Saturday, June 4, 2016

Tomato and Pepper Progress Report

I'm a few days late this year but close enough to my target date of June 1 to get the tomatoes and peppers into the garden. I've covered the basic bed preparation in previous posts, most lately in my Winter to Spring Progress Report, where I describe my process of growing a cover crop and digging it in. After digging in the cover crop and spreading a layer of compost I covered it all up with some newspaper and cardboard, turned off the irrigation to that bed, and let it rest until last week when I dug in a natural slow release fertilizer blend.

Tomato & Pepper Bed May 24

One of the reasons I was a little late getting the bed planted was because of my fava harvests. You can see in the photo above the bed beyond the soon to be tomato and pepper bed. The closer side of that bed is where I grew the favas along the entire length of the bed, two varieties this year. My good old reliable Extra Precoce Violetto favas were done producing in time to be cut down as you can see, they were on the right. But the new Robin Hood favas were a couple weeks slower to finish and I couldn't move the trellis without tearing out at least half of them. I put that off as long as I could but finally harvested all the beans, ready or not, from the plants on this side of the trellis last weekend. One good thing about the Robin Hood favas is that they are short and bushy so they don't need staking. I only had to cut down half the plants to move the trellis because I hadn't tied any of them to the trellis.

Last year I switched from using tomato cages to the trellis for various reasons. I have been growing my favas in succession after the tomatoes, previously in the tomato cages and this year along the length of the trellis. It was handy growing them along the trellis because it was easy to tie the plants up to the trellis when they started to flop over. The trellis was also easier with the favas because the beans were easier to harvest, it was always awkward to reach inside the cages to get to the beans. The succession has worked well with the Extra Precoce Violetto favas, they have always finished producing by the end of May so I could reliably get the cages moved to plant the tomatoes on time. So the Robin Hood favas threw me for a bit of a loop this year with their lateness. Next year I think I'll stick with the EPV favas. It's nice to be able to keep the trellis in the garden because it's difficult to move and I don't have a good place to store it without rolling it up which I don't want to do.

So, at last, there's the bed yesterday morning shown above, finally prepped, drip lines firmly in place, trellis set. And there it is below at the end of the day, all the tomato and pepper plants set out. I used Mykos mycorrhizal inoculant and Azos beneficial bacterial inoculant when I watered them in. I've been using those treatments on my peppers for the last couple of years and they seem to promote some really good healthy growth, the leaves on the plants get to be larger which protects the large fruited sweet peppers that I adore from getting sunburn. The plants also seem to be more productive than ever.

Another thing that I'm experimenting with this year is the spacing for the peppers. The last few years I've set them out in 3 rows with the middle row staggered. Last year I had problems with some of the plants in the center row getting shaded by plants in the outer rows. Part of the problem was that I grew a number of new varieties and I didn't realize that some of them were going to be quite tall and I had them planted next to shorter varieties. This year I've got a lot of new varieties again and have the same problem, I don't know how tall they might get to be. So this year I'm going for two rows with the plants spaced more closely in the row, about 10.5 inches, but set further apart from the second row, about 18 inches apart. The second row is staggered. I've placed most of the plants that I know will be quite tall in the inner row at this end of the bed. The far end of the bed is where I've grouped all the plants that I know will be short. The plants that I have no clue how tall they will become are placed in the outer row in front of the tall growers. 

Tomato and Pepper Bed on June 4

Ok, so what tomatoes and peppers am I growing this year?

I ended up with 11 different tomato varieties. I skipped growing any paste or sauce varieties this year because I still have loads of canned tomatoes and frozen sauces and purees and a couple of the beefsteak types I'm growing are good for sauce anyway. Two of my favorite cherry types are back - Camp Joy and Sweet Gold. I'm trying one new cherry/plum variety from Italy called Piccolo Dattero (thanks for the seeds Sue!). And there's an oddball tomato called Reisetomate From Transylvania which is basically a pull apart bunch of fused cherry tomatoes. Lime Green Salad is also new in the lineup, a small determinate type that ripens to an amber skin and chartreuse interior. (Thanks Dot for the Reisetomate and Lime Green Salad seeds!) Another new tomato that I'm trying is Orange Jazz from Artisan Seeds, an orange beefsteak with yellow stripes. And there's one more new tomato in the lineup - Pomme d'Amour is supposed to be quite similar to some of the first tomatoes that made their way from the Americas to Europe, a curiosity that I found at Roughwood Seeds. And a few favorites are returning - Jaune Flamme, Mavritanskite, Chianti Rose, and Pantano - you can see all of those in my harvest posts from last fall.

