The Tomato Lady Is Back!

Cherokee Carbon and Chocolate Cherry seedlings

 It’s been a while. I must apologize as I guess I am not as invincible as I thought. Just a little catch-up here – I finally got my permanent knee replacement after dealing with a temporary one for 10 months. Every step hurt. November 10th it was put in, just 2 days after Thanksgiving, my knee collapsed and I fell down, breaking my femur in two places! Who does that? I guess go big or go home, right? I have been walking with full weight for the last two weeks after two months of being confined to a recliner. That was tough. I made it and am doing that overachieving thing again. I can’t tell you how happy I am to be on my feet although it still hurts a bit, unused muscles and all.

Jalapeno “M”

I currently have over 350 varieties of tomatoes this year and over a hundred varieties of peppers. I have the elusive Cougar Reds this year, and then some. Last year I couldn’t find them in stock anywhere. 

Red and Pink Brandywine seedlings grown for the gallon pots.

I just finished planting seeds for the main crop this morning and already have 3000 plants almost ready to go into gallon pots in a couple of weeks. We switched to LED lights and are really impressed. The peppers look amazing, better than any that I sold last year!

February 20 Main crop of tomato seeds
Cougar Reds

I will be starting vegetables soon, including cauliflower and broccoli and have flowers going also. 

I have had to redo my website which means learning another software program. It’s taking a while. Keep on eye out for it plus my Facebook page. I will have more news there. Hoping to open mid-April. 

Lettuce Does Not, I Repeat, Not Love Hot Weather

Lettuce is a cool-season vegetable, it grows best in temperatures around 60 – 65°F. Once temperatures rise above 80°F, lettuce will normally start to “bolt” or stop leaf production and send up a stalk to flower and produce seed. The leaves become bitter when this happens.

Romaine types such as Mayan Jaguar and Pomegranate Crunch, Butterheads, such as Tom Thumb and Speckled Amish, and loose-leaf lettuces, such as Buckley and Slo-Bolt tolerate heat better than tighter heading lettuces like Iceberg.

This is what lettuce looks like as it BOLTS. The stalk is flowering and the seed heads are starting to form.
This is what it looks like as it is STARTING TO BOLT. Notice the center rising up. At this point it may still salvageable.

Several things you can do to grow lettuce in summer, at least a little longer.

Mulch Lettuce tolerates a higher air temperature if the soil around its roots is cool and moist. Keeping your soil cool and damp encourages your lettuce to grow longer without bolting. Since lettuce has wide and shallow roots, a thick mulch keeps it happier in warm weather.

Partial shade is one way to keep lettuce growing later into warm weather. Deep shade isn’t good, but a system allowing sun during the morning while sheltering the plants in the afternoon keeps them living longer.

In the long run, when it gets as hot as it is going to get in the upcoming weeks (100’s), there is very little you can do to prevent your lettuce from bolting and turning bitter. To salvage it, harvest it and it will keep n the refrigerator for weeks. Much longer than anything you can buy at a grocery store.

This is my harvest this morning. I tasted each one to see if it was bitter or not.
Before I put it in the refrigerator, I gave them a nice long soak in water. Makes a nice bouquet.

If you are starting seeds during these times, just know that most lettuce seeds won’t germinate as temperatures rise above 80°F, a condition called “thermo-inhibition”. This trait is a carryover from wild lettuce in the Mediterranean Middle East, where summers are hot with little moisture. If the lettuce seeds sprouted under these conditions, they would soon die out and the species would go extinct.

Tomato Plants and Hot, Hot, (Did I Mention Hot?) Weather

The hot weather looks to be here. This morning I saw that it’s going to over 100 degrees for the next six days. (Unusual for our area) That means I won’t be going outside except to water. (I may stick a picture of myself in my horse’s paddock for her to remember me!) Although most people assume that tomatoes love hot weather. They don’t.

Fruit development slows as the plant focuses on moving water through its system. A heat wave can also keep tomatoes from developing into a deep red, resulting in orange fruit.

Most varieties of tomato plants take a break, even those who are bred for warmer climates. They don’t care for excessive heat any more than we do. When daytime temperatures are up in the 90s and nights are in the 70s or warmer, tomato plants may keep on blooming, but the flowers often fall off and fruit does not set. Pollination doesn’t occur when it it is too hot. Once the flower opens, it has a short 50 hour window in which to pollinate or they abort, dry up and drop off. Don’t worry, they will soon return to normal as it gets cooler.

