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RUSSIAN ROSE TOMATO

russian rose tomato

Russian Rose tomato

Got seeds from: @betweenthelimes
Planting info: I started this from seed and it is now planted in the raised bed reserved for tomatoes. It gets the best possible conditions in my yard: raised bed with the most sun, and the one that is first in the soaker hose line so it gets the most water.
Beauty points: I wish I had taken a pre-slice picture of the first one I picked. It was gorgeous and huge! Size varies from huge to medium, but I don’t think there’s been a blemish on any of them. You can pick them when there’s still some green striping in the shoulder so they don’t go bad on the vine.
Taste: Mild and sweet, not tangy. Better with salt. But the consistency…the first bite I took I thought it was disgusting because it was all meat! Hardly any juice or gel at all. So at first I thought it was gross, but then the second bite I took, I liked it. Because I really like the part right by the skin most on all tomatoes, anyway.
Other considerations: The meatiness of this tomato means it holds up to slicing very well. So to me, this would make a great sandwich tomato, or could be used for tomato salads etc where you want the tomato to be able to kind of stand up to some punishment and still be a little cube or slice of tomato.
Will I grow it again? I think so. I’ll have to either save seeds or purchase some, but I really like the consistency of this one. It’s almost like a roma/paste tomato, but a slicer version. I like it!

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This is a more general “veggie reviews”. Not going over specific kids of veggies, but just what veggies I will and will not plan on growing next year in the garden. Might help you if you’ve got a similar garden situation. For reference, my garden is 4 raised beds and one rocky, in-ground bed about the size of a raised bed. The in-ground bed hasn’t gotten a lot of water this year as we’ve had a drought (I give it some sprinkler time as needed), but the raised beds are watered by a soaker hose daily. I of course of have pictures of all of these plants, but don’t feel like searching for them! Use the search box at left to find out more about what I’ve done with each of these throughout the year.

Beans
Grew this year: royal burgundy, pencil pod, dragon tongue, maxibel bush, a couple others
No. As much as I absolutely LOVE fresh beans from the garden, I don’t think I’m going to grow them again next year, other than maybe a plant or two to snack on fresh beans from while outside. I haven’t had great results from the beans I’ve planted. They look scraggly and I don’t catch the beans until they’ve gone hard, or the beans are skinny and don’t taste great (heat, maybe?). And in order to really have enough beans to occasionally use as a side dish, I’d really have to have a whole bed of beans. Beans are readily available from local farmers, both Amish and non, so I think I’ll just get my beans from them next year. The ones I most frequently snack on, dragon tongue and royal burgundy, I may grow a plant or two of.

peas3Peas
Grew this year: Wando and another variety I forget. They tasted and performed the same.
Yes! I so enjoyed growing my own peas this spring, and because they’re just a spring crop, you pull them and they don’t take up space the whole summer. Next year I will plant more peas and plan better where they go (to account for them being replaced with something else), but I will for sure grow them again.

Carrots
Grew this year: tonda di parigi, danvers half long
Yes! I lost about half of my carrots this year because hornworms ate the foliage off of all the ones in my raised bed, so they stopped growing. Consequently, I didn’t get any of the little round tonda di parigi carrots I was so excited about! The carrots I planted in a large pot and kept in a more shaded area did very well, though, so I plan on doing that next year and using raised bed space for something else.

radishRadishes and beets
Grew this year: early scarlet globe radish, detroit dark red beet
Yes! I am also going to try to grow these again in the fall, and will be more conscious of sowing more next year in succession, so I get more than one crop. Both were very easy to grow, weren’t bothered by pests, and tasted great. Plus they are another spring crop like the peas that you get to plant something else in after they’re done (again, I will plan better for that next year). May try some more varieties of each next year.

Peppers
Grew this year: sweet banana, cayenne, jalapeno, marconi, chili, habanero, fish, sweet red cherry
Yes! Though I’m not a fan of peppers on their own, I LOVE making my own salsa over the summer and these guys are a key ingredient. Unfortunately, I lost ALL the peppers I’d started from seed this year in the Great Plant Fry of 2010, so all the peppers I have were from a plant exchange or purchased as seedlings. Botanical Interests is having a free shipping deal this weekend (friend them on facebook for details), so I am planning on making a small purchase, and peppers are in the mix.

