Tomatoes – Better Late!!!

It has been my experience, tomatoes planted late are far superior to early or standard planted. As the temperatures start to cool down, you get better flower set and consequently better fruit.

I prefer to cage my tomatoes for better foliage cover to reduce the chance of sun-scald. Heirloom tomatoes have superior taste and texture. However, the plants can exceed the size of the cage!! Next year I plan to grow the plants on 5 foot centers to allow for easier harvesting and increased air circulation.


BTW, the plant to the left of Papa is a variety called Granny Cantrell. This beloved heirloom has quite a following. The plant to the right is Daniel’s, which produces very large pink red fruit and appears to be well suited for our Missouri Ozarks climate.

The above variety has the unusual name of “1884”. The plant was discovered after a flood in West Virginia in 1884. This beauty weighs in at 1 pound 10 ounces. BLT sandwiches are written all over it!!!!

Kellog’s Breakfast is the name of this bright yellow/orange sweet confection. Boasting a good balance of sweetness and acidity with few seeds make Kellog’s Breakfast a highly desirable choice.

The expanded list of tomatoes grown are:

  • 1884 – large pink/red beefsteak
  • Black Prince – small purple/red 2-3 oz
  • Black from Tula – medium red/purple, meaty/few seeds
  • Coyne – red Roma type, large 4-8 oz
  • Daniel’s – large pink/red beefsteak, many over a pound
  • German Johnson – medium pink/red beefsteak, one of the parents of Branywine
  • Granny Cantrell – medium/large pink/red beefsteak, plants are huge!
  • Hannah – medium/large, pink/red oxheart, meaty, few seeds
  • Hazelfield Farm – pink/red, medium beefsteak, well adapted to hot/humid
  • Kellog’s Breakfast – large yellow/orange beefsteak, sweet and meaty
  • Mary Robinson German Bicolor – large, red/yellow, beefsteak
  • Omar’s Lebanese – large pink/red, may exceed 3 pounds
  • Pineapple – large, yellow/red, very sweet and juicy
  • Pink Boar – pink with green streaks, small 3-4 oz
  • Rutgers – small, orange/red old fashioned for canning, juicing
  • San Marzano Lungo #2 – 3-4 0z Roma type for sauce and paste

It never ceases to amaze me, how traditional tomato eaters are about the color of their tomatoes. As one man said to me “If it ain’t red, I ain’t going to eat it”. However, when they try the different colored tomatoes, they often change their mind.

For the Ozarks, start your tomato seeds the second week of May and plant your seedlings the first of July. Your tomatoes will start coming in by late August through October. BTW, for you market gardeners, late tomatoes command a higher price by late September/October due to limited supply.

Plant late, I promise you, you will not be disappointed!


Spring has Sprung! A Month Early!

Garden peas and sugar snap peas were planted  a week ago! They should be up in about a week.


Bachelor Buttons, Shasta Daisy, Pansies, Snap Dragons, Marigolds, Foxglove and other flower seed were planted in cell trays. Broccoli, Cabbage and Cauliflower were started as well.

Tomato and Pepper seed will be planted tomorrow.  Full production has started in earnest!


Flowers have started to bloom. The Crocus and jonquils are showing their lovely blooms!

Watch for more gardening goodies!!!


Heritage Day Festival with Papa

Sunday was a beautiful day for a festival. It was a wonderful day to meet and greet new people and the Bluegrass music from the Missouri Ozarks was amazing! What more could you ask from the day?


My Miss Sunshine was a wonderful helper.


Gardening questions included “How do you change the color of hydrangeas?”, “Why did my strawberry plants die?”and “You can grow lettuce during the hot summer months?” I plan to address these questions in future posts.

The booth was a stunning success. Heirloom Tomato and Hot/Sweet Pepper transplants in addition to potted June bearing Strawberry plants, Annual Phlox and Hollyhocks were for sale.



The lettuce bowls with Oak Leaf, Amish Deer Tongue and Red Romaine lettuces with edible Pansy’s were well received.


