Really now, how often do you read “hurricane” and “Utah” in the same sentence?
So far, at least 2 cm of rain have fallen here, and daytime temperatures dropped by over 30°. Relief also comes in the form of saving time: I have been spending up to 12 hours per week watering by hand during the hottest days of summer.
The tomato AVALANCHE is in high gear – drowning, swamping, overwhelming, burying (remain calm, breath…). It took me two days to harvest tomatoes just from the original exclosure, there there are about 350 tomato vines. Then it has taken me ten days to process those tomatoes for seed saving – and I’m still a week away from getting all of those seeds to the point of drying on plates.
How I wish I did not need to sleep and had the energy I had at age 25! But nobody really wants to hear complaints and lamentations – I just do what I can, and once again, the word of the day (or rather season) is “TRIAGE“.
Here is an example from just a couple of hours ago. While scouting for hornworms in the main tomato patch (yes, I spend significant time in the tomato patch at night – loving my new headlamp…), I just could not resist harvesting these 21 (mostly) beautiful tomatoes from two vines, variety Dagma’s Perfection (fruity, sweet, so tasty…) —
The four fruits at the top of this photo of 21 illustrate these four fairly common problems:
Blossom end rot – from inconsistent watering; in the main tomato patch, this is only the second fruit noticed with BER — just one among many advantages of a drip irrigation system!
Sunscald – a week of record or near record-high temperatures in early September
Consumption by tomato hornworms – <100 tomatoes affected so far this year, despite limited efforts at controlling them
Splitting – again from inconsistent watering, in this case likely resulting from recent heavy rain
Original title of this blog post was to be, “More Than Circumstantial Evidence”; however, the following observation is more anecdotal than significant.
Yesterday (September 14th) evening around dusk, I exited the house with the intent to close the gate to the tomato patch. Immediately, a buck mule deer jumped from somewhere and bounded to the back (south) side, outside of the tomato patch to join it’s two companion garden destructors. Needless to say, vocal cords were but one tool to chase off the trio. A few moments later, I encountered this more-than-circumstantial evidence of invasion into the tomato patch, three rows in, near the middle:
Maybe I got to the tomato patch just in the nick of time and scared the s*** (sugar babies) out of the invader! Motion sensing light confirmed to scare off a neighbor’s cat – will it work for deer?
“Tomato Tangle” is now an understatement. After some frustration (not to mention severe time pressure), I’ve abandoned all hope of getting all tomato vines tied up this year. Many of these vines are now so long, and heavily laden with tomatoes, that trying to tie them up results in vine breakage and fruits falling off. Perhaps if I could transform into an arachnid-human chimera, with 4 to 6 arms available for manipulating and moving vines…
A few other plants are also (I’m only 99% made of tomatoes) growing well. I’ve been eating spinach, kale, or broccoli leaves every day, along with more than a few tomatoes. Even cucumbers added to my diet – variety Muromoski was jus 46 days from seed to eating stage!
To date, I have managed to tie up less than 30% of the tomato vines. Obviously, tomato harvest goes much faster when vine tangling is minimized. At this point, with some vines approaching 10′ long in all directions, it takes up to 10 minutes to untangle and tie up just one vine. Multiply by maybe 800 vines that need it and – yikes! What a jumbled jungle! Here’s one shot from August 25th –
Two latest weekly videos documenting rapid growth of tomato vines –
To date (August 31st), approximately 100 batches of tomatoes have made it through the second phase of processing: taking field notes, photos, sampling, setting aside for fermentation. This in the neighborhood of about 1% of the work needed this season before all seeds are processed, dried, packaged, inventoried, and ready to go.
So many varieties of tomatoes already harvested – where do I even start? How about a very small one, and the first two tomatoes harvested to top 1 lb. — though there are several larger ones still green –
The weather has been very cooperative the past couple of weeks – high temperatures mostly under 95° F, occasional thunderstorms, some wind to help with pollination. Still, many blossoms are dropping; Curly Top virus is still killing scores of plants; hornworms are still prevalent; and frost could be here within 3-4 weeks. Many megablooms, profiled in last month’s blog, have failed. Some vines, such as Estonian Yellow Cherry, are absolutely loaded with blossoms, though most of them have fallen by now, unpollinated. However, a heat wave is just starting! At least for larger-fruited varieties, if blossoms have not set fruit by now, they will have little chance of setting fruit and ripening before first fall frost.
There are a number of hard-working, unpaid, underappreciated assistants –
Not all strictly tomatoes – I have a bit of an aesthetic streak as well, and a few hundred plants are not tomato vines.
Many gardeners who are familiar with Delectation of Tomatoes may not be familiar with documents of interest that are located on the associated Google Drive. These files are shared publicly at:
Just a quick update on the progress of the main tomato patch.
Aside from 70 or so vines killed by or dying from Curly Top Virus, virtually all of the ~1,320 tomato vines have fruit set, or at least have blossoms open now. Some of these vines, likely of the cherry tomato sort, have more than 150 open blossoms per vine! Rough counts, estimates, and extrapolation puts the total number of tomato blossoms open now at 30,000 at a minimum, though likely closer to 40,000 or more.
Impediments to fruit set, in probable order of importance:
Western Flower Thrips (Frankliniella occidentalis) devouring pollen – there are tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of thrips in the patch
Low humidity – ideal is 40-70% relative humidity; but in this high desert climate, 5-20% is much more common
High daytime temperature – 70-85°F is ideal for tomatoes; over 94° means certain failure of blossoms for many varieties
Low quantity of pollinating insects – there are more than in previous years, but much work still needs to be done to attract bumblebees and other native pollinators. Some birds (i.e. Western Kingbirds) and predatory insects (especially robber flies) prey on the pollinators, though the extent of their impact is likely minor
Curly Top virus – killing entire tomato vines obviously means not useful fruit set
Tomato hornworms – though they have not killed any tomato vines outright, they have severely damaged a few vines.
Next year, I intend to keep tomato vines covered most of the time with row cover fabric. This should help significantly with problems 1, 5 and 6.
As of today (August 19th), there are at least 3,000 tomatoes either processed for seeds, harvested and awaiting processing, ripe on the vine awaiting harvest, or green and growing. Already I am significantly behind with processing – and I feel a tomato avalanche coming on!
Of course the real challenge begins after fruit set: getting all of these 650+ varieties to produce at least a few ripe tomatoes suitable for seed saving before fall frost sets in – which could happen within 3-4 weeks. Really hoping for at least 8 more weeks to the growing season!
