Seed Planting Frenzy

Compared to 2022, this year I got a late started with seed planting (first seeds planted indoors on April 2nd), but a much earlier finish (yesterday, April 29th) compared to last year (June 6th). I’ve planted 51 128-cell plug trays plus some miscellaneous, over 6,550 total. Around 70% are tomatoes, with the rest mostly peppers, then ground cherries, eggplant, and a few more.

It has been yet another adventure in “ultra-marathoning. Long story of sleep deprivation and…

Among tomato varieties, I’ve planted seeds of 181 varieties for other growers, to be delivered via my “Plant Mobile” (see Seedlings Tab at website).

As for planting tomato seeds for this year’s seed saving project, my first cut was over 1,600 varieties. Ugh – I committed to growing only 400 varieties! So I whittled and whittled down to about 390. Once I started going through the actual boxes of seeds, another variety, then another and another screamed at me, “MUST GROW”, so somehow, I ended up planting 532 varieties for seed saving. Among these, based upon past experience, I would bet money that at least 50 varieties will yield zero germination.  In dozens of cases, this is the third or fourth year that I’ve attempted to germinate seeds without success, and I used up my very last seeds for at least 30 varieties.

Today (April 30th) was sunny and warm, and I moved most trays outside for a dip in fish emulsion-enriched water and their first taste of sunshine, behind shade cloth of course.

I’m gearing up to do my best to get 5,000 seedlings potted up in 5 days. That’s my emotional mind speaking. My logical mind, based upon years of experience and imperfect memory, mockingly jeers at me, “500 seedlings per day is your upper limit, even with help: DON’T BE FOOL”. Breath and remember:

“Don’t Panic. It’s the first helpful or intelligible thing anybody’s said to me all day.” ― Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Alternate title for this blog post:

The Spring of Wild Mustard

All that very welcome snow lead to massive germination of wild mustard seeds, both here and everywhere I’ve driven over the past few days.

Many plants did not survive the winter outdoors, but several survived in the cellar under a metal halide light.

I’ve made some progress with planting peas, broccoli, rutabaga, radishes, etc. from seed over the past couple of weeks. But it’s been so difficult to find the time.

While preparing to plant in grow bags (using augur to mix in nutrients), I encountered a couple of preying mantis egg cases.

Also, purchased some tasty sweet bell peppers that were completely seedlings. More about these and parthenocarpy here.

Tenacious Winter

During March, there have been nearly as many days with snow or rain as without – perhaps 6 sunny days all month.

For those interested in such things, a ski resort a couple of hours from here (Brighton) has had 750″ of snowfall since October.

Here at the mini-farm, rain has melted most of the snow at least 5 times this month, only for another snowstorm to roll in and blanket the ground again.

Snow and hail, 3-22-2023
Snowing yesterday, March 30th

According to official records, the last time it hit 50°F here was on November 16, 2022, when the high was 53°. The highest temperatures in the subsequent months have been:
December, 47
January, 41
February, 36
March, 47
Perhaps 95% of the time since late November, the temperature has stayed below freezing. So inside the house (except the one heated room), the temperature has been very much like a refrigerator, between 33-45°

Maybe this has been a good thing, because so far, I’ve had only a few hours available to devote to extraction of pepper and eggplant seeds from the 2022 harvest. More precisely, a half-day on March 26th when I ignored seed orders. There is a lot of mush, but the seeds seem to be fine.

Weed seeds are germinating like crazy under the snow – a few warm days and the ground will be a carpet of green. Deer have been chewing garlic and onion tops to the nub all winter. Some day I’ll get a heavy-duty electric fence installed and…

This morning (March 31st) I woke up at 3:30, anxious to get caught up with seed requests after months of trying my best to do so. Indeed, at 7:01 a.m. I was all caught up – literally for the first time in 94 days! Over 3 months of doing virtually nothing with my life except sharing seeds. Learning to get more efficient with the process, in part by hiring several people to help with the actual seed packaging. I got behind by as much as 16 days, and just could not physically handle it (sleep deprivation – you don’t want to know…)

I made a quick symbolic, celebratory run to the post office this morning – something I never do – thinking, “Whew, what a relief, how good this feels after 3 months of intense focus on one task; now I can finally start focusing on seed extraction and planting seeds for my own garden and for seedling customers”.

