Wild Men on the North Fork

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2009 Notes:

Between Seasons, Winter 2008-2009

November 17, 2008

For the 2008 Notes, please click here.

We are between seasons now. I paid Bill Simpson a visit today. We are agreed that we will have trials for new Tomatoes in the 2009 season and we will continue testing new Watermelon varieties.

Bill also sent me these two photos.

This first photo was taken four years ago of his Red LaSoda potatoes. This second photo was taken this year of his Norlands potatoes. Both photos are of the same plot of ground, but from different angles. See folks, WHAT you plant does make a big difference.

November 25, 2008

The One Third Rule...

If you live in the Rocky Mountains, or at high elevations, and you are reading a seed catalog or the back of a seed packet, apply the One Third Rule to what you read.

Here is how that would work.

Let's say that Tomato 'X' information says that those tomatoes get to be 9 ounces. If you live at high elevation apply the one third rule, and you can expect to get 6 ounce tomatoes. If Tomato 'Y' information says that those tomatoes get to be 12 ounces, you will get 8 ounce tomatoes at high elevations.

Let's say you are looking at Tomato 'X' and the information says it is '70' days to maturity. That makes the real days to maturity, here at high elevation, about 93 days. I calculate that here in Casper our season is about 114 days. If you can get the average tomato from that seed packet to mature in 93 days, you have a winner.

If you are looking at Tomato 'Y' and the information says it is '90' days to maturity. That makes the real days to maturity, here at high elevation, about 120 days. I calculate that here in Casper our season is about 114 days. The average tomato from that seed packet is not going to be ripe when the season is over. Most tomatoes from that seed packet will not even be fully sized when the season ends. Tomato 'Y' is a loser.

The top line of the chart below are the days given by the seed supplier. The second line shows the approximate days here in Casper. The third line shows the weight given by the seed supplier. The fourth line shows the approximate weight here in Casper.

Days Given: 60 63 66 69 72 75 78 80 85 90 95 100 105 110 115 120
Casper Days: 80 84 88 92 96 100 104 107 113 120 127 133 140 147 153 160

Weight Given: 2 oz 4 oz 6 oz 8 oz 10 oz 12 oz 14 oz 1 lb 2 lb 3 lb 4 lb 5 lb 10 lb
Casper Weight 1.3 oz 2.7 oz 4 oz 5.3 oz 6.7 oz 8 oz 9.3 oz 0.67 lb 1.3 lb 2 lb 2.7 lb 3.3 lb 6.7 lb

I figure that the absolute maximum days, given on a seed packet or in a catalog for a tomato variety, that will work is 80 days, and that is pushing things too far in a cool season. 80 day tomatoes will only yeild in very hot seasons. Try to stick with tomato varieties that are 75 days or less. That is what the chart above implies. This rule applies to most other vegetables with the exception of squash and pumpkin. The one third rule applies to them in a different way. Instead of taking more days to produce fruit, or producing smaller fruit, squash and pumpkin seem to produce at least 1/3 less numbers of fruit.

December 1, 2008

My partner Mark McAtee sends along this link to Mother Earth News.

Holiday Hint

Those round tomato cages you have can serve a second purpose. Turn one upside down, make sure it has four legs and not three. Tie the legs together with some wire. Now you have a wire 'Christmas Tree'. Go to a mega mart store and buy a 100-light string and spiral it up the wire tree. Your cost should be less than $3.00.

December 2, 2008

What is AAS?

The All America Selection committee sends out seeds from hopefuls to all the growing sites across the country that have been selected to test the AAS award candidates. Each site tests all the seeds (knowing them only as AA1, AA2, AA3, etc.) and rates them after a growing season. The winners, and there need not be one in each catagory, are then announced and the suppliers of those seed get bragging rights for the next years.

But there is more to it than that. Any developer of seeds, like Burpee's or Johnny's or outfits that supply seeds to them like Peto, can enter the AAS competition. But there is a catch. If they do enter, then they have to agree to supply to all the other seed companies as much of the new variety as those folks want, at a predetermined rate.

