Archive for the ‘Tomato Grafting’ Category

Tomato Chef's Choice Pink F1 Beefsteak, 2015 AAS Vegetable Award WinnerTomato Chef’s Choice Pink F1 Beefsteak, 2015 AAS Vegetable Award Winner

The request I got was what are the best cherry, the best heirloom, the best standard and the best beefsteak to grow in our area?! Quite reasonable query.

Santa Barbara has such a range of zones! And, if you ask 5 gardeners they will have 5 answers! That’s my experience gardening at a community garden.

Best depends on WHEN you plant. If you plant early, you want ‘early’ producers that are more cold tolerant, the smaller varieties. A month later you can go for the bigger toms. Beefsteaks don’t do well on the Westside unless you have a hotspot. Gardeners at the Terrace don’t get the best results with them. They take too long to mature and often don’t get big like a beef steak should, take forever to redden, thus, low production.

Best depends on whether your soil has Verticillium or Fusarium wilts, which the Terrace does. And the wilts are wind borne as well as soil/water splash spread. Heirlooms generally have little resistance and die first at our garden. And whether heirlooms do well has a lot to do with what the gardener does with their soil and whether they help them out weekly/biweekly with an immune building foliar spray like the mix of powdered milk and aspirin. Soil needs worm castings, that help with the immune system, and at transplant time mycorrhizae fungi sprinkled on their roots for greater uptake of nutrients and water. Best for us are tomatoes that have VFN on their tags ~ Verticillium, Fusarium, Nematodes resistance. Resistance is exactly what it means. The plants do die sooner or later from the disease no matter how much you do, feed, spray, treat.

How the gardener plants tomatoes makes a difference. Up on a mound with a basin on top. Top that with a 1/2″ of compost, cover that with 1″ of straw to let in air and sun to dry the soil but keep the leaves from touching the soil. Touching the soil is the main way toms get the wilts. Lower leaves that might touch soil when weighted with dew or by watering need to be removed ASAP.

The wilts can’t be stopped. Sooner or later the plant leaves curl lengthwise, get dark spots, turn brown, hang sadly. Plants can produce but it’s agonizing to watch. Sometimes they somewhat recover later in the season after almost looking totally dead. I think the summer heat drys the soil and kills enough of the fungi for the plant to be able to try again. When we think it is dead, we water it less. It’s better to water near a tomato, not right at its roots. It has a deep tap root and will find water from water you give to neighboring plants.

The best of each? Cherry, heirloom, standard, beefsteak? I believe often it is totally gardener preference. If they love that variety, they will pamper it like a baby and it grows and produces like crazy! Some gardeners love Lemon Boys that are practically tasteless to me. Some gardeners like a mushy almost grainy texture. Some gardeners far prefer taste to quantity of production. I personally don’t find heirlooms to be anymore tasty than the toms I choose, though I do love their color variations and odd shapes! I’ve chosen toms just because I like their name. And I don’t recommend doing that, LOL! Some plant that variety because that’s what their family planted, sentimental, and they swear it tastes better too! Genes, you know.

Other than that, if you want to get technical, AAS Winners are a total best bet! All America Selections is a non profit of 80 years standing! The 2014 tomato winner was a yummy looking orange heirloom! They are selected each year from the best that are produced, proven producers, disease and pest tolerance/resistance. Obviously color, size, taste and texture are personal choices and best becomes a moot point. I do a little of both. I primarily pick VFNs and let myself ‘experiment’ from time to time, and let at least one volunteer live out of pure curiosity! LOL

Mother Earth News has a great collection of gardener tomato variety preferences cross country. Check it out! For the Southwest, Sungold and other cherry tomatoes are the popular, practical choice. Those of us more coastal are very lucky to have a greater range of choice.

A technical point is some varieties of tomatoes are far better for tomato grafting than others.

So, best depends on best for what, when, where and who! Personal taste, soil conditions, when you plant, where you plant. A windless hot spot with lots of light even in a cool neighborhood works well so you have more choices of varieties that will succeed.

