Monday, March 23, 2009

Gardening Class

On Saturday my mom (in law) and I went to Kniffing's Nursery to attend their gardening class extravaganza. It was wonderful. So informative. When we first arrived we decided to bypass the rose seminar and just walked around looking at what kniffing's has to offer. It was the type of place where you can spend the entire day walking around.
We returned to the seating area just in time for the tomato and vegetable seminar. It was taught by Steve Goto who opened with, "I used to be called the tomato king but have been promoted to tomato god." I really can't argue with that. He knew more about tomatoes than anyone I've ever talked to. I didn't agree with everything he said. For example he said that it was impossible to grow an indeterminate tomato in a five gallon bucket. Wrong! I did it last year and the year before and the year before. The plant last year was the first to produce and the last to die. It kept going after the cold season varieties froze out. Yellow Pear tomatoes are awesome.
Here are some things I gleaned from the tomato god:
Instead of getting one crop from determinate tomatoes you can remove the "old wood" which has already fruited and stretch out production into as many as 5 crops. Good news for canning. I will attempt this on my silvery fir tree tomatoes later in the summer.
Only determinate varieties of tomatoes should be grown upside down. (Richard/Ingrid this info is for you:)) Please note that this information stems from the "only determinates should be grown in 5 gallon buckets" idea, so take it with a grain of salt.
Green Tomatoes, how do you know when to pick them? When they first start to have a golden sheen. The more golden you let them become the worse they'll taste so pick them fast.
You should water tomatoes once a week for about 40 minutes. I was already doing the 40 minute thing, but every three days.
To get the best flavor you should pick tomatoes the day before watering, if possible.
Watering with chlorine filled tap water is bad for plants, it kills the good soil microbes. Makes so much sense. A good solution is to set a bucket of water out in the sun for 24 hours or so to work the chlorine out. while this is good for the soil it's somewhat impractical and I can't say that I'm going to do it all the time, or even often, especially when the garden is in full swing. Oh poo!
There is hope yet for my fusarium/verticullum wilt soil. There's a product called Penetrate which inundates the soil with baccillus (baccilli?) they break up clay soils and outnumber the bad viruses etc. Not unlike yogurt for humans. It's pricey, like 60 bucks, although you get enough to cover 4000 sq feet. however I talked to steve goto afterwards and it is my understanding that worm tea has very similar effects.
Another amazing thing about worm tea, it kills grasshoppers by smothering them with spores. Same for white fly. Which is awesome since we have a white fly infestation that will not be squashed with other methods. The shrubbery in our yard is soooo extensive that the white fly just go from place to place to place, no matter how much I spray. Oddly enough they leave the veg alone.
But it doesn't stop there. If you mulch with worm castings then the plant takes all of the goodness in for a systemic effect, meaning (allegedly) that harmful insects won't want to eat or live on the plants since spores and things will irritate them. One more reason I need to start that worm bin.
Steve Goto spent part of the class reccommending different types of tomatoes, the best canning tomato, the best black tomato, the best tasting all around tomato, the sweetest, etc. Here is a list of what I remember. I haven't tried any of these varieties yet so try them at your own will.


Best tasting all around: Momotaro. Candi, my mom (in law) bought one to try out. I hear it's the perfect combo of acidity and sweetness. Wins hands down every time Steve has a tomato tasting.

Best For Canning: Red Pear Italian Special, this tomato has good production paired with low amounts of seeds. Candi bought some of these to try out.

Sweetest: sungold. A small yellow variety that has such a high sugar content that it will "explode" within half an hour of picking. The sugars ferment and the tomato sort of cracks open. To avoid this cut the tomato from the plant with the top greenery still attached, remove greenery when ready to eat, obviously. I planted one of these the year I got pregnant with Jonas, I was too sick to water it and it died. :(

Fun One: The Big Zach. These are now sold out in southern california. Kniffing's had the only two flats of them and they sold like hot cakes. I got two of them...suck on that! Greg and Candi think I'm nuts and here's why. Big Zach's grow to about 8 feet tall and consistently produce 4-6 pound tomatoes. I can't wait.
Best Black: Black Trifele. I've got some of these started in peat pots right now. I'm ahead of the game. Cherokee Chocolate is supposed to be really good too. All the flavor of Cherokee Purple and none (okay little) of the shoulder cracking.

Beyond tomatoes I've been doing a lot in the yard lately. I planted a bunch of cucurbits along the wall on the right side of our yard. The soil is very poor over there is most places, I haven't done anything to improve it, so we'll see how the poor plants do.
Jonas and I ate our first peas of the year and they were amazing! Sweetest things ever. There are many more pods still on the vine and more appearing every day. Green Arrow Peas are a variety I'll be sure to use again next year.
After the garden seminar on Saturday Candi came over and we looked around my yard for a bit, talking about the oleanders that need to be taken out, the white fly problem and possibly turning the small lawn off to the side into a raised bed. That would be the coolest thing ever.

So much to do. Hope everyone is enjoying spring.


NIKOL said...

The other day when I was paying our Waste Management bill, I noticed an insert for low cost compost bins. Apparently, they're county subsidized. And one of them is even a Worm Bin - for $40! It's a three-tiered one. There's also a large Smith & Hawken Biostack compost bin for $45. Aaaaand they're having free composting workshops around the county. There's one on April 11th out at Summers Past Farms (ever been there?). I'm thinking about going, just to check it out. Of course, that's the same weekend as Easter so we might be having our annual egg dying extravaganza that day. We'll see.

Clong said...

I have been to summers past farms, it's pretty nice. I bought my lavender there. If you decide to go let me know so we can carpool:)

NIKOL said...

I definitely think I want to go. I just have to coordinate it with Matt and the fam. The class is from 10am to noon, by the way.

I haven't been to Summer's Past for a long time. I wouldn't mind buying myself some lavender, now that you mention it! Last time I was there, they also had this cool wildflower seed mix that looked neat. They were all drought tolerant, and the package pretty much said "just throw these where you want flowers." It sounded so delightfully effortless!

Did Laura Gordon give you that old worm bin?