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Meet a tomato-growing farmer

Singing Gardener: Plus, how do you take your garlic?

Seems to me fruits of the vine and apples of the earth are top of the list when it comes to homegrown vegetables among Canadian gardeners, so both share space on this page with a hint of garlic at the end. Had the good fortune to spend a day to remember with gardener and farmer Karl Voesenek at Bagot, Manitoba. Karl’s true nature may be farming but he also possesses great tomato- and asparagus-growing skills.

Further along leads us into another reader’s opinion on Annabelle potato and, Hey! Think I found a source for seed. A tip of my hat means welcome and thanks for coming along with me. The ride is smooth and the reading easy.

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Wow! Over 70 tomatoes on one plant. What a story!

Musically I, Ted, am right in tune with health-promoting, nutrient-rich and supercharged tomatoes. Karl Voesenek loves growing tomatoes and my “Prostate Song” is all about tomatoes and how eating a daily serving of tomatoes contributes to a man’s well-being (and women’s health too). Here’s one of the first things Karl told me. “These tomato plants have done so well and the amount of fruit on them is so phenomenal. I’ve never seen so many.” Yours truly agreed so I beckoned Karl to tell me more. He continued, “I would say there are still at least about 70 good slicer-size green tomatoes on this plant. So many tomatoes and all a decent size and I’ve already taken a few ripe ones.”

He then talked about late planting. “The plants were purchased at a garden centre and they didn’t get transplanted outside until July.” As gardeners, we know that green thumbs alone don’t nourish plants. Here’s Karl’s method for a successful crop of tomatoes with a bountiful return. Watering, of course, is a must and my ears perked up when he said, “The plants received no fertilizer of any kind; just compost. We make our own compost on the farm and enhance the soil by working it in using a mulcher on the garden tractor.”

One couldn’t help but notice the length and breadth of the grandiose planting site. It gets full sunlight and is awe inspiring, eye attractive and well prepared. The tomato plants are supported and well spaced for good air circulation with fruits and foliage showing no sign of disease.

Ripening green tomatoes

I inquired of Karl: What’s next when these hundreds and hundreds of green tomatoes are picked? With his enormous smile he chuckled, “We ripen them in the garage. It has a heated floor. They usually ripen in about two weeks. It doesn’t take long.” He explained how the crop of green tomatoes are placed in single layers without touching each other in cardboard boxes with stem down (i.e. upside down) for two days. Tomatoes are then turned with stem end facing upright until ripened. A good portion of the tomatoes are donated to local-area senior centres and residences. Each receives a delivery of ripe tomatoes. Enough tomatoes remain for personal use and processing (23 four-litre jugs in 2017). Karl and family enjoy homemade tomato soup — his favourite — and numerous other tomato-based dishes.

Conversation turns to asparagus

Karl Voesenek’s asparagus bed is at another nearby garden location. He told me, “We hill the plants in the spring. This results in oh-so-delicious juicy white spears when harvested.” He continued, “The plants remain hilled over winter until the following spring. By next season soil has levelled off and the old fern growth is pruned away. The plants are then hilled again in anticipation of a new crop.” Karl elaborated on the taste of asparagus harvested in the following method, commonly practised in Holland where he was born. As soon as purple-tinged asparagus tips push up through the soil, Karl uses a cutting knife to harvest individual white spears about six inches below soil level. He then fills in the space again with more soil. According to Karl, “The white spears are a whole lot more juicier and the taste is far better; far superior.” He also mentioned that mature asparagus plants will produce an annual crop for 20 years with each season lasting about six weeks or until the longest day of summer, June 21. This provides asparagus plant roots enough time to recuperate for the next season’s harvest. Karl remarked in his opinion that “asparagus is among the most health-promoting of all vegetables and especially for preventing cancer.” Newly planted asparagus requires about three seasons’ growth to reach maturity, although some cutting can often be done during the second year for about three weeks. My thanks to Karl Voesenek for his hospitality and a great visit.

An autumn view of the front yard. Karl Voesenek of Bagot, Manitoba area has been on this farm for 56 years and he told the Singing Gardener, “I’ve been growing tomatoes for 56 years.”
photo: Ted Meseyton

An email from Land of the Living Skies

Oct. 10, 2017

Good morning Ted,

I always enjoy reading your articles in Grainews. I just wanted to agree with Louise Plante, St. Paul, Alberta. I too have grown Annabelle potatoes and thought they were an excellent variety. Although many stores say other varieties are the same, they just aren’t. The closest I have come is German Butterball for flavour but not the yield. I will be interested to hear if you can find a supplier. Thought it was interesting Louise and I have the same thoughts. A potato is not just a potato; we all have our favourites.

Sincerely,
Trudy Clavelle
Plunkett, Sask.

Note from Ted — I suggest the following contact for Annabelle seed potato for 2018. They would be pleased to answer any questions that you may have regarding their company and services. Telephone: 416-251-2271 or 1-800-565-4915 or fax: 416-251-2497 or email: [email protected] or write to Earth Fresh, 1095 Clay Avenue, Burlington, Ont. L7L 0A1

Garlic – a time-honoured medicine for colds

We all know that garlic is a cold fighter. Some say it’s a natural antibiotic too. I personally take it as garlic tea and also chop a raw clove that’s stirred into a glass of warm milk. Raw garlic can also be eaten with a slice of plain or toasted bread or place a thin sliver of garlic under the tongue until it’s absorbed. Garlic’s healing powers have long been known in various ways for centuries. It has immune-boosting ability plus potent antibacterial and antiviral properties. What’s your favourite way to take garlic? Share it with readers.

Remember to mulch

Winterizing garden perennials after the first heavy frost is essential and varies according to one’s location across Canada. This is especially true when experimenting with growing tender plants rated for a more temperate climate than your zone. Perennials and roses should be mulched with at least four inches or more of dry leaves and compost. Plenty of snow cover adds to the insulation. This is especially critical in areas that experience freezing and thawing during winter. Some gardeners are successfully wintering Zone 4 plants in Zone 3 areas. It might be partly due to climate change but we may also have to deal with an introduction of insect pests formerly not seen.

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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