Here are few things you can do to help them through this time:

Adding mulch around the base of your tomato plants can help keep the ground a few degrees cooler and and aids in keeping moisture fro excessive evaporation. Use two to three inches of mulch, things like leaves or grass clippings.

Avoid Overwatering
You might think the plants need more water than normal. They don’t, they need the same amount but more often. In pots, I water throughly every day in hot weather. I soak them until water come out the holes in the bottom of the container. If it’s a smaller pot with very little volume you might need to do this twice a day. (See why I recommend LARGE containers?) Tomato plants need an inch or two of water a week. A deep soaking is better than a little water every day.  The best way to tell if your plants need water is to poke your finger into the soil. If it’s dry more than an inch down, it’s time to get out the hose.

The Tomato Lady Goes National!

I was interviewed last week for an article in AARP. The author just sent it to me and I am going to share it with you. I have to say, I am so excited about this. I am quoted with two other growers, one of which is Craig LeHoullier, one of the original growers involved with starting the Dwarf Tomato Project. I feel honored to be in the same circle as someone so illustrious. As you know, I’ve been growing and selling the Dwarfs for several years now and love them.

Don’t worry, I won’t forget my friends when and if I ever become famous!…/info…/ways-to-grow-tomatoes.html

For A Chef’s Kitchen (or at least they say these are their choices)

Chef’s Choice is a series of tomatoes that are known for crack resistance. good flavor, prolific harvests and smooth firm flesh. Each color has it’s own characteristics. In some trials each plant produced 30 or more fruit. Indeterminate vines reach 5 feet and have a good disease resistance package. Are they really a Chef’s Choice? I don’t know the answer to that. However, I am happy to grow them this year.

Chef’s Choice BiColor

Producing large 10 -12 ounce flattened beefsteak fruits with beautiful pinkish-red stripes inside. Sweet with great flavor and texture. Each plant can produce about 30 fruits per season. Indeterminate, main season

Chef’s Choice Black

This is a beefsteak tomato with a dark green/brown/black hue. Vigorous, healthy plants were early to set and have a meaty interior with great flavor. This hybrid boasts prolific yields. Indeterminate, main season

Chef’s Choice Orange

Rich, heirloom flavor, these bright orange 9-12 oz. fruits are perfect fresh or cooked. This hybrid-heirloom, adapted from the tasty but late ‘Amana Orange’ will quickly become a favorite. Very prolific. Disease-resistant plants resist cracking. Indeterminate, main season

Chef’s Choice Pink

Large, 12–14 ounce pink beefsteaks are very prolific. With a fine balance of sweet to acid flavor, they are great for soups, stewing, or sauces. Indeterminate, main season

Chef’s Choice Purple

Fans of Cherokee Purple will fall in love with this exceptionally flavored heirloom hybrid. Attractive, flattened globe shaped, 9 to 10 oz. fruits are firm, smooth and truly purple inside and out. Indeterminate, main season

Chef’s Choice Red

This globe shaped beefsteak tomato is firm and fleshy with a beautiful red color and dark green leaves A heavy producer. It offers great foliage protection against the summer sun. Superior disease resistance. Indeterminate, main season 

Chef’s Choice Yellow

 Gorgeous, 10 oz beefsteak-type, fruits have a sweet, citrus-like flavor with just the right amount of acid and the perfect tomato texture. Plants produce loads of golden yellow fruits. Indeterminate, main season

Growing Lettuce in Containers

I have been growing lettuce in containers for several years now. Why you might ask?

  • Lettuce is pretty, some lettuce varieties are as colorful as flowers and their leaves come in so many shapes and sizes. While it can star as the thriller in a container, it is also nice as a filler, complimenting the colors of other flowers. I’ve always believed that edible gardens can be functional and beautiful.
  • I hate slugs, Yes, I know that they have a purpose in the garden other than destroying your vegetables, but I really don’t want them in my lettuce. So far, I have suffered no slug damage to lettuce in pots.
  • You can locate your lettuce closer to the house for ease of harvesting
  • When you harvest your lettuce, if you planted petunias or pansies or other flowers in the same pot, they will fill in the blanks
A colander is a perfect container for a salad garden. Terrific drainage!
White alyssum is set off perfectly by the red lettuce. The center red, Pomegranate Crunch, looks like a rose, at least I think so. Prizehead on the far left and Ruby on the far right fill out the rest of the planting.
Red and green lettuce in a blue colander
Here we have a purple alyssum called “Rosie” along with a white alyssum and a red romaine in a hanging pot with the tomato called “Tumbler” taking center stage
This is one of my favorite looks, a variegated nasturtium in the “Alaska” series planted with a “Prizehead” lettuce tucked inside the leaves. You could even include some of the edible nasturtium leaves into your salad bowl.
Parris romaine lettuce and pansies in a long container with a white picket fence.