Sweet Peas on the vine, Bachelor’s Buttons and Snowball Hydrangeas complimented the booth receiving surprised and rave reviews. People in this area are not familiar with cultivated Sweet Peas and were pleased with their knockout colors and fragrance.




Thanks again for visiting the world of Papa’s Gardens.




See you Sunday!

Sunday, June 5, I will have a vendor space during the Baker Creek* monthly Heritage Days festival.


I will be selling tomato and hot/ sweet pepper transplants. In addition I will have potted June bearing strawberry plants, Hollyhocks, Annual Phlox and Lettuce bowls for sale.



I will be featuring my Sweet Peas as cut flowers. They are colorful and fragrant.These may be purchased by the stem or in a bouquet.


Come on out and say “Hey”.



*Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co., 2278 Baker Creek Road, Mansfield, MO 65704

Festival hours: 10AM to 7PM


Seed Saving Garden? What’s That? Part 4

There is no more popular vegetable than the tomato. The seed is easy to save and well worth while!

  • Tomato: self pollinating

Inserted stigma: the female part of the flower is encased inside the anther    cone in the center of the flower.

-10 – 20 feet between varieties

inserted stigma

–Most tomato varieties have this blossom structure.

–Blossom bag around cluster if garden is small and isolation distances cannot    be met.

–10 plants for sufficient seed quantities

–Seeds are viable 4 – 6 years

Exposed stigma: the female part of the flower is outside the anther cone in the    center of the flower.

-20 – 50 feet between varieties

exposed stigma

–Potato leaf and black/purple varieties have this blossom structure.

–Blossom bag around cluster if garden is small and isolation distances cannot  be met.

–10 plants for sufficient seed quantities

–Seeds are viable 4 – 6 years

Tomato seed saving     seed saving cages tom flowers 1tomBag1

  • Make sure to label your bagged tomato fruit when removing bag to identify your seed savers.
  • Remember, bags may be removed with evidence of small developing tomato fruit.

Harvest when fruit is fully colored and ripe. Make sure you harvest fruit that comes from healthy plants and fruit (disease free).

Fermentation of tomato seed is required prior to drying. Fermentation removes the gel coat around each seed. The gel coat may inhibit germination.

Crush tomato fruit into a jar or bowl. Add a small amount of water to the pulp.

Tomato seed saving2

Allow pulp to ferment for 2-4 days (2 days if 80°-95° (F), 4 days if below 80° (F)).

Tomato seed saving3Strain mixture to remove the pulp and fermented material.

Tomato seed saving4

Place the moist seeds on a labeled paper plate and allow to dry for 2 weeks.

Tomato seed saving1Scrape seed off of the paper plate and place in a labeled paper envelope (place envelope in a freezer zip lock bag) or small glass jar. Place saved seed in a cool, dark and dry place or your freezer.

Saving tomato seed is easily accomplished and low tech. Plus, the saved seed will last for many years.


Succession Planting for Success!!

It is amazing how many times I hear of someone’s lack of success for certain crops. When you “put all your eggs in one basket” and only plant one time, that is often the basis for disappointment. If you do several small plantings a week to 10 days apart you have a much better chance for meeting your expectations. Succession planting will fulfill your idea of a good garden!!

succession planting            succession planting1

There are several strategies that maximize your efforts. You will be astounded when you see how much produce you can get from small areas.

