Product Review - Gardener’s Revolution Classic Tomato Garden Kit from Gardener's Supply Company

Overall rating – 5 stars (out of 5) for results/effectiveness, 4 stars for the product and value

I am a long time gardener with lots of experience growing tomatoes (as well as peppers and eggplants – more on those later). When we moved into our Raleigh home 25 years ago, I hand dug a garden in the side yard, Over the years, the surrounding trees grew to a point where the garden no longer received enough hours of direct sun. The best sun location turned out to be our driveway, Moving the garden there meant learning all about container gardening, a perfect alternative to traditional dirt gardening. The main challenges are providing sufficient water and feeding, particularly during hot summers, and figuring out ways to keep the plants upright. Let me tell you....I've found a perfect solution!  Read on....

After publication of my book, Epic Tomatoes, I was asked by Gardener's Supply Company to test and evaluate their Gardener’s Revolution Classic Tomato Garden Kit. My plan was to test the product using three types of crops that achieve similar height and provide similar challenges for successful container gardening. The product instructions clearly designate that it is not suitable for indeterminate (tall growing) tomatoes, so I tested an eggplant and sweet pepper in one set up, 2 dwarf-growing tomatoes in a second set up, and 2 determinate tomatoes in the third planter.

Components of each kit: Large box with the planter and support components, planting medium and plant food. I noted that some of the plastic parts had some damage in shipping, but it didn’t hinder functional set up of the planters.

Assembly: Complete assembly of the planter ranged from a bit over an hour for the first to a bit less for the next two, with most of the time spent on a soon-to-be-redesigned clip mechanism. The top rim did not fit snugly on the planter, but it wasn’t necessary for proper use and function.

Seasonal crop maintenance: The self-watering design is a wonderful feature, and the effectiveness of keeping the plants healthy and productive in relation to my typical 5 gallon grow bags or pots was clearly evident. Occasional feeding and watering was a breeze, and the supports kept the plants easily upright.

Results, general: The seedlings grew quickly, at a significantly increased rate and vigor and health compared with traditional containers. Fruit set and yield and crop quality were superb. The planters were set up on May 1, and as I write this on August 3, the plants continue to thrive and produce, with exceptional fruit yield and quality.

Results, by specific plant type:

Dwarf growing tomato:  I placed two tomato seedlings in the planter, but one of them went down quickly to tomato spotted wilt virus; this was a random event, a disease spread by an infected thrip, and was in no way due to the planter. The remaining dwarf tomato variety grew spectacularly, reaching 4 feet height and 3 feet width within a few months. The plant was easily double in scale to similar varieties planted in 5 gallon containers. Quite simply, the dwarf variety in the planter showed the potential of this class of tomatoes; the tested variety is a recent release from a new breeding project that I co-lead. If one wants to maximize production of a dwarf stature tomato, this is the way to do it.

Determinate tomatoes: Two Martino's Roma tomatoes are excelling in the planter. Everything observed for the dwarf tomato, noted above, holds true for the determinate tomatoes.

Eggplant: Wow. I’ve never seen an eggplant produce so heavily. From one single plant, at least 20 perfectly healthy, delicious fruit were harvested, with more on the way.

Sweet Pepper: Again, as with the eggplant, the pepper (a notoriously finicky crop to grow in a traditional garden) became a production machine. Both pepper and eggplant achieved 4 feet in height, perfectly supported by the planter structure. The pepper plant has a minimum of 20 fruit, with some on the cusp of turning to its ripe color.

Overall assessment: Yes, there is some cost involved, and a few wrinkles to work out, primarily around the integrity of the device and how it makes it through the shipping process, and assembly of the support clips. But if one is looking for success – for ease of maintenance and for high yields of excellent quality produce, this is a superb product. Once purchased, they can be a fixture in the garden for many years.

Below you will find series of pictures of the progress of the planters. Click on the pictures to advance the carousel.

Set up and planting - early May

Early progress - into early June

Further along - into July and harvest time

 

 

An unexpected gift from a reader

An email arrived in my Inbox a few days ago from Crystal Lynn. Crystal first contacted me last March, after reading my book, realizing I lived nearby and was a source for tomato seedlings. My babies grew in her garden last year. We  had some nice email exchanges early in the season which involved some of her gardening questions, which I was delighted to answer. Clearly, Crystal's gardening adventures are continuing with success this year, which makes me happy.

I asked Crystal if she is comfortable with me sharing the note that she sent - thankfully, she is, and here it is.

"Hello there!

I wanted to sent you a quick note to let you know how much your help and your book have meant to me. As you may recall my husband used to tease me and I would prefer a bag of great tomatoes than a dozen red roses. It's so true. Lol. I also told you how I had not had a great tomato since we moved over 10 years ago. Well, that has all changed!!

I am sooo happy! I truly love tomatoes and yesterday, for the first day in my entire life, I had more fantastic tomatoes than I could eat and had grown myself!! We went on vacation and when we returned my crop those volunteers I messaged you about earlier this year, we going crazy. Delicious, bright-red tomatoes everywhere!!! What a delight! It made me so happy!

My son now understands the joy of home-grown tomatoes as well. He too loves to go in the garden and pick fresh tomatoes right off the vine for a snack. I am sure he will grown his own tomatoes too when he grows up. He really loves them as much as I do. 

Anyway, I had given up on my love of tomatoes a long time ago. I had tried and failed so many times and just thought I was destined to never eat great tomatoes again. Then I found your book. I was so inspired and have spent countless hours and money getting there, but I finally have realized my dream of having those wonderful, sweet, juicy tomatoes I always loved when we lived in Nebraska.

I just wanted to thank you for the gift you have given to all of the tomato lovers of the world! It sure makes me and my son happy!"

(Crystal included a picture of one of their tomato successes, taken by her son, Kendall, shown below)

Tomatoes on one of Crystal Lynn's plants, photographed by her son and shared with me

Tomatoes on one of Crystal Lynn's plants, photographed by her son and shared with me

 

Thank you, Crystal, for sending the note - it is the ultimate gift for an author.

