Surprisingly, July has produced mostly cooler weather than June, including several days of light showers and one evening (July 29th) with a significant thunderstorm, dumping perhaps 0.7″ of rain. I need to get a more accurate rain gauge than this:
This area of Utah is in severe drought, so every bit of rain is helpful.
Despite several weeks of high temperatures remaining in the upper 80’s to low 90’s and mostly higher humidity than last year, many thousands of tomato blossoms are still aborting. Pollinators are almost non-existent in the tomato patch, though some small, native bees are visiting the many tomatillo blossoms.
I’ve not had/taken the time to hand pollinate as much as is needed. But those mornings when I do give my electric toothbrush a workout, I’m getting pollen from maybe 1 in 4 blossoms. Plus an abundance of Western Flower Thrips, as last year.
To date, the most prolific tomato plant in terms of blossom production is Sweet Cherriette. This variety produces very tiny, red, tasty tomatoes. Unfortunately, only a small fraction of these blossoms are setting fruit, despite much hand pollinating.
At the other end of the spectrum, I have two promising tomatoes that have developed from megablooms and look like they have potential to grow to 3 lbs. or more. Unfortunately, I could get very little pollen several weeks ago when the megablooms were open, and these green fruits are growing rather slowly
I’ve harvested tomatoes from about 50 varieties to date. The largest specimen harvested so far was Opal’s Homestead at 0.304 lbs. and plenty delicious, especially for early in the season.
The most attractive so far has been Apricot Zebra, a golf-ball sized tomato with orange on lighter orange stripes.
Back in March I planted seeds of a couple of varieties of True Potato Seeds (TPS’s), and they are starting to put out flowers! These Blue Velvet potato flowers are attractive; but, despite several attempts at pollination, there has been very little pollen production and so far, blossoms are just falling off a few of days after opening.
I (or rather we – see below) harvested all the garlic by July 28th. Weed volume was about 200 times the volume of garlic. Needless to say, it’s been a mostly poor harvest. Of 27 varieties, only 5 produced bulbs worth saving and growing again. Besides not keeping up with weeding (not even close), other likely problems include: insufficient organic matter; late planting; not enough water (native soil drains very quickly here); deer browsing. Better luck next time…
After harvesting the garlic and amending the soil, we finally got the Stokes Purple sweet potatoes transplanted – see blog entry from December, 2020 for the start of these slips.
Also going in the tomato bed: hundreds of pepper seedlings that have way outgrown their 3-1/2″ pots. Only about 1/3 done with this project. Giving these peppers lots of good nutrients, but it’s so late in the season that I’m not gambling on getting a substantial harvest.
So, as mentioned in my last blog entry, health issues have presented major interference for physical labor. Still no diagnosis. Pain, in shoulders, is getting worse. My tentative self-diagnosis is: reactive autoimmune arthritis, concentrated primarily in shoulder joints, as an adverse response to COVID vaccine (Moderna). That’s enough details, but for more info., you’re welcome to read the VAERS report I submitted, VAERS id is 1461734.
With my back against the wall, on the verge of giving up on this growing season, I finally caved in and published an ad for a summer internship. So, after 3 weeks, we’ve actually got quite a lot of work done!
Here’s the second deer exclosure with 608 tomato vines, transplanting completed on July 15th:
And the third deer exclosure, transplanting of 288 tomato plants completed on July 19th,
So, so many weeds to pull, especially after the recent rain!
The first exclosure is SERIOUSLY overgrown, with literally hundreds of hours of work needed to prune and tie up.
Fig is starting to put out fruits – a pleasant surprise!
Those who have been following the weather in the western United States during this past month (June, 2021) will be aware of many record high temperatures, long lasting high pressure systems, and dangerous wildfire conditions.
Here locally, there were several record highs in the 98-101°F range. Those were official. But my thermometers, one of which was place in direct sun (not shade as official thermometers must be) recorded these extremes:
Note that, for some reason, this system does not record humidity levels below 20%, though for many days, humidity was actually in the 5-10% range. Lower left temperatures were indoor recordings (no A/C here). This heat was accompanied by two large wildfires in the area: Bear (12,174+ acres), Bennion Creek; plus two smaller: Horsecone, Sego.
Smoke was heavy for several days, to the point of almost shrouding the nearby mountains, which are part of the Roan Cliffs.
Fortunately, the heat subsided and has been followed by several days of intermittent rain – the first significant moisture in about three months.
Temperatures have been 15-20° cooler, with some rain every couple of days. Wouldn’t it be nice if this weather pattern could stay through the end of August! This part of Utah is under severe drought conditions. The rain has actually soaked down into the top 2″ of soil! Still bone dry below that.
Once again, I’m off to a very late start with getting my plants in the ground. Or, rather, plants into pots and growbags – I just don’t have the time, resources, or energy (see “Interference” below” to do it right. “Right” meaning removal of the giant tree stump and other garbage; leveling and plowing the ground; removal of thousands of rocks and boulders; turning dirt into soil; installing a 40′ X 100′ high tunnel; setting up a drip irrigation system; installing a deer-proof fence around the perimeter; etc.
First, we start with fall cleanup on June 4-10th:
Next, transplanting the first few more critical tomato varieties (Domingo, a few giants, those for which I’m running out of seeds) into the larger pots, adding Sustane 4-6-4 organic slow-release fertilizer and Azomite in the planting holes; then applying 2″ of compost (Nutri-Mulch) to the surface after transplanting.
Then the second round of transplanting, much delayed because of interference (see below), with some great help from my cousin who drove 8 hours 1-way from Arizona, and some good help from neighbors. This batch was transplanted into the rest of the growbags set up last year inside the deer exclosure.
As of June 14, many of these seedlings were quite overgrown in their 3-1/2″ pots, but roots have grown through the bottoms of the pots, where extra watering has allowed them to grow to 2′ tall or more.
