Monday, June 26, 2006

What's Growin' On: 6/26/06

This is not a Dragon Langerie bean.

These are Dragon Langerie beans.

Yet both plants were grown from seeds out of the same packet.

And these are not San Marzano tomatoes.

Realization Of The Day:
My garden is having an identity crisis.

I have no idea what is going on with these beans, but at this point I do not care. The plants are beautiful and full of blooms and bounty. Only one other row of beans (the Straight 'N' Narrows) has come up in the garden this year, despite all of my various plantings. I did a little math and figured out I've had a 25% success rate so far with the beans. That sucks.

But I have not given up. No way. I am determined to have a frozen harvest in the freezer if it takes me all summer to get it. So today (a fertile day in the first quarter--click here if you want to know more about what this means) I grabbed every seed packet of beans I could find and did my fourth? fifth? whatever bean planting of the year. I covered all the bases. Hell, I even planted pole beans, and those of you who read about my sugar snap pea adventures know how fond I am of trellising. (See, I'm trying.) I already have the bamboo stake teepee thingie in place and everything. Now all I need now is for some damn beans to actually sprout. We could use some rain, too, so I guess tomorrow will be laundry day.

So here's what all that went into the ground today:
--Emerite Haricot Vert (Pinetree Garden Seeds, 2005 packet)
'Early [oops] and productive, stringless 5" to 8" pole beans. Flavorful. 58 days.'

--Straight 'N' Narrow Haricot Vert (Pinetree, 2006 and 2005 packets)
'Long shoestring beans with great flavor. 53 days.' (These are one of my all time favorite beans.)

--Sequoia Bush Bean (Pinetree, 2003 packet--don't worry, I sowed them really thickly)
'Beautiful, purple, romano-type. Good flavor. Prolific. 60 days.' (Okay, it's all coming back to me--I bought several packets of these in 2003 because they were fabulous, and it was the last year they were going to offer them.)

--Masai Bush Bean (Pinetree, 2005 packet)
'Large yields of 4" beans. Great for containers. 47 days.' (I've had really good luck with these before, though they aren't as tasty as the Straight 'N' Narrow. But at this point I'll take anything.)

As for the un-San Marzanos, well, that's a little trickier. I'm almost nearly absolutely positively 100% pretty sure I didn't mix up any seedling labels this year, so it must have been a cross-pollination problem last year (I save seeds from the best looking specimens each year).

The question is, do I yank out the several beautiful and healthy plants that are obviously not putting on the familiar teardrop-shaped plum tomatoes (but are loaded with some kind of nice looking tomato) so that this year's San Marzano seeds come out pure (we're talking the best of 10 years of saving seeds here)--or do I say the hell with it, take whatever tomatoes I can get this year, and worry about next year next year? I already pulled up two plants out of the San Marzano bed a few weeks ago before they even had fruit on them simply because the leaves weren't the same shape as the others. I did have replacement stock still kicking around, though they're awfully small compared to their neighbors--and at this point who knows what they'll turn out to be. That whole bed is a mess. Which is really odd because I've never had this problem before.

This is a difficult dilemma indeed, and I definitely don't have enough brain cells on duty at the moment to make a command decision. Besides, it's time to go tuck my Manure Factory Empire in the barn for the night.

9:45pm Update: Hmmm. Maybe being thrown to the ground and dragged around the barnyard several times by sheep who aren't in the mood for any wormer tonight, thank you, actually knocked some sense into me. If I am now thinking correctly, because all of the plants in the San Marzano bed have fruit on them now, it's already too late to stave off my possible tomato cross-pollination problem. The pollination has already occurred (duh). Pulling up the odd plants now would assure that future questionable blooms wouldn't be available for cross-pollination, but. . . Okay, now I really don't know what to do.


  1. What a dilemma... maybe let the tomatoes get a little bigger and eat them green?

    I'm nervous about saving seed from my San Marzanos since everyone in the neighborhood has at least one tomato plant in the yard and lord knows with my luck I'll end up with weird hybrids.

  2. Damm that sucks!
    Maybe just buy a few more san marzano seeds next year to help?
    who knows they might be the best tomatos ever :)

  3. Gamble. See what you get, don't rip them out. I have a problem with volunteers in my garden, in that I never have the heart to rip them out. But I have been rewarded many times with weird varieties that are actually very good. And suspiciously pest free. Last year I had a teeny, tiny cherry tomato that was so sweet. Who knows, you might have the next "Mortgage Lifter" or "Arkansas Traveler" growing in there. Years from now we'll read the story of the tomato discovered on a farm is Missouri.

  4. Better watch your garden at night . . . some top secret government bio-tech guys are probably running experiments in your garden.

  5. wow, i don't know what i would do. i actually would be inclined to say that i would leave them to see what type of tomato you get. but i'm more of an experimental gardener too, and hate to even pull up certain unknown plants weeds sigh) that suddenly popped up. i also have a few tomato plants that i grew from seed packets that look COMPLETELY different, and some that i thought was basil.

  6. tomatoes dont readily cross, but they can of course as you know. if i were you, i would simply bag and hand-trip a bundle of blossoms from a healthy 'pure' looking tomato plant. then tie a ribbon around the stem (loosely!) so you know where to get your seeds from.


  7. Yep, Tabitha is right. Tomatoes don't readily cross. They have enclosed flowers and normally keep their pollen to themselves.

    Which may be good news for your San Marzanos, because it means that even in the presence of the weird hybrids there's a fair chance that they will have self-pollinated and will breed true next year. The not-so-good news is that it still begs the question ... how the heck did they cross-pollinate in the first place?

    It's possible that the weird hybrids are not the result of a recent accidental cross, but an expression of something the San Marzanos have had lurking in their genepool for several generations.

    At any rate, you're right, there's nothing you can do about it this year now that they're at the fruiting stage. So you may as well let them all mature and enjoy them.

    If you still have any flowers on the true-breeding San Marzano plants you can do some hand-pollinations, as Tabitha suggests, and cover them to prevent any stray pollen getting in. That should ensure some pure-bred seed for next season.

    And you never know ... those weird-looking ones may turn out to be something new and fantastic! :)



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