Pappy the Killjoy and my Tomato Issues

Here are my baby tomatoes

And here are the new seed varieties planted just yesterday

And here are the extra hybrids that I couldn’t bear to thin because they germinated so well and because they’re Park’s Celebrity for goodness sakes!

Not Okra

(The okra was yellow from the indoor lighting and I have a million more seeds so I yanked them to make room for these beauties.)

And here are my extra Russian Queens because I just found out that they’re pretty rare here in the states, so I couldn’t kill them either.

So yeah. I have a lot of frigging baby tomatoes and really don’t know what I’m going to do with them.

But what I do know is that I want to build a large heirloom collection, one that I can turn into seeds or plants for sale.

So I tell this to my dad (Pappy, as my kids call him). And he tells me, “You didn’t separate anything so you have a lot of crossbreeding going on and you won’t know what it is anyway.”

But tomatoes pollinate themselves. It’s like masturbation pollination. They don’t need bees like the squash and cukes do. They don’t accidentally cross, right? You have to work for a hybrid, yeah? I started googling, hoping that he was wrong —

Well fuck.

What am I going to do now? I have 5 varieties of tomatoes that I think are heirloom, but are probably really not. A couple that I first grew in 2016 and then again in 2017. Seeds that I was so proud of. Seeds that would be even better this year because they’re used to my soil and my growing habits. Strong healthy seeds grown from and for this place. My seeds.

My adventure down the somewhat depressing rabbit hole taught me that the varieties I’ve bought this year can be kept true through careful bagging of the blossoms. (What a pain in the ass!) But I’m not sure what to do about the others. Be surprised this year I guess. Bag those blossoms anyway? Yeah probably.

Well at least now I found the courage to thin out my other “heirlooms”.

R.I.P. “German Johnson” & “Black Krim”

My varieties (italics means they’re probably/possibly corrupted):

  • Black Krim 2016 & 2017
  • German Johnson 2017
  • Golden Sunburst 2016
  • Russian Queen 2017
  • Red Currant 2016 & 2017
  • Warren’s Yellow Cherry 2018
  • Chocolate Cherry 2018
  • Pineapple 2018
  • Big Rainbow 2018
  • Kellogg’s Breakfast 2018
  • Costoluto Genovese 2018

I have a random cherry tomato that volunteered itself in my compost last spring and I saved those seeds too. I call those Generosity Cherries because along with them being volunteers, they are large and prolific and germinated much sooner than all the others. I wonder if they may be a parent of the grocery store vine tomatoes.

I guess the worst case scenario is that I now have six funky mystery tomatoes I can play with and name.

Cool.

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Gardeny Morning

Unusually crisp air and a bit of extra time made my morning trek around the yard especially nice.

Tomato Alley seems to be adapting well to being all tied up to stakes.  I haven’t grown Romas or Russian Queens before, but whichever these are, they are my tallest plants.

This guy is just adorable:

And in the old spring side of the world, wildness abounds.

The volunteer mystery squash is most decidedly a pumpkin.

This gardeny morning gave me a smile to take with me to work. 

Today in the Garden

This morning brought the best harvest so far. A couple of big pink brandywines, two zucchinis, a few small peppers and several golden sunbursts.

Still covered with a bit of dirt and dew

This was our first zucchini and although I initially intended on simmering it with the tomatoes and peppers to go along with our chicken parm this evening, Gordon requested zucchini bread. I couldn’t refuse, since zucchini bread was the reason I grew it at all. Each of my boys made a special request in the garden, and the zucchini was his.  The bread turned out pretty yummy!

This morning also brought news of another lost tomato plant.  Same death as my djeena’s golden girl. Droopy with a rotted stem. I blamed the wobbliness of my supports along with too much moisture. Well, the moisture is right. We’ve gotten a lot of rain. But after doing some reading, I think it’s southern blight.

And I have no idea what this potato-leafed beauty was, since he never produced a tomato. The tallest, most beautiful plant with lots of flowers and no fruit. I began interfering with pollination, but nothing seemed to take.

I wonder if I used djeena’s bamboo stake in this plant’s bag. I really hope so. If not, there is at least one more casualty coming, because I used it somewhere…..

I put him in the burn barrel and am attempting (feebly?) to use solar heat to kill the fungus so I can safely add the soil back to the compost.

