Radishes

I picked some radishes today in the rain.  I picked some last week too to thin the plants and make space, but those radishes were only about half this size.

radish ‘cherry belle’

You can see that the seed leaves (the heart-shaped leaves close to the root) are still green and healthy.  On some plants, these will wither as the plant grows.

I planted these radishes 5 weeks ago.  I planted a short row every week, so we should be able to harvest radishes for a month.  Last week, I planted cabbages and kale in between the rows of radishes.  Those plants will take over the space as the radishes are removed.

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2017 Seeds Orders

I placed my orders for seeds on February 8th.  My main order was with Pinetree Garden Seeds (superseeds.com), which is where I usually order seeds.

This was a pretty big order, so I’ll break it down into categories.  First are the cabbage family (Brassicaceae or Cruciferae) roots and greens.

  • turnip, ‘hinona kabu’ Japanese
  • radish, ‘cherry belle’
  • kale, ‘starbor’
  • tatsoi
  • pai tsai, fun jen
  • misome
  • mibuna
  • cabbage, ‘yukina savoy’ chinese
  • cabbage, ‘tronchuda’

The turnip variety and the two cabbages are new to me.  Next up are tomatoes and their relatives (Solanaceae).

  • pepper, ‘Takiis new ace’
  • tomato, ‘manyel’
  • tomato, ‘pink Berkeley tie die’
  • tomato, ‘Anna Russian’
  • tomato, ‘Cherokee green’

While the peppers are a favorite of mine, I haven’t grown any of those tomato varieties before.  I won’t have room to grow all of the tomato varieties this year, but I couldn’t decide which ones I want to plant this year and I can try the others in a year or two.  I believe all of those tomato varieties are considered to be heirloom varieties.  Next are some other vegetable seeds that don’t fit in the above two categories.

  • beet, ‘red ace’
  • bean, ‘fortex’ pole
  • inoculant

They were out of the pole bean that I wanted to order (’emerite’), so I decided to try ‘fortex’ which comes highly recommended.  Inoculant is not a seed but rather bacteria that work with legumes such as beans and peas to “fix” nitrogen, i.e. to convert N2 from the air into a form that plants can use.

I also ordered the following herb seeds.

  • oregano, Greek
  • catnip
  • catnip, lemon
  • basil, ‘dwarf Greek’
  • thyme, French
  • parsley, ‘Prezzemolo Gigante D Italia’
  • rosemary

I’m going to try growing a number of herbs in pots this year.  I’ve had success growing rosemary this way in the past.  I ordered some seeds to use for microgreens, i.e. to grow indoors in very crowded conditions and harvest the leaves when the plants are young rather than letting them mature.  These seeds come in relatively large packets.

  • basil microgreens
  • spicy Asian mix microgreens
  • cilantro microgreens

I ordered some flower seeds, also for growing in pots.

  • sunflower, ‘dwarf Pacino gold’
  • nasturtium, ‘black velvet’

And I ordered some garden supplies, useful items that happened to be on sale.

After reading Craig LeHoullier’s Epic Tomatoes (see Resources), I decided I wanted to try growing some dwarf tomato varieties in pots.  The best place to get them appears to be Victory Seeds, which has an entire category dedicated to dwarf tomatoes.  I ordered five varieties although I won’t try growing all of them this year (remember that seeds remain viable for several years, especially if you refrigerate them).  All of the following are dwarf tomato varieties.

  • Polish
  • Perth pride
  • sweet Sue
  • sleeping lady
  • tastywine

Dwarf tomatoes are a slower-growing indeterminate tomato.  They will continue to grow and produce fruit until they die, but they grow more slowly than other tomatoes.  Contrast this with determinate tomatoes, which produce all their fruit over a shorter period of time, then stop.

Victory Seeds also sells many other open-pollinated seed varieties, they shipped my order promptly, and I’m happy with the results so far, so I will probably order more from them in the future.

Pinetree’s order took a couple of weeks to ship, but that was mostly due to the large amounts of snow that they received in Maine during that time.

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Update to 2016 Tomato Report

This fall, after I wrote the 2016 Tomato Report post, a disease that I suspect is a form of blight infected all my tomato plants.  This disease shows up every year.  It starts on leaves at the bottom of the plants and works its way up.  Extended rainfall seems to help it spread.  It can damage fruits if it reaches them.  I suspect the disease comes from the soil, so this year I added straw mulch around the tomato stems in addition to the garden fabric that I always use to try to keep dirt from splashing onto the plants.  I don’t think this really helped.  More information about blights can be found at the Tomato Dirt site.

This year, although the blight apparently infected all the plants, ‘speckled Roman’ and ‘Polish linguisa’ were the worst hit while ‘Corleone’, ‘garden gem’, and ‘garden treasure’ were the least affected.

We’ve now had three mornings when the temperature went below freezing.  We covered the tomato, pepper, and eggplant the first two times that we had frost warnings, but around mid-October we decided to pick all the fruit and let the plants die when the predicted low was well below freezing.  It was too cold, and the days are getting too short, for fruit to grow and ripen well.  Many of the green tomatoes that we picked will ripen in the house, although they won’t taste as good as if they ripened on the plant.

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2016 Tomato Report

I grew six varieties of tomatoes this year.  Here is my appraisal of their performance in my garden.

I usually plant indeterminate tomatoes.  This type of tomato will continue to grow and produce fruit until frost (or disease) kills the plant.  The other type, determinate tomatoes, produce many fruits over a few weeks, then stop.  The trade-off between these two types is in how many tomatoes they produce vs. the amount of space they require.  You can read more about this at gardenweb.

The biggest problem I’ve had with my tomatoes this year was blossom end rot, which you can read about in this fact sheet from Cornell University.

left to right: nectar, garden gem, garden treasure, speckled Roman, Corleone, and Polish linguisa tomatoes

left to right: nectar, garden gem, garden treasure, speckled Roman, Corleone, and Polish linguisa tomatoes

In the photo above, I’ve placed the tomatoes in the order in which we were able to harvest ripe fruit from each variety.  I tried to select representative examples, i.e. not the largest or best of each.  You can see more examples of these tomatoes in photos in two earlier posts from this summer here and here.

‘Nectar’ is a cherry tomato.  It is very sweet and it produces many fruit.  The vines have grown up and out of their tomato cage, spreading across their neighbors.  This variety hasn’t had any problems with disease and it is still producing fruit.  Earlier, some fruits were damaged or removed by wildlife, similar to ‘garden gem’ (see below).

I had to obtain ‘garden gem’ seeds directly from the developer, Harry Klee; you can read about that in this post.  The tomato in the photo is a little smaller than average for this variety.  These produced heavily for about a month, then stopped; Prof. Klee says they are semi-determinate and should produce for five to six weeks.  There are some green tomatoes on the plants now, so we should once again harvest ripe tomatoes in a week or so.  This variety produced ripe fruit almost as quickly as the cherry tomatoes, they have good flavor, and there have been no disease problems.  The only problem we had with this variety was that small animals or birds, probably chipmunks, were nibbling on the fruit earlier in the season.

‘Garden treasure’ seeds also came from Harry Klee.  Some of the fruits were considerably larger than the one in the photo.  They ripened fairly early for such a large tomato and they have the best flavor of all six varieties.  They had a few problems with blossom end rot and cracking, but have been relatively trouble-free.

The last three varieties are all paste tomatoes.  I grow these because they work equally well fresh or cooked and they won’t turn a sandwich into a dripping mess.  The first is ‘speckled Roman’, which is more striped than speckled in my opinion but I like the effect.  We lost a lot of fruit to blossom end rot this year.  Flavor is typical for a paste tomato, i.e not a lot, and the plants have produced a moderate amount of fruit.

‘Corleone’ is probably the most expensive vegetable seed I’ve ever purchased; they cost about nine dollars for ten seeds.  These plants also are growing out of their cage and over their neighbors.  The fruits have thick skin and not a lot of flavor, but they also have had no problems and the plants are heavy producers.

The last variety to produce ripe tomatoes this year was ‘Polish linguisa’, not because they are such a late tomato but because all of the earliest tomatoes of this variety succumbed to blossom end rot, which hit them the worst.  More recently, we’ve been harvesting a lot of large fruits.  The flavor is quite good.  This tomato is an heirloom variety, i.e. an open-pollinated variety (as opposed to a hybrid cross) that was developed many years ago.  You can read more about this topic in Epic Tomatoes, a book I recommend in my Resources page.

