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I Haven't Found The Good Answer Yet

Posted 5/21/2019 6:40am by David Zemelsky.

It is suddenly lunch time when I wrote this note, much to  my surprise.  I kept finding reasons not to come inside, but when I finally did, was amazed how late it was. As we all know, this is Flow made popular in that very dense book on the subject by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.  But wonderful as it is to lose track of time, that's not where I'm going here.  You'll see.

I've been pruning tomatoes all morning till early afternoon.  I've probably mentioned many times-pruning is one of life's joys.  It has a sense of humor to it, some tension, some drama and often a lot of sadness.  Over the years, I've gained confidence in how to prune.  Like many of the knowledge bases on the farm, there isn't a handbook on most of the subjects that need to be tackled.  I've learned by doing.  There is one piece of advice that a wise farmer did give me that has remained close to my heart- "the answer that you're looking for is right in front of you, all you need to do is be open to see it". 

But as far as pruning a tomato goes, haven't found that book yet.  I could easily write the book, but two things would immediately emerge.  One, no publisher would want to  print it.  Its too off the beaten track.  The second thing is that if I gave you a roadmap on what to do, then you'd be denied the pleasure that many tomato pruners (including myself) get when they find their "tomato way".

To make the subject even more complicated.  There are many growers who firmly belief that the plants shouldn't be pruned at all.  They feel that one would be interrupting the natural flow of its growth.  And we all know what happens in the world when we mess with Mother Nature.  Again, I refer you to both Bill McGibbons and the recently released United Nations report on the state of the environment.  For myself, the advantages of pruning are obvious.  Tomato plants are fragile things, subject to countless life threatening diseases.  There are of course new breeds that won't get sick as easily.  But there main problem is that the fruit on these plants taste like over cooked shoe leather.  Sorry.  That's just how it is. 

A well pruned tomato plant has a minimum amount of both leaves and main shoots on it.  In that way, there'll be plenty of air circulating around the plant helping it be more resistant to mildew and countless other maladies.  Now, unlike tomato pruning, who's book has yet to be made,there are plenty of books on tomato diseases.  But by giving the plant the swish of cleansing air, and a minimum of both leaves  and suckers, you can expect to be rewarded with bigger, healthier and more beautiful tomatoes.  One doesn't get more tomatoes by pruning, however.  I prune studiously because I believe it makes the plant more healthy, bigger and more beautiful. The fruit taste better if the plant is healthy.  It fits my value system.  Which is a good thing because there's an intense amount of work that goes into a well pruned tomato.

First, you'll need someone to work their way down the rows with a huge spool of binder's twine.  The heirlooms get two strands, but the cherry tomatoes get 4.  We try really hard to limited the heirloom tomatoes to two main branches.  Its a challenge-a real challenge.  The cherry tomatoes are so vigorous in their foliage production that you'd have to stand next to the plant and  prune it all day.  (I'm joking, but not much).

As I go from plant to plant, I'm having an internal dialogue about each plant that I work on.  At the base of each plant, there can be suckers.  I take them off, as I want the entire bottom of the plant to be free of vegetation.  Let the air run under it.  Your plant will thank you.  Occasionally, a sucker will get missed.  When I finally get back to the plant, the missed sucker turns out to be as thick as your pinky.  I still take them off.  Let the energy go into other parts of the plant.  It will all work out. 

At the beginning, I mentioned that pruning can be humorous, sad, full of tension and drama.  The humor comes from finishing to prune a plant that was hopelessly neglected for too long.  Initially, it looks like an impossible task but when I'm done, it makes me chuckle to see how its been brought back to life.  The drama comes when I begin to wrestle with a vine in an attempt to wrap it around the string that is attached to the internal structure of the hoop house.  Drama can easily turn into sadness when the wrestling ends with a big branch snapping off from too much pressure.  Ah, at this point I need to put my philosophical hat on.  I've learned over the years that it isn't worth getting too upset when a branch gets ruined.  I say that, but in fact when it happens, it is usually accompanied by a cry of alarm from me.  I take pruning personally.  Maybe its like inviting your neighbors over and they will look out of the corner of their eyes in the corners of your house and see if there's really any dust bunnies lurking around.   It needs to look good in order for the tomatoes to taste good.  That's my experience.

As for the subject line above all I can say is that answers aren't always what I'm looking for.  Sometimes, its just process.  So maybe the subject line should read "Answers Are Overrated".  I don't know.  I don't have that answer.

We are now attending 4 Farmer's Markets.  Thursday on the green in Durham from 3-6:30pm.  Plenty of parking just below the green. Friday at the Madison Green from 3-6pm, Saturday at Wooster Square in New Haven from 9-1pm and for one more week at CounterWeight Micro Brewery in Hamden from 11-5pm

CSA begins a week from this Thursday, but if anyone wants to start early (and end earlier) that's fine with us.  We've got lots to choose from.  For those of you still thinking of CSA-there's still room. By joining, you'll be  essentially getting about a 20% coupon for all the food that you get this summer.  The system is flexible and ready to work with your needs.  Just pick out what you want.  If you miss a week or so for vacation time, you can make it up at the end.  Or you could start a week early.  Its all going to work out.

We're looking at the same lovely choice of products this week.  So I took the liberty of copying over last weeks text including the information about tomatoes.  Some of you have been asking when is the right time to plant.  The simple answer is NOW!.

Below is the Radiccio.  This is the Italian Bitter.  People who love bitters want this.  $3/head

Raddicio.  Its color and texture will please raddicio lovers.


Lettuce heads-sure there's a lot of fancy names, but what it boils down to is an amazing head of lettuce.  Between the texture and the taste, its hard to say which is the best.  I will say that you shouldn't wait long to pick them up,  they need to be treated with a certain amount of care and refrigerated ASAP $2.75/head

Spring Garlic- I don't know about you, but the garlic you'd get from S and S-its really disappointing.  Now, we can offer you our Spring Garlic.  It hasn't bulbed yet.  What you get is a stalk that is 100% useful.  The roots can be used in soups and everything else right up to the very tip can be cut up and used for a sensational garlic taste.  Does not go thru the garlic press yet. $2/stalk.

Arugula, Salad Greens or Braising Greens- all $6/bag

Spinach- $6/bag.  They'll be a bit fuller than a normal sized $6 bag

Radishes and Hakeuri Turnips-both $4/bunch.  These have been the 2019 surprise of the year, so far.  The crop is crunchy, snappy, beautiful and everyone wants them.  The turnips can be eaten just like radishes-raw. Both of them have excellent greens that can be put in salad or lightly toasted with olive oil.

Green Onions- $3/bunch.  What's there not to like here?

Swiss Chard and Kale- $3/bunch


Pak(Bok) Choi and Tokyo Bekana- both $4/bunch.  These Asian Greens really make the difference in a great vegetable dish

For those of  you growing some of your own stuff,now would be the time to get those tomato, herb and flower starts.

Herbs are on sale this week, too.  If you buy one plant, we'll give you another of the same kind to you for FREE!.

All Herb Plants are $5/  There are 4 different kinds of Basil, for starters. Genevese,Tulsi (Holy), Thai and Spicy Bush.  They are all way different from each other and each of them are amazing in their own rights. You can't go wrong.

Also, oregano, summer and winter savory,rosemary,sage,.thyme, chives, parsley, cilantro,lemon balm, hysop.

Dwarf Sunflowers have really become more and more popular over the years.  They grow to 2-3 feet and are happy most of the Summer.  Small pots $5 and big pots $10.  They'll do fine in the pot or can be transplanted to your flower garden.

Below is Teddy Bear Sunflower