If you are interested in growing really BIG tomatoes, weighing 3 lbs. or more, you will almost certainly need to focus on tomatoes which emerge from megablooms. That is, from fused ovaries, resulting in fused pedicles, blossoms, and eventually tomatoes that are lobed and often bizarre shaped.
Although some have claimed to have grown 3-, even 5-pound tomatoes from blossoms with a single ovary, I have yet to see such claims clearly documented. Some varieties, including Domingo (the current world record holder at 10.80 lbs.), produce enormous tomatoes from tightly fused blossoms. A big clue that you’re dealing with a potential megabloom is to look at the pedicle in a forming flower bud. If you see any grooving, this indicates two or more blossoms will be fused. You can often determine how many fused blossoms you are dealing with by counting the number of grooves: 1 groove indications a double, 2 grooves a triple and so on – see photos that follow.
The challenge for many competitive growers of giant tomatoes is, “How do I get the largest megablooms possible?” Obviously, you’ve got to start with the right genetics. I’ve seen the occasional fused blossom even among some cherry tomato varieties. But those are just interesting. To get the really huge tomatoes, you’ve got to consider which varieties have produced giant tomatoes for other growers.
For starters, consider the spreadsheet titled “DT Big Tomato List” published here: DT Shared Files. This lists over 320 varieties which have been grown to over 2 lbs. The tab labeled “3+ lb.” lists 34 varieties which have been documented to grow to at least 3 lbs. Seeds of nearly all of these varieties can be found at:
After obtaining good genetic material (seeds), the next big question is, “How to induce young tomato seedlings to produce megablooms?” I will try to answer this question, briefly, based upon my experience.
My best year for growing giant tomatoes was 2014. That year, I incorporated up to 6″ of rich, homemade compost into the giant tomato beds (see blog posts from 2014). Lots of rich, balanced compost and feeding is critical for rapid growth of vines and tomatoes.
But for the moment, I want to focus on temperature. In 2014, I grew my biggest tomatoes in a heated high tunnel. Even from a very young age, seedlings were kept at very warm temperatures, sometimes exceeding 100° F. They were never allowed to be exposed to sub-50° temperatures.
This year I do not have access to a high tunnel. But I’ve done my best to not expose young seedlings to cold temperatures, and I have that 6,000 square-foot covering of black weed barrier fabric! During the heat of the afternoon on sunny, summer days, the surface is very hot to the touch. And, 18″ above the surface, I’ve often recorded temperatures in the 100-106° range.
Also, for the main tomato patch and the grow bags, I skipped the ‘potting up to 3-1/2″ pots phase’ and transplanted directly from plug trays into the garden. These plug trays were mollycoddled – taken in and out of the house many times to keep temperatures moderated and to adapt young seedlings to outdoor conditions.
It seems to me that at least these two factors are critical in the early stages of seedling growth:
1) Keep seedlings very warm and well fed so that they will grow very fast 2) Minimize root disturbance to avoid setbacks and delays in seedling growth.
With that said, I have not come close to scouring the entire tomato patch for megablooms. But here are a few that have been hard to miss as I water, weed, and monitor the growing plants – (Update – the last 16 photos were added on 8-19-2022)
One very impressive Domingo megabloom appears to be at least a 6x, paired with a 3X on the same peduncle. [Update August 1st – one of the most promising megablooms in years is now irrelevant, as the plant developed Curly Top Virus]
Having good genetics, warm soil, plenty of rich organic matter, and megablooms is just the beginning, however. Next up for me is figuring out how to get these blossoms to produce lots of viable pollen, and then getting that pollen to successfully pollinate the flowers.
This is a very dry climate (6,200′ high desert), where relative humidity often drops below 10%. For July, daytime temperatures have often topped 95°, with it even warmer just above the weed barrier fabric. As mentioned in blog posts over the past couple of years, obtaining pollen to hand-pollinate megablooms has been a huge challenge.
A high tunnel, covered with shade cloth, could greatly increase humidity and moderate the temperature somewhat. But I don’t have a high tunnel yet. Perhaps that will be the major project for 2023.
Check back for my next blog post to see how many of these megablooms have set fruit. Looking closely, you can see that one (Chudo Selektsyi) already has. On the other hand, many blossoms, including megablooms, have withered and died in the dry heat.
Tomato hornworms continue to cause some damage; but that amounts to less than 1/10th of 1%, as I continue to remove them by hand (at least 50 of them to date), and most tomato vines are growing so fast that the few hornworms I’ve missed cannot keep up.
Curly Top Virus (CTV – transmitted by beet leafhoppers) is rapidly becoming a serious problem, with at least 60 plants affected (meaning they are useless and will die), and more showing symptoms every day.
My solution is to purchase row cover fabric, cover the entire tomato patch, and keep it covered all season long unless I am working on a section. This should keep out the leafhoppers, five spotted hawk moths, grasshoppers, and other pests. Unfortunately, also the pollinators. But I don’t yet have very many of those anyhow.
To date (July 31, 2022), about 50 tomato varieties have produced ripe fruits. Most of these ripe tomatoes have come from leftover seedlings still in 3-1/2″ pots. The very first ones were Beaver Lodge Plum, Totushka, and Utyonok.
The first variety to ripen in the large pots was Sibirski Skorospelyi, with several others following. I am already back-logged with processing tomatoes for seed extraction! The first variety to set fruit in the main tomato patch was Early Ssubakus Aliana.
Even with such intense focus on growing tomatoes for seed saving, there are a few other types: peppers, basil (9 varieties this year), squash, lettuce, and some very late planted melons and cucumbers.
These Egyptian Walking onions seem to be very hardy. They were planted as bulbs in October, 2020 in a very poor location with very rocky soil (gravel), and received minimal care. I divided about 13 bulbs into about 50 cloves, and they are growing very well in grow bags now.
I’ve replaced around 15 plants in the main tomato patch, most of them due to CTV. I am running out of reasons to keep the backup seedlings in plug trays still alive, especially since there are still more than 700 extra, reasonably healthy seedlings still in 3.5″ pots.
I estimate that the combination of weed barrier fabric and drip hoses controls weeds on about 98% of the tomato patch. What a huge relief! Weeds have been the bane of my existence for many years. Here is what happens with water and no weed barrier –
Here is a short video of the tomato patch on July 21st, one week after transplanting completed.
And here it is, one week later, following very rapid growth. About 80% of tomato plants have blossoms, or at least sizeable flower buds. This included young plants from seeds planted as late as June 6th.
Next up: tie up and trellis tomato vines! The original deer exclosure is rapidly becoming impenetrable because of luxuriant growth of vines. And the earliest vines in the main tomato patch are filling in rapidly.