You guessed it, by 7:19 a.m., more seed orders started coming in, enough that I many not be able to get them all filled by tomorrow. No resentment – I’m doing all of this to be able to share seeds, and seedlings, and fresh produce with other people. I can easily imagine other, less noble outlets for my OCD and tendencies for addictive behavior. It’s just that it’s very challenging to manage all resources, especially time.

I was going to title this block post, “TRIAGE”, but that just carries too much negative baggage. The list of very important projects simmering on the back burners is very, very long. But I’m doing my best to keep up with the most critical ones.

I suppose, for the fun of it, I could post a couple of photos of tomatoes from 2022 (several thousand photos yet to be named…) – full list of tomato seeds available is published at: DT Tomato Seeds

Finding Good Homes for Seeds

February 2023 — virtually a 1-track mind, every waking moment: finding a good home for some of these wonderful seeds I’ve collected! How sad it would be to collect thousands of seeds from thousands of wonderful varieties of garden veggies, then to have those seeds just sit in envelopes, month after month, year after year, dormant, stagnant, declining, devoid of their opportunity, their “right” to at least attempt to grow and produce!

Thanks to the many gardeners around the world who share my passion for DNA with amazing potential to produce delicious, nutritious, beautiful, fascinating, delectable tomatoes and other garden veggies!

Not even close to running out of seeds of most varieties:

Apologies for being slow with getting some of these out; I’ve finally broken down and hired a couple of neighbors who are out of work to help me package. I was essentially caught up four days ago and hope to be so again very soon.

Trying to find more efficient ways to package seeds and get them to their new homes. Working on 20-30 seed orders at a time, and working alphabetically through boxes of tomatoes seems to be more efficient than constant shuffling. There are, after all, 28 boxes now, just of tomato seeds; and space is limited for stacking.

Like much of the western U.S., February has presented several more snowstorms, high winds (resulting in 33.1° F temperature in the house), deer wandering the streets and front yards, and deer taking special notice of my compost buckets.

Yet another snowstorm!

Biggest seed sharing event of the year: Ogden Seed Exchange was a big success this year. Thanks to all the participants and the three helpers! Just a glimpse into a fun day at the “office”:

Seeds with Stories at the Ogden Seed Exchange

The biggest challenge of the past couple of months is to figure out how to get enough, good quality sleep. Motivation, ambition, and work ethic are not at issue. “Work smarter, not harder” seems to require asking for help, even if it means paying out some money. Essentially, Delectation of Tomatoes is at that pivotal point, that threshold for a tiny, 1-person small business: hire some help or just start saying, “no”. This latter options seems outrageous, considering the 50,000+ hours that I’ve devoted to this endeavor over the years. Hiring is hard, and can only happen with much improved efficiency.

Still have seeds to extract from pods of peppers and eggplants harvested in October, 2022. Yet, it’s already time to start planting for the 2023 season – yikes, why am I playing on this keyboard!

Let It Snow!

Though nothing like the snowfall around Buffalo, New York, or the local ski resorts (472″ of snow, YTD, Alta, for example), it has been many years since I’ve seen so much snow. Local people tell me, “25, maybe 30 years ago since we’ve had this much snow”.

All this snow is a very good thing, as this part of the world had been under severe drought conditions for many years. Some are predicting that the Great Salt Lake could disappear within five years. I am sorely tempted to launch into a diatribe, but fatigue and time pressure constrain me.

A bit closer to home, the PRICE-SAN RAFAEL water basin is at 196% of normal – that is very good news, though a rapid warming in the spring could lead to flooding.

When I start worrying myself about big-picture issues, I often fall back on the advice of Voltaire at the end of Candide:

“All that is very well,” answered Candide, “but let us cultivate our garden.”

So, on site, there have been many snow storms over the past several weeks, most of them just a dusting, but at least four with significant accumulations. And less than 24 hours ago (the morning of January 31st, that is), my thermometer recorded -5.3°F (-20.7°C) and 39.9°F in the seed room. A space heater keeps the office/bedroom above 55°F; so as long as the electricity stays own, temperatures are just right here! On sunny days, with this large, south-facing window, it can reach 80° while I package seeds in the glorious sunshine.

