Pruning Tomato List - Need Advice

pamchesbayMarch 6, 2013

Hi all:

We are in the middle of a big storm - 30-40 kt winds w gusts to 60 kt, 2.5" of rain today, waves breaking over the riprap into our yard (house was an island just before high tide). I'm trying to decide what tomatoes to plant. I usually plant about 20 tomatoes for us to eat and give away. This year, I decided to start canning and freezing so that changes the equation.

I decided to plant 40-50 tomatoes - 10-15 will be paste tomatoes since this is my first year canning. I have my pots ready. Last night, I made a list - 68 tomatoes. Oops! If I plant 68 tomatoes 3' apart, I'd need about 200' of garden bed. This year, I increased the length of all the raised beds from 8' to 16,' so have twelve 16' x4' raised beds with good soil in the kitchen garden and big garden (not including beds for potatoes, garlic, onions, sweet potatoes). I thought about making more beds. but I may have bitten off more than I can chew. I need to see how this year unfolds before making more growing areas.

I need help to shrink the tomato list. I haven't grown some of these varieties so they may be duplicative. Can you take a look at the list, give me your thoughts about what I can cut to get it down to 40, no more than 50?

CHERRIES (6 x 1 or 2 = 6 or 12 plants)
Black Cherry
Green Grape
Ildi Yellow Grape
Matt's Wild Cherry

PASTE (4 x 3= 12)
Opalka Paste
Speckled Roman
Super Marmande

DRYING (2 x 4 = 8)
Russo Sicilian Toggeta
Principe Borghese

SALAD (2 x 2 = 4)
Jaune Flamme
Sweet Solano

EARLY (4 x 2 = 8)
4th of July
Early Girl
Jet Star
Mountain Princess

SLICERS / BEEFSTEAK (8 x 2 = 16)
Better Boy
Big Beef
Big Boy

PINK / PURPLE / BLACK (4 x 2 = 8)
Black Krim
Mortgage Lifter
Spudakee (potato leaf Cherokee Purple)
Tennessee Britches

YELLOW/ ORANGE (3 x 2 =6)
Dixie Gold Giant
Nebraska Wedding

I appreciate your advice and suggestions.

Take care,

Pam (AKA Dawn Jr)

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helenh(z6 SW MO)

If you don't have room and want tomatoes to preserve, I would cut some cherries unless you really like cherries. Some of them are early so you may want to keep them, but they are time consuming to pick. Maybe you dry them and know what you would do with all of them.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2013 at 10:46PM
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Pam, I think you have a great list so I can see why you have a hard time cutting it. I am not wild about any 'green when ripe' tomato so I could probably cut green grape easily enough although that is one I haven't tried.

I usually plant 5 or 6 cherry tomato plants, Black Cherry and Sungold are planted every year and others rotate. I also like Ildi and Yellow Jellybean. I haven't planted Matt's Wild Cherry in years, but I usually plant one plant of Tess's Land Race which is a small Red Currant. It is one of those that you will get tired of picking before you get tired of eating it. Since we only use currants and cherries for salads and snacks, six vines is plenty for us, and gives us some to share.

I love the taste of Opalka and would grow it every year if it was a good producer, but it does not produce well for me, so it rarely makes the cut.

I don't like Principe Borghese but Dawn loves it for drying. The only time I grew it, the skin was very, very tough. I didn't try drying it, but eating fresh it was a 'spitter' for us and we like almost all tomatoes.

On the other hand, if I had your space to plant, I would plant one of everything in my good garden beds, and put the rest in the big garden and just see what they would do on their own. Too many tomatoes is a 'good thing' as long as you can keep up, but after that you just have to give them away. When you put so much effort into them it may be hard to let go.

You will have to have the mind set to (1) eat your favorites, (2) preserve what you have time for (3) just let go and give them away before they stress you out.