This begs the question then: what if you, a seed company, have a new development that is so good that you don't want to share it with the other seed catalog outfits. In that case, you do not enter the competition with the new variety. You keep it, and the rights to it, to yourself. This is exactly what I think happened to Goliath Tomato. It was developed by Totally Tomatoes, which is owned by Jung (Jung also owns Vermont Bean Seed, and Shumway). I think Goliath would easily have won the AAS. But because Totally Tomatoes did not enter it, the only way you can get the seed now is to order it from one of the Jung-owned companies.

December 5, 2008

One tomato that we tried in 2008, which may have slipped under the radar of our faithful readers of these pages is Red Lightning. We tried it and liked it so much that we are going to let it replace the pear tomatoes that we normally grow each season. It has good looks and great flavor, with just the right amount of acid to give it that 'tomatoey' flavor. But it is small, with 2 to 3 times the size of a large pear tomato.

What the catalog does not say is very important.

We are in the catalog season. I have received some already, and will get a lot more in the next 4 weeks. I have found that catalogs have to be read very carefully. Let me give you an example. Here is the description of Big Bertha Pepper from the Totally Tomatoes Catalog:

We grew this pepper for a lot of years. So I can say with authority that everything in the above quote is accurate. But beware. The problem we always had with Big Bertha is that is has very thin walls. There is not much pepper in that pepper. A quick re-read of the description will reveal that Totally Tomatoes never said it did have thick walls. If you want thick walls on your pepper, you had better read the descriptions very carefully to make sure your seed supplier says the pepper has thick walls.

I love it when a description for a vegetable says that it is a 'vigorous grower'. If it does not mention how many fruit it produces, all you may get is a wonderful plant with not much fruit on it. You have to read carefully. The seed catalog will not lie, but it may omit.

December 16, 2008

Here is a link to 'Vertical Farming', by Bryan Walsh in the most recent issue of Time Magazine. I quote it below.

December 17, 2008

I recently received some photos from Barry Franck. His place is the Westside Nursery on Coates Road, just south of Paradise Valley. This site has long recommended Park's Whopper Tomato. My partners and I trialed Whoppers years ago. Barry grows them in a big way. He starts and sells around a thousand of them each season. He also grows them pretty large there at his place. Here are some photos of Barry's Whopper Tomatoes, which are pretty convincing evidence that Whoppers are top notch tomatoes for Wyoming.


May 31, 2008 Looking West

May 31, 2008 Looking North

May 31, 2008 Looking East
Note that Barry is planting in stacked truck tires.

July 4, 2008 Looking West
Some of Barry's Whoppers got over 6 feet tall.

July 30, 2008 Looking East

July 30, 2008 Looking North

Sept. 6, 2008 Looking East

Sept. 6, 2008 Looking North

January 5, 2009

Tomatoes are the most popular vegatable grown in America's home gardens. They are THE big sales item for any greenhouse, and for any seed catalog. Flip open a catalog, and I guarantee that the biggest section will be the tomato section.

We gardening partners have been on a quest for the past umpteen years to increase our tomato production. With the discovery of Applause Tomato in 2008, we now feel confident that we can achieve our desired level of production. We grew 5 Applause Tomato plants in 2008. For 2009 we will grow between 28 and 33 Applause plants. We gave 3 plants to Bill Simpson in 2008 and he is also very impressed with Applause.

Starting two seasons ago, and now intensifying, is our search for tomatoes that offer superior taste. Right now we rate the tomatoes we grow by taste in the following descending order:

Black Krim
Black Plum
Red Lightning

As I cruise through the 2009 catalogs, my focus is on getting tomatoes with superior taste. Readers should also note that while we plan to use Applause Tomato for production, it still rates pretty high on the taste scale. When you click to go to our Tomato-Watermelon page now you will discover some of these delicious tomato varieties that we are considering trialing in 2009.

January 18, 2009

The case in favor of Wasps

If you don't like wasps, I'd like to pursuade you to give them a second chance, and to urge all gardeners to prepare a place for them in the garden and yard.