  • Two or more crops in succession: After one crop is harvested, another is planted in the same space. The length of the growing season, climate, and crop selection are important issues.
    • For example, a cool season spring crop (such as Irish potatoes) could be followed by a heat-loving summer crop (bush beans). The beans require less fertilizer and supply free nitrogen to the soil. The  bush beans are not bothered by the potential diseases of the potatoes.
    • Likewise, garden peas ( a legume) could be planted in cooler  weather, followed by tomatoes or squash.
  • Same crop, successive plantings: Several smaller plantings are made at timed intervals, rather than all at once. The plants mature at different dates, providing a continuous harvest over an extended period.
    • Lettuce, spinach and other greens are common crops for this method. The beauty of this approach eliminates the overwhelming effect of too much produce at one time.
      • There are many lettuce types from which to choose:
        • Looseleaf, Butterhead, Cos (romaine), Buttercrunch, Batavian, Heading and Chinese. Some of the Looseleaf and Romaine types may be grown in warmer/hotter temperatures.
  • succession planting3
  • Same crop, different dates of maturity: Planting different varieties (for example broccoli or tomato) that come to harvest at successively later dates.
    • Calabrese Green Sprouting broccoli matures 10 – 14 days earlier than Waltham 29 broccoli.
    • Stupice tomato starts to fruit in 55 days, Roma tomato 70 days and Black Krim tomato 85 days. Plus Stupice and Roma are much smaller plants which can be planted in front of the taller Black Krim.

Using one or all of these methods will give you a greater chance for success in your gardening endeavors. Enjoy your new opportunities!


Early blight on tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and eggplant. Can it be subdued?

Alternaria solani is the fungus causing Early Blight. Spring brings the rain, wind, and insects traveling from plant to plant plus a hidden visitor of Alternaria solani spores. Overhead irrigation, tools, infected seed and working in the garden when wet also support spore dispersal and growth. Rain splashing from the soil, carry these spores to your plants.

Spores enter the plant through leaf surfaces or wounded plant material. The fungus spores can linger, producing many “seasons” of infection and take advantage of the hot, wet weather of late summer.

Early Blight is favored by warm temperatures and extended periods of leaf wetness from frequent rain, fog, or dew. Warm, humid  temperatures of 75-86 degrees increase the likelihood of infection.

Once the spores have “attacked”, infections have occurred and become the most important source of new spore production and rapid spread of the blight. Lesions generally appear quickly under warm, moist conditions on older foliage and are usually visible within 5-7 days after infection.

Early blight can develop quickly mid- to late season and is more severe when plants are stressed by poor nutrition, drought, other diseases, or pests.

What are the symptoms?

  • Dark spots will start showing on the older leaves of your tomatoes, potatoes, Bell pepper, hot pepper and eggplant.
  • These spots will look like concentric rings.
  • Tissue surrounding these brown spots will turn yellow (a yellow halo)
  • Spots enlarge becoming leathery, merge and leaves start to hang withered or fall off.
  • Younger leaves will start showing black spots as well as the stems.
  • As the leaves fall, the fruit has no shading and succumb to sunscald. This will also cause reduced fruiting as there is less leafing for photosynthesis.
  • Infected fruit have dark, sunken, leathery spots near the stem end. Both green and ripe fruit are affected.

tomato-early-blight1       tomato Early-blight

13_StemsTomato4       eblight3lg1_fruit

  • Tomatoes will rot from the stem to the inside of the fruit.
  • Tubers of the potato vine develop dark specks resulting in a corky potato.

What can be done to stop this blight?

