The glorious, out of control, impending mess of the mid-summer garden

One of several “improvisations” - keeping an Egg Yolk plant somewhat upright using a ladder!

One of several “improvisations” - keeping an Egg Yolk plant somewhat upright using a ladder!

Once again the phrase “best laid plans…” comes to mind. Each garden is like New Year’s Day, filled with resolutions - “I will pay more attention to what my plants are telling me”. “I will space my garden out more”. “I will plant less plants so that I can attend to those I do plant more successfully”. And, my favorite broken resolution, “I will sucker my plants, make them simpler to stake, and top them when they reach the top of the stake”. Yeah, right.

Another improv - using a large box to keep developing tomatoes off of the ground

Another improv - using a large box to keep developing tomatoes off of the ground

I am really not complaining…just poking fun at myself a bit. To tell the truth, this has been a most delightful start to the harvest phase of the 2019 garden season. A friend came by to see it the other day and I told her “the garden will never look better than today - it is downhill from here”. I was correct - tipping plants, lower foliage disease, the effects of extreme heat and humidity are now taking their toll, as the picking commences.

I think of the coming weeks as the “keep it watered and fed, do the best that is possible with keeping the plants tied and upright and healthy, and pick those ripe tomatoes and enjoy” part of the experience. It will all go by way too fast, as the blur of daily watering, weekly feeding, regular harvesting, and eating/cooking/seed saving/preserving make each day seem like a mere few hours. Oh, what fun! And we get to do it anew every year!

Area rearranged by weather (windy storm) and heavy plants laden with tomatoes that are too much for my support system

Area rearranged by weather (windy storm) and heavy plants laden with tomatoes that are too much for my support system

A few stats for the 4th of July - every plant growing has excellent fruit set…eggplants are ready to harvest and peppers are right behind them. I’ve picked tomatoes from 28 different plants (there are another 100 or so yet to ripen a tomato), with Taxi, Azoychka, Indian Stripe, Cherokee Purple and a heart shaped pink striped variety from the Scotty family (dwarf tomato project work) as the initial non-cherry tomatoes to ripen. Flavors of nearly everything are just delightful.

Aside from working in the garden, I am getting ready for events at Logan, Acme, the Raleigh History Museum, Duke Garden and Longwood garden - all details are on my speaking page, found here. I am particularly happy with the timing of the local events…it is tomato time and I hope to do some small tastings at each!

I hope those of you on Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter are following my #DailyPlant2019 posts in which I feature one tomato, pepper or eggplant type daily. I am @nctomatoman on Twitter and Instagram, and my Facebook author page is craiglehoullier. Follow along and comment freely on what you see!

One more thing to add - it amazes me to think of the time that has gone by since Epic Tomatoes was released (December 2014) - somehow, nearly 5 years have passed. My friends at Storey Publishing shared a bit of data with me on my books that staggered me a bit - there are more than 60,000 copies of Epic Tomatoes in print (it will soon be in a 6th reprinting) - it has hundreds of reviews on Amazon and Good Reads (sincere thanks to those of you who went through the effort of providing a review! It is never too late to do so, and it helps me improve as a writer to receive and read your reviews, so if you have not done so, please share your thoughts). As for Growing Vegetables in Straw Bales, there are nearly 20,000 copies in print and the next reprint will be its 4th. Thanks to you all for your support - it means a lot.

Summer squash growing well in straw bales

Summer squash growing well in straw bales

The first Indian Stripe.  Great internal structure, color, texture and flavor!

The first Indian Stripe. Great internal structure, color, texture and flavor!

Yellow Brandywine, Azoychka and Matchless

Yellow Brandywine, Azoychka and Matchless




New Product Review Update 1 - Gardener's Victory Self-Watering Planter Garden Kit

First ripe non-cherry sized tomato of the year! A delicious, bright yellow tennis ball sized Taxi

First ripe non-cherry sized tomato of the year! A delicious, bright yellow tennis ball sized Taxi

In late May, I described the set up and use of a very nicely designed self-watering container - the Victory Self Watering Container Kit - from Gardener’s Supply Company; that review can be found here.

