Friday, July 4, 2014

Back to Gardening



Last week I took a break from gardening and joined my siblings on an Erie canal trip on a chartered canal boat. The picture above shows our boat moored at Canal Park in the tiny village of Holley, New York, with the Holley Lift Bridge in the background. The trip celebrated my 70th birthday and the voyage our ancestor, Michael Velten, took in 1848 when he emigrated from Germany to Ohio via the Erie canal.


While we were gone, my son watered the garden and harvested my garlic scapes. When I got back, the garden was not only still alive but getting out of control. I spent several days taming the tomatoes, weeding and grooming. The only thing bolting was the Dragon Tongue mustard. The other lettuces and greens look good for awhile, but I harvested and froze a lot of greens.


Below is tomato Jaune Flamme which I started from seed, so I would like you to notice the extremely vigorous, healthy plants. The tomato truss in the photo has at least 10 tomatoes and others have as many as 12. They get 1.5-2” in diameter and have an orange color and supposedly terrific taste. Michelle has grown these for years and I am finally trying them and I have high expectations.




I again planted a couple of Juliet tomatoes, below, plants grown by my neighbor, Jem Mix. While Juliet is always the standard for gonzo, out of control tomatoes, this year they are being challenged by many of their neighbors in the garden. This shows a nice truss of 10+ tomatoes.




For example, below is Sunkist, another tomato I started from seed. Sunkist is an orange slicer with 8-10 ounce fruits developed by the University of New Hampshire and exclusive to High Mowing Seeds. The plants are stout and vigorous and already setting a lot of fruit but they don’t sucker as bad as Juliet.




Speaking of gonzo tomatoes, below are a couple of Blue Beech paste tomatoes from my neighbor, Jem Mix. I bought these from Jem because I killed my Opalka starts. That is why I am so proud of my Jaune Flamme, Esterina, and Sunkist plants, which are obviously hardy plants tolerant of a little spring time neglect. Blue Beech is a paste tomato collected from Blue Beech Farm in Danby, Vermont and sold by Fedco. Seeds originally came from Italy over 50 years ago. It should be well adapted to our crazy New England summers by now and will hopefully do better than my past trials with Roman Striped and Gilberties. While I was away, these guys suckered like crazy and it took a lot of time to clean out the mass of foliage to allow better air circulation.




Below is a truss of Blue Beech tomatoes already set. This is a 90-day tomato so hopefully we have a late Fall to let these guys fully ripen.




Another experiment this year is growing shallots from seed rather than bulbs. Last year I planted $20 worth of bulbs in the fall only to find every single one rotted over a tough winter. Below are my Saffron seed shallots looking pretty good. The shallot stems are thickening and looking like they are going to be putting energy into bulbs. This is just like growing onions from seed, each plant produces a single shallot bulb.




Some people didn’t return to the community garden this year, so some extra plots were available. I am splitting an additional plot with another gardener. Below is my half, planted to tomatoes and peppers, with a couple hills of summer squash. This allowed me to plant some heirloom tomatoes I wouldn’t have room for in the raised beds. Below are 4 Pineapple, 4 Brandywine, a Cherokee Purple, and another Sunkist.




So I am back and the garden is looking great. Today is July 4 and a traditional barbeque day. I have St. Louis-style ribs rubbed up and waiting for a chance to start a fire between the rain showers. A head of bok choy is going into an Asian-style slaw, which will get another large volume out of the refrigerator and make my wife happy. Probably no fireworks today because of the rain. Hope you have a great Fourth if you’re American, and otherwise have a great weekend.


  1. I hope you got your fire started. Our hosts decided to punt the grill and just use the oven yesterday. It was just too rainy.

    1. I didn't! All I needed was a 15-minute break but it was a steady downpour all day. Rescheduled for today.

  2. I think that's so cool that you got to follow the route that your ancestor took. I hope the Jaune Flamme does as well for you as it does for me. Beware of picking it too soon though, resist harvesting it when it first turns yellow, wait for it to turn more orange and when it has a bit of a blush in the interior it will be perfect.

  3. How amazing to be able to say that your "great, great...." traveled these very waters over 150 years ago. I can just imagine the emotions that you and your family must have felt during your trip. And your garden looks great. I too am so happy with how my tomatoes are doing - a thousand percent better than last year, which was basically a tomato disaster. But I suppose it's those garden disasters that make you really appreciate when things go well. Happy 70th!

  4. I spent eight summers working in Central New York at Glimmerglass Opera. I always wondered about doing an Erie Canal trip.

    Your harvest looks amazing, as always.


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