It's all happening now - tastings, harvest, cooking, seed saving, and more....

Somehow, we've moved on from searching desperately for a few ripe Mexico Midgets or Sun Golds to the annual line up of ripe tomatoes on the kitchen counters. It is fun, delicious, occasionally surprising - and consistently busy!

Before a discussion about the garden, I want to highlight a few upcoming activities well worth checking out. (there are links below, and also in my Upcoming Events page)

Tomorrow evening at 6:30 PM - Monday, July 17- is a special tomato dinner at Acme Food and Beverage in Carrboro NC. All details, including the sumptuous menu and registration, can be found here.

For those who miss our Tomatopalooza events, come on to Iseley Farm in Burlington NC on Saturday, July 22, at 3 PM in Burlington for the Epic Tomato Tasting

Beyond that, on July 25  the Durham Garden Forum Gardeners' Advice Fair will take place at Duke Garden at 6:30. A mini Tomatopalooza happens at the Olive Wagon in Lafayette Village in North Raleigh at 6 PM on July 27. Then comes the Home Grown Tomato Festival in Charlotte NC on July 29. Finally, consider registering for a special tomato themed class at Southern Season on August 6.  I will be doing three tomato workshops at different Wake County libraries in September and October; once the dates and locations are confirmed, they can be found in my upcoming events page.  

Now on to the garden....it has been HOT and HUMID. This makes the plants somewhat unhappy - and me as well; it is virtually impossible to be out there tending to things after lunch. Today saw a bit of relief with an early afternoon cloudburst.

Rain!

Rain!

The lower tomato foliage turns pretty ugly when things get hot and humid, and I've done several rounds of foliage removal. I've clearly got issues persisting on some plants in bales - the 2 Sun Gold plants, Amethyst Cream and Egg Yolk in particular maintain a severe wilt from late morning on, but the foliage is still green and they are all producing. I've never seen so much blossom end rot on Green Giant, typically a very happy resident in my garden. Mama's Huge Orange is about dead, likely a victim of tomato spotted wilt; it is also not orange, but red. Anna's Kentucky Heirloom is similarly afflicted and I may get no tomatoes at all - ditto Lillian's Yellow Heirloom. The peppers are clearly suffering from bacterial spot and the basil is going down fast to either fusarium or downy mildew (or both).

However, that is the extent of the bad news. Eggplant is abundant and healthy, and the dwarf tomatoes are thriving and occasionally surprising; there is a lot of research going on, so each plant that ripens fruit offers an answer to a mystery. Some of the dwarfs - Dwarf Caitydid, Dwarf Beauty King to name a few absolute highlights - are simply delicious and the equal of the best indeterminate varieties.

Dwarf Beauty King, upper right, Dwarf Caitydid, bottom (a selection from our Tiggy line is upper left)

Dwarf Beauty King, upper right, Dwarf Caitydid, bottom (a selection from our Tiggy line is upper left)

Tomato ripening and picking means seed saving, an activity that has kept me quite busy. Ripe tomatoes also mean the chance to cook up our favorite recipes; thus far we've had Pasta alla Norma, roasted tomato crostata, and tonight, our first tomato bisque. If the harvest intensifies, it will be canning time. It all happens in the blink of an eye, but I am putting lots of effort into keeping the plants going - attending to the foliage issues, feeding and watering - to really push the yields and see if I can get productivity well into August. 

Be sure to click on the images below to advance the picture carousel - just a sampling of the goings on in the driveway with tomatoes this week.

July 4 Garden Update - Part 3. Dwarf Tomato Project R&D

I know that this is the update that lots of you are waiting to read....I've got some really curious, wild things growing out there for the Dwarf Tomato Breeding Project.  Read on to find out which look to be winners, which dead ends, and which are yet to be determined.

Work toward worthwhile variegated foliage plants

Using the indeterminate tomato Variegated as pollen donor, four successful crosses represent the families in this category. During the seedling stage, I was surprised to find a fifth cross showing variegation (probably due to a double cross; more on that below).

Acey F2 potato leaf plant 1 - Acey is a cross between Variegated and Dwarf Mr. Snow, thus has the best chance of excellent flavor and good size, as well as potato leaf variegated plants. There are four offspring of this family in the garden. This lovely plant is healthy and vigorous - fruit set is fine, and the fruit seem to be round, and probably not very large. A-

Acey F2 potato leaf plant 2 - This plant is not as vigorous as plant 1 and got off to a slower start. Fruit set is just starting, and the flowers are not all that large - A-

Acey F2 regular leaf - This is the most impressive of the four Aceys, very vigorous, heavy fruit set, nice variegation. The fruit at this point vary from round to oblate and I expect this to have the largest fruit size. A

Acey F3 potato leaf - This plant came from seed from the single Acey offspring I squeezed in late last year, from small to medium oblate nearly white tomatoes. Struggling similarly to Acey F2 potato leaf plant 2, it is doing better, but behind - flowers, which are not too large, are just opening. B+

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. A

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 plant is now quite large, with lovely variegation - it is now setting fruit, and the flowers are on the small side - can't wait to see what the fruit is like. A

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 is very good and the plant is 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. A

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 is healthy and setting fruit well. The tomatoes are 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. A

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 is very complex - potato and regular leaf, green and yellowish foliage - made even more mysterious by the presence of variegated foliaged plants. The single Scotty variegated plant looks fine - it is healthy and setting oblate fruit well. A

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. B

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

Speckly selection 5718 - healthy and vigorous, heavy yielding, fruit look to be 3-4 ounces and round to heart shaped. Yet to ripen, but soon - color and flavor pending - A

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 - should ripen soon.  Tomatoes that gave the seeds were tasty and red - let's see what the color and flavor are like this year. A-

Burly selection 5778 - same growth habit, fruit set, shape and size as 5992 above. Expectations for this one are pink and delicious...we will soon see.  A-

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. One issue - the tomatoes have few to no seeds at all, which may be an issue. A-

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.  A-

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, but needs to be compared to the released Kangaroo Paw Yellow to confirm it is distinct enough. A-

