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HEIRLOOM and MODERN TOMATOES and PEPPERS


Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.
                  --Michael Pollan

The Tomatoman is now on Facebook. Check out the page. Like, if you'd like.

(You don't have to be a member of Facebook to see the page)

MAY 20

Too Much Nice Weather  =  Fantastic Bargains


This weekend we will be in CLOSE-OUT mode. All our warm spring weather has pushed the plants faster than usual and they will too soon outgrow the red cups; time to move them out. This means you can get beautiful plants for half the already low price. Because many people planted early this year, I have more plants left than is usual at this point so a good selection is still available.  This is a great chance to try something different/unusual for only 50 cents. Besides the tomatoes and peppers there is a large stock of melons, cucumbers, squash and pumpkins.

Any plants left over will have to be euthanized, of course. I know that’s an uncomfortable thought so if you have an empty spot in the garden consider adopting as many as possible to save them from this tragic fate.



CLOSE-OUT  CLOSE-OUT  CLOSE-OUT  CLOSE-OUT



May 8

Looks like fine gardening and plant buying weather this weekend. We'll be open Saturday and Sunday (hours at right).
Several varieties of melons, basil and dill will be added to the mix.

We have some Stevia plants if you are interested in trying out this natural sweetener, said to be 200 times sweeter than cane sugar.

April 23

Opening day this Saturday. Tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, some herbs and artichoke plants. Starting 9 am.

April 18

The variety descriptions are updated/

April 17, 2014

We're at least partly back in business. I've posted the 2014 variety list. I will work on the descriptions page and see if that can be updated. Check back in a couple of days.

Sales start April 26

April 2014


Technology has marched on and I have had trouble accessing this page. I'm working on it. In the meantime, check the Facebook page for limited information,

Update July 30

Do your tomato plants have lots of flowers but no tomatoes are setting? It’s the heat. Seven straight days over 100 degrees, various other days over 100 and the rest in the high 90’s. Tomato pollen dies a-borning when temps get into the upper 90’s. I have a few tomatoes at the bottoms of the plants but except for a few cherry types, no fruit on the higher blossoms clusters. The plants themselves are happy, growing out the tops of the cages, but little fruiting.
I hope the few cooler days this week will help. This Saturday we will be able to find out what kind of results the experts are getting. Saturday (Aug.3) is the annual Harvest Day extravaganza at the Fair Oaks Horticultural Center, presented by the Sacramento County Master Gardeners. This very worthwhile event is getting bigger every year and well worth attending. Farmer Fred will be providing tomato tip. Details are linked on my Facebook page. The Horticultural Center is a fairly amazing place if you haven't seen it.
Below is a link to a short article on tomatoes and heat.

Tomato Pollination and Excessive heat

Thursday, May 2

We'll set up on Saturday with replenished stock after a successful opening weekend. I will have a very few zucchinis and possibly a few cucumbers. This early hot weather has messed up my scheduling: most years the weather is just now getting settled enough for cucumbers, melons and so on.

APRIL 15

It looks unlikely that there will be any seriously bizarre weather between now and the end of the month so sales should begin the weekend of the 27th. It will probably seem difficult to wait if temperatures are in the 80’s this weekend but the more critical temperatures are the nighttime ones, which are predicted to drop into the 40s and low 50s. Tomatoes and peppers are tropical plants and most tropicals curtail or shut down growth when temps drop into the 50’s. A week earlier at this point will make little difference in that happy date of the first ripe tomato.

The seedlings look very fine this year, almost pampered, with the warm weather we have been having. This year I’ll be offering 37 varieties of tomatoes. There were a couple of germination problems with the peppers but I have 26 varieties to offer, and 6 types of eggplants.

PRICE: my costs are only up a little and the economy is still shaky and food prices seem to keep increasing, so in the interest of trying to encourage home gardening, eating local and all that good stuff I’m keeping the 75 cent price again. Can’t beat it.

2013 Variety Lists and Descriptions are Posted

April 4, 2013

Tomato Trends for 2013


The usual excitements in the tomato world are things like a new All-America Selections award or a new variety announced by Burpee or Park or other major company. The excitement this year is a bit more earthshaking. Two major trends have emerged.

BLUE TOMATOES - Last year there was the Indigo Rose variety. This year there are additional blue (actually purple) varieties. Brad, at Wild Boar Farms, for example, has three blue varieties offered. The color in these tomatoes are caused by high concentrations of anthocyanins, the same compounds that make blueberries blue.

GRAFTED TOMATOES - Much more significant is the near-explosive emergence of the availability of grafted tomato plants nationwide. Appearing in very limited sources last year, this year more than a million grafted plants will be available from nurseries, big box stores and several of the major mail order companies. It’s claimed the grafted plants can produce as much as 50% more fruit and are more resistant to soil-borne pests and diseases. Limited varieties of peppers and eggplants, closely related to tomatoes, are also becoming available. Though expensive, one can even buy seed for the special rootstocks that are used. Producing grafted plants is a labor-intensive process so as you would expect, the plants are two or three or more times as expensive as regular plants.

December 26

That nasty little frost a few days back killed my last few tomato and pepper plants that had hung on in our warm Fall. Also killed an amazing zucchini (Napoli type) that had out-survived the regular green zucchini plants by many weeks. I picked a nice squash about Dec. 12 and another was forming.

This summer I had massive production of cherry tomatoes and sparse production of regular and beefsteak types. That seems to have been a common pattern in our area. I wonder what subtle factors cause tomatoes to vary their performance from year to year? My peppers came along a little slowly but then produced very nicely.

May 23

We'll be open this Saturday and Sunday. It will be the last regular weekend. If there's anything left it will go to the always exciting close-out sale the following weekend.
And no it isn't too late; don't be silly. We have a very long growing season here.

Do you like gourds for fall decoration? This weekend we have some starts of a gourd mixture called 'weird warted'. Various strange shapes and colors.

April 19, 2012
This weekend will be warm and sunny so I know it will be tempting to go out and buy those lush, expensive, hothouse plants from the big box stores. I advise resisting those urges. The next weekend is also supposed to be warm and sunny and it looks like by then you will be able to buy locally grown, weather adapted plants at a bargain price. The seedlings were slow during all the gray weather but now that the sun is back they have taken off like weeds. As I mention every year, my plants are grown outside subject to the weather so when they are ready to plant, it's time to plant.

April 2, 2012

The seedlings are coming along, grabbing a little sun whenever they can.

The latest tomato fad is grafted tomatoes. Heirloom seedlings are grafted onto a stronger, disease resistant rootstock. The claim is that you get the fabulous heirloom flavor, etc. but with greater productivity and disease and pest resistance. But how is it that the grafting changes growth characteristics but somehow leaves the other (flavor, etc.) heirloom characteristics unchanged? Seems a bit fraudulent to claim you are still getting an heirloom Brandywine when it has been grafted onto another variety. Burpee Company will sell you a grafted plant for $7.65 plus shipping. You have to buy three of them. If you don't care for those prices you can graft your own plants. Johnny's Seeds will sell you a bag of plastic clips especially for tomato grafting and has a video on how to do it.

February 18, 2012

It's the dawn of another tomato season. The seed orders are in and I'm deciding on what varieties to offer. Seeding will begin shortly. No way to tell, as yet, what kind of a season it will be. Starting early? Running late like last year? At the moment it does look like we might begin with a lack of moisture in the ground. They say we could have a "March miracle" rainy period but that is statistically unlikely. If you haven't done so it would be a good year to put in a soaker or drip system for your garden.

Once the seedlings get started so germination is assured I will be able to post the varieties and descriptions for the year. The old familiars will be there and a few new/different ones. And at least one from last year that won't return. For those who tried 'Basraywa', what did you get? Instead of a red tomato I got rock-hard yellow tomatoes (sort of). I queried the seed company about them but haven't heard back yet.

Wild Time in Orangevale

Orangevale resident Hank Shaw has published a cookbook called "Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast". The book is an outgrowth of his food blog, "Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook" where he encourages people to include more wild/natural food into their diet.

Sacramento Trying to Catch Up to Orangevale

A SacBee story describes a group in Sacramento promoting establishment of more public and private vegetable gardens. I would bet Orangevale is far ahead of the city in vegetable gardens per capita, and this year, like the past few years, I have sold plants to a number of folks who describe themselves as "new gardeners." Clearly we don't require an organization to encourage new gardeners (although we could use some pressure on the county to encourage the establishment of community gardens).

Tuesday, May 17

Weather was the big news for the first part of the week. Why do the news/weather people act like rain and snow in May has never happened before? It's not that unusual. As I mentioned below, just last year we had heavy rain and hail on May 9. And see the next to the last entry at the bottom of the page for May 12, 2005.

The plants came through the Sunday deluge okay, all are still standing. The hail makes little blobs of slush on the leaves, however, and that causes brown spots on the leaves. Not harmful, just a cosmetic problem. There won't be a lot of growth this week with the cold and diminished sunshine, but we will be open this weekend. (Weather might be weird on Sunday, they say.)

Thursday, May 12

Is it the nice weather, the rise in food prices, the desire for healthier food? For a second weekend, demand outstripped my predictions of how many plants I needed to have ready. Whatever the reasons, I'm glad to see so many people gardening. Several buyers have said they were new gardeners and others said they were enlarging their gardens. It has been claimed that gardeners are healthier and live longer than non-gardeners ; better food, good exercise, maybe it's true.

The cold nights have slowed down growth but more plants will be ready this weekend. Zucchini and some varieties of melons will be available in addition to the usual.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Opening day is this Saturday. Weather looks great, plants look good, they have been growing nicely this week. We will have tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, zucchini, artichokes, and some herbs.

(If you think of it, it would be helpful to bring a box or flat. I always run out before the end of the season.)

April 18, 2011

It's time once again for me to counsel patience on tomato planting. The big box stores all have their lush looking tomato plants for sale and it's tempting to lay out big bucks and get some in the ground. Keep in mind, tho, that those plants were raised in greenhouses, probably fed with every watering and given extended hours of light. They won't be getting that pampering when you put them in the cold ground and cold nights. My message is partly self-serving of course, but remember that our April weather can be wild and crazy even tho it looks fairly mild this week. Last year we had pounding rain and some hail on May 9. In 2008 we had frost the last week of April. So I counsel to be cautious about setting out expensive plants too early.

Because of our changeable weather I hate to make predictions but I think I should be able to start selling the weekend of the 29th. Potting up is proceeding and while the nights are pretty cool they're not in the danger zone at the moment. My expenses have only marginally increased this year so I am going to keep the price at 75 cents again.

Some "Green Tips for Gardeners
Here are a few tips for gardening in a climate-friendly way.

