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A Really Good Tomato Year

Posted by okiedawn Z7 OK (My Page) on
Tue, Jul 3, 12 at 0:02

It is a really great tomato year here in our garden. I hate to even say this for fear it will sound like bragging, and I don't really mean it that way. It's just that last year was relatively poor (I barely canned anything the whole year) and this year is just so much better.

Our tomato plants have been the most productive this year that they've been in maybe the last 5 or 6 years. I am not sure this is even the best tomato year since we moved here, but it surely is in the top two or three.

I planted far too many tomato plants, but it was a calculated choice, made to ensure I'd be canning tomatoes until I was sick of them. Guess what? I'm getting pretty sick of them.

I tried tons of tomato varieties that were new to us this year, and some of them turned out to be real winners. I also brought back a few old favorites that produce pretty large fruit. Most years, if expecting spring drought, I skip the large-fruited ones because they don't set fruit well in hot and dry weather. With this past winter's heavy rainfall and early warm-up, it seemed a good year to give some of the large-fruited ones a chance this year, and I'm glad I did because they've produced really well.

Here's a brief report on a few varieties that have produced really well.

CONTAINER PLANTINGS: I planted about 20 varieties in containers, and all of them have produced well. That does not necessarily mean they've had great flavor though, and some of them have gone beyond firm and been "hard", which I don't especially like. Still, a couple have been especially noteworthy. "Cherry Falls", which I believe was from Burpee, has produced beautiful, tasty fruit and lots of it. It will be back next year. Terenzo and Lizzano, two AAS winners bred for hanging baskets, have produced well in containers, but have produced even better in the ground. They produce red cherries with great flavor and produce heavy loads of fruit. They were among the first fruit to ripen in the garden. Spider mites and powdery mildew (Leveillula taurica) hit these two hard. They responded by putting out a huge burst of new growth in the last two weeks and are beginning to bloom and set fruit again. I really like their vigor. Totem has produced more fruit than foliage, but they are rock hard and not that special in flavor. Still, it might make a good greenhouse tomato variety in the winter because it stays small and produces heavily. Several of the yellow-fruited tomato plantings (Tumbling Tom Yellow, Tumbling Tom Yellow Jr., Sweet 'N Neat Yellow, and Yellow Canary) have produced and still are producing huge loads of fruit, but their flavor is not that special. You could get it in virtually any hybrid cherry tomato. I've been dehydrating them, which intensifies the flavor and improves it.

BITE-SIZED TYPES: Our usual favorites remain our favorites because they produce fruit with fine flavor, and lots of it. Sun Gold, Ildi, Matt's Wild Cherry, Black Cherry and Tess' Land Race Currant all have been their usual near-perfect selves. Mountain Magic grows and produces well and has excellent vigor, but I am not sure it's flavor impresses us enough to keep planting it. However, it has great early blight tolerance, which certainly is important. Chocolate Cherry is, at least in our garden and to our taste buds, inferior to Black Cherry and I won't plant it again.

SLICERS: Oh large-fruited slicers, how I love you so! This has been the best year since probably 2006 for the large-fruited tomatoes that often fail to produce well in our heat and drought conditions. While we had dry spells, we had great fruit set early and that made a big difference. Some of our favorite large-fruited ones this year are old favorites: Brandy Boy, Dr. Wyche's Yellow, German Giant, Black Brandywine, Black From Tula, Stump of the World (huge fruit this year) Pruden's Purple (also huge, with the largest one weighing 1.7 lbs., and we just don't get the rain here for fruit that large most years), Carbon, Indian Stripe, Red Beefsteak, Big Beef, Beefmaster, Mortgage Lifter and Big Boy.

SMALLER, BUT GOOD NONETHELESS: Tomatoes don't have to be big to be tasty. We've also had wonderful fruit from Fantastic, Jaune Flammee, Marmande, Mosvich, Red Rose, Burgundy Traveler, Brown and Black Boar (huge loads of gorgeous, striped tasty fruits), and Black Plum. The hybrids Fourth of July, Cluster Goliath, Early Girl, Early Doll, Celebration, Celebrity, Phoenix and Merced all are winners this year. I still prefer the heirloom flavors, but these hybrids produced very well this year.

IMPRESSIVE ONES THAT ARE NEW TO US: Greek Rose is so impressive I hardly know how to describe it. It produced loads of huge fruit that are a pinkish-red. The fruit is sort of scalloped with shallow lobes, not big lumpy ones, and the flavor is very good. One slice would cover a piece of sandwich bread and hang out of the sandwich on our four sides. The favor is outstanding and the color is beautiful. This one will be back in 2013. Red Rose also had great flavor in much smaller, globe-shaped fruit and will be back. We also have really liked Spudatula, Spudakee Purple (not really new as we grew it last year, but the drought shut it down early in 2011), Woodle Orange, Orange Minsk, Mystery Black, and Carmello. I do not think the Carmello I am growing is the same Carmello from France popular years ago and no longer available,but it is a really good one that produces well and has good flavor. Fantastic is one of the best producers in the heat and is still setting fruit,while most of the other big ones have stopped. Among the disappointing ones this year? All the ones I planted from The Dwarf Project. They did not really recover well from all the spring cutworm problems, hence were slow to grow, slow to set fruit and have not produced very much fruit. I'll likely give them another chance next year. Cherokee Purple, a long-time favorite, just did not produce well this year and we had so many other dark-colored varieties that were better than it may not make the list next year. Cherokee Chocolate was like the dwarfs--it suffered so much from cutworms that it barely recovered in time to form fruit at all (Dora was the same way), but Cherokee Chocolate is one of the few in-ground plants that has been totally disease free this year.

PASTE TOMATOES: I have no words to describe this category, except perhaps this: Wow O Wow. Amazing. Simply Stupendous. So productive that I cannot even harvest all the fruit before they ripen and fall from the plants, but I keep trying to catch up and get ahead of them. Heidi produced first and very heavily, and I stayed so busy picking and processing them that I never made it past this first row of paste tomatoes for several days. Finally, I caught up on them and started picking the others. With slicers, I have mostly been able to pick at the breaker stage and stay caught up, but with the cherry types and paste types I haven't had the same success. They have been breaking and turning color so fast and sort of "all at once" that I can barely harvest them before they're overripe, but I just keep plugging away at it. San Marzano Redorta has been hugely productive as usual, and so has Rutgers, of course. (When it is ever not productive?) A couple of nice surprises this year: Speckled Roman, which is much more productive this year than last, with huge striped tomatoes and lots of them, and Schiavonne's Italian Paste. The best words to describe Schiavonne's Italian Paste? Huge. Abundant. Very Meaty. I love these and they're on the permanent grow list now. Less impressie? Astro,plain old Roma VF and Scatalone, and not that there is anything wrong with them, but Speckled Roman and Schiavonne's Italian Paste are just so much better.

