Monthly Archives: September 2013

Lawn Chat this Afternoon

I’m going to be online with Annie Calovich at the Wichita Eagle for a “grass chat” this afternoon from 2-3 p.m. If you have questions about your lawn, you can log in at!

Tuesday Harvest Report

I always feel bad, because a lot of the gardening blogs do “Harvest Monday,” but I can’t participate because we harvest most everything on Tuesday! Oh well, that doesn’t make it less impressive. I don’t know how many cherry and grape tomatoes we picked this morning, but it was a significant number. Mostly, we are harvesting cherry/grape tomatoes, Jetsetter tomatoes, eggplant (still!), a few melons, and some peppers.

You can see that we aren’t experiencing a tomato shortage here!

This is pretty much ridiculous. Luckily, one of our Nutrition Program Assistants goes to teach nutrition classes each week at a halfway house for teen girls and they love the cherry tomatoes! They have been getting gallon bags of cherry tomatoes each week for the past few weeks.

Everyone loves cherry tomatoes! (Yes, she has a tomato chipmunked in her cheek while going for another one.)  You should see her eyes light up when we go under the arbor and there are tomatoes everywhere!

Tomato Garden in Review

I think that it is about time to start doing some “year in review” posts for our different gardens to give you an idea of what did well and what didn’t. I’ll start with the tomatoes, because they are the most popular!

As you may remember, we have 6 varieties of red tomatoes and 6 varieties of yellow tomatoes. I’m going to divide them up into the same four categories I used for the garlic: Top Performers, Good Performers, Mediocre Performers, and Poor Performers.

Jetsetter vines sprawling everywhere.

Top Performers (Highly Recommended):

Limmony – This yellow heirloom has been consistently impressive. It was much more productive than I expected and is still going strong with lots of tomatoes still on the vine. The flavor was mild, but nice.

Jetsetter – This one wasn’t going to be in the “top” category a few weeks ago, but it is absolutely loaded with ripening tomatoes now. The bad part is that the vine is sprawled all over everywhere at the moment.

Good Performers (Recommended):

Plum Regal – This one wasn’t overly impressive early, but it has come on strong later this season. The fruit are nice and firm, which isn’t a problem in a sauce/roma tomato.

Five Star Grape – The red grape wasn’t quite as vigorous or productive as the yellow one, but if you are looking for a small, red grape tomato, this one would be a good choice. I found the skins a little tough and the flavor not particularly sweet, but acceptable. The vine always seemed a little wimpy, even though it has grown like crazy. I attribute that to the skinny stems and small leaves that were adapted to greenhouse trellis production.

Golden Sweet Grape going crazy. Multiply this by 20 to get the total effect.rather than garden production.

Golden Sweet Grape – Much more vigorous than the red grape, and it is going crazy right now! Like the red grape, I found the skins tough and the flavor not as good as with some of the cherry tomatoes we have grown. But, if you are looking for this kind of tomato, it is a great choice! (Just don’t plant more than one vine unless you have a good reason!)

Taxi – This determinate yellow tomato came on strong early and was the first to have ripe fruit. It was spectacular in July! Unfortunately, it was kind of a one time wonder. If you want nice, firm, early yellow tomatoes, it’s a great choice. Just understand that it probably won’t have a second flush of tomatoes late in the season like some of your more semi-determinate varieties will.

Carolina Gold – I’m still a little torn about this variety. It was fine. The plant was generally healthy. It had some good tomatoes. The yield wasn’t stupendous, nor was it terrible. It has a few tomatoes on now, but not tons. It is kind of borderline between “good” and “mediocre.” I think I was expecting more, which is probably why I was disappointed.

BHN-871 – Same as the Carolina Gold, except I had even higher expectations. I had heard from other people that this variety was much improved over other yellow/gold hybrids, and I didn’t see it.

Mediocre Performers (Might be worth another try):

Arkansas Traveler – Unfortunately, this one succumbed to Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus and was removed early. I would recommend trying it again though, because it was LOADED with tomatoes.