Only a month has gone by, and progress is just remarkable. The first Taxi tomato (a determinate variety perfect for this planter), shown above, was harvested and enjoyed in 39 days (!!!) from transplant (and, yes, it was delicious).

Pictures are worth a whole lot of words, and views of both Victory planters are shown below. Both are perfectly healthy, and the self watering nature of the planters has been very welcome in the consistently hot weather being experienced thus far in Raleigh, NC. The planter design removes the need to stake and tie the plants, making maintenance a snap.

Happy Taxi tomato in the Victory planter

Happy Taxi tomato in the Victory planter

A whole lot of Taxi tomatoes on the way

A whole lot of Taxi tomatoes on the way

The second Victory planter contains a Dwarf Tomato Project variety, Dwarf Sweet Sue, which is a later maturing variety than Taxi. It too is thriving and fruit set is going very well - see below.

Dwarf Sweet Sue filling up the planter

Dwarf Sweet Sue filling up the planter

Dwarf Sweet Sue tomatoes decorating the plant

Dwarf Sweet Sue tomatoes decorating the plant

All in all, I love this planter!


Update on the Bouquet Ornamental Hot Pepper Mini-Project

Back in 2002 I was ambling through an arboretum (JC Raulston, I presume, though it could have been elsewhere) and there were gorgeous colorful hot pepper plants growing with a profusion of ripe, red peppers. Somehow, one of the quite small fruit (Thai pepper shape and size) ended up in my pocket. I saved seeds from it, and it is designated “Arboretum Purple Leaf” in my seed log.

Seeds were saved, and a few were planted in 2003, and the project for which the latest update is provided in this blog was launched (though I really didn’t know it at the time). There was quite a bit of diversity of leaf color, flower color and fruit shape and color. One form seemed quite easy to start to stabilize, and I named it Gemstone. Possessing dark green leaves with heavy purple shading (especially in full sun) and purple flowers, the pointed cone shaped peppers transition from a vibrant deep lavender, through cream, yellow, and orange, finally ending up red. I am growing Gemstone this year and will show it once the peppers start to form and mature, so that the full range of color is provided.

Another type emerged from that arboretum-borrowed pepper that had nearly normal green foliage, white flowers tinged with purple, more slender, darker purple fruit that also went through color changes on their way to red. This one was named Bouquet, and proved to be far more challenging to nail down, with all sorts of variations popping up on each attempt.

Last year I grew a number of various saved seed lots in an attempt to finally nail down the pepper I wish to call Bouquet, and sharing the pics on Instagram drummed up lots of interest. Therefore, many samples of seed made the rounds, and I am already seeing early results. I do want to take a look at the ones I am growing and provide my opinion on where we may go next with each.

A pepper plant given to me by a friend last year isn’t formally part of the project, but I distributed seeds anyway, designated P18-2 - I believe it to be the variety Trifetti, and it has the most beautiful foliage.

Picture of plant P18-2 taken on June 22, showing the complex foliage pattern and purple flowers

Picture of plant P18-2 taken on June 22, showing the complex foliage pattern and purple flowers

Last year, P18-3 had green stems, green leaves, white flowers and pale yellow to cream colored, slender peppers that ripened orange red. I seem to be getting the same results this year. All of the seedlings seemed uniform - this is a pretty pepper that has yet to be named.

P18-3 plant showing the leaf and pepper color and shape; flowers are white.

P18-3 plant showing the leaf and pepper color and shape; flowers are white.

My seedlings for last year’s P18-4 looked quite uniform, shown below. The growth is more upright/columnar. Foliage is true green, flowers are white tinged with violet, and the peppers are a vibrant deep lavender, sort of a slender upward pointing cone in shape. This is not a Bouquet candidate in plant habit, but is quite lovely.

