This is my third season at my little farmette, which I call Amishland Farm, here in the rich land of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. And what a season it was! I had a banner growing season. Bountiful isn't even a strong enough word to describe it. Just my best ever! I had more tomatoes than I have ever grown, picked and processed in the 9 years of my seed business. I am so excited that I am offering you 24 new-to-you varieties of rare, heirloom and Russian/Ukrainian tomatoes for the 2015 season. There are many unusual types never available in the USA before. Yep, I sure had my hands full. I was calling this my year of the "Big Ole' Maters" so be sure to visit that new tomato page to see them in all their glory.
I also realized that, with the expert growing help of my friend Cliff out west, I was on a roll with melons and beans, too. Thanks to Cliff, I have over 11 new-to-you, rare and heirloom kinds of beans, many unavailable anywhere else. And I now have 4 new-to-you rare melons as well.
What an incredible selection of seeds! They were raised lovingly for you to plant and grow in your own gardens to enjoy. And believe you me, I guarantee no matter where you live I can offer you seeds that you will enjoy growing and have success with.
I am so delighted to report that, after 3 years, I have nearly perfect soil in my raised beds. I've mixed, amended and added to them to make it the best organic growing medium ever for my plants and it really showed this year with such a glorious bounty.
When you grow plants for a living, it's all about the weather. And my, what weather we had! It was such a combination of cold and bad, and then later, wonderfulness. We had brutal 0 degree days for weeks on end last winter. Our spring here in Amishland was unbelievably late. In late winter we had yet another snow storm, this one dumping three and half feet of snow which drifted to over 7-feet! (see my photos of the snow covering over my laundry line by the cottage) It just plain didn't even BEGIN to melt until the end of March. So I dismally watched my "winter wonderland" on through the spring. I just couldn't bring myself to start seeds in mid-winter like I usually do, not when winter seemed to be looming endlessly. So, on March 20, I began my peppers and by March 23 was starting the tomatoes. This is nearly 2 months later than I usually start!
I liken the growing of the tomato plants to racehorses and who is out of the gate fastest. Those early ripening plants were just spectacularly fast and raced along. "Blue Beauty" was the frontrunner with exquisite deep purple/blue fruits by July 10. They were followed closely on July 13 by the amazingly lovely, striped "Berkeley Pink Tie Dye" and the toothy-ribby showstopper "Gesahnte."
By July 20, the first of what I was to call my "tomato machine" produced its first ripe, round, perfect fruit. The scarlet fruited "Abraham Lincoln" revved up and never looked back, running all season long like it was on high octane. By July 27, the pretty little "Siberian Tiger" started pumping out adorable little striped "cubs." Yes, be sure to put that "tiger" in your garden. The great Polish paste tomato "Opalka" also kicked out its first long, pointy fruit. By July 31, the everbearing "Riesenstraube" was bearing its first small red fruit, each distinguished by their little bump on the bottom of the fruit. They never stopped all season.
But it took all the way to August 4 for the first ripe fruit of the "Mikado Pink" to get their pretty-in-pink color. But once they started, they never slowed down the pace and I could barely pick all the ripe fruit borne on what looked like large bunches of giant pink grapes.
Now, I've been calling this the Year of the "Big Ole 'Maters" but I didn't see hide nor hair of the giants to come until August 10, when the first of the "Kentucky Viva White" tomatoes sized up way past the one pound mark. Also, on that same date I saw my first large ripe "Hege German Pink." This was to be the harbinger of what was to come indeed! The same day I had my first big "Pineapple" fruit. My infamously large "Shapka Monamakh" aka "Monamakh's Hat" was ripe, too.
By August 15, the real race of the "Big 'Uns" was on. I had more, even larger monster "Kentucky Viva White" fruits. Then two more huge Kentucky heirlooms ripened, "Kentucky Pink Stamper" and "Black Mountain Pink." But it took until August 20 for the "Big Ole 'Mater" winner of the year to show its true colors. The unbelievably humongous "Claude Brown's Yellow Giant" ripened two 3-POUND fruits on one plant, on one day! Check out those photos on the "Big Ole 'Maters" page! And it never stopped either, being one of the last to pump out giant fruits of the season. It took until August 25 for the lovely deep pink "Butler Skinner" to ripen its first huge fruits. August 27 brought the first of the many, many luscious striped "Yellow Red” fruits.
"Depp's Pink Firefly" has always been one of my favorite tomatoes, but his year it truly "flew" and lived up to its reputation of 2-pound fruits. On August 30, I finally saw my first huge, ripe "Strawberry Margarita" tomatoes. Yesssss... time to finally celebrate with some tequila, I think.
