Monday, July 09, 2012

Responding to a question...

I try to respond to questions in the comments... Sally from New Orleans asked a question in the comments to an earlier post.

I'm in New Orleans, hot and humid like you are. Do you prefer Johnny's seeds for our areas? I've bought a lot from Burpee and have had reasonable sucess, except for tomatoes. They just like to die. Unless I stop being organic, I have to accept that. I put in various Kales and they'll go almost all year. I put in more flowers this year, half died. It's quite a change from the northeast where I was. I really enjoy your blog, I't helped explain a lot and given me a better idea of how the seasons run. Alien to what I'm used to. Thanks, Sally 
and my quick response...

i like johnnys because they have a large selection of hybrids & reasonable prices. (shipping is steep, though... but probably reflects the true cost.) moreover, i have never been disappointed with the germination and performance of their plants, and never felt that i'd been sold the 'wrong' seed.
that said, i don't tend to buy my tomatoes from them, as tomato growers supply has a much better selection. (i still think they sent me the wrong seeds for sungold this year...)
tomatoes in our climes--just tough to grow. i grow mostly organic (i use chemical fertilizers because i think they are actually more ecologically friendly here in florida). i guess a couple points, based on my experience:
1) hybrids. forget the darn 'heirloom' varieties. NONE OF THEM is as good as an f1. not in terms of flavor, performance, nothing. buy small or medium sized, early or mid-season tomatoes with as many letters after their names as possible. seriously,that's how i tomato shop.
2) better too early than too late. i don't know enough about nola's clime, but here in fla, we have windows. missing the window by a couple of weeks makes a huge difference. tomato seeds are easy and cheap. stagger your seeding schedule so you have some to go in really early, and others in reserve. if you get a freeze, or if the fall-season crop gets blasted by a hurricane--you'll have backups. 

Adding: An interesting and unintended experiment. I had a dozen of "reserve" seedlings at the end of March. Some Mountain Magic and Juliet. Big seedlings, but stressed as they were in small pots. So I transferred them to a somewhat shady corner of the garden with no real expectation that they'd offer much crop. Right now, they are produce heavily and look healthy compared to my almost-dead, nearly-defoliated main crop of tomatoes. I reckon their performance is due a bit to the shade, a bit to being held back. What it tells me, though, is that my main crop of tomatoes is burning out not only because they are suffering from a myriad of diseases and bug issues, but also because they must be reaching the end of their useful lifespan. This discovery lends me to think that there might be a bit more flexibility in planting schedules than I'd long assumed. Maybe a staggered planting scheme is the way to go--the second will surely miss out on the main production time (May and June), but I might be able to eke out a few extra weeks of tomato harvest by planting some seedlings at the end of March. In any case, this strategy would only work with small-fruited tomatoes, which can set fruit during our hot nights. (Larger tomatoes need a few hours of sub-70° temperatures at night to set fruit.)


AchillesRules said...

What makes you think this isn't just because (1) you're planting in a new area that hasn't had tomatoes (and therefore tomato diseases) and (2) you planted in the shade. Just curious.

(Your brother)

Michael said...

like many things in life, it's overdetermined. a little bit of this, a little bit of that... the regular season tomatoes stop producing for multiple and independent causes: age, disease, stress, insects. it only stands to reason that the second, shady crop continues to be healthy for related reasons: less stress because less sun, new area so less disease, younger plants.

gardening is not an experimental science, but an observational one, for precisely that reason. too many causes to isolate one over another. so, you end up developing knacks and superstitions, rather than data-driven practices.

Sally said...

Thank you for the seed information. I just ordered from Johnnys and the tomato growers supply. I'm a little late, but I should be able to put the seedlings out in late Aug or early Sept. so I should be fine. There's nothing so hopeful as a fresh seed order. I'm learning so much every year now in this new zone. The basics are so much the same, but the concept of 2 growing seasons is really new. August is the main harvest in the northeast, and down here it's as dead as the middle of February is there. Now that the frustration is over, in part because I've found your blog, I'm starting to understand the seasons here better. Thaks, Sally

Orlando Landscape design said...

Have you ever grown from seeds that you harvest yourself?