Tag Archives: tomatoes

Additional thoughts from Cheryl Nichols

Cheryl has continued to visit our gardens at the Y with her friends Arlene and Terry and has observed that almost all of  our gardens are very thirsty.  As she pointed out, the primary ingredient of  most vegetables is water and most plants need at least 1 – 2 inches of water per week.  It’s best to soak them thoroughly.  Sometimes that means watering the soil around a plant for a minute, moving to the next, then repeating the cycle until the bed is thoroughly soaked.

Cheryl also noticed one statement in my blog about her talk that wasn’t correct.  I should have said that she found the White Queen tomato variety  to be interesting, but not that it was a favorite.  She probably won’t grow it again next year because it’s lycopene content is low due to its light color.    She mentioned a Harvard study  on Saturday that discussed the health benefits of lycopene and that pointed out that the highest values of lycopene are in the darkest red tomatoes.

She suggested a fall talk on soil preparation.  What do you all think?  I personally think it would be great.  From talking to many of you at the gardens, it seems most of us did very little to amend our beds.  While I knew it was important, I was so eager to get started that I added very little to my soil.  Amending the soil over the winter is a typical task for fall gardening and action from which  I think most of our  beds would greatly benefit.

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Cooler full of veggies

It’s been about a week since  I visited my 3 community garden beds, bringing along a cooler for the veggies I picked.  My plot at WildWest Community Garden had a few onions ready to pull, a couple of peppers and two handfuls of basil.  ( I have since learned you should never pull onions, but rather dig them in order to prevent damage to the plant).

From there I went to the church gardens and harvested a bunch of chard, kale, more onions, a couple of carrots and a couple of small stalks of broccoli.  The cooler was full so I decided I’d come back another day to cut more chard and dig more onions.  As it turned out, I kept putting off cooking the chard and eventually had to throw it out which made me feel badly.

6-27-11 Water from just a couple days of rain

I also harvested more basil from my plant on the deck that has produced the largest, most amazing leaves.  I made another 1 cup batch of pesto with these leaves.  I also picked a few tiny, grape sized tomatoes.  My son and I discovered that the tub intended for sweet potato plants and that had been empty, was bulging with water from a couple days of rain.  I took the opportunity to make a few images of the potato blossom and the potato and tomato plants in containers on the deck.  The tomato plants on the deck look much better than the ones in my plot at the WildWest Community Garden.  I really think the biggest difference is the soil.  The plants in containers are in Miracle Gro Organic gardening soil and/or potting soil.

6-27-11 12 Kibets Ukrainian and one brandywine tomato lost to blossom end rot

I also removed 13 tomatoes, 12 from the Kibets Ukrainian plant.  All suffered from blossom end rot.  Unfortunately I don’t know whether I amended the soil with crushed egg shells as I had intended.  This is supposed to supply calcium.  The day I transplanted most of the tomatoes was so hectic that I forgot the egg shells when planting some of them.  Our abundant rain could also be the cause of the rot rather than a calcium deficiency. Guess it will remain a mystery.

On the one hand, the amount of food I have harvested so far is a rather disappointing amount considering the effort involved.  On the other hand, I also realize that a lot of the work was due to the fact that 2 of the 3 gardens were built from scratch.  Since it’s my first year to garden vegetables,  I’m definitely on the steep part of the learning curve.   I do feel like I’ve learned a lot. The most important knowledge I have acquired is that  I have so much more to discover.   Lessons learned will be another post.

Transitioning from spring to summer crops

The Latest Harvest, 6/10/11

Reflecting upon the last 2 months since I started my first community garden at the church, I thought it might be a good time to take stock of my progress.  I have had several bunches of radishes and Swiss chard from the church gardens I started at the end of March.  While I had some beautiful broccoli transplants started from seed, I have only gotten a couple of very small stems and actually had to throw one away last night because it had turned yellow in the refrigerator.  I had a reasonable harvest of small onions.  By the time the spinach was ready  to harvest, it had gone to seed.  I can definitely say that there’s no way we could have survived on the small quantity of food that I have raised.  However, I’m not ready to throw in the towel just yet.  I have realized that perhaps the square foot approach isn’t the best for our needs; perhaps short rows would work better.  I also think the spacing between my plants is too close.  I’m still holding out hope that I’ll have a reasonable harvest of beans, potatoes and tomatoes.  We’ll see.  I am glad that I have the farmers markets to fall back on and that I’m not depending on the production of my vegetable beds to feed us.  I’m afraid we would be pretty hungry about now.  I did have a conversation with Pat at the Ellisville Farmers Market who mentioned that since she no longer has a half acre garden, she buys produce, usually at  Theis Farm, and cans it.  I guess I can do that as a last resort.   And there’s always the option of visiting a “u pick it” farm.  Sounds like a field trip in the making and subject for another post.