Now, please understand this lateness was my fault for starting them soooo very late, not the fault of these varieties. In your gardens I am sure they will grow within the time usually allotted for tomatoes in your growing zone, in the 80 to 100 day range (dependent on your growing zone and weather).
During this race for the biggest fruit, I almost forgot to fill you in on some of the other "winners" of the season, mostly the rare and basically unpronounceable Ukrainian sorts. I had great production for all of them, but the strangest was the very late ripening "Tsitrusovyy Sad." They looked exactly like lemons but they were so sweet. They did nothing color wise until September 20, and then every single absolutely perfect fruit was brilliant, well, the only word is lemon-yellow, like overnight! Check out my insane photo of just one day's picking of these "lemons."
Lest you think it's only about tomatoes, here at Amishland Farms I was just overjoyed to see that my striped "Fourth of July" climber roses had sped on past the second floor of the cottage where they were growing up the stone walls. The mystery big pink rose over the waterfall took a fair amount of damage from the hard winter, but still grew so tall I couldn't prune it any more. Of course, it was covered in monster 5-inch across perfect pink blossoms. Good thing they were up high because the favorite "snack" of my local herd of deer were the blossoms of my red double "Knockout" roses that framed my new fragrant herb garden up front. I would look at all the perfect blossoms on those rose bushes and vow to take photos the next morning (the best time for flower shots) and bam, they would all be gone. Delicately nibbled off, with no other damage to the plants. I just wish I could have gotten some photos of those deer with roses in their teeth like they were about to do the "deer flamenco!"
Frankie, my big, red, fluffy outdoor kitty, was my "shadow" all season long, (see the photo of him at the garden gate) keeping up his running commentary all the while. Boy, can that cat meow loud! But he's just chatting, not complaining, although the decibel level seems to indicate otherwise. I was starting to have a problem with voles and larger moles that were running under the black plastic mulch covering my raised beds, and eating my tomatoes with teeny, tiny little bites. It was like they couldn't decide which fruit tasted best so they sampled them all! But Frankie really surprised me. He started catching those little critters and lining them up on my door mat on the kitchen porch each morning. How thoughtful! Good Kitty!
I have always wanted an herb garden, and this year I finally treated myself. It was a huge success, especially since with all my work with the tomatoes, peppers, etc., I basically totally ignored it! I think the secret is creeping thymes! They just spread all over like a mat and the weeds can't break through, yay. This was mostly a fragrance herb garden for my own pleasure. I am a sucker for purple plants so I put in purple basil, bronze fennel, and purple sage. I grew some red cabbages in a funky, turned inside-out like a monster vase, painted pink tire planter. Yep, "southern vernacular" at its finest. I also grew the lovely purple Grandpa Otts morning glory and Hyacinth bean on short white picket fence, just for the color. I grew some cilantro, and 4 kinds of scented geraniums (when I am rich and famous I will grow all the available spectacular scents). The predominant scent was lemon, with lemon thyme, lime thyme, lemon balm, lemon verbena and lemon rose, and also lime geranium. And of course, my favorite scent of all, Lavender. Plus rosemary for remembrance. And to keep it simple, I already had several of the way easy double "Knockout" red roses. I just added two more to the mix. All in that classic pinkish rose red color. The night blooming Moonflower was a huge hit with the deer as was the morning glory. And I already told you about the flamenco deer and the roses. Ah well, life in the hinterlands.
Speaking of deer, my antique apple tree did not produce at all, but the antique pear sure did. I had my closest encounter yet with three yearling bucks in the bushes under the pear. I basically walked right into them from behind. Don't know who was more scared. Later, on the first day of bow season, I was taking a siesta on the chaise lounge and heard a truly loud crack almost like a gunshot, and brush and branches breaking. One big buck ran full speed into the heavy duty metal fence posts that hold up my "deer netting." He broke two right smack down to the ground! All I can say is if he didn't have a bad concussion I'd be very surprised.
As you can see by the photo, Frankie my outdoor kitty was with me all season. Here he is on July 15 guarding the entrance to my garden. And all of my fellow gardeners should know I have two wonderful indoor kitties too, Duke and Earl. So, I am including a photo of them relaxing one fall afternoon.
As I write this on the day after Thanksgiving and I am so full of gratitude for such a spectacular year here at Amishland Farm. But I just thought you'd like to see the ones that got away here on the road near my storage shed.