Seed Germination Tests and Rates

If you’ve read a few of my blogs, you may have come away with the impression that I am trying to do too much and infer that I’m overwhelmed.  Right on both counts – but I believe that what I’m trying to do can benefit many people, so I keep at it, glad for the opportunity to share seeds, seedlings and fresh produce with others!

So how in the world do I have time to conduct seed germination tests?  Of course the scientist in me and commitment to quality urge me to do a germination test on every batch every year.  But I simply do not have the resources to do that.  I’ll leave it at that – you can email me at dale@gianttomatoseeds.com if you want more details.

This blog post is in part a response to a YouTube video, published on January 2, 2018, in which two things were suggested.

  1.  The date on my seed packets is the date which I package seeds.  This is not the case.  I rarely package seeds in advance – I have way too many varieties to make that feasible.  When you order seeds from Delectation of Tomatoes, your order is a custom order.  Often I prepare pictures, conduct research, transcribe field notes, write up descriptions and prepare labels only after you have ordered seeds.  This can take up to an hour per variety – unless it is a variety which someone else has ordered previously, in which case it goes much faster.  The seed packaging itself is only a fraction of the time – just locating seed packages in my inventory and putting them back in place takes more time than the actual packaging.  So the date indicated on a packet is the date that I actually harvested the tomato or tomatoes from which the seeds were extracted that are in the packet.  Likewise, the weight shown is the actual weight or average weight of the tomatoes from which your seeds were extracted, and the photograph is, in the vast majority of cases, the actual tomato(es) from which the seeds came.  These are not stock photos – they are original with Delectation of Tomatoes, and I have over 65,000 photos I have taken for this purpose.  Essentially, the date of harvest and weight constitute the batch number for all tracking purposes.

Here is an example of a label for a variety that I named, in honor of the family who developed this over several generations.  Note that this is an older label, and the current world record (9.435 lb.) was grown from this variety.

Please recognize that the big seed companies (who have many employees and lots of equipment I cannot afford…) typically stamp something like, “Packaged for 2019” on the envelope.  This does NOT mean that their seeds were grown in 2018!!  They could have been grown in 2013 or 2008 or even earlier, as long as the batch (which for them includes millions or tens of millions of seeds) still passes that 80% threshold for seed germination tests.  The dates on my batches are completely transparent – you know to the day when the tomatoes were harvested.  And tomatoes are usually processed for seed extraction that same day or at least within a few days after harvest.

2. Seeds I harvested in 2013 or 2015 are “old” and therefore less likely to germinate.  NOT TRUE!!  Despite conventional wisdom, or rather hearsay, or perhaps propaganda, tomato seeds can retain their viability for years, even decades, if kept from extreme heat or humidity.  Fortunately, I live in a dry climate and store my seeds in a cool basement, and have had no issue with reduced viability of seeds, even from a decade ago.  Below you’ll see results of a seed germination test which I think presents clear evidence that my 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, or 2015 seeds are not “old” and do not have reduced germination rates.  I have been growing lots of tomatoes for a lot of years.  What I notice is that “fresher” seeds, that is seeds less than five years old, will typically germinate in 5-8 days, with a few stragglers over the next week or so.  Older seeds, that is ten plus years old, may take 10-15 days to germinate, with some taking up to 20 days.  But germination rates have still been 90% or higher on some of these older seeds – one just needs a little more patience and persistence.

The majority of germination tests I conduct are during the 3-4 weeks in early spring when I plant for my own gardens and for other growers.  This typically involves between 4 to 48 seeds of 500-600 varieties.  With over 2,100 varieties in inventory, you can guess correctly that I have to keep meticulous records.

So in Spring 2017, I planted 1,589 seeds from tomatoes that I had personally raised.  Many of these I planted specifically because of some concern over seed quality (seeds were dark, smaller than expected, etc.), though most were for replenishing seed supply and doing what I can to keep seeds relatively fresh.  Of these 1,589 seeds of 258 batches, 1,326 germinated.  That’s 83.4%.  Not nearly as high as I had hoped, but acceptable by industry standards.  I always try to include extra seeds, or seeds from multiple batches, if I have any reason to suspect a batch might produce less than 90% germination rates.  But yes, I still occasionally get reports of low germination rates.  In those cases, as stated in the About section of the website, I will gladly and promptly replace the seeds or issue a refund.  I do my best to maintain high quality seeds.  But I just do not have the resources or manpower or hours in a day to grow 1,000 varieties per year for seed saving.  I am working hard to keep my seeds replenished at least every five years.

On December 28th, I updated my previous post (Best Tasting and Biggest Tomatoes) with results of a germination test of seeds from several microdwarf tomato varieties that I raised in 2018.  As noted there, germination was 63 of 64 seeds, or 98%.

On December 31st, I started a seed germination test involving 800 seeds of the variety Big Zac (I have saved lots of those over the years…), 100 seeds each from these 8  batches:

2011, 1.688 lb.
2012, 1.870 lb.
2013, 1.682 lb.
2014, 2.370 lb.
2015, 0.906 lb.
2016, 1.172 lb.
2017, 0.998 lb.
2018, 1.202 lb.

