2019–A lousy year for tomatoes

This year was a lousy year for tomatoes for me. Other gardeners have said as much too. Except for one raised bed with 8 tomato plants that are my salvation, the other 17 tomato plants in a different section have not produced well.

Why I asked? A couple of things come to mind for me.

First, we got a late snow on May 20th. The first frost free date is suppose to be May 15th here, but not this year. Plus our spring was cold. That caused me to to put the transplant in the ground on May 25th in wall of waters. I could have transplanted them earlier in the wall of waters but I didn’t have the heart to put them out earlier. It’s hard to do when you’ve started them from seeds 6 weeks earlier and it’s cold or freezing outside. I didn’t want them to stress or even die in the cold nights.

The previous year was we had a very warm spring and I was able to get out the tomato transplants in the ground on May 6th-quite a difference 3 weeks can make in a short growing season.

The second thing that comes to mind was we had a hot June where the temperatures were above 92°F for much of the month. Any temperatures over 92°F will cause tomato blossom drop during the pollination process. The plants did flower and then dropped their blossoms. Pollination temperatures are critical for setting tomato fruit-we want the temps to be below 92°F. After they set their fruit, temperature is not a big factor and the fruit will grow.

The third thing is the monsoons were late. They normally come at the end of the first week in July but didn’t materialize until the end of July and then only for a short period of time. The monsoons stopped and it got too hot again for tomato pollination-hence more blossom drop in July.

Lastly, the soil in the beds were not as good where the 17 tomato plants are in. They are in a newer section where the soil is not as rich. This pointed out to me (again) the need to improve the soil with more compost.

Now the temps are beautiful but basically our season has slowed down and will end for tomatoes whenever we get that first freeze which is between now and October 15th. So before that night comes, when I hear a freeze is eminent, I will pick those few green tomatoes and bring them inside to ripen. For tips on ripening tomatoes inside, go to my post here.

It was a disappointing season for tomatoes here in my garden. How about the rest of you? How did your tomato plants do this year?

Mother nature is sometimes not so generous to gardeners!

 

2019 Garden pics!

Here are some pics of my garden this year. Now that we are in September, I wanted to capture it in all it’s glory before it’s gone. I’ve worked hard tweaking out the infrastructure with new framed beds and weed barriers and wood chips in the paths this year. Having retired from the Santa Fe Farmers Market two seasons ago has allowed me to do more in the garden. I also added some perennial fruit like raspberries and blackberries since I don’t need space for 125 tomato plants anymore! By mid-October or sooner, it will be toast with the first frost so might as well enjoy it while I have it. I have an abundance of flowers this year that I grew for my edible flower class and besides being beautiful and edible, they attract many beneficial insects and pollinators. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Tomatoes just starting to come in!

I live for my tomatoes out of my garden each year!

Most of my tomatoes are just starting to ripen. There are many more on the vine in various stages of green! So every few days I get a few ripe tomatoes. Just enough for a Caprese salad every few nites. I’m in heaven!

I have many standard tomatoes but a couple of new ones that are suppose to take 70-80 days are already ripening at 60 days. I love them all so far. They may make my all-star tomato list at the end of the season which is really hard to do as I am really, really picky-they must be VERY flavorful. Here are some new varieties that have ripened so far..

New to me is Large Barred Boar (from Wild Boar Farms) which is much larger than their regular Barred Boar with the same great flavor. It is burgundy color with green stripes. It has a really rich complex flavor.

 

Another new tomato is Grosse Verte Rose (from Secret Seed Cartel seed company) which is a dusky pink color and sweet, sweet, sweet and about 12-14 oz big. A winner for sure.

 

 

Tonite I got the first two Cherokee Carbon tomatoes and they look beautiful. No cracks, smooth skin and a cross between a Purple Cherokee and the Carbon tomato. I normally grow heirlooms or open-pollinated varieties but I’m not against hybrids if they taste great. This one is a hybrid and I’ll let you know later how the taste is. They are about 14-16 oz and look beautiful.

Also new to me is a tomato named Santorini from the Greek Island of Santorini. (duh). They were one of the first to ripen and are a smaller bright red tomato with the flavor of an old-fashion tomato. I like them and the fact that they were so early is good too. Sorry I don’t have a pic-I ate them all.

So that’s the report so far on the NEW varieties of tomatoes that have started to ripen. There are many different varieties that are still green and for those of you waiting, don’t despair. With this heat I’m sure they will be ripening soon.

If you don’t recognize these varieties it’s because I try tomatoes from many different places and like to turn people on to new varieties that are awesome! If your local nurseries doesn’t carry them next year, you’ll have to start them from seed.

I’ll post later as I have more to report on. Let’s hope for a long warm fall where all of them will ripen!

 

 

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.

