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My first tomatoes this year!

Posted by Julie717 7a Sapulpa (My Page) on
Sat, May 5, 12 at 14:09

I was out watering my plants today and found my first tomatoes. The Cherokee Purple has a little ping-pong ball and the Sioux, a marble. So glad--maybe this year I will get to eat a CP, last year the caterpillars got every one.

I'm applying the BT tonight. BTW, I have BT powder left over from last summer, but I didn't like the way the white powder everywhere made my plants look so horrible. Does the BT spray look bad (and does it work as well as powder)?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: My first tomatoes this year!

Julie, Congrats on the discovery of the first fruits on your plants this year. That's always a wonderful day.

I don't know if all the Bt 'kurstaki' sprays by various manufacturers look the same or not. The liquid concentrate I use is called Thuricide and is made by Hi-Yield. It only looks bad (an icky dark greenish-teal color) while you're pouring it out into a measuring spoon or cup and mixing it up in the sprayer. Once it has been sprayed on the plants I don't particularly notice that it is unsightly.

I've never used the powder formulation at the same time I've used the spray, so haven't tested them in head-to-head tests on plants growing in the same conditions in the same year, but I've found Bt to be very effective for caterpillar control no matter which formulation you use. I don't use Bt often. When I sprayed it a few weeks ago to combat the climbing cutworms, that was the very first time I've sprayed my whole garden with Bt since we moved here in 1999. The damage stopped almost immediately.

There's a couple of things to keep in mind when using Bt.

First of all, and this is why I don't use it routinely, it will kill all the members of the lepidoptera family, so if you like having butterflies and moths around, be very careful and don't spray it on plants that they visit.

Secondly, it degrades fairly quickly in sunlight, so when I spray it, I spray it in the evening or on a cloudy day to maximize its effectiveness.

And, for everyone who's wondering how someone like me could have 200+ tomato plants and not routinely spray with Bt without losing huge numbers of plants and fruits to tobacco or tomato hornworms or without losing fruit to tomato fruitworms, all I can say is that if you have enough beneficial insects around to deal with the caterpillars, you won't have to use Bt often. Most years I don't see any more than 4 or 5 hornworms the entire summer, although I see the moths every day. Either they're feeding on something other than tomato plants, or the beneficial insects are getting them before they do enough damage that I see them.

Bt is a terrific product, but it is really important not to overuse it and not to use it in a manner that hurts the beautiful butterflies and moths that share our ecosystem with us.

Dawn


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RE: My first tomatoes this year!

Julie I have my first Cherokee Purple of the year popping out too :-D

I also use Bt "Thuricide" by Hi Yield. I spray at night. I've only had to use it twice in the past but tonight I'm planning to have a go at the cutworms because I just can't take it anymore and I found a bunch of babies this morning when I went out to water. I took care of as many as I could but there were so many and I know there's more.

For the record--We've got so many moths flying around all over the place I'd like to see the number go down. I'm tired of vacuuming them up and having them attack us when we're out working in the evenings. I'm all for the balance of the ecosystem but there's no way this many moths = balance. *Sigh*

CP tomatoes are worth their weight in gold around here. I told my husband I wasn't going to do any this year and he got all pouty on me LOL. Ours is getting tall enough to need support so I'll go build it something when I go out tonight.


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RE: My first tomatoes this year!

I have loads of blooms on many tomato plants but I hadn't noticed any fruit set. This morning I walked by a plant that had a lot of little tomatoes and I thought, "WOW, they have started", then I looked down and saw that it was Matt's Wild Cherry that I got from Dawn at the swap. LOL - Dawn starts plants earlier than I do, but mine can't be far behind. The first plants that I transplanted went into seven gallon pots and the others still haven't caught up with them. I don't know how they will compare in production to the in-ground plants, but they really look good right now. I have six plants in much bigger containers than I have planted tomatoes in before and they look good also, but were planted several weeks later than the first ones.

I now have 3 kinds of okra in the ground, Jing Orange, Burgundy, and Cowhorn. The Stewart's Zeebest is still in the kitchen and only 1 seed out of 12 has germinated so far. The prime real estate is all used up, but if I get germination, I will scatter those around here and there.

mjandkids - I like the taste of CP but I have other blacks that produce more tomatoes. I especially like Black Krim and Carbon.


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RE: My first tomatoes this year!

Well, I went to Atwoods, Ace and Walmart today. The only one with BT was Ace, and they only had the powder kind that I already have. Tomorrow I'll look in Tulsa and see if I can find the spray.

I only use the BT on the tomatoes, nothing else because I don't want to kill butterflies if I can avoid it. BTW, the privet hedge at the back of my yard has been swarming with all kinds of butterflies because it's blooming. So if you like butterflies and have privet, don't prune it!

My problem last year was that I had so few tomatoes, I couldn't spare any for caterpillars. (I only had six plants, only five this year.) I think the Cherokee Purple I planted last year only made about 4 tomatoes the whole summer, and they got them all. I hope this year will be better.


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RE: My first tomatoes this year!