Tomatoes for Wealthy Bankers and Hedge Fund Managers
I received an eMail ad from Burpee Seeds touting a 20% discount (on orders over $75) on tomato and pepper plants. I checked one variety called 'Tye-Dye Hybrid', (did they copy the name from Wild Boar Farm's 'Berkeley Tie Dye?"), a hybrid variety resembling Flame (Pineapple). They offer 15 seeds for $5.50, or 3 plants for $12.95, plus shipping! (Fortunately they won't be competing with the Tomatoman because they cannot ship their plants to California)

AMAZING FACT: In 1943, home "Victory Gardens" grew more than 40 percent of the vegetables eaten in the country! This is from an excellent article on food culture in America by Mark Bittman in the NY Times. It's well worth reading and is filled with links to other materials. Check it out at:

NOTES: I've added links to two outstanding seed catalogs (Fedco, Baker Creek Heirlooms) on the 'other sites' page.

A National Heirloom Exposition, a sort of World's Fair of heritage agriculture is planned for Santa Rosa in September. An announcement is on the 'about vegetables' page.

The Saturday morning Farmer's Market has returned to the Sunrise Mall parking lot. Yay!

March 11, 2011

Peppers are germinating, tomatoes next. I saw three huge flocks of sandhill cranes heading north the other day, a sure sign of spring. In the garden I've been getting spring crops in; onion sets, kohlrabi, beets, spinach and potatoes.

I've noticed there seems to be little media interest in home gardening this year. For the past couple of years there has been a spate of articles on community gardens, the growth of home gardening, and so on. So far this year I've seen almost nothing. Was the interest in vegetable gardens just a brief fad? That's not good, especially from an economic standpoint. With the drought disaster in the Russian wheat crop, for example, and the tragic destruction of crop land in the tsunami in Japan yesterday, food prices are sure to increase further this summer. Even a modest home garden can save hundreds of dollars in your food budget. Even more if you do home canning/preservation.

February 26, 2011

I have to admit to having both oca and yacon (S. American root crops) in my garden (see the item just below). Kohlrabi, yes, pink blueberries, not yet, pumpkins no, not enough room for the vines. I did go through the usual mid-winter seed catalog lust phase and then scaled back to more rational levels before ordering. Most of the orders have arrived and planting will start in a few days.

As usual, I found some new items to try, both in the veggie realm and the realm of the strange and exotic where I pursue my hobby. Wildboar Farm (home of the Berkeley Tie Dye) has developed a new variety named in honor of Michael Pollan. We'll be giving that one a try.

Editorial
A Whiff of Spring
Published: January 10, 2011
New York Times
Perhaps this is the year to plant oca and yacon. Or maybe pink blueberries, a double row of kohlrabi, and a patch of Galeux d'Eysines pumpkins. Anything is possible in January, when the seed catalogues have nearly all arrived. You can practically smell spring coming in their well-thumbed, dog-eared pages, where every cabbage, every cucumber, is perfectly ripe.

Every year brings the same hopes and the same mistakes. Seeds seem so inexpensive--only $3.95 a packet--and soon your subtotal is as much as a round trip to Reykjavik. Somehow you forget how much arable land you have and the length of your growing season and--most critical of all--the labor you will actually expend in the garden. This harvest you promise to put everything up. Not one tomato will go soft on the vine. Nothing will bolt. The basil will never freeze.

That is the beauty of reading seed catalogues while the next snowstorm approaches. We seed in an imaginary spring, weed in an imaginary summer, harvest in an imaginary fall. To many gardeners, seed catalogues are the most accurate depiction we have of the Garden from which humans were expelled. We read them with hope and credulity. You must be more than a gardener when the catalogues come. You must be a philosopher.

When daydreams are done, you have, on paper, a workable garden made up of the good old reliable varieties, and perhaps an experiment or two. A modesty overcomes you, and you decide to plant some of last year’s leftover seeds. Soon enough you’ll be on your knees in the warm dirt, happy to be there.

August 26, 2010

So, how doth your garden grow? What effect has the fine weather we have been having (until that 108 degree day this week) had on the tomatoes? There was a professional grower on the news the other day who said the main effect she had noticed was the tomatoes were larger than usual. She said she wasn't sure if it was perhaps the long mild spring or the mostly mild summer weather. She did note that the crop was running a bit later than usual.

I can't say I have found any exceptionally large fruit but they have been setting fruit nicely--none of those pollen-killing days we usually have in August. I have noticed one odd thing with my plants. They have grown quite "bushy". The main stems have not grown very strongly and they have produced many vigorous side shoots from the leaf axils, what some call "suckers". Like the grower with the large tomatoes, I can't guess if this might be caused by the long, slow spring or the mild summer.

My peppers are a little disappointing in comparison to the fabulous pepper crop of last year. They have been slow and a bit sparse in setting fruit. The plants look pretty good so maybe they are just running late, too.

My best crop may be the cucumbers. They have been great. I'm very impressed with a new one I tried, Boothby's Blonde. Started producing very quickly and abundantly.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

So how has your garden held up to our first 100 degree day tests? Mulch will help and especially deep watering. Long, slow soaking is the best way to water. This will encourage roots to grow downward where the soil doesn't dry out as fast and the plants will stand up better to high temperatures. Squash and cucumbers, however, with their large leaves, tend to wilt no matter how much water they have. On really hot days they just can't keep up.

What's your vote for pest of the year? I was for aphids early on but the abundant lady bugs and leather wings did a good job of cleaning them up. Now my vote goes to moles. At least in my yard there has been a population explosion and they are everywhere. They don't eat plants but they can heave them out of the ground or seriously disturb their roots. I've even had some potted plants tip over after a mole tunneled under them and the ground collapsed.

I have noted before that the income from the tomatoes mostly goes to support my exotic plant habit. This year, tho I have put it toward a greenhouse I purchased at Costco. It's small, 6' x 8', but it's a good quality greenhouse. I'm hoping it might be helpful for spring planting. If you're looking for a small greenhouse, this one is good and not too costly as greenhouses go.

Tuesday, May 25

The Sacramento Bee reported that last weekend's weather broke low temp records from Redding to Modesto and farmers are ready to scream, or something. I'll go along with that; this has been a lousy spring for growing things. My tomato plants are finally looking reasonable but the peppers are nearly sitting still. From customer conversations I'm guessing many people just haven't gotten to the garden with all the rain and cold. This is a holiday weekend coming up but I have decided to be open Saturday for anyone optimistic enough to think next week will be great for gardening.

UPSIDE DOWN People have asked me what I know about growing tomatoes upside down, or what varieties would be best for doing that. I must admit I haven't tried the method yet. But I did come across an informative article on the subject. Some have found it a great technique, others are experimenting to see what works best.

May 12, Wednesday

I guess I shouldn't have implied last week that winter was over. It came back for another (I almost said 'one last...' ) nasty bite on Sunday and Monday. Some of the seedlings were beaten down by the pounding rain, mixed with hail at one point, but it looks like no permanent damage was done.


Take Your Tomato Plant to Work Day: A number of companies have started vegetable gardens on the grounds of their corporate headquarters. Some look at it as an employee benefit. Employees can work in the garden and get to take home fresh produce. Other companies are using the plots to grow fresh veggies for the company cafeteria. Both are nice ideas. Anyone know of Sacramento companies getting on board? Read about the trend here.

Tuesday, May 4

Good news!! Winter has been rescheduled to next November. We are now free to move about the garden. The plants are benefiting from the sunshine and will be in fine shape this weekend.

Don't forget next Sunday is Mother's Day. Besides utilitarian tomato plants, Mom will also want some beauty. For that there will be Garden Art by Debbie. Artistic planters and garden decor as well as flowering plants. Moms don't live by tomatoes alone.

April 23 Update

Winter, spring, winter, spring. . . . Will we finally stay in spring? Or maybe more rain next week? Not really an unusual pattern for us. I checked my opening dates for the past ten years and they range from April 14 to May 2, several times accompanied by rain. Last year was a late date and it was raining, if you recall. We have some warm sunny days predicted so it's looking like plants will be ready the weekend after this one. Let us hope so.

April 3 Update

I have been getting inquiries about when the tomatoes will be ready. Last week it seemed like we should be getting them in the ground. This week it seems like last week, as noted in the Bee, was too soon to get them in the ground. That's the fun of our erratic spring weather. Sometimes April 1 works out as a reasonable planting date, sometimes it is an April fool date and we get foul weather and even frost in April. I usually shoot for May 1 as a fairly safe date. It may end up a few days earlier or later, depending on the March and April weather. My plants finish growing outside, subject to the vagaries of weather rather than being coddled in warm, cozy greenhouses. This week, for example, the seedlings will grow very little because of the cold, gray conditions. Be patient, watch this space for progress reports. Yes, you can buy plants from the stores now (at substantially higher prices, from what I have seen) but once the weather turns fair my plants will easily catch up to ones planted in these kinds of conditions.

Speaking of warm, cozy greenhouses, there is a recent story in the NYT about a company in Maine that grows 550,000 tomato plants in a 42-acre greenhouse, shipping "vine-ripened" tomatoes year round. That is really high-input agriculture compared to our low-input home efforts here. Which one is healthier for the planet, do you suppose?

March 19, 2010

Nice weather this week. They are probably selling tomato plants at Lowe’s and elsewhere. It is tempting to get the garden started with this kind of weather. I would advise that if you must, get an Early Girl or two. I have a couple started and will plant them out in a week or so. Maybe they will make it, maybe not, but the investment is small. We will almost certainly have some less pleasant weather ahead.

Here’s a new reason to grow your own tomatoes. Have you seen the story of a California company called SK Foods? The owner has been charged with fraud and racketeering for bribing purchasing agents at some major food companies, such as Kraft and Safeway, so they would buy millions of pounds of tainted tomato products. Some of the product had mold counts so high the sales would have been prohibited under federal law. Several purchasing agents have also been indicted. Many of the tomatoes were grown in the Sacramento region. Is that an incentive to grow and perhaps can your own tomatoes? A New York Times story on the scandal is available here.

February 3, 2010

How goes the garden cleanup? Hasn't been so easy the last few weeks. My progress was also interrupted by having to clear a tree that came down in the big windstorm. I've been hoping the soil would dry enough to spade in the old mulch (should have done that in December, of course).

Other than that, I'm working on seed orders and checking some new (to me) seed companies and looking for interesting sounding varieties.

December 16, 2009

A partial answer to the food question just below was provided in a Sac Bee article on marketing crops from local growers.
"Sacramento-area farmers harvest a cornucopia of food each year – 3.4 million tons. More than 98 percent of this bounty is then shipped out of the region, and 2.2 million tons of food grown or processed elsewhere is hauled in to feed us."

