Tomatomania!

The tomatoes are doing fabulous, and are just shy of 4 feet tall. It’s crazy, just one month ago they were only about 6 inches in height. The first petals are dropping, exposing the tiny fruits. Just another couple of weeks and I should be harvesting the first outdoor Cherry Buzz tomatoes of the season. I’ve had tomatoes producing in my greenhouse since November, but unfortunately there isn’t much space in there for more than a few plants due to all the seedlings. Black Krim, Gold Nugget, Early Girl, and Sweet 100’s are the varieties I have in the greenhouse. They all are doing quite well in 5 gallon black nursery pots. The only complaint I have about greenhouse tomatoes is the stalks are always a bit daintier than the thick robust stalks and stems seen on outdoor tomatoes. I’m too lazy to set up a fan in there to strengthen the stalks. Conserving energy is also important.

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Hybrids? Yes or No?

Many people approach me with questions about my vegetable seedlings. Many want to know if they are GMO free, if they are Heirloom, if they are Organic. I can always guarantee my plants are fed all natural organic fertilizer and planted in organic soil. I can also guarantee I plant only GMO free seed. What I cannot say, is that I plant only heirloom seeds.

I have many requests for hybrid vegetable seedlings, especially tomatoes. If you’ve ever grown tomatoes, you know what I mean! They can be quite fussy depending on the variety. With our many micro-climates here in Santa Barbara, it may be difficult for some growers to achieve the results they hope for. If you plan on feeding your family, and you depend on those vegetables and tomatoes, you might find it easier to do so with certain hybrids that have been found to be disease resistant.

There are some great hybrid varieties such as Big Beef and Sweet 100 Cherry. These varieties are good producers and appeal to people who enjoy large slicing tomatoes, or the small sweet-like-candy cherry tomatoes. They seem to do well in all climates and are less susceptible to diseases such as mold, blight, and wilt. Hybrids also tend to produce more uniform fruit, whereas an heirloom could quite possibly have different looking fruits on the same vine.

One of the downsides of hybrid seeds, and it is especially noticeable with squash, is that the seeds do not grow true to the parent plant if saved and replanted. Second generation hybrid squash plants tend to produce strange, light green, odd-looking fruits that don’t look very appetizing. Tomatoes on the other hand, could produce something similar in looks to the parent plant, although inferior in taste and texture.

You could conduct your own Mendelian experiment, and create a hybrid of your own. Cross-pollinate two varieties you enjoy, and save the seeds from those fruits. From the seed you would grow many plants, 64 or 128! You would then evaluate those plants and select the ones most like the original hybrid that you produced. From those plants you would collect the seed and repeat the process until you end up with the stabilized hybrid. It may take five or six generations of plants to get back to where you started. You can then save those seeds, give them a special name, pass them down in your family for 50 years and create your own heirloom variety!

I am not going to get much into the Seminis/Monsanto discussion.There are lists online containing the names of hybrid seeds designed by this company, and some lists are more accurate than others. I personally choose not to support this particular company. Under the Monsanto umbrella is a very small home-garden division called Seminis Gardens that produces and sells some well-known, non-GMO varieties. Some tomato seeds that I use which are on “the list” such as Lemon Boy, were developed and introduced long before Monsanto owned Seminis, and were originally sold under an entirely different brand. These varieties are now available from a number of reputable seed producers. Make your own informed decisions on what seeds to buy.

Hybrids or Heirlooms, it is really a matter of personal preference!

First Plant Sale of the Season

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Thank you everyone who attended our first plant sale of 2015! We are starting the season with four varieties of tomato plants.

Early Gem Tomato Plants

The Early Gem tomato is a medium globe type hybrid popular with home gardeners because of its early fruit ripening. It is an indeterminate variety. Early Gem is tall growing and needs support as the plant grows. Fruit maturity ranges from 50 to 62 days from transplanting. Plants are reliable and prolific, but not particularly cold-tolerant. The ripe tomato is about the size and shape of a tennis ball—very much a standard tomato—and weighs 4 to 8 ounces. It has a bright color and good flavor.

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Red Brandywine Tomato Plants

The Brandywine tomato plant is an heirloom cultivar of the species, with large potato-leaved foliage. It bears large pink beefsteak-shaped fruit, popularly considered among the best tasting available. Brandywine tomatoes can bear fruit up to 1.5 lbs (0.7 kg). The fruit requires 80 to 100 days to reach maturity, making it among the slowest maturing varieties of common tomato cultivars. Brandywine has been described as having a “great tomatoey flavor”, (others have called it a beautifully sweet tomato that is offset by a wonderful acidity) leading to heavy usage despite the original cultivar’s relatively low yield per plant. Its fruit has the beefsteak shape and pinkish flesh. Even when fully ripe, the tomato can have green shoulders near the stem. The Brandywine tomato plant has potato leaves, an unusual variation on the tomato plant whose leaves are smooth and oval with a pointy tip, instead of jagged and fjord-like the way “normal” tomato plant leaves are.

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Cherry Buzz Tomato Plants

The word around town is that Cherry Buzz is the tomato worth a special place in the garden. Requiring only 55 days to maturity, this is one of the earliest of all the tomatoes to ripen.  It also not only produces loads of tasty, bite-sized treats before the tomato season truly kicks in, it also continues to pump them out throughout the summer. Shiny, 1/2-3/4 inch, red globes have a bright, sweet flavor, are crack resistant, and engulf indeterminate plants in clusters. Ferny, especially healthy, productive plants round out this exceptional variety.

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Yellow Pear Tomato Plants

Pear tomato or teardrop tomato is the common name for any one in a group of indeterminate heirloom tomatoes. It originated in Europe in the 1700s. They are generally sweet, and are in the shape of a pear, but smaller. Pear tomatoes are commonly eaten raw, but can also be used as a garnish, as an ingredient in many different dishes and sauces, or in drinks. They are perfect for summer party hors d’oeuvres. Plants generally yield enormous numbers of yellow bite-sized fruits. The fruit takes approximately 75 days to maturity.

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