My hypothesis was that 2018 seeds would have the quickest germination and the highest germination rate.  Since I controlled for variety (all the same), 100 seeds is a decent sample size.  Though obviously it would have been better to do at least 5 separate batches from each year.  I don’t have that many extra seeds for some of these years!  The following pictures show the process – click for closeup view.

I placed this pan on a heat mat, with a towel between, as a bare heat mat is a little too warm for tomato seed germination.  Then I covered the entire setup with a towel.  After just 3-1/2 days, some seeds had just started to germinate from each of the eight batches.  I attended a Farm Conference and was not able to check again until January 6th.  So after 6 days plus 8 hours, here are the germination results:

2011: 97%  (3 of 100 seeds did not germinate) [Update, 17 days after test started: 97%]
2012: 96% [ Update, 17 days after test started: 100% ]
2013: 93%  [ Update, 17 days after test started: 97% ]
2014: 99%  [ Update, 17 days after test started: 99% ]
2015: 86%  [ Update, 8 days after test started: 96%; 97% after 17 days ]
2016: 97%  [ Update, 17 days after test started: 99% ]
2017: 98%  [ Update, 17 days after test started: 98% ]
2018: 93%  [ Update, 17 days after test started: 96% ]

This is much higher germination than I would have expected so soon.  I may check again in several days to see if more germinate, though they are all off the heat mat now.  I usually give my tomato seeds at least 14 days before I consider giving up hope.

Clearly there is no hint that the older seeds germinate more slowly or at a lower rate – no need to even conduct a statistical analysis on these results.  Hypotheses rejected!  If anything, the 2018 seeds look like they are slower germinating, as many of them are still quite small.

I use a magnifying glass and a pencil tip to poke each seed or seed hull to see if has germinated or not.  If it was firm and intact, with no sign of a root forming, I counted it as “not yet germinated”.  Following are some pictures documenting these germination tests.

[ Update, 8 days after germination test started, now only 4 of 100 seeds have not germinated.  Photo below is a close-up of those 4 seeds in the 2015 batch. ]

[ Update, germination test terminated after 17 days – see data table above and final photos below ]

While at the Utah Farm Conference, I listened to several encouraging and motivational presentations.  Among these was a workshop presented by the amazing farmers at Quail Hollow Farms, who brought an Ancient Cave watermelon – with a handle on it!! – from which I extracted several RED seeds I hope to be able to grow out in 2019, contributing to restoring this unusual trait.  I tasted the melon as well, and it was still quite sweet and tasty, despite being off the vine for many weeks.

 

Advertisements

Best Tasting and Biggest Tomatoes of 2018

FLAVOR – along with yield, fruit size, shapes, colors, patterns, texture, culinary uses, versatility, and let’s not forget nutrition – there are plenty of reasons to grow your own heirloom tomatoes!  Or at least support your local small farmers who grow a wide variety of this amazing garden fruit.

Yes, for the first time, I have compiled a list of what I consider the best tasting tomato varieties I grew this year.  I have some hesitancy to publish this list for at least these reasons:

  1. Mine are just one set of taste buds; taste preferences might vary as much among people as do preferences in music.
  2. I have a sweet tooth and have a predilection for both sweet and rich flavored tomatoes; bland, tart or timid tasting tomatoes don’t do much for me, though they may be fine for culinary uses other than fresh eating.  Those insipid, ubiquitous, round, red, “blemish free” tomatoes in your local big box grocery store epitomize the type of tomato that would score very low for me.  They are edible but not enjoyable.
  3. At most I get three chances to sample each variety in a given season.  If the tomato I sampled was under or overripe, my assessment will not be fair.
  4. Some days, I may sample up to 70 varieties within a few hours.  I do my best to be fair and consistent in my scoring, but I’m not going to pretend that I am as anxious to sample variety #65 late in the day as I was #5 early in the morning.
  5. Horticultural, soil and weather considerations: soil nutrients, pH, types of organic matter, water source and amount, time of day fruit picked, temperature overnight, plant stress, time of season – so many factors can affect flavor.
  6. Human imperfections: how long ago was breakfast; mood issues such as discouragement over crop losses; what my body is hungry for at the moment – tomatoes are great most of the time, but incredible as it may seem, I do have other appetites.

In summary, a second, third or fourth opinion is recommended if you are seriously on the hunt for fabulous tasting tomatoes!

So let’s dig into the data.  For the following lists, I’ve developed my own flavor scale, which may or may not coincide with scales used by others.

1 – Utterly repulsive in smell, taste and appearance; poison, elicits vomiting, run away!

2 – Revolting, offensive, disgusting, does not qualify as food fit for animals; pay me a good bit of money and I might eat it just out of a daredevil, competitive, macho kind of thing.

3 – Yucky, nasty, a real spitter; bad flavor or bad texture or just really tastes wrong.  If it were times of famine and I had never tasted heirloom tomatoes then maybe, just maybe I could eat and perhaps appreciate these loser varieties.

4 – Unpleasant, not enjoyable, no redeeming qualities; for my taste buds this means very bland, insipid, very tart, way too soft or way too hard; something like eating a hard-green tomato raw; and I don’t mean a green-when-ripe variety!

5 – Ho-hum, not worth eating, low quality, but edible in a pinch – like now, off-season, winter, store-bought, imported, warehouse-ripened tomatoes.  Not to be eaten alone, but tolerable in salads, tacos and the like.