A couple of years ago I had a huge tomato crop and was making salsa about every other day. My mother was ill and lived 300 miles from me. I would drive down for a few days, then back home and catch up, then back down again taking tomatoes with me each time to give away. Finally I told my husband that I was going and would be there until it was over, and I just walked away from it all. Sometimes you just have to make choices. It's best if you can make them before the stress hits. LOL

Tomatoes are not hard to find a home for in our area. I am so late with everything this year, that I will be lucky to get enough.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 10:52AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Pam, I hope this storm is kind to your place. I've been tracking it via the comments on Wunderground on Jeff's blog and all I can say is "wow". That's quite a storm and it is hitting some places incredibly hard.

I am absolutely the worst person when it comes to telling anyone what tomatoes to cut from their list because my attitude with tomatoes is "the more the merrier". : )

However, I'll try:

Cherries--I agree with Carol on green-when-ripe types. It isn't that some of them don't have good flavor, but rather that I find it hard to keep them straight....and nobody, and I mean absolutely nobody, but me will eat them. I can tell my family and friends 1000 times that the GWR tomatoes are ripe while green, and they still won't touch them. The other problem I have with them is that there are times after I've picked tomatoes that I look at them sitting there in a bowl or basket and I'll ask myself "Is that a GWR tomato, or did some green Riesentraubes come off the plant when I was picking tomatoes?" If this was my list and I was cutting, I'd cut either Riesentraube or Matt's Wild Cherry. How to decide? As grown in my soil (and I believe soil influences flavor) Matt's Wild Cherry has the sweeter flavor typical of cherry tomatoes and Riesentraube has a flavor more like a traditional choose based on which flavor you want. I certainly wouldn't cut Black Cherry, Ildi or Sungold!

PASTE: Again, I agree with Carol...and this time it is on the subject of Opalka. I grew it for 8 or 10 years because the flavor is so wonderful, but quite frankly, the productivity is poor even in cooler, wetter years. Once I started canning tons of salsa and sauce a few years back, Opalka had to go because every other kind I grew produced 4 or 5 times as many fruit per plant. Enough said about that. I'd probably cut Super Marmande too, merely because the remaining paste varieties will give you plenty of fruit if the weather cooperates, and you can use the 'slot' left often by cutting Super Marmande to keep some other variety in another category.

DRYING: I love Principe Borghese but I am home all day and can spend an entire day picking Principe Borghese tomatoes if I have to. You might find it hard to work and keep up with this plant unless you completely give up sleeping so you can pick tomatoes all night.

Principe' Borghese and Heidi both produce so many fruit that you can wear yourself out just trying to keep up with picking and processing them, so I think I['d grow one or the other this year merely as a way of ensuring you don't have more tomatoes than you can handle. You couldn't pay me to eat a Principe Borghese tomato raw, but when dried they are superb. It is just unfortunate that they are so tiny and each plant produces hundreds, if not thousands, of fruit, over the course of the summer. I'd like to be able to process PB the way the Italians pulling up the whole plant and hanging it so the fruit can dry right there on the plant....but our humidity does not allow that. The fruits often will mold and rot before they can dry. I was able to do it in 2005 and 2006, both drought years with miniscule amounts of rain and long periods of very low humidity. I haven't even attempted it since. So, for drying I'd go with RST only unless you have summers off from work and can spend an inordinate amount of time picking tomatoes. I often spent 4-5 hours a day picking Principe Borghese tomatoes last summer, although I did have quite a few PB plants....probably 16 of them or so. I could pick large tomatoes from 100 beefsteak and slicer plants in the time I picked the fruit just from the PBs. You also have to consider how you'll be drying them. I normally have three oven racks full of tomatoes dehydrating literally around the clock all the time in summer. When I want to use the convection oven for a meal, I take the tomatoes out of the oven, cook a meal and then put the tomatoes back in. I often start a new batch in the morning, dehydrate those all day, and then put a new batch in the oven to dehydrate before I go to bed. Ask yourself how you're going to manage drying the tomatoes and then plan to grow enough of them that you'll be happy with the yield but not be a slave to spending every spare minute picking them and dehydrating them.

SALAD: I wouldn't cut either of these unless I really needed to cut one more variety just to keep the list manageable. If you had to cut 1, I'd cut Sweet Solano merely because the Wild Boar Farms tomato varieties seem to lack vigor once our worst heat arrives. Jaune Flammee just keeps on keeping on until frost gets it.