SUN-DRIED TOMATOES: Principe' Borghese is such an odd tomato. Pluck one from the plant and eat it and the immediate thought is that this tomato is not worth growing at all. It doesn't taste bad. It just doesn't have any flavor at all fresh, at least not to my taste buds. Dehydrate them though, and you have perfect sun-dried tomatoes. I've been dehydrating them for a couple of weeks now. These plants are so covered in fruit that you barely see the leaves. I don't know why the fruit don't sunscald because they're really exposed to the sunlight but they don't. In Italy's dry Mediterranean climate, they pull up they pull up these plants and hang them to dry. Our humidity is too high here for that, so I pick them by the hundreds each week and dehydrate them in the oven on the dehydrate mode. When I take them out of the oven, I have to exercise a lot of self-control. Otherwise, I eat as many as I put in freezer bags for long-term storage. We'll really enjoy using them in recipes that call for sun-dried tomatoes. We've only had one year here where the temperature were high and the rainfall and humidity low enough that I pulled up my Principe Borghese tomato plants and hung them to dry. That was in 2003, when our rainfall for the year was less than 19" and our summer humidity was pretty low for a prolonged period. It might have been possible in 2005 and 2011 but the drought was so severe they didn't produce well.

I canned, froze and dehydrated lots of tomatoes in June, and expect that activity will continue until at least mid-July and maybe longer if some rainfall manages to find us.

We have eaten all the tomatoes we can stand to eat and are almost, but not quite, getting tired of them. (A temporary condition resulting from the Great Tomato Glut of 2012, I am sure.) We've given some away. Chris has taken a lot of them to work at the fire station.

Here's a rundown of what I did with the excess tomatoes in June. Some were canned, some were dehydrated and some were frozen.

Annie's Salsa - 90 pints
Tomato Sauce - 80 pints
Pasta/Spaghetti Sauce - 5 quarts (from the recipe in "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle"
Ketchup - 21 pints
Chili Base - 5 pints
Pizza Sauce - 15 pints
Dehydrated/Sun-dried tomatoes: Seven one-gallon freezer bags full. Each one-gallon bag has 4 or 5 sandwich-sized ziplock bags full, so I can pull out one sandwich-sized bag a week in the off-season.
Also in the freezer are 42 lbs. of pureed tomatoes I can use in various canning recipes, and 36 lbs. of whole tomatoes, which can be thawed and used in canning or for cooking. With the pureed tomatoes, I froze them in either the number of lbs. required for a specific recipe I intend to use the for, or in the number of cups, depending on the recipe.

I will continue the canning, dehydrating and freezing in July for as long as the harvest continues. However, I'm having a small issue with my right hand that renders it almost unusable for food processing lately. I've been doing a lot less food processing for the last 4 or 5 days, trying to give my hand a break. It isn't that it is hurt, but it is very tired and sore. I guess it is just overuse from the long June days of picking and processing tomatoes (and squash, beans, cukes and peppers as well as oodles of plums). May was more about sweet corn and green beans, and plums. The plums and green beans also carried over into June. I really overworked my right hand for a while there, often putting in 16-18 hours a day harvesting and putting up all the veggies and fruit in June and it has needed a break to rest and recover. In addition to the tomatoes, we have put a lot of sweet corn (I didn't count the ears) and about 21 quarts of green beans in the freezer, and canned about 120 jars of fruit jam and jelly and, so far, about 16 jars of cucumber pickles. The rest of my body isn't quite as tired as my right hand, and I expect I'll resume doing a lot of canning right after the 4th of July, because tomatoes are piling up all over the house and they won't last long if I don't process them promptly.

So, that's the tomato report from here.

I likely won't plant many for fall unless we get some rain soon. I do think the tomatoes in molasses feed tubs up by the barn will survive the summer, barring some unexpected insect invasion or disease, and produce into the fall so I don't necessarily feel an urgent need to plant a lot for fall. I'm kinda feeling all tomatoed out.

I hope all of you are having at least a good tomato year. Perhaps with all the drought across the state, it is a bit too much to hope that everyone is having a great year, though that would be wonderful too.

Dawn


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: A Really Good Tomato Year

You mean you didn't sun dry them last year? Oh wait. That requires having the tomatoes. LOL

I'm tickled pink you're sick of maters.

I giggled at your self control issue. I'd be doing the same, probably.

My tiny tomatoes were so full of flavor I called my daughter to ask what I was missing from my tabouli salad. The taste was off. The tomatoes are so rich in flavor it drowns the garlic. I need to add more garlic. I'm simply not familiar with fresh tomatoes. It's been wonderful.

I did manage to pull off my summer BLT -my standard measure of home grown tomatoes - and it was awesome!


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RE: A Really Good Tomato Year

Thanks for the report Dawn. We always love hearing which tomatoes did the best for you. I think I'll try the Schiavonne's Italian Paste next year, since it did so well for you.


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RE: A Really Good Tomato Year

Dawn, I really need to live next door to you :) Actually, I wish you lived next door to ME! Wouldn't ya'll like to live in OKC? We don't have any big kitties....and no snakes either!

Seedmama gave me a few pointers the other day. Next year I will have to try again. One day I will successfully grow a few tomatoes! I do believe, however, I might have some Seedmama squash this year and maybe a pumpkin or two. Maybe. I'm going on vacation at the end of July and it is always iffy as to what I will find when I get back. Let's pray for rain for the end of July, please! :)


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RE: A Really Good Tomato Year

Lisa, if you need me to come and water/harvest/sing to your plants, I'm happy to. Send me an email.

Dawn, I dehydrated my first batch of cherry tomatoes using brokenbar's recipe this weekend. OMG. Everytime I cracked the oven to check on those, one of those tomatoes fell into my mouth. Sometimes he brought friends, too. :) I had three trays of cherries going in my 170 degree oven, but even with some, er, attrition (ahem!), I only ended up with something like half a quart zip lock bag. Agh! It's gonna take forever to even make a gallon. I plan to try Annie's Salsa with the larger tomatoes I have been freezing in gallon bags - I'm up to 6 gallon bags now. Maybe next weekend.

My hybrids have been the only ones really producing for me. Lemon Boy has had a ton, as has Early Girl, Yellow Pear, Chocolate Cherry, and Sweet 100. Determinate Roma got pounded by the hail storm, and maybe BER, so they didn't do much. I yanked those 6 plants this weekend and will put in okra there. I love the Yellow Pear, they are so fun. They heirloom plants still look good, maybe I can baby them until the fall and get some production.

Dawn, you might try a wrist splint for your hand. It should hold it in position to heal/let the inflammation go down. Even when you think you are resting it, it's hard to believe all your hand does! We call it the "bowling glove" around here.


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RE: A Really Good Tomato Year

LISA.....Lisa, Lisa, Lisa...

When you go out of town, tell me! I'll be more than happy to come to tend to your garden by watering, etc.

Dawn...if you move up here by me and Lisa, we'll help you can...and can and can and can. See my separate posting on Guilford Gardens...we can move closer together and merge our yards!

Sharon


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RE: A Really Good Tomato Year

Dawn,
Yes it is!!! A wonderful Tomato Year. We never harvested so much tomatoes as this year. Thanks for your update, it has tons of valuable info, I have already seeing some new varieties must to try next year! I am going to bookmark this thread and read it again. We are dehydrating tomatoes first time, it is worth the effort! and they taste great after loosing moisture. We have been keeping harvesting from our tomato jungles, tomatoes tunnels and lot of tomato trees!!

