As I walked around checking out my plants this morning, pondering what the major activity of the day would be, it seemed like a good idea to start keeping a sort of garden diary. I guess that a blog is a sort of diary, but as many of those who read this know, you can never be sure what I will be blogging about. The Diary entries, of which this is the first, is to keep me focused on not only what I am doing, but what I am seeing and dealing with. Since today was a major garden milestone (which I will describe below), this is the first of my 2013 garden diary entries.
After walking around both gardens and making some observations into my hand held recorder, I decided it was time to finish planting the indeterminate and dwarf tomatoes in the big garden. The first step was to fill in all of the holes Caitlin dug (some still filled with water from the rain of a few days ago). It is clear that this garden does not drain well. The ability to hold moisture should be an asset during our typically hot, eventually dry summers. Although it is breaking one of my guidelines (not resuing the potting mix), the pile of spent Miracle Gro mix/composted cow manure is quite well aged in spots, and provides a perfect material for "raising" the garden. Each spot to receive a tomato plant was dug and turned well, and spent grow mix from the pile was added on top of the turned hole to the depth of nearly one foot. I worked each row this way, first determining where the plants were to go, digging the hole and turning it over a few times, then adding the spent mix from the pile on top of the turned area. The plants were then set in as deeply as possible.
The good news is that the tomatoes easily fit into one less row than was originally considered, thus leaving a perfect row in which to plant bush beans immediately (well, tomorrow, to tell the truth...I am too tired to plant anything else today). I added a thick layer of the spent mix onto the proposed bean row, so it is all ready to go. Once the greens and lettuce are done, it will be squash that takes up the newly vacated spaces. I also put a thick layer of the spent mix onto the front of the garden, making a row at the very front into which I will place some nice colorful annuals, like Marigolds or short Zinnias. If all goes well, the garden will be nicely photogenic for the book.
As to my early morning garden walk through, I hope it doesn't jinx things to state that everything is vigorously growing, healthy looking and making great progress. All of the driveway tomatoes - be it large pot indeterminate, grow bag dwarf or grow bag indeterminate - are shooting upward rapidly. I positioned some 4 foot stakes in all of the bags yesterday, but haven't tied the plants to them yet. I did tie up some of the indeterminate tomatoes that are growing very quickly; a few of the plants have open blossoms. The peppers and eggplant, all in grow bags, are healthy, happy and growing well. As to the big garden, the basil and tomatoes are fine, yet growing much more slowly than in the driveway - the advantage of the heat-absorbing grow bags is evident. The mole or vole that dug up some of our lettuce plants seems to have left the premises after I sprinkled castor oil-impregnated pellets in the area (the damage was noted a few days ago, near a few 2 inch diameter holes that appeared).
We are picking lots of lettuce and greens, and eagerly anticipate the beets. What remains to be done - and will be a task on tomorrow's list - is to finish staking all of the indeterminate tomatoes in both the driveway and large garden, plant bean seeds and annual flower seeds, and start the daily routine of pinching suckers, tying plants, and doing typical garden maintenance - watering, troubleshooting, and just being on the lookout for any issues before they get serious.
Though I am sore and tired, there is always that wonderful feeling of accomplishment at having made it through a major gardening milestone - getting pretty much everything planted.
Check out the pictures below - big garden front and back, chard, mustard, lettuce, caged dwarf, indeterminate - then a few shots of the driveway, including eggplant, peppers and dwarfs.
...not that I am completely done planting. The recent rain mucked up the garden a bit, so instead of finishing off the big garden tomatoes, attention was turned to the small (as in one gallon) pot annual experiment with the ornamental hot peppers. After a few hours work yesterday, there are now 56 pots with a variety of selections settled into the driveway garden, standing in front of and somewhat in between the eggplant and pepper grow bags. As always, pictures will follow in a few days.
I also noted that the stem color of my Midnight Lightning eggplant chosen for the 5 gallon grow bag wasn't dark enough, so that plant (an off-color segregate) went into a smaller pot, and was replaced with a seedling that had a more appropriate color. Finally, thanks to my gardening friend Kent, I now have a sample of what some claim as the world's hottest pepper - Trinidad Scorpion Butch T - sitting in a 5 gallon pot at the end of one of my pepper rows. Which means I will likely have lots of seedlings available next year.
