Dense planting technique - not just for tomatoes!

I've had some recent seed starting conversations with my good gardening friend Joe Lamp'l, which are available as a pair (part 1 and part 2) of podcasts on his wonderful joe gardener website. I've also received many questions on email, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook about the dense planting applicability to other crops.

Let's make this blog short on words and long on pictures.  By the way, the answer is YES!  Check out the following pictures

A cell of tomato seedlings, from 2008

A cell of tomato seedlings, from 2008

Beets, chard, and Asian greens, from 2010

Beets, chard, and Asian greens, from 2010

Lettuce and some basil on the left edge from 2008

Lettuce and some basil on the left edge from 2008

Peppers and eggplant in 2007

Peppers and eggplant in 2007

Basil in 2008

Basil in 2008

close up view of lettuce in 2009

close up view of lettuce in 2009

closer look at peppers in 2010

closer look at peppers in 2010

So - yes - I use this method for:  tomatoes, peppers, eggplant - and, beets, lettuce, Asian greens, many herbs, leeks, many flowers.  It is a huge space saver - just a great efficiency tool. And....development of a love of transplanting is a must!

One way to help a tomato survive - from sharing to seed catalog

The sharing of seeds represents a giving of true gifts. Each of us that garden find varieties that particularly excite us - and we want our friends and family to experience that excitement. Sometimes it works out perfectly and the result appeals to both sharer and recipient - but not always, because taste perception and preference are so personal. 

The sharing of seeds of non-hybrid tomatoes can be thought of as the elongation of a chain of ownership that can span generations. It is a fragile chain, however, because seeds are living things and don't last forever. Many varieties of flowers, fruits and vegetables have been lost over time because the seed doesn't get shared in time - or at all, passing out of existence. If something is wonderful, we want it to be around for a long time - for our children and their children to grow, and beyond.

My first really happy seed story was, of course, the sharing of a packet of seeds with me by John Green of Tennessee in 1990. Cherokee Purple was the result of that most unexpected but fortunate transaction. There have been many more over the years, such as Lillian's Yellow Heirloom and Anna Russian. Most of these shares took place when I first became interested in heirloom tomatoes and word got out that my mailbox was a good destination for such treasures, because I didn't keep such treasures a secret; I made sure they were distributed far and wide.

My speaking events since the release of Epic Tomatoes in late 2014 are adding to my seed sharing stories - generosity of others allowed me to add such wonderful varieties as Aunt Edna, Maris Family, Anna's Kentucky, Springston, and Uncle Joe, just to name a few, to my seed collection. Each variety has a story to tell.

The story I wish to tell in more detail in this blog begins with an email received on November 14, 2015 from a fellow named Walt Swokla, who lives and gardens in Connecticut. Walt wanted to question me about a special family tomato that he has grown for years; his grandmother brought them to the US from Popoli Italy in 1917. 

Walt very generously shared some of the seeds with me, so that I could grow it myself and then offer my opinion on whether it was similar to any other tomatoes I was familiar with. I first grew them in 2016 - and absolutely loved them. The tomato plant was vigorous and healthy, the tomatoes medium to large, heart shaped, pink and delicious. Last year it excelled as well. This is clearly a tomato of stellar quality.

two perfect Cancelmo Family Heirloom tomatoes from my 2017 garden

two perfect Cancelmo Family Heirloom tomatoes from my 2017 garden

My personal philosophy, which is shared by most gardeners, is that wonderful discoveries are best when shared far and wide. Given that, my first thought was to contact my friend, Mike Dunton, owner of Victory Seeds, inform him of this most fortunate find, and at the same time, let Walt know of my plan (and, of course, obtain his approval to do so.) The tomato was simply too good to keep between a handful of gardeners. I put Walt and Mike in contact so that the catalog entry would accurately represent the history. The result is the 2018 debut of Cancelmo Family Heirloom tomato

By helping to make an heirloom variety widely available in a seed catalog, many more gardeners can hear about, order, and grow it - thus, find out first hand about not only its excellent qualities, but the wonderful associated history. I am so thrilled that the story of Cancelmo Family Heirloom tomato is told, the seeds available, and now offered an excellent chance to survive and provide delight for a long, long time. 

Thanks, Walt - and thanks, Mike! 

 

Keeping it weekly...making it brief

The sky is blue on Feb 3...and it is cold out there!

The sky is blue on Feb 3...and it is cold out there!

Wait - it's February already?  Where did January go? As soon as we returned from visiting our daughter Sara and her family in Washington, things got busy (no complaints from me...it's been fun!). My 2018 goal was daily Instagram posts, weekly blogs (I am just getting this one in under the wire), and monthly newsletters (check!).  With one month gone, things are actually on track.

