Gardening: Hobby, or Something More?

March was pretty much the tail end of seed saving from the 2021 growing season and the indoor dwarf tomato project.

Final Batches of Tomato Seeds from 2021 and Winter Dwarf Tomato Project

There seem to be different species of fungi doing the fermenting this time of year, including production of this impressive “snowball” formation.  I took a lot of “-ology” courses, but not mycology.  Guess I’m still easily impressed by natural phenomena.

Distinctive, Snow-like Fungal Growth on Fermenting Tomatoes

Inca Berries were a standout – the few I saved stored all winter long, retained a very good flavor, and were processed for seed saving on March 6th.

Inca Berries – Keep Well Over Winter!

Finally, on March 15th, with some good help, I managed to get all tomato seeds from the 2021 season boxed, labeled, integrated, and re-organized.

21 Boxes of Tomato Seeds

This tomato collection consitutes 18 large boxes for the primary inventory, one medium box of “unknowns” (crosses in development, accidental crosses, misplaced seeds, and other oddities), one box containing just seeds of the three most popular giant varieties (Domingo, Big Zac, Delicious), and one box of “in processing”.  There are always some packets “in processing”, as I am almost never caught up with sharing seeds with other gardeners.

It takes more time than some might imagine to hunt up, keep organized, and re-file seeds when there are some 20,000 batches.  One can only imagine the frustration that ensues if a bundle of seed packets is mis-filed; oh, the hours of wasted time and elevated blood pressure…

An interesting anecdote:  March 7th was a very windy day.  While packaging seeds, I looked outside and observed perhaps the most interesting dust devil I have ever seen.  About 300 meters away, there was a swirling, spiral column of dried tumbleweeds (Russian Thistle), about 80 of them, stretching at least 200 meters into the air.  I stood agape, intrigued. by the time I had the presence of mind to grab my cell phone and try to get video footage, it was pretty much over.  But here’s a brief, grainy snip from that short video”.

Dust Devil – A Tumbleweed Tornado!

Among all the plants moved to the cellar last October (see previous blogs) under a metal halide light, essentially the only survivors were the wasabi plants:

Wasabi, Winter Survival, Ready to Bloom

Aphids had a free-for-all and I just had no time (or was it energy, or discipline?) to take care of the problem.  The wasabi plants were also hit hard by aphids; but perhaps they don’t taste as good as the pepper plants, etc.?  The forming flower buds reveal membership in the family Brassicaceae.

Over the winter, I was gifted about 15 fig cuttings, which, along with some stubs and other pieces saved, have been stored in the fridge over winter.  On March 17th, I soaked these cuttings for several hours.

Fig Cuttings Rehydrating

I made a blend for the potting medium, which I sterilized in the oven at around 200°F for about 2 hours. Mold is apparently a major enemy to successful rooting of fig cuttings.

Sterilizing Potting Mix

Then I hunted up some clear water bottles from other people (I don’t buy bottled water, but I do filter drinking water as needed), potted cuttings, and placed them in an insulated cooler, next to a radiant electric heater, covered with a large box, and am keeping the cuttings at 76-89° F and 40-60% humidity.

Attempted Rooting of Fig Cuttings

No sign of rooting yet, but this can take a while.  I was 1 for 3 a year ago, so if I get even 3 or 4 of these to take, then I will feel fortunate!

The one fig plant from 2021 was kept indoors over the winter, dropped its leaves, and started leafing out again a couple of weeks ago.  I even managed to keep it outdoors for 3 days during a warm spell.

Fig Tree, Beginning of Year Two

The Dwarf Pomegranate plant can also be seen in this photo, but so far no sign of life.

Another indoor survivor of the winter:  three tomato hornworm pupae (Five-spotted Hawkmoth, Manduca quinquemaculata, dark morph) – see earlier posts.

Five-spotted Hawkmoth Pupae, Manduca quinquemaculata

When they emerge in June or so, I don’t want them laying eggs around here.  But the adults are so interesting and beautiful, I just gotta give them a chance at living a few more months, when they can do no harm.

“March Madness” around here is planting thousands of seeds indoors in 128-cell plug trays to offer other growers in Utah as seedlings.