Unfortunately, at this point I’ve only transplanted, alphabetically, through the letter D for new varieties; and very few of the varieties for seed replenishment. In other words, at least 650 more tomato seedlings “must” me transplanted a month ago. Plus peppers, cucurbits, etc.
The very late planting of tomato seeds on May 27-28 has been very successful for the most part. They were kept indoors until germination, taken outdoors when temperatures were in the 75-90° range, brought back indoors at night and on very hot days, potted up on June 16th (20-21 days from sowing), kept on wire racks under artificial lighting for four days, then move outdoors for good after some letup from the 100° heat.
Late planted (June 6th) cucurbits had excellent germination rates on heat mats set to 98° for 3 days, then reduced to 90°. Even watermelon seeds germinate as fast as tomato seeds (4-8 days) with this method. First cucurbits were ready to be transplanted by June 18th, but first few not transplanted until June 30th (interference…). Some of these were planted by seed indoors on April 27th, so they are looking rather haggard.
Other plants of interest include: Dwarf Pomegranate ready to bloom 143 days from seed sowing TPS (True Potato Seed), variety Blue Velvet growing well Ground cherries and tomatillos producing fruit Cauliflower (variety Pusa Gulabi) putting out flowering heads while still in small pots Garlic producing many delicious scapes; though garlic project as a whole looks like a 70% bust — not watered enough, deer browsing, not enough compost, too many weeds, interference…
Hundreds of pepper seedlings need to find a place in the garden (such as it is…) as well. They have done well under shade cloth, despite being potted up from plug trays 3-4 weeks behind schedule.
First ripe (or mostly ripe) tomatoes harvested on June 21st, 98 days from seed sowing. Tomato varieties that have produced ripe tomatoes by the end of June (98-103 days from seed sowing) include:
Pinocchio Sweet Cheriette Sungold Totushka Minsk Early Sandpoint Moravsky Div
It looks like Carbon will be the first variety to produce a medium-sized fruit.
MEGABLOOMS! At least a few: Domingo Bigzarro Letnyi Sidr With some luck (from the weather and pests) and TLC, this Domingo looks like it could go 3 lbs. plus!
Ok, has there been enough foreshadowing: INTERFERENCE !?!
This could get long but I’ll keep it brief, since it’s very personal and only relevant to a blog like this because I need a functioning body to do physical labor. This body feels like it has aged 30 years since mid-May.
Massive inflammation of major joints (shoulders, knees, hips), along with extreme muscle fatigue, has lead to very poor sleep (can’t sleep more than 2 hours at a time because of pain buildup), near paralysis of major joints (mobility reduced by 90% or more). At times even picking up a shovel has been an impossible task, let alone using it. You really don’t want to know the gruesome details…
NSAID pain killers, doctor visit (first time in 21 years), blood tests, started some physical therapy, and some hypothesizing. Monocyte and other white blood cell counts high, indicative of a large immune response. Thyroid Stimulating Hormone levels very high, indicating possible hypothyroidism.
Guessing: I’m one of those people with an adverse response to COVID-19 vaccine (Moderna). The pain started in my left shoulder and spread from there over the course of several weeks following second dose. Symptoms are just starting to decline after 6 weeks of misery.
At this point, I cannot rule out an autoimmune disease, rapid-onset arthritis, or even cancer. Hopefully I’ll get some strength and energy back soon, because I’m hundreds of hours behind with outdoor work.
I just don’t have the ability to pound in t-posts for constructing another deer exclosure. So I’ve had to close the low tunnel every evening and open it again every morning – just waiting for flexibility, strength, and energy to return.
May was the month of potting up seedlings, hardening them against the elements, protecting them from weather extremes, organizing and delivering seedlings, and continuing to fill seed requests. Ideally, much more would have happened!
I made four trips to several locations throughout Utah, delivering about 3,300 seedlings, traveling 2,009 miles. Unfortunately, I had to replace all four tires and have major brake repairs done during these trips, resulting in unplanned expenses amounting to four months of living expenses! Ugh…
I installed a second deck in the back of the vehicle, allowing me to transport nearly twice as many seedlings per trip as in previous years. One of these years, a covered trailer might be part of the process.
Three of those trips required staying overnight, which meant leaving the low tunnel open and exposed to the elements as well as deer. Fortunately, the deer only destroyed about 40 seedlings. Here are just a few among the scores that roam this town, these across the street from the post office in broad daylight.
Plenty of other critters that can do damage, such as squirrels and leafhoppers.
There were thousands of these leafhoppers trapped in the low tunnel when I opened the top the other morning – sure hope they are not beet leafhoppers that carry Curly Top Virus!. You would think by now I would have learned how to take better photos. It’s a combination of equipment and impatience.
But I killed far more of my seedlings than the critters did. I really mollycoddled my seedlings from batch 5 (see below). Excellent germination rates, potted up with TLC, given several days to adjust to indoor conditions (top two shelves on left in the following photo), then moved outdoors with careful attention to the remote thermometer.
It was a relatively cool morning when I moved them to the low tunnel, so I kept the plastic down, checking often to not let it get above 90°F. I was plenty busy indoors, but when it hit 91 in the afternoon, I went out to open up the plastic. A gush of very hot air – hot enough to kill about 30% of the tender new seedlings. Turns out the the sensor had slipped down and was lying on the moist ground between trays. So temperature on the ground was likely 20° cooler than up on the little rise where the seedlings were. I had to replant 22 varieties.
Multi-tasking, vigilance, switching frequently from one task to another – these are challenges for me. My native personality is to focus intensely on a single task until it is done, completely shutting out everything, including eating, while working maniacally. I’ve had plenty of time and practice, but at this point, I’m not sure if I will ever learn to effectively multi-task.