T-posts (56 of them) and baler twine have been purchased and await my investment of time and energy for installation.
= = = = = = = = = = Update, August 1st – Intense afternoon thunderstorm that was not in the forecast this morning! A very welcome relief, likely >1″ of rain in spots, very unusual in this area. Flash flood warning issued. Tomato patch seems to be fine. Another advantage of weed barrier fabric: no mud splashing onto plants!
Following is a bare list of the 913 varieties of tomatoes that I planted from seed in 2022. Please note:
THIS IS NOT A LIST OF SEEDS AVAILABLE
More than 50 varieties had zero germination, several that germinated have since died (mostly due to CTV), and I am not attempting to save seeds from another 30+ varieties. Also, several of these are not legitimate “varieties”; and hybrid, F1, F2 etc. status are not indicated here.
It will likely be at least December 1st before a draft list of “Fresh 2022” seeds will be ready, and December 31st before a final list is ready. See blog posts from October-December, 2021 to get an idea about why I am so “slow” with processing seeds and updating data.
LIST OF TOMATO VARIETIES PLANTED IN 2022
1884_ 3945_ 42 Days 6 Pound Giant A Grappoli d’Iverno AAA Sweet Solano “Ruffled” ABC Potato Leaf Abe Lincoln Absinthe Accordion bicolor pink Accordion bicolor red Ace 55 Aces High Adah’s Potato Leaf Adonis African Queen African Togo “Trefle” African Togo Dwarf Aftershock Agatha Ailsa Craig Aladin’s Lamp Alaska Alenka Alice’s Dream Alosha Popovich Alpine Altaechka Altaechka Big Round Altaechka Oxheart Altaechka Plum Altaechka Pointed Pink Plum Altaiskiy Oranzhevyi Amazon Chocolate Amazon Chocolate Fused Amber Colored Ambrosia Gold American Ribbed Orange Amethyst Cream Amethyst Jewel Amish Canning Amish Paste Amish Stripe Amurski Tigr Amy’s Apricot Amy’s Sugar Gem Anahu Anait Ananas Noire Andrina Andy’s Buckflats Wonder Angel Heart Angelo’s Red Angora Orange Angora Super Sweet Anjou Anmore Treasures Anna’s Kentucky Apple Tree Apricot Zebra Arad’s Pink Heart Ararat Flamed Arbuznyi Ardwyna Artisan Green Tiger Artisan Pink Tiger Ashleigh Astrakhanskie Auld Sod Aunt Eula’s Rockhouse Yellow Aunt Ginny’s Purple Aunt Madges Aunt Ruby’s German Green Aunt Swarlo’s Polish Plum Aunty Lucy’s Italian Paste Auria, Dwarf Aurora Aussie Australia Australian Giant Aviuri Babushkin Sekret Babylon’s Glow Backa Bakir Barnes Mountain Orange Bart’s Best Beauty Beauty King Beaverlodge Plum Beduin Belarus Orange Belaya Vishnya Belgian Beauty Belgium Triumph Belle Angevine Belle du College Belle Star Berkeley Tie-dye Berkeley Tie-Dye Heart Better than Cherry Bianco Grande Big Bill Big Bite Big Braggart Big Dwarf Big Mama Big Marley Big McHenry Big Orange Big Ray’s Argentina Paste Big Red Big Tomato Big Yellow, Simpson Big Zac Big Zac (3.14) Big Zac (4.82) Big Zac (5.42) Big Zebra Bigdena Bigzarro Bijskij Zeltyi Bill Bean Select Birdie Jaune Bison BKX Black Bear Black Beauty Black Brandywine Black Cherry Black Early Black Ethiopian Black Fire Black from Tula Black Krim Black Mamba Black Mountain Pink Black Mystery Black Russian Black Zebra Blackberry Black’s Brown Boar Blanche de Prusse Blane’s Surpriz Beefsteak Blizzard Blonde Boar Blondkopfchen Blue Beech Blue Berries Blue Fade Blue Fruit Blue Keyes Blue Suede Shoes Bo unknown 1 Bo unknown 2 Bobbie Bogema Bogeywine Bol’shaya Nina Bombetta Bonne du Rossillion Bonny Best Borgo Cellarno Bosque Blue Bumblebee Bosu Brad’s Atomic Grape Brandy Boy Brandy Sweet Plum Brandywine Brandywine from Croatia, PL Brandywine True Black Brandywine, Apricot Brandywine, Glick’s Brandywine, Heart-shaped Brandywine, Pink Brandywine, Red Brandywine, Red, Landis Valley Brandywine, Sudduths Brandywine, True Black Brazilian Beauty Break O’ Day Brin de Muguet Brook Pack Brutus Magnum Buckbee’s New 50 Day Buckman’s Beauty Budenovka Rozovaya Buffalo Buffalo Heart Giant Bull’s Heart Bumble Bee Bunte Pflaume Buratino Burraker’s Favorite Bursztyn Burtola Bush Beefsteak Bush Goliath Pink Butter n’ Eggs Buttermilk Falls Butterworth’s Potato Leaf Butuz Buzau 22 Bychki Serdtsevidnyie Bych’ye Serdtse Baby Mashi Bychye Serdtse Rozovoye Ostroye Bych’ye Serdtse Vystavochnoye Ca Chua Hong Cabin Cade’s Cove Red Currant Cal Ace Calabacita Roja Cali Orange Camp Joy Canestrino di Lucca Captain Lucky Carbon Cardio Carmela’s Yellow Stripe Carmello Carol Chyko’s Big Paste Casady’s Folly Casino Chips Caspian Pink Catapano Celebrity (F4) Celebrity, Antho Ceylon Champagne Bubbles Chapman Chapman Special Charlie Chaplin Chef’s Choice Orange Chelnok Chelyaba Chernoe Serdtse Chernogoriya Chernomorskiy Cherokee Chocolate Cherokee Chocolate Tiger Cherokee Lemon Cherokee Lime Cherokee Lime Stripes Cherokee Purple Cherokee Red Cherokee Tiger Black Chestnut Chocolate Chianti Rose Childers Chinese Chinese Paste Chinese Purple Chio Chio San Chocolate Cherry Chocolate Pear Chocolate Sprinkles Chornyi Krupnyi s Nosikom Chris’ Greek Mama Chris Ukrainian Chudo Selektsyi Chudo Zemli Chudo Zemli Oranzhevoye Chudo Zvita