right now

right now

Jun 18, 2011

Green Tomatoes, anyone?

We have plenty!

Last night we were ruthless in cleaning out all branches that had any signs whatsoever of blight.  We ended up pulling 2 more Amish Paste and 2 Red Zebra plants.  I did the "pointing" and hubby did the trimming and pulling so I could remain "uninfected".  I then sprayed them liberally to the point of runoff starting with the Brandywine bed which still looks fantastic, although we found a couple of branches that looked ill at the very bottom.  Hopefully we caught those early enough.  We ended the spraying with the Amish Paste bed, which was the worst by a long shot.

I also found what may be blight spreading to the bed of pepperoncini.  Luckily my pepper beds are all over the garden, not just in one place.  This one got sprayed too.

Lesson learned:  go for the big bottle of concentrate right off the bat.  I first bought the ready to use bottle for $11.99 and ran out before even treating half the bed.  I went back, bought the $25 bottle of concentrate and a mini tank sprayer and after treating all the beds the way they are supposed to be done, to the point of saturation and runoff, I still have over 3/4 of a bottle left!

The good news is, we planted some new tomatoes in place of the old (there was nowhere else to put them and they were only $1 apiece), and will spray them preventatively.  This will also serve to let me know if it will work to plant tomatoes next year if I spray ahead of time.  Rotation is not a viable option in a backyard environment, as this stuff spreads all over anyways, as shown by this year's stuff.  They were planted in 4 different locations and still showed symptoms.

More good news below, the Hillbilly heirlooms planted in-ground are still looking good.

The Brandywine bed looks really good, amazing since it's literally 2 feet away from the affected Red Zebra bed.

So now what to do with all the green tomatoes that got pulled?  Lots of good ideas out there for salsas, chutneys and sauces, but I'm intrigued by these too!

Pickled Green Tomatoes

Green Tomato Pizza!

Tomorrow will be my day to create something, but I have a feeling it will be this...

Good old fashioned Green Tomato Pie, just like the one Caroline Ingalls baked for Charles one year when the crops were failing but they had an abundance of green tomatoes.  Y'all know I'm a sucker for anything Ma Ingalls, the woman is my superheroine!

Tonight I'm hosting a Garden Round-Robin here.  Our garden group tries to get together for a social event in a different members' garden once a month for ideas, snooping around other peoples' gardens and good food, drinks and conversation.  It's 96 degrees here now and I expect it will be much the same at 5 when the party starts, but the humidity is only 50% which makes it tolerable.  Usually humidity here is way higher, with the dewpoint near 70.  I wouldn't want to work in it, LOL... but a party should be okay!

I hope to have an update and a green tomato recipe for you soon!  

Jun 17, 2011

No more classes, no more books...

...you know the rest of the rhyme, but doesn't apply here!

These are the women that are responsible for raising my kids for the majority of their days.  I appreciate them more than they will ever know.  I could go on and on about the impact they have had on my kids, but I'm sure you all know from your own experiences with your childrens' teachers.  

Mrs. D - I don't know how she does it, her entire class is comprised of kids just like Loch, never ending questions and a desire to learn that is never quenched, but she does it very well, and with a always with a smile, but I bet she rolls her eyes a lot on the inside :)

We have some "big news" that I kept putting off sharing, but I can't keep it to myself any longer - Loch was selected to attend the Math & Science Academy for the Gifted starting in the fall.  We knew he was a little smarty-pants but what do we know, we're his parents - of course we think that!  He was identified as gifted through district testing back in 1st grade, and attended the in-school gifted class in 2nd grade, but Mrs. D urged us to apply for one of the few spots available in the Math and Science Academy.  With only 20 slots open and hundreds of kids district wide applying, I was cautiously optimistic, but we got the letter of acceptance over a month ago.  He is already registered and ready to rock!  The school isn't that much further away luckily, and they provide transportation to the students throughout the city so I don't have to worry about that either.  I'm so incredibly excited for him - of course about the academics, but even more so about the social aspect of being around other kids that are much like him.  I expect the bully/nerd thing he has been experiencing will ease up a bit for him.  I'm so proud of Loch and so fortunate to have had Mrs. D urge us to apply and make sure Loch has been challenged and socially accepted within his classroom the past year, she's just awesome! :)

Mrs. P - the quintessential kindergarten teacher.  Always smiling, greets each child with a hug or handshake, their preference LOL, each and every day.  She's expecting her very first child of her own and I'm so excited for her.  Finn was very sad to move on today and made me promise we'd go back to her class next year to visit so he can bring her a basket of garden goodies.  

Proud Daddy - he missed Loch's events at school due to the past 2 deployments, but he was able to make it this time.

Finn's classroom.  We are in the biggest elementary school in the district with 10 kindergarden classes alone, yet there are only 12 kids per class so I have been ecstatic about the quality time with the teacher he receives while he's learning.

Last but certainly not least - Ms. Angela!  How the heck she does it with this smile on her face every day I'll never know.  Bus full of screaming little kids, no A/C, 98 degree temps, always on time, yet she always looks as happy as this. Finn and Loch gave her a little patio tomato plant today to show our appreciation for all she does.