Pepper plant from P18-4

Pepper plant from P18-4

Once again, plants from P18-5 seemed quite uniform, so only one was planted. This is a more spreading plant with colors similar to P18-4, but the fruit seem to be forming more in clusters. This is not the primary Bouquet candidate, but is close, and really gorgeous so far.

Plant from P18-5

Plant from P18-5

With P18-6, there seemed to be more seedling variation, so I planted two seedling types. The plant on the left, below, has dusky green leaves, pale lavender flowers, and dark lavender upward pointed slender cones - this will be the main Bouquet candidate. The plant on the right is another of the cream colored fruit, white flowered, green foliage types seen with P18-3.

P18-7 also showed seedling variation, and two seedlings made the cut for the garden. As you can see, they are quite similar, with slender lavender peppers. Not Bouquet, most likely, but nice nonetheless.

Finally, we have the most variable seedling sample of all, P18-8, of which I grew three plants, see below. The first and third plants are quite upright/columnar, with more cone-shaped fruit - the first having green leaves, white flowers and cream colored peppers, the last having beautiful lavender cones. The second plant has very distinctively dark, purple peppers with a slight hint of brown.

The diversity remains quite broad, and all plants are attractive and productive…these are all growing in one gallon pots. Please find me in Instagram - @nctomatoman - and use the tag #bouquetpepperproject to show pictures of the ones you are growing. Use the number on the packet I sent to designate them clearly. What remains is to see the full color range on these - the transition between the pics above (the initial/unripe) color, the transitional colors, and the final color, to determine the next steps.

Sad news - Carolyn Male died on June 14. She and I go way back....

My friendship with Carolyn male began with a Seed Savers Exchange request for the tomato Anna Russian. With the seed request was a long, lovely hand written letter which began “I would love to take a walk through your garden when the tomatoes start to ripen”. Carolyn was a New York gardener just dipping her toes into the SSE herself at that time.

When Carolyn’s brother, David, contacted me on Friday, June 14 with the news of Carolyn’s passing, it brought an end to a frequently close, sometimes stormy and ultimately fragile friendship that spanned 29 years and countless sharing of seeds of all sorts. Starting in 1991, by 2009 Carolyn sent me 130 different packets of tomato seeds. Some real favorites were in those transactions - Soldacki, Opalka, Eva Purple Ball, Jaune Flamme, Cuostralee, Sandul Moldovan, Druzba, Zogola, Orange Strawberry, Indian Stripe and Neves Azorean Red among them.

Carolyn and I co-published the heirloom tomato publication Off The Vine. We always felt like we were running behind, had no idea really what we were doing (except sharing our parallel passions with heirloom tomatoes), but it was a fun three years doing so.

We were both contributors to various on line gardening forums, mainly Garden Web and Tomatoville. Carolyn had far more patience than I with regard to answering pretty much every tomato question that was posed. She held strong opinions for sure. We butted heads more than once. That’s what friends do.

Carolyn was the first of the two of us with a book - in 1999, Smith and Hawken: 100 Heirloom Tomatoes for the American Garden was released. It documented the remarkable world of heirloom tomatoes in print for the very first time. It was such a pleasure to have contributed seeds to many of the varieties that she featured in the book.

When it became difficult for Carolyn to start her seeds but she still wished to grow her many recent heirloom tomato acquisitions, some of her garden friends started plants and shipped them to her to grow. In 2011, Sue and I were to travel to Massachusetts for our niece’s college graduation. One possible route could take us by Carolyn’s house, allowing an in-person plant delivery and my first chance to meet her in person. We jumped at the chance.

Carolyn and I during our spring 2011 visit to her home in Salem, NY

Carolyn and I during our spring 2011 visit to her home in Salem, NY

Most recently, Carolyn, with growing physical challenges, maintained her presence on the internet sharing her knowledge and opinions (which she never ran short of!) and grew what she could, helped by local friends. We drifted apart in these later years - inevitable, but sad, nonetheless.

