Epsom Salts and tomatoes

 

Costuluto Genevese tomatoes

I’ve always used powered Epsom Salts in the bottom of my hole when I transplant my tomatoes in late spring. I read it helps with producing more blossoms and hence more tomatoes. It’s also good for peppers and roses. Epsom salt is a natural mineral that was originally found in a well in Epsom, England. It is magnesium sulfate. Magnesium is critical for seed germination and Sulpher is used for lowering the pH level in alkaline soils like we have here in New Mexico. Sulfur, is also a key element in plant growth.

What I didn’t know was that it is more immediately available to tomatoes and peppers when sprayed on your plant’s leaves vs sprinkling it on the ground. Dilute 1 tablespoon of Epsom salts with one gallon of water, and applied as a foliar spray. When applied this way,  Epsom salts can be taken up quickly by plants.

Here is an internet article on Epsom Salts that goes into more detail about it, a trial using it, and how to use it. From now on I will be spraying it on my plants instead of adding to the soil.

I do not add Epsom salts to my other vegetable plants, just my tomatoes and peppers.

Here is the complete article from Garden.org on Epsom Salts.

 

 

2020 tomato review-the ‘darlings’ of the veggie garden

2020 Tomato Review

As the Tomato Lady of Santa Fe, this year was a great tomato year in the garden especially compared to last year’s tomatoes which were dismal. This year I started with 38 plants, lost 2 right away to curly top virus and lost several more to a soil fungal disease but overall the disease level was very low due to it being such a dry year.  I think I had good production because I started them super early this year-May 6, which is the earliest I’ve ever put them in the ground and I gave them the water they needed.

Here are the tomato varieties I grew this year. If you haven’t even heard of some of these, I encourage you to try some new varieties for yourself-keeps it interesting!  Some of you may have had a great year with some of these varieties, so use your own experience when selecting which varieties to grow. All varieties are heirlooms or open pollinated unless otherwise noted.

Moby Dwarf cherry tomato trial project-This is a wonderful larger yellow cherry tomato. Wonderfully intense flavor. I was involved 2 years ago growing this out for Craig Lehouiller, author of Epic Tomatoes. I found some of the plants I grew had a anthocyanin blush (purple blush) on its shoulders so I’m continuing to see if we can get this trait to stabilize for future generations. The plant is only 4 feet tall, very prolific and would be great in large pots as well in the ground as I do. You can get the original seeds now online at Victory Seeds. A must try.  63 days to harvest. YES will grow this next year.

Black Cherry-I only grew one plant but boy was it prolific! This is one of my favorites that I grow every year. No disease. Very dependable. Purplish color. Great intense full bodied flavor like a good wine. 64 days to harvest. YES will grow this next year.

Virginia Sweets-A yellow tomato with red blush inside that is sweet, sweet, sweet. This year they did well although in some years not as good. But I always come back to them because when they do well, they are great! 80 days to harvest. YES will grow this next year.

Lucky Cross-One of my all-time favorites. This year the mice seem to really like them so I didn’t get as many as I would have liked. Great sweet flavor. Yellowish peachy color with marbled red interior. Wish I had more plants since I was sharing with the mice! 74 days to harvest. YES will grow this next year.

Ananas Noire-One of my favorites. Don’t be put off by the colors-green with a red blush but the flavor is sweet like nectar. Takes all season to get them but worth the wait. 85 days to harvest. YES will grow this next year.

Large Barred Boar-NEW THIS YEAR! A wonderful tomato from Wild Boar Farms that is slighter larger than Black and Brown Boar which it came from and is a mid-season ripener. It is a med-large mahogany color with green stripes tomato. Great flavor and only 65 days to harvest. YES will grow this next year.

Black and Brown Boar-I’ve always loved this oval shaped tomato from Wild Boar Farms because it has super flavor and is a good producer. Mahogany with green stripes. 68 days to harvest. YES will grow this next year.

Cherokee Lemon-NEW THIS YEAR! This is a new Cherokee variety for me. Its color is a pure yellow with yellow flesh inside and has good sweetness. It was not very prolific though, so I will see if it makes it into next year’s roster but I usually give a new tomato two years to try. 75 days to harvest. MAYBE will grow this next year.

Cherokee Purple-I come back to this tomato every year. A great producer with outstanding flavor.  Purple with green shoulders. 75 days to harvest. YES will grow this next year.

Cherokee Green-A green tomato that turns a yellowish-green that is green throughout with suburb sweet flavor but was not as prolific as last year. 75 days to harvest. MAYBE will grow this next year.

