Monsoon Season

The Monsoon season has begun. Torrential, driving rain; howling winds; stem-breaking hail, thunder, tornadoes. From here on out until Summer my vegetables will fight for survival. It is a miracle that they make it at all.

Not that it is all bad. When I started growing plants, I noticed that my plants were a little brighter and stood a little straighter after heavy thunderstorms –heavy on the thunder that is. Now I understand that a certain amount of Nitrogen gets fixed from the air by the tremendous energy of lighting and it gets delivered to the plants via the rain.

I am reading the book Just Food by James E. McWilliams. What an eye opener! McWilliams is an Agricultural Historian and he makes a good case for not concentrating solely on food miles when we look for sustainable agriculture. There is so much more in the book though. I am terrible at book reviews but when I am done I will attempt to review it here.
I have this fantasy rolling around my head that I can produce vegetables at mega-farm prices in my yard. I’ve been doing some research on the Internet (it is amazing how much info on farm production there is online) and, at least for tomatoes, I need to make my plants produce anywhere from 8 – 20 lbs (3.6 kg – 9 kg) per plant. Of course, I have to get that at a profit if I was to sell my tomatoes.
The next stage is to grow 50,000 lbs of tomatoes in one season, which is the output of many tomato farms.
Then I would like to grow various crops, not just tomatoes.
Naive? Maybe, but even if I can’t do it, failure is such a wonderful teacher that I am bound to come out ahead.

Tomato Food

Thus far, I have learned that you can put the following things in the hole before you put your tomato plant in the ground:

  • Fish heads
  • Aspirin
  • Garlic
  • Banana peels

All these things, when decomposed by the beasties in the dirt, give nutrients to the tomato plant. Actually, you could probably put these things under any plant as the nutrients provided are useful to all plants.
I think the important thing is to break down the stuff into small bits so that the decomposition process happens faster.
You can also add these items to your compost pile/barrel (although probably not the aspirin).
I wonder, however, if there are enough microorganisms in potting soil to breakdown these things in a container…mmmmm….
Briefly, this is what each thing does;
  • Bananas add Potassium, Calcium, Nitrogen and Manganese.
  • Aspirin works to protect the plant from some diseases and pests.
  • Garlic does the same as the aspirin.
  • Fish heads provide calcium and nitrogen.

Sure, you can just buy something at the store in convenient powder or liquid form but then, what would be the fun on that?

The Long List

Thus far, here’s what I have sowed:

* = germinated, seedling up
First Batch
Cherokee Purple *
Pineapple *
Brandywine *
Maskotka *
Arkansas Traveler *
Urbikany *
Amateur’s Dream *
Yellow Pear *
Perestroika *
Black Russian *
Galina *
Market Miracle *
Jubilee *
Red Cherry *
Juliet Hybrid *
Siberian *
Black Krim *
Supersweet 100 VF, Hybrid – has not germinated. packet says up to 21 days!
Polish Linguisa *
Second Batch
Silvery Fir Tree
Prairie Fire
De Barrao II
Kotlas (a.k.a Sprint)
Gregory’s Altai
Big Rainbow *
Abe Lincoln
Box Car Willie *
Great White
To be planted tomorrow
Oregon Spring
Zaryanka Sunrise
Sub Artic Plenty
Sungold F1 Hybrid
Tigerella (a.k.a. Mr. Stripey)
San Marzano
First batch
Sunbright *
Jalapeño Tam *
Jalapeño M *
California Wonder *
Mini Bell mixed *
Hungarian Yellow Wax *
Chiltepin – not up yet. Trying again although I have overwintered last year’s plant
Anaheim *
Red Bell *
Habanero *
Serrano *
Quadrato D’Asti Rosso *
Long Thin Cayenne *
Ancho Magnifico *
Chichimeca *
Early Jalapeño *
Iberian Cayenne – not germinated yet
Second batch
Sweet Chocolate
Grandpa’s Home Pepper
Early Mountain Wonder
I also planted a number of gourds including
Apple small
Tiny Bottle
Apple Large
Long Handle
I see now that it was foolish to start the gourds inside as they are growing quite fast and maybe root bound by the time I can put them outside but the heart wants what the heart wants…
My Spring garden will be planted tomorrow, weather permitting. This year I am trying
Onions (bunching)
Mustard Greens
Potatoes (Yukon Gold, Purple Majesty thus far)
As to where I am going to put all those tomato plants (2 per variety), I am not quite sure yet. I have began a campaign to borrow unused yards but I hope I have enough 5 gallon buckets to accommodate most of them. I will begin building The Cage tomorrow as well.
Stay tuned…

Tiger Lilly burning bright

This Tiger Lilly grows by the front door. It’s blooms every year. First one, then two, and this year, three. The plant produces bulblets that grow at the base of each leaf. I took some this year and put them in dirt. Hopefully I get some new plants that I can put somewhere in the back yard. These bulbs were planted over 10 years ago. They were planted by the original owners of this house. The plants are in a very bad spot and they still grow.