Carolyn joins a stellar group of the SSE tomato people - Ben Quisenberry, Thane Earle, Faxon Stinnett, Edmund Brown, Gary Staley, Calvin Wait, and more recently, Glenn Drowns, Bill Minkey, Neil Lockhart, Jeff Fleming and me. She provided lots of history and detailed tomato descriptions in her hundreds of seed listings. I suspect that receiving seed requests, packaging up and sending seed samples was one of the true joys of her life. The garden world suffered a significant loss with Carolyn’s passing.


There is so much to blog about, I can't decide. Gotta start somewhere! The 2019 Garden - mid June status

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The tomatoes are in full bloom! This unusual one is a tiny cherry tomato, from one fruit plucked from a plant growing in front of the Mackeys Ferry Peanut shop on Route 64 last year.

Enough with events and product reviews (though I love to do events, and am happy to try out new products). It’s gardening time! There is really so much going on out there that it is hard to stop gardening and start sharing results and observations.

First, some data - at last count (I add things all the time), there are 123 tomato plants, 10 eggplant plants, 35 pepper plants, a ground cherry, two types of summer squash, two types of bush green beans, 2 types of cucumbers and one type of pole beans up and happily growing. The garden was planted in two major efforts - indeterminate tomatoes in straw bales on April 26, and all of the rest on May 15.

As of mid June, the indeterminate tomatoes are approaching 4 feet tall and dwarf tomatoes are 2 feet tall on average. Pretty much everything out there is in blossom, and most tomatoes set fruit. The weather has been “unusual” - much of May hot and dry, much of June wet, relatively cool and when not raining, delightful.

Full driveway garden, taken standing in the bed of my truck

Full driveway garden, taken standing in the bed of my truck

My days are starting to fall into a regular, delightful pattern. Daily chores are watering (unless it has rained), examination of all plants for blemished foliage (fungal infections, followed by removal of damaged leaves), tying to the stakes, and close observations. The weekly chore is feeding. I’ve also done the first dozen crosses (more about that in a future blog).

I am excited about so much of what I am growing this year. This is a garden with multiple research efforts, and a major culinary focus. It will be fun to describe each general project; there are 2 involving peppers, one project focusing on eggplants, and continuation of the dwarf breeding project, as well as carrying out new crosses to make new families, or just explore genetics. I am growing several family heirlooms sent to me for evaluation (what an honor to be able to do that!).

I will be therefore blogging much more frequently to get everyone caught up. By the way, I feature one plant each day, posted on Instagram, but also cross posted to Twitter and my Facebook author page; be sure to look for it (I am @nctomatoman on IG and Twitter, and my FB author page is under Craig LeHoullier).

There are a few other surprises ahead - in fact, my weekly meeting to discuss them with my main helper (my daughter Sara) is just about to begin!

Butterfly weed grown from seed collected from a neighbor’s plant

Butterfly weed grown from seed collected from a neighbor’s plant



Gardeners, Seed Savers, my Seedling customers - come to Durham tomorrow evening! Seed Savers Exchange meet up...

Tomato diversity from a 2018 August harvest

Tomato diversity from a 2018 August harvest

Imagine what our gardens would consist of had Kent and Diane Whealy not conceived of and launched the Seed Savers Exchange in 1975. The great diversity we enjoy today would be but a dream and our gardens would likely be quite boring. When I discovered and joined the organization in 1986 it truly changed my life. The thousands of active members trading varieties through the exchange over the years changed the world.

Tomorrow evening, between 4-7 PM, Heather Haynes, SSE Director of Development, is hosting a meet up with free appetizers in Durham at Local 22 Kitchen and Bar. I will be there throughout, and Heather and I would love it if local lifetime, active and former SSE members, gardeners and seed savers join us to meet and chat and find out about the current and future direction and activities of the SSE. Bring your questions, ideas, and energy. The Facebook event details can be found here. We hope you can make it - it’s be fun (and, I am now convinced that gardeners will save the world!)