October 1 -- Sad Statistic

The state of Illinois has 76,000 farms, is 80% farmland and has more than 950 food manufacturing companies. But for all that, only four percent of the food eaten in Illinois is produced in the state. Not much eating local happening there. Wonder what the statistic is for California?

September 5 - A 'Well Done' to

Greg Hudson, featured in the Sept. 4 issue of the Orangevale View. Greg is pictured in his garden with a 14 lb. 4 oz. zucchini and a set of 3 beefsteak tomatoes totaling nearly 5 lbs.

August 18, 2009

Tomatoes in New England are a mess this year. Excessive rain (my sister-in-law in upstate New York says until recently it seemed like it rained every day all summer) has created conditions ideal for a tomato disease called Late Blight. It is related to the potato blight that devastated Ireland. A Times article on the problem explains that the reason the blight is so widespread is because it was carried on starter plants grown in factory farms in the south and shipped north to Walmart, Home Depot, and etc. The article suggests it isn't any better to buy a starter plant shipped from 2000 miles away than it is to buy produce shipped from far away. Plants you start yourself or from local growers are less likely to have such problems. The article is "You Say Tomato, I Say Agricultural Disaster".

August 1, 2009

Our garden is doing very nicely, partly because of the relatively mild weather we’ve had this summer, I suspect. Lucky us; just got the newsletter from Johnny’s Selected Seeds. It says much of the country is too wet, too cold, too hot or way too dry this summer.
New England has been having nearly endless rain and they are having major trouble with a tomato disease called late blight, which is encouraged by wet conditions. The newsletter gave a link to a map showing conditions across the country. See the Palmer Drought Index map here.
We have been eating well out of the garden. Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, carrots, kohlrabi, zucchini, and cucumbers. Corn isn’t ready yet and the green beans didn’t come up well for some reason. We’ve enjoyed several luscious nectarine cobblers (found a superb recipe on the web) from my on-again-off-again nectarine tree, which has outdone itself this year. We’ve also enjoyed some delicious peaches from Tomich’s Silvergreen Farm. Nectarines and plums are also in season so this is the perfect time for fresh fruit straight from the local farm.

So far we haven’t tried this: a NY Times article describes some people who have challenged the idea that tomato plant leaves are poisonous and have experimented with cooking with them. You can check that out here.

July 14, 2009

Banks aren't the only ones having stress tests. Our gardens have already had one test this summer and another coming up tomorrow. The stress is, of course, 100 degree-plus temperatures. Peppers and tomatoes are tropical plants but temperatures in the tropical areas where they grow usually remain below about 90 degrees. I don't know about peppers but tomato pollen starts dying at temps in the high 90's, so fruit set is affected. There is also the general stress on the plants. In the last heat wave my pepper plants looked pretty droopy by afternoon, even though they were well watered. In high heat some plants simply can't circulate enough moisture to avoid wilting. This is especially noticeable in squash with their large leaf surfaces. They just can't keep up so they wilt very badly. The best defense for the garden is deep soaking and mulch to keep the soil cooler and conserve moisture.

Reading List

These are three recent articles from my favorite horticultural journal, The New York Times. I especially liked "Neighbor, Can You Spare a Plum?", about sharing the bounty from backyard fruit trees. It could work in Orangevale. "Street Farmer" is about a rather amazing urban farm operation in Milwaukee. "Lettuce From the Garden, With Worms" is an opinion article about our industrial food system. Interesting articles; check 'em out.

June 4 Update

Well, we did it. Despite the restrictions I sold nearly as many plants this year as last. Looks like we'll be back next year. Thank you everyone for adjusting your schedules to fit the rules, and thanks for all the words of encouragement and support.

May 21 Update

We had a very pleasant joint sale last Saturday with Garden Art by Debbie. Folks got to see a very nice flower garden and purchase flower plants as well as tomatoes, peppers and etc.

We’ll be open this weekend, Saturday and Sunday. I have been getting a bit frazzled trying to keep up with potting but it is a good frazzle. Many people have said they are planting larger gardens this year and many are starting new gardens, either for the first time or coming back to gardening. Kitchen gardens are an old American tradition, never in danger of disappearing but definitely having a revival this year. Look at all the old line seed companies that brag about tracing their ancestry back to the 1800’s. Both my grandmothers had gardens and spent the summer canning vegetables and seasonal fruits for the winter.

I am pleased to see this resurgence in home gardening. People will be eating better (there was a story this morning about how heirloom tomatoes are better for you) and fewer resources will go to shipping food long distances. Gardening is even recommended as good excercise and stress relief. All this seems to be getting discussed in the media nearly every day lately. I'd like to recommend again an excellent article by Michael Pollan in the NY Times talks about why we should be growing home gardens and doing other individual activities to help the world.

I am also pleased with all the support and encouragement people have shown in respect to the restricted schedule. I seem to be more appreciated than I realized. That’s very gratifying. Thanks.

.

Missed Event: Remember smelly Ted the Titan (Amorphophallus titanum) from UC Davis? He bloomed again this week, very briefly. Started on Monday and was over by Thursday morning. There is a fine picture of the giant flower at Ted

April 29, 2009

My kids started this tomato plant operation many years ago. As they grew up and moved on, I took over what was becoming a community resource for Orangevale gardeners; home grown, quality plants at a reasonable price. I love the small town community feeling in Orangevale. Over the years I’ve watched instances of folks sharing with friends or even strangers while they happened to be buying plants; ‘I have some Guinea Hen chicks, do you want any?’ ‘I have a great old southern family biscuit recipe.’ ‘Can I call you and get the recipe?’ That sort of thing.

I regret to say my feeling about that sense of community has been marred by a mean-spirited person from up the road. Apparently as revenge for being a witness to a minor, two-minute neighborhood squabble nine years ago, the person filed a complaint with the County Code Enforcement Office. The complaint alleged that the tomato sales “caused traffic congestion” and other neighborhood problems. The code enforcement folks are required to act on such complaints so I have the choice of being restricted to three “yard sales” in a year or paying a $6000 fee to apply for a variance to sell plants produced on the property.

The complainer seemed to think he would be harming me financially. No, if this was about money I would be well ahead to do a month in the fast food industry rather than devote five months, off and on, to the tomato operation. Financially, I only need to cover my expenses for potting soil, seed, etc., and squeeze out a small profit to apply to my rare plant growing hobby and justify the hours I spend on the tomato plants. As a life-long gardener, I like to encourage others to garden (me and Michelle) and to try interesting and different varieties of vegetables. The new restrictions make me sad because the harm is really falling on gardeners and on our Orangevale community. I’m also disappointed because this has happened this year when, according to the seed companies and news reports, there will be many new gardeners and many existing gardens will be expanded. I’m trying my best to work with the new rules. If the new schedule works out the Tomato Man will be able to be back next year and keep providing heirloom tomatoes and other veggies.

April 17 Update

Looks like May 2 for opening day. That is a week later than I would like but under the new rules I think it is the best choice. I know this weekend will be great gardening weather but they are predicting some very cold nights after the heat wave this weekend. Some patience would not be amiss. Besides, with an extra week the plants will be larger and better prepared to take off growing.

April 4 Update

With all the nice weather we've been having (except for the cold winds) you're probably getting anxious to get the garden in. Do recall, however, that last year we had frost in some low-lying areas around April 24 and some gardeners lost plants. We could really use some more rainy weather to help with the drought. If you haven't done so, this is the year you should consider installing a drip or soaker irrigation system for the garden. We are already on a 20% water restriction and it could get worse before the end of summer. And don't forget mulching to help conserve soil moisture; it's about the easiest thing you can do to save water.

The seedlings are coming along nicely. I can't give an opening date yet but it won't be long. The variety list for this year is posted. The descriptions will be updated shortly. There are some interesting new varieties this year.

March 20, 2009
This is certainly the year of the garden. Johnny’s Selected Seeds had this note in their newsletter:

This growing season is off to a busy start at Johnny's. People who haven't gardened in 25 years are deciding it is time to till a garden patch, city folks who have never gardened are starting, and those with gardens are expanding their beds. Of course much of the new fervor about gardening is related to the sad state of the economy, and people trying to save a little money. Other factors are the food scares in recent years, the eat local movement, and the retirement of baby boomers who find they have more time on their hands. Whatever the reason, it is exciting to see so many people growing at least some of their own food.

The website for Pinetree Seeds had this note at the top:

This is always our busiest time of the year and currently our orders are exceptionally abundant. Due to the economy, the movement to produce locally, and concerns about food safety are motivating factors for this surge. Our phone coverage and work force has been increased by a third. As our catalog state, expect 2-3 weeks for processing before your order enters the postal system. We do realize that you may be somewhat inconvenienced by a longer wait this year and your patience is appreciated.

And you probably heard today, it is official that there will be a vegetable garden at the White House. Today’s NY Times had an article on the planned garden.

(I wonder if Limbaugh will find something negative and scary about growing vegetables?)

March 7, 2009 Update

It’s that time of year again. The seed orders have arrived, the pepper seeds are sown and tomatoes will go in next week. Then we wait and see what the weather will bring. Or we don’t wait; Lowe’s has been stocking tomato plants for several weeks already. A friend in Southern California put in some Early Girls this week. Probably reasonable there, not so much here. I have a couple of Early Girls started but they won’t go in the ground for at least a few weeks. Meanwhile it’s ground preparation time. Turn in last year’s mulch if you haven’t done it yet, add amendments so they can mellow until planting time. A neighbor and I recently picked up some manure from Five Oaks Farms on Filbert Ave. They have a lot of it and are happy to give it away. Other possibilities are bagged steer manure or compost. I was out chopping weeds for the compost pile this afternoon. That little warm spell plus the rains really gave the weeds a burst of energy.

This should be a big year for gardening. A number of garden experts and foodies have urged the Obama’s to start a kitchen garden at the White House. This would serve as a powerful symbol for healthy eating, self-sufficiency and energy saving. No word yet if it will happen. I’m betting it will. There is precedent; there was a “Victory Garden” at the White House during World War II. We here in Orangevale are already role models, I hope, demonstrating the values and advantages of a home garden to neighbors and friends. This year, with all the economic troubles, it would be good to make extra efforts to encourage friends, relatives, coworkers to put in gardens. If you have time and space you could plant extra and donate some produce to food closets, which are being really stressed nowadays.

