Saturday, March 11, 2017


This is the tray with the best grafts, still showing lots of green.
We did our grafting on Monday, March 6. I’m encouraged there are still so many surviving plants. Today I checked to see if there was any particular type of “scion” that wasn’t taking. Of the 36 plants we grafted, nine of the scions are either dead or really struggling. Literature on the grafting process notes that some combinations are incompatible. In this case, however, incompatibility does not seem to be a factor. The failing grafts were of a clear cross-section of the scion material. Obviously, this grafting procedure is major surgery for the plants and they are extremely stressed right now. This morning I gave them a very mild feeding of a balanced fertilizer, 1 cup to 5 gallon ratio. I also regrouped the plants so I have one tray with all exemplary plants and another with half failing and half surviving plants. Side note: I am beginning to see the attraction of majoring in the sciences as this scientific pursuit is very satisfying. I do have to admit that it will be waaaay more satisfying if I get a bumper crop of tomatoes out of it!! 

Here we have possibly the most healthy looking graft. Seeing some new growth will tell me it's on its way.

This is more typical, still showing green but obviously a little bent out of shape about something!

Now this fella is interesting. If you examine the top of the clip it looks like the green part is a side shoot and the main part of the scion is trimmed off. It's interesting because we get to wait and see if it starts a new life out of the side shoot. 

Friday, March 10, 2017


This is the best-looking tray, the only struggler is on the lower left, but even so, it does have a bit of life in it.
On Day 5 of Singing Frog Farm's grafting 101 experiment, it appears we may have a 75% success rate. Of the 36 grafted plants, 28 seem to be lively enough to continue, especially if it only gets better from here. Eight look like they'll not make it out of their "hospital." Like for some reason the vascular systems just did not hook up and all that misting and spraying was not enough to keep the "scion" alive. A couple of observations: I did notice that the scions looked better yesterday afternoon, after a good soaking of the rootstock and the addition of plastic shelters over the trays, which would increase humidity. These plants are in trays that drain, so they don't stand in water for prolonged periods. FARM NOTES: We planted almost 300 cabbages yesterday ... and covered them in agribon so the jackrabbits won't be able to eat them. Today we're putting in lettuce, zucchini, and maybe some chard.
This tray's plants are faring a bit worse, with seven that look like they will not come back. We'll know in the next 2 days.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017


 Well, it's been approximately 48 hours since the grafting experiment started. I'm keeping the plants in as clean and low-stress an environment as I can. These pics represent the range of results of the trials. I've been told that the scions (top part) will practically die before taking hold. I'm also coming to see that the whole process is far more reliant on scientific precision than most of the farming activities I engage in. Makes me very thankful for the help I got in initiating this experiment. The photos were taken this morning, between 8 and 9 a.m.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Experiment in tomato grafting

The search for great tomatoes goes on and takes unexpected turns! This season, we turned onto a road that could take us to new abilities to deliver great tasting tomatoes to more people. The experiment started about a month ago when we planted seeds of rootstock tomatoes, the key ingredient in the experiment, along with some of my favorite heirlooms from tomato guru Brad Gates of Wild Boar Farms in Napa/Solano/Sonoma/Yolo. He's famous for the earth-shattering Berkeley Tie Dye tomato of a few years back. 

BTW, the tomatoes in the trays you are looking at were grafted yesterday and sadly, none of the tops are from Brad's varieties. We had to go with some standard hybrid varieties for the first batch because of the science of grafting: Rule number one is that the bottom and the top of the plants to be grafted must be similar in size. When my heirlooms got behind the rootstock in size, Eisley's Nursery in Auburn was most gracious in supplying me with appropriately sized plants from their greenhouses. It's a great nursery if you've never been there. But they had no heirlooms, either, so these are kind of practice grafts using hybrid plants like Early Girl, Better Boy, Beefsteak, Champion, Jubilee.

All these pictures were taken this morning. As with any patient after surgery, these plants are now in my "hospital" recovering from the extreme process they underwent yesterday. Yesterday afternoon they looked really bad but I gave them lots of water in the pots and a gentle misting a few times in the afternoon, as well as cutting off some foliage, and most are still surviving today. The first 3-5 days are the most critical, because the vascular system of the rootstock cannot deliver nutrients and water to what is called the "scion" -- that is, the top that you put on the plant. 

Pretty much any of these plants that are still alive in two weeks will be viable for putting into the field. The advantage for undergoing the process is disease resistance and root system aggressiveness. I was given 9 grafted plants from a UC Davis trial last year and found them to be great producers that had no disease and lasted well into November. The latter, I think, was because their root systems could support the tops better deeper into the cold months.

I'm thinking these plants not only could be good for me, but also for many home gardeners with limited space who would love to grow tasty heirlooms but also want a bigger harvest. So if this topic interests you, keep an eye here as I will be posting photos daily. Maybe not with nearly as much commentary ... more like a visual journal of the grafting process.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

 My little orange marvel

What to do when an atmospheric river is heading toward your cabbage patch: Grab a trenching shovel and start digging!

That's exactly what I did this morning. Dig trenches to carry water away from the onions, garlic, cabbage and Brussel sprouts. While this storm really doesn't seem all that threatening, the wind is picking up and I don't want to get caught reacting too late to a major downpour. I think we're ready enough. So ...
Now Susie and I are going to see "La La Land".

Wednesday, November 2, 2016


New farmers have lots to learn

But sometimes there's just no-one to learn from. Lucky for me, I got some help and here's the lowdown

The discs were refusing to turn on one row. The first row, right behind the tractor. So I was pulling the discer through the soil but it, the soil, was just bunching up with the dead weeds in front of the non-turning discs and making an ugly mess. So I talked to Jack up the road when I was there to pick some of his delicious pomegranates and he told me my discs needed tightening and he was right, so I set about to get the tools for the job. Thankfully my brother-in-law came to visit his mom, who lives with us, and I knew he had the tools I needed so I showed him the problem and asked if he could bring a couple of his big wrenches. However he noticed that thing in the photo above and said it was a thing to inject grease into the discs. I had wondered what it was! I'd say it's a grease nipple but I have lots of those on the tractor and they don't look  like that. It's apparently old-fashioned, like the discs, and so Marty Thorpe, my brother in law from Stockton, brought up a big can of grease and the attachment, and the discer got a good feeding. Probably the first in many a year. At the same time, we were able to tighten the bolt. Of course to do so required cutting a piece of pipe to make a big washer. And it worked. That's because Marty brought along his friend (and mine) Steve Eales, who grows walnuts. He knew just what to do. Now my job is to go get real washers for the little thing-a-ma-bob that keeps the nut from unwinding and then tighten her back up. So if the rain stays away for a few days maybe I can get my garlic, cabbage, onions and brussel sprouts in the ground! If that doesn't sound exciting to you, well, I can only assure you it's VERY exciting to me and I'm just very thankful to Marty and Steve for the help!!