Chukhloma Church Churra Plum Cindy’s West Virginia Citrina Claude Brown’s Yellow Giant Cleota Pink Coastal Pride Coastal Yellow Egg Coeur de Boeuf de Nice Coeur de Strie de Pessac Coeur de Surpriz Coko Ladini Colgar 100 Colonnade Containers Choice Coorong Pink Copia Copper River Cosmonaut Volkov Costoluto Fiorentino Costoluto Genovese Cour de Bue Cow’s Tit Crimson Sockeye Crimson Sprinter Criollo Argentino Croatian Heart Crovarese Grape Crucian Csikos Botermo Cuban Cuban Black Cuban Flower Cuban Pepper Like Cuneo Giant Pear Cuore del Drago Cuore di Capra Cuore di Toro Cuostralee Czech Bush DaCosta’s Portuguese Dad’s Mug Dagma’s Perfection Dana’s Dusky Rose Dancing With Smurfs Dansk Export Dark Galaxy David’s Ivory Pineapple Davis Yellow De Barao Rosoviy De Barao Tsarskiy Krasnyi Ukrainskiy Dean’s Green Dwarf Ded Ivan Delano Green Ripe Delice De Neuilly Delicious Delicious, Gordon Graham Delta Diver Der Kleine Doctor Dester DeWeese Streaked Diamante Dinner Plate Dirty Little Chicken DiTomato Domaca Pfarrgarten Domingo Domingo X Blackfire Domingo X Libanaise des Montagnes 1 Domingo X Libanaise des Montagnes 2 Don Camillo Dona Donomater Dora Dos Cociols Dot’s Delight Dr. Buresh Pink Italian Dr. Lyle Dr. Sud’s Capon Bridge Dr. Wyche’s Yellow Dragon’s Eye Drug (Dzhan) Duggin White Dwarf Awesome Dwarf Emerald Giant Dwarf Golden Champ Dwarf Jasmine Yellow Dwarf Mister Snow Dwarf Mocha’s Cherry Dwarf Mr. Snow Dwarf Purple Heart Dwarf Red Heart Dwarf Rosella Crimson Dwarf Solokah & Dwarf Wax Dwarf Suz’s Beauty & Dwarf Wild Fred Dwarf Zyska Dya Dya Stopu Dyvo Dyvo bicolor Dzinovski Eagle Fork Big Red Earl of Edgecombe Earliana Earl’s Best Canner Earl’s Faux Earl’s First Early Earl’s Red Beefsteak Early Cascade Early Girl (OP) Early Harvest Early Kus Ali Early Ssubakus Aliana Early Swedish Early Wonder Eh Lim El Dorado Elfie Elfin Elgin Pink Eli Elser’s Brown Derby Epstein’s Potato Leaf Ernie’s Plump X Ananas Noir Esmeralda Golosina Estonian Yellow Cherry Etoile Eva Purple Ball X Big Beef Evan’s Purple Pear Everett’s Rusty Oxheart Evil Olive Extreme North Fantasio Fat Frog Father Frost Favorie de Bretagne Faworyt Feather Firebird Fenda Ferris Wheel Fioletovyi Kruglyi Fleur de Reagir Florentine Beauty Fourth of July (PL, OP) Franchi Giant Pear Frank’s Large Red Fred Limbaugh Potato Top Frembgens Rheinlands Ruhm Friendship Fun Gagliano Gajo de Melon Garden Peach Garden Red Pride Gargamel Garnet Garnet X Black Krim Garrote Gary Ibsen’s Gold Gary’O Sena Geante de Tezier Georgia Green Georgia Streak Germaid Red German German Big German Orange German Pink German Queen Gerodes Gezahnte Gezahnte Buhrer-Keel Ghost Cherry Giannini Giant Belgium Giant Heart Climber Giant Italian Paste Giant King Giant of Siebenbergen Giant Syrian Giant Tree Giant Yellow Florentine Giant Yugoslavian Gift of the Woodlands Gigant Kuby Gigant Pelina Gigant-10 Novikova Gilbert Italian Plum Gilbert Ochsenberz Gilbertie Paste Girl Girl’s Wild Thing Giroc Giuseppe’s Big Boy Glazer’s Giant Globe Cherry Gobstopper/Golden King of Siberia Golden Currants/Golden Rave Goldie Goldman’s Italian-American Goluboy Les Good to Gold Goose Creek Goose Creek Black Gorets Gorgeous Grand Belgium Grandma Mary Grandma Oliver’s Chocolate Granny Cantrell’s German Pink Grape Grape Sausage Grapefruit Great Divide Great White Greece Greek Asemina Greek Domata Green Doctor’s Green Doctors Frosted Green Gage Green Grape Green Sausage Green Tiger Gribnoe Lukoshko Grosse Verte Rose Grot Grubs Mystery Green Grusha Rozovaya Gruziny Guernsey Island Hahms Gelbe Topftomate Haley’s Purple Comet Hamilton Hamson DX 52-12 Hardin’s Miniature Hawaiian Orange Cherry Hawaiian Pineapple Hawaiian Red Cherry Hazel Mae Heart of Ashgabat Heidi Heinz 1350 Hellfrucht Herb Taylor Golden Hercegovina Red Ramski Highlander Himmelstrummer Hippie Heart Homesweet Honey Drop Cherry Honey Nails Hoy Hugh’s Humboldtii Wild Pink Hungarian Heart Hybrid 2 Tarasenko Idagold Ildi Sunnyside/Inca Jewels Imur Prior Beta Inciardi Indian Moon Indian River Indian Stripe Indian Zebra Indiana Red Indigo Apple Indigo Pear Drops Indigo Rose Indische Fleisch IPK T 1176 Irish Liquor Isalnita Cu Cutie Isbell’s Golden Colossal Isis Brandy Isis Candy Ispolin Malinovyi Italian Italian Crossa Italian Giant Italian Heirloom Italian Ice Italian Sweet Italian Tree Iva’s Red Berry Ivan Ivory Pear Jabuchar Velika Plana Jasper Jean’s Prize Jelly Bean Jenkins Creek Jerry’s German Giant Jersey Breeze Jersey Devil Jewish John Henry Jolene Jubilee Judge Jack Miller Australian Heart Judson Bicolor Jugo June Pink Justine Heart Jutland Kanadskoye Naslediye Kangaroo Paw Red Kapidag Red Katja Kavkazets Kavkazskiy Velikan Kayleigh’s Large Pink Kazabalykskiy Superranniy Kazachka Purple Kazakhstanskiy Domashniy Kazakhstanskiye Kazan KBX Keepsake Kellogg’s Breakfast Kenigsberg Serdtesvidniy Kenilworth King George Kentucky Pink Stamper Kiev Kim’s Civil War Oxheart King Aramis King Kong Kinkan Orange Kolyadnik Königin der Nacht Kootenai Korol’ Gigante Korol Sibiri Korol Sisin