2020 Seeds Ready

The growing season is REALLY over now – check out this forecast from earlier this week:

Actual low temperatures for three nights in a row were 16°F, 9° and 14°.  I harvested everything remaining and now have approximately 230 batches of tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, squashes, melons, etc. from which I am still working on extracting seeds.

For the most part, seeds are ready to go.  Following is a summary of my efforts at saving seeds from tomatoes in 2020.

With over 2,700 varieties of tomato seeds in inventory, I really need to be growing at least 800 varieties every year.  But the move last winter (fifth in five years) and the fact that there has never been a garden here and limited time and other resources have all conspired to make 2020 yet another challenging year.

In an effort to produce what I could manage, this was my selection process:

First cut: Ideally would grow if time & space & other resources: 1,600 tomato varieties
Second cut: “MUST GROW”: 588 (including 150 new)
Third Cut: 486
Fourth Cut: 179
Fifth Cut: 105
Final Cut for seed saving project: 97 varieties planted on May 25th

Additional plantings:
25 varieties for the Giant Tomato Project.
219 varieties for seedlings for other growers

Following is a table summarizing what actually resulted from my growing efforts in pots and growbags.

No. varieties planted from seed 312
Est. No. seedlings transplanted into gardens 470
Est. no. seedlings killed by late frost, disease or pests 55
No. unique varieties transplanted into gardens 288
No. varieties for which vines produced zero seeds 137
No. varieties for which too few seeds (<70) were produced to allow for listing 31
No. varieties which were off-type, but seeds saved anyhow 3
No. varieties that are now new on offer from Delectation of Tomatoes 37
No. of varieties from which seeds were saved to replenish those already in inventory 100
Tot. No. of varieties from which adequate seeds were harvested in 2020 for listing 140

 

So essentially, growing in 7-gallon growbags was only about 50% successful at producing enough tomatoes for seed saving.  Actually, other than tiny bites for flavor assessments, I “sacrificed” only 5 tomatoes this year for fresh eating; all the rest went for seed saving.  Well, I did cheat and snacked on a few cherry tomatoes here and there.

Here is the list of 37 NEW (to Delectation of Tomatoes) tomato varieties for which seeds are now available.  These will also be listed and profiled on the main website as soon as I can manage the time.

Anna Maria’s Heart
Cherokee Rose
Cherokee Tiger Large
Dirty Little Chicken
Dwarf Andy’s Forty
Dwarf Betalux
Dwarf Blackfire
Dwarf Fatima
Dwarf Melanie’s Ballet
Dwarf Moliagul Moon
Dwarf Yantornyi
Giant Hippo
Giant Valentine
Gigant Kuby
Indian Reservation
Indian Stripe Black
Indian Stripe, PL
Kozula #24
Kumato
Leh Red Egg
Make My Day
Mermaid
Napa Giant
Oranzhevyi Orangutang
Peppermint
Phil’s One
Phil’s Two
Pineapple Heart
Sergeant Marley
Siberian Black
Starburst Nebula
Starburst Nebula X Black Beauty
Summer of Love
Thornburn’s Terra Cotta
Xanadu Green Goddess
Zebra Giant
Zorica’s Croatian Bull Eye

Some of these were REALLY taste!  Others produce beautiful fruits or were notably productive.  More details to follow here or on the website linked above.  The additional 100 varieties from which seeds were saved for replenishment are already listed on the website under the Seeds tab.

Now for a summary of seed harvest from everything except tomatoes.

Basil: 6 varieties planted, fresh seeds now available for:
Cinnamon
Genovese
Italian Large Leaf
Lemon
Opal
Thai

Cucumber: 9 varieties planted, fresh seeds now available for:
English Telegraph
Lemon
Muncher
Muromskiy
Straight Eight
Suyo Long

Eggplant: 11 varieties planted, fresh seeds now available for:
Black Beauty
Casper
Diamond
Dusky
Ichiban
Mestisa
Orient Charm
Pandora Striped Rose
Snake of Mugla
Thai Green
Thai White Ribbed

Ground Cherry: 4 varieties planted, fresh seeds now available for:
Aunt Molly’s
Inca Berry
Pineapple
Yantar

Melon: 10 varieties planted, fresh seeds now available for:
Amish
Deosaki?? (Correct spelling TBD)
Extra Early Hanover
Green Nutmeg
Minnesota Midget
Northern Arizona
Sakata’s Sweet
Sweet Granite

Pepper: 41 varieties planted, fresh seeds now available for:
Aji Limon
Ancho/Poblano
Bhut Jolokia
Big Bertha
Campanita
Carmen
Fresno
Hatch
Italian Pepperoncini
Jalapeño
Jalapeño, Early
Jalapeño, Traveler’s Strain
Le Rouge Royal
Lesya Necsi
Masca Sarga
Mini Chimes Orange
Paper Lantern
Santa Fe Grande
Satsuma
Unknown large orange bell from store
Unknown large red bell from store
Unknown large yellow bell from store
Yolo Wonder

Squash: 18 varieties planted, fresh seeds now available for:
Algonquian
Beloplodnyi
Golden Zucchini
Mandan
Rampicante
Sweet Meat
Zebra

Watermelon: 15 varieties planted, fresh seeds now available for:
Cream of Saskachewan
Jeremiah the Bullfrog
Kaho
Moon and Stars Yellow Flesh
Navajo
New Hampshire Midget
Siberian Sweet
Sverkhranniy Dyutina
Takii Gem
Thai Chatchai
Ultra Skorospelyi
Waterloupe
Zolotistyi


Peas, beans, flowers: 17 varieties planted, planted in front of the front fence by the street; essentially total failure (thanks to deer…) except a few dozen seeds of –

Autumn Beauty Sunflower:

Above photo taken on October 24th, just ahead of the hard freeze.