"Busy doing what?" you may be thinking. It's too soon to plant seeds...but it is not too soon to answer gardening question emails, assign the Dwarf Tomato Project work, and send seeds. Aside from all over the US and Canada, my babies will be growing in Spain, Russia, Germany, England and Finland. I've had great garden discussions that will end up on Podcasts (more on that below). It is also time to organize my speaking events, especially those that involve travel. 

Here is the latest discussion with my gardening friend, Joe Lamp'l (of Growing a Greener World and the joe gardener show - we focused on seed starting and went into great depth on dense planting. Last week I had a great discussion with Daryl Pulis (America's Home Grown Veggies show), which should be available soon - we are recording part 2 this coming week. 

My Nova Scotia gardening friend, author and host of The Weekend Gardener radio show has a great new book out - Veggie Garden Remix .  It is a wonderful book that offers lots of ideas for bringing new varieties into your garden - check it out! (my driveway last summer grew a few of the peppers that were photographed for the book - benefits of our long, hot season).  In a few weeks, I will talk with Mike the Gardener for an upcoming episode of his podcast.

Great gardening books by Niki Jabbour - Veggie Garden Remix is just out!

Great gardening books by Niki Jabbour - Veggie Garden Remix is just out!

My first garden workshop is only a few weeks away - be sure to check my schedule. I am in the process of refreshing all of my talks, and love to incorporate the most recent results and findings, as well as to customize the information for the particular audiences that are hosting me.

I promised to keep it brief, so that is enough for now. Some seeds will be started soon, more seeds sent, and when it gets a bit warmer, there is yard work to do - I can't wait!

Soon!  Photograph by Stephen Garrett

Soon!  Photograph by Stephen Garrett

Doing the time warp - a few favorite pics from past gardens

I spent the last few days filling coin envelopes with various types of tomato seeds destined for gardens spread throughout the world. Since this is going to be an atypical gardening season for me (more vicarious than first hand), it seems a good time to go down memory lane.

First...to set the contrast... this was the view from just a few days ago.

Sue out walking during our January 17 snowstorm (7 inches at our house, falling between 11 AM and 7 PM)

Sue out walking during our January 17 snowstorm (7 inches at our house, falling between 11 AM and 7 PM)

The snow vanished quickly - within a few days we were in the mid 60s. Winter in Raleigh - who can figure it out?

My first digital photos were taken in 2002, when we still did most of our gardening in a hand-dug 30 X 50 foot plot, protected from deer (reasonably well) with a double wire battery operated electric fence. This is one of my favorite pictures of Cherokee Purple - it shows the tendency to radially crack, the oblate smooth shape, the unique dusky rose purple color, typical size and good fruit set.

Cherokee Purple from 2002. 

Cherokee Purple from 2002. 

The picture below shows the beginning of my interest in colorful hot peppers - this is early work toward my variety Gemstone, in 2003.

"Arboretum dark leaf" was the working name of this early selection, grown in a small pot in the driveway.

"Arboretum dark leaf" was the working name of this early selection, grown in a small pot in the driveway.

My garden space was really migrating from the side dirt garden to the driveway by 2004. The basketball hoop no longer found use....this is a late June shot of the driveway; looking back on my garden log for that year, it shows a record of 86 tomato plants in the side garden, 7 on the rear deck, and over 80 plants in containers - tomatoes, peppers and eggplants - in the driveway.

2004 late June view of the ever-increasing driveway garden

2004 late June view of the ever-increasing driveway garden

One of my favorite Tomatopalooza pictures, from 2004 - Tennessee Britches (the monster on the left), with Red Brandywine on the right - and poor tiny Mexico Midget in front (tiny in size, not in flavor!)

One of my favorite Tomatopalooza pictures, from 2004 - Tennessee Britches (the monster on the left), with Red Brandywine on the right - and poor tiny Mexico Midget in front (tiny in size, not in flavor!)

Some January thoughts....

My goal is to write a weekly blog. Sometimes there is so much going on that they practically write themselves. Occasionally, I find myself in a restless frame of mind, making the selection of blogging topics a bit challenging, and even random. Welcome to my January random blog entry!

It's too early to start seeds, but gardening is on my mind every day 

A typical January finds me filling notebook pages with lists of seeds to be started. This January is quite different, as upcoming speaking events and vacation means few seedlings, and minimal seed starting.

Seeds, books and Seed Saver catalogs - source of inspiration for me all year long

Seeds, books and Seed Saver catalogs - source of inspiration for me all year long

Cold weather really elevates bird activity at the feeders

So many birds - bluebirds and cardinals, towhees and juncos, ruby crowned kinglets and pine and myrtle warblers. White throated sparrows, Carolina wrens, chickadees and titmice. Purple and Goldfinches, Hermit thrushes and thrashers. It is non stop entertainment, daily feeding frenzy time, and such colorful fun to watch.