Tips for Successful Container Lettuce

Location: As with all lettuce, place container in lots of sun. It can do afternoon shade and morning SUN.

Containers: As with any container garden use containers that have good drainage and that will accommodate the amount of plants you are using. Consider the size of the lettuce at maturity. Jadeite and Mayan Jaguar are mini-romaines and can be planted alone in a smaller pot. Elf Ears and Better Angel can be huge plants when full grown and will need more space. Add some flowers such as petunias and you can up the size of the pot. Colanders, stock pots, wooden pots, any kind of pot with proper drainage will work fine. You may have to put a hole in the bottom. Also remember that a larger pot will need less watering.

Soil: I can’t say this enough, NEVER use garden soil in a pot. EVER. Choose a quality, well draining potting soil.

Water and Fertilizer: Keep your container from drying out. Fertilize with a high nitrogen fertilizer. Since you are watering frequently, this leaches out the nutrients faster than if they are planted in the ground, You will need to fertilize once a week or every two weeks depending on the amount of watering you are doing. Dilute the liquid fertilize to ¼ or 1/2 strength. You can also use a dry fertilizer such as Osmocote. Whichever way you go, ALWAYS read the directions on the package.

Harvesting: Leaf lettuces can be used as :”cut and come again” lettuce, Just remember that you will get about 3 cuts before the plant starts to decline.

‘Lettuce’ Look At Unusual Types Of, Well, . . . Lettuce!

I am in love with lettuce. It’s good for you and comes in a multitude of colors and, shapes and sizes. who knew there were so many kinds. Most people , i they think of it all, figre there are 5 types of lettuce. Whqt they see in the stores is red leaf, green leaf, iceberg, romaine and sometimes butter lettuce.

A couple of years ago I started perusing some of my favorite catalogs and was amazed at the variety. I grew starts and sold them along with my tomato plants. It was well received. I held a “Salad Bowl Workshop” for some of my customers and showed them how to plant i various kinds f pots such as stock pots and colanders. I twas so much fun and the ladies learned how to use lettuce AND flowers to make beautiful containers, both functional and edible!

This year I’ve started approximately 35 kinds of lettuce. I am going to showcase a few of what I have to offer. Can you image making a salad with these combinations? Masterful! My faves are Mayan Jaguar and Tom Thumb. I will showcase more in my next blog post.

Angel’s Ear – Deer Tongue (formerly known as Devil’s Ear)
Buckley – Oak Leaf
Magenta – Summer Crisp
Tom Thumb – Mini Butterhead
Speckled Amish – Butterhead
Pomegranate Crunch – Romaine
New Red Fire – Loose Leaf
Pablo – Batavian / Crisphead
Slo-Bolt – Loose Leaf (Takes heat better than other lettuces)
Elf Ears – Oak Leaf
Lollo Di Vino – Lollo / Loose Leaf / Red Leaf
Mayan Jaguar – Mini Romaine

A Smattering of the Cherry Tomatoes I’m Offering This Year

This beauty is called “Blush.” Sweet and fruity, yellow blushed with reds and oranges in a tidy little packet. Elongated, bite-sized morsels. Indeterminate, mid-season.

New to my collection, “Bumblebee Sunrise.” You will love the sweet, fruity taste of these oblong fruit which weigh barely an ounce. Some show a “beak” at the blossom end. Swirls of reds and oranges make this a lot of fun. Indeterminate, mid-season

Also new to my collection, “Bumblebee Pink.” Pink fruits are striped with yellow and are crack resistant. Great sweet taste and very pretty in a salad. Vigorous vines produce continuously over a long growing season. Indeterminate, mid-season

We love “Candyland Red!” It grows well in a pot and produces lots of yummy little fruit. These are currant tomatoes and smaller than regular cherry-type. Expect more than 100 fruit from every plant. The tomato plant has a nice tidy habit. Indeterminate, mid-season.