EARLY: If I were cutting this one down, I'd cut 4th of July or Mountain Princess. I grow 4th of July merely to have red, round tomatoes to give away. To me, their texture and hardness are too much like grocery store tomatoes and I won't eat them. Last year, they produced well even in the heat, but I just tossed them into batches of sauce or salsa. I have a strong bias against any tomato grown in my garden that is so firm, hard and thick-skinned that it could have come from the grocery store. Mountain Princess has been a disease magnet in my garden. Whether it is grown in containers in fresh soil-less mix or in the ground, it seems to be a magnet for bacterial wilt, which normally is not something I see here very often.

With regards to Jet Star and Early Girl, I love them both for early tomatoes, but not only for early tomatoes. Often, both Jet Star and Early Girl, in the years in which I've grown them, have been not only the first ones to produce ripe fruit but the last ones as well. They often are setting fruit in the July and August heat even when others have stopped setting fruit. For me, that is one reason to always grow them. Their flavor is about as good as it gets for hybrid varieties that produce both early and late.

SLICERS/BEEFSTEAKS: What I would do with this category is keep every single variety, but grow one of them instead of two. Note the actual DTMs you see in your garden this year, and then next year, choose your varieties in this category in the way that gives you the most prolonged harvest. The problem with many of the tomatoes on this list is that they all produce pretty much at the same time, with just slight variation in the DTMS. If you were determined to cut something, I'd cut Big Boy and keep Better Boy because it produces much higher yields and is a few days earlier. And, I'd choose Big Beef over Beefmaster because its flavor is better. Then, I'd chose Ramapo or Moreton or both over Rutgers, but I'd keep Fantastic because it sets so well in the heat. My Fantastic plant last year set fruit in every month from April through October, and I harvested those fruit from late May or early June through the end of November.

PINK/PURPLE/BLACK: I cannot cut any of these because they are so superb, but if you forced me to cut one, I'd cut Tennessee Britches. It pains me to say that because the fruit are so big and so yummy, but fruitset drops here to almost nothing before the end of June, which makes me think it is a great spring tomato, especially if put into the ground in early March, but not a great summer tomato. That's true of most all tomatoes that set huge tomatoes though.....they seem more heat sensitive than plants that set fruit that weighs less than a pound each.

YELLOW/ORANGE: Why not grow one of each and keep all three? Each of these is so unique and so special in flavor that it would pain me to think you'd deny yourself the pleasure of having all three. Dixie Golden Queen has superb flavor but its productivity drops as the heat skyrockets, so if you had to cut one, that is the one I'd suggest.

I think you have an awesome list and I wish you could grow them all, but that is the tomato addict in me saying that.

If you're worried that your persistently cold and wet spring will make you plant so late that your plants will be setting very late, then jot down the DTMs for each variety, and establish a cut-off number like 80 days or whatever, and cut everything that takes longer than that to mature. That's what I do in cold, wet springs when I cannot transplant tomatoes until April. I go strictly with 60-80 DTM varieties. Keep in mind, though, that years like that are not the trend here....heating up early and planting early has been our more recent trend, so I haven't had to make that kind of cuts lately.

I don't have time to proof this as the fire department is demanding my urgent attention right now (hopefully not for long) and I am just gonna say 'bye bye' and hit the submit button.


    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 11:36AM
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Helen - good point about cherries taking a lot of time to pick. I'll cut a couple of the cherries. I have the small salad tomatoes so not a big loss.

Carol - First, thanks for the last piece of advice: some years, things happen in your life, the garden gets too much, you have to walk away - and that's okay. My mom is 93. She's had falls that put her in the hospital and "rehab" for months. My sister and brother-in-law were in a horrific car accident in early April - my brother in law suffered a broken neck, is mostly paralyzed. Over the past 2-3 years, crises have come often. When a crisis hits, I pack a bag and go, don't know for how long. If we have a crisis this summer, I can walk away if necessary.

You say "if I had your space to plant, I would plant one of everything in my good garden beds, and put the rest in the big garden and just see what they would do on their own."

I'll do that. The tomatoes may grow better in the big garden - it gets plenty of sun, less wind, and is on higher ground so it's unlikely to be affected by coastal flooding.

