Tomatoes in the ground!

Back on April 9th I put the hoop house up, and I let it sit around with nothing in it until yesterday, April 19th, when I set most of the tomatoes into it for the WHOLE day which is a crazy thing to do (sunburn! cripsy!) but these plants are so hard already they’ll be fine even if they lose a leaf or two.

I brought them in for the night, and then brought them out again around noon today.


I decided to think about spacing and which ones should go in this bed (I have many more tomato plants than I’m actually going to grow here).

David happened by and took this picture. I don’t know how I would EVER get anything done around here if I didn’t have ducks to help me with planting.

Then I just decided to go for it.  Why the hell not?  With two exceptions I planted one grafted and one not-grafted specimen (heh) of each variety.  San Marzano got one extra grafted plant.  And I only planted one (not grafted) Sungold because omg you only need one.  For your whole block!

So here we are, right on time.  It *feels* really early to be putting tomatoes out but I always do it at the end of April.  So maybe it’s a week earlier than normal?  This is definitely the shortest-ever hardening-off period.  Two days.  I attribute that to two things: 1) they’ve been in the garage where night temps have been getting regularly into the low 50’s since I took the light off 24-hour and let the timer turn it off at night (it’s been about 2 weeks of that) and 2) they didn’t really get sunburn yesterday.  Must be the brightness of that T-5? I have the citrus out in direct sun as well, and they’re not burning either after life under T-5 all winter.

I do use wood chips in my vegetable garden, I know, isn’t that weird? No one does that.

The above pic illustrates how I deal with the wood chips.  The trowel marks the spot where I’m going to dig a hole for the plant.  The big cleared-off bare soil area is where I’m going to put the pile of soil from the hole.  Once the plant is in then I put the wood chips back over wherever there is bare soil.  Some people don’t like wood chips in vegetable beds because they don’t like having to move chips around to plant things, or they don’t like it when the chips inevitably mix with the soil, or whatever.  I don’t care about any of that because the chips are the best mulch I’ve ever found for vegetables.  The trickiest thing is when I have to pull a big plant up by the roots – that can certainly make chips and soil mix together more than I want.   But I just do it carefully and actually, most of the time I just cut the plant at soil level and leave the roots in place (really big cabbages may be an exception).

All done for now.

See how kind of dark and curled and hard those plants look? You can’t tell from the photo but these plants are STIFF.  This is all just because I changed everything up a lot this year in the indoor seed-starting area and I’m still getting the hang of it.  Different lights, different container medium, different fertilizer, and on top of that grafting tomatoes.  Talk about unscientific experiments!

Here’s the scraggly band of remaining tomato plants – and this is not all of them.  The spindly one with the yellow leaves is a rootstock plant.  I just want to see what that’s like so I’m going to let it flower and fruit for the hell of it.

And in addition to that I have about 8 more inside, which I’m only *just* starting to harden off – they are very soft plants so the hardening off needs to be really careful.   Of these remaining plants, 4 will go to Carol on Wichita Ave, 8 will go to my sister and hopefully the rest will find homes somewhere.

We have some exceptional weather coming up so I’m going to try to get as many plants in the ground as possible this weekend.  Wish me luck!


‘Winterwunder’ and ‘Arctic King’ sowed indoors January 8

I probably sowed these seeds way earlier than I needed to, because look, they’re two months old and still babies.  Whatever.  They’re fully hardened off – they’ve been outside in their flat along with various alliums and I only brought them in one or two nights when it dipped well below freezing.  Basically, I’ve been dragging my feet on preparing this bed for them.  I needed to rake off all the wood chip mulch that was here, then level the soil a bit and actually add some soil to bring the level up above the rest of the wood chips surrounding it, and I didn’t want to do any of that while the soil was super heavy sticky wet.  So after a couple dry days, I finally did it.

Here’s the bed.  It used to have a 2×6 wood edge around it like all my vegetable beds, and (it took me forever) I finally decided to remove the wood and allow this bed to become a more natural shape which will feel a lot better in the front yard.  This is actually the sunniest bed of all, but it’s also the most visible, and since it’s part of the front yard I like to grow things that look pretty here, like brassicas and eggplants and alliums.

I stood on a car for this

Eventually I’ll move some of those rocks around and shoot for something more kidney-shaped.

One thing that’s good about having a couple of vegetable beds out front is that the ducks don’t come to the front yard unless I’m with them.  So I can safely plant seedlings and not have to fence them off to prevent them getting trampled or eaten.

