What to Look for in Buying a Tomato Transplant

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Many gardeners are perplexed when they go to various nurseries, box stores, and other places where garden plants are sold.  They see everything from sickly root-bound plants, to stocky and sturdy plants, to giant plants with flowers and even fruit set on them sometimes.  Gardening budgets are limited and one must choose carefully to buy the best plants for the bucks.

Tomato Plants o-plenty...just waiting for you to plant!

Tomato Plants o-plenty…just waiting for you to plant!

The impatient gardener with a large budget may be tempted to buy that tomato plant in the 2 gallon pot with lots of flowers and tiny fruits already forming on the branches.  They have visions of getting the jump on their neighbors and having that first BLT before the end of June.  Those giant plants tend to cost much more than the smaller ones and will eat up your budget quickly.  The truth is that they are not worth the money!  You may get an early ripe fruit or two, but your harvest will be very limited as this plant has been tricked into producing fruits early solely for the sake of earliness. It has likely led a sheltered life in a hot house and been fed a steady dose of chemicals to get it to grow quickly and produce fruit to attract the impatient gardener.  Don’t buy these plants!!!

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Another type of transplant you’ll see is the spindly little plants in 4 and 6 packs sold at many nurseries and big box stores.  These are a much better value for the budget conscious gardener and are not a bad choice if you’re patient and don’t mind some plant loss.  These small plants are often grown in hot houses and mass produced by large greenhouses.  They may have very attractive, bright green foliage which is a sign that they have been heavily fertilized with nitrogen to make them look good to the gardener’s eye…this isn’t the healthiest thing for the plant though. They have also likely been treated with fungicides because they are grown in such close proximity to other plants that air flow is minimal and fungal diseases can run rampant.  They will have small root systems and may go into transplant shock when you pop them out of their cramped containers and into your garden soil.  If you are careful and patient, they can grow into great tomato plants.  Buy these plants if you want to save a few bucks and have plenty of patience and are willing to accept a few plant losses along the way.

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The third type of plant you’ll see at high quality nurseries and from independent growers (like me!!) is the individually planted, stocky, sturdy, transplant with a deep green and possibly even purple tinged color to the stem and leaves.  These plants will have very strong root systems, but will not be rootbound in their containers.  The deep green and purple colors show that they have not been given excessive fertilizers and have been exposed to cooler temperatures as they grew.  They will be anywhere from 6-10 inches tall and have thick and hairy stems.  The plants will cost a bit more per plant than those in the 6 packs, but these plants have been fully hardened off and exposed to the elements of wind, weather, and rain.  If they are still going strong after this treatment, they will have no problem adapting to your garden.  The strong root system will not go into transplant shock when you plant them and they will immediately begin growing new roots into your soil and grow steadily taller within days of planting them.  They will produce fruit fairly early and will yield the heaviest possible load of fruit as they have grown a good balance of roots to their top growth and flower production.  You will often find these plants in a much larger variety than the other 6 pack types so you can grow more interesting and delicious tomatoes.

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As you prepare and plan for your summer tomato garden and get ready to venture out to buy your precious plants, take the above advice into consideration and you’ll end up with a much healthier, happier, and productive tomato plant.  Happy gardening!!!

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Updated Plant Information and Sale Dates

I finally finished potting plants up last week and now they just need some time to grow and deal with being a tomato plant in Kansas City.  I’ve got lots of days of moving plants inside and outside to protect them from our roller coaster weather, but the ones that survive will be tough as nails and ready to plant in your gardens in about a month.

We had a few casualties and lack of germination of some varieties, so I updated the flier to reflect the changes.  I will not have German Johnson, Abe Lincoln, Grandpa Charlie, and Polish Linguisa this year.  I added Purple Potato Top and Stupice to the list though.

Please print off the flier and bring your own container to take your plants home in this year and I’ll hook you up with a free plant of your choice!

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As always, I recommend waiting until the first full week of May to plant outside, but I know some of you get impatient and want to plant early.  If you come to one of the early plant sale dates, don’t be surprised that the plants are a bit small.  I have them timed just so they’ll be at their prime for planting in early May.  You can plant earlier if you want to take a chance, but be prepared to cover them on cool nights as any frost will kill them.

