Things Are Heating UP!

Now that Summer is officially here and has brought with her consistently high 70’s daytime temps and low 60’s nighttime temps, my veggies (and I) are thanking her.  The tomatoes are starting to really set fruit, whereas for the past month the flowers were just falling off before swelling into fruit.  The Moon and Stars Watermelon is starting to actually look like a vine instead of a little seedling.  The peaches on the no-name peach tree are nearing full ripeness.  Cucumbers are happily weighing down my trellis.  Baby pumpkins are peeking their little selves out of the vines and all is right with the world.  Or at least in my garden, anyway.

Cherokee Purple Heirloom Tomato on it’s way to ripening.

The Moon and Stars Heirloom watermelon has started to take off in recent days.

Peaches giving a rosy “Hello! Here I am!”

This Cherokee Purple Heirloom tomato is growing in a grow bag! This is my healthiest tomato plant and has set more fruit than any other Cherokee Purples around the garden. GO Grow Bags!

Case in point.

And more from the same grow bag tomato plant.

Lemon Cukes are ready for munching!

And I’ll leave you with a photo of my most recent harvest. Long Live Homegrown!

‘Maters and Melons

My other tomatoes have grown from seed, but this “Persimmon” and “Old German” were purchased as plants from the nursery.  Even in the midst of their vigorous growth, early on I noticed that they were not well.  After I diagnosed these with early blight, I used a copper spray and removed the lower effected leaves, but to no avail.  Being that this is the first time I’ve dealt with this issue, I read that while you can still have a harvest, it will most likely be significantly limited.

These tomato leaves show early blight symptoms.  Even by pulling off the infected leaves, it still managed to keep spreading.  This blight spreads by spores and can be brought on by spring rain.  It’s important to not wet the leaves while watering and not water in the evening.  An important note:  the spores now will live on in the soil, so do not plant another tomato in that very same place!  Even next season will be iffy.  Be sure to practice good soil hygiene and remove all plant debris.  Turn over the soil well.

Early blight also penetrates the stems, as seen by the black spotting here. It is almost impossible to stop this process once it’s started.

With great reluctance, I removed these two heirlooms to make way for something else that could be more productive and healthy.  I planted three “Moon and Stars” heirloom watermelon seedlings.  This melon boasts dark green skin with pea-sized bright yellow “stars” and one larger “moon”.

 www.slowfoodusa.org gives a wonderful account of this melon’s interesting history:

“In the mid 1970s, Kent Whealy began to hear from his Seed Savers Exchange members of a remarkable watermelon introduced to American gardeners sometime before 1900. This Moon and Stars watermelon persisted in seed catalogs through the 1920s, but many feared it had been lost forever. So Kent began a search for this melon, and in 1980 he mentioned the sought after melon on a television show out of Kirksville, Missouri. Fortunately, Merle Van Doren, a farmer near Macon, Missouri was watching and decided to track down Kent. Merle picked up the phone and surprised Kent with news that the melon was not extinct at all; he was cultivating this unusual watermelon— speckled leaves and all—in Missouri. Most importantly, he would save Kent some seed.

Kent went to pick up the seed, bringing a Mother Earth News photographer with him, and although Mr. Van Doren refused to be photographed, Kent posed next to a stunning pile of yellow-starred melons. Featured in the January 1982 edition of Mother Earth News, the back from extinction melon became an instant rage. Since the resurrection of the Van Doren variant, other yellow speckled heirlooms have resurfaced from Cherokee and Amish traditions and all have surged in popularity. Twenty years later, they remain among the bestselling heirlooms offered by the Seed Savers Exchange, and have been picked up and promoted by at least two-dozen other seed outlets. Moon and Stars is truly a stellar success among heirlooms, proving that what was once thought to be obsolete can be revived to the status of a national treasure.”

I find it so romantic and connecting to be able to grow an edible in my yard that has such an interesting history.  Thank you, Mr. Van Doren.

April Garden Update

Here’s my great Lifetime Raised Garden Bed bursting with heirloom tomatoes, golden beets, lettuce and Cosmic Purple carrot seedlings along the left perimeter.

The other day I planted some marigolds in and around my veggie beds.  I’ve read that  annual marigolds can be used anywhere to deter Mexican bean beetles, squash bugs, thrips, tomato hornworms, aphids and whiteflies. They are also known to repel harmful root knot nematodes (soil dwelling microscopic white worms) that attack tomatoes, potatoes, roses, and strawberries. The root of the Marigold produces a chemical that kills nematodes as they enter the soil.  Plus they add a pop of color!

Now that Spring is in full swing and the soil is consistently above 50 degrees, I am direct sowing seeds into the garden.  In this bed I have various tomatoes, lettuce, Di Cicco broccoli, golden beets and some cabbage that is ready to harvest.  The other half of this bed is below:

The Sharpblue blueberry at the bottom of this photo is doing very well since I planted it in January.  Above it along the vertical trellis are lemon cucumbers and pole green beans.  In the middle of the bed are edamame and broccoli.

My Persimmon and Pineapple heirloom tomatoes that I purchased as seedlings are doing well in terms of growth, but are both experiencing blossom drop and early blight.  Damp, cool weather can create a fungus on tomatoes called early blight, which looks like small dark spots on the lower leaves.  I’ve never dealt with this issue before, but after some research, I have trimmed the most infected lower leaves and sprayed the entire plant with an organic copper solution.  I also sprayed a calcium spray on the flowers, which is supposed to help prevent blossom drop.  They could also be dropping due to damp conditions.  So much to know!  Once the weather corrects itself, so the speak, the tomatoes may pull out of it.

Here's one other tomato falling victim to early blight. You can see how I've trimmed out the lower effected leaves.

I’ve also been battling significant potato problems.  I had my heart set on growing sweet potatoes this summer, but we’ll just have to see on that.  Maybe next year!  I thought that a rodent of some kind was gnawing  the foliage due to the significant breaks on the stems, so we put chicken wire around the grow pot.  The no avail, it’s still worsening.  I went out last night to check out the situation, hoping to catch the varmint and only saw slugs.  Could they be doing all of this??  I will probably have to prematurely dig up my potatoes.  I’m not sure how they can survive this.  Hopefully it’ll at least be a small crop since they’re been growing since December.

All within the last week I’ve planted from seed:

  • Moon and Stars Watermelon
  • Charentais melon
  • Red Warty Thing pumpkins
  • Fairytale pumpkins
  • Jarrahdale pumpkins
  • Sunburst yellow / Peter Pan green pattypan scallop summer squash and ………drumroll please………..
  • Alpine Strawberries!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I’ve heard that growing strawberries from seed can be trying and difficult (they take 3-4 weeks to even sprout!), but when I saw their seed packet today at the nursery, I could not resist.  I asked the garden specialist what she knew about growing them from seed and she laughed, saying, “We don’t even carry them.  You may want to just but a six-pack.”  Then I showed her the packet in my hand and she was shocked!  It’s the first time I’ve ever seen them in any store.  They’re already out in the garden, working their magic.  I’ve got a good feeling!