Julie, If you like the taste of Cherokee Purple, I'd like to suggest you give Indian Stripe a try. It is very similar but for me Indian Stripe produces more tomatoes per plant than CP does, the flavor (at least to my taste buds) is virtually identical, and Indian Stripe often sets and ripens fruit earlier. Also, Indian Stripe's fruit is a bit more attractive. I grow both Indian Stripe and Cherokee Purple and several similar ones, and they are among our favorite tomatoes. True Black Brandywine is another dark-fruited tomato we adore, and it is remarkably early here, often producing fruit before any other black tomato except Black Cherry. It also produces better for me than any other Brandywine. Black Krim was among the first black tomatoes I planted (I think Southern Night and CP were the very first) and for a long time was my absolute favorite, but now it has to share garden space with at least a dozen other black-fruited varieties most years.

I planted early this year--starting March 12th-13th and planting a few dozen plants per week through the end of April. All the plants that were put into the ground in March are loaded with fruit, including CP, IS and JD's Special C-Tex, and the ones that were planted later are catching up quickly. I give away a lot of tomatoes to friends and family members but rarely give away CP, IS or JD's Special C-Tex. They are too tasty to give away!

It has been really hard to find Bt here because of the huge issues with climbing cutworms and other caterpillars this year, but I found it at a small, sort of off-the-beaten path feed store after finding the usual places (Wal-Mart, Lowe's, Home Depot and Tractor Supply Company) sold out of it for most of April. This week our TSC had it back on their shelves, so if you have a TSC there, they might have it.

MJandkids, We had that kind of moth flight sometime in March and I kept commenting on it, saying "I can't believe how many moths there are---it is like a horror movie." Had I known then that those were climbing cutworm moths, I would have been out spraying the grass with Bt because they flew up out of the grass in droves every time we walked through the yard.

This week I've seen a few army worms crawling across the driveway, and even though we rarely have a big armyworm infestation here, just seeing any of them at all makes me nervous. (Luckily for us, they tend to feed on grass and grain crops, though I think they'll eat corn.) So, anyhow, being nervous about seeing them (and I stepped on and squished the ones crawling in the driveway), I googled and saw that SW MO is having a big army worm problem right now. For those of you near SW MO, you might want to keep your eyes open for army worms. And, because of the army worms, Bt in far NE OK might be even harder to find than it has been in the rest of OK.

Dinner tonight was bacon-lettuce-tomato sandwiches. The tomatoes were only "Early Girl" tomatoes so nothing special compared to some of the yummylicious varieties we'll be harvesting soon, but any time you can make a sandwich with a home-grown tomato, it is going to be better than any tomato from the grocery store. We're harvesting at least one ripe big tomato every day now and a handful of bite-sized ones, although the bite-sized ones don't always make it inside the house. I think "somebody" is eating them while she's picking them in the garden.

Dawn

Here is a link that might be useful: Indian Stripe's Description/History at Tatiana's TB


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RE: My first tomatoes this year!

Hi Dawn, This is only my second year planting heirloom tomatoes, so I've actually never tasted a Cherokee Purple. If I like them I'll give Indian Stripe a try next year.

I planted hybrid tomatoes a few times several years ago, just plopped them in the middle of some flower beds with stakes and they did ok, I guess. But last year was the first time I got more serious about it--a bad year to do it I guess, but it was probably good practice;).


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RE: My first tomatoes this year!

Dawn, does this mean you have stopped talking to the bacon?


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RE: My first tomatoes this year!

Julie, Last year was a pretty tough year to grow anything between the heat and the drought.

So far, this year seems a lot better despite the terrible cutworms and the unseasonably warm weather in parts of the state. In most places there's been adequate rainfall overall and somewhat milder weather, notwithstanding the fact that SW OK already is sizzling hot.

I believe we will have a great tomato year here at our house because we were able to plant early, but I also know that the weather can destroy a garden in the blink of an eye with hail, torrential downpours, high wind, tornadoes, etc. It shouldn't be as hard to garden here as the weather sometimes makes it.

I hope you get a wonderful tomato crop this year and that you enjoy branching out and trying different heirlooms. There are so many fascinating flavors just waiting to be discovered.

Carol, I still talk to the bacon. I say things like "so long, it's been nice to know you", as I put it on a sandwich. : )

It's been a great week in the garden, which translates to a great and tasty week in the kitchen. We've eaten something from the garden every day. I feel like May is the month all the months of planning and planting really start to pay off in terms of harvesting and eating. Hopefully the weather will cooperate and we'll be harvesting and eating tomatoes for months to come.

Dawn


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RE: My first tomatoes this year!

I have one little tomato on the one remaining tumbler, but all are blooming nicely. I wasn't as brave as some of you, keeping my tomatoes under protection and not planting them out until the second week of April. They've all taken off now with the warmer temps, and I've only had two plants with any cutworm damage. I found three of them in the soil around the plants, and found a fourth on a plant one night and made quick work of all of them. I had two tumblers, in pots, but one was apparently sat on by something big enough to bend the stem to the point of breaking. The other is doing well, though, and hope it continues because I'm very curious about their growth habit. Dawn, I think, mentioned that it was a good selection for containers, so I had to give it a try.

All in all, I have 20 tomato plants this year, which is a new high for me. I know that's nothing by y'all's standards, but it's a lot for me!

Carol


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RE: My first tomatoes this year!

Well, I went out this morning to blast aphids with the water hose and found a little cluster of cherries on the Tommy Toes. So 3 of 5 plants have tomatoes. Hooray!


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RE: My first tomatoes this year!

I also discovered some tomatoes on my Cherokee Purple tomatoes, but mine are about pea size.