I’ll be open for sales on the following dates and times.  If you need a different time than those I list, please let me know and I’ll work out a time for you to stop by.

Saturday, April 18th:8 a.m. to noon

Saturday, April 25th: 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Sunday, April 26th:  8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Saturday, May 2nd:  CLOSED (Come to the Discovery Center at 4750 Troost and get some FREE native plants 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.)

Sunday, May 3rd: 8 a.m. to noon

Saturday, May 9th, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Sunday, May 10th:  8 am. to noon

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Early Spring Plants, Low Tunnel Materials, and Gardening Classes

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It’s almost time to get your early spring gardens planted!  Early salad crops and onions can be planted as early as the first week of March if you use low tunnels.  You’ll need to wait until towards the end of March if you don’t plan on using low tunnels.

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If you haven’t taken one of my early spring gardening classes in the past, now is your chance to learn how to use your beds efficiently to get multiple crops out of the same space throughout the seasons.  If you time things right you can get two if not three harvests of different crops out of the same space.  My classes are $50 and include all of the plants and materials you’ll need to plant a 10 foot garden full of great salad ingredients and cover them with a low tunnel.  I’ll teach you how to plant and help you out with advice throughout the year to keep your garden growing.  I am offering 10 a.m. classes on Saturday and Sunday,March 7 and 8.

Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi

For those of you that have already taken my gardening classes, I have plenty of Agribong 19 and Hoop Loops ordered if you want to expand your gardens this year.  The Agribond is $1 a foot and the Hoop Loops are 3 for $10.

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I’ve got a great selection of densely planted early spring plants for sale this year as well.  All plants will be $2 a set.  I’ll be open on  March 7th and 8th from 8-9 a.m. and from 1 – 4 p.m. both days.  If you can’t make it during one of those days, let me know what time and day work for you and I can work out a time for us to meet.

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Here are the varieties I have growing for you:

Lettuces:  Rocky Top, Red Tide, Little Gem, All Star, Black Seeded Simpson, Buttercrunch, Bronze Mignonett,Red Romaine, and Paris Island COS,

Onions:  Several varieties of plants from Dixondale Farms

Kohlrabi:  Winner, Quickstar, Early Purple Vienna, and Kossack

Radishes:  Early Scarlet Globe, and Champion

Cauliflower:  Graffiti, Veronica, and Vitaverde

Broccoli:  Green Magic

Kale:  Red Russian, Toscano, and Starbor

Beets:  Golden, Merlin, and Red Ace

Brussels Sprouts:  Long Island Improved

Swiss Chard:  Bright Lights

Minuet Chinese Cabbage

Pac Choi and Extra Dwarf Pac Choi

Endive

Broccoli Raab

Graffiti cauliflower...tastes as good as it looks!

Graffiti cauliflower…tastes as good as it looks!

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2015 Tomato, Pepper, Herb, and other Summer Plants Lists

Well I’m a couple of weeks later than usual in posting my lists, but I’ve been a bit discombobulated the past few months due to some major life changes and am going to have to adjust things accordingly this spring.  The first big change in my life is that I am no longer a classroom teacher.  After 18+ years in the classroom, I switched careers and am now an Education Specialist for the Missouri Department of Conservation at the Gorman Discovery Center on Troost.  My new job is great as I spend my days teaching the public about the wonders of fish, forests, and wildlife.  Another major change this year is that my mother-in-law passed away last week and I’ll need to devote some time this spring with my wife as we cope with her loss and the estate she left behind.  Due to these two factors, I won’t have quite as much time to spend managing the plants so a few things will change.

The first major change will be that I will not be taking pre-orders for tomato and pepper plants as I have done in the past.  I hate to drop this convenience feature for so many of you, but organizing and preparing all of those orders takes three or four days and I just don’t have much spare time this spring.  Another change is that I will have a bit fewer days of sales this year.  I am committed to a special plant event on May 2nd and won’t be open for sales on the first Saturday in May.  The Grow Native event and SeedSavers KC plant exchange is that day at the Discovery Center and you’re welcome to come down there that day to swap some of your own plants with other gardeners and pick up some free native flowers and grasses that I am growing for the MDC.

