Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Growing Season's in Full Swing

Peeking inside the Flying Tomato Farm greenhouse, it's obvious that the growing season is finally in full swing. Our plants are reaching to the ceiling, loaded with beautiful, voluptuous fruit and lengthy green cucumbers. Dorothea accredits our plants' hearty growth to the combination of rain water and "worm juice" she runs down the rows every day. Using an old bath tub, Dorothea collects a good amount of rain water (this Pacific Northwest weather of ours has been granting a lot of it lately!), scoops up a green bucket's worth of water, pours it over the top of her worm bin, and then collects the residual runoff "worm juice" with another green bucket. She then waters all of the plants with this miracle concoction. It's a bit of a process, but it's well worth it, since Flying Tomato Farm has never seen such a ample amount of large tomatoes per plant- they must really love it! "It's all the coffee grounds. Those worms are really busy", Dorothea likes to joke.
 Here at Flying Tomato Farm, we've been incredibly busy tending our plants: pruning, pollinating, watering, harvesting and maintaining an ideal growing environment. Now is peek season for the farm to make a profit at area farmers markets, as mid-July typically brings Eastern Washington competition, which means lower prices. We definitely have more tomatoes than we did last year at this time, probably due to the spurt of warm weather we had early in the season. Recent weather conditions (cold and rainy) have already started presenting a challenge though. Too cold and too damp of conditions can lead to fungal diseases and blights for tomatoes, so we're working harder than ever to keep the tomatoes coming. Luckily, more and more of our tomatoes, grown with love and lots of hard work, have been heading to market each week. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Tomatoes to market

A greenhouse full of green tomatoes, ready to turn
Flying Tomato Farm has begun bringing small baskets of fresh tomatoes to the Edmonds Farmers Market, much, much earlier than last year (which was a hard year for tomatoes). We're hoping this will be a better already looks like it!  The past few weeks our plants have been brimming with green tomatoes and we have enjoyed some tasty fried green tomatoes here at home. We've been waiting and waiting in anticipation for those first few tomatoes to start turning red, beginning with a little blush of yellow. Then, one day, you head into the greenhouse and there they are! The first red tomatoes.We even have a few sweet orange tomatoes and some yellow pears to share. You can find our first few tomatoes at the Saturday Edmonds Farmers Market on 5th & Bell from 9:00am-2:00pm . They always seem to sell out before 11:00am, so come early. If you're like us, we can hardly wait to eat real tomatoes after a long winter.
Flying Tomato Farm's early tomato offerings

Friday, April 20, 2012

Blossoms and babies

The ever growing tomato plants
Things are in full swing at Flying Tomato Farm. All of the transplants are reaching out and growing nice and tall with thick green leaves. With each sunny day, they seem to grow a few more inches. What's even more exciting though is the early onset of little yellow tomato blossoms throughout the plants.
These little flowers will become future tomatoes! In fact, some of the flowers have already started fruiting into tiny green balls, thus Flying Tomato Farm's tomato season is just around the bend. The baby tomatoes are also being kept company by a different kind of baby: Araucana chicks!
Flying Tomato Farm is happy to introduce their new feathered flock: 30 little chicks who will someday lay green and blue eggs. The greenhouse provides warmth and shelter, making it a perfect spot for a chick brooder. The chicks are also beneficial to the  tomatoes. They produce a little bit of heat as well as carbon dioxide, helping the plants to grow. Flying Tomato Farm is currently in the process of applying for an egg dealer's license, so hopefully folks will be able to take home free-range Araucana eggs at the farmers market in the near future.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Planting out

Dorothea planting a tomato start
Even with the cold temperatures, blustery wind and buckets of rain Snohomish has endured this past week, Flying Tomato Farm's growing season has begun. The farmers, Neil and Dorothea, have been transplanting their starts out to the greenhouse. To accommodate the time needed to successfully reach fruition in the seed-to-tomato growth cycle in the Pacific Northwest, Flying Tomato Farm sows their tomato seeds indoors in seed flats around the new year. Heating mats gently warm the seed flats, hastening germination. Tomato cotyledons are the first to appear. These are the initial little sprouts and smooth leaves that a seed will shoot out of the soil. They contain all of the essential food stores from the embryo of the seed which will help the tiny tomatoes get  a good start. Soon, the cotyledons will give way to the tomatoes' "true leaves", also known as the distinctive foliage matching the grown plants. These little leaves are able to photosynthesize. Tomato leaves are variegated, fuzzy and have a citrus-like fragrance. Gently wafting your hand past a row of little tomatoes releases a perfume like summertime. The tomato sprouts grow fast and strong with the help of UV lights, filtered water and good potting soil. Once the tomatoes begin to outgrow their plant rack and are full of "true leaves", it's time to move them out to their new home in the greenhouse, where they will spend the rest of the growing season.

In the past few days, Flying Tomato Farm has been busy getting their starts established in the greenhouse.  It's a team effort. Neil digs the holes and Dorothea plants the starts right behind him. To dig the holes, Neil runs down the greenhouse rows with a farming tool known as a planting dibble.
This tool helps him to dig perfectly round planting holes at just the right depth. Dorothea was joking the whole time about how they were truly trying to put "square pegs in round holes" as their tomato starts were grown in square plant pots.
After settling in all of the starts, Dorothea walks up and down the rows with a watering can full of "worm juice".
This is some good stuff. Plants love it as it is full of the nutrients they need to grow big and strong. This "worm juice"  comes from the spigot of her multi-layered worm bin, located inside the greenhouse.

Kitchen scraps such as vegetable peelings, coffee grounds eggshells and bread crusts find their way into this stacking worm bin. The worms work hard at transforming these scraps into black, rich compost which can be spread around the tomato starts.
There's a worm egg hiding in this clump of compost.
The tomato plants will continue to receive lots of love and care in the next few months. It's fascinating to watch the process from seed to plant, and to really taste the fruit of one's labors. These tomatoes will be ready to enjoy at the farmers market by mid summer.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Welcome to Flying Tomato Farm

Welcome to the Flying Tomato Farm blog! Flying Tomato Farm of rural Snohomish, Washington is run by the husband and wife team of Neil and Dorothea. They started growing juicy, full-of-flavor tomatoes back in 2005. Some of their most notable varieties include 'Trust' beefsteaks, yellow pear, 'Mountain Magic' cherries, orange 'Stupice', 'Calabash' and many others with each new season. They also grow delicious garlic, peppers and cucumbers.

Their garlic up for sale at the farmer's market
Since they are based in the great Pacific Northwest, Flying Tomato Farm ensures their tomatoes will be ready for market by growing them in a large greenhouse. A lot of love and care goes into their famous tomatoes. All of their plants are started indoors from seed in seedflats, usually around the New Year. With the help of seed heating mats, growlights, filtered water and organic potting mix, these little seeds grow into healthy starts which are then transplanted out to the greenhouse when outdoor temperatures raise to around 50 degrees Fahrenheit (around Valentine's Day).    
Baby tomato seedlings
The tomato starts receive ample amounts of natural fertilizers such as homemade compost from the farm's small flock of chickens, worm castings from their worm bin and nutritious nettle tea made from nettles collected in the surrounding woodlands. Flying Tomato Farm prides themselves in their earth friendly farming practices. They do not use any pesticides, herbicides or chemical fertilizers. They weed by hand and only apply all-natural soil ammendments such as wood ashes, guano and alfalfa. Their hardwork is evident in the rich flavor and tang of their tomatoes.