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Tomatoes and onions

Tomatoes are No. 1 when it comes to home gardens and horticultural crops in the U.K. Onions are designated the second most important veggie in that country. Canadians also love their homegrown fruits of the vine. Need I say both tomatoes and onions are part and parcel of my assembly of words that follow?

FIRST, LET’S BEGIN WITH A HELLO

… received in mid-October 2012 from Ray MacKay at Waskatenau, Alta. who wrote: I’ve had success getting rid of portulaca by spraying with a heavy dose of Roundup or by using rubber gloves and a brush to wet the plant growth. Works very well.

Also heard from Allan last October via his iPhone re: dew worms. Hi Ted, We are in Devon, a small town near Edmonton. The lawn is very bumpy from the dew worms. I hear they go down into the ground 10 feet or more and when they come to the surface there is a bumpy pile left. It’s a bit like walking on a rock pile when walking across the lawn. Thanks for the reply and information. Allan

WORLD’S EARLIEST TOMATO

Greg Wingate from New Brunswick is still spreading the word about Latah. He wrote to me back in July last year: Hey Ted, I got a great response from your readers this (2012) spring. Raun Griffiths from Constance Bay outside of Ottawa provided the following details on how he managed to enjoy vine-ripened Latah tomatoes in early July 2012. “We ate Latah tomatoes at supper last night. Looks like there will be more to eat today — it’s only July 5! Now, I am aware that God has everything to do with this, in particular the hot, dry weather. None of the other full-size tomatoes are even close to harvest (there are a few cherries that are ready). That Latah tomato is really something.”

As for starting Latah seeds — here is Raun’s schedule from last year. (Same for Mountain Princess and Black Plum which both have lots of green tomatoes but nothing close to ripe.)

  •  11 March — “Sowed” the seed on a wet coffee filter in a sealed Baggie placed in a warmish cupboard.
  •  18 March — Germination was evident so the “sprout” was placed in soil.
  •  2 April — Transplanted up to a two-inch pot.
  •  15 April — Potted up to a bigger pot.
  •  7 May — Tomatoes moved out onto the deck for hardening.
  •  10 May — A fruit day in a very warm spring — planted out tomatoes in the garden here in Constance Bay outside of Ottawa.
  •  5 July — Eating Latah tomatoes!

I, Ted, remind readers that the Capital Region (Ottawa) is in Zone 5 with a longer growing season and less harsh winter. Most of the Prairies are in Zones 2 and 3 where late-spring and early-fall frosts do happen.

Each designated zone has been allotted the coldest degree or average minimum winter temperature where an established plant can survive. Hardiness can also include survival in hot, dry periods and in excessive moisture. Duration of severe periods of stress, wind chill and temperature extremes and adaptation to soil pH level conditions also contribute. Latah is ideal for regions where growing seasons are short, including the near north and high north. Seeds are available from: Mapple Farm, 129 Beech Hill Rd., Weldon, N.B. E4H 4N5 or go to mapplefarm.com.

AN ONION A DAY

… keeps the doctor away! WHAT? You’ve got it all wrong Ted! Isn’t it an apple a day? I’ve so much to say about onions that it would take a book to include everything.

You may have heard on radio, TV and read in print media about the shortage of over-the-counter cough and cold remedies this winter. It may be time to revive what our forebears did in the olden days. First, allow me to mention what Margaret Knelsen from near Austin, Manitoba practises for keeping cold and flu germs in check using ordinary cooking onions. Here’s her method.

Margaret cuts off about the bottom one-third of onions, distributing as many as a dozen everywhere throughout the house with the root end facing down. “I place one in the bathroom; a couple on top of the fridge; one on my husband’s table beside the TV; a couple in the bedroom; a couple on the bookshelf; even on the windowsill.” According to Margaret the onions stay put “absorbing germs for a long time until they’ve dried up and there’s absolutely no life left in them. After three weeks or so they’re replaced with a fresh batch. What about the remaining top section of each onion? It goes without saying they’re used in any recipe calling for onions. Health benefits of onions are often overlooked, according to Dutch researchers. Onion extracts are recognized for providing relief from coughs, colds and even asthma and bronchitis. When it comes right down to it onions, garlic and apples are jewels of the gardeners’ world and all help keep the doctor away.

