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
Ever catch yourself saying this as you stand and gaze upon your garden?
I have. Am, I should say. My garden is going through some “growing pains” at the moment. Most horribly, our frost “bite” right before Christmas. Weather man modified his forecast AFTER I was able to prepare. (Aaagh!) Watching the news one evening, I found myself gaping at the television screen. Hard frost? Freeze, north of us? Oh no…
Yep. I have three forty-foot rows that look just like this one. We salvaged what tomatoes we could, pulled the plants and still have these to clean up. Tomorrow. There’s always tomorrow. Same fate befell my wax peppers, forcing us to clean, cut and can Christmas eve and Christmas day. (Like I had time for that?!?!) More
This week, garden duty was all about vigilance. What’s eating our tomatoes? What smashed our pumpkin? What burrowed beneath our squash?
All good questions, and thankfully, we have Upper Elementary on the lookout. Many of our tomatoes are beginning to turn red and we want nothing to jeopardize their progress. Ruh-roh. Too late. Moms–close your eyes. The ick factor will scare you… More
This week the kids were taught how to pinch their plants. Their tomatoes, to be specific. (No pinching the others, or slapping that rosemary either. Kids.) We pinch our tomatoes to encourage nutrients and water to go where needed—the main stems and branches. Scraggly, overgrown and unkept tomato plants help no one, least of all the gardener looking for some ruby-red produce.
And it’s simple. The tiny branch growing in the crux there? Pinch it—a difficult task if your gloves are ultra thick, so take care, and pinch with precision. More