Thursday, August 4, 2016

Tomatoes Aplenty

This summer has been extraordinarily busy. With multiple trips, camps, the beginning of my wife’s career and beginning the process of moving to a new home, our family has hardly had time to stop. As a result, I have not been able to update as much as I would like.

Tomato Plants in Late April

Tomato Plants in Late May

Tomato Plants in Late June

Tomato Plants in Late July

So, the Celebrity tomatoes that I was used to in Tucson did very well initially. They produced plenty of large sandwich-sized tomatoes that were fairly tasty. Meanwhile, the San Marzano plant produced plenty of tomatoes too, howbeit not as tasty unless they were cooked. Something about cooking really brings out the flavor of the San Marzano tomatoes. All the while, my third tomato variety, the Rutgers was growing and growing.

Early fruiting in June - Celebrity

Celebrity fruiting in later June

Celebrities Fruiting in July

A rambling Celebrity tomato Plant

Over the course of the summer, between the three, I would definitely say that the Rutgers won on several levels. First: disease resistance. Whatever occurred to the soil before I amended it and planted tomato plants definitely made them susceptible to disease. The Rutgers plant succumbed only minimally, while the Celebrity and the San Marzano slowly became more and more affected by the bacteria.

San Marzano Tomatoes in May

San Marzano Tomatoes in June

First San Marzano Tomatoes to ripen

San Marzano tomatoes in July

The next way in which the Rutgers won was by production. Though the Celebrity tomato plant produced plenty of tomatoes earlier on, production waned dramatically – a characteristic of determinate tomatoes. This is the reason why they do so well down in the Southwest, but is not necessarily advantageous where the climate is favorable to growing tomatoes. The San Marzano produces a moderate number of tomatoes over time, but if you prefer salads and sandwiches over sauces and salsas, then San Marzano is probably not for you.

Rutgers Tomatoes in June

Rutgers Tomatoes in July

Rutgers Tomatoes in August

The final way in which the Rutgers tomato won was by taste. Though the Celebrity tomato hits it right in the robust salty flavor, it does lack quite a bit of complexity. The Rutgers does possess some of that complexity and a hint of umami, a characteristic that Celebrities only acquire in climates with extreme heat. I have yet to find a tomato that I have completely fallen in love with, though some heirlooms that I have tasted have come close!

A smaller weekly harvest (June)

So, there is a little bit of the experience I have had with these tomatoes. Though I have not been able to take pictures of a tenth of my tomato production (about 10 per week for the last six weeks), I hope this information helps. For those of you who could practically live off tomato sandwiches (something my wife keeps reminding me that she cannot do) I wish you a delicious harvest!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Happy June!

With the onset of summer, I am starting to really understand how hot it can get here in Fairfield. It has reached the upper 90s a few times, which has really helped the cucumber plants take off.

Arkansas Little Leaf Cucumber Growing

With the cooler nights, pickling cucumber varieties, such as my Arkansas Little Leaf cucumber, do a lot better than they ever did in Tucson.

One of my first female blossoms

The cool nights have also significantly affected my tomato production. I knew that tomatoes were easy to grow in Fairfield, but seeing the results of the right climate is impressive!

Uncaged Celebrities are migrating to the sidewalk

In talking with a gentleman selling tomatoes at the local farmer's market, tomatoes can be planted here in January. Perhaps I will try this next year, as cheap fresh tomatoes are often available here later in the season, but command a higher price this time of year.

The San Marzanos are picking up steam

The cool air that often blows in from the Suisun Marsh as well as the nearby delta enables the pollen from tomato blossoms to set fruit at a pretty high rate, as demonstrated by my one San Marzano tomato plant.

A few of my last Dingess Purple sweet potato plants.

Conversely, without the consistent heat and brutal sun that Tucson offered, my Dingess Purple sweet potato plants are just barely growing. Fortunately, one spot that I planted them in - on the south side of the house - is working out much better than near the rose bushes. Let's hope they can grow enough to produce a decent tuber.

South-facing Dingess Purple sweet potato plants

As a gardener, I sometimes laugh at myself when I forget a very basic technique from one year to another. The water-filled plastic containers surrounding my plants have made a dramatic difference in speeding up growth. Before planting next year, I'll have to gather more plastic jugs.

Dark Armenian cucumbers are finally taking off.

Cucumber Beetles are not very photogenic

Alas, cucumber beetles are difficult to avoid. After feeding off of dandelions early in the spring, they migrate to other flowers when the dandelions begin going to seed. Feasting upon pollen and petals, these beetles devour the innards of my roses and cucumbers, compelling me to carry out the serial killing of cold-blooded invertebrates.