Heavy Snow on January 15, 2023
Ominous, very loud thundersnow, unfortunately not caught on video

Tomato seed processing from the 2022 season is finally completed!

January 8th – last batches of seeds extracted from fermenting tomatoes
January 14th – seeds shared at the Utah Farm and Food Conference
January 19th – last batches of seeds packaged

Inventory and data entry – not yet completed (30-40 hours needed)
Seed extraction from peppers, squash, eggplants, etc. – not yet completed (50-60 hours needed)

With apologies to Dean Martin’s Let it Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!, and at the risk of forever ruining this song for others, following is my rendition, focused narrowly upon what consumes my life this time of year:

Alternate title for this blog post:

“A Day in the Life, revisited”

What day was it, Thursday, January 23rd? Doesn’t really matter, as there are so many days like this.

8:15 p.m. – Hard at work, but went to bed extra early; crashed from sheer exhaustion. Very fitful sleep, endured what seemed like hours of the most intense bout of sleep paralysis (temporary tetraplegia) of my life. Underlying theme/stressor was packaging seeds, but there was severe agony and indescribably intense effort to wake up, get up, and get back to work. Lucid dreaming on steroids; the movie “Inception” comes to mind. Details of the agonizing struggles are of no interest or consequence.

10:30 p.m. – Finally managed to drag myself out of sleep paralysis; let’s see, how many times did I imagine or actually bang my fist against the wall? Got right back to work, and worked steady until,

6:30 a.m. – Sheer exhaustion again, after 8 solid hours of preparing labels, hunting up seeds for seed orders, etc. Crashed again until,

9:15 a.m. – Awoke with a start, so anxious about trying to get caught up and not disappoint. Worked like a maniac until forced once again to take a short nap from

1:30-2:15 p.m. – Another compulsory nap. My father taught me, “MIND OVER MATTRESS“, but this adage is not working so well for me.

4:30 p.m. – the daily ritual of rushing to the post office to drop of envelopes with seed orders for my fellow gardeners, from all over the planet. Very satisfying every time I get seeds sent on their way to a good home! But I have to admit, there is at least a 50% chance that I will pass away between 3:30-5:00 p.m. on a weekday, as all of my energies and focus is on getting as many seed orders out as possible before the last mail pickup time for the day.

7:00 p.m. – crashed again, followed by another night of fitful, interrupted, agitated sleep.

This explanation of Sleep Paralysis, from Wikipedia, could not be more spot on:

The condition can be triggered by sleep deprivation, psychological stress, or abnormal sleep cycles. The underlying mechanism is believed to involve a dysfunction in REM sleep. Lucid dreaming doesn’t affect the chances of sleep paralysis but some lucid dreamers use this as a method of having a lucid dream.”

At best, I get maybe one good night of sleep per month, meaning 7+ hours of uninterrupted sleep, including good REM sleep with typical dream patterns. It’s rare that I can sleep for 5 hours without waking up, nearly always stressed and anxious to get back to work. Bouts of sleep are typically 3-4 hours long, with 2-3 compulsory naps every day, most of them lasting from 15 to 45 minutes, and always at the most inconvenient times.

But nobody asked, so what’s the point of telling?

Business has picked up significantly over the past month, thanks in large part to this unexpected post by Jen Joy:

Delectation of Tomatoes SEEDS HAUL

Thanks so much Jen, and no, I’m not blaming you for my sleep disturbances! 😵🤪 🥱

Some day (year?) soon, I hope to be able to hire somebody to help with Delectation of Tomatoes, at least on a part-time basis. There really are dimensions to me in addition to that of “tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes – everywhere tomatoes”. Those dimensions are just suppressed, at least for now.

Tomato Seed Saving Completed – Nearly 2,900 Varieties Now Available

Here’s a brief breakdown of the tomato seed saving project of 2022:

New varieties: 328
Seed stock replenishment: 336
Total varieties from which seeds were saved in 2022: 664
Total tomato varieties for which seeds are now available: 2,895

Plus around 250 varieties of off-types, crosses in development, and unknowns.