Non-edible, seeds collected wild or ornamental plants – just a partial list

Curlycup gumweed
Wild radish
Golden Raintree
Rubber Rabbitbrush
Hollyhock

Umm, yup, pretty obvious I have a seed obsession…

Also planted in early October: 27 varieties of garlic, about 450 total cloves!  Here is the completed bed, 3′ wide X 40′ long, with 2″ of compost and other organic fertilizers mixed in, covered with chicken wire to reduce damage from deer.

Here is a photo of a bulb (which consisted of 6 cloves) of one of the larger varieties planted, Estonia Red:

Hopefully by late September, 2021, I will have some garlic bulbs on offer for the first time ever!

I still have plants growing!  Before the light frost in early September, I moved about 20 potted pepper, melon and cucumber plants into the basement.  I set up a 400-watt metal halide light over them.

For the most part, the plants continue to do well.  But the aphid population absolutely exploded.  I released about 100 Minute Pirate Bugs in late September, but they seemed to have zero effect.  They are far smaller than aphids.

In early October, I released 150 adult ladybugs.  They are still doing well and seem healthy and happy:

However, they seem to be gradually dying off (spiders?) or leaving.  So far, I have not observed any eggs or larvae.  The adults seem to stay directly under the source of light and heat, never venturing to the foliage and super-abundant source of aphids in the periphery.

Several of other interesting events, such as rescuing a Dark-eyed Junco that was trapped inside an old chicken house.  Here it’s briefly suspended in a spiders web:

And this series of photos of a giant sunflower opening.  I thought it would be interesting to take a photo every day, showing the progress.  Here are three photos in the series:

Oops, deer.  Devastating.  Herds of them have descended from the nearby mountains and just roam the streets and gardens, eating everything they can reach.

They even broke into my “deer exclusion cage”, bending the chicken wire and breaking strands of wire that held the chicken wire to t-posts.

Plenty of evidence of their presence and damage.

I pretty much caught them in the act a few days later.

Covering immature melons helped.

Estimated cost to install an 8′ tall chain-link fence around the perimeter of the entire backyard where I want to put in a garden and high tunnel:  $4,000.

Ya right…

Some flowers just started to open ahead of the hard freeze.

Marigold –

Morning Glory – 

Also, it took two full, long days, but I finally managed to get my non-tomato seeds semi-organized, and actually have space to move around in the seed room.

Many hours still needed to fully process seeds, alphabetize, enter data, process photos, write up descriptions, put everything on the website.  Many hundreds of hours.  Not sure where those will come from!?

Harvest Moon and Harvesting

Harvest moon rising over Patmos Ridge, located about 5 miles east of here:

 

A still shot.

I just don’t have the right equipment (or talent, training, etc.), but I’ve tried taking photos of the moon, including this Harvest Moon and a shot from a few days ago.

And Mars:

Jupiter:

and Saturn:

Distracted a bit?  There are some perks to not living in a densely populated area anymore.  Especially during a pandemic…

Speaking of harvest and moon and stars – some deer damage to Moon and Stars, Yellow Flesh watermelon:

Deer jumped the fence for this one, and a few days later ate most of the second one as well:

It’s only a 3′ tall fence, so not exactly an effective barrier.  I’ve started bagging melons that are close to maturity now.

I harvested 80% of the squash, melons and cucumbers ahead of that intense windstorm and frost of 3+ weeks ago.  But I did leave 20 or so fruits on the vine, just in case that 30° F hard freeze didn’t materialize.

Well, it didn’t, or sort of did.  There was cloud cover on those cold nights, so the official low temperatures for three nights were in the 37-40° range.  There was definitely some moderate frost.

Cucumbers were hit the worst.

Lemon Cucumber –

English Telegraph Cucumber, showing some new growth.  The weather over the past several weeks has been very comfortable, other than a couple more close calls with low temperatures in the upper 30’s.

Melons and watermelons fared somewhat better, with Sweet Delight Honeydew vines coming out of the light frost in fair shape.  This variety has been very slow to produce fruit – this is the first of the season:

Among the squash vines, some were almost completely wiped out, but most have produced new growth, such as this Rampicante:

Easily the healthiest, earliest and most productive squash variety all season has been Golden Zucchini.  The vines were virtually untouched by the wind or the frost and have continued to produce fresh blossoms nearly every day –

Deer also managed to get into the tomato patch a few nights ago.  The “gate” was rather flimsy, but is secured better now.  Damage was moderate outside the cage but light inside.  It’s such a jungle of vines that the deer didn’t penetrate far.

Following the complete harvest of all ripe tomatoes ahead of the storm on September 9th, it took me until the 19th to complete processing those batches for seed saving.  Then I harvested a “few” more batches:

These in turn took me another 10 days to process.  Then today I picked a few more:

The weather has been very favorable for tomatoes the past three weeks!  Unfortunately, most of these are very small batches, many with just a single tomato.  Not exactly the most efficient way to save seeds, but far better than nothing!

By some miracle of physics, I’ve managed to fall behind with the task naming and processing photos by 2,762 — and that’s just for 2020!  Still 18,000 or so left to process between 2017-2019.  Some really beautiful tomatoes, etc.  Tasty and nutritious as well, of course.

