What I Learned at the Farm

I spent about an hour at San Diego Seed Company‘s Ramona farm on Monday and basically pelted a tired Brijette Pena (founder and owner of San Diego Seed Company) with a hundred questions. I will share the answers to these questions with you!

I’m Still Obsessing about My Sweet Peas

First, I had to ask: Did I plant my sweet peas too late? The answer: Maybe. She said if they’re just a few inches now they probably wouldn’t bloom until June, when it may be too hot. Poo. (She said her sweet peas are already blooming.) I still have seeds of the Bix and Marjorie Carrier variety saved from last season, but I really want this season’s seedlings to thrive and grow too.

Plant them in the fall so they can overwinter, she said. She learned that from a woman who grows a sweet pea maze. That sounds like a wonderful thing.

So stay tuned–I planted my sweet peas in the northern part of a garden that already stays pretty cool and I’m going to add shade cloth this week to help protect the tender shoots.

Brijette working at the farm on a warm February afternoon.

Easiest Melon to Grow

I asked: What’s the easiest melon to grow? There’s a short answer and a longer answer. The short answer: Kajari melon. I asked because I haven’t been terribly successful with growing melons. Here are a few components of the longer answer:

  1. You need to grow melons in full sun. They like that.
  2. While the Kajari melon produces a LOT of fruit, they tend to be small. Some people like this, because you don’t have a lot of half-melons wrapped in cellophane rotting in your fridge.
  3. The Kajari melon is a little unstable in terms of genetics. Sometimes the plant produces all perfect round fruit, sometimes it produces a few weirder shapes that are not so perfect. Brijette says if she had the time, she’d devote four to five seasons to getting the genetics in shape for this melon.
  4. The Kajari melon can split. So check it daily for ripeness. The lines across the melon turn green when ripe. A day after it’s ripe it’ll fall off the vine. From there it may also split.

I also asked what watermelons are easy to grow, as I’m a little allergic to the cantaloupe and honeydew style melons. She suggested Jubilee and Moon and Stars. I’m going to grow Moon and Stars seedlings to offer at the seedling sale this year. I’ll report back on how I do with this variety!

The bees are loving the Ramona farm, with lots of lovely fava bean flowers to visit.

When to Plant Tomatoes in San Diego

We commiserated on the fact that a) we’re having gorgeous weather AND b) we still need to wait to plant tomatoes. Just one cold night can kill them. I remember last year in mid-March I was dying to plant my tomato seedlings, some of which were two feet tall by that time. Luckily, though, I checked the weather and saw some really cold nights coming, so I waited a week. I’m glad I did.

It can be so hard to wait when it’s sunny and warm outside, but we (usually) do get some dips in temperatures in February and even March, so it pays to be patient. I think this year I’ll check the forecast at the beginning of March and maybe plant tomato seedlings under row cover to give them some extra protection.

We also talked a lot with one of Brijette’s friends, who will be trialing several dwarf tomato varieties at the Ramona farm this summer. I’m excited to see how these will do. Brijette noted that the dwarf Tasmanian Chocolate tomatoes have been very popular but the seeds are a bit scarce. If you’re interested in this variety, I’ll be offering them at the seedling sale but you may also want to pick up a packet of seeds. I grew them last year and they were super productive.

One final pro tip: Brijette recommended I offer the Marianna’s Peace tomato at the seedling sale. She says it’s an incredible slicer tomato. San Diego Seed Company’s website says it’s currently out of stock on this variety, so I may call the warehouse manager to see if maybe there’s a wayward packet hanging out somewhere.

Perhaps that wasn’t a hundred questions, but these have been on my mind. For now I’m going to stay focused on planting for the seedling sale and trying to keep myself from putting tomatoes in the ground.