Much more to include here, but here’s just an example of the challenge of keeping these organized – here is a photo of just new packets of seeds of varieties starting with the letter “A”:

Seed list is available here:

DT Tomato Seed List

There are still 39 batches of fermenting tomatoes from which seeds need to be extracted – the very last ones from 2022. But this is just a drop in the bucket compared to the estimated 1,600 batches of seeds saved in 2022. Full inventory will take several days of dedicated effort.

Melon seed extraction also completed, but eggplants and peppers are still waiting (not so patiently…) for me to figure out how to create more time out of thin air…

Seed Processing 🔁 Continues, Almost There!

Just stunning how long this is taking me to get through all of these batches of tomatoes.

As of today (December 18th), there is one shelf of mostly ripened tomatoes left to process, and four more shelves of fermenting tomatoes that need seed extraction. Each shelf is about one day of work. So that phase is at least 95% done. Then comes seed drying, packaging, organizing, computer work.

As shown in one of the photos, there was a minor catastrophe. I was gone for a few hours, and when I returned, there was a stack of five containers that had collapsed and toppled onto the floor. My what a mess to clean up! One batch remained intact, and I managed to save at least a couple of dozen seeds from the other batches. But more than 3,000 seeds were essentially lost, even though I saved them. Seeds of unknown variety just are not of much value.

A snowstorm on December 12th dropped 7″ of snow, with outdoor temperatures dropping to -1° F, and 38° indoors. House is unheated, except the space heater in the office/bedroom.

I cannot imagine trying to survive this as a deer or other animal in the wild! I caught 12 of them on video snacking on the remnants of tomato vines.

I am anxious to get seeds organized, data entered, photos processed, and descriptions written and published – if only that clock would slow down to 1% speed for a few months…

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Update, 12-25-2022

Whew, what a relief to finally have all the tomato seeds extracted from the 2022 growing season!

Well, almost finished. There are just 39 batches left. These are the “leftovers” – those that were still green in early December, and which I ended up moving to the “warm room” to speed up and complete ripening. I expect to have these processed for fermentation by noon tomorrow, then will move them to the warm room for faster fermenting, and will have seeds extracted and drying by the end of the week, which is also the end of the year.

By that time, I also hope to have all tomato seeds organized, alphabetized, inventoried, data entered, and this list updated:

DT List of Tomato Seeds Currently Available

Still to process, also this week: peppers, eggplants, melons, cucumbers, squash, herbs

Tomato Seeds Available from 2022 Harvest

Just published, but not quite finalized, a spreadsheet titled

“List of Tomato Seeds Available from 2022”

To summarize here:
913: Number of varieties planted from seed
67: Number of varieties with zero germination
846: No. of varieties for which at least one seed germinated
247: No. of varieties grown as seedlings for other growers
671: No. of varieties transplanted into exclosure and tomato patch
150: Approximate no. of varieties of leftover seedlings that grew and produced in 3.5″ pots
22: No. of varieties (of 671) for which all vines died before producing fruits
with viable seeds (most deaths were from Curly Top Virus)
649: Estimated no. of transplanted varieties from which seeds were saved
41: Approximate additional varieties (“leftovers”) from which seeds were saved
690: Approximate total no. tomato varieties from which seeds were saved in 2002

This list is in draft form and will be finalized in about 3 weeks, once all seeds are extracted, dried, packaged, and inventoried.

Click on this link to see the list:

DT Shared Files

This public folder also contains a number of other lists which may be of interest, including:

DT BIG Tomato List
Tastiest Tomatoes
Heat Tolerant Varieties

And many more

Fortunately, I’ve had a volunteer to help package tomato seeds, help with processing, and take the following video, which shows the process used for seed separation with larger batches, cutting time down from 15-20 minutes per batch to 7-10 min.

Process for Extracting Tomato Seeds from Larger Batches

As of this writing (November 30th), there is about 200 hours worth of tomato processing left to do from the 2022 growing season, including: preparing batches for fermentation, actual seed extraction, seed drying, packaging, inventory, organizing, and data entry. After that comes photo preparation, transcribing field notes, writing up descriptions, updating website, and — well, the 2023 planting season will be here long before I will be able to get all of this done. Such is life – never a moment of boredom!!