I find something to love in all of the various gardening phases, from variety selection, through seed starting and transplanting, to harvest and tasting. But my fondness for the few months of caring, observing, watching the surprisingly rapid development and growth of the plants, could be the greatest of all. Even though it has only been a week or so since doing the majority of planting, the tomato seedlings are thriving and beginning to show small buds, and the eggplant and peppers are exhibiting the great joy of escaping their small 3.5 inch pots and stretching their roots into the planting medium. Even as I realize that each garden will have its losses and disappointments - be it critters, disease, mixed up seedlings or just poor performance - this is the time when it all looks great and the possibilities of harvests to come are truly exciting.
Here are some rainy day pictures of how things look...
Planting in pots vs planting in the garden...each has delights, and physical challenges, as I was well reminded yesterday. With containers, it is the lugging of the planting mix and then the filled pots. With the garden it is digging in our utterly delightful North Carolina soil. Yesterday I attacked the garden front row, and was met immediately by clay, rocks and tree roots.
Back to the progress report...today's rain ensured that there will be no planting in the big garden today (which my sore body appreciates). As of today, this is the total of living plants in my yard:
Driveway indeterminate tomatoes in large pots - 29
Driveway Dwarf tomatoes in 5 gallon grow bags - 94
Driveway indeterminate tomatoes in 2 gallon grow bags - 39
Large garden Dwarfs in the soil - 15
Large garden indeterminate tomatoes in the soil - 4
that's a grand total of 181 tomatoes planted, with another 25-30 set to go into the big garden. Yes, it will be over 200 once it is all planted (which I hope happens early next week)
Driveway eggplant in 5 gallon grow bags - 14
Driveway peppers in 5 gallon grow bags - 43
Pending are the small (1 gallon pot) ornamental hot pepper project plants - that's to be completed next week.
Total plants in containers so far - 219. Seems like a lot, but is about half of what was there last year (though the 1 gallon hot peppers will bring the number closer to 250). No worries - the way that they are lined up, it takes less than half an hour to water it all.
With the seedling sales about done, it is about finishing text for the book, finishing planting the garden....then garden maintenance and photography right through the end of the season...
Pics, variety names, more details to follow. Off to go to our daughter Sara's going away party - she is off to Seattle (relocation, not vacation!) next week. What a nice visit travel destination we shall have!
About 10 years ago we were given a Voodoo lily by a vendor selling plants next to us at the Farmers Market. The one gallon pot had a single stem with a lobed leaf on the end. What to do with it? Well, I planted it behind our backyard fence, essentially in the woods - and forgot about it. Every few years we would find a single leaf emerge, but quickly forgot about it.
A few days ago I looked out our back window and saw something really unexpected behind the fence. It reminded me of that weird, stinky flower that blooms only occasionally and draws crowds - and, in essence, the Voodoo lily is a close relation of that noted flower.
Not only was I shocked to find this rather ugly dark purple maroon, rather phallic thing "blossoming" in our woods, but realized it moved - by about 6 feet to the right of where I planted it a decade ago. But - in the picture above - behold the blossom of the Voodoo Lily in all its glory! And, no, I didn't go up and sniff it....
And tonight, while munching our dinner salad on the deck, we noted some deer relaxing in the stilt grass and ferns of the woods behind our house - see below.
Thanks to our water scarecrows, this pair of Bambis hasn't munched our garden.....but it is quite remarkable to have the deer so close by. Our chocolate labs, Buddy and Mocha, were very interested in the gals shown above. I strongly suspect that they are about to produce some mini-Bambis in our woods......I must remember to keep the batteries fresh in those deer sprinklers!
What an odd day.....I took a bit of a break (as in rest) from planting things, but will be back at it and start attacking the big garden tomorrow.
No, I am not done planting tomatoes. But part of yesterday and all of today was about getting the eggplant, hot and sweet peppers into 5 gallon grow bags. I also rearranged the driveway - the seedlings are out, and the grow bags are in (pics below).