WildWest Community Garden looking fabulous!

Plot 36, Love the colors of the lizard and the marigolds!

Plot 36, Love the colors of the lizard and the marigolds!

Over the weekend, I planted some squash and cucumber seeds at the garden.  While I was there, I decided to shoot more images of various plots, just to show the fabulous progress, the variety of plant varieties and styles of gardening.  I only had my small camera with me and wasn’t really satisfied with some of the images when I returned home and began to edit them.  So, after showering, I decided to go back by the garden  before heading to the grocery store and re-shoot a few of the images.   I have a habit of putting my wedding ring and other ring in my pants pockets while around the house, and slipping them on as I leave the house.  However, this time, since my hands were dry and I planned to put on lotion, I left them in my pocket when I left the house.    I arrived at the garden and re-shot a few images.  When I got back in the car, I went to put on my rings and realized that I didn’t have my wedding band.  I spent about 15 minutes attempting to re-trace my steps, which was a challenge since I had roamed the garden, in particular trying to re-shoot a strawberry.  I searched the grass in multiple locations where I remembered kneeling and gave up the hunt, thinking perhaps I didn’t really have it in my pocket but had dropped it at home.  I went on to the grocery store, and then searched at home, to no avail.  My husband, son and I went back to the garden and searched for about 30 minutes before dinner with no luck.  I remembered a friend who owns 2 metal detectors and made arrangements to borrow them on Sunday.  Sunday afternoon I picked up both detectors and spent about 1 1/2 hours searching by myself, again with no luck.  I returned home, hot and sweaty, and ready for lunch around 2 pm.  My son agreed to go back to the garden with me when it had cooled off some.  We did an experiment with my other ring, safely tied to a long piece of red yarn and hidden in the grass, to figure out how the detector might sound when it passed over the ring.  Frankly, it wasn’t too encouraging as we couldn’t really get consistent results.   However, we went back to the gardens around 5:15 pm.  Imagine my excitement when around 5:45, my son came to me with a grin on his face and the ring in his hand!  He found it on the main path inside the east gate.  I was thrilled and we were happy to celebrate with dinner at one of his favorite restaurants, Wild Horse Grill.

Gallery of Images from Saturday and Sunday, June 4 & 5,

WildWest Community Garden

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That’s the good news and you can bet I won’t be walking around, kneeling down, with my rings in my pocket.  That was a close call.  Coincidentally, a couple of years ago my son lost his high school ring by leaving it on the bumper of his truck.  All he remembered was putting it there and later driving off.  We live on a steep and narrow private road, with lots of rocks, leaves and bushes on either side of the road.  He was sure it was gone forever.  I offered to walk our road and look for it, rationalizing that it would have likely fallen off before he made it to the main road.  Of course because it’s downhill, it could also have rolled a long way after falling.  I began my search, looking at all the leaves and vegetation along the road, thinking if it landed there, we would never find it.  I was about 2/3 of the way down the road when I spotted the ring about 2 feet from the road’s edge.  He was thrilled.  I told him Sunday, now we’re even.  Amazing that we found one another’s rings, lost in seemingly hopeless conditions.

I was searching online for information about climates in various states and how they are changing.  This is an interesting article on the many ways climate change affects biodiversity.  After 5 years in Missouri, all I can say is our weather is definitely nothing if not unpredictable.  I always thought Texas weather was wild and crazy, but it seems worse here.  It’s certainly had an impact on my nascent veggie gardening, in particular with my tomato plants.  I’m embarrassed by my sickly tomato plants, especially when compared to their neighbors.  I have plot 17 which is adjacent to Plot 3 (Arlene and Terry) and Plot 4 (Chrissie).  Everything in their gardens looks so healthy and the tomato plants are strong, covered with blossoms and/or fruits beginning to ripen.  It’s frustrating because one of the things I wanted to accomplish this year was to grow heirloom tomatoes from seed.  I ordered several varieties, most with a Ukranian heritage from Amishland Heirloom Seed.  I accept total responsibility for the poor health of my tomato plants as the seeds I purchased performed beautifully.  Following the recommendations of Lisa von Saunder, owner of Amishland, I soaked my seeds and started them, along with some I had saved from farmers market tomatoes purchased in 2007.  My husband built a warming box and a light stand with 2 fluorescent shop lights.  I planted the seeds in sterile organic potting soil once they sprouted and began the nurturing process.  I misted the seeds and kept them covered with a clear plastic lid to create a warm greenhouse effect in our 60 degree basement.  I was so excited when I had an almost 100% germination rate.