When we were first married, we lived on upper Odell street in Casper. We had three big lilac bushes across the back yard. One day my wife was back there trying to cut dead wood out of them. Unbeknownst to her, she was also disturbing the nest of a large colony of wasps who had built their home in the roots of one of the lilac bushes. They attacked her. Not only that, for the rest of the summer, they kept her ten feet away from that bush. I could stroll around it all I wanted. But they remembered her scent and went into alert mode whenever she came out the back door. Further, the next summer, the next generation of wasps also considered my wife an enemy and would swarm her in the same manner that their parents did. It took two more years before the wasps would let her near that bush again.

My wife, understandably, was not crazy about wasps when we moved into our present house. She set out wasp traps on the back patio. Almost as soon as she did that though, an infestation of aphids began to wipe out the flower plants in the beds along the patio. So we took in the wasp traps, and immediately noticed a difference in the aphid infestation. The wasps were all over the aphids. We were so grateful that we made sure there was plenty of water for the wasps all summer long. Now we have a watercourse back there that the wasps adore. We never have an infestation that lasts more than two days. Wasps are voracious carnivors. If they sense you are a friend they will never sting you. They sense that my wife and I are responsible for the water flowing and if it is not on, they will fly right into our chests to 'remind' us to turn it on. But they do not sting. They are strongly attracted to sweets and to meat. They can smell either from over a mile away. If you grow strawberries, you may have to put netting over the plants to keep the wasps off, like we do.

Our wasps are strongly attracted to the 'warm' colors: red, orange, yellow. They also like to build nests in metal objects like the electric meter or the barbeque. You might consider building a high rise for them out of black steel pipe. They will love it. Keep water around and they will stick around and eat those pests that are destroying your garden.

February 23, 2009

I made a major survey of corn this winter. I went through all fifteen of my catalogs that I get each season and took notes on every corn they offered. After last year (a cold one) I concluded that I wanted a corn that had 'good cold soil vigor'. I came to that conclusion after I read in the Pine Tree catalog for the corn we grew in 2008 (Incredible). Pine Tree states that it does not do well in cool soil conditions. After the 2008 season, I could not agree more. One thing gardening does is that it gives you a chance to fix the errors of the past, it gives you a chance to get it right.

The results of my corn efforts can be seen on the Cauliflower - Corn pages. The corn we will be trying for 2009 will be Bodacious.

2009 Trials


Wax Bean: Rocdor
Beet: Red Ace
Onion: SuperStar
Leek: Lancelot
Pea: Super Sugar Snap
Corn: Bodacious
Lettuce: Valmaine
Melon: Athena, Sweet N Early
Watermelon: Stone Mountain, Crimson Sweet

We have discovered that the Lady Godiva pumpkin/squash is available again this year and we will be planting it.

Beginning of Season 2009 Notes

March 1, 2009

Now is the time of year that is perhaps the hardest ... the waiting. Our seeds are all ordered and they are trickling in. We will do some starts about the middle of the month. But we are a long way out from actually putting something into the garden. The last average day of frost for Casper is May 25...and that is an average...some years a frost comes later than that.

We have had two special visitors in our back yard lately: turtledoves. Two friends have also had them in their back yards in other parts of Casper. Last week I saw a flock of waxwings drinking from Garden Creek. So some signs of spring are present.

But remember the rule for spring: It isn't really spring yet until the daffodils have been snowed on at least three times.

March 26, 2009

A reader writes this note that I thought I would share:

April 16, 2009

Ok, now that we officially have daffodil blossoms, today's storm counts as the first snow on the daffodils. We have at least two more snows to go before Spring.

March 30, 2009

Cool Days

I have gone back through data on temperatures during the last seven growing seasons (2002-2008). It seems that on some days it is much more likely to be cool than on others. I define a cool day as that when the lows get down into the 30s (F.). Here is a Cool Day chart.

DAY: May
24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 June
2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
ODDS: 2/7 3/7 4/7 2/7 2/7 0/7 3/7 4/7 3/7 2/7 3/7 1/7 0/7 1/7 1/7 3/7 4/7 0/7 2/7
DAY: June
12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22
ODDS: 2/7 2/7 2/7 4/7 0/7 0/7 0/7 1/7 2/7 0/7 0/7 1/7

April 20, 2009

Bill Simpson wrote me a note that I thought I would pass along.