I also found piles of the little beetle bugs that I complained about last year. Now they are snuggled up next to my tomato pots. I poured Borax on them, and maybe it worked. I was not sure what to do, but even if they are good insects, they do not belong on my tomatoes. (I tend to get too many lady bugs).

The bugs are a black with a solid red at one end. Maybe they are good, and maybe bad. It is really odd that I cannot find a picture of them.

Have a good day before the rain!!!

Sammy


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RE: My first tomatoes this year!

Wow...I must be lucky because our Cherokee Purple's tend to give off more tomatoes than any other variety around here. I only plant one plant because the only people who eat tomatoes fresh around here are my husband and daughter. The rest of us would rather have more tomato sauce and salsa. My garden is dominated by Roma VF this year but my CP is already kicking the snot out of them again as I counted 11 flowers and two tiny tomatoes popping out. I start my plants later than most though so I'm still probably behind everyone else.


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RE: My first tomatoes this year!

Carol, Twenty tomato plants is a lot, especially for anyone who lives in town and doesn't have endless space for a garden. When we lived in Fort Worth and had a heavily shaded yard, I was happy if I could find a sunny space for 6 paste tomatoes, 6 slicers or beefsteaks and 1 cherry. I didn't can back then, though, unless I was doing it with my dad using tomatoes from his garden. I almost have too much space here, which makes it easy to get carried away and plant far too many. Luckily, home-grown tomatoes are easy to give away.

Tumbling Tom Red and Tumbling Tom Yellow get huge in containers for me---about 4' wide and 2' tall. They set tomatoes really early too. For some reason, the grasshoppers love these plants and will sneak out of the pasture and into the garden just to strip these plants down to bare stems. They won't touch another tomato plant until they've devoured the tumbling toms.

This year I added about a dozen more dwarf or tumbling types and put most of them in large molasses tub containers which are about the size of a whiskey half-barrel planter. When I had the tumbling toms in large hanging baskets (the wire ones with coir liners), they got so heavy I didn't hang them after a while but just sat them on the concrete patio. I decided to put them in larger containers this year and to not even attempt to hang any.

Among the hanging basket types that are doing exceptionally well are two AAS winners--Terenzo and Lizzano. Both produce red cherry type tomatoes and the tomatoes taste pretty good. I even put one of each type into the ground at the west end of my row of cherry/grape tomato plants, and those two have spread out like a huge groundcover and are producing a lot of fruit.

I put a lot of the smaller ultra-short types like Little Sun, Pixie Orange, Yellow Canary and Red Robin in a big cattle trough planter that sits up on metal legs a couple of feet above the ground. It is about 10 feet long and 2 feet wide and maybe 10-11" deep. It started out with lettuce,beets and green onions and as we harvested the lettuce or removed plants that were bolting in the 96-degree heat, I would stick a dwarf tomato into the bare spots. There's now about 20 or 25 tomato plants in that container now with the remaining lettuce, which is almost finished, and the green onions, and those plants are already ripening fruit. I love the cattle trough planter. It is just about tall enough that the rabbits don't bother it and just close enough to the dog yard that the deer leave it alone. For years I've grown a few cherry tomatoes near the house so Tim can pick a handful to toss into a salad any time (the garden is pretty far from the house, and he's not a gardener, so this is more convenient for him) but this is the first time I've put them in the cattle trough planter. I really like it. I may have to get another cattle trough planter for next year so I can grow the usual lettuce, mesclun mix, beets and green onions in one, and the tiny tomato plants in another. It got kinda crowded this year when I started putting in the tomato plants before the others were quite finished.

Sammy, There are so many kinds of beetles (400,000 species and more are being discovered constantly) that it is hard to identify them all. I get lady bugs in lots of colors, and several other beetles that don't belong in the garden--like willow beetles, cucumber beetles and Mexican bean beetles.

Mjandkids, Some years CP sets heavily for me and other years it doesn't. I've about decided that the difference is the seed source. Since discovering Indian Stripe and True Black Brandywine, I don't grow as many CP plants as I used to because I grow them as well.

I started putting plants into the ground on March 12th and continued planting a few dozen a week until the end of April. All of them are doing well, except for Dora, who has struggled to recover from being stripped of all her foliage, twice, by the climbing cutworms. The plants that have been in the ground the longest already are ripening fruit, and most of the plants that produce slicers, beefsteaks and paste tomatoes already have anywhere from 10 to 20 to 30 fruit per plant, except for the plants that went into the ground the last week of April. They are a little bit behind the others but are catching up pretty fast. I think the harvest (knock on wood) will be ultra-early this year thanks to the early hot weather. I may find myself canning pasta sauce or salsa in late May or early June instead of July.

I just kept squeezing in another dozen plants here or there wherever I could find a bare spot. I'm afraid to count how many there are, but I think I will count them this week because everyone who drives by the garden keeps asking me "exactly how many tomatoes did you plant...." and I can't give them an exact answer. (And they can't even see the 40 or 50 in containers out by the barn.)

I normally cage each plant as I plant it, but this year in my haste to get them in the ground early since it was so hot, I didn't cage the paste ones as they were being planted. I spent a lot of time yesterday working on getting the last 50 or 60 plants caged, and think that now I only have about 25 to go.