6 – Ok, but something’s not quite right here: too tart, no sweetness, maybe not fully ripe; perhaps this variety was bred for canning or drying or cooking down for sauces, but to my seasoned taste buds, I’ll take something better for fresh eating please.

7 – Fine, acceptable, tasty and definitely worth growing and eating.  May not win tomato tasting contests, but because of other qualities (high yield, makes great sauce or salsa, beautiful or large fruits, etc.) is one I would definitely recommend to other growers who really enjoy trying a wide variety of tomatoes; and who knows, a “7” for me might be exactly the flavor your pallet has been searching for for years!

8 – Very good to excellent flavor, highly recommended: sweet, robust, rich, compelling, satisfying, savory, luscious, delicious, tasty – just a few of the adjectives I might use to describe these tomatoes, as if I were truly capable of describing a flavor to another person…

9 – Outstanding, fabulous, exceptional, superlative, magnificent: you really gotta try this one, if your taste buds are anything like mine!  Or maybe I was just super hungry for tomatoes when I sampled this one.  Or maybe you really want to enjoy and share this one as well – Order seeds today!

10 – Life is a journey, not a destination.  If this quest ends in a cul-de-sac, I will let you know what I found there and then I’ll stop my travels and travails!

A bit over the top, perhaps?  Maybe not too much of a surprise there, coming from one who has obsessed to the point of trialing well over 2,000 varieties of tomatoes.

Ok, ok, I’m getting to the point already!

In Spring of 2018, I planted seeds of 674 tomato varieties, hoping to save seeds from 633 of these.  Crop failure (mostly goats…) of 72 varieties.  Regrettably, of the 561 varieties that more-or-less produced, there were 86 varieties for which I did not get a fair taste test so no score on those.  This failure was mostly due to not being able to keep up with the workload, as often tomatoes were overripe by the time I got to the vine for seed saving.

So this leaves “only” 475 varieties with scores.  Among these, only 9 scored below 7, and not a single variety scored as bad as that store bought tomato that I choked down for lunch today!  (winter blues…).  Some day I hope to incorporate flavor scores from 1,500+ varieties I have grown in prior years.

OK, drum roll…

9.5 – 2 varieties

Everett’s Rusty Oxheart
Yoder’s German Pink

9.0 – 32 varieties

Alice’s Dream
Altaiskiy Oranzhevyi
Arad’s Pink Heart
Barlow Jap
Batyanya
Big Cheef Pink Potato Leaf
Blue Ridge Mountain
Brandywine, OTV
Bulgarian Rose
Chapman
De Barao Rozoviy
Dr. Wyche’s Yellow
Dwarf Mr. Snow
Earl’s Faux
Korol’ Londona
Little Lucky
Loxton Lad Dwarf
Maiden’s Gold
Mallee Rose
Polish Pink
Rebel Yell
Red Butter Heart
Reinhart’s Chocolate Heart
Rozovaya Krupnaya
Rozoviy Syrayeva
Sugary
Sweet Apertif
Tsindao
Uluru Ochre
Unknown #22 Aceto Large Red (not yet officially named)
Waltingers Fleisch aus Indien
Yasha Yugoslavian

8.5 – 123 varieties (these are also REALLY tasty varieties, not to be overlooked!)

Adelaide Festival
Alex Popovich Yugoslavian
Alice’s Egypt
Alona Lyuks
Andrew Rahart’s Jumbo Red
Anna Russian
Babushkino Bych’ye Serdtse X Zolotyie Kupola
Barnes Mountain Orange
Basinga
Blackberry
Boondocks
Brandywine, Black
Brandywine, Liam’s
Brandywine, Texas
Bundaberg Rumball
Bych’ye Serdtse Oranzhevoye Ostroye
Canestrino Di Lucca
Chaynaya Roza
Chocolate Champion
Cousin Frank’s
Damascus Steel
De Barao Chorniy
Delishes
Dester
Dixie Golden Giant
Domingo
Dr. Lyle
Dwarf Crimson Sockeye
Dwarf Lemon Ice
Dwarf Purple Heart
Dwarf Sarah’s Red
Dwarf Scarlet Heart
Dwarf Velvet Night
Dwarf Wild Spudleaf
Erdie’s Family Oxheart
Faelen’s First Snow
Fidelio
Frantsuzskiy Gigant
Fred’s Tie Dye
Goatbag
Grosse d’Eaude
Guernsey Island Pink Blush
Hege German Pink X Claude Brown’s Yellow Giant
Hege German Pink X Grandfather Ashlock
Homestead 24-F
Husky Pink
Ispanskaya Roza
Ispanskiy Gigant
Ital’yanskaya Grusha
Joe’s Plum
Julia Child
Kenigsberg Serdtsevidniy
Kookaburra Cackle
Korshun Ogromniy
Kozula #161
Kurganskiye
Large Pink Bulgarian
Letniy Sidr
Loxton Lass Dwarf
Lyagushka Tsarevna
Malinovaya Zebra
Mammoth Cretan
Maralinga Dwarf
Marianna’s Peace
Mayo’s Delight
Michaela’s Pink Oxheart
New Big Dwarf
Old German
Omar’s Lebanese
Orange Jazz
Oslinyie Ushi
Persikinis
Pinocchio Micro Dwarf
PPP X PP C
Prezident Yuar
Pumpkin
Purple Calabash
Purple Dog Creek
Purple Not Strawberry
Rainey’s Maltese
Raspberry Miracle
Romeo
Rosalie’s Big Rosy
Rosalie’s Large Paste
Rosella Crimson
Rozoviy Flamingo Serdtsevidniy
Rozoviy Med
Russkiy Bogatyr’
Ruttgers
Sakharnyi Gigant Rozoviy
Scotia
Sibirskoye Zastol’ye
Smith’s Southern Star
Sumochniy
Sunrise Bumblebee
Sweet Adelaide
Sweet Scarlet Dwarf
Swisher Sweet
Tamara
Tanunda Red
Taos Trail
Taps, PL
Taps, RL
Taupo OP
Terhune
That Russian Tomato
Tomatniy Ray
Trophy
Ukrainka
Upstate Oxheart
Venetian Marketplace
Vintage Wine
Vostochnaya Pyshka
Waratah Dwarf
Wherokowhai
Wild Thyme Bicolored
Worley Red
Yaponiya
Yellow Micro Dwarf
Yoder’s Red Beefsteak
Zebra Chernaya
Zebra Oranzhevaya
Zolotoy Myod

