What I’m Reading: Epic Tomatoes

I have a bit of an obsession with gardening books (along with cookbooks, sewing books, craft books, etc) and I’ve basically been keeping myself on a fairly short leash when it comes to purchasing new books because I don’t want things to get too out of control. But of course when I saw Epic Tomatoes available, I wasn’t able to resist. I had to buy it.

This year I am growing a record number of tomatoes in my garden (not like a world record, but a personal record). I think I am at about 30 varieties. I have a small yard and that amount of tomatoes is insane – we’re not talking 30 plants though, that amount will actually be higher because I’m growing multiples of some varieties. Let’s guess 45 tomato plants. I have self-control issues when it comes to growing tomatoes. I want to grow all of the tomatoes.


Anyway, my love for tomato growing was definitely the deciding factor in purchasing Epic Tomatoes. The author, Craig LeHoullier is a tomato adviser for Seed Savers Exchange, which is one of my go-to companies for purchasing seeds for growing in my own garden. He has been growing tomatoes for many years and his love and knowledge of tomatoes definitely comes through on every page of this book. I didn’t think it was possible for me to get any more excited about growing tomatoes, but somehow it happened when I was reading through this book. I can’t wait.

First of all, the book itself is lovely. The photography is eye appealing, the layout is user friendly, I love the old illustrations featured – it is clear that a lot of effort went in to making this book beautiful.


I think my favorite part of the book is that it is most appealing to a younger, modern gardener – but at the same time providing tons of information that even a seasoned tomato grower would find useful. I don’t consider myself an expert tomato grower by any means, but I am a tomato growing enthusiastic with a few years of tomato growing experience under my belt and I learned a ton from this book. I find that a lot of books on tomatoes, or even gardening in general, are not really that exciting to look at (some exceptions of course) – mostly standard text with a few mediocre photos thrown in. What can I say? I am the kind of person that judges a book based on appearances, I like lots of photos and pretty typography!


I thought I would touch on a few other things I really enjoyed about the book:
– The book focuses on heirloom, non-hybrid tomatoes, which is something that I am passionate about. Up until a few years ago, I believed I was limited to the tomato varieties available either as seeds or small plants from the garden centre and I didn’t even know this whole other world of tomatoes existed. Over the past few years, I’ve been purchasing a few tomato seeds here and there from smaller companies specializing in rare and heirloom varieties, but this past winter I spent lots of time doing tons of research further in to heirloom tomato varieties, so reading about so many more in this book was both good timing and very interesting. I also love love love reading about the history of certain varieties which was something that was discussed a bit in this book.
– There is a list of 250 recommended varieties in this book. 250! And what I love the most is that he includes a ton of dwarf varieties I haven’t even heard of (I’m obsessed with the dwarfs right now as they are ideal for my smaller gardening space). I’ve already started a list of seeds to try and find for 2016 (Apparently I need more space just for tomatoes…maybe it’s time I bought that farm…)
– The book includes a list of recommended seed suppliers. Thank you! I’ve heard of most of the suppliers on this list through my research this last winter (and even ordered seeds from a few of them), but this is such a valuable resource for a newer gardener who wants to venture outside of the small selection available at garden centres.
– Recipes!! There are a few of these in the book and everyone knows how much I love cooking.
– Seed saving techniques. I actually just started my own tomato seed saving last year but really have no idea what I’m doing so this piece will be a good reference for me this next year. I never thought much about seed saving up until I started growing some of the rare varieties and now I understand the importance.
– He talks about breeding your own tomatoes and creating your very own tomato! I think this might be something I really want to try and I didn’t actually realize how easy it could be. Blue dwarf variety?! I think so. What would I name it?!!

I think it is obvious by my words that I am totally over the moon in love with this book. And I really can’t believe how excited I am for growing tomatoes this year. Just a couple of weeks and I’ll be starting my own little babies inside! If you are a tomato grower, I would highly recommend this book, you will not be disappointed.

Note: I am in no way affiliated with the author or publisher or this book, nor am I compensated for my words above. All thoughts, recommendations, and opinions are my own.

Epic Tomatoes purchased on amazon.ca.

The September 2014 Garden

I have tried to find a way to start this post that wasn’t “Oh for God’s sake, it’s snowing”. But I can’t. It’s September 8th and it’s snowing. What the hell.

Those little white specks – snow. My neighbor’s sunflowers look so lovely! And then an hour later…


Let’s start this story about a week ago. I knew that the nights were starting to cool down a lot so I kept my eye on the weather forecast for frost warnings. And by “kept my eye on”, I mean checked obsessively every five minutes. I’m ashamed to admit that I learned the hard lesson last year on screwing around with frost warnings (yes, I am human, I make mistakes) – actually, not frost warnings because there wasn’t actually a frost warning. I saw the temperature was going to be borderline and I didn’t do anything. I should have gone out and covered things, but I didn’t. Stupid. So this year, not wanting all of my months-long efforts to go to waste, I watched the forecast carefully. On Wednesday night I checked the forecast a million times before bed and saw that it was only supposed to dip down to about 7 degrees celsius. Safe. Thursday morning I woke up, got ready for work, stepped outside my front door and it was COLD. I quickly touched the foliage of the closest plant. Wet (it had rained the night before) and cold, but not frosty. I scanned the rest of the front yard and it appeared alright. I got into my car and the windshield was COVERED IN ICE. Oh god. What about the tomatoes in the back yard?! What if they are covered in frost and ice? Were they dead?!

The tomatoes were fine. Everything else was fine too. Calm down woman.

Later that day, I got an email from the coordinator at our community garden saying the garden had been vandalized the night previous. Oh great, fantastic. As soon as I got home, I ventured across the street to survey the damage. Our plot was fine. I guess no one wants a bunch of crappy kale and beets. Our plot neighbor lost some squash though – I saw the evidence smashed against the nearby building wall. And some other people lost a few things as well, but gardeners have a pretty thick skin and are used to a bit of disappointment. My husband and I went ahead and harvested the last of the beans and beets. The bean harvest was great this summer, producing about 9 litres of beans from about 12 square feet of space, but the beet harvest was pathetic. Most beets were about golf ball sized, so we only really got about 4 litres of beets from that space. Luckily I’d also planted beets at home which turned out much nicer and significantly larger. We left the kale and leeks in place for now – we have more kale than we know what to do with, so if someone wants to help themselves I will not be sad. Go ahead hooligans, steal my kale.


And then our fridge decided to start dying. It hasn’t completely died, but it is happening soon. I’ve been feeling like it has been on its way out for awhile now but it has started randomly spilling out a lot of water ON MY NEW FLOOR. This isn’t the happiest news, especially at harvest time when one requires a fridge to store vegetables. We could get someone in to look at and repair the fridge, but frankly it is old and an energy suck and we’d just prefer to bite the bullet and purchase a new fridge. Now here’s the catch: Megan is extremely picky about everything that she buys, especially when it has a significant price tag attached. She does not want to go out and buy the cheapest replacement fridge and then have to look at it and secretly resent it for the next 20 years. Megan wants a really pretty and good quality fridge. Therefore we have come to the decision to purchase a mini-fridge as a placeholder until we can save up some money over the next couple of months and buy something really nice.  The cost of the mini fridge would be around the same as getting a professional to come in just to look at the dying fridge, plus we have a friend who is in the market for a mini-fridge and has offered to buy the mini-fridge from us when we are done with it. My brother is excited because he basically gets all the food that will not fit into the mini-fridge. Everyone wins. Except the old fridge – you lose. Oh and the microwave died too but we’re not too sad about that – we are going to try going microwave-less. If the oven dies I’m going to absolutely lose it.

Okay back to the tomatoes. After my little scare on Thursday morning and after the drama of the community garden, I went home and covered my tomatoes for the night. I wrapped them up in any spare sheets and fleece blankets that I could round up, then secured the covers with clothespins. It didn’t freeze that night, but at least I had peace of mind. Things started to warm up on Friday so the chance of frost was lifted and the forecast for the weekend was decent. But there was talk of snow early in the week. Seriously?! On Saturday I went out and picked all of the green indeterminate tomatoes. I didn’t really want to so early – I thought I had a few more weeks to allow ripening on the vines. And really, although I live in Alberta and know in the back of my mind that we could get snow any time, I still like to believe that we shouldn’t get snow until at least October. Sigh.


Now on to the rest of September. This afternoon I harvested the corn (we have corn!), one last zucchini, two green pumpkins and a handful of cherry tomatoes. And I brought some of the herb pots indoors just in case. I also had 3 pots of cherry tomatoes growing on my deck so I moved those pots into the greenhouse where it is a bit warmer.


Once the weather warms up again and it stops raining/snowing, we’ll clean up the yard a bit and harvest some of the other things like the remaining beets and carrots. The composts will be turned, rain barrels emptied, and raised beds and pots cleaned out and stored for winter. I can’t believe we’re at this time of year already – it honestly seems like yesterday that I was rushing around in a panic to get everything planted and now everything is covered in a layer of white snow.