Cherokee Carbon-I adore this hybrid. A cross between a Cherokee Purple and Carbon. Great flavor like Cherokee Purple but bigger and less cracks. Purple with green shoulders/ Great producer too. 75 days to harvest. YES will grow this next year.

Pink Berkley Tie Dye-Usually this is a good producer with great flavor but this year it was a disappointment for me as it did not produce many tomatoes. 65 days to harvest. NO will NOT grow this next year.

Captain Lucky-NEW THIS YEAR! I liked this mostly green with red blush tomato. All around good flavor. 75 days to harvest. YES will grow this next year.

Goliath-One of a few hybrids that I grow every year. Great old fashioned tomato flavor and it rarely gets cracks or blemishes. A good producer. 65 days to harvest. YES will grow this next year.

Pantano Romanesco-This year I was disappointed in this tomato when normally I like it. Good old fashion flavor but not very prolific. 75 days to harvest. NO will NOT grow this next year.

Mushroom Basket-NEW THIS YEAR! I’m kinda so-so about this one. Great big shape with many flutes but ripened unevenly for many of them. Also not a good producer. 75 days to harvest. NO will NOT grow this next year.

Paul Robeson-Another of my all time favorites-this ‘black tomato’ has a rich flavor that wins many tomato contests every year. 75 days to harvest. YES will grow this next year.

BKX-NEW THIS YEAR! An improved version of the Black Krim tomato that did not produce very well. For me the original Black Krim is never a good producer and this one is about the same. If I’m going to grow a tomato it has to be a good producer. 80 days to harvest. NO will NOT grow this next year.

Purple Calabash-NEW THIS YEAR! This is an heirloom from Thomas Jefferson’s garden so I was excite to try it. Sorry to say, I wasn’t impressed. They were small fluted purplish tomatoes with lots of catfacing flaws on bottom. Nice flavor though. 75 days to harvest. NO will NOT grow this next year.

Big Zac-Another good hybrid that can grow some colossal sized red tomatoes with old fashioned tomato flavor. One slice will fill a BLT sandwich. 80 days to harvest. YES will grow this next year.

Goldman’s Italian American-the only paste tomato I grow. It has the best flavor of any paste tomato I’ve ever tried. Makes wonderful pasta sauces. 85 days to harvest. YES will grow this next year.

 

 

 

Growing and preserving cabbage

As I’ve written before I’ve grown a cabbage that I really like called Kalibos. It is a beautiful red cone shaped cabbage that takes pretty much all season to grow. It is very tasty and sweet. The good news is that it doesn’t bolt in the summer and is ready to harvest in the fall. I think I planted it in early May.

What I didn’t know is if you harvest it a little higher on the stalk, instead cutting it level with the ground, it will produce a bunch of baby cabbages on its offshoots. Now I have a few more baby cabbages to use. I harvested them of course before the big snow storm that came in.

 

Preserving cabbage

Two ways to preserve cabbage is by either refrigerating it or freezing. If you want to put it fresh in salads like coleslaw, then keep some of it in your refrigerator in a zip lock bag. If the cut edge looks a little dry, just trim it off If before use. I had my cabbage last from October to February last year.

If you are not sure how you will use your cabbage or have too much to use at one time, you can preserve some of it in the freezer.  To do that, quarter it, blanch it for 3 minutes in boiling water and immediately cool it in ice water to stop the cooking.  Then put it freezer bags and freeze the wedges. That way you can cut it into whatever size you need later. Blanching vegetables will stops the enzyme action which can cause loss of color and flavor. Or you can rough chop it and if you use this method, you’ll need to blanch it for 1.5 minutes instead of 3 minutes. Then cool it and put it freezer bags.

You can also preserve it by making sauerkraut, or kimchi or use other fermentation recipes as well. For a great sauerkraut recipe go to: http://funfermenting.com/veggie-sauerkraut/

Saving Green Tomatoes

Now is the time to finish picking your ripe and green tomatoes as next week it will be in the 20s at night. If you wait till after a hard freeze, it will be too late.

How to save green tomatoes

If you have an abundance of green tomatoes on the vine, you still can bring them inside your house to finishing ripening them (not in a cold garage). Here’s how I do it although there are many ways to save them, I find using paper bags from the grocery store (yes that’s why you’ve been saving all those bags!) works really well.

