The Secret (?) to Inducing Megablooms on Tomato Vines

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:

Delectation of Tomatoes, Seeds

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.

Tomato Patch as of July 21, 2022

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.

Tomato Patch as of June 28, 2022, two weeks after transplanting completed

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:


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.


42 Days
6 Pound Giant
A Grappoli d’Iverno
AAA Sweet Solano “Ruffled”
ABC Potato Leaf
Abe Lincoln
Accordion bicolor pink
Accordion bicolor red
Ace 55
Aces High
Adah’s Potato Leaf
African Queen
African Togo “Trefle”
African Togo Dwarf
Ailsa Craig
Aladin’s Lamp
Alice’s Dream
Alosha Popovich
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
Ananas Noire
Andy’s Buckflats Wonder
Angel Heart
Angelo’s Red
Angora Orange
Angora Super Sweet
Anmore Treasures
Anna’s Kentucky
Apple Tree
Apricot Zebra
Arad’s Pink Heart
Ararat Flamed
Artisan Green Tiger
Artisan Pink Tiger
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
Australian Giant
Babushkin Sekret
Babylon’s Glow
Barnes Mountain Orange
Bart’s Best
Beauty King
Beaverlodge Plum
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
Bijskij Zeltyi
Bill Bean Select
Birdie Jaune
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
Black’s Brown Boar
Blanche de Prusse
Blane’s Surpriz Beefsteak
Blonde Boar
Blue Beech
Blue Berries
Blue Fade
Blue Fruit
Blue Keyes
Blue Suede Shoes
Bo unknown 1
Bo unknown 2
Bol’shaya Nina
Bonne du Rossillion
Bonny Best
Borgo Cellarno
Bosque Blue Bumblebee
Brad’s Atomic Grape
Brandy Boy
Brandy Sweet Plum
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 Heart Giant
Bull’s Heart
Bumble Bee
Bunte Pflaume
Burraker’s Favorite
Bush Beefsteak
Bush Goliath Pink
Butter n’ Eggs
Buttermilk Falls
Butterworth’s Potato Leaf
Buzau 22
Bychki Serdtsevidnyie
Bych’ye Serdtse Baby Mashi
Bychye Serdtse Rozovoye Ostroye
Bych’ye Serdtse Vystavochnoye
Ca Chua Hong
Cade’s Cove Red Currant
Cal Ace
Calabacita Roja
Cali Orange
Camp Joy
Canestrino di Lucca
Captain Lucky
Carmela’s Yellow Stripe
Carol Chyko’s Big Paste
Casady’s Folly
Casino Chips
Caspian Pink
Celebrity (F4)
Celebrity, Antho
Champagne Bubbles
Chapman Special
Charlie Chaplin
Chef’s Choice Orange
Chernoe Serdtse
Cherokee Chocolate
Cherokee Chocolate Tiger
Cherokee Lemon
Cherokee Lime
Cherokee Lime Stripes
Cherokee Purple
Cherokee Red
Cherokee Tiger Black
Chestnut Chocolate
Chianti Rose
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
Churra Plum
Cindy’s West Virginia
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
Containers Choice
Coorong Pink
Copper River
Cosmonaut Volkov
Costoluto Fiorentino
Costoluto Genovese
Cour de Bue
Cow’s Tit
Crimson Sockeye
Crimson Sprinter
Criollo Argentino
Croatian Heart
Crovarese Grape
Csikos Botermo
Cuban Black
Cuban Flower
Cuban Pepper Like
Cuneo Giant Pear
Cuore del Drago
Cuore di Capra
Cuore di Toro
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, Gordon Graham
Delta Diver
Der Kleine Doctor
DeWeese Streaked
Dinner Plate
Dirty Little Chicken
Domaca Pfarrgarten
Domingo X Blackfire
Domingo X Libanaise des Montagnes 1
Domingo X Libanaise des Montagnes 2
Don Camillo
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 bicolor
Eagle Fork Big Red
Earl of Edgecombe
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
Elgin Pink
Elser’s Brown Derby
Epstein’s Potato Leaf
Ernie’s Plump X Ananas Noir
Esmeralda Golosina
Estonian Yellow Cherry
Eva Purple Ball X Big Beef
Evan’s Purple Pear
Everett’s Rusty Oxheart
Evil Olive
Extreme North
Fat Frog
Father Frost
Favorie de Bretagne
Feather Firebird
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
Gajo de Melon
Garden Peach
Garden Red Pride
Garnet X Black Krim
Gary Ibsen’s Gold
Gary’O Sena
Geante de Tezier
Georgia Green
Georgia Streak
Germaid Red
German Big
German Orange
German Pink
German Queen
Gezahnte Buhrer-Keel
Ghost Cherry
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
Giuseppe’s Big Boy
Glazer’s Giant
Globe Cherry
Gobstopper/Golden King of Siberia
Golden Currants/Golden Rave
Goldman’s Italian-American
Goluboy Les
Good to Gold
Goose Creek
Goose Creek Black
Grand Belgium
Grandma Mary
Grandma Oliver’s Chocolate