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. Lots of people are working on this, so results will be compared. Certainly a fine dwarf cherry, and good candidate for release. A-

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! Only tried one so far, looking forward to more....some of that Sun Gold flavor is coming through. A-

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 - heavy yielding, spreading dwarf plant, loads of small roma-shaped tomatoes, doesn't appear to have stripes or antho at this point.  Awaiting ripe color. A

Anthy plant 2 - heavy yielding, spreading dwarf plant, really loaded with unusual slender paste types - more slender than usual - light and dark stripes, no antho, ripening to an orangey red with stripes, but still waiting for full ripening, which is a few days away.  Very interesting looking. A

Anthy plant 3 - heavy yielding spreading dwarf plant, loaded with 2 ounce egg shaped tomatoes with strong antho showing, seems to be ripening to pink - just a few days away. Hoping it tastes good, because it sure is productive and interesting looking. A

Anthy plant 4 - very compact dwarf, big set first few clusters - seems to be ready to blossom again. Egg shaped 2 ounce purple fruit, strong antho shoulders, no stripes, very good flavor.  Worth pursuing - A-

Lampy plant 1 - nice typical dwarf growth, healthy, good fruit set; tomatoes are round to slightly oblate, 2-3 ounces, good antho coloring on shoulders - color red or chocolate, no stripes (need to let one ripen a bit more) - sadly, the flavor isn't there - too mild.  A

Lampy plant 2 - high fruit set, nice plant, healthy, medium sized oblate fruit now showing antho shoulder blush, awaiting ripening and checking for stripes. A

Lampy plant 3 - very high yield, healthy, like a short indeterminate, loading up with medium small round fruit, strong antho.  Stripes?  Color? Not yet there. Hoping for the flavor. It is likely the best approach will be to size up the best Lampy selections that show strong antho by crossing with a larger delicious purple or chocolate indeterminate. A

Lampy plant 4 - nice yield, small to medium round to slightly oblate fruit, faint antho, faint stripes, color appears to be red or chocolate with faint green stripes, good tart flavor - interesting.  A

Lampy plant 5 - rescued a clearly purplish stemmed dwarf that was in a 3.5 inch pot for a long time, planted late, but now doing well - setting lots of fruit.  Can't determine size, antho, color or stripes yet. A-

Lampy plant 6 - similar rescue to plant 5 - similar status - will take some time. A-

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.

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. Fruit set is good and the plant is healthy - will be late, though. A-

A curious note on Scotty - aside from the Variegated dwarf, 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.

Scotty plant 1 - Potato leaf dwarf with the yellowish foliage of the Surprise parent. It is setting fruit - just an odd looking plant. Not near ripe yet. B

Scotty plant 2 - Potato leaf dwarf that looks very similar to plant 1 above - B

Scotty plant 3 - Regular leaf tending yellowish foliage, now battling disease, so quarantined.  Unripe fruit are oblate to round and snow white, like the Surprise parent. I will get a few seeds of this, but the plant is not long for my garden. C-

Scotty plant 4 - Regular leaf, not diseased, but certainly odd...setting oblate fruit. B

Other dwarf families with no particular category aside from curiosity (it is worth noting that another family I really wanted to explore never got planted by me - Addy....fortunately, some local volunteers are growing some Addy dwarfs. Addy is Yellow White X Sweet Adelaide)

The following plants are from 2 families that I initially mis-named. Leafy is a cross between Yellow White (aka Viva's Kentucky Heirloom, a 1920s large white indeterminate type, and Dwarf Jade Beauty.  Betty is a cross between chartreuse leaf Mullens Mortgage Lifter and Dwarf Jade Beauty. Originally, I called the Leafy cross Betty and vice versa, but when chartreuse seedlings started coming up in Betty, and none in Leafy, I realized my error. Interestingly, the following four plants all look superb and promising. I think that these four may produce some of the larger fruited dwarfs (aside from the 20 or so releases I am growing)

Leafy F2 regular leaf - very healthy, good fruit set of medium smooth fruit - nice plant - what color will it be? A

Leafy F2 potato leaf - as healthy as the regular leaf, fruit size perhaps larger, A

Betty F2 regular leaf - healthy, lots of 3-4 oz smooth oblate fruit, look to get larger, A

Betty F2 potato leaf - healthy, similar fruit to the regular leaf at the moment, A

Odds and ends - microdwarfs and Stick offspring

My gardening friend Dan sent me a few interesting crosses he did in work toward interesting multiflora microdwarfs - one involving Silvery Fir Tree, the other Stick, each with crosses with microdwarfs or multifloras.

SFT X MMF plant 1 - carrot like foliage like Silvery Fir Tree, 1 oz to slightly larger oblate fruit, pretty tasty, nothing too special. A-

SFT X MMF plant 2 - similar to plant 1 but perhaps a bit more spreading, fruit slightly larger but not as tasty. A-

SFT X MMF plant 3 - rather bizarre tall (perhaps indeterminate), foliage midway between regular leaf and carrot leaf and strongly blue green tinted, setting round fruit, probably not large, not yet ripe, inner foliage has disease that needs lots of pruning (very dense) A-

SFT X MMF plant 4 - initially the smallest of the bunch and nearly lost to foliage disease, but making a come back. Very similar to plants 1 and 2. A-

SFT X MMF plant 5 - now this one is a micro dwarf, but a bit taller than the classic, Red Robin - and is multiflora - loads of blossoms, not all of which set. Red cherry type fruit nearly ripe. A-

Stick X Micro plant 1 - Typical microdwarf but not poor yield, fair flavor - red cherry fruit - now dead and gone.

