This blog reviews the latest products, plants and innovations in gardening. It also provides a link for my many gardening friends who are members of the GardenMessenger and Seedmessenger Yahoo groups and their sub-groups that I moderate.

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Location: Australia

I am a semi-retired UK botanical garden curator and former international horticultural consultant, who has worked extensively in Europe, the Middle East, North America and Australia. I spend part of the year in Australia and part in Europe, mainly due to family and work commitments. I earn my living from writing and editing Internet copy, articles and books. I have written over fifty books on gardening and have been translated into twenty-four different languages. I am a former UK Garden Writer of the Year and a previous Quill & Trowel Award Winner from the Garden Writer’s Association of America. I am interested in developing gardening communities on the Internet and I manage the popular GardenMessenger Yahoo group, along with its various sub-groups like PondMessenger and SeedMessenger. I also edit International Water Gardener and its associated regional web-sites.

Friday, May 19, 2006

TomatoMessenger eNewsletter

Welcome to TomatoMessenger

The GardenMessenger and PondMessenger blogs have been well received by members, and are quick and easy to update. Having gained a little experience I then decided that maybe the idea of the SeedMessenger eNewsletter delivered as a blog might work, and so I recently trialled one to gauge the reaction of the members and outside visitors. That too was well received and so I am converting the TomatoMessenger eNewsletter to a blog as well. Although published as a separate entity, I am adding it to the end of a GardenMessenger daily blog and for the moment keeping it under the group banner. By presenting it like this, those GardenMessenger members who are unaware of the TomatoMessenger group will come upon us and may be inclined to join our happy community. I also hope that editorially it will give me greater versatility, and also generally provide wider readership exposure.

Getting Old Tomato Seeds to Germinate

Germination techniques revealed

Interesting research from the C.T. Rick Tomato Genetics Resource Center in California, United States, with a wild relative of the domestic tomato called Lycopersicum cheesmanii, is likely to be of assistance to home gardeners who want to germinate old or difficult tomato seeds. This species has proved to be very difficult for horticulturists at the Center to germinate. Passage through the gut of a Galapagos tortoise is what happens in the wild and is fairly effective in aiding a break in dormancy, but as scientists there report, it is cumbersome, nasty, and too inconvenient for regular use. The method that has now been adopted is commonly used by agronomists for seeds of difficult legumes.

For general use, seeds are soaked in 2.7% sodium hypochlorite (half-strength standard household bleach) for 30 minutes, then thoroughly rinsed in tap water and sown directly, or dried for sowings within the next few days. The Center reports "A single treatment hardly ever suffices for L.cheesmanii seeds, which must be treated at weekly intervals for as long as two months. The entire testa (or seed coat) may thereby be removed, but the endosperm and embryo appear to withstand such seemingly violent treatment. These repeated applications cannot be applied, of course, to seeds planted directly in soil. Instead, we incubate the seeds on moist blotting paper in plastic sandwich boxes or any other suitable transparent container. The boxes are kept in an illuminated incubator maintained at 25°C (77ºF) day, 18°C (64ºF) night temperatures, but ordinary room conditions are satisfactory. Keeping the seeds in the dark until sprouted seems to be advantageous. When the seeds have germinated and the cotyledons are well developed, the seedlings are transplanted to nursery flats filled with sterilized soil and placed in partial shade in the greenhouse."

Hybridizing Your Own Tomatoes
Many tomato enthusiasts want to hybridize their own tomatoes. The following is a review of the process taken from the TomatoMessenger pages of the SeedMessenger web-site. Details click here.

The Tomato Flower
A freshly opened flower

It is very important for the gardener to have a little knowledge of the component parts of an individual tomato plant. A basic understanding of the structure and function of the flower is critical for both ensuring good crops and as a background to hybridizing.The inflorescence of a tomato plant arises either terminally, opposite, or between the leaves. In the majority of cultivars it is 15-30cm (6-12ins) long and bears clusters of from two to twelve flowers, although in some cultivars, especially of currant and cherry types, many more than this are produced. The inflorescence is the overall flowering structure of the plant.

Some tomatoes are cross-pollinated

The stigma is receptive to pollen one or two days before the anthers dehisce, thus favouring cross-pollination. However the stigma remains receptive to pollen for four to eight days and as the anthers bearing pollen are delicately united with the filament, the slightest movement or vibration causes the distribution of pollen, thus many tomatoes are self-fertilized.