Kosovo Kovrovskiye Malinovyie Kozula #132 Kozula #139 Kozula #186 Kozula #25 Krasnaya Mishen’ Kremlin Chiming Clock Krymskaya Pipochka Kukla’s Portuguese Heart Kustanayskaya Pipochka Kvadratnyi iz Irana Large Barred Boar Latah Latah Sunnyside Plum Leadbeatter’s Lunker Lemon Drop Lenny & Gracie’s KY H Yellow Les’s Sweet Japanese Letniy Sidr Lime Prince Linhart’s Giant Linneaus Heart Lithium Sunset Little Lucky Heart Livingston’s Favorite Livingston’s Magnus Livingston’s Stone Lovely Lush Lover’s Lunch Loxton Lad Lucinda Lucky Lucky Cross Lyagushka Tsarevna Madagascar Maddeline’s Vine Candy Madison County Pink Magic Miracle Magnum Beefsteak Malakhitovaya Shkatulka Mallee Rose Marcy’s Mystery Margaret Marianna’s Peace Marizol Magic Martino’s Roma Maule’s Success Mayo’s Delight McClintock’s Big Pink McKinley McMurray #10 MegaDom MegaMarv Mennonite Orange Meri’s Croatian Michael’s Portuguese Monster Midnight In Moscow Midnight Snack Miss Kennedy Missouri Pink Love Apple Moment Monica Monkey Ass Moonlight Mile Morado di Fitero Mormon’s World’s Earliest Mortgage Lifter, Bicolor Mortgage Lifter, Radiator Charlie Moscow Moscow Pear Moses Moskovskiye Zvezdy Mountain Magic Mountain Spirit Mrs. Benson Mulatka Nahuelbuta Pink Napa Chardonnay Napa Rose Neves Azorean Red Nevskyi Nevskyi & Nochnaya Svecha New Yorker Nochnaya Svecha Northern Elan Northern Elan Plum Northern Queen Northern Ruby Paste Novichok Rozovyi Novosadski Jabuchar Oaxacan Jewel Obedennaya Tarelka Oh My Old German Opalka Orange Bourgoin Orange Crush Orange Minsk Orange Paruche Orange Queen Orange Roussollini Orangeveyi Oranguntang Orenco Gold Oroma Osburn Oxheart O’Sena Black Oud Holland Ovi’s Romanian Giant Ozarna Zebra Painted Lady Panamorous BH Series Pandorino Pappy Kerns Papuo Paquebot Roma Paul Robeson Peacevine Peach Furry Yellow Hog Peaches and Cream Peak of Perfection Pebrera de Jerica Pederson’s Beefsteak Pendulina Orange Penedes Perfection in Pink Peron Sprayless Persimmon Pertsevidnyi Rozovyi Phuket Egg PI 129129 Pineapple Pineapple Heart Pineapple Pink Pink Beefsteak Pink Berkeley Tie-dye Pink Jazz Pinky Tuscadero Piriform Planeta Plate de Haiti Podarok Kommersanta Podushka Polesskiy Gigant Tarasenko Polish Giant Potato Leaf Pruden’s Striped Purple Bumblebee Purple Dog Creek X Sun X SM Purple Reign Purple Russian Rainbow Dwarf Raspberry Mochi Ray’s Greek Rebecca Sebastian’s Bull Bag Rebel Alliance Red Alert Red Charcoal Red Mustang Red Snapper Reif Italian Heart Reinhard’s Chocolate Heart Reinhard’s Green Heart Remy Rouge OP Rhoades Heirloom Rhode Island Giant Rio Sapero Rivera Rocket Rosa de Barbastra Rosalie’s Big Rosy Rosalie’s Large Paste Rosao de Aerbe (Ramallet) Rose Rose Beauty Rose Quartz Rosella Purple Rouge d’Irak Ruby Gold Rufous Potato Leaf Ruslan Russian Cossack Russian Dagger RW Cephei Sad Sac Sainte Lucie Salisaw Café San Llorens San Marzano San Marzano Redorta Sandul Molodvan Santa Maria Santiam Sarandipity Sart Roloise Scary Larry Schlicht’s Orange Cherry Schwarze Sarah Scotland Yellow Seattle’s Best Seek No Further Love Apple Serdtse Ameriki Serdtse Tibeta Sergant Pep. X Libanaise des M. Seven Gnomes Early Dwarf Sheboygan Sheryl’s Portuguese Red Heart Sheyenne Shilling Giant Shokoladnaya Liana Shokoladnoe Chudo Shoshone Siberian Bush Siberische Appeltomaat Sibirski Skorospelyi Silvoryi Sioux Slankard’s Oxheart Slavyanskiy Shedevr Sleeping Lady Slezi Drakona Slovenian Black Snegirjok Sorrento Southern Ripe Spoon Spud Viper Staroobryadcheskiy Staroobryadcheskyi Stonor’s Most Prolific Striped German Striped Roman Stupice Sturt Desert Pea Sub-Arctic Maxi Sugary Summer Cider Apricot Sun Baby Sunchocola Sungold (OP) Sungold Select II Sunrise Bumblebee Sunsugar (OP) Super San Marzano Super Sioux Supermodel Sweet Aperitif Sweet Beverley Sweet Orange II Sweet Sue Swisher Sweet Sylvan Gaume Tadzhikskyie Taiga Tanager Tangerine Tasty Evergreen Taylor Tel-Aviv Train (dark) Tequilla Sunrise Teschchin Yazyk The Musketeers The Thong Thornburn’s Lemon Blush Thornburn’s Terra Cotta Tiger Zebra Tigrina Tobolsk Todd County Amish Tomarindo Multicolor Tony’s Sardinian Totushka Trefle du Togo Trevor’s Golden Beam Trokhtsvetnyi Trophy Tsindao Tyrnovskiy Rozovyi Uluru Ochre Uncle Steve’s Oxheart Unicorn U-Pick Utyonok Variegated Vater Rhein na Sinyuke Vee One Verde de las Landas Verna Orange Vernisazh Zholtyi Virginia Sweets Vorlon Watermelon Beefsteak Weisnicht’s Ukrainian Wes West Virginia Straw White Cherry White Delight Whittemore Heirloom Willard Wynn Wine Jug Wisconsin 55 Gold Wisconsin Chief Wonder Light Wooly Kate Yablochniy Dugosel’skiy Yakut Yasha Yugoslavian Yellow Pear Yellow Plum Yellow Striped Boar Yoder’s German Pink Yubileynyi Tarasenko Yusupovskyi S Fergany Zeke Dishman Zimnye Chudo Zolotyie Gory Medeo Zurcher Original
Finally, after exactly 28 days of concerted effort, including a lot of very significant help, transplanting of the main tomato patch is completed, as well as 185 tomato vines planted into the overflow section north of the water supply pipe.
