otter t-shirt. This was the trip on which we unwillingly bought a new set of tires – and a Costco membership! 🧡 Kevin and I celebrated our seven year anniversary.

MARCH

I took a trip to Kingfisher Resort on Vancouver Island to celebrate my aunt’s milestone birthday with her, my Mom and one of my aunt’s childhood friends. We enjoyed supreme beauty and luxury and I even met a new cat. 💛 Cara and I went to our first hockey game together. And then we went to another. 💛 We started working on our community garden plot and started nurturing the seedlings that produced our summer bounty. 💛 I reconnected with my high school friend, Jane.

APRIL

It was Easter! 💚 We headed across the border again for the Birch Bay Road Race in April. Unfortunately, we’d followed a bad lead on hotel for this trip and fled the “Birch Bay Stayaway” as someone on Trip Advisor dubbed it. Luckily, we found the Four Points Bellingham via Hotels.com and settled into a more more comfortable room quickly. Unanticipated costs of this misguided hotel booking: new swimsuits from Target. Unexpected discovery: The Pacific Caesar, from B-Town Kitchen & Raw Bar, the greatest salad either of us have ever eaten. 💚 Canucks season ended. 💚 I got a new boss.

MAY

We celebrated Mother’s Day. 💙 We spent a lot of time in the gardens – our balcony, our community, my parents’. 💙 I basically cooked my way through Deliciously Ella Everyday. 💙 I talked books and podcasts and coffee. 💙 I went through another melanoma diagnosis and two surgeries which I wrote about months later, in September.

JUNE

The Seattle Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon took place in the beginning of June and we headed down south for the weekend. We did the 5k on Saturday when we got to run through the Museum of Flight hangar and the half marathon Sunday. It was a beautiful course, but Kevin was injured (sadly, a recurring theme for the year) and I kept him company the whole way. No matter, we still finished and collected our medals. We also got to see Old 97s in the post-race concert. 💜 Later in the month we did our last race before we took a break for summer, the Scotia Half 5k, my least favourite race ever. 💜 I got my I Am A Moon Goddess mala from I Am Blessed Mala Beads.

JULY

We celebrated Canada Day and watched fireworks from our balcony. ❤️ I harvested FLOWERS from my garden for the first time! (I usually just grow vegetables.) ❤️ Cara and I made our first appearance as Canucks season ticket members at the Summer Showdown rookie game. ❤️ My month took a woo turn when I joined a Tarot challenge and explored everything I know about the cards with a daily draw. ❤️ I went along for the ride on a Lakers Island road trip to Nanaimo and I got to hang with my girl Lori and *finally* meet her daughter Emily. ❤️ We had a surprise visit from our Amy and had a delightful dinner and catch up session on Granville Island.

AUGUST

A relatively low-key month of getting flowers, growing veggies and closing up shop on the lacrosse season. 🧡 This was also when I embarked on a commitment to daily writing and the realization that not coming up with a unique title for every post set me free.

SEPTEMBER

We picked apples with Barb and John. I started working from home. 💛 We started talking about how this old cat can’t live forever. 💛 We watched The Good Place and Making It. 💛 It was my Dad’s birthday. 💛 Kevin went to Philadephia for the NLL Draft. 💛 I catsat.

OCTOBER

Here’s where things got fun, most notably because travel season arrived. 💚 I went to Chicago with Lesley so we could explore and she could run the Chicago Marathon. 💚 I got back and three days later, we turned the car towards Whistler for a weekend in the mountains and the BCLA AGM. 💚 The hockey season started up again and we went to our first game as members. 💚 Late in the month we went to Bothell and our favourite hotel for the weekend and the Captain Jack’s Treasure Run in Redmond where we got to dress like pirates. 💚 To finish the month, we celebrated Kevin’s birthday and then we went to the Canucks game on Halloween.

NOVEMBER

I enjoyed the Canucks Diwali event and then the next day we left for Vegas. 💙 Ten whole days of it including the KronosWorks conference, the Rock ‘n; Roll Half Marathon and 5k. 💙 Almost as soon as we got back, we started preparing for our final trip -and half marathon – of the year, San Antonio. 💙 We started watching Christmas movies and went ice skating at Rogers Arena. 💙 We fully immersed ourselves in celebrating the upcoming holidays, but with tempered it with more old cat contemplation. 💙 We got the tree up and decorated and then we left town again.

