Red peppers. I’ve never been able to grow them in my garden. Not sure why, but for some reason, my green peppers tend to rot on the vine before they make it to “red” status. Green peppers are easy to grow and easy to freeze and save. But red?
This is my first ever. And I’m thrilled! I wish I could tell you my secret, but I don’t have one. On a different note, my tomatoes are thriving and I know exactly why–dust for worms, weave for support and–ta da!–tons of tomatoes.
They are producing more tomatoes than I can eat, though it’s not for lack of trying! I pluck them from the vine in varying stages of ripening to be sure I get them before any varmints. So long as they have the first hints of red, you can pick them and they will turn a beautiful red in your kitchen window.
And while these were harvested from some pretty spindly-looking plants, the Organic Life magazine (shown in the pepper photo above) reminded me that organic homegrown tomatoes don’t have to look perfect to be perfect. They have cracks (from moisture variations) and the occasional blemish, but slice those off and you have the delicious beginnings for bruschetta.
Other than the fresh mozzarella and bread, these gems were made 100% from my garden ingredients: tomatoes, garlic, and basil. Delicious!
For many of you, gardening season has just begun but for me, it’s a constant turnover. Our cool weather plants have long gone, replaced by summertime sweeties like okra and peppers, peanuts and pumpkins. Yep, if you want a pumpkin for your doorstep come Halloween, you’d better start planting it now. These babies take a while–especially if you like them big!
And we do. The bigger the better. These beauties were from a few seasons back, but it’s always a good idea to remind yourself of the goal. Helps to keep you motivated through the long hot summer. Peppers enjoy the heat as well and are thriving in varying stages. Green…
Hot chili… More
I’ve finally found the answer for supporting my tomatoes. It’s an ingenious system known as the Florida Weave. Basically, it’s a system of stakes and twine that utilizes a weave pattern in an around the tomato plants to keep them stable, in place, and able to climb.
It’s better than staking plants, because it allows them movement and accounts for the “sprawling” effect of fuller plants. It’s better than the metal cone supports, because they become too confining for the tomato plant as it grows and the branches and fruit become tangled and pinched. So far, I love it. I used the old twine that I saved from my hale bales through the years (I saved it all because I KNEW it would come in handy one day!) and tied them end-to-end until I reached the desired length.
When I ran out of nylon twine, I went to the store and purchased garden twine made from natural fiber. I won’t do that again. One of the keys to success with this system is pulling and keeping the twine tight from stake-to-stake. I’ve only had this system in place for 10 days and the natural fibers have already stretched on me!
The nylon have not. Lesson learned. More
They made it!! My tomatoes endured the torrential November downpours and gusty winds, the chilly cold fronts and the spindly trellis system I concocted to support them. Despite my incompetence and Mother Nature’s testy moods, my tomatoes have survived. It’s a good day in the garden.
To celebrate, I enjoyed the first harvest in my salad this afternoon–a salad fully clipped from my garden–and both were divine. Mind you, my tomatoes are not picture-perfect gorgeous. How could they be? After the struggle and strife they suffered, it’s amazing they’re still attached to the vine!! But I don’t mind a few scruffy edges. Not when the flesh is sweet and delicious.
It really was. I should have taken a picture of my salad but my stomach took action before my brain.
Next time. Next time I’ll remember the camera. Perhaps over dinner this evening…? I’m serving sautéed chicken with a chopped tomato-Parmesan topping. In addition to a side of sautéed garlic and kale. YUM.
And it’s glorious! After battling worms and bugs and flying creatures, at last I can see the red through the vines–the tomato vines!
Okay, so they’re not red, yet, but I can visualize them just the same. Fabulous red tomatoes–gobs of them–will soon be dangling from my beautiful, leaf intact, tomato plants. Yes, as many of you know, I’ve had my share of hornworms and bug invaders, blossom-end rot and general leaf wilt but today? I am on the road to tomato bounty victory. And it feels good.
What’s my secret? Why, many, thank you for asking, the most important of which I daresay is dust. Dipel dust, to stop the caterpillars and worms before they get a chance to grow fat and hungry.
Prior to that flash of brilliance were the screen I used to cover my babies when they were young and tender. The Florida sun is hot and brutal in September.
I gave them their usual dose of eggshells and Epsom salts, and paid daily visits–except when traveling–where I plucked and pinched (leaves mind you, not worms) and generally admired the gorgeous girls. You remember pinching, yes? That little sucker, there, between the branches.
I made sure to mulch well and check my water source often. Although I use water from a well source, the misters sometimes clog and it’s crucial to catch this issue early. And how will my tomatoes reward me?
With gobs of decadent plump red tomatoes. Stay tuned!
