Sasha’s Pride from Siberia is another heirloom tomato just right for Prairie growing conditions. Also, read on for insect control tips

We’ve all heard of rolling out the red carpet. Well I’m rolling it the way of Grainews readers and inviting gardeners to send me everything they know about growing tomatoes. Let’s have some tomato talk and dialogue from your side of the garden fence.

Later down this page, it’ll be a drum roll along a green carpet that leads to plenty of reasons why gardeners ought to grow and eat lots of celery, the natural antacid vegetable. Plus I’ll share some Ted Tips for onion maggot control.

A TIP O’ MY HAT…

…to an heirloom tomato known as Sasha’s Pride. It comes from the Altai Mountains and history reveals it’s been dubbed the best in all of Siberia. As a result, the tomato is sometimes named Sasha’s Altai.

Sasha’s Pride has been globetrotting since 1990, finding its way to gardens from Canada to Africa to Australia and beyond. Without reservation, it’s one of the best selling international early varieties and among the top 10 early-bird tomatoes we can grow in our Canadian provinces and territories.

Lacy foliage on small compact plants accompanies sweet and mild scarlet red 110 gram (four ounce) fruits that are thin-skinned and beefsteak in shape. Sasha’s Pride is ready to harvest in under two months after setting out transplants.

Enough said Ted! Tell your Grainews readers where to get seed. Certified organic Sasha’s Pride is available from Jeanette McCall, the new owner of West Coast Seeds, 3925 –64th Street, RR #1, Delta, B. C., V4K 3N2. Phone 604-952-8820 or email [email protected]for a 2009 print catalogue. It lists over 600 vegetable, herb and flower varieties including organic, heritage and open-pollinated untreated seeds. None are GMO. You can also visit their web site www.westcoastseeds.com.

CELERY IS MORE THAN A VEGETABLE

Celery is a healer. For over 2000 years, ancient physicians long revered celery for its medicinal value, claiming nutrients within the fibres are powerful contributors to well being. When taken regularly, celery works to reduce many bodily inflammations and pain from gout to joint mobility.

Special nutrients in celery juice are among the most hydrating fluids. The juice is incredibly alkalizing, helping to equalize the body’s pH balance.

As little as two celery stalks a day in conjunction with a health promoting diet of other vegetables and fruit can lead to a normalized cholesterol reading. Concentrations of essential oils and plant hormones give celery a very characteristic smell. These work to calm and soothe the body and regulate the nervous system.

A rich form of sodium in celery is totally different from table salt. When the body’s salt level is not in balance, dehydration occurs. An abundance of potassium, another powerful body fluid regulator, is also released in celery juice. It’s a perfect re-hydration drink for gardeners and athletes.

PEST CONTROL IN ONIONS

Onions are susceptible to both disease and insect pests. Early outdoor plantings are especially vulnerable to maggots, as well as wireworms and onion thrip. Maggots tunnel into the root system and can devastate onions and even celery. The maggots are larvae of a small fly that lays eggs at the base of stems and, later in the season, right on the onion bulb itself. Affected plants can become wilted as though begging for water, even when lack of moisture isn’t the problem.

SOLUTIONS FOR MAGGOT CONTROL

Till the growing site late in fall just before freezeup. This brings many pests to the surface and disrupts pupae of the fly that overwinter in the soil, thus limiting their survival. In spring, work some dolomite lime and good quality compost into the soil first before setting out transplants. Rotate plantings to a different location each season as a further aid to breaking up disease and insect pest life cycles.

When it comes to onions, home gardeners usually grow them in straight line rows. This method only serves to help the egg laying fly and maggots to travel easily from root to root. Growers can thwart the pest by scattering onion plants throughout the garden.

COMPANION PLANTING

This is the simple practice of growing certain plants that get along side by side. Onions and all cabbage family members are friends in the garden. Onions also like beets, strawberries, tomatoes, lettuce, summer savoury and chamomile. After you’ve harvested enough chamomile blossoms for tea, cull out the rest. Chamomile becomes weedy very quickly. On the opposing side, avoid growing beans, peas and sage near onions.

Leeks are a good plant to grow with celery, especially when both are trenched. Celery also grows well with tomatoes, cauliflower and cabbage while bush beans and celery give one another mutual assistance. Carrots like to bump shoulders with leeks and onions and then leeks return the favour by repelling carrot flies.

A Russian biologist reports that toxic substances in the pigments of red and yellow onion skins can increase tolerance to plant diseases. He prepared a water solution of onion skins and sprayed it three times daily at five-day intervals. The result: It gave an almost 100 per cent kill of hemiptera parasite — an order of four-winged flies, bugs, scale insects and plant lice that attacks more than 100 different plant species.

BE LIKE CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS

Explore your garden. Do some experimenting and discovery. Some of the following suggestions for insect control will work better than others, depending on where you live and time of application.

Mix sharp sand with wood ashes, dried coffee grounds and used tea leaves in equal parts. Sprinkle this combo of four ingredients on soil along the top layer of each planted section. You can substitute dried crushed eggs shells for sand.

Floating row covers allow light to enter and provide an effective barrier against insect pests. This lightweight porous material must be applied before the fly lays its eggs. The fabric is draped over plants and tucked into the soil with no gaps. Secure the edges using soil on top to hold in place. This prevents flies from entering. At season’s end, remove and wash the covering and hang it to dry, then store away for next year.

Other choices include sticky covered traps to attract aphids, whiteflies, thrips and leaf miners. These can be mounted on pegs or sticks. They are weatherproof and non-poisonous. Yet another effective biological control is BTK bacterial insecticide. This natural occurring bacterium kills caterpillar-type pests when they eat it.

Diatomaceous earth is an all-purpose option against root maggots, cutworms, aphids, cabbage worms and silver fish. Pests do not develop a resistance. The fine dust particles stick to moist soil and on wet plant surfaces and infiltrate insect hiding places. There is one word of caution though. Be sure to protect your nose with some sort of dust mask to avoid inhaling diatomaceous earth. Products mentioned above are available at many garden centres and nurseries.

IT’S ABSOLUTELY YOUR LAST CHANCE

The third week of March, editor Jay Whetter and I will make the draws for some excellent garden prizes. See recent past columns for a listing. Send your name and full address on a slip of paper inside an envelope and mail to:

Ted the Singing Gardener, DRAWS,

c/o Grainews,

1666 Dublin Ave.,

Winnipeg, MB., R3H 0H1.

NATURE

It is the living, visible garment of God. Pray to see nature and interpret it as a child does — without prejudice. Prayer doesn’t change God. It changes me.

This is Ted Meseyton the Singing Gardener & Grow-it Poet from Portage la Prairie, Man., inviting you to join me again next time along the garden path that leads to Ted Bits and things Green and Growing. I talk and sing gardening at my personal appearances. My e-mail address is:[email protected]

About the author

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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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