Last year was a good tomato season early and late, but not so much in the middle and it wasn't a great one by any means. I hope the temperatures stay a bit lower than last year so we can have tomatoes all summer with no heat-related break in the middle. Even if we don't, though, I'll be able to can, dehydrate and freeze oodles of tomatoes before the true summer heat arrives. Saying that just now probably jinxed my garden and a thunderstorm with large hail probably will come along and just wipe it off the face of the earth as a lesson that I shouldn't county my chickens before they hatch.

Dawn


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RE: My first tomatoes this year!

Oh YEAHHHHHHH !! I picked my first tomato and had it for Mothers day lunch today ! It was a Jet Star and for this tomato starved gal it was wonderful. Have several green tomatoes on my early girl plants and I raised some 20 Brandywine from seeds that I call my babys. I just cant wait until they make. But there are several kind of Brandywines I guess. The seed package didn't say what kind this one was. It has large potato leafs on it and all the plants are just going crazy growing. Have about 20 other ones: Mortgage lifter, gold nugget, black cherry, celebrity, fenda pink, german pink, Cherry 100, and Tess. I wanted Matt's but couldn't ever find it.

I wanted to ask about pinching out the sucker branch in the tomatoes, I have been doing that on some of mine because they are getting so big but wonder if that cuts down production or what is the purpose of taking those suckers out? Also wanted to know if feeding the tomatoes a manure tea once a week is ok or is that to much? I live in Washita county and it usually is dry here but we have got nice rains here this spring. So I think we will get a bumper crop of tomatoes this year, and i hadn't really planned on putting any up, just wanted to get to eat some from the garden for the first time in about 3 years. This is looking like it could be the "Year of the Tomato". So I may have to be putting some in the freezer at least.

Rita in Washita


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RE: My first tomatoes this year!

Rita,

Congrats on the first tomato.

There are many Brandywines and almost all of them typically produce smallish crops in our heat. If you can keep them alive and happy all summer long, they'll produce pretty well in fall's cooler temperatures. I love Brandywine but they haven't produced well for me since about 2003 or 2004, so the only one I grow now is True Black Brandywine, which produces more fruit per plant than any other OP Brandywine here for me, and Brandy Boy, a hybrid from Burpee that is believed to have Brandywine in its breeding heritage. When the seed packet doesn't say which Brandywine it is, then it usually is just the plain old pink-fruited Brandywine.

I don't pinch suckers off tomato plants and don't know anyone personally who does that here in our climate. Each leaf conducts photosynthesis which is the energy, so to speak, that powers the tomato production. So, less leaves equates to fewer fruit. In our climate, with less foliage, your fruits can suffer from sunscald (sunburn) which usually ruins the fruit.

Some people who use certain growing techniques remove suckers to keep the plants smaller. Usually this is folks who are only staking the plants and not caging them, and it is done because the weight of the unpruned plant can be too much for the stakes to bear.

Some people who are attempting to grow incredibly large fruit for Giant Tomato contests prune their plants severely. That gives them fewer fruit per plant, but larger fruit. Most Giant Tomato contest growers only allow each plant to set 8 to 10 fruit initially, and then remove them gradually until only the 1 potential prizewinner remains on the plant. By removing a lot of the foliage and all the other fruit, the direct the energy of the plant into that one tomato.

If you grow by staking, you may need to prune in order to keep the plant manageable, but you'll get fewer tomatoes per plant.

If you cage your plants, or let them sprawl, there's no reason to remove suckers.

If your plants are too close together and have poor air flow that's contributing to foliar disease, you may want to prune off the diseased limbs to help keep the disease from spreading and also to improve air flow.

In general though, since I want maximum production, I don't prune at all and I get huge yields from huge plants. YMMV

Feeding tomato plants manure tea weekly should be fine and it is unlikely it ever would be too much as long as you're using fully composted manure to brew the tea.

Dawn


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RE: My first tomatoes this year!

We have harvested first tomatoes of Early Girl (2), Sungold (5) and Tessy's land race (7) today! Early girl were not completely red but tasted good. We had wonderful bbg of corn, fresh potatoes, stir fry of little heads of broccoli, sweet peas, and potatoes.

Priya and mom planted their surprise gifts of the knockout roses and wine and rose bushes! also got many new additions to their flower beds. Kids got renovation of the their sand box and toys, and also got their new swimming tub.

Our lovely cat Lucky met with an accident yesterday night and got emergency medicinal treatment and she is feeling ok now, but need at least a week rest to back to normal.

Take care -Chandra


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RE: My first tomatoes this year!

Chandra,

Congrats on the first fresh tomatoes and all the other yummy food. It sounds like all of you had a productive and fun weekend.

I am sorry to hear about Lucky's accident, but glad to hear the emergency treatment helped and that she'll soon be back to normal.

It was a gorgeous weekend, wasn't it?

Dawn


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RE: My first tomatoes this year!

  • Posted by mksmth oklahoma 7a (My Page) on
    Mon, May 14, 12 at 9:56

I have many of size on my Goliath, Cherokee, Celebrity, Early girl and Sweet 100, they just wont turn. Maybe if I stop watching them so much, LOL This is by far a better crop than last year.

mike


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RE: My first tomatoes this year!

Mike, The first ones to turn take forever. My first Early Girl just sat there forever. Once the first one turned and was harvested, we have 4 or 5 more of them ripen the same week.

This is such a wonderful tomato year.