Two young bluebirds keeping an eye on me as I skulk on the deck with my camera

Two young bluebirds keeping an eye on me as I skulk on the deck with my camera

I've already had some great gardening conversations about dealing with the annual assault of seed catalogs

I've had superbly enjoyable conversations with Joe Lamp'l (the joe gardener show podcast) and Margaret Roach (A Way to Garden podcast), and, late last year but just posted, Jackie Beyer (The Organic Gardener podcast), all of which can be heard by clicking the links. 

The speaking calendar is becoming a juggling act, and it is time to get busy on planning for upcoming trips

The action begins in mid February and carries through to the end of April (at which time Sue and I will jump into our car and drive cross country to visit both of our daughters and their families). I look forward to so many opportunities to bring my tomato and gardening stories around the country. 

The email inbox is always filled with interesting gardening questions and challenges

I am not a phone person, and find it hard to have really good tomato talk on Facebook Messenger, Instagram, or Twitter. It is email for me, and I've been delightfully challenged by many great gardening questions; this isn't so much seasonal and pretty consistent throughout the year, and I love my late nights answering the questions. It always astounds me to find something newly asked each week; receiving, researching and answering challenging questions is how we all learn together.

A lot of seeds are on their way to tomato enthusiasts, but the seed sending surface hasn't even been scratched.

Tied with my joy in receiving emails and dealing with questions are sharing seeds with fellow gardening enthusiasts. Lots of seed is finding its way across the country (indeed, the world), and I've not even begun distributing the Dwarf Tomato Project assignment seeds for 2018 yet.

So now you know what sorts of things fill my January days - devoid of digging in the dirt, but packed with interesting things to ponder and do!

 

Sampling of seeds ready for handing out at my 2018 events, thanks to the generosity and support of some of my favorite companies.

Sampling of seeds ready for handing out at my 2018 events, thanks to the generosity and support of some of my favorite companies.

Recent progress in the Dwarf Tomato Breeding Project

more releases, more choices, and a request 

Despite recent cold (very cold, as in one morning at 6 degrees F - not extraordinary for some of you, I am sure...but a rather unpleasant surprise for Raleigh NC) and snow, our minds are turning to garden plans, planting seeds, and warmer days.

View out of my office window on January 4

View out of my office window on January 4

Late in 2017, a package arrived from Bill Minkey, a Wisconsin gardener and fellow long time Seed Savers Exchange member who has been solely responsible for growing out the release lots of new varieties that emerge from our Dwarf Tomato Breeding Project. Bill outdid himself, as did some of our most active volunteers, resulting in the introduction of 24 new varieties through one or more of the 4 main seed companies that have been selected to unveil them to the world.

When we first started finishing and releasing new dwarf growing tomato varieties, in 2010, there were 10 to consider. We are now at 90, and hope to cross the 100 mark late this year. That being a nice round number, and having co-led this unique project since its conception in 2005, we are actually going to formally bring things to a close. If all goes well, my book describing the project will be published at the same time. 

We are at the point where I've not even grown some of the newest releases, as there is some significant delegation happening, a necessity in a project with such size and complexity - but that also signifies great trust in our volunteers.

Looking through the new releases, you will find the first dwarf growing cherry tomatoes from our project, in colors of white, pink, purple and red (there are yellow, orange, brown, green and striped cherries coming along for future releases). There are larger slicing tomatoes in yellow, red, green and purple, as well as a yellow/red bicolor and three showing distinct stripes. The first dwarf paste tomatoes make their appearance this year as well, in colors of pink, or striped green. Those I've tasted are wonderful. I can't wait to try the rest.

With 90 dwarf varieties in all, the obvious question - "which ones taste best?" is getting asked of me more and more. As with all flavor questions, it is all about each of your preferences, so my opinion may or may not be of any worth to those who ask.

I will go ahead and list my flavor favorites to date, in no particular order. These are the dwarfs that I most crave: Dwarf Beryl Beauty, Dwarf Emerald Giant, Summertime Green, Rosella Purple, Summertime Gold, Dwarf Mr. Snow, Dwarf Kelly Green, Dwarf Sweet Sue, Summer Sunrise, Rosella Crimson, Wherokowhai, Dwarf Blazing Beauty, Sweet Scarlet Dwarf, Summer Sweet Gold, Adelaide Festival, Dwarf Orange Cream, Dwarf Golden Gypsy, TastyWine, Dwarf Confetti, Dwarf Peppermint Stripes, and Dwarf Black Angus - that's 20 of our 90 releases that to me are the equal of the very best indeterminate varieties in flavor. 

I would love to hear from you.

Now, here is my request of you. I'd love to know what you think of our dwarfs. Please share your experiences - I will do a future blog that captures your opinions - and pictures, if you wish to share! Drop me an email with whatever you wish to share!

