Ready, Set, Grow!

This coming June 13th is a big holiday in St. James Parish and you’re all invited. No, we haven’t started some summer bonfire celebration. It’s the annual Tomato Field Day!

This is an event started a couple of County Agents ago that I’ve been happy to inherit with the job. Though it takes place in Paulina (Millet St. right off River Road; 5:30 pm), every year people also attend from St. Charles, St. John, Ascension… I think there was even a guy from California last year.

So what’s all the fuss about? Well, the Millet family of farmers (T-Black and others) hosts the event (and cooks the jambalaya!) and they let me use a row on their farm. Beginning in January, we plant seeds (thanks to Mr. Felix at Lutcher High) to evaluate different varieties of tomatoes. We also try out bell peppers and cucumbers, though they don’t capture as much attention. June 13th is toward the peak or maybe slightly after for these crops, so the public is invited to help evaluate as well as to listen to gardening lectures.

We’ll have Dr. Raj Singh (LSU Pathology Professor) speak about vegetable diseases and by mid-June he should be able to show us some in the field. I’ll talk about our new varieties and lead a taste test. We’ll also hand out awards for the St. James Garden Contest and the Biggest Tomato Contest with lots of smack talk in between for fun.

The tomato variety trial portion will showcase common garden varieties like Bella Rosa, Jet Star, and Creole. But rather than compare them with new varieties from seed companies like we did last year, we’ve dug out the heirlooms. Does old Cherokee Purple really taste better than Jet Star? Does Creole still remind us of the way tomatoes tasted when we were younger? Ooh! The suspense is killing me!

The taste test is the favorite part for many gardeners. We’ll have secretly coded tomato slices in plastic containers and we’ll ask people to vote for their favorites. We’ll try to tally the votes before everyone leaves, but you’ll certainly leave with more information for next year. Variety selection, cultural practices, and disease recognition all play a part in our gardens. And it’s nice to let us do some of the legwork so you can learn more for next year.

If you want to know more about gardening, landscaping, or anything else horticultural, contact the St. John, St. James, & St. Charles Parishes County Agent André Brock at abrock@agcenter.lsu.edu. Also, the LSU Ag Center’s website can be accessed at www.lsuagcenter.com with lots of user-friendly information, including this article.

6/3/2019 8:15:32 PM
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