In the triangular section are 36 much larger “seedlings” that were selected from among the 800+ tomato seedlings in 3-1/2″ pots that are still hoping to find a good home where they can spread their roots and produce delicious tomatoes this season. These are leftovers that I had hoped, but was unable to sell to other growers this year.
Brief summary (numbers approximate until data entered):
977 tomato vines in main garden patch 340 tomato vines in the deer exclosure 1,317 tomato vines total from which I hope to save seeds this year
650 – approximate number of varieties from which I hope to save a significant number of seeds this year.
Question to be answered: Can tomato vines planted from seed as late June 6th, and transplanted as late as July 13th, still produce ripe tomatoes for seed saving before the first killing frost of Fall?
And now, to try to catch up on the many other projects which I have procrastinated due to my intense focus on this modest tomato patch.
It has been a long time (2-1/2 years) coming, but what I envisioned when I first laid eyes on this property is finally becoming reality! From what was a dense tangle of weeds, rocks and trash of all kinds left over from previous owners, is emerging a genuine TOMATO PATCH!
Dimensions are about 100′ X 50′, partitioned into 8 double rows (16 rows total), with 2′ spacing of tomato plants along rows, 2′ spacing between plants with paired row, and 4′ spacing for walking paths. This works out to 800 tomato plants in the entire tomato patch. Actually, I decided to leave a bit of walking space at the end of the rows, leaving 99 plants per row and 784 total plants.
Why double rows? Two main reasons: 1) Cut the number of support structures needed in half; 2) Drip hoses need to be installed in closed loops to help equalize water pressure at each emitter.
It was hard to bite the bullet and hire a backhoe, but it was a very good, encouraging day when a machine did, in one hour, what would have taken me two months to do by hand. And that’s assuming I could find the time, energy and motivation. A recurring insight of late:
“If you are doing the work that a machine can do, you can expect to get paid what the machine gets paid.”
Of course, this applies to other technology as well, such as weed barrier fabric. Weeds have been the bane of my existence for the past 12 years…
The following photo gallery chronicles the transformation process from a mess to a real tomato patch. Regrettably, as of this writing (June 30, 2022), only 6 of 16 rows have been transplanted, with rows 7 and 8 ready to be transplanted first thing in the morning. [Editing and Reordering of these photos is a work in progress – too sleepy at the moment…]
Not surprisingly, even after to awesome work done with the backhoe, many rocks still remained, requiring significant effort to remove. In a few cases, I decided to leave the very big rocks in place and try to work around them. For example, using a pickaxe to carve out a hole in a boulder into which I could place soil and a tomato seedling. No ideal, but there is the matter of time and energy.
A very big obstacle from the first day of transplanting (June 17th) was very high winds – a windstorm that lasted for nearly 3 days, with gusts in the 60 mph range, enough to blow over the wagon, wheelbarrow, buckets, trays of seedlings – and of course turn the brand new weed barrier fabric into a kite, of sorts.
Many tomato seedlings were damaged, at least 6 died outright, and it took one week to get the first row of 50 planted. It has taken 6 days more days to get the next 5 rows planted.
The solution I prefer is a 6″ layer of woodchips on top of the weed barrier. Alas, for 6,000 square feet, that comes to 111 cubic yards, or at least ten dump trucks filled to the brim. Even if I could locate and afford such a huge quantity of wood chips, where would I find the time and energy to spready them out?
As shown in above photos, I’ve learned that landscape staples are mandatory. So far, I’ve used about 600 of 1,500 stapes purchased, two for each plant.
At one point, I got caught right in the middle of a dust devil for about 20 seconds, with tumbleweeds whipping around and dust forcing me to close my eyes! Not surprisingly, I did not manage to get a video of that experience.
Some numbers from the 2022 tomato seed planting effort:
913 total varieties planted
692 varieties exclusively for seed production (2,786 seeds)
249 varieties for seedlings to share with other growers
221 varieties exclusively for other growers
38 varieties grown both for seed production and other growers
Inventory is not complete at this point, but I estimate that seeds of about 40 varieties never germinated, or all seedlings died before I was able to get them transplanted.
There was 15-day delay (June 2nd to June 17th) between completion of transplanting into pots and growbags in the deer exclosure, and the beginning of transplanting into the new tomato patch. The difference in the seedlings planted on these two days is quite remarkable.
Shown below is a young plant of the variety “Chernomorskiy”, planted from seed on April 21st, and transplanted directly from plug tray into grow bag on June 2nd. Compare this to Cherokee Lemon, then very next one in line (yes, I plant alphabetically), from the same plug tray, not transplanted until June 17th.
[More to be added]
= = = = = = = = = = Update July 07, 2022
At 3:40 p.m., I finally transplanted the last tomato seedling into the main tomato patch. That’s about 800 seedlings of over 400 varieties, 2-3 seedlings per variety, except only one when that was all that was available.
I got some great help on these last 8 rows – thanks to those who devoted their time, talent, and energy to make this happen! I well imagine that next year, with this infrastructure in place, transplanting will go MUCH faster!
So far, deer and other critters have destroyed about 30 of the young transplants. Deer fencing just put up, loosely, in the dark.
Tomato hornworms and Curly Top virus are also taking a toll. Very good production from the lettuce variety Yedikule, kale variety Blue Groniger, and basil variety Mammoth.
And, despite the very intense and exhausting work of late, it’s impossible to ignore the wonders of nature, such as this impressive double rainbow that accompanied some significant flash flooding south of here.
Many thanks to the 200+ people (and counting) who were willing to procure their seedlings from Delectation of Tomatoes this month! Especially to those who placed their requests before April 1st. And those who are willing to host seedlings! Though logistics can be a challenge, knowing what to plant and how many is far more efficient in terms of resource and space utilization.
Proceeds from sharing seedlings has allowed me to pay off debts incurred for the half-finished greenhouse and to purchase weed barrier fabric and drip hoses for planting about 6,000 square feet of tomatoes for seed saving.
Not to mention being in a position to hire some excellent and much needed help to comply with a visit from the local code enforcement officer who issued a citation for “weeds and junk”, with threat of a massive fine and criminal charges.
“A minimum of 10 days will be allowed to comply with Ordinance 2018-01. Failure to comply will result in a criminal citation and mandatory court appearance.”
