Tomatoes in on May 6th!

tomatoes 05 24 16

Tomatoes went in on May 6 with the help of Linda, Janet, Mike and myself. Many thanks! Planted 27 plants for me and 9 for the dwarf tomato trials. Plus this week I planted peppers and eggplants transplants in wall of waters and cucumber and bean seeds directly in ground. A bit early, as I always say to wait but I’m currently on my way to Venice, Italy and am typing this on my phone which is a pain! I didn’t want to wait till June. I’ll still have to plant squash, watermelons and flowers when I return. But this year because of the warm nites, I think I will be ok.  Ciao!


One day it’s 78° for a high this week-warm and windy and tonite it will be very cold and windy with the temperature dropping to 24°. Of course this will wipe out the fruit tree blossoms (for me the apple blossoms are just starting) and there goes another fruit crop for this year. This will be the second year in a row that we may not get apples. Waaa! And forget about the apricot trees. I haven’t seen a crop in 7 years. You know what you call an apricot tree? A nice shade tree-as we usually get a freeze that wipes out their blossoms.

So cover up any plants that you may have put out early with winter weight row cover or 2 of the mid-weight row covers for the next two nights even if they are cold hardy crops. The plants are actually affected by the wind chill, just like us. Then it warms up in the 40’s on Sunday and Monday except for next Tuesday when the night-time temp will drop again to 30° and then warms up again at nite to above freezing temperatures. And so it goes with the ‘shoulder season’ where the weather doesn’t know if it’s still winter or spring and the winds are ferocious. But what we need most is precipitation. I’ll take it in any form.

Root Trainers-unique propagating trays

Fava beans in Root Trainer

I started using ‘Deep Root trainers’ last year for my fava beans and other bean crops that need deep cells or for plants that don’t want the roots disturbed when planting. The cool thing about them is that the cells are 5 inches deep and shaped like a clamshell, with two sides that open up like a book.  There are 8 sections total that fit snugly in a tray to hold them upright that comes with the kit. They are great as they have grooves that keep the roots growing straight instead of circling in the cell and strangling the plant. They also air prune when they hit the bottom of the cell.  No need to transplant into another pot, just plant them out in the garden. You just put seed starting soil in each cell, pat it down and put the seeds in. The only drawback is the plastic clamshells are very fragile and must be handled super carefully to keep from cracking but knowing that, I am careful and have them for three years so far. You can get them through Amazon. Get the 5″ deep ones, NOT the 3″ ones.

Pictured above are fava beans in their cells, 6 are already planted in the ground. Just carefully open the clamshell and slide them out into your hole in the ground with no root disturbance for those sensitive plants that hate to be transplanted.

Craupadine beets started in Root Trainer

I also used root trainers with a hard to germinate french variety of beet called ‘Craupadine’. It is probably the oldest beet in existence. I have not had much luck with germination when planting these seeds directly in the ground so I decided to try them in the rootrrainers this year and have much better germination although still spotty. I thought being a root vegetable, they probably would not like to have that main root disturbed. I think they will do well. I won’t wait till the plants are too big.  I am planting them outside after the first true leaves (cotyledon leaves) come out. So far 27 have germinated which is more than I have ever grown at one time.  They are ready for transplant above. I am so excited as these are the sweetest beets I’ve ever eaten. The french farmer markets cook them over a smokey fire in foil and serve them still warm.

Dwarf Tomatoes started!

Dwarf tomatoes in foreground and on right side in background. The two taller ones in background are Lucky Cross tomatoes which are regular size indeterminate tomatoes


Since I’m involved in growing dwarf tomatoes for Craig Lehouiller in his project, I decided to grow some of his varieties of open pollinated dwarf tomatoes that have been released to the public. I got the seeds from Victory Seeds. I’ve never grown dwarf tomatoes before. All the dwarf tomatoes will get between 3-4 feet tall and are stockier than regular tomato plants. They are indeterminate variety so the they will grow like all other indeterminate tomatoes only slower throughout the season and will be shorter. Indeterminate tomatoes keep producing fruit till it freezes. The actual tomatoes on dwarf tomatoes aren’t necessarily smaller just because the plants are. The days to harvest can go from 65-80 days depending on the dwarf variety. I am trying 10 released dwarfs plus 6 more unreleased in trials for Craig. So I am heavily invested in the dwarfs this year but I am growing some of my all-time favorites as well.

I noticed right away that the dwarf tomatoes pictured above are shorter and stockier even just after germination. I start all my tomatoes in shallow seed propagation trays on heat mats with a thermostat and under lights inside the house. Because of their shallowness, the soil heats up faster so germination is faster but you must water them 2x a day.  The two taller tomato plants in the background on the left side are regular indeterminate tomatoes called Lucky Cross, which is one of my favorites but notice the height difference with the dwarfs being much shorter and stockier. For earlier post on dwarf tomatoes, go here.

Major changes in the garden!

Adding new wood framing for my existing garden beds this spring

Major changes are happening in my 3000 square foot vegetable garden this spring. I have changed my low free-formed rectangle raised beds without edging into raised beds with redwood board edging to help retain the soil and compost inside each bed. The majority of the beds are made but now I must site them over my existing free-formed beds, digging out the edges of the bed so the forms can fit over the existing bed without losing any soil. Then I will level the soil out and add compost to each of the framed beds.

Sections 1 and 2 will pretty much be done and section 3 will be partially done as well. Each section is 1000 square feet. The beds are 12 feet by 4 feet and there is enough room between the beds to get a wheelbarrow through. I know some people put their beds closer together with little tiny paths between the beds but being able to get a wheelbarrow of compost through to the beds is really helpful. Then I will put wood chips on the path which help keep the paths from washing away should we ever get rain again! The wood chips will help with the erosion since I live on a hill. So I will finally have a nice tidy garden where the soil will be retained by the frames. All very exciting for an obsessed gardener!

Meanwhile, I can hardly wait till I can plant the cool season crops I have growing inside the house out into some of my other raised beds by the house. They need to get outside so I have room for my baby tomato plants just coming up inside, under lights, on heat mats. I need more room as the tomato plants can’t go outside yet-way too cold at night for them.

The only thing holding me back is the dang wind-just horrible right. Ugly horrible and not nice for gardening with 40 mph winds. I’m not that obsessed! Hopefully it will be better in a few days and I can get the cool season crops out and the framed beds all straightened out and then I will be ready to rock n roll in the garden!


I hate this wind we have been having the last few days. Typical spring weather here in Santa Fe. Today winds sustained at 25-30 mph and tomorrow projected to be 40 mph! Just terrible for a gardener chomping at the bit to get out in the garden. But I refuse to go out in it (I’m not that nuts!) so I have to be content to stay inside and dream about what my garden will look like this summer. They say the spring winds wake up the trees from winter and if this is so, they should be wide awake by now.

I did start my tomato seeds 2 weeks ago and they are mostly up inside, under lights on heat mats. I keep moving forward towards the garden even though the wind wants to move me backwards. Ugly Wind-Ugh!!!

Santa Fe Garden Club Lecture


Today I did a 2 hour lecture on starting tomatoes from seeds for the Santa Fe Garden Club. I explained how to start the seeds, how to transplant them into bigger pots, what ingredients I use in each potting hole when planting outside and much more. Then they planted some of their own seeds. Nice class. Nice people. I am going to start my tomatoes inside on March 25.

Attached are the lecture handouts from the class for those who requested them: