Tag Archives: tomatoes

Looking Back… and Forward


This is the time of year I should be embarrassed about the condition of my garden. The photo above illustrates a very small slice of my garden’s decline. Old, saggy, spotted and rotting tomatoes don’t have the happy face these Cherry Romas had a month ago when I was gathering them by the bucket full for hopeful friends. Except for a few ripe tomatoes, those that remain are either slime or green.

Despite the bleak look, there are still some positive things about my garden right now. My Kentucky Wonder pole beans are right where I want them. Most of the pods are dry – just right for picking for this winter’s baked beans and for seeding next year’s garden. My Sweet Dumpling winter squash are ready to harvest. I pick a few ripe cherry tomatoes and eat them where I stand then pull the plant out for burning. Broccoli is thriving in the much cooler weather. Peppers red & green slowly ripen. My marigolds planted to discourage mosquitoes and attract lady bugs stand proudly and full of blossoms.

As I transition this blog back to a more photo-centric season, please know that I continue to plan for next year’s garden. Do come back now and again.

fallen tomatoes gathered today

Posted in autumn, decay and compost, seeds Also tagged , , , , |

Harvest For the Future

samples selected for seed saving


It seems wise – and maybe genetically prudent – that I should use the best samples from my harvest for saving seed. I try to find the most robust plant and its fruits for this task. The tomatoes that seem to resist cracking and disease and yet taste the best are selected. The least alien-shaped green peppers with the best taste are my “targets” for seed saving. Other qualifiers for my future harvests include:

• samples with the best color
• early fruits
• large fruits but not gigantic samples
• best taste trumps most other considerations

This is the first time in my gardening season that I think seriously about the next year. It’s just part of the cycle of the gardener’s life.

Anyone needing some information on saving seeds would do well to visit Seed Savers Exchange.

As a result of some friends on the Seed Savers Forum I am revising this post to add some information that I had forgotten and, in some cases, just didn’t know.

Dreyadin from the SSE Forum reminded me that it’s important to make an effort to keep the characteristics of a strain true to type. In other words, it would be counter productive to pick atypical samples such as those that may be very large, oddly-shaped, or extremely early or late. You more than likely originally picked seeds that produce fruits you like. There’s no reason to try to change them.

He further says, “Just keeping an eye out that you are selecting from healthy plants also is a factor.. in a situation where the plant may be effected one year, and if you have limited recourse.. there are a few methods to help try to decontaminate the seed.. but the result is usually a serious decrease in percentage of viable seeds left over.” Also, ” (It’s) always good to make sure you really clean equipment between batches just in case. Better safe than sorry.”

Finally, Dreyadin brings up a point that my photo seems to contradict. He says, “Just in the case of some peppers you use at the green stage.. you want those to fully ripen before collecting seed from them.” The photo does not completely represent vegetables selected for seed saving. My pole beans and green peppers are way too green for this purpose. Also, the two smaller yellow crook-neck squash are for eating while the larger almost-a-gourd one has mature seeds. I just thought the pole beans looked nicer in the photo than the brown ones I have been using for seed saving.

I use a fermentation process to rid my tomato seeds of pathogens. Dreyadin points to some more drastic means of doing this. He says, “The other methods to try to get rid of some of the more harsh pathogens are hot water treatment… bleach treatment.. and TSP (trisodium phosphate) treatment to name a few. They are all harsh.. the hot water one is the least toxic.. but regardless.. big loss in viability. Those are used in attempts to try to get rid of some of the diseases that get past the gel.. but Tobacco Mosiac Virus.. yer pretty much screwed as it gets right into the embryo.”

Again, thanks Dreyadin.

The revision also begs an additional photo…

Kentucky Wonder pole beans ready for saving

Posted in plant diseases, seeds, tomatoes Also tagged , , , |

Falling Nutrition Levels

messy - but nutritious


Although this is not new information, Rodale’s Prevention reports that fruits and vegetables are losing their nutrition. In “Nutritional Value of Fruits, Veggies is Dwindling” by Sarah Burns we learn that “Today’s conventionally-grown produce isn’t as healthful as it was 30 years ago — and it’s only getting worse.”

What’s happening? Dr. Donald Davis, former researcher with the Biochemical Institute at the University of Texas, Austin believes “it’s due to the farming industry’s desire to grow bigger vegetables faster. The very things that speed growth — selective breeding and synthetic fertilizers — decrease produce’s ability to synthesize nutrients or absorb them from the soil.”

The author points out that the stress that organic gardening imposes on growing vegetables actually enhance their nutritional value. The article also shows “nine simple ways to put the nutrient punch back in your produce.”

Although I am enjoying the process of gardening, I find the results are healthful, interesting and tasty!

Cherry Roma tomatoes - almost ready...

Sweet Dumpling winter squash

Posted in nutrition Also tagged , , , |

First Blush


The first hint of color came on just one of my cherry roma tomatoes this morning. I’ve been waiting since March 11 for this. Also, I had no idea that these plants were so large – just about seven feet tall so far. It’s those healthy SSE seeds, I guess.

Close inspection of the photo will show an aphid enjoying the view too. Is that drool coming out of his mouth? His buddy is in the next photo.

cherry roma tomato with a little color

aphid on tomato plant

Posted in garden problems, insects, seeds, tomatoes Also tagged , , |

The Urban Garden


With today’s post I want to introduce some gardens other than my own.

Two of my “city kids” have gardens. Andy is in Pilsen in Chicago and Jesse is in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn. They both have very limited space for growing vegetables but that doesn’t seem to stop them from rather ambitious plantings.

Andy says, “It’s really amazing just how much you can grow if you have enough room and decide to devote enough space for plants. I’ll be totally set with tomatoes for the summer with three plants. Oh wait, actually four plants.”

In addition to the tomatoes Andy is growing:

    • habañero and jalapeño plants from seeds Jesse gave him from last year’s plants

    • herbs: thyme and basil

    • a two-year old strawberry plant that hasn’t yet produced any fruit

    • mustard greens

    • a forget-me-not plant

It’s important to note that all of Andy’s plants are inside his second-floor apartment in front of his large north-facing windows.

Andy says, “I’ve been using Terracycle plant food, which is the worm crap fertilizer and it has worked pretty well. I also like how they recycle old plastic pop bottles for the packaging. I guess one thing about container gardening is that you have to keep up with watering because the dirt in containers dries out very quickly.”

Andy's Chicago garden

Jesse also has an amazing garden in a very small space. I asked him last evening if he could send me a photo. He answered this way,

    i saw your message and directly went and shot a photo of my tomato plants. there was supposed to be a storm tonight and this was just as the rain started coming down. those are in my bedroom window. they are growing strong, but they have not fruited yet. many brown leaves. perhaps i am not watering enough? i have a feeling this is it. nothing i have is in the ground and i think the water runs out quickly. it is also possibly very crowded. i have five large plants in my window. in my other bedroom/office/darkroom window i have my squashes and one other tomato plant. they are doing similar. the squashes have been fruiting slightly, but they have fallen off when they do :(. i will keep at it.

Jesse also notes that container plants need to be watered more often than ground plantings. I would also add that tomato plants are self-pollinating. That is, they don’t need insects to pollinate. They DO, however, need wind or something to make this happen. With indoor tomato and pepper plants you may need to tap the flowers gently to get them to pollinate. Some people use an electric toothbrush to make this happen! Since Jesse’s are on an outside window cage he should be fine. I do wonder a little about Andy’s north light for tomatoes! And… wait a minute… Did Jesse actually say that he has squash plants in his window?

Jesse's Brooklyn garden as the rain begins to fall

Posted in Andy's Chicago garden, garden problems, Jesse's Brooklyn garden, seeds, tomatoes, Uncategorized, urban gardens Also tagged , , , , |

Tomato Blight is Here!

Is this tomato blight?


There is a disturbing article out of Rodale, the publishers of Organic Gardening, that tomato blight has been confirmed in several states. For tomato growers, both farmers and home gardeners, this is no small thing. This is the same disease that caused the mid-19th century Irish potato famine.

I suggest that you read Rodale’s article and do exactly what they say if you find symptoms of tomato blight in your own garden.

I am not sure that the photos taken in my garden this afternoon pictured here show evidence of tomato blight. I will research it further. In the mean time you might want to take a look at the Rodale article and then take a look at your tomato plants.

An Update Today…
I’ve come across a pretty good video for those wishing to identify late blight. This piece filmed last year for the University of Wisconsin – Madison is helpful in not only the description of late blight but also has information as to how to destroy the plants. Not all options given are organic but information for organic growers is offered. -Bill

Is this tomato blight?

Posted in history, plant diseases, tomatoes Also tagged , , |

Planting Time?

Planting time can sneak up on you. If you simply look out the window and wait until you see robins pulling up worms and see some daffodils to plant your garden you can miss a lot of the fun – and cost savings – of planting inside.

It’s not at all early to begin planting, depending on where you are and what you are planting. Indoor planting can begin right now for things like peppers which are slow to get started. Tomatoes could be planted at the same time but usually a little later. I like to plant some marigolds so they’re almost ready to bloom when I put them in the ground.

I’ve come upon a pretty handy and quite reliable source that serves as a good reminder of what to plant when. This is the 2010 Best Planting Dates for Seeds from the Old Farmer’s Almanac. All you need to do is to fill in your town or zip code and information based on average last frost date is there for most things you might wish to plant. There is even a separate date listed as “Moon-favorable Dates.” Having lived on the ocean I am aware of the power of the moon to change tides so I guess it could have some effect on plants. I haven’t paid much attention to this myself.

So what are you planting? Just shoot me a comment (below) and let me know. Should I experiment with comparing “Moon-favorable Dates” plantings with regular dates?
Just a little update on this post…
“Pogo,” one of the knowledgeable people on the Organic Gardening forum reacted wisely to my mention of the Best Planting Dates for Seeds information. She said, “…All these predictors are based on probability. Generally it isn’t a date, but a range with a certain probability of freezing or not. I like this map (from NOAA) because it gives the probability of both frost (32) and freeze (28). How far you push the dates just depends on how much risk you want to take.”

Even in a very small area that date can be different depending on if you are on the north side of a mountain or the south side; if you are right on the shore or on a nearby rise overlooking that same spot. The date for a valley can be different than the date for the adjoining two rises.

Your own records for YOUR location are the best yet not perfect when it comes to determining the date of the last frost for you.


Posted in experiments, planting, seeds, tomatoes, Uncategorized Also tagged , , , , |

New Light for an Old Darkroom

It’s a little difficult to picture a garden in the same place where all I’ve seen is snow since December. But daylight is a little longer now and the brutal sub-zero temperatures seem to have gone. The picture changes slowly.

This is the time of year that I like to prepare for the growing season ahead. It’s almost time for indoor planting and that requires some preparation. This year I’m installing a 48″ florescent light in my old darkroom (oh, the irony) to get my tomatoes and peppers excited about life.

I’ve also made a “map” of what will go where in the garden. It wasn’t easy finding full sun for almost everything I plan to grow. If you throw in the rotation factor (trying not to plant things in the same place in successive years) and complementarity (planting vegetables that do well together) it’s a puzzle that would make Will Shortz proud.

I just noticed that my work desktop (non computer) seems to belie my commitment to photography right now. The photo below tells where my heart is. I photographed this exactly as I found it.

More planning, pulling out saved seeds from last year… and how am I going to install that light?



Posted in seeds, Uncategorized Also tagged , , , , |

First Snow


I couldn’t bring myself to post a photo of the snow that fell in the Chicago area last night. Instead I’ve opted for this “warmer” interpretation of the season’s colors that I photographed this past summer. I didn’t realize how quickly I’d default to the old gardening theme of the original blog. Maybe I’m trying to tell myself something…

jalapenõ pepper and tomatoes

jalapenõ pepper and tomatoes

Posted in tomatoes Also tagged , , |

Mid-Season Evaluation

unripe tomatoes

unripe tomatoes

The All Star Game this week has put me in a mood to evaluate how things are going in the garden. Like the Cubs, there are both good and bad things to report.

The photos below tell mostly of the good things going on. The first peppers, both bell and jalapeño, emerged from their flowers today. Zucchini and broccoli are producing well. Noah is seeing the beginnings of what are supposed to become 25-pound pumpkins. Turnips continue to be available to pull as needed. Tomatoes are green, growing and prolific.



black raspberries

black raspberries

Actually there are very few problems to report. A couple of my zucchini plants are wilting. I suspect either the Squash bug or the Squash vine borer is the culprit. I’ve seen both in the garden. Although there are Japanese beetles in massive numbers, they are not as fond of my garden without green beans this year. They are preferring the grape plants.

wilted zucchini plant

wilted zucchini plant

very small pumpkin

very small pumpkin



first jalapeño pepper

first jalapeño pepper

small bell pepper

small bell pepper

In evaluating this blog itself, it seems that a more regular posting would be good. This week I got rather involved with photographing insects and neglected my posts. (Well, I also had some work to do.) I will have some things to say – and show – concerning creepy crawlies in a future post.



very small pear on a nearly-dead pear tree

very small pear on a nearly-dead pear tree

And finally, inspired by Jesse’s “bug’s eye view” of his pumpkin plant, I’ve included below a similar view of Noah’s pumpkin plant that long ago escaped it’s boundaries. The photo shows the point of escape.

bug's-eye view of Noah's pumpkin plants

bug's-eye view of Noah's pumpkin plants

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