My favorite tomato for 2016!

lucky-cross1

I always plant several new varieties of tomatoes each year and the winner hands down for 2016 was:

LUCKY CROSS

lucky-cross-insideIt is a fantastic yellowish tomato with pink blush outside and inside as well. Sometimes they were more yellowish with pink overtones and sometimes more pinkish with some yellow overtones. No matter the color, it has an exceptional sweet flavor like a Brandywine. It never cracked or got diseases and was very prolific. It is a potato leaf variety. I haven’t been this excited about a tomato for a long time. It now beats my beloved Virginia Sweet tomatoes which are prone to cracks and diseases.

When I did some research on this tomato, the variety originally came from Craig LeHoullier (author of Epic Tomatoes). He stated it came from a Brandywine and an unknown bee-produced cross and had the luck to grow it out with these great attributes.  You can read the story of it from him here. No wonder I thought it tasted like a Brandywine! It is now a stable open-pollinated (OP) tomato and will grow out the same each generation. I saved some of the seeds from this beauty and will definitely grow it next season.

Tomato Hornworms – finding them with UV light at night

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I read that you can see tomato hornworms with a UV (ultraviolet) light. Two nights ago we went out to see if we could spot them. I had gotten a UV flashlight last year but didn’t receive it till after the first freeze so there wasn’t much to see. But not that night!  In the daylight I could only see the chewed up leaves on 2 plants but could not find the hornworms. But at night they are easy to spot with the UV light. We found many small ones as well as big ones that we would have missed if not for the UV light.

tomato-hornworm-bitemarks

Also we noticed that there seem to be either fluorescent bite marks or trails where they had been so if we saw these we would see if any were hiding. We probably got 30 tomato hornworms in all. What a great way to find them.

What’s with all these green tomatoes?

tomato_green tomatoes

I’ve lived here for 21 years and have never seen the tomatoes ripen this late. In fact the majority of them in my garden are still green. I have a few sungolds and black cherry tomatoes and one Pink Berkley Tie Dye and a couple of red ones ripen but that’s it-the rest are still green on the vine.

tomato_healthy plants

The plants are big and healthy. So what’s happening here?

Problem #1
The first problem was we had a hot June (except for one weekend) and an unbelievably hot July here with day after day of 92+°F. Why does that matter? Tomatoes won’t pollinate themselves over 92°f-they drop their blossoms, which is commonly known as blossom drop. They will keep producing blossoms but won’t set them producing tomatoes until it’s cooler. So we lost a whole month, putting us behind schedule.

Problem # 2
So once the monsoons thankfully came in, it got cooler and now we have green tomatoes in various stages of ripening. But suddenly, it got even cooler. So much so that it is starting to feel like autumn in August with temperatures dropping at night into the 50’s and daytime temps are much lower in the 70s. So although the tomatoes can’t have extreme heat to set fruit, they need heat to ripen. With cooler temps, it takes longer for tomatoes to turn red, or yellow, or black or whatever color they should be when ripe.

Normally I show up at the Farmers Market middle of August with 6-8 boxes of tomatoes that then increases to 15-20 boxes every week.

tomatoes_first harvest

Here is what I have now. Only 2 little bowls of tomatoes, getting a bowl a day-hardly enough to go to market with.

Now it is a race to get some tomatoes to ripen before our first frost which usually comes in October but one year it came in early September. Let’s hope not this year!

Last year I decided to slow down and take a little time off (farmer’s burnout) and that I might not go to the market as much nor grow as many tomatoes either. I have 40 tomatoes this year (lost three to curly top virus) so now I have 37 compared to 125 tomato plants last year. I guess I made a good choice as I’m not sure how long into Sept it will be before I have enough to go to market if at all before a frost.

What’s wrong with my tomato plant?

This has some excerpts from an earlier post in 2015 in June and new info as well in 2016. We are experiencing heavy pressure from the Beet Leafhopper which transmit a virus called Curly Top Virus (CTV) to tomato plants now in 2016. Please read below.

Photo credits: curly top disease - photo courtesy of http://ucanr.org/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=3352

Curly Top Virus (CTV) on tomatoes
Last year, the Beet Leafhopper which transmits ‘Curly Top Tomato Virus’ was rampant in our gardens and devastated many of our tomato plants. I lost only 1 plants out of 125  in 2015 to it but only because I take extraordinary measures to protect them. Here is some information on the beet leafhopper, how to identify it, symptoms and how to protect your plants.

The Beet Leafhopper flies in on the winds in early June through early July, jump on the tomato plants and taste them. It is a big problem in the Southwest and inland in California where it is hot. They don’t even like to eat tomato plants but sample them, transmitting the disease in the process, then fly off to visit other plants.

Identifying Beet Leafhoppers
The beet leafhopper is very small-about 1/8 inch long, pale green to light brownish green and has wings that look like a tent when folded up vs spread out like a moth. See photo on left. They come when conditions are dry, hot and windy. Sound familiar? This is typical June-early July weather here in the greater Santa Fe area.