How to pick tomatoes that will ripen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First you can tell which green tomatoes will probably ripen fully by looking at them. If you see the green is getting lighter on the sides, it will probably ripen as it has started the ripening process. Some have very dark tops and that is ok as long as the sides are a lighter shade of green. Also I just pick the bigger tomatoes as they are usually further along in the growing process versus the small totally dark immature tomatoes.

 

Use paper bags to ripen them

Place 2-3 layers of rock hard green tomatoes in bags as shown above-no more  that a couple of layers because as they ripen, you don’t want the ones ripening underneath to get crushed. Also discard any that have blemishes.

 

Place tomatoes that are just starting to get color in another bag and move the ones that are starting to color up from the ‘green’ bag. Look into your ‘green’ tomato bag every few days and move them to the ‘just starting to color’ bags.

Important tip: Put a slice or two of apple (any color) in each bag. The apple slice will release ethylene gas which is a natural ripening hormone that is in many fruits. It will speed up the ripening process of your tomatoes in your paper bags. Replace apple slices as needed. It really works!

Close up all the bags so the apple does it’s work and none of the gas is released. I fold the paper bags over several times and then I put either something on top of the bags to keep them closed or I shove them under a rack to help keep them closed as shown above.

The trick is you must inspect the bags every few days and move them to another bag as necessary. If you just put them in the bag and forget about them, you might wind up with a bunch of the ripen ones squished with the heavier unripened ones on top.

Once they have changed color but still hard, you should take them out of the bag and put them on the counter to finish ripening. Never put a ripe tomato in the refrigerator. A cold refrigerator dampens the taste.

This method is really good on extending the tomato season once the weather is too cold. They will never be quite as good as the sun-ripened ones but are still about 200% better than store bought ones. I use a lot of them that get a little too soft for pasta sauces and eat the rest.

PS: Not all the green tomatoes will ripen but many will.

July 18-Unveiling the girls!

I’m a little behind in my posting. Here we are unveiling the girls on July 18th which is very exciting for me as I can finally see them without the row cover on them.

I remove the row cover after the beet leafhopper leaves. I think four of the tomato row covers blew off and then the tomato plant got bit by a leafhopper which gave them curly top virus (CTV), a fatal virus. I will pull those plants once I make sure they do have CTV. It is a vector disease which means it’s is passed from insect to a plant and is not contagious between plants. The leafhopper disappears after the monsoons come.

Monsoons are here!

Monsoons are finally here! Check out this weather forecast below-this is what I was waiting for!

I will be taking the row covers OFF! my tomato plants this weekend.

With the cooler temperatures and rain predicted everyday for the next 10 days, it appears that the monsoon pattern has set up. Best news in quite a while! People might wonder why I get so excited over rain patterns out here in New Mexico but if we didn’t get the monsoon pattern in the summer, it would be miserably hot as we all just experienced with the 100°F days we experienced. Not unbearable heat like in Arizona but still hot for us and being a native Phoenician, I remember how hot it can get. I even tried to fry an egg on the sidewalk in Phoenix when I was a kid (it didn’t fry but evaporated instead.)

Can’t wait to see the tomato girls without having to peek inside the row covers. Hmm, I wonder if I have more tomatoes ready to eat under those row covers…

 

Tomato growing-Beet Leafhoppers and Curly Top Virus (CTV)

I have written about this problem a few times on this site and it might be worth a visit to one of my previous posts if you are interested in learning about CTV:

Identifiying Tomato Curley Top Virus

In addition there is more info on this problem through New Mexico State University (NMSU) here.

The reason I put row cover over my plants is to have a physical protection to keep the Beet Leafhopper off of them. I remove the row covers when the monsoons come in July as they seem to either leave or become suppressed and then I usually don’t have any problems with leafhoppers and CTV. No insecticides seem to work. If it seems that I harp on this problem, I do! I just want you all to be successful with tomato growing here.

I killed my potatoes…

I’m sorry to say I killed my potato crop this year. I started with some fingerling potatoes seeds (and I have grown them in previous years with no problem). I planted them in a trough that was 12 inches deep and covered them with 3 inches of soil. Then I put my drip system on top of them. They grew nicely and after about 6 inches tall, I buried them with more soil. So far so good. Then when they got another 6 inches taller, I buried them again. Still no problems-they grew up through the dirt. Each time I moved the drip line up with them so it was always on the top not buried underneath.

I guess that was my problem as I left on a flyfishing trip and when I came home they never grew up through the soil-they just disappeared. I’m sure they died because of lack of water down by the roots. In hindsight, I figured maybe I should of left the drip system buried where the water would have reached the roots-I think it was too far away from the roots. This heat hasn’t helped either.

