Archive for January, 2010

The Cycle Begins

When I was a kid, my parents and grandparents always had a garden.  We’d plant the staples…tomatoes, bush beans, and beets…lots and lots of all three.  Not much variety in the types that I can remember, we focused on quantity, not so much on quality.  We planted the beans and beets by seeds, but always bought tomato plants.  I remember asking my grandpa why we didn’t plant tomato seeds and he said they were way too hard to get to grow.  I accepted that as fact for almost 30 years until I found out the truth.

Growing tomato plants from seed isn’t so much difficult as it is time-consuming.  The process starts, in this part of the country anyway, in mid-late February.  For peppers, eggplant, and basil I start in late January.  A few rules need to be followed to be successful, other than that, they are a joy to grow.

First, you need to start with a soil less seed starting medium.  Using regular potting soil or other stuff is a recipe for disaster.  Tomato seeds need to germinate quickly and are prone to damping off and other fungal issues, especially heirloom and untreated seeds.  The soil-less mix is void of any little nasties that could attack your seedlings and cause major catastrophe.  I use “Pro-Mix” and follow the directions for preparing it before I fill my trays.

Once the mix is moistened, I fill 4 pack cells loosely and place them in a tray with no drainage holes in it.

Note the snow in the background…last day of January.  Now check out my thermometer in the greenhouse with no heaters on…just good old radiant sunshine energy!

Now you don’t have to have a greenhouse to grow your own seedlings, but if you ever get the chance to buy one or build one, they are a wonderful addition to your gardening life, but I digress.

When I first started growing tomato and pepper plants from seed, I would place ONE seed per cell.  This took up a LOT of space and used a lot of soil-less mix.  Then I came across Craig LeHoullier’s dense panting method on  Craig (NCTomatoman) is a wealth of tomato information and has always been helpful when I’ve asked questions.  All the folks on Tomatoville are equally helpful though…join up when you get a chance!

I put around 30-50 seeds per 4 cell pack.  He uses a different type pot than I do, but the process is the same.  For peppers, I put around 30, for tomatoes and other small seeded plants such as basil and lettuce, I put 50+ seeds per 4 pack.  I know it looks REALLY crowded and scary, but trust me, it works!

Once the seeds are spread out, I cover them with about 1/4-1/2 inch of the soil-less  mix that’s a little bit wetter than the mix in the bottom of the pots and pat it down gently.  You don’t want to pack them in so the seeds don’t have to work too hard to break free.

I then stick a label in each 4 pack to keep track of all the varieties I grow.

This next step requires some special equipment to increase germination rates to near 100%.  If you don’t want to invest in a small indoor greenhouse and seedling heating mats, then placing your seed pots on top of the refrigerator covered in plastic wrap or near a furnace floor vent might work.  You need to keep the soil temps at or around 75-85 degrees to have the best possible germination success.  Cooler temps will work, but all of your seeds may not germinate.  I have three of the heat mats in my 2-tier portable greenhouse and it sits in the south window of my breezeway.  I call this my “Incubator”.  you can’t see the heat mats, but they look like smaller waterbed heater pads.

After 5-10 days, most of your seeds should have germinated.  I’ve had some older seed and some varieties that take 10-15 days, but most usually sprout in a week.  Once they sprout, remove them from the incubator and uncover them.  you don’t want them to touch the cover because they can “damp off” and die very quickly.  Place them in a south window or under grow lamps.  I have a grow table I built several years ago and use regular fluorescent shop lights with one warm and one cool light bulb in each.  You don’t NEED those expensive grow lights!

These are lettuce and spinach seedlings I started a week ago using this method.  They look good enough to eat!  I’ll post up the pepper seedlings next week and will explain the rest of the process as I go through it.  If you have any questions on how to do this, feel free to ask!

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Tentative List for 2010!

KC Gardeners…I know we’re looking at the coldest temps tonight for the past 20 years, but I’ve been staving off cabin fever by ordering seeds and getting my seedling starting area ready.