I won’t list the rest here.  The full list of available tomato varieties can be found here:

DT List of Tomato Varieties

Ok, on to tomato sizes.  My scales are precise to 0.002 lbs., so except in the case of averaged weights, that last digit will be even.

As posted earlier, only one tomato managed to top 2 lbs. in 2018; that was a specimen of Hercegovac at 2.046 lb.  There was a specimen of Red Penna that appeared even bigger at 2.488 lb.:

But upon closer inspection, the smaller lobe was actually a separate tomato, sharing no flesh at all with the bigger section.

So here is the list of all 95 large-fruited varieties that reached 1 lb. or heavier, in descending order:

2.046 Hercegovac
1.974 Hoy
1.970 Bigzarro
1.870 Rhode Island Giant
1.846 Istra
1.822 Big Zac
1.812 Rim
1.754 Serdtse Ameriki
1.750 Red Penna
1.740 Gold Medal
1.704 Domingo
1.700 Rosalie’s Big Rosy
1.686 Libanaise des Montagnes
1.660 Old Heart Italian
1.634 Michaela’s Pink Oxheart
1.618 Nesravnenniy
1.600 Polish Giant Beefsteak
1.588 Raspberry Oxheart
1.582 Sovetskyie
1.560 Yasha Yugoslavian
1.550 Ruttgers
1.542 Megazac
1.534 Sainte Lucie
1.506 La Nénesse
1.500 KY Cygni
1.480 Aunt Swarlo’s Polish Plum
1.478 Hege German Pink X Claude Brown’s Yellow Giant
1.472 Hungarian Giant
1.436 Unknown Volunteer Large
1.424 Pepe’s Gigant
1.422 Behemoth King
1.422 Gigante Castilla
1.406 Bulgarische Rosa Riese
1.404 Polish Pink
1.400 Jefferson Giant
1.394 Korshun Ogromniy Krasniy
1.382 Yaponiya
1.378 Tadzhikskiye
1.350 Chapman
1.348 Neves Azorean Red
1.344 RW Cephei
1.340 Dwarf Scarlet Heart
1.338 Gertsegovina
1.304 Delicious
1.302 Iranskoye Chudo
1.302 Tamara
1.290 Westerlund 1-26
1.288 Large Pink Bulgarian
1.270 Dr. Wyche’s Yellow
1.262 Merrill Schulz Beefsteak
1.262 Yegipetskaya Lad’ya
1.250 Michael’s Portuguese Monster
1.248 Slammer
1.246 King Pineapple 1763 g.
1.244 Dr. Lyle
1.232 Kickapoo Creek
1.228 Diamante
1.180 Dvorska
1.170 Monomakh’s Hat
1.168 Cero Blackburn
1.160 Sakharnyi Pudovichok
1.144 Megamutt
1.136 Severnaya Korona
1.136 Stan’s Oxheart
1.126 Ladoshka
1.123 Ogromnaya Sliva (PL)
1.112 Giant Monster
1.108 Jazz
1.102 Tomatniy Ray
1.100 Ispanskiy Gigant
1.100 Peter Glazebrook’s Special
1.098 Rozoviy Med
1.096 Vostochnaya Pyshka
1.092 Sparks
1.088 Minusinskyi Yablochnyi Rozovyi
1.085 Bezrazmernyi
1.082 Ispolin
1.080 Bulgarian Heart
1.068 Minusinski
1.062 Secano de Ares
1.062 Shary Minusinskiye Rozovyie
1.052 Rosalie’s Early Orange
1.048 Bogatyr’ Minusinskiy
1.036 Gildo Pietroboni
1.034 Andrew Rahart’s Jumbo Red
1.034 Big Cheef Pink Potato Leaf
1.026 Lithium Sunset
1.026 That Russian Tomato
1.020 Bolgarskiy Gigant
1.016 Zolotoy Myod
1.008 Alen’kiy Tsvetochek
1.008 Unknown, volunteer bicolor (with Mama Irene’s)
1.006 Julia Child
1.006 Swisher Sweet
1.004 Dixie Golden Giant