Tomato seeds starting to come up April 9th

The tomato seeds are starting to germinate in their trays. It has taken only 5 days!  Still more to germinate but many are already up. A few haven’t germinated so I will replant if they don’t come up in a few days. They are under fluorescent ‘daylight’  T-8 lamps that are in a standard 48″ fluorescent light fixture that I got from Home Depot. They are also on heat mats and I have a heat mat thermostat set to 80 degrees. The heat mats and thermostat I got at Amazon. I never use to use a thermostat but one year without it, the temperature went to 100 degrees and the seeds fried. With a thermostat, it controls the temperature perfectly to whatever is the optimum temperature for each crop. In this case, the optimum range for tomato seeds for germination is between 70-85 degrees.

Tomato seeds planted April 5th

150 tomato seeds planted this year in these germination trays. 42 varieties

Every year it seems, I adjust my tomato seed planting schedule. This year is the latest I’ve ever started my tomato seeds-April 5th. Still trying to tweak it out about when the best time is to start them. If I plant seeds too early, the plants will get too tall before I transplant them outside in wall of waters. Last year I started seeds March 29th. So we will see how they do.

A couple of things have allowed me be able to start them later and get them in the garden earlier.

First, since I changed to Batch 64-Moonshine soil mix (from Agua Fria Nursery), the plants take off growing like a rocket as soon as they germinate. The list of ingredients in it is unbelievable. Once the seeds germinate, there is enough nutrients in this soil mix to basically fertilize your seedling for 6 weeks without adding anything else (except maybe liquid seaweed and Vitamin B at transplanting time to reduce transplant shock). Now I can plant them outside in 5 weeks instead of the 7-8 weeks in years past.

Secondly, I now start my seeds in these germination trays (see pic) where the cells are close together. The trays being shallower, seem to speed the germination process too—less soil to heat. These are a 20 row seedling flat.

Thirdly, it seems to be getting warmer sooner in the spring here in Santa Fe or at least that is my experience. Using wall of waters to protect the young tomato plants from cold nights, I was able to transplant my tomato plants outside on May 3rd, shaving 13 days off the ‘frost free’ date of May 15 that we have here in Zone 6b. They did just fine in their wall of waters.  But last year we were in a warm drought and this year may be different with all the precipitation we got this winter. We’ll see.

And lastly, maybe, just maybe, I’ve become a better gardener through the years…

Tips for Ripening Green Tomatoes

Get Ready for cold weather. We’ve been waiting all season for our tomatoes to ripen. What do we do when you know that a hard frost is going to hit and you still have lots of green ones on the vine? After ripening green tomatoes inside, I’ve had tomatoes into November and then I’m done. I won’t eat another tomato till the following season-July or August. A long wait but consider me a tomato snob as the store-bought tomatoes are never very good.

Tips on ripening tomatoes inside:
-Become a weather bug-we should check the weather for when the first freeze will arrive which historically comes mid-October here in Santa Fe.

This week Sunday through Monday is forecasted to get pretty cold at night–down to 34°F. This is not freezing (32°) but I will check the weather again on Saturday to see if it changes and if they predict a freeze or not. If it stays above 32°F, I will leave them as quite often we can squeeze out a few more weeks of decent weather for them.

-Pick em before the freeze-Pick all decent size green tomatoes and ripen inside. Leave the little ones. Ripening green tomatoes will never taste as good as sun-ripened tomatoes but they are still much better than store bought tomatoes. If you pick after the freeze, they will be ruined.

-Sort the tomatoes-Sort from rock hard green to almost ripe and put them in grocery paper bags and fold over the top. That way you don’t have to go through each bag every day and pull out the ones that are ripening sooner.
 Put them 2 layers deep.

-Use a slice of apple-In the bags with the green ones, I will put a slice of apple in the bag to help encourage ripening. An apple releases ethylene gas (the tomatoes produce this as well) which helps the ripening process. That is why you fold over the bag to help trap the gas that both the tomatoes and apple are releasing.

-Check bags every few days-When they start to change color, I pull those out and put them in other bags where they are all similar in the ripening stage.


-Leave them stem side up-they won’t rot as quickly.

-Almost ripe tomatoes-When your tomatoes are almost ripe, to increase flavor, pull them from the bags and place in a warm spot in your house a couple of days before you want to use them.


-Storage-Be sure to store them in a room that is at least 55 degrees. I made the mistake once and they didn’t have much flavor and many didn’t ripen at all. If they won’t ripen or aren’t flavorful they were probably stored in too cool a place or perhaps they were too small to begin with.

-Green tomatoes-Lastly you can always pickle green tomatoes or cook with them!

Better gobble up all the ripe tomatoes that you can! Soon the season will be over and we will be longing for flavorful ripe tomatoes again!