I planted the following eggplant: New York Improved, Ripples, Snow Globe, Twilight Lightning, Skinny Twilight, Prosperosa, Rosa Bianca, Midnight Lightning, Listada di Gandia, Italian Pink Bicolor, Green Giant and Antigua...as well as an off-type Snow Globe that had a purplish stem (I love eggplant mysteries). Some of these are annual favorites - we really like the wider, more globe shaped eggplant for peeling, slicing, dipping in egg then breadcrumbs, and baking - we froze bags of eggplant prepared this way last fall. Green Giant seems to be off of seed catalog lists, so seed saving will be critical. Quite a few of these are my own varieties, selected and stabilized from hybrids.
I also planted these sweet peppers: Amethyst, Chervena, Chocolate Bell, Golden Marconi, Fire Opal, Cubanelle, Kalman Hungarian, Oda, Orange Bell, Red Corno di Toro, Yellow Corno di Toro, Red Belgium, Royal Purple, Candy Corn, Garden Sunshine, White Gold, World Beater, and Marconi.
....and the following hot peppers: Eclipse, Bulgarian Carrot, Fish, Pinata, Padron, Vacquero, Takanatsume, Sunrise and Sunset. I will be planting other hot peppers into smaller (2 gallon) grow bags.
And so here is what things in my driveway looked like at the end of Monday:
We now move on to the Dwarf project tomatoes that are still in progress, mostly early generation - and these are all now planted in black 5 gallon grow bags. I didn't take notes after these were planted, so this list may need a few edits (especially if more than one leaf shape appeared). In a way, this is the most fun part of the garden, because many of these are still mysteries as to color, shape and size. What fun!
A few of these were planted on May 11, but most were planted on May 12.
Softy (F2 from a new cross)
Fancy regular leaf (two plants) (F2s from a new cross)
Fancy potato leaf (two plants)
Dainty regular leaf (two plants) (F2s from a new cross)
Dainty potato leaf (two plants)
Leggy (F2 from a new cross)
Cheerful (two plants) (F2 from a new cross)
Harmony (two plants) (F2 from a new cross)
Dwarf Confetti (two plants) - out of the Beauty line - aiming for a yellow tomato with pink stripes
Dwarf Peppermint Stripes (two plants) - out of the Beauty line - aiming for a green tomato with pink stripes
Kiwi (F2 from a new cross)
Summertime Gold reselect (checking another line in our reselection process)
BrandyFred - nearly done - refining work - potato leaf purple
Dwarf Wild Spudleaf - nearly done - refining work - potato leaf purple
TastyWine - nearly done - refining work - potato leaf pink
Sarandipity - trying to get the flavor nailed down - brown with green stripes
Sarandipity Cherry - selecting a cherry version
Sarandipity heart or paste - selecting a heart or paste shape version
Banksia Queen - nearly done - refining work - large bright yellow
Dwarf Creamsickle - selection I named, aiming for a potato leaf cream orange, unusual
Grandpa Gary's Green - a new named variety, medium green
Dwarf Chocolate Drops - a new named variety, medium brown
Maralinga - refining work, may be nearly done, medium large brown
Kookaburra Cackle - early generation, new one named by Patrina, unsure of what I will get
Dwarf Beauty King - stubborn one here, looking for a red with gold stripes, throws all sorts of other colors
Sturt Desert Pea - another new one named by Patrina, early days for this one, unsure of outcome
Dwarf Caitydid - refining work, nearly done, medium large red yellow bicolor, inside mostly pink
Lucky Swirl potato leaf - refining work, large red/yellow, looking for best flavored
Lucky Swirl regular leaf - ditto - we need to decide which leaf shape is best
Plucky regular leaf - early work on yellow, orange or pale yellow cherry tomatoes
Plucky potato leaf - ditto
Ivalde from 12-139 - very early work, aiming for hearts, could be pink or red yellow bicolored
Ivalde from 12-142 - ditto
Ivalde from 12-137 - ditto
Tanuda Red - another new one named by Patrina, early days, not sure what to expect
Waratah - ditto
Waverley - ditto
Deaton's Dwarf - very new named one, unsure what to expect
Hazy potato leaf - early work on small to medium purple tomatoes
Hazy regular leaf - ditto
The above really is R&D, since it is unclear what the vast majority of them will produce. They were all selected on an initial basis of flavor, however....many will eventually be named and become leads for new Dwarf varieties.
I know, I know...that is a LOT of tomatoes. And I've not described or planted the various small pot extreme prune indeterminates, or plant the tomatoes in the big garden, yet.