I’ve dropped a few from last year’s list and added SEVERAL more tomato and peppers for this year.  I’m only going to have a small quantity of some varieties as I only ordered 30 seeds for some, but for the majority of the list, I’ll have plenty, plenty, plenty! The list is tentative at best now, I may add or remove varieties depending on germination issues or if a variety calls out my name and I have to buy more seeds.  I’ll keep you up to date on the blog with any changes.

I’ve added some hybrid tomato varieties that are designed for container gardening as so many people requested last year.  If you’ve got a spot on your patio that gets plenty of sun, you can have plenty of tomatoes without taking up a lot of room.

Prices are going up a little bit this year due to increased seed, container, and perlite and vermiculite costs.  Plants will be $2 each or 3 for $5.  This is still $1-$2 cheaper per plant than the box stores and nurseries around town.  As always, I provide year long help with your gardening questions and will host our second annual Tomato Tasting in August.  For those of you buying large quantities, I’m more than willing to work out some lower prices and/or throw in some free plants to fill in all those gaps in your gardens!

At any rate..feel free to peruse the list and make your selections as you stay bundled up this weekend.  If you’d like to place a pre-order, I’ll begin taking those on March 1st.  If you have any questions, feel free to ask and I’ll do my best to help you out.


Worley’s Tomato, Pepper, Basil, Tomatillo and Eggplant

Selections for 2010

Updated 1/8/2010


  • · Aunt Ruby’s German Green: Large green beefsteaks ripen to pale green with a tint of yellow and have a pink blush underneath that extends inside the flesh. The flavor is sweet, yet spicy and quite delicious. Fruit weighs from 12 to 16 ozs., and has the smoothest shape of any large green tomato. Heirloom variety.
  • Aussie: A favorite heirloom tomato variety from Australia. And a favorite of mine for the past 10 years as a dependable red heirloom tomato for the market, home and as a show tomato.  Our organic tomato seeds produce indeterminate, regular-leaf tomato plants that dependably yield picture-perfect, copious amounts of 1-2 lb., glossy-red, meaty, fluted, beefsteak tomatoes that are LOADED with delicious, bold, rich and complex tomatoey flavors. Great disease resistance. Good show tomato. One to impress your friends with….A winner!
  • Beam’s Yellow Pear: These organic tomato seeds produce huge, bushy plants that yield very large quantities of 1 oz., 1 1/2-inch, bright yellow, pear-shaped cherry tomatoes that will give you fruit until frost. The tomatoes of this yellow pear tomato variety are zesty sweet and delicious. A beautiful salad or snackin’ tomato. If you are growing several colors of cherry tomatoes include this one. A great tomato choice for a patio or planter garden. A good producer even in cooler coastal regions.
  • Better Bush VFN Hybrid: Perfect for large containers or small gardens, this has long been a favorite choice for growing on patios, decks, and balconies. That is because the compact plants are attractive while yielding good-sized 8 oz. fruit with real tomato flavor. Stocky plants grow 3 to 4 ft. tall with an upright habit, making staking needs minimal.

Berkeley Tie Die: This rare and exotic fruit with big, bold, luscious flavors looks just like its name implies with spectacular showy streaks and swirls of  green and yellow, red and orange, with green and red patterning inside and out. From 8 to 12 ounces, chefs nationwide are ordering these plants for their restaurant gardens  — tomato lovers are clamoring for this fabulous variety. Berkeley Tie Dye is another fabulous variety from talented tomato breeder Brad Gates of Wild Boar Farms in California.