Here’s a sample of a variety I picked today –

This is now at an F3 stage of a cross made between Sergeant Peppers and Libanaise des Montagnes by Natalia Khilenko of Armavir, Russia.  This variety under development is hers to name.  It has been a real standout for me during this challenging year.  Unlike nearly all of the other varieties in the giant tomato project, this one set fruit early and continued with abundant production all year, far outproducing all other varieties, at least in terms of mass of tomatoes harvested.  Obviously a few cherry tomatoes outproduced this one just in terms of numbers of tomatoes.  Flavor is very good as well.  Here’s a photo of the parent tomato from 2019:

This cross has the potential to be one of the largest-fruited tomato varieties with a significant amount of anthocyanin.

One more fun little tomato, Phil’s One:

Also Thornburn’s Terra Cotta, a variety with unique pigmenting and an interesting history –

So many more to come – having too much fun?

Keep tabs on availability of seeds of all varieties, including dozens of new additions from 2020, at:  DT Seeds

Perhaps in 2-3 weeks I will at least have the list of available varieties ready from this season.

 

 

Skip Fall, Straight to Winter

For the past week I’ve been keeping an eye on the forecast for this predicted early winter storm, due to start entering the area like a freight train in about two hours.  Here are some recent screenshots:

 

In my experience, the “Feels Like” temperature of 19°F is what my plants will be responding to.  High winds, cold and wet – sounds like end of season to me!  About a month early.  And resulting in a 91-day growing season.  Not what I had hope for with the recent move and a very late start.

So I harvested every tomato I could find that looked like it had any chance of ripening enough indoors to produce viable seeds.

 

I set aside 19 potted plants to move to the dirt cellar under a metal halide light.  These are mostly long season hot peppers like Carolina Reaper and Bhut Jolokia.  But a cucumber plant (variety Muncher) and a watermelon plant (Jeremiah the Bullfrog) are also included.  I really would like to harvest seeds from these varieties, but the fruits are not close to mature and I want to make sure they don’t freeze.

For the moment they are well covered but not in the cellar.

I covered all plants inside the “garden cage” with heavy duty frost blanket, under which I put heaters and fans.  This meant cutting down all the support strings that held up the vines.  It will be an almost impenetrable jungle now. However, I doubt the frost blanket will stay in place, not with 50+ mph winds!

I also harvested about 70% of the cucurbits – basically all of them that I think might have a chance of producing viable seeds.

Then I covered the entire front yard with a large tarp.  I think the chances are small, but not insignificant, that some of the vines will survive this cold snap with protection.

All that effort over the past couple of months to control pollination and hand pollinate – just hate to throw in the towel so early in the growing season.  Yet I recognize a strong tendency to succumb to the Sunk Cost Fallacy.  Not sure if I’ll ever learn…

Anyhow, this is a short, interim post, motivated by anxiety about the apparent sudden end to the growing season, many weeks before I’m ready.  I’ll try to update this post later this week to report on whether this upcoming storm is as bad as the forecasters are predicting.  Snow by this time tomorrow??

 

= = = = =

Interim update, Tuesday evening, after the high winds, before the hard frost.

Official high on Sunday was 99° F.  There were wildfires in the area, resulting in smoke all day yesterday and causing a red sun at sunset:

Winds this morning were insane, at times with sustained winds of over 40 mph and gusts of maybe 80 or 90.  I’ve been through tropical storms and hurricanes, and this was definitely not your average breeze coming out of the canyon!

 

The 960 sq. ft. tarp, which had been secured with about 16 two-foot lengths of rebar threaded through the grommets and driven solidly into the ground, was completely blown off the cucurbits, held in place at one corner and by the sharp wires along the top of the chainlink fence.  Grommets ripped through, tarp shredded in places.  I did not get video footage, but I imagine it behaved something like a giant kite.

Giant sunflower, planted on June 23rd, was just starting to form a head.

Flowers mostly destroyed.  It’s been too hot for most beans to even form viable blossoms, and now suddenly it’s too cold for them.

Of course the cucurbit vines where tossed and thrashed.

With the tarp destroyed, high winds forecast well into the night, and freezing temperatures predicted, I gave up on the idea of saving any melons, squash or cucumbers, so I picked the rest of them, green and immature, for eating rather than seed saving.  Sad to see at least a dozen varieties with no chance of producing viable seeds this year.

The wind pretty well tattered the shade cloth and blew many small branches off the Siberian Elm tree, including one that landed on the tomato vines 85′ from the base of the tree!

During the most intense moments of high winds, it was a veritable dust storm, with horizontal sheets of dust making seeing and breathing difficult.  One thing I had not expected was to find a layer of dust and shredded leaves on the seat of the vehicle (I had left the winds down a crack to prevent overheating the interior),

On the floor in the house (there is a 1/2″ gap between the bottom of the door and the floor),

And a layer of dust on all the tomato leaves that were more sheltered.

The frost blanket was completely blown off from the tomato plants and was torn or shredded at every location where it was attached.

I attempted to reattach the fabric after the wind had abated somewhat, but it continued to blow off.  So I threaded about 20 ten-foot long lengths of PVC pipe through the chicken wire on one side and the chain link fence on the other.

Snow has started, off and on, with up to 6″ forecast overnight.  But so far, the soil had been too warm to allow any accumulation.

And on the bright side, the latest forecast is calling for a more survivable 34°F for the low, with a “Real Feel” of 18°; the 19 most critical plants in pots are cozy in the cellar under a metal halide light;

and while covering the tomato vines again, I stumbled upon this beauty that I had somehow missed yesterday:

Variety is “Make My Day” with a weight of 1.538 lbs. – that’s just 105 days from seed to what will likely be the heaviest tomato of the season!  First time growing this variety, so no comment yet about its flavor.

I’m hoping for some survival of tomato vines, but they are really a mess after this windstorm and cutting down all the supporting twine.  We’ll see how they manage over the next 12 hours – then there is no more frost in the forecast until October 6th!