DECEMBER

San Antonio was our last stop of the year and when I asked Kevin about his favourite travel, without hesitation, he proclaimed that this was it. We were there for just three nights, we packed a lot of good times during that short span and, you know, it sure feels like we were there longer than that. 💜 I lost some faith in people when I started to contemplate those who seemingly do something kind solely for the attention it’ll get them from strangers, but my spirits were lifted when we toured a couple of holiday markets. 💜 We visited the Anonymous Art Show at North Van Arts where my friend Jane had three pieces on display. 💜 We checked out Fridays on Front Holiday Edition to get some much needed time with friends. 💜 Just after hitting the 120 day mark, I shared what I’ve learned from writing everyday and I celebrated a few of the joys that Christmas cards brought me this season. 💜 I praised the Christmas bakers out there and I spent three consecutive days at Rogers Arena including the home opener for the new Vancouver Warriors lacrosse team. 💜 I also made a Christmas playlist.

If I may add another side effect of writing every day, I certainly keep track of the details and the things that go on in our lives better and the memories remain more vivid. That’s always a plus.

Looking back on the year there were a number of joys, adventures, opportunities for growth, love and generousity. I had wanted 2018

On this, the final day of 2018, I invite you to look back on your year and contemplate the good, the challenging, the beautiful, the lessons and all the experiences you had, the people you knew, the things that you learned. As they say, out with the old and in with the new.

Growing a green thumb: beets

Here’s an update on our garden space this summer: just when our massive balcony was being overtaken by very happy tomato plants (among other plants as well) of five different varieties (Black Krim, Green Zebra, Old German, Yellow Brandywine which is no longer on the site so not linkable 🙁 and my old standby, Early Girl – hollar at me if you need tomatoes this summer!) we were granted a community garden plot on the rooftop garden in our building. Hurray! And they’re serious about their plots at this community garden – ours is 161 square feet and the garden manager told me that it’s one of the best ones available.

So, a few of the tomatoes from the balcony were transplanted which is good and bad. Good because they’ll have more space, etc, but since they were already blooming flowers, I’m a little worried that they might not adapt to the change. Only time will tell…and until then, I’ll lay awake in bed at night wondering about my tomato plants. That’s the bad because I’m only partly joking.

Earlier today, I saw that my favourite seed company asked on this Instagram post, “what are you harvesting today?” and it reminded me that a little harvesting had been on my to do list.

Last week I’d started to notice that my beets were getting quite big and busting up out of the surface of the dirt so I’d been keeping a close eye on them. Last night when I’d checked, I could see they were ready to go, but at the time I knew it was something I wanted to deal with when I could focus so I waited until today.

beets!

Last September, I told you how I go about raising my tomatoes and that once you grew some of your own, you’d want to grow something else. Today, I’m going to talk to you about beets.

First of all, it’s super easy. I’m going to give you a few pointers to make sure you learn the things that I wish someone had told me. No fear, okay?

Second, here are a few of the best varieties that I’ve tried over the years – Chioggia (the fancy candy cane looking kind that you sometimes see at farmer’s markets), Beet Blend which is exactly what it sounds like: a blend of different varieties in case you don’t want to choose just one (and there are a lot to choose from!) and Red Ace. The beets in the picture are Red Ace.

With tomatoes, I encouraged you to start them indoors early and only put them outside once temperatures had risen. Beets are the opposite. In fact, they do quite well when they get a cool start. That isn’t to say that you can’t start them in the summer – quite the opposite, in fact. If you have the space, you can start them every few weeks so that you are continually harvesting throughout the summer and into the fall. Their ability to withstand the cold just means that you can start them outside earlier and keep them going for a longer season.

Another way beets are unlike to tomatoes is that you’ll want to plant the seeds in the ground where they will grow. This is called direct sowing. With tomatoes, we started the seeds in little peat cups or egg cartons, but your beets won’t do well if you don’t plant them right in the place they will stay until harvest.

Here’s all you’ll need:

  • Seeds
  • Dirt in a pot or right in the ground
  • A shovel or other small garden tool

Now, remember I said it was easy? Well, I’m going to need you to think way back to when you were in grade school and planted beans. Remember that you dug a little hole in the dirt, put the bean inside, covered it back up and watered it? That’s exactly the technique you’re going to use with beets.

One caution: before you get started, you’re going to want to work the soil where you will be planting the seeds. Loosen it up and turn it over a few times. Make it as fluffy as you can. If you’ve bought some potting mix from the garden centre, then you’ll be good to go, but if you’re planting in a garden or a pot full of dirt that’s been kicking around for a while, then you’ll want to work it over first. What I’ve found is that if my soil is too hard, my beets will be more compact. And if you love beets like I love beets, the bigger the better! If you’re planting in the ground, you may want to add a layer of potting soil to your garden and work it in before planting.