I always plant far too many, and every year there's a bunch of varieties that are new to me so I never know what to expect or how they'll produce. Every year I "hope" that all the new ones will be productive here. You know how that goes--it always seems like there is a dud or two among the new ones. This year, I am starting to worry that every single plant actually will produce a lot of tomatoes and I won't be able to keep up with the harvesting. Of course, this is Oklahoma and I know not to count my chickens before they hatch nor to count my tomatoes before they're harvested and safely inside the house.

Based on what I'm seeing in the garden, though, it is going to be an epic tomato year here, and I am so excited about that. I think I'll be canning salsa in early June, if not before, and the dehydrator is about to start getting busy dehydrating the bite-sized tomatoes. It is totally different from last year. I had great production last year in April and May, but spotty production and plants that really struggled in the heat after that. I'm so glad we have better weather, so far, than we had in 2011. Of course, it is hard to even imagine worse garden weather than we had last year.

Dawn


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RE: My first tomatoes this year!

  • Posted by mksmth oklahoma 7a (My Page) on
    Mon, May 14, 12 at 14:51

Dawn

you mentioned Salsa. Well funny story. Last year I planted the typical salsa ingredients, tomato, jalapenos, cilantro. Well tomatoes were a bust, jalapenos went crazy and cilantro not so great, so I never did salsa. Oh I didnt do onions either. Well this year Tomatoes and onions look great and I didnt plant jalapenos and cilantro. One of these years all get everything together and make some salsa.

mike


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RE: My first tomatoes this year!

Mike, I'd buy the jalapenos and forget the cilantro, and make the salsa. I made a lot in 2010 and it was a good thing because I didn't make any last year. We had plenty of tomatoes to eat fresh, but I really didn't have enough to bother with the canning part. The only thing I canned last year was pepper jelly.

When I look at my tomato plants, I think they look so nice, then I come on here and read that several of you are already eating tomatoes. I always hope for tomatoes the first week of July, and two different years I have had them the last week of June. My mouth waters as I read of your first BLT's because I know mine is still distant. I'll probably have cherry tomatoes this month, but not the big ones.

Dawn, I didn't bother with Brandywine this year except for True Black Brandywine. This is my first year for it and it is a big, healthy blooming plant, so maybe I will have some luck with it. I don't usually have a lot of luck with the potato leaf varieties but we are not getting heavy rains like we usually do in the month of May. In fact, if we don't get rain soon I will have to water my garden.


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RE: My first tomatoes this year!

Mike,

It is really hard in a home garden to get all the Salsa ingredients to be ripe and ready for harvest at the same time.

I agree with Carol that if you get a good tomato harvest and want to make salsa, you should just buy whatever else you need and make some. I usually have peppers and tomatoes ready at the same time, and onions aren't an issue either because I'll harvest some early if I am making salsa early and the onions aren't technically ready yet. Cilantro? I put it in the salsa when I make and can Annie's Salsa, but I think the canning makes its flavor more or less vanish. Some people can without cilantro, and add it to their salsa when they open it up to eat it.

Carol, I am in so much trouble here. Every single plant is heavily loaded. It is, indeed, what I wanted and was hoping for, but I am starting to dread the work involved in keeping up with a big harvest. My True Black Brandywine has really heavy early fruitset and so does JD's Special C-Tex. However, about half my JD's Special C-Tex plants are producing trusses of yellow bite-sized tomatoes. I did not plant any sort of yellow cherry tomatoes with PL foliage like the three supposedly JD's Special C-Tex plants are producing, so I am inclined to think that my packet of JD's Special C-Tex seeds, which was purchased from a seed company, must have had some non-JD's seed in it.

I usually do have pretty good luck with PL foliage, but these yellow cherries are already having spotting issues on their foliage. If the yellow cherries aren't nice and flavorful, I may yank out those three plants since they aren't something I chose and wanted, and I don't want for them to be sickly and then spread the disease around.

Of course, if it doesn't start raining more, I may not have to worry about the harvest for long. I overplanted every single thing in my garden (do y'all think 28 summer squash and zucchini plants is too much? lol) with the idea being that I will harvest heavily early and will do all the canning, freezing and dehydrating that I can. Then, if the summer is awfully hot and dry, I won't water heavily to keep the garden alive and producing. I have promised myself I will not water the garden heavily, and maybe not at all, after July 1st if it is dry this summer like it was last summer. I'll just be content with whatever I harvest before that point.

I watered twice in April because so little rain was falling, and just seeing me watering practically made Tim break out in hives because it reminded him of last year's monster water bills.

With all the rainfall we had from September through March, you'd think the ground would be nice and moist, but it isn't. Either the soil or the plants or both are sucking up rain as soon as it falls. The soil looks good and wet after the rain falls, but then by the next day you cannot even tell it rained. We've had several little grass fires in our county already this month, and normally May is pretty quiet because everything is nice and green. Right now, we're at that awful transition phase between the drying of the cool-season grasses and the serious green-up of the warm-season grasses, so the pastures look awful. They're mostly the color of mature wheat. I am sure there's green warm-season grasses under the dry cool-season ones, but the warm-season grasses need for more rain to fall and they need it soon.

One row of tomato plants turned kind of wilty yesterday afternoon and that's never good to see. I'll have to watch them closely this morning to see if they are drought-stressed. I'm hoping it was just heat stress combined with being a bit drier than they'd like to be.