September 14, 2008

How are the ants doing at your place? We have an ant population explosion every year toward the end of summer, but I have never seen it like this year. They are everywhere. And of course along with the ants come the aphids and scale insects they protect and distribute. Aphids have pretty much destroyed my cucumber plants and devastated some of the squash. Some of the squash leaves have a solid coat of aphids. Disqusting! Where are the Ladybugs? They were abundant in the spring, now when there is endless food for them they are not around.
My peppers have been fantastic this year, producing like crazy. Tomatoes have been erratic. All the plants are large and healthy but a few have no fruit or even flowers, some have sparse fruit, others are producing well. I have no theories about why the differences.

Feel free to share your results on the forum page.

July 22

Looks like we survived the smoke. The word from UC Davis is that there seems to be no research on smoke effects, probably because it is an unlikely occurrence. The general feeling seems to be that there probably wouldn’t be any long term effects.

This is truly becoming the Year of the Home Garden. It is being driven not just by rising food costs but also the locavore movement and increasing “green” concerns in general. I have come across a couple of items that show just how far this movement has gone. People in Maryland and Virginia who live along Chesapeake Bay, where oysters in the wild have nearly disappeared, are doing home aquaculture, growing oysters under their docks. Then this morning there was an article about services springing up for people who want home grown food but are too busy or too lazy to make a garden. Instead, a person comes to their yard and installs and maintains a vegetable garden for them.
Farmers’ markets everywhere are busier than they have ever been and there is even a satirical look at our food supply from the comedy group Capitol Steps.

Tomich's Silvergreen Farm currently has peaches,plums and nectarines. A couple of nights ago we had wonderful peach shortcake.

July 8, 2008

Lovely weather, isn’t it? I have been wondering what all this might do to our gardens. The temperature, of course (as high as 110 predicted for today), will temporarily inhibit fruit set by killing pollen. As to the effects of all the smoke, I couldn’t find any studies that specifically mention smoke. This isn’t a common sort of occurrence. There are many studies, however, on the effects of “regular” air pollution on food crops. Google the phrase to find a lot of info. Ozone is about the worst offender. That’s not part of the smoke but ozone levels are up in this general air mess. Here is a summary from a Canadian report:

    Agricultural crops can be injured when exposed to high concentrations of various air pollutants. Injury ranges from visible markings on the foliage, to reduced growth and yield, to premature death of the plant. The development and severity of the injury depends not only on the concentration of the particular pollutant, but also on a number of other factors. These include the length of exposure to the pollutant, the plant species and its stage of development as well as the environmental factors conducive to a build-up of the pollutant and to the preconditioning of the plant, which make it either susceptible or resistant to injury.

Studies mention that particulate matter, such as soot, can coat leaves and cut down on photosynthesis. I didn’t find anything on the microscopic particulates that authorities are worried about with our smoke. Can plants “breathe these in” like people? I asked a contact at UC Davis to see if anyone there has thought about this.

Anyway, I don’t think our plants are going to fall over dead but I’m sure this nasty stuff isn’t helping them. If nothing else, all the haze in the air is reducing the sunlight and that by itself will slow down growth. I hope this ends soon and there won’t be too many long term effects. Our garden crops are mostly rapid growers so they should be able to recover once this clears up. All we can do is keep up with deep watering so the plants aren’t drought stressed, and try not to breathe deeply when we’re outside.

Thursday, 6/26

Interesting article in the Sacramento Bee yesterday about urban farming in our area. "Nonprofit Group Wants Farms Near Urban Housing," describes a mostly volunteer operation in Rancho Cordova that grows vegetables for both sale and for donation to food closets. They accept volunteers and they hope to expand the operation to other areas. Anyone in a position to consider setting up a program on vacant land in Orangevale?

June 19 Update

Onward to the harvest! Thank you, everyone who stopped by this year. The season went well despite a few weather scares. Many people seemed to be planting more than usual this year (inflation fighters), and quite a number of people said they were trying a garden for the first time, often citing the climbing food prices. That only looks to get worse with the floods trashing the farm crops in the midwest.

Please drop by the site from time to time this summer. I will try to add new material of interest. I have been putting together a history of tomatoes, like the pepper history already up, for example. And feel free to comment in the forum section. It’s very easy and your tips, hints, and evaluations could be helpful to other gardeners. There is a lot of curiousity, for instance, about upside-down tomato growing. How has that worked for those who have tried it?

I have a few tomatoes and a fair number of peppers left. They will hang around a week or two or three until I get around to recycling them. Stop by if you need emergency replacements or late additions.

June 12 Update

Okay, one more chance to get your oh-so-cheap, salmonella-free tomato plants. The local news has noted that tomatoes from your own backyard are totally safe to eat. There’s still a fair selection of plants left, over 20 tomato varieties and most of the pepper varieties are still available. There are a few melons, a couple of zucchini, some crooknecks, some Armenian cucumbers and basil.

I am finally getting my own plants in now that inventory isn’t covering my garden area. The recent gentle weather (before the winds) was good for transplanting. By the second day after planting you could notice the leaves were getting a darker green and in a couple more days the plants were already bigger.

There was another interesting article in yesterday’s NY Times, this one on the remarkable increase in gardening this year. (Also see the May 9 Update, below.)

    Seed companies and garden shops say that not since the rampant inflation of the 1970s has there been such an uptick in interest in growing food at home. Space in community gardens across the country has been sold out for several months. In Austin, Tex., some of the gardens have a three-year waiting list.

    George C. Ball Jr., owner of the W. Atlee Burpee Company, said sales of vegetable and herb seeds and plants are up by 40 percent over last year, double the annual growth for the last five years. . .

    One gardener says, “I’m hoping to take $20 a week off my grocery bill.” This is in the low range, according to Mr. Ball, who says a $100 investment will produce $1000 to $1,700 worth of vegetables.

I also came across an article on urban gardening in Cuba that was quite startling. When Cuba lost foreign aid after the Soviet Union disintegrated, they started programs to encourage urban farming. Eventually Cuba was able to reduce food imports by 70%. If you Google ‘urban agriculture’ you will find an entry for a short film on the Cuban experience (along with many other worthwhile references). There are those that believe as oil supplies decrease in the future, Americans will have to grow more of their own food in backyards and community gardens. For the start of this in America, see the ‘Urban Farming’ link in the May 9 update below.

I have added the Orangevale View article to the “About Us” page.

Apricots, peaches and lucious cherries are available at Silver Green Farm.


June 3 Update

YES! It has arrived: that time of the year when the plants become dirt (potting soil?) cheap. Some are getting too big, some varieties are sold out and some are in short supply, so it is time to move ’em out before they have to be put to sleep.

All plants (except the bananas) will be priced at 35 each or 3 for $1.00. This is the time to try out some of those strange sounding varieties (Red House Free Standing? Mr. Stripey? Lime Green Salad?) without spending much. Or cheaply replace that plant that the dog or the snails ate. Or buy a bunch for the folks at the office.

Sale starts this weekend, usual hours.

And no, it is not too late to plant. Even for the big beefsteak types the catalogs list 80 to 90 days to harvest (and that’s in the north, not in our warm climate) so you should have tomatoes in August, sooner for smaller varieties.

Friday, May 23 Update

Pity the poor vegetation. Ninety degree weather followed by a near freeze, cold nights, a sudden jump to 100 for a few days and then three days of searing, moisture-sucking winds. And no rain. It hasn’t been a good month for growing things. Farmers say the abrupt heat spell was especially bad for some young crops. I see the effects in my plants. Those potted up earlier look pretty good but later ones have been slower to get themselves established and growing. I’m hoping we’ll have some mellow weather for a while.

We will be open this Saturday and Sunday as usual. As is our custom, we are cheating the oil companies by not driving over the holiday weekend. Especially happy to do that this year. We’ll have a good selection of plants available. And no, it is not too late to get the garden in; we have the luxury of a long growing season. I won’t be planting most of my tomatoes for at least another week or more.

There’s a nice article about us in our community newspaper, the Orangevale View, just out today. The View is the successor to the Orangevale News, brought back by Brad Tatum, who was associated with the Orangevale News. Nice to have the paper back.

Calling all locavores. The children of Fred Tomich, who passed away recently, want to continue the orchard business which has so long been a part of Orangevale. They offer a wide variety of fruits in season; oranges, tangerines, persimmons, plums, nectarines, peaches, concord grapes, etc. Please patronize Silvergreen Farm and help keep this remarkable resource in our community. Located at Chestnut and Central.

May 15 Update

Water, water! This sudden shift to a string of 100 days is going to be a bit of a shock for plants. Take care to see that those tender baby plants have enough water to get through the hotspell. Deep soaking is the best way to go; that gives them some reserve in the ground and encourages them to root deeply. Mulching the plants helps retain moisture and keep the soil cool.

There hasn’t been much interest in the tomato variety ‘Micro-Tom’, but I think it will be an interesting plant to watch. I had one that was still in the seed flat, was about 3 inches tall, and had a flower!
That is precocious. If you want to have the earliest tomato on the block, this may be the way to go.

We will be open this weekend, if we don’t melt away first and I can keep up the twice a day watering of the plants. We will finally have a good selection of squash and melon plants (see listing at right), which have been doing better with the warmer nights.

May 9 Update

Another warm, sunny weekend coming up. The plants are looking pretty good. I think they have been a little slow in recovering from the “frost event.” I talked to three more folks who lost plants to that cold snap. I believe that’s additional support for the idea that about May first is the time to start the major crops. This weekend I will have a few zucchini, patty pan squash, a few Lemon Cucumbers and some cantaloupe. The melons have been slow so no watermelon until next week.

Have you noticed all the attention to gardening on TV and in print? That is reflecting an upswing in home gardening this year. I have noticed it in my sales and so have the seed companies. The following is an interesting excerpt from the May newsletter from Rob Johnston, Jr., the founder of Johnny’s Selected Seeds.

    Vegetable gardening like it's the 1970's again

    1973 was a favorable time for me to start a seed company. The back-to-the-land movement was well under way in the US late in 1973 when the Arab Oil Embargo resulted in rapidly escalating gasoline prices and shortages. Americans adopted a kind of vocational motivation to plant a food-producing garden, a combination of cultural and economic security interests. "Maybe I'm going to have to know how to do this someday."
    Coincidental with Reagan administration, the back-to-the-office movement began about 1981 and was well established by 1982. A decline in home vegetable gardening began then, and it continued through the 1990s. During the 2000s it hasn't seemed to be declining, but it hasn't been growing either. Through those 2 and 1/2 decades our business with commercial growers grew to the lion's share of our total. But then last year we experienced a very small, but we thought real, turnaround in our home garden business, enough to make us think, Hey, maybe something is changing.
    We had enough optimism from 2007 to plan for a modest growth in HG for 2008. Instead the HG volume so far this year has been substantially above last year. Other seed companies are doing well, too. Vegetables and tools and equipment are the biggest movers, suggesting that this is about growing food. It's also happening in Europe. I don't know yet about other places.
    People have been asking me, How come? I think it's a convergence of a number of things including a strong interest in more local supply of food. For as long as I know we have been set on making the world a smaller place, but now - and it's a healing urge - many of us would rather make it become a bigger place again.
    The increase in home vegetable gardening is being well publicized this spring, and normally the reason given is economic, like high gasoline prices and sticker shock at the supermarket. I think that these economics are a factor, but not the main factor. Home vegetable gardening was in decline or was static in the US, and I think in the whole "first world," throughout the 1980s and 1990s, and 2000s up through 2006. During those 25 years there were several bad periods economically, but there was no vegetable gardening increase in response to any of them. I think that the main motivation is quality of life, and a regaining of meaningful culture.