Summer continues its assault on my time. I do get to the garden but not as often as I’d like. I have harvested much and enjoyed all of it. My Sugar Baby watermelons are sweeter than ever and my Minnesota Midget canteloupes are pretty darn good too. I have eaten my fill of tomatoes, squash, peppers and now, the cucumbers began to mature. I have learned lots of stuff this season!


I love Tamarind pods. They are sweet and sour and I ate them often as a boy. Tamarind trees grew large in the hot sun of the Sonoran desert. A couple of years ago, I ate some pods that I bought at the store and threw the seeds into a flower pot. Some months later, I was surprised to find baby tamarind trees growing in the pots.
I’ve managed to keep them alive in the hopes that they will grow in a container and maybe, just maybe, give me a pod or two. Here’s one of them in a pot outside loving this 90 degree weather:

Here is a picture of my only Mini-Bell bell pepper plant. I originally grew a number of these from seed but I lost all of them except for this one. Next year I won’t be so careless. This picture doesn’t really show the number of peppers growing on this plant.

I have baby Brandywines! Last year, I did not stake my Brandywine plants properly and I came home one day after a storm to find them broken in half. I don’t remember now if I even got to eat one Brandywine tomato last year.

Here’s a picture of one of my Galina tomato plants. For some reason I have 4 of these plants. I hope the tomatoes are tasty.

My melon bed got wiped out early in the Spring during all the rain we got. I replanted Sugar Baby watermelon, both Red and Yellow and Minnesota Midget cantaloupe. They are doing ok so far. Some of them even have blooms.

I continue to have trouble growing radishes to full size. This is as big as they get for me. A lot of them never grew a bulb. I’ve heard several theories regarding this. I will keep on trying though because I love radishes.

I checked on my rain barrels and I have two full barrels (95 gallons). Cool.

Over and out.

I am feeling hot hot hot

It’s been 80+ for the last few days and my new wick-watering experiment is a total success. I planted a couple of Marygolds in a pot and this time I put a much wider wick connected to a bigger water container -a plastic milk gallon jug. Not only has the wick stayed wet during the very hot, very sunny days, but the soil is moist throughout. Now, there is one itsy, bitsy issue with this method of watering and that is it’s sheer ugliness. So, I don’t imagine that it is going to take with the population at large but for growing vegetables such as squash, or maybe a cucumber plant, this method should work great.

My Amateur’s Dream tomato plant continues to outperform all the others with the Urbikany coming a close second. The Amateur’s Dream is loaded with tomatoes. The fruit is a medium sized, red tomato. I can’t wait to taste it!

The first pepper plant to produce this year is my Mini-Bell. These are supposed to be miniature bell peppers. All my pepper plants decided to start growing this week. They were small for the longest time. Here’s the first pepper of the season:

I love my volunteer plants this year. This is the first year I’ve had any volunteer vegetables.
First I saw what appears to be a cucurbitas of some kind. I grew Sugar Baby watermelon here last year so this could be a watermelon. I also grew cucumbers here so it could be a cucumber as well.

Then, all of a sudden, this tomato plant just appeared! I swear I did not see it 2 days ago. I grew Galina cherry tomatoes and Black Russian tomatoes here last year so it could be either of those.

I ate my first lettuce of the season. It was a Thumb Tom and it was delicious. A squirrel dug up all my second batch of radishes. I have a third batch doing well in a container so I am ok.
I planted my sweet corn in a spot that doesn’t get full sun all day and they are leaning a bit. I will leave them be to see what happens.
My puppy chewed on my new rain barrel and spilled all my rain water. So now I have two barrels I have to fix. We are supposed to get rain tomorrow so hopefully I will refill them.

Over and out.

Tomato question

I just learned that determinate tomatoes fruit once and then they kind of stop. Obviously, to get fruit from determinate tomatoes all season long, we need to stagger their planting.

My question is; if I pinch a sucker off a determinate tomato, can I fool mother nature and get a plant that will fruit? Or will the tomato genes know that they are done fruiting for the season?

