Tomato Identifying as a Pumpkin! From The Tomato Lady’s Garden to Yours

This is one of the last Greek Rose that we picked from our garden for this year. They are lovely and very large and delicious. This one was so big, it seemed to be identifying as a pumpkin! This one is just for fun! Happy Fall!

A Couple of My New Favorite Tomatoes

What a summer it has been. Cold then hot, hot then cold, little moisture, lots os smoke from the fires. It’s a wonder my stuff even grew. I did have record productivity though. Not sure why but I don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

I grew some new tomatoes this year along with the usual suspects.

My 2020 list:
Cherry Tomatoes

Sungold
Fruit Punch
Velano

Dwarf Tomatoes
Chocolate Lightening
Sweet Sue
Golden Gypsy
Purple Heart
Mr. Snow
Rosela Crimson
Rosella Purple

Paste
San Marzano Redorta

Early
Siletz

Heirloom
Gold Medal
Greek Rose
Dester
Dagma’s Perfection

Black Beauty
Thorburn’s Terra Cotta
Copia
Lucid Gem
Taxi

Other
Lemon Boy
Mosccw

All of them did pretty well, I will try to share more later. My faves this year were Gold Medal, Greek Rose, Dester, Dagma’s Perfection and Lemon Boy. From those five varieties, I picked many that weighed well over a pound.

Greek Rose

The Greek Rose reminded me of an oxheart, more meaty and less juicy with a fluted top.

Dester

Dester was a very late to ripen tomato but when they did, yummm! Very sweet and big.

Dagma’s Perfection

Dagma’s Perfection was also a hit. Large and very sweet and very proflific.

Gold Medal

The Gold Medal, which I have grown before was exceptional, sweet and golden with red marbling. I will certainly grow all of these in my garden agaiin.

Lemon Boy

Lemon Boy – we had a customer several years ago who grew nothing but Lemon Boys. I couldn’t figure out why and now that I’ve grown them, I understand why. Prolific and sweet. Tasty on a sandwich.

Why is My Squash Turning Yellow?

spaghetti squash 73118 - 1So many people come to me with questions about their gardens. I think one of the cutest things they tell me, is that they keep getting blossom end rot on their summer squash. You know, where, you get all excited because it is your first squash of the season. Every day you check on it with anticipation. Then, the horror of horrors, it starts turning yellow! Aaaahh! You babied it, watered it, fertilized it. Now, this.

More than likely, it wasn’t pollinated. Wind and bees are the primary ways pollination gets done. Mommy flower and Daddy flower get together, and well, you know how it works.

Squash, melons, pumpkins, and cucumbers are members of the same family and they often have problems with pollination due to the male flowers falling off before the female flowers open. 

Here is a great article I read this morning that tells you, in simple terms, how to get around that. Easy peasy and soon you will be giving squash away, right and left!

Here is the link and I’ve included the article to. Thank you to Harvest to Table for the great read.

https://harvesttotable.com/hand-pollination-of-vegetables

hand pollination

Hand pollination is the manual transfer of pollen from the stamen of one plant to the pistil of another–that is from a male flower to a female flower.

Members of the Cucurbit family–squash, melons, pumpkins, and cucumbers–often have pollination problems because the male flowers commonly open days before the female flowers and so often drop before pollinators such as bees can transfer pollen from male to female flowers.

When female flowers are not pollinated, the fruit will never appear. The nascent fruits–bulging embryos–at the stem end of female flowers will shrivel and die if not pollinated.

If fruit is not forming on your Cucurbit family plants, you can help. Rub a small brush or cotton swab on the stamen of a male flower (it will be dusty with pollen) then rub the brush on the stigma of the female flower.

Hand pollination

Alternatively, you can remove the petals from a male flower and brush the stamen against the stigma of a female flower.

Which flower is male and which is female? Female flowers have a small bulge (a small immature flower) where the stem meets the flower. Male flowers are shorter than female flowers and often appear in clusters.

Storm Protection: The Tomato Lady Way

We planted our tomatoes into the ground a couple of days ago. They are big and beautiful. I have a video that I took of how we plant ours. You can find it on Youtube How to plant tomatoes The Tomato Lady Way! I hope you find it informative and interesting.