  • Black Cherry: The only truly black cherry tomato. Organic tomato seeds produce large, sprawling, indeterminate, regular-leaf, vigorous tomato plants that yield abundant crops in huge clusters of 1″, round, deep purple, mahogany-brown cherry tomatoes. Fruits are irresistibly delicious with sweet, rich, complex, full tomato flavors that burst in your mouth, characteristic of the best flavorful black tomatoes. Beautiful to mix with other colored cherry tomatoes. Unique tomato variety. Disease resistant.
  • Black Krim: Originally from the Isle of Krim on the Black Sea in the former Soviet Union. This rare, and outstanding tomato yields 3-4″ slightly flattened dark-red (mahogany-colored) slightly maroon, beefsteak tomatoes with deep green shoulders. Green gel around seeds. Fantastic, intense, slightly salty taste (which is great for those not wanting to add salt to their tomatoes).
  • Brandywine (Sudduth’s Strain): Probably the first heirloom to achieve “cult status” within the growing popularity of heirloom tomatoes. A pink, potato-leaf, Amish variety from the 1880’s. Years ago, seed saving was done by individuals who understood that the greatest thing they could pass on to the next generation was some of the treasured food plants that had sustained life and had proven their value. One such pioneer was a man named Ben Quinsenbury, who lived in Vermont. He died at the age of 95, passing on his legacy. The Brandywine was Ben’s favorite tomato. Fruits are reddish-pink, with light, creamy flesh that average 12 ounces but can grow to 2 pounds
  • Burracker’s Favorite: The fruits from this bi-color were reliably large, hefty looking. They were sweet tasting as many old fashioned bi-colors seem to be. The name of this tomato comes from Burracker’s Hollow in the Blue Ridge Mtn. area of Virginia.
  • Bush Champion VFFA Hybrid: This special variety was developed to honor the occasion of Ball Seed Company’s 100th year anniversary. While the compact plants grow only 24 inches tall, they yield plenty of big, meaty tomatoes that weigh in at 8 to 12 ounces. Their flavor is excellent, and the plants thrive in almost any type of climate.
  • Carbon: This is among the darkest of the ‘black’ tomatoes that we’ve seen and one of the very best tasting tomatoes of any kind that we’ve sampled. Its flavor is exceptionally rich yet sweet and the essence of delicious summer tomato flavor. Medium to large, 8 to 12 oz. tomatoes are flattened round and smooth, without the cracking or blemishing that seems to plague some black tomatoes. They are dark purplish-brown on the outside with a deep brick-red interior. Indeterminate.
  • Cherokee Purple: Heirloom from Tennessee cultivated by Native American Cherokee tribe.  Very productive plants producing loads of dusky rose to purple colored, 12 oz.-1 lb.,  beefsteak tomatoes with deep red colors to the interior flesh and dark shoulders. A very popular market variety because of it’s rich, complex and sweet flavors. One of the best tasting heirloom tomatoes.
  • Cuostralee: A French beefsteak heirloom that produces heavy quantities of huge (1-2 lbs.), red, blemish-free fruits that have intense, balanced flavors. Fruits are typically 4-inches across.
  • Earl’s Faux: Deep pink, 1 to 1 1/2 lb. beefsteaks have delicious rich flavor that is both sweet and complex. In fact, the flavor is so good that this variety has won awards in tomato tasting contests. Tall, vigorous plants are potato-leaved and bear a good crop of these smooth, meaty tomatoes. Heirloom variety.
  • Eva Purple Ball: Huge yields of sweet, juicy round fruit that is delicious for salads, sandwiches, and a variety of other uses. Dark pink fruit is smooth and usually about 2 inches across. Heirloom variety from Germany.
