Monday, December 22, 2008

Tomato review!

Since I yanked the tomato plants this week, I'll give a rundown of how they did this year.

Overall, it was a less then ideal year for tomatoes: cold and gray early in the season, cold and gray through a lot of the summer, and finally warmer and sunny when it was almost too late. Seattle tilth actually canceled their annual tomato taste-off usually held in September cause nobody had tomatoes!

Cold early summer and lots of gray days limited the amount of fruit set dramatically, and I really only got one good flush out of each plant, if that.

All the tomatoes were planted out in mid-may. About 50 days later the first ripe tomatoes were ready. They produced slowly for a month until they really started rolling in (as many as we could eat) from late August to early September.

Stupice tomatoes (8/30) were the first ready, the strongest producer, and the most vigorous grower, just like they were last year. A nice, not too sweet and not too juicy slicing tomato. I'll be growing this again next year.

I tried some grape tomatoes this year, these are called Cabernet (8/30). These took longer to ripen up than the stupice, and were easiest to pick from the back of the truss as they ripened. They were slightly meatier than cherry tomatoes and lean towards acid rather than sweet.

Early Girl II (9/10) is larger than stupice, with more juice and more tomato acid. It wasn't as vigorous as others, and despite it's name, ripened later than others. These were my "nicest looking" tomatoes, if that counts for anything.

Marzano tomatoes (9/16) are a big, fat, Roma-type italian sauce variety. These were slow to mature, these were the first ready to pick, and many ahd to be picked unripened a the end of season. They are very meaty and have a mild flavor.

Monday, October 13, 2008

First frost

Bellingham's average first frost the the 1st of October. It held off for a few weeks but we got our first frost last night. It wasn't a hard freeze, but it did kill everything that is considered tender or a hot weather veggie.

The last of the basil was killed off. Despite our chillier than normal summer, it did great this year.

Dahlia foliage and blooms were killed off as well. The plants were then cut off about 6" from the ground, which will promote the growth of new "eyes", which will be next years' growth. After two weeks, they'll be dug up, cured for a few days, and stored through the winter to be planted out next spring.

I took out the last of the tomatoes, amended with some compost, and sowed crimson clover.

The hardier vegetables took the frost with no problem. I hope we have enough remaining days of decent weather and enough light to push them to maturity before real winter sets in.

Chinese cabbage, leeks, and carrots.

Kohlrabi and a few broccoli plants.

Sunday, October 5, 2008


Had good dahlias this year. I started a lot of annual dahlias from seed this year. Those first:

I also planted a bunch of dahlia corms, some I saved from last year and some we got from a friend.

These are much bigger than the annual dahlias - 3 or 4 feet tall and bigger blooms.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Fall peas!

I wasn't sure if they would have enough time to mature enough to produce anything, but looks like the snap peas sown just over 2 months ago had just enough. The first flowers showed 3 weeks ago and they have kept growing and flowering, setting fruit since.

Cascadia Snap Pea, developed by a horticultural professor in Oregon, is resistant to powdery mildew, a common fall fungus in our climate.

The crimson clover cover crop, here in the perennial herb bed, has filled in amazingly fast. We picked off these herbs (thyme, 3 kinds of sage, 2 kinds of oregano, and rosemary) all year long. Today I cut them all back pretty good and will dry all the cuttings to use through winter. Rosemary can be thrown right into the freezer without drying and used as if fresh.

Red leaf lettuce is coming along, slowly. Everything is growing much slower in the cool weather and weaker sunlight of fall. Hopefully the cabbage, broccoli, radishes and peas will be able to grow large enough for eating in late fall and through winter.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Hot weather veggies

Finally getting good production out of tomatoes and peppers now that we've had some consistently warm weather. I'll go over the tomatoes later as a vegetable review of each variety.

California Wonder 300 at about 60 days after transplanting. These are off one plant and that's really all the plant produced.

Basil sown June 8 is growing great. 3 plants for each 4" pot gave them enough room after transplanting.
Basil from a few weeks ago big enough to start picking. Instead of pulling individual leaves as we need them, I find it easier to just cut one or two full plants at a time.

Here's the garden plots today....

Saturday, August 30, 2008

More fall transplants

Got the last of the fall transplants in today. I had started some Red Russian Kale and Silver Chard for fall, but they didn't make it through my last vacation away from home. A windstorm blew the 3 week old seedlings off the deck to the grass, where slugs ate them up. Oh well.

Lettuce mix called "The redder the better".

I interplanted the lettuce in the cabbage and broccoli rows, basically so I could use only two of the many raised beds in our plots for fall/winter crops and green manure all the others.

Hopefully the close planting here will form a dense canopy of leaves and a deep root system below that will help protect the soil and its' nutrients from leaching away in fall and winter rains, just as the cover crop will do in other beds.