Now for the peppers. I squeezed 24 varieties in varying amounts for a total of 55 plants into the bed. Returning peppers include:
  • Aji Amarillo (2)
  • Craig's Grande Jalapeño (1)
  • Florina (4)
  • Gogosar (4)
  • Lady Bell (4)
  • Mareko Fana (1)
  • Odessa Market (2) 
  • Rosso Dolce da Appendere (3)
  • Shepherd's Ramshorn (4)
  • Sonora Anaheim (2)
  • Yummy Belles (4)
Most of those are sweet peppers with the exceptions of Aji Amarillo, Craig's Grande Jalapeño, and Sonora Anaheim. I grew all of them last year so you can see those in my harvest post from last fall as well.

So 31 plants are old favorites and the remaining 22 plants include the following varieties:
  • Aji Amarillo Grande (2), a larger fruited version of the Aji Amarillo from last year
  • Etiuda (2), a yellow sweet bell type
  • Mirasol (1), the dried pepper is called a Guajillo
  • Negro (1), also known as Pasilla, it ripens to a very dark brown
  • Ometepe (2), a large sweet red pepper from Nicaragua
  • Petite Marseillais (3), a small sweet golden pepper from the south of France
  • Pimento (Turkey) (1), a complete unknown other than that it is sweet and from Turkey
  • Violet Sparkle (2), a small sweet pepper that starts violet and ripens to red
  • IPK P 262 (Turkey)
  • IPK P 557 (Italy)
  • IPK P 632 (Italy)
  • IPK P 633 (Italy)
  • IPK P 852 (Italy)
The IPK peppers don't have names, those are the accession IDs used by the seed bank that the Seed Savers Exchange obtained their seeds from. All I know is that they are supposed to be sweet and what the country of origin happens to be. It will be interesting to see what they turn out to be. I put in one plant of each variety.

Summer is well and truly here when there are tomatoes and peppers in the garden. I just wish I still didn't have to wait a few months to taste them.


  1. Wow, you always have an interesting selection of peppers and tomatoes. The only one in common is Jaune Flamme, which went in the raised bed today. I'm late as well because I'm just late. Everything should have gone in Memorial Day weekend but we were travelling.

  2. Wow, you always have an interesting selection of peppers and tomatoes. The only one in common is Jaune Flamme, which went in the raised bed today. I'm late as well because I'm just late. Everything should have gone in Memorial Day weekend but we were travelling.

  3. You just live in the wrong place. Too much coastal influence. I harvested my first pepper crop today. Shishito pepper. Green ones were turning red, about half the size they should be. Won't last long in this heat. Not a SoCal summer crop. Kidding aside you live in paradise.

  4. Your tomato and pepper plants look nice and healthy. It looks like you're trying out some very interesting new varieties. Out of curiosity, do you add the Mykos and Azos to water and then dose the plants that way?

    1. Mykos is a granular formulation that I sprinkle directly on the plant roots and in the planting hole. Azos is a powder that I add to water for a soil drench, although it can be applied directly to the roots also, it's just messier because it is so fine.

  5. What interests me most about this is that you and I both grow several varieties of tomato and pepper, yet there is no overlap of varieties at all this year! For me, one of the big attractions of these two types of plant is the sheer variety of options available. I am growing several plants from seeds given to me by friends, and I see that you are doing the same. I wish it were easier to send seeds to the USA!

  6. That sheer variety is why I grow so many! There's just so many to try and not enough space and time for even a fraction of them. I have swapped seeds with a UK gardener in the past with no problems, but the postage is expensive.

  7. I wish I had plenty of tomatoes in storage! Other than dried ones, my supplies from last year are running low. Like Mark, I grow a large number of tomato and pepper varieties and we have very little overlap either. I am growing Mirasol and Aji Amarillo, but those are the only two in common. Your pepper spacing winds up being about the same as mine, which is 12 x 18 inches. I used Mykos again this year but added Myco Madness which is a water soluble inoculant I used at planting time. It will sure be interesting to see how those SSE varieties turn out. I try not to look too closely at the annual yearbook because I want to grow so many of them!

  8. 24 pepper varieties - now that's something to aspire to! I'm changing up my pepper spacing this year too, except instead of reducing the number of rows as you did, I'm going in the opposite direction by planting an entire bed of peppers. I didn't really take notes on how big different pepper plants grew last year, but I didn't notice a huge difference between them, likely because our season is a lot shorter. I'll be paying more attention to that this year, so we'll see if that actually is the case. I'm planning on taking some notes on how big different varieties of tomatoes/peppers grow so that I can plan the beds a bit better in the future. You've inspired me to add beneficial bacteria to my plantings this year as well - I'm really looking forward to seeing if this makes a difference.

    And I love the idea of growing those "surprise" IPK peppers - can't wait to see what you end up getting!


Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. I value your insights and feedback.