  • Isis Candy: This delightful variety produces yellow-gold cherry tomatoes with red marbling. Marbling varies from just a red blush to extensive streaking inside and out. What is consistent, however, is the sweet taste that is also rich and fruity, and very delicious. Tomatoes are about 3/4 inch across and are round to oblate in shape. Very productive plants bear throughout a long season. Indeterminate.
  • Kellogg’s Breakfast: 1 lb., pale to deep orange beefsteak tomatoes originally from West Virginia, that are thin-skinned, meaty, have few seeds and a fantastic sweet, tangy flavor. Juice and inside flesh have the same bright orange color as orange juice
  • Kosovo: This wonderful variety came from a former U.N. worker in Kosovo, who passed it down to Carolyn Male. Huge, deep pink heart-shaped fruit has a sweet rich flavor and is very meaty while still being juicy. Production is excellent and the tomatoes are simply beautiful, but it is the delectable and intense tomato flavor that really makes this one special. Tomatoes can grow up to 1 pound, with ranges from 10 to 18 ozs.
  • Limmony: These bright lemon-yellow beefsteak tomatoes have a fabulous tangy flavor that is actually sort of lemony, and very clean and crisp. This pronounced acid flavor sets it apart from many other yellow varieties, which are milder in taste. Fruit typically weigh 8 to 10 ozs., and are smooth and blemish-free, with solid, meaty interiors. Healthy plants are quite productive, resulting in great yields of these outstanding tomatoes. Heirloom from Russia. Indeterminate.
  • Micro-Tom: ‘World’s smallest tomato variety,’ developed by Drs., J.W. Scott and B.K. Harbaugh at the University of Florida. Grows 5 to 8 inches tall in a 4 inch pot bearing flavorful miniature tomatoes about the size of salad croutons. Plants are truly diminutive and wonderful for patios, windowsills or garden borders. Determinate.
  • Mr. Stripey (Tigerella): Huge crops of red fruits with clearly defined yellow-orange stripes. 1-1/2 to 2 inch tomatoes have a rich, tangy flavor and are a beautiful novelty for adding whole or cutting into salads. Indeterminate.
  • Mortgage Lifter Radiator Charlie’s: Developed by M.C. Byles in the 1930’s, this tomato remains very much in demand in the Mid-Atlantic states. Mr. Byles, affectionately known as “Radiator Charlie” earned his nickname from the radiator repair business he opened at the foot of a steep hill on which trucks would often overheat. Radiator Charlie, who had no formal education or plant breeding experience, created this legendary tomato by cross-breeding four of the largest tomatoes he was able to find and developed a stable variety after six years of pollination and selection. He then sold his tomato plants for one dollar each (in the 1940’s) and paid off the six thousand dollar mortgage on his house in six years. It is said that each spring, gardeners drove as far as 200 miles to buy Charlie’s seedling tomatoes. The large, slightly flattened, pink-red fruits that range from 1 pound to more than 3 pounds, are meaty, very flavorful and have few seeds.
  • Martino’s Roma: prolific heirloom that produces an abundant crop of richly flavored, 3″, red pear tomatoes that are perfect for cooking but sweet enough to enjoy fresh. Meaty with few seeds. Great for canning, adding to sauces, or making paste
  • Opalka: An heirloom originally from Poland. One of the best tasting paste tomatoes with 5-inch long fruit shaped like a banana pepper with a pronounced tip on the bottom. Fruit has very few seeds, is extremely meaty and loaded with rich sweet flavors lending to it’s sauce appeal