View of my 2019 garden a few days ago.

View of my 2019 garden a few days ago.


New Product Review - Gardener's Victory Self-Watering Planter Garden Kit.

I really enjoy the opportunities to test new gardening products. The fine Gardener’s Supply Company asked me to give their new Victory Self-Watering Planter Garden Kit a thorough test (I am also testing the Vertex Lifetime Tall Tomato Cage; stay tuned for my report on that product soon).

The Victory Garden kits (I am testing two of them) arrived in large boxes.

Unopened product box

Unopened product box

Upon opening the box, all of the components were nicely packed and easily removed.

Open box

Open box

All components removed - arrived in perfect condition

All components removed - arrived in perfect condition

Assembly was very simple, and involved insertion of the two side bars, slipping the top piece over the bars to secure them, inserting the wick and placing the grow bag on top, mixing some of the supplied fertilizer into the potting mix and filling the bag. The planting mix was well watered and one tomato seedling deeply planted. The planter is suitable for a determinate or dwarf tomato type that will be contained by the support system. I planted the determinate tomato Taxi in one planter, and the dwarf growing variety Dwarf Sweet Sue in the other.

Brackets installed, growing bag installed

Brackets installed, growing bag installed

Planting mix combined with fertilizer added

Planting mix combined with fertilizer added

Determinate tomato variety Taxi planted

Determinate tomato variety Taxi planted

Next, came installation of the support brackets. Plastic pieces are clicked into the brackets (a far superior and easier to install design than a previous version of the planter from a few years ago), and wire supports easily inserted into them to create a “cage” for the tomato plant.

All ready to go! Determinate tomato Taxi looking happy.

All ready to go! Determinate tomato Taxi looking happy.

The openings on either side of the supports are used to fill the lower reservoir with water (when full, excess water exits slots at the lower part of the planter). The self watering nature is very useful, and helps minimize plant stress which leads to blossom end rot.

The first planter took around 25 minutes from opening the box to the completion of assembly. Familiarity reduced this to 15 minutes for the second device.

The next review will occur in a few months when the effectiveness of the planter can be fully evaluated. Though not inexpensive, this is a planting system that is easy to assemble, high quality, attractive and robust; once purchased, it should work well for many years. So far I love it, and am very optimistic that the final report will be stellar.

Second planter with the dwarf tomato variety Sweet Sue planted.

Second planter with the dwarf tomato variety Sweet Sue planted.





We are in the calm before the storm (of activity). A trip to Connecticut and Cape Cod, an upcoming plant giveaway, and...FINALLY! .. gardening time

Such a treat to be here to help with this annual event!

Such a treat to be here to help with this annual event!

We’ve been away for a week but our time has been so packed and varied - yet, in spots, so relaxing - that it feels more like a month. It’s not over yet; we have one more important step to complete today, but if flight times hold, we will be reunited with Koda and Marlin, Sam and Pico, late tonight, and asleep in our own bed!

Sue and I were shown great hospitality and kindness by our hosts Nikki and Eliot at White Flower Farm during our visit there. I was invited to their annual Tomato celebration, and provided three tomato themed workshops to wonderful large audiences of fellow gardening enthusiasts. Since WFF was offering 150 different tomato varieties at their plant sale (all looking healthy and spectacular), including half dozen of our Dwarf Tomato Project types and many of my indeterminate favorites, I strove to act as a travel guide for those coming to shop. Litchfield is a delightful town, and Sue and I spent hours walking around the streets, seeing all of the lilacs, azaleas and fruit trees in bloom and marveling at the historical houses, many from the 1700s, beautifully restored.

