Product Spotlight: Red Pearl Grape Tomato
Red Pearl is a new grape tomato from Johnny's breeding program. It has been a standout among the dozens of grape tomato varieties we have trialed in the past few years. It has resistance to Fusarium and intermediate resistance to late blight.
Red Pearl is nearly seedless and has exceptionally tender skin. It is sweet like most grape tomatoes, but has a more complex tomato flavor than many varieties. Compared to Red Grape, the fruits are slightly larger, and yields are similar.
The fruits resist cracking and hold well on the vine, even when ripe, which reduces the need to harvest every day. Picking is easy, though, because the tomatoes are visible and accessible on the tall, open plants. Red Pearl is an indeterminate variety and a good choice for hoophouse and greenhouse production. 58 days to maturity.
Seed was produced on the JSS research farm and is certified organic.
Product spotlight: Echo Blue Lisianthus
A new addition to our cut-flower seeds for 2010 is Lisianthus Echo Blue. The color is a rich, deep blue that is useful in bouquets and arrangements. Echo Blue is fully double, giving it a rose-like appearance that is a magnet for customers. Its vase life is an extraordinary two weeks with proper care. Florists are accustomed to paying top dollar for lisianthus from the wholesalers and will be eager to buy them locally grown when they see the vibrant color of fresh-picked lisianthus. Grow Echo Blue along with Echo Champagne, a peachy pink color, and you will have an elegant flower for every floral design
Lisianthus is a great crop for the hoophouse because it can be planted when the weather is still cold, and it will tolerate extremely high summer temperatures under plastic. In windy areas, growing it under protection is essential to producing long stems. The plants can get to 3 feet tall and need to be supported; we recommend Hortanova mesh erected horizontally over the bed.
Because lisianthus is very slow growing, it needs to be started in a greenhouse at least 13 weeks before you want to plant it outside. The Echo series, one of the earliest varieties, will bloom 20 to 24 weeks from sowing. The seeds need light to germinate, so should be covered only with a light sprinkling of vermiculite to hold in moisture. Start the seed on a heating mat set to 75°F and provide good air circulation. Applying T-22HC Plantshield is recommended to provide protection against root pathogens during the slow early growth of the seedlings. After emergence, the temperature should be reduced to 60-75°F. Do not allow the plugs to become rootbound, as this can permanently stunt them. Plant on 4" x 6" spacing. Echo Blue petals show water spots, so avoid overhead watering and harvest when two or three of the flowers on a stem are beginning to open.
Product spotlight: Soil Block Makers
In his book The New Organic Grower, Eliot Coleman writes: "Soil blocks constitute the best system I have yet found for growing seedlings."
We couldn't agree more. They produce a much better plant that establishes quickly with no transplant shock. Soil blocks also eliminate the expense, waste, and storage issues of plastic pots. Once you have purchased soil block makers and trays, your only annual cost for transplants will be for potting mix.
Johnny's soil block making system has everything you need to make soil blocks for all your vegetable, flower, and herb transplants. Johnny's 512 mix and Vermont Compost's Fort Vee mix are both good choices for soil blocks because they will hold together well when compressed into blocks.
We also have a new propagation tray with a flat mesh bottom that provides good drainage for soil blocks. It is a standard 10'x20" size, so it can be used with our leak-proof trays and acrylic domes.
Another new addition to the line is a potting tray that lends itself well to soil blocking, allowing you to compress the soil mix tightly by pushing down and twisting the blocker back and forth. It even has an optional shelf for holding seeds, markers, and other supplies.
The block makers themselves are available in several sizes, as hand-held or stand-up models. Many growers use a 3/4" mini blocker to maximize the number of seeds they can germinate on a heat mat. Then they transplant the mini blocks into larger blocks where they are grown on until it's time to transplant them outside. Optional square dibble inserts that make depressions the exact size of the mini blocks are available for all the larger blockers, allowing for easy transplanting.
The hand-held block makers are available in three sizes: the 3/4" square mini blocker for germinating seeds or for small transplants such as lettuces; a 2" square for all vegetables, large-seeded flowers, and herbs; and a 4" square for large plants or late transplanting.
Commercial stand-up models are easy on the back and make multiple blocks quickly. They are available in three sizes, and all make small depressions in the tops for seeds.