Your comment about "space" caused me to think - have I mis-estimated how many plants I can grow in a bed? If 3' apart, I estimated that I could plant 5-6 tomato plants in a 16' x 4' bed - 60-70 plants would take up nearly all the raised bed space. I got some graph paper to sketch it out. If I stagger plants in two rows in each bed, I may be able to plant 11-12 plants per bed. I can make a few beds wider too. If I can plant more than I thought, I can add a FEW.

I'll drop the green cherry and Opalka. Since I'm planning to can and freeze, and I'm not off in the summer, I won't dry tomatoes this year. Our house gets very hot in summer so we cook (and can) on the screen porch.

Dawn, we are very very wet. We've had rain every 3-4 days and were saturated before this storm. I walked around the property this afternoon, taking stock. Tons of vegetation came in on the waves. The vegetation looks like grass cuttings mixed with sticks, branches, pine cones, chunks of wood, oyster shells. When it dries out, I collect buckets of it - it's good mulch. But this is the third storm in six months that came with coastal flooding (Sandy was the first) so there is far more than I can collect and use.

PASTE: You recommend cutting Opalka and Super Marmande. Done. I'll plant an extra Heidi and Speckled Roman or two.

EARLY: You recommend cutting 4th of July and Mountain Princess, keeping Jet Star and Early Girl. Done. After eliminated those two, I can plant 3 Jet Stars and 3 EGs AND Glacier.

DRYING: Given the info from you and Carol, I'll pass on drying this year. (that frees up EIGHT spots).
SALAD: Sweet Solano and Jaunne Flamme stay.
SLICERS / BEEFSTEAK: I think I can keep all of them, take Carol's advice about planting one in the kitchen garden, one in the big garden. There are more big tomatoes that I wanted to plant this year - Brandywine Suddath's Strain, Mariana's Peace, Stump of the World, Neves Azorean Red. I took these off the list when I thought too many. If my estimates about how many plants I can plant in a bed were off, I'll have more room.

PINK/PURPLE/BLACK: All four stay. I'm thinking of adding Pruden's Purple.

YELLOW/ORANGE: All three stay. Thought about ordering seed for Orange Minsk but decided to stay with what I have. Next year.
I'm planting tomatoes late this year, had a hard time making decisions, also the cold wet weather went on and on. Started peppers on Feb 7, also broccoli, kale, chard, etc. This year has been colder and wetter than usual, but I think we'll be okay. The climate experts predict that Virginia and Oklahoma will be hotter than normal this year.

I think it's a good list. I've spent hours reading lists made by folks on this forum, and taking notes. I'm so grateful to find lists, reviews, post-mortems. I'll plant tomato seeds tonight and tomorrow.

I am concerned about the potatoes and onions. The potatoes have sprouted, the onions arrived from Dixondale - all are ready to go in the ground but it's soo wet. I'm hoping for less rain this month.

Thank you!!

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 8:05PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


You're welcome.

I would be in hog heaven with all the organic matter rolling in....although maybe by the 3rd time in six months, hog heaven might not be as appealing as it once was.

Could Pete take the tractor and pile up all that new mulchy stuff in long rows 2 or 3 feet tall? I suppose you'd have to let them sit a while so the salt water could leach out? Then you could pile soil on top of them, or compost, or mulch, or all three...and you'd have instant hugelkultur beds that might be available for planting for fall 2013 or spring 2014. If you build them tall enough, even after they break down, they'd be elevated enough to keep whatever is planted in them above the next storm surge line perhaps. I am cautious with above-ground hugelkutlur beds here because the copperheads and rattlers like to hide in them, but sometimes I build them below ground with only dirt on top above the grade level.. Sometimes I put them in eroded areas and just keep piling on composty stuff on top of them until eventually native plants pop up out of nowhere and I know the eroded gullies have healed. I just hate thinking of all that free mulch type material not being used.

I worked in the garden all day, except I did come inside to eat lunch, and I am worn out. I bet the Mantis cultivator is more tired than I am though. It can rain all it wants tomorrow, because my work is done and my beds are ready for planting. I only uncovered one toad, as far as I know, and he wasn't hit by the tiller itself....he just kind of popped up in a raised bed when I was cultivating the soil nearby.