Selecting Plants
Select quality parents

Although for many gardeners, gathering seeds from tomatoes to carry over for the following year is just a matter of gathering fruits from plants with desirable traits, it is not the ideal practice. Conventional vining salad tomatoes (i.e. those other than cherry or currant fruiting kinds, and those with potato-like foliage), rarely ever cross-pollinate and generally produce progeny that are very similar to the parent. However, in order to produce either high quality lines of self-fertilized traditional tomatoes, or to create your own new hybrids, a properly prepared hybridizing programme is necessary.

Flower emasculation

When creating a new hybrid or maintaining a genetically pure line, it is important to prevent both uncontrolled self-pollination as well as cross- pollination. To prevent self-pollination occurring it is necessary to emasculate the tomato flower. Emasculation is the removal of the stamens of the female line before they shed their pollen.

Pollen Collection
Collect pollen from selected flowers

Pollen is collected from the male parent plants, ideally during the early morning before it has been shed. Avoid collecting pollen when the weather is wet. Remove the anther cones from the selected flowers and put them into glassine envelopes. Dry by placing them 30cm (12ins) beneath a 100 watt lamp for twenty-four hours. (approx 30ºC - 86ºF)

Pollinate two days later

It is usual to pollinate emasculated flowers two days later. Ideally pollination should not be conducted in wet weather. The corolla, or group of petals, of the emasculated flower will have turned bright yellow. This is an indication that the stigma is ready to receive the pollen. Dip the tip of the stigma into the collected pollen in the container.

Fruit Harvesting
Check for clipped sepals

Fruits should only be harvested when they are fully ripe. That is when they are red, pink, yellow, or occasionally green, according to the cultivar. The seeds within will then have developed normally. Too early removal may impede the proper full development of the seeds. Make sure that only fruits that have clipped sepals are harvested for seed. For step by step details of tomato hybridizing click here.

Problem Focus
A regular look and analysis of a common tomato problem

Early Blight

Early Blight - Alternaria solani
Occurs world-wide.

Symptoms: Small dark circular spots on the foliage enlarge into lesions of concentric rings. The stems and leaf stalks are weakened where lesions occur. Both green and ripe fruits develop dark lesions on the upper part.

Development: The disease is most common in wet weather, and especially amongst plants that are stressed. The disease can also be seed borne.

Control: Seeds should be treated with a fungicide. Crop rotation, good plant management which encourages lusty growth and regular spraying with fungicide usually keeps the problem at bay.

Canada Tomato Project

Calling all tomato gardeners

Calling all tomato gardeners!
Help us to grow over 100 varieties of Canadian tomatoes from coast to coast!

What is a Canadian Tomato?
A tomato is Canadian if it was bred in Canada, or if it has been grown in Canada long enough to have "adapted" to our growing conditions. We have found over 100 tomatoes that were bred or adapted in Canada. Many were introduced by Agriculture Canada between 1890 and 1980, some were developed at Canadian universities and a few were created by individuals through their own backyard garden crossing and selecting. We also offer Canadian "citizenship" to family heirloom varieties brought to Canada by immigrants and grown here for many generations.

Seeds of Diversity Canada - Canada’s Heritage Seed Program
P.O. Box 36,
Stn Q,
Toronto ON M4T 2L7
Web-site: click here.

New Recipe for British Tomato Week 2006

Plum Tomato and Mustard Seed Tart
With a thick savoury crust a slice is enough for a good lunch served with a handful of salad leaves. For the full recipe click here.

New Cultivars

Tomato ‘Patio Princess’
A new and exclusive introduction from Burpee Seeds which is excellent for pot culture, especially for growing on the patio or deck. The plants grow up to 60cm (24in) tall.

Tomato ‘Black Pearl’
An interesting indeterminate cherry tomato cultivar that is said to have two different flavours, one when fresh picked, the other when placed in the refrigerator. The purplish black fruits develop a grape-like flavour when chilled. Another Burpee Seeds exclusive.


British Tomato Week 2006
15th - 21st May
This is a national country-wide event.
During British Tomato Week the Tomato Growers Association are exhibiting at the BBC Good Food Summer Festival at the National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham from 18th-21st May.
Details click here.

15th Annual Carmel TomatoFest
10th September 2006
Quail Lodge,
Carmel Valley,
Details click here.

If you are not a member of TomatoMessenger and would like to join the community click here.

Happy Gardening



This Blog Sponsor Gardening Made Easy

Hybridizing Sequence: AVRDC
Recipe: British Tomato Growers Association
New Cultivars: Burpee Seeds

If you have enjoyed this publication, you may also like to visit the monthy SeedMessenger gardeners’ seed saving and seed exchange blog click here.
and the weekly water gardening blog PondMessenger click here.

To join the GardenMessenger gardening community
click here

To visit the SeedMessenger seed exchange web-site
click here

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