Anyone interested in earning a little extra income? The NY Times (which has practically become a horticultural journal this spring) has an article about urban gardeners who are growing and selling produce grown in community gardens and vacant lots in urban areas. They are selling to local stores or farmers’ markets or even direct to neighbors. They are helping their neighborhoods and making a little extra money by gardening. Any vacant lots in Orangevale? Urban Farmers

May 1 Update

It appears most of us narrowly dodged a bullet last week. It has to do with “micro climates,” the idea that there can be small changes in climate over small distances due to topography or other factors. A customer who lives a few blocks away reported that one morning last week he had to scrape ice off his windshield before driving to work. When he got home he discovered his tomato, zucchini and cucumber plants blackened and dead. Could be his garden is in a low area where cold air collects. It means, though, that we all came pretty close to a garden disaster. As I said last week, my plants were a little singed, some of them getting brown spots or edges on the leaves.

This week has been much better and the plants are showing some growth. (My Early Girls in the ground are finally taking off and I removed the Wall-o-Water thing today. It doesn’t look like it made much difference.) I think some squash and cucumbers may be ready this weekend. And for something different, how about PEANUTS? They are fun for kids to grow because of the odd way they make the peanuts.

I have another NY Times article to recommend. This one has to do with neglected old time foods and crops which are in danger of disappearing. The idea is to get people to try these foods and create a demand so farmers will have an incentive to grow them. The article is titled, ’To Save a Species, Serve it for Dinner’. It is tied in with the Slow Food idea, which I have mentioned before. Ark of Taste.

If anyone’s interested in trying some of this stuff I know sources for some of the crops mentioned in the article (and probably by next week I will have Moon and Stars watermelon plants for sale.) I haven't located a source for Fainting Goats yet.

April 24, Thursday

According to a story about food shortages and inflation on the Today Show this morning, the price of tomatoes has risen 26%! Aren’t we lucky we can grow our own? If it warms up, that is. It looks like we came pretty close to that 32 reading the other night. Many of my plants look pretty unhappy, with brown spots or edges on the leaves. I will be open this weekend but you might consider waiting another week. A week of warm sunny days will make a huge difference in the plants.

We all get the urge to plant when we get some warm spring days but sometimes patience is the best way to go. I went by the Community Garden this morning and ran into Cal, the tomato master. He hasn’t put his plants in yet. He says May 1 is about the right time. That is my usual advice also. By that time the weather is usually pretty settled and the plants will just take off growing. Sometimes earlier planting will work out but when we get a year like this the early plants just don’t do much. Some of the plots at the Community Garden had tomato plants in them but none of them were doing much.

News reports are saying there will be no shortages of food in the U.S. but food prices are being driven up by a variety of factors. Food banks are being pressed and they say they are having trouble getting fresh produce, especially. If you have excess harvest this summer, share with family and neighbors or maybe even with a food pantry. Here in Orangevale we are well situated to be locavores. We have the strawberry farms scattered around the area (is it jam time yet?), the Tomich orchards for fresh fruit, and the farmers’ markets in Folsom and at Sunrise Mall. There is a local Orangevale man who sells honey at the farmers’ market. Mrs. Tomatoman has been using the honey in place of sugar for making delicious bread. And we can share and trade with neighbors. I have traded tomato plants for some fine, Martha Stewart-colored,fresh eggs with a neighbor who has chickens. Save carbon--eat local.

April 22, Tuesday (Earth Day)

Opening weekend went well despite the cool winds. A number of longtime customers came by and we had some nice conversations about gardening, last year’s tomato crops, and the like. Thanks to all who stopped by.

I panicked yesterday morning, having visions of blackened plants, when the weather box on my homepage said it was 32 in Orangevale. I checked my thermometer and it said 37.5. Not good for an April day but better than 32. I wonder where they measured that? These temps have not been good for little vegetable plants. The eggplants and peppers have been wilted from the cold in the morning. The tomatoes don’t wilt but they seem to go into a sort of coma and don’t manage much growth even after the day warms up. Some of them have developed brown edges on the leaves. The Early Girls I’ve had in the ground for some time, even the one inside the Wall-O-Water device, have not been growing much. The coming weekend is supposed to be warmer. I hope that starts a more permanent warming trend.

Re: Earth Day

There was a nice article by Michael Pollan in the NY Times on Sunday that talks about why we should be growing home gardens and doing other individual activities to help the world.

April 10 Update

Can you hold out another week? It might be tough this weekend with temperatures in the 80’s--obviously the urge to garden will be strong. It looks like I will open the weekend after this one (April 19), about the same weekend as last year. If nothing else, my plants will be cheaper and you can use the savings to save up for that next tank of gas.
I have a couple of Early Girls out but they haven’t done much, probably due to the cold nights (it was 38 night before last). I have one plant inside a Wall-o-water device but that doesn’t seem to have made a very great difference.

I have had two comments that the Goldie variety last year turned out to be a red tomato. That was my experience also. Goldie is sometimes described as a yellow variety of a red beefsteak called Giant Belgium. I suspect the seed company may have mixed up the varieties. Sorry about that. I have new seed this year, should turn out a proper Goldie.

I recently traded some seeds with a grower from San Jose and received some interesting new varieties. How about, ‘Berkeley Tie Dye,’ a tricolor tomato, or ‘Brad’s Pork Chop’ or ‘Red Boar’? They sound intriguing, to say the least. They are varieties bred by Brad Gates of Wild Boar Farms over near Vacaville. My trader friend is a true tomato enthusiast who grows out tomatoes for the Seed Savers Exchange. With luck I may be able to save seed and offer some of the varieties next year. If you check the Forum you will find a link to a tomato tasting that included these varieties.

March 28, 2008 Update

So . . . Do you have your tomatoes in yet? Looks like this is another of those long early springs. We could still get some ugly weather (see for example April 25, 2006 in the historical entries below) but the liklihood diminishes with every day of nice weather. We could use some rain. We are going to start the season with very little moisture in the soil and I’ve already had to water potted plants several times.

I can’t yet predict opening day but the seedlings are coming along rapidly. The cold nights we have been having don’t affect the seedlings because they are brought in at night, but once they are potted up they stay out in the weather. At that point the weather determines when they’re ready to sell. That also means, of course, my plants are fully acclimated and hardened off so they will usually outperform coddled nursery plants.

Your garden could be more important than ever this year. Gasoline is eating up your budget and food prices are inflating rapidly. Any veggies you can harvest yourself will represent even more economic gain than usual. The notions of eating local and growing your own food continue to gain in popularity. I have seen a number of articles on these subjects recently. An excellent recent one was, Cows Grazing in the Rumpus Room, from the NY Times: Cows

I have updated the variety list for this year to include new items and I’m working on updating the descriptions. They should be finished soon. I’ve checked the website links that appear in earlier entries (below) and they are still good. You may find items of interest to you, such as the “slow food” concept in the ‘Ark of Taste’ link or some of the sites on organic gardening.

Check back, be patient as the nights and soil warm, and we will zero in on opening weekend.

February 9, 2008

Got an eMail this morning with a tracking number for one of my seed orders (isn’t the internet amazing?): the new season is underway. I have orders in for most of the regular favorites and a few new things to try. If you’ve checked the forum you have seen some positive feedback for the Chapman variety, so I will be offering that one again. Feel free to comment on your favorite (or unfavorite) varieties.

Other reports say last season was pretty good, although the tomatoes seemed to come in late. That was more or less my experience too, and then there was my trouble with the mystery critter that ate nearly all my late tomatoes. I hope whatever it was doesn’t return this year. Peppers did well again, excellent yields all the way to frost. We haven’t done much winter gardening yet; some garlic and Wallawalla onions are coming along. I’m trying to get a bed ready for some winter/spring stuff like radishes, spinach, and turnips and we may try some kohlrabi--haven’t grown that in a while.

December 4, 2007

Stores have been starting the Christmas season earlier and earlier, it seems. Now the seed merchants have joined that trend; I received four seed catalogs before Thanksgiving. Sorry guys, I need more gray and rainy cold weather before getting in the mood for seed catalogs.

We recently found a book on Orangevale at Costco. Mainly a photo book, it has many historic pictures of Orangevale in the early days. Some of the early dwellings are still around. The book is titled, “Images of America Orangevale”, by Paul Sandul and Tory Swim, Arcadia Publishing. It’s also available on Amazon; Orangevale The publisher has similar books on other towns in our area. Check at www.arcadiapublishing.com

I could use some help from anyone who tried out the ‘Chapman’ tomato variety. My plant ended up in unfortunate circumstances and had no fruit so I can’t evaluate the variety. Can you put a note on the Forum about your results?

October 8, 2007

If it isn’t one pest it’s another. After finding one worm at the beginning of the summer, I haven’t had any encounters with the dreaded hornworms. On a recent day, however, I was surprised to find that three-quarters of a nice looking Nebraska Wedding tomato was missing. All that was left was the shell of one side of the fruit. The next morning that was gone, too. Since then a number of tomatoes, and now a winter squash, have suffered the same fate. I suspect racoons. The damage seems too great to be roof rats and some of the damage has been too far off the ground to be possums (unless they can climb the tomato cages?). I’ve checked the garden at night a few times but haven’t seen the culprit. I considered borrowing a dog but I don't think the cats would appreciate that solution.

September 16, 2007

That was a bit more torrid weather than originally predicted but back to nice this week. A little extra watering and my plants seem to have taken it in stride.

I finally got around to getting a load of horse manure to dig into my beds this fall. Picked it up at Five Oaks Farms. Free, of course, since they are happy to get rid of it. Five Oaks is at 6905 Filbert, just south of Elm. If you have a pickup truck (or a semi) they will load it for you. They have shovels available if you want to fill your car trunk (Eeeewww!) or maybe 5-gallon buckets if you don’t have access to a truck. You can call them at 988-7604 before you go, just to make sure someone will be available to run the loader.
Nice people, nice soil amendment.