Yikes! I don’t live in a Home Owners Association. No CCCR’s here. Most people in this town of 1,300 live, like me, well below the poverty line. The rich snobs just need to go live somewhere else, or create their privileged part of town, with an HOA, where all the neighbors get to tell each other how they live their lives. That’s just not my style. Can you tell I’m irritated?
And horribly inconvenienced.
But with some good help and $, very good progress was made. At least 10 loads taken to the dump. Countless weeds pulled or cut. The pile of branches from the Siberian Elm tree burned, along with truckloads of weeds (it was a 5-hour job for two people).
Here is what remains of the stump.
Of course the really big project was getting some 6,000 seedlings potted up, hardened off, and about 2/3 of them delivered to pick-up locations throughout the state of Utah. Details listed at:
Some good help and an old concrete mixer helped make it possible to pot up as many as 500 seedlings in one day, from plug trays to 3-1/2″ pots. I started using this mixer when I was about 10 years old and helped with my father’s masonry business on evenings, weekends, and summers.
Over the past month, I have had to close up the low tunnel at night and turn on electric heaters and fans for about 22 nights. Tonight (May 31st) will hopefully be the last night of high frost risk until October. There was actual frost at least 15 times during May, with recorded temperatures nearly always 5-10° colder than the local forecast or official temperatures for the town. I guess I live in a cold spot, or that’s just the nature of living in a high desert climate at 6,200′ elevation.
Fortunately, no plants have died from frost. But about 40 were chewed just about to the nub by deer (I got lazy one night and did not fully close the deer exclosure with the low tunnel) and over 100 were severely damaged or destroyed by high winds from plastic flapping violently again the tender young seedlings that were near the edges. Most of those munched on by deer are recovering well, while those beaten to a pulp by the wind are just dead.
Trips to deliver seedlings have been relatively enjoyable: A change of pace, not moving hands and fingers as fast as possible every waking moment, taking in the scenery, and especially the opportunity to interact with other gardeners. Following is a small compilation of photos of sights seen during travels and other interesting observations.
I am not a lepidopterist, but this caterpillar appears to be of the species Garden Tiger Moth (Arctia caja) or closely related species. I’ve spotted several of them and perhaps should take the time for better photos and closer observation. I am a naturalist at heart, but don’t often take the time to pause and “smell the roses”. A patch of volunteer rose bushes are “weeds” that I’ve not had the heart to eliminate yet. The cactus blossom were stunning and beautiful against the stark, dry desert; but I did not smell them.
I also took some time off to take a series of 50+ photographs of the Super Flower Blood Moon eclipse. Regrettably, I just don’t have the proper equipment for taking such photos. But the event was meaningful enough to me that I cannot help sharing a few photos.
Fall garden cleanup was started on May 20th. Garlic bulbs finally planted on May 22nd in growbags from which dead pepper plants were removed. For the most part, they are doing much better than expected! First tomato seedlings, about 60 of them, transplanted on May 23rd into the large pots. Another 140 were transplanted into growbags on May 27th. These are the beginning of the seed saving project.
First tomato seedlings, about 60 of them, transplanted on May 23rd into the large pots. Another 140 were transplanted into growbags on May 27th. These are the beginning of the seed saving project. I am attempting to transplant directly from plug trays into growbags, and eventually into the main garden patch, which will be about 6,000 square feet.
Regrettably, once I started working outdoors, potting up seedlings as fast as possible, and delivering seedlings, I ran out of energy to plant seeds in the middle of the night. Between April 20th and April 28th, l planted tomato seeds for the seed saving project from the letter A through “Green Tiger”. I did not manage to pick up this seed planting project again until May 24th. So many distractions, interruptions, and other priorities, not least of which is this inexplicable urge to sleep – just so inconvenient! One plug tray took me literally 4 days to get planted. I just could not seem to force myself to stay awake. As of today (May 31st), I am just starting into the letter “L”, so less than half way finished with planting seeds indoors. At up to five hours per plug tray, this is turning out to be a project that is really testing my endurance and resolve.
Final section on philosophy and psychology, at least somewhat related to gardening. Unfortunately, I am once again beyond exhaustion, even though I have 50,000 words in mind to write. So I’ll just end with this little tidbit that I stumbled upon recently – the “Sigma Empath” which seems to describe me rather well. Makes me feel like some team of researchers got inside my head and figured out what makes me tick. Makes me feel exposed and figured out.
Virtually everything in the cellar died over winter, despite some light and occasional watering. Between the aphids and fungus gnats, as well as neglect, they didn’t really have a chance. When am I ever going to learn to quit trying to get pepper plants to survive the winter? Even the wasabi plants died, once I brought them outside where they were exposed to full sunlight and frost. At least there are a few dozen pepper pods from which I can save seeds.
Regrettably, I have not found a moment of time to devote to propagating garlic since I harvested bulbs last August. They have been patiently waiting for me to act, but cannot wait much longer. Not a day passes without me thinking, “when can I justify the time and effort to get these garlic replanted?”
Somehow I did manage to justify an hour of time to cut down the new growth from that huge Siberian Elm stump on April 18th. It felt good just to get a bit of fresh air and exercise! Though I still cannot manage the time or resources to deal with stump removal.
Yunnat revisited – Perhaps this variety shares the trait of many commercial varieties in that the fruits need to be treated with ethylene gas to ripen. I’m reconsidering classifying this as a “long keeper”, since it seems that most of the seeds germinate inside the fruit before it even softens! Actually, none of them have even softened, except when rotting. The crunchy flesh of 6-month old tomatoes tasted just fine in burritos – minus the sprouted seeds. Maybe those are edible as well? They just don’t look appetizing. Plus, I’m a bit reluctant to intentionally ingest tomatine – see this brief article for one perspective.
I thoroughly enjoy sharing seeds of so many wonderful varieties with other gardeners and small market growers! Positive feedback and constructive comments are what keep me going and help fuel this passion! Several unanticipated seed trades have now put the total number of tomato varieties in seed inventory at just over 3,000. Life was just so much easier when there were only 1,000!
So far, 226 new varieties of tomato seeds have been added to inventory over the past few months, with dozens more on the way in the next week or so.
I started planting seeds for other gardeners and small market growers on March 6th and completed that part of seedling production on April 23rd. Here is how those numbers break down in terms of numbers of varieties:
Numbers of Varieties of Seeds Planted for Other Growers
Total number of seedlings destined for other gardens is about 6,500 – hopefully all of them will find a good home!
There is very little overlap between those 249 varieties mentioned above and those I am planting for the seed saving project this year. First cut was 891 “MUST GROW in 2022” varieties. I am trimming this number down somewhat as I methodically go through every variety of seeds in every box of my tomato seed inventory. It takes me about 8 hours to go through each of 18 boxes, and 3-4 hours to plant and keep records as I go.
