Tuesday, October 27, 2009

ordered my 2010 tomato seeds

2 weeks ago i was in newport beach (the oc) enjoying a nice week of vacation - with the family. one of the essentials i took on the trip was my 2009 tomato growers supply catalog. they are on my list of favorite catalogs every year and this year i was determined to purchase something from them.

as noted in my previous post, i have selected the varieties i was going to purchase. with the hard part done, i hit their website, selected the tomatoes of choice - paid via cc and was done in all about 10 minutes or so. 7 days later - my seeds were in my mailbox and now in the hot fist of my seed growing friend 'keith'.

last year, i purchased my seeds from totally tomatoes. i had no issues with my tt seeds - but contrasting the 2 companies; i find that tgs was a better overall experience.

tgs has a better interface for their website, web interaction seemed faster (perhaps a better server on the backend) and delivery from tgs was almost 10 days faster. seed varieties are comparable, so based upon web interaction - i gotta give the 2 thumbs up to tgs.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

2010 tomatoes

just placed the order at tomato growers supply - so here is the tomato first string for 2010:

gregoris altai
early girl
big beef
big raspberry
champion 2
costolto fiorentino
super fantastic
black zebra
black from tula
chreokee purple
sun gold
sweet gold
mr. stripey
better boy
bella rosa

we will land 24 tomato plants in the garden, so a few varieties, will have multiple plants planted. there is a good mix of hybrid and heirloom.

i will be utilizing walls of water in 2010 (probably 6 plants), so hopefully i will see earlier tomatoes than in the past.

returning veterans this year are:

cherokee purple, super fantastic, early girl, champion, sun gold and a surprise performer from 2009 - black zebra.

it looks like 24 is going to be the magic number for tomato plants in the garden. there are a few varieties that i will always want in the garden - leaving quite a few slots for experimentation. i foresee, sometime in the future, that i will have 24 different varieties that i really like and that could put a crimp in my experiments on new tomatoes - but until then, i will try to balance production needs (dont want to be short of tomatoes) and trying new varieties.

rookies in 2010:

gregoris altai - an early variety, always looking for a good performing early variety.
matina - another early variety, i am testing out.
cabernet - described as a good mid size tomato - new in 2009 to TGS.
big raspberry - another new one from TGS.
costuloto fiorentino - an un-ribbed version of costoluto genovese, thought i would give it a shot.
nyagous - a purple variety keith wanted to try.
sioux - hierloom from 1944, described as very good flavored mid size.
crnkovic - another purple variety.
black from tula - another dark variety
sweet gold - farmer fred had good success with this one, sun sugar failed for me, so i am still looking for another cherry variety as good as sungold.
mr. stripey - a red zebra variety
bella rosa - heat tolerant new variety from TGS

this time next year, i will do an ' after action review' and let you all know what worked in 2010 and what did not.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

2009 tomato ratings

the 2009 tomato list was:

1 parks whopper
2 stupice
3 jumbo hybrid
4 sungold
5 better boy
6 costolotto genovese
7 oregon spring
8 rutgers
9 dinner plate
10 black cherry
11 sungold
12 beef master
13 super fantastic
14 golden jubilee
15 better boy
16 sun sugar
17 sweet million
18 black zebra
19 celebrity
20 roma
21 german pink
22 cherokee purple
23 trophy
24 great white
25 pearson
26 early girl
27 better boy
28 celebrity
29 hungarian heart
30 better boy
31 heartland
32 early girl
33 cherokee purple
34 beef master
35 beef master
36 beef steak
37 black krim
38 sweet million
39 jet sonic
40 sungold
41 sunsugar

my comments will not cover every tomato. if there is not a variety called out (either good or bad), then it probably did all right, it just didnt stand out on either side of the bell curve, thus its worth replanting in the future.

parks whopper- was a freebee from front yard nursery. in 2008 it had issues with blossom end rot. this year, it didnt. it is a good tomato.

stupice - smallish early tomato, a decent producer - good one to replant.

sungold - still my favorite cherry. although, last year was my first year with it, the newness has worn off, but a prolific producer that is very sweet. a must have every year.

costolutto genovese - good producer, but stopped producing just past mid season, kind of a bushy plant, so its probably a determinant. worth planting again.

oregon spring - was the earliest producer, but not as early as i had hoped. didnt stand out.

dinner plate - big tomato.

black cherry - color intrigued me, vigorous plant, but flavor didnt do much for me. no plans of replanting.

super fantastic - hybrid, that really produced. on tap for 2010.

golden jubilee - meaty large yellow tomatoes. i dont like meaty tomatoes.

sun sugar - heard it was sweeter than sun gold. it was prolific, but didnt find it an improvement on sun gold. will not replant.

sweet million - another one that i had heard was very sweet. it was prolific, but it was not an improvement over sun gold.

black zebra - a bi-color. about 2-3 inches across and prolific. it was super awesome and will have a place in future gardens.

cherokee purple - a very prolific and great flavored heirloom. will plant again for sure!

hungarian heart - a meaty heirloom. i dont like meaty tomatoes. if all ox heart tomatoes are meaty, i will not plant them at all in the future.

early girl - it wasnt. one of my later producing tomatoes. will probably do it again as its a go-to for earliness.

black krim - also a good producing hierloom and worth planting in the future.

jet sonic - a freebee when we ordered from totally tomatoes. didnt produce well and have no plans to ever plant again.

2010 proposed garden layout

this is what i foresee as the 2010 garden. i keep track of the layout in an excel spreadsheet, so i can ensure crop rotation is done properly. i cant explain why some of the text is smudgy, but the text in 'red' is tomatoes and the dark blue at the top is butternut squash. the 2011 garden will reflect each side basically swapping over from left to right with nightshade plant family (tomatoes, pepper and potatoes) being followed by non-nightshade plants (corn, squash, etc). i am trying to avoid back to back plantings in the same beds in subsequent years - although we will see a slight overlap w/ peppers and potatoes.

2009 gardening year in review, part 4

a couple lessons learned.

1. as i previously mentioned, zucchini should be in a bed by itself and i only need 1 plant. this years plant was uncontrollable and it was soon into the season we were just tired of zucchini. 2010 will only see 1 zucchini for us.

2. having 4 feet between the beds was a good idea. the main reason i went with 4 feet - was the space i saved with 3 feet wouldnt have landed another bed in that row - so i went w/ 4 feet. this turned out to be very helpful as plants of all varieties pretty much went off the reservation. in particular the tomatoes. by the end of the season, they had grown so large and beyond the cages, that i was unable to get down the rows that the tomatoes were growing in.

3. 41 tomatoes are way too many to plant. not only from an over planting perspective, but late in the season, i was unable to keep with tomato production and had a significant number of rotting tomatoes in the garden. 2010 will see only 24 tomato plants in the garden; we also have the varieties already selected and 'keith' will be getting them started in december.

4. never plant tomatoes in side by side beds. i had 5 beds, side by side, growing tomatoes - with the overplanting and the growth pattern, i was unable to navigate between tomato beds. henceforth, tomato beds will be interleaved with beds hosting other vegetables. next years bed assignment will be drastically different and will take into account crop rotation needs.

Monday, October 12, 2009

current project

i am working in the backyard. even though the front yard isnt done.

you see, i have started planting trees on the hillside next to the house and i dont want to have to hand water these trees, 3 times a week for a few years. so i have to get the water system in that will serve the hillside.

my challenge - i had to jack hammer trenches to get the pipes in; the dirt on my hill is hard and rocky and seems to bend shovels over at will. i also had to design the layout of the sprinkler system and doing so, while kinda guestimating what my plans are for landscape will be (not 100% jelled yet) and leaving some flexibility with watering options available for future changes. the photo included here is the 10 station controllers and manifold which will feed water to the entire backyard. the entire yards will be drip irrigation. i am dropping pipe into the trenches and stubbing them out for future drip stations.

my back yard will not have any grass. it is a slope, which is always a challenge with turf and i just dont want to mow more grass than i do now. i will have several raised beds and i will be working in boulders, trees, shrubs and ground cover - which if it meets my 'vision' will be deer tolerant, moderate in its water needs and provide 4 season color.

i also have a good population of established pines (digger's and ponderosa's), oak and manzanita which i want to work into the design so they all mesh.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

front yard project - update

got this started and finished earlier in the summer, and wanted to update y'all on it. planting went well and the plants all took. it will be a couple years before it all fills in, but its looking good so far.