Update:  This fall, after I wrote this, a disease that I suspect is a form of blight infected all my tomato plants.  This disease shows up every year.  It starts on leaves at the bottom of the plants and works its way up.  Extended rainfall seems to help it spread.  It can damage fruits if it reaches them.  I suspect the disease comes from the soil, so this year I added straw mulch around the tomato stems in addition to the garden fabric that I always use to try to keep dirt from splashing onto the plants.  I don’t think this really helped.  More information about blights can be found at the Tomato Dirt site.

This year, although the blight apparently infected all the plants, ‘speckled Roman’ and ‘Polish linguisa’ were the worst hit while ‘Corleone’, ‘garden gem’, and ‘garden treasure’ were the least affected.

We’ve now had three mornings when the temperature went below freezing.  We covered the tomato, pepper, and eggplant the first two times that we had frost warnings, but around mid-October we decided to pick all the fruit and let the plants die when the predicted low was well below freezing.  It was too cold, and the days are getting too short, for fruit to grow and ripen well.  Many of the green tomatoes that we picked will ripen in the house, although they won’t taste as good as if they ripened on the plant.

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Beans, Blackberries, Peppers, Eggplant, and Tomatoes

It’s just two days since we last picked blackberries and tomatoes, and three since we picked everything else, but we got quite a lot of vegetables tonight.

tonight's harvest of blackberries, beans, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant

tonight’s harvest of blackberries, beans, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant

We’ve been getting adequate amounts of rain lately, the heat has moderated a little, and the result is a better harvest of pole beans than we’ve had earlier this month.  On the other hand, there was only one eggplant and a couple of ‘sweet banana’ peppers ready to pick.

The blackberry brambles seem to be producing about the same amount of ripe berries every couple of days.  There aren’t as many as in past years, but I expected that because they didn’t produce as many new canes last year.  Blackberry canes produce fruit their second year, then die.  To try to increase the yield, I spread some fertilizer around the blackberry area, but not directly where the plants grow.  I also will take more care in pruning the canes.

The big news though is that the tomatoes are really starting to produce.  We’ve been picking ‘nectar’ cherry tomatoes (with the beans in the medium-sized bowl) and ‘garden gem’ tomatoes (under everything else in the large bowl) for a while, but tonight we got a lot more of them.  We also picked four ‘garden jewel’ tomatoes (the large tomatoes at the upper right of the large bowl); seeds for those came from the same source as ‘garden gem’, see this post.  The first ‘Corleone’ paste tomato is nestled in the crook of the eggplant.

We finally got some ripe ‘speckled Roman’ paste tomatoes, which look more striped than speckled to me.  They are at the front of the photo.  My ‘speckled Roman’ and ‘Polish linguisa’ tomatoes have been especially afflicted with blossom end rot this year and I had to discard several fruit that would have been ripe earlier.  You can see a small spot of blossom end rot on one tomato; we will cut off the bad part and the rest of the fruit should be good.  This disease is caused by a lack of moisture and calcium; I added lime to the garden bed this spring as usual, so the lack of rain is probably the cause.  The ‘Corleone’ paste tomatoes haven’t been affected by blossom end rot this year, they just take a little longer to produce ripe tomatoes.  You can read more about blossom end rot in this fact sheet from Cornell University.

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Blooming Cactus

I have an enormous prickly pear cactus that lives in a corner of my office, where it’s mostly out of the way and less likely to injure me.  I’ve blogged about this cactus previously, in “I’ve got blisters on my cactus!” and “Cactus Shoot”.  I’ve had this cactus, or its parent plants, for decades.

It’s easy to start a new plant by sticking one of the fleshy, green pads into soil, and I can’t remember how many times I’ve done that.  If the cactus gets too tall, starts flopping over, or the oldest stems dry up and look ugly, I decide it’s time to start over and discard the old plant.  I seal the old cactus parts inside a box so it’s unlikely that someone will be injured by them.

