‘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.


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