Dwarf Tomato Project Trials

One of the things I’ll do in the garden this year is I’ve been invited to become involved in the Dwarf Tomato Project trials. They needed some tomato growers in the US to grow out some of their tomatoes from seeds from their project and keep detailed info on how they do in our short growing season. These are open-pollinated tomatoes that are not released to the public yet as they need to stabilize these new tomato varieties before they get released.

I became interested because  Craig Lehouiller, a tomato grower who wrote the book, Epic Tomato and created the Purple Cherokee tomato, is in charge of the project here in the Northern Hemisphere. Someone else is in charge of the Southern Hemisphere down in Australia. They gave me 3 different cherry tomato seed packets to grow for this season.

Dwarf tomatoes are not determinate tomato plants but are indeterminate tomato plants that stay shorter but the tomatoes are not necessarily smaller, just the plant. I thought this would be a good for people who have a limited space or maybe just a patio. They can be grown in the ground or even in five gallon pots. And you won’t need a huge cage. Many are created with crosses from tomatoes I love, like Brandywine with another variety.

In addition to trialing these tomatoes,  I also got some of his already released dwarf tomato seeds (about 20 varieties have been released so far) that I bought from Victory Seeds. I am anxious how they will grow and taste too. Stayed tuned when I report back about how this project develops. Very excited!

Make a seed box


I have my saved seeds everywhere. I had them in cardboard boxes which have seen better days. Some got wet, some got chewed by mice where I keep them in a shed. I needed to get better organized and wanted better protection from the elements and mice so I found some boxes with lids with clasps.


After that, I got some cardboard dividers for the different varieties of vegetable seeds. I had to trim them down to fit in the box and I had to fold over some of the seed packages so they would fit inside. I also made some labels for each box like Cold Season varieties, Warm Season varieties and many other categories. So far I have 6 boxes done. Nice project for winter.

Extending the Season-Making a Low Tunnel


These broccoli transplants were put in on Aug 24, 2106

I taught a class in late August on Planting for a Fall Harvest where I showed the students you don’t have to have a Greenhouse to extend the season. You can also have a cold frame or even simpler is what I call a low tunnel. Now with the cold nights, you definitely need something over your new fall transplants.


Here is the frame of the low tunnel before row cover-just fencing material curled into a u-shape ready for plants underneath it

I like to make my low tunnels out of 2″ x 4″ fencing or even concrete reinforcement wire.  I just open up the fence roll, cut off enough so it will be curved above my plants and turn it upside down on the soil.


row cover over the low tunnel protects crops at night

Cover it with winter weight row cover (1.0 ml).  I put rocks on mine to keep it from blowing away. Now you have a secure low tunnel that will protect your plants during the shoulder season that is closing in on us quickly. What is a shoulder season? It is the time of year when the temperatures can drop quickly at night near freezing and then heat up in the day. The temperature shifts can swing wildly during the shoulder season. We have a shoulder season in spring and fall. By making a low tunnel, you can extend the season and grow vegetables like spinach, arugula, kale, lettuce, bok choy, mustard, mesclun, radicchio and other cool season crops much later. Fall is a great time to plant cool season crops and it’s not too late if you get transplants now. It might be too late if you start from seed unless it’s lettuce. Try to pick varieties that are cold tolerant.

Lookee! A new bench for the garden!

new bench

I have been so busy harvesting and preserving the garden food that I haven’t had time to share something that my friend Tom surprised me with last month.  He told me to come over to his house as he had a surprise. When I arrived, he opened up his garage door and there was a beautiful bench he built for my garden sitting area where I take breaks. It’s incredible!

greenhouse_Tom and JCTo give you a little background on Tom, he was the main friend who helped me finished building my greenhouse a year and a half ago (or should I say I helped him). I could not have finished it without him. The upright posts had been in the ground for 3 years with no progress until he came over and offered to help. We worked every Friday on his day off till we got it done. greenhouse in augustWe were like a dog with a bone-we couldn’t let go of it till it was done. That was a lot of Fridays he gave up for me and my project.

Then last fall he came back and built some great shelving that essentially doubled my space for starts in the greenhouse and now this bench! He now has a lifetime supply of any veggies from my garden that he may want in the future. Tom your the best! Thank you!

Home Grown New Mexico’s ‘Kitchen Garden & Coop Tour’!

I’m on the Board of Directors of Home Grown New Mexico organization and we are putting on our main fundraiser this Sunday, July 27 from 9 am – 2 pm. Please come out and support us, you won’t be disappointed! I just went by all 5 houses this week and they are totally inspiring! Here is the post from our website.

FINALWEB 2014 HGNM KItchen Garden Tour

IT’S HERE! The print version of the 2014 Kitchen Garden Tour addresses and map

Just print it out and come out for the tour. Read on for more info on how to purchase tickets and the homes on the tour!

Our 4th Annual Kitchen Garden and Coop Tour is on Sunday, July 27  from 9 am – 2 pm.  Come get inspired for your own gardens! See five of Santa Fe’s most inspirational gardens.  Pick up ideas that you can use at your place or just enjoy these beautiful edible and functional landscapes.

