Monsoons are here!! Free your tomatoes!

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!

Back home in the garden

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 started!

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.

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!

Tomato and Vegetable Winners in 2017 garden

Here are my favorite vegetables that I grew for 2017. Mind you I’m super picky and I’m sure there are many other varieties out there waiting to be tried that are great. That’s what keeps it interesting for me. Also I give you where I bought the seeds or transplants. You may be able to buy these elsewhere but this is where I purchased them from.

2017 Tomato Winners

***ALL-TIME FAVORITE TOMATO
Lucky Cross: MY FAVORITE TOMATO-Bigger tomato. Starts yellow then turns more pinkish yellow on the outside with red marbling inside. Sweet and luscious with few cracks. Ripens later in the season but before the end of the season. Part Brandywine and tastes like them. DELICIOUS!  Not to be confused with Little Lucky tomato. Seeds from Victory Seeds

 

RED
Goliath: A very abundant and nice size red tomato. No cracks and old-fashioned tomato flavor-excellent. Seeds from Totally Tomato seeds

Costoluto Genevese: Beautiful fluted tomato with old-fashioned tomato flavor from Italy. Seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Marmande Garnier Rouge: A medium to large dark-red slightly fluted tomato from France-excellent old-fashion tomato flavor. Seeds from Secret Seeds Cartel

Big Zac: Huge, red sweet tomato-takes all season to ripen but still one of my favorites-worth the wait. Transplants from Agua Fria Nursery here in Santa Fe

 

PASTE
Goldman’s Italian American: My favorite for a sauce tomato-Unique, beautiful and large tomatoes have a pear shape, being ribbed and pleated. These have an intense red color and fantastic flavor when ripe. Thick, red flesh is perfect for delicious tomato sauces. Ripens towards end of season. Seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

 

PINK
NEW! Stump of the World: Big pink tomato with sweet flavor. Good at high altitudes. Seeds from Tomato Growers

 

PURPLE or BLACK

Purple Cherokee: Dusky purple with dark shoulders-Always a favorite-sweet, flavor. Seeds from Seed Savers Exchange or transplants from Agua Fria Nursery here in Santa Fe

Paul Robeson: Dark brown with green shoulders-Always a favorite-sweet, earth flavor. Seeds from Seed Savers Exchange or transplants from Agua Fria Nursery here in Santa Fe

 

BI-COLOR
Pink Berkeley Tie Dye: Dark pink with green stripes-great sweet flavor.
Seeds from Wild Boars Farms or transplants from Agua Fria Nursery here in Santa Fe

Black and Brown Boar: Brownish-red tomato with green stripes-good, sweet, earthy flavor. Seeds from Wild Boars Farms

NEW! Summer of Love: Large and very meaty red/yellow bi-color beefsteak with purple anthocyanin splashes on the sun-kissed fruit-wonderful flavor. Seeds from Wild Boars Farms

NEW! Lover’s Lunch: A very beautiful and tasty striped red/yellow with bi-colored flesh.  This large, meaty, fruity and sweet tomato has stand-out flavor. Seeds from Wild Boars Farms

NEW! Lucid Gem: First they ripen yellow, than more of an orange when very ripe. Very attractive with black purple anthocynin splashes on shoulder that contrast with the yellow skin.  Flavor is very good- Sweet with fruity tones. Very meaty, very few Seeds – One of the best varieties for heat tolerance. Seeds from Wild Boars Farms

NEW! Solar Flare-XL: Bigger than the regular Solar Flare-very sweet red with faint yellow stripes. Seeds from Wild Boars Farms

 

CHERRY TOMATOES
Artisan Blush Tiger: I love this one-fruity flavor. Seeds from Johnny’s Seeds or transplants from Agua Fria Nursery here in Santa Fe

Pink Bumblebee: Great sweet flavor. Seeds from Johnny’s Seeds or transplants from Agua Fria Nursery here in Santa Fe

Black Cherry: One of my favorites that I grow EVERY year. Seeds from Seed Savers Exchange or transplants from Agua Fria Nursery here in Santa Fe

Sungold: One of my few hybrids-Always a favorite-super sweet yellow cherry tomato. Transplants from Agua Fria Nursery here in Santa Fe

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2017 vegetable winners

ARUGULA
Wasabi arugula: This arugula gives the same nose-tingling sensation as the wasabi condiment used in Japanese dishes. This variety is very quick to bolt but delicious. Grow in early spring before heat. Seeds from Johnny’s Seeds or transplants from Agua Fria Nursery here in Santa Fe

BEANS-DRY
NEW! Borlotti Lamon’ beans: Climbing beautiful cream, red splashed shell on outside with beans being a pale pink with red splotches inside if you let them dry. I like to harvest them when dry. According to the Venetians, Lamon’s are “THE” bean for ‘pasta fagiolo’. Seeds from Seeds of Italy

BEANS-GREEN
Émérite Filet Pole Bean: Émérite is a true Filet Bean from France, produced on graceful vines growing to 8′ tall. When picked early and often, the beans are tender and have outstanding flavor. Seeds from John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds

BEETS
Craupadine: I’ve tried this one before-poor germination every year except for one year and the one year it did germinate, it tasted FANTASTIC-sweetish beet I’ve ever eaten. Will try to start seeds inside this year to see if I get better germination. Would really like to get this one again. Seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

BOK CHOY
Violetta bok choy: A beautiful green with purple tipped leaves and tastes great sautéed. Transplants from Agua Fria Nursery here in Santa Fe

CABBAGE
Kalibos Red cabbage: This Eastern European heirloom cabbage has a pointed shape and intense red/purple leaves. Beautiful and sweet flavor. Seeds from Seed Savers Exchange