May 3, 2009

We are getting a small amount of rain this weekend. Last weekend produced the second snow on the daffodils. We are still waiting for the third snow. Here is a note from my gardening partner Mark McAtee.

May 31, 2009

The month of May had been shaping up to be the driest on record. Then last week we finally got some rain. The weather has been warm lately. The Spirea is in full bloom. So if you have tomatoes, get them in the ground yesterday! It never frosts once the Spirea does its thing.

The gardening partners of Mark McAtee, Paul Combe, and me, Fred Jacquot, announce that we have a new partner this year: Linda Gillum. She hails from New Mexico and is big on herbs. Linda has many years of gardening experience. We think she will be an asset to the team.


Long time Casper residents will know what I mean when I say that our climate has always been in flux. The birds who live here are a good example of what I mean. When I was a kid I never saw a Cormorant. Now they are common on the river and we have a lot fewer Blue Heron. This year we have a pair of Ring Necked Doves (Turtle Doves) living in the neighborhood and I have never seen them before. A friend across town has Asian Doves living in his neighborhood for the first year. And for the first time in my life I am seeing a Kingfisher. Things are changing, and the new birds are telling us this with their presence.

Gardening in the Future

It has occurred to me that in the future younger generations will be naming the new varieties. It has to come, we all know that. So here is a glimpse.

June 8, 2009

It has been cool and wet lately. That makes it hard for our squash, pumpkin, and cucumber to germinate. Corn is up just fine. Peas have had spotty germination. Beans are popping up. The rain has brought up the missing lettuce and carrots to fill in the rows. Chard and beets are up, as is the first planting of radish. We did not get the tomatoes set out until the 4th. As far as heat goes, we look to be ahead of where we were last year at this time, according to my Degree Days Chart.

June 22, 2009

I am doing replanting now: beans, peas, pumpkin, squash, cucumber. We are now eating lettuce from the garden. We have heads forming on the broccoli. The corn looks good, as do the cabbage and chinese cabbage. The carrots will need to be thinned soon.

July 3, 2009

I am just about done with all the replanting I will be doing this season. July is here and we still have time to get many vegetables up and grown if we get them up soon. We are harvesting lettuce and broccoli now. The cauliflower and carrots look particularly strong this year.

July 19, 2009

I have heard from Barry at WestSide Nursery. He sent me photos of his 'jungle' of tomatoes he has planted at his place. My wife and I went out there last week and indeed, he has hundreds of tomatoes planted. He sent photos which I will display when he sends more of the adult plants fully grown.

Bill Simpson has a nice garden growing. He had ripe tomatoes (Bloody Butcher) and broccoli (Packman) weeks ago. His potatoes are doing very well this year. He is growing three different kinds as a kind of trial. We and he are trialing the same tomatoes this year (see chart at bottom of this page). We and he are also trialing Athena musk melon and Crimson Sweet watermelon...and growing Sweet N Early musk melon and Melitopolski watermelon to compare them against.

At our house the apple tree bloomed only sparsely this spring and the cherry trees did not bloom at all. In talks with other gardeners across Casper I discover that blooming was lousy all over. The chokecherry bushes on Garden Creek did fine though and will have a good crop.

One other bird I have seen once this spring and once this summer is a waxwing. They are here in Casper in heavy numbers during migration in November and again in February. But I am seeing a pair that is sticking around now.

August 1, 2009

So you have green tomatoes, and some are pretty big now, but none are turning red. Every gardener in Casper has this complaint. Why?

Cool and Wet

Through the end of July, this is the coldest growing season we have had since I started tracking them with hard numbers. This growing season is even cooler, and wetter than last year. In particular, July was one of the wettest Julys on record, just barely missing a new record.

All of the brassicas in our plots are doing just fine, as is the corn, lettuce, and carrots. Particularly hard hit by the cool weather have been the cucumbers. I think we have two fruit just now setting on, and none of the vines are over 9 inches long. Yuck!

In the OK-but-not-spectacular group I would place the tomatoes, peppers, beans, onions, squash, and pumpkin.