Dwarf Tomato R&D in 2007 - ALL tomatoes on this table are from our early Dwarf Tomato Project efforts. 

Dwarf Tomato R&D in 2007 - ALL tomatoes on this table are from our early Dwarf Tomato Project efforts. 

 

 

 

Happy New Year! Here's to a memorable 2018 for us all....

Our frigid back yard this morning, after filling the feeders and bird bath

Our frigid back yard this morning, after filling the feeders and bird bath

Brrrr....14 degrees this morning in Raleigh NC. I just stepped out to fill the bird feeders and bird bath, and to fix the covering on our big pots of greens. We are due for a solid week of freezing or just below days, and absolutely frigid nights. What a way to say "hello" to a new year. 

Poor pansy....will it make it through to warmer spring temps? We shall see!

Poor pansy....will it make it through to warmer spring temps? We shall see!

Since Epic Tomatoes came out early in 2015, I've maintained a journal. I've found it to be a really helpful way to capture thoughts and memories, to "write out" the many feelings that occur throughout the busy years. This morning saw the beginning of my 4th journal, and I began by taking a look back on what was a very complicated, rewarding, busy year.

2017 saw my involvement in 6 interviews, 13 radio spots or podcasts, and the Growing a Greener World TV episode.....providing 20 presentations, including venues in Michigan, Connecticut, Washington DC, Burlington Vermont and Huntsville Alabama.....vacation trips to Seattle, Yellowtone/Grand Tetons and the Florida Keys....a sizable garden, lots of progress on the Dwarf Tomato Project (much more on that in future blog entries - we are nearing 100 new tomato releases)...and, sadly, loss of some of our beloved pets - Kip, our Maine Coon cat, in July, Holly, a most delightful dog we were fortunate to "share" with another family, in August, and our chocolate lab Mocha just a few weeks ago, in December. 

It was wonderful to meet so many enthusiastic gardeners at events or in my driveway. We got to consume loads of delicious tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. I began to employ my daughter, Sara, for help with my endeavors, and, in the coming year, much will emerge from our collaborative work. We ended the year running a contest with the Victory Seed Company, and hope to follow that up quickly with some of my favorite authors and companies.

As for what lies ahead this year, some things are known, but much remains a puzzle to be solved in the coming weeks. I've got some eagerly anticipated events scheduled (refer to my upcoming events page). I look forward to trips to Hartford CT, Chicago IL, White Stone VA, Lake City SC, Gillette WY and Detroit MI, which is just a selection of this 15 events scheduled to date.

Sue and I hope to embark on a long cross country drive in the spring, focused on visiting our daughters and their families in Abilene TX and Olalla WA. We hope to hit some national parks along the way. 

If all goes to plan, 2018 will see my third book - the story of the Dwarf Tomato Breeding Project - as well as a new webinar series (probably the key part of my work with my daughter Sara). It may also see the formal closing of the Dwarf Tomato Project (we began in 2005, and after a 13 year run, it seems time to wrap it up - but we shall see). Because of my speaking and travel schedule, it may also be the first year that we won't grow a significant garden since 1981 - which was our very first garden. Little to no garden, few if any seedlings - yes, this will be an unusual year...but change is good! There is no shortage of projects and activities to fill the time - it will just be filled differently.

I think that's enough to get things kicked off in 2018 - Happy New Year to all. Thanks to everyone for their support and friendship - I hope to see some of you along the way as we make our way into this new, shiny year!

20180101_104241.jpg

 

 

Today, our hearts are broken.

Mocha - full name Mocha Latte XXXVI - was born on May 2, 2004 and entered our lives on July 24, 2004, and left it today, December 11, 2017. She was 13 years, 7 months old.

The slide show above (just click the picture and it will advance) has one or more pics from each year of her life. There are no regrets - she was the best, and we are so fortunate for every second of her nearly 14 years.

I just located Mocha's genealogical info. Her full name was Mocha Latte XXXVI. Her father was Rexwald Forbes' Revenge, and her mother Jezebel Forbes' Desire. The breeder was Tonya and Thomas Forbes. She was born on May 2, 2004 - her AKC registration number was SR17568303. Mocha came to us when we responded to an ad in the Raleigh N&O that I found on the morning of July 24, 2004, which resulted in a trip to visit her first parent, Mona Creech of Holly Springs NC. Mocha accompanied us home and settled in to our family on that date, and our lives were changed forever, for which we will be forever grateful.

Let's get caught up...what I learned in my 2017 gardening adventures

Bad me - over a month since a blog entry. As each year passes, I confess to falling victim to the post-growing season, post speaking activities, less daylight/colder weather malaise. I feel more like a mammal eagerly anticipating a long, sleepy hibernation. I've not been totally idle - among the activities bubbling under the surface are preparations for a new webinar launch, filling out my 2018 speaking dance card, and distributing seeds for our next 24 dwarf project releases. Though I've felt sleepy, lots is getting done (but about that messy office....). 