What if I do some extreme pruning? Will that allow me to coax another set of fruit from the plant?
Extreme pruning is just that, pruning the plant to the extreme. I read somewhere that a tomato only needs three leaves to live (that is leaves, not leaflets) and that by pruning extremely, all of the plant’s energy goes into producing fruit.

Has anyone tried either one of these techniques?

Inquiring minds want to know!

I am off to pinch a determinate tomato plant’s sucker.

May 7th

And the winner for first tomato of the season is…

Jet Star!

Despite all the warnings I got about starting strawberries from seed, I tried it anyway. I successfully germinated 9 Sarian strawberries and 3 Alpine. This is the only plant that survived the transplant outside. It’s a Sarian Strawberry.

Suckers. There is one born every minute, and you can grow them into full tomato plants once you pinch them! I waited too long and these tomato suckers got big. I knew from experience you could plant them and they will root. I planted these about 10 days ago and they are now shooting new leaves. Some people say that these will not produce fruit but I got fruit from planted suckers last year.

And speaking of tomatoes, this is one of my volunteer tomatoes this year. They don’t look like any tomato seedling I’ve seen before. I know they are tomatoes because I actually found one of these growing from a mummified tomato buried in the bed. I have dozens of them growing in my watermelon bed (all my watermelon seedlings died), This is the bed where I grew the alien cherry tomato last year. My sister-in-law swears they are volunteer trees but these are not growing anywhere else in my yard; and how did the tree seed get inside the mummified tomato?

Last, this is the latest entry in what’s fast becoming the largest category in my gardening blog:
She ate the hose out of one of my rain barrels. Plus, in doing so, she tipped the barrel and all the rain water was spilled.
She also has eaten three branches of my blackberry bush (it’s thornless)
She better be done teething soon, I am tired of fencing everything!

Final Tomato plant tally

This is the final list of tomatoes I am growing this year:

Market Miracle – Siberian. Determinate, 8-12 oz (~227-340 grams) red tomato

Amateur’s Dream – Siberian. Indeterminate. Big, bright red tomato. This plant has outgrown ALL the others and it now looks like a small tree. Short but with a very thick stem.

Black Russian – Indeterminate. Medium size black tomato. Someone claims that when dried, they have a delicious smoky flavor. I will have to try that.

Perestroika – Siberian. Indeterminate. 8-10 oz (~227-283 grams) orange-red tomato.

Urbikany – Siberian. Determinate. Very early 2 inch (5 cm) red tomato.

Galina – Siberian. Indeterminate. 1 inch (2.5 cm) yellow tomato. Sweet.

Maskotka – Determinate. 1 – 1.25 oz (25-35 grams) red cherry tomato.

Jet Star – Indeterminate. Hybrid. Medium size red tomato.

Yellow Pear – Indeterminate. 1 inch (2.5cm) yellow pear shaped tomato. This one I actually grew two years ago. Because it did not produce fruit in the Spring or early Summer, I let the two plants go. They did not die but thrived and then they started producing like crazy in late Summer and produced all the way to October. I liked the flavor of this tomato. I did not try to grow it last year but just a few days ago I decided to plant a few seeds of it to see what happens.

Golden Jubilee – Indeterminate. Yellow softball size tomato.

Brandywine – Indeterminate. Large, beefsteak type tomato. I failed to stake them properly last year and they broke in half during a thunderstorm midseason.

Alien unknown cherry – I planted a cherry tomato last year. I lost the packet and I don’t remember the type. The plant grew and grew. I did not know last year about pruning tomato plants to a single vine so I just kept tying the vines to stakes. This year I have a bunch of volunteer seedlings from that plant. I took two of them and put them in a container.

I have come to the conclusion that one lifetime is not enough to try every tomato variant out there but I will have fun trying. Also, there is ALWAYS something new to learn about tomatoes.
For example:

Feed them via the leaves (Foliar Feeding)
Give them Aspirin
Prune them

I went with mostly Siberian tomatoes this year because I wanted early fruit. I put the Siberian tomatoes ouside when the highs were hardly in the 40’s and the lows were often near freezing and none of the plants died. (I did lose a couple to very high winds). I did get to eat one Black Russian tomato last year and it was indeed rich and flavorful with a taste unlike any of the red tomatoes I’ve ever eaten.

Robust tomato plants

So far, this Market Miracle tomato plant has lived despite my neglect. I decided to put the plant outside because I believed we were in for a week’s worth of above-freezing temperatures but I was wrong. This plant, along with a Brandywine tomato plant, has lived through at least 3 nights of sub-freezing and windy conditions. I expected them to be dead when I came home from work today but they were still alive so I brought them into the house for a well deserved break.