For the past month, the rooms where the tomatoes have been stored while ripening and fermenting have remained at temperatures between 44-58° F. Despite my best efforts, by now, several batches batches have gone well beyond ripening to the point that they have rotted and fermented, allowing me to skip a step, but not allowing me to take decent photographs or to taste the ripe tomatoes (no, absolutely NO – I have zero interest in tasting rotten tomatoes!!).

Cleanup Crews

Well, the clock is ticking rapidly towards November 1st, and it looks like I’ve barely made a dent into processing batches of tomatoes — which were harvested in October — for seed saving.

Every single decent-sized (1 gallon or larger) solid container I have has been filled with tomatoes at some stage of processing. I’ve resorted to using gallon freezer bags placed inside of pots to hold batches of tomatoes for fermenting.

Finding time to do “Fall cleanup” of the garden is absolutely out of the question. But I have a crew, or rather several crews of deer that are cleaning up the tomato patch, little by little, as many as nine deer at time, with small herds spending as much as two hours straight, gorging themselves on the leftover, frozen tomatoes. It’s been challenging for me to refrain from chasing them off – something I’ve been doing for months, mostly in the middle of the night.

They have pretty much ripped down the deer fencing along the south edge of the garden patch, so even for the youngest deer, it’s an easy hop in and out. They are getting bolder by the day, often starting their forays in the late afternoon, and continuing off and on all night long. On the bright side, at least I’m sleeping better, not stressing out about the damage they might be causing.

So many beautiful, tasty, and interesting tomato varieties sampled this year. Loads of photos, descriptions, and recommendations to share. But the battle now is against exhaustion, and against tomatoes rotting before I get a chance to sample them or take decent photos.

Here are just a few teasers —

Apologies in advance for delays with getting seeds out, but I WILL get to them, just not as quickly as usual. Lately, I’ve been sending out seed requests just once a week, rather than the more typical frequency of 3-4 times per week. It’s just the nature of this beast — a very BIG bite this year, seeming, at times, to be more than I can handle. Best get at least a little sleep.

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Update 11/04/22022

Recent minor snowstorm, followed by 15.3°F temperature. Deer have pretty much cleaned up all but the tiny tomatoes from the main tomato patch. Now they are working on the extra vines that are still in 3.5″ pots – those seedlings that never found a home, but many still managed to send roots into the ground and produce some tomatoes. They have been covered with row cover fabric, but the deer pretty much ripped that to shreds, so I removed it. Following video was taken from 20′ away with the aid of a headlamp. They are so bold, at least when I move slowly and remain quiet!

Cleaning up the leftovers

Tomato Patch – cleaned up, snowed on

Abundance and Overflow

Harvesting of tomatoes for seed saving has finally been completed, about 10 hours ago, in the high winds, cold rain, and plummeting temperatures of an approaching cold front and storm. It’s snowing outside now, with low temperatures of around 21°F (“RealFeel”) forecast in about 28 hours. That’s a hard freeze, a season-ending freeze for sure.

Here is what the tomato patch looked like at the end of the harvest:

Tomato Patch at End of 2022 Harvest

Some may suggest this is a surfeit of tomatoes for seed saving: Some 2,000 batches of seed saving at some stage from something like 877 varieties (sorry for excessive sibilance, sometimes I simply cannot suppress such urges).

At the moment, all shelf space, nearly all floor space, and now even the entire seed room are packed with batches of tomatoes waiting for me to get my act together and process them for seed extraction.

Overflow of Tomatoes for Seed Saving

This is, of course, in addition to the hundreds of batches shown in the video in my last post, “Ultramarathoning Revisited“.

I have taken only a few plants into the cellar this fall, placing them under metal halide lights to hopefully set and ripen more fruits over the winter. Not holding out a lot of hope, however, as this strategy had not proven very successful.

When daylight returns in a few hours, I still need to harvest peppers, eggplant, basil, potatoes, and other small seeds before the serious cold sets in. Harvesting all of those tomatoes just sapped me of time and energy.