Planting in 128-cell Plug Trays

More than in any previous year, I am having difficulty managing the time and energy to get seeds planted.  Part of the challenge is keeping records of every seed: source, dates, germination rates, etc. through every stage. This is my primary seed germination test efforts, and the processes is quite slow and tedious with just one person.

So far, I have planted only 21 trays.  Last year at this time, I had planted 39 trays.  I keep thinking that I will get faster; but time and energy are so limiting.  What seeds I have planted are germinating and growing well.

This year, I am focusing almost exclusively on tomatoes.  This is because:

• Over the years, tomato seeds have accounted for about 95% of seed sales

• I have very limited resources (time, space, energy, greenhouse, etc.)

• I am feeling more and more compelled to turn this endeavor into a business, not just a glorified hobby.

There are still so many important but undone tasks:

• Update computer files with seed inventory from 2021

• Carefully go through all 20,000+ packets of seeds (25,000+ if you count melons, squash, peppers, beans, corn, etc. etc.) and do a complete inventory

• Select among all of these seeds for growing in 2022

• Plant seeds for tomato seed saving project (what I’ve planted so far is for other growers)

• Start fall garden cleanup from 2021 (such a mess out there)

• Greenhouse, high tunnel, low tunnel work – I better stop here or overwhelm will set in…

Heck, I still haven’t found the time to unpack from my move almost two years ago; not exactly an inviting place for visitors.

Still Moving In – Boxes Stacked to the Ceiling…

Closing in on 133 months since the business entity of “Delectation of Tomatoes, etc.” (DT) was officially registered with the state.  Gardening has been a hobby, more or less, off and on, since I was 7 years old and we rolled up the sod from the backyard and put in a 1,000 square-foot garden.

I essentially took over that same garden spot from my aging father (now deceased) in 2008.  By 2011 I was finding so much satisfaction from gardening, especially growing giant tomatoes, that I felt compelled to share seedlings and especially fresh produce with other people.  Sharing seeds was not a big part of the original vision.  But seeds travel (five moves since 2015…) much better than garden plots, compost piles, and a local customer base.

From the outset, DT was intended to be a hobby, a stop-gap endeavor until a full-time position in my career field (Endangered Species Biologist, college instructor) or allied field came along.  Month after month, year after year, as the failed applications piled up (>1,000) and failed job interviews mounted (dozens), finally, about four years ago, I realized that nobody was ever going to hire me; at least not for anything more than a mundane, mindless, mind-numbing, manual labor job.  Something about, “insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results” finally drove deep enough into my stubborn mind.  So I decided to make a serious attempt at transforming DT from a glorified hobby into a legitimate, recognizable business.

Unlike many gardeners and seed savers, DT is my only source of income: no “real” job, no savings, no investments, no retirement funds, no assets, no family help, no working spouse to subsidize my hobby, no large donors, etc. So I either make DT work, or I become homeless. To be fair, Slow Food Utah has given me three microgrants over the years – without which grants, I probably would have been forced to close up shop 10 years ago.

“Saving and sharing seeds of thousands of rare varieties from around the world” is absolutely not a recipe for financial success, or even for survival of a most Spartan and streamlined small business. Rare products with zero or nearly zero demand are eliminated from production in a “legitimate” business. Perhaps 98% of what I offer would never “make the cut” if DT were only about making money.

Obviously and logically, this endeavor belongs under the auspices of a government agency, a land-grant university, or a non-profit seed preservation organization.

So, I guess what I’m saying, is that financial support is needed from big donors – from individual people or organizations which support the mission of Delectation of Tomatoes. More than anything, I need to find a way, a financial resource, that will allow me to hire a fulltime employee (or two or five…) without breaking into the already extremely tight budget of DT.

Any ideas? email me at

And yes, I’ve tried crowd funding, a couple of times. those attempts brought in exactly zero dollars and zero cents – though it has been a few years

For weeks I have been thinking seriously about writing up a detailed history, the “whys” of gardening, etc. – something much more that the DT Disclosure Statement published here:

DT, Shared Files

What I want to write would easily fill a full-length book.  And I’ve got more than enough photos (100,000+ and counting) to go along with the words.  Alas, that clock is once again screaming at me, “BE PRODUCTIVE!!”; the weeks, seasons just pass on so quickly.  So, back at it…