Broccoli and Brussels Sprouts

Grew this year: Di cicco and Long Island Improved
Ask me after the fall. Cabbage worms ate the hell out of them in the spring, then it got too hot too fast, so I pulled them and gave up.

Ground Cherries
Grew this year: Whatever kind @snarkyvegan gave me?
Yes! I’ve really enjoyed these weird little plants. I’ve already made a sauce that I used on turkey and last night on my portobello burger (hubby had jalapeno jack burgers) and very delicious bread that I need to share the recipe for. I’m going to try to save some seeds, but if not I’ll purchase more. These are tasty and there’s no way I’d find them if I didn’t grow them myself.

Zucchini
Grew this year: Black Beauty
Maybe. I’m not a big zuc fan and hubby doesn’t like them. I just bought these because Lowe’s was having a sale. They’re not producing like crazy (yet?), prob because they’re in the old garden and haven’t gotten a lot of water.

Okra
Grew this year: whatever Lowe’s had
Nope. Just like the beans, you have to plant too many to get anything worthwhile. I’ve gotten 3 so far and ended up composting them bc what do you do with 3 okra? Also the only thing I ever do with them is fry them, so frozen or random local is fine.

Pumpkin
Grew this year: the seed that came with the compost
Maybe. I grew this one on accident and it’s kind of fun. Only one pumpkin on there and I don’t see more blooms, but again it’s in the garden that hasn’t gotten any water. I like my little pumpkin, but I don’t think it’ll make it to Halloween 😦

Luffa
Grew this year: luffa from Botanical Interests
Maybe. I was SO SUPER EXCITED about this, but the dang thing still hasn’t fruited! I don’t get it. I had just grand plans for Christmas presents! So we’ll see. I’m giving you a chance, luffa.

lemon spacemaster
Cucumbers
Grew this year: spacemaster and lemon
Yes! I adore cucumbers and the ones in the raised bed are producing like crazy. The lemon isn’t doing as well, so next year I’ll make sure to plant all cucumbers in a raised bed with plenty of room for climbing.

Lettuce
Grew this year: Baby greens mesclun mix from Botanical Interests, black seeded simpson lettuce
Yes! But next year I’ll plan it better. This is something else that gets pulled when it gets too hot, and this year it got so hot so quick I really only got one harvest before it started to bolt and get bitter. Next year I will plant earlier and more in succession to get more harvests, and I will also plan for them being pulled up by planting them in the bed with the other spring crops.

Tomaotes
Grew this year: Black from Tula, Eva purple ball, speckled roman, better boy, early girl, sungold, russian rose
Let’s not be silly. Of course! I lost a bunch in the plant fry, but I lucked out and still ended up with a nice selection between stores, family, and plant exchanges. I’ll be doing separate reviews of some of these, but tomatoes will definitely get at least one bed in the garden next year as well.

Last year the only veggie seeds I saved were for Peachy Mama peppers. We got these lots of times from the CSA I was a member of, and while I normally don’t like peppers except in salsa, I actually liked the sweet, fruity taste of these. Knowing I probably wouldn’t join the CSA this season, I saved a ton of Peachy Mama Pepper seeds. They’re an heirloom variety and really the only mention of them on the web I can find hooks them up to my former CSA. I’d save the tops with their seeds when I used them and leave them on the window sill to dry out.

This year, come seed-starting time, I dug out the little package I had made of seeds marked “peachy mama” and lovingly started them (also a few that were still in the dried pepper tops). They did very well! I even donated some to the Sotterley Plant Exchange. I planted mine in my garden. The bigger, it got, the more tomato-like the plant started looking. “Huh, weird,” I thought. “This must be an odd pepper plant!”

peachy mama

Buddha puts his hands up in confusion.