Honeybee, This yellow cherry tomato produces huge clusters, of 1” fruit, sweet and juicy! Well branched and extremely prolific. Semi-determinate mid-season

Chocolate Sprinkles is a lovely roundish with a pointy end. Well, sort of. Have you noticed a pattern going on? With the exception of the Candyland Red, they all have stripes, dashes or a blush of some sort. What can I say? I like unusual tomatoes, the only caveat being that they need to have good flavor.

“Whistle While You Work” as You Pick These Dwarf Tomatoes

Last year when I tried to convince people to try a dwarf tomato, I think they thought they were small tomatoes. Not. Yes, some can be smaller, but a lot of the ones I carry are slicing size. The plant is more diminutive than the 8 foot tall varieties I grow.

Dwarf Beauty King
A productive variety that produces over a long season. Extraordinarily beautiful, medium sized tomatoes in yellow and red shades and have a rich, sweet flavor with a hint of citrus. One of the many crosses from the Dwarf Tomato Project.

This makes them perfect for large containers, especially if real estate is at a premium. They will grow larger in the ground but sometimes that’s not an option. All of these tomatoes are from “the Dwarf Tomato Project” Check out this link for more information.

Dwarf Caitydid
New variety, developed by members of the “Dwarf Tomato Project”. Vigorous, rugose, regular leaf, tree-type compact plants. Produces lots of medium to large, smooth, oblate-shaped, yellow tomatoes with red swirls. The flavor is well balanced and delicious.

Dwarf Purple Heart
Dwarf Purple Heart is a regular leaf dwarf variety that produces heart shaped medium to medium large fruit that ripen to a dusky rose purple hue. Wonderful flavor is well balanced and intense, and prolific.

Dwarf Golden Gypsy
Dwarf Golden Gypsy is a mid-season potato leaf dwarf with heavy yields of medium to large smooth oblate yellow fruit in the 8 – 10 oz range. Pale yellow flesh with an intense and sweet, refreshing flavor. Plants reach about 3-4 ft by the end of the season.

In this picture, notice how sturdy the stems are and how ruffled the leaf is. This plant only stands about 3 1/2′ to 4′ tall.

You will also notice that none of these are red (although are a lot of dwarfs that ARE red). For those who say“if a tomato isn’t red, it ain’t a tomato” you are truly missing out.

Dwarf Fred’s Tye Dye
Dwarf (tree-type) plants with rugose regular leaf foliage produce medium sized round purple tomatoes with jagged gold and green stripes and the deep crimson flesh of black tomatoes. 5-6 oz. Rich, intense, and balanced flavor. I grew these last year and thought the taste was very good. Good for a large container. 3 – 4 feet tall mid-season

This is Gonna Make Your Day!

I finally got 6600, give or take a few, tomatoes transplanted. I had a lot of help from friends and family. I can’t be on my feet more than a couple of hours at a time and even at that, every step is painful. But it needed to be done.

I published the website and updated it with the new varieties I have and the ones I either couldn’t find seeds for or they just didn’t get planted.

I am going to showcase as many of the new ones for you.that I have time for (remember that have to take naps!)

Clint Eastwood’s Rowdy Red – a customer request
Seeds of this un-named variety were given to Gary Ibsen of Tomatofest. This tomato. named by Gary for Clint’s participation in the Carmel TomatoFest, is an open-pollinated, tall plant that produces lots of 2”, deep-red, tomatoes with bold, complex flavors. Its fruity sweetness is perfectly balanced with plenty of acidity. Firm and juicy. Indeterminate, main season

Julia Child
Gary Ibsen, owner of Tomatofest, also named this variety in tribute to his friend, famed cook and educator, Julia Child. The tall, potato-leaf plant produces lots of 4”, deep-pink, lightly-fluted, fruits that has firm, juicy flesh and robust flavor. Indeterminate, main season

Regular leaf plant produces heavy yields of 10-14 oz., pink, round, oblate, juicy, beefsteak tomatoes with big, rich, complex, old-fashioned tomatoey flavors. A good choice for a sandwich or salad tomato. RARE. Indeterminate, main season

Heirloom originally from Armenia. A tall plant that produces large, 1-lb., lightly ribbed, yellow and orange beefsteak tomato with some red marbling. Unusually strong flavors for a bi-colored Indeterminate, main season.

Middle Tennessee Low Acid
This plant produces abundant yields of 1-2 lb. pink, beefsteak tomatoes with excellent mildly sweet flavors. For folks who can’t eat tomatoes with any pronounced acid. Indeterminate, main season

Like them? I told you it would make your day!