Since we planted, wouldn’t you know it, we have had some pretty nasty storms roll through. Nasty for our part of the country! My first thought was that my plants were going to be beat up, especially if we had hail. A couple of years ago we had some h ail damage and it wasn’t pretty. This is a picture of hail damage.

tomato damage hail sun

Luckily it was more aesthetic than harmful. This year we got a bit smarter and we covered every plant with a pot or a bucket. Of course, we take them off during the day (unless it hails or rains hard) so they don’t fry should the sun decide to make an appearance. It is also the way we would try to protect should we get some really cold temps.

storm protection 5192020 - 2

Just so you know, they aren’t levitating, there are small metal tomato cages that we put over them when they are small, then we put our heavy-duty wooden cages over all that.

This works for us!

Container Gardens And The Plants That Love Them

me in garden with tomatoes811

Wishful thinking, one summer in years gone by. Warm weather, monster tomato plants on our homemade tomato cages.

tomaotes-gallons

Our gallon pots that we are selling now

First, let me apologize, I fully expected to be able to continue this thread and then life got crazy! We started selling our plants much earlier than we had planned to. The Garden Expo we were camping up for was canceled due to the virus situation, and that is a third of our sales. I wish this was my “hobby” but it’s around 50% of our income so we had to scramble to figure out how we were going to overcome this serious setback. Instead of 1500 gallons, we had 3000! Thankfully, we are considered an essential business and we knew that the “new normal” would make selling a lot more difficult so we started to sell early. Everyone had been very generous and understanding. I lowered the price of my gallons by $2, they are now $8.00 and have changed the way we are getting plants to the customer. Curbside delivery, home delivery with minimum orders, appointments, social distancing, monitoring how many in a greenhouse at a time (1) husband and wife are considered as one person, if they haven’t caught it from each other at home they won’t be catching it in the greenhouse! Fun times! Apologies aside here is the long-awaited post.

mixed flowers21

Cute little guy with impatiens. For a shade garden, small soil cavity so better for a shade garden where it won’t dry out as fast.

So far we have discussed basic tips on raised bed gardening, in-ground gardening and edible landscaping which simply means including vegetable plants in your decorative gardens. I am a big believer in container gardening, for vegetables, for flowers, and for both mixed together. Edible container gardens don’t need to be boring or plain or merely functional. In container gardens, there is a design principle that most of us learn, thrillers, fillers, and spoilers.

containers and bed12

For a shade garden – wax begonias, impatiens and alyssum in a “flower bed”

Thrillers are your focus plant. It is the dracaena spike, coleus, begonia, ornamental grasses anything that is a big, eye-catching focal point. In an edible container garden, it would be your tomato plant, cucumber vine, lettuce etc. Can you imagine growing carrots, with their ferny, frothy foliage in the middle of a large container surrounded by flowers? Sweet.

krainiy-sever--3-6-22-17

Krainy Sever, a dwarf tomato with petunias and lobelia

Fillers are mid-size, mounding or rounded plants that surround your focal plant. You can use it to complement or contrast the colors of the focal plant. If it is a dappled shade garden, wax begonias, gazania, ageratum, impatiens would be good choices. Petunias, mounding lobelia, alyssum, ivy geraniums, nasturtiums, and million bells, are all good choices for plants in containers in the sun.

pansies in pots58

Pansies and alyssum as a fluffy white skirt in a coffee pot

Spillers are plants that tumble over the sides of the container, softening the edges and providing more color. Bacopa, petunias, alyssum, trailing lobelia, sweet potato vine, ivy, are good choices.

salad bowl pictures - 2

Salad Bowls – various lettuces in colanders with alyssum and lobelia

Light, Temperature, Nutrition
Some plants can work in partial, dappled shade, million bells, lobelia, alyssum, bacopa, petunias, and geraniums. Very versatile. This leads me to my next point: keeping in mind the various light, temperature and nutritional needs of the plants.