Disclaimer: I’m staring down 35°F weather over the next two days. Tomatoes do not like 35°F temperatures. Not even a little bit. Ugh. I’m going to cover them and keep you posted.
Is one busy time! Now that the dog-days of August are behind me, I’m gung-ho in the garden. So far, I’ve planted red beans, black beans, lima beans, broccoli, cabbage, kale, tomatoes, peppers, scallions–and these are in addition to my peanuts, okra and sweet potatoes still in ground. As the latter wane and the former blossom, it’s a great time to be in the garden. Mornings usher in cooler temps, a slight breeze and I think even the bugs have eased a bit.
Of course, I don’t have to worry about bugs, right? My babies are tucked away beneath the screens of safety!
Wishful thinking. Unfortunately, white flies are tiny enough to penetrate my barrier. Crickets don’t have anything else to do but crawl around the perimeter, looking for a way in. At least my tomatoes are safe from the dreaded brown moth that lays the hornworm eggs. UGH. I am definitely beating those beasts this season. And with my new daily maintenance schedule–a quick spin around the garden before breakfast and after dinner–I am SO on top of any marauders, they won’t stand a chance! More
Just had to share how wonderful my tomatoes are doing. After battling hornworms and stink bugs and a host of crickets (diatomaceous earth works wonders for creepy crawlies), my tomatoes are beating the odds. Remember, I’m totally organic and out in a wide open field of sunshine which makes my tomatoes more vulnerable to stress. Too much heat, too many bugs, the occasional thunderstorm that wreaks havoc with pelting wind… You get the drift. It’s tough out there!
But they are doing well. Not terribly beautiful, but producing some serious beauties. I’ve chosen Better Bush (shown above), Beefmaster (shown directly below), followed by Celebrity.
A few brown spots, plucked leaves (hornworm damage) and various spots, but all seem to be thriving. I try and harvest mine when they begin to turn red. I do so in an effort to beat the beetles and worms who love crawling in and devouring my tomatoes as they mature. Simply pick and place in a sunny window. Voilá — red tomatoes within days! More
The fall gardening season is upon us in Florida and that means I’m ready to tackle tomatoes, figuratively speaking of course. You want to be gentle with these babies, careful. Unless you’re using one of those upside down bag “thingys” and then—all bets are off. From what I understand, you can’t kill the things when growing them in those contraptions!
But I’m an in-ground gardener, doing things the old-fashioned way. Now that it’s time to start my tomato sprouts it’s time to share a little secret, the secret to beautiful, healthy, blossom-end rot free tomatoes. Epsom salts and eggshells. Yep, just mix some crumbled eggshells together and Epsom salts into your potting mix and you’re good to go!
This disease is the result of a lack of calcium. Calcium’s most important function during the crop fruiting stage is its role in cell wall/cell membrane stability. If Ca is deficient in developing fruits, an irreversible condition known as blossom-end rot will develop. Blossom-end rot occurs when cell wall calcium “concrete” is deficient during early fruit development, and results in cell wall membrane collapse and the appearance of dark, sunken pits at the blossom end of fruit so this blend does wonders to give your plants a head start. The magnesium helps plants grow bigger, heartier tomatoes but go easy. Too much Mg can cause trouble, too. More
It’s a telltale sign. The poop looks like this…
The beast looks like this…
It’s the tomato hornworm and not a good thing for your tomato plants. Look for him. He’s there, somewhere, albeit hard to find. This is a closeup shot taken so you’ll know what you’re looking for, but this fat fella blends in well–and I mean REALLY well, so be vigilant and don’t give up. If you see poop, he’s there.
An easier sign to detect the presence of tomato hornworms is the abundance of bald stems.
No leaves, just stems. (He needs something to climb on, doesn’t he?) He’s there, in the middle of the plant. Can you see how he’s the same color as the leaves?
Yep. Trust me. This one camouflages well, so look watch for poop or stems. If you see either one, slip on your gloves and get to plucking. Definitely dispatch this guy from your garden or say goodbye to your tomato plants.
Take it from me—trial and error gal—don’t learn this the hard way. Your tomatoes want big stakes, firm stakes. Sturdy, semi-permanent. They want to know there’s support for them when the wind blows, that they won’t lose their ruby-red jewels dripping from their vines.
Trust me when I say, “think strong” (as in men, too.;)). Next time you’re shopping for tomato cages and you see this packaged structure, walk on. Don’t stop. Don’t waste your time.
Admittedly, I thought this three-walled triangle style cage would be the secret to success. It was–for a while. But when the tomato plant grew and the tomatoes hung heavy, it fell over like a twig.
And this round, loopy one? More