If space is an issue, or if you want to grow tomatoes from a trellis, try the top-down method. Also, don’t forget to enter my draw

When I was a kid, my mother often made upside down applesauce cake for dessert. It was topped with fresh cream from our cow Betsy that I daily tethered and hand-milked after school. Who would know that years later gardeners are growing upside down tomatoes. Art Klassen, 81, of Newton, Man., tells me gardening is one of his overage-80 hobbies. He did a bit of experimenting last summer and successfully grew an upside down tomato. It began during May long weekend after Art bought a selection of several tomato varieties.

Roots of one 25 cm (10-inch) plant were inserted facing upward; through an adjustable slot in the base of an improvised large hard plastic container, filled with good quality soil. As growth progressed, the tomato plant did what it’s supposed to do — produce fruit — even though it was hanging below the pot. Art used tarp straps to act as a sturdy hanging handle. The rest is history.

An upside down tomato planter

Call upside-down growing what you will — a complete change, orbit rotation, gardening in reverse, forced substitution — but I love it! Veseys Seeds (Box 9000, in Charlottetown, P. E. I., C1A 8K6) calls its upside tomato planter amazing and revolutionary. Matter o’ fact, it’s also a fun way to grow cucumbers, eggplant and even peppers.

It’s certainly the growing container for gardeners with limited space or those with no space at all. Hang it from your deck, balcony, arbour or under the overhang of a building in a sunny location.

Just think of it! No more weeds, pests and soil borne diseases. They’re all but eliminated. A self-watering wicking system feeds just the right amount of moisture and nutrition to the growing medium inside the planter. The outside design of the sturdy cage is constructed from reusable, enameled steel with a flexible, durable woven-poly liner. For prices and information, call Veseys toll free at 1-800-363-7333. Their catalogue is chock full of vegetable and flower seeds, started plants and gardening supplies.

Saliva juices will be flowing when serving up this fantastic dish to your family. There might be encores for a second helping or “Mom, will you make that again.” Then you’ll know, you’ve got a good thing going.

And ladies, you’ll be doing your husband a favour because cooked tomatoes are loaded with lycopene, a highly touted antioxidant that contributes to the well-being of a man’s prostate. Fruits of the vine always stir me to sing: “O It Must Be the Tomatoes,” my song about prostate wellness.

Now, let’s get down to business and make Canada’s Famous Tomato Pie. Here’s what you need:

One frozen pie shell, home baked or store bought

2 or 3 ripe beefsteak tomatoes, depending on size

(three-quarters) cup of mayonnaise

One cup shredded Canadian cheddar cheese

2 tablespoons well minced fresh basil or dried basil Salt and pepper

Here’s what you do:

1. Cut the tomatoes into quarter-inch or thicker slices, then salt and pepper them on both sides. Place tomato slices on paper towel and leave them sit 15 minutes to draw out moisture.

2. Meantime, mix all the mayo with cup of shredded cheese and basil. Set aside.

3. Place one layer of thick-sliced beefsteak tomatoes (or your favourite variety) onto the pie shell. Spread a generous coating (about one-half) of the mayo mixture over the tomatoes, along with a touch of salt and pepper to taste. Repeat with another layer of tomatoes and remainder of mayo mixture. Sprinkle remaining cup of cheddar cheese over the top.

4. Bake in a moderate oven 180C/350F degree oven for 25 minutes.

You can make a similar main course pie using zucchini slices and following the same directions.

Upper Canada Seeds

The owners live in one of the oldest houses in Toronto and one of the very few of its age that’s still used as a private residence. Not surprising then this home of heritage is also headquarters as a source for over 260 varieties of heirloom tomato seeds. Their motto is: The best seeds from the best fruits from the best plants.

Upper Canada Seeds doesn’t sell hybrid, chemically treated or genetically modified seed. All of their seeds are organically grown, and most are heirlooms. Their tomatoes are grown for taste instead of appearance, uniformity, or long shelf life. Heirloom tomatoes spread their crop maturity over an extended period and are more suitable for home gardeners.

Chalk’s Early Jewel tomato

This variety goes way back to 1920 and did particularly well last year for David Ackerman and the good folks at Upper Canada Seeds. Early Jewel has positively great production and topnotch flavour, but tends to ripen fruits all at once, thus making it an excellent canning variety.

Gardeners will be glad to know a packet of 20 to 25 seeds has not increased from last year. Prices for all varieties range from $4 each for a single or two packets to $3.50 each for three or four packets and $3 each if you buy five, six or seven. The best value of $2.50 each is when you order eight or more packets.

Also available from Upper Canada Seeds is a mystery packet consisting of leftover tomato seeds from a number of varieties all mixed together. The end result is no one knows for sure what they’ll get, but it’s a very economical approach to growing an unknown selection of heritage tomatoes.

To get Upper Canada Seeds’ 2009 seed listing, write to them at 44 Macklingate Court, Toronto, ON, M1V 1A1; phone 416-447-5321; email [email protected],or order online at uppercanadaseeds.ca

Can’t win if you don’t try

I, Ted the Singing Gardener, have some neat prizes to be drawn for in March, so get your entries in! Prizes include two-year-old Bluebell grape vines courtesy of Bob Osborne at Corn Hill Nursery (Corn Hill, New Brunswick, E4Z 1M2, phone 506-756-3635.) And $25 gift certificates from Kevin Twomey of T & T Seeds in Headingley, Man. (204-895-9962); McFayden Seed Co. in Brandon, Man. (1-800-205-7111) and Early’s in Saskatoon (1-800-667-1159.)

I’ve got some nicely started grapes vines from Voloaca Nursery in Aylmer, Que., 819-685-0429. Voloaca specializes in eleven grape varieties, hardy up to Zone 3, and conifer saplings. And I’ve also got redeemable gift vouchers for garden packs of seed potatoes from Stan and John Mills at Eagle Creek Seed Potatoes, Box 70, in Bowden, Alta., TOM OKO. Their 2009 catalogue describes a host of specialty seed potatoes and numerous regular varieties, too. Write or phone toll free 1-877-224-3939 for a copy. View their catalogue on line at www.seedpotatoes.caand visit my Singing Gardener link at www.seedpotatoes.ca/singinggardener.htm for info about CDs, audiocassettes and my Singing Gardener caps.

I wrote a song called, I’m A Garlic Guru, and the best little publication Canada-wide that’s about all things garlic is The Garlic News. It’s published four times yearly by Paul and Mary Lou Pospisil at Beaver Pond Estates in Maberly, Ont. (613-273-5683.) A one-year subscription, starting with the summer 2009 issue through until spring 2010, is also among prizes to be drawn for. Try your luck and send your name and mailing address to:

Ted the Singing Gardener, c/o Grainews, 1666 Dublin Ave.,

Winnipeg, MB., R3H 0H1.

Mark the word: DRAW, on the outside of the envelope. Winners’ names will be selected in March and gift certificates mailed out to them for redemption. Your name could appear in a future Singing Gardener column if we draw your entry.

Love yourself, love others and do good, for nothing we do to punish another for hurting us brings us healing.

Ted Meseyton is the Singing Gardener & Grow-it Poet from Portage la Prairie, Man. He talks and sings gardening at his personal appearances. Ted also teaches yodeling and musical grow-your-own-garden classes to children and adults. His e-mail address is: [email protected]

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