I would never put coleus and petunias in the same pot. Coleus, for the most part, like shade (although there are new sun-tolerant varieties coming out today), Petunias do better with more sun. Vegetables also do better with more sun. Lettuce would be a good filler or focus plant for partial sun. Tomatoes need a lot of sunshine to be prolific. anything that produces fruit, such as tomatoes or cucumbers, need a lot of energy to form it.

Think of putting drought-tolerant plants together, shade-loving plants, or sun-loving plants in the same pots. Temperature is another factor although I think of it more in terms of succession planting. Pansies and Schizanthus like cooler temperatures and lots of sun. One of my favorite combinations to plant is a tomato or lettuce plant (which also likes cooler temperatures), petunias, lobelia and alyssum. When the cool weather plants succumb to the heat, or I eat the lettuce, the petunias alyssum and lobelia take over. I can also insert other plants in their place. Two-season beauty!

container lettuce 2

Lettuce, alyssum, and a tomato in a pot, probably a Tumbler

When choosing your vegetables for your pots, choose varieties that are developed for containers. Determinate or dwarf tomato plants, compact pepper plants, carrots that are short in length, cucumbers that don’t vine too much, squash with a more compact shape, bush beans, (if you had a large pot, you could do a pole bean and trellis it), spinach, beets. and even melons. Look for words like “compact”, “determinate”, “short vines”, “small” and “dwarf”.

The picture above shows “Small Wonder” spaghetti squash, “Spacemaster” cucumber plant and fingerling potatoes in pots. Below are carrots that I grew as an experiment in pots. They were amazing!

carrots - 2

Carrots in a square pot

sweet rebas acorn

Sweet Reba acorn squash

“Sweet Reba” (above) is a good candidate for a large container since it is a compact plant.

Here are some good choices for vegetables:

pamsies99

Coffee anyone?

garden front big pots

Tomatoes and flowers in a large pot

Let’s not forget herbs. Most herbs like to live in pots. Purple Basils add a nice punch to a container. Thyme would be a good spiller.

 

In the end, we are gardeners. We try everything, if it works great, if not we try again!

Here are a few pots that I have done over the years.

Costoluto Genovese and Costoluto Fiorintino: Old Heirloom Tomatoes from Italy

costoluto genovese

Costoluto Genovese The fluted, old Italian favorite that has been around since the early 19th century. Fruit is rather flattened and quite attractive with its deep ribbing. This variety is a standard in Italy for both fresh eating and preserving, and known for its intensely flavorful, deep red flesh. They were also one of the varieties planted at Thomas Jefferson’s home in Monticello in 1809.

fiorintino with scissors tag.jpg

Costoluto Fiorentino Heavily ribbed (costoluta) flat Italian heirloom beefsteak type from Florence. Red, 12-16 ounces slightly flattened fruit. Outstanding taste. Large, vigorous, indeterminate plant with good production. Similar to Costoluto Genovese but slightly flatter and higher-yielding.

Costoluto refers to the distinct flattened, heavily-ribbed shape of various Italian heirlooms. Both of these tomatoes are shaped like this. some of my customers don’t like the ribbing but I think it is pretty and the taste is good. There is a reason these are heirlooms!

Both these pics are from my garden the year that I grew them.

Latah, Moscow, Sandpoint, and Shoshone: New Tomatoes from The Tomato Lady

We have some new tomatoes that I was just tickled to find. They were developed locally at the University of Idaho. Latah, Moscow, Sandpoint, and Shoshone, I have great expectations for these four. Here is what I found on the Snake River Seed Cooperative site. I discovered this company only just last year. I was happy to find seeds that are bred to be acclimated to our region, (although there are many microclimates in this area). I also believe in buying local whenever I can. This is what the Snake River Seed Cooperative has to say about themselves and their seeds (the short version):

“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.”

 

latah

LATAH Early, productive, and yummy variety bred by University of Idaho–perfect for containers! Latah county growers Kelly and Russell Kingsland grow this little gem, and they offer this description: Compact determinate. Bred at UI (in Latah County), Latah is well suited to Idaho’s cooler nights and relatively short growing season. A prolific producer of 2-3 oz, delicious well balanced, red fruits with good texture.

moscow tag

MOSCOW The largest of the U of I bred tomatoes. Good slicer and canning tomato. Not the earliest of the U of I bred tomatoes, but certainly the largest. Big, indeterminate plants spit out dozens of large, 4-5″ red fruits good for slicing and canning. Almost lost to the ether but for a Utah gardener who kept it as his main canning tomato.

sandpoint

SANDPOINT The smallest and earliest of Idaho bred varieties…great for containers! Extremely early variety bred by the U of Idaho in the 1960s. Small fruits range from cherries to saladette size, on very compact plants–excellent for containers, and for short-season areas.