I watched brief clip on the Accuweather website which explains the link between the two typhoons which hit the Japan area over past several days and this bizarre dip in the jetstream which led to this crazy early winter weather even in the mountain states:

www.accuweather.com/en/videos/two-typhoons-tied-to-extreme-weather-in-america/rVuE6Uhf

= = = = =

 

 

 

No Squash Bugs, Curly Top Virus, Blight, Aphids, Grasshoppers, Slugs, Snails, Powdery Mildew, or Honeybees!

Well, this is not entirely true.  I do encounter the occasional grasshopper and aphid; but the damage they have caused this year is close to zero.  But the rest of the title is true!

In addition to a handful of grasshoppers of at least a dozen species, I’ve encountered tree crickets, katydids,

Walking sticks,

Countless thousands of thrips devouring tomato pollen (sorry about poor quality photos here, these tiny insect are only 1mm long and I don’t have the equipment for extreme closeups),

Just a speck on a small plastic spoon

 

And on the positive side, many robber flies, lacewings, preying mantises,

Piñon Jays, Bullock’s Orioles and Western Kingbirds are certainly helping to keep populations of larger insects in check.  Hummingbirds and a wide variety of native bees are helping with pollination, at least among the cucurbits.

Watering garden plants in this very dry, desert environment seems to be leading to gradually increasing local biodiversity!  I sure don’t miss the squash bugs, beet leafhoppers, aphids, gastropods, or fungal diseases.  And to be honest, I would much rather host a wide diversity of native bees (there are around 1,000 species found in Utah) than exotic European honeybees.

One species I definitely want to introduce to control thrips is the Minute Pirate Bug, Orius insidiosus.

Back to the plant side of life –

Autumn Beauty sunflower blooming the past few days – 57 days from seed to first bloom.

Eggplants have been coming on well,

Such as this Pandora Striped Rose

and Thai White Ribbed

Most pepper varieties are starting to produce well, such as Santa Fe Grande

and Bhut Jolokia (Ghost pepper)

 

Nearly all 14 watermelon varieties are producing, including Takii Gem

Siberian Sweet

and New Hampshire Midget.

Will they get enough heat in September for the seeds to fully mature?

Cucumbers are doing well, including Muncher

Suyo Long

and English Telegraph

Melons of several varieties are also producing, but fruit don’t seem to be ripening, at least not yet; Amish

Extra Early Hanover

Minnesota Midget

 

Tomatoes – so far I’ve harvested tomatoes for about 140 batches of seeds, which are at various stages of processing.

Here are some of the more interesting varieties harvested so far –

Dwarf Yantornyi (very productive and early)

Lucinda

Phil’s One (really bizarre, not yet tasted)

Thornburn’s Terracotta

Cherokee Tiger Large

Summer of Love

Unfortunately, many tomato varieties have yet to set fruit from a single blossom.  Every day I spend at least one hour trying to pollinate flowers with a vibrating toothbrush.

With rare exception, I have been getting ZERO pollen from flowers, day after day, week after week.

The most noteworthy exception has been Sara’s Galapagos, which seems to keep producing pollen even on the hottest days.

Tiny blossoms with exerted stigmas has meant a lot of delicate pollination by hand

It has been rather hot, well above average, for the past six weeks.  One factor in my choosing to move to this location, at 6,200’ elevation, was that historically, summertime high daily temperatures have been much cooler than where I have grown for the past decade.

Since 2009, the average high temperature in July has been 89.9° F.  This year it was 91.7.

During the same period, the average high temperature in August has been 86.6° – just right for tomatoes.  But this year, the average has been 95.2° – nearly 9° above average.  The following graph shows that every day in August has been above average, at least until today, including 4 days of 100-101° F.  Not horribly hot like Phoenix, but apparently too hot for pollen to form properly for most varieties.

It’s almost September and until yesterday, I was getting 99% tomato blossom drop, even with shade cloth, high temperatures mostly under 100°F, and zealously trying to hand pollinate thousands of blossoms every day. Now, after all these struggles, I think I’ve finally hit upon the primary problem: low humidity.

Although I’ve not yet delved into the scientific literature on this topic, from this website, https://www.thespruce.com/tomato-blossom-drop-1402964 I quote,

“The ideal humidity range is between 40% and 70%. If humidity is either too high or too low, it interferes with the release of pollen, as well as with pollen’s ability to stick to the stigma so that pollination does not occur. If humidity is too low, hose the foliage during the day to cool the plant and raise the humidity. However, this is not recommended in areas with high humidity or when fungus diseases are present.”

Over the past two months, afternoon humidity levels where I grow have mostly been in the 15-25% range. Here is a snip from AccuWeather taken three days ago, showing 10% humidity:

But the past couple of days, high temperatures have abated somewhat, and I am indeed getting some serious pollen from the occasional tomato blossom!

Here’s a brief tour through the tomato jungle:

If all these beautiful, fun, versatile and tasty varieties are not enough reason to include plenty of tomatoes in your diet, here is one more:

Eating tomatoes may reduce symptoms of depression!

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0165032712003965

“This study demonstrated that a tomato-rich diet is independently related to lower prevalence of depressive symptoms. These results suggest that a tomato-rich diet may have a beneficial effect on the prevention of depressive symptoms.”

Here’s a link to a possibly exaggerated discussion about how tomatoes can reduce depression:

https://www.supermarketguru.com/articles/risk-of-depression-reduced-by-52-with-tomatoes/

So, I ought to be really happy “playing” in my caged tomato patch – aesthetically pleasing, good smells, beautiful tomatoes, few bad bugs, little disease, deer excluded and I’m finally getting my lycopene fix!