Note above that Big Zac and Domingo varieties were grown from championship lines and given special care in the 2018 giant tomato project.  I would never have expected any varieties in the open field to produce large specimens than these two; but several did:

Hercegovac
Hoy
Istra
Rim
Red Penna
Rosalie’s Big Rosy

Here is what the distribution of weights looks like graphically (click for full size):

Needless to say, over the past several weeks, many hours have been invested in sorting and organizing seeds, database work, error checking and the like.  Still to do ASAP:

  • Over 15,000 photos to name
  • Nearly 2,000 descriptions to write (including things non-tomato) and upload to website
  • At least 100 hours of seed extraction work from peppers, squash, flowers, herbs, etc.  This photo shows about half of what’s left to process, in my “spare” time:

For some, I was too slow, such as this Mestisa eggplant with seeds germinating inside the pod:

A few other items of note follow.

Dwarf Pomegranate, in its 7th year, blooming indoors, out for a little sunshine today:

And a small rescued pepper vine, variety Aribibi (need to research) from the Amazon rainforest, still producing tiny, fiercely hot pods:

A week ago (predictably perhaps…) I started a tray of microdwarf tomato seeds indoors.  Most varieties are showing good germination, but I usually don’t start getting concerned until it has been at least 12 days.  I’m hoping for a few dozen plants with ripe tomatoes by Mother’s Day!

[ Update 12-28-2018, 16 days after sowing.  Half of these seeds (the bottom half) are from seeds I saved in 2018.  At day 9, germination rate was 92%; at day 16 it is 98%, that is, 63 of 64 seeds germinated.  Source seeds produced 59 of 64 germinated. 

If experience is any indication, there could be fruit set by the first of February on some of these! ]

Some North Pole lettuce seedlings, growing mostly outdoors.  This variety can survive temperatures near 0° F.

The tail end of several hundred tomatoes picked green in October and ripened indoors – sad to see them gone:

But I still have 20 or so tomatoes of the long-keeper variety Amarillo de Benlloch, and they are showing no signs of withering or rotting!  This one harvested on August 22, 2018:

 

[ Update 12-28-2018, I ate this tomato on Christmas Eve, 124 days after harvesting.  I was surprised to see a fair amount of juice still in it, but the juice just poured right out.  Flesh was still intact and very firm.  Texture was quite crunchy, something between a carrot and and a typical ripe heirloom tomato.  Flavor score maybe a 5.5?  Not much flavor at all, but on par with store bought.  Would add some nice texture and color, as well as nutrition to a salad.  Or cooked into any number of dishes.  Still fun to have home grown tomatoes in the dead of winter! ]

And I’ve had some great help with preparing corn seeds for sharing:

Speaking of help, if you’re local (Wasatch Front area of Utah) and interested in helping package seeds in exchange for seeds, please take a look at this posting:

Seed Saving and Sharing Saturdays

Back at it!

 

Season Summary; Tomato Seeds Available from 2018

Much anticipated updated lists of available seeds are ready – for tomatoes only at this point (November 01, 2018).

A quick summary:

674 – Number of tomato varieties planted in 2018, 41 of these grown only as seedlings for other gardeners

269 – Number of new tomato varieties attempted to grow for seeds

334 – Varieties grown to replenish seed inventory

67 – Dwarf varieties grown and seeds saved (seeds of over 130 dwarf varieties now available)

11 – Mini-dwarf varieties grown and seeds saved

561 – Total varieties with fresh seeds from 2018

73 – Crop failure due to no germination, goat damage, Curly Top Virus, etc.

674,112 – Number of seeds saved in 2018 (an estimate, of course)

1,589 – Number of batches of seeds processed

2.046 lb. – Only 1 tomato over 2 lbs. in 2018, variety Hercegovac

2,069 – Total number of tomato varieties for which seeds are now available (plus 74 with limited or very limited quantities)

The full list is located here:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1yGeNFSd4b3rk6YPaUNef-VNEYT_AZqxLvEFG8cYhb2Q/edit?usp=sharing

Still to come:

List of large-fruited varieties with weights

List of most flavorful varieties – many outstanding ones this year!

List of most productive varieties – several very impressive ones

Pictures – over 16,000 still to name and edit

Descriptions – takes up to an hour per variety

Website work – NOT a little:

http://www.delectationoftomatoes.com/store/c1/Featured_Products.html

Back at it!

A sure sign of changing season –

Dwarf and mini-dwarf tomato vines after another cold night and subsequent major leaf fall.

 

Homestretch, Tomato Seed Processing 2018

 

October 15, 2018

A hard freeze last night, 24° F, required a rush job on harvesting tomatoes, both for seeds and fresh eating.

This is what the dwarf tomato vines in grow bags look like:

And this is what I was able to rescue from the backyard garden (minus hundreds of cherry tomatoes):

Unfortunately, there are hundreds of pounds of green and rotting tomatoes that went to waste at “the farm”.