Dawn


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RE: My first tomatoes this year!

I have lots and lots of tomatoes still, but none are ripe yet. Every day for the last two weeks I have gone outside ever so hopeful that at least one tomato would be ready to pick.
My peppers are the same though. I have had lots of small ones for two weeks now, but none are ripe yet.
It looks as if there will be a huge harvest all in one day. (Of course, I am assuming that it will be a day that I also work so that I can be super busy figuring out what to do with them all on short notice. Will there be enough to bother canning? Will I want to bother canning after a long day at work?)
Either way, I am deleriously happy after last year's disappointments!!!
Brenda


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RE: My first tomatoes this year!

Brenda, In the early season we eat a lot of tomatoes before I begin to can. I only start the canning process when I know it is impossible to eat them all. LOL It takes a lot of tomatoes to make canning worth while for me.


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RE: My first tomatoes this year!

I'm the same way. We are harvesting a lot of full-sized tomatoes and bite-sized tomatoes, but are being tomato pigs and eating every single one we pick. Eventually we'll get tired of gorging on tomatoes day in and day out and I'll start canning.

I don't usually begin canning until I'm picking 20-30 lbs. in one picking so that I have enough for a canner load, depending on whether I'm making salsa, or just canning stewed tomatoes or tomato sauce.

Tonight we had soft tacos for dinner and I am not ashamed to say that I put three times as many chopped, fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes on my soft tacos as meat. Who needs meat when you have tomatoes? : )


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RE: My first tomatoes this year!

I still don't have any ripe tomatoes, but all five plants have green ones now. The cherokee purple has a dozen, which is more than my CP plant ever produced last year, but only one of them is full-sized. Can't wait to finally taste one!


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RE: My first tomatoes this year!

No ripe ones here either. I think I already have more green tomatoes than I had all of last year. My Sungold is already going crazy and growing into the other tomatoes around it. I expect it will give me my first ripe fruit. I have a big Jetstar I've been watching that will probably be next. My Rutgers plant has several small to medium tomatoes on it. I started planting in early April. After last year, I learned to get off my butt and put them in the ground as soon as possible.

The potatoes look like a bust. I've dug down around a few and the taters have been tiny to non-existent. As usual, bugs love to dine on the leaves, so they are ugly. They've been laying over ever since a downpour back in April. Only one plant is flowering, but most of the others appear to be just fading. I planted it in a raised bed along a fence row that my neighbor has let the brush grow over, so it doesn't get much sun any more.

The peppers, squash, and cucumbers are unremarkable. My parents had a bumper crop of cucumbers last year and pickled most of them. They've given a lot away, and they still have pickles left. I never thought I would say this, but I'm kind of tired of pickles.


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RE: My first tomatoes this year!

We ate two Fourth of July tomatoes today. Last week had two Sungold cherries get ripe. Almost every other tomato plant in the garden has set fruit, but nothing else ready yet. Two more 4th of July are turning tho and two more Sungolds.

So glad some of you are having good years. Here the drought is starting to scare me. Unlike last year when we got a total of 24" in April and May, this year have had less than 2" with unusually warm temps. We're already watering seriously, but if it doesn't rain by the time the corn comes off in July, we'll quit except for the blueberries and young fruit trees and strawberries.


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RE: My first tomatoes this year!

We ate two Fourth of July tomatoes today. Last week had two Sungold cherries get ripe. Almost every other tomato plant in the garden has set fruit, but nothing else ready yet. Two more 4th of July are turning tho and two more Sungolds.

So glad some of you are having good years. Here the drought is starting to scare me. Unlike last year when we got a total of 24" in April and May, this year have had less than 2" with unusually warm temps. We're already watering seriously, but if it doesn't rain by the time the corn comes off in July, we'll quit except for the blueberries and young fruit trees and strawberries.


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RE: My first tomatoes this year!

Dorothy,

My county is not, technically, back in drought yet, but it is very close to it, and it is starting to scare me. Believe me, I understand how you feel.

The rain we had in March carried us through a dry April fairly well, but May has been dry as well, though not as dry here as it is there at your place. We had a good rain last week, but two days later that moisture seemed like it was all gone. The cracks in the ground didn't close up at all and the rain that fell didn't even pond or puddle in the dry ponds....it just ran off into the cracks in the dry pond bottoms. Most of our bermuda grass is brown, not green.

I usually am so happy in May because we're getting enough rain to carry the plants well into June or even early July if the summer temps are average or below average. Needless to say, this is not a happy May around here in terms of rainfall.

Because we had tons of rain from September through March, the soil moisture levels here look really good on paper. However, at our house, the soil doesn't seem as moist as it should based on the Mesonet's data.

I have listened to all the forecasters---everyone from NOAA to the NWS to local meteorologists who have long forecasted the weather here in this area. All of them insist that this summer will not be as bad as last summer. Maybe they are right, but I have a growing concern that it still will be really, really, really bad here.

I'm going to link one of the Fractional Water Index maps from the Mesonet that shows soil moisture (or the absence of soil moisture). Look how many areas are already very dry, especially your area.

Dawn

Here is a link that might be useful: Fractional Water Index


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RE: My first tomatoes this year!