Yellow Stuffer – This vine also got the virus and hence the fruit were all smaller than normal after the mid-point in the season. It kept producing well though, especially for an heirloom.

Bella Rosa – This variety did have some huge tomatoes, but unfortunately the bulk of its production came during the rainy period when almost everything was cracking like crazy. This variety cracked terribly. Of course, that was an abnormal occurrence for us. It hasn’t really set another flush of tomatoes though, which kept it from moving up the rankings.

Poor Performers (Not recommended):

Iron Lady – I was so hopeful about this variety, because it had resistance to Septoria Leaf Spot and Early Blight. Unfortunately, the plant was small, not very vigorous, and succumbed to spider mites almost immediately. Once it finally had fruit, they were small and not very nice. You can forgive small fruit in an extremely early variety, but not so much when it is mid-season. To be fair, this variety may have gotten excessively shaded by the giant plants around it, preventing it from doing anything the second part of the summer.

I know there were a couple of varieties of tomatoes elsewhere in the garden, but I’ll report on them in the context of the bed they were in.

Friday PhotoEssay

Hurray for cooler weather! I was ready for some more fall-like temperatures.

Our “whole garden” view for this week clearly shows the increased brown coloration of the tomatoes. If you get close, you can see that we’ve had a resurgence in spider mites. There’s also lots of browning foliage in the trellis plants too. I’m afraid this is going to turn out to be a little bit of a “death & destruction” edition of the Friday PhotoEssay, as I look through my pictures.

The honeydew melon is showing the beginning of powdery mildew on the leaves. The mildew is that slight greyish cast to the leaves in spots and splotches. It almost looks like there is a weird glare to the picture. If I wanted to treat, I would have to do it right now. By next week it will probably be so widespread that we can’t get it back under control. We could spray sulfur, neem oil, or potassium bicarbonate if we wanted to.  We often see powdery mildew starting in mid-August, but this year it was cool and wet then. The hot, dry weather the past couple weeks is ideal for powdery mildew to develop. We will probably remove these plants next week.

Although we see the fruitworm holes often enough, we don’t always see the caterpillar eating its way through the whole tomato. You can tell this one has been hungry!

I found this melon sitting on the ground under one of the pepper plants yesterday afternoon. Not wanting to let it go to waste, I decided to check it out. Once again, the ‘Yellow Mini Tiger’ watermelon fell off the vine before it was fully ripe. The flavor was okay, but still fairly bland. I’m afraid this one is going to be a “not recommended” for using on a trellis, since they seem to fall off the vines too easily.

The cabbages are getting a little crazy. The caterpillar damage isn’t so bad at the moment, and they’ve grown a huge amount. They are perhaps a little close together, but only 2 across might have been a little far apart. We will just have slightly smaller heads of cabbage.

There are those pesky spider mites. One of the Master Gardeners asked if we were going to treat. What do you think? My thought was, no way! With the weather cooling off and the tomato plants declining already, it isn’t worth it to try fighting spider mites right now, at least not in my book.

Have a great weekend!

Next Caterpillar Onslaught

Just when I thought we had the cabbageworms under control, another caterpillar comes along and attacks another plant. This time it’s the sweet potatoes!

The sweet potatoes right by the door have taken on a rather holey appearance over the weekend. **Sighs** Now what?!?

The culprit was pretty easy to find. I turned over the first leaf that looked promising and saw this…

They look a lot like tussock moth caterpillars, very similar to some that we had on the sunflowers earlier this summer. Sweet potatoes are supposed to be relatively trouble free, so this is a little surprising. After doing a little research, it sounds like you aren’t supposed to worry about late-season leaf eating pests on sweet potatoes until they are 30% or more defoliated. I don’t think we’re quite there yet, but we may treat anyway. The Dipel (Bt) would most likely be effective here as well. I’ll keep you posted.