And in case you have some interest in sharing in this abundance of nature through your own efforts to grow some of these amazing varieties, here’s the link to where I offer seeds:

DT Seeds

I am just starting to add varieties from the 2020 season, but it’s an ongoing process.  And I’m (obviously) well behind where I ought and want to be.

Battling Nature: Heat, Deer, Hornworms and Ignorance

After much pick-ax, shovel, and screening work, about 450 plants are finally in grow bags or large pots.

There are another 120 or so plants that I would really like to get in grow bags, but I’m afraid I’ve pretty well run out of time (and perhaps patience and energy?)

 

Here is an example of the stark contrast of two plants of the same variety that were the same size 15 days earlier:

The fortunate one I potted up into the 7-gallon grow bag at just the right time, the other is stuck in the confined space of a 6″ pot, about 0.8 gallon.

There as been almost zero fruit set over the past few weeks, particularly among the giant tomatoes in the 20-gallon pots. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of blossoms have formed, opened, produced no pollen, then withered and died. It’s been rare to observe any pollinators at all. For the past several weeks, I’ve been spending about an hour every morning with an electric toothbrush and black plastic spoon, attempting to assess whether the the tomatoes are even producing pollen and pollinate blossoms whenever pollen does appear.

On most mornings, maybe 1 in 100 blossoms produces any pollen. The plants are covered with dead and dying blossoms.  Here is the remnant of the promising megabloom on Epstein’s Potato Leaf which was profiled in the June, 2020 blog post:

For the most part, only the tiny-fruited varieties have been setting fruit. Most disappointing of all is the variety Domingo. I have 8 healthy vines growing, including one from a seed from the 9.65 lb. world record. Among these 8 vines, only one blossom has set fruit, and that wasn’t even a megabloom.

What’s going on? Some possibilities –

1. Temperature – Some growers suggest that daytime temperatures above 86° will result in poor pollen production. The high temperature for 37 of the past 45 days has been between 86-100°. Nighttime temperatures have all been well below that 75° threshhold. During this same 45 day period, nighttime lows have been between 30 and 68°

2. Humidity – Tomatoes do best with moderate humidity. It has been extremely dry during this time period, with only one significant rainshower (<0.1″) and a couple of light sprinkles.

3. No pollinators – zero honeybees seen, a rare bumblebee, an occasional mason bee or fly or other native pollintor. Maybe the Western Kingbirds are eating the pollinators? There are dozens of House Sparrows and House Finches in the area, but they are only insectivorous secondarily.

4. Ultraviolet radiation – I’ve not read about this, just a hypothesis. Maybe the increase of UV-B (280-315 nm) rays at this higher elevation negatively affects pollen production? At 6,200′ elevation, UV-B radiation is about 25% higher than at sea level.

5. West Flower Thrips (Frankliniella occidentalis) – When attempting to find pollen, I almost invariably dislodge at least one and up to 20 thrips per blossom. Perhaps they are eating the pollen before the flowers even open?

6. Nutrition – Perhaps not enough phosphorous? I’ve collected soil samples but have not yet submitted them for analysis. Is a big bag of bone meal in order?

Perhaps patience is what’s needed – in a couple of weeks, high temperatures will gradually start to decline. Problem is, after fruit set, tomatoes need 50-60 days to ripen. That puts us well into October and well into real danger of fall frost.

No sign of Curly Top Virus this season – a very good thing! But tomato hornworms have been wrecking havoc. I’ve removed at least 40 over the past two weeks and am now finding them them rarely.

Mule deer have been a significant problem, especially with pepper plants.  I’m starting to view these deer as feral goats – running wild and eating almost indiscriminately.  Check blog posts in prior years for my battle and opinion about goats and gardens!

I’ve seen several robber flies in the area, and now I have confirmation that they are doing some good – devouring a destructive cabbage white butterfly!

I’ve put in some extra time and $ to put a taller structure around the grow bags, with two tiers of poultry netting. I’m planning to cover the top also, since birds are still coming in and damaging or destroying small fruits, including a small watermelon of the rare variety Jeremiah the Bullfrog.  I ran out of space inside the structure (about 80′ X 10′) so put a row of tomato plants outside.

Here’s a recent video (July 28th):

First fruit of the season: a very delicious Pineapple ground cherry on July 13th.

Plus a few tomatoes are finally starting to ripen. First up, on July 17th, the first ripe Totuska fruits. That’s 122 days from seed sowing – at least a month longer than I would have expected. Unfortunately, two Totuska fruits produced only one seed between them.

Other early tomato varieties have also started ripening over the past week:

Uralskiy Ranniy – 131 days from seed
Lime Green Salad – 133 days


1884 – 111 days, but both fruits with bad blossom end rot
Domingo X Libanaise des Montagnes – 111 days, also with BER
Stupice – 137 days
Sub-Arctic Maxi – 138 days
Bursztyn – 139 days, set fruit that ripened in 3-1/2″ pot!

Still far from starting construction on the planned high tunnel.  Taking down this Siberian Elm tree is a daunting task: 10’8″ dbh and surround by wires, the house, a shed and a fence.

A one-day rental for a lift is about $650 – needs to go to around 70′ high.  What else could I purchase with $650…

The front yard is cucurbits, gradually displacing the weeds:

Tons of male blossoms, very few female blossoms, and almost zero fruit set among the melons and squash either.  At least I’m getting some squash blossoms to supplement breakfast:

I was planning to participate in the local farmers market this year.  But with no fruit set, what will I have to offer?  Two summer squash plants have set fruit at least.