Kibits Ukranian tomato seedling, 3/13/11

Kibits Ukranian tomato seedling, 3/13/11

Each night I would turn out the lights and mist the seedlings.  As they grew, I transplanted from the small peat pots, to yogurt cups, then to plastic beverage cups, then to even larger containers.  I misted the foliage with Espoma’s Gro-Tone.   I frantically struggled to keep up with their growth.

5-5-11 Seedlings growing in basement - basil, tomatoes, broccoli

5-5-11 Seedlings growing in basement - basil, tomatoes, broccoli

Soon the table was covered with green, but the weather was not cooperating.  I gave away probably 15 Brandywine transplants in March or April.  I tried on several occasions to harden off the plants, but was continually hampered by cold and windy weather.  When I heard about the formation of the YMCA garden, I was excited to be able to participate.  I finally planted 7 tomato plants on May 6, before we had completed a trellis for them. I still hadn’t been able to harden them off, but we were leaving May 12, returning May 16 and I wanted to get them planted.   It was extremely windy that day and I thought I could stake them minimally and they would be OK until we installed the trellis on May 8.  However, by May 8, they were looking rather puny.  The weather was warm and windy, then it turned cold again while we were gone.  The night we returned, the temperature dropped to 37 degrees.   So I should probably say that my “initiation by fire/ice” experiment was  a failure.  I still have transplants at home, waiting for bigger pots or a spot at the garden.  I’m struggling with whether I should pull out some of the plants there and replace with some from home or give them awhile longer.

Even though I lost a lot of time looking for my ring, I’m glad I spent time looking around the garden.

6-5-11 Plot 30, Globe artichoke

6-5-11 Plot 30, Globe artichoke

I had never seen an artichoke plant (Plot  30) before or zucchini growing, (Plot 15).   I think my next trellis will be patterned after the one in Plot 39, Emily and Eric’s garden.  I may also convert part of my “Square Foot” garden to single, short rows as The Garden Society did in Plot 2.    After all, there are no rules in gardening, that’s part of the fun.

Hope springs eternal!

Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never Is, but always To be blest:
The soul, uneasy and confin’d from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.

-Alexander Pope,
An Essay on Man, Epistle I, 1733

And apparently “hope springs eternal” in the breasts of gardeners.

One of the plants I started back in February from seeds saved in 2007 actually has tiny tomatoes on it.  Never mind that the largest fruit is about the size of a small marble.  They are definitely tomatoes.

6-1-11 Tiny tomatoes

Blossoms on same tomato plant

I’m not sure if it’s called “wild” or “wine” but I do remember  that the tomatoes were small, juicy, with lots of seeds.  Of all the tomato plants I started this year, this one seems to be the most resilient.   Although I started  about 7 heirloom tomato varieties from seeds, I broke down yesterday and bought an heirloom tomato plant, the Mortgage Lifter.  I love the story behind it’s beginning.  I planted it today between two other heirloom tomato plants at the WildWest Community Garden, at the risk of overcrowding.  I’ve been frustrated by the deterioration in health of the heirloom tomato plants I have planted.  I know it’s due to several  reasons – weather keeping them indoors way past when they were ready to be transplanted; lack of hardening off, intermittent cold/hot/windy/rainy weather once they were transplanted.  Still it’s hard to watch a plant that seemed so healthy seem to be closer to death each time you go to the garden.   I’m now wishing I had supplemented the soil at the garden with a potting soil when I planted the tomatoes.

In addition to the arrival of hot and humid days, we are in the midst of an amazing miracle – the return of 13 year cicadas.  Growing up in Texas, we collected the exoskeletons of the annual variety of these creatures which we mistakenly called locusts.  Apparently many people think that locusts and cicadas are the same insect.    I have been researching the question of whether the shed exoskeleton would make good fertilizer – they seem to be every where right now.  I’ve found some really interesting facts.  Here’s a short time lapse video of a cicada emerging from its exoskeleton.  The process takes over an hour; the video is just a couple of minutes.  It’s amazing to see the cicada emerge and its wings lengthen.  I also learned that there are 15 broods in this species and that cicadas are unique to North America.  The brood appearing now in Missouri is a 13 year brood, know as Brood 19 (XIX) or The Great Southern  Brood.  This brood encompasses all the states enclosed by Georgia, North Carolina, Missouri, Tennessee and Maryland.  These insects somehow miraculously appear from their juvenile state to their adult state to breed, lay eggs and die.

Yesterday I planted another pepper plant, some beautiful nasturtiums, some tiny parsley transplants that I started from seed, Kentucky Wonder pole beans and 3 sad looking sugar snap pea plants, as well as a 6 pack of yellow onions that were so crowded that they may not survive the forced separation necessary to actually plant them.    I harvested a few more greens and a couple of onions and probably the only broccoli I’ll have before it bolts.