In May, I harvested pods from a couple of varieties of peppers dead plants in the cellar. There are still about 80 pods to harvest from those plants.
For most pepper seedlings, I was 2-3 weeks behind getting them potted up. But they are under shade cloth in the low tunnel now and adjusting well. Problem is, there are about 600 more pepper seedlings than I have space for, and this late in the season, it’s very unlikely that I can sell them.
Wire racks were essentially empty for a few days, so electric bill should drop dramatically! But my final round of tomato seedlings (5 trays) were not started until May 27th and they are now under lights, with first emergence this morning.
Cleaning up from weeks of planting and potting up seedlings – seriously dirty, many hours to clean up – task over half completed, but there are other time demands. Inventory seeds in a state of quasi-chaos from weeks of planting and filling seed orders, with no time to re-organize after bouts of planting. Chaos reduction will take a couple more days.
SEED GERMINATION TESTS
For the past six months I’ve had grand ambitions of conducting 10,000 or more seed germination tests. I fell far short of that, but managed a few.
Germination test of 48 varieties of lettuce conducted. Seeds of 30 of those batches were harvested between 2008-2014 Only 4 of these 30 had over 50% germination; most had zero germination. Seeds of 18 varieties were harvested between 2015-2020; All but 2 of these had over 50% germination. So I conclude that, at least the way I harvest and store lettuce seeds, seeds more than 6 years old are mostly inviable, while those 5 years old or less should still have good germination rates. I’ve not yet had a chance to plant them into the (non-existent) garden, but I’ve been munching on the leaves on occasion!
I conducted seed germination tests on 73 varieties of brassicas, but have yet to record germination rates. Many have gone to seed in their very squished little pots. Anecdotally, some 10-year-old seeds were still viable, but seeds less than 8 years old germinated better than older seeds.
I tested 29 varieties of onions and relatives but have not yet recorded germination rates. But it’s very clear that onion seeds more than four years old just will not germinate.
I intended to conduct seed germination tests of over 350 cucurbit and 120 legume varieties as well, but ran out of time. And many, many more…
I did manage a modest seed germination test of pepper seeds. But with around 470 varieties in inventory, I ran out of time, space and other resources. Here is a summary of the results with peppers:
I tested pepper seeds of 176 batches, representing 136 varieties. Here are the results in tabular form, by year:
Pepper Seed Germination Tests, April 2021
Germination Rate, %
Results comport with what others have found: germination rates for pepper seeds older than 5 years will likely not be very high. So this means I need to grow out at least 100 varieties of peppers every year to maintain a viable seed stock. Happy to do it – but resources, especially time, are limiting.
*An interesting note about the 2011 seeds: On March 26th, I extracted 16 seeds from a dried pod of the variety Cabuchile which was given to me in May, 2011 by a neighbor by the name of Louis, who in turn received the pod from his mother in Mexico. All 16 seeds germinated! There was zero germination of the other variety (Merlot) from 2011.
Seed germination tests are not yet complete for tomatoes. I planted tomato seeds in six large batches this year.
First round, early varieties to share, March 13-15: 60 varieties
Second round, advance requests, March 25-27 and April 11th: 59 varieties
Third round, main crop to share with other growers, March 28th: 104 varieties
Fourth round, new (to DT) to trial, or total failure in previous years; save seeds, April 3-11: 236 varieties
Fifth round, first part of replenish depleted seed stock and oldest seeds, 25-29 April: 81 varieties
Sixth round, second part of replenish depleted seed stock and oldest seeds, 27-28 May: 154 varieties
This comes to a total of 694 varieties planted, of which I hope to be able to save seeds from at least 530 varieties. Interim germination results follow.
Total number of tomato seeds planted: 4,158
Number of tomato seeds for which germination rates can be calculated today (May 31st – obviously those planted after May 26th are just now starting to germinate): 3,490
Number of tomato seeds actually germinated from first five rounds: 2,799
Raw germination rate of tomato seeds from first five rounds: 80.2%
Number of tomato batches with ZERO germination: 42
Of those 42 batches, number from other growers: 36
Of those 36 batches, 27 were from a single grower who generously donated second-hand older seeds (most of them from 2006-2009) of 117 varieties
Germination rate among those 117 batches of older, second-hand seeds: 36.1%
Adjusted germination rate among the other 577 varieties: 83.5%
Germination rates by year are to be determined in a couple of weeks once all planted seeds have been given adequate time to germinate.
BIG MAJOR tasks with zero progress this month:
Removal of the huge stump from the massive Siberian Elm tree.
Designing and submitting plans for the greenhouse to the government regulators/intruders; thus zero work on the greenhouse.
Tractor work, etc. to prepare 4,000 square feet of garden space for planting a garden.
Construction of high tunnels over the garden space to keep deer out, humidity up, and temperatures regulated
Transplanting of even a single seedling from 3-1/2″ pots into the larger pots and growbags that I used last year.
Yup, it’s getting to the breaking point: I need to hire an assistent, or at least a part-time intern. But there is no way in the world that the budget could handle hiring an assistant, even at $7.25 per hour, which is the current minimum wage in Utah
If I lived in and operated this business from Vietnam, the calculations would be very different. Check out this link:
“Nursery Worker” is a reasonably close job description to what I need. 22,140 VND (Vietnamese Dong) currently converts to $0.96 per hour. That is a salary I could probably afford to pay, even for a full-time, year-round employee. As long as that assistant worked at least half as fast as I do.