I feel fortunate to be so happy with our experiences with public school, in a city with a population of half a million people even!  Not everyone is this lucky, and it is so important we  change this, but I won't get started on the politics of education, it's just preaching to the choir.  :)

Mrs. D, Mrs. P, Ms. Angela - thanks ladies, you rock!


Debit card, check!  Big Girl panties, check!  Ch-Chnk - hear the shotgun being cocked? 
 Game ON!

By 7:30 am I was on my way to my favorite little nursery, favorite because they give a discount to Master Gardeners and carry lots of organic weapons and seedlings.  Sadly, it was not to be, the seedlings all looked like they had blight, LOL I told you I'm seeing it everywhere now!

Peel outta there, going to check the big bad box store... nothing interesting there in the way of tomatoes, but I did get these...

2 flats of petunias and marigolds for $1.75 per flat!  Why?  I guess because they didn't have any flowers on them and needed to be deadheaded, haha, they're mine now!

Next stop, the local Disneyland of nurseries...

Repeat after me:  stay focused!


oh look, Sweet Potatoes - FOCUS!

Don't look into the light!

What the heck is THIS?  For real?  $299.00?????  More power to them, I guess.

Finally, I've arrived.

No more screwing around with $12 ready to spray bottles that won't even treat one bed, I spent $25 for the concentrate and $7 for the spray bottle.  I'll be dousing the Brandywines liberally to try and save them, since they showed no signs of blight until late last night.

I also cleaned them out of the last Juliet tomatoes.  I hear they are one of the most Early Blight resistant 'maters out there, if there is such a thing.  Unfortunately it thunderstormed last night and this morning and is expected to be in the 90's, the worst thing for spreading blight, but I'll be out there this evening after dinner with bells on!  I'm not going down without a fight.... "$64 Dollar Tomato", anyone?  LOL I might need to re-read that book, I believe I may have upped that by a few dollars :)

Jun 16, 2011

The writing is on the wall...

How easily it all can turn.  I had some stunning seedlings this year, some of the best ever, actually.  I really felt this was going to be the best year ever for tomatoes.  I had more growth than I'd ever seen, strong stems, was religious about trimming them and supporting them, and I'd never seen so much fruit set before.  

Today I actually cried.  At first I just picked up my shears (always disinfected nowadays) and started trimming off the blight exactly where I stopped yesterday, and the day before.  The spray is having no effect, and it's spreading.  As I watched the leaves pile up in the trash I just sat down on the raised bed and cried.  I've never cried over the garden before, I feel like a crazy lady!  

Of course the truth is I could go to the Farmer's Market to buy tomatoes, but my job is to grow food for my family.  I pride myself on my ability to grow, preserve and serve as much of my hard work as possible and even though I know it happens to everyone sooner or later, I feel like a failure!  There's no way I could ever afford to buy farmer's market tomatoes for canning (can you imagine purchasing a few hundred pounds?!) and I really wouldn't even want to, even those sit around for awhile and aren't as fresh as mine, and damnit, it's just not the same!  So what do I do, give up for the year?

Here's the update:

The entire Amish Paste bed looks as if it will be ripped out this weekend.  Definitely 2 of the 3 Red Zebra will have to go.  I found 2 branches on the bottom of a Hillbilly plant, and even found signs on the Brandywines tonight that weren't there at 2 pm today.

Above, 4 total Amish Paste have now been removed.  Below, just hoping some of these will ripen before I yank the rest of the bed.  There are loads of fruit on these, but every hour it seems there are more branches yellow and dead.

The Brandywines look amazing in the below photo taken today about 1 pm, but this evening I pulled 2 lower branches on the back side and sprayed the remaining drops of copper fungicide I had.  I will probably go out and buy some more to try and save these, the Amish Paste were too far gone by the time I sprayed them.  I can't really afford to do this, though, at what point do I call "time"?!

I've been kind of a zombie all afternoon and evening, my poor kids know something is up - I'm short tempered and on the verge of tears every time I look out the back door.  How crazy is that?  To be crying over some tomato plants?  I even tried to look at the bright side, it obviously means that this type of life and eating is the norm here, the food I grow is the only source of vegetables, I haven't been to the produce section of a grocery store for veggies in over 2 years except onions and potatoes.  I think this is why I'm affected so badly, I pride myself on having good things stashed away for winter and it looks like I may have nothing to show for my efforts this year.  I've also noticed 2 leaves on my pepper plants that look the same tonight.  But at what point am I just seeing blight everywhere I look, no matter if it's real or not LOL?

Should I attempt to grow more seedlings from a resistant variety?  Should I buy resistant "big box" varieties of unknown origin (yikes)?  Do I give up on tomatoes this year?  I will definitely have to grow resistant hybrids for the next couple of years probably until it's out of the soil, unless we get some consistent 20 degree weather this winter, that's unlikely.  At least I have time before next year to find resistant varieties that come from a responsible source.  

Since I felt particularly unlucky today, hubby and Finn planted my gourd and zucchini seedlings for me :)

Finn hugged me and told me he was sad for my tomatoes too, and that he named his plant, it's an Ornamental Gourd he called "Mental Gourds" and the zucchini is "Pythorius Redonculus"... which means absolutely nothing but is so cute I had to laugh.