Sharing info with fellow tomato enthusiasts

Sharing info with fellow tomato enthusiasts

My favorite moments of such events are meeting gardeners with whom I have connections on social networking, email, seed sharing or past events. Chris, John, so many others - it was so nice to catch up, put faces and voices and personalities to screen names and posts.

The best, though - and perhaps one of those defining aspects of involvement in heirloom vegetables - was getting to meet Walt and Sue Swokla. Walt sent me his grandmother’s heirloom tomato, and the story of the variety - as well as seed for the variety itself - is available at the Victory Seeds website; Cancelo Family Heirloom, a delicious, large pink heart shaped tomato that is a joy to grow and eat. To add to the magic, it turns out that Walt’s Sue and my Sue are both nurses, and Sue Swokla grew up just a few streets from me, in Pawtucket Rhode Island. We therefore got to share much more than gardening lore - we got to go back down memory lane a bit, and now the four of us have the basis of a new friendship that will go forward for the rest of our lives.

A most amazing chance encounter - Sue and Walt Swokla and I, with so many connections we weren’t aware of prior to this meeting

A most amazing chance encounter - Sue and Walt Swokla and I, with so many connections we weren’t aware of prior to this meeting

Our Cape Cod trip is another matter, and was more about reconnecting with family and a few days of R and R, rather than gardening….so we will leave those details out for the moment.

What happens next in the world of tomatoes? While we were away, the weather was pretty brutal from what we heard and read, and I am so thrilled that our daughter Caitlin kept everything thriving via her constant care. Saturday will be a big day - all remaining seedlings will be divided in half with part going to Southwest Library in Durham, part going to Cameron Village library in Raleigh. Plantapalooza will have two locations, starting at 9 AM in Durham and 10:30 in Raleigh. Come and get a plant - mostly tomatoes, some peppers and eggplants - the main point being all remaining seedlings need to find homes. I will be attending the Raleigh event and have books with me to sign and sell if anyone is interested….of course, I will take questions too.

Sue, during our walk on a wonderful trail in Wellfleet, MA, Cape Cod

Sue, during our walk on a wonderful trail in Wellfleet, MA, Cape Cod

Once seedlings are out of the driveway, my immediate need is to ensure everything that is planted is well watered and fed….the planted grow bags will be relocated to the end of the driveway, then organized by plant growth next to staking support containers filled with spent potting mix. The final layout will be fixed, additional straw bales will be purchased, positioned and treated for planting with beans, cukes and squash. With no traveling events happening until August, it is time to roll up the sleeves….and GARDEN!



Blogging from Ocracoke Island - taking stock

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Time passes differently at Ocracoke…..it does strange things. All it takes is the ferry ride from Cedar Island to this tiny dot of land to send me into a slower pace. It has been a really busy last few months, so the ability to unplug and relax is deeply needed, and appreciated. This is Koda’s first Ocracoke adventure - Marlin gets to spend a week with our daughter, Caitlin (enjoying - I hope! - handling some seedling sales and caring for the plants and driveway garden).

Somehow, most of my speaking events are behind me. Sue and I loved our trip to Washington DC, and it was great meeting many new gardening friends at my US Botanic Garden talk on container and straw bale gardening. Just ahead is a mid May trip to White Flower Farm in Litchfield, Connecticut, after which we will catch up with family for a few days at Cape Cod. A few mid July talks (Museum of History in Raleigh and Duke Gardens) and a mid August event at Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania will put a wrap on a really enjoyable set of trips and talks. Details for all upcoming events can be found here.

Koda relaxing on the porch, waiting for a long walk

Koda relaxing on the porch, waiting for a long walk

Seedling sales have been such fun - there have been so many visits from long time garden friends and customers, many going back to our late 1990 “Dixie Cup” debut at the Raleigh Farmers Market. We will have plants until mid May, and I am hoping those in the Raleigh area take advantage of some unusual varieties - Honor Bright, Variegated, the bizarre yellow leaf “Surprise” (one of my discoveries), Velvet Red, Wapsinicon Peach, Peach Blow Sutton, and lots of Dwarf Tomato Project releases, as well as free in-project plants. Drop me an email - nctomatoman@gmail.com - to set up a time and date to get some plants - I will send you the details.