Estimate is at least 100 hours of work left to get seeds extracted from this final surge of tomato harvesting –

https://youtu.be/Rd-f0UizCHs

 

A few plates of dried seeds to be packaged:

A few boxes of packaged seeds to be sorted:

19,814 photographs still to be named of 63,303 total, meaning 69% of photos are easy to find; and research and descriptions of over 2,000 varieties still to be completed and uploaded.

But at least by November 1st, I hope to have all seeds dried and organized from the 2018 season, and lists published of which seeds are available.  This should include at least 550 varieties of tomatoes from which I collected seeds this year, at least half of these will be new offerings from Delectation of Tomatoes.  And yes, many of these are fabulous varieties!

The clock just ticks way too fast.  Please do let me know how I can make that blasted clock tick at one-tenth its current speed!

😵  😵

= = = = = = = = = = =

 

October 24, 2018 Update

Approximately 180 batches processed in the past week:

Including one huge batch from about 80 very ripe tomatoes intended for fresh eating that had started to rot before I could get them eaten, sold or bartered – representing about 35 varieties:

Remaining to be processed for seed saving are 48 batches of tomatoes at various stages of ripening.  Many of these batches will need to be split into 2 or 3 sub-batches and the greener brought indoors to fully ripen before seed saving.

And one of these days I’ll finally get a chance to start extracting seeds from peppers, squash, melons, beans, etc. from the 2018 growing season.

= = =

Update October 29, 2018

The main tomato patch with about one-third of support structure removed:

An example of what causes distress from having no helpers and not enough time to harvest and market the extra tomatoes – that is, more than I can or even need to process for seed saving:

Thousands of tomatoes went to waste – just not nearly enough hours in a day…

Aunt Swarlo’s Polish Plum – a large, very impressive variety that was loaded up even two weeks after frost:

Now down to just 28 batches of tomatoes to process for seeds – just waiting for them to ripen fully indoors before seed extraction.

Just in time for Halloween, for those inclined to pareidolia, largest batch of dried seeds I have ever saved, this coming from a 5-gallen bucket full of a mixture of tomatoes that were intended for fresh eating but I could not get them sold, traded, eaten or processed before they rotted:

Enjoying some end-of-season tomatoes, at least for the next few weeks – this one likely Dr. Wyche’s Yellow or Flathead Monster Orange:

Doing my best to get at least a rough inventory of tomato seeds harvested in 2018.  It took nearly 5 hours just to get a rough sort complete – down to first letter.  About 18 more hours to get them fully sorted.  Inventory, etc. after that.

Back at it…

Update 10-30-2018

Tomato seeds from 2018 sorted!  At least 95% of them.

The potted plant shown is a pepper variety called Aribibi, which I rescued from frost and Winter.  Seeds came directly from the Amazon Rain Forest, but this is clearly different from Aribibi Gusano.  Tiny pods, quite hot.

Anyhow, pretty sure this is the most seeds I have ever saved in one year.  Just the seed saving work itself (not counting planting, potting up, transplanting, cultivating, etc.) came to about 1,200 hours.  Before I have had a chance to enter information about each batch into the database, my estimate is 1,200 batches and 500,000 seeds.  I will be doing very well to sell 5% of what I saved.  At 10 cents per seed – well you do the math – it is hard to imagine that or why anybody else would subject themselves to this.  I know why I do it:

😵

Now on to harvesting peppers, etc.

 

Seed Saving – Home Stretch for 2018

I was hoping, and worked very hard to have all tomato seed saving completed by October 1st.  But there will be at least two more weeks of this.  This is what the project looked like 12 days ago:

https://youtu.be/ypWnDQtOptU

Today, the work load is at least double this – at least 300 hours worth of work to do before frost sets in and forces me to stop harvest tomatoes and saving seeds.  Such is life.

Here is a quick look at the process.

The tomato patch, about 70% of tomatoes harvested:

Some “extra” tomatoes I was hoping to trade for some help with this massive seed saving project. Seems like a good deal from my perspective: $100 worth of premium, organic, heirloom tomatoes for a couple of hours of real work.  No takers so far.

Sampling, picture taking, cutting up tomatoes, putting them to ferment:

Batches of tomatoes fermenting (about 4 days seems to work well), awaiting seed extraction:

Seed separation station:

Seeds drying on plastic plates:

Stacks of plates with dried seeds awaiting packaging:

Seed packaging station::

Boxes and boxes of envelopes of seeds to organize; about 20,000 photos to name, edit and organize; several weeks of data entry (including field notes for each batch), then packaging of the the final product for sharing with other growers:

Oh, and everything non-tomato…

Yesterday (September 29th) was the annual weigh-off event for the Utah Giant Pumpkin Growers:  http://www.utahpumpkingrowers.com/weighoff_main.html

My pumpkin was a slight 196 lbs. – once tomatoes start coming on I have no time for this kind of fun.

My heavist tomato, Gold Medal (1.740 DT 2018), managed third place.

That’s it for now – back at it!

Midseason Progress

Time crunch, so this will be brief, more of a vlog, this video from August 06, 2018:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kjFpvWzaJOE

On August 27th, I picked the first tomato over 2 lbs. and it was NOT from the high tunnel.  Instead it was on a vine of the variety Hercegovac in the open field, with no pruning or thinning.  This 2.050 lb. specimen came from a quite impressive, dense cluster of large tomatoes – perhaps 15 lbs. of tomatoes shown in this shot alone:

 

I think my pruning efforts in the high tunnel may be counter-productive?

