Posts Tagged ‘tomatoes’

Another Update

I will be starting my masters work at Kansas State soon, so look for updates on tomatoes beginning this summer!

Until then, I’m working at the Nebraska Forest Service and the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum, so woody plants have been keeping me quite busy. I haven’t put grafted vegetables behind me, however.¬†

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The Season Starts

With the temperatures warming up (both air temps and soil temps), it’s been high time to get out into the field and get things started.

On Easter Sunday, after spending the afternoon with my family, I hopped in the tractor and ran the field cultivator across the garden. Man, that soil looked beautiful.

Last weekend, I put up three-foot-high chicken wire around the perimeter of the field to exclude rabbits and deter other animals (raccoons, etc.).

I also planted five 70′ rows of onions (Candy, Mars, Copra varieties) and four 70′ rows of leeks (King Richard variety) that are coming along quite nicely.

I decided to change the type of irrigation system that I use, and have moved to a commercial-style dripline system, using Roberts Ro-Drip tape. So far, I’m very happy with it. I’m getting very good, very even flow on multiple runs of driptape from one header line. I also like the ability to individually shut off each line of driptape from the header line. I’m still running the irrigation system on a timer, which allows for regular watering when I’m not available to be at the field — like when I’m in class.

I also built a trellis system for my tomatoes and laid down driptape and black plastic mulch film. This should allow me to have higher quality tomatoes with less weed competition and earlier transplanting due to warmer soil temps under the black plastic mulch film.

Finally, yesterday I planted dual 60′ rows of gladiolus and built a support trellis grid above them to support the flowers when they bloom.

I’m really looking forward to the next few weeks, when I can really get things going outside. The Omaha Old Market Farmers Market begins in two weeks, and I’ll have some large chemical-free heirloom tomato plants in 6″ coir pots for sale. These are looking really good, and should give customers a head start on their home garden growth of tomatoes!

New Project: Grafted Heirloom Tomatoes

'Pruden's Purple' seedlings

As a horticulture major (at Nebraska), I’ve recently become very interested in grafting. I’m familiar with several types of woody grafting such as cleft, side-veneer, chip-budding and so on, but the field of herbaceous grafting is new to me.

Not any longer.

I’ve started a project that I intend to follow throughout the growing season, and it involves tomato grafting.

Tomato grafting has long been used in the commercial hydroponic or greenhouse tomato production field, and usually involves grafting a desired variety (scion) to a vigorous rootstock. This allows for increased production and quality in a greenhouse setting.

But what about taking some of the positives of that rootstock, such as vigor, disease-resistance, production, etc… and re-directing it into an heirloom variety instead of a commercial variety? This isn’t a novel idea that I dreamt up, of course, but it something that has been taking hold with a few growers around the country.

So, I decided to try it for myself. I ordered several different heirloom varieties from Johnny’s Seeds, a few interesting standard hybrids, and even an eggplant cultivar (another member of the Solanaceae, eggplant is closely related to tomatoes, and is graft-compatible).

The heirloom varieties I started are ‘Brandywine‘, ‘Pruden’s Purple‘, ‘Striped Cavern‘, and ‘Moskvich‘. In addition, I started some ‘Brandywine Sudduth’s Strain’ seeds that I got from the annual AHS seed exchange program. I also ordered some ‘Stupice‘ seeds from Morgan County Seeds, but they haven’t arrived yet. They’ll be too late to get into the project, due to size incompatibility between rootstock and scion.

I also started seeds of ‘Mountain Fresh Plus‘, ‘Celebrity‘, ‘Valley Girl‘ and ‘JTO-99197‘, all F1 hybrid types.

The eggplant I’m going to use is ‘Fairy Tale‘, a F1 hybrid type.

All of those are the desired cultivar for fruit characteristics, but the idea behind the project is to graft them onto a vigorous, disease-resistant, high-production rootstock. I selected ‘Maxifort F1‘, a selection that will give me great results — I hope.