Now that your soil is prepared, poke holes that are about one centimetre deep in the ground and make them approximately two centimetres apart. Pour seeds out of the package and into the palm of your hand then put one seed in each hole. Fill each hole in with dirt and then water the area.

You don’t want to water your beets too much or too often. If it’s raining, that’ll be enough to keep your beets going. If your area is in a dry spell, you’ll only need to water every seven to ten days.

Expect sprouts a week or so after you’ve planted the seeds and then watch them grow. You’ll want to do a check to make sure they aren’t too crowded together. If they are, decide which is the biggest, strongest plant and then pluck the others out of the ground. You can also just pinch the smaller seedlings back.

As your plants grow, more and more leaves will emerge and they’ll get bigger and bigger. At that point, the only thing left to do is wait. Most beets will take between seven and ten weeks to mature. You’ll know it’s getting close to time to harvest when the tops of the beets start to push up above the soil. Watch them and once they’re about the size you’re going for, then they’ll be ready to go.

To harvest, take a firm grip of the greens and gently pull them out of the ground. Cut off the greens (don’t throw them out!) and wash the dirt off the beets. You can store the beets in your fridge or another cool place. Treat the greens like you would any other dark green leafy vegetable – think kale, chard or spinach. Wash them off and store them in the fridge. Use them in a smoothie, saute them with some garlic or steam them up.

Have you ever tried growing beets? Do you have any tips to add?

Grow something. Grow anything.

This is a tweet I look for nearly every month:

I’m relatively new to gardening and I haven’t had a garden of my own that was actually in the ground since I lived with my folks nearly twenty years ago. For more than ten of those years, I didn’t even have a balcony so gardening was totally out of the question, but since then, in all three places Kevin and I have shared, I’ve made the most out of the outdoor space that we had. In our first place, it was a tiny porch. In our last place, we had a balcony that was slightly bigger. Now, we have a whole 150 square feet of opportunity and I’ve been using as much of it as I can.

our gardens over the years

Last year I expanded into breaking actual ground in a couple of places beyond the containers. One was the limited space that was called the community garden at our old apartment. It was actually only about four feet of space in a raised bed in a communal area of the building. It’s an area that could be accessed by the public and that was a virtual dumping ground for people in the apartments above them. We were constantly finding old potatoes and garbage in our plots or the others. Once we started having peppers grow on our plants, they were constantly disappearing and that broke my heart. I would happily donate food to people in need (they often used this area to sleep in during the warmer months) but I somehow doubt they were the ones munching on my JALAPEÑOS.

My second space was one I called My Remote Garden. It was over in the backyard of some friends of ours and I owe all the credit of the arrangement to Keith. He was living in a house with another dude and they often entertained in the back yard, but they never actually used the garden. I think the whole transaction consisted of a text exchange exactly like this:

HIM: Hey, you like gardening. Do you want to use my yard?

ME: YESSSSSSSSSS

Kevin did the heavy lifting, clearing out a garden bed that had been neglected for years and we tried several different plants in there. We weren’t as successful as I might have hoped, but we had a couple of things working against us: bad soil and pests we could never quite identify. We never solved either, but every year we get another chance, right? Due to some other commitments that I had, we haven’t started on My Remote Garden yet this spring, but we’re in the planning/watering duty negotiation stages right now.

One haul from My Remote Garden’s 2016 season

There’s nothing like the opportunity of having a garden to plan

I took it as a great sign when on the first day we started moving into our current building, there was a notice in the elevator saying that if residents were interested in a community garden plot, they could email the committee. I did a few weeks later, but got a reply that said all spaces had already been assigned. The coordinator told me that he would keep that email and contact me if something became available. This past Friday, he let me know that not only was a space now available, but it was one of the best spaces out there! We checked it out today and we are definitely moving in!

So, all of a sudden, I have two garden spaces to begin working on. My kneejerk response was “BUT JUNE IS TOO LATE!” Sure, in some cases it is, but coaching and information sharing from the folks at West Coast Seeds has left me knowing better than that. Sure, there are some crops whose planting (from seed) window has passed, but there are still plenty of other options even now. I love knowing that a garden, when tended with care, can be functional all year long.

grow something

I encourage everyone to start a garden even if that means just one plant pot outside (or inside if you have to) their door. I refuse to believe that there is any such thing as a person who is bad at gardening. They probably just didn’t have their facts straight. 🙂 And there really isn’t anything as rewarding as growing your own potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, flowers, anything.