Alas, I don’t live in Vietnam. Here is the dilemma, in a nutshell:
If you want to make money as an entrepreneur, chose one doodad that you can manufacture on a machine that requires only one operator (you), zero employees, and a warehouse. Make sure the profit margin on your doodads is very high, that they have a very long shelf life, that you never have to re-tool your manufacturing process to accommodate more than one style, that you have an automated way to package and ship them, that you have computerized inventory, that you take full advantage of mass production, etc. Then advertise like crazy and market the hell out or your doodads on social media: try your best to convince every person on the planet that they must buy one of your doodads. Then watch the money pour into your bank account, and eventually have an article written about you in Forbes magazine, “Fabulously successful, rags-to-riches entrepreneur’s story”.
In almost every conceivable way, what I’m trying to do with heirloom seeds is the exact opposite of this model. Other than my computer and printer, almost everything I’m doing pits me, as an artisan, against the enormous, multi-national seed corporations.
Me: pre-Industrial Revolution, all hand tools, no machines (my tiller has been busted for years), no helpers, no mass marketing, no catalogs mailed out, no seed co-ops (when I’m out of a variety, I’m just out), no purchasing seeds by the gunny sack from distributors who in turn purchase them from Third World countries (I’ve seen the inner workings of BIG seed companies firsthand), etc. You see, years ago I made the fateful decision to live my life based upon principles, not profits or power.
BIG seed companies: Economy of scale, mass production (seeds processed in batches of millions), mass marketing, worldwide network of seed producers and distributors, mostly pay extremely low (slave?) wages to farm workers in Third World countries, etc. Profit-driven.
Enough of that Jeremiad!! I must get back to work. REALLY hoping to get at least my most critical tomato vines into pots or grow-bags this week. And I’m really hoping to have more than a 92-day growing season this year, because I’m way behind!!
Shut down in early April (Cease and Desist) with threat of hefty fines. Government trespasser/intruder wants engineered plans, a greenhouse built fully to building codes for snow-load, plumbing, electricity, etc., with state licensed contractors and the works. They demand money (extortion), power and control.
A greenhouse for protecting tender young seedlings from deer and cold weather during the spring, not a living area for humans! But because I decided to attach it to the house, to allow air circulation with the house and cellar, they demand that it be “built to code”.
Better if I now stop this tirade about politics, government, control, extortion and oppressive power. I fear the government. Welcome to the USA, home of the free – if you’re rich enough…
Anyhow, I scrambled to put up this low tunnel for hardening off seedlings:
This low tunnel is 84′ long X 7′ wide and can hold 252 trays – just over half of what I’m producing this year. So far behind – the tunnel is only half full. Five days straight of cold, wet, near freezing temperatures last week. And high winds, with gusts of 50+ mph. But the tunnel held up will, with no frost damage.
Putting up about 6,000 seedlings of 800 or so varieties does not happen quickly with 1 person. Half the time is spent writing on the pot stakes. A good thermal transfer printer runs about $1K, something like this. It’s about time for another “splurge”, in the interest of saving time doing repetitive tasks that can easily be done by machine.
Still to come:
I have four wire racks going, set up with LED lights. In total, they can hold 80 trays. Monthly electric bill is predictable nearly five times what it was last summer.
It takes two days of potting up to fill up all these shelves, including some really late nights (4 a.m., 5 a.m…), and most of a full day to remove them all, get them thoroughly watered, and organized into the low tunnel.
High winds (imagine dealing with perlite in windy conditions), cold wet weather, urgent potting up to do, so I moved the entire operation indoors. It’s highly unlikely that anybody else could tolerate my seedlings and messes taking over the kitchen, bathroom, office, and now even the living room. My seeds have a room of their own. I’m alone for more than one reason…
Seed Germination Tests – lots of useful and interesting numbers to report once data collection is complete; i.e., after all potting up is completed.
Now who was it that told me deer don’t eat garlic leaves?
Wasabi plants are growing well in the cool cellar under a metal halide light; but I don’t expect any return on investment for a few years. None of the turmeric or ginger has germinated. I don’t have a warm place to keep these tropical plants – something like a greenhouse, perhaps??).
Horseradish is growing just fine – seems to like this cool weather.
Wild Radish has been growing like crazy, but only in protected areas or where I’ve watered. It’s been too dry on most spots of the property. The leaves are quite tasty – not as strong as arugula, tender leaves, only slightly pungent, roots are very thin and fibrous – not edible. Maybe I’ll save some more seeds this year.
An interesting denizen: Jerusalem Cricket, (likely Stenopelmatus fuscus) Not likely to be a major pest, so let it be.
So much more, but I need to get back to potting up. Or sleeping, maybe…
Several small snowstorms in March – much needed moisture!
Seed processing from 2020 continuing.
Eggplant, Thai White Ribbed offtype, distinctive netting coloration of purple, green and yellow.
Pods were still edible until mid-February, seeds extracted March 26th.
Moving on to the 2021 growing season, I’ve planted thousands of seeds of hundreds of varieties of lettuce, onion, pepper, tomatoes, etc. for seed germination tests and for plants to grow this year for seed saving. Seed germination tests for both lettuce and peppers seem to drop off dramatically after about 5 years old, but I need to compile and publish results. Here’s what some of them look like today:
Stokes Purple sweet potato seedlings are more like stunted vines now, with some runners over 3′ long
Of course a “few” early tomato seedlings (many thousands still to come):
Other things up and growing include:
Fig, Black Manzita –
Garlic – first up was the variety Kilarney Red –
Dwarf Pomegranate –
Ginger, Turmeric (neither yet sprouting) and very pricy wasabi, which I will attempt to grow in the cellar, where they temperature never gets above 65° F.
The nasturtium plant is growing rapidly and producing flowers in abundance, now that the weather is getting warmer. I’ve had to move the plant to the kitchen to make room on the wire racks for seedling production. I’m pollinating every open blossom several times a day with a Q-Tip.