The next update will be on the eggplant and sweet peppers planted on May 12.
Ah, now it gets fun...the Research and Development part of my annual gardening efforts. This is the list of what I planted on May 10 and 11 - and the "white grow bag" designation is important only in that I like to start with the 5 gallon grow bags with handles, of which I have 41. (they are no longer available, it seems). I then move on to black plastic bags with no handles, which work just fine.
Here is the list of tomato varieties that ended up in the white grow bags.
May 10 planting - these are the Dwarf project tomatoes that are completed and are now considered released (they are each offered by at least one seed company, and a few are also listed in the Seed Savers yearbook)
(Rosella Purple was planted on April 24 as part of the book photography) - 2010 release, large purple fruit
(Dwarf Emerald Giant was also plantedo n April 24 for the same reason) - 2010 release, large green tomatoes
Summertime Green - 2010 release, large green fruit
Dwarf Arctic Rose - 2012 release, medium pink fruit
Dwarf Sweet Sue - 2012 release, medium yellow fruit
Dwarf Mr. Snow - 2010 release, medium large ivory fruit
Dwarf Beryl Beauty - 2010 release, medium green fruit
Dwarf Jade Beauty - 2010 release, medium green fruit
Dwarf Wild Fred - 2010 release, medium large purple fruit
Iditarod Red - 2011 release, medium small red fruit
Sleeping Lady - 2011 release, medium brown fruit
Summer Sunrise - 2012 release, medium large yellow fruit
Summertime Gold - reselected; 2010 release wasn't quite right, re-release date 2013 - medium large yellow fruit
Yukon Quest - 2011 release, medium pink fruit
Dwarf Kelly Green - 2012 release, medium green fruit
Perth Pride - 2011 release - medium purple fruit
Sweet Adelaide - nearly ready, possible 2013/2014 release, medium large pink fruit
The following were planted on May 11 to finish off the white grow bags - these are either considered complete and are being grown out for release this fall, or very, very close to being finished; we are taking a final look.
Chocolate Champion - hoping for 2013 release, medium large brown fruit
Sweet Scarlet Dwarf - 2013 or 2014, medium large red fruit, really delicious, will be our first great red!
Dwarf Blazing Beauty - 2013 or 2014, medium large orange fruit, superb, will be our first orange!
Boronia - thinking 2013, medium large purple fruit
Dwarf Russian Swirl - 2013 or 2014, medium yellow/red bicolored fruit
Wherokowhai (two different selections) - hoping for 2013, medium large red/yellow bicolored fruit, our first bicolor, tasty!
Big Green Dwarf - 2013 or 2014, medium large green flesh fruit with yellow skin
Dwarf Lemon Ice - 2013 or 2014, pale yellow heart shaped medium fruit, beautiful
Sean's Yellow Dwarf - hoping for 2013, medium large yellow fruit
Adelaide Festival - 2014 or 2015, medium purple fruit with green stripes
Tennessee Suited - 2014 or 2015, medium purple fruit with green stripes
Dwarf Pink Passion - 2013 or 2014 - medium pink heart shaped fruit
Dwarf Golden Heart - 2013 or 2014 - medium golden fruit
Kangaroo Paw Green - 2013 oe 2014 - medium small yellow skinned green flesh fruit
Kangaroo Paw Brown - 2013 or 2014 - medium small brown fruit
Kangaroo Paw Yellow - 2013 or 2014 - medium small yellow fruit
Bundaberg Rumball - hoping for 2013 - lots of medium small round brown fruit
Rosella Crimson - 2013 or 2014 - medium large pink fruit
Uluru Ochre - 2014 or 2015 - medium large unusual orange/green fruit
Loxton Lad - 2014 or 2015 - medium large orange fruit
Loxton Lass - 2014 or 2015 - medium large orange fruit
Fred's Tie Dye - 2014 or 2015 - medium purple fruit with green stripes
Chocolate Lightning - 2014 or 2015 - medium brown fruit with green stripes
These are all going to be exciting new varieties...this year's dwarf trials will really be fun. But wait until you see what else I am planting in grow bags...stay tuned for tomatoes part 3 - the black grow bag dwarf varieties!
