Aunt Ruby’s German Green Tomatoes

You’d think I’d never grown tomatoes before, but I’m so excited when a tomato plant is fruiting! I ran out of raised row and container space (first world problem) so I planted one Aunt Ruby’s German tomato seed in the ground. It must love this location because the plant has grown tall and wide and is covered in tomatoes. Wow! This makes me want to plant a third of these and other tomato seeds in raised rows, a third in containers, and a third in the ground next year. Best laid plants!

The tomatoes are in various stages of maturity, but the one pictured may be ready to pick in no more than two weeks. This beautiful heirloom tomato looks mighty fine and, I’m sure, will be very, very delicious!img_3374

CONSUMER ALERT UPDATE: The non-fruit parts of tomato plants are poisonous if ingested. More information on toxic plants can be found here:

http://www.calpoison.org/hcp/KNOW%20YOUR%20PLANTS-plant%20list%20for%20CPCS%2009B.pdf

Harvesting Beefsteak Tomatoes

This is my first successful attempt at growing these lovely indeterminate tomatoes and I am beyond words with excitement to report that I have enjoyed several of these very juicy, quite delicious tomatoes already. The four pictured were picked within the hour and I’m enjoying the largest of them right now, still a little warm from the sunlight, shortly after coming home from work. That’s over 1 pound of sweet tomato goodness. Now that is a welcome home!IMG_3266IMG_3267

In the past, I’d grown different, smaller varieties of tomatoes in 5-gallon containers with good success. But I’d not thought to grow this large variety until this year. The birds were too quick to eat nearly all planted seeds – so next year, I will start these tomatoes indoors to give them a good fighting chance. The very happy news is that the lone surviving plant turned out to be a monster in size, but very productive. Turns out, that works for me, but knowing how delicious they are, I’ll make a concerted effort to have perhaps at least 4 of these plants next time. This one plant has taken over a part of one of my raised row gardens, but no worries. I’m happy with what I have – giant tomatoes!

I am pleased to see and taste such good results having them grow and produce in a raised row bed garden. What a wonderful way to conclude a summer day!

CONSUMER ALERT UPDATE: The non-fruit parts of tomato plants are poisonous if ingested. More information on toxic plants can be found here:

http://www.calpoison.org/hcp/KNOW%20YOUR%20PLANTS-plant%20list%20for%20CPCS%2009B.pdf

Planting the Last Seeds for the Summer Season

I still have some purple bush bean seeds remaining, but I planted the last seeds for the summer season: purple bush beans, summer baby round zucchini, and cantaloupe. The vast majority of these seeds were planted in the chicken-wire protected raised row bed gardens. When there were no more vacancies, I took the chance and dug up any loose soil in my back yard, essentially taking advantage of the tunneling handiwork of gophers of seasons past. If these future seedling are dug up, no problem since I have more than enough crops that will be emerging from my protected garden areas.

It’s good to have things grow in nice, neat rows but it’s kind of great to have plants fight the odds of birds, gophers, and others and still grow their destined crops. So while I’ll have some crop plants “follow the rules” and grow in garden soil from bags purchased at the garden center, I’ll hopefully also have some brave crop plants springing up against my roses and olive, apple, and citrus trees growing in the “native” garden soil – not the usual plant pairings and certainly not following the aesthetic touted by many garden designers but who cares if all plants remain healthy and productive? It will be a great victory.IMG_3256

As shown in the photo, some of the bean plants are in the very back, close to the wall. In front of them, in the same bed garden – just left of center of the photo – is the very tall tomato plant. The moist soil in between my blood orange and 3-in-1 apple trees – that is where I planted some of my cantaloupe seeds. I planted additional bean seeds in the two orange-colored containers behind the blood orange tree. Some of the very small green leaves in the front bed garden are bibb buttercrunch lettuces in development. It’s going to be a food garden bonanza!

I’ve planted many seeds this season and had some seeds that have germinated very easily (e.g, Royal Burgundy bush beans), others have struggled (e.g., cantaloupe). Right now, I have one monster-sized tomato plant – likely beefsteak tomato (“likely” because multiple seed attempts with various tomato varieties in this same space, but just this one very plant took), and it’s fruiting, thankfully. If successful, I’m very likely to be eating and freezing beans for many months. I’m ready and so are my refrigerator and freezer!

In the coming weeks, I’ll be headed back to my local garden center and buying seeds in preparation for the cold months and growing season-appropriate crops. I love the energy of having my various food plants in various stages of maturity.

CONSUMER ALERT UPDATE: The non-fruit parts of tomato plants are poisonous if ingested. Also, apple seeds are highly toxic if ingested. More information on toxic plants can be found here:

http://www.calpoison.org/hcp/KNOW%20YOUR%20PLANTS-plant%20list%20for%20CPCS%2009B.pdf

Crop Update: Raised Row Bed Garden

It’s been two weeks since I put in my raised row bed gardens and have seen a little bit of activity. As of today, I have 7 watermelon seedlings and 11 honeydew melon seedlings. I also have 2 Black Krim tomato seedlings. A small victory, but a glorious one! These melon seeds were the last in their packets and I planted more seeds than these numbers reveal. I would be most happy to enjoy 18+ homegrown sweet melons and an unknown number of heirloom tomatoes from my tomato plants!

