Well now it is June 6 but want to catch up with what’s going on in the garden. All 31 of my tomato plants were planted in Wall of Waters on Friday, May 24. I had a wonderful crew-Bob, Tom and Janine (yes another Jannine!) and me. I hurt my good knee and was hobbling around so I am grateful for their help. Many thanks!
We got it done so quickly that we also planted some Italian beans by seeds, transplanted pepper plants (in wall of waters too), and transplanted some cabbage. With so much cold we’ve been having, I was happy to get them in when I could on a beautiful, warm, non-windy day. The beets and onions were planted 2 weeks before and are doing well. They could handle the cold.
Since that time I have been busy trying to get the last of the veggie garden in. More dry beans, winter squash, summer squash and cucumber seeds are now in the ground and I’m awaiting their germination. Yesterday I planted sweet potato slips. I have still have carrots and flowers to plant. Almost there!
The weather is now in the high 70s to 80 degrees- in the day and in the mid 50’s at night. Amazing how it goes from winter (last week it was snowing) to summer weather in just a few days.
This past Friday, April 19, all the baby tomato seedlings were transplanted from the germination trays into 2.25 pots where they will stay until we plant them outside. There are 155 total tomato plants.
My main helper, Linda Archibald has been doing this with me for about 4 years and this year Tom Pollard joined us to learn how to do it all. It took us 4 hours to transplant them. Thank you folks! There were 4 tomato no shows which isn’t bad for how many we planted. It is amazing how fast the seedlings grow since it has only been 16 days since we planted seeds.
We use Moonshine potting soil from Agua Fria Nursery to grow them in-amazing stuff as everything grown in takes off really fast. So now they are off the heat mats and still inside under lights that will be 3 inches away from the tops of the tomatoes. I put the lights close so they grow sturdy stems. If you put the lights higher they can get too tall and lanky. As the plants grow, I raise up the lights with them. I will actually have around 28 tomato plants and Linda will have 59! The rest are orders. Looks like it’s going to be a big year for tomatoes for Linda! I hope she buys another freezer to store all that sauce she’s gonna be making! I’m hoping to get them out in early May again this year but Mother Nature will decide when they will go out, not me!
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.
Some of my new dwarf tomatoes-about 3′ tall, loaded with blossoms and some tomatoes and looking good!
TOMATOES ARE FREE! FREE AT LAST!
Now that I’ve had 3 days with some rain and lots more in the forecast, and no leafhoppers in sight, I decided to free the tomatoes. If you still see leafhoppers in your garden, I’d wait a few more days. And of course some of you have already taken the row cover off but I like to err on the side of caution.
Now that they are free, I placed straw over the ground around the tomatoes so no dirt shows. This is done to keep the Early Blight fungal spores from getting on the lower leaves from overhead watering or even the rain. I noticed two tomato plants had Early Blight starting so I immediately cut off the yellowing leaves on the bottom, and trimmed all lower branches, making sure no leaves touch the dirt or straw. I disinfect my trimmers between trimming plants with 10% bleach-about 2 tablespoons in a container big enough to put my hand and the trimmers inside it since I’m reaching in around the leaves and it is contagious between plants.
Tomorrow I will spray all the tomatoes with Serenade, a biological fungicide that will help prevent Early Blight. Sure looks good to see the tomatoes instead of row cover! Finally I can see my garden grow!
Beans from Italy coming up nicely under row cover in a bamboo teepee
After a wonderful trip to Italy, I’m now back in the garden trying to get it finished. Seems I got a lot of dry beans in Tuscany at a Florence Farmers Market and have planted 4 different varieties-Fagioli Zolfini, Fagioli Piatellini Nuova, Fagioli con L’Occhio (a black-eyed pea) and Borlotti. These are dry bush beans. I love dry beans as I just have to plant them and after they are up, give them water and you don’t pick them till the end of the season after they dry. Not too many bugs bother them either at my place. They make great soups and stews in winter. So looks like this is the year of the bean.
But I have planted many other interesting crops this year as well. Other new veggies/fruits include the Bradford watermelon, Tahiti Butternut, a yellow zucchini called Rugosa Fruilana, Craupadine beets and my Fuggle hops and artichoke came back from last year and are doing well. Also 15 bare root raspberries I planted this spring are all up and doing nicely-the variety is Polona-I got them from Nourse nurseries online. My dream is to have so many raspberries I get sick of eating them (never!) And I’m starting a new thornless blackberry (Triple Crown) area in the garden. I got some beautiful 2 gal plants from Newmans for only $15.
And of course I have more tomatoes than I need but have cut down drastically since I am not at the Santa Fe Farmers Market. This year I’m growing more dwarf tomatoes than regular tomatoes and some of them are trials for Craig Lehouiller. All my tomatoes are caged and have row cover wrapped around them to protect them from the Beet leafhopper which passes a deadly virus to them here in the southwest called Curly Top Virus. The row cover is also great for protection from hail storms. It will come off when the monsoons arrive. Hope they do well and can’t wait to taste them. I haven’t eaten a tomato since last November when my crop finished as I won’t eat store-bought tomatoes. Guess I’m a tomato snob.
I’ve actually cut down the garden by 30% this year due to our drought. Pray for rain (no hail please!)
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.
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!