The Lettuce Lady…aka The Tomato Lady!

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lettuce 2Guess what you can call me now…The Lettuce Lady!!!! I started 30 some different kinds of lettuces this year. I just transplanted them, well, been working on it for several days now. A bazillion little guys.

Why, do you say? I love lettuce, not the insipid kind you find at the grocery store. There are so many kinds of lettuce out there, romaine, butterhead, mini romaine, batavian, deer tongue, oakleaf, crispheads, loose leaf, and colors – rich red, burgundy, dark green, light green, spotted, speckled, and more.

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It is easy to grow although it doesn’t like heat much. Use it as a thriller (centerpiece) or as a filler in containers with plants that like the same conditions, full sun, cooler temps. Pansies, alyssum, lobelia are great companions.

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You could work in some heat-loving annuals too. When the lettuce and pansies are done and the heat comes on. replace them with petunias or geraniums or small zinnias such as “Lilliput” for the new “thriller” in the center of the pot. It goes well with alyssum and lobelia. (What doesn’t go with those two? All well-dressed containers should have them!) It’s kind of like succession planting in a pot.

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Think about other plants. Parsley goes well. Nasturtiums. You can make your own salad bowl that is edible AND pretty!

What goes better with tomatoes than lettuce? Add bacon, bread, and you have a sandwich. Yummmm.

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The Never Ending Job Of The Tomato Lady – Good Thing It’s A Labor Of LOVE!

I just finished up the second wave of tomato plants yesterday, March 25th.  n 4 days, I transplanted 4289 little guys. Couple that with 1480 plants destined for gallons, that brings me to 6769 plants. I will be seeding a third wave, almost exclusively early and cherry varieties, including a few more Sungolds. Those will be for after Garden Expo when we usually are out of these plants. In this area, everyone wants a short season variety or a cherry, which in my book are a usually shorter season than the big, later season heirlooms.

My suggestion for those who live in Deer Park and other short, short season areas is to buy the plants you want in a gallon size. They are almost 2 months more mature and will produce sooner than the same in a smaller pot, even if they are almost physically the same size. That is the only way I can get Pink Brandywines here (and they are delectable).

Tomorrow I start on flowers. We had to put up another temporary greenhouse to house them. One of these days I will do a post about how we construct our greenhouses. We recycle and reuse!

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New Pepper On My Rotation: Violet Sparkle: The Tomato Lady

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Isn’t she pretty????? Pointed, wedge-shaped fruit is purple streaked with pale yellow. This heirloom came from a Russian seed trader. It begins with chartreuse, evolving to purple with tan/yellow streaks and then to red. Lovely and delicious, sweet, crisp and thick-walled.

A unique looking pepper with excellent yields, great size for roasting, bbq, fresh eating. Sweet but very firm. Would be good for pickling and sautées very well. Plants are short with many uniform fruits.

The reviews I’ve read all say they love this pepper. I can’t wait to try it.

Growing Note: They had excellent germination and were very healthy.

Some of My Favorite Seed Companies – The Tomato lady

samson in gardenHere is a list of seed companies that I interact with on a regular basis. Good prices, nice selection of varieties, excellent seed quality, and good customer service! (My cat, Samson, has nothing to do with this subject but he sure is cute and is in the garden! Sam is a Maine Coon)

Seeds n Such
I love that this gentleman used to own Totally Tomatoes and decided to retire, which didn’t suit him so he opened up Seeds n Such. One of the nicest things about him is that their shipping is right in line with what it should be and they have a deal whereby if you buy 20 packets of seeds, they are all $1.99. Believe me, it’s easy to find that many things you want.

Tomatofest
Lots and lots of heirloom tomato seeds, some I have never heard of. The really nice thing is they are “local” –  California based. Most companies are midwest or eastern based companies. (I love them too, I just like buying local if I can)

Totally Tomatoes
Many, many varieties of tomatoes and peppers. Now they have other veggies. so I guess they aren’t “totally” tomatoes anymore! That’s ok, I like the variations.

Swallowtail Garden Seeds
This is for the flower growers. Veggies are good for your bodies, flowers are good for your soul. They have a nice variety, good prices, and quality seed. I love the pictures on the website, and they are fast!

Geo Seed
I recently found this company. I can’t remember how but am sure glad I did. Prices are phenomenal, customer service outstanding (Dora rocks!) varieties are numerous. Stuff you didn’t know you needed! the only drawback is that they don’t have pictures (but that is what the internet is for, right?) and at this time, you can’t order online. Mere nuisances. They have trade packets and bigger bulk sizes. I’d recommend the trade packets for home gardeners.

Fedco Seeds
I found this company in the last couple of years also. I love that they are a Cooperative and represent seed from a lot of small, independent growers. Great website too, lots of pictures. I found they have seeds with great histories; for instance, I found a winter squash called Uncle David’s Dakota Dessert Squash (a mouthful) on their site. it was passed down forever and as far as I can see, it’s not available anywhere else. it is delicious! Lots of fun stuff!

Irish Eyes Seeds – Located in Ellensburg, WA, Huge selection of potatoes and garlic and other cooler climate veggies.

High Mowing – I ordered from them last week and they have great selection and shipping was surprisingly fast. Out of Vermont.

Baker Seeds Great selection, good prices, and reasonable shipping. Unusual heirloom seeds from all over, rare and exotic seeds from around the world. Two examples: Thai Lavender Frog Egg Eggplant and Sichuan Red Beauty Radish. I have to be honest, some of them are so odd I can’t imagine growing them, like the Sakurajima Giant Radish, considered the world’s largest Radish. it’s white and bigger than my head! Definitely, an entertaining place to visit.

Snake River Seeds – They are new, at least to me, and I have yet to order from them but I will. they have bulk seeds too and they are local to me. In their own words:

“Snake River Seed Cooperative is a collective of family farmers in the Intermountain West who work together to produce a wide diversity of locally-adapted seeds. We believe that sharing seed saving knowledge with farmers in our region is vital to growing a robust, regional seedshed.”

While I can’t name everyone I like dealing with, (actually I could AND include all the links but I do have other things to do today!) here are some other companies I recommend, just search for them on the internet: Parks, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Victory Seeds, Pase Seeds, Harris Seeds to name a few.

Don’t forget Northwest Seed and Pet. It is the best and biggest gardening store that I know of here in Spokane. They have a HUGE selection of seeds, a lot of which you may not have heard of. They carry their own bulk brand, Burpees, High Mowing, Baker Seeds, Snake River Seeds, Botanical Interests, Irish Eyes and many, many more. Don’t miss their cat, give him a scratch.

 

Just A Little Something I Did To Pass The Time Today

Today, I transplanted 557 baby flowers into their 3.5′ pots. Pansies (Bolero, Fizzle Sizzle Mix and then the Yellow and Blue, Chianti, Colussus, Super Swiss Giants, Heat Elite, and Flirty Skirts), Petunias (Silver Tidal Wave, Dolcissima Flambe, Subperbissima Doubled, Fluffy Ruffles, Pico Bella, Spellbound in Pink, Wine Red, Dark Purple and White Blush, and Evening Scentsation), Impatiens (Accent Mystic, Red Flash, Star, Athena Red Flash, Athena mix Impressa Cherry Splash and Shady Ladies Blushing Beauties, alyssum, and Verbena (Peaches and Cream and Scentsation) tomorrow the alyssums and lobelias. Pansies and Petunias are some of my very favorite flowers.

Of course, nothing looks like this but hope springs eternal, at least for us gardeners. Winter has finally shown up and we have almost a foot of snow on the ground, maybe a little more. I had my stereo on and a heater keeping me warm as I transplanted, dreaming of summer days and bright happy faces of pansies. I do love the snow but it is mid=February and it should be done by now. Maybe next year we could have winter in December and January!

Oh, I also planted the one Godetia that came up. The seed was pretty old.

 

Seed Starting The Tomato Lady Way

If you start your seeds long before they can be put out into the garden, there are some really important tips to live by:

Sterile Germinating Mix
ALWAYS use a sterile seed starting mix. Don’t use leftover potting soil or garden soil. Do not reuse last year’s used germinating mix. Seed starting mix is generally a finer texture with no nasty little organisms to cause problems for your babies. You can get it in big bales or a smaller bag. Northwest Seed and Pet have a nice mix in smaller sizes.

Sterile Pots
Use new pots or clean your old pots with a 10% bleach/water mixture. This will keep the little critters at bay. I use these small gray pots and put 12 of them into a black flat with NO holes in them. My husband frowns upon dripping water onto the lighting fixture on the next shelf down.

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Light
Once your little guys come up, they will need light – lots of it. Most plants are happy with 12 to 16 hours a day. You can use a timer. Another tip: I use regular fluorescent lights. Since I use so many of them, I couldn’t even begin to afford to use grow lights. We use the four footers and hang from chains on metal shelving that we got from Costco. Keep the lights about 1/2″ from the tops of the plants. As they grow, keep adjusting them up. The lights also provide a tiny bit of warmth.

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Water
Don’t overwater, if you do it can create an environment that is a habitat for funguses and molds. Damping off is particularly ugly, your plant looks fab and then it falls over! so sad. Water when the top looks slightly dry. Which brings me to another important point, Water from below. When I seed the little trays, I use hot, hot water and pour into the flat until they start to float. The hot water is more effectively drawn up when it is hot. Thereafter, I use tepid water and fill the flats about halfway. If, after 2 days or so there is still a lot of water that didn’t get sucked up, empty it out so that the plants aren’t sitting in the water. That is also a bad thing.

Warmth
Sincethey are in the house in my dining room, they are the temperatures that my house is, around 65º to 70º

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Seed Planting
Pay attention to the seed packet instructions. Some seeds need to be covered, they need darkness to germinate, some need light and are gently pressed into the mix.

Stump of the World/Big Ben: What’s In A Name? Another New Offering For 2019 From The Tomato Lady

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Introduced by the late Ben Quisenberry, Ohio. this is an indeterminate, potato leaf plant producing a good yield of large, 1 lb., dark pink, meaty tomatoes. Small seed cavity. The variety was part of the Ben Quisenberry Collection, which also contributed the variety Brandywine. Stump of the World also known by some as Big Ben, is a bit smaller and more productive than Brandywine, but like Brandywine, offers outstandingly rich flavor An historic and VERY popular variety for marketplace appeal.

The name: one theory is that this variety was named by Ben Quisenberry after a bible reference, as Ben was a very spiritual man. The speculation is that the ‘Stump’ being referred to is the stump or root of Jesse in the bible.

In my research on this tomato, I found an interesting article written by The Seed Savers Exchange on the background of this tomato name. the link is below.

http://blog.seedsavers.org/blog/tomato-tasting-winners

Whatever the origin, I truly do love the Brandywines and am always anxious to try others by Mr. Quisenberry. He was a legendary seedsman.

Brad’s Atomic Grape Tomato – The Tomato Lady’s New Offering 2019

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This is a gorgeous tomato. I am not of the camp that says “if it’s not red, it’s not a tomato”. If it has stripes or blotches or is an unusual color, I will grow it. Or at least try it.

This is an introduction from Wild Boar Farms and it won “best in show” at the 2017 National Heirloom Expo.

Elongated, large cherries in clusters. The color is a full-blown assault on the senses—lavender and purple stripes, turning to technicolor olive-green, red, and brown/blue stripes when fully ripe. The flavor is supposed to be sweet. It sure is pretty!

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These range some in size from a large grape to plum-sized.

I always read the reviews before I purchase new seed. It reminded me how every year is different due to weather, what you put in your beds to condition the soil when you plant etc. The only tomato I have found to be 95% delicious and flavorful all the time is the Sungold. I will grow the same tomato three years in a row and will love it 2 out 3 years. I will recommend a certain tomato and 5 out or 7 people will love it and the others won’t. Until they plant it again.

The reviews range from too sweet, too bland, not sweet enough, prolific, only got 3 tomatoes, brought them in by the basket, most were yellow, absolutely gorgeous colors, plant wilted but recovered, plant became a monster, won’t ever grow again to it’s on my rotation now every year. Go figure.

I always try to give a variety 3 years due to the variables in growing plants. I am excited about this one. Other striped/wild markings such as Chocolate Sprinkles, Blush, and the green Lucky Tiger, I loved. The red Lucky Tiger? Not so much.

I think we all need to live a little and try new things. After all, that’s how I found the lovely, luscious, ever-present in my garden, Sungold.

Momotaro Tomato – Japanese Variety

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I am going to start posting my new tomato offerings for you to see. This one was one I had never heard of and a customer requested it last year. Interestingly enough, I don’t normally think of Japanese cuisine when I think of tomatoes. Who knew?

Momotaro Tomato (F1) is the most popular fresh tomato in Japan. Here in the US, it is marketed as “Tough Boy”. Deep pink, with green shoulders around the stem, these 6 – 7 oz. tomatoes are sweet with a delightful refined flavor and a little bit of tang.

Noted for crack resistance, holding quality, and Verticillium, Fusarium and nematode resistance.

This tomato has some wonderful characteristics and I am happy to offer it under the original name which refers to a hero in Japanese folklore.

Amazing Tomatoes: How They Grow and it’s Only Early July!

This is one of the best years I’ve had for growing tomatoes, actually everything except the peppers are doing really well. they look good but are still smallish.

I am surprised because the weather has been like riding a roller coaster. Hot, cold, wet, dry. This should be causing more stress than I have. On the plants that is!

Here are some pictures of my tomatoes

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These are both Candyland Red

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Fred’s Tye Dye out of the Dwarf Tomato Project

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Mr. Snow of the Dwarf Tomato Project 2 pics

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Taxi – an heirloom. This really surprised me, it was the second one to fruit.

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These two are Bush Blue Ribbon

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Lucky Swirl out of the Dwarf Tomato Project

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Summer Sweet Gold out of the Dwarf Tomato Project

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maskotka-3-618maskotka-618Maskotka – Our first tomato, that we were able to eat on July 4th. It is from Canada.

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freds-tye-dye-618Silvery Fir Tree