Many thousands of grasshoppers getting their fill in the tomato patch, along with the occasional relative, probably a Broad-winged katydid, Microcentrum rhombifolium:

Seeds saving – yes, lots, currently (August 28th) at least 80 hours behind on harvesting and processing tomatoes for seeds – not to mention computer-based work such as naming thousands of new photographs, entering data from seed harvesting, trascribing field notes and adding new varieties to the website.

Video update, August 30th:  seed saving work station, slightly overwhelmed –

https://youtu.be/vSyXXEi2v6Y

To be fair, I am getting some help with processing for seed extraction, on occasion:

Video update, September 2nd:

https://youtu.be/rc4TFK_wdrg

 

First Ripe Tomatoes of 2018 – and Curly Top Virus Is Back with a Vengeance

Dozens of tomatoes have been full-sized but green on the vine for three weeks or more.  Finally, the first ripe tomatoes of the 2018 growing season ripened and were picked this past week.  With ambitions to save seeds from nearly 600 varieties, I have been anxious to get an early start on seed saving.

These are the first varieties to produce ripe fruits:

Totushka (Тётушка, from Russia ) – a compact, dwarf determinate variety.  The plant in a grow bag produced a ripe tomato two days earlier than the plant in the garden; but the plant in the garden was much more productive.  Days to maturity was 48 from transplant, 102 from seed.

Bison – among the “extra early” varieties started from seed on March 15th.  Shortly after planting, the seedling suffered from severe drought stress (watering was missed somehow) which seemed to force it into early blossom formation (just a hypothesis).  Photos below taken on May 30th and July 13th.  DTM: 58/120.

Red Alert – a very early, determinate variety.  As with Totushka, the vine planted in the main garden was significantly more productive than the vine planted in a grow bag.  DTM: 50/122

 

Utyonok (Утёнок, from Russia) – A dwarf determinate variety that, like Totushka, produces almost all fruit with few leaves.  This is my third year growing Utyonok, and as previously, this has been one of the first to ripen. This year, the plant was one that struggled from the start and I was surprised that it survived to bear fruit.  DTM: 48/121.

 

Maddeline’s Vine Candy – A small, orange cherry tomato; history and details are described on the website:

https://www.delectationoftomatoes.com/store/p1478/Maddeline%27s_Vine_Candy.html

DTM: 48/108, picture from last year.

Koralik – a variety from Poland, translates to “Bead”; small, red cherry tomatoes, extra early; DTM 43/94.  Grown by my cousin in Arizona from seedlings I raised, so no pictures; my Koralik seedling nearly died from heavy browsing by goats and is still in recovery mode.

Babushkino – From Russia, Бабушкино translates to “Grandma’s”, very tasty, small round red; DTM 63/105

Americke Pyramidni – Perhaps not true to type, need to research; DTM 61/105

Appetitnyi – From Russia, Аппетитный translates to “Appetizing”, and is indeed quite tasty, with a distinctive, lively flavor; DTM 61/101

Emerald – Offtype, red fruits; will see if it’s worth saving; DTM 61/101

Sungella – Beautiful and delicious little orange tomatoes; DTM 60/100

Black Cherry – Fabulous flavor, picture from 2017; DTM 51/120

De Barao Chorniy (from Russia, Де барао чёрный translates to “Black from De Barao); DTM 63/105.

Ditmarsher – Quite a distinctive growth form, sprawling along the ground with almost no seeds; would be excellent for planter boxes; picture of loaded plant is from 2016; DTM 61/101 (43/94 for my cousin in Arizona)

“Pugent Sound Sweetie” (name is placeholder, murky history, working out name, etc. with a colleague from Pugent Sound area); DTM 53/92

Auria, dwarf – Third year growing this remarkable variety, and it has been one of the earliest and most prolific producers every time (photo from 2016); DTM 56/105

Damascus Steel – Distinctive color combination; DTM 65/109

Dwarf Pink Opal – Photos etc. to come; DTM 56/97

Rozoviy Kit – From Russia, Розовый кит translates to “Pink Whale”; DTM 66/109

Rozoviy Syrayeva – From Russia, Розовый Сыраева translates to “Pink Syraeva”, Syraeva is a feminine name; DTM 66/109

Fourth of July (OP) – This is my own open-pollinated version of the hybrid, Fourth of July; it has potato leaves and has performed very well in cool climates with high production potential; new name variety name under consideration, as stability seems to be present after seven years of working on this; DTM 55/128

Sweet Apertif – Addictive cherry tomato, very sweet; picture from 2017; DTM 55/115

Zolotoe Serdtse – From Russia, Золотое Сердце translates to “Heart of Gold”; prolate with very pronounced nipple; DTM 55/105

Zolotaya Kanareyka – From Russia, Золотая канарейка translates to “Golden Canary”; DTM 65/109

Dwarf Shadow Boxing – One plant inexplicably not dwarf growth form but the other is; DTM 58/107

 

Tel-Aviv Train – Small red fruits; DTM 56/106

De Barao Tsarskyi Krasnyi Ukrainskyi – From Russia, Да барао царский красный Украинский translates to “De Barao Royal Red Ukrainian”; shaped like a Roma tomato; DTM 68/108