Stick X Micro plant 2 - another typical microdwarf but fair yield - not nearly as high as Red Robin - pretty good flavored red cherry - A-

Stick X Micro plant 3 - Looks like the bizarro variety Stick, but with smaller, cherry sized fruit that taste pretty good....a curiosity only. A-

Liz's Tear Drop, name for T16-24 in the Steamy line, next to Egg Yolk and Sun gold

Liz's Tear Drop, name for T16-24 in the Steamy line, next to Egg Yolk and Sun gold

Ripe fruit - the red striped Lampy, Sandy, Artsy - then Fishy and the puple Anthy  

Ripe fruit - the red striped Lampy, Sandy, Artsy - then Fishy and the puple Anthy

 

Developing fruit on one of the Acey variegated dwarfs

Developing fruit on one of the Acey variegated dwarfs

July 4 Garden Update - part 2. Dwarf Tomato Project releases

Welcome to my second mid-summer detailed driveway garden update. Turning to the many dwarf tomato plants being grown this summer, this blog focuses on those that our project released to this or that seed company....with a few exceptions at the end (why they are there will be clear).

All of the plants below are in 5 gallon grow bags, with two plants to a stabilizing center pot for the anchoring stakes (unless otherwise noted)

Sweet Scarlet Dwarf - This is one of my favorites among all of our nearly 70 released varieties. However, like all of the potato leaf members of the Tipsy family, the plant is so, so dense - the word I thought of is "tight" when looking at them. It is hard to see what is going on inside the plant - where the blossoms or fruit are, where disease is taking hold. The plant is 3 feet tall, healthy (though the large, crinkled potato shaped leaves become more easily affected with early blight on the back-side, interior and lower portion of the plant, and so requires regular attention. There are a few open blossoms, so if I can keep it healthy, the fruit will be late in coming - at this point, it is an A- in assessment.

Dwarf Orange Cream - same tight plant habit as it's relative, Sweet Scarlet Dwarf - I can't even find a flower bud yet. There is some browning at leaf edges high up the plant which is concerning. Still, things largely look good - it is just going to be late (perhaps I will thin some of the dense inner foliage) - A-

Sean's Yellow Dwarf - did valiant battle with lower foliage disease early on but now in pretty good shape, with ample fruit set. Interesting observation is that the immature fruit don't have dark green shoulders. Tomatoes currently are at about half mature size. A-

BrandyFred - This will be my first time growing it since the release; last year it died prior to fruiting. The plant is healthy, with good fruit set and high hopes. A-

Kangaroo Paw Red - another trooper that lost lots of its lower leaves to disease, but although not a stunning specimen, there is plenty of fruit set. Shape varies from round to slightly oblate, and looks like it is larger than I expected. We've had issues with color stability (dominant traits - such as red fruit - take the longest to stabilize). Will it be red? We shall soon see. B

Boronia - This variety tends to get a different sort of foliage disease in my garden, with brown/blackening of lower leaves that differs from early blight or septoria. It is fighting foliage disease pretty well and there is decent fruit set, but also a bit of blossom end rot. A-

Coorong Pink....and here we have a developing mystery. The plant looks wonderful - on the tall side for a dwarf, typical of the Plentiful family, with loads of fruit set and good health. However - the fruit is striped! I suspect a cross, but let's see what we get. No matter, there will be plenty of tomatoes - hope they taste good! A

TastyWine - Certainly off to a better start than last year's failure, the plant has good fruit set with variable shape (round to oblate), with decent health - only a bit of lower foliage disease. A-

Barossa Fest - I look forward to trying this selection made by Patrina. The potato leaf plant looks great and is loading up with round tomatoes, soon to ripen. A-

Dwarf Beauty King - Another disappointing failure last year, things are looking much better this year. The Beauty family releases are always on the tall and somewhat late side, but striped oblate fruit are setting and sizing up nicely (one exposed fruit will have a touch of sunscald). The dense plant is reasonably healthy but needs careful watching for lower foliage issues. A-

Dwarf Firebird Sweet - See Dwarf Beauty King - the main difference is that the set fruit are smaller, so this will be later. I can't wait to finally get another look and taste of this variety. A-

Mallee Rose - Another really tough little plant, this one was touch and go for much of the spring, having survived a severe aphid infection that stunted it a bit. Another I've yet to try, as it is a Patrina selection, fruit set and health is good.  A-

Willa's Cariboo Rose - Yet another I've yet to try, but things look promising - excellent plant health and fruit set. A-

Dwarf Blazing Beauty - I really love this variety; it is showing the same tight, sense growth that its Tipsy sisters described above show. Disease has been a bit more of an issue, so I've got my eye on it closely; no apparent fruit set yet.  B+

Lucky Swirl - The plant looks quite good and fruit set is pretty ample, with the oblate tomatoes sizing up well. I look forward to comparing this to Dwarf Caitydid. A-

Dwarf Caitydid - I have this in a special planter that I am evaluating for Gardener Supply. It was sharing space with Dwarf Sweet Sue, but is now flying solo. Sweet Sue was impacted by Tomato Spotted Wilt quite early on and was removed. Dwarf Caitydid is more than taking up for it, and the performance of the single plant is showing the potential of these dwarf varieties if given lots of room. Wow - the 4 foot tall plant is also 3 feet wide and just loading up with tomatoes, and of fine health.  Really impressive - A

Dwarf Lemon Lime Heart - This is not a release, but the lead sent in some work by my California dwarf project volunteer Linda Black. A selection in the Nosey family, she found that it no longer exhibited the unique yellow/green marbling that led to the selection and name. The plant is among the healthiest and most vigorous, with great fruit set. The tomatoes are blunt heart shaped, medium sized, and a medium, bright  yellow inside and out. The flavor is excellent, and we rated it a solid 8 out of 10. My feeling is that it is essentially Dwarf Golden Heart, but with perhaps some subtle differences - the flavor, in particular, seems superior. A

Couer de Boui - This indeterminate heirloom was given as a seedling by a garden friend Larry. I've grown this type before; the lanky, spindly vines are battling various issues (Fusarium, early blight) - but somehow one stem hangs on, with open flowers. B-

San Marzano Redorta - Another indeterminate heirloom from Larry, this was the most early blight and/or septoria impacted variety early on, so underwent significant foliage removal. It is now growing well; the tomatoes, though, look round, not elongated. as pictures indicate it should be...it may be from crossed seed - we shall see. There will be plenty to see. A-

As fruit ripen on the above, watch for more reports - pictures, tasting impressions in particular.