I’ve already planted seeds of about 130 varieties for other gardeners. More about this seedling project is available here:
At the moment I’m in the middle of planting seeds of 234 new (to Delectation of Tomatoes) tomato varieties. This will be followed over the next few days by plantings of seeds of an estimated 350 additional tomato varieties to replenish supplies and replace seeds of varieties that are more than 8 years old.
This year I’ve purchased three additional light stands (2′ X 4′, 4-shelf wire racks), each of which can hold 20 trays, which brings my capacity to 80 trays simultaneously. And the lights: LED, 4′ long, two lamps per fixture, “Utility Shop Light Fixture, 4400lm, 42W [250W Equivalent], 5000K Daylight White Shop Lights”. And three more 2′ X 4′ heat mats, along with a thermostat temperature controller.
Some germinating seeds got too hot today where they were exposed to direct sunlight next to the south-facing window.
I closed the curtain, completely removed the humidomes, and turned on the box fan. Within two hours, temperatures were back in the 78-80° range, much more to the liking of tomatoes and peppers. Constant vigilance appears to be mandatory!
New light stands at various, with an abundant use of Mylar fabric –
And now, the BIG project – the most expensive thing I’ve ever purchased, aside from three houses and one new car 18 years ago.
A 200 square-foot greenhouse with a framework made of treated lumber, to be covered with Solexx – distinctly NOT the cheap stuff. Here is the 225′ roll of 4′ wide, 3.5 mm Solexx:
Now that the huge Siberian Elm tree is down, it makes sense to construct a greenhouse, which will also serve as a solarium, providing heat for the house during the cold months of winter.
Here is some progress made over the past few days –
There is a good chance that all posts will be set in concrete tomorrow, trusses placed, and some cross-bracing installed. Construction is behind schedule, but progress is significant, with some good help, of course. I can hardly keep up with filling seed orders and planting thousands of seeds for the 2021 growing season. Designing and construction a customized greenhouse like this is something I just could not do on my own, even if I could somehow manage zero sleep every night for a month!
I will still need to setup the low tunnel like I did last year, since I will have about twice as many seedlings.
Then there is the issue of leveling and plowing the garden spot that has never been cultivated. And building high tunnels. And putting a tall fence around the property. And – not a moment of boredom!
Hopefully by this time next month, I will be able to report that a 200 square-foot greenhouse has been built and contains hundreds of young plants, destined for other gardens and small farms throughout the area. More on this when I have photos to show – not just words!
That one purple sweet potato produced 31 slips, which I potted up into 5-1/2″, 2-quart pots and placed on a large heat mat. They are growing like crazy and are ready to go in the ground now, 3 months ahead of schedule! What to do, what to do.
A character flaw is once again on public display: I cannot bear to throw away healthy plants or seeds or seedlings. I am quite familiar with the laws of ecology, but seem to be unwilling to accept limitations of time, space and energy — an emotional attachment to imagined possibilities, or something like that.
Anyhow, the variety name is Stokes Purple, and it has an interesting history, which can be read about at this newspaper article:
If any reader wants to give some of these a good home, drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and lets work something out. Offer good until June 01, 2021, at the latest. Sweet potatoes like a warm climate with well drained soil – not something I can give them right now.
Now that my non-tomato seeds are semi-organized, I’m conducting hundreds of seed germination tests on older batches of seeds in these families:
It probably goes without saying that 75% of the effort with this project involves seeds in the Solanaceae family – tomatoes, peppers, etc.
With approximately 25,000 batches of seeds in inventory, it simply is not possible – logistically, financially or otherwise – for me to conduct “official” germination tests on every one of these batches every year. Not to mention, such tests would use up around 80% of my seed inventory every year, especially with tomatoes and peppers, where many batches involve only 10 to 50 seeds.
Some people have expressed concern over tomato seeds that are more than 5 years old. With the dry climate where these seeds are stored, they should be viable for at least 10-12 years. Please refer to this blog post from two years ago:
I am doing my best to replenish these older seeds and conduct current seed germination tests. If you would like more information on this effort, please drop me an email. And on the Delectation of Tomatoes Store page, this seed refund/replacement policy is published:
“I will promptly replace seeds that did not germinate or did not produce true-to-type with seeds from another batch of the same or similar variety as you prefer. Or I will refund full or partial purchase price of any order at your discretion, for any reason, no questions asked. I strive for perfection but have not yet arrived…“
A reminder that Delectation of Tomatoes is a one-person operation, and I offer only what I personally grow – no seed co-ops, no middleman, no reselling, no restocking from what other people have grown, no employees, just the occasional volunteer (thanks a bunch, you know who you are! 👌 ) . When I run out of seeds of a variety, it will take me up to a year to regrow and replenish my stock. But for now, running out of seeds has only been an issue with a handful of varieties – just not that many gardeners know about this endeavor.
Recently I have harvested peppers for seed saving from the plants growing under a metal halide light in the cellar, Including Aji Limon:
and Bhut Jolokia (aka Ghost Pepper):
Not very many seeds result from such a meager harvest! The cellar is just too cold for pepper plants to thrive.
I’m also still processing seeds from several squash varieties, including Beloplodnyi, an excellent, “white-fruited” zucchini-style summer squash that turns yellow when fully ripe. This one is extra early producing, listed as 36 days from seed on one website! Perhaps – if not planted in early July, as the vines grow like crazy when it’s nice and warm.
As with the nearly 2,000 other types varieties that don’t yet have their own page on the website, seeds of this variety can be ordered through this link:
Nearly all revenue from seeds goes towards preserving heirloom varieties from around the world, and sharing those through seedlings, fresh produce and seeds. And for the next few weeks, that means some heavy inputs into constructing a greenhouse and high tunnels — all purchases and contributions to these efforts are much appreciated!
