Saturday, January 23, 2010


At Amanda’s Greenhouse we offer more than 50 varieties of tomatoes and in recent years the two best sellers have been ‘Big Beef’ and ‘Sungold’. I prefer ‘Sun Sugar’ more than ‘Sun Gold’. It is sweeter and still has enough of that tomato flavor to make it my favorite of them all (until my next “favorite” comes along. )

Here is the “tomato house” early last year.

Just about any full-sized vine-ripened tomato makes me happy, as they all taste 100 percent better than anything you can buy during the winter. I always try to offer plenty of early varieties so that all gardeners will have the opportunity to have some kind of tomato harvest, no matter what happens with the growing conditions.

Besides the popular ‘Early Girl’ I offer ‘New Girl’ which is very close to the same maturity date, but reviewers report better flavor and more disease resistance.

Earlier yet is ‘Stupice’, an early heirloom tomato with 2 - 3 inch fruits which also has good flavor. ‘Cosmonaut Volkov’ is a Russian heirloom that matures at 65 days and is quite a bit larger than ‘Stupice’. This one grows well in containers. Other early varieties are ‘Polfast’, ‘Applause’, ‘Polbig’ and ‘Legend’.

‘Celebrity’, ‘Jet Star’, ‘Big Beef’ and ‘Better Boy’ are among the popular midseason tomatoes.

When I moved to Cabot more than 20 years ago I bought a Canadian heirloom from Veseys for the name, ‘Cabot.’ It turned out to be a heavy and early producer. They dropped it from their line and the only place I can find it now is Sand Hill Preservation Center, a wonderful operation that specializes in heirloom seeds and poultry.

The idea of green or black or white tomatoes does not float my boat, but I will offer ‘Aunt Ginny’s Purple’ for its “....early - excellent yield of deep pink 1 - 2 lb beefsteaks with excellent taste. And I like the sound of ‘Reif Red Heart’ which promises “...large perfect red hearts around one pound ... super taste.”

Last year late blight found its way to my town and cut short the tomato yield, but an heirloom cherry tomato, ‘Black Cherry’, continued to yield for quite a while. The blight did in most of my other heirlooms, but that didn’t stop me from ordering 20+ varieties to try this year.

I’ll write about heirloom tomatoes in my next blog entry. The seeds are arriving here and very soon the gro-lights will be turned on in my living room.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

TOMATOES - Late Blight

Tomato growers in the Northeast had a hard time last summer. Not only was our spring colder than normal, we had record rainfall. Tomatoes are natives of South America and they didn’t appreciate these growing conditions. To top it all off ... along came late blight which thrives with cooler, wetter weather.

My heirloom tomatoes were the first to bite the dust, although “black cherry,” which is much better than it sounds, continued to yield for a long time.

This disease started from infected seedlings grown in the south that were shipped to big box stores in the north.

The strain which caused last summer’s problem was the same strain that caused the Irish potato famine in the 1840’s. The blight releases wind-blown spores, and eventually most of us were hit, regardless of where we purchased our plants. Of course anyone reading this blog would only shop at locally -owned greenhouses, right?


For starters, if any of the diseased material ended up in your compost, definitely don’t use that near your tomatoes.

If you grow potatoes, don’t used saved potatoes as seed potatoes. certified clean.

Lesions on leaves will cross the center vein of the leaf.

Classic symptoms are large (at least nickel-sized) olive-green to brown spots on leaves with slightly fuzzy white fungal growth on the underside. Lesions on leaves will cross the center vein of the leaf.

Keep an eye on the foliage and remove and destroy anything that looks suspicious.

I will be planting more tomatoes in the greenhouse this summer. I have read that keeping water off the foliage slows the development of late blight. Home gardeners could try more potted tomatoes in spots under cover that get the sun.

‘Legend’ and ‘Juliette’ are both varieties that are said to have some resistance to this blight, so I will grow them as back-up. However the only thing I remember about ‘Juliette,’ which is a large cherry/grape type, is that the skin was really tough.

I’m almost finished with all my seed ordering and the next time I write I will list the tomatoes I am growing for customers and explain why I have picked those varieties.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

2010 Resolutions and Ramblings

People often ask me what I do during the winter. I burrow in here, keep the wood stove going and spend way too much time on the computer. To help with bills I sell vintage clothing and accessories on eBay and Etsy. This gives me an excuse to get out there and hunt for treasures, one of my favorite pastimes

When you are on the computer a lot you make a whole new community of friends. I am a member of the Vintage Fashion Guild and I spend lots of time “over there” learning from my colleagues and sharing information and discoveries.

I also have an online group of gardening friends and am on several lists including Freecycle, AHS members (American Hemerocallis Society) , and one for folks who share a health issue with me.

I don’t “tweet” and can barely understand Facebook. Ultimately it is my great “real life” friends here in central Vermont who mean the most to me and who come first.

I have made two new year’s resolutions which may seem counterintuitive. 1) Get back to this blog and 2) Stay away from the computer for at least one hour after I get up in the morning.

Of course I am also perusing seed and plant catalogs and most of my orders are placed.

I buy in quite a lot started of seedlings (plugs)

Often the cost of a plug is just pennies more than the cost of the seed. The uniformity, easy of transplant and savings in fuel makes the additional cost well worth it.

I also start a lot of my plants under lights in the living room. Writing this blog makes me realize just how soon that process will begin.