Two rows of the released dwarf tomatoes discussed in this blog

Two rows of the released dwarf tomatoes discussed in this blog

First ripening Dwarf Lemon Lime Heart

First ripening Dwarf Lemon Lime Heart

One single Dwarf Caitydid in the special planter

One single Dwarf Caitydid in the special planter

July 4 Garden Update - part 1. Indeterminate Tomatoes

Yes, I know - we are beyond July 4. But, that is the day that I took my trusty hand held audio recorder, braved the hot, humid conditions and got the scoop on everything in my garden, up close and personal. I will do this in parts - indeterminate tomatoes, released dwarf tomatoes, dwarf project works in progress, and peppers and eggplants.

In general, my indeterminate tomatoes, despite providing them with lots of room, soil, and attention, are mixed - certainly not as successful (at this point) as the dwarf plants.  Some of the struggling plants are in straw bales, which makes me suspicious of the possibility of residual herbicides in a few of them. The indeterminate tomatoes are also in the rear of the driveway and direct sun exposure gets less and less each  year. The jury is certainly still out, but aside from my mysterious and widespread bacterial spot issue on most peppers, the indeterminate tomatoes will be the main source of garden performance disappointment for summer 2017.

Let's go plant by plant.

Mexico Midget - 7 feet tall and waving in the breeze, loaded with fruit - we are harvesting daily, intensely flavored pea sized delicious red micro mini cherry tomatoes. Lower disease gets spotted and blemished, which I remove every few days, and the plant just keeps growing upward (and would be outward, but I tie it to the two stakes every 6-12 inches). Grade is an A-, nicked only for the lower early blight and/or septoria issue. Growing in a 10 gallon container.

Amethyst Cream - 5 feet tall or more - in a straw bale, so there is a 2 foot handicap - very vigorous, dense, branching and finally setting fruit; I anticipate clusters of cherry tomatoes that are ivory with the characteristic anthocyanin shoulders. I feel it is a few weeks from first ripening. It has an issue - parts of the plant wilt in the afternoon heat. I've actually chopped off the most serious offenders. Yet, watering and overnight brings it back. Based on that, it grades out as a B, with the jury out.

Not Vintage Wine - 5 feet also and sharing the bale with Amethyst Cream - this one has never wilted. A friend, Ralph, brought me a nice purple oblate fruit with green stripes that was clearly not Vintage Wine (which it was labeled). It was delicious - so I saved some seed, all of which came up regular leaf. The plant is 5 feet tall, setting lots of fruit (flower size is large). A total mystery, who knows what will result. So far, this is an A.

Egg Yolk - Another one of my hot afternoon wilting mysteries, and growing in a bale. The plant is 5 feet tall and loaded with fruit - it is a large tasty, meaty yellow cherry tomato, one of our new favorites. But that wilting plant - which way will it go? Grading out as a B- with a close watch. Is it the bale? on the cusp of Bacterial or Verticillium wilt? We shall see.

Violet Jasper - Alas, one of the first plants to just give up the ghost - though I managed to root what seemed to be a healthy cutting, which is growing in a 5 gallon container.  Seemed bedeviled with bacterial wilt early on - I picked the first set fruit, a 2 ounce round purple with green stripes. I rated the flavor as average, the texture a bit mealy.  The plant was replaced with a dwarf volunteer growing in a pot of a flower called Torenia on our deck; it was planted in mix from the dumping of last year's containers - it could be anything! It is also a good test of the quality of the straw bale, since it is sharing with the challenged Egg Yolk (see above)

Walt Swokla heart shaped family heirloom - growing in a 10 gallon pot quite happily at 7 feet tall and loaded with heart shaped tomatoes that are a few weeks away from ripening. The plant has been odd - one stem had symptoms of Fusarium wilt and was removed, and lower yellowed or spotted foliage is regularly removed, but otherwise things look good - giving it a B+ and should yield quite well.

Green Giant - this is one of the mysteries.  Growing in a 10 gallon container the plant got off to a good start, set fruit early - but blossom end rot hit hard. Some growing tips look like early signs of tomato spotted wilt. Though the 7 foot tall plant lives on, it is unclear what sort of yield, if any, I will get from it....grading as a C+ right now. It tends to be in one of the shadier areas, so this is not exactly set up for success.

Sun Gold (X2) - my main conundrum. Both plants (they share a bale) are tall, loaded with fruit, and wilting badly in the heat of the day despite adequate watering. They recover for the most part over night. The foliage is still green. Is it signs of a disease, or a bale issue?  I can't believe that I may end up failing with Sun Gold. I did root a healthy sucker and planted it into a 10 gallon pot elsewhere, so there is hope. Right now, both plants get a shaky C.

Martino's Roma - This is actually a determinate, but planted in the edge area in a Gardener Supply planter (more on that in a future blog) that I am testing (and loving). It got a late start, but is 3 feet tall and loaded with fruit that are a few weeks away from ripening.  Clear A.

Taxi - is not; it is another Martino's Roma. Mice got into my seed tray and seem to have moved Martino's seeds into the Taxi cell - this is the second plant in the planter....so we will have a LOT of Roma tomatoes to can or sauce.  A

Cherokee Chocolate (X2) - Sharing a bale and loving it. Both plants are 5 feet plus tall and setting fruit very well - plants are entirely healthy, no blossom end rot. The Cherokees just simply love to grow in my yard.  A and A

Cherokee Purple (X2) - just a repeat of everything I wrote above for Cherokee Chocolate.  Also sharing a bale - A and A

Caitlin's Lucky Stripe - the weirdest plant in the driveway, planted in a bale. I went back to 2008 for seed to try to find the original fruit type - medium oblate yellow with pink stripes. One seed germinated (and it was the last - seed is now gone). The plant exhibits the lethal mutation often seen in the Lucky Cross/Little Lucky line - the potato leaf foliage that looks normal early on ends up becoming thready. It is flowering like crazy, but probably won't set fruit. A- for health

Little Lucky - sharing a bale with Caitlin's Lucky Stripe, but also showing the troubling mid day wilt, so questioning the bale quality. Otherwise, it looks good, is setting fruit well.   B for the wilt issue

Cherokee Green - Growing in a 10 gallon pot and doing just as well as Cherokee Purple and Cherokee Chocolate - 6 feet tall, setting fruit fine, no disease issue or blossom end rot - A

Uncle Joe - Growing in a 10 gallon container. This is a family heirloom, seed of which was given to me at a presentation at an event in Leesburg, VA.  What a bizarre plant - the most wilted looking I've grown. It had a bit of a struggle with Fusarium (impacted branch removed), but is setting fruit well - they look to be a long fruited Roma type. Last year I tried this and it was crossed; I got small red hearts. Hopefully this will be the real deal - grading a B for the foliage issues.

