Garden Green

I visited the garden this morning to check that everything was OK before the heat wave hits. Not looking forward to that. It’s going to be “a real stinkroo” as my friend Martha puts it. In any case, I found lots of green.

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The next round of broccoli is coming along nestled in blue green leaves.

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Plenty of little green lanterns on the tomatillo plant. I see enchilada sauce and jars of salsa in our future.

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Many bell peppers. Big, green and solid!

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And look at all the Poblanos! I grew two this year because last year’s made such a poor showing. Now both are laden with their dark green fruit.

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And tomatoes! Green tomatoes! These are Amish Paste, I think.

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Lots of little, green cherry tomatoes, too.

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Even green striped tomatoes. Green on green…

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And this big green dude. Yup. Green. More green…

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Uh, huh. Yeah, we saw green Amish Paste already…

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Enough, already! I want a ripe tomato! Last year I was at least getting a hint of color weeks earlier. What gives? In 2014 I was picking cherry tomatoes on July 10.

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Ah! Finally. The lone tomato showing any color. It’s an Opalka, a paste variety and it has many, many green compatriots hanging on the vines. They’d better ripen soon. I’m getting a little tired of green. Open-mouthed smile

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Taste Testing Times Two

It seems like ages ago that the first of my Indigo Rose tomatoes started showing some color. In time they all grew larger and developed the dark purple color on their stem ends. And then they just sat there for weeks being otherwise green and hard. Finally, a few of them started to redden and today I decided it was time to taste.

Ripe Indigo Rose Tomato

The purple pretty much stayed the same on the ripe tomato. It ripened to a typical red tomato color.

Sliced Indigo Rose Tomato

Inside it was red throughout. I’ve gotten used to the “black” tomatoes I grow having at least some darker flesh mixed in but there seems to be only a little bit just inside the dark areas of skin on this one. The taste was OK. Nothing spectacular. It as a fun novelty to grow but I don’t see it being a major source of of anthocyanins in my diet, but at least a little more color in salads.

Habanada Pepper

The second subject of today’s taste testing was the Habanada pepper. This variety of what would normally be a rather hot pepper, the Habanero, has been bred to have no heat and given a clever name. I don’t mind hot peppers, but I was intrigued so I ordered a couple of plants.

Sliced Habanada Pepper

Inside it didn’t have many seeds. As I brought it up to take a bite I could detect that distinctive tropical hot pepper fragrance. Biting down and chewing I waited but the burn never came. It was strange. I liked it, sweet but not like a bell pepper. It’s going to take a few of them to add much flavor to whatever I may put them in, but fortunately it looks like the plants are going to be heavy bearers despite their diminutive size.

Have you tasted any new-to-you produce this year?

Parasitoids to the Rescue!

Sorry if you’re a little squeamish, but this is too cool to share. Although, I don’t suppose the caterpillar shares my enthusiasm. Last week I found a tobacco hornworm feeding on the leaves of one of my tomato plants. Today I spotted another one. This this one had a problem—a serious problem.

Parasitized Hornworm

See those white things riding on its back? Those are cocoons of a braconid wasp. The Braconidae is a large group of parasitoid wasps. There is at least one that uses tomato and tobacco hornworms as a host for it’s little babies. It injects its eggs under the skin of the caterpillar. When they hatch, the larvae burrow around inside the poor sucker munching as they go until they’re big enough to pupate. Then they pop through the skin, spin a white cocoon of silk and transform into adult wasps that can go on and do that same to more hornworm caterpillars. Isn’t Nature wonderful! The infestation usually kills the host earning the wasps the parasitoid label rather than calling them parasites. I didn’t dispose of this caterpillar like I did with the other one. Here is an opportunity to practice some completely organic pest control. I left them to go about the next stage in their lifecycle protecting the tomato plants of the community garden.

A New Way to Stake Tomatoes?

I made the title a question because I don’t actually know if this is the original, brilliant, ingenious method I’d like to think it is. In any case, I was thinking about the different ways gardeners keep their tomatoes up off the ground. I found out early on that the little cages are just worthless. I quickly moved on to using individual stakes for each plant, pruning to one or two vines (at least at first) and tying them to the stake. It’s a bit laborious. I was considering moving to training vines up twine to save on the number of stakes I’d have to install but I’d still have to have a support structure that was even sturdier for the twine. Then I had something of a brainstorm. What if I gave each plant it’s own stake and twine? The whole step of knotting and cutting the support ties could be eliminated!

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I started with one of the wider stakes I have that was ripped from an old piece of cedar decking. I drilled a hole at the top…

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…and one at the bottom. I looped a length of heavy, non-stretching cord—clothesline, I think in this case—through the holes and tied snugly to lay flat against each side of the stake.

Starting to Train

When my test subjects were tall enough to start training I just pruned as usual and started to loop them around the cord. At first it was a bit random looking because the plants had leaned away from the stakes and I didn’t want to snap them by forcing them too far. With a cord on each side of the stake I can train two vines from one plant separately.

Totally Twisted

Now that they’re taller and I’ve made a few more turns making sure to hook the leaves around the cord. It looks like it’s actually going to work! I wish I’d done more than a few stakes, now. Not all my wooden stakes are wide enough to drill like this and still maintain their strength, but I think I could rig up something similar on them as well as the steel stakes I have. If this method continues to work, I might well be growing all my plants this way next year. It takes considerably less time to train up the plants.

Tomato Color!

Two of my tomatoes are showing some color! I got a little arty with the images to make them stand out, but the color you see is the color they were.

Mexico Midget

This is ‘Mexico Midget.’ It should be red when it’s fully ripe, I believe. We got this one because we liked it so much at a Seed Savers Exchange tomato tasting we attended.

Indigo Apple 2

The other front-runner in the color department is ‘Indigo Apple.’ I was surprised it was developing so much of its purple hue this early on. This cultivar is a tank. The stem is sturdy and thick so while I’ve started tying up all the other ones, these are standing on their own. Very different from what I’m used to.

It’s been a few days since I took these pictures so, despite the fact it’s rained almost every day since, I wouldn’t be surprised if one or the other was ready to pick should I make it up there today.

The Beginning of the End

I’ve known for a while that October was going to be a busy month. Not garden-busy, necessarily, but other-stuff-busy. Life happens, so what can you do? I elected to take advantage of a window of opportunity that occurred one recent afternoon when the Co-Conspirator and I weren’t at work and were actually in town to get some cleanup done.

Tomato Cleanup

Recent cool weather and Septoria leaf spot had pretty much done in the tomatoes. I didn’t anticipate getting any more harvest from them and couldn’t see much time left on the calendar to do garden cleanup. We trekked up to the garden and started removing anything that was “done” for the season. The two bare beds are where the tomatoes grew. We removed all the plants, fruit, fallen leaves and mulch to the compost heap to try to keep the Septoria in check. I also won’t grow tomatoes in those locations for a couple of years. The stakes got stacked inside the cages to keep them off the ground, though they will most likely still be under snow for much of the winter. Along with the tomatoes went all the bean plants, the tomatillo, chard and squash remains. I pulled the rest of the carrots, topless thanks to varmints. The same varmints also ate off my sweet potato vines so I doubt there is going to be any harvest of them this year.

There are a few things still growing including leeks, more Brussels sprouts than we’ll ever eat, herbs including a huge lemongrass plant along with spinach, bok choy, arugula and this year’s three “experimental” crops. I’ll report on them later. For now I’m just glad to have such a good amount of the fall cleanup out of the way.