So that’s it, I killed the potatoes. If anyone has any advice, I’m open to it. Just leave your advice in the comments.

PS: I’ve decided I’m going to use that bed for fall crops-beets and carrots.

Tomato Plants-when to take row cover off

Many of you are asking when can you take your row covers off your tomato plants. NOT YET-be patient

Leave row covers on tomatoes for now-I know we are all anxious to take them off. I leave mine on till the monsoons come and they are NOT here yet—occasional rain is not considered the monsoons and will not drive the leafhopper away. The leafhopper likes dry, hot, windy conditions (which we have now) so I’m sure it’s still around. The leafhopper kills tomato plants by biting your plant, giving it Curly Top Virus (CTV) which is fatal to your tomato plants. The row covers are a physical barrier so the bug can’t get to your plant. So for now, (sigh) I will leave them on even though I’m dying to remove them like you. Historically, the monsoons come somewhere around the 2nd week of July but it could come later too. Hopefully we won’t have to wait much longer.

I will post as soon as I take mine off so you all know…

Warm season lettuce-Batavian or Summercrisp lettuces

I like salads, especially in the summer but most lettuces bolted here in my garden in the summer. Last year I grew some lettuces that grew well in the summer. Most lettuces are cool season crops that bolt with the heat but Batavian (also known as Summercrisp) lettuces did surprisingly well here. I grew them in partial shade and not in the direct sun. Not only was I happy they did not bolt and nor get bitter, but they have a crisp sweet taste to them and lasted all summer. There are many more Batavian lettuces online but these are what I tried. Many of these warm season lettuces are on multiple seed company sites but below is where I got the seeds.I just started these lettuce seeds on July 1 in pony packs to transplant later.

Here are some varieties I grew:

Cardinale-recently saved from extinction. A wine red Batavian crisp-leaf, especially suited to cutting for salad mix because of its juicy crunch, heft, shelf life and well-proportioned leaves. Forms open rosettes for easy picking until full maturity, then folds itself into a beautiful red crisphead. seeds: wildgardenseed

 

Manoa-A special mini head from University of Hawaii, grown widely in the Islands for its resistance to heat and tip-burn. ‘Manoa’ is actually a tropical-stress selected version of the century-old ‘Green Mignonette,’ itself recognized as a standout heat resistant lettuce. Medium deep green, semi-savoyed leaves form small, compact plants that may be baby cut with an open head, or allowed to mature into a blanched round heart. seeds: wildgardenseed

 

Anuenue-Another A sweet green header from Hawaii. ‘Anuenue’ (rainbow) works as a thick green cut-leaf for salad, or as an easy, heat tolerant, non-bitter, full-heading lettuce. Undemanding, mellow heads, bred for sun, heat, and humidity. seeds: wildgardenseeds

 

Jester-Crisp as ice, glossy, juicy as an apple, perfectly proportioned for a plate or a sandwich, flashy red speckles on semi-savoyed leaves with crazy-crisped margins like a Jester’s attire. Slow bolting in any season, this crispleaf type can be harvested at the open head stage, or later as a semi-tight pink-hearted blanched head. seeds: wildgardenseeds

 

Merlot Batavian-It is an open-headed, Batavian-type with upright, waxy, savoyed leaves. Merlot is perfect for baby leaf cut and come again harvesting or for growth to crisp, full-sized, burgundy heads. Its  juicy flavor and crisp texture will light up the most discriminating of palettes. seeds: John Scheepers

 

Nevada-Excellent summer variety forms large, open heads of thick, vibrant green leaves. Glossy and beautifully ruffled leaves with a satisfying combination of crunchy texture and buttery smoothness. Summer crisp characteristics. seeds: highmowingseeds

 

 

Skyphos-Most adaptable butterhead. Beautiful, large, dark red heads with nicely contrasting green centers. Excellent flavor and texture. seeds: johnnyseeds

 

 

 

Muir-Muir is an extremely heat tolerant variety and was the slowest to bolt in our summer trials. Technically a Batavian type, the light green, extra-wavy leaves form dense heads at a small size and can be harvested as a mini or left to bulk up into large, heavy, full-size heads. The leaves are crisp and have excellent flavor. seeds: johnnyseeds

 

Magenta-A red Summer Crisp with good flavor. Shiny, slightly puckered, red-tinged leaves form a whorled, conical head with a crispy green heart. Ideal for spring and summer plantings. Tolerant to bolting, tipburn, and bottom rot. seeds: johnnyseeds

Lettuce bolting

When daytime temperatures get warmer, it will only be a matter of time before cool season lettuce that we planted in early spring bolts. Bolting is when lettuce starts to get a center stalk and eventually it will make flowers and become bitter. What makes lettuce bolt? Both summer heat and more sunlight in our longer sunnier days contribute to bolting. If you find your too late and it is already bitter, either compost it or give it to chickens. They don’t seem to mind the bitterness.