August 17, 2009

We have picked only four red tomatoes so far this season: one Tomande, and three Buckbees. The Applause Tomatoes are starting to yellow up. So we are in for a flood of those.

Pepper plants are diminished in size. So are the Garden Huckleberries. Some of the Squash and Pumpkin are very slow to vine this season. Thus far, we are experiencing the coldest season since we began keeping records.

September 2, 2009

Everything in our garden behaves as if it were 3 to 4 weeks behind what it would be in a normal year. We are just now getting serious tomato production, thanks to the Applause. We have gotten many fruit from them that weighed a pound. One monster weighed two pounds. So, because half of our tomato plants are Determinate, our production is going to be fine even in a cool year, the coldest season we have had since we started keeping records.

Even so, some crops are actually doing well. Besides the Applause tomatoes, the Black Krim, Tomande, and Buckbee's (we are trialing it this season) have produces just fine. The Tomande seems to be larger this season than it was last, as are the Garden Huckleberries (though the Garden Huckleberry plants are shorter). Onions, Broccoli, and Corn have done just fine as well.

September 11, 2009

Last Tuesday I conducted a taste test of 15 different tomatoes being grown by us and by Bill Simpson. The results show just how subjective individual tastes are. Literally, my favorite tomato is not going to be yours. Here are the results. Tomatoes were picked off the vine that morning and were selected to be as ripe as possible. During the tests I asked each of the three tasters (Bill Simpson, partner Paul Combe, and my wife Judy) to list their top six tomatoes. I awared a 'star' for each of these choices.

Tomande- Indeterminate - getting to be my favorite Paul - Excellent taste, mild, mellow, both sweet and tart
Judy - a somewhat complex flavor, savory
Bill - strong flavor, would make a good canner, good non-acid flavor
Rose - Indeterminate, on trial this year Paul - Meaty, tart, good flavor
Judy - Meaty, not acidic, not very sweet, good taste, but not a strong flavor
Bill - sweet, strong flavor, would be good on a hamburger or salad
Bloody Butcher - Indeterminate, Bill's favorite Paul - Excellent 'tomatoey' taste
Judy - savory flavor, full 'tomatoey' flavor
Bill - tough skin, high acid, great flavor, full 'tomatoey' taste
Black Krim - Indeterminate, beloved by us Paul - excellent, mellow, sweet and tart
Judy - great depth of flavor, complex
Bill - very mild and sweet
Black Plum - Indeterminate, small Paul - heavy taste, low acid, sweet
Judy - good texture, pleasant and complex flavor
Bill - tough skin, strong flavor
Red Lightning - Indeterminate, small Paul - very tart, but also sweet, pleasant taste
Judy - sweet and tart, a bit savory
Bill - very tough skin, strong flavor
*-Paul Bush Champion - Indeterminate, small Paul - slightly acidic, good flavor
Judy - very blah, bland
Bill - not acidic, mild flavor
*-Bill Bush Early Girl - Determinate, small Paul - Mellow, sweet
Judy - very acidic, little flavor
Bill - strong acid taste
*-Bill Bush Goliath - Determinate, small Paul - very mild, sweet, pleasant
Judy - firm, meaty, good 'tomatoey' flavor
Bill - strong flavor, great for canning
*-Judy Applause - Determinate, big Paul - bland, meaty, very mellow
Judy - very sweet, low acid
Bill - firm flesh, mild flavor, a mild heirloom taste
- - - Goliath - Indeterminate, our standard up to now Paul - not meaty, sweet, mellow, light taste
Judy - bland and tart
Bill - not acidic, mild flavor
- - - Brandy Boy - Indeterminate, on trial this year Paul - meaty, acidic and sweet, 'tomatoey' taste
Judy - meaty, lemony, tart, almost a fermented flavor
Bill - would be great on a hamburger
- - - Way Ahead - Determinate, on trial this year Paul - bland, mild
Judy - not very flavorful
Bill - not acidic, tastes like a sweet heirloom
- - - Buckbee - Determinate, on trial this year Paul - good flavor, 'tomatoey' taste, mellow and light
Judy - sweet, mild
Bill - tough skin, strong flavor, nutty taste
- - - First Light, Indeterminate, on trial this year Paul - bland, mellow
Judy - savory flavor, not full bodied
Bill - crunchy, tough skin, slightly acidic, lacking in flavor