As for Pruden's Purple? Absolutely add it! Ours were so superb last year that it made me wonder I don't plant that variety every year. Of course, I feel that way about any and every tomato that makes a return engagement to my garden after being absent for a year or two. I start asking why I ever dropped it to begin with. The answer always is the same---a lack of space.

With the kind of late winter/early spring your part of the country has been having with one storm system after another rolling across the continental US headed your way, I think starting your tomatoes "late" was genius! Even if it was accidental genius. It is likely that by the time the weather calms down and your soil is dry enough for planting, your plants will be the perfect size. Sometimes I fret and worry about plants not being started on time, but it always works out just fine...leading me to believe that things tend to work out they way they were meant to work out.

I experience a lot of potato and onion-planting frustration almost every year. I don't care if it hasn't rained in 3 to 6 months, rain will arrive the very day my Dixondale order arrives. I always try to get onions in the ground as much on time as possible, but the rain seems determined every year to make me plant them 2 or 3 weeks later than I should. I just try not to stress over it. Mine just finally went into the ground last week and the ground was a little wet, but not too wet. Now I am hoping that this weekend's rain doesn't delay potato planting too much. I have some planted, some chitting and some still in their bags. I figured this weekend I would get all the rest out and chitting on the sunporch (but, lol, not in the sun) while it pours down rain outside. With any luck at all, the amount of rain we receive won't be too bad and I'll be able to plant potatoes Monday or Tuesday. I don't see any numbers on the Weather Prediction Center's (new name for HPC) QPF that makes me think we'll have so much rain that I won't be able to plant.

The longer I have had to wait, the more my seed potato stash has grown. I already had two reds, two russets and Yukon Gold. This week I added All Red, All Blue and Purple Majesty, so that's a total of 8 potato varieties. If I delay planting much more, I'll just keep adding more if buying more seed potatoes somehow makes up for the fact that I haven't been able to plant them this week.

I learned a lesson last year. We had a really wet fall and winter here, and I knew a huge rainstorm was approaching and I rushed, rushed, rushed to plant onions and potatoes ahead of the storm, and then we had 6" of rain in the next couple of weeks which was too much on top of all the other rain we'd already had, and many of my potatoes and onions rotted before they could grow. So, this year, the onions are in a really well-raised bed that drains well, and the potatoes are going into the raised beds on the highest point of land we have....but not until this rainy weekend is past. Rushing to beat the rain last year was a mistake, and I won't do it again.

If the choice comes down to planting either onions or potatoes first, I always choose onions because their maturity is governed by daylength, over which we have no control. Potatoes, on the other hand, often give just as high of a yield if planted "late" as if planted on time---it just depends on when the soil temps reach the range where tubers stop forming.

I have looked at the long-range forecasts from NCEP until I am crosseyed for the last month. I keep wanting them to change from 'hotter than normal' to 'cooler than normal'. If only wishing would make it so! I also watch the ENSO forecasts like a hawk, and at this time of the year you know that I do not even know why! It isn't like we suddenly will have an El Nino begin developing at this time of the year! lol I am laughing at myself. This summer, if we luck out and the ENSO forecast starts predicting that an El Nino will develop next winter, then at least I'd know to do all my soil prep for 2014 in autumn and to build those beds high because a wet year is likely. Looking at the ENSO update regularly only makes me crazy this year (and last year...and the year before....) because it only indicates more of what we're already having.

Because NCEP offers us so little hope on the long-term forecast, I am going to plant like crazy in March, and put everything into the ground as early as the soil temperatures allow. At this point, we shouldn't have any nights get so cold that I cannot cover up plants to protect them. I feel like it will be just as important to beat the heat this spring as it was last spring, even though March this year is cooler than March was last year. I have a feeling that March will stay cool until one day, just as if someone flipped a switch, it suddenly will be too hot. I hate it when we go from too cold to too hot in one day!