Mama's Huge Orange - Growing in a 10 gallon container. From seed given to me by a gardening friend, this is proving to be a real struggle.  The last two years the plants died from disease without producing a tomato. This year it got off to a great start, but seems to have a serious issue - tomato spotted wilt perhaps - one early blossom end rot fruit prematurely ripened, but it was red, not orange - so I don't know what to think. There are more tomatoes on the plant, but it doesn't look healthy at all - C-

Lucky  Cross - Growing in a 10 gallon container. I am pleased with the health and fruit set on this, one of my favorite tomatoes. After some early blossom end rot, we seem to be in good shape now - a few weeks away from the first taste. A-

Anna's Kentucky Heirloom - Growing in a 10 gallon container. This is a nice large tasty pink given to me as a family heirloom by Ann Gaydos. Sad to say, it is struggling - fruit set has been an issue, then blossom end rot, now some disease issues.  Jury is out, but not a great year, I am afraid, with any harvest uncertain - C.

Lillian's Yellow Heirloom - Growing in a 10 gallon container. I've never had a struggle with this variety until this year, and I suspect a disease issue. It flowered very well early on, but dropped them all and now seems hesitant to blossom.  Another jury's out plant - C+...I really hope to get some fruit, as this is one spectacular tomato.

Abraham Brown - Growing in a 10 gallon container. This is an heirloom given to me by someone at the Pennsylvania Mother Earth News some years ago. Last year it contracted tomato spotted wilt virus early on; this year it looks great, with fine fruit set...in a few weeks I should get to taste it. A-

Brandywine - Growing in a 10 gallon container. After early blossom end rot issues, all now looks well. Since this is one of the best tomatoes I've ever eaten, fingers crossed that it continues on. So far, so good - A-

If I look at the above, 13 tomato plants rate an A or A-, 5 in the Bs, 6 get a C and one died early on. That's really better than I expected (as you can see from my somewhat pessimistic opening paragraphs). It also really speaks to how any garden disappointments at all can overwhelm the good things that are happening...we tomato growers really take things to heart.

A view of the two main indeterminate plant areas of the driveway garden.

A view of the two main indeterminate plant areas of the driveway garden.

Assorted News Items for the rest of 2017 - details on future events. Lots of fun ahead!

After a really busy (and fun and exciting!) winter and spring, summer settled down into a delightful blend of gardening and blogging. Though I am through with distant travel and events for 2017, some opportunities to talk and taste tomatoes are on the horizon. For those who miss Tomatopalooza, come and check out one or more of the following!

Carrboro Farmers Market Tomato Day - Coming fast, Saturday July 8. I will be there answering questions and tasting and commenting on tomatoes, selling and signing my books and ready for some interesting tomato chat from 8:30 AM until the event ends, at noon.

Tomato tasting at Isleley Farms in Burlington NC, Saturday July 22, from 3-5 PM. Sue and I will be there to answer questions, sell and sign books, and taste tomatoes; they focused on many of my favorite varieties described in my book Epic Tomatoes. 

Duke Gardens 2017 Gardeners' Fair, Duke Garden, Durham NC, Tuesday July 25 from 6:30 - 8 PM - bring your questions and purchased a signed book...we are so glad to be back after having a conflict last year.  We may have a few tomato samples to try - but of course it all depends upon whether the tomatoes in our driveway cooperate!

Olive Wagon tomato event, Thursday July 27, Lafayette Village, Raleigh NC, 6-8 PM - some food, some tomatoes, lots of tomato Q&A, purchase a signed book - it will be so nice to do an event so close to home!

Home Grown Tomato Festival, Charlotte NC  - Saturday July 29 all afternoon - see the link for continually developing details. I will be there to do a tomato workshop, taste, sell and sign books, answer questions and mingle with other tomato lovers.

Southern Season Cooking School, Tomatoes, Chapel Hill NC, Sunday August 6, 2 PM - Another in a wonderful series of summer tomato cooking school classes where I get to share the stage with my long time Cherokee Purple-growing friend Alex Hitt. 

I am also working a series of three workshops for Wake County libraries in the fall - please watch for details as they are finalized.  Locations look to be Northeast Regional on Green Elm Lane, North Raleigh, Cameron Village on Clark Avenue, Raleigh, and Eva Perry on Shepherd's Vineyard Avenue in Apex. Watch for these to happen in September through November.

Switching gears, I am delighted to be part of the blogging team for a new website created by Joe Lamp'l (Growing a Greener World TV show) - joe gardener. My blog and/or podcast links can be found here,and here, -be sure to book mark Joe's website for great gardening info - and more content from me. If you've not seen my tomato episode on Joe's TV show, the link is here.  You can also find it on iTunes - add it to your regular playlist!

 

 

 

Chin up, everyone. This is when gardening anxiety is at its highest for tomato growers

Dwarf Lemon Lime Heart nearly ripe (I think....final color is not yet fixed, and we are not at stability of this new variety yet)

Dwarf Lemon Lime Heart nearly ripe (I think....final color is not yet fixed, and we are not at stability of this new variety yet)

The finish line is in sight; in fact, some of you may be harvesting, others seeing tomatoes develop a blush. Each day brings a different set of tasks that require stamina, as the heat and humidity increase. The plants are getting tall, suckers are proliferating....critters may be sampling, diseases may be creeping in. Watering, tying, feeding, pruning, troubleshooting - it can all get overwhelming. Ripe tomatoes are just around the corner, however...stick with it, stay disciplined and enthusiastic, and most (rarely ever all!) things will work out. 