What is abundantly clear is that I need about $10,000 worth of good, rich, deep topsoil with lots of organic matter, earthworms, etc.  And lots of plants to attract and retain pollinators. Getting the garden from what it is to a beautiful, ecologically diverse, resilient, productive mini-farm is just going to take some time and a lot of investment of energy and organic materials.  A few hundred bags of leaves this fall should be a good start!

 

 

Planting in Grow Bags and Status of Seed Saving Project

Weather has continued to present a challenge in June.  This morning (June 30th) the temperature was 45° F.  Between June 3-10, there were several days near or below freezing and some gardeners in the neighborhood lost tomato seedlings to frost.

For several nights I took precautions with overturned pots, frost blankets, electric space heaters and fans.

After transplanting my giant tomato seedlings into 20-gallon pots I posted this video at the YouTube channel for Delectation of Tomatoes:

 

I finally got around to starting seeds for the tomato seed saving project on May 25th.  Because of time and space constraints, I narrowed down the selection to 97 varieties.  I mollycoddled these early then adapted them to outdoor conditions as soon as possible.  I planted lots of extras, kept them warm, got good germination, and most were up within seven days.

Here they are getting the first taste of direct sunlight and wind on June 2nd.  Note that half of one tray is pepper seeds – most of them took another 4-10 days to germinate.

Here they are potted up on June 7th – kept indoors under lights for several days to keep them out of cold weather.

Here they are on June 24th, just big enough to transplant:

And here they are today (June 30th), finally starting to get them transplanted into 7-gallon grow bags:

With steady, non-distracted work, I can manage about 4 grow bags per hour.  At least half of this effort is screening the native topsoil – there are so many rocks and a LOT of trash accumulated over the years.  After screening, I mix it 50-50 with purchased topsoil (which was NOT cheap…) and add amendments.

Predictably, the giant tomato seedlings in the 20-gallon pots got more of the good stuff:

 

And they are responding accordingly.  The first megabloom was on Libanaise des Montagnes.  Unfortunately, despite many attempts at pollination, it did not take.

Two current megablooms are on Epstein’s Potato Leaf:

And Giant Belgium:

At least 80 hours of work left to get the rest of the tomato seedlings transplanted into grow bags.  Wish I didn’t need to sleep…

Around 70 total varieties of pepper, eggplant, ground cherry, basil and other seedlings were planted in grow bags between the 20-gallon pots with giant tomato seedlings.  Opal basil, for example:

And Jeremiah the Bullfrog watermelon:

Speaking of melons, I decided to plant cucurbits in the front yard, turning it gradually from a weed patch:

Into a (hopefully productive) patch of squash, melons, cucumbers and watermelons in the yard and beans, sunflowers and peas along the fence.

Melons and squash were planted indoors between June 9-16 and kept very warm on the large heat pad.  They were moved in and out several times to keep them warm but with plenty of direct sunlight.  Here they were on June 20th:

Then they were transplanted into the front yard on June 24th.

It has been extremely windy for much of the month of June; but for the most part, the young plants seem to have handled it well.

Average first fall frost date around here is about October 1st.  So barely 90 days to bring these to seed production…

 

 

 

 

Late Start to 2020 Temporary Garden

Well, here it is, May 25th, and I still have not managed to start my garden, or even plant anything indoors to put in it, except for some seeds for the giant tomato project.

Ideally, I ought to grow at least 1,600 varieties of tomatoes this year to assure that batches of seeds from 2016 or later are available for all 2,700+ varieties in inventory.

With the recent move to a place with no garden, and the (much appreciated 👍) increased demand for seeds and seedlings (in part due to COVID-19…), I am very far behind schedule and there is no possible way that I could successfully grow 1,600 varieties this year.

So the discouraging, almost painful selection process must commence.

Second cut brought the number all the way down to 588 “MUST GROW” varieties, including about 150 new and 438 in great need of replenishing seed stock. Still far too many.

Third cut was 486. Now it’s getting frustrating. How do I just not grow a variety for which I only have enough seeds to offer 2 or 3 packets for other growers? Or how can I just not grow some of these 150+ new varieties? I have never been very good at saying “no” to a good thing.

So with some regrets, the deep cuts continue.

Fourth cut was 179 varieties. Most will have to wait until next year, when hopefully I will actually have a garden and a high tunnel in place.

On April 20th I planted seeds of 25 varieties of giant tomatoes. This is as much for fun, challenge and competition as it is for seed production!

Among these 25 is Domingo (9.65 Marley 2019) – yes, the new world record!

These giant tomato seedlings are still in 6″ pots. I just have not had time to get the 20-gallon pots ready, let alone turn even one shovel full of soil to start a garden here.

Here is the latest photo of the giant tomato seedlings:

Actually, I did manage a few minutes of diversion the other day to pull weeds out of these large pots.

And for the Memorial Day “Holiday”, I splurged and purchased the most expensive tractor/toy that this little endeavor can manage financially:

These 20-gallon pots are heavy, awkward and not so easy on the back to try and carry 100′, one at a time; thus, justification for this indulgence.

So now, I am finally finding some time to consider seriously what I will plant this year. Since I really hope to install a large high tunnel, and I am so very late getting started, I need to grow everything in pots along the edge of the property, then move them into the (envisioned) high tunnel by mid-September to protect them from frost and hopefully still get enough ripe fruits for seed saving.

Whittling down the list even more, this fifth and final cut brings us all the way down to 105 varieties, in addition to the giant tomato project. Hopefully I’ll get those seeds hunted up and planted first thing in the morning.

I think I can manage that many in the fenced-in space where I installed the low tunnel.

 

Between March 17 and April 09, I did plant seeds of 219 varieties of tomatoes (in addition to peppers, eggplant, and others) to share with other growers.  Then in early May it took me nine very intense days to pot everything up and moved to the low tunnel, close to 2,400 total seedlings.