    Bookmark   March 8, 2013 at 9:33PM
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Hi Dawn,

Thanks for the advice about planting the onions in first. I hadn't thought about prioritizing that way. I was able to plant the onions yesterday, held back a handful to use around edges of potato beds.

Beginning next Saturday, I'll be on the road for a week so am under the gun. The fava beans and sugar snaps are sprouting, need to be planted before I leave. I put the sprouted potatoes under the bed in a room with no heat but that isn't a great solution - I'll try to plant them before I leave. Have greens that are ready plant too.

We are supposed to get more rain on Wednesday so it's gonna be close!

Take care,

    Bookmark   March 10, 2013 at 1:41PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


You can just put on your headlamp and plant at night after work, right?

Arrggh! More rain? Say it isn't so. Y'all are getting an awful lot of it lately. I guess that while it may be planting season, it definitely is mud season.

I think the potatoes will be fine under the bed if you don't get them planted before you leave on your trip. I put some Viking purple potatoes in the tornado shelter once in about November or December. They were in a tall, brown paper grocery bag. I intended to plant them in January or February but forgot they were down in the tornado shelter because my other seed potatoes were in the garden shed since I purchased them later. One day in March we opened up the tornado shelter and there were the big long white stolons with a slight purplish tint to them sticking up out of the brown bag. They were creepy looking too.

I carried the bag out of the tornado shelter, taking great care not to break the stolons. I dug as deeply as I could, though obviously not deeply enough to put the whole stolons underground, so I angled them sideways, and piled on the mulch over the parts that stuck up out of the ground. Those forgotten seed potatoes produced a great yield. So, if they could produce despite having stolons at least 12" tall when planted, I'm sure yours won't get too unmanageably large while waiting under the bed for your return. Just don't forget they are there, or you'll find your foot being grabbed one day by a stolon trying to grow outwards into the light.

Good luck getting all that planting done this week.


    Bookmark   March 10, 2013 at 3:12PM
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I planted 3 bunches of Candy onions in a raised bed yesterday, then covered them with a row cover to keep a neighborhood cat out of them. I only have 3 raised beds, but that cat thinks if there is a box, it must be just for him. I plan to put the rest in the ground, and got it raked down and ready to plant yesterday just as it started to sprinkle. I haven't emptied the rain gauge yet because we still have misting rain today but it looked like about an inch and a half in the gauge last time I looked.

My potatoes are ready to go in, but looks like they will have to wait a few days for things to dry out. With the warmer days this week, it will probably dry pretty fast. It is 41 now and they have raised the night forecast to 31, then we are above freezing at least past the 19th. I am ready for some warm days.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2013 at 4:53PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

I'm ready for warmer days, too, Carol. I think our forecast for the next three nights was 31, 32 and then 37 and after that, I think the temperatures improve drastically. We'll be in the upper 70s by the end of the week if nothing drastic changes the forecast.

My potatoes could swim in the garden right now, but after a couple more days of wind like today, the soil in there will improve a lot.

This year, to keep the cats out of the onion beds, we put PVC pipe hoops over them and I attached a heavy duty deer netting to the hoops. In the past I had used the more lightweight bird netting and the cats broke right through it....trying to sleep on the netting like it was a hammock. The cats just sit outside the onion bed and look longingly at it because it has catnip growing in two of its corners. I am tired of them digging up the onion beds, or deciding to sleep on the onions, when most of the garden is empty and they could take themselves elsewhere. They don't dare get in planted beds when I'm in the garden with them, but when I leave, they have wild parties in the very beds where they know they are not supposed to be.

As slow as the raised beds are to dry out because of their high clay content, your ground may be dry enough to plant potatoes before mine is.

We were in TSC this weekend and they had Norkotah seed potatoes in 20 lbs bags. I didn't buy any more, but I sure wanted to. I think I have 5 lbs. of Norkotah already. I surely do not need any more. I made myself resist the urge to buy some more seed potatoes by asking myself if I wanted to be digging potatoes the whole summer in the hot sun. After freezing outside today in a wind chill in the mid to upper 30s, digging potatoes in the hot summer sounded kind of good, but I won't feel that way when it actually is summer.