I know all of this not only from experience, but from comments on my Facebook page, from chats with gardening friends, and from emails sharing pictures, issues, and requests for help with diagnosis of this or that issue. 

Following are some of the main things to watch for, and options for dealing with them.

Spotting and/or discoloration on foliage, particularly low on the plant or on the side away from the direct sun.  See the three pictures below - early blight on two plants, and septoria leaf spot (three pics, left to right)

Early blight and Septoria are two fungal enemies of tomato plants that attack lower, inner and rear foliage that tends to get splashed with soil, stays wet and doesn't receive as much direct sun. Signs of this are spotting and yellowing or browning of foliage, and occasionally, stem lesions. Daily removal of any foliage showing spotting and discoloration, mulching to ensure soil doesn't splash up onto leaves, adequate spacing to allow air flow and sun exposure, and watering at the base of the plant are all important for minimization of the disease(s). Use of fungicides such as copper spray can be effective, but will help prevent infection of upper foliage, not fix the problems already there (hence it is important to remove and destroy impacted leaves). This is typically not fatal to the plants, but you have to keep on top of things. Warm, humid nights will lead to significant spread of the disease; seasons with lots of late day rain, meaning wet foliage overnight, will bring on significant infection.

Twisting or curled upper foliage

This is not a frequent issue for me and I don't have a good picture to share from my garden. There are three possible candidates for deformed, slender, twisted upper foliage; drift of herbicides from neighboring gardens, infection carried by cucumber beetles which lead to cucumber mosaic virus, or significant populations of aphids or white flies. Plants can often grow out of slight herbicide issues; be sure to look at the condition of newly emerging foliage. Cucumber mosaic or tobacco mosaic virus infection will permanently stunt plants - new growth will continue to be abnormal, and such plants should be removed. If the issue is a severe aphid or white fly attack, the presence of the insects on the reverse side of the foliage will be evident; remove the portion of the plant with the infestation; new growth will be fine.

Plants wilting, even when green and well watered

See the two pics below - both show mid day wilting - plants are well watered and show no discoloration

A plant that wilts in the hot part of the day even when well watered is typically bad news. If the foliage remains green, it is likely the beginnings of a vascular fungal infection such as Verticillium or Fusarium wilt (transmitted through the roots; typically the wilted stems will show markings or yellowing if this is the case). More serious is bacterial wilt, in which the wilted stems will darken to brown or black. In all cases, it is best to remove the plant and rotate away from that area of the garden.

Dark blossom ends on small developing fruit

blossom end rot on a small developing tomato

blossom end rot on a small developing tomato

The tomato plants are working hard at this time of year, continuing to grow, producing flowers, setting fruit and enlarging the tomatoes that set from the blossoms. Stress will cause a calcium deficit in the developing fruit, resulting in the dark blossom end spot that enlarges and ruins the tomato; this is called a physiological issue brought on by unfavorable conditions, not a genetic problem with the variety or seed. Mulching to ensure even moisture for the plant and providing enough water to minimize mid day wilting will help minimize blossom end rot. Often the first few fruits on a plant will develop the rot, and certain shapes, such as paste tomato types, are more prone. As long as you have an adequate supply of calcium in the soil and a pH that is suitable for tomatoes, the problem should ease as new tomatoes set on the plant. Container grown plants, due to the finite water reservoir and possibility of mid day wilting when really hot, are most prone.

Tall, healthy plants with only a few tomatoes coming along

Blossoms on one of my large fruited heirlooms that are dropping, rather than setting fruit; pollination did not occur

Blossoms on one of my large fruited heirlooms that are dropping, rather than setting fruit; pollination did not occur

Tomato varieties are like us - each has its own personality and preferences. The really large fruited heirlooms are fussy when it comes to temperatures and humidity that make them happiest. High heat - over 90 degrees - and humidity during flowering will lead to an inability for the flowers to pollinate, and they dry up and drop off. Eventually, flowering should happen when the conditions are more suitable for the given variety. Smaller fruited tomatoes are less fussy and suffer less blossom drop.

Plants reaching the top of the stakes

These two rows, my indeterminate varieties, are nearing or over the top of the stakes; it is time to top some of them - see the text in this section for an explanation

These two rows, my indeterminate varieties, are nearing or over the top of the stakes; it is time to top some of them - see the text in this section for an explanation

Gardeners who stake their indeterminate tomatoes have two choices - let them just keep growing, wave in the breeze, and eventually bend over and droop downward....or top them when each fruiting stem reaches the top of the support stake. This takes discipline, because topping stems means removing future flowering and fruiting potential. Often, the overgrown stems will kink and possibly break - and often the flowers on the over-long stems won't have time to fully ripen the resulting tomatoes before frost. This year I vow to be a more disciplined plant topper! I have some useful videos on topping on my resources page.

I hope you found the above helpful as a brief trouble shooting guide to the most prevalent tomato problems, as least in my experience. Keep asking those questions!

 

 

So many communication options....my choices, and a request for feedback

It feels like a good time to share how I am currently communicating, as well as receiving and responding to questions and comments. 

As some of you know, I once used Weebly as a blogging platform, with the website name nctomatoman, from September 2009 until December 2015..that was my switch date to this new website, created by my daughter Sara and hosted by Squarespace. (I had a second site on Wix briefly, which ended because it seemed overkill, and confusing). When I think that there are 6 years worth of blog entries of my gardens from 2010 to 2015 sitting on my old Weebly site, my to do list does include mining them for good information to share with you - at some point!

I am trying to blog at least every two weeks. During the height of gardening season - meaning now - it could be more frequent, depending upon time, energy levels and excitement levels of discoveries that feel share-worthy.

I've done a newsletter a few times a year since Epic Tomatoes came out, but am considering ending that and finding ways to enhance this website to make news events easier to find....the newsletter mailing list is really important to me, and we will use that to ensure anyone not aware of this blog will be. Definitely some work in progress and things to ponder.

