Seeds

The first wave of 850 seeds for the new year were sown yesterday.  Many exciting things coming.  Here’s how things are shaping up:

  • Dwarf Varieties AvailableI’m planting the indeterminate dwarf tomatoes early this year in order to sell them at a more mature size.  I was very impressed by these little plants last year, which do well in pots, standard tomato cages, or square foot gardens.  Unlike determinate tomato plants which remain small and deliver all of their crop at once, these continue to produce tomatoes all season, while remaining small and manageable.  I have all of the varieties released by the Cross Hemisphere Dwarf Project that I could get my hands on, plus a few heirlooms like New Big Dwarf, Dwarf Champion Improved, and the diminutive, determinate cherry Tiny Tim, which has been a regular customer favorite.
  • I’m also planting the peppers earlier and growing them hotter to give them more size than the puny things I grew last year.  I’m changing the tagging, using red tags for hot peppers and green tags for sweet.  Hopefully that will clear up some of the confusion.  I have
    • red, orange, and yellow bells
    • a sweet cherry pepper
    • Giant Aconcagua, which is one of my children’s favorites
    • Jimmy Nardello, a very sweet frying pepper
    • Jalapeño M, a very mild, though not heatless jalapeño.
    • Aji Dulce, a very mild habanero that ripens red
    • Habanero, the classic orange flamethrower
    • Bhut Jolokia, the Ghost Chile, currently the Guiness record holder for heat.
    • a beautiful, variegated Fish pepper plant, often planted as an ornamental, though edible (and hot).
Red Zeppelin onion culls, excellent in salads early in the season.
  • I’ve committed to providing the following onions, starting March 3rd until sold out.  As last year, $2/30 and $3/60.  The bundles were very generously packed last year, with up to 80 plants in a 60 plant bundle.
    • Walla Walla Sweet, of course
    • Ailsa Craig, a very large sweet heirloom
    • Copra, which was quite popular last year
    • Red Zeppelin, a big sweet red
    • Redwing, totally new to me
  • There are 120 varieties of tomato on the grow list this year, which I’ll publish as soon as it’s finalized.  With a new hoophouse to provide better spring weather protection, and several process improvements, we’re on track to have over 3000 plants for sale at the end of April, with a final production wave showing up mid-May.  Larger, stronger, healthier plants than last year is the goal.  And everything tagged and separated ahead of time, thanks to a change in the transplant process.  Still no chemicals, no pesticides, no substances that are not organic.
  • More exciting announcements to come!  Stay tuned, and let me know if you have any feedback from last year, or there’s anything you’re looking for.  I’m paul@34.215.132.115.

Preparing for 2012

December is the month of seed preparation and orders.  I’ve reviewed the information I collected in 2011 on which varieties did well and what kind of feedback I got from people who grew them out.  Despite the bad weather and poor condition of some of my inventory, there were some good success stories:

Kosovo was the most productive variety in the gardens of many people that I spoke to.  It had beautiful, large, flavorful tomatoes and really made a place for itself in my standard lineup.  I was very impressed by this large heart shaped pink.

Opalka continues to impress.  I also grew several other paste tomatoes, including Heidi and Sarnowski Polish Plum, but Opalka was the one I heard about from new customers.  All three of these will be in the standard varieties again for 2012.

Sungold is always a winner for cherry tomatoes.  Nothing beats this unique, fruity, sweet sensation.  Everyone ought to try this one.  It will convert even non-tomato lovers.

Dwarf Tomatoes from the Cross-Hemisphere Dwarf breeding project proved to be very robust.  Tasmanian Chocolate, Rosella Purple, and Dwarf Beryl Beauty were strong growers that produced large sized tomatoes in containers, with a little support.  I’ve pulled in seed from all of the new dwarf releases from the project for 2012 and hope to do some comparison.

Peppers, especially the sweet ones, were very popular with customers, despite the small size of the plants I had available.  For 2012 I will have more varieties of sweets, but more importantly I will be starting them earlier, with more heat, to hopefully get better size on them.  Although I’ve been growing large numbers of tomato plants for over ten years, I had never grown so many pepper plants, and 2011 was a terrible year to start with its record cold spring.  I’ll also be back with more Bhut Jolokia Ghost Chiles, for the most adventurous heat loving fools (like me).

Onions, which I brought in on a whim, flew out the door so fast they were mostly spoken for on the day I announced them!  I can get them in again, at $3-4/bunch of 50, but I need to get a quantity order in soon.  Most of the varieties performed great for me, but I’d like to hear more from those who bought them.  I’m also going to take another run at seeding onions, on the advice of a couple local growers I spoke to.

Was there anything that did particularly well for you, or that you’d like to see me offer this year?  Let me know, here in the comments, or at feedback@34.215.132.115.  I’m looking forward to a great garden in 2012!

2011 Season

I’m now finalizing plans for the 2011 grow out. In addition the varieties available for special order until March 15th, here is the preliminary list of tomatoes that will be available for sale, starting April 15th:

  • Beauty King
  • Black Cherry
  • Bloody Butcher
  • Chadwick Cherry
  • Cherokee Purple
  • Gardener’s Delight
  • Gardener’s Peach
  • Green Giant
  • Ildi
  • Kellogg’s Breakfast
  • Marianna’s Peace
  • Opalka
  • Persimmon
  • Sioux
  • Sungold
  • Tiny Tim
  • White Queen

This list is not complete.  I’m still working on the list of peppers, flowers, and other plants that will be ready at that time.

Finishing the tomato plants

Hardening off tomato plants
Hardening off tomato plants

For the last week I’ve been moving plants out during the day and back into the greenhouse at night.  With a solid forecast of high nighttime temperatures I left 20 flats of tomatoes on the benches outside tonight, likely never to return to the greenhouse unless the weather turns nasty.  Another five will probably be moved out later this week.  Besides the flats that I’ve already sold off, that leaves 40 or so in the greenhouse for the next wave.  Each year I aim to have:

  • An early selection available in mid April for the people who just can’t wait to get them
  • The bulk of the tomatoes ready at the end of April for the last frost date
  • A set of stragglers for those who procrastinate, kill off their first plants, or come back for more.

It looks like I’m on track this year so far.  A warm spring has made it easy to keep things in the greenhouse happy and growing, allowing me to keep the temperatures in my target zones of 45-55F nights and 80-90F days.

Time to get tagging all of the tomatoes, take an updated inventory (I expect a 10% loss from germination to full-size maturity, but I’ve always come out well ahead of that) and start producing signage and explanatory material.  Also, I’m back to obsessive weather watching.