I’ll post up the dates and times for tomato and pepper plant sales later on, but for now plan on weekends starting April 18th through May 10th with the exception of May 2.  I will have very limited evening hours this year as well, but will be available some evening by appointment.

So without further ado….here is the list  Make sure you print it off and bring your own boxes to carry your plants home in and you’ll receive a free plant of your choice.

2015 Plant Lists

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Flavor and FIRE!!!!!!!!!

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About 40 pepper lovers and those who like to watch people suffer attended our third pepper tasting on Saturday evening.  The Local Pig was our gracious host this year and they provided a pitcher of chunky and flavorful bloody mary, some great pickled beans and peppers and some of their amazing habanero sauce.  We had over 30 types of peppers available ranging from the sweet Purple Beauty to the mean and nasty Carolina Reaper.

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Many of the attendees brought delicious things for folks to sample including a great pot of “Triple Threat Chili” that my mother brought, two different kinds of brightly colored pepper jelly, several amazingly flavorful and smoking hot sauces, and salsas, hummus, and some lovely desserts including an eclair cake!

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The peppers were the star of the show as the brave tasters worked their way around the table of peppers ordered by their Scoville Heat Unit ranking.  Some made it all the way around the table to the SUPER HOT Chinese Naga, Brazillian Ghost, Trinidad Scorpion, Brain Strain, 7 Pot Moruga and the infamous Carolina Reaper.  Many others tapped out before they got that hot, but made valiant efforts at taming the heat nonetheless.

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A good time was had by all and we’ll definitely do this again next year!

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Eulogy for the passing of a great gardener

The man who taught me how to garden passed away last week and we buried him today.  I had the honor of writing and reading his eulogy as well as being a pall bearer.  he will be missed, but not forgotten.
grandpaandgrandma2013Here is the eulogy:

 

As most of you know, I have dedicated the past 25 years or so to being a teacher.  With 19 years in the classroom, I have taught hundreds and hundreds of children how to read, write, calculate, and about the wonders of the natural world and its history.  I had years of formal training in college and in various seminars and conferences to perfect my craft.  The classes and sessions were taught by people with various degrees and doctorates who were experts in their field and they gave me a lot of useful information that made me the teacher that I am today.  However, none of them taught me anything close to what my grandpa. Big Jim, taught me over the wonderful years we spent together.

Grandpa was my mentor, my father figure, my role model, and so much more to me.  He was always there for me and taught me everything I know about how to live life to its fullest.  Grandpa was the best teacher I ever had and I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for his love and devotion to my upbringing.

Here’s a few things he taught me…maybe he taught a few of you the same things when you spent time with him.

He taught me how to cast a pole, bait a hook, run a trotline, clean a fish, shoot a squirrel, deer, turkey, duck, goose, rabbit, coon, pheasant, quail, and pretty much anything else that swam in the water, ran across the Earth or flew across the skies.  He taught me how to blow a duck and a goose call and set a decoy spread making sure there was always a pocket for the birds to land in.  He taught me to eat what I caught or shot and to respect the game and fish that I pursued.

He taught me how to drive a nail, screw a screw, build a wall, roof a house, wire a switch, plumb a toilet, paint a room, change a tire, change my oil, change my brakes,  and fix pretty much anything that needed fixing.  He taught me the value of a set of tools and that a can of starting fluid, duct tape and bailing wire can solve a lot of problems.

He taught me how to plant a seed and grow a garden.  He taught me how to split wood and build a fire.  He taught me how to drive a stick shift and took me to get my driver’s license.  He loaned me a car when my truck was broken down. He taught me how to drive a boat and back up a trailer. He bought me my first gun and always made sure I had plenty of ammunition to shoot.  He took me for my very first haircut…I gave him his last haircut.

He taught me that a full house beats a straight and a flush, but loses to 4 of a kind  He also taught me how to call Dr. Pepper (10’s, 2’s, and 4’s) and Baseball (3’s 6’s and 9’s) as wild cards even if all the other players groaned and complained..  He taught me how to rack the balls, make a bank shot and to call the pocket on the 8 ball. That a leaner was worth 2 points and a horseshoe worth 3. He taught me how to mix a cocktail and drink a cold beer.  He taught me how to make friends and how to deal with enemies.  He taught me to respect my elders and to listen to them because they have so much to offer.  He taught me how to love my wife, because he loved his wife so very much  He taught me how important family is.  He taught me how to be a man….I hope I did him proud.

