Plants in the Ground for 2017 Season

Update on Fumarole Farm project

Financially I am not able to install electricity (solar, wind turbine or otherwise), Internet service, greenhouses, a way to filter or distill the extremely hard water, amendments to the dense alkaline and salty clay soil, or protection for my seed inventory out in the harsh desert 30 miles away from where I live.  But this is what I can do for now.

Water barrels, a 275-gallon caged water tank, dozens of 5-gallon plastic buckets, around 60 tomato and pepper seedlings, and transportation of barrels of fresh water from my apartment.

We spent a long time scraping up very old sheep manure from the desert floor several miles away from the hot springs, then mixing it with potting mix that I purchased, filling buckets, and transplanting.

Buckets are inside of a goat corral (minus the goats) with the hope that the fence will keep out some of the local critters, and maybe even dissuade some of the local yahoos (of which there seems to be an abundance) from stealing what is not theirs.

Since Fumarole Farm has turned out to be a very risky place to plant, none of these tomato and pepper varieties is needed for seed production.  The first tomato variety to produce blossoms here was Ditmarsher.

Main Tomato Project

For the main tomato project for seed propagation, more than 600 seedlings died before we could even get them in the ground, or shortly thereafter.  Here is a picture of some of the cenotaphs, so to speak:

These are labels from the 12 prized giant tomato seeds that never emerged – see previous blog post.

Why did so many seedlings die?

  1. I was not personally there to take care of them
  2. I cut corners by adding bagged “top soil” to the potting mix, which may have introduced some disease
  3. We set freshly potted up seedlings in full sunshine when it was 65-70° F rather then moving them back indoors
  4. Seedlings were exposed to cold, wet rainy conditions with soggy cold soil – a perfect recipe for rampant damping-off disease
  5. I was more than a month late getting the high tunnel constructed; but once it was, the losses dropped off dramatically
  6. Pepper seedlings were transplanted directly from plug trays into the south bed of the high tunnel; about 4″ of fresh horse manure (but it was free…) was broadcast and tilled in, leading directly to about 50% mortality of seedlings
  7. In addition to the horse manure, about 1/3 of the pepper seedlings were transplanted directly into raw, fresh, urine-laden goat manure; 100% of those seedlings promptly died.

Note to self: Don’t even THINK about transplanting peppers into the garden until at least the first week of June, and NEVER use fresh, urine-soaked goat manure, at least not at this concentration.

The main tomato patch is located in Pleasant Grove on the same piece of land as the high tunnel and the giant tomato project.  Here are a few pictures showing installation of drip tubing and transplanting.

Many hours of repair work required to get the drip tubing in decent shape again.  The first seedling to produce blossoms in this main project was Biyskiy Rozan ( Бийский розан ):

With the hundreds of lost seedlings, on May 29th I made a final attempt to be able to save seeds from 70 tomato varieties that were no longer represented in the main tomato project.

May 30th:

Yesterday (May 8th), I potted up the 96 seedlings that emerged; hopefully the other 44 will germinate soon.

With warmer weather now, I am hoping for a far better survival rate.  But where to plant them??

I had some extra seedlings that I could not sell, so I potted up about 40 tomato and pepper seedlings into larger pots of various sizes and placed them outside my apartment window.  Here they are on May 27th:

And here they are 13 days later, most of them already outgrowing at least the 1-gallon pots:

The first blossom, as well as the first megabloom of the year, was on Rosella Purple – a dwarf version of Cherokee Purple (and no, I’m not expecting this to become my first 3-pounder of the year):

In a couple of weeks, once I determine which seedlings are likely to survive, I will post an updated list of all the varieties that are going in the ground this year and are likely to produce tomatoes for seed saving and sharing.



Giant Tomato Project 2017

I have not been able to focus on a Giant Tomato Project since 2014.  Although I got a good start in 2015, I was forced to abandon that in mid-August.

So here we go for 2017!  Not ideal conditions, as I live more than two hours away and will only be able to tend these plants a few days per month; but I can still hope for something in the 4-5 lb. range, as well as plenty of otherwise BIG tomatoes for fresh eating, etc.  Sure, I would love to break the world record (currently at 8.61 lbs.), but given the circumstances, I’m not going to indulge in that delusion.

I will revise and update this particular blog post throughout the growing season with noteworthy developments.

First – where to grow them?  A new high tunnel in Pleasant Grove, dimensions 55′ X 14′.  Here’s the beginning of that, cutting lumber and prepping the ground on April 21st.

The completed high tunnel is shown in a previous post.

Taking a cue from the successes and advice of several other giant tomato growers, I did not start any seeds for this project until the first day of May.  Using 24 one-gallon pots for the more “precious” seeds, I filled pots mostly full with rich potting mix, made a depression, added sterile seed starting mix, some mycorrhizal fungal spores, then more seed starting mix, then the seeds.  The idea is to start seeds in a sterile, nutrient-free medium, but have plenty of nutrition available as the seedlings grow, without the need to pot them up – and thereby disturb tender young roots – prior to transplanting them into the garden.

May 10th, filling in with more potting mix to encourage root grow along stems and moving young seedlings out to sit on the pickup truck to get their first taste of natural sunlight.

Only 12 of 24 seedlings in the gallon pots ever emerged; 11 of the 12 no-shows were all from the same source.

May 18th – young seedlings for this project and preparing the soil with about 4″ of horse manure – that might be too fresh but it was free.

Arrangement of high tunnel:

Two paths, 2′ wide and depressed about 8″.
North bed, 2-1/2 feet wide, planted with melons and cucumbers
South bed, 2-1/2 feet wide, planted with peppers and eggplant
Center bed, 5′ wide, giant tomato project with two rows, seedlings placed 2′ apart along double drip hoses with emitters aligned.