Granny Cantrell’s German Pink
Grape Sausage
Great Divide
Great White
Greek Asemina
Greek Domata
Green Doctor’s
Green Doctors Frosted
Green Gage
Green Grape
Green Sausage
Green Tiger
Gribnoe Lukoshko
Grosse Verte Rose
Grubs Mystery Green
Grusha Rozovaya
Guernsey Island
Hahms Gelbe Topftomate
Haley’s Purple Comet
Hamson DX 52-12
Hardin’s Miniature
Hawaiian Orange Cherry
Hawaiian Pineapple
Hawaiian Red Cherry
Hazel Mae
Heart of Ashgabat
Heinz 1350
Herb Taylor Golden
Hercegovina Red Ramski
Hippie Heart
Honey Drop Cherry
Honey Nails
Humboldtii Wild Pink
Hungarian Heart
Hybrid 2 Tarasenko
Ildi Sunnyside/Inca Jewels
Imur Prior Beta
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 Crossa
Italian Giant
Italian Heirloom
Italian Ice
Italian Sweet
Italian Tree
Iva’s Red Berry
Ivory Pear
Jabuchar Velika Plana
Jean’s Prize
Jelly Bean
Jenkins Creek
Jerry’s German Giant
Jersey Breeze
Jersey Devil
John Henry
Judge Jack Miller Australian Heart
Judson Bicolor
June Pink
Justine Heart
Kanadskoye Naslediye
Kangaroo Paw Red
Kapidag Red
Kavkazskiy Velikan
Kayleigh’s Large Pink
Kazabalykskiy Superranniy
Kazachka Purple
Kazakhstanskiy Domashniy
Kellogg’s Breakfast
Kenigsberg Serdtesvidniy
Kenilworth King George
Kentucky Pink Stamper
Kim’s Civil War Oxheart
King Aramis
King Kong
Kinkan Orange
Königin der Nacht
Korol’ Gigante
Korol Sibiri
Korol Sisin
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 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
Lucky Cross
Lyagushka Tsarevna
Maddeline’s Vine Candy
Madison County Pink
Magic Miracle
Magnum Beefsteak
Malakhitovaya Shkatulka
Mallee Rose
Marcy’s Mystery
Marianna’s Peace
Marizol Magic
Martino’s Roma
Maule’s Success
Mayo’s Delight
McClintock’s Big Pink
McMurray #10
Mennonite Orange
Meri’s Croatian
Michael’s Portuguese Monster
Midnight In Moscow
Midnight Snack
Miss Kennedy
Missouri Pink Love Apple
Monkey Ass
Moonlight Mile
Morado di Fitero
Mormon’s World’s Earliest
Mortgage Lifter, Bicolor
Mortgage Lifter, Radiator Charlie
Moscow Pear
Moskovskiye Zvezdy
Mountain Magic
Mountain Spirit
Mrs. Benson
Nahuelbuta Pink
Napa Chardonnay
Napa Rose
Neves Azorean Red
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
Orange Bourgoin
Orange Crush
Orange Minsk
Orange Paruche
Orange Queen
Orange Roussollini
Orangeveyi Oranguntang
Orenco Gold
Osburn Oxheart
O’Sena Black
Oud Holland
Ovi’s Romanian Giant
Ozarna Zebra
Painted Lady
Panamorous BH Series
Pappy Kerns
Paquebot Roma
Paul Robeson
Peach Furry Yellow Hog
Peaches and Cream
Peak of Perfection
Pebrera de Jerica
Pederson’s Beefsteak
Pendulina Orange
Perfection in Pink
Peron Sprayless
Pertsevidnyi Rozovyi
Phuket Egg
PI 129129
Pineapple Heart
Pineapple Pink
Pink Beefsteak
Pink Berkeley Tie-dye
Pink Jazz
Pinky Tuscadero
Plate de Haiti
Podarok Kommersanta
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
Rosa de Barbastra
Rosalie’s Big Rosy
Rosalie’s Large Paste
Rosao de Aerbe (Ramallet)
Rose Beauty
Rose Quartz
Rosella Purple
Rouge d’Irak
Ruby Gold
Rufous Potato Leaf
Russian Cossack
Russian Dagger
RW Cephei
Sad Sac
Sainte Lucie
Salisaw Café
San Llorens
San Marzano
San Marzano Redorta
Sandul Molodvan
Santa Maria
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
Sheryl’s Portuguese Red Heart
Shilling Giant
Shokoladnaya Liana
Shokoladnoe Chudo
Siberian Bush
Siberische Appeltomaat
Sibirski Skorospelyi
Slankard’s Oxheart
Slavyanskiy Shedevr
Sleeping Lady
Slezi Drakona
Slovenian Black
Southern Ripe
Spud Viper
Stonor’s Most Prolific
Striped German
Striped Roman
Sturt Desert Pea
Sub-Arctic Maxi
Summer Cider Apricot
Sun Baby
Sungold (OP)
Sungold Select II
Sunrise Bumblebee
Sunsugar (OP)
Super San Marzano
Super Sioux
Sweet Aperitif
Sweet Beverley
Sweet Orange II
Sweet Sue
Swisher Sweet
Sylvan Gaume
Tasty Evergreen
Tel-Aviv Train (dark)
Tequilla Sunrise
Teschchin Yazyk
The Musketeers
The Thong
Thornburn’s Lemon Blush
Thornburn’s Terra Cotta
Tiger Zebra
Todd County Amish
Tomarindo Multicolor
Tony’s Sardinian
Trefle du Togo
Trevor’s Golden Beam
Tyrnovskiy Rozovyi
Uluru Ochre
Uncle Steve’s Oxheart
Vater Rhein na Sinyuke
Vee One
Verde de las Landas
Verna Orange
Vernisazh Zholtyi
Virginia Sweets
Watermelon Beefsteak
Weisnicht’s Ukrainian
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
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