I read a tip where you can make bitter lettuce sweet again so I decided to try it as my winter lettuce is pretty much finished and bitter. The tip said to mix up 4 TLB salt with 1 liter of water till dissolved in a bowl and then soak your lettuce in it for ten minutes. Then rinse and it should be sweet. I did try it and the lettuce got totally wilted. Not edible. After I rinsed it, I soaked it in fresh water hoping to revive it and the lettuce was still salty and wilted. Still not edible. I didn’t even want to give the wilted lettuce to my chickens or compost it for fear of too much salt still in it. Oh well, so much for that tip!

If you still have lettuces that haven’t been picked, get out there soon before they bolt! To get the best from your lettuce, water your plants the evening before you plan to pick it. Then pick lettuces first thing the next morning before it gets too hot. After I wash it and spin out the water, I put lettuce in a ziplock baggie with a wet piece of paper towel folded (squeeze out excess moisture). Lettuce should last a good amount of time when doing this in the refrigerator.

There are other lettuces we can grow here in the shade in the summer. I will write a post soon about growing these warm season lettuces for the summer that are heat resistant and don’t bolt. They are called Batavian or Crisp lettuces. More on that later.

 

Tomatoes are in-May 3rd-woo hoo!

Today we put 31 tomatoes in the garden. Enjoy the time lapse!

This is the earliest I have ever been able to put them outside. We always put them in Wall-of-Waters (green cylinders) to protect them from the chilly nites or if we have a late freeze.  Now I’m dirt tired-time for a cocktail!

Growing cool season lettuce

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Cool season lettuces and spinach in germination tray, ready to transplant into bigger pots

A friend of mine said the other night that she stopped trying to grow lettuce because it always gets too bitter. But growing lettuces in the spring can be easy-you just have to start earlier than you think you do. If you start seeds in late April, you’re too late as the weather can go from cold days to hot days very quickly and that is when they can bolt and become bitter so you’ll want to harvest earlier.

Since most lettuces are cool season crops and take around 45-55 days to mature, we need to back up our start date to sometime in February/March or even earlier inside under lights (like I did) and harvest in April or early May before it gets hot.

Be sure to grow lettuces that are cold tolerant-it should say on the seed packets. This year I started the first lettuces back on January 15 inside my house under grow lights with no heat-this is very early so I’m pushing it.

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Lettuce transplanted un into bigger pots or pony paks.

Then I transplanted them up from the germination tray into a pony pak on January 20. Then I  transplanted the plants into my greenhouse on February 17. That’s about 4 weeks old when I put them out in the ground.  My greenhouse is unheated so I have to cover them everynight and on cold days with 2 layers of row cover but so far they are doing well. Tonite is 13°F so let’s see if they survive…

Meanwhile I started more from seeds on Feb 03 and they were transplanted into the pony paks February 25 so if tonite kills the others in the greenhouse, these should go out into the greenhouse in another 1-2 weeks. Basically the whole process from starting lettuce seeds to putting out into a greenhouse or coldframe or as the season goes on takes about 4-5 weeks.

You can even put them in a raised bed or mini hoophouse with heavy row cover directly over them by the time April rolls around. So if you plant them in first week of March, you will be able to pick leaves 45 days later or around April 15. By the time everyone else is just starting their lettuce seeds, you will be enjoying the lettuces while they are sweet before it gets too hot.

Leave row covers on tomatoes for now

Many of you are asking when can you take your row covers off your tomato plants. Leave row covers on tomatoes for now-I know we are all anxious to take them off. I leave mine on till the monsoons come and they are NOT here yet. One of our local weather stations said that the monsoons might be delayed till July 25 and so I will leave mine on till the monsoons really come-this occasional rain we’ve been getting are not the monsoons and will not drive the leafhopper away. The leafhopper kills tomato plants by biting your plant giving it (CTV) Curly top virus which is fatal to your tomato plant but should leave when the monsoons come. The row covers are a physical barrier so the bug can’t get to your plant. So for now, (sigh) I will leave them on even though I’m dying to remove them like you.

I will post when I take mine off so you all know.