June 2nd, 32 days from seed sowing – prepping and amending soil (organic products only in this business – see OMRI labels), laying out drip hoses and transplanting.  Trenches dug, soil removed and mixed with amendments of peat moss and Ecoscraps Compost.  Additional mycorrhizal fungal spores added at the base of each seedling and trenches eventually filled in with the mixture as well.

I managed to squeeze in 48 seedlings for this giant tomato project of 28 different varieties and/or lineages as follows (20 duplicates not listed):

Anzhela Gigant Ukrainskaya (1.292 DT 2016)
Belmonte X Big Zac (2.962 DT)(1.982 DT 2016)(F2)
Bezrazmernyi (3.364 DT 2014)
Big Zac (2.130 DT 2016)(6.16 Foss)
Big Zac (2.784 DT 2015)(8.41 MacCoy)
Bigzarro (3.754 DT 2014)
Bill Bean Select
Chilo della Garfagnana (3.560 DT 2014)
Chudo Sada (Shlomin 2013)
Church (3.36 Perry 2008)
Delicious (3.205 DT 2014)
Domingo (3.016 Schielke 2014)
Domingo (4.647 DT 2014)
Domingo (4.938 Lai 2016)
Domingo (V. Domingo 2014)
Donskoi (3.108 DT 2014)
Gigantamo (M. Johnson 2016)
Hoy X Delicious (6.51 Meisner)(1.988 DT 2015)(F2)
MegaMarv (4.08 Khilenko 2016)
Megazac (6.13 Konieczny 2016)
Michael’s Portuguese Monster X Delicious (6.51 Meisner)(3.698 DT 2015)(F2)
Michael’s Portuguese Monster X MegaMarv (2.030 DT 2015)(F2)
Rebecca Sebastian’s Bull Bag X Big Zac (4.57 MacCoy)(1.724 DT 2015)(F2)
Russian Oxheart (1.95 Spaziani 2015)
Shuntuski Velikan X Big Zac (3.75 Catapano)(2.174 DT 2015)(F2)
Wes X Big Zac (4.57 MacCoy)(1.542 DT 2014)(F1)
West Virginia Sweetmeat (3.312 DT 2014)
Zaczilla (1.832 DT 2016)

= = = = =

Update June 16, 2017

High tunnel tied open and shade cloth installed just ahead of potentially 100° plus weather:

This setup of shade cloth over a high tunnel was reasonably successful for producing giant tomatoes three years ago, so why not try again?

Plus adjustments made with drip system, as the south row was getting little water.

Healthiest looking seedlings and developing megablooms inside the high tunnel include:

Bezrazmernyi (3.364 DT 2014)
Безразмерный translated to Dimensionless:

Bigzarro (3.754 DT 2014)

Bill Bean Select:

Megazac (6.13 Konieczny 2016):

Michael’s Portuguese Monster X Delicious (6.51 Meisner)(F2), with the largest seedling and most impressive megabloom developing:

Outside the high tunnel in the main tomato patch, a very impressive cluster of flower buds, including a megabloom, is forming on a Russkiy Razmer Rozovyy vine.
Русский размер розовый translates to Russian Size Pink.

— Two photos of this same plant on 7-10-2017:

And the largest vine to date, though without megablooms, is Staroobryadcheskyi; Старообрядческий translates to Old Believers:

= = = = = = = = = =

Update July 9-10, 2017

Returning to the Giant Tomato Project after three weeks absence, I find a high tunnel almost overrun with gangly tomato vines.  I had pruned all of them to 1 or 2 stems, but they have grown like weeds!

All except two vines (Chilo della Garfagnana and Church) which got hit with Curly Top Virus (as did another 42 in the main tomato patch)

First pruning and tying up on July 10th – all but two stems per vine terminated.

In the high tunnel, where the Giant Tomato Project is, these are the fruits which have developed from megablooms and show some promise for growing large.

Russian Oxheart (4.66 Spaziani 2016), 2X

Zaczilla (1.832 DT 2016), 3X

Michael’s Portuguese Monster X Delicious, 3X

Gigantamo, 2X

Delicious (3.205 DT 2014), 3X

Dozens of blossoms, including megablooms, have burned up in the hot sun – not so surprising considering that 13 of the past 20 days have topped out at 94-105°F

In the main tomato patch, a good-sized double blossom set fruit on a Bukharskoye Bych’ye Serdtse vine:

A couple of megblooms in the main tomato patch:

MegaMarv (Khilenko 2016), 4X – but yellowish tinge indicates it may be headed to aborting.

Rufus Carrigan’s Mexican Pink, 3X

But presently, the best megabloom is a 4X on a Michael’s Portuguese Monster vine in my sister’s garden:

This is from the same seed that produced a 3.754 pound Utah state record largest tomato in 2014. (Note – this blossom withered and died in the heat a few days after this picture was taken)

= = = = = = = = = =

Update July 01, 2017

After tying up and pruning vines, here’s what the giant tomato project looks like 89 days after seed sowing – note that nearly all vines are already past the top tier of twine, with Bill Bean Select topping out with the longest vines.  With 90 days or so of growing remaining, it’s gonna be a jungle in there:

I have thinned off about 60 tomatoes so far, leaving one, the largest or most promising looking tomato per truss.  Here are the three largest fruits so far.

Russian Oxheart (4.66 Spaziani) 2X fruit:

Big Zac (2.784 DT)(8.41MacCoy 2014):

Bezrazmernyi (3.364 DT 2014):

The most promising looking tomato in this project is a very small 4X fruit on a Domingo vine, grown from seeds received directly from Vincenzo Domingo:

As indicated in another blog post,

At this point, the most impressive megablooms and developing fruits are not even part of the giant tomato project.

Serebryanyi Klyuch:


Rannyaya Lyubov: