It’s been three years since we bought our little bungalow in Toronto and started our very own urban homestead. It’s always been a dream of mine to move out of the city and live off the land, but for the mean time my husband and I are cultivating our homesteading skills on our small property in the city. While our home is a tiny 1,200 square feet, our lot is huge for Toronto standards and we’ve been taking full advantage of our ample outdoor space. We’re currently growing blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, mint, basil, parsley, leeks, onions, lettuce, kale, tomatoes, watermelons, green peppers, hot peppers (over 6 varieties – we’re homemade hot sauce fiends), lavender and broccoli. We also have our two remaining chickens (RIP dear Linda chicken), and I’m currently trying to convince my husband that bee keeping is a really great idea …
Of all the things we’ve planted over the years I’ve found that tomatoes have grown the best in our backyard space. Here are my favourite tips and tricks for growing big, beautiful, organic tomatoes in the city:
- Pick a spot with a minimum of 6-hours of daily sunlight, the more the better! We picked a large sunny patch in the back of our lot to grow the majority of our vegetables.
- Work-up the soil before you plant. I tend to be impatient and like things done right away, while my partner is a meticulous engineer who has been trying to convince me that our plants would grow better if we spent hours taking care of our plot prior to planting. Last year I actually listened to him, and our veggies grew bigger and better than ever. Networks of hidden roots in the soil will crowd out your tomato plants and steal nutrients from the soil. Remove as many of the remaining roots as possible and make sure to add some compost or manure to the area in order to enrich the nitrogen content of your soil (chicken manure is the best for this; and we happen to have lots!).
- Add crushed eggshells (2 – 3) or 1/4 cup diatomaceous earth to your planting area. This adds calcium to the soil in order to support plant health and reduce the the likelihood of root rot.
- If you have room in your garden, practice crop rotation and try to avoid planting similar plants (nightshades like eggplants, peppers, potatoes, etc) in the same ground for two years in a row. These plants pull similar nutrients from the soil and will deplete calcium and nitrogen from your land.
- Stake your tomatoes: this exposes the fruit to more sunshine to maximize ripeness and prevents bugs from hiding-out in your plants.
- Add a layer biodegradable mulch to your garden, 2 – 4 inches deep surrounding the tomato plants. This is something we’ve just started doing this year in order to reduce weed growth around our plants. We’ve found that it’s preferable to apply mulch a little later in the spring, since the soil was slow to warm this year due to a cool early spring.
Last year we ended up with over 100 tomatoes, so I created this delicious summer-fresh tomato salsa recipe as a way to prepare and store our tomato excess. While our current tomato crop won’t be ready to harvest until August, we’re currently still enjoying our homegrown tomatoes thanks to this delicious and easy recipe. Salsa is an excellent way to get more vegetables in your diet, and we add this recipe to baked chicken and fish, throw it onto our salads and even eat it straight out of the jar. Enjoy
Backyard Tomato Salsa Recipe
Salsa is an excellent way to get more vegetables in your diet, and we add this homegrown recipe to baked chicken and fish, throw it onto our salads and even eat it straight out of the jar. Enjoy
- 10 large, extra ripe tomatoes (use various sizes and colours make the salsa more interesting)
- 10 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 4 jalapeños, finely chopped
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 5 tablespoons chilli powder
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
Mix ingredients together and store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. We also use the techniques found in this book to preserve our salsa for up to 1 year.