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 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



Experiencing Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Tetons....

Susan and I are just a few days back from our first vacation in one of the "biggies" of US National parks. We've been fortunate to live in some beautiful places - New England, with its forests, mountains and shorelines...Chester County, Pennsylvania, with rolling farmland, Seattle, with its vibrancy and diverse landscapes, and here in North Carolina, with the Blue Ridge Mountains and Parkway to our west, the Outer Banks to our east.

The 2017 Season Review - part 2. Peppers

This will be a shorter update because it was a pretty sad pepper season for me - which is extremely rare once I went to growing them in containers or bales. 

The key words are bacterial spot. Though I've never experienced it previously, it hit early and often; the only plants that escaped were one Fire Opal growing in a special self watering container, and a few of the super hot varieties. Impacted plants showed heavy defoliation and poor fruit set (in some cases, none at all). Yet all of my pepper plants live on. Strange.

The 2017 Season Review - part 1. Eggplants

Sad but true - the gardening season is essentially finished. I've rearranged things and the eggplants live on, but the main part of the harvest is complete. With only 9 plants, 2017 was a relatively small effort, but perfectly adequate for our needs.

My 2017 eggplant garden represented two mini-projects...further refining three named selections from dehybridization of Orient Express, and refinement of a unique green/purple variety which I named Mardi Gras. 

...what a pleasure it is to blog from the back deck on a beautiful late August day.

My soundtrack consists of buzzing cicadas, the low whir, then toy-like squeaks, of zooming hummingbirds as they head for the nearby feeder, horn-like toots of the white breasted nuthatch - it is utterly delightful. A family of goldfinch just flew in to spend time at the feeder. The sky is deep blue and dotted with puffy white cumulus clouds. It is dead still - the angle of the sun and quality of the air advertises the coming fall season. What better time to start to describe my garden results of 2017.

Hummingbird interested in Jerusalem artichoke and lantana blossoms

Hummingbird interested in Jerusalem artichoke and lantana blossoms

A few days ago I removed just about all of the Dwarf tomatoes growing in 5 gallon grow bags. Aside from 2 of them, they were still alive, but stretched beyond the 4 foot mark, leaning here and there, and any future production would be spotty and too late for optimum quality. It was encouraging to see them still doing so well, as early blight and septoria were a constant enemy throughout the season. 

The vacancies allowed me to rearrange things a bit. I had been ignoring now-crowded and leaning eggplants and peppers. I relocated them all to give them more space, fixed the staking and provided a good dose of fertilizer. The eggplants were slow and steady all season; the peppers were severely impacted by bacterial spot from the very beginning, yet they are all still alive and somehow looking better; I am hoping for more of each. I've now made 6 pints of pepper jelly, which will make our fall, winter and spring lunch time bagels and cream cheese unbeatable.

(pictures of before and after can be found at the end of this blog)

I left the indeterminate tomatoes where they were, but following a really successful summer for most of them, it is only a matter of time before they are sent to horticultural heaven. They worked hard, yielded plenty of absolutely delicious fruits, and, with 20 quarts canned and a few bags roasted sauce in the freezer, all is well. 

My next series of blogs will take each crop - and in the case of tomatoes, each little project - piece by piece so that I can tie up the story of the 2017 garden. What I can say is that, for the most part, the weather cooperated. We didn't have an extended drought, and I was available to handle the few stretches of extreme heat and humidity. Blossom end rot was an issue for a few of the large container indeterminate varieties, but didn't really touch any of the dwarfs. Aside from a very few hornworms and fruitworms and early spring aphids, the plants were essentially pest free. 

Tomato spotted wilt hit a few varieties early on, which seems par for the course. Septoria and Early blight were their typical pesty selves, but removal of blemished foliage and better plant spacing meant that it never became unmanageable. A few of my straw bales seemed to be embedded with persistent herbicides, which led to premature death of both of my Sun Golds, as well as Egg Yolk. Downy Mildew really hit the basil hard, and bacterial spot caused grief for most of my peppers. The deer got me bad just one night.

The fun is in the details, so I will begin digging into specific results in the next blog.

Below is a carousel of pictures from my driveway rearrangement work. 


..and there goes the summer garden! Let's catch up.

Wow - time flies when you are:  having fun, doing lots of watering, harvesting, seed saving, cooking, and recovering on the couch after a shower. Looking back, my last substantive blog on progress was mid July. Here we are in late August, and in the blink of an eye, anticipation evolved into analysis of how it all went down.

Between mid July and now were tastings, dinners, trips and speaking events, garden visits, and even a near total solar eclipse. Add to that seed saving complete for over 100 tomato varieties, 20 quarts of canned tomatoes, frozen roasted sauce, frozen roasted tomatoes, some pints of hot pepper jam, and a run through all of our favorite tomato recipes. We've made the journey from the first few precious tiny Mexico Midgets to the dining room table covered with ripe tomatoes to a near complete absence, with just a few dribbling in every few days. 

Below is an array of pics taken between from mid July to the end of the month - it is a carousel - just click each pic to advance.

This speed-of-light trip through the peak of tomato season provides one of the reasons that they are so beloved....we eat for 12 months a year, but we get to eat great, home grown tomatoes for only a fraction of that span - peak harvest is really one month out of those 12, or only 8% of the year. 

I will do a few upcoming blogs on revelations of results from the various projects and mysteries, and dive into the details. Let's keep this one short, though.

It was a really good tomato season, a fairly poor pepper year, in the middle for eggplants, and a disaster for basil. Tomatoes were plentiful, generally healthy, and absolutely delicious. I have some ideas on why this year was so much better than the last handful that I will share when I do a more in depth analysis of the 2017 season. Peppers were hit hard by bacterial spot - first time ever for me, and the disease wasn't fussy as to which impacted them all. The big problem with basil was a big outbreak of downy mildew...once again, my first battle with the devastating affliction. Sadly, there will be no pesto this year (unless we make it from purchased basil).

Below are some pics taken between August 1 and today....just a random sampling.

One more thing I wish to share, in the "chip off the old block" department. In April I shipped plants to my daughters Sara, in Olalla Washington (south of Seattle, near Gig Harbor), and Caitlin, in Abilene Texas. As expected, Sara is grappling with foliage disease and delayed fruit ripening due to weather conditions (patience, Sara - they will ripen!).

Caitlin, on the other hand, is replicating my success with containers in her yard - check out some pictures below. She and Patrick are having a blast eating Sun Gold, Mexico Midget, Egg Yolk, Rosella Crimson, Caitlin's Lucky Stripe, Dwarf Wild Fred, and others. I am so pleased that my girls share my love of gardening, growing great tasting tomatoes, and cooking!



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.