As for my own garden, I managed to get 10 straw bales prepped and planted with indeterminate tomato varieties before our trip. These are the tomatoes I chose for the bales: JD Special C Tex, Lillian’s Yellow Heirloom, Cherokee Purple, Stump of the World, Yellow Brandywine, Green Giant, Cherokee Chocolate, Casey’s Pure Yellow, Lucky Cross, Indian Stripe, Matchless, Andrew Rahart Jumbo Red, Redman Giant, Egg Yolk, Aker’s West Virginia, Peak of Perfection, Azoychka, Sun Gold, Cherokee Green and Nepal. I have my reasons for growing each of these, varying between need for seed, historic research from USDA seed stock, old favorites, or the most important aspect - flavor!

Next will be planting the remaining indeterminates, as well as determinate and dwarf tomatoes, in grow bags…….planting peppers and eggplants in grow bags, and prepping a few more bales for direct seeding of cucumbers, bush beans and squash. This will mean reorganization of the driveway, as well as my annual plant donations, date and location to be determined. This also sets the tone for the rest of the spring, into summer and fall….gardening, observing, reporting, blended with speaking and writing. It is, altogether, a delightful agenda, which will be liberally sprinkled with long dog walks in the woods, biking and kayaking with Sue.

Sue walking Koda at Springer Point, Ocracoke Island NC

Sue walking Koda at Springer Point, Ocracoke Island NC






Transplanting, seedlings, podcasts, and events...oh my!

Greens! We are loving salads and stir fries with greens we planted last October and survived all winter under floating row cover

Greens! We are loving salads and stir fries with greens we planted last October and survived all winter under floating row cover

There is just a whole lot going on right now.

First - a few podcasts….my latest with Joe Lamp’l can be found here. I cherish my opportunities to talk gardening with Joe - hope you find something useful in our conversation!

Next - the Open Source Seed Initiative interviewed Patrina and I on our Dwarf Tomato Project work - that podcast can be found here. What a joy it was to be on the line with Patrina - and to think back on the project that over the 14 years of its existence has placed 106 new, stable, dwarf-stature tomatoes into seed catalogs. Pretty much the entire collection can be found from Victory Seed Company on this page. Though the project is “formally closed”, mop up work continues, and we will probably be at 150 or so releases when all is said and done.

Finally - I’ve had two info-packed, fun conversations with Daryl Pulis on her America’s Home Grown Veggies podcast - episodes can be found here. I value my long friendship with Daryl, and love the way that she takes me places along our gardening journeys. All of these podcasts touch on different aspects, and I am grateful to all of the hosts for providing the opportunity to me to share what I’ve learned through the years, as well as to learn from them.

our backyard cherry tree quickly popped open with the spring weather this week.

our backyard cherry tree quickly popped open with the spring weather this week.

OK - now on to events. St. Louis was simply wonderful, and being able to present at Bowood Farms as well as the Home and Garden Show was very special. Detroit was similarly enjoyable, and I got to hear and meet gardening friend Carol Michel and Jessica Walliser, both so knowledgeable and talented. I also got to meet some old friends, some who I’ve only bumped into on social networking, and made lots of new ones as well.

Next up are a series of local events - the Sandhills, two at Durham libraries, The Forest at Duke, Apex NC - then comes the US Botanical Garden in DC. All of my upcoming talks - dates, times, locations, details, registration (if needed) and cost - can be found here. Please consider attending one of the local events - each attendee gets a packet of seeds, handouts, a chance to purchase my books - and if between mid April and mid May, a chance to purchase seedlings.