So, now, go check out the West Coast Seeds list of seeds to start in June, head out to your favourite nursery to get some seeds and get to work. Don’t let a small space get you down. And if you need a little camaraderie along the way, you know where to find me!

Where do you garden? What are you growing this summer? What have you always wanted to grow?

Growing a green thumb: tomatoes

I talk to so many people who feel like they are afraid to or can’t start a garden because they don’t have any experience taking care of one or think it might be too complicated to manage. Every time, I tell them that if I can do it, anyone can!

82. Grow tomatoes

The wonderful thing about a garden is that it requires as much time as you want to give it. I started on the deck of our townhouse in Burnaby when I rescued a few of suffering late-season plants from the Rona down the road. There were two strawberries and two tomatoes. We bought long window box style pots to put them in, dirt and hangers so that the strawberries could sit on the railing.

I remember that it was really funny to me that Kevin seemed so surprised when fruit actually came off of each of them. We didn’t get a lot, of course, they’d been neglected all summer until we’d brought them home, but it was a start. The following year, we revived the strawberries and replaced the tomato plants. The deck got evening sun, but the overhang blocked a lot of it from hitting the plants. It wasn’t ideal, but we got a good crop of strawberries and some tomatoes as well. We moved that October so we started over the following year.

Having been bitten by the gardening bug, I was pretty enthusiastic to get started on our new, bigger and less obstructed balcony in New Westminster. I had more space to work in and early the following spring, I saved a cardboard egg carton and filled it with dirt. I planted my carefully selected tomato seeds in each compartment and tended to them every day. I watered them in droplets and kept them warm with heating pads and inside a makeshift mini-greenhouse made from a used lettuce clamshell. They sprouted, every one! And then they grew bigger and I had to find small pots to transplant them to, then I had to buy bigger ones and relocate the strongest to the empty pots we’d brought over in the move. They flourished and I felt like I’d won the lottery. That was the moment in my gardening history when the bug really took hold.

I actually grew many things last year, but the tomatoes were the most satisfying. (Jalapeños were a close second.) I was successful with spinach, beets, some small hot red peppers and strawberries again. I also learned to sprout an avocado pit and had a dozen of them at varying heights by the time Christmas rolled around. I was defeated by brussels sprouts, cauliflower (white, yellow AND purple varieties), cucumbers and I also lost a lemon tree. I’ve never been able to grow a melon either.

When you tell a seasoned gardener that you couldn’t grow something, they just shrug, smile in understanding and offer their best experience and what they did to find success or ‘fess up that they’ve never been able to grow it either. Everybody who does it seems to believe that there is some level of chance and with all the variables, I suppose there always will be.

At the end of the day, the experience of gardening is so enjoyable that I think everyone should try it. There are times when I get into the garden and when I get out, I feel like I’ve just had the most relaxing meditation session. Gardening is therapy.

Because I am so excited to share the joy of gardening, I’m going to walk you through just how easy it is to grow some of your own food. It’s too late for tomatoes now, but there are a few other veggies that can still be grown this fall and some that even do well over winter. If it were me, I’d wait until the spring, but get your hands on a copy of a West Coast Seeds catalogue. I buy all my seeds from them and their annual catalogue is a gardener’s dream. Not only does it show off the many varieties of all the seeds they sell, it is full of pro-tips and how-tos for those new to the game. Sign up for their newsletters for even more detailed coaching including infographics on how to grow your favourite fruits and vegetables (like this one on how to grow garlic) and email reminders that “this month is a good time to plant <fill-in-the-blank>.” And if you’re anything like me, this will result in an overcrowded, but delightfully generous balcony, porch or garden space.

Want to know how to get started, I’m here to help. Here’s my step-by-step instructions for how to have a bountiful tomato growing season (next year.) If you’re on the west coast, plan to start in mid-March (though you can also start later.) If you’re someplace else, check in with a reputable local gardening resource and go from there.

Here’s all you need:

  • Seeds
  • Dirt
  • Something to plant the seeds in – egg carton, peat pucks that expand when you add water, seed trays
  • Stakes and twist ties or a tomato cage

80. Grow tomatoes

I’ve used this Early Girl variety for two years in a row and they have been fantastic both seasons. They are easy, hardy and high yielding. Get out to Ladner to visit the West Coast Seeds delightful little store. They’ll have everything you need (and more) and their staff are very experienced and willing to help out if you need it.