6-1-11 onions and greens

6-1-11 broccoli & greens

It’s difficult to be patient and maintain optimism while waiting for plants to grow and produce, so I’m thankful for the appearance of the tiny tomatoes on my plants.  While I’m waiting, I’ll enjoy the Early Girl tomatoes grown in hot houses by our local farmers and appreciate the fruits appearing on other gardener’s plants, like these from the WildWest Community Garden, that I photographed last week.

tomatoes at WW garden, plot #22

Is it really May? Feels more like November.

Today it really does feel like November.  Wish I could share the rain with those still suffering from drought.  I finally moved the transplants from the covered deck to the open.  I had to do it in the rain, but they looked so pathetic I felt like I had to do something.   Hopefully the Algaflash feed and rain will help revive them.

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I don’t know what I’ll do if my North Face windbreaker ever gives out.  Although it was soaked; I stayed dry inside it.  Did you ever have a piece of clothing that held so many memories that you’d miss it if it were gone?  This jacket fits that description.  Robert gave it to me years ago – probably 5 or 10 years before our 21 year old son was born.  Here’s an image of our son Eric and me sitting on a rock at Estes Park, CO when he was about 18 months old.

1991 - with Eric at lake, Estes Park, CO

And there are many more memories of hikes and vacations, wearing this jacket.  Memories of Boy Scout camp outs, standing around the fire, knowing I could go home and wash the smoke and grit out of the jacket and it would be good as new.

Initiation by fire (or ice) – seedlings straight to the real world

May 11, the day before we left for the  wedding in Texas,  I transplanted tomato seedlings – again.  I replaced the broken Yellow Trifele plant with another one almost the same size.   All the tomato seedlings were getting gangly and desperate to be in the ground or at least in bigger pots.  I transplanted them and left them under the covered deck in hopes that the water in the pots would be enough to keep them until we return.  Like I said, initiation by fire.   It was 90 degrees on Wednesday May 11 and humid.  I changed clothes 3 times!  First to clean up enough to take the animals to the kennel after working with transplants for a couple of hours.   When I returned from the kennel, I still had native plants and herbs  to plant.  It’s a challenge when the herb sale is the last weekend of April, the native plant sale is the first weekend in May, and all the community gardening activity is finally in full swing.  After walking down the hill  through the tall grass to plant several plants, including the pipe vine next to the ladder,  I needed to take a quick shower before heading out for the last errands  and last watering at the two gardens.  I had a meeting at church at 6:30 so I had to come home and clean up, again, before leaving for the meeting.  We left the morning of May 12 for Texas, leaving my plants to fiend for themselves.

5-11-11 Transplanting tomato plant, again

Yellow trifele replacing the broken YT plant.
 
Friends said it was cold and rainy here in Missouri while we were in Texas.   May 16, the evening we returned, the overnight temperature was 37 degrees.  This prompted me to change my  post title to include ” ice”.  The weather has been so variable – 90 degrees, followed by cold, wind and rain, then repeat.   I was hoping to finally water and move the transplants from the shaded deck area  today but it is currently raining and 59 degrees.    Yesterday I made it by the WildWest Community garden and the church gardens.  The tomato plants at the WildWest garden definitely suffered from the cold and the winds.  I harvested more radishes, green onions, a few beet greens, a little spinach and about 11 oz of Swiss chard at the church community garden.

Radish harvest, 5-18-11 (6 red, 5 white)

Swiss chard, green onions, spinach and beet greens 5-18-11

The chard, broccoli, onions,  shallots and potatoes at the church garden are looking good.   The Waltham broccoli was planted April 7, the chard planted April 2, and the potatoes planted 4-17.

Broccoli

Chard

Potatoes

April 20, I planted 3 Yukon Gold seed potatoes in a tub on  our deck.   After covering initially, I have “hilled” them on 3 different occasions – the last May 11.  Basically I am covering with soil until the leaves are covered.

April 20

5-18-11 Potatoes after "hilling" 3 times

I am trying to do the same with the potato plants I have planted at the church community garden.

If it stops raining, I’ll try to move the transplants and hopefully document their status.

Reflecting on my vegetable gardening so far this year, I have concluded a few things:

1.  Swiss chard and radishes are easy to grow.  The challenge is convincing your family that they’re worth eating.

2.  The weather can drive you crazy if you let it.  Gardening is more fun in the shade.  Unfortunately vegetables really like the sun.

3.  Starting transplants from seeds is only a small part of the battle.  Actually getting them planted at the right time and keeping them alive long enough to reach production is a challenge I have yet to meet.