Speaking of cover crops, here is crimson clover germinated and beginning to fill in around kohlrabi transplants from a week ago.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Vegetable Review

Vegetable: Cabbage
Variety: Derby Day Cabbage
Seed Co: Territorial Seed Co.
Description: "Grows very rapidly in the chill of spring, and can hold up to 5 weeks without bolting if the weather is right. The early maturing, round, blue-green heads weigh in at 3-5 pounds and measure 5-7 inches in diameter. The dense interior is extremely sweet and tender and makes great slaw, both cold and hot".
Sown: March 15, 2008
Transplanted: May 3
Germination: good
First Harvest: about July 3
Days to maturity: Stated: 58 Actual: 60
Held in field/length of harvest: 4 weeks
Problems: The usual slugs, cabbage worms, and blue aphids, easily removed or washed out with water.
Results: Easily grown, tasty cabbage. Picked the first after 60 days at 4-5" diameter. Later plants matured to large and dense heads of 6-8".

Just at the first harvest, after about 2 months in the ground.

Last one was very large, no splitting either.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Fall transplants

Got pretty much everything in the ground now. Realistically, I'm a few weeks too late. It's possible that a frost or even a freeze can roll in by the middle of September, or it may be sunny and frost free till mid October. So I'm hoping for a mild fall and planting like crazy. The last lettuce will go in this weekend.

Cabbage in front and Broccoli in the back. This bed was in such bad shape I have not used it this year till now.

Kohlrabi. I sowed crimson clover in this bed as well to see how well kohlrabi can be interplanted.

Monumental Chinese cabbage goes in a bed with other winter tough veggies, leeks and carrots.

I've sown crimson clover as a cover crop and green manure in all bare areas at the garden plots. As soon as the tomatoes and peppers are done (as well as any other lingering crops), they'll be pulled and crimson clover will go in there as well. I'm hoping to have a dense cover over everything as soon as the winter rains start coming in.

Friday, August 22, 2008


I'm back after a nice week long vacation. The garden went along nicely without me, even making it through a nasty thunderstorm with rain and wind. 3/4 " of rain kept everything happy.

Hot weather veggies are ripening up and starting to roll in. This sure was a bad summer for them - cooler than normal temps and many gray days in May and June really set things back. Nothing will be producing to its' full potential this year, but we'll certainly have plenty.

Tomatoes, Sungold here, are finally ripening.

Eggplant is a prayer in Bellingham, but even with this cold year I'll get a few.

Lots of hops maturing - I've got 5 varieties.

Here's the haul for today. Not too fantastic, but I'm happy with it.

Clockwise from the lower left: Sungold toms with Miniature Chocolate Bell peppers behind; Early Jalapenos; 2 heirloom Cherokee Purple toms; Italian pepperoncini peppers; Super Marzano Roma toms; a few Stupice toms and some FIrst Lady II toms.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Went down to the garden a few days ago and surprised some wildlife in one of the plots at the community garden.

They ate about 8 feet of a row of runner beans, stripping off all the leaves. I'm glad I've got a 6 foot fence!

My fall brassicas are coming along nicely. Instead of thinning 3 or 4 plants down to 1 per cell, as I did in spring with my early brassicas, I ended up pricking out these seedlings and potting them up to individual 2" pots or into a cell tray with 2" cells. I'm planting more of each vegetable than I did this spring.

That's cabbage in the front 2 rows and broccoli in the back 2 rows. These were sown about 25 days ago and should be transplanted some time next week.

Chinese cabbage in front and kohlrabi in back sown 2 weeks ago. Hopefully these will be out in the garden in 2 weeks. That's about 2 weeks later than they should have been out, but I'm hoping for a long, cool fall with no early frosts.

I sowed a few more fall veggies a couple days ago:
- one 4-pack Italian Silver Chard
- one 4-pack Red Russian Kale
Both frost hardy varieties that should stand through the winter.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

More Fall veggies

Started some more cool weather crops this weekend, hopefully with enough time for them to get in the ground and be ready before really cold weather shows up.

one 4-pack Kohlrabi Superschmelz (KH348)
one 4-pack Lettuce The Redder the Better mix (LT443)
one 4-pack Monument Chinese Cabbage (OV572)
one 1 Qt. Sweet Dumpling Delicata (SQ822)

I've heard that squash and cucumber can be tricky to start, and they were for me. My first squash didn't come up. My two 1 qt. pots of cucumber all came up but all damped off within 2 weeks. It's almost too late now, but I'm trying one last time anyway.

Stopped by the garden plot last night and had some ripe Sungold cherry tomatoes - our favorite variety.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Physiological problems

I'm starting to see some more problems with the tomatoes. Physiological diseases are not spread from plant to plant and only affect the original plant. They are caused by environmental conditions. Half of my 8 plants have been stricken with leaf roll for weeks. This causes nearly all the leaves on the plant to cup upwards or roll up completely. This is a moisture related problem that happens most often during periods of "cool, rainy weather". Sounds like our early summer. Apparently it doesn't have any effect on production, and sometimes they will unroll after poor conditions subside, so I'm not worried about it.

Leaf roll on a Stupice plant.

A more serious problem I'm seeing on some plants is blossom end rot. Fruits develop black sunken lesions on the end opposite the stem. It's caused by a calcium deficiency. The most common cause is inadequate moisture or cooler temperatures during blossom setting which inhibits calcium uptake to the rapidly growing end of the fruit. In my case, planting early in cooler, slightly heavy soil that probably doesn't have the best drainage was most likely the cause. Usually only the first set if fruits are affected.