Dorothy, It is the same here. Things that have deep roots are doing fine, but new plantings and things with shorter roots are not doing so well. I have had to water several times now. I am not deep watering yet, because there is still moisture after you get down a couple of inches, but I'm afraid to ignore the onions because they are in that heavy growth cycle. I hope I didn't wait too long to start, but I can see the growth from day-to-day. I don't expect them to look like those that 'busy1' gets, but they are sizing up pretty fast at this point. Some of the in-ground ones have fallen over but are still green, but I think they got knocked down. We have a neighbor cat that seems to think he lives at our house. He belonged to some renters that moved off and left him so he adopted the family next door to me. They have a dog and a cat and a doggy door. For awhile they thought their cat really had an appetite until they saw the other cat dart across the room a few times. She tried for weeks to find a home for him, even took him to the vet and had him fixed, but no one wanted him. She says he is a good cat, but mostly stays gone all day and comes home to eat and sleep. I don't keep cushions in the outside chairs, and try not to provide comfort for him, but almost everyday I see him in our shed,going under the storage building, or chase him out of my garden. He doesn't seem to bother those onions in the raised bed now, but when they were first planted he did and I didn't notice they had been dug up until it was too late to save them. Some of the onions in the raised bed have 9 or 10 leaves, so they have the potential to have some size, if I can keep them going long enough. All of those are 'Candy', but the ones in the ground are a mixture of things.

I picked peas this morning, and also pole beans. I have two kinds of pole beans producing. No great quantities yet, but enough for dinner. LOL Actually I have another type that I only had a few seeds for and they are almost ready. They are purple potted pole beans. Dawn sent me the seed a couple of years ago and I planted the remainder of them on a little t-pee. I haven't tasted them yet, but I will have to plant more because the vine is so pretty. I thought I had bought a pack after I got those, but if I did, it never made it to my seed stash, and I can't find them. I think it was Ferry-Morris seed, so I am going to check the seed racks later today.

I planted 2 types of cucumbers, one pickling and one slicing. Both types have beautiful vines and no problems yet, but I found 2 squash bugs yesterday, so I guess the problems are beginning.....and dozens of white butterflies.


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RE: My first tomatoes this year!

Squash bugs? Well, crap! I'm not ready for those things to start showing up. I guess I'll check the garden for them when I go back outside in a few minutes. If they are here, I want to catch them early and wipe them out before they can build up a big population and do a lot of damage.

Carol, I love purple beans. They are so pretty, I'd grow them even if they weren't tasty. This year, I have one row each of purple romano beans (Purpuriat), gold romano beans (Capitano) and pink beans (Tanya's Pink Pod) along with Red Swan, Royalty Purple Pod, Contender and White Half Runner. With all the differently colored blooms and beans in the bush bean bed, it has been one of the prettiest parts of the garden.

I'd have to look back at my planting list, but I think I have the same rainbow of color going on with the pole beans too. I know I planted two kinds of purple beans (Dean's Purple Pole and Blue Coco), and a yellow one, as well as some that produced streaked pods. I plant for flavor, but it is fun when the flavorful veggies are colorful too.

And, of course, my whole adventure in growing veggies in odd colors started with black, orange, yellow, purple and pink tomatoes.

Dawn


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RE: My first tomatoes this year!

Darn it. I went to WM and forgot to look for the purple beans. I didn't try to plant for color, except for long beans where I planted two colors, and the Red Noodle are coming up great but the green one not so much. I have other greens, so if they aren't up in a couple of days, I will plant another.

I had a few beans from Jay with the bean very black, not the pod. I think it was Cherokee Trail of Tears, but I would need to go look to make sure. Then I tried planting some runner beans just because I had them. They came in a grab bag last fall. They were huge white beans and I just wanted to see if they would produce. I still have a pack and a half if they turn out to be something I want. The purple bean and the black one I hope to get enough to save seed from.

The bush beans are Blue Lake, and the only thing I see wrong with them is I could have planted a lot closer because they don't stand up very well. Maybe if they were closer they would hold each other up. My Roma bush were a total flop. I think I used some older seed, but I have a newer pack from Willhite so I will probably plant again.

I never plant lima beans, but I think I would like to. Do I do anything special with them? I think the heat is here to stay so they should come up quickly. I'm just waiting for space at this point. LOL


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RE: My first tomatoes this year!

I don't think Lima Beans need any special treatment. They love, love, love the heat and produced well for me last July and August, and you know what that weather was like.

I do plant the lima beans later than regular beans because they don't like cool soil. It doesn't have to be a whole lot later---just a week or two later. Whereas normal snap beans will tolerate cool soil if the weather regresses a little, the lima beans tend to pout about it. I normally plant them around the end of April but have planted them as late as mid-June when using them as a succession plant.

I am planting several varieties of lima beans this year, and only have 2 or 3 of them planted so far. The rest are waiting for space to become available.

With the purple pole beans, there are several different ones. I usually grow either Dean's Purple Pod bean, Trionfo Violetto, Blue Coco, Blauhilde or Louisiana Purple Pod. Every purple podded bean I've ever grown has produced well and tasted good.

The black-seeded bean you're thinking of probably is Cherokee Trail of Tears. It is another great producer in our heat.

I'm trying a lot of different lima beans this year to see which ones produce best in the heat, and I'm doing the same thing with southern peas, as soon as I have some space open up for them.

