RSS Feed

Tag Archives: plant

Quick tips to make your tomatoes grow

Six tips for a bumper crop of tomatoes

Dig deep hole, put an inch of compost and a sprinkle of fertilizer into the hole and then plant tomato in a warm, sunny spot.

Dig deep hole, put an inch of compost and a sprinkle of fertilizer into the hole and then plant tomato in a warm, sunny spot. Photo by Christine Willmsen

It’s time to get dirty. Yep, I said it – get in the dirt and get dirty.

Memorial Day weekend has passed and that means it’s fair game to plant a number of vegetables, some that will give you vegetables early and others in the middle of the summer. One of my favorites is the tomato.

Since I’m from the Midwest, I’m compelled to plant tomatoes. As a child I remember eating big, beefy tomatoes every day with a pinch of salt and pepper. I also recall my mom canning those juicy, plump tomatoes for winter dishes. So my goal is to relive those memories by planting my own this year. I want you to enjoy them too.

Here are six tips for healthy tomatoes that I’ve picked up over the years and from a recent class at Swanson’s Nursery:

1. If you are limited for space, grow tomatoes in large containers on your deck or patio. If the only person enjoying the tomatoes is you, then I suggest you buy two plants that are different types.

2. Choose starters from your local nursery or store at this point, seeds won’t develop in time. Pick the sunniest and warmest spot in your yard. Tomatoes need 6-8 hours of light per day.

3. Right before planting, pinch off the lowest two levels of leaves. This will encourage a strong stalk to support the heavy tomatoes.

4. Dig a deep hole, put an inch of compost in and sprinkle some fertilizer in the hole before planting it. Cover the root and plant with soil almost up to the first leaf.

5. Plant 18 inches apart and put a cage around each plant. If plants are too close to each other, they can get diseases due to wet foliage.

6. Water consistently, making sure soil doesn’t dry out. Inconsistent watering can lead to blossom-end rot, a brown leathery spot found on the bottom of fruit.

I planted tomato seeds indoors for the first time and had great success. Photo by Christine Willmsen

I planted tomato seeds indoors for the first time and had great success. Photo by Christine Willmsen

My desire for fresh tomatoes started two months ago when I planted two types of tomato seeds indoors – heirloom tomatoes and yellow cherry tomatoes. I used old plastic egg holders to start my seeds and placed them on the sunny kitchen windowsill.

After they got two strong leaves on them, I transplanted them into a small pot for several weeks before I daringly planted them in the ground this past weekend. I’m crossing my fingers that we’ll all have a hot, sunny summer, which means great tomatoes. Look for recipes from me in two months when we all are plucking them from our gardens.



Flat-leaf parsley is the best herb to grow and cook

What’s the No. 1 herb you should grow and have readily available as a single person? Pot and pan drum roll please… it’s flat-leaf parsley.

Parsley is the must-have herb to plant for a person with a busy lifestyle for several reasons. It’s my top pick because it’s low maintenance, can be used in multiple dishes and grows almost all year in the ground or a pot.

After chatting with friends about fresh herbs over the weekend I could tell this was a hot topic for cooks and foodies. It was like we were talking about family relatives, quickly spitting out the personality traits and quirks of each herb. Some people thought the best herb to grow and cook should be basil and another friend was adamant that rosemary was the queen of herbs. I had no idea herbs could be so…well controversial. And I love it.

While curly parsley is considered the ugly stepchild herb because of its lowly delegation as a plate garnish, its cousin – flat-leaf parsley – can complement just about any protein dish. Stay away from the meek curly parsley because of the rough mouth feel. But flat-leaf parsley, also known as Italian parsley, adds punch and dimension to a dish with strong, deep flavor.

Parsley can be sprinkling on just about anything – like roasted vegetables, broiled white fish, grilled chicken and more. Gone are the days of buying a parsley bunch at the store and later finding half of it shriveled and rotting in your frig. If you are growing it, you only pick the amount you need from the garden and none of it will go to waste. It’s really an herb that keeps on giving.

In the garden:

The parsley in my garden looks like a small bush

In the Pacific Northwest our climate zone allows parsley to grow nearly all year.  I’ve been able to harvest fresh parsley from my garden to add to cold winter soups and summer salads. It even remained hearty after one or two small snowstorms in Seattle.

Parsley is also a low-maintenance and a high-yielding herb. Just make sure you cut off the inedible flowers/buds. Just think of it as an herb haircut that keeps the energy of the plant focused in the leaves not the buds.

Also when harvesting parsley, use a scissor to cut the leaves from the base of the stem where they originate from the main stalk or the ground. Don’t just cut off leaves as this will prevent it from generating new growth.

Here is a recipe I created for one serving. You won’t regret making this mouth-watering steak.

Hot in the kitchen: Grilled Steak with Chimichurri (vegetarian option below)

4 to 6 oz. filet mignon of other steak

½ cup tightly packed flat-leaf parsley leaves from the garden

2 tablespoon fresh oregano

3 garlic cloves

¼ cup olive oil

1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar

Dash of sea salt, fresh cracked black pepper and hot pepper flakes

Before preparing the chimichurri, turn the grill on to high heat and seasoning steak with salt and pepper.

For the sauce, lightly pulse fresh parsley, oregano and garlic in food processor or let your fingers do the work and finely chop the ingredients. In a small bowl combine the herbs, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and pepper flakes. Taste and add more salt, pepper or red pepper flakes depending on your palate.

Brush the grill with oil, then place filet on super hot grill. Flip steak after 4 minutes. After another 4-5 minutes of cooking, remove the meat from the grill and loosely place aluminum foil over steak on a plate for several minutes for a medium rare steak.

Drizzle chimichurri on the steak of your choice.

Vegetarian option: Gently clean a Portobello mushroom and thickly cut, on a horizontal slant, one zucchini and one eggplant. Brush each with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Grill over medium high heat for five minutes each side or until grill marks appear. Plate vegetables and drizzle chimichurri sauce over the top.

I chose one herb for one person, but don’t limit yourself. Plant a trio of herbs this summer if you have the space. I have several herbs growing in my garden and in pots. My runner-up herb is basil and rounding out my top three is thyme.

It’s fun to snip herbs from your garden and add them to a dish to give it a flavor boost.