This Cherokee purple fruit has blossom end rot and cat-facing.

My last issue is leaves with purple undersides or purple veining. This is a phosphorus deficiency. I used a 5-5-5 fertilizer at transplanting time and have since side-dressed with a low nitrogen, high phosphorus fertilizer, so it is present in the soil. Soils with low pH (like clay soils) tend to hold on to phosphorus and not release it for plants, so when I prepared the bed in the spring I amended with lime to raise the pH, so that shouldn't be an issue either. The only other cause is cool soil and air temperatures. I'm starting to see a trend here!

Hopefully, warm weather for the end of July through August will help the plants overcome all these issues.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Vegetable Review

Vegetable: Lettuce

Variety: Buttercrunch

Seed Co: Territorial LT392

Description: Crispy and crunchy, very light textured. Semi-heading. Great for sandwiches and fresh eating.

Sown: 3/15/08

Transplanted: 4/17/08

Germination: good, very slow comparatively, took about 12 days to fully germinate

First Harvest: 5/25/08

Days to maturity: Stated: 48 Actual: 40-50

Held in field/length of harvest: Was good eating from May 25 through July 5, or about 5 weeks

Problems: Very attractive to slugs, I had to put Sluggo down once a week to keep them from getting eaten too much

Results: Great spring lettuce, held for a very long time without bolting. I probably planted too much at one time, and should have split my indoor sowing into two groups 3 weeks apart. I’ll be planting more soon for fall and winter harvest.

Transplanted at four weeks old under plastic during a cold month of April.

5 weeks later just big enough to start cutting.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Vegetable Review

Vegetable: Snap Pea

Variety: Mega

Seed Co: Territorial PE629

Description: 3-4” long, thick-walled, stringless, edible pods on dwarf 30” non-climbing vines.

Sown: March 6

Transplanted: April 5

Germination: very good, 5 days

First Harvest: June 24

Days to maturity: Stated: 55 Actual: 100

Held in field: 2 weeks

Problems: Long to mature - this one took about 100 days from germination to harvest. When they did mature, they produced only half as heavily as the same amount of snow peas nearby. This "enation resistant" variety did not resist much - leaves were yellowing and flowers dropping a few weeks before the snow peas.

Results: The peas were sweet, very crisp and very juicy, but seemed to lack flavor. I'll be trying a different variety this fall.

June 14: Just about ready.

July 1: Enation sets in.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Vegetable Review

Vegetable: Snow Pea

Variety: Oregon Sugar Pod II

Seed Co: Territorial PE624

Description: 3-5” crisp green pods on dwarf, non-climbing 36” vines

Sown: March 6, indoors

Transplanted: April 5

Germination: very good

First Harvest: June 17

Days to maturity: Stated: 70 Actual: 90

Held in field/length of harvest: 3 weeks

Problems: Succumbed to enation (according to Steve Solomon) before 2nd round of flowers could set pods fully

Results: Matured later due to abnormally chilly May weather which slowed growth. Produced twice as heavily as Mega snap peas. Crisp, juicy, stringless pods were great fresh or stir fried. Stronger “pea” flavor than snaps. Good eating even when peas were allowed to swell up.


Fall crops

This is my first attempt at fall crops. From what I've read, the northwest has the perfect fall and early winter weather to accommodate a second round of most spring crops. Planting in mid-late summer, however, requires a little more thought than spring plantings. If, like me, your garden is not in your backyard and you don't want to go there every day, keeping seed moist and getting it to germinate outside is difficult. I moved my seed heating mat and covered flats out on the back porch and will be starting fall seedlings outside, then transplanting. As the days get shorter and the sun's path starts to move closer to the horizon, its' intensity diminishes and the amount of growing energy available to plants is less. This must be accounted for when planning seed starting or you could get caught by frost with immature crops. The first frost date is used to calculate when vegetables need to be finished by, unless they are frost tolerant or cold hardy veggies, or if they will grown under cover when weather gets cold. There's lots more to think about as well.

This weekend I started some seed for fall crops:

four 4" pots Cascadia Snap Pea
one 4 pack Fall Blend Broccoli
one 4 pack Early Cabbage
two 1 qt. Cucumber Bush Slicer
one 1 qt. heirloom Delicata Squash

I'll be starting lots more seed and trying to sow some outside for fall and winter harvest in the next few weeks.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Weeked update

Peppers have really done well after transplanting. I expected a little lag as the weather was really hot and sunny when I transplanted but they have continued growing and the fruit have easily doubled in size in a week! This is the advantage of proper hardening off for indoor sown and grown seedlings: a week of acclimating to days outside and nights inside/outside in the cold frame prepared these plants to transition to the outdoor conditions seamlessly.

Miniature Chocolate Bell and Italian Pepperoncini

Early Jalapeno and Dusky Eggplant

Last year my peppers were destroyed by slugs their first night out and never recovered to really produce anything. This year is looking to be much better.