Germanskiy Polosatiy – Seeds indirectly from Russia, Германский Полосатый translates to “German Striped”; research needed, as this is not striped and does not appear similar to the English “Striped German”; DTM 68/100

Hybrid 4 Tarasenko (labeled as “Gibrid 4 Tarasenko) – Seeds indirectly from Russia; DTM 68/100

Ispanskaya Roza – Seeds from Russia, Испанская роза translates to “Spanish Rose”; is much closer to burnt umber than rose colored, research needed; DTM 70/112

Krasnaya Grusha Frankov – Seeds from Russia, Красная груша Франков translates to “Red Pear Frankov”, Frankov is a name.  This one obviously not ripe yet, just an intriguing shape.

Larisa – DTM 70/112

Lyagushka Tsarevna – from Russia, Лягушка Царевна translates to “Frog Princess”; green when ripe, looks delicious!  DTM 69,112

Paska – from Russia, Паша is a masculine name; red, very productive vine; DTM 69, 112

Rozoviy Izyumniy – from Russia, Розовый изюмный translates to “Pink Raisin”; DTM 69/112

Rubinovyie Zvozdy – from Russia, Рубиновые звёзды translates to “Ruby Stars”; DTM 69/112

Sugary – Very small “grape” tomato, picture from 2011; DTM 67/107

Super Sweet 100 – Red cherry tomato, picture from 2011; DTM 67/107

 

Glacier – Despite the name, still needs warm weather to ripen! DTM: 52/113; first ripe was from a fused blossom, perhaps three fused.

Dwarf Arctic Rose – Set fruit as early as Totushka, but took several more days for fruit to ripen; fruit in grow bags ripe about two days before those in ground in the garden; DTM: 59/113

Barossa Fest – Fruit in grow bag first to ripen, others still green; DTM: 59/101

Many more varieties are starting to ripen as of 7-24-2018.  I likely will not manage the time to keep this list up to date, as very soon, harvesting and processing for seeds will be taking up virtually every waking moment for the next 3-4 months.

= = = = = = = = = =

Now for an update on the dreaded Curly Top Virus.

I should know better than to take a chance with not completely covering seedlings with row cover fabric – see lessons learned in 2014 and 2016:

https://delectationoftomatoes.wordpress.com/2014/06/29/curly-top-virus-beet-leafhopper-and-tomato-plant-destruction/

On June 15th this year, I removed two plants which were obviously dying from CTV, Drug (Dzhan) and Polesskiy Gigant Tarasenko:

I was hopeful that this would be the end of CTV this season – alas, it was just the beginning.  Two weeks later the count was at 45; then 71 a week after that; then this past week, I quit counting at 90 seedlings dying – so discouraging.  Even a Big Rainbow vine – part of the giant tomato project in the high tunnel – succumbed to CTV.  A once vigorous plant, nearly 18″ tall, replaced here with a very-late-to-germinate Mammoth Cretan seedling:

Someone claimed a special formulation of Chitosan will cure and/or prevent virtually every known disease or physiological problem with tomatoes, including viruses.  As a trained scientist, I am very skeptical about grandiose claims (skeptic = “show me the evidence”), but I remain curious enough to give it a try – you just never know when someone might stumble upon a cure for CTV.  So we sprayed seven infected plants with the formulation.

Not a hint of any positive effect as far as reversing or curing the disease.  This is just anecdotal evidence, of course.   Anybody out there willing to try this or any other claimed CTV in a large-scale, rigorous field study with large sample sizes, appropriate controls, etc.?  Hypothesis: Chitosan protects tomato vines from developing Curly Top Virus disease, even after infection.  If only I still worked for a research university and had financial support to investigate such questions…  My solution is to go ahead and invest several hundred dollars for row cover fabric and the means to keep the vines covered at least until late July.

Update on megablooms and developing fruits – please see revision to my previous post on this subject:

https://delectationoftomatoes.wordpress.com/2018/06/20/inducing-tomato-vines-to-produce-megablooms/

Non-tomato stuff –

I am trying to grow giant pumpkins this year, with two vines growing and taking over the garden.  I am unable to keep up with burying vines or with protecting the growing tips from intense heat, with many days over 95°F the past couple of weeks.  But I have pollinated about 6 pumpkins and am trying to decide which to keep and which to cull; this was the first to pollinate on June 30, but it will be a cull:

I am growing some tall sunflowers and some gourds (long and dipper).  Here’s what the structure looks like:

The parent of these was 170.5″ tall (see:

http://www.utahpumpkingrowers.com/2017/photos/HHF/170.5-f.jpg

I am hoping to exceed that!  I am also growing large-headed sunflowers.

Following are a couple of pictures of my favorite Cauliflower variety, Purple of Sicily, taken two days apart.  Hopefully I will be able to harvest seeds from it this year.  I will cover the head with fabric to prevent cross-pollination with other Brassicus varieties, though I realize that most varieties in this group are largely self-infertile.  We shall see.

Just something “cute” – White Scallop squash, aka White Pattypan, conjoined twins:

And I have plenty of interest but not a lot of time for flower seeds, such as bleeding heart:

So many more…