September 13, 2009

On September 1, I journeyed out to see Barry Franck at Westside Nursery. He garden is doing well. His Whopper Tomato plants are six feet tall now. He had just finished harvesting 300 pounds of cucumbers for the Farmer's Market. He sells his produce there every Tuesday. His cucumber patch is about 14 feet by 200. Here are some photos he sent me earlier. I have also added some new photos he just sent me. Those new photos include some of one of his cucumbers that grew really big.

May 28, 2009
Barry's Double Tire Tomatoes

August 2, 2009
Barry's Double Tire Tomatoes
By August 2, Barry's Tomato plants were already 4 1/2 feet tall.

August 2, 2009
Barry's Double Tire Tomatoes
Looking Northwest at Barry's Double Tire Tomatoes

August 2, 2009
Barry's Double Tire Tomatoes

May 28, 2009
Looking East at the Double Tire Tomatoes

August 2, 2009
Looking East at the Double Tire Tomatoes

May 28, 2009
Barry's Tomato Flats in May

August 2, 2009
Barry's Cucumbers, early August

August 2, 2009
Barry's Pumpkin plants

August 2, 2009
Barry's favorite: Park's Whopper

September 3, 2009
Barry's Six Foot Tomatoes

September 3, 2009
Barry's Tomatoes, looking East

September 3, 2009
Closer Up shot of Tomatoes

September 3, 2009
Barry's Cucumber Patch

September 11, 2009
Barry grew a big Cucumber

September 11, 2009
It weighed 2 pounds, 11.5 ounces

September 13, 2009

End of Season Review

Tomatoes: left to right, in back: two Black Krim, two Tomande, two Applause,
in front: two Red Lightning, three Black Plum

TOMATOES: Black Plum **: did fine, no change in 2010; Goliath: somewhat disappointing, do not plant again in 2010; Bloody Butcher **: did not plant this season, comes on early, grow in 2010 as our 'early' tomato; Tomande ***: did fine this season, grow again in 2010; Rose ***: trailed this season, did fine, grow again in 2010; Black Krim **: grew just fine, grow again in 2010; First Light: trialed this season, seems very susceptable to disease, do not grow again; Red Lightning **: grew just fine, grow again in 2010; Applause *: main production tomato this season, grow again in 2010; Brandy Boy: trialed this season, do not grow again; Buckbee: trialed this season, do not grow again; Way Ahead: trialed this season, do not grow again;

Due to the cool-wet season, we suffered more mold on the tomato plants this season than in any other season. I also noted that the presence of Marigolds seemed to stunt the growth of both peppers and musk melons. Though, Marigolds did not seem to affect the tomatoes. The cool-wet season seemed to affect the tomatoes and Garden Huckleberry in the same way: vines were shorter, but the fruit was particularly large.

my 94 year old mother in one of our double plots, note all the raised beds

The cool-wet season caused the peppers to be somewhat delayed in production. Beans were also delayed but produced fine. Swiss Chard did fine. Lettuce bolted because we did not keep it picked. Onions had a good season. Peas were somewhat mixed.

Garden Huckleberry shown here. These are a close relative of the tomato. They make delicious jam.

We added a fourth partner and a fifth plot to the partnership this season. This photo is of that fifth plot. Note the tomato towers. Most of the 'trial' tomatoes were grown in this plot.
The beans, and I believe the tomatoes in the fifth plot did better than they did in our other plots. This leads me to believe that we need to upgrade soils in the older plots in a big way by bringing in manure.

Squash and Pumpkin had germination problems this year due to the cool-wet season. We trialed Big Mama Squash this season, and it grew just fine. Pumpkin production was particularly poor due to weather. We trialed Bodacious Corn this season, and it performed just fine.

We had decent radishes this spring. Carrots seem to be growing just fine. The Chinese Cabbage bolted before we got a lot of it picked. The Savoy Cabbage is still struggling and it is very late in the season. We have already picked the Fremont Cauliflower. I want to improve soils in their spaces and under the Packman Broccoli, and also switch their places around for 2010. I also want to make sure I get the broccoli in on May 1 in 2010.