Fortunately, I have had many neighbors, around 30 people total, who have helped with tomato harvesting, both for seed saving and their own use – a special thanks to AD especially! 👍 Altogether, we probably harvested over 3,000 lbs. of tomatoes, leaving less than 1,000 lbs. still on the vines or on the ground for the deer, birds, mice, insects, fungi and bacteria to clean up. We just could not get to them all – 2022 has been an outstanding year for tomatoes, at least around here!

Now to really focus on seed extraction and saving. I estimate 800 hours of work left to do to get all tomato seeds extracted, dried and packaged from the abundant 2022 harvest. And I would very much like to get all of that done by November 1st.

Sadly, somehow, the math does not work out. So patience is appreciate from those looking for seeds from many excellent new (to me) varieties from 2022.

Meanwhile, seeds of more than 2,500 tomato varieties are available now:


And for a teaser of what is, or very soon will be available from the 2022 harvest, see the file, “List of 913 Varieties Planted in 2022” published here:

Delectation of Tomatoes Files Shared

If you are thinking, “nobody should ever attempt to grow so many varieties in one growing season”, my reply would be, “I could not agree more”.

But have you ever heard me claim to have a grip on some semblance of sanity? 🤪

Ultramarathoning Revisited

Just a short, mid-month update. This time of year really tries my endurance and conscientiousness, much as described in last year’s post, “Adventures in Ultramarathoning“. Similar principles and struggles, mostly in the realm of, “how the devil am I going to find the time to do all of this!”

First light frost is very likely tonight; that is, within the next six hours. Tomato harvesting, at least for seed saving, is about 75% complete. Thankfully several relatives and neighbors have been helping with the harvest, and with finding a good home for the extra tomatoes. The following photos depict a pickup truck, loaded down twice, representing maybe 20% of the extra tomatoes this season. “Extra” referring to those in excess of what I need for seed saving.

Regrettably, with such a late start in 2022, nearly all of the extra tomatoes have started ripening in October, and I have no opportunity (time, personnel, energy) to try to get these to market. So it’s a “Free for All”. There is a lot of poverty in this small town of 1,300, so resentment doesn’t enter the equation. I would have to drive 30 minutes to take them to the nearest farmers market, and neglect the hundreds of hours of urgent work while making the trip.

Here’s just a glimpse of what it looks like indoors, where I am eyeballs-deep into processing tomatoes for seed saving.

Significant changes since the above video was taken two days ago, including spillover into the shower and the office of batches of tomatoes waiting for me to get to them.

Between the numerous invasion of deer recently, the hailstorm on October 1st (see previous blog post), and much unavoidable trampling while harvesting, vines in the tomato patch are looking well paste their prime. And with frost pending, the following videos will likely be the last weekly videos of living tomato vines for the season.

Tomato Patch 12 Weeks After Transplanting Completed
Tomato Patch 13 Weeks After Transplanting Completed

I hardly know where to begin with all the wonderful, beautiful, intriguing new tomato varieties that I have been harvesting and tasting over the past couple of weeks. Below are just a few teasers.

How I wish I could keep up with it all!

I have harvested at least 10 Domingo tomatoes weighing in at over 1.5 lbs. But this has not bee the biggest of the year. That honor goes to the variety Diamante, with the heaviest coming in at 1.936 lb

Hopefully much more than teasers to blog about at the end of October!.

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First frost of fall – a very light one. Remnants of hail damage can also be seen in the following photo: shredded, dried leaves all over the weed barrier fabric.

First Frost of Fall

All tomatoes need for seed saving have now (October 17th) been from the main tomato patch. Left to harvest: the overflow section, rows 17 and 18, which contain 187 tomato vines representing 119 varieties. Harvesting in this section is only 3% completed. I have a large tarp ready to cover the vines when serious frost is forecast to hit next weekend following the first low pressure to come into this area in several weeks.

The weather here has been absolutely wonderful every day since September 13th, with highs ranging from 70 to 84°F, and lows ranging from 41 to 60° officially — though my thermometer recorded 37° last night. Plenty of sunshine, very little wind, and so pleasant to work outside, harvesting tomatoes for seeds.

Now the real work begins: processing about 700 more batches of tomatoes for seed saving. Ultramarathoning every day — just too bad my body forces sleep upon me. Is there an “anti-hibernation” pill that can keep me fully awake and alert, 24-7, until Spring returns?