As I mentioned, I used a cardboard egg carton the first year I planted tomato seeds. I filled each little pocket with some potting soil, then placed one seed in each pocket of dirt. I sprinkled some dirt on top to cover each seed and then put a few drops of water over each seed. Germination takes about a week with a tiny little sprout showing itself first. From there it opens up with two leaves and later on a second set of leaves will appear. The key here is patience. It doesn’t happen overnight, but once they get growing, you’ll start to see a difference every few days.

79. Grow tomatoes

After I first planted mine, I placed them inside the plastic clamshell that we’d emptied of salad and put the lid on top. I’d hoped that this would create  mini-greenhouse and it did. I put the contraption on top of a heating pad and I turned it on a few times each day. (Ours has a two hour auto-shut off.) I’ve since read that tomatoes seedlings like bottom heat so this is a good tip to follow. I just did it instinctively because I’d wanted to add some heat to get my greenhouse effect going. It worked.

After a few weeks, the seedlings grew tall enough that they could no longer stay in the greenhouse when the lid was on so I got another bottom half and doubled it up on top of the original. At one point, I had to use plastic wrap to keep everything warm and cozy, but I can’t remember exactly how. You can buy clear lids for gardening trays at nurseries or hardware stores, but you get my drift: whatever you use, keep things as steamy as you can. Watering regularly will help with that and it will also keep your tomato babies happy. They don’t want to be swampy, but they will drink a lot. Don’t overwater, but don’t let them dry out. You’ll figure out a happy balance. 🙂

78. Grow tomatoes

Eventually, your seedlings will start to look a little cramped in your egg carton garden bed. When this happens, find some small pots (make sure they have drainage) and fill them up with your leftover potting soil. Gently dig out the area around where the roots of your plants are one by one. Be generous with the dirt you dig because you don’t want to break your plant or damage its roots. Once you’ve placed the plant in the new pot, add some more dirt to fill up the pot and I like to pack a little more around the area where the stem meets the dirt to give it a little extra support. Continue to keep your plants on the windowsill or in a place where they will get a lot of sun. By now, they’ll be too big to keep a lid on them, but they should also be strong and healthy and able to withstand a little cooler temperature.

Eventually, they’re going to need to go outside and, I’m not going to lie, this was absolutely the hardest part for me. The first night I put them out, I felt like I knew what it was like to send a child off to college. I worried about them all night and I regularly checked that they had enough shelter for days after. (We get a lot of wind on our balcony.) As they get bigger and bigger, they’ll start to need bigger pots. If it’s a warm enough spring or if you plant them later than March or April, you might be able to skip the middle-man small pots and go straight to the ones that you’re going to have them grow in. This might mean that they go outdoors sooner and, if the weather is good, that’s okay. As I mentioned, this is a very hardy variety of tomato.

Note: this transplant or double transplant works with this variety of tomato, but there are many plants that don’t like to be handled and won’t withstand a single transplant, let alone two. Do your research before you choose something else to grow. If you don’t, you can chalk it up to being part of the learning process, but you might have wasted an entire growing season and, once you’re an enthusiastic gardener, you’ll realize just how long the winters really are.

81. Grow tomatoes

Once your tomato plants are in their permanent homes, they’re pretty low-maintenance. They will continue to drink a lot and appreciate daily waterings. Keep the water coming and your plants will grow up and around. After they establish themselves in your garden or their pot(s) in your patio area, you’ll start to notice yellow flowers blooming more and more frequently. These are your future tomatoes! You’re almost there!

Shortly after the blooms shrivel up, you’ll start to see tiny little green orbs where the flowers used to be and as time passes, they’ll get bigger and bigger. It’s around this time that you’ll need to start thinking about support. Some people like those metals cages for keeping their tomato plants upright, but I just use bamboo stakes and twist ties to keep my plants sturdy. As the tomatoes get bigger and bigger, the branches will get heavier and begin to droop more. Keep them up!

If you’ve made it this far, you are officially a gardener! Now, you enjoy your spoils! Eventually, your tomatoes will begin to soften their green colour, then turn yellow-ish, then orange-y and finally RED. That’s how you know when to pick them. Simply pluck them off their stem and enjoy. I usually have so many that I start to pick them early and ripen some in my kitchen while the others take their time while still on the plants.

Bon appetit! When you sink your teeth into your first tomato, you’ll remember just how good homegrown vegetables can be. And then you’ll want to grow something else.

Do you have a garden? If you could grow any fruit or vegetable, which would it be?