And speaking of compost, I have a nice hot pile in process right now. It’s bigger than it looks. (Hehe)

But when opening the pile to rotate and add to it, I unearthed about infinity of these little maggoty dudes. My lighting was too low to get a good shot of the madness. So all I have is a picture of a couple in my gloved hand. What the fuck are they? Are they vermicomposting or are they infesting? Next mystery to solve, I guess.

Spider Webs in the Fog

Foggy morning after last night’s storm

Every morning I destroy the intricate creations of my garden friends. Walking Wendell through the yard, I normally can’t detect the webs until they cover my face or shoulders like some kind of fairy’s veil.  This morning they were breathtakingly visible because of the fog. Everywhere I would expect to see one, instead were two or three! They are hard for me to catch with my camera…even my eyes. So this capture made me happy. I love these fantastic works of art and their creators. 

Saving Seeds – Fermenting

Heirloom tomato seeds. It’s early in the season yet to be planning for next spring, but my Djeena golden plant is dead.  I got exactly 3 tomatoes,  all of which were first chewed by a big fat horn worm, before her stem rotted for some reason.

3 Djeena Lees

Here is one of them all ripe and pretty (and slightly wilted) on the right:

Maybe it’s because of the scarcity, but the Golden Girl tasted so tart and delicious. And it wasn’t just me. Gordon and Eddie thought she was yummy too.

So I saved her. I think.  Unless I let her seeds germinate by fermenting too long. But I think they’re ok. Nice and fuzzy like the random seeds I bought in the rainbow packet originally.

Pretty yellow in the sun
Eeewwww. Fermenting. Silas loves the smell. My boy.
Rinsed the keepers clean

Drying and hoping they’ll sprout next year

Heirlooms in Cheapo Containers

$1 apiece. Marshall’s bags. Huge and less porous than the cloth kind of shopping bag, so holds moisture better. I would call it a successful experiment. I have indeterminate heirlooms overtaking six foot bamboo stakes and producing lovely fruit, all contained within these colorful bags. 

These came from Burpee’s heirloom assortment, which I did my best to examine for differences hoping to reap the greatest probable variety.

It worked pretty well, because so far I have tasted a cuostralee:


A pink brandywine:



Lots of golden sunbursts:

A black krim and a couple of djena lee’s golden girls (r.i.p. djena’s girl….best tangy flavor but the stem rotted somehow):

And a hundred and fifty million red currants (separate seed pack) but still not too many to keep up with eating them fresh. And they’re the best!


Next summer I would like to put the tomatoes into the ground, mostly because of my own ideals about what a real garden should look like. But honestly, this is working out really well. The cheapy bags hold plenty of soil, they are sturdy enough to move around a bit, and the bamboo stakes do pretty well supporting everything. I do think my supports move a bit too much and maybe that’s why my djena’s girl died. Not sure. But overall, I claim success! Would recommend.

But one mystery remains. What the hell is sticking out of my tomato stakes?

Some Days

Some days the garden makes my heart glisten with joy, some days it makes me say fuck a lot.

Today was a fuck day.

This:

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Some gray wiltedness and brown spottiness caught my eye as I was squishing a few small slugs on the peppers this morning. One tomato plant for sure. Maybe a fungus? I don’t know.

So here’s the strategy:
-Isolate this plant
-Give other tomatoes more room for air circulation
– Apply organic sulfur stuff on Thursday when Amazon delivers it
– Add Epsom salts to soil in case it’s a magnesium deficiency and because it can’t hurt
– Add more compost to soil
– Cross fingers

So luckily it was pizza night at the homestead so I could rush out and use the last two hours of daylight after work.  Eddie came out to help (under duress) and thinned out his corn while I worked on this craziness.

The ability to move my tomatoes around made me happy that they are in bags. However my whole stake system sucks pretty bad, which became quite evident this evening. I used long skinny tree branches stuffed into the bags and propped against each other. Sure they are cute and natural and tall and free, but they are also wide based and heavy and basically want to topple the plants over when the bags are no longer too close together. So, I need to find good old light skinny stakes, but tall ones.

Next year I’m tilling the place up and planting in the ground. And spacing generously.

Here the poor baby is, cropped and quarantined.  Got rid of that shit.

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WTF
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Poor Baby

And here’s my new spacing. Looks so chaotic right now:

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And here’s some probable blossom end rot because I was going to let my plants toughen up by not watering much.  Yep. That worked.

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I think I fucking suck at this.