Making great progress on transplanting, but last night and tonight’s frosts mean huddling in the garage

Making great progress on transplanting, but last night and tonight’s frosts mean huddling in the garage

Last topic - and a big one - seedlings! It is almost time. As with recent years, seedlings will be for sale from about mid April to mid May, by appointment only. Please email me at nctomatoman@gmail.com to set up a date and time to come by - I will email you back a Word document with all details.

I’ve expanded the variety list this year with tomatoes, and many of the available Dwarf Tomato Project varieties are so new that even I have not grown them yet.

Below is a selection of what could be available; it all depends upon weather and how the newly transplanted seedlings progress.

Indeterminate (tall growing) varieties

Red – Akers’s West Virginia, Andrew Rahart Jumbo Red, Federle, Red Brandywine, Nepal, Druzba, Italian Heirloom, Mexico Midget, Martino’s Roma, Bisignano #2, Reif Italian Red Heart, Velvet Red, Variegated

Pink – German Johnson, Mortgage Lifter Mullens, Stump of the World, Arkansas Traveler, Eva Purple Ball, Brandywine, Ferris Wheel, Polish, Cancelmo Family, Dester, Anna Russian (very few), Peach Blow Sutton

Purple – Cherokee Purple, Carbon, Black Cherry, JD Special C Tex, Indian Stripe, Black Krim, Black from Tula

Chocolate – Cherokee Chocolate, Japanese Trifele Black, Paul Robeson, Abraham Brown

Yellow – Hugh’s, Lillian’s Yellow, Egg Yolk, Lemon Drop, Wapsipinicon Peach

Bicolor – Lucky Cross, Little Lucky, Gold medal

Green – Cherokee Green, Green Giant, Aunt Ruby’s Green, Abraham Green

Orange – Sun Gold, Dr Wyche Yellow, Kellogg’s Breakfast, Yellow Brandywine, Yellow Oxheart

Striped – Speckled Roman, Berkeley Tie Dye, Pink Berkeley Tie Dye

White – Coyote, Great White

Dwarf (compact) growing varieties

Red – Hannah’s Prize, Maura’s Cardinal, Sarah’s Red, Sneaky Sauce

Pink – TastyWine, Bendigo Dawn, Melanie’s Ballet, Mystic Lady, Bendigo Drop

Purple – Rosella Purple, Velvet Night, Vince’s Haze

Brown – Tasmanian Chocolate, Tiger Eye, Andy’s Forty

Yellow – Egypt Yellow, Jasmine Yellow, Sweet Sue, Summer Sweet Gold

Orange – Blazing Beauty, Sunny’s Pear, Loxton Lad, Uluru Ochre, Laura’s Bounty

Bicolor – Caitydid, Wherokowhai, Russian Swirl

Green  - Beryl Beauty, Emerald Giant, Grandpa Gary’s Green

Striped – Beauty King, Firebird Sweet, Fred’s Tie Dye

White – Mr. Snow, Mandurang Moon

Peppers – variously colored sweet bells, and a selection of ornamental or other types of hot peppers – could include a few different Jalapeno, Carolina Reaper (HOT!), etc

Eggplants – a small selection from my dehybridizing work – mostly long and slender, but a few more tear drop shaped.

Ground Cherry Goldie

Dwarf Project experiments (no charge, just need some info on what results you achieve and if possible a ripe fruit or seeds) – many types, particularly dwarf Cherry varieties (Teensy family) – just ask!  Lots of fun to be had with them.

Whether it is via podcast, a trip to our driveway, an email, or a chance to speak at an upcoming event, I look forward to the many impending tomato chats that will be happening soon!

Whoops - one more thing - we are dipping our toes into fostering a dog. The fellow below is most delightful - his name is Marlin, he is probably a year old or so, loves Koda and even leaves our cats Pico and Sam be in relative peace!

Marlin doing what he does most of the time - play!

Marlin doing what he does most of the time - play!