So far, my other tomato, summer squash, bush beans, and lettuce seeds have not (yet) produced seedlings but I will check daily for any change in status. Likely, if these seeds do not germinate in the next few weeks, I will transplant some of the melon seedlings to these rows, to provide adequate space for their healthy growth.

Sometimes, it’s a bit of a waiting and guessing game to see if seeds will germinate. However, if one or more crops (e.g., melons) appear to be successful, it’s a good idea to adjust your garden to make room for them – you have to go with the flow. In my experience, if seeds do not germinate, in the next season, if left undisturbed in the soil, they may eventually germinate, saving you quite a bit of time!

CONSUMER ALERT UPDATE: The non-fruit parts of tomato plants are poisonous if ingested. More information on toxic plants can be found here:

http://www.calpoison.org/hcp/KNOW%20YOUR%20PLANTS-plant%20list%20for%20CPCS%2009B.pdf

Off-Season, Contrarian Gardening

Oftentimes, I get caught up in the “proper” ways to garden, following the practices and traditions of how to maintain particular plants and paying close attention to the needs of seasonal gardening.

This season, though, I made a tiny rebellion. I decided not prune my roses for the winter. The rose plants remain healthy (as my white iceberg roses attest) and I would like to see the results of my letting my roses grow freely and will likely skip my early summer pruning as well.

The tomato plants that I started from seed, grown in containers, toward the end of summer-early autumn, well, they insist on fruiting during these cold days and I will not deny them the chance to grow. And why should I?

I think most gardeners would be delighted to have homegrown tomatoes in the winter! I am quietly waiting for them to mature, with the hope that their flavor will still be good.

Please let me know what off-season crops are in your garden, and any contrarian gardening practices that you have employed with success!

CONSUMER ALERT UPDATE: The non-fruit parts of tomato plants are poisonous if ingested.  More information on toxic plants can be found here:

http://www.calpoison.org/hcp/KNOW%20YOUR%20PLANTS-plant%20list%20for%20CPCS%2009B.pdf

Tomato Plant in a Cage

I just put in a few wire tomato cages for my Black Krim tomato plants. Started from seed, my tomato plants are not yet fruiting, which is the best time to put in cages. In my zeal and inexperience during my early days as a gardener, I did not care when I put in tomato cages, even if the plants were fruiting.

My hands are steady but are not always patient so I would sometimes put in the cages into the container of an already-fruiting tomato plant and inadvertently pull off immature fruits. Sad!

In the case of this specific plant in the photo, the plant is a little bit short, so I added one skinny wooden stake to encourage the plant to grow straight up (vs. toppling over, which I have experienced in my early days!).

I have wondered if it’s not too late to expect tomatoes this year from my plants. I will give them plenty of TLC and water – the sun and nature will take care of the rest. My climate is mild so it would not surprise me if I had tomatoes well into autumn, but I will report on that potential success story should it materialize! I have had prior success with container-grown tomatoes growing through autumn so there is precedent!

HOW TO: Tomato cages typically have four prongs. Whether growing in a container or directly in the ground, the plant should be in the center of where the four cage prongs are to be gently pushed into the soil.

CONSUMER ALERT UPDATE: The non-fruit parts of tomato plants are poisonous if ingested.  More information on toxic plants can be found here: h

http://www.calpoison.org/hcp/KNOW%20YOUR%20PLANTS-plant%20list%20for%20CPCS%2009B.pdf

Miniature Greenhouse to Start My Fruits and Vegetables

Years ago, I tried starting my fruit and vegetable garden using a plastic miniature greenhouse, without success (failure of seeds to germinate). Thereafter, I planted my seeds directly into the soil outdoors, with variable success. These days, I am more mindful of not wasting resources (including seeds) and thought that the greenhouse idea might be worth revisiting.

Last month, I purchased a miniature greenhouse and I am happy to report that there has been some success in that seedlings have emerged! The only ones that have not yet shown seedlings are the lettuces, but I am hopeful.

I planted my seeds in columns (12). From left to right, here are the plants in my greenhouse: (1) yellow squash, (2) green squash, (3) golden wax beans, (4) tender green beans, (5) Black Krim tomatoes, (6 + 7) Green Zebra tomatoes, (8) long purple eggplant, (9) Black Beauty eggplant, (10) Bibb buttercrunch lettuce, (11) ruby lettuce, and (1) crimson sweet watermelon.

The golden wax beans are growing quite rapidly and actually lifting up the dome. To allow the seedlings that are developing more slowly a chance to benefit from the warmth of the greenhouse, I decided to transplant the golden wax bean seedlings directly into the soil outside.

