Friday, June 24, 2011

It Won't Be Long Now!

Things are really coming along with the tomatoes, although some of the plants are doing much better than others. The ones in my homemade E-Buckets just aren't as green and lush as the ones in the 14 gallon plastic totes I am using for the first time this year. I thought the smaller determinants would fare better, but they have a lot of leaf-curl and look sort of spindly.

The strawberries I have planted in those buckets, though, look great. I think next year I'll plant more strawberries in the buckets, and maybe try some eggplant and bell peppers in them to see if they'll do okay. I'll have to buy more totes, though, for tomatoes... maybe smaller (10 gallon?) ones for the determinants!

Here is the Bella Rosa, along with the basil I'm growing:

The Bella Rosa is getting a bit bushier at the top and it finally set some fruit. It's supposed to be a more heat-tolerant variety but it's definitely more late-season than the other heat-tolerant ones I tried this year.

Not all of these are mine-- just the four in the E-Buckets right next to the deck:

The ones in the buckets in front are my friend Karen's. She hasn't been able to plant them yet because she's been trying to close on a house for months so she hasn't had anywhere to put them. She was finally able to close last week, so all of those buckets will be going to their new home soon!

Here are some pics of the monster Chocolate Cherry plant:

That's Manalucie in the tote container to the left of the Chocolate Cherry plants. There is a lot of fruit set on the Chocolate Cherries... Now if it would go ahead and ripen!

The plants I've put in the corner between the deck and the house are doing really well, for the most part:

You can see, though, the difference between the plants in the E-buckets and the totes and tub. From left to right, it's Carolina Gold x 2 (these are the ones that got a bit sunburned... they're finally bouncing back), Moreton and the one in the white round tub is Pink Potato Top. This is my second year trying PPT, and it's doing *so* much better than it did last year-- I'm sure it's because of the larger container.

These four in the purple totes (from right to left: Big Beef, Marianna's Peace, Arkansas Traveler and Giant Belgium) are lush and green and just beautiful. Again, I'm thinking that the container is making a difference. Also, this is the first year that I've moved almost everything off of the deck. The plants are more sheltered this way, both from the ridiculously intense sun (I can't even imagine trying to grow anything in Texas, Arizona, or any other state that's hotter than here) and from storms. In the past, the plants would get blown over in storms so they lost branches and fruit. I'm hoping that I won't have that problem this year.

All of the tomatoes have now set fruit, and I'm hoping that I can pick the first one by July 4th... I'd love to have tomato sandwiches and BLTs over that holiday weekend!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Well Underway

I'm growing even more tomatoes this year than last year, and they seem to be doing pretty well so far. They do have some leaf roll, but it's probably because of the heat we've had. Several of them have set fruit, and most of those are the plants that are supposed to be heat tolerant. So far, Solar Fire is far ahead:

Thessaloniki is another heat tolerant variety:

My Minnie's Pinstripe also has fruit already... I don't know whether this is a heat tolerant variety because the seeds were given away by someone on

Moreton is a new hybrid for me this year:

The Chocolate Cherries are monster plants:

They're a different variety from the cherries I grew last year, but they're just as huge. Already fruiting, too!

Carolina Gold was supposed to be heat tolerant, but both of my plants got burned in the sun and I ended up having to "top" both of them... they're bouncing back well, though, and one of them has even set fruit:

My strawberries seem to be plugging along, but not getting much fruit yet:

I'll need to get some bird netting soon, though, because it's only a matter of time before the mockingbirds and doves notice them and decide they look snack-worthy. Finally, my herbs are doing great! First pic is of thyme, cilantro, sage (only got a couple of sage sprouts so far-- germination for these was not very good) and oregano and the second is of four pots of basil:

I can't wait to start making pesto... I've missed it! This year I want to make and freeze enough to last me through the winter. When the tomatoes start coming in, I can make Caprese salad, too. Really looking forward to that!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Year Three

A comment from "z" on my last post from May of last year prodded me to update this thing... I have never been very good about keeping up long-term with any type of journal! Maybe this year will be different-- we'll just have to see.

I'm going to paste my response to z's post:

So sorry I fell off the face of the earth after this entry! Last year ended up being pretty much a bust for my maters. I got a some off of every plant, except the Pink Potato Top. As beautiful as it looked when I posted this, it ended up with little leaf-- the bucket I had it in stayed too wet and got overheated. It made LOTS of tomatoes, but they were all afflicted and tiny.

I think my problems last year were a combination of the heat and the buckets I used. As much as I like my homemade E-Buckets, they are just too small for the honking-huge heirloom plants! This year I'm going to try some other, bigger containers.

I'm growing a few heirlooms (Marianna's Peace is still my favorite so I will try to always grow that) but most of what I'm planting this year will be hybrids that are heat-tolerant. I'm hoping that *this* will be my year for a bumper crop!

I *did* get lots of cherry tomatoes last year, and I didn't baby those nearly as much as all of the other plants. Looks like "benign neglect" worked just fine for those! I also had a couple of bush-type plants that did pretty well, so several of the hybrids I'll grow are smaller, determinate types. I'm starting my seeds this weekend-- a little later than I did last year, and I'm hoping that by doing this they'll be less leggy when I go to set them out (and give away my extras to friends and coworkers!).

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

And Mortgage Lifter Pulls Ahead!