The very worst failure of this season were the cucumbers. The Sweet Success slices did a bit better than the Cool Breeze (picklers) (pictured to the right). The Cool Breeze are just now starting to vine out. In a good year I would already have made 30 to 40 quarts of p ickles from these three 3' X 3' beds by now. I have made none so far this season. To the right of each cucumber bed is a carrot bed. All need to have their soils boosted for 2010.

Note that we use big plastic tubes for our tomato plants. The pipes keep the wind off the young plants after set out. They act as a thermal mass, and radiate heat back to the plants at night. Tubes also allow flood irrigation. We just fill the tubes with water, and that allows the water to soak in slowly and to deep water the roots. You should also notice the cord stretched across. We plant taller tomatoes in a wire 'cage' and close off the opening with cord. This allows us to force the vines to grow up. As the vines grow, we can tie more cords on as needed. Click here to see our Tomato Support System.

Pictured on the right are some flowers I planted in the pea bed this season. After the peas were removed the flowers grew into the empty spaces. We use flowers to attract beneficial insects to the plots. We also use herbs and mint for this same purpose.

The hot peppers are having a hard time turning red in this cool-wet season. We have 17 gallons of tomatoes frozen now for salsa production. We have good onions in storage. All we need now are some hot peppers to add some heat to the mix.

September 24, 2009

Even after the taste test we are rethinking one of the 'rejects'. Now that we have fully ripe Brandy Boys, we really appreciate the full flavor. We have had frosts lately that wiped out the squash. The corn is withering. I have removed a good many tomato plants already.

On Tuesday I tore out of the ground an old friend: Golaith Tomato. This is the last year we will plant them. They used to be our standard. But as we have been trialing new varieties, we have discovered tomatoes that produce even better, and have better flavor. That tells me that our system is working the way that it should.

September 28, 2009

Barry Franck writes this end of the season review of his garden.

Bill Simpson sent these photos over of the hail damage we got a week ago.

Finally, a review from a friend who gardens north and east of Casper.

October 1, 2009

Here is note from my gardening partner Mark McAtee:

Mark, what I am proposing is not to move the tomatoes, but to change out their soil. The diffences in the beans alone between our old plots and the new one was stark. The new plot (number 5) had a lot better soil. Plus, a close reading below (September 28) of a local gardener getting great results by planting watermelon in a hill of horse manure tells me we need to boost (and change out) soils generally. The confirmation of this is the result that Barry Franck got by adding lots of manure to his cucumber beds this Spring before planting. His cucumbers produced. Ours did not. See my comments for September 28, and see my comments on the beans on September 13.

As for desease in the Tomatoes:

Our disease problem started in Plot 5, in the tomotes furthest to the south....the Buckbees. Plot 5 had the best soils of all the plots. The disease then spread slowly north through the Rose, the Brandy Boy, the First Light and then the Tomande. I think the disease problem was a horse of a different color altogether. Remember early in the summer we had a flood down at the plots? Our Plot 5 was the worst hit. It remained under water for over a week, and this was after we had set the tomatoes out. I think our problems with disease is related to that flooding, and to the generally wet season.

Your theory on the relationship between total heat and tartness in tomatoes deserves more research. I think we should coordinate efforts between your place, the plots, and Bill Simpson's garden. After the taste test I still am not inclined to plant Goliath. Tomande and Black Krim both out produced it, and both have better flavor.


Regular readers know that I keep a degree-day chart each year. I have chosen the base temperature of 50 degrees (F.) because I don't think plants do much growing below that temperature.

Degree days are the cumulative average temperatures above the set base (50 in this case). I always begin counting degree days on May 25, Casper's last average day of frost. If on May 25 the average temperature was 62 degrees, that would be 12 degrees above 50 and the cumulative total would be 12. If on May 26 the average temperature was 64 degrees, that is 14 degrees above 50 . I add that 14 to the 12 I already have, and the degree days for May 26 would be 26. Adding the degrees above the base together is what makes degree-days cumulative.