Except now my odd pepper plant is…making tomatoes?!?!

I have several problems with this:

  1. I DID NOT SAVE ANY TOMATO SEEDS AT ALL! Didn’t even try!
  2. These appear to be pear tomatoes. I did not grow or eat pear tomatoes at any time last year.
  3. I swear, those were Peachy Mama Pepper seeds I planted!!!

So I give up. I moved the pepper plants that surrounded it (and would have been appropriately spaced, had these 3 also been pepper plants and not mutant pepper tomato plants) to the bed where the broccoli and brussels sprouts were pulled up from. We’ll see what kind of tomatoes I get. But I am still UTTERLY CONFUSED, considering points 1 and 2 from above. wtf?!?

And now some other veggie garden pics, just because.

tomato bed

tomato bed - with 2 pepper plants, marigolds, and baby zinnias

veggie beds - back

A back view of the veggie beds, with proof you CAN see them (very well) from the road.

I am SO UPSET. We’ve had several very cold nights and days lately, so I had most of my seedlings outside on the deck, stashed under clear plastic storage bins turned upside-down (very effective and easy cold frames, FYI!). Well right now it’s 83° F…and I didn’t even THINK about that until I got home today (a bit early, at least).

I lost a lot of seedlings. LIke 3 cake tins (my seed trays) worth. Some still seem OK, albeit a bit worse for the wear. Casualties include a lot of the “fun” things I was most excited about: all of the lovage, all but one Japanese Black Trifele tomato (which is questionable), all but one Black from Tula tomato (also meh – and OMG this super upsets me), almost all of my peppers – serrano and black pearl especially, lots of my rainbow cherry tomatoes, almost all of my speckled roman tomatoes. SO UPSET. The cucumbers and luffa were planted already, so they’re OK.

And I’m also pissed that it doesn’t seem like ANY of the carrot seeds I direct sowed a few weeks ago have sprouted (though the ones in the large container have). I’m not sure whether I should bother sowing more of these cool season crops, since here in Southern Maryland we seem to always go quickly from spring weather to 80-90 degree days. I’m not sure if it’s worth it. Thoughts?

So, yet again, the seedlings that look the best are the “sacrifice seedlings” that I put out much earlier than all the rest and didn’t bother hardening off or anything. Perhaps I should just do that from now on? 2 years in a row the sacrifices have been the best off (by far – maybe I’ll post a pic comparison when I get over the loss).

Anyway – no pics right now. It’s too sad. AND I WAS GOING TO PLANT THEM ALL TOMORROW ANYWAY!!!

SO UPSET. Soooo upset. Please console me.

I scanned through some more recent photos, but I couldn’t find an that exemplified the “green world” theme for this month’s GGW contest better than this photo of a seedling that I featured on St. Patrick’s Day.

bean seedling

I really like the way this bean seedling turned out, with the slight blur of the front of the peat pot showing. One of my commenters when it was first posted noted that it looked “Hurculean” lifting up all that dirt, and I have to agree. Seems to be a photo of the green of the world prevailing over all the brown.

This bean seedling is now planted outside with all the others. The cucumbers and squash I finally put outside on the deck yesterday to begin my rather harsh hardening off process (meaning there is no process – I generally just put them out, water them well, and hope they make it!). Today those are looking a bit worse for the wear, probably because they’re in peat pots and just not staying warm enough. I think I’ll either bring them back in or go ahead and plant them when it warms up a little more today (it’s only 60° and overcast – too cold for me!).

Yesterday I cultivated all my raised beds into rows. I kind of love it – it looks so much neater. In the past I’ve not done rows, because I had to cram stuff where it would fit in my one bed. But rows are better for keeping track of seedlings sown, plus it just looks nice. I’ll have some pics of that one my just-sown carrot, spinach, and mesclun mix seedlings start to emerge. Among the things already planted, the peas are doing great and just about to start climbing their trellises, and the beans look respectable.

The broccoli and brussels sprouts are still small (pictured below – those were winter down starting in late Jan/early February – the milk jug/orange juice cloches are off now), but look very happy. The soaker hose on a timer waters them all at 6AM and 6PM – seems to be working great.