So this 2022 seed-saving project was started on April 20th and will take over 140 hours to complete. I am only on the letter “G” and have already planted seeds of 345 varieties of tomatoes for seed saving.
So far, most of this work has been done between 11 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. My primary bout of sleep has started between 4:00-5:00 a.m. for 11 of the past 14 nights. The one reasonably normal bedtime was last night, at 10:45 p.m. I “slept in” until 3:15 a.m., when I awoke with a start and got back to work. It is nearly impossible for me to sleep for more than 3-4 hours at a stretch (is this “Long COVID” or evidence of character flaws?). But I need 7-8 hours of sleep, just as most adults do. I end up getting an additional 1-2 hours of sleep each day via unplanned, unwanted, very inconvenient, compulsory naps. That is, I fall asleep unintentionally while working. High stress, yes; but I consider it mostly eustress, since I have convinced myself that what I am doing is of significant value – “value” in the non-money sense. Don’t get me started…
I cannot seem to find a third end to that proverbial candlestick that I can burn. And it’s just going to get worse, much worse, in May, as I prepare for and make deliveries all around the state of Utah. See Delectation of Tomatoes Seedling Tab for details.
“Why don’t you just hire an assistant or two”, more than one person has suggested. Find me someone who will work hard, fast, safely, effectively, and free of significant errors (mix-ups are a HUGE problem in this line of work…) for 40 hours per week for compensation of $1.50 per hour and I will gladly hire them! I’ve done the math, over and over. This sort of “business” just cannot sustain paying any more than that. For example, I would need to charge $48 per seed packet in order to earn (after business expenses) what the average American makes per hour. As if anybody would pay that rate for seeds!
It has been enjoyable to finally get outside and do a bit of gardening work, specifically setting up the low tunnel for 2022, completed on April 29th, two weeks behind schedule:
In addition to really struggling to find the time and energy to pot up seedlings, the weather has not been cooperative until today. Last night, the forecast low and “official” low was 34° F. But my remote thermometer recorded 22.6°!
And a small bucket of water had a 1/4″ layer of ice on its surface. Soil thermometer, predictably, measured the water below the ice at 32°. Clear evidence that “34°” was meaningless (maybe I am learning at least one life lesson!). Actually, between 3:30 and 7:00 a.m., I watched the temperature fluctuate quite a bit between 23 and 34°.
Temperatures are forecast to be more moderate over the next few days, but there still frost in the forecast – just when others are expecting me to deliver seedlings.
Once the low tunnel was set up, temperatures reached into the mid-80’s – just right for seedlings!
Now that shelf space and floor space are being made available, potting up from plug trays to 3-1/2″ pots can begin in ernest.
Can I manage to pot up 5,500 more seedlings and get them all hardened off in 4 days? Not likely, but I can try. Getting ZERO sleep for the next 3 weeks would help a lot, if my body and brain could handle that. They can’t. Especially if I expect to be able to drive about 1,200 miles safely while making deliveries.
Ideal timing for potting up seedlings from plug trays is 14-21 days from seed sowing. The oldest of these tomato seedlings were planted 42 days ago and are starting to suffer because of my “benign neglect”. Call it insanity — or stupidity, if you prefer. I keep hoping things will get better; that I can work faster, get less sleep, or afford to hire some help.
Here are trays of pots ready to receive some stressed-out seedlings – enough to easily keep me occupied until 5 a.m.
Ending on a more upbeat note – first blossom of the season is opening on an Aunt Molly’s ground cherry – before even potting up!
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
Update, May 2nd, 2:55 a.m. –
When I finished up outdoors at dusk last night, the forecast low was for 42°F. I rather hoped that I could get 8-10° buffer with the combination of a portable radiant heater and box fan, both set at lowest settings. But, by 1:15 a.m., the outdoor temperature was down to 33.6° and inside the low tunnel it was 36°, with the forecast showing another 4° drop before sunrise. With significant wind and a moonless, cloudless night, my mind registers (based upon experience – some of it resulting from significant losses to freezing temperatures): “HIGH DANGER OF FROST”.
So, I just returned from disentangling my large tarp (see blog post from September, 2020) from weeds and placing it as a fourth layer over the low tunnel. I also turned the heater up to maximum. At the moment, the temperature inside the tunnel is 45.3° and still rising, while the open-air temperature 10 feet away is 32.7 and falling.
I am satisfied with a 12° temperature gain with this adjusted setup. I will need at least that much buffer, as the forecast for about 48 hours from now is 30° – which, it seems, should be translated to 20° to reflect reality.
There is seldom concordance between what I want and what reality gives; but waxing philosophical is probably not appropriate given the circumstances and middle-of-the-candle hour…
March was pretty much the tail end of seed saving from the 2021 growing season and the indoor 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.
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.
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.
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”.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com
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:
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…
Many thanks to the scores of gardeners from around the world who have purchased seeds from Delectation of Tomatoes! This helps tremendously with my efforts to preserve, propagate, and promote the growing of heirloom varieties from around the world!
We’ve had several nights of very cold temperatures, with daytime temperatures barely making it into the 20’s. Recorded -12°F during my latest trip to the Ogden Seed Exchange.
A recent trip to Arizona (to visit younger brother with advanced ALS…) encouraged some very brief, spontaneous sight-seeing.
Significant snowstorm during the trip back – Flagstaff in a blizzard makes for challenging driving… Fresh snow upon returning:
Trying to reduce waste to 1 bag of garbage per month; plenty of leftover bags from last spring for this use:
Pressing tasks from my last blog post completed in recent days – with some great help from cousin DT:
Rotting melons, cucumbers and squash from the 2021 season processed for seed saving.
All tomato seeds from the 2021 season alphabetized and integrated with batches of seeds from the previous 11 season. Estimate is 20,000 batches of tomato seeds in inventory now, though some of them have been depleted to nearly zero.
Caught up on seed requests for the moment, for the first time in over 2 months.
I was very pleased to receive this placard from a colleague and friend, and it now adorns my front door:
February has been an intensely busy month, but there’s not a lot to show for it here. Nearly all the effort has gone towards helping other growers from around the world obtain some wonderful tomato seeds (etc.) for their gardens/farms this year, and that is very satisfying. Like I say at workshops, etc.:
If you’re human, you have to eat to survive. If you’re going to eat, it’s better if you eat healthy food. It’s hard to find healthier food than what you grow yourself. While you’re at it, why not enjoy the fruits of your labors by trying wonderful new varieties from around the world?