HEAT TOLERANT VARIETIES! Many plants start shutting down, dropping flowers, baby fruits, at about 85 degrees. But, like Rattlesnake green beans that produce wonderfully in temps up to 100 degrees, there are some terrific tomatoes that keep right on producing! Look at successful varieties grown in hot inland California, southern and desert areas to see their choices, not just in the US, but places like Israel too. In this SoCal drought heat, I highly recommend you take a good look at nursery tags! Query a knowledgeable nursery person if in doubt, and double check that variety online before you purchase. Best choices from now on, in the warmer winter and hotter California summers, needs to include heat tolerance! Key words in heat tolerant tomato names are heat, solar, fire, sun!

GardenWeb has some great discussions from around the country on heat tolerant varieties and gardener tips of all kinds! Best heat resistant tomato varieties? – GardenWeb

Happy Tasty Tomatoes to You!



Read Full Post »

Design Your Summer Veggie Garden! Plan for marvelous production!

Simple, humble, or elegant and intricate, gardens definitely say a lot about the Gardener! Just be you! Plant in rows, circles, squares, diagonal rays, or have no plan at all, jungle style! That’s a plan too, right?! Make your space plant accessible, with safely wide enough pathways, or stepping stones. Straw in pathways will compost in place. It may be a bit slippery until it settles in. Keep replenishing it.

Choose what you would like to eat! Think about nutrition. Some think that most corn isn’t really food, and it takes up a lot of space per square foot per production. Kale is super nutritious, but will you eat it, or do you need a different recipe? Are you growing something because your Mum did? It’s ok if you have the room and it makes you happy.

Right along with what you would eat, comes how much will you eat or can you eat?!

  • Over planting zucchini is the classic example! You better have a lot of hungry zucchini loving friends if you over plant it! You probably would rather freeze tomatoes or ferment pickles for probiotics, than take up space with zucchini, though you can ferment it too.  But what claim to fame does it have? Not a big taste. Only one to two zuke plants is likely plenty! If you over plant, in self defense, harvest when they are small. Fresh slices in salads give a crunch and color. It comes in greens and brilliant yellow! Plant both!
  • Pole beans are another commonly over planted veggie. They produce tons throughout the season, and are time intensive to harvest. At the end, you may just burned-out-on-beans stop picking. Canning them is easy; freezing even easier if you have freezer space.

Stored vs Fresh  In SoCal, if you want to take a winter break, you can store your veggies and live off them. But if you prefer fresh, we can grow table veggies here year ’round! I do very little storing of veggies, just some for emergency contingencies, so I plant only what I can eat. Having more space lets me grow more varieties, experiment, let that volunteer grow and see what it becomes! For me it puts Magic in the Garden!

How much space do you have? What is the footprint of a mature thriving plant? You especially need to know that if you are planting alternately. For example, peppers thrive with a tad of shade between tall tomato plants in cages. Will you need to be using upright space-saving cages and trellises? Almost all your summer plants can go upright – pole beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, even zucchini can go up and over structures so you can plant summer semi shade-needing lettuces underneath. Winter squash (grown in summer) just needs space on the ground, LOTS of space. It’s leaves are huge, and the thriving vine will go 45, 50′!

How long does your plant choice take to grow?

