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!

 

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!

 

 

Tomatoes planted on May 24-latest ever for me

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.

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

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.

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.

 

Transplanting tomatoes

IMG_8961

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.