You will know if they are in your garden as they come in and when you walk around your garden, you’ll see jumping little green bugs that fly off when you walk by. Then they leave—flying to the next garden. Because of this, you can’t really spray anything to get them because they hop so fast and only stay in the garden a short time—here today, gone tomorrow. By the time you notice something is wrong with your tomato plant, they are long gone. It takes about 2 weeks for symptoms to show up.

 

Symptoms
Your tomato plant leaves will start to curl and the underside of the leaves and veins will turn a purplish color.

curly top virus_helthy plant

Tomato Curly Top Virus-beginning stages on left and advanced stages on right


The leaves then start to wilt and the plant will look stunted. You might think it needs water but it doesn’t, it is sick and won’t recover. There is no cure for tomato plants with this disease. ‘Curly-Top Virus’ is only transmitted from bug to plant and is NOT transmitted from plant to plant hence you will see a healthy plant next to a sick plant. The pictures above show 2 plants with curly top. The first one is beginning to be sick with curly leaves and the veins will turn purple.  The second plant in the picture is advanced.

There is NO CURE for this virus and if your tomato (or pepper for that matter) shows signs of the disease, you should pull the plant. You could leave the plant in BUT if another wave of leafhoppers come by and a healthy leafhopper bites your sick plant, it only takes 10 minutes in 90°F weather for it to be able to transmit the disease to one of your healthy plants. The best thing to do is pull any sick plant and dispose of it. I don’t compost ANY tomato plant that shows disease.

Here are some remedies:
• Leafhoppers do not like shade and if your plants are partly shaded, that may help keep them off but since most of us grow tomatoes in full sun that might be difficult.

Create a physical barrier with row cover

Put row cover over tomato plants

• The main thing I do is create a physical barrier between the bugs and the plants.  I now cover all tomato plants with row cover until the bugs leave. Wrap the row cover around your tomato cage and put a piece on top of the cage BEFORE they come. I observe they either leave or are suppressed after the monsoons come in July when it is cooler and wetter. After the monsoons roll in, I take off the row covers BUT NOT UNTIL THEN.  I hope they come in soon as they are late right now. Tomatoes are self pollinating so they aren’t pollinated by bees or other pollinators. Another thing I’ve noticed is many of my purple or black tomato varieties seem to get hit hard. I wonder if they give off something that attracts the leafhopper? Right now all of my tomatoes are covered.

• Lastly you could put out some tomatoes later in the season after the bugs leave but you’ll have to put in early season varieties so you can still harvest before the season ends. I buy gallon size at that point so as not to be too far behind. Agua Fria Nursery still has 1 gallon tomatoes as of now. A couple of years ago when I was out at the Santa Fe Community Garden, I noticed many rows of sick tomato plants but one row of perfectly healthy plants and when I asked about them, it turned out they were put out about a month later than the rest of them and by then the leafhoppers were gone.

Dry, sunny, windy weather are perfect conditions for the leafhoppers so look out this summer-conditions are ripe again until the monsoons come!

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IMPORTANT NOTE:Now there are three cases where you may think you have curly top virus but may or may not have it.

Denver Downs Farm, Anderson, SC; High temperature on black plastic; lower leaves only.

Physiological Leaf Roll-Photo courtesy Clemson University

The first condition that may not be Tomato Curly top Virus is Physiological Leaf Roll that can happen on some tomatoes and could be caused by various factors including stress and that is not necessarily curly top-if you plant has rolled leaves but no purple veins as shown above, it possibly has physiological leaf roll and look for why it may be stressed. It is getting enough water, too much water, too much nitrogen? Also drought, pruning, root damage and transplant shock can all be reasons for leaf roll. For more info on this condition go here.

purple tomato_purlple leaves

Phosphorus deficiency in tomatoes happen when the weather is still cold-not in June.

The second condition is early in the season, not now. Sometimes the leaves turn purple when it is still cold outside. This is a phosphorus deficiency. This never happens in June or later when it is warm but more in May if you plant early and it is still cold outside.

The third condition (no pic) is if you are growing a purple or black variety of tomato your plant may have purple veins  so don’t pull it unless it start to looks sick with the curly leaves and looks like it needs water.

Tomatoes, peppers and eggplants in!

tomatoes 05 24 16

All my tomatoes get planted into wall of waters when first transplanting them. Really helps them get a good head start.

So I’m gonna try to catch up on the garden in the next few posts…

All the tomatoes went into the garden in their Wall of Waters on Wednesday, May 24. My friends, Janet, Mernie and Linda plus myself manage to get all of my tomatoes in by 2 pm.  Thank you for your wonderful help! I was 5 tomatoes short, so I went over to Agua Fria Nursery (my favorite nursery) and picked up what I needed the following day and they are now in as well. I have 3 sections in my main garden and now section 1 is filled. One third done! I always espoused we should harden off out tomatoes before setting them out, but I’ve found out that if you put them into Wall of Waters, one doesn’t need to  harden them off. The Wall of Waters, act like a little greenhouse and keep them warm at nite and the winds at away-well worth the money and effort. Once the tomatoes reach the top sometime this month, remove the WOWs. Still have many things to plant but the ‘maters are in!

rhubarb spring

Rhubarb is doing well even with a hail storm we had. Somehow it was sheltered.