Oh you’re wondering about all those gallon nursery pots? Hostas, every single one of them.  This is the ridiculous horde of hostas I got at Fred Meyer last summer because they were $2 each and I apparently had $50 burning a hole in my pocket.  These will all go over to Wichita Ave, because she loves hostas, and the north side of her house just begs for a whole bed of them.  Okay I might keep one ‘Sum & Substance’ just because it’s insane and chartreuse.

Other fun tasks for the day included cutting last year’s (mostly) dead stems of Gaura and no I’m not calling it Oenothera yet.

I leave them in place as long as I can stand it because I love this

Grassing.  There is no “weeding” in my front garden.  The only “weed” is grass.  So I grassed.

Bye grass. That’s Arctostaphylos ‘Howard McMinn’ and and artichoke which I just adore

The moles, the moles are here.  Hi moles!

I found about 15 of these

But you know what? I’ve decided I’m going to work with the moles, not against them.  I’ve managed to convince myself that they’re the primary reason the lavenders are so happy in this area which has very dense, hard, clay soil.  Moles as soil aerators and creators of better drainage. Sure, why not?

I also took some of that mass of Angelina sedum and threw them around a bit.

sorry bout that thumb

And lastly my neighbor’s Kanzan cherry is about to burst open.  I love this bud phase!


That’s it for today. Stay tuned for some REALLY fun stuff upcoming at Wichita Ave!!

Grafting Tomatoes: update

Did you think this would go super-perfect? HA! Did I? Actually, admittedly, I did.

Turns out, other plans were in store!

Ok here’s the best pic I can come up with:

this looks better than it is

So the success rate on the grafts is exactly 50%.  LAME.

What happened, you ask? I’ll tell you.  The rootstocks failed in that they experienced damping off.  I am nearly certain this was due to me leaving the dome cover on for too long.  Really high humidity and also high temps = they mushed.  The fact that the rootstock stem diameter was generally around 75-80% of the scion stem diameter didn’t help; they had to hold all that up and I didn’t give them stakes initially.

But, whatever, this is why I started and grafted more than I really need.

I started this post on March 8, so two days ago.  It’s now the 10th and things are actually looking even better.

there are 9 successfully grafted plants here

Some of the graft attempts failed completely in that the rootstock rotted and the scion also died. But with some of them, the scions made adventitious roots more or less at the graft point, so where those rootstocks died, I took the scions back off and stuck them in the medium; they’ll re-grow more roots and make it just fine.  These plants are quite flexible.

successful grafts!


In the above photo you can see three successful grafts, and the one shorter plant over on the right in back? That’s a scion whose rootstock died, but it made roots anyway and now it’s going fine after being re-inserted into the cell.

So here they are: 9 successful grafts, and another handful of scions that lost their rootstocks.  They all look pretty good at this point I think.  The tall ones here are the successful grafts and the shorties are the scions I re-stuck.  I realize it’s hard to tell who is tall and who is short; you have to just trust me on this.

In other news, I went ahead and up-potted the remaining tomatoes that are own-root non-graft virgins; a total of 8 plants and one of them is a rootstock which I’ll grow out because science (it’s actually the smallest one in lower right):


And, the peppers!! OMG.


I will have to up-pot those really soon.  They’re all Capsicum annuum cultivars, so I can be pretty loose with them compared to C. chinensis.  They can take more cold, in other words.  On the far left there is a row of eggplants too.

Speaking of Capsicum chinensis, Justin brought me some seeds for super-hots again this year.  I will graft some of these to a set of tomato rootstock seeds I just sowed about 4 days ago (they’re not up yet).  Timing seems key, to ensure that the stem thickness is matched — I hope I’ll be able to nail this; there isn’t much wiggle room with these C. chinensis dudes, since I didn’t get the seeds until February 23.  But hey! We’re earlier than last year.  Here they are:

Super hot peppers: Carolina Reapers, Chocolate Bhutlah, and a Trinidad Douglah x Trinidad Scorpion hybrid.  Very quick germination this year as opposed to last. Not sure why.

I expect eventual 100% germination on these, or close to it.  I’m crossing my fingers that the rootstock seeds I sowed will catch up and when the matching diameter is achieved, I’ll graft at least two plants.

Today, March 10, I also sowed:

  • More lettuce (romaine, 2 varieties)
  • Sweet peas (first time ever growing these!)
  • eating peas
  • celery

And with 70-degree weather coming up tomorrow and the next day I am DYING to do some actual outdoor gardening, as I suspect we all are here in the northern hemisphere! I’m going to set some lettuce and onion/leek/shallot starts out into the front yard.