Another Arkansas Little Leaf Cucumber plant

Cucumber & Melon plants

Overall, I am very grateful to live in a place where my long-term my health should improve while still being able to garden. Being a partner with a living, thriving, growing organism has blessed my life in so many ways. As others have said, gardening is cheaper than therapy - and you get tomatoes!

Tomatoes - starting to fill out

Thursday, May 12, 2016

First Spring

One of many roses around my front door.
Having lived in Southern Arizona for the last 9 years, it was quite a change to move to a climate that experiences seasons. Enduring years of only summer and winter, it has been a wonderful change to finally soak up a spring. The flowers here are incredibly beautiful and the cool mornings and nights are just fantastic - perfect for both walking and gardening.

A cucumber melon plant.

 Since planting my two little plots, my tomatoes have grown quite a bit. With the fact that we have not rented in many years, I was surprised to discover that our home will be inspected soon. What will the property inspectors say about the row of tomatoes in the front yard? Hopefully, they will not worry too much about it, since I had to tear up a bed of weeds to put them in!

A few more flower from the front yard

A Celebrity tomato plant with some disease on it.

I am starting to get a few tomatoes growing on my Celebrity, San Marzano and a Rutgers plants and my Little Leaf cucumber is doing well. Given the poor condition of the soil I planted them in, the tomatoes are doing quite well. With the winter and spring rains, the roses around the tomato plants are also thriving. Though the roses are beautiful, mine suffer from some kind of bacterial infection, which has spread to the tomato plants. Alas, my unfortunate experiences with bad bacteria persist, howbeit nowhere near as bad as in my hot, humid garden back in Tucson.

Arkansas Little Leaf Cucumber plant.

San Marzano tomatoes.

Some volunteer flowers.
The cucumber-melons in the backyard are doing alright. After suffering several near-disasters and false starts due to slugs mowing down my seedlings, I have finally amassed sufficient number of plants to do well with this summer. Though I still love going out to see how my long dark Armenian cucumbers are growing, it seems as if my plants are growing in slow-motion in comparison to my Tucson garden. Alas, the moderate-intensity sunlight in Northern California cannot compare with the intense burning heat of southern Arizona sun.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Moving to California

Waiting a whole year since having much of a garden has been very difficult for me. Uprooting an established family can be very difficult, but giving up a garden has been very hard on me. Although I felt forced to move from Arizona, because of health problems, the lack of therapy that a garden provides has weighed on me for a while. So, it is time that I provide an update on my family and gardening experience.

After getting our old house fixed up, I moved to Fairfield California, without my family, for six weeks. The housing market here is very tight, and even with very good credit my family had to get on a waiting list to get into a rental home. Once we finally moved into the rental home, it still took quite a while to adjust. As our family is still reconciling our feelings about moving to California, I was grateful to recently dig out two small garden plots in our new home.

After getting our old house fixed up, I moved to Fairfield California, without my family, for six weeks. The housing market here is very tight, and even with very good credit my family had to get on a waiting list to get into a rental home. Once we finally moved into the rental home, it still took quite a while to adjust. As our family is still reconciling our feelings about moving to California, I was grateful to recently dig out two small garden plots in our new home.

The two available plots where I knew I could replace the soil and replant grass seed were in the front next to the roses and in the back, on the south side of the house.

In front of the rose bushes, I transplanted some tomato plants and lowered my sweet potato pot into the ground. I have already transplanted some Purple Dingess slips into another part of the yard, but the Alabama Purple has yet to come up yet.

On the south side of the house, I planted some cucumbers. Though I would like to try out a new Carosello variety sent to me by my Italian friends Guiseppe and Angelo, I first need to get some better quality seeds of the Long Dark Green Armenian. Additionally, I want to get seed of the Arkansas Little Leaf cucumber, so I planted some of this small cucumber variety as well. Hopefully, I can get seeds of this variety as well. Because cucumbers and melons do not interbreed, I should be able to get pure seed from both cucumber varieties.

My only Purple Dingess Sweet Potato Slips
While moving to a beautiful place like California is nice, having a little garden will definitely help me to feel whole on the inside. Although uprooting a family can be difficult, planting a garden is definitely a way to start reestablishing a connection with our new home.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Still Growing

Despite spending time looking for other places to live, we still had a small winter garden this year consisting of lots of Jerico lettuce, snap beans, green onions (Texas Bunching) and carrots. Most of the carrots I grew this year were Purple Dragon. We have been enjoying those a lot. However, there were some of my purple Turkish, including this small one, that ended up on our dinner plates.

Turkish Black Carrot - Yummy!

Cut up and ready to be lightly steamed for dinner.