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve logged close to 2,500 miles delivering seedlings to gardeners and market growers throughout Utah.

 

I plan to set aside about 30 seedlings from that project to grow for farmers market and seed saving. So I may end up growing at least 160 varieties in total.

One intriguing new acquisition comes from Leh, the capital city of the union territory of Ladakh, near the very northern tip of India in the foothills of the Karakoram Mountain Range. Leh is located at an elevation of 11,500′ and 135 miles from the famous K2 peak, which is the second highest mountain peak in the world. A few days ago I received seedlings from a friend. Those have have distinctive, light green foliage, broad leaflets, shallow serrations, with a “wild” look that I can’t quite place.

More research will need to be done to determine whether this is already a named variety. But if it can grow in Leh at that elevation, surely it has a good chance of growing well in East Carbon, Utah at an elevation of only 6,200′?

The high tunnel is less than half full now, but still nearly 1,000 seedlings in search of a good home.

Snow is mostly melted off the mountains now. Here is Mt. Nebo again (elevation 11,928′), viewed from the east on May 23rd:

But it has been an unusually warm and dry spring, especially compared to 2019.

I did finally manage to finish extracting seeds from several varieties of squash harvested last October, including Striata d’Italia:

And “Thai Pumpkin”, probably some variant of Kabocha:

So tasty fried in butter – rich, distinctive and almost sweet flavor:

The predominant weed in the backyard, at least in April, was wild radish, likely Raphanus sativas:

Too bad I don’t much care for that particular pungent flavor, rather similar to arugula.

Next up – (finally) plant seeds of the tomato varieties from which I hope to save seeds this year. Then get the big pots moved to the low tunnel/temporary garden area and pot up the giant tomato seedlings. Then – well, it never ends or slows down…

Indoor Sowing of Seeds of Warm Season Crops Completed

Yesterday (April 9, 2020) I completed sowing seeds of tomatoes, peppers, ground cherries, tomatillos and eggplants for other growers.  Seeds for other gardeners and small farmers, that is.  I still have not dropped a single seed for Delectation of Tomatoes for growing this year for fresh produce or seed production.

Truth be told, I have not set foot outside yet since moving here, except to make quick trips to the post office or other errands. Requests for seeds has been significantly higher that in previous years for the same time period.  But considering all the seed companies that have published “Closed for the next three weeks because of extremely high demand” (or the like), it’s really quite amazing what a tiny bit of the excess demand for seeds has filtered down to Delectation of Tomatoes, especially since over 3,500 varieties are on offer, which is more than most of the big, glitzy, recognizable seed vendors.

So there must be at least 200 other small seed companies in the USA that are collecting the “leftovers” before they filter all the way down to this lowly corner of the immense Internet.  No email campaigns, no Google ads, no SEO work, a very mediocre website, virtually no budget for marketing or advertising, extremely pressed for time, and a personality quite averse to self-promotion.  I guess this all adds up to a dependence on the old-fashioned approach to growing a small business on a shoestring budget: quality product, customer service and word of mouth.

So yes, please let your gardening acquaintances know that there are bundles and piles of seeds available at Delectation of Tomatoes – I have scarcely made a dent into the seeds I collected in 2019, let alone all the years before then.  With this pandemic heating up, this really is a good time time to start or expand your garden.  Why depend on the grocery stores when you can grow your own?

Seeds are available here:

SEEDS FROM DELECTATION OF TOMATOES

There was some snow a couple of weeks ago, but it has warmed up significantly the past couple of days.

A few days ago I made a trip to the Wasatch Front to pick up a load of supplies (potting mix, pots, trays, amendments, etc.)  The view of the back (east) side of Mt. Nebo was impressive, and inspirational.  But it was disconcerting descending into and being in a big city environment where COVID-19 cases now number over 1,400 and climbing.

Light stand, set up against a south facing window, is now filled to capacity with 20 plug trays of 128 cells, so around 2,000 seedlings on their way to being ready for other gardeners in the area:

Getting good germination rates this year.  Here’s a tray of peppers planted 12 days ago”

And thinned seedlings from just two trays – this is not much fun killing so many healthy young seedlings so that others will grow better, but that is just the way Nature functions.

Stay tuned here for lists of seedling varieties which will be available in Utah (sorry, no shipping this year):

Seedlings Produced by Delectation of Tomatoes

Packaging seeds is sometimes a huge challenge, as almost everything other than tomato seeds is still in a state of semi-chaos from the recent move.

Actually, I’m less than half way done unloading and reorganizing non-business related boxes and stuff – the biggest room in the house is wall-to-wall disarray and has only a narrow path that I can walk through, and it’s a bit frustrating at times to try to locate items:

So what’s up next is to help as many gardeners and farmers as possible to acquire the seeds they need to become more self-reliant and safe during this pandemic.  I am also hoping to get some funding so that I can install a large high tunnel or two in the backyard, and grow at least something for seed production this year.

Hopefully by this time next year, this property will not only be highly functional gardening, but also very productive and aesthetically appealing with permaculture design principles implemented, etc.  Plenty of big dreams to try to bring into reality over the next several months!

Hungering for fresh summer heirloom tomatoes…

 

 

 

COVID-19: No Delays for this Small, Home-based Seed Business!

COVID-19 concerns 🕷️

Since Delectation of Tomatoes is a one-person operation anyhow, there should be no delays or adjustments because of this pandemic, unless the United States Postal Service shuts down, which is highly unlikely. So if anything, I will be able to get your seed order sent out even more promptly, as so many meetings and other such temptations/distractions have been cancelled.

In inventory are enough seeds, especially tomato seeds, to supply many thousands of small farmers and backyard gardeners. I do so little marketing that only a tiny fraction of the seeds I save are shared with other growers each year.

This seems like a good time to reconsider what you can do for yourself, your family, and your neighbors to help improve your self-reliance. No need for fear-mongering, but there is the possibility of some interruptions in the supply chain of food. Grow your own to stay healthy and independent!

Grow plenty of extra food to share with your neighbors who may not have the space or resources to grow their own.  Stored wheat, dry beans and rice are fine.  But a wide variety of fresh garden veggies will help people stay healthy – especially if what you grow is so tasty, so interesting and so nutritious that people can hardly resist eating well and eating right!

And no, I am NOT going to make any claims that tomatoes are a cure for this novel coronavirus!  But wouldn’t that be awesome…

Light stand is finally set up, which can hold twenty 1020 trays, next to a south-facing window –

I just finished planting three 128-cell plug trays of seeds early tomato varieties for sharing with other growers in the local area.  I am quite interested to see which of these will perform well at this elevation of 6,200′ (1,900 m) where the growing season is fewer than 90 days in some years.

Note that this list of 54 varieties does not include cherry tomato types, although a few of them are rather small saladette types.  Producing larger-fruited ripe tomatoes within 60 days is priority for many gardeners who live where the growing season is short.  A few seedlings of each of these varieties should be available for gardeners in this area by May 1st.

0-33
Alaska Fancy
Amazon Chocolate
Andy Buckflat’s Wonder
Beaver Lodge
Bellestar
Bison
Black Sea Man
Bloody Butcher
Bonsai
Brazilian Beauty
Bulgarian Rose
Bursztyn
Carbon
Cherokee Carbon
Early Chatham
Early Girl
Fourth of July (OP, DT’s PL strain)
Glacier
Goluboy Les
Gregori’s Altai
Grub’s Mystery Green
Iditarod
June Pink
Katja
Krainiy Sever
Lime Green Salad
Malina Treston
Moravsky Div
Mormon World’s Earliest
Moscow
Mountain Magic
Nevskyi
Orange Bourgoin
Purple Not Strawberry
Rosalie’s Early Orange
Rose
Sasha’s Altai
Siberian
Sibirskiy Skorospelyi
Silbertanne
Siletz
Silvery Fir Tree
Slava Moldovoy
Spudakee
Sub-Arctic Maxi
Sub-Arctic Plenty
Swisher Sweet
Totuska
Tsindao
Ultra Skorospelyi
Uralskiy Ranniy
Utyonok
Vorlon

I am taking custom orders for seedlings for the next couple of weeks – see details on the main website here:

DT Seedlings 2020

Make it a great growing season and hope this microscopic grim reaper does the passover thing for you and your loved ones!

 

Beginning of the Greenhouse Challenge

Here’s what the “new”, 738 sq. ft. headquarters of  Delectation of Tomatoes looks like from the front.  In the town of East Carbon, Utah.  House built in 1942 as part of the war effort to house coal miners.

The backyard is dominated by a nearly 70′ tall Siberian Elm tree – right where I want to put in a greenhouse.  But the power company has very recently trimmed back about 30% of the branches.  It will be quite a task to take out the rest of this tree, especially the stump, as I don’t currently have the proper equipment.

The house has a dirt basement – ideas forming about using this space for geothermal heat exchange in the greenhouse, getting a much larger furnace (one that actually works…) and connect it to the greenhouse to allow year-round growing.

Tons of mule deer in the area – because of these, the short growing season and cool summer nights, a greenhouse is virtually mandatory if I hope to raise tomatoes, peppers, melons and other warm season crops at this elevation.

(Photo of mouse in trap removed…) Yes mice, inside, trying to eat all of my seeds.  Just cannot have that.

Tree trimmers agreed to help me start my compost pile/collection of organic matter by depositing the first of what I hope will be many loads of wood chips.

A number of winter squash still processing for seeds (and dinners)

Fordhook Acorn

Futsu Kurokawa

Among others.  And predictably, I’m still testing whether winter store-bought tomatoes are worth growing and eating.  This one good-sized, good-looking, but not-so-good tasting (quite insipid, to be honest).  A few seeds saved – out of compulsion and curiosity.

Upcoming week I will be preparing for the Utah Urban and Small Farms Conference where Delectation of Tomatoes is a sponsor and vendor.  After that it will be transitioning to planting indoors for seedlings to sell and for my giant tomato project.

Without a greenhouse, I cannot justify trying to grow hundreds of varieties this year.

The Greenhouse Challenge:

  • Getting approval from the government officials
  • Designing – government people insist that plans must be prepared by a certified engineer up to specs – greatly increasing cost
  • Coming up with funding – cost will likely exceed combined gross income for Delectation of Tomatoes for the past 8 years
  • Installing – will need to rent equipment, possibly hire some help

Within a few weeks, I will need to develop a plan for crowdfunding or such, credit and financial resources just are not adequate to the task.

Ideas –

• Ponds inside greenhouse:  one for frogs and salamanders; one for fish; both for nutrient-rich water, temperature regulation, and water storage.  Why amphibians?  Pest control, conservation, biodiversity, interest, and ‘cuz I just like ’em!

• Heating ducts connected to basement furnace (winter) and cool basement air (summer), fans, vents and other devices to regulate temperature.

• Water collection equipment and tank to store and treat water and to help with temperature regulation.

• Berry vines, dwarf fruit trees, fruit-producing shrubs, and other permaculture principles integrated.

Many ideas for such a small space – in the range of 5,000-6,000 square feet available.

As always, no shortage of work to do, never a boring moment!  🤪