My potatoes are starting to look a little bit ratty. I am not sure if they are 'done' or if last week's rain gave them early blight or something. I'm just waiting and watching to see if they seem like they are done or if they're just sickly. If they are done, I could put Thorogreen lima bean there. It is a bush lima. Last year I really liked Violet's Multicolored Butter Bean (which grows like crazy) and Jackson Wonder.


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RE: My first tomatoes this year!

I will try to remember to buy some more colorful beans for next year. I had so many in my stash that I didn't buy any this year, except for the Blue Lake Bush that I just happened to see at the feed store. When I got home and checked my seeds, I already had some at home, so I didn't need to buy any.

Dawn, You potatoes are probably just finishing up. I think it was last weekend when my Yukon Gold started looking ratty, and during the week, the others are starting to lay over a little although they haven't started turning yet. I haven't checked under any of mine. I just wait for the big (or little) surprise. Whatever I get will taste good and I only plant a few anyway.


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RE: My first tomatoes this year!

Carol, I think they probably are starting to finish up based on how long ago they were planted. They are in the Peter Rabbit Garden which doesn't have a tall fence, so they are covered with bird/deer netting that is tightly attached to a frame Tim built. That's why I haven't been digging around them to check and see what's happening underground. I don't want to have to lift the netting and then replace it. I think that I usually don't dig potatoes until late June at the earliest (other than stealing some new potatoes sometimes) most years. We have already had some new potatoes form the handful of plants in the big garden that survived the deluge of rain in Feb and Mar, and have had some new potatoes from three plants that came up where I planted Adirondack Blue potatos in 2010. Or, maybe it was All-Blue. Either way, they are blue and make mashed potatoes that are a lovely shade of lilac. In 2010 I had to explain to a guest that, no, I did not add food coloring to the mashed potatoes and that they were naturally that color.

I love having veggies in a whole rainbow of colors, and of course, the more colors of fruit and veggies in our diet, the healthier it is.

Dawn


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RE: My first tomatoes this year!

Hee hee - I am giggling at the thought of adding food coloring to my mashed potatos.

Dawn, I am late, but getting ready to plant my pole beans. How many seeds to a 10 gal. or 5 gal. container would you recommend. Or how many vines can I grow in those size containers? I am doing Rattlesnake, Louisiana Purple Podded (glad you mentioned that one being good), Romano, Cherokee Trail of Tears pole, and maybe Blue Lake pole if I can find where I put the seeds. I have Dragon Tongue and thought they were pole, but apparently they are bush, so they most likely will not get planted.

Thanks all,

Susan


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RE: My first tomatoes this year!

Susan, Blue-fleshed potatoes make the most gorgeous lilac-colored mashed potatoes. The first time I made them, I just giggled when I saw how the color turned out. It made me realize that a caterer could use the different colors of potatoes to color-coordinate potato dishes with wedding colors, for example.

With pole beans in a container, I'd put 2 or 3 plants in the 5-gallon pot and maybe 5 or 6 in the 10-gallon one. Pole beans are very, very vigorous growers with huge root systesms so you can only plant whatever your soil capacity allows plus whatever your bean teepee or trellis can hold. If you plant too many plants and it gets top-heavy, the whole thing can blow over in a severe Thunderstorm.

To ensure you get enough beans sprouted, I'd plant 2 beans for every one plant that I wanted, and then after the beans are a few inches tall, I'd thin them.

Dawn


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RE: My first tomatoes this year!

I'm growing several blue and purple potato varieties that Tom Wagner created. One Azul Toro is the hardiest, prettiest plant and best tasting potato I've grown. The purple flowers on the plants are beautiful. I will be saving tubers for planting next year and hope to save some TPS. One variety named Blue Rose that was supposed to be very good something ate every plant of them. It was odd. What ever got them didn't leave a trace above ground and ate only those. The plants were in the middle of a 70 ft row. Evidently they have a fragrance or something. And haven't had any problems since. They were there one evening and the next evening they were gone. Healthy plants that had been hilled once and 6-8 inches tall. I had never really been a fan of colored potatoes but DJ(Fusion) sent me 4 tubers of Azul Toro and said I needed to try them. He said they should be an AAS selection. And I agree. The only variety to rebound from the bad hail and produce respectable numbers. 3 out of the 4 plants rebounded and produced over 50 tubers.
Dawn I planted my first beans bush and pole last Sunday. Starting yesterday I have 100% germination on a few varieties and none on others. It just re enforces the fact that varieties germinate and grow at different rates. I'm not the least bit concerned yet. Cascade Giant Pole and Fowler are the two early birds. I'm hoping I get decent germination on Woods Crazy Mountain as I will save most for increasing seed. I planted around 9 pole varieties and 8 bush varieties. Will try to place another 3-4 pole varieties in where I can. Jay


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RE: My first tomatoes this year!

Hi Jay,

I haven't seen you here much this week and assume you've been outside planting like mad. The potatoes sound fascinating. I hope you'll keep us posted on how they do. You and Diane are making me want to try TPS. It is fascinating that something ate all of one variety and not the others, isn't it?

My bean and southern pea germination times have been all over the place this year. Fowler germinated more slowly for me than the others planted the same day, but it was only a difference of 3 or 4 days. I have at least as many bean varieties as you do, and I keep planting more wherever I can find something for them to climb. I'm bean crazy this year. I'm in the process of trying to squeeze in more lima bean and southern pea varieties wherever I have an empty square foot of space.

Dawn


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