My perennials are coming up-rhubarb, raspberries and grapes-yeah! I didn’t have to do anything (except water)! The cabbage is already in as well.

GRAPE VINE ROW COVER

Himrod green seedless grapes grow great here. They are recovering from deer damage

Some deer came by an munched about half the leaves and grape flowers on one grape plant so now they are under row cover and recovering nicely. I pulled it off so you can see the recovery. I hope  we get the grape flowers (that will become grapes) again. The deer have not been back or at least haven’t eaten any more of them.

FUSHIMI PEPPER PLANTED

Fushimi pepper and all peppers planted under fencing material and row covered until they adjust to heat

This week, June 1-4, I transplanted all peppers-the varieties are: Jimmy Nardello (sweet Italian frying pepper), Poblano (mildly hot use for chile rellanos), Fushimi (similar to shishitos only bigger-not hot), Shishito (good frying pepper-not hot) and Corno de Toro (big sweet Italian pepper).  I put epsom salts in bottom of hole to increase flowers and peppers. I also planted all my eggplants-the variety is Fairytale. I love them, they are my favorite-I don’t grow any other. The bigger eggplants take longer to ripen and you only get a few on each plant vs fairytale eggplants are extremely prolific and ripen earlier. Fairytales are small, never bitter, thin-skinned, great sliced in half and sautéed with garlic in oil or on the BBQ-ed on the grill. You can still use them for Eggplant Parmesan, only takes more.

 

What’s up in the garden!

I’ve been busy in the garden. Which is why I haven’t written lately. Hard to write when so many things need to get done. Here’s the latest update.

WEATHER: How about this crazy weather? Hot, cold, hot. Go figure! That’s how it is this time of year. It actually hailed 6 inches last Saturday between Harry’s Roadhouse restaurant and Seton Village Drive on Old Las Vegas Highway-a very small section of land. Drove through it right after it happened-would not have want to been in that one. Luckily we didn’t get much hail at the farm-thank you universe! Just missed us. One friend of mine was not so lucky and all her veggies got wiped out. Now it is getting warm again.

HARVESTING: Still harvesting lettuces and spinach. In fact I picked almost all the spinach as it will bolt soon with the warmer weather and the lettuce will also bolt soon, so much of that is picked too. The old kale is done now. The new kale ready to go in. The rhubarb is fantastic with many stalks ready to pick. I feel a strawberry-rhubarb gallette coming soon!

PLANTING: The main garden is about half weeded-Ugh! But the beds are all cleaned up and ready for all the tomatoes that will be planted next Wednesday. Now I just have to finish weeding the pathways.

DRIP SYSTEMS: The drip systems are now up and running. I hate it when they act up. Sometimes it takes 2-3 days to get everything going and not leaking. Feels great when it’s done. I can’t believe it went as smoothly as it did this year.

GIANT PUMPKINS: My first giant pumpkin was planted today at my friend, Deborah’s house. Hope it does well out there! Still have 3 more to plant next week here in my garden plus I have some giant long gourds and 2 giant zucchini (marrows) to put in. I’ve had trouble the last 3 years with getting any of my giant pumpkins successfully grown. Hopefully one of the pumpkins will do well this year. I have a plan!

DEER!: We had some deer come and eat all the Orach (which is ok) and half of one of my grape plants (which is NOT ok). Ate the leaves and the flowers of what woulda been future grapes. I covered the rest up with row cover. Hopefully they will not explore and find the plants. There is not much in the main garden to eat so hopefully they will move on. Luckily they did not eat the garlic plants!

MORE PLANTING: The peppers and eggplants starts will be planted the first week of June and the seeds of other warm season crops will go in next week too.

Busy time of year! Phew!

 

Transplanting tomatoes

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So many have asked, “Am I’m going to plant my tomatoes in the ground soon?” The answer is not too soon. I just transplanted all my tomatoes into 2″ pots and they need to get bigger! (Look Linda and Lava, how big they are already!) All you who ordered your tomatoes will get them, don’t worry. When? As soon as they are ready.

I actually delayed starting them this year as I don’t want to put them in their wall of waters (WOWs) too big. Wall of waters are great protecting our tender plants from the cold nights and from the WIND. I will still put my plants in WOWs even if it doesn’t freeze at night anymore because they like the warm environment the WOWs provide. And tomatoes love heat. It does look as if the freezing nights are over but one never knows. Might be one of those early warm years. Wouldn’t that be great!

Many newbies and some of us oldies get impatient to plant outside as soon as the May 15 (or even sooner) magical date has arrived. Really? It’s a guideline, not carved in stone. Will you be out there come hell or high water, cold temperatures or crazy winds trying to get an early start? To what advantage? I’ve found those with patience have the biggest advantage as they know that if they wait maybe just a little longer than that magical date, they may not only catch up to those who planted sooner, but may surpass them in growth. Why? Because the earth gets warmer, the nights gets warmer and the days will surely get warmer too-all good things when planting tomatoes (and other warm season crops). So don’t be in such a hurry-slow down and enjoy the beginning of this next growing season.