AND perhaps the biggest news - I am launching something new and exciting on Instagram in December - be sure to follow me there @nctomatoman to find out. There is more to come about this in my next newsletter; click here to subscribe!

Nice foliage from our fall trip to the zoo a few weeks ago

Nice foliage from our fall trip to the zoo a few weeks ago

My 2017 gardening experience was quite rewarding, if not quite as ambitious as with previous seasons. As always, I learned an awful lot...that is one of the great joys of gardening. Of course, no garden is without frustrations and failures, but those contribute to the learning aspect. And so, as we enter December and get ready to wrap up the year, I want to share with all of you some of the major discoveries from the growing season that is already becoming a distant memory.

  • Getting seedlings into the sun as quickly as possible is dependent upon the weather, but can remove the need for any time at all under grow lights. My seedlings went from my sunny office window directly into the sun (easing them in slowly, of course, to avoid shock from cold temps, direct sun and wind).
  • Each season brings its own unique insect attacks, and this year, aphids hit early and hit hard. It was possible to wash them off young seedlings with a stream of water. The ladybugs that finally showed up (they were late to the party) took care of the ones on the more mature plants. 
  • Plants left in small (3-4 inch containers), if kept watered and lightly fed, can produce a few tomatoes, which is fine for getting a sense of color variation when doing a breeding project but there isn't enough room to plant everything. This approach provides an opportunity for some seed saving.
  • Sometimes, planting less will produce more. Last year I really squeezed in my container dwarfs and had a tough time with foliage disease. This year I reduced the density - increased the spacing  - resulting in healthier plants that produced more tomatoes.
  • Blossom end rot hit hardest on a few of my indeterminate varieties when the plants were doing it all - growing vigorously, flowering, setting fruit and enlarging fruit. Sufficient water and food is important when the plants are so busy. The issue went away after a few fruit on the first few clusters were hit with it.
  • You can't tell the quality of a straw bale by its appearance, and bales from a single source can vary. I purchased 6 straw bales from one supplier on one visit, and three of them appeared to have persistent herbicides. I need to be more vigilant about finding out about my bale source.
  • It is sometimes hard to practice what one preaches. I am still just terrible at topping my indeterminate plants, but I did have a good reason. Blossom drop meant that setting fruit began quite high up the plant, so the extra growth (beyond the stake length), though flopping over, gave me the yields I was hoping for. It made for a messy set of plants, however.
  • Giving our dwarf varieties lots of room really boosts the yields. Though they do just fine in a 5 gallon container, increase that to 20 gallons and the results are quite spectacular. Dwarfs planted in a traditional garden (with lots of space for roots) should produce very well.
  • Previously unseen diseases can suddenly show up and strike hard. I've never experienced issues growing peppers or basil, but my crops were pretty well decimated - peppers with bacterial spot, and basil by downy mildew. My guess is that they blew in, or were spread by chewing insects.
  • Foliage fungal diseases on tomatoes such as early blight and septoria certainly impact the appearance of the plants, but if regularly managed, won't kill the plants. Just about all of my tomato plants had lower foliage spotting with one or both, but regular removal of lower foliage and good spacing allowed for nearly all of the plants to grow until early September and provide good yields of high quality tomatoes.

I think that's it for my main eye-openers. Please email me and ask if you want more info on the above - more reflection on my part will likely lead to additional things learned that I will share in time.

Last, but not least - for those looking for a unique gift for their loves ones at this time of year, take a look at my wife's hand-crafted Memory Santas. Ordering info can be found by clicking the hot link in the previous sentence. Please note - they are going fast! Free shipping if ordered before Christmas! I've included a few example pictures below. More pictures can be found on her website. 

The 2017 Season Review - Part 5. Dwarf Tomato Project R&D results

This is the final retrospective on the 2017 garden, and the longest. Continuing development efforts in the Dwarf Tomato breeding project was such fun, and full of delightful surprises. Becoming disciplined and harsh is always challenging (it is amazing how attached we can get to our "offspring"!),. From all that I grew out this year, there are some clear lead selections, and some apparent dead ends. There are also some interesting findings from some local gardeners that hosted some of my plants. All of this is in advance of the many results to come in from participants around the country who will post their results on Tomatoville. The story on the 2017 Dwarf project is far from complete, but certainly is coming into focus

Work toward worthwhile variegated foliage plants

The Acey family (which originated as a cross between Variegated and Dwarf Mr Snow)

Variegated Acey plant

Variegated Acey plant

Acey F2 potato leaf plant 1 - Bright yellow golf ball shaped and sized tomatoes with a delicious, intense, bright flavor - similar in fact to Barossa Fest. Well worth pursuing.

Acey F2 potato leaf plant 2 - Similar fruit size and shape and color as plant 1, but with inferior flavor. Not a high priority for further work.

Acey F2 regular leaf - medium sized oblate fruit that are pale red/scarlet outside, and light red with yellow overtones inside, not quite as flavorful as potato leaf plant 1 described above, but very good as well as prolific. Promising.

Acey F3 potato leaf - this was the best of the four, producing oblate medium sized fruit that are bright yellow in and out and with excellent flavor. Very similar in color, size and shape to Dwarf Mr Snow, but with larger seed cavities. This is a lead candidate going forward.

Fruit from the large fruited Acey potato leaf plant

Fruit from the large fruited Acey potato leaf plant

Artsy F2 plant 1 - Artsy is my cross between Variegated and Perth Pride. Artsy plant 1 is a lovely plant, with excellent fruit set. The tomatoes are in the 3 ounce range, smooth slightly oblate, and red in color. The flavor is very, very good - clearly better than the Variegated parent, with some of the nice tang of Perth Pride. This is a promising lead

Artsy F2 plant 2 - This is a bit of a mystery. The young seedling had quite fine foliage, clearly smaller than expected - making me wonder if some Silvery Fir Tree is included in this possibly complex cross. The tomatoes ripened red, and were similar in size to the Variegated indeterminate parent, though with far better flavor. Promising lead.

Sandy F2 - Sandy is a cross between Variegated and the striped dwarf Sarandipity. My single Sandy offspring shows less variegation than the Acey or Artsy plants. Fruit set was very good and the plant was healthy. The tomatoes are in the 3 ounce range, slightly oblate, smooth, and red with faint lighter stripes, giving it a mottled appearance. The flavor is very good, certainly better than either parent. Promising lead

Fishy F2 - Fishy is a cross between Variegated and Iditarod Red - my expectations for this line are modest. The plant has only slight variegation, but was healthy and set lots of fruit. The tomatoes were in the 3 ounce range, smooth slightly oblate, and very tasty - no surprise that it is a red tomato, like both parents. I like the flavor more than either parent, and this is a promising lead

Scotty F2 - My aim in the Scotty cross was to start to delve into some of the E. C Green varieties offered by Livingston in the early 1900s - he was the first to use Honor Bright (a very unusual variety with nearly yellow foliage, white flowers, and tomatoes that go from white to red) as a parent, crossing it with some of the dwarfs of that time to eventually create yellow foliaged dwarfs. Scotty is a cross between a weird potato leaf, yellow leaf variety I found years ago in Turkey Chomp and call Surprise, with Dwarf Scarlet Heart. The offspring of this cross should be very complex - potato and regular leaf, green and yellowish foliage.

(For the Scotty F2 results based on expectations, see further down this report.)

Once the tomatoes ripened, it was clear to me that I mixed some Sandy seed into the Scotty sample, as the variegation patterns and fruit color (light stripes) matched my Sandy results...so mystery solved. See Sandy F2, above, for the description of the ripe fruit and status going forward.

Work toward dwarf paste tomatoes

My work on dwarf paste tomatoes - primarily the Speckly family (my cross of Speckled Roman with Dwarf Golden Heart) - is limited this year. Yet, there is good news to report. The numbers below, and further on, are my reference vial numbers that were assigned to seed sent to me by project volunteers. 

Speckly selection 5716 - moderately healthy, very compact dwarf, producing 2-3 ounce paste tomatoes with a nippled end - red in color, and quite flavorful. I'd like to see better production, but it is a good lead

Speckly 5994 left, then Reddy, Fishy, Sandy

Speckly 5994 left, then Reddy, Fishy, Sandy

Speckly selection 5994 - another very compact plant, healthy, tomatoes round to oval and red with faint stripes, very good flavor, and a promising lead.

Speckly selection 5718 - healthy and vigorous, heavy yielding, with large blunt heart shaped red fruit approaching 8 ounces. The tomatoes are meaty, and flavor very good indeed - this is a very promising lead.

Large red heart from Speckly 5718

Large red heart from Speckly 5718

Speckly selection 5718 grown by a garden friend - this is an even more exciting result. The tomatoes were distinctly heart shaped, and were red with clear vertical golden stripes. The meaty tomatoes were delicious. This is a top lead.

Large striped Speckly from 5718, friend's garden, right (with Firebird Sweet)

Large striped Speckly from 5718, friend's garden, right (with Firebird Sweet)

Work toward dwarf cherry tomatoes

I made quite a few crosses toward some great dwarf cherry tomatoes. I focused on a few from Burly (Sun Gold X Dwarf Beryl Beauty) and Steamy (Sun Gold X Dwarf Pink Passion) and one each from Reddy (Egg Yolk X Iditarod red), Zooty (Sun Gold X Tennessee Suited) and Teensy (Mexico Midget X Summertime Green); there are lots of volunteers working on these.

Burly selection 5992 - nice healthy 3 foot tall plant, lanky, good fruit set of oval large cherry tomatoes that ripened red, instead of the expected pink. Flavor was sweet, and this is a nice lead for a tasty large pink cherry tomato.

Burly selection 5778 - same growth habit, fruit set, shape and size as 5992 above. The tomatoes were very similar to those obtained from 5992, described just above - one curiousity was that the tomatoes were often seedless!  Certainly a promising lead as well.

Other Burly selections grown by friends - This line wasn't extensively studied, but we have a few good flavored yellow cherries to further investigate.

Steamy selection T16-24 - Lovely plant, stocky, healthy, loaded with fruit - beautiful fruit shape of a smooth teardrop, pink, sweet, nice flavor. Similar result to last year - working name for this is Liz's Teardrop, in memory of Sue's sister. A real curiosity, though - the tomatoes have few to no seeds at all, which may be an issue for propagating enough seed to advance; otherwise, this is a top lead.

Steamy 16-24, Liz's Teardrop

Steamy 16-24, Liz's Teardrop

Steamy selection T16-25 - Very similar to T16-24, with a slightly different shape - more of a mini paste - and not quite as heavy yielding - but with perhaps a slightly more intense flavor, and it does have some seeds.  Top lead, not yet named.

Shape comparison - Steamy 16-24 left, 16-25 right

Shape comparison - Steamy 16-24 left, 16-25 right

Other Steamy selections grown by friends - Aside from pink, the other color found was red. Productivity and flavor of all selections is excellent. We still hope to see something orange, but alas, not yet!

Reddy selection 5784 - Healthy plant loading up with one ounce oval tomatoes that ripen a bright yellow. Very nice, lively flavor. Color of the father (Egg Yolk), fruit size half way between that and the  mother (Iditarod Red). This is a nice lead, and I like it better than the released Kangaroo Paw Yellow.

Reddy 5784 - nice large yellow cherry tomato

Reddy 5784 - nice large yellow cherry tomato

Teensy selection T16-41 - Healthy plant, on the tall side for a dwarf - half way between a dwarf and an indeterminate, probably due to the Mexico Midget parentage. Healthy plant with great fruit set, small cherry tomatoes that ripen chocolate brown, very good flavor, juicy. This is a promising lead and will have lots of competition from other chocolate colored selections being found in this line.

Other Teensy selections grown by friends - Aside from chocolate colored cherries, the other colors found were red, yellow, purple, and both clear skinned and yellow skinned green flesh; a few were more like small oblate beefsteak shapes than round. Lots of diversity, lots of work remains! Many are very promising.

Zooty F2 - now this is a find!  Nice compact dwarf; had lots of disease early (very dense plant), but that was removed and it looks fine. Fruit are small to small/medium oblate, orange with green stripes, and delicious! Since it is one of the few Sun Gold offspring showing some of the distinctive flavor, this is a top lead.

Unique orange cherry with green stripes from Zooty

Unique orange cherry with green stripes from Zooty

Work toward good tasting high anthocyanin dwarfs

These are fun, complex lines to work with, and the goal is to create unique looking, high anthocyanin colored dwarfs with good flavor (the main high antho variety, Oregon Blue P20, simply doesn't taste very good). The two main families are Anthy (a high antho pink determinate cherry sent to be by gardening friend Marcia, crossed with our green striped plum shaped dwarf Saucy Mary), and Lampy (Oregon Blue P20 X Tennessee Suited - a cross I made while being filmed for the Growing a Greener World episode; the aim is to create a tomato for Joe Lamp'l meeting his preferences that he can name and we can work on together).

Anthy plant 1 - Three of the Anthy selections were very heavy yielding - plants 1, 2 and 3. This selection produced slender plum to pear shaped tomatoes of about an ounce with no antho coloring. Ripe fruit were red with bold gold stripes, and red flesh. The flavor was balanced and mild, and this would make a wonderful drying or sauce tomato. Promising for the paste candidates, but no antho.

Anthy plant 2 - This and plant 3 were essentially identical, producing loads of elongated tomatoes of an ounce or more, 2-3 inches long by 1 inch wide, ripening to pink with strong antho shoulders. The flavor was mild and balanced. This is a very promising high antho colored lead with none of the off putting flavor that seems to follow the antho tomatoes.

Anthy plant 3 - Plant 3 is essentially the same as plant 2.

Anthy fruit from plants 2 and 3, left, and from plant 1, right

Anthy fruit from plants 2 and 3, left, and from plant 1, right

Anthy plant 4 - Clearly more of a determinate dwarf, the very compact plant produced clusters of small, egg shaped large cherry tomatoes that ripened purple with dark antho shoulders, and with a very good flavor. Promising.

fruit on Anthy plant 4

fruit on Anthy plant 4

Other Anthy selections grown by friends - This is a very diverse line and friends found some interesting leads, such as yellow plum tomatoes with or without striping - some with very strong antho shoulders. A few will be nice leads; flavor on all of them ranged from good to very good.

Lampy line - I grew out 6 dwarf selections that showed antho shading in the seedlings. One of the 6 ripened fruit that were devoid of the antho coloring, but did have faint stripes, the final color being red with faint gold striping, with excellent yield and good flavor. The other 5 selections showed strongly antho colored shoulders, but no striping, and the ripe fruit color was deep red. One had good fruit size (6 ounce oblate), with flavor approaching excellent. I didn't find what I hoped to find (striped purple fruit with antho shoulders), but we do have a few promising leads....and it will be worth going back to the drawing board and seeing what else can be found.

One of the Lampy selections showing antho shoulders

One of the Lampy selections showing antho shoulders

Work toward pale foliaged dwarfs - either yellow toned, or chartreuse toned

I am growing only one offspring in the Morty line that is showing distinct chartreuse foliage (Morty is Charlotte Mullens Mortgage Lifter X Summer Sunrise). The real oddity is the Scotty line, described above in the Variegated section. See below for the specifics.

Unique chartreuse foliage in Morty

Unique chartreuse foliage in Morty

Morty selection T16-184 - Last year this was a lovely potato leaf chartreuse foliaged plant with medium to large red oblate tasty tomatoes. This year the plant looks as expected - a dwarf, but on the tall side - the chartreuse color gene seems to "stretch" the plants, making dwarfs and indeterminates with that leaf color particularly lanky. The fruit were of good size - 8 ounce range - oblate, smooth and pink, with very solid, low seed content interiors and a nice balanced flavor. This is a promising lead.

Large pink fruit in the Morty selection

Large pink fruit in the Morty selection

Back to Scotty - and a curious observation - All of the Scotty seedlings show distinct spotting - different from Septoria - pretty much all the way up the plant, starting on the lowest leaves. They in general don't look very healthy - wondering if the cross revealed some genetic disease susceptibility.

All unripe fruit on the Scotty plants were white.

All unripe fruit on the Scotty plants were white.

Scotty plant 1 - Potato leaf dwarf with the yellowish foliage of the Surprise parent. IThe unripe fruit was white, and it slowly ripened through orange, to red. Fruit size topped out at 8 ounces, oblate and shape, with excellent flavor - very promising and unusual.

Scotty plant 2 - The plant type was the same as plant 1 above, but the fruit were mostly heart shaped; more solid (less seeds) inside, not as tasty. Certainly unique, and worth pursuing, as it carried the fruit shape of its mother.

Scotty plant 3 - This plant really struggled, and managed to ripen one fruit before going down to disease...oddly, the tomato it produced was round and pink, after going through the white stage. Certainly promising.

Scotty plant 4 - The ripe fruit color was red, and the yield substandard due to early disease onset. Worth pursuing a bit more.

Other dwarf families with no particular category aside from curiosity - Leafy (Dwarf Jade Beauty X Yellow White), and Betty (Chartreuse Mortgage Lifter X Dwarf Jade Beauty)

Betty selection with tasty green fruit

Betty selection with tasty green fruit

Leafy F2 regular leaf - Lovely result - medium sized, smooth oblate white tomatoes that were very tasty. Very promising.

Leafy F2 potato leaf - Another really nice tomato - medium to large, smooth oblate clear skinned, green fleshed tomatoes that were just delicious. Very promising.

Betty F2 regular leaf - This was quite an oddity - medium sized, oblate tomatoes - lots of them! - that were clear skinned, green fleshed, but with a strong purplish blush in the center and on the blossom end - very meaty interiors with the seeds around the periphery, and very good flavor. Promising and unusual.

Betty F2 potato leaf - Another Betty oddity - the tomatoes were bright yellow with a strong pink blossom end blush, marbled interiors, and good flavor. Promising and unusual.

Tiggy F3 regular leaf - From a cross between Tiger Tom and Dwarf Mr Snow, my plant grown from seed saved by a volunteer from small striped tomatoes gave me large striped, tasty tomatoes, which are very promising.

Tiggy selection upper left - next to Beauty King and Caitydid (bottom)

Tiggy selection upper left - next to Beauty King and Caitydid (bottom)

So, that's it - a long read for those who have been following our project. There will be lots of opportunity to jump in, as I saved plenty of seeds from all of the selections. At the appropriate time, all you need to do is contact me and ask for seeds of those that you wish to try.

Very attractive, productive Anthy selection showing antho shoulders

Very attractive, productive Anthy selection showing antho shoulders