    Bookmark   March 10, 2013 at 7:24PM
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Hi Dawn: Yes, I love my headlamp - it's an valuable gardening tool! It saved my life and the lives of my plants so many times.

I'm not using the headlamp tonight - it's chilly, in low 40's, a cold wind has been blowing out of the east for hours - 20-25 kt with higher gusts. From late spring to fall, our prevailing winds are out of the south. This time of year, we don't have balmy breezes. The wind is COLD, regardless of direction. I'm tired of having to dress in layers before going outside.

For once, it looks like the weather in Oklahoma and Virginia is similar. Chilly, windy, rain begins again tonight and into tomorrow.

A few days ago, I realized that my tomato grow list had grown to 74 plants, so I asked how to prune the list to 40 - 50. You and Carol gave me great advice - including ways to increase the space I have available to grow.

You probably know how this story ends.

I dropped several varieties and added a few - Pruden's Purple, Mariana's Peace, Stump of the Worlda, Brandywine Suddath's Strain, Glacier - also Rumi Banjan, a tomato from Afghanistan that I grew for first time last year - tasty, productive, took everything Mother Nature threw out without slowing down.

I tallied up the new list: 64 plants. Thanks to the lists, info that people have shared on this forum, and the advice y'all gave, I'm really happy with this list. On Friday, I sowed the seeds (Jet Star germinated today).

I'm really looking forward to seeing how they turn out!

Many thanks!

    Bookmark   March 12, 2013 at 12:42AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


I'm glad you have a more-or-less final list that pleases you and that excites you about the growing (and tasting!) season. As you know from all our tomato conversations, no list is ever really final around here.

You might have noticed here that when most of us are struggling to cut our tomato grow lists down to size, that's when we always manage to find another variety or 3 or 4 that we must try. It happens every time.

Because of venomous snakes, I don't work in the garden after dark but if I did, I'd wear a head lamp. I have gone out at night with a flashlight to look for a cat that hasn't come in by dark, and when I shine that light into the woods, all sorts of eyes are looking back at me. It really is not a good feeling when there's tons of eyeballs looking back at you....especially if they're pretty far above the ground. I think I'd rather look for the cat without a flashlight, but if it is a cat that is being stubborn and not coming when called, then obviously I need the flashlight so I can find it, grab it and bring it inside for its own safety.

I need flashlights I can clip to my fire boots so I can see snakes on the ground at night when we are out at a fire or other local disaster type thing in the dark. I'd rather see them first before they see me.


    Bookmark   March 12, 2013 at 2:54PM
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Hi Dawn:

I have a mental picture of you stomping around in fire boots, headlamps clipped to each foot. Quite an image! If I had to worry about so many critters - especially snakes - I doubt I'd be outside in the dark either.

Several of your least favorite critters have moved into our neighborhood in recent years. Black bears moved out of the mountains and into more populated areas - especially suburbia, several years ago (bird feeders and dog food bowls are easier than catching prey).

Coyotes came next. The most recent arrivals are cougars - people have taken photos of them so I guess they really are here. A few weeks ago, one of our dogs was barking differently - like she was frightened but was holding her ground. Pete went to check it out, saw an unusual looking animal. From his description, a cougar was moseying down the driveway toward our house. When the animal saw Pete, it melted into the woods next to the driveway. We are not overjoyed at our new neighbor(s).

So, we have a new "weapon" to use when we are on the road and when we are outside at night - a Surefire Dual Output LED. Looks like a small flashlight, fits in your hand or in a pocket. The Surefire has two intensities - 15 lumens for normal use, 500 lumens if it's very dark or if you need to blind a cougar (or a human who does not wish you well). I hope we never have to use it but it's somewhat reassuring to know we could blind an enemy long enough to escape. I don't know if it would be useful to you in firefighting - you may want to check it out.

BTW: We have an arsonist in Accomack County on the Eastern Shore (across the Bay from us). Someone has set more than 60 fires in Accomack County since mid November. He has set several fires in a single day. A reward has been offered, the FBI and ATF are involved.

He set two fires this weekend, bringing the total to 65. People who investigate fires say they have never seen anything like it. I think he must have a grudge against Accomack County since he only sets fires in that County. It's like he's mocking the authorities, saying "Catch me if you can."