As of now, the seedlings have all emerged, the cotyledons are fading and the first and second sets of true leaves are expanding. A couple more weeks and it’ll be time to graft!

For the grafts, I’m using silicone tomato grafting clips and standard double-edged razor blades. I’ll have an update on the progress soon!

An overdue update from the farm

Sorry to the few folks who might have been reading my updates from the farm this summer. Things have been piling up on me, and I just didn’t get to posting about the comings and goings of Armbrust Farms lately.

That’s about to change.

I’ll be posting more frequently now that summer is winding down. Starting now.

The market was fairly busy today — a far cry from last week, when a fierce downpour kept most people away all day. In fact, we didn’t see our first customers until almost 10:00 last Saturday. That’s nearly two hours after the opening bell.

There was a lot of interest in my ornamental gourds today, with the swan gourds going fast. Birdhouse gourds and unique, small decorative gourds were also popular with my customers. This is just the tip of the iceberg on the gourds, and with fall just around the corner and my vines loaded with gourds and pumpkins, we’re going to be bringing a lot of great stuff down to the market in the coming weeks.

Surprisingly, it appeared that I was the only grower at the market with carrots today. I sold out of them by 10:00, shortly after selling my stock of yellow pear tomatoes and okra, too. More of each of those crops to come next week, though.

Also, in the last two weeks, I’ve had some inquiries as to my willingness to custom-grow produce for individuals and restaurants. As always, I’m very open to the idea, and am willing to work with anyone on it. As a one-man operation, I’m very flexible in what I can put in the field and do as a grower.

Until next time, I hope you all enjoy the last few weeks of summer! And come visit me — and all the other great vendors — at the Omaha Farmers’ Market on Saturdays from 8 until 12:30 at 11th and Jackson in the Old Market.

Busy times…

Whew… I’ve been keeping pretty busy lately. When I’m not working in the garden, I’m working up in Clarkson, Neb., at Wild Plums with the well-respected horticulturalist Harlan Hamernik, and we’ve been busy lately. I’m in the process of building the website for him, but soon I’ll be back out in the field picking up new bits of info from the master…

As far as my garden goes, it goes well. The zucchini is just taking off, and I think we’ll have a bumper crop this year. The green beans are plumping, and we should have the first crop come in this week. The second crop of kohlrabi is almost ready, and the tomatoes are another week off. They had a slow start this year.

I spent the better part of the day waging the ongoing war against grass, and my rototiller and I made progress. I laid down a few hundred feet of landscape cloth, and I think that should take care of further weed supression. Or at least limit its ability to sneak up on me and gain ground.

What’s ready now: Cool-season crops

pea flower
I’ll admit it — my vegetables are a little behind where they should be. Hey, when you’re a full-time student, it can be hard to get everything in on time.

But we’ve got a few things that are at their peak right now…

The radishes are perfect this week. Just the right size, and the few I’ve pulled and tasted have been crisp, peppery and delicious.

The kohlrabi is more than ready, and is right on the edge of getting too big. We’ll be selling everything we have this week.

The broccoli¬† has been a disappointment, with the heads going to flower well before they reach a saleable size. Perhaps half a dozen will get the nice 6″ across heads, but the rest will probably end up on my plate.

Cabbage heads are really beginning to swell up to a nice size, looking like leafy softballs in neat rows. They’ll be ready this week and the next.

My brussels sprouts are lagging, but that’s ok. I’m a little weirded out by them, anyway.

The peas (pictured above) look great, and the flowers are just taking over the tendrils in the past week. They’ll be forming pods soon.

All of my 120+ tomato plants have little yellow flowers popping out, and I’ll probably need to get cages on the rest of them soon. They’re growing like crazy.

Carrots, turnips, okra, bush beans and cowpeas are all taking off, too.

All of my vine crops (watermelon, gourds, squash, zucchini, pumpkins, cucumbers) are starting to explore and test their limits as well.

And, perhaps most exciting, is the fact that the raspberries I planted are thriving. They really, really like the moist, partially shaded understory environment under the American elms. There won’t be a crop this year, but next year… look out!