I am very excited about the possibility of having a nice bounty of delicious homegrown produce this year!

HOW TO: I purchased a Jiffy greenhouse that came with 72 peat pellets. (about $7 – Jiffy also makes smaller greenhouses). The dried peat pellets (disks) that are activated (expanded and softened) with warm water. I drained off excess water.  After several minutes, I loosened up the soil in each planted 2-3 seeds per pellet. It took a little bit of time, but simple to do.

After I finished planting the seeds in each peat pellet, I covered the pellet tray with a dome (included in the kit). I placed the greenhouse in my living room, behind the glass of the patio door, to allow for indirect sunlight.

Seedlings started to emerge after 1 week, but many more at the end of the second week. The ones that are developing the fastest, the golden wax beans, were transplanted outdoors today, directly into the soil.

When the other seedlings are more mature, I will transplant them directly into the soil outside as well (after thinning out the seedlings that appear weak by pulling them out of the peat pellet).

CONSUMER ALERT UPDATE: The non-fruit parts of tomato plants are poisonous if ingested.  More information on toxic plants can be found here:

http://www.calpoison.org/hcp/KNOW%20YOUR%20PLANTS-plant%20list%20for%20CPCS%2009B.pdf

Autumn Garden: A Season of Review

I just finished watering my front and back yards. The front looks fine, lawn is still green and my various bushes and plants are thriving. That’s the good news.

The bad news? My back yard had a combination of hits and misses.

The hits:  Most of my roses (primarily hybrid tea) are standing strong (a few perished), the wildflower seeds that I planted recently directly into the soil are peacefully co-existing with my also recently installed (and very lovely) succulent garden, the Waltham butternut squash vines are fruiting, both of my Nagami kumquat saplings are bearing some small fruits, both of my 3-in-1 pear trees (delicious fruit) and 1 of my 3-in-1 apple trees still stand (1 perished), and the seedlings for my eggplant and carrot plants are still growing.

The misses:  Hands down, the biggest miss this year has been my beloved tomato plants. As in previous years, I started from seed and planted them in containers (as in previous years) and though I enjoyed tomatoes for a week’s worth of meals, the vines just fizzled out!  Despite good efforts, I (and other gardeners as well) can experience feast or famine at any time, and I’ve gone through the latter this time around for this crop. Undeterred, I will plant tomatoes from seed again next season!

When the winter rolls around, I will evaluate if I will be replacing the defunct plants, plant wildflower seeds in their place, or leave the spaces unoccupied for the time being.

CONSUMER ALERT UPDATE: The non-fruit parts of tomato plants are poisonous if ingested. The seeds of apples and pears are highly toxic if ingested.  More information on toxic plants can be found here:

http://www.calpoison.org/hcp/KNOW%20YOUR%20PLANTS-plant%20list%20for%20CPCS%2009B.pdf

Slow Summer Crops This Year

It’s been a very odd year for my container garden. I finished tending to my garden chores for the day about an hour ago. Though I started planting my tomatoes, bell peppers, and jalapeno pepper early in the summer, most plants, especially the tomato plants, have been as slow as molasses to grow bigger or to fruit, even with plant food and the benefit of hours of direct full sun.

Previously “inactive” containers that had been planted with tomato seed have just now had a sudden burst of life days ago and now there are even more seedlings. Like I said, a very odd and slow summer crop this year, my first season like this. With the possibility of running out of containers and potting soil, I’m contemplating placing those seedlings directly into the ground, but I’ve not decided for sure as I really love container gardening!

One of my friends is experiencing a similar plant “slowness” problem and she lives about an hour from me, and she is quite the avid container gardener as well!

My Black Beauty eggplant and Waltham butternut seedlings seem to be thriving, which is great. But I wonder if my tomatoes will be productive at such a relatively late date. I would definitely appreciate having warm and cold season crops produce at the same time.

CONSUMER ALERT UPDATE: The non-fruit parts of tomato plants are poisonous if ingested.  More information on toxic plants can be found here:

http://www.calpoison.org/hcp/KNOW%20YOUR%20PLANTS-plant%20list%20for%20CPCS%2009B.pdf

Green Zebra Tomato Plant, Fruiting!

Ah, I remember the day I planted the seeds for this plant just mere months ago, and now one of my Green ZebraIMG_1862 tomato plants is fruiting. This is the first in my large collection of 5-gallon containers that will all (hopefully) produce tomatoes.  I’ve not seen this particular type of heirloom tomato in my supermarket, so I’m always keeping an eye out for seeds at my local garden shop. It already looks tasty!

It can be a bit of a gamble to start plants from seed, but when they transform into healthy plants that are productive, I let out a happy sigh of relief, for I know that tomatoes will soon arrive!

CONSUMER ALERT UPDATE: The non-fruit parts of tomato plants are poisonous if ingested.  More information on toxic plants can be found here:

http://www.calpoison.org/hcp/KNOW%20YOUR%20PLANTS-plant%20list%20for%20CPCS%2009B.pdf

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