Here is the first in a series of blog entries where I will describe my growing strategy for 2013, via the plants I am growing. The following were planted in large containers on May 9. As soon as the big garden dries out, I will plant each of these in that location as well....thus hoping to provide redundancy in case of plant failures. Note that each of these are varieties that will be the feature tomatoes, for various reasons, in my upcoming book.
First, these are flavor favorites we grow every year:
Mexico Midget - my wife's favorite garden work snacking tomato, which I received from Barney Laman of California in 1990.
Nepal - this is the single variety that convinced me that a tomato didn't need to be a hybrid to be wonderful; obtained from Johnny's Selected Seeds, I first grew this in 1987.
Sungold F1 - a desert island tomato, for its unique flavor
Brandywine - during a season when it is happy, there is no better tasting large tomato than Brandywine
Lillian's Yellow Heirloom - sent to me by Robert Richardson in 1990, this is the best yellow tomato I've tasted, if not the best large tomato period.
Polish - Another of my first loved heirlooms after Bill Ellis sent it to me in 1988. Brandywine - like in every way, but it actually seems to be happier growing in NC.
Tomatoes I either named or developed:
Lucky Cross - my favorite large yellow/red bicolored variety, from a bee-produced cross between Brandywine and, we think, Tad
Little Lucky - smaller but equally wonderful sister variety to Lucky Cross
Cherokee Purple - a tomato sent to me by J. D. Green of Sevierville, TN in 1990, with claims that it was a variety given to his neighbors by Cherokee Indians in the 1800s. I named it and it has caught on!
Cherokee Chocolate - appeared as a skin color mutation of Cherokee Purple in my 1995 garden.
Cherokee Green - appeared as a flesh color mutation of Cherokee Chocolate in my 1997 garden.
These tomatoes were responsible for my conversion from hybrids to heirlooms, and I first grew each of these in the 1986-1990 time period. Most of these have interesting histories.
Anna Russian - sent to me by Brenda Hillenius of Oregon in 1990 - I've loved it since
Tiger Tom - From a SSE exchange with James Halladay, first grown in 1998 and is another long time favorite
Yellow White - also known as Viva Lindsey's Kentucky Heirloom, a wedding present from the Martin family in 1904.
Lillian's Red Kansas Paste - came to me along with Lillian's Yellow from Robert Richardson - great flavor
Ruby Gold - seems to be aka Gold Medal, my first bicolor, grown back in 1988, couldn't believe the size or color
Bisignano #2 - another I've loved since trying it in 1988, Mr Bisignano won a Victory Garden contest with this great tomato
Hugh's - Archie Hook of Indiana grew seedlings of this variety since the 1940s and gave them to neighbors - this is also a favorite of mine since the late 1980s
Yellow Oxheart - Thist omato blew me away in 1990, and was introduced by Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. Could be the same as the one Livingston Seed Company released in 1925.
Mortgage Lifter, Halladay - a wonderful huge pink tomato from the 1920s, sent to me by Jim Halladay of PA.
Mortgage Lifter, Mullens - this large pink looks pretty much the same, but was sent to me by Charlotte Mullens of WV in the early 1990s.
Finally, this is a group of historically relevant varieties that I participated in liberating from the USDA seed collection - most are pre-1900 American seed company commercial varieties.
Golden Queen - The first popular yellow tomato, by Livingston, in 1882.
Magnus - My first real tomato hunt project, which I found - released by Livingston in 1900.
Favorite - another great 1880s Livingston variety, and it is a mystery why it didn't stay popular.
Abraham Lincoln - This 1923 Buckbee release was found in the USDA collection and is a nice large red tomato.
Ferris Wheel - released by Salzer in the late 1890s, this is one of my favorite large pink tomatoes, which I found in the USDA collection.
Peak of Perfection - this is another large pink Salzer variety, from the 1920s, and probably their selection of Winsall or Ponderosa, but better than either.
Matchless - Burpee's signature red variety from the late 1800s, it is a fine tomato and I got it out of the USDA collection.
And there is one last quite interesting variety that I've yet to grow!
Big Boy F1 - this is the first popular hybrid, from Burpee 1948, and revolutionized tomato gardening, as it started the hybrid craze.
All of the above were planted in large pots on May 9. I can't plant each of the above in the "big garden" (right into the dirt) yet - too wet! That may be my last planting....