EASING THE BREATHING

Toddlers, children and adults catching colds are a fact of life. Josh is the father of a two-year-old. Here are his techniques for helping his two-year-old get a good night’s rest when dealing with coughing and congestion. Josh says, “Our home remedies do not involve any cold medication, other than Vicks VapoRub and a small vaporizer. We’ve found this particularly effective for a bad runny nose and a wet cough.” According to Josh, “We first slice the end off an onion.” He says any onion will do, but prefers a large white onion. The onion is cut in quarters and everything put on a plate, including the top.” According to Josh the onion top is the most important part because it gives off the most powerful aroma. The quartered onion goes under the bed or crib for the night. Within minutes the room will start to smell of raw onion. The scent opens up the breathing passageways and helps alleviate mucous discharge. In the morning the room will not smell so good, but Josh says it’s worth it if it can help your child have a good night’s rest.

As a support, a few drops each of eucalyptus and pine essential oils can be dispersed into an essential oil vaporizer. If you don’t have one, make a pad from a wet folded towel. Finally, Josh says, “We apply Vicks VapoRub to the chest and the third toe.” An added option is reflexology; the practice of applying pressure to parts of the feet and sometimes the hands and ears. Such stimulation encourages a beneficial effect to other parts of the body. Josh feels the entire process has proven very effective in every case of a cold and has done wonders for his littler boy. It certainly cleans out the nasty stuff.

I, TED, SAVE CORNCOB HUSKS

Memories of fresh corn on the cob from last August and September still linger. What do I do with corncobs once the kernels are gone? Here’s my two cents’ worth. Wear heavy-duty gloves and break the cobs by hand or cut them into several chunks with a hand-held pruning saw or other tool. Place the pieces onto a large sheet of plastic to dry in the sun and store away until needed. Come the following spring, half fill pails with corncob chunks and cover with hot water. Allow the combo to soak for days and days until it becomes soft and mushy. Before setting out tomato transplants, dump about a litre of the slurry into each prepared planting hole and let it soak in. Tomato plant roots love it and will show their appreciation during the growing season.

Here’s another reason to save dried corncobs. Let me ask: Are you troubled with squirrels and chipmunks in your vegetable and flower gardens or raiding the bird feeder? These hungry critters are sneaky, inquisitive and always looking to grab a bite whether it’s tomatoes, sunflower seeds, nuts or whatever. From my experience, squirrels love to nibble at, play with and carry off chunks of corncob. You’ll be amused watching them pay attention to something other than your garden and bird feeder. Of course there are those who prefer not to encourage squirrels and wild animals into the yard. I’m told some folks mist birdseed at the feeder with a hot pepper spray. It appears to have no ill effect on birds and discourages wily and crafty visitors.

You might consider making peanut butter bird batter to attract feathered friends. The mixture is stiff and composed of one part peanut butter and five parts cornmeal. Press some inside holes that have been drilled out in wooden logs or into crevices of large pine cones and then hang these where they’ll attract woodpeckers, chickadees, nuthatches and bluebirds. It’s a good substitute for an all-season treat but not necessarily less expensive than suet. Peanuts and peanut butter have gone up in price. How do you work with Mother and Father Nature to keep the peace between animals, birds and the garden where you live?

ARE YOU A WATER DIVINER?

Back in June 2011, I wrote about such an individual now gone on to his reward. Maurice had that gift and velvet touch for finding water with his Y-shaped red bark willow. Such individuals are commonly known as a witcher, switcher, dowser and diviner. As Maurice once said to me: “I’m not a witch, so it doesn’t bother me one way or the other in spite of what some folks might think or say about the name.”

A reader from Coldwater in Ontario close to Orillia, north of Barrie read my article and is looking for a person in her vicinity with such a talent for locating the right spot to locate water. I’d like to compile a list of names and addresses of water diviners from across the nation. If you’re an individual possessing such talent, and willing to share, send me a bit of information about yourself such as name, address and location. Be sure to mention your working tool of choice whether willow, coat hanger, welding rod, crowbar or what have you. Who knows? Somebody in your neighbourhood or elsewhere may require your skill as a water diviner one day. My email address appears below. †

About the author

Columnist

Ted Meseyton

This is Ted Meseyton the Singing Gardener and Grow-It Poet from Portage la Prairie, Man. I salute all gardeners and farmers who help make our world a little safer and more ecologically balanced, and who toil to provide health-giving produce to others who cannot produce their own. It takes all sorts to make a world. One half of the world doesn’t know how the other half lives. The best physicians are Dr. Diet, Dr. Quiet and Dr. Merryman.

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