As a sidenote:  Sometimes I feel like the family doesn't notice or appreciate all the hard work that goes into what arrives on their plates and fills the cupboards and freezer.  I often feel like tapping the mike..."hey, is this thing on??"  Then Loch came home with a letter he had written that his teacher had sent home today, this darn near made me a sobbing mess, but it's why I do what I do, and wow... the kid notices!

Thanks in advance for your kind words, I know they are headed my way and that's the reason I had to vent this evening!  I never feel in competition with any of my blogger family and feel utterly comfortable in sharing my failures, I know we all have them sooner than later, but it sure does seem many of us are having more than our share in 2011.  Honestly, when I was trimming blight I thought of how fun it would be for everyone to bring their blight, bugs, downed trees and drowned seedlings to a group bonfire, we could all pass a bottle while throwing our stuff to the fire and having a little chit chat with Mother Nature!

p.s.  don't worry, I'm sure the big girl panties will show up soon and I will put them on and brush myself off and come up with a plan!  :)

Here's another kicker:  I'm hosting a garden party Saturday night for a local group of gardeners, looks like they'll be able to get a better visual of disease symptoms than they can get from textbook photos!

Ready or not...

Here we come!

Good morning from the garden!

Today is the last day in the low 80's, starting tomorrow the heat comes back, I'll be trying my darndest to enjoy the day today and hopefully finish out the evening with a rainstorm as the warm front moves in tonight.

Jun 15, 2011

Cute...not cute...

Random photos from today...

Baby birds, cute!

Mama Dove's eggs...

teeny eggplant, cute...

Poor Marley, but still cute.

Old shade situation, definitely not cute.  Mama Pea, note that your pink duct tape is being used to hold the structure together after the last storm :)  Like a page torn from Southern Redneck Outdoor Living magazine.  Enlarge to get the full effect LOL.

Situation remedied this morning, a little cuter with tablecloth on well worn patio set!  I hate these gazebos but they give off so much more shade they are much more practical, and it had to be able to be quickly taken down in the high winds.  

Squash bug nymps, definitely not cute...

Last but not least - cute...!

Jun 14, 2011

Of Bugs & Blight

I think I have recovered enough that I can talk about my issues with Early Blight.  Yesterday was treatment day, I trimmed and sprayed, trimmed and sprayed, until...

there was barely anything left!

Above, the Roma tomato bed was the worst.  I pulled 2 plants from the right side completely and had to prune radically.

Below, the Red Zebra tomatoes.  I purposefully pruned these up like a tree early on, but only the one on the right had blight symptoms, and now looks pretty pathetic!  I know the plant doesn't have enough foliage to survive now, but am hoping for the fruit to ripen before I pull it completely.

The Yellow Pear tomatoes were a total loss and were pulled.  I was able to save a few ripe ones, but sadly it was toast.  

The frustrating thing is that I anticipate this stuff from the get-go, I always prune up so there is light and air circulation underneath, only water from the bottom, etc.  We did have an unusually cool, wet month of May when they were set out.  I also noted that I had the same problem only with these varieties last year, and used the same seed packs... I'll be throwing them out pronto.

Now, some good news!  My other tomatoes seem unaffected by anything other than heavy loads.

Heirloom Brandywines & Hillbillies

Hybrid Orange Wellington is a good producer in containers, these were in containers last year too, and withstood being knocked over countless times in storms.

Today, we were kicked in the gut again... Squash Vine Borers!  

Above is one of the Sugar Pie pumpkins.  I had never seen a SVB moth in real life before but when it landed I did a double take, immediately recognized it from Loch's bug briefings and started hollering at hubby to come over and help.  I happened to have a bottle of Neem Oil insecticidal soap spray in my tool caddy and nailed it repeatedly - it then basically gave me the finger and flew off.  I ran inside and looked up exactly what the eggs looked like so I could get them before they hatched and burrowed in, and ran back outside.  After briefing hubby we went to start searching all the bases of all the squash plants.  While peering in there it landed again right in front of us.  Chaos ensued, me spraying Neem at it like G.I. Jane unloading a machine gun, hubby chasing it with a fly swatter, and the dogs in the house barking trying to figure out why we seem to have had gone off the deep end.  Anyway, we didn't get it and now I'm freaked out and keep going out there to look for eggs, I'm thinking about sitting on the deck with binoculars and lying in wait!  I know it's going to be bad because it's not even a race to get the squash before the SVB damage kicks in - they haven't even bloomed yet!  I'll have to be more careful with my machine gun spray once they bloom, I surely don't want to hit any bees!

I'll finish with some good things...

It was 79Âștoday, only 42% humidity, and it just doesn't get any cooler than that around here, thank you, Mother Nature!

Got the deck cleaned up and rearranged...

and shocked my fish by cleaning the pond!

Thanks to all of you for your helpfulness on the zucchini planting, I'll be doing that tomorrow.  We are expected to remain below 82 degrees until Friday, when the heat gets kicked back up again.