L-R: peas, brussels sprouts, broccoli, beans

Herb AlmanacAPRIL 18: Make a borage salad to encourage good spirits and courage. Use the new borage seedlings, violet flowers, dandelion leaves, and new lettuce.

[I’m only growing lovage, not borage, but that actually sounds pretty good!]

#wordlesswednesday #somethinggreen

bean seedling

cucumber seedling

basil seedling

bean seedling

Last year I started my tomato and herb seeds on March 14. “Sacrifice seedings” started going outside on March 26 to see if they could fare well outside (I’m pretty sure all the sacrifices lived). This year I started them today, March 6. I also have a much better setup (see March 2009), so I think they’ll do much better. It was gorgeous and nice and warm out today (well, in the 50s).

Today I sowed: sungold tomato, Russian rose tomato, purple passion spinach, Japanese black trifele tomato, speckled roman tomato, black from Tula tomato, black cherry tomato, rainbow cherry tomato, Campbell’s tomato, sweet basil, cinnamon basil, lemon basil, lime basil, lemon cucumber, lovage, ground cherry (omg small seeds!), luffa, spacemaster cucumber, gold rush bush bean, lemon grass, maxibel bush bean, dragon tongue bush bean, white hot habañero, green tomatillo, pineapple tomatillo, peachy mama pepper, serrano pepper, black pearl pepper. (Thanks to betweenthelimes, snarkyvegan, and getinthegarden for sharing some of these seeds with me!)

rainbow cherry

Rainbow Cherry Tomato seeds from Botanical Interests - adorbz!!

basil

Basil is good for sharing

seed shelf

The seed rack - in the cats' bedroom/reading room.

I used my dollar store stuff plus stuff I had gotten before, except I didn’t use the sand from the dollar store. Since I know it doesn’t have anything weird in it, I used the sand from a truck weigher downer roll (do they have a name?) of sand we got when it snowed. One had busted so I used it at hubby’s suggestion and will prob donate the colored dollar store stuff to my mom for the art teacher. The sand seems to be doing a nice job of keeping things moist without just having a ton of sitting water. So I’ll water from the bottom, then I have a spray bottle to keep the tops moist without drowning them.

I also have lots of saved yogurt containers and larger pots to up-pot as needed and to start the outdoor seeds. All the other seeds I have will be started outside when it’s warm enough, or will be direct sowed…you know, once there’s actually 3 raised beds of about 130 square feet between these sticks and not just sticks stuck in the grass. (Except for the parsley, which I forgot I need to soak first – those I’ll soak then do a few cells of soon. I actually overwintered one parsley plant and the one in the pot outside looks like it may come back – hm.) Hubby has drawn up a nice plan, we just need to till up the grass and get things started. I aim to have it ready for plants/seeds by April 9 at least.

So…they’ve been in there for a few hours. Think they’re sprouted yet???

(Finally did it! Broccoli and Brussels Sprouts.)
#wordlesswednesday

winter dowing

(And don’t worry…I did take the lids off after I asked and @getinthegarden replied!)

Quick post…I wanted to get some cake tins to use under my seed starting pots on the seed shelf, so I headed down to my local dollar store (a Dollar Tree) today after work. Well I found the cake pans, plus a whoooole bunch of other great stuff! And this is a REAL dollar store, where everything really IS one dollar!

dollar tree

• 2 small ceramic pots (very cute – going to get another set of these for my mom)
• 2 x-small ceramic pots
• 10-pack of 3″ starter pots
• 4-pack of 4″ fancy starter pots
• 2 3-packs of 7″ starter pots (good for when transplants get bigger)
• 2 10.25″ pots with saucers
• 14 cake pans (for under starter pots on shelf – they come in 2-packs)
• 7 tubes of craft sand (should be safe for food) for in pans to absorb/hold water
• 1 bag of rocks (to experiment with water control, too)
• 1 roll of twine
• 1 pack of zip-ties
• 1 bag of spanish moss (to use some of whenever I repot the old orchid)
• 1 very pretty garden hangy decoration thing (in the cellophane bag)
• 2 rectangular planters