Here is one picture taken yesterday (july 2) of the your tomato plant from swap become a big tomato TREE with tons of fruits;

16ft tomato tunnel, pic take after harvesting one bucket cherries for dehydrating;

I am imagining your tomato plants and production after looking at our little plants---your's must be looking like a tropical giant rainforest full of tomatoes!

-Chandra


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RE: A Really Good Tomato Year

Sharon and Mia...thanks for the offers! I will hopefully have a waterer, I usually call on a friend of mine to do it. However, no one has all the time to devote to standing around and watching a sprinkler like I do :) Well, I don't really watch it, I turn it on and run back into the a/c :) ...or go walking. ugh.

I will keep both of you on speed dial though, if you don't mind. If she goes back to work, I might need you.


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RE: A Really Good Tomato Year

Bon, I did have tomatoes all year last year, but there were so few that from mid-July onward that I ate most of them while working in the garden...just some SunGolds, Mountain Magics and Jaune Flammee' mostly. The sun likely would have dried them if I left them on the vine long enough, but I greedily gobbled them up. When I am working in the garden, I treat small tomatoes like "Gardener's Gatorade" and munch away while working. I was more worried the wildfires would burn up the garden, but only the heat and sunlight burned it up. It was pretty much guaranteed to burn up one way or another in last summer's brutal weather.

Sheri, You're welcome. I usually wait until August to evaluate tomatoes and do this thread, but everything matured so early that I wanted to do it while my memory was fresh.

Lisa, I'm praying for rain for every day in July. It rained here yesterday, but I missed it because I was taking a nap. It wasn't enough to show up in the rain gauge, but if you stood still in the driveway and looked at the dust between the gravel you could see little splotch marks where random marks fell and hit the ground. There wasn't a drop in the gauge so it feally could not have been much rain. I was napping because last week I stayed up until 1 or 2 a.m. on three consecutive canning nights and was back out in the garden to harvest shortly after 6 a.m. so I am sleep deficient and still catching up. I don't want y'all thinking I was napping because I am getting old or that I'm a slacker or anything. (grin) You know that I would love to live right next door to you! I think that would make the commute to Dallas just a little too far for Tim to make 4 days a week though.

Mia, I confess there is quite a difference between the number of tomatoes I dehydrate and the number of dehydrated tomatoes that make it into the freezer bags for storage. Apparently somebody is standing in the kitchen and eating a lot of them while she is taking them off the baking sheets and putting them into freezer bags. It does take oodles and oodles of dried tomatoes to fill up a gallon zip-lock bad. I have found they last pretty well in the winter though. Even then, I must show restraint because they'll only last if I eat them in moderation instead of greedily gobbling up all of them the minute they thaw out. My hand is feeling a lot better today, so maybe all it needed was a few days of wrist. I may go ahead and get a wrist splint so I'll have it the next time canning fatigue sets in. That should be about 3 or 4 weeks from now when I am in the middle of making tons of Habanero Gold and other pepper products. I've got lots of green Habaneros on the Chichen Itza plants, which mature earlier than standard O-P habs, so as soon as they start maturing, I'll start throwing tomatoes in the freezer (if I'm still getting tomatoes by then) and focus on peppers. So far the jalapeno harvest is steady and I've been using them in all those jars of salsa, or roasting and freezing them for winter cooking. At some point, the maximum jalapeno pepper harvest will hit, and then I'll make candied jalapenos. It is always something around here.....and I love it.

As tired as I get during a big harvest spell, I wonder how our grandmothers and great-grandmothers managed to do it all when they were canning vast quantities of food every year in addition to all the daily chores.

Sharon, I'm looking forward to going and reading your thread on Guildford Gardens as soon as I leave this thread. I had to leave the computer temporarily because UPS was here with a delivery that included a Mrs. Wage's canning book and a whole bunch of Mrs. Wage's mixes, which I ordered online because they are sold out in local stores. Now that the mixes have arrived, I'm eager to get busy canning tomatoes again, and pickles as well. The spider mites are demolishing the cuke plants, so I may not get many more pickling cucumbers, but I can plant some again for fall.

As a 'thank you', the Mrs. Wage's company sent me a packet of sausage mix so I can combine it with meat and make my own sausage. How cool is that? I look forward to trying that.

Chandra, I'm glad you're having a great tomato year too. After all of last year's weather woes, we are so fortunate to have a better harvest this year. The garden looked like a giant rainforest in May. Now it looks more like a giant dying rainforest with all the spider mites, and drought stress and such. That's OK though. I like it when it looks beautiful, of course, but I understand that the appearance of the plants declines quickly under heat stress and drought stress and I am okay with that. As long as it is producing, that's what really matters. I love your tomato tunnel. Having seen it, I want to make one next year.

Lisa, Have you ever tried putting your sprinkler on a timer? Of course, if you did that, you'd still need for someone to check the yard to make sure the timer didn't malfunction. You wouldn't want to come home to dead plants because a piece of equipment failed.

This morning I was out in the garden picking tomatoes and I got into a game of chicken with a deer. I couldn't even see the beast, but it stood in the woods on the north end of the garden. It blew air out its nostrils, snorted, pawed or stomped the ground, and just had a general hissy fit. It was around 10 a.m. and I had been out there for 3 hours. I don't know if the deer wanted to come gnaw on the cuke and bean plants that are growing on the garden fence, or if it thought it would jump the tall fence and get into the garden and have a picnic or what. It was trying to intimidate me into leaving. I didn't leave. The more I worked my way down from the south end of the garden to the north end of the garden, the more it pitched a fit. Tim finally came down to the garden to see if I wanted to go to the store with him, and that scared it and it took off into the woods. I did make sure the garden gate was closed securely when I came inside. That's the first time in several days that I've had a deer problem. Usually we have trouble when I am in the garden in the evening and they want me to leave. Then, I cannot leave because they are between me and the house. In good weather, they turn and run when I come out of the garden and walk towards the house. In bad weather when they are becoming more hungry and irritable they like to stand their ground and be difficult. I just wonder what they think they're going to do in the yard after I go into the house. The garden fence is too high to jump. I always close the gates. Maybe they are grazing the compost pile across from the garden to see if I've pitched anything onto it that they might like to eat.

Two nights ago I forgot to bring in the hummingbird feeder that hangs on the porch and either a possum or a raccoon climed a porch piller and took down the feeder and drained it. Then I had to listen to a complaining hummingbird while it waited for me to clean, refill and rehang the feeder. I generally love watching the wildlife, but sometimes it is creepy to know how much they are watching me.

Dawn


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RE: A Really Good Tomato Year

Dawn hope your elbow isn't sore from patting yourself on the back. JK. I'm glad you have had a bountiful harvest. I always enjoy reading others results and opinions. Many times your results and impressions are very similar to mine and then on other variety they are opposite. Like I've said several times it is still too early for any kind of fair judgement about any of the varieties. I have been fortunate to have tomatoes to eat for 6-8 weeks just not in large quantities. I hesitate to even mention those that are impressive so far as that could change in 24 hours with disease problems. But will mention a few early results.
As for those from the dwarf project I planted all are in containers. Most in 5-10 gallon containers. So maybe not a fair evaluation. I was also slow potting up some of them. Beryl Dwarf Beauty has produced fair so far and I really like the flavor. Very unique. Tazmanian Chocolate produced early but has shut down in the heat. And I have them where they have wind protection. May need more shade.
Pre'cocibec has opened my eyes. One I wasn't sure I would ever put in the ground. The main reason I did was because it was one of the few that I had a successful graft on. So planted one grafted plant and one non grafted plant. The growth habit has been short and bushy. Might be a good container prospect. Both plants have more fruit set to this point than everything else combined. The grafted plant is larger and has at least a 1/3 more fruit set and still setting. I would imagine 70-80 fruit and still setting. Growth on both slowed up when the heat set but starting to put out new growth now. I have picked one fruit so far but haven't ate it yet. It appears they will be in the 3-4 ounce range. I can't comment about the flavor yet but might be a good candidate for those wanting a canner/salsa type with heavy fruit set at once. Unless something drastically changes it will be back next year. I may start some early in the lean to. Depending on how it performs the rest of the season I may plant several of it. The grafted plant is the tallest and less than 3 ft. While the others around it are close to if not 5 ft. So for sure a more compact growth but doesn't seem to be a true determinate either. So far I would put it in the class of the Heinz types. The hybrids I grow have been around normal so far. Average but not great fruit set. And Randy's Brandy OP is setting better than most again this year. It is rapidly becoming a favorite. Jay


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RE: A Really Good Tomato Year

Jay,

lol If you were here, I'd throw some rotten tomatoes at you. : )

You've gotten ripe fruit really, really early this year, and I think that is remarkable given how far north you are.

It is about time we have a great tomato harvest. The last few years the drought and excessive heat have messed with the tomatoes so much. In the early 2000s I had a great harvest every year, although in 2003 it was smaller because of a lack of moisture (4" less rain in 2003 than we had last year), but ever since 2005, there's been a couple of mediocre years for every 1 good year, and it is getting hard to have a great year.

Pre'cocibec sounds interesting, if only it has good flavor. Please remember to come back and tell us what you think of its flavor.

I was worried that some of those bowls of tomatoes cluttering up the house were getting towards the end of the useful fresh life and might not be in good shape by tomorrow, so I got up at 3:30 a.m. to process tomatoes before sunrise and before the fireworks-sparked grass fires begin. (Maybe we'll get lucky and that won't happen.) I've got the oven full of cherry tomatoes that are dehydrating. I made and canned two batches of pizza sauce, and prepped the tomatoes for three batches of spaghetti sauce. Those are in the refrigerator in big zip-lock bags. I'm not sure if I'll try to can spaghetti sauce today or tonight or what. It is fairly time-consuming and I can't leave the house once a batch is in the canner.

All that tomato activity left me with six empty big plastic bowls that I use when picking tomatoes. So, in a minute I am going to go outside and pick tomatoes until I refill those bowls. This is why I'm always behind and never catch up. I line up the bowls in order from oldest tomatoes at the right to newest at the left. I essentially perform triage every day--going through all the bowls and pulling out the tomatoes that need to be used today. I leave the rest that are not yet perfectly ripe for another day. When I get to the point that I cannot stand processing tomatoes any more, I'll yank out the plants and put in southern peas or something. I'm just almost to that point now. Every day I say I am going to start yanking out plants, but the only ones I've yanked so far were severely diseased. When I am tired, I decide to yank out all of them. Then, when I am feeling more rested, I decide to leave them a while longer.

If rain doesn't fall soon, the decision will be made for me. Last week we were 100 or over every day, then we had a couple of cooer days, and now we're back at or over 100. That pretty much stops fruit set on the large slicing ones. I'm also seeing blossom drop on beans. I was hoping for one of those summers where we stay mostly in the 80s or lowest 90s for all of June and don't get too hot until it is almost August. Well, that didn't happen.

I forgot to mention Indigo Rose. They're over in a pepper bed and I almost forget they are there. So far the plants are tall and fairly healthy and have pretty good fruit set. The color kinda freaks out everyone who sees it. We haven't had one ripen yet, so I cannot comment of its taste yet.

Dawn


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RE: A Really Good Tomato Year

Dawn,

It is about time we have a great tomato harvest.

You can say that again! This has been the best tomato year I've had in 30 years! Peg and I have eaten all we can eat,canned and frozen and given tomatoes away by the bagfull!

Until I joined Gardenweb in 2009, I never understood why we have good tomato years and bad tomato years. Thank you, Jay, George and many others here for the valuable knowledge you offer.

PS. Two years ago you graciously sent me seeds for Black Cherry. I've saved seeds from that variety, Black Krim and Mortgage Lifter and would gladly send you some as repayment for your generosity. Shoot me an email if interested!

Thanks again,

Keith


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RE: A Really Good Tomato Year

I second the wrist splint. Mine are fifteen years old. After about eight years their use conditioned me to automatically place my hands and wrists into an invisible splint to rest them when needed. Basically, the splints trained me to use my hands safely and created much longevity in the way of severe carpal tunnel/arthritis. I can work without using my painful thumbs in many daily routines because of using those splints.

The more cumbersome they feel, the more you need them.

bon


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RE: A Really Good Tomato Year

Dawn now that wouldn't be nice. At least throw good maters I can eat. LOL. I may yank my first plant tonight. It is one of two plants of an OK heirloom I was sent seeds for. Two weeks ago I thought the other plant was a goner. It has recovered some and the other one has took a nose dive. Can't really pin point an issue. It is always hard for me to yank the first one. But this one maybe the winner this year.
I transplanted my Indigo Rose late. It has two fruit on it and I expect it too set more. One is close to maturity. Has the purple/blue coloring. The fruit looks a lot like J&L Select Blue. I haven't tasted either but shouldn't be long on either. I planted 2 blue types from Tom Wagner. Lost one of them and the other is setting fruit well. The vines had a strong blue/purple coloring when young. Now it is gone and the fruit so far hasn't shown any either. I will wait to see what they look and taste like once mature. Several of the varieties I'm trying from Tom have some late/early blight resistance along with some other disease resistance. And so far they look very healthy. Greek Rose is one I've never heard of but may have to consider. For some reason I've never tried Ildi. Maybe I should. I see lots of positive reviews about it. Jay


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RE: A Really Good Tomato Year

Keith, I am so glad you and Peg are having such a great year.

Jay, OK then, I'll be nice and throw good tomatoes at you

Y'all, yesterday I hit my breaking point. No matter how many we eat, give away and process, there's more and more every day and they are piling up all over. I can work hard all day and half the night and end up with more tomatoes awaiting processing at the end of the day than the amount I started with that morning. I am losing ground. I sent Tim a text message that summed it up for me in 5 words "I am in Tomato Hell". He thought that must be a good thing and sent back a brief message "Have Fun".

Do I have to tell y'all it is not fun any more? So, I sorted through all the tomatoes, put about 100 lbs. of fresh, whole, clean tomatoes in the deep freeze in freezer bags, put overripe ones on the compost pile, put another batch in the dehydrator, and for once ended the night with fewer tomatoes than I started out with that morning. That relieved a lot of the pressure to hurry up and can more tomatoes.

The good news is that my friends the spider mites invited their friends the stink bugs to show up by the dozens this week. Don't get me wrong, we've had lots of stink bugs around, but suddenly we have huge numbers. They are ruining the fruit and now I don't have to decide when to yank plants. I can just start doing it. Since it is so hot now, I'll likely wait for next week's cool spell since it will be more pleasant to work outside then.

With the huge backlog of tomatoes in the freezer, and with the knowledge that the stink bugs ensure there will not be many more, I don't think I'll be revisiting Tomato Hell again anytime soon. I only have six bowls left to process today, and hope I can get 3 of those done this afternoon before I go outside after dinner to....pick tomatoes. Lol Yes, go ahead and laugh at me. Life would be easier if I could just close the gate, walk away and abandon the tomatoes still on the vines. At least the stink bugs are making it easy for me. The level of damage on the affected fruit is virtually unprecented. I always see a few cloudy spots on tomatoes from stinkbug damage at this time of year, but with the ones I picked yesterday, there were so many damaged areas that almost all of those tomatoes are unusable. I am at the point that I consider that a good thing.

So far the fruit in containers up by the house remains almost completely stink bug free, so those should give us tomatoes for fresh eating for a few more weeks.

I always say that it is impossible to have too many tomatoes, but this month I have learned that you really can have too many.

It has been a great tomato year, but I am ready for it to end, and at this point, I don't even want to think about fall tomatoes.

Dawn


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RE: A Really Good Tomato Year

Dawn,
It sounds like you made it to the top of the mountain and now you can slide down the other side! I have a question about freezing the tomatoes .... when you do that are they still good for making salsa? I have enough now to make another batch but I'm not going to have time to do it until next week, so if I can freeze them that would be a big help. I'm glad your hand is somewhat better and hope it will continue to improve now that you can slow down some.

Suzie


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RE: A Really Good Tomato Year

Suzie, I'm not sure if I am sliding down the mountain or falling off of it. : )

Yes, frozen tomatoes are fine for salsa. I often keep a big zip-lock in the deep freeze at the end of the season (or very early in the season) when tomatoes are straggling in one by one instead of in huge gobs and I just keep adding tomatoes to that bag until I have enough to can a batch of salsa. You can leave them in the deep freeze for months. I still had one bag in my deep freeze this winter that was from 2009. (It was buried under something else.)

I am pleased to report I have only one-half of a bowl of tomatoes sitting on the breakfast room table, and no other fresh tomatoes any place else in the house. I worked hard today to whittle the piles of tomatoes down to a half-bowl, and I couldn't use them because they aren't fully ripe yet.

Tomorrow I'll ruin it all by picking tomatoes again, but that is not going to be an issue much longer. Today I had about a million grasshoppers in the garden munching on tomato foliage. At the rate they're stripping the plants, my harvest will be done in a couple of weeks. I suppose that maybe they are doing me a favor if they are eating the spider mites that are on the leaves.

I have enjoyed this year's big tomato crop so much, but it really has been a struggle at times to deal with all the tomatoes in terms of processing them or even just washing them, sorting them and bagging them up to give away. I'm still enjoying eating them! I just don't want to have to spend all day every day canning, dehydrating and freezing them. It will pay off for the next year when we have tomato products of all kinds right there on the pantry or in the freezer.

You know, the minute the pests and heat destroy what's left of my tomato crop, I'll be whining and complaining about that. When I do, y'all have my permission to beat me over the head with my Ball Blue Book.

Dawn


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RE: A Really Good Tomato Year

OK, now. hehe I'm wondering how many you got today. LOL I sure wish I were there helping. I could learn alot. I'm envious and wish I were struggling the same. That's the goal. Maybe in about twelve years, eh? haha

bon


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RE: A Really Good Tomato Year

Bon, I picked the harvest in this order this morning: okra, cucumbers, green beans, yardlong beans and then tomatoes. I already had been out working with the string trimmer doing a little yard maintenance, so didn't even start picking anything until after 9 a.m. and by the time I reached the toamatoes, it already was 93 degrees. I picked as long as I could stand it, but only picked two big bowls. I'm guessing that each bowl holds about 2 to 3 gallons. I was picking little Principe Borghese tomatoes for sundrying so each bowl has a couple hundred tomatoes. I have one batch of SunGolds and Matt's Wild Cherry drying now that's been in the oven since first thing this morning around 6 a.m. and that one should be done between 8 and 10 p.m and then I'll put a batch of Principe Borghese into the oven to turn into sun-dried tomatoes overnight, so to speak. Luckily, sunshine is not actually required.

With a little luck, I should be able to pick 5 to 7 more bowls of tomatoes after dinner, and if I do, then making salsa is on tomorrow's schedule. Ugh, a glance at the thermometer shows 103 degrees out there, so I'm thinking it won't cool off very quickly tonight. That may shorten the evening harvest period.

I have a tomato year this good about once every other year, most often in even-numbered years. You have to have the right weather at the right time and enough moisture to make the plants grow, but not so much moisture that disease runs rampant. Then, you have to hope and pray that hail and high wind miss you. For the most part they have. We had two bad high wind/hail storms this year, but had hail 11 times last year, so the two hailstorms this year are such a big improvement over last year and neither did very much damage. The wind did more damage than the hail did, including bringing down trees across the county and knocking out power.

One reason I've been working so hard to preserve the excess tomatoes is because it is very rare to have two great years in a row, so I think next year likely will be only average at best. Maybe having all the preserved tomatoes will make a less-than-great-year more bearable if that is what we have next year. It isn't just our garden, either. Pretty much everyone in the county is having an epic tomato year. People are leaving bags of tomatoes anonymously on the front porches of non-gardening friends. That's usually a squash-disposal technique, not a tomato one. : ) Now that the extreme heat and the annual onslaught of pests are here, I would think that the tomato harvest will wind down pretty drastically pretty quickly. Of course, heavy rainfall next week, were it to occur, could prolong the season. The odds of us getting heavy rainfall? Likely not good, but that won't stop me from hoping.

I'm trying to remember the great tomato years here. I think they have been 2002 (COLD! stayed in the 40s at night until the end of May or early June), 2004 (mild, great rainfall), 2006 (dry overall, but 9.25" of rain in one day saved that year's tomato crop), 2007 (flooding rains delayed the harvest but by late July or early August we had huge numbers of tomatoes), 2008 (dry late in the year, but had a good spring because of abundant soil moisture from 2007) and 2010 (hot and dry in much of the state, but nice here). Interestingly, we had great stone fruit years in 2004, 2010 and 2012, though I don't think we did in any of those other years. Of course, one ill-timed late freeze or frost or hail storm or high wind (over about 50 mph) can ruin a crop of stone fruit.

I have oodles of cool tomato memories from 2004 and I treasure them. It was a wonderful garden year. We'd hired the adult sons of Tim's best friend, Ken, to build our detached, barn-style garage, so they were here all the time that summer. Often, one of them brought his young son over and we had great adventures watching frogs in the lily pond, collecting eggs from the hen nests in the chicken coop, and searching the thick, dense watermelon vines for ripe melons. When Ken's mom and sister came to visit for a couple of weeks, they came over and hung out and we all picked and ate tomatoes. I already was growing lots of heirloom tomatoes and Ken's mom, then in her mid-80s, was fascinated with the orange Nebraska Wedding and yellow Dr. Wyche's Yellow tomatoes. She just adored them. Many of my memories of that summer revolve around having friends over constantly and picking tomatoes to share with them. At the time, I didn't know how precious those memories would be to us later on.

The following winter, Ken began experiencing vague symptoms that initially were misdiagnosed as Bell's Palsy. Actually, he had a brain tumor. He was diagnosed the week before Easter and died two months later (on my birthday of all days). In those last weeks of his life, his whole family came to Oklahoma, of course, and we shared so many memories of previous times spent together over many years, but especially the times shared just the previous summer. Those memories of meals shared and tomatoes eaten with his family mean more to me than any tomato crop in any year. You never know which day in the garden will turn into a precious memory like mine from 2004 which you'll treasure forever. At the time we didn't know we were creating special memories that would help us carry us through the devastating loss of a friend who was so close to Tim that he was like the brother Tim never had. We were just livning our lives. I wouldn't trade my memories from that summer for all the tomatoes in California.

When we moved here, I had no idea how good of a garden we could grow in this soil and these conditions. I expected many challenges and lots of disappointments, and we have had that. Overall we seem to have more good years in the garden than bad ones, though, and every year is fun no matter the outcome. Well, I don't know that 2011 was fun in many ways, so it might be the exception. Even then, though, we harvested so many tomatoes in May that I was giving away bagfuls of them. By late June, that was about over though, and then it was just a random ripe tomato here or there. I was gone to fires so much that I wouldn't have had time to deal with the more-or-less-abandoned garden anyway.

We are not having bad fires here yet, though there were several on the Fourth of July, and one early this morning. However, the potential is there for it to get really bad really fast, and I just dread that.

Dawn


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RE: A Really Good Tomato Year

"Squash-disposal technique.." I laughed out loud!

That's a wonderful story. My kids have had fun picking all the tiny tomatoes and learning which ones to leave behind for a day or two more.

I remember you writing of the fires last year and can't help but pray that isn't the case this year.

bon


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RE: A Really Good Tomato Year

When we first started looking for acreage here in about 1997, we went to the county courthouse to look at an aerial map of a piece of property we were interested in buying. We noticed that no one who was doing business at the courthouse locked their cars, and one person parked their vehicle on the courthouse square and left it unlocked, with the engine running. Right away we knew we wanted to live here because it was so refreshing to know you could leave your vehicle running and unlocked on the town square, and no one would take it. Things have changed somewhat since then, but lots of folks still don't lock their cars in town. Well, except during squash season. You must lock your car doors then or you may return to your car and find someone has left a big bag of squash in it.

I went outside and started harvesting earlier than planned--as soon as the temperature dropped back down to 101. I picked 8 more bowls (one 'bowl' is a 4-gallon bucket, so I am using the word bowl somewhat loosely) to go with the 2 from this morning and the 1/2 left over from yesterday. So, I will start tomorrow with 10 1/2 bowls of tomatoes to process. All of them are not ripe--some are merely at breaker stage and others are turning, so I will have several days to work my way through them. Before I do anything with the tomatoes, I'm going to blanch and freeze all the squash, okra, green beans and yardlong beans that weren't use for a meal today or won't be used for one tomorrow. I also have a ton of peppers to deal with.

I don't think there's many tomatoes left to worry about picking after this last harvest. I really stripped those plants of anything that was even remotely close to breaking color.

I'm ready to finish up the toms and move on to all the other stuff. It's time to make more pickles and start canning peppers.

I'm racing time now--hoping to get all the food preservation completed that I possibly can before we get real busy with fires.

My refrigerator is so full of bags of produce to process tomorrow that I am pretty sure that if anyone opens the fridge door tonight or early in the morning, lumpy, bumpy bags of veggies will fall out of the door and land on their feet and break their toes. I hope that by this time tomorrow, I will have preserved all that stuff and the refrigerator will be back to normal.


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RE: A Really Good Tomato Year

Dawn,
Thanks for the info on freezing the tomatoes for salsa .... great to know! I am always amazed, actually in awe is a better description, when I read your posts about the yields from your garden. I just read some of the above to Larry about what you harvested in just one day and what you'll be doing with it and he is amazed also. He asked how big your garden is. And your story about the memorable summer of 2004 really touched me. We never know what lies around the next bend in the road.

Oh, and by the way I ordered the Roma processor (the exact name of it escapes me right now) that you mentioned the other day when I asked about salsa and it's on the way. I don't have anywhere close to the volume you have but anything to help with the processing will be welcome!

Suzie


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RE: A Really Good Tomato Year

Suzie,

You're welcome.

My garden is roughly 10,000 square feet but its size is hard to figure because it isn't a square or rectangular box. It is actually several separate plots of land, and the biggest portion of it is bordered by the woods on the north side, a grove of trees on the west side, and the driveway on the south side. It curves to go around trees, and a big mound of clay that is worthless and which I'd love to have removed, and a little pond for the wildlife. When we fenced it, it took 400' linear feet of fencing, but because it isn't a nice square garden, it really isn't 100' by 100'. It looks like a garden designed by a person who'd been drinking. I should have just hired a guy with a bulldozer to flatten everything to the ground, but I wanted to preserve mature trees and shrubs for the wildlife....so what we have is a crazy garden tucked into a clearing in the woods with fencelines that meander around trees, shrubs, cacti (even they shriveled up and were really dessicated last year), a berm and a pond. I have several smaller garden plots that are more squared off and normal looking, and I grow lots in containers...I have 60 tomato plants in containers, though I am tired of watering them and about to let them go. They're really struggling in all these 100-degree-plus days.

I grow so much because I use wide rows 4' to 5' wide with 12-18" pathways, although I confess that the plants spill over into the pathways. I also grow vertically on every bit of the garden fence I possibly can, which explains why I have cantaloupes hanging up there 8' above the ground at the top of the fence. Tomorrow I am going to climb a ladder to harvest the beans growing next to them, and while I am up there I am going to put slings up to support the cantaloupes.

Today (and I am laughing at myself here) I found a Moon and Stars watermelon growing on a fence about 4' above the ground. The issue with that is that Moon and Stars is a huge melon. Usually I just plant the little mini-watermelons by the fence and they do just fine when grown vertically. I'm going to have to figure out how to support the Moon and Stars melon as it enlarges. I didn't think I had any Moon and Stars melons in that specific garden plot. It is the Three Sisters Garden with 'Texas Honey June Corn', 'Seminole ' and 'Old Timey Corn Field' pumpkins, 'Worchester Indian Red' Lima Bean, and Red Ripper southern peas. I'm not sure if I planted a watermelon plant there or if it is a volunteer from compost. When I saw the plant climbing the fence a couple of weeks ago, I shrugged and wondered if it was going to be 'Black Tail Mountain' or 'Yellow Baby'. Well it is neither. It has the moons and stars of 'Moon and Stars' so I am sure that's what it is. I do remember squeezing in some birdhouse gourds on the other fence, and a few leftover gourd plants and okra plants at the east end. In the spot where the watermelon is growing? Well, I have Kebarika bush beans there. So, apparently there's a melon there. All of the above explains how I don't plant rows so much as I plant groupings that fill up the space both vertically and horizontally. Even when it is unplanned, it happens. In the big garden my Seminole Pumpkins have escaped from their bed and run 20' eastward, but they aren't growing on the ground. No, that would be too simple. They are running across the tops of the tomato cages of the 'Indigo Rose' tomatoes. Apparently while I was busy canning during the whole month of June, plants began running amok in the garden.

Tim can't even see me when I'm in the garden, so he stands at the gate and hollers my name. My cats sometimes hunt me down but often they just walk up and down the adjacent driveway meowing.

I tried Square Foot Garden and it was only okay for me. I just am not that structured and regimented in the way I do things, and I felt some of the plant spacing didn't work well in our hot climate, especially with big monster tomato plants. So, after reading John Jeavons book (linked below) I began planting and interplanting using his spacing and find I can get about 4 times the yield I got from traditional row spacing years and years ago.

Here's a quick example of how you can get more from your garden. I planted three rows of tomato plants, with each row being about 18' long and with 4' in between the rows. In the middle of that 4', I planted rows of bush beans. The bush beans had matured and had been harvested before the tomato plants were 4' tall, and after that, I yanked out the bean plants and the tomatoes filled in all that space. I often do the same things with carrots, lettuce and radishes underneath tomato plants like a ground cover. It is a way to get multiple crops from one space. I grow all my melons under okra plants. I grow most all my vining crops on trellises and fences. Often the pole beans will climb not only the fences, but any tomato cages or okra or corn plants within reach. I work really hard to get the most from every square inch of space. I always think the garden looks great in May because it is green, lush and yet still soemwhat orderly. Then June arrives and the heat brings explosive growth (as long as there is moisture) and it gets rowdy, wild and out-of-control and becomes a jungle.

I continue working night and day to manage the harvest, and likely will make the last salsa tomorrow. I've been running the dehydrator almost 24/7 and may finish drying the Principe Borghese tomatoes this week. After that, there likely won't be that many more tomatoes to harvest and dry at once, although every now and then I get a bunch of SunGolds at one time. I'm sort of moving on now, beyond tomatoes to peppers, trading in salsa-making and other fabulous tomato products for candied jalapenos peppers, jalapenos rings, Habanero Gold jelly and jalapeno jelly. I've also been busy making pickles. Today I made Spicy Pickles using a Mrs. Wage's spice mix that includes jalapenos. I think Tim is going to love these hot, spicy pickles, but they may be too hot for me.

Tim looked at the counter a few days ago, with rows of tomato products (Pasta Sauce, Chili Base and Pizza Sauce) lined up neatly in their pint jars while I was trying to figure out where to put them and said "it's starting to look like you're a Doomsday Prepper". I told him no, that I was just a gardener who didn't want to waste a bit of the harvest. Doomsday Prepper indeed! (I do enjoy watching the show, but I am not one of those folks.)

My Roma/Villawear tomato press/strainer is one reason I can so much stuff. Without it, the whole process is too time-consuming. With it, I can whip out batch after batch of stuff in the blink of an eye. I never would can this much if I had to peel tomatoes. If I never, ever again have to drop tomatoes into boiling water to begin the tomato-peeling process, I'll be a happy camper.

Insanity reigns at our house this year--both in the garden and in the kitchen, but I am having a lot of fun (tiring fun) and getting oodles of food put up. The deep freeze is about 2/3s full, and I will finish filling it up (hopefully!) with okra, frozen peppers and mid- and late-season corn. My big worry has been that fires would start up and would take me away from the kitchen. Now that the tomato preservation is about done, I can relax and not worry much about that. We have had fires, but just not big, out-of-control ones like we had last year, and I've only had to leave in the middle of canning one time, and it wasn't at a critical time when I shouldn't leave.

I have my eye on a place behind the garage where I want to be able to plant corn and pumpkins, but the soil needs massive work. I scatter sowed (with no tilling) a deer/wildlife plot mixture there last fall and it all seemed to grow well. This spring when Tim cut it, he came in and told me the turnips had grown entirely above ground. I told him that turnips will pop up like that, similar to onions sometimes (at least in our clay they do) and he told me they'd never been in the ground. I didn't believe him and went out to see...and there they were lying sideways on top of the hard clay soil. I cannot even imagine how much work we'd have to do to make that soil suitable for growing anything, but if we managed to do it, that would give me 1800 more square feet to play with.

Dawn


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RE: A Really Good Tomato Year

Dawn,
Your garden sounds absolutely wonderful! And you know just what is growing in every section. I have troubling remembering which variety of tomatoes are planted where because the weeds overgrew the markers, lol! And there you are thinking about adding another 1800 square feet. I really like your method of interplanting and am going to aim for something similar to that in the future. This year I didn't start with a very well thought out plan and could have made much better use of our small space. But oh well ..... this summer I'm just happy with all the tomatoes because last year we got literally a few handfuls of cherry tomatoes out of a total of 18 tomato plants. It was downright sad, so every time I carry in a bucket full of tomatoes this summer it's a great feeling. I've also harvested some cucumbers, squash, zucchini, beans, and peppers, but the tomatoes are the star of the show this year, which is just fine with me! Is it the "How to Grow More Vegetables" book that you were referring to by Jeavons?

Suzie


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RE: A Really Good Tomato Year

Suzie,

Oops, I forgot the link. Yes, that's the book. It is amazing. At first I had trouble with it. There are so many charts and diagrams and plants, and that's not the kind of gardener I am. I am a lot more, um, casual about gardening. I have tried to map things out on graph paper and have a plan, and it doesn't work for me. I like to stick things here and there spur-of-the-moment. In my own defense, look at how Mother Nature grows things....all mixed up together, not in straight rows or monocultures. Eventually, though, I began using his planting schemes and found they worked for me with little modification. I still don't plan it out on paper in advance, and if I had a plan I know I wouldn't stick to it, but I do follow his biointensive philosophy and use his techniques.

I am so excited to hear that your garden is producing so well. After last year, what a relief it is to have more normal vegetable production!

Interplanting works in many different ways. For example, low-growing plants underneath taller ones serve as a ground cover, shading the ground and keeping it cooler. Planting a cover crop of buckwheat in bare ground near squash seems to attract beneficial insects that combat/control the squash pests. How else can I explain having 33 summer squash plants and not a one has had trouble with squash bugs or squash vine borers? (Now that I said that, they'll all droop and die tomorrow.) Planting zinnias, Laura Bush petunias and tall verbena (Verbena bonariensis) seems to attract butterflies, hummingbirds and pollinators. I am about to decide that the reason I don't have massive issues with Tomato Hornworms is because I have a huge planting of four o'clocks on two sides of the garden, just outside the garden fence.

I often use trellised veggies like cantaloupes to shade peppers and that helps prevent sunscald in July and August.

There's lots of ways to mix up things together and foil pests. When all your plants are in a straight row, the pests move right down the row. Mix in other veggies, or herbs or flowers, and the pests have to work harder to find their favorite vegetables.

I've also been known to sneak pepper plants into flower beds, and to plant beans or gourds or mini-pumpkins on the fence that surrounds the dog yard. Most of us have lots more options for planting edible plantings than just putting them in a 'proper' vegetable garden isolated away from the rest of the landscape. I love to put okra in flower beds with cannas and colocasias. Sometimes when I do that, the deer don't even find the okra.