‘The 5 properties on the tour this year will feature many gardening ideas—beautiful vegetable gardens, backyard chicken coops, beehives, composting, greywater systems, hoophouses, a neighborhood community farm, permaculture sites, edible landscapes and rainwater harvesting systems.’
Excerpts from: Edible Magazine, our premiere sponsor

 Tickets are $25 this year and children under 12 are free.

*Tickets can be purchased 2 ways:
1-Pre-purchase tickets online here.
2-Purchase on day of tour at homes. Cash or checks accepted at each house and credit cards accepted at house #1 only.


1. Linda and Jim Archibald- 1105 Caminito Alegre
This Casa Solana home features chicken coops, fruit trees, large raised vegetable gardens, perennial and annual flowerbeds.

2. Jesus and Charlotte Rivera – 405 Salazar Place
Tune-Up Café’s owners, Jesus and Charlotte Rivera’s home features raised vegetable gardens, fruit trees, herbs and greywater systems. Charlotte’s goal is to use greywater only for watering all her gardens.

3. Reese Baker – 2053 Camino Lado
The RainCatcher’s owner, Reese Baker’s home incorporates many Permaculture designs. His mature gardens will amaze and inspire all. His edible landscaping includes fruit trees, berries, edible bushes and vegetables. He has chickens, a fishpond and passive water harvesting systems including Zuni bowls, rainwater catchment and greywater systems that channel water to the fruit trees and pond. This site is a great example of what can be done on a small city lot!

4. Poki Pottin/Gaia Gardens – 2255 Paseo de los Chamisos
Poki who started Gaia gardens is known from the Santa Fe Farmer’s Market where he sells his vegetables. This is a phenomenal property that is a neighborhood community farm based on biodynamic principles. The farm features many vegetable gardens, chickens, composting systems, hoophouses and even has ducks! Poki will have lots of  plant starts for sale if you still need some.

5. Jeremiah Kidd – 29 Hidden Valley Road
San Isidro Permaculture’s owner, property in the foothills of the Sangre De Cristos showcases permaculture designs in keeping with our arid high desert. His property features edible landscaping, erosion control installations, grey and blackwater systems, rainwater catchment and a hoophouse. His edible landscaping includes berries, grapes, fruit and nut trees and many other exotic edible plants.

Master Gardeners and the homeowners will be present to answer questions at each site. Don’t miss this exciting Kitchen Garden & Coop tour in Santa Fe this year!

Other contributing sponsors for the tour are: Joes’ Diner, Osuna Nursery and Whole Foods

Use fencing wire for cages over vegetables

fence cage done

Fence cage covered with row cover for protecting vegetables. Shown with Tom-Tom the great packrat hunter!

The other day some of my followers on my blog asked what was under that row cover that was holding it up and I thought it was a great question. I’d like to say it was my idea but it wasn’t. A friend of mine, Tom (who helped me build the greenhouse) gave me those structures. It’s an ingenious idea.

fence cage ready

fence cage ready to go over vegetables

He took a 5′ tall roll of fencing wire (the holes were 2 inches by 4 inches but the hole size doesn’t really matter) and cut it into pieces that when bent in half would be about 15 inches high. You could make taller ones as well. I use to make hoops from 9 gauge wire but this is easier and supports the row cover better especially if it hails. I use them for low growing vegetables, vegetables that may need some shade, vegetables that I need to protect from insects and for transplants that need to acclimate to our harsh climate when I first put them out. The pokey ends get pushed into the ground. Then you put a piece of row cover over it big enough to cover both sides and the ends. The wind won’t pick up the row cover if you put rocks around the edges of the row cover. If you have longer rows, just over lap the cages to extend them.

closeup of fence cage

Closeup of fence cage covering kale and chard. Drip system in place.

I water with a drip system so I don’t have to get under them that much but they are easy enough to lift up on one side and tip back to get to the plants underneath to water. He originally bought the wire to make his tomato cages but found that you can’t get your hands through the holes to harvest and if you cut out some of the wire to make the holes bigger, the sharp edges shred your hands where you cut the wire so he used the wire this way. He had to move so he gave me the wire structures. What a great gift!

New arbor for veggie garden

new garden arbor

I’m pooped. Yesterday some major changes took place in the vegetable garden. Nick came over to help me renovate the old strawberry patch into something new and hopefully beautiful later this season and for many seasons to come.

We tore out a little over a third of my large strawberry patch and built a new arbor in it that will show off some vines and flowers. The patch was getting old and I needed to thin it out and it was laid out crooked in the garden when I first built it. This always bugged me so since we would be thinning it out anyways, I straightened the bed out. Plus it had spread out beyond it borders and some borage plants were taking over parts of the strawberry bed  and path around it where I had introduced them several years ago. Now borage is a great plant and attracts bees but what I didn’t know is it easily re-seeds itself taking over everything in its path becoming unmanageable. So I plan on planting more borage in areas where I don’t care if it re-seeds.  We made 2 strawberry beds book ending the arbor in the middle and re-did the drip system in each of the beds as well. I plan to plant hyacinth beans and scarlet runner beans up the sides and plant sunflowers and zinnias around each side as well. Hyacinth beans are really beautiful but poisonous to eat but this garden feature wasn’t built to eat but to beautify the garden and add interest. I can see it in my mind’s eye and will show you pictures as the vines grow up it!