AUGUST 26 UPDATE

The hundred degree weather has arrived, but it doesn’t look like there will be very much of it. Tomato production may drop a bit because the pollen is killed by high temperature but take care to water deeply and we should be fine. One suggestion I picked up at the Harvest Festival was to keep a piece of rebar or some such in the garden. If it can be easily pushed into the soil 12 to 15 inches, the water has gotten down deep enough.

Have you happened to notice that grocery stores are selling “heirloom tomatoes” for $3 per pound and up? You should be entitled to feel a little smug if you are picking them from your garden virtually for free (not to mention much fresher).

This is a luscious time of summer; just picked peaches and other fruits are available from the Tomich orchards. Mrs. Tomatoman has been making jam. Nothing prettier than a line of just finished jars of jam on the kitchen counter. I’m old enough to remember when my grandmothers “put by” much of the winter’s food in summer and fall.

If you scroll down the page you will find some historical entries, which can be interesting for comparison with this year. There are also various internet links, such as the Ark of Taste, which you might find interesting.

August 16

Coming up this weekend is the annual SolFest at the Solar Living Institute in Hopland (on hwy. 101 north of Santa Rosa). This will be held August 18 and 19. The Solar Living Institute is dedicated to alternative energy, sustainable agriculture and rational living. They carry an outstanding selection of books on these topics and offer many courses on sustainable living. Check their website for information. Besides the SolFest, they are always worth a visit if you are heading up 101. They have a delightful picnic place beside a pond full of sunfish. If you have an interest in solar or windpower this is definitely the place to go.

july24.jpg

July 25

A month has made quite a difference (compare to June 24, below). My cucumbers are aggressively trying to take over the tomatoes and the bush beans along the path are harassing the peppers. So far things are doing fine--no hornworms on the tomatoes, no aphids on the cucumbers yet. I do have one very strange thing going on. The Zucchini have started producing only female flowers and so they are not getting pollenated. And I thought a shortage of bees was an odd problem. If there are no bees, at least one could hand pollenate. Anyone else Have this oddity?

There is a question on the Forum about finding a plot in a community garden in or near Orangevale. Anyone have information that might be helpful?

July 15

Nice season so far, only a couple of 100 degree days. A little bit of extra watering and the garden sailed through the heat. Fruit seems to be setting well. So far we’ve had Early Girls and a couple of the cherry types ripe. Beefy Boy will be ready soon. Other varieties went in later so they’ll be along in a bit. The pepper plants are looking really good. Picked a couple of Gypsy peppers today and a couple of Ichiban eggplant.

A “well done!” to ‘Steve’, who tried the tomato growing advice of Cal, the tomato champ at the Fair Oaks Community Garden. Steve is having a bumper tomato year. See his story on the Forum page (enter at right).

The annual Harvest Festival at the FO Community Garden Horticultural Center is Saturday, August 4. Save the date; it is really worth attending.

I have some thoughts on Tomatillos and their habit of producing very little fruit. Check here if you have an interest in tomatillos.

tomatobed06-07.jpg

JUNE 24

The straw mulch is down, now if I can just get the tomato cages installed . . . It seems like things are going slowly but then I remember that last year at this time I was still selling plants and the inventory was covering my planting beds. Quite a difference this year. Especially since I have some Early Girls already ripening in another bed.

plantingbed.jpg

JUNE 14

The first 100 day arrived before I got to spreading the straw mulch. Some of the plants were already wilting before noon. I did have the soaker hose installed so at least the watering was easy.

I have seen suggestions that you should let tomato plants wilt before you water them. Supposedly that will lead to more fruit. I don't agree with the idea. Wilting is a defense against stress. That might force the plant to set more fruit, but surely the quality of that fruit will be poorer. The plant needs a certain amount of leaf area per fruit for proper development. Stressing the plant to restrict vegetative growth will lower fruit quality. And less vegetation can mean more sunburn on the tomatoes.

Supposed to be cooler this weekend. Let's hope the 100s are few and far between this year.

JUNE 7 UPDATE

And suddenly it’s over! Last weekend’s close out sale moved a lot of plants. I have a few left but mostly they are pretty large and rootbound so I wouldn’t feel good about selling them any later. This selling season went by faster than any I remember in the last 15 years or so. Final sale date last year was June 28! This year confirms my feeling that sunshine is the key to fast tomato growth. With nary a cloudy day all spring the seedlings grew surprisingly fast.

So now we move on to the growing season. Looks good so far. My Early Girls already have nice size fruit on them. Plants I put in only a few days ago have already greened up and added new growth. Cool nights this week are probably slowing things a little but we still have the sun, so no problem.

Thanks to everyone who bought this year. Your support is appreciated. Keep in touch this summer. Check back for updates and consider using the Forum page to share your experiences or thoughts. (I have been disappointed that so few have used the forum.) I heard a new word yesterday. The word is ‘locavore,’ referring to a person who tries to eat locally produced food. I think that is a great idea and one reason I put the effort into this plant selling operation. I’m hoping I can add a page here to discuss those sorts of issues.

MAY 31 UPDATE

Wow! The season goes by quickly when we have steady warm and sunny weather. The plants have been growing like weeds so it is already time for the annual half-price close-out sale. This will be two weeks ahead of last year.

MAY 17 UPDATE

We’re back, and will be open this weekend. There will be a couple of special items; Walking Stick Cabbage (Kale), an interesting plant that makes a woody stem used to make canes or walking sticks; and a hardy Banana plant to give your yard a tropical look. A selection of Basils will also be available. They are still small but should be big enough to leave home.

We had a very pleasant trip to the North Coast last weekend. We got in a bit of beachcombing, watched some seals and, most important, watched the daughter graduate college. Rainfall up there has been closer to normal than ours so it was green and lush, especially among the redwoods.

MAY 10 UPDATE

No sales this coming weekend but we will be back in operation next weekend, the 19th and 20th. By that time there should be some watermelons, cantaloupes and Basil added to the mix.

Ted the Titan at UC Davis put on a spectacular show. I hope you got to visit or watch on the live webcam. Ted is now rapidly fading and the webcam is no longer operating but there is a nice picture gallery available and the inexhaustable curator, Ernesto, has put a time-lapse video of Ted on the website. I will leave the link to the Conservatory website in place below. Take a look at this marvel of the plant world.

http://greenhouse.ucdavis.edu/conservatory

April 26 Update

It’s a definite GO for the weekend. Hot weather is here, rain is staying away.

Have you noticed the ever-growing interest in organic gardening, sustainable agriculture, home gardening and etc.? The NY Times the other day had an interesting article on England’s most famous organic gardener, Prince Charles. Here’s a quote.

Alice Waters, who drove the organic movement in the United States, is smitten. “He is, in private, really one of the most forward-thinking, radical humanitarians I have ever talked to,” she said.

The left-leaning food elite of the United States has prince fever, and it has nothing to do with an underlying fascination with the monarchy, Diana and Helen Mirren notwithstanding. To Ms. Waters and her troops, no one else of the prince’s stature has spoken out on the issues they hold dear: responsible stewardship of the land, preservation of rural life and the need for good food grown without chemicals or worker exploitation.

“Can you think of any American political figure who has spoken eloquently or bravely about these issues?” asked Eric Schlosser, the author of “Fast Food Nation,” who has become a friend of the prince.

Here is a link to the article and here is a link to another Times article by by Michael Pollan on why junk food is cheaper than healthy food.

UPDATE - Thursday, April 19

Well, the weather has turned on us a bit after all those warm sunny days. The cold nights have slowed things down quite a bit. The eggplant and some of the pepper seedlings are even wilting (a plant defensive mechanism) overnight.

The outlook for the weekend is questionable again. Saturday may be okay but another “soaking rain” is predicted for Sunday, so I am planning to be open Saturday and do a wait-and-see for Sunday. I will have more pepper varieties than last week but some, mainly hot peppers, are still too small. You might want to hold off on pepper planting for another week or so until the weather is more settled. Keep in mind we have been running early this year. Opening weekend last year was April 30, in lousy weather.

It wasn’t real pleasant to be outside last Sunday but a number of nice folks came by and picked up plants. Thanks to all of you. Everyone I talked to had a terrible year last year as far as tomatoes went. That heat wave was pretty devastating. Peppers seemed to have done fairly well, in contrast. We all hope for better results this year.

Sorry to say, Mrs. Tomatoman didn’t bring any exotic seeds back from Argentina. There didn’t seem to be any nurseries in downtown Buenos Aires.

APRIL 12 Update

The weather may possibly be a bit dicey on Saturday but I plan on being open.

The material below is from the Earthlink Newsletter. Some of the sites are perhaps more useful for the links they contain rather than for their own content, but there's a lot of info here.

Eco-Friendly Gardening
Bring your garden to life this spring
By Armeen Youssefian

Nurture more than your garden this spring. It's easier than you might think to create and maintain a garden that uses natural resources in a sustainable way, welcomes native plants and wildlife, and creates a more serene, environmentally friendly retreat for you and your family. Now's the perfect time to go green!

The Basics
Organic gardening primer
Small changes make a big difference
Getting Started
Gardening for a truly green thumb
Creating rain gardens
Environmentally friendly landscaping
Gardening for wildlife
Going Green
Water conservation basics
Eco-friendly lawn care
Basic composting from the EPA
Composting 101
Simple home remedies for pest control
More natural pest control methods
Getting rid of weeds without chemicals
More organic weed control

APRIL 7 Update

Things are looking good for next weekend. That will be about the earliest opening in years. I should have a full complement of tomato varieties and probably some peppers. Peppers, particularly hot ones, are more “tropical” than tomatoes and come along slower in cooler weather. Some herbs will also be available.

If you are still working up your garden you might want to consider, if you haven’t already, installing drip irrigation. The Sierra snow pack this year is only about 43% of normal. They say there will be water for this year but if next year is also dry we would likely be facing water restrictions. A full system that uses drippers for each plant is ideal but somewhat complex. A compromise is to use black soaker hose (which is what I use) under mulch. Either way you will use less water and probably get a better crop. They tested a drip system for tomatoes at the experimental garden at the Fair Oaks community garden and found it produced superior results.


APRIL 4 Update

On this day one year ago, the weather lady mentioned this morning, we had an inch of rain. This year’s warm, sunny weather really makes a difference; this year’s seedlings are the best looking in years. They are coming along so well it MAY be possible to sell them by the weekend after next (April 14). Yes, I know folks are hauling tomato plants out of the stores by the cart-full, but I counsel patience for a few more days. The nights are still pretty cold, which slows growth, and there is the chance (tho, not looking likely at the moment) of storms. Yes, I do have a vested interest in you waiting, but you have a vested interest in waiting, also. You will get fully hardened-off plants for 75 cents instead of pampered hothouse plants for $2.98 or $5.98. And of course you remember to never try to save by buying tomatoes in six-paks, because there just isn’t enough soil for proper root system development. Anyway, weather permitting, let’s hope for the 14th.