  • Patio F Hybrid: This dwarf variety is one of America’s most popular varieties ever for growing on patios, decks, courtyards, or wherever garden space is limited. Plants have attractive, deep green foliage and only become about 2 ft. tall, but produce large harvests of bright red, 3 to 4 oz. flavorful tomatoes. Outstanding for growing in containers — one that measures at least 12 inches wide works best.
  • Paul Robeson: Seed for this Russian heirloom was made available by Marina Danilenko, a Moscow seedswoman. This favorite tomato was named after the operatic artist who won acclaim as an advocate of equal rights for Blacks. His artistry was admired world-wide, especially in the Soviet Union. This “black” beefsteak tomato is slightly flattened, round, and grows to 4-inches. It’s deep, rich colors stand it apart from others…a dusky, dark-red, with dark-green shoulders, and red flesh in it’s center. Very flavorful fruits with luscious,  earthy, exotic flavors and good acid/sweet balance. Paul Robeson (aka Pol Robeson) won “Best of Show” at Carmel TomatoFest. As this variety originates from Siberiaa and sets fruits at lower temps, it is an excellent choice for cooler growing regions
  • Pink Ping Pong: his heirloom produces amazing yields of sweet pink fruits the size of ping pong balls. Juicy and bursting with superb flavors. Great for salads, canned, or popped in your mouth off the vine.
  • Riesentraube: The name of this German heirloom variety means ‘giant bunch of grapes,’ and that is what clusters of these cherry tomatoes will remind you of. Bouquet-type blossoms turn into bunches of 20 to 40 small, oval red fruit with pointed ends. Vines are very branched, and become covered with fruit. Flavor is excellent, offering taste found in larger tomatoes. Indeterminate.
  • Roma VF: Premium canner, ideal for sauce and paste. Pear-shaped scarlet fruits of the Roma (VF) Open-Pollinated Tomato are thick and meaty with few seeds. Determinate.
  • Rutgers VFA: Gardeners throughout the country are rediscovering this old-fashioned classic for its terrific flavor and productivity. This strain has some disease resistance, which ensures large crops of crack-free, bright red 6 to 8 oz. tomatoes with delicious old-time taste. For many years, this was a favorite for canning because of its abundance, juiciness and deep red color through and through. Developed in the 1920’s, but just right for today’s gardeners too.
  • Stump of the World: Dark pink beefsteak fruit reach about one pound and grow on potato-leaved vines. The variety was part of the Ben Quisinberry Collection, which also contributed the variety Brandywine. Stump of the World is a bit smaller and more productive than Brandywine, but like Brandywine, offers outstandingly rich, complex flavor. Heirloom variety. Indeterminate.
  • Stupice: This potato-leaf heirloom from Czechoslovakia is a cold-tolerant tomato that bears an abundance of very sweet, flavorful 2 to 3-inch, deep red fruit. A 1988 comparative tasting in the San Francisco area gave it first place for its wonderful sweet/acid, tomatoey flavor and production.
  • Sun Gold Hybrid: Very sweet, bright orange cherry tomatoes taste not just sugary but also fruity and delicious. Vigorous growers, these tall plants bear long clusters of fruit. Try these for a real taste treat, you won’t believe you’re eating tomatoes! Indeterminate.
  • Super Snow White: Very sweet, 2 oz., ivory-colored tomatoes, larger than Snow White, but similar in taste. They ripen to reach almost the size of ping pong balls. These tomatoes are perfect for cutting in half to expose the beautiful interior and serving in salads
  • Tom’s Yellow Wonder: Tom’s Yellow Wonder is normally a big yellow beefsteak often with a pink blush at the base when ripe, and obviously with lots of love can grow exceptionally large.