Want a bumper crop of tomatoes? Listen to this guy

SHOSHONE Early-ripening Idaho-bred tomato! Compact plants with lots of round red fruits! Of all the varieties bred by the U of ID in the 1960s, Shoshone tied for the earliest harvest and blew the standard early-ripening varieties out of the water for taste, compact plant size, and productivity. Excellent for containers and small spaces. Fruits vary in size from cherry to large saladette tomato.

Keep in mind that I haven’t grown these yet in my garden so these aren’t my pictures. They are ones that I found in doing an internet search. Next year they will be my own. I love taking lots of pictures of everything I grow. Most of them I am pretty proud of.

I hope that these varieties will help some of my more northern customers be more successful with their tomatoes.

Insights Into How I Run My Business – The Tomato Lady

tomato seedlings

Every year I try to be more organized with my business. I ask myself questions like these:

  • What do I want to offer this year?
  • What tomatoes or peppers did I not like?
  • What do my customers want?
  • Are there any new and astounding introductions that I need to try?
  • How much soil and germinating mix do I need?
  • Do we have enough stock of the amendments we incorporate into our mix?
  • When do we want to open?
  • When do we need our other greenhouses up?

And then I have to think about updating the website, doing research for descriptions, pictures, making large tags, small tags, marketing, doing the bookkeeping/taxes . . . etc.

I think one of the biggest concerns is figuring out how far back to plant the seeds so they are ready at a certain time. It doesn’t matter whether they are tomatoes, peppers, flowers or veggies. When I first started my business, I planted everything on March 17th. That didn’t work out so well. I had ginormous plants in small pots. (We called them trenching tomatoes!)

One variable we can’t control (a big one) is the weather. Since we grow ours as close to nature as possible, we heat only to keep them from freezing. We don’t grow ours as the bigger operations do with climate controls for even temperatures. It gets hot, it gets cold. (I think that is why ours do really well here in our part of the world). When the sun comes out, even if it is cold outside, it heats up very quickly. Cooler temps encourage root development so they have a stable base to start reaching for the stars when it gets warmer. We have had some of our varieties grow a foot in one week! (I know that sounds great but that is not good at all).

babies-under-lights-#3-09

My dining room becomes the seed starting room for several months. Shelves, fluorescent light banks, germinating mix, water jugs, seed packets, plant lists, pixie stakes, anything needed for planting. It is quite the mess! This is the room we use for our game nights twice a month, needless to say, we are relegated to the living room playing Scattergorries or Charades for several months.

tomatoes31

This year we are going to try and have 2500 gallons for sale. That is 1000 more than last year. They are easier to keep happy, don’t require as much water (don’t dry out) and have a BIG headstart over the ones in the smaller pots. That is really important in my part of the world where there every other town/location seems to have a different growing zone! Our weather. isn’t really consistent. sometimes we have a long growing season, sometimes we don’t. Last year we had a frost/snow late September. One year it didn’t get ugly until November. All it takes is one frost and your plants are done, it doesn’t matter if we have two months after that of temperate weather. With some varieties, it is important to have the headstart.

brandywine pink1_

Take the Pink Brandywine. It has a long growing season and really needs the extra two months. I have found that it is not the size of the plant but the maturity of the plant that determines whether you harvest something or not. Pineapple is another one that benefits from this, as do a lot of the bigger heirloom varieties. We will still have our regular pot size.

me-in-greenhouse-up

I just finished my first cup of coffee and as I contemplate going out to transplant some more tomatoes, I am glad I could tell you some of what I do and how I do it.