Here is the 2009 degree-day chart.

MAY 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 JUNE 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
HIGH 69 70 68 68 54 64 73 79 81 80 77 74 54 63 72 71 68 48 61
LOW 48 39 50 50 48 41 40 44 47 42 51 50 44 42 46 45 44 39 36
AVER. 2009 58.5 54.5 59 59 51 52.5 56.5 61.5 64 61 64 62 49 52.5 59 56 56 43.5 48.5
DD (50) 1 3.5 10 11.5 25.5 36.5 50.5 62.5 61.5 64 73 79 85 78.5 77
JUNE 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25
HIGH 68 49 55 63 74 72 72 75 68 69 71 82 75 78 77 88 92
LOW 45 43 45 46 44 43 49 46 50 54 47 46 54 48 44 51 45
AVER. 2009 56.5 46 50 54.5 59 57.5 60.5 60.5 59 61.5 59 64 64.5 63 60.5 69.5 68.5
DD (50) 83.5 79.5 79.5 85 94 101.5 112 122.5 131.5 145 154 168 182.5 195.5 206 225.5 244
JUNE 26 27 28 29 30 JULY1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
HIGH 75 77 86 87 91 95 82 73 73 77 84 74 88 77 84 90
LOW 61 50 43 51 45 60 52 59 50 49 50 49 53 50 47 51
AVER. 2009 68 63.5 64.5 69 68 77.5 67 66 61.5 63 67 61.5 70.5 63.5 65.5 70.5
DD (50) 262 275.5 290 309 327 354.5 371.5 387.5 399 412 429 440.5 467 480.5 496 516.5
JULY 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27
HIGH 85 92 79 81 87 86 88 87 80 81 87 94 89 87 85 81
LOW 57 56 46 42 47 49 50 54 57 44 50 50 53 53 57 54
AVER. 2009 71 74 62.5 61.5 67 67.5 69 70.5 68.5 62.5 68.5 72 71 70 71 67.5
DD (50) 537.5 561.5 574 585.5 602.5 620 639 659.5 678 690.5 709 731 752 772 793 810.5
JULY 28 29 30 31 AUG 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
HIGH 71 56 70 76 82 91 93 93 92 88 84 71 74 78
LOW 53 50 40 46 47 50 55 50 46 58 57 52 50 42
AVER. 2009 62 53 55 61 64.5 70.5 74 71.5 69 73 70.5 61.5 62 60
DD (50) 822.5 825.5 830.5 841.5 856 876.5 900.5 922 941 964 984.5 996 1008 1018
AUGUST 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24
HIGH 87 92 92 86 62 68 69 79 75 80 88 96 89 77
LOW 43 50 50 69 50 39 36 39 53 46 44 46 50 57
AVER. 2009 65 71 71 77.5 56 53.5 52.5 59 64 63 66 71 69.5 67
DD (50) 1033 1054 1075 1102.5 1108.5 1112 1114.5 1123.5 1137.5 1150.5 1166.5 1187.5 1207 1224
AUGUST 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 SEP


2 3 4 5 6
HIGH 76 83 89 82 81 82 84 89 84 87 86 89 86
LOW 50 50 46 43 42 43 50 48 46 46 43 47 58
AVER. 2009 63 66.5 67.5 62.5 61.5 62.5 67 68.5 65 66.5 64.5 68 72
DD (50) 1237 1253.5 1271 1283.5 1295 1307.5 1324.5 1343 1358 1374.5 1390 1408 1430
SEPTEMBER 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19
HIGH 82 69 82 87 71 63 74 83 81 82 81 84 85
LOW 58 48 39 40 45 36 30 61 54 49 39 43 32
AVER. 2008 70 58.5 60.5 63.5 58 49.5 52 72 67.5 65.5 60 63.5 58.5
DD (50) 1450 1458.5 1469 1482.5 1490.5 1490 1492 1514 1531.5 1547 1557 1570.5 1579

- - This year's Degree Days compared to past years - -

Degree Days Through June 30
Through July 15
Through July 31
Through August 15
Through August 31
Through Sept. 19

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