  • Apply mulch (black plastic, straw, newspaper, biodegradable weed barrier)  to protect the plant from spore splashing from the soil onto lower leaves. Remember early blight is a soil borne disease.
  • Provide plenty of space between the plants. Good air flow will help keep the plants dry.
  • Pick off affected/infected leaves and remove them from the garden, bagged; dispose with household garbage. Burning is equally effective.
  • Wash your hands and/or gloves when you finish in the blighted area.
  • Change your clothes to reduce further spore dispersal.
  • Wash/disinfect any tools used in the blighted area.
  •  Use a biofungicide spray: Bacillus subtilis,  (Serenade® MAX) and Bacillus pumilis (Sonata®) with compost tea. Read label for application.
  •  Copper products, hydrogen peroxide, and potassium bicarbonate can be used against early blight . Read the label for application.
  • Garlic, neem oil and seaweed extract have also been shown to be effective in reducing the severity of early blight disease on tomatoes. Spray and apply as label directs.
  • Do not work in the garden when it is wet after rain, morning dew or fog.
  • Use drip irrigation as this will keep the plants dry.
  • Rotate your tomatoes, potatoes, Bell and hot peppers and eggplant every three to four years with small grains (wheat, barley, rye, oats, sorghum), corn and legumes (peanuts, peas, cowpeas, green beans, long beans, runner beans, fava beans, soybeans, Southern peas, sugar snap peas). If you are limited on space consider container and vertical gardening giving your soil time to regain its health and decrease the spore population.
  • Amend your soil with compost during late fall as it supports microorganisms that contribute to biological control in the soil.
  • Early blight survives from season to season in or on the leaves, stalk and fruit from diseased plants.  Remove diseased plants or destroy them immediately after harvest.(Bag or burn)
  • Nightshade and horsenettle  serve as alternative hosts for the disease. Remove them from your garden area.
  • blacknightshade_orig       Horse-nettle-plant1
  • Tomato stakes and cages should be disinfected (hydrogen peroxide or diluted bleach solution) and rinsed prior to storage. All dried plant material must be removed, bagged or burned.
  • Be alert to weather changes.
  • Become a plant detective. Get out to the garden daily and observe for any changes. You won’t be sorry as you are on the watch for disease. Removing leaves at the first sign of infection will slow the spread of Early Blight.
  • Do not compost any diseased plant material.
  • Do not save seed from diseased fruit as Early Blight survives within them.

Are there Early Blight “resistant” tomato varieties? More like partially resistant.

  • Mountain Pride
  • Mountain Supreme
  • Mountain Gold
  • Mountain Fresh
  • Mountain Belle
  • Mountain Fresh Plus
  • Aunt Jenny’s Purple
  • Big Rainbow
  • Black Plum
  • Juliet
  • Legend
  • Matt’s Wild Cherry
  • Old Brooks
  • Tigerella (AKA Mr. Stripey)
  • Tommy Toes

What is a good strategy for potatoes?

  • Choose resistant varieties such as long season as they are usually more resistant – Certified seed potatoes.
  • Choose a short season variety, plant early and harvest before Early Blight invades.
  • Separate your potatoes from your tomatoes to decrease cross infection.
  • Give wider spacing to access better drying and air flow.
  • Be aware of the moisture in the soil. Do not over water.

Yes, Early Blight can be subdued if you are vigilant.


Late blight on Tomatoes and Potatoes. Is there a Cure?

Late blight, which is caused by a fungus Phytophthora infestans, is one of the most destructive and contagious plant diseases directly affecting the fruit and killing the plant. (Phytophthora means ‘plant destroyer’ in Latin)

Late Blight1       Tomato LB

Late blight spreads like a wildfire. This fungus produces spores in abundance and with the help of moist wind they will travel up to 30 miles. It is imperative to destroy infected plants as soon as possible as this disease is easily spread.

This disease shows up in late summer as the hot and warm humid days may be followed by cool and moist nights with accompanying rain, fog and heavy dew. This is a indicator to the home gardener to become watchful for the signs of late blight.

What to look for:

  • Leaves will develop water soaked spots.
  • The spots will enlarge and quickly turn from brown to purple to black.
  • Shoots of the plant will turn black and eventually the plant will collapse.
  • As the plant rots there is a foul odor; a whitish mold may be present.
  • Tomatoes will show grayish water soaked spots, enlarge and turn dark. They may have additional rot, an unpleasant foul odor and be mushy.
  • Potato tubers will show purplish or brown corky spots. There may be additional rot, an unpleasant foul odor and be mushy.

Late Blight2        Tomato LB1

Potato LB1         Potato LB2

Potato LB

Can this disease be prevented?