In my molasses tub containers, which are about the size of a whiskey half barrel, I'll usually put an indeterminate tomato plant, a pepper plant or two and a couple of hot-season flowers like periwinkles or a trailing vine like ornamental sweet potato. I let the trailing vine trail downward and shade the container from direct sun exposure. I often throw in a basil, rosemary or borage plant. To me, those mixed plantings are prettier (and more productive) than a container with only flowers or only a tomato plant.

One of my favorite things is when the Seminole pumpkins climb the garden fence and then climb the adjacent trees in the woodland. To a passerby in Septemeber or October, all they really notice from the road is that we have pumpkin trees!

Today I found a corn field pumpkin on the fence by the Moon and Stars watermelon. I guess the corn is shading the ground so heavily that all the plants are climbing much more than I thought they would. It's all good, though. I love looking at it, and even if the garden produced nothing at all, I'd still do it because it is fun.

Dawn


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RE: A Really Good Tomato Year

What a great thread! Been waiting for this one to show up.

I have given away tomatos to the neighbors and my daughter and her family. Kenna loves the Black Cherry, Juliet, SunGold (her fave), and yes, the Chocolate Cherry. I'm harvesting Bush Goliath now - they are huge! - as well as Big Beef, Better Boy, Cherokee Purple (very few left), and all the cherries. Despite the dang spider mites, the plants continue to produce green ones. Maybe my cage rattling is doing some good after all! Oh, Indian Stripe has not done all that well - not as good as CP, in fact.

I've also harvested lots of cukes, a few okra - I look for them to start really picking up soon, and quite a few Jalapenos. The Jalapeno star, tho is the regular "Jalapeno" plant from Bonnies. Spicy Jalapeno, Early Jalapeno, and Mucho Nacho just didn't turn out as many. I also have some Green peppers and an Orange Pepper, which is just now starting to churn them out. Sure took it forever.

Dawn, I just cannot BELIEVE your numbers! It wears me out just reading your post about harvesting, canning, freezing, cooking, dehydrating, and on and on and on! You must have an endless supply of energy. Congrats on your tomato harvest, you deserve it!

Susan


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RE: A Really Good Tomato Year

Susan,

I am just as amazed as everyone else.

There have been years I've had fewer plants, but greater production per plant. There have been years I've had many more plants, but severe drought, so less production. This is just the perfect year---lots of plants with lots of fruit. It likely will not happen again for a decade.

I've been really fortunate to have had rain at all the right times or the tomato harvest wouldn't be nearly as good. You might remember that in May I was ready to throw in the towel (or, for a garden pun, trowel) because it was hot and windy and rain wasn't falling. Then, we got 7" of rain in about 12 or 13 days and that saved my tomato season. Since then, the weather has not been as favorable, but then at this point it hardly matters because we have plenty of tomatoes, both fresh and preserved, and many plants still are producing. I would have thought the spider mites would have killed all the plants by now, but the plants soldier bravely onward, despite all those pesky mites.

I have to yank out plants this week or the continual harvesting will kill me, but I'll keep a few for fresh tomatoes.

You're having a really great tomato year too and that is wonderful. I love that your grandchildren are getting to eat tomatoes you have raised at home right there in your yard.

Our jalapeno harvest has just picked up the last couple of weeks. I think it took them a while to recover from the hot, dry May weather and it seemed like all the rain in latest May and early June put them back into more of a vegetative growth period. I'm seeing lots of new blooms now. My first big pepper harvest last weekend was a little later than usual because sometimes I get the first huge harvest in June, but the rain has to fall at the right time for that to happen, and this year it did not. It likely is just as well. I don't think I could have coped with an abundant pepper harvest at the exact time the tomato harvest was maxing out. I did have enough jalapeno peppers all along to make salsa so that worked out well. Now that I am putting my foot down and saying I will not can any more tomatoes, the peppers are taking over and that's fine. I'm ready to deal with them now.

The habaneros are starting to worry me. Last year they really struggled in the heat even after I shaded them. This year, just in case it was that kind of year, I planted twice as many--8 plants. Because I'm growing 'Chichen Itza' which is a very heavy producer, I think I should have planted two plants. All 8 plants are huge and loaded with fruit with many more blooms on them this week. I have no idea what I'll do with all those habaneros. You know, a little habanero pepper goes a long, long way. Yesterday I added some habaneros to 3 of the 4 batches of salsa I made so we have 1-Alarm Salsa (regular, all jalapenos and no habs) through 4-Alarm Salsa (all habs and no jalapenos, and too hot for me to enjoy). The 2-Alarm is half habs/half jalapenos and the 3-alarm is 75% habs and 25% jalapenos. It is likely I'll make a lot of Habanero Gold, maybe some plain habanero pepper jelly, and use a few more in salsa. After that, I likely will chop them up and freeze them in the amounts needed for Habanero Gold in the future.

When I planted all those tomato plants (far, far too many and I knew it was insane when I did it), I figured that even if the weather got impossibly hot and dry very early, at least we'd get one big early harvest and that I wouldn't care if drought killed all the plants after that because I would have preserved a lot of tomatoes. I never expected that all the plants would survive long enough to produce for a few months. We picked the first fruit in late April, and the plants that provided the first harvest are still producing a good harvest. If I was them, I'd be tired out by now. I told Tim about a month ago "at first, I was worried all these plants wouldn't survive and produce, now I'm worried that they will". The plants are trying to convince me to not yank them out by putting out lots of new growth, but I am beyond caring. I told myself I would stop canning tomatoes when I ran out of places to store the canned products, and I am at that point now. I have to save some storage space somewhere in this house for canned jalapenos, jalapeno jelly and Habanero Gold. Oh, and hopefully for more pickles. The cukes are starting to slow down because spider mites are just destroying those plants, but I think the plants have a couple more batches of cukes in them.

At times it has been very tiring, but no more tiring than running to massive wildfires all summer long last summer at all hours of the day and night. As hot and steamy as the kitchen gets when I am canning, and as tired as these old bones of mine get, I'd rather be in the kitchen than out in the heat at a fire any day.

I said that I was through making salsa, but then a friend of ours offered us their surplus peaches. Tim is running over to their house now to pick up the peaches, and he took them bags of tomatoes, and jars of salsa, pickles and plum jelly. I am sure I'll make some peach jelly, but I'm also thinking of making peach-tomato salsa. See there, how can I be expected to behave myself and narrow my canning focus and turn my attention to peppers and pickles when someone is offering us peaches at the same time we have ripe tomatoes? If that is not a sign that I am supposed to make peach-tomato salsa, then what is?

We also had a little, itty bitty (but noisy) rain shower a little while ago but I haven't been out to check the rain gauge yet. I don't think there will be much in the gauge, but anything is better than nothing.

Today I've been dehydrating tomatoes marinated in wine and sprinkled with Italian herbs, and the whole house smells so yummy.

One thing I am mindful of is that the weather here can turn on a dime and we could start having bad wildfires literally any day, so I need to can, dehydrate and freeze the produce while I can. Once the fires start in earnest, there won't be time for any of that. To quote an old farm phrase, we're making hay while the sun shines.

Dawn


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