Supporting Delectation of Tomatoes means supporting the preservation, propagation and promotion of an amazing diversity of fruit and vegetable varieties from around the world, while also enjoying and appreciating the best that Nature has to offer. You will also be promoting your own health and supporting the local economy when you grow and share what you grow.
Delectation of Tomatoes was established in February, 2011 with no expectation that it would transform from a hobby shared with others into an all-consuming passion in one decade!
Poverty, instability and deaths have resulted in moving the business five times since August, 2015. A (hopefully) final move happened one year ago. This past week, I made some significant progress towards getting seeds organized — you can scarcely imagine the chaos, the frustration! Here’s a short video update:
This project has put me a couple of days behind with filling seed orders; but with seeds much better organized now, I hope to be able to catch up very soon.
A month ago I placed the pots containing chunks of purple sweet potato (variety Stokes Purple) on a heat mat. They did finally sprout and I now have about 25 slips from a single tuber!
Now what to do with them? Sweet potatoes like hot weather; but sub-zero temperatures are in the forecast this week. Besides, it will take many weeks of work to get a garden established here.
Likely they will end up in cellar, where all the pepper plants are pretty much dead:
Aphids + cold nights + benign neglect, and my hope to have 20 pepper plants survive the winter are pretty well dashed. But, where the watermelon and cucumber vines died, I planted some onion bulbs —
I tried this last spring. The onions grew fine and flowered well. But I got not a single seed – there just were not any pollinators! I hope to make significant improvements in the pollination realm this year by improving the habitat and planting lots of attractive plants and wildflowers.
Here is one last Muncher cucumber, grown in the cellar, that I broke open on January 8th – still no seeds:
And a tiny, golf ball-sized watermelon (variety New Hampshire Midget) that was picked very immature on October 20th, 2020. Just out of curiosity, I wanted to see if it would produce viable seeds.
Surprisingly, this tiny watermelon produced 11 seeds which look viable! I’ve documented this phenomenon with tomatoes as well: small, hard green fruits, can ripen indoors over several weeks or months and still manage to produce viable seeds. The fruits remain alive, and continue to metabolize and perform their evolutionary duty: produce viable seeds for the next generation.
This does NOT seem to work for most other vegetable varieties, however: peppers, cucumbers, squash and many more. With those, fruits need to be fully mature or over mature and wrinkled before harvest.
Just moments ago, I decided to cut open one of the Straight Eight Cucumbers I mentioned in my last blog. Here’s what I got:
About 13 viable seeds after 3-1/2 months of waiting since harvest. Not surprisingly, the flesh was bitter, tough and rather dry. At this rate, I would need to grow 20 hills of cucumbers for every variety in order to be able to collect enough seeds to offer on the website. Very likely, pollination was a problem, as it was for most tomato and pepper varieties also in 2020.
Here is a link to several files I have developed and shared over the years:
So, what have I done with this business, and what have I learned in the past ten years? Well, I don’t have time to write a 1,000-page tome, and nobody would want to read it. But a few highlights might be informative.
People come first. Respect others, communicate well, provide a quality product. This all seems like common sense, common decency to me. With no budget or time for advertising, I depend upon my colleagues, my fellow gardeners, to let others know about the seeds, seedlings, and fresh garden produce that I have available. If this were only about the money, I would have quit years ago! I have been horribly disrespected by others in my life, and it hurts. So being respectful has become second-nature. Even if that means spending up to 10 hours per day responding to emails. I am no more important than any other gardener or small farmer.
Keep hands and fingers moving as fast as possible every waking minute. It’s called “manual labor” for a reason. Always strive for increasing efficiency. I operate Delectation of Tomatoes like an artisan craftsman, pre-Industrial Age, aside from computers, printers and the Internet. No machine labor, no mass production, no economy of scale here! Just good, old-fashioned, one person at a time service.
Most people don’t want to work fast, especially for very low wages; thus, I have no helpers. Yes, I have tried…
[More to come here, maybe, if I can manage the time]
2020 was an extraordinarily dry year, at least from May through through November. In December, there were three significant snow storms, dropping between 1″ and 4″.
I tried to capture the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction on the winter solstice, but this is the best I could manage with my equipment (powerlines in the foreground):
I have not seen a ladybug in the cellar since December 7th, and most of the plants have died. Between the cold nights and the heavy aphid load, it’s just too much for subtropical plants. I could turn on a heater in the cellar, but I just don’t see how I could recover that high heating expense.
Outside temperatures have dipped into the single digits several nights and into the mid-30’s indoors. Here’s the thermometer in the seed room this morning:
I only heat the room where I package seeds, prepare seed labels, etc. Use of electricity has jumped from 209 kWh in August to 562 in December. Tough on the budget – one of these years I’ll install solar panels.
Here’s a little project that takes up a bit of electricity in the form of a seedlings heating mat – purple sweet potato purchased from the local grocery store:
So far, after 18 days, there is no sign of slips starting to grow. I’m thinking maybe they were irradiated, or perhaps it’s just not warm enough for this heat-loving vegetable.
I am seeing very good growth from the nasturtium plant that I dug up on October 22nd and transplanted indoors:
This is just about the only plant that the deer didn’t destroy among those planted along the sidewalk.
On November 24th, I started processing the last major batches of tomatoes for seed extraction, which included about 45 batches. A couple of the more attractive specimens included:
Barnes Mountain Orange
Final batches of tomatoes, about 20 batches, were processed for seeds starting on December 10th:
Since most of the tomatoes in these final batches were picked green and ripened indoor (in direct sunlight, as much as possible), it’s not surprising that about half the seeds floated and so were discarded. The rest should be viable.
Tomatoes for eating are all gone now, except this one holdout:
There was this decent-sized slicer on December 1st:
And this one on December 8th, also sun ripened, which was much tastier than it looked!
There are several batches of peppers still to process:
Campanita is an interesting looking pepper variety – “little bell”, with moderate heat:
And cucumbers. These Straight Eight cucumbers were harvested in mid-October and have hardly changed color or dried out, despite being “ripened” in the sunlight for over two months.
I know from experience (i.e. many mistakes) that it is very challenging to get cucumbers to mature fully on or off the vine.
The cucumber variety Muncher, for example, which I hand-pollinated and mollycoddled all year – including moving the 20-gallon pot in which they were growing down to the cellar under metal halide lights – looked like it finally ripened a couple of mature fruits. But alas, very few seeds were mature, and most don’t appear to have even been pollinated.
I think an earlier start and a greenhouse is definitely the way to go with cucumbers, at least at this elevation.
Of course there are several squash still to be processed for seeds – I’ve been eating all the squash I can handle.
And still several more on standby:
Last watermelon of the season was Cream of Saskatchewan, harvested rather immature in mid-October and consumed on December 18th. It was very tasty and even moderately sweet — though it was a bit odd to eat a watermelon that wasn’t very juicy.
Many of the seeds appear to be viable! I’m not an expert, but it seems that watermelons and tomatoes can be picked immature (though they need to be at least close to full size), ripened indoors and yield viable seeds. But cucumbers, peppers, squash and many others will not perform this helpful trick.
It seems incredible that the earth is tilting back on its axis and the days are getting noticeably longer already. Where did the time go? It has been almost a year since I unloaded the moving van, and the living room is still utter chaos, with boxes upon boxes of stuff to be organized.
I’m just no sure when I will find two days “off” to organize this mess. Which tasks do I not do? Every morning I wake up to 100+ hours of work that “must” be completed before midnight. Filling seed orders is obviously the #1 priority most days:
Sharing seeds, seedlings and fresh produce are the most rewarding tasks of what Delectation of Tomatoes is all about. And these are obviously essential to allowing me to continue doing everything else.
I’m not even going to start listing all the other support tasks that need to be done, many of them rather urgent. “Overwhelmed” is a feeling that affects me only if I allow it to do so. The work is pleasant and enjoyable for the most part. I just don’t have enough energy or hours in the day. Working fast and efficiently are mandatory and have become habitual.
On the bright side, how many people get to do what they love, make their own schedule, work from home, and do something that aligns well with their value system? Not very many, I surmise; so complaining about hard work would be hypocritical and counterproductive!
The mighty Siberian Elm has fallen!! Watch the slightly scary video, along with written commentary, at this YouTube video:
Click on the YouTube icon to read commentary.
Now that this enormous obstacle is down, the next big project is stump and root removal, at least down to 12″ or so. Then leveling out the ground. Then constructing a custom high tunnel. Then – well, it just never ends! It’s all good though – for a clear and positive purpose, which doesn’t involve making some corporate fat-cat even fatter off the labor of others. Though someday I hope to be able to hire a helper, at least part time.
Still processing seeds, the last 150 or so batches. Here is the last major batch, seeds extracted on November 29th:
The ladybugs on the 20 potted pepper plants in the cellar have pretty much gone dormant. Too cool down there. Plants are struggling but mostly surviving. Aphids are doing fine – a species I’ve not seen before:
Maybe everyone else already knows about this; but I came across these at the local grocery store a couple of weeks ago:
Very oblong, black, seedless grapes, brand name Welch’s. Very yummy – plenty good enough for that nearly insatiable sweet tooth… I hope to grow some grapes and other perennials here within the next year or two.
After dark work for the next several weeks: processing thousands of photos and getting some 2,000 additional varieties profiled on the website for seed sharing. While I’m working on getting that project up to date, here is the link I’ve created for requesting seeds of any of the 3,500 or so total varieties I have in inventory:
The growing season is REALLY over now – check out this forecast from earlier this week:
Actual low temperatures for three nights in a row were 16°F, 9° and 14°. I harvested everything remaining and now have approximately 230 batches of tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, squashes, melons, etc. from which I am still working on extracting seeds.
For the most part, seeds are ready to go. Following is a summary of my efforts at saving seeds from tomatoes in 2020.
With over 2,700 varieties of tomato seeds in inventory, I really need to be growing at least 800 varieties every year. But the move last winter (fifth in five years) and the fact that there has never been a garden here and limited time and other resources have all conspired to make 2020 yet another challenging year.
In an effort to produce what I could manage, this was my selection process:
First cut: Ideally would grow if time & space & other resources: 1,600 tomato varieties Second cut: “MUST GROW”: 588 (including 150 new) Third Cut: 486 Fourth Cut: 179 Fifth Cut: 105 Final Cut for seed saving project: 97 varieties planted on May 25th
Additional plantings: 25 varieties for the Giant Tomato Project. 219 varieties for seedlings for other growers
Following is a table summarizing what actually resulted from my growing efforts in pots and growbags.
No. varieties planted from seed
Est. No. seedlings transplanted into gardens
Est. no. seedlings killed by late frost, disease or pests
No. unique varieties transplanted into gardens
No. varieties for which vines produced zero seeds
No. varieties for which too few seeds (<70) were produced to allow for listing
No. varieties which were off-type, but seeds saved anyhow
No. varieties that are now new on offer from Delectation of Tomatoes
No. of varieties from which seeds were saved to replenish those already in inventory
Tot. No. of varieties from which adequate seeds were harvested in 2020 for listing
So essentially, growing in 7-gallon growbags was only about 50% successful at producing enough tomatoes for seed saving. Actually, other than tiny bites for flavor assessments, I “sacrificed” only 5 tomatoes this year for fresh eating; all the rest went for seed saving. Well, I did cheat and snacked on a few cherry tomatoes here and there.
Here is the list of 37 NEW (to Delectation of Tomatoes) tomato varieties for which seeds are now available. These will also be listed and profiled on the main website as soon as I can manage the time.
Anna Maria’s Heart Cherokee Rose Cherokee Tiger Large Dirty Little Chicken Dwarf Andy’s Forty Dwarf Betalux Dwarf Blackfire Dwarf Fatima Dwarf Melanie’s Ballet Dwarf Moliagul Moon Dwarf Yantornyi Giant Hippo Giant Valentine Gigant Kuby Indian Reservation Indian Stripe Black Indian Stripe, PL Kozula #24 Kumato Leh Red Egg Make My Day Mermaid Napa Giant Oranzhevyi Orangutang Peppermint Phil’s One Phil’s Two Pineapple Heart Sergeant Marley Siberian Black Starburst Nebula Starburst Nebula X Black Beauty Summer of Love Thornburn’s Terra Cotta Xanadu Green Goddess Zebra Giant Zorica’s Croatian Bull Eye
Some of these were REALLY taste! Others produce beautiful fruits or were notably productive. More details to follow here or on the website linked above. The additional 100 varieties from which seeds were saved for replenishment are already listed on the website under the Seeds tab.
Now for a summary of seed harvest from everything except tomatoes.
Basil: 6 varieties planted, fresh seeds now available for: Cinnamon Genovese Italian Large Leaf Lemon Opal Thai
Cucumber: 9 varieties planted, fresh seeds now available for: English Telegraph Lemon Muncher Muromskiy Straight Eight Suyo Long
Eggplant: 11 varieties planted, fresh seeds now available for: Black Beauty Casper Diamond Dusky Ichiban Mestisa Orient Charm Pandora Striped Rose Snake of Mugla Thai Green Thai White Ribbed
Ground Cherry: 4 varieties planted, fresh seeds now available for: Aunt Molly’s Inca Berry Pineapple Yantar
Melon: 10 varieties planted, fresh seeds now available for: Amish Deosaki?? (Correct spelling TBD) Extra Early Hanover Green Nutmeg Minnesota Midget Northern Arizona Sakata’s Sweet Sweet Granite
Pepper: 41 varieties planted, fresh seeds now available for: Aji Limon Ancho/Poblano Bhut Jolokia Big Bertha Campanita Carmen Fresno Hatch Italian Pepperoncini Jalapeño Jalapeño, Early Jalapeño, Traveler’s Strain Le Rouge Royal Lesya Necsi Masca Sarga Mini Chimes Orange Paper Lantern Santa Fe Grande Satsuma Unknown large orange bell from store Unknown large red bell from store Unknown large yellow bell from store Yolo Wonder
Squash: 18 varieties planted, fresh seeds now available for: Algonquian Beloplodnyi Golden Zucchini Mandan Rampicante Sweet Meat Zebra
Watermelon: 15 varieties planted, fresh seeds now available for: Cream of Saskachewan Jeremiah the Bullfrog Kaho Moon and Stars Yellow Flesh Navajo New Hampshire Midget Siberian Sweet Sverkhranniy Dyutina Takii Gem Thai Chatchai Ultra Skorospelyi Waterloupe Zolotistyi
Peas, beans, flowers: 17 varieties planted, planted in front of the front fence by the street; essentially total failure (thanks to deer…) except a few dozen seeds of –
Autumn Beauty Sunflower:
Above photo taken on October 24th, just ahead of the hard freeze.
Non-edible, seeds collected wild or ornamental plants – just a partial list
Curlycup gumweed Wild radish Golden Raintree Rubber Rabbitbrush Hollyhock
Umm, yup, pretty obvious I have a seed obsession…
Also planted in early October: 27 varieties of garlic, about 450 total cloves! Here is the completed bed, 3′ wide X 40′ long, with 2″ of compost and other organic fertilizers mixed in, covered with chicken wire to reduce damage from deer.
Here is a photo of a bulb (which consisted of 6 cloves) of one of the larger varieties planted, Estonia Red:
Hopefully by late September, 2021, I will have some garlic bulbs on offer for the first time ever!
I still have plants growing! Before the light frost in early September, I moved about 20 potted pepper, melon and cucumber plants into the basement. I set up a 400-watt metal halide light over them.
For the most part, the plants continue to do well. But the aphid population absolutely exploded. I released about 100 Minute Pirate Bugs in late September, but they seemed to have zero effect. They are far smaller than aphids.
In early October, I released 150 adult ladybugs. They are still doing well and seem healthy and happy:
However, they seem to be gradually dying off (spiders?) or leaving. So far, I have not observed any eggs or larvae. The adults seem to stay directly under the source of light and heat, never venturing to the foliage and super-abundant source of aphids in the periphery.
Several of other interesting events, such as rescuing a Dark-eyed Junco that was trapped inside an old chicken house. Here it’s briefly suspended in a spiders web:
And this series of photos of a giant sunflower opening. I thought it would be interesting to take a photo every day, showing the progress. Here are three photos in the series:
Oops, deer. Devastating. Herds of them have descended from the nearby mountains and just roam the streets and gardens, eating everything they can reach.
They even broke into my “deer exclusion cage”, bending the chicken wire and breaking strands of wire that held the chicken wire to t-posts.
Plenty of evidence of their presence and damage.
I pretty much caught them in the act a few days later.
Covering immature melons helped.
Estimated cost to install an 8′ tall chain-link fence around the perimeter of the entire backyard where I want to put in a garden and high tunnel: $4,000.
Some flowers just started to open ahead of the hard freeze.
Morning Glory –
Also, it took two full, long days, but I finally managed to get my non-tomato seeds semi-organized, and actually have space to move around in the seed room.
Many hours still needed to fully process seeds, alphabetize, enter data, process photos, write up descriptions, put everything on the website. Many hundreds of hours. Not sure where those will come from!?