I really thought that Pink Potato Top was going to set fruit first, but Mortgage Lifter is actually first, with three babies set already:

I'm glad, because fruit is setting two full weeks sooner than it did last year-- I'm really hoping most of the plants will set some fruit before the weather gets so hellishly hot and the plants start dropping blossoms. My Spudakee Purple has finally developed some tiny flower buds... and the new growth on it is oddly wrinkly and curled, but seems to smooth and straighten out as it continues growing.

I was glad to find that Ananas Noir is putting out new growth-- it's the only plant so far that has no flower buds whatsoever, and I think it's because I accidentally "topped" the plant when I was pinching off suckers. I really do try to be careful, so I can't figure out how I did this. It's a really good thing for me that tomato plants can be so resilient!

I'm going to post one last picture tonight, of the lettuce I'm growing. The bigger plant is one I bought at the farmers' market and the tiny ones are from seeds I just planted this past weekend. I'm amazed at how quickly they came up.

I'm going to let them grow a little bit bigger, then thin them out and use the ones I pull in salad-- I can't wait to taste my own homegrown microgreens!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

So far, so good!

I hesitate a bit typing that title-- I feel like I might be tempting fate. Weather this year has me a bit concerned, because we've had cooler, rainy days alternating with warm/hot, humid days. This is a recipe for fungal diseases, which can destroy tomatoes in no time. To be safe, I'm going to start spraying today as a preventive measure. I was just out visiting the plants, tying up the newer growth to the stakes where needed. I'm amazed at how fast these grow!

Here are pictures of all of the plants:

They really are getting tall, and I'm having to stay on top of pinching at least some of the suckers off to keep them from getting totally out of control. I want to keep them staked as opposed to caging them-- I was NOT a fan of the whole caging thing last year. It is easier, but I think that letting the plants get so bushy in the cages encouraged disease. I know staking isn't a guarantee they won't get sick, but I feel like I can monitor the plants better and more closely when they're staked.

I took pics of some of the blooms appearing on the plants. This one is Mortgage Lifter-- it has lots of blooms on it, and I'm cautiously optimistic that it looks like couple have already fertilized-- they're closing up and don't show signs of dropping.

Here are the blooms on Marianna's Peace, my favorite from last year. Don't know why, but these are noticeably bigger than the blooms on the other plants-- this plant can bear LARGE fruit, so maybe the size of the bloom is comparable to the size of the fruit? I really don't know, but find these beautiful.

Finally, here's a pic of the "star performer" so far this year-- Pink Potato Top. This one is a MONSTER! It's taller, bushier and has lots more blooms than the other plants. Mortgage Lifter may give it a run for it's money, but for right now PPT is bigger and badder than the other plants. I tried it specifically because I read that it's a heavy and reliable bearer and it looks like that might, indeed, be the case.

It's also supposed to have good flavor, which I hope is true since it looks like I may have a lot of fruit from it. I just hope I can keep these plants healthy (at least, healthier) this year-- I'm really looking forward to trying all of the different tomatoes to see which are best!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

One Year Later...

Well, true to form, I essentially abandoned this blog last year when things got "hot & heavy" with my tomatoes. Unfortunately, I say "heavy" not in terms of yield; just indicating that I got overwhelmed. My plants started having issues with discolored leaves and other stuff that appeared to me to be disease that I never was able to clearly identify. I did get pics of that, but they are on my other laptop and I don't feel like hauling it out to post a few pics that will just bring back bad memories. :o)

I did manage not to totally lose any of the plants until the very end of the season. One of the things I did successfully that helped was I took cuttings from the plants that seemed to be having the most trouble. That's one cool thing about tomatoes-- you can pinch off a sucker, stick it in some potting mix or water and it'll grow roots like nobody's business.

After I rooted the cuttings, I learned to make eBuckets via Dave's Garden. One of the folks I met there, Lane, came up with the design after some folks started speculating on and easy and cost-effective way to make a self-watering planter. After some brainstorming about using 5 gallon buckets (like the ones paint or pickles come in) and colanders, Lane came up with a design that works beautifully! Here are the directions for the eBuckets. My husband I made 4 of them last year, I put cuttings in 3 and had more tomatoes off of those 3 plants in just a few weeks than I got off the parent plants all season before that.

Too bad I didn't plant them up, though, until late in the season... it was August, I think, so I got a few ripe ones before first frost, at which time I then had LOTS of green tomatoes! Good thing they will ripen after picking, so we did get to enjoy them even after the frost took the plants.

This year, I'm even more ambitious. Thierry made me 6 more eBuckets so I now have 10 in total. I have planted a different heirloom plant in each one, plus two cherry tomatoes in my old EarthBox. The only one making a repeat appearance this year is Marianna's Peace-- those were my favorite tomatoes last season, and she withstood the mystery disease fairly well.

Here are pics I took of my plants yesterday:

I'm hoping that this year I can be a little more laid back than I was about everything last year. Now that I know a little more about what the plants can handle, I'm hoping I won't go into a tizzy with every little leaf spot or discolored stem. I guess we'll find out!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Getting there!

This is certainly a beautiful sight:

But THIS one is even better!!

This one, not so much though:

I've found three of these little suckers in the last two days-- one today, two yesterday. I'm going to get Thierry to help me spray tonight, because I have no intention of letting them eat up my plants. I'm not sure exactly what kind of 'pillar they are, but I'm going to try to find out by posting the pic on the Tomatoville forum. I've also been fighting off a fungus gnat infestation, which are more annoying than anything else. I'm just hoping that when the tomatoes get big enough, I can get to them before the birds do... I hear mockingbirds really love tomatoes, and we have a lot of those around here.