  • Check your potatoes and tomatoes daily following cool, humid and prolonged wet weather followed by warm/hot humid days. Sign up to receive alerts ( for immediate notification when late blight is confirmed near you.
  • Copper fungicides (Elemental copper as cupric oxide) can be highly effective if applied as a preventative (before infection) and with complete coverage of all plant foliar surfaces, including the undersides of leaves where the fungus typically produces spores. Follow the label and use as prescribed.
  • Neem oil is an alternative fungicide. Follow the label and use as prescribed.
  • If symptoms are found remove the plant(s) immediately in plastic sealed bags.
  • Remove the plant(s) when the leaves have dried to decrease the dispersal of spores.
  • Dispose of this diseased material in plastic sealed bags with your household trash. Burning the diseased plant material is equally effective.
  • Change your clothing and wash your hands/change your gloves before entering the garden again. (Spores from late blight could be reintroduced from your clothes, hands and gloves) Remember this is a highly contagious disease.
  • Hill your potato plants to stop spores from draining down to the tubers.
  • Some gardeners will cover their tomatoes with an old tent frame or swing set and place plastic over the frame. The frame must be higher than the planting and permit air movement as there cannot be condensation on the leaves. High tunnels have been very successful.

Are there blight resistant tomatoes?

An article in (January 17, 2014) by Barbara Pleasant offers a list of 9 blight resistant tomato varieties offering excellent to very good resistance.

They are:

  • Defiant PHR
  • Lemon Drop
  • Matt’s Wild Cherry
  • Mountain Magic
  • Mountain Merit
  • Plum Regal
  • Mr. Stripey (AKA Tigerella)
  • Iron Lady
  • Jasper

Are there blight resistant potatoes?

  • Elba, most resistant
  •  Kennebec
  • Allegany
  • Sebago
  • Rosa
  • Defender
  • Jacqueline Lee
  • Ozette
  • Island Sunshine

Harvesting potatoes:

  • If there are symptoms as harvest approaches remove all potato foliage from the garden and wait 2 weeks before digging the tubers.
  • Wait for dry conditions to dig your potatoes.
  • Remove all potatoes from the soil. ( the spores of this fungus will overwinter in unharvested tubers, in the soil and living crop debris)
  • Check your harvested potatoes for spots and cull if spots are present. Do not store spotted (culled) potatoes with unaffected potatoes.

Harvesting tomatoes:

  • Any fruit that rot after picking should be put in a trash bag and disposed with household garbage.
  • Unaffected parts of fruit can be consumed, but fruit from affected plants should not be canned due to concern that the pH may not be sufficiently low.
  • Tomato seed is not a carrier of this disease.

A photo gallery of this disease:

Cleaning the garden of all living debris, tomatoes and potatoes is essential. Burn or bag this debris for disposal. Do not compost. Again, this is a very contagious disease.

Is there a cure?

Late blight has been with us a long time. The potato famine in Ireland of 1845 was caused by late blight. As you have read this disease is highly contagious and your daily observations are necessary to spot the symptoms and act accordingly.



Russeting? What’s that?

Russeting is characterized by multiple micro cracks in the tomato skin which are often concentric; also called cuticle cracking.  This disorder is caused by fluctuations of soil temperature and  soil moisture.

russeting (1)

This is a physiological disorder – a problem caused by the growing conditions rather than by a pest or disease agent. Inappropriate levels of water ( drought, fluctuations in watering/rain, flooding), light, temperature (stop and start growing) and nutrients can all cause a variety of  physiological disorders in tomatoes.


The fruits are especially vulnerable as they are at the growing tips and have to compete with the new shoots for water and nutrients.

The cuticle, the very outside, transparent layer, of the fruiting skin may become less elastic. As the fruit grow, the cells of the fruiting skin loose their elasticity and small cracks start to appear.

Excessive temperature changes during the daytime and nighttime cause the skin of the fruit to react to the air around it. Water condensation within the skin of the fruit may expand and contract causing cracking.

These suggestions may remediate tomato russeting:

  • Apply adequate mulch in hot weather to keep the soil cool and decrease evaporation.
  • Consider raised bed gardening for better drainage.
  • Water in mid-morning.
  • Use shading material to enhance a cooling effect on the entire.
  • Pick tomato early when fruit shows color.