Mrs. Tomatoman is in Argentina this week. I asked her if she has any time away from business to look for different kinds of tomato and pepper seed. It would be fun to try something out of the ordinary from far away. I am offering a couple of Italian items not usually available in the U.S. Check the descriptions page, which is now updated.

March 21 Update

The first day of Spring. What a contrast from a year ago. I was looking at last year’s entries where alfalfa crops were rotting in flooded fields and farmers were giving up on prospects for early crops. Now this year we have a 40% or so rain deficit for the year so far.

My seedlings are coming along nicely, enjoying the warm, sunny weather. At this rate it shouldn’t be too long before I can start potting up. There’s no indication so far that the weather will turn nasty on us. The official long range forecast says there is a chance temperatures may be slightly above normal, while precipitation will be at normal or above normal or below normal for the next two months. Think we should trust that precipitation forecast?

On the Odds and Ends page I have added yet another reason to grow our own produce. This one from a New York Times editorial, no less. See what the Agriculture Department says about winter tomatoes.

February 5, 2007 Update

Well, that was fun. Two weeks of below freezing weather included within a month of total drought. One day you’re out throwing blankets over things, another you’re out watering stuff. A taste, I believe, of the increasing difficulties we gardeners are going to face under global warming; too dry, too cold, too hot, too wet, all in random order. We’re going to need some creativity to get along.
I don’t think I lost too much in the freeze. I managed to partly cover my orange tree. It’s a bit singed but should recover. The bananas look terrible but should come back okay. I threw blankets over some things and turned the living room into a temporary jungle with some of the most tender things. Some plants may have cashed in, but that will make room for new things, to take a positive view.

Seed orders are in. There will be a fair number of new varieties this year. Since no one has made any variety comments on the forum page I am assuming my variety selections approach perfection. Yesterday I planted some Early Girl tomatoes. I am thinking that if growth and weather cooperate I could offer an early sale, like on one weekend, so we could get Early Girls in ahead of the full season. I put a couple in very early last year. They suffered badly in the beginning but recovered and produced very well most of the summer. We’ll see if this works out--much depends on weather.

OCTOBER 14

No denying it, Fall has arrived. For the last few weeks I’ve been seeing and hearing flocks of Sandhill Cranes heading south and the garden is looking tattered and ratty. In our climate the tomatoes just sort of trail off--the plants get ratty and the fruit loses its taste as the weather gets cooler. It’s quite different in the north, where I grew up. In the first few light frosts we covered the plants with sheets and blankets. Eventually a hard frost would be predicted so we would pick all the green tomatoes that had any chance of ripening and pile them in the basement and on kitchen counters to ripen. And that was the end, no trailing off. The next morning the garden was black and dead.

This is the time we should be thinking about the winter garden. I usually find, however, I am sort of burned out on yard work and it’s hard to muster enthusiasm for more gardening. So far I have planted some beets, turnips and spinach. Remains to be seen if I get around to broccoli, cabbage, kale and the like. I will plant some peas; we really like the Sugar Snap types. With our variable winters, a winter garden is somewhat an act of faith. Will we have too much or too little rain, will we have hard frost, will spring and hot weather come early or late? Does the possibility of lucious home-grown veggies make it worth the gamble?

The first seed catalog arrived today. That’s too early. One needs some gray weather and a touch of cabin fever to get excited about the arrival of seed catalogs, with their promise of the spring revival. This was the Thompson and Morgan catalog. They have a vast array of flowers, many rare or unusual, but their vegetable selection isn’t so good--mostly English varieties that don’t seem very interesting. They have a white cucumber that looks kind of exotic, tho.

SEPTEMBER 26

We attended the Harvest Festival at Fair Oaks Park a while back. It has really turned into a major horticultural event, with lectures, fruit tastings, and a chance to see demonstrations of various growing techniques. It’s also a chance to visit the community garden and see how other gardeners are doing. All the gardens were suffering the lack of tomato set from the heat wave but many of the plants looked less stressed than those in my garden. I believe it is time I pay more attention to my soil preparation. I dig in the straw mulch and occasionally add steer manure and a little compost, but I probably have been much too casual about it. My soil is not particularly good. It looks like at least part of the garden is on soil that was bulldozed in to level the lot. I need to improve the water- and nutrient-holding capacity of the soil and improve the “tilth”, as the garden books say. I am sure that would help my garden cope better with heat stress. Most of the tomatoes are setting in quantity now but they were a bit slow recovering from the heat.
At the community garden I picked up some tips from the best tomato grower in the place. Check those out at the link below. Also take a brief quiz and test your fruit and vegetable knowledge.

JULY 27

So how are your tomatoes doing? Mine are doing poorly, thank you. Some plants have been blossoming heavily but setting no fruit. They have trouble setting at 95 let alone at 109 so that is understandable. What bothers me more is that the plants don't look happy. Nothing very specific, but they don't look quite right, they aren't growing right. Fruit set should improve with lower temperatures but will the plants recover from all this stress? Hope so.
The rest of the garden has survived, thanks to a lot of watering, but I don't think anything has benefited from 11 straight days over 100. Cucumbers and zucchini have been suffering from poor pollenation (those odd-shaped fruit that are only half filled-out are due to partial pollenation), maybe due to heat, maybe to a shortage of bees. Next week is supposed to be cooler. Let's hope it helps. Farmers and gardeners have to live on hope, don't they.

JULY 22 NOTE

Thanks to the Seeds of Change eNewsletter (see the 'Other Sites to See' page) I found a fascinating website for an organization called Slow Food USA. They are dedicated to, “Taste, Tradition and the Honest Pleasures of Food”. One page is titled the ‘US Ark of Taste’, and lists a great number of old-time and regional food crops, animal varieties and food preparations, many of which are rare or endangered. The list includes some of the items you may be growing, including Cherokee and Amish Paste tomatoes, ground cherry and Fish pepper. For each item there is a nice description and sources. Check out the site; it’s quite fascinating.

JULY 20

Have you seen “An Inconvenient Truth”, Al Gore’s global warming documentary? With our long, wet spring and now this torrid summer I believe we are living it. This is definitely not going to be a banner year for agriculture. See the movie if you haven’t.

We are still getting tomatoes from the Early Girl plants but little else is coming along behind them. Because of the heat there are few, if any, tomatoes setting, even on the cherry types. Peppers are doing a little better in setting fruit but are wilting every afternoon and not growing very fast. The cucumbers look great but seem to be short on female flowers. Maybe they will get better later. Squash and gourds, with their large leaves, wilt very badly during the day but recover overnight. I guess all we can do is water heavily and often and hope for better weather. (But it won’t be soon--108 predicted for this weekend.)

Brit and I have been pretty busy in the garden. In addition to the standard things we are trying some more unusual or unlikely items. We have Chires Baby Corn, which makes up to 20 ears per plant of those tiny ears that often show up pickled or in stir-fry; Sikkim Cucumbers, with football-size fruit with netted skin; Zuni Shalako and Cherokee Trail of Tears pole beans; Earth Tones Ornamental Corn, with muted pastel colored kernels; multicolored Bright Lights Swiss Chard; Cherokee Corn Field Beans, grown up the cornstalks; Variegated Tomato, with white markings on the leaves, like the Fish Pepper; Green Soybeans; Royalty Purple Pod bush beans; Tahitian Squash. For the winter garden we are looking at a purple Cauliflower and the outer-space looking Romanesco Broccoli . Sometimes the odd stuff doesn’t work out, but the experimenting is fun, and sometimes you find a new favorite. There is a huge world of vegetable variety out there and when we grow our own we don’t have to settle for the same old commercial varieties. The video clip of my cable TV appearance showcasing some of my unusual plants is still on-line at:

JUNE 29 UPDATE

It has ended. Thanks to everyone who bought plants this year. It was a good season for me. The plants were ready when the rain finally stopped and folks could finally get into the garden. Despite the cold rainy start the plants came along well. Now it’s just a matter of seeing how things grow. The past week of high heat has been a little tough but the garden looks good. Last night we picked some Gypsy peppers and we have been eating Zucchini for a week or so. This weekend we will pick the first ripe tomato. Those bedraggled Early Girls I put in very early nearly drowned in the rains but made pretty dramatic comebacks and are loaded with fruit. I hope the other varieties will bear that well. I visited the Fair Oaks Community Garden this afternoon and the vegetables there looked really lush and healthy. I think it’s going to be a good year.

Please check back from time to time. I plan to add some new material to the site during the summer. Among other things, I would like to add a page to discuss such things as self-sufficiency, community economic activities, our food supply, etc. And speaking of discussion, there is a forum page where I would appreciate seeing comments on how different varieties are growing, or tasting or producing. This can be helpful deciding what varieties should be offered next year. A couple of this year’s varieties were suggested by customers. Meanwhile, I’m off to see if I can find some new odd/unusual plants to “amaze the neighbors”. Thanks again for your support.

FRIDAY AFTERNOON

Pity the poor Globe! Warming is no fun; I've just come in from watering the wilted, which is just about everything, now including me.
This will definitely be the last weekend for tomato sales. Anything left on Monday will, tragically, have to be put to sleep. Save a plant's life--take some home this weekend.

UNUSUAL FRUIT TREES

For the coming weekend I have available a small but, naturally, eclectic selection of unusual fruit trees. There are Pawpaws (Asmina triloba), sometimes called “Michigan Banana”. The Pawpaw is the largest fruit native to North America. Loquats are most often used as decorative shrubs or small trees but bear a fruit that is edible, tho usually a bit bland. The Strawberry Tree (Arbutus uneedo) is a decorative small tree with red fruit that is edible but bland. Black Mulberry (Morus nigra) is a large tree that bears delicious mulberries, good for fresh eating, pies, etc. I have one specimen of Raisin Tree (Hovenia dulcis), which is interesting in that the blossom stems are edible and taste like raisins. You can find information on all these, except for the Raisin Tree, in the Sunset Western Gardening book. If you have some space for a tree, here is a chance to add some out of the ordinary edibles to your landscape. They can also provide food for attracting birds to your yard.

There has been curiosity about Ground Cherries. I have added a note about them on the Odds and Ends page.

MAY 16 UPDATE

TV Note: Last summer a TV production crew prowled through my unusual plant collections (which are subsidized by tomato plant sales) to do a segment for a gardening show, called The Dirt on Gardening, being shown on the DIY Network on cable. The show is produced by a Sacramento film company.

MAY 11 UPDATE

Last weekend was a busy one and a lot of plants went off to their summer homes. Things look fine for the coming weekend, with nice weather and a good supply of plants. Do not fear that it is getting too late to get the garden started--we have a very long growing season so there is plenty of growing time. If you haven’t started yet, grab a machete or a flame-thrower or some other suitable tool and tackle those weeds that have grown so well in the rainy weather. (I have filled two black trash cans full so far.)

New items this weekend include cucumbers (regular and lemon), watermelons, parsley (flat- and curly-leaf), seven kinds of basil, tomatillos, ground cherry, and a few zucchini.

APRIL 25 (Tuesday) UPDATE, 2006

What a year! Yolo county has declared an agricultural disaster because much of the alfalfa crop has drowned and the rest still can’t be harvested. The commercial tomato growers still can’t get into the fields to plant. As for Orangevale gardeners, gray days and cold nights are not helping. I still hope to open this weekend but the plants may still be too small. We are supposed to get some sun the rest of the week, but will it be enough? Check back at the end of the week.
My two planted out Early Girls are alive. One looks good and has grown a little. The other is a mess but may yet live.


APRIL 20 UPDATE

Well! Quite a different week, finally. Possibly a little rain over the weekend, but mostly good weather coming along. (But see the entry for May 12, below.) Let’s hope we’re out of the woods.
Last week I was remembering the old Midwest joke: ‘I hope summer falls on a weekend this year.’

The plants are still very small but are responding to the warmth and sunlight. I hope they will be large enough by the weekend after next, (April 29-30). Maybe by then the weather will be settled. This could turn out to be a good gardening year. We are certainly starting with a lot of water in the ground. California precipitation was 172 per-cent of normal, and figures are even higher in some places.

If you just can’t wait and have to buy plants at a nursery or store, check the roots before you buy. A lot of plants will have been sitting around quite a while waiting for the rains to stop. A root-bound tomato plant will be very slow to resume growing after planting out. And of course, never buy tomatoes in 6-paks. That is just too small a root space.

April 14 Update

Could this be what Yogi Berra meant about deja vu all over again? A sunny Thursday, then a rainy weekend; have we seen this before somewhere?

I have been potting up the seedlings and I'm hoping they won't be smushed down by the predicted rains. And I'm hoping they can manage to grow a little under these ridiculous conditions.

April 7 update

APRIL 7 UPDATE

‘As I sit here looking at the leaden skies and wait for yet another rainstorm to move in. . .’ What a (lack of) difference a week makes. The sun break yesterday and this morning was helpful in reminding us what nice weather is like but it was all too short.
The news has reported that Valley tomato growers have written off their early tomato crop. They have not been able to get into the fields to plant. It was noted that produce prices would be extra high this year. Spring crops, asparagus, artichokes and strawberries, are going unharvested because the fields are too muddy to work. Summer crops such as melons, corn, tomatoes, etc., will be in short supply because planting is delayed. Good reasons to be planting a home garden this year, if the rain ever stops.
The Early Girls I set out are still alive but they are not happy campers.
The variety list for this year is posted. I am working on the descriptions and they will be up by and by.

HTML update

UPDATE MARCH 30, 2006

I have had inquiries about when the plants will be ready. As I sit here looking at the leaden skies and wait for yet another rainstorm to move in, I am tempted to say, “August.” The seedlings are poking along but the low temperatures and the low light are not encouraging them much. I will remind you again that my plants are grown outside so they are linked to the local weather, not to a greenhouse thermostat. The seedlings are in what is technically called a “season extender,” sort of a greenhouse but with just a plastic film cover. It warms up a bit in the sun but the night temperature will only be a degree or two above the outside temps.
There is a theory out there that spring will arrive sometime soon. When we finally do get some warm, sunny weather the plants should take off quickly and we can get to planting. I have noticed that I have no “wild” tomatoes coming up in the garden as yet. I am not sure that is significant, but maybe it means it has just been too cold for the seeds to start. With all this rain, do not be too anxious to start gardening the first nice day we have. Working the ground when it is too wet is quite harmful to the soil structure and it can end up quite compacted. Squeeze a ball of soil in you hand and drop it to the ground. If it doesn’t shatter when it hits, let the ground dry longer.
In between storms I have been out chopping and pulling weeds. Unlike the tomatoes and peppers, the weeds have loved the cool wet weather.
A week or so ago I set out a couple of Early Girls I started in January. I would not be surprised to see them die from drowning. With undeveloped root systems they could "suffocate" in the soggy, saturated soil.

MARCH 17, 2006 UPDATE

The seedlings are up and now we wait. What kind of spring will we have this year? It's a little confusing so far. Record warm temps in February and now the recent unpleasantness and near freezing temperatures. Remember last year when we had tornado warnings and hail in the first week of MAY? Or maybe it will turn warm and nice from here on, like two years ago when the tomatoes could be set out in late February. That’s what makes gardening interesting (frustrating?) in our area.
The national weather people suggest that temperatures will be above normal for April-May-June and predict that there is an equal chance that precipitation will be above, below or at normal. That’s a help.

I will soon post the variety lists and descriptions (waiting to make sure everything survives the seedling stage). In the meantime, there's some new material on the ‘Odds and Ends’ page and a couple of new links on the 'sites' page.

NOVEMBER 30 UPDATE

Unusual; still picking tomatoes at Thanksgiving. But then the little cold-snap over the weekend brought the season to an end. All the plants are now black and droopy. I can’t say I am real sad to see this season end. It has to be the worst tomato season I have ever had. Between the heat and the tomato mites my harvest was not only sparse but very late. After the worst of the heat went by and after I dusted some sulfur powder around (cough cough), the mites diminished and finally in October I had a few tomatoes on the vines. Peppers, on the other hand, did pretty well.

Time now to look ahead to next season. Three seed catalogs have already arrived and more will be along in the next few weeks. This year hasn’t been a good one for evaluating varieties so I am not sure how many varieties I will change next season but we’ll have to try a few new ones, anyway. Feel free to go to the new FORUM feature and leave comments on varieties, or whatever.

AUGUST 20 UPDATE

I learned about a new tomato pest today; Tomato Russet Mite. I was worried that I had a disease or blight on some plants. The stems and lower leaves had a greasy bronze look and some leaves were drying up. I checked an old USDA bulletin I had and found that this condition is neither blight nor disease but a vicious mite that is so small it takes a 20 power lens to see them. I looked at some leaves with a lens and sure enough, there they were in their billions, sucking sap out of the plant. Unfortunately they are difficult to treat. Visit the forum on the next page where I will have more information.


JULY 27 UPDATE

Well, the Bee article was fun. Hello and welcome to anyone coming here from the article. I hope it doesn’t disappoint that this site is dedicated to tomatoes and not to my obsession with exotic stuff.

Speaking of vegetable gardens, this heat is really becoming annoying. Water and water and things still get droopy, especially the peppers and most especially cucumbers and squash. On the worst days the large squash leaves give up so much water that the plant just can’t keep up no matter how much water is in the soil.

Have you noticed bee activity in your garden? I seem to be getting poor fruit set on the cucumbers so I started watching and I am seeing no honeybees, only the big black bumblebees. A few years ago the wild honeybees were nearly wiped out by parasitic mites. I wonder if the population is crashing again.

JULY 19 UPDATE

Keep watering!!! This heat will end sometime; it didn't quite make 100 yesterday.

I had a visit from Dan Vierria, the Sacramento Bee garden writer last week and I will be in an article in the Home and Garden section this Saturday (July 23). I believe the article will focus on my exotic plant obsession, which the tomato plant sales help support.

MAY 12, 2005 UPDATE

WOW! Hail...tornado warnings... What will next week bring, locusts? There was some plant damage from the hail. The basils were pretty much destroyed, peppers were damaged and leaves stripped off some tomatoes and there's brown spots on leaves from the slush. A lot of the plants look ratty but I'm hoping these warm sunny days will bring them back. I will be open this weekend with as much stock as possible. Should be a nearly complete selection.


April 2 update-HTML

APRIL 2 UPDATE

I am just back from a couple of weeks of travel in England and Wales. An interesting trip but unfortunately it’s a little too early in the year to visit any of the wonderful English gardens. We did see fantastic displays of daffodils in Wales--they grow wild along roads and every yard, it seemed, had clumps or beds of them.
The tomato seedlings were mostly just puttering along in the cool and rainy weather while I was gone. The sun and warmth this week will get them moving. More rain is predicted for the weekend and next week so I hope they make some real progress before then. With luck, “potting on”, as the British say, should begin soon.

The variety list and descriptions for 2014 are posted. Many descriptions have pictures.

FORUM enter

Free Message
                                             Forum from Bravenet.com Free Message Forums from Bravenet.com

Which varieties do you like best? Least? Which types grew best, or worst? Do you have any tips or techniques you'd like to share with others? Drop into the forum and add your thoughts.

(It's easy and safe: no need to register, reveal your eMail address, or whatever. Come on in and share your wisdom)
Wildboar Farm Varieties
wildboarvarieties.jpg


HOW TO BUY

This is a local website for Orangevale, California. No mail orders or phone orders. Drop by in person to purchase quality, handcrafted tomato, pepper and a few other vegetable plants. Open on weekends during the spring season. We're located on Walnut Avenue, north of Greenback, just south of Central Ave.


HOURS:

Saturday: 9am to 5
Sunday: Noon to 5

OFFERINGS:

Tomatoes, Peppers, Eggplants, Many varieties not available at nurseries

Herbs

Artichokes

PRICE:

All plants in red cups (Tomatoes, etc.) 2/$1.00
Herbs in 4-inch pots $1.25
Artichokes $3.00
Special extra large Early Girl Tomatoes $2.00


OUR SISTER SITE

Veggies will sustain us but we also need grace and beauty in our lives. For that we turn to Garden Art by Debbie Artistic planters, succulents and beautiful flowering perennial plants. Visit Debbie's website and see examples.

seedpackets2.jpg



GARDEN DEFINITIONS

FRUIT: General term for the seed-bearing part of a plant that turns mushy, is eaten by birds or worms, drops off, rots, gets funny spots and speckles, pockmarks the lawn, isn't what was pictured in the catalog, tastes like a glove, or doesn't appear at all.

HOSE: Crude, but effective and totally safe type of scythe towed through gardens to flatten flower beds and level vegetable plantings.

(From 'A Dictionary for Weedpullers, Slugcrushers & Backyard Botanists', by Henry Beard and Roy McKie)

The site will be updated on Thursdays to let you know about weekend sales