  • Bush beans produce faster. You can plant bush and pole beans at the same time, and remove the bush beans when they finish, leaving your pole beans to continue producing throughout the season.
  • Determinate tomatoes jump up quickly, take up less space, produce intensely then quit. Indeterminate tomatoes are vines that can easily grow healthily up to 12’+ and they produce all season long! Plant the determinate little guys for first and fast fruit. Plant several at once if you are canning. The indeterminates give you a summer long fresh table supply.
  • Patio and container varieties often produce quicker and wonderfully, and take up a smaller space. If you want more different kinds of plants, they are the way to go. To keep a steady supply, just keep planting them successively.
  • Some crops take a long time, like jicama. You plant them in late March if it’s quite warm, April 1 is the usual time, May if you miss April. If you remove the flowers, the roots enlarge in fall as days begin to grow shorter. A warm fall helps. Harvest will be in Sep/Oct depending on when you planted, how hot it has been. That’s 5/6 months. Many other plants will produce in 2 months from transplant. Let one plant flower for seed harvest. Jicama seeds can be hard to come by.
Succession Planting  Knowing how long your plant takes to produce is essential for succession planting. It takes will power of steel not to plant every space you can when spring arrives! Leave areas free for the next round of your favorite veggies!  Grow ‘littles’ there to hold space. Maybe some carrots, beets, radish, or arugula, turnips, lettuce varieties, bunch onions, garden purslane. Mark your dates to plant more on your calendar so you don’t miss your planting windows. When areas are done, compost what remains, add more compost you made and your favorite amendments to the new planting holes, plant what you want there now!Summer Companion Planting is a crucial part of your plan!
  • Cukes and dill. Dill needs a bit of room! Plant WHITE radishes with cucumbers to repel cucumber beetles.
  • Tomatoes – DANDELIONS FOR WILT. Dandelions produce cichoric (or chicoric) acid that ties up soil-bound iron needed by the disease called fusarium.  Plant them first, let them grow up, then put your tomatoes in amongst them. Chives enhance flavor and growth of your toms, and basil repels pests. Chamomile has been used to increase production of wheat, tomatoes and other herbs. It helps them to grow better and releases fungal inhibitors.
  • Beans – The Mexican beetle avoids bean rows that have Marigold, Calendula, or Petunia growing among them. Planting dill deters the Mexican bean beetle, which feeds on the foliage of bush and pole beans.

Direction to plant  Tall in the north or the most shaded area, gradually working to less and less tall plants to the South and least shaded areas.

Where can you plant?! Are you using fences as trellises, have movable containers on wheels, a narrow pathway that is in a summer sunlight corridor all day?! Be clever! Is your soil funky? Ha! Put in a raised bed with perfect soil. Keep laying on sheets of compost in areas you would like to revive and increase friability and water holding capacity. Plant green manures there. To get more sun, raise plants up on top of barrels, hang them high, up on the fence, install hydroponic towers!

Plant your roof! Plant in lightweight canvas containers or cover the entire roof with soil if it is strong enough! Energy-efficient rooftop gardens are great insulation from heat, give a 26% reduction in winter heat losses! They cool the environment between 6.5 and 20.3° F. It is common for the soil of a roof garden, built on a heated structure (home), to be at least 5C warmer than a conventional landscape. With home rooftops, you can plant sooner, the elevated temperature of the soil brings the plants into growth earlier in Spring and sustains their growth in the Autumn. The Philadelphia Water Dept says green roofs extend the lifetime of the roof by 100-200%! And we haven’t even talked about rainwater catchment! Have a greenhouse up there, do beekeeping, have chickies! Above all, pun intended, it’s your food, your organic food!

4 Rooftop Veggie Gardens
From simple to elaborate, even elegant, rooftop gardens have surprising and numerous advantages!

Successful summer garden design is complemented by choosing summer successful seeds/plants that have heat/drought tolerance, resistance/tolerance to summer diseases/pests. Heat tolerant, bolt and tip burn resistant lettuce varieties are good choices – Jericho, Sierra, Nevada, Black Seeded Simpson. Mildew resistant beans. Choosing the right plants keeps your design working and you get optimum production!

See February, March, April, May SoCal Veggie Garden Planning! for perspective on what exactly to plant when in the months to come! May you have happy dirty hands!

Read Full Post »

The tomato grafting experiment is on! These are Ananas Noire heirlooms. The one at right, grafted on Maxifort stock, is more than double the size of the non grafted one at left. That is true for 3 of the 4 different varieties reported on.  Next is to see how production goes.  Clearly, more plant, more tomatoes!  The expectation is THREE Times the growth!  At this point, I believe it!  Learn more

Tomato Grafting Ananas Noire Scion, Maxifort Rootstock

Currently Maxifort seeds are $23 for 50 seeds from Johnny’s.  Yes, expensive, but well worth it for the return.  Split a pack with another gardener!  Grow Maxifort rootstock to add disease resistance and much improved plant vigor for an extended harvest.  They are resistant to crown rot and corky root.  KNOW THIS:  Disease resistance is not transferred to the scion plant (the one on top).  Take the same good care of your tomatoes as always.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: