Today was a good day mostly because Sue is back from Nova Scotia....we are all happy (amazing how the dogs and cats respond to having the "pack" back together!). It was also a pretty hot day, so gardening activity was limited a bit - which is fine (breathers are important!).
I've now completed packing and shipping plants out to friends, family and Dwarf project participants - which is a great relief! In fact, the remaining seedlings aren't looking so good, so I'll probably keep things alive for another week at the most. I also spent a few hours removing diseased lower foliage from the tomatoes (nothing too serious), as well as tying up all of the indeterminate tomatoes with my ever-present ball of twine. The tomatoes are growing very quickly....and there is fruit setting everywhere.
Ah...the birds! It's pretty clear that there's been a lot of hatching going on. Whether it is the chickadee family - with the young sitting in our cherry tree and calling for food from their parents....the not-yet-fully colored cardinals, the red bellied woodpeckers (we've had hatch-lings on the suet with a fully grey head, clearly indicative of youngsters), the constantly talkative House Finches (who always nest in our front porch ferns), or the sounds of the baby Bluebirds chirping whenever mom or dad comes to the birdhouse with food - there are far worse things to do than spend an hour just listening to and watching the birds. And I've not yet mentioned the brown thrashers, occasional noisy blue jay, brown headed nuthatch, chipping sparrows, or hummingbirds. It's always like Grand Central Station at our feeders and in our yard in general - and for that we are very fortunate.
Next garden tasks....decide if anything needs a dash of dilute Sevin or Daconil (critters or disease), start weeding the parts of the big garden that are showing unwanted green, mow the lawn and use clippings to mulch the rest of the pots. And it seems to be about time for a good, detailed video update!
Yesterday turned out to be a pretty busy day - much of the day spent preparing some plants to ship to friends, the rest taking stock of how the garden in general is progressing. I am going to get a little specific below, with some current results:
Disease watch - in general: Plants look healthy. Only 1 tomato lost to disease (Yellow Ponderosa, Tomato Spotted Wilt, replaced) and Striped Sweetheart looked like a plant with the weird thread leaf genes that some Lucky Cross offspring have - that was replaced as well. Lower foliage is showing a bit of Early Blight and/or Septoria.
Indeterminate tomatoes in large pots: Open flowers on pretty much all varieties except Cherokee Purple (showing some buds), Striped Sweetheart (which I just replaced with a new seedling), Lillian's Yellow Heirloom (small buds), Lucky Cross (buds), andLarge Lucky Red (small buds). There is fruit set on Cherokee Chocolate (alas, it may be crossed - the fruit look too round; this is from 1998 saved seed, so I can set another of the plants in somewhere and hope it isn't crossed as well), Piennolo, Torre Canne (which I now suspect may be a determinate and I am regretting removing suckers), JD Special C Tex, Mexico Midget, Hege's German Pink, and Giant Syrian.
Front Row garden cherry tomatoes: all have at least open flowers and most have set fruit; Tiger Tom, Green Zebra Cherry, three of the Sungolds and Sungold Select II should set fruit any day now.
Small Pot Indeterminate tomatoes: Too many to mention w/r to open blossoms, so I will report fruit set only right now. This is occurring on Burgundy Traveler, Leggy F1 (a new cross for the dwarf project), Softy F1 (ditto), Arkansas Traveler, Kiwi F1 (also part of the Dwarf project), Taps (regular leaf), and Casey's Pure Yellow regular leaf, likely an F1 - just planted. Most have buds, half have open flowers (approximately).
Dwarf tomatoes: Open flowers everywhere! Fruit set occurred on: Lemon Ice 3513 (heart shaped), Pink Passion 3180 (heart shaped), Lemon Ice 3156 (heart shaped), Golden Heart 3149 (heart shaped), Scarlet Heart 2648 (heart shaped), Beryl Beauty, Dainty F1, Boronia (both 3420 and 3463), Loaves and Fishes, Wild Fred 11-35. I am really impressed with the aggressive flowering and fruit set - early! - with the Nosey line.
Eggplant: Buds already showing on Skinny Twilight and Midnight Lightning. All are looking great and growing rapidly.
Sweet Peppers: Growing rapidly and most are showing small buds.
Hot Peppers: Growing rapidly and a few are showing buds - some even have open flowers.
Beans: great germination with all beans, it seems - I went in and did some additional seeding at the inevitable blank spots (after all, seed doesn't germinate reliably at 100%!).
Squash - all are in flower and Butta golden zuccini set fruit. Spaghetti Squash is starting to stretch out.
Cukes - despite critter damage, Diva set some fruit
Melons - Susan Healey is blooming, Edonis growing well.
Lettuce and greens - significant bolting occurring (not surprising). The Asian Greens were a big failure - got them in too late and significant pest damage (probably the cabbage moth). Swiss Chard is finally starting to grow well. Once the lettuce is gone, I will put either more beans, or watermelon, in that area.
Beets - just beautiful plants; I hilled them up with additional soil and we should be harvesting at any time.
And here we are getting a nice deep rain this morning. More packing to do...and Sue returns from Nova Scotia today. I am very happy about that!
Today I guess I finally went off the deep end. Completing planting meant squeezing in three more tomato plants (a Casey's Pure Yellow regular leaf - meaning it is a mystery F1 hybrid - that already set a cluster of fruit, an indeterminate growing in the dwarf Summertime Green - also an F1 mystery hybrid - and an additional Striped Sweetheart; in fact, the one in the 10 gallon container didn't look quite right, so I swapped a new seedling in that pot and moved the existing one to a 2 gallon pot. All three new tomatoes are small pot, meaning they will get the extreme pruning treatment - the goal is a few clusters of fruit to see what results - and some saved seed.
But the real deep end for me is represented by the 150 plus small (1 gallon) pots that contain my annual ornamental hot pepper experiment! They are lined up in the driveway, as well as in two different areas of the big garden. I took all of the best looking ones from last year and started seed; I then (today) planted one each of each different leaf/stem color for each of the varieties. I had 9 flats of them....18 pots to a flat - that translates to 162 different hot pepper plants, each one of them a bit of a mystery. It is clear that most of them are still segregating a bit, but by planting so many I can get a sense of the full potential/color range of the various selections. Fun stuff for sure and a future seed saving and record keeping headache!
A few other random thoughts today - some lower foliage disease is starting to show up here and there, no surprise with the warm, muggy nights we are now getting. Nothing seems all that serious yet; the worst hit so far is Dester, a variety that the SSE kindly shared with me (it won the best tasting tomato prize at last year's tasting at the SSE in Iowa). A few of the dwarfs are also showing just a bit of yellowing and spotting on the lower foliage. Tomorrow I may take my scissors and a pot around and take off any ugly looking branches that I find. Some of the dwarf varieties are really kicking out the blossoms. And there is fruit setting on lots of plants.
So for my future updates I will be rotating among the following categories: indeterminate tomatoes in large pots, indeterminate tomatoes in small pots, dwarf tomatoes, hot peppers (including the various Bird types), sweet peppers (including the new varieties out of Islander), eggplant, and the colorful experimental small pot hot peppers.....wow. Going to be lots of videos and pictures to take and post so I can take you all along on the ride with me!
I won't tell on Sara about her age.....hope she is having a wonderful day!
Picture - top row, left to right: Main garden front, main garden rear, fruit set on Sungold
Second row: emerging beans (Velour), squash blossom (Zephyr), beets (alternating red, gold, white)
Third row: lettuce, rear of driveway garden, driveway garden from the front
Fourth row: Black Pearl type ornamental (plant wintered over in the garage, hot pepper Bella (ditto), looking down into the tomato rows - large pot indeterminates/dwarfs on the right, small pot indeterminates on the left.
We've set a trap for our groundhog "friend" - thus far we've not seen him/her since I've messed with their homefront!
Have a wonderful Sunday, everyone!
Once things are planted, there is a definite routine that develops for avid gardeners (not those who plant 'em, forget 'em and look for 'em at harvest time, which tends to end in tragedy!). I am talking about those of us who integrate our garden passions into our daily lives throughout spring, summer and fall. It provides an extra excuse to leap out of bed each morning just to see what's happening....what got munched, what may be showing stress or disease - but mostly, whether seeds have emerged, fruit is setting, flowers are opening, picking time has arrived. It is one of the gifts of gardening....that aspect of mystery, discovery, progress - and occasional heartache - that greets each morning of the growing season.
Sometimes, finding motivation to deal with the rhythm of the season can be a challenge, as interspersed with the "good stuff" of observing, discovering, picking and eating is the relative humdrum activities of weeding, watering, record keeping and staking/tying - then later on, if desired, seed saving. For me, with so many plants in pots, watering is by far the most significant regular burden.
Anyway - here is a snapshot of a typical day for me during this time of the season. I tend to wake earlier when the garden is really actively growing...my garden is like a big laboratory or science project and I can't wait to see how my experiments are progressing. After turning off the deer-repelling water scarecrows, I take a ramble through both the driveway and big garden for a high level assessment....to plan out those things that need to be done. Sometimes I take my hand held recorder with me and speak some observations into it (which I later transcribe into an Excel spreadsheet format annual garden log). If it is going to be a really warm, dry day, I will often start (after the essential breakfast and cup of coffee, of course) with a thorough watering of everything. Following that, I will decide what is the highest priority to do next - typically tying the tomatoes to their supports (it is amazing how fast they grow, and this needs to be done weekly at least). While I tie, I also do whatever pruning needs to be done on each plant (removing unwanted suckers).
Once that is done, there could be any number of additional tasks - picking out a quadrant of the big garden to get the weeds under control, carry out some fertilizing, plant replacement/removal in the case of disease, changing the batteries in the water scarecrows, or harvesting.
Somehow the better part of a day can pass by just keeping a garden healthy and happy. The rewards are delicious things to eat and answers to all of the various questions I pose as I plan what to grow each year - the color of a particular mystery tomato, pepper or eggplant, the size or shape, yield or flavor. It is a hobby that's certainly not for everyone - especially when treated in such a high maintenance, intensive way that I prefer - but it certainly works for me!
Thanks for coming along on my gardening ride! May all of your journeys be as enjoyable and full of wonderful harvests!
Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus is an awful affliction for tomatoes. It is a disease that is spread by thrips - tiny little devils they are, and enthusiastic for a munch on the yellow tomato flowers. Yesterday I was in the middle of the first tomato update of the year when I noted that my lovely Yellow Ponderosa - a variety I started from seed saved in 1995 (it is a historic variety I plucked from the USDA in 1994) was suffering. It came on all of a sudden; the telltale signs are a heavily rusted, purple brown mottling on the upper foliage. There is no cure - from my experience, it doesn't spread to neighboring plants, but still, there is no need to keep a TSWV infected plant in the garden, since anything that it produces is pitiful. So it was discarded, and a Yellow Ponderosa replacement is now in its spot. Alas and alack.
No specific details in this tomato update - just wanted to share some data on what is budding/flowering/fruiting.
Indeterminate tomatoes planted on May 3/4 (75 plants total). 10 have set fruit, 34 have open flowers, 36 have buds, leaving 5 with no buds yet.
Dwarf tomatoes planted on May 4: (41 plants). 1 set fruit, 30 have open flowers, 10 have buds.
Dwarf tomatoes planted on May 15 (65 plants). 13 have open flowers, 19 have buds, and 33 have yet to show buds.
The later planted indeterminates and dwarfs of course have no buds yet.
So - of all of my tomatoes, 11 set fruit, 77 have open flowers, and 65 have buds showing. That leaves about 50 plants that are not showing buds yet. Considering that we are only at most a bit over 3 weeks into the season, this is an excellent start!
Hoping that all of your plants are thriving!
So - working front to back - we have: cherry tomatoes, basil, bush beans, blueberries, more bush beans, and more beans (including some dried bush beans), squash, cukes, melons, lettuce, beets and greens. All done....now if the critters will leave us alone, it should be quite something when the production begins (beyond our current flood of lettuce, that is).
Yesterday I went through my remaining plants to get a sense of what I've got left and if they are still in good condition. What I found out is that I am loaded with interesting varieties that look pretty good - and will look even better if they end up in one of your gardens!
Here are the names of the varieties that you may wish to try for this season - and in some cases there is just one plant available (you can use Google to find out about them): Cosmonaut Volkov Red - from 1995 saved seed; Cherokee Chocolate from seed saved in 1998; Cherokee Purple from seed saved in 1999; Selwin Yellow, Ambrosia (both orange and red) - this is another attempt at getting Sungold quality into a non-hybrid; Don's Double Delight; Lucinda - a few others we can discuss when you stop by (including plants grown from an Indian Stripe/Purple Smudge accidental cross, and from seed saved from a nice yellow cherry tomato from Trader Joe). These are all indeterminate varieties. Of course, I still have loads of dwarfs for the adventurous!
Just shoot me an email to set up a time to come by if you want to squeeze some mysteries into your garden. I've also got plenty of seedlings from my Islander dehybridization sweet pepper project (colored bells!), as well as work with a Casper eggplant accidental cross - so some eggplant mysteries!
I will keep these plants alive for another week or so - after that, they are heading for the compost bin!
I guess that if someone filled my house with water and bleach, stuffed a gasoline-soaked towel into my door - then tossed in a treasure-filled bag of used kitty litter, I'd leave home too. At least that's what I hope happened.....whatever, the beets and lettuce and cukes were untouched today. Fingers crossed....
I did some reorganizing of the driveway today and recorded the final locations of everything recently planted. This will allow me to do some seedling shipping tomorrow, as I have a pretty good feel for my remaining dwarf varieties. The day began with a complete watering of everything in both gardens.
The only plantings remaining - the big row of beans (some dried, some bush), and my hot pepper project plants in 1 gallon pots....Once I get the shipping done, that is what I will do next.
Oh yes - we've been harvesting and enjoying lettuce for a few weeks, but the recent warmer weather is leading to significant bolting. I estimate a few more weeks of lettuce harvest remain....but it could be less. We will miss the lettuce, but welcome the beets that will soon be ready to start harvesting. Blueberries are close as well - then there will be a big gap until squash, cukes, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant are ready.
I didn't see the big critter this morning and thought foolishly that it just found my garden while passing through. But...early this afternoon, there it was, munching away on lettuce. (possibly wearing a bib and traveling with a little flask of olive oil and a salt shaker...it looked that comfy). I tossed a golf ball at it, missed badly...but noted which way he/she went - right into a big tree not 20 feet from the back of my garden - the tree bottom had a big hollowed out part.
So - here's what I did. Pour in some bleach. Blast a hose into it for 10 minutes. The groundhog took off through the woods - I then took a towel and soaked it with gasoline and stuffed it into the hole. Will the beast return? Don't know....I need to find some ammonia since I've read that it works best - and a bleach/ammonia combo could really give it a surprise. The big question - if I render the area unlivable, will it set up shop close by? Inquiring minds need to know...but I assume a trap is going to be a needed next step.
Ah - on to more pleasant things. I planted and planted and planted in this lovely, increasingly humid day. The final long, broad row for the rest of the beans is all ready to plant. The rest of the sweet and hot peppers and eggplant basil are all nestled into pots. The only remaining items to plant are my annual foray into a big experimental, ornamental hot pepper project - all of the colorful plants that go into 1 gallon pots. I've run out of driveway room and will need to start lining them up in the main garden between the rows. So many plants! So crazy (I am!).
Here are some pictures of how things are now looking. (and these were taken this morning - things are even more busy after today's planting activity)!
top row: first of three views of the driveway - followed by second (center) and third (front)
middle row: Small pot indetermintes, and two of the rows of dwarfs
final row: Dwarf Lemon Ice, a flower cluster on Dwarf Lemon Ice, and three dwarfs in 5 gallon grow bags.
Like I said...crazy, hey?!