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New Year, New Baby, New Planting! 1/17/24

Gotcha! Not a new baby for the Tigers, though we wish! (We're both 57, lol!) But I had a chance to visit our favorite people at Fruitful Vines -- LaVerne and Gwendolyn -- and they had a new baby on New Year's Day -- how perfect is that! They invited me to see the entire process of how they plant, grow, and harvest hydroponic tomatoes, so I drove to Sullivan, IL on 1/10/24. It was quite a sight! Welcome to the First Planting of 2024 -- hydroponic tomatoes at Fruitful Vines, the entire process, and we're starting with planting the seeds! I'll add more videos to this post as I get them.

Enjoy this short video on how they get the planting started. My takeaway was that they plant only one seed in every hole. Very freeing for me when I start seeds in March. I'm not very good at it yet, and I have to admit, I hate thinning the plants. It always seems like I wait until they're too tall and spiraling around each other, so thinning is sometimes dangerous for the survivors. I love the idea of just nurturing one seed per pellet or cell, and if they don't sprout, so be it! More can be planted or not, but it will all lead to better seedling management!

(text from this week's email 1/17/24:) I am writing to you tonight filled with gratitude -- honored to be invited into their home. We get a front row seat to see how they plant and harvest The Most Wonderful Tomatoes on the Planet! This is a relationship that I have cultivated since Tim and I first started selling at the Urbana's Market at the Square in 2019. At the time, they were called 3D Tomatoes and were under previous ownership -- Lois, her husband, and their daughters. Tim and I quickly realized that we needed to supplement our garden because our salsas, sauces, and soups became very popular. 3D tomatoes knew we needed canning tomatoes, not the beautiful creations they displayed at the market and sold us great-tasting tomatoes that didn't look perfect, but we didn't care. Then, in 2021 they sold the farm to Fruitful Vines, at the same location in Sullivan, Illinois. And, of course, we re-established the relationship right away. I even had the opportunity to visit the farm a few times, particularly at the end of the season when I bought the last of their crop.

At the end of last season, I came out to their farm for my usual 9 flats. We had talked about how it all starts in January when they plant, and I asked to come out in 2024. They were so nice to invite me, and this is the first video of a process that will begin harvesting in May and produce through October. We (you and I) will learn so much, because there is a reason their tomatoes look and taste so much better than other growers and definitely the grocery stores'. There's always a line at Fruitful Vines! So stop there when the Market opens in May and round the corner to Row 2 where you can get your favorite Tiger Gardens goodies, including fresh salsas thanks to Fruitful Vines.

This first thing I have learned comes from this first video: I have decided to plant my seeds one to a pellet (I get the tray of 72). I have always planted multiple seeds and thinned when they sprout, and I hate thinning! Since these folks plant one seed to a hole, I'm going to do the same. One seed to a pellet. If it doesn't sprout, so be it. But the ones that do, I'll be able to concentrate on nurturing them. Because it's all about getting them stronger, and that means getting them under the grow light as soon as they sprout. (In fact, if you want to see how to rescue tomato plants, see my videos on my blog from last year. Trust me. Grow lights work.)

The second thing I have learned is that I don't need to avoid hybrid seeds. I had always shyed away from hybrids in favor of heirlooms, so I can harvest the seeds. But this season, I'm going to plant some hybrid beefsteak tomatoes. We also have the need for more consistent production throughout the season.

And the third thing I have learned is to can tomatoes for the end of the season -- get us through winter! Thanks to poor planning, I am miserable right now, because I didn't focus on canning anything for us after the Farmer's Market. Oh, sure, we have salsa if we want it, but if I wanted to make spaghetti sauce? I can't just go to the store and buy local tomatoes. In fact, you can't get tomatoes grown in the United States at most stores in the off season. Don't get me started, I have a LOT to say about this topic in the future.

It was a very fruitful visit, pun intended. And I am so happy! You know how much I love our vendor friends, especially Fruitful Vines. And I know you are happy about our relationship, because you love our salsas, sauces, and soups. Because of Fruitful Vines, we get to have those products from May - October. And this year, we get to see how it all happens. I am filled with gratitude.

This helps to fulfill our mission of convincing everyone to grow their own food and preserve it, and support the vendors who do the same. Tiger Gardens is there for you at the Farmer's Market to provide delicious, locally-made canned goods from locally-grown produce. And we want you to learn to do the same!

Oh, and to top it off, they had a BABY born New Year's Day 2024. How perfect is that??? Welcome to the world, Nicholas. New Year, New Baby, New Planting!

See you at the Market in May!

Sue & Tim TigerTiger Gardens

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