I will provide an update on the various dwarfs next (in two parts) - then small pot indeterminates that I will prune in an extreme fashion - finally ending up with my eggplant, peppers and small pot ornamental experiment peppers.
I always forget how long it takes to actually plant a garden. Much time is spent starting seeds, then transplanting, but there is always the feeling that those are the parts that take the most time, and that getting those healthy seedlings into the garden is a piece of cake.
Well, that may be true for a garden of reasonable size, with a sane number of plants....but my laboratory approach, mix of pots and grow bags and traditional garden planting, dictate doing things in stages and phases. I am pleased to be at the end of the large pot indeterminate and white grow bag tomato planting phase. As of late this afternoon, approximately 70 tomato plants are now settled in to their permanent homes - and they are watered and mulched.
The next task is to plant the rest of the driveway dwarfs into the no-handle, black grow bags (all of which are having a nice soak in a garbage can filled with dilute bleach). I hope to get through that tomorrow and Sunday. And the rest of the work to be done was outlined in my last blog entry - the small pot indeterminates, hot and sweet peppers, eggplant, and, last of all, but big garden plantings.
I may be dancing between raindrops - heavy thunderstorms, possibly - which could spread things out a bit longer than I hoped. But it does feel good to know that some of the most important varieties to our needs this season are now planted, and we are only a few months away from great tomatoes.
One more thing - the joy of having all sorts of spring greens to use for a quick dinner. Tonight I picked a bowl of our various mustards, some collards and kale - and I sauteed the chopped greens with onion, scallion, sweet pepper and olive oil, seasoned with salt, pepper and red pepper - served over whole wheat spaghetti. Delicious!
Sometimes, you just have to move your butt and get off the laptop and into the grungy clothes and do it....bleach the pots and grow bags. And that is exactly what I did this morning - 29 large (10-15 gallon) pots for the driveway indeterminates, and 40 white 5 gallon grow bags for the driveway Dwarf varieties. It actually wasn't all that bad - the morning was just beautiful, birds were singing - and it just felt good to be making progress on Garden 2013.
Once the pots were bleached (tipped upside down to air dry), I started attacking the 15 bags of growing mix and 15 bags of composted cow manure. The big pots were moved into position along the periphery of the driveway, then it was off to find my notebook so I could go through the seedlings and decide which plants to put where. With my strategy set, the pots were filled and the tomatoes planted....the 29 varieties in the largest driveway pots have significance, as they are the ones I am featuring in my upcoming book as being particularly relevant to my progression into heirloom tomato growing through the years; many of them were either initial discoveries, back in the mid 1980s, flavor favorites, or tomatoes I either named, developed, or rescued from oblivion. I will provide a list some time soon in an upcoming blog post.
After giving the newly planted seedlings a nice drink of water, I headed back to growing mix bags, grabbed some of the white grow bags and a tray of the first dwarfs to be planted, filled the bags, planted and then placed and watered those tomatoes. This is only a fraction of the Dwarf varieties to be grown this year; today's planted seedlings represent the complete set of all of those varieties we developed and released through various seed companies. I placed them in front of some of the large pot ; indeterminates, and will support them via short stakes in the indeterminate pots; this worked well last year and prevented the grow bag dwarfs from tipping (which is what eventually happens to those planted in the center of the driveway).
Tomorrow I hope to plant the rest of the white grow bags with dwarfs, then bleach my black, no-handled grow bags and plant more of the dwarfs, this time earlier generations of works in progress for our project. Once those are planted, I will work on the small pot, extreme prune indeterminates for the driveway, then move on to sweet and hot peppers and eggplant. My hope is to get all of that planted - essentially all of the driveway pots, except the very small pot experimental hot peppers (which can easily wait until last). This will give some time for the big waterlogged garden to dry out; early next week that will be the focus of my next planting, ensuring all of the featured book tomatoes and released dwarfs are grown there, as well as the driveway, providing a bit of insurance and hopefully ensuring that each of the varieties will grow and produce tomatoes (that will of course need to be photographed, probably in mid to late July).
I am really sore, tired, but quite pleased at the progress I made today....with more scheduled for tomorrow. I will take and post some pictures once I get a bit of time and things are a little further along.