2009 gardening year in review, part 3


what a great year. i tried potatoes at my last house, but the heavy clay soil that dominated my cameron park garden - pretty much inhibited potato growth. i ended up with a grocery sack of small potatoes. they were prolific, but very small. i pretty much gave up on them there.

fast forward to 2009. raised beds, fluffy topsoil and -ta, da! it was a magnificent year for spuds. i planted my 4x16 foot bed (the largest in my garden) with seed potatoes and the results speak for themselves. we planted yellow, red and blue varieties and all produced well.

i harvested 3 boxes of the tubers and - as God as my witness - they were the best tasting potatoes i have eaten. sweet and tasty. we got a very good number of large potatoes, lots of medium sized and a whole load of smallies - which are perfect for crock pot cooking.

seed potatoes are available in mid-december at front yard nursery, and you can bet i will be in line getting mine for 2010.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

i met the gardenpunks today...

i went to el dorado nursery's plantapalooza today. as usual a great event. they had a large array of vendors and presentations.

we got there just in time for farmer fred's preso on winter vegetables and he took a moment and did a shout-out to katie (garden punk queen)- who was there also. not sure if i would have crossed paths with her, if he didnt call her out. but, it was nice to actually meet someone in person who i have been interneting with for the last year or so.

hey katie - nice to meet you.

edible landscape potential...

i am lucky to have an area large enough for a little mini orchard. for those homeowners that dont have space set aside for an orchard, integrating fruits and vegetables into their landscape is a viable option.

one challenge is fruit. there are many fruit tree varieties that are suitable for landscape purposes, but most also tend to be wide. when i was designing my front yard, i ran across a flowering plum, which had good fall color and great spring color - and offers a growth habit that many homeowners will find useful.

the crimson pointe flowering plum's growth pattern is columnar, which allows for planting into narrow side yards or can be placed in other tight areas that may be a challenge for tree planting.

most flowering plums produce small, tart, pretty much inedible plums. not this one.

crimson pointe flowering plum produces a mid-size plum, that is very sweet, juicy and has good hang time. i found this tree by accident and now have 8 of these worked into my front yard landscape. these trees are available from monrovia and also dave wilson nurseries.

apples in the fall

i have 6 crab apple trees in my front yard. they have great fall color (not here yet) and these little ornaments that really standout. thought you 'all might enjoy these.

2009 gardening year in review, part 2

if it werent for tomatoes, i would garden for corn. garden nirvana is achieved with perfectly vine ripened tomatoes and corn, picked at the peak of sweetness.

this years corn variety was burpee's sugar pearl - purchased at capitol nursery. its a white sugar enhanced hybrid. i planted the 4x10 bed with seed that was pre-soaked the evening before. i have found a significant improvement in germination rate when i pre-soak corn seeds.

in the past, i planted silver queen corn - mainly because my grandpa did. he had good success and i did too, however, one draw back to silver queen, was its long maturity date of 92 days. cruising through the burpee catalog, i was pleased to see sugar pearl matures in 72 days - nearly a month earlier.

germination was very good. like silver queen, most ears on sugar pearl were on the small side. most stalks produced 2 ears.

the sweetness and flavor was incredible. in spite the short ears - about 1/2 the length of a normal ear of corn. this variety has definitely earned a spot in the garden every year. in fact by request, my family has asked that we have 2 beds of corn next year - so thats what i will do!

one thing i failed to remember in '09 and will have to do in '10 - and that is to stagger my plantings. this year the entire bed matured on the same day. next year i hope to separate seed plantings by 2 weeks so i will have ~4-6 successive harvests; scattered across a month or so. this corn also has good holding qualities in the refrigerator, very important if you get too much corn at one time!

2009 gardening year in review, part 1

2009 was my first year growing in raised beds and by all measures it was a great year, every bed was a great producer. there were a few varieties of specific vegetables that didnt pan out as expected. but lets start off with the first vegetable that produced in my garden for 2009.


this early season photo shows a mix of radishes that i planted this year. i obtained my radish seeds from seed savers exchange. varieties include: early scarlet globe, french breakfast and plum purple.

as usual, i over planted and had an abundant - way more than i will ever eat - production. i figure worst case, the unwanted radishes get punted to the compost bin. over planting, excess production was a hallmark of my garden this year.

Friday, October 2, 2009

hello friend, it has been awhile... hasnt it.....

i have learned a few things about my relationship with my blog and as a result - those that have chosen to follow it. my time to blog is inversely proportional to the day light hours of a day.

more light = less blog.

its not what i had anticipated, nor is it optimal. but, it is what it is. and actually, this blog - i hope - actually has some tid bits of info i will find useful in the future and others will too. so, as we have passed the equinox and the dark hours increase, you will find more posts, catching us up on my gardens summer progress, issues and ultimately planning for 2010.

i do enjoy following other's blogs - my list shows what i tend to keep up with; some more than others. i do ff's, bills, the punks and dig this chick - by following their blog travels it does help satisfy my need for ongoing blog interaction.

so, i hope you occasionally revisit this little wide spot in the blogging world and see what happened in garry's garden this summer. (honest i do have some stuff to talk about). but back out to the garden, as i am ripping it out and prepping for cover crops. the compost heap is getting bigger on a daily basis!

happy gardening - garry