What is blossom end rot? Is it a disease?

Papas Gardens received a great question from Lorrie near Denver, Colorado. She writes:

I have heirloom tomatoes in my garden beds from your Baker seeds. They were heavily hit by hail shortly after transplanting. Unsure of how they would recover, I lost six plants out of 22, I purchased three WalMart plants and kept them on the deck. One of these three plants, an Early Girl, has been ripening but as soon as the tomatoes begin to turn red a brown rotten spot starts on the bottom of the fruit. What is that? Should I just get rid of the plant? Will it affect others nearby? The heirloom plants are doing wonderfully and are loaded with fruit.

This symptom strongly suggests blossom end rot.


This physiological disorder results in inadequate supplies of calcium for the development of vegetable fruiting. You will notice a watery sunken brown spot developing on the blossom end of developing fruit. This area will widen as the fruit grows and may become black. This fruit must be discarded as the lesion will invite disease.


As this is a physiologic disorder it does not spread from plant to plant. Insecticides or fungicides are of no use.

How did this happen?
– Plants take up moisture/water from the soil/roots and the calcium travels along with the water from the roots to the leaves and flowers/maturing fruit.
– If the water/moisture is limited or excessive the calcium will be transported to the leaves rather than the maturing fruit.
– Maturing fruit need calcium to support new cell growth.
– If the water has been limited due to drought or moisture fluctuations or  too much watering (flooding), the  blossom end of the maturing fruit will start to show cell death which is called blossom end rot.

Additional factors which contribute to this disorder:

  • Genetics. Some varieties are predisposed to blossom end rot.
  • Tomatoes planted in cold, heavy soils often have poorly developed root systems. Since the roots are unable to supply adequate amounts of water and nutrients to plants during times of stress, blossom end rot may result. You may see this on the first tomato bloom. This may subside as future fruiting occurs if there is a sufficient supply of calcium in the soil.
  • Soils that contain excessive amounts of soluble salts may predispose tomatoes to the disease; availability of calcium to the plants decreases rapidly as total salts in the soil increase. This may be seen when chemical fertilizers are applied.
  • Soil ph which is too acidic or too alkaline will interfere with root function thus calcium release becomes blocked to the plant. A soil ph of 6.5 to 6.8 is ideal.
  • Fertilizers using ammonia for their nitrogen source will tie up the calcium in the soil. Rapid growth in plant development may cause calcium to be transported inefficiently. You will see lush plant and leaf development and poor or little blossom/fruiting.
  • Root damage and /or poor root development. Be careful when cultivating around your tomatoes.

Are there treatments for this disorder?

  • Some gardeners use a treatment of garden lime (calcium carbonate) sprinkled on the soil around the drip line of the plant.
  • A foliar spray of calcium chloride may be applied however it may be phytotoxic (cause burning of the plant) if applied frequently or in excessive amounts.
  • Some gardeners use Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) as a foliar spray to effect calcium uptake and absorption.
  • Other suggestions include these drenches: Powdered milk, crushed eggshell tea, bone meal tea and Tums tablets.

Best management practices for your soil and garden

  • Soil test at least 6 months prior to planting as calcium enrichment needs 3-4 months to incorporate into the soil. Late fall would be the best time for this.
  • Irrigation must be sufficient to maintain steady even growth. Drip irrigation would be ideal.
  • Mulching will help with moisture stress.
  • Shading is helpful with dry blowing winds/drought/extreme hot temperatures.
  • Boosting your soil with organic soil amendments. Late fall is a good time for this as you prepare your garden for the winter months.
  • Plant your tomato transplants when the soil has warmed to above 60 degrees.


Did you know?

Cucumbers, zucchini, squash, melon, watermelon, eggplant and peppers are prone to blossom end rot as well. All the more reason to check your soil with a soil test before you are faced with this disorder.

Tomatoes Papa