Grandpa taught me how to tell a dirty joke.  He was the first adult that let me use a few curse words without getting in trouble….he made sure that I didn’t use them around my mom or grandma though!  Grandpa told me that it was ok to bend some of  the rules, just don’t bend them too far or too often.

Grandpa taught me that if I work hard and learn as much that I can, that I can have a successful life full of good times, great friends, and a family that will always be there for you.  In my darkest days of depression, grandpa taught me that life was worth living.  He taught me how to live.  Now he is teaching me about death and grieving…a tough lesson to learn.

Grandpa made me the man and the teacher that I am today by teaching me and I’ll do my best to live up to his expectations and pass on his legacy. If he touched a part of your life by teaching you a thing or two, I hope that you take the time to pass it on to someone you care about.

I love you grandpa, they broke the mold when they made you.  Thanks for teaching me.  I hope you are where the food is home cooked, the fish are biting, the ducks and geese are flying, the turkeys are gobbling, the big bucks are rutting, the cards are running good, and the renters are paying on time!

 

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KCTT Tomato Tasting #6

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80 Feet of Tomatoes!

We had a record number of tomatoes (about 100) and a record number of tasters (about 150) last Saturday for the 6th Annual Tomato Tasting.  Thanks so much to the fine folks at The Local Pig for hosting this event again this year!  We had visitors from as far away as New York, Texas, and Iowa this year.  The weather was perfect and the food was fantastic.

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Carbon!

I don’t think we’ve ever hit the absolute peak of harvest like we did this year.  I personally brought 43 different varieties from my own garden that were ripe on Saturday.   We had so many people bring in varieties that I was unable to keep track of them all, but it ended up being 80 feet of tomatoes lined up along the picnic tables…a sight to behold!

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Tomato Nerds!

I want to thank my mother for bringing so many tomatoes from her garden…all of the slicers for the sandwiches were from her backyard garden.  Thank you to Camry for all of her work in organizing the food drive.  Thank you to Todd and Julie for coming by early to help us set things up and slice tomatoes.  Thank you to anyone else who helped out as well!  A special thank you to Matt from The Local Pig for all of his support and hard work to make things run so smoothly!  Thank you to all that brought tomatoes and side dishes for everyone to sample…no one went away hungry that’s for sure!

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Black Cherry was the winner this year!

We had 58 different tomatoes get votes in our entirely un-scientific voting method.  This shows just how diverse people’s tastes are and that there is a tomato out there for everyone!  Here are the tabulated results:

Black Cherry 19
Sungold 15
Lucky Tiger 11
Grandfather Ashlock 8
Brandywine Sudduth’s 7
Carbon 7
Cherokee Purple 6
Garden Peach 6
Opalka 6
Sunrise Bumblebee 6
Anna Russian 5
Black Krim 5
Boondocks 5
Green Tiger 5
Kiss the Sky 5
Snow White 5
Soldaki 5
Speckled Roma 5
Pineapple 4
Yellow Pear 4
Honey Drop – Medovaya Kaplya 3
Purple Haze 3
Blush 3
Black from Tula 2
Black Magic 2
Brad’s Black heart 2
Brandywine 2
Brazilian Beauty 2
Carolina Gold 2
Cherokee Gold 2
Cherokee Green 2
KBX 2
Northern Lights 2
OSH21-27 2
Prue 2
Rosella Crimson 2
Zogola 2
Arkansas Traveler 1
Beefy Boy 1
Budanovka Pink 1
Burraker’s Favorite 1
Delta Cartone 1
German Giant 1
Grubb’s Mystery Green 1
High Pigment 1
Hippie Zebra 1
Juanne Flamme 1
Kumato 1
Lithuanian 1
Marvel Stripe 1
Noire Charboneuse 1
Paul Robeson 1
Pole 1
Rumpto 1
Sara Black 1
Sun Lucky x Anna Russian 2
10-2k-7-S Variegated Line 1

We’ll taste again next year…I already have plans to make the KCTTTT #7 even better than ever!

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