Saturday, July 23, 2011

Very Early Hoophouse Tomatoes - A Great Success

The tomato plants that I started on February 1 and planted in the hoophouse on April 1 are prolifically producing fruit.  Everyone else I know, including those to whom I gave plants, still aren't harvesting any red tomatoes.  They said that they have lots of green tomatoes, but no red.  The only explanation is that mine were in the ground long before the others that had a planting date of mid-May.  So generally, my tomatoes had an extra six weeks of plant and root growth.  And considering that this year is following the same trend as 2010 with a cool, wet, long spring and then temperatures in the 90-100s in July, my plants don't seem very bothered by the extreme heat.  We have been eating tomatoes for almost every meal, and I made a big batch of tomato sauce last week and will probably have to make another in a few days.  I suspect that my plants may die back before everyone else's tomatoes though, but by that time, we will probably be sick of tomatoes, if that is possible.  Although I did try to stagger the start dates, the younger plants caught up to the older ones and they look exactly the same.  Maybe I'll have to experiment with a much later starting date and a planting date of May 15, which would be normal for this area.   But all in all, starting the tomato plants February 1 not only provides us with a great, early harvest, but chases away those winter blues when I start dreaming of my garden-to-be and lets me get my hands dirty at last. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011


I cut my very first ever cabbage today.  I guess I've never grown cabbages before because I thought that the bugs and rabbits would get them before I did.  And although the leaves were gnawed on by some worm/insect/larvae, etc, the head is perfectly good for my husband's favorite food - cole slaw.  So I have one more good head and two other heads that are shaded by my runaway squash plants and therefore, rather puny.  I'm pretty surprised that I even have cabbages to pick since I didn't initially plan them for this year's garden.  I bought what I thought were broccoli plants from the nursery, but since I wasn't wearing my glasses, I picked up cabbages instead!  Then, while they were just forming heads, something was munching the leaves and I picked some dill and layed it over the cabbage.  I don't know whether or not this deterred that pest, but after that, it seemed as though the munching stopped and the heads formed very nicely.  Maybe it was just a coincidence, or maybe, when I cut into that head, I will find a big, fat, happy worm!  A little meat with the cole slaw, honey?!

The weather here, as in most of the country, is very hot and dry.  We haven't had rain for a few weeks and the temperatures are hitting 100 today.  Putting it plainly, it is stinking hot out there.  I watered the garden, but I think everything will have heat stall and stop producing until the hot weather breaks.  I've been getting tons of tomatoes and after talking  with other area gardeners, it seems that I am the exception.  Planting the tomato plants in the hoophouse in very early April seems to be the thing to do.  I started picking early and the plants were well established by the time the real heat set in.  Same as last year.  I've picked a couple peppers already and lots of beans, although I think that they have heat stall.  Now the one plant that is not doing well for me but is doing great for everybody else is cucumbers.  I haven't really looked, but I suspect that I have something boring into the stem and killing off the plants.  This is disappointing as I really wanted to make more refrigerator pickles this summer.  Maybe I can trade my tomatoes for somebody's cucumbers!  The squash are spreading over the garden and I am trying to train them onto the fence.  I think that I will have a good acorn squash harvest this year, but I don't see any butternuts.  Pumpkins are running rampant and believe it or not, the strawberries are still producing. 

We had company over for dinner last night and almost everything came from the garden.  I made tomato sauce with zucchini and swiss chard.  It was delicious served over whole wheat pasta.  Well, not totally whole wheat.  My husband doesn't like too much healthy stuff!  I made a salad from the Swiss Chard, tomatoes, peppers, and onions - all from the garden, with store bought radishes, cheese and my brother-in-law's awesome balsamic vinegar dressing.  It was a great meal and our guests enjoyed it thoroughly.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


My two grandsons were visiting for the week and observing their behavior at this age has been interesting.  Nathan, the 3 year old, loves the garden and bushwacking through the jungle to pick the cherry tomatoes.  He spies them before I do and pops them right into his mouth, with the juice running down his chin.  He loves it, whereas Coleton, the 18 month old, absolutely hates being touched by the plants and cries until we rescue him.  He doesn’t want to taste the tomatoes, or snow peas.  He just wants out!  So, unless things change, I think that Nathan will be the gardener of the family.  Now you might say that it is because of the difference in age, but Nathan always loved the garden and walking through the paths to find the veggies.  At this time of year, the garden is definitely closing in and leaning over the walkways.  A earlier windstorm pushed the tomato supports over a bit and they look like they are on the verge of falling into the path.  The bamboo supports have been good, but just weren’t up to a 50 mph gust of wind.  We’ve been picking tomatoes now for about 2 weeks and there are loads  more to ripen.  I just picked the first cucumber that are trained on the fence and the first batches of beans are pretty much done, but the succeeding plants are just starting to produce.  The cabbage look great and are forming big heads despite the cabbage worm attack.  There are little peppers on the plants and the squash – well, the squash is taking over.  Earlier this spring, I found squash plants already growing in the garden and I decided to let them live in the main garden.  Big mistake.  Some are pumpkin plants and are running riot over everything else.  That’s the last time I make that mistake.  But on the other hand, many of the plants were acorn squash and they are not so pushy as the pumpkins.  I haven’t seen any butternut squash though.  Too bad as I really enjoyed making soup from them.  The sunflowers are starting to bloom and the birds and squirrels will be attacking soon.  Oh, and one last thing, there is a bunny in the garden!  He chewed a hole through the netting and now everything I step in to week or pick, I chase him like Mr. McGregor.  He is little and hasn’t really done any real damage other than eat the carrot tops, and I hope that once he gets bigger, he won’t fit through the fencing.  But what will come first – his growth spurt or the end of my veggies?  Actually I think that one will follow the other! 

The wild red raspberries are at their peak and my daughter was climbing through the thorny bushes gathering as many berries as she could.  She picked about 16 cups and made jam with half and saved the others for her husband’s cereal (he’s a berry lover).  I decided not to make wine with them this year since my co-vintner (my son) is busy with work and a new house.  Next year we’ll try again.