Chile Peppers

  • Big Bomb Hybrid: Big, bright red hot cherry peppers load up in abundance earlier in the season than any other hot cherry pepper on the market. The thick-walled peppers are about 2 inches wide and long with a medium-hot flavor that is just perfect for pickling or stuffing with cheese as a “hot” appetizer. Vigorous plants offer durability even in a wide variety of growing conditions.
  • California Wonder: The standard bell pepper for many decades, this 1928 introduction is still the largest open-pollinated, heirloom bell you can grow, and a big improvement over the earlier bells. Consistently produces 3″ X 4″, 4-lobed fruit.
  • Fooled You Hybrid: Truly a jalapeno pepper for gringos, this one has no heat, but still retains the essential flavor of a jalapeno. Peppers look like normal jalapenos except they are a little larger at 3.25 inches long. The fruit is thick-walled and heavy, and like other jalapenos, is borne in profusion. This variety is perfect for making mild salsas or using in Mexican dishes served to children or others who do not tolerate spicy food.
  • Habanero: A blistering hot pepper 40 times hotter than Jalapeno! Among the most potent ones we sell. Wrinkled fruit is 1 inch long and 1-1/2 inches wide, with a tapered end. Peppers begin as light green then turn to golden-orange and are loaded onto 36 inch tall plants. Thrives best in warm southern climates.
  • · Kung Pao Hybrid: Wonderful new Oriental hot peppers just right for making Kung Pao Chicken or the Asian stir-fried dishes. The tall plants are quite a sight when they become absolutely loaded with 4.5-inch long, slightly curved skinny peppers that mature from green to a brilliant red. They are thin-walled for easy drying, or may be used fresh for adding inviting flavor to a dish. Peppers have about 10,000 Scoville units, so should be eaten with care.
  • Lilac Sweet Pepper: Attention-catching specialty pepper changes from ivory to lovely lavender! Matures to deep purple. Blocky, medium-sized fruit tempts the palate with its mild sweet flavor and crispy texture. Vigorous plants give excellent sun cover for fruit. (4 left)
  • Jalapeno M: Pungent 3 1/2-inch fruit delivers 4,750 Scovilles of heat! 73 days. This is the pungent little dark green pepper found in rings atop nachos and chopped in Mexican sauces — both sweet and hot, with an addictive flavor that has made it one of the most popular seasonings in American dishes! Just 3 1/2 inches long and about 1 1/2 inches wide, these rounded, thick-walled fruits are borne in great numbers on very vigorous 26-inch plants. They are ready to pick when dark green, delivering 4,750 Scovilles of heat!
  • Serrano: Very hot chile called for in many recipes. Candle-flame shaped fruit are 2-1/4 inches long, green, then red at full maturity. Borne on attractive 30 to 36 inch erect, branching plants. Suitable for salsas and sauce recipes as well as eating fresh. Vigorous bearer.
  • Thai Hot: Extremely hot variety originally from Thailand. Plants become covered with 1-1/2 inch long peppers that are green at first but ripen to red. Both colors appear on the plant at the same time making this variety ornamental as well as edible. Thin fleshed peppers are used especially in Oriental dishes.


Toma Verde Tomatillo: The tomatillo is a member of the tomato family, but not a real tomato. Round green tomatillos have a papery husk that is removed before preparing. Vining plants are easily grown and prolific. Flavor is sweet yet tart and wonderful in green Mexican salsa and other Mexican and Southwestern dishes.

Broccoli Raab

Although it has broccoli’s name, broccoli raab is not related to broccoli.  It is, however, closely related to turnips, which is probably why the leaves look like turnip greens. Lots of broccoli-like buds appear here and there but a head never forms. It is grown as much for its long-standing, tasty mustard-like tops as for their multiple small florets with clusters of broccoli-like buds. Good-quality broccoli raab will have bright-green leaves that are crisp, upright, and not wilted. Avoid ones with leaves that are wilted, yellowing, or have dark green patches of slime.


  • Bride Hybrid Eggplant: The distinctive coloring of this late maturing Chinese eggplant makes it worth the wait. Glossy white skin is streaked with lavender and topped with a green calyx. The slender fruit grow up to 8″ long. The size of these eggplants makes them ideal for grilling or for shish-kebabs, but the tender flesh is also delicious braised, fried, baked or stir-fried.
  • Kermit Hybrid Eggplant: Small, ball-shaped fruit are about 2 inches across and green marbled with white stripes. This is a traditional Thai type of eggplant that is used extensively in many Asian dishes for its distinctive flavor. They are also the perfect size and shape to put on a shish kebab skewer, brush with olive oil, and grill. Vigorous plants yield a very generous harvest.
  • Fengyuan Purple Eggplant: This slender Asian eggplant is one of the longest available. Its beautiful purple skin is so thin that peeling is unnecessary and creamy white flesh is reliably mild with no bitterness. Plants produce an abundance of fruit that can grow well over a foot long. Easy to grow and wonderful for grilling or adding to stir fries.
  • Green Goddess Eggplant: Incredible harvests of light green slender eggplant that become about 8 inches long. Mild flavor and tremendous production make this a winner for anyone who wants a steady supply of delicious eggplant. Lovely lime green color.
  • Vittoria PS Hybrid--cylindrical Italian eggplant that becomes about 10 inches long and 3 inches wide. Glossy deep purple skin with tender flesh that is perfect for slicing into Italian dishes, or marinating and grilling. Tall, upright plants set large numbers of these high-quality fruits. 61 days.

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