Over the years, the cactus (or one of its predecessors) has bloomed four or five times that I can remember.  It usually waits until I’m out of town, so when I return all I see are spent flowers.  This time, I actually was able to see the flowers.

prickly pear cactus flower

prickly pear cactus flower

The cactus produced three yellow flowers.  The flowers are about six cm (a little over two inches) across.  They lasted only a couple of days each, and opened consecutively.  In the photo, the second flower is open and the spent bloom from the first flower is at the upper left.

You can read more about prickly pear cactus species at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower CenterDesertUSA, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (search for the genus name, “Opuntia”), or the University of Florida.

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Weekend Harvest

We just picked some vegetables and fruit from our garden.  Botanically, I guess they’re all classified as fruit as they all contain seeds.

eggplant, tomatoes, green beans, and blackberries

eggplant, tomatoes, green beans, and blackberries

The pole beans (‘Kentucky blue’ and ’emerite’ varieties) were producing heavily in July, but the hot, dry weather seems to have slowed them as they have had fewer blossoms lately.  It has cooled a little now that we’re in August and I expect they will come back.

I picked a few tomatoes and eggplant last week, but now these hot weather crops are taking off.  So far, we have ripe tomatoes from cherry tomato ‘nectar’ and the new ‘garden gem’ variety.  The eggplant, ‘ichiban’ , are the only type I have planted the past few years.  The long, slender fruit seem more tender than other varieties.

These are the first fruit we have harvested from our thornless blackberry brambles this year, although birds found a few ripe blackberries before we did.

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Volunteer Flower

While checking the garden tonight, we discovered an unexpected flower growing where the ‘hakurei’ turnips and cabbage greens were planted.  Those vegetables are mostly finished for the year.  The remaining cabbage greens have quit producing leaves and are flowering, as I described in this post and this one.

petunia flower growing in the cabbage family garden bed

petunia flower growing in the cabbage family garden bed

That’s dill leaves that you see in front of the petunia; like many herbs, dill spreads readily and comes up throughout the garden.

I’ve had ‘volunteer’ petunias come up before (see this post), in a pot where they had previously been planted, but I’ve no idea how the seed made its way into the vegetable garden.  The flower looks the same, so the seed probably did come from my petunias.

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First Beans

We picked the first pole beans of the season tonight.  We got 618 grams (nearly 1.4 lb.), mostly of the ’emerite’ variety, which I have found in the past grow faster and produce earlier than ‘Kentucky blue’, my old standby.

The season's first green beans came to 618 grams.

The season’s first green beans came to 618 grams.

This year, I planted four feet (1.3 m) each of ‘Kentucky blue’ and ’emerite’ pole beans along one side of my six feet (2 m) tall trellis.  I planted ‘super sugar snap’ peas on the other side of the trellis as usual; they are nearly done producing.  The pea vines don’t quite make it to the top of the trellis, but the pole beans are already trying to climb higher.

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Shades of Green

The cabbage family plants in garden bed number three (Chinese (napa) cabbage, pak choi, radish, kale, turnip, and assorted greens) come in many different shades of green, plus the purple of one variety of pak choi and the red of mustard.

assorted cabbage family plants

assorted cabbage family plants

In the photo, the napa and pak choi cabbages and the kale are at the far end.  Radish ‘cherry belle’ is interplanted with the cabbages.  We won’t get many radishes or daikon this year because the hot weather this spring caused them to “bolt” or make flowers and seeds rather than roots, a problem I’ve posted about before.  I already pulled out most of the daikon.

At the near end, I planted five rows of vegetables, in order from the left:  mizuna; fun jen pai tsai (which is also starting to bloom) and wasabina; komatsuna and daikon; Japanese turnips; and mibuna and red giant Indian mustard.  The two varieties in the last row didn’t germinate well.  In the case of the mustard, that really doesn’t matter as I have “volunteer” mustard coming up all over the garden anyway.  Komatsuna also re-seeds itself although not as freely as the mustard.

I have the best luck with fun jen pai tsai, mizuna, komatsuna, and the mustard.  The cabbages and kale also usually grow well.  One thing to watch out for with the napa type cabbages is slug attacks; they seem to prefer these plants over everything else.

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