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?
- I was not personally there to take care of them
- I cut corners by adding bagged “top soil” to the potting mix, which may have introduced some disease
- We set freshly potted up seedlings in full sunshine when it was 65-70° F rather then moving them back indoors
- Seedlings were exposed to cold, wet rainy conditions with soggy cold soil – a perfect recipe for rampant damping-off disease
- I was more than a month late getting the high tunnel constructed; but once it was, the losses dropped off dramatically
- 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
- 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.
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.