Tomato Patch Completed!

July 15th, 2022, 10:00 a.m.

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.

Delectation of Tomatoes, Main Tomato Patch completed, 2022

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.

Transformation:  Chaos → 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…

Backhoe work – far superior to back-breaking work!!

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.

A few rocks were not nearly sufficient…
So much to learn, so little time…

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!

16th Row of Tomato Seedling Transplanting Completed

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.

Success at Sharing Seedlings

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.

Siberian Elm 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:

DT Seedlings

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.

Not that it matters much what I am like as a human being, since I am largely not much more than a complex production machine. Out of time to explore more of this…

Third End of the Candlestick

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?”

Neglected Garlic

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…

Gardening: Hobby, or Something More?

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

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

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

Distinctive, Snow-like Fungal Growth on Fermenting Tomatoes

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

Inca Berries – Keep Well Over Winter!

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

21 Boxes of Tomato Seeds

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

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

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

Dust Devil – A Tumbleweed Tornado!

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

Wasabi, Winter Survival, Ready to Bloom

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

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

Fig Cuttings Rehydrating

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

Sterilizing Potting Mix

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

Attempted Rooting of Fig Cuttings

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

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

Fig Tree, Beginning of Year Two

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

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

Five-spotted Hawkmoth Pupae, Manduca quinquemaculata

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

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

Planting in 128-cell Plug Trays

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are still so many important but undone tasks:

• Update computer files with seed inventory from 2021

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

• Select among all of these seeds for growing in 2022

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

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

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

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

Still Moving In – Boxes Stacked to the Ceiling…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Any ideas? email me at

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

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

DT, Shared Files

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

Sharing Seeds

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!

The past few weeks have been busy with packaging and mailing out seeds, as well as attending local seed exchanges such as:

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:

Fresh snow, 2-23-2022

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?


DT Seed Store

Projects Put on Pause

Over the past few years I have been developing and publishing lists which many growers may find helpful. These files are supplemental to the main website and to this blog, and are available for anybody to view:

DT Shared Files

The Big Tomato List – many contributors have helped in documenting 322 varieties which have been grown to at least 2 lbs. (or some at least credible claims)

Very Productive Varietes – obviously biased by where I have grown, soil conditions, weather, etc.

Heat Tolerant Varieties – those which have done well for me in summers of 95-105° F, along with many which have been reported by other growers to do well in areas like Phoenix Arizona, Las Vegas, South Texas, etc.

Dwarf, micro-dwarf, and compact determinate varieties, more or less suited to growing in containers or small spaces.

Extra early varieties – 85+ varieties that can ripen within 65 days of transplanting if weather remains warm.

Container varieties – 105 varieties suitable for growing in 1- to 3-gallon pots

Tastiest Tomatoes – 241 wonderfully delicious varieties, and counting…

An overview of how to successfully grow giant tomatoes.

In mid-January I “took off” four days to attend the Utah Farm and Food Conference. It was a very positive experience, but I was already struggling mightily to keep up. Regrettably, some growers have had to wait for a week or more to receive their seeds. But now, finally, on the last day of January, I am very close to being caught up with seed request. Sharing seeds with other growers is the most rewarding part of operating Delectation of Tomatoes, so no regrets on that account! I just need to continue learning how to refine and streamline my seed packaging process.

Though I’m not typically prone to bragging, there is one thing that I am very VERY good at — better than almost anybody you will ever meet!

Yes, I sense your cringing…

I am REALLY good at: overestimating my abilities.

Anyhow, following are just high priority projects put on pause in January until I can generate the time, become more efficient, sleep less, create more energy, let go of more things in life, or some combination of these.

Completing processing of melons, cucumbers, squash, eggplant, etc. harvested several months ago (I did manage to process one watermelon – see below)

Alphabetizing and collating tomato seeds havested in 2021 with those harvest in 2009-2020. (Alphabetizing completed, and collating completed through the letter L, but I took off three days from more pressing tasks to get this one half done).

Assessing which tomato varieties need to be grown again in 2022. (I got through the letter A while collating seeds, but that project took ten hours and put me a day behind on more pressing tasks)

Conducting a complete inventory and reorganization of tomato seeds.

Data entry from inventory of seeds harvested in 2021. (I got through the letter A, but it took about 3 hours away from more pressing tasks)

Planting garlic (four months behind now)

Taking care of pepper and other plants in the cellar (I’ve not even looked at them in 6 weeks)

Complete and submit plans to the County Inspector for finishing the greenhouse that I abandoned last spring.

Initiate a crowd-funding project for installing a large high tunnel (40 ft. X 100 ft.), estimated minimum cost of $20,000 – something that would take me 20 years to pay for on my own, but would generate enough revenue through sales of fresh produce to pay for itself in 2-3 years.

Last tomato harvested from the main tomato growing season of 2021 (not counting long-keeper and micro-dwarf varieties), likely Pederson’s Beefsteak:, consumed on January 16th, and still quite tasty!

A long-keeper variety, or at least is acting like it, Yunnat (Russian, Юннат, translates to “Youth”, with about 10 tomatoes still ripening very slowly. This is one of just a few cases over the years where I’ve observed seed germinating inside of a rotting tomato. This is particularly interesting, since these tomatoes have been stored where temperatures state been 45-60°. And growth documented, for at least one seedling!

A very delicious watermelon, harvested on October 9th, not cut open until January 25th – that’s 108 days on the shelf, almost like a winter squash! The flavor was still very good: sweet, juicy, delicious. Texture was just a little off, but nothing to dissuade me, as I love a good melon!

Watermelon, Grandeur (F2?), 108 days from harvest

There are still over 100 cucumbers, melons, eggplants, squash, etc. waiting for me to extract seeds. I also processed a Guatemalan Green-Fleshed Ayote squash for seeds, and it turned out to be one of the most delicious squash I’ve ever eaten! Unfortunately, none of the seeds were mature, and the flesh only had hints of green. Purple in the photo is mold.

Microdwarf tomato project pretty much neglected for months. Too cold, too many fungus gnats, too much benign neglect. But one variety stood out as resilient and hardy, despite the bad treatment: Gold Pearl, still producing!

Gold Pearl (microdwarf)

Back to the primary project this time of year – supplying other growers with seeds of some amazing varieties! Just more fun than I deserve to have! LOL

Thanks for supporting the preservation and propagation of heirloom tomato varieties!

Velocious, Voracious Chronometer

Calendar tells me it’s 2022 already – how is that possible? It seems the clock is not only whizzing by, but doing so with an insatiable appetite, consuming, devouring everything in its path — like the Langoliers…

Say what? Time to start thinking seriously about the next growing season? Well at least I’ve mostly completed tasks from the last one.

On December 12th, I finally finished, essentially, STAGE 2 (see November 2021 blog post for descriptions of stages) of processing tomatoes for seed saving, with only 34 batches left, and most of these were microdwarf varieties, grown indoors under artificial lights.

On December 25th, STAGE 3 was completed, and on December 31st, STAGE 4 completed and a good start on STAGE 5. STAGE 6 is the most time-consuming of all. But I have some ideas for batch processing, for making the first significant, large-scale update to the website since 2016.

Indoor microdwarf tomato project pretty much ended because of low temperatures (tomatoes are subtropical plants, after all), fungus gnats, benign neglect, and the reality that they are determinate varieties. The electric toothbrush got many good workouts. But when the temperatures are in the 45-55° range, good blossom formation and fruit set might be a little much to hope for. Here are just a few of the microdwarf plants before final harvesting:

There have been several significant snowstorms in the past few weeks – a very good thing! Will it be enough to get the region out of severe drought conditions?

For some reason, the local deer seem to have a particular affinity for the compost pile.

A very white JWST Launch Day (25 December) – another reminder of Sagan’s powerful Pale Blue Dot speech.

Several critters have been taking refuge inside, where it’s relatively warm, such as this hobo spider, Eratigena agrestis (Not at all certain of identity, as I am not an arachnologist and did not take the time…)[maybe the belief that I sleep alone is just a comforting delusion]:

On December 30th, I started in earnest processing cucurbits for seed extraction. So many distractions since these were harvested on October 9th! The saddest part is that most of these are too ripe (or rotting) for tasting, though the seeds should be just fine. It’s cool enough indoors that there is little chance the seeds have even “considered” trying to germinate.

There remain a few batches of tomatoes leftover into 2022, including a few microdwarf and long-keeper varieties, specifically Purple Smudge Orange Flesh and Yunnat.

Following is a list of the most delectable tomato varieties harvested in 2021, at least according to one set of taste buds (this is a big part of my quest: discover wonderful varieties from around the world and help make them available to other gardeners…). These all scored 8.5 out of 10 or higher on my taste scale, so these would all come “highly recommended” by me:

Alice’s Dream
Altaiskiy Oranzhevyi
Ambrosia Gold
Ananas Noire
Apricot Zebra
Artisan Blush Tiger
Beaverlodge Plum
Big Braggart
Black Fire
Brandywine, Apricot
Buckman’s Beauty
Bunte Pflaume
Canestrino di Lucca 
Champagne Bubbles
Cherokee Chocolate
Cherokee Lime Stripes
Chocolate Cherry
Coastal Yellow Egg
Coeur de Strie de Pessac
Coeur de Surpriz
Copper River
Criollo Argentino
Dagma’s Perfection
Ded Ivan
Dr. Wyche’s Yellow
Earl’s Faux
Elgin Pink
Fourth of July (PL, OP)
Gary’O Sena
German Pink
Ghost Cherry
Great White
Hazel Mae
Imur Prior Beta
Italian Heirloom
Italian Sweet
Ivory Pear
Jabuchar Velika Plana
Kapidag Red
Kozula #156
Kvadratnyi iz Irana
Loxton Lad
Lucky Cross
Lyagushka Tsarevna
Maddeline’s Vine Candy
Mayo’s Delight
Meri’s Croatian
Midnight In Moscow
Nahuelbuta Pink
Neves Azorean Red
Oaxacan Jewel
Orange Paruche
Orangevyi Orangutang
Oud Holland
Pederson’s Beefsteak
Pink Berkeley Tie-dye
Pink Jazz
Purple Reign
Reinhart’s Chocolate Heart
Rosalie’s Big Rosy
Rose Beauty
Rosella Purple
RW Cephei
Schlicht’s Orange Cherry
Serdtse Tibeta
Sergant Peppers X Libanaise des Montagnes
Summer Cider Apricot
Sweet Sue
Tel-Aviv Train
The Musketeers
Uluru Ochre
Vater Rhein na Sinyuke
Virginia Sweets
Waltingers Fleisch aus Indien
West Virginia Straw
White Cherry
Yablochniy Dugosel’skiy
Yasha Yugoslavian
Yoder’s German Pink
Zolotyie Gory Medeo
Zurcher Original

Note that about half of these are offered for the first time by Delectation of Tomatoes. Please navigate here for requesting seeds (and thereby contributing significantly to the preservation of heirloom seeds from around the world):

Delectation of Tomatoes, List of Tomato seeds available

This essentially final list includes 2,565 varieties, including 254 new varieties.

Major pressing tasks (aside from filling seed requests – but that’s the fun part!) include:

  • Extract seeds from cucurbits, eggplants, etc.
  • Finish entering data from seed saving project
  • Collate all inventory seed packets from the 2021 season with those from prior years
  • Name more than 15,000 photos so they can be found quickly – getting some fantastic help with this seemingly overwhelming project from John N. – huge THANK YOU to John!
  • Write up descriptions of more than 1,000 varieties, link with photos, and upload to website
  • Massive update and overhaul of the website.
  • Prepare for local seed swaps by prepackaging, massively
  • Try to find time to sleep (oops, that doesn’t belong here…)

Adventures in Ultramarathoning

“Adventures in Ultramarathoning” began to accelerate on October 5th, when I reluctantly began to accept the almost certainty that meteorologist were not joking about the big, season-ending cold front that was moving in.  Such acceptance dictated that I could no longer harvest at a “leisurely” pace, waiting for tomatoes to ripen, and processing them for seed extraction promptly.  I had to start sprinting, every waking hour, to harvest ahead of the looming deep freeze.

As related in October 2021 blog posts, my “sprinting” was not nearly fast enough, and I had to cover about 300 tomato vines and “procrastinate” the harvest until the temperatures rose a few degrees.  That, or completely throw away all the effort put into raising those vines.

Many times over the past two months, distressing thoughts of the “Sunk Cost Fallacy” kept gnawing at my mind, often contributing to my sense of falling into the maelstrom of insanity.

This year, this seed saving project has indeed felt like persevering through an ultramarathon every day, day after day, for nigh on 60 days straight.

My lack of foresight, imagination, optimism, etc. resulted in a reality that, with better planning (such as purchasing and using several more large frost blankets), I could have extended the growing and harvest season well into November:

As it turns out, the hard freeze of October 15th and 16th were the last really cold nights until November 17th!  There were many nice days, essentially an “Indian Summer”, during which I longed to be working outdoors.  With close attention to forecasts and careful management of frost blankets and space heaters, I could have, in theory, squeezed another 33 days out of the growing season!  But there is the time and effort, the worrying and distractions from other tasks.  And how was I to know?

Far better, of course, would have been to have that 40’ X 100’ high tunnel already in place and operational – with propane heaters turned on at night as needed.

On the other hand, as any experienced gardener knows, there is very little growth and maturation of tomato fruits when the temperatures are below 60° F.  As can be seen from the weather records, after October 15th, there were only five days when the high temperature reached 61° or higher, with the highest being only 63°.

On the other hand (running out of hands – now counting feet and digits…), as gardeners know who use high tunnels (polytunnels, greenhouses, glasshouses, walipinis, etc.), on sunny days, with proper management, temperatures can easily rise to 90° or more, even in late Fall or early Spring.

All this second-guessing is making my head spin.  The fact is, I don’t have a high tunnel or a greenhouse – not yet anyhow.  And at 6,200’ elevation, I just need to accept the reality that night temperatures can get cold almost any time of the year.

Somehow, a few marigold plants survived the hard freeze of October 15th, and a month later, when I harvested seeds, there were still a few open blossoms! Of course they did not survive the much colder weather of late November.

Started harvesting Stokes Purple sweet potatoes – still have an hour or two of digging.

Final Fig of the season (variety Black Manzanita) was thoroughly relished – and not mixed with tasting tomatoes.  The plant has dropped most of its leaves.  Likewise with the dwarf pomegranate.

This time of year, temperatures in this unheated house typically range between 45° and 60°, maybe up to 65° directly under the LED lights.  This is not warm enough for subtropical plants, including micro-dwarf tomato plants:

Fruits are ripening well, though slowly.  But vines are now stunted and sickly.  Good chance they will not survive the winter, as temperatures will continue to decline for a couple more months, and I just cannot justify the added expense of electricity for lights and space heaters.

STAGES of Tomato Seed Saving

STAGE 1 – Harvesting tomatoes

Completed on October 21st, as documented in earlier blog post.

STAGE 2 – Preparing for fermentation

This involves:  weighing tomatoes, taking photos, tasting fruits at the peak of ripeness (as far as possible), writing “field notes”, cutting and crushing fruits into containers, adding enough water to make a slurry, and setting aside for fermentation. 

As of this 3:00 a.m. this morning (November 30th), there were only 91 batches of intact ripe, rotting, or ripening tomatoes left in containers, waiting for me to get back to work and complete Stage 2.

Fermentation is necessary to remove the gel coat that surrounds each tomato seed, thus greatly enhancing germination.  And, very importantly, seeds with gel coats typically float in water, along with most of the tomato pulp, thus making seed separation a nearly impossible task.  Seeds from which gel coats have been digested (by fungi) or chemically removed (chemicals not used here…) sink in water, thus greatly facilitating the separation of seeds from everything else.

Fermentation in the warmer days of summer and early Fall typically takes 3-4 days – at times just 2 days when it’s really hot.  But with this cooler weather, 5-7 days are needed.  Even 8 days, but that 8th is never the plan – I just get exhausted at times and cannot help but sleeping for a couple of hours, here and there.  Sometimes, the friendly fungi form impressive mats on surfaces of fermenting tomatoes.

STAGE 3 – Seed separation

This is the most time-consuming (see previous post), most stinky, and most frustrating of all stages.  Even using heavy-duty rubber gloves, my hands have been soggy and wrinkled many days for hours on end.  Use of fans and a small HEPA air filter have been essential to allow me to breath comfortably.  In previous years and locations, this has been mostly an outdoor project.  But it is faster, more efficient, and more comfortable to have a kitchen sink, a table, and shelving very handy.

I am not afraid to throw away seeds that float.  That’s a very good indication that they are immature and thus worthless, except as compost!  Because I harvested tomatoes from about 300 vines after frost (though under some protection), about 20% of those tomatoes had some frost damage.  Many of those partially or fully rotted before complete ripening and seed maturation.  This was, thankfully, a very small portion of the overall harvest for 2021.

After seeds are separated and thoroughly rinsed, they are spread out into single layers onto plastic plates and placed on shelves or tables for drying.

As of this morning, there were 93 batches of fermenting tomatoes – all of which need to be processed by the end of the week.  This is in addition to the 91 other batches at Stage 2.

STAGE 4 – Seed packaging

Even with the ceiling fan going (which is 24-7 this time of year), it takes 3-4 days for seeds to dry sufficiently to eliminate the risk of molding.  When packaging seeds, I do a rough count (estimating by tens) for inventory purposes, place seeds in small glassine envelopes, then place those envelopes inside the coin envelopes which followed each batch since harvesting.

As of this morning, there were 95 batches of tomato seeds drying on plates.

STAGE 5 – Organizing

This involves organizing, alphabetizing, and placing inventoried seed envelopes into boxes.  Then comes transcribing field notes and seed counts into computer databases.

This phase has barely begun for 2021 tomato seeds, with about 1,500 batches only partially advertised.

STAGE 6 – Communicating

In reality, this is the most time-consuming of all, and I am YEARS behind “schedule”!  This involves naming photographs (I’m closing in on 100,000 photos taken for Delectation of Tomatoes), editing photos to fit on the website or seed packets, writing descriptions for each variety, including weights, dates and photos for each batch, and publishing these on the website.

This stage is the real “log jam” on this assembly line, as is obvious to anybody who has visited the online store of Delectation of Tomatoes.  Very embarrassing, even shameful that I’m not keeping up.  Fortunately, thankfully, there are many gardeners who are willing to overlook these unprofessional shortcomings on the website, and, gratefully support this effort by purchasing seeds.

Within the past few days, I’m even getting some great help from a volunteer who has started naming the 30,000 or so photos that are still unnamed in my photo library!  What an incredible time saver this will be when it comes to preparing photos for uploading to the website and preparing descriptions for seed packet labels!

Obviously, skipping Stage 6 means I’m just spinning my wheels, just “having fun”, just engaged in a glorified, grandiose hobby with no real purpose other than to keep myself perpetually exhausted, bankrupt, hungry, and homeless.  “Man cannot live on tomatoes alone”.

So those are the six stages of seed saving, summarized, with a few relevant photos following.

Actually, there are about 100 additional batches of overripe to rotting cucumbers, melons, eggplants etc. that are impatiently waiting for me to finish this massive tomato seed-saving project.  But let’s talk about those later, shall we?

All those green tomatoes that went to waste? Well, most of them eventually ripened, and the local deer appreciated the free feast. They are obviously related to goats! Speaking of deer, I counted 54 of them on my way home from market the other day.


Thursday, November 25th
Went to bed the night before at 10:30 p.m., thoroughly exhausted, hoping to get a full night of restful sleep.

2:25 a.m. — awoke with a start, a combination of shoulder pain and mind racing about all the urgent tomato processing work, got right at it. Listened to Ancient Greek Philosophers-Scientists on Librivox, along with several podcasts.

4:20 a.m. — breakfast of tomatoes, oatmeal, tomatoes
Then worked on seed orders, email.

5:45 a.m. — low on energy for processing tomatoes, so packaged seeds instead.

8:45 a.m. — overcome by sleepiness, nap time

12:55 p.m. — awoke in pain and almost panic, so far behind; very unusual to sleep for more than 4 hours at a stretch, directly back to tomato processing

4:10 p.m. — lunch of tomatoes, Crockpot black beans on bread, tomatoes

5:20 p.m. — sundown, brief email processing, then another nap

6:15 p.m. — back at tomato processing, hard

9:30 p.m. — dinner of tomatoes, microwave-baked potatoes, tomatoes

9:40 p.m. — more packaging tomato seeds

1:15 a.m. — midnight snack, Ramen noodles, then worked on photo processing

2:45 a.m. — back to bed, hopefully for the night

For years I have fought against sleep – just way too much to do to blink out for 8 hours a night. Now, with the lingering ill effects of the COVID vaccine (see June, July blog posts), I really have a love-hate relationship with sleep. Can’t sleep when I want to, can’t stay awake when I need to. Sleep pattern is not just irregular, but chaotic. Too bad it’s not as simple as a light switch! Obviously, health suffers… Now 80 lbs. heavier than when I started Delectation of Tomatoes. Long story there…

And now, for a few tantalizing tomato photos — descriptions to follow

Following is an excerpt from the latest update to the associated website, specifically an update to the tomato seeds saved in 2021:


Update November 30, 2021

Seeds were (or are being) saved from about 2,000 batches representing 600 or so tomato varieties in 2021. This project is about 95% complete.

Following is a draft interim list – interim because it will still take some more time to dry, package, inventory, error check, etc. “Probably” and “Maybe” reflect the reality that there is much work still to do and I cannot justify relying just upon my memory for all of these.

In 2021 I raised 668 varieties of tomatoes and attempted to save seeds from most of these. This project includes:

276 new (to DT) varieties grown in 2021, indicated below by, “New variety in 2021, have seeds”.

19 new varieties grown in 2021 from which I probably have seeds, indicated below by, “New in 2021, probably have seeds”

321 varieties grown in 2021 to refresh or replenish seeds, indicated below by: “Fresh seeds in 2021” – seeds are available now.

28 varieties grown in 2021 to refresh or replenish seeds, but for which I am unsure at this point whether I was able to save seeds or not this year, indicated by, “Maybe fresh seeds in 2021” – but definitely seeds from prior years are available now.

The list also includes 1,960 varieties not grown in 2021, but for which seeds from prior years are currently available

This comes to a total of 2,604 varieties. These are listed alphabetically below. I recognize that many of these are hybrids and are not indicated as such. I have a good deal of research and growing out to do to determine whether these are at the F1, F2, etc. stage, or whether they are stabilized hybrids and should be considered as open-pollenated (OP) varieties. Big seed companies often (apparently) tack on or leave on “hybrid” to a variety name to increase sales, even when the variety is stable.

There are another 250 or so varieties not listed here: off-types, mix-ups, de-hybridization projects, too few seeds to offer, crop failures, etc. Please email me at if you want more information about those.