Friday, October 4, 2013

Early Results Part 1

Welcome back to another episode of Lost in the Farmer’s market. Today’s post is going to be a short one regarding some of the successes and failures of this year’s trials. The final results of course won’t be in until December but, for the summer seasonal section, I can already talk about how well things went.  For those not familiar with the test gardens the warm season plantings are comprised of a few primary crops the majority of which are concentrated in the night shade family. This means Tomatoes, Peppers, Eggplant, Potatoes, ground cherry, tomatillos and so on. So let’s take a look at the things grown in order and how they did. This week I’m covering the Tomato crop in detail.

            Amana Orange
            Beef Steak
            Brown Berry
            Currant, Gold Rush
            Currant, Red

            Currant, Sweet Pea    
            Currant, Yellow 
            Mexico Midget
Paul Robeson
            Purple Calabash
            San Marzano
            Silvery Fir Tree
            Solar Fire

For note the criteria used to judge the success or failure of a tomato or any other plant relates to how well it produces, how it handles drought, pests and, its growth rate. So of course the best of for 2013 was Red Currant, Mexico Midget, Brown Berry, Paul Robeson, Reisotomate, San Marzano and, Underground railroad. These six tomato varieties out lasted the rest and are worth considering for next year.

Red Currant
RC is a yearly staple in the test gardens for the fact its tiny pea sized fruit are numerous enough that even the birds can’t impact the crop. The plant dislpays a heavily branching habit that allows it to takeover large sections of the reinforced mound bed in the best of conditions. This year it produced well but was crippled by the three or four weeks of rain we had in mid-summer and never quite recovered.

Still producing regardless of the weather, MM did well with a slight sputtering back in june. Super vigorous!

Mexico Midget
I admit this variety was selected entirely at random and I had no idea what I was getting. However this one was planted in a 14” pot and given the same treatment as URR, PR and reisotomate and it did not disappoint. Mexican Midget produced regular bright red fruits that were a bit smaller then cherry size. The scrambling vines were easy to handle and when being twined about the cage virtually no breakage occurred. Granted the plants never looked very pretty the glut of fruit they produced made their appearance trivial. Expect this to be back next year.

Brownberry has this brown flecking pattern to it's fruit that is quite beautiful, the tomatoes produced are worth it  for cooking too.

Brown Berry
BB was tested last year initially and brought into production this year. Known for its cherry sized fruit that are gorgeously streaked with brown this tomato really showed how tough it was this year. I plated this one in the same bed with the kiwanos and it was the surviving tomato after the Kiwanos choked out the other. Even despite the competition BB reliably produced even under brief drought and constant wetness.

The picture does the sheer size of this Paul Robeson tomato no justice It's big enough to fill my hand and may be nearing a pound in weight! The legend of NJ tomatoes being the best and largest has just been debunked!

Paul Robeson
With a name like that you already expect great things and boy did this selection not disappoint. PR too a bit to get going but once it began fruiting it well still hasn’t stopped. The vines scrambled over the case and are not in the cage of the Underground Railroad tomato and likewise URR is in the Paul Robeson cage. PR produced fruit ranging from 4 ounces up but the largest average is 6.5 ounces though larger Fruit is still on the vine. PR is a keeper and will be back next year.

Reisotomate is late to yeild but persistent once it gets going the fruit are incredibly irregular but great tasting.

Reisotomate was purchased as novelty item, as an oddity to beat all oddities in the category of tomato. What I did not know is that it doesn’t try to fruit until august but once it starts it keeps pumping out fruit. Indeed the deformed fruit have been so random that at certain angles the vines look like they’ve got little green pumpkins on them. The flavor is good and this one will likely return for next year’s test garden.

San Marzano
SM was introduced by sustainable neighbors, and honestly even in adverse conditions the vines did quite well. As far as pate tomatoes go it has a good history and the germination rate was very high. The plants suffered the same fate as the Red currant tomatoes when the brief ‘monsoon’ season happened and never quite recovered. The fruit it did produce were quite good and a number were frozen for winter use. I will be bringing this back next year.

Ant Lou's Underground Rail Road produced with no regularity but the fruits it did produce were quite nice.

Underground Railroad
As far as the three African American heritage varieties go URR did fantastic. As noted in the Paul Robeson section URR’s vigorous vines grew into the Paul Robeson tomato cage and the two are no inseparable. I literally have to follow the vine to its roots to figure which plant is which. Fruit has come at regular intervals and the plant has not had a single disease or pest problem. I would bring this back for sure next year.

With the varieties covered, I have to say that I confirmed one critical factor this year; tomatoes do their best in pots in the North Carolina environment. Two out of three of the listed plants were planted in beds and didn’t reach their full potential due to competition or the weather. I also suspect that being in a pot allowed the soil to fully drain as opposed to being in the ground where constant rain meant that the roots may have sat in a pool of water. There’s a bit more data to collect on this experiment however you can expect to see it up here in detail later on in the year. Next week I’ll talk about the peppers and what was tried and what succeded.

Garden topics aside, as some of you might already know I operate a booth down at the Fayetteville Farmers/City market. The market is open on Saturdays from 9:00 am through 1:00 pm and is located on 325 Franklin Street which is also the location of the Fayetteville Transportation Museum. There is no shortage of parking nearby and it’s a good chance to chat with the folks that actually grow the food. This week’s plant list contains the following.

House Plants:
4x Life Saver Cactus
4x Silver Aloe
1x Sunset Aloe

Salad & Fixings:
4x Romaine Lettuce
4x Black-Seeded Simpson Lettuce (bibb type)
1x Radicchio (more coming soon)

Cole Crops:
5x Georgia Collards
5x Morris Heading Cabbage-Collards
3x Savoy Cabbage
3x Mustard-Spinach ‘Senposai’
6x Dinosaur Kale
4x Napa Cabbage

Next week
4x Spear Sanseveria (Houseplant)
4x Sangria Pepper (Ornamental)
3x Litchi Tomato

Available Soon:
2x Blushing Philodendron
12x Spineless Prickly pear
??x Japanese Red Giant Mustard

Well this brings to a close the first post of October; the clock is ticking folks on getting those cold season plants in the ground. We’ve got perhaps six or so weeks before the first of frosts is liable to strike so if you’ve not considered fall planting you may want to. If you’ve got questions about where and what to plant feel free to contact me through this blog or in person at the market. As always folks keep ‘em growing!

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