All that for, if I counted right – $31! Imagine getting that somewhere else. At least twice the cost, probably. The 10.25″ and 7″ pots will be used for giveaways – I was planning on making a pot of herbs or flowers for a couple friends, and these will be a great home for them. They actually look pretty nice if you use some antiquing gel (or brown paint) on them with a dry brush – I’ve done that on some other cheap planters and they look more expensive and have held up well. The fancy smaller pots (the white ones) will also be a nice home for some herbs to give someone as a gift. All of these came in the standard colors, so I picked from black, tan, green, white.

They have the fancy planters in a couple other sizes as well, and lots more different pretty ceramic pots. As I said, I am going tomorrow or Saturday to get some more of those for my mom, who really liked mine and has a pair of miniature roses that she needs a pot that size for (hopefully they have more in the color I got, or I may be forced to share 🙂 ). They also have some cute small garden shepherd’s hooks (I had one in my cart but put it back because I have a few small ones already) and lots of windchimes.

And look – my small peat pots fit in 8’s perfectly on the cake tins!
dollar store tins

So if you have a local Dollar Tree, now’s the time to check it out! It looks like they JUST got all the stuff in, so it’s perfect timing. I’d also check out the Dollar King if you have one – that one is farther away for me so I don’t go very often, but they also have a gardening department and probably also have similar stuff.

Let me know if you score any cool finds!

I am considering purchasing a dwarf key lime tree from Springhill Nursery. Though I have had some issues with Springhill in the past, for the most part I have been happy with them. They’ve replaced plants without question when necessary, and I got some fun stuff that I would not have found locally (though for quality of plants, I’d reccommend Bluestone Perennials). Every year, Springhill sends out a coupon that is just SO hard to resist. You order $50 worth of stuff and you get $25 off. Shipping is usually around $10, so you get $50 of plants for about $35 – all in all not a bad deal.

This year as I was flipping through, I don’t see many new things that pique my interest. Most of my flower beds are pretty full at this point with perennials, and we’re focusing more on expanding the veggie beds this year.

But I did notice this little guy – a dwarf key lime tree. My husband happens to make a crazy good key lime pie with coconut almond crust – from scratch. And though I know we probably wouldn’t get enough limes from this for more than (maybe) one pie, how cool would it be to have a home-made key lime pie with our own key limes? I know it’s been pointed out before that people far south see citrus trees as boooooring and are amazed at apple trees. Well being farther north, I have never seen a full-size citrus tree (with fruit) in person, and apple trees are nothing special.

I would be able to keep the tree in a nice, sunny location through the summer here in zone 7A, but it would have to be indoors in a pretty sunny spot from roughly November through April/May. So…what do you think? Should I try it out? I would be able to find $30 worth of other plants between me and my mom to use the coupon.

Also…the seed starting shelves are done!
seed shelves

Right now I’m trying to decide where the shelves will live. I asked hubby today how we’d be able to get it to the shed, when he said “why don’t you just leave it in here?” Excellent point, actually. Since it is currently in the “cat room”, I was concerned the cats might get into it. It I use the greenhouse cover, that could help that situation though. I think I’m going to put the thermometer in the shed to see how cold/warm it is, then I’ll make my decision. If it’s too cold in there, the shelf will have to stay inside at least until it warms up a bit outside anyway. What do you think?

All I need before I start are some trays and sand/rocks for below the plants (to keep water off the lights below and help manage watering) – I plan on getting something from the dollar store for that, and I need to check and see if I need any more seed trays, though I think I’m probably good. I got the shelf and greenhouse cover for $39.99 at Lowe’s and the florescent lights for $7 each with bulbs at WalMart (prob not technically grow lights (though the ones they were marketing as such were exactly the same), but they’ll work. I used a desk lamp last year for god’s sake). Not too shabby! Excited about all the possible seedlings this year 🙂

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