Take care and watch where you walk!


    Bookmark   March 12, 2013 at 11:35PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Pam, My first couple of years of doing fire rehab for our FVD, I was stupid and just walked around in the dark doing my job. Then I wised up and started being more watchful. Spring is the worst time because we haven't had to worry about stepping on a snake all winter and then suddenly it warms up and we have to change our behavior and watch for them so we can avoid them.

In either 2010 or 2011 one of our county's volunteer firefighters was bitten by a copperhead when we were at a major wildfire burning in a canyon. Well, the leg of his bunker gear was struck by a copperhead....its' fangs couldn't or didn't penetrate the thick material.He just shook it off his leg and went on fighting fire.

Your description of all those wild things just makes me cringe. For a long time I couldn't understand why one of my old farmer friends worried so much about me working in the woods in the winter time, often alone and often far from the house. He told me over and over again, like a worried father, to be careful, careful, careful. That was before the cougar encounters. I often heard them 'screaming' at certain times of the year, but had only had one of them close to me at night one winter so didn't think it likely they'd be on our land in broad daylight. The rest is history.......After that, I talked with him about them at length and he said they'd always been here and he and folks he knew saw them fairly regularly. Once you've encountered one, you are never the same again and I understand that now.

I always say that "at least we don't have bears here". I hope that continues to remain true. The year before we bought this land, an alligator was found in a stock tank about a half-mile from us. Every now and then they are found in stock tanks or lakes or spotted in the Red River, but they are not a common sight. Our worst "new" pest is feral hogs....which can kill a person. We haven't had them here on our property very often, just 2 or 3 times, but some people here in our county have had some pretty serious encounters with them, and they tear up range land tremendously. Last year we were out a fire a few miles south of us and this specific property was adjacent to the Red River. It was hard to walk without twisting an ankle in some parts of that property because the hogs had rooted up the ground and left big holes everywhere. The rancher there traps them and kills them endlessly.

I'll have to check into the Surefire. We do use a lot of LED lights on our trucks and some guys have lighted safety vests with LED lights on them. The LEDs are really useful in that way.

I have been following the news about "your" arsonist as it has been mentioned often on several firefighting news websites and newsletters. I hope they catch this person before someone dies. Arson is a huge problem here in our area. Often an arsonist or arsonists will indeed set several fires at one time.

For the last few months---I guess since at least last summer, several counties on both sides of the Red River have had quite a few arson fires. These mostly have been set in unoccupied homes. It has happened in quite a few counties, but one county has been particularly hard-hit, often with several structures set on fire in one week or even one day. In our county, our arsons usually are set in wildlands. Our local deputies work very hard to catch these arsonists, but arson is hard to prove if you don't have an eyewitness or surveillance video.

I feel like, in the cases near you, the person involved may have some sort of link to either law enforcement or a fire department....perhaps a disgruntled former law enforcement officer or firefighter. Furthermore, I think it likely this person has a scanner or radio that allows him, her or them to know exactly where the emergency personnel are, which helps him, her or them escape detection. It is unusual for an arsonist to set that many fires and totally elude authorities. We need to have arsonist profilers like, you know, the FBI has criminal profilers. It is, unfortunately, a sad fact of life that many arson fires are set by firefighters/former firefighters, which just makes me sick.

I hope you get your planting done before your trip. I am going to try to get more gardening done today. The garden still is very wet, but I was able to work in the westernmost part of it yesterday, because the sandy soil at that end of the garden wasn't nearly as wet as the rest of the garden. Today I am going to work in the southernmost bed which dries out first because it is on the highest point of ground. By the end of this week, our high temps could exceed 80 degrees at our place, although it was 32 degrees overnight. I should have most all my cool-season plants in the ground by now, but the heavy rain and subsequent mud has hampered my efforts, particularly in terms of planting potatoes. I've got to get them done in the next few days.

Oddly, the March winds haven't been terribly bad the last couple of days. I'm enjoying being able to work outside in only moderate wind instead of raging wind. Since I said that, the winds likely will return with a vengeance.


    Bookmark   March 13, 2013 at 10:52AM
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