Email remains my communication method of choice for quick interactions and responses. As many of you know, if you ask a question, you will get an answer - hopefully within 24 hours. If you take the time to contact, me, you deserve a quick response...that's just how I like to do things. Feel free to drop an email to me at nctomatoman@gmail.com any time!

Aside from this website - which has my blog (which you are reading), book info, my upcoming events, info about the Dwarf tomato project and some instructional videos, I've gotten into the habit of using Facebook to post a garden picture of the day. I am actually using Facebook two ways, which often overlap - my personal page is increasingly populated by gardening info, and my author page is primarily where I post my blog. I realize some of you ask questions on my author page, and I try to check that out regularly...sending a question to my email address nctomatoman@gmail.com will always get quicker and more regular attention. Facebook Messenger is another way I am touching base with some of you. Finally, I hope to do more and more Facebook Live videos - they seem to stimulate your questions, which I can answer in a follow up blog.

I use Twitter far less, primarily to tweet out a link to my blog, for upcoming events, along with an occasional picture. Instagram is finding more use now that there is so much happening in the garden - I will often post multiple pictures per day and enjoy reading your comments. 

For convenience, my Facebook Personal Page and Facebook Author Page are hot linked. My handle on both Twitter and Instagram is @nctomatoman. 

My question to you who are reading this blog - is there anything you would like to see me do more - or less - of? I love to share my gardening experiences with you all, as well as learn from the information that you share with me.  How is it going?

Back deck geranium

Back deck geranium

A Midsummer report - Progress From the Driveway

The daily garden grind is in full swing. The list is pretty typical - on any given day the tasks involve watering, feeding, tying, pruning, spraying, troubleshooting, harvesting, seed saving....and of course, fretting! Each day brings something new; today it was the disappearance of quite a bit off of the top of one of my dwarf tomatoes, courtesy of a huge tomato horn worm. 

Back of the driveway

Back of the driveway

Front of the driveway garden

Front of the driveway garden

 

On balance, I am pretty pleased with how things are going, yet there are some trouble signs. Keeping up with removal of lower infected foliage is going better than last year. The plants seem to be appreciating larger containers (the indeterminate varieties) and more spacing (especially the dwarf tomatoes). Fruit set is uneven; the dwarfs are setting very well, but the indeterminate tomatoes are struggling...and blossom end rot is rearing its head. It is clear that even the driveway area receives less direct sun than is optimal; I believe this is impacting fruit set on the larger fruited varieties.

As far as trouble....I've lost a few varieties to disease, and this could be my most challenging experience with peppers due to my first widespread infection of bacterial spot. A few tomato plants in straw bales are showing a baffling mid day wilt. Tomato spotted wilt may be appearing on a few tomatoes that I really don't want to lose.

On to some specifics, by crop type.

Eggplants - I am growing only 9 plants (fewest in a long time), but they are all thriving. The three named varieties from the Orient Express dehybridization mini project are mostly true to type, and thus far, I have two plants that fit my objective for Skinny Twilight (my first eggplant, one from each plant with many more to come), one for Midnight Lightning (the second is just a bit off), with Twilight Lightning about to set fruit. Work to reselect Mardi Gras (a novel lavender streaked, green eggplant out of a Casper X unknown cross) looks promising as well with the desired target fruit showing up on one of the plants, and the second now in blossom. All plants are healthy. Overall grade for eggplants is an A. below are, left to right, Mardi Gras, Midnight Lightning and Skinny Twilight.

Peppers - These make me pretty sad to look at. Bacterial spot showed up early, and despite applications of copper spray, it is possible that most will be severely affected. One Fire Opal in a Gardeners Supply planter is doing very well. All of the super hot peppers are struggling.  I will likely not achieve much progress in the Islander dehybridization project varieties - Carolina Amethyst, Fire Opal, White Gold, and Royal Purple are those I am growing, with less than stunning results. Overall grade for peppers is a C. 

Indeterminate tomatoes - It's funny how things turn out. Last year I squeezed large fruited varieties like Cherokee Purple into 5 gallon grow bags, crowded them in and they did fine. This year I've provided 10 gallon pots, more room - and results are all over the place. Unexplained wilt (retaining green foliage) is hitting three plants in straw bales - Egg Yolk, Sun Gold and Little Lucky. A friend thinks it could be an early indication of verticillium or fusarium wilt...we shall see. One plant in a bale - Violet Jasper - went down quickly to what looked to be bacterial wilt. A number of plants in the 10 gallon pots - Mama's Huge Orange, Anna's Kentucky, Abraham Brown and Brandywine - have top growth on a few stems that look suspiciously like tomato spotted wilt. But there is good news as well - Mexico Midget, Amethyst Cream, Swokla Heart, Green Giant, the two Cherokee Chocolate and the two Cherokee Purple and Cherokee Green all look great, as does Uncle Joe, Lucky Cross and Lillian's Yellow, in terms of plant health. Issues with BER - and blossom drop - are hitting some of the healthy plants, however. Green Giant, Brandywine, Anna's Kentucky and Lillian's Yellow are struggling to set fruit, and when they do, BER soon follows. Again - a bit of a mystery, and I suspect tied to weather and amount of direct sun exposure. So - a mixed bag, and overall, a B grade.

Dwarf tomatoes - So far so good - excellent fruit set, very good to excellent health, and more than a few pleasant surprises coming along from some of my recent, newer crosses. Only one went down to disease, a Worry offspring that never did look particularly happy.  The various variegated dwarfs all look good, very attractive plants, setting fruit well. The odd yellow leaf goal in the Scotty cross are pretty strange; more about them in the future. Those varieties bred to show anthocyanin expression in the fruit are for the most part doing so. Overall, they grade out as A to A-, with the denser varieties showing the expected issues with early blight and/or septoria leaf spot.  Below are harvested fruit, whole and cut, from a Speckly selection, Reddy selection, Sandy selection and another Speckly selection. They were all very tasty!

It is hard to compress all that is happening into a single blog report, but I think you get the idea. This really is the most action packed part of the process - when the tending and culture and care intersect with harvest and seed saving and cooking, there simply aren't enough hours in the day. There will be much more to come!