CHARD
Argentata chard: Has green leaf with big white stalks that when cooked, melt in your mouth. Plus it is the most cold tolerant variety in my garden outlasting many other varieties of chard. Seeds from John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds

CUCUMBERS
Poona Kheera: My all-time favorite eating cucumber. Seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

EGGPLANT
Fairy Tale: my favorite-never bitter or tough skin. No need to peel this small eggplant. I just cut them in half  and saute or BBQ them. Transplants from Agua Fria Nursery here in Santa Fe

FENNEL
Florence Fennel: A bulb type fennel from Italy. Wonderful mild anise taste to add to Chippino or Boulabaise. I chop it and freeze it for use later. Seeds from Seeds of Italy or transplants from Agua Fria Nursery here in Santa Fe

PEPPER
Jimmy Nardello: Super sweet, red pepper-good for sauteing or cook on BBQ. It is thin-walled. Good cooked or raw. Seeds from Seed Savers Exchange or transplants from Agua Fria Nursery here in Santa Fe

SPINACH
Carmel: A fabulous early spring spinach with great flavor. The only spinach to survive winter with row cover. Seeds from Johnny’s Seeds or transplants from Agua Fria Nursery here in Santa Fe

SQUASH-WINTER
Waltham Butternut: I grew it because I had heard it doesn’t get squash bugs and that was true for me-good flavor too. Seeds from Seed Savers Exchange or transplants from Agua Fria Nursery here in Santa Fe

Rogosa Violina “Gioia” Butternut: An Italian version of Butternut. Grew much larger with excellent flavor and no squash bugs-YAY! Seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

SQUASH-SUMMER
Costata Romanesco zucchini: This is the most flavorful zucchini I’ve ever tasted-sweet nutty flavor. Seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds or transplants from Agua Fria Nursery here in Santa Fe

WATERMELON
Moon and Stars:
This has a beautiful dark green skin with yellow ‘stars’. Taste is super sweet and it ripened before the end of the season. Seeds from Seed Savers Exchange or transplants from Agua Fria Nursery here in Santa Fe

 

Tomato Lady now at Santa Fe Farmers Market this Saturday, Sept 9

Hi I returned last Saturday to the Santa Fe Farmers Market with a few boxes. Starting tomorrow (Sat Sept 9), I will be there from 7 am-1 pm throughout the rest of the tomato season. The tomatoes are starting to come in now after a long wait. Don’t wait too long to come to my booth as I will run out before the end of the market. I am located INSIDE THE BUILDING. Just look UP for my ‘Tomato Lady’ sign above my booth. The market people may be moving me around a little inside the building so be sure to look around to see the sign. I have many new great varieties and of course my favorites I bring like Paul Robeson, Purple Cherokee, Sun Gold, Costuluto Genevese, Pink Berkley Tie Dye and more. Over 20 varieties grown this season from all over the world.  And of course I will have some Shishito peppers, and small eggplants as well. This is my last season at the market so be sure to come by and say hi and pick up a few.

Early Blight on Tomato Plants

This tomato plant has severe Early Blight as it has worked its way up the plant

Now that the monsoons are in full blast, tomato fungal diseases are showing up with all the moisture. One of them is Early Blight. It is caused by a fungus called Alternaria solani. Early Blight is a fungal disease that attacks tomato plants starting on the bottom leaves of the plant and works it’s way upwards. The leaves start turning yellow and get blotchy. If left unchecked, it can take over your plant killing it although it won’t die immediately. Where does it come from? It comes from water splashing soil up on the lower leaves, allowing the fungal spores to colonize on the leaves. The culprit is a bad soil fungus (there are good soil fungus as well). That’s why you always see it start on the bottom leaves. Early Blight should not be confused with Late Blight which is prevalent in northeastern United States. We don’t have Late Blight out here in the southwest (at least not yet).

Here is a close up of Early Blight on the leaves

-There are several things you can immediately do to help with this disease if you get this. The first thing you do is trim off the affected branches where the leaves are yellow. Keep trimming up your plant as needed and spray with an organic fungicide like Serenade.

-Disinfect your shears between plants by dipping the shears and your hand in a container of water with about 10% bleach solution. Alcohol also works. Be sure to disinfect your shears between plants because you can spread Early Blight.

-I like Serenade, an organic fungicide which provides protection from a broad spectrum of common fungal and bacterial diseases. It is a biological fungicide, meaning it uses other spores that crowd out the Early Blight spores. Spray it on when the leaves are dry. It is rainproof, non-toxic for bees and other beneficial insects. Respray every 5-7 days. Spray all parts of the plant-both on top and underneath till dripping. Serenade is also good to spray on other vegetables. Spray for powdery mildew on squash, cucumbers and melons and leaf rust on beans. I use it for all my vegetables. Don’t wait till you get the disease—it works best as a preventative but you can control many fungal diseases with Serenade.

-In addition to trimming the affected leaves, trim off any branches or leaves that touch the ground. I never let any leaves or branches touch the ground, trimming them up about 12 or more inches.

-Another option is to stake or tie up any branches that might touch the ground.

Mulch with straw underneath the plant so the soil can’t splash up on plant when it rains or if you water overhead. This is key to help prevent Early Blight on your tomatoes. I do it the minute I plant my tomato plants in the spring and add more straw as the plant spreads till eventually the whole bed is covered with straw. If you didn’t do it this year, you can still add straw now. Besides it’s also great for keeping moisture from evaporating in our hot sun.

-If space allows, rotate susceptible crops every 3 years. Just change where you plant tomatoes every year.