Seeds, Seeds, Plants, and Seeds: Tomatoes

Tomatoes: After a string of planted-too-soon failures (both self- and nursery-started), we’re hoping these high-tech hybrids hit the sweet spot, timing-wise. Since Burpee’s home base is only 30 miles north of POD’s sladder, we’re optimistic. (And playing it safe, per last year’s notes, POD just fired off a note to Burpee’s asking for a later shipping date. [Let’s hear it for Burpee’s — permission granted!])

  • Honey Delight: yellow (the Hurricane’s favorite), “prolific” (the main Minder’s favorite). And 2″, 4-oz. fruits seems just about the perfect balance between cherries and traditional tomatoes
  • Sunchocola: POD tends to have decent luck with cherry tomatoes, and this “smoky,” “disease-resistant” hybrid sounds like a winner
  • Early Girl, Bush: The earlier the better. July 4, you say? Perfect. Also? Determinate, small, container-friendly with “multiple disease resistances.”

With a Mighty Triumph O’er Her Foes

early girl tomato blossomYup, up from the grave she arose. This brave, and now tardy, Early Girl managed to survive early planting (the poor dear was delivered in early April — way too early in POD’s experience to be planting tomatoes in Philly), crap soil (which, after a full refund was augmented with a good deal of organic fertilizer), and Hitchcockian bird attacks.

You’re looking at the one, and only, plant on late early girl tomatodeck. Sheer laziness (and good deep-soil planting technique, thank you very much) was its savior, as this gardener was far too despondent about the prospect of the total failure of Plants on Deck to bother removing it. And it’s a good thing, too, as the three sizable and just ripening tomatoes out front were stolen away in the dark of night by one of South Philly’s charming pedestrians.

Earliest Tomato Failure

Ex Early GirlThe good folks at Plants on Deck are decidedly too busy these days to go through the ordeal of starting plants from seed. Last year, despite their early arrival, the Celebrity tomatoes from Gurney’s worked like a charm. This year, the resistant-to-everything Early Girls arrived even earlier. Like, in early April. And unlike last year, this has been a cool and rather delightfully long-lasting spring. Even though the seedlings hung out in an indoor/outdoor fashion for a week, it was still too cold and too early and two out of three have kicked it.

Although the Am Ex has been credited, Early Girls were out of stock and POD’s back to the drawing board.

So, a trip to the Depot resulted in a new, green and hearty-looking tomato.

Bad blogger confession: The tag got pitched. No clue what the thing is!

Note to Self and other zone 7 gardeners: When ordering starts, specify a May delivery date!

Outside, Amma!

The windows are open and cheeks are pink. Woo hoo.

With any luck, photographic evidence will follow soon, but Plants on Deck is live for 2013. And the plants out front are stylin’ in brand-new lemon yellow window boxes. Thanks, dearest Endurer for building them, and thanks, Hurricane Ye, for the inspired color choice.

Direct-seeded:

  1. Paris Market carrots — 19th century French heirloom, early red-orange golf-ball carrot. (Probably should have planted these a few weeks ago, but we do what we can these days.)
  2. Cherry Belle and random mixed radishes
  3. Mesclun salad mix
  4. Bright Lights Swiss chard
  5. Rainbow blend carrots

Seed-started:

  1. Beam’s Yellow Pear tomatoes: Seed packet sez: “Introduced to Seed Savers Exchange in 1983 by John Hartman of Indiana. Our favorite when we compared 25 different yellow pears in 1998. Endless supply of 1 1/2″ fruits with great flavor. Ideal for salads.” And Hurricane Ye.

Cheated:

  1. Early Girl tomaotes, courtesy of Gurney’s Seed and Nursery.

Enlisted

This little volunteer came up out front, oh, about a month plus ago. Or, at least, that’s when it got noticed. A couple weeks later, it found itself being uprooted and transported to the little blue deck. Given the bugs and yellowing leaves the Celebrities are fighting as this is typed, we’re hoping for  the best.

And we’re hoping the volunteer’s a prolific Gold Nugget, but we’ll take what we get.

We Live in Strange Times

Last year, spring sprang late.

The year before, it sprang and ran.

sad celebrity tomatoes

And this year’s just a bewildering, disconcerting, and unsettling mess of a spring. These travel-stressed and sunlight-starved Celebrities made their debut just yesterday. But we’re looking at an 88 degree afternoon. Which is hot. Too hot, POD thinks. When the heat of the day hits, they’ll be coming inside for an afternoon rest. (Thanks, Endurer.)

Which is, you know, insane.

Mistake

Staking tomatoes is a pain (it seems like every time a new tether gets added, a branch gets knocked off, fruit tumbles to its death, wind gets tomande tomato, stakedmisjudged, stakes lean like Pisa, and curses fly)  and cages take up a lot of space. So one of the attractions to planting hybrids designed for small spaces was the notion that not all plants would need to be staked or caged.

Like, for instance, the “petite” Patio Princess Hybrid and the supposedly 18″ Tomande. In POD’s case, evidently, we’re talking a well-endowed plus-size petite and a 36-inch 18″er… Both of which toppled over one recent gusty day.

patio princess unstaked, plants on deckAs caging tomatoes after they’ve hit maturity is pretty much like telling a rabidly teething one-year-old that she doesn’t really want to chew on that piece of grubby-feet-spiced rubberized mulch from the playground’s “ground,” your best bet is to cage or stage every damn tomato the minute they hit the ground in May or June.

So noted.

Well, Shat.

possible herbicide damage on green beansSigh. So, Plants On Deck’s tender is more and more convinced that POD’s poor tomatoes and Provider Snap green beans have been affected by, wait for it…

HERBICIDES!

Oh, the irony of ironies. The plants sowed so lovingly in the expensive, Pennsylvania-produced organic soil have all curled, withered, and in some cases, died. (Take a look at this University of Nebraska link for a doppelganger of POD’s tomatoes.) In the Tomande’s case, the stunted plant has just begun to flower and fruit. A little. The MiracleGro Tomande is more or less (more on the less later) a brut.

How can this be, you ask? Well, the contamination route could have gone something like this: hay is sprayed with pyridine carboxylic acid (a broadleaf herbicide), that hay is applied on crops as mulch (or composted and applied to “enrich” the soil) and those crops are then composted and incorporated into organic soil. OR, herbicide is sprayed on hay, and because hay is for horses, the horses eat it. Said horses shat and that manure ends up in “organic” soil.

The manufacturer has been contacted and a couple of outside sources have been consulted as well. Updates, we hope, to follow.