I know this is a long post but I wanted to share some of the workings and thoughts behind being an “urban farmer”. It’s not all fun and games and takes quite a bit of planning and thinking and of course hard work! To the gentleman who said that farming is a no-brainer occupation, I’d like to invite him to put himself in my shoes and the shoes of every other farmer out there and let him see how hard it really is! It’s not as simple as digging a hole and dropping a seed in it. I use a lot of gray matter to grow my business!

 

Pepper Varieties: Glow and Volcano Candy, Sweet and Spicy

glow

Glow

Glow is a sweet pepper that caught my eye as I was thumbing through the catalogs. It literally looked like it was glowing. Amazing.

Since I haven’t grown these yet, I have to rely on the descriptions I read.

Tapered, thick-walled, 2-3 lobed fruits are 4-5″ long and are deliciously sweet and fruity. Medium-size plants yield well. Early and easy to grow in diverse climates.

It’s cute that people tell me they want and orange (or red or yellow) pepper. They say the green peppers don’t agree with them. The reality is that most peppers start out green, when they mature, they turn color. That is why the green ones in the store are so much cheaper, they can be picked earlier, leading the way for more peppers to form.

 

volcano candy 2.jpg

Volcano Candy

One of my husband’s new favorites. We grew these for the first time last year. originally named, Devil’s Kiss, we took artistic license and renamed them. Volcano Candy. Dark red, round fruits, very prolific, somewhere between the heat of a jalapeno and a habanero. The husband says they actually have a peppery fruity flavor and that if you cut them and removed the seeds and membranes, the flesh wasn’t hot at all. They look like cherry bombs. We kept this growing in our greenhouse (along with our Yellow Bull’s horn) long after the first frost and it did well until mid-December when we decided to pull the plant. We just couldn’t keep the greenhouse warm enough to maintain their health.

steve and corno di toro yelow

October 11, 2019, My husband standing next to our Corno di Toro, still growing strong in the greenhouse with its friends.

corno yellow late dec
Notice how the leaves are starting to droop. 
They got worse as the month went on. At first, I thought it was a lack of water but their fruits were just as firm as ever. I realized it was temperature. Peppers come from warmer climates after all.

last of the corno di tornos 2019

Corno di Toro (Yellow Bulls Horn) Here is a picture of what we harvested on December 22 right before we pulled the plant. That pepper is 7 inches long. Believe it or not!!!!

Hello Spring! (I think)

cherry-tomatoes---1

One of my many harvests last year. Wishful thinking!

it’s been very cold here or maybe I am just getting older. Lots of sunshine and the birds are starting to make melodies so I expect it to be considerably warmer than it feels. I go through this every year right around February.

I have transplanted 0ver 900 pepper plants already and they are snug as a bug in a rug in our “pepper greenhouse”. I planted 62 varieties this year and will be showcasing some of the newer and favorites on this blog in the future.

As for tomatoes? This year I have over 200 varieties, by far the most that I have ever done. Last year I had 178 and wanted less. Yup, you can blame it on the catalogs. With their pretty pictures and fantastical descriptions such as “the best tasting”, “brilliant color palette”, “earliest for northern regions”, “most prolific”, “an heirloom older than dirt” etc. (the last one, not really, but it sounds like something someone would say.)

I got rid of some I didn’t like or that were hard to sell and of course, kept my favorites and the favorites of my customers. In all, what with taking away and adding, I have 203 varieties. Uh huh, that is a lot! I order mostly from seed catalogs like Seeds n Such, Totally Tomatoes, Tomatofest, Harris Seeds, Johnny’s Seeds, High Mowing Seeds, and others. I also peruse our local Northwest Seed and Pet for their offerings. This year I found some seed by Snake River Cooperative, Shoshone, Moscow, Latah and Sandpoint, seeds developed in our area by Idaho State University. I am anxious to try those and see how they do.

As with the peppers, I will showcase some of the tomato varieties also.

This is my busy season, buying and researching seeds, ordering supplies, figuring out a planting schedule, making big and little tags, ordering preprinted tags, planting and transplanting babies, updating the website, organizing marketing materials and email lists, creating blog posts, watering, fertilizing, arranging heaters and keeping an eye on the temps, taking cuttings and rooting them, to name just a few of my responsibilities

Good thing I love what I do!.