Tag Archives: tomatoes

Local Resource for Growing Tomatoes Successfully This Summer

year-of-the-tomato-logoThe University of Maryland Extension (UME) has a fantastic “Grow It Eat It” program. This year, they have declared 2016 as the Year of the Tomato. To celebrate this popular veggie, they created a site devoted to learning more about growing, harvesting, and preserving/canning tomatoes, http://extension.umd.edu/growit/2016-year-tomato. The site has a variety of resources: a list of local UME offices, contact information for Maryland’s gardening experts, and the list of the Master Gardener plant clinics for getting answers to tomato problems. It also has a link to their Youtube playlist of tomato information; recommended cultivars; winners of the 2015 tomato tasting events; and tomato-related articles on the Grow It Eat It blog. Although this is a UME resource, the information is applicable to those of us who live in the Mid-Atlantic area so Virginia and DC residents can enjoy the bounty. If you ever wanted to grow tomatoes successfully, now is the time!

In My Virginian Garden: A July Update

I have not posted in a while partly because the garden is in full swing, I am so busy harvesting, and partly because we have been making changes here at the homestead that necessitate me being outside instead of inside at the computer. We had a few trees thinned and one chopped down entirely which has increased the sunlight, putting a few plants in shock, but great for some other plants that needed extra sun. I am now able to extend my front garden where the old crab apple tree was, which will be a fall project. We also had the deck power washed which traumatized the container plants that had to be put out on the lawn for now, including the tomatoes in the earthboxes, and greatly moved the soil around many plants. So I have spent much time moving, tending, nursing, and healing the garden but in the end I will have more light (always needed for edibles) and more garden beds.

Black Beauty Eggplant Flower

Black Beauty Eggplant Flower

So far, I have had great success with melons, cucumbers, beans, tomatoes, peppers, and the herbs of course. The puzzler of the year are the eggplants, which I grew successfully last year in a different place but this year, no fruit. Lots of flowers, and everything else nearby is flowering and fruiting, but no eggplant. I read that they are self fertile and I should brush the flowers with a paintbrush, which I just started to do, but still nothing. These are Black Beauty eggplants so maybe next year I will try a different type. I have about six plants among basil, tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, and squash, with plenty of bees,  and they are the only plants that do not bear fruit.

On the bright side, I am enjoying the Burpee celery plant,’Peppermint Stick’. I would have never grown a celery plant unless Burpee sent it to me but it has turned out to be really easy to grow and very tasty, much more so than what you get in a store. The stalks are more pungent and the leaves are so big they could be used to garnish as well. I am sold, will grow celery from now on!

Burpee Peppermint Stick celery in ground

Burpee Peppermint Stick celery in ground

Burpee Peppermint Stick celery in bowl

Burpee Peppermint Stick celery in bowl

Another success is Renee’s Garden’s Gourmet Tuscan Melon plant. These I started from seed and grew in the large Smart Pots so they could get pampered with the richest soil and plenty of water. I have several melons so far. I have not eaten them yet but just having them is a success for me. We have been fortunate to have had quite a lot of rain in the early summer which I think is responsible for so many melons — it certainly has given me a bumper crop of cucumbers.

Renee's Garden's Gourmet Tuscan Melon

Renee’s Garden’s Gourmet Tuscan Melon

Another surprise was the Jericho lettuce, also from Renee’s Garden. It was partly shaded by a tree limb, which we cut down and since the sunlight has increased, these lettuce plants have been growing and doing well. Lettuce in July is a rare treat, will harvest these soon!

For fun, I planted Proven Winners’ Superbells calibrachoa ‘Holy Moly’, which is a flowering annual, in a large container with Burpee’s ‘Sweet Savour’ pepper. I really like the combination: Holy Moly lends itself to yellows, red and oranges but also plays off blue because it can been seen as an orange color (at first I could not decide if the container should be red, green, or blue). In early summer, the Sweet Savour peppers were yellow, but now at the end of July, the peppers have turned red and orange. They are small, perfect for a container, and although look like hot peppers are actually sweet.

Close Up of Proven Winners' Holy Moly

Close Up of Proven Winners’ Holy Moly

Burpee's Sweet Savour peppers in late July

Burpee’s Sweet Savour peppers in late July

Abundant Tomatoes!

Last year, all my tomatoes ripened at the same time, in August. But the seeds (Rutgers) and the plants (grafted Mighty ‘Matos®) were given to me so I couldn’t complain. I had three EarthBox® containers, each with a Mighty Mato and a Rutgers side by side for a total of six plants. Between the two types, I saw no difference. Both performed well, both grew to the same height, and both had the same yield. However, I think this is because they were grown in EarthBox® containers on the deck. I have been growing tomatoes in EarthBoxes® since we have lived in this house and have never had issues with tomatoes.

Abraham Lincoln as a young boy in May

Abraham Lincoln as a young boy in May

Abraham Lincoln as a young adult, end of June

Abraham Lincoln as a young adult, end of June

This year, I had planned to space out the harvest time so I bought a seed packet of an early season tomato, Stupice. Before I was able to buy more seed, I was given seed packets of Abraham Lincoln and Rutgers so what could I do but plant all of them. Growing tomato from seed is easy; you can even do it in egg cartons indoors. These particular tomatoes are called “slicers,” fruit large enough to slice for sandwiches. Tomato plants also are classified as determinate and indeterminate. Determinate plants stop growing after the flower buds set fruit so you harvest tomatoes for a few weeks tops. The plants are bush-like, 2 to 3 feet tall. Indeterminate plants are vine like; the plants will keep growing and producing new blossoms even after the fruit sets. You can harvest all summer long. Stupice, Rutgers and Abraham Lincoln are heirloom indeterminates so I will be picking for a while but this year, I may try saving seed to grow more tomato plants next year.

Candelabra-like clusters of flowers on Stupice

Candelabra-like clusters of flowers on Stupice

Tomato hornworm, plucked off tomato plant

Stupice spilling over EarthBox

So far, they are all doing well. I have two of each in each EarthBox for a total of six plants. There is so much lush green growth that I tie the vines to the wooden deck rails with torn up old shirts. As of mid-July, there must be a hundred little green tomatoes. Every day I look for that first blush of red. The Stupice is the best so far — great shape, does not flop over too much, and candelabra-like flower clusters that seem to hang in mid-air. Usually I have no diseases or pests but last week I spotted one tomato hornworm which I picked off and have not seen any more. Yesterday, tomato man peaked out from under the foliage but he’s a friendly.

Tomato hornworm, plucked off plant

Tomato hornworm, plucked off plant

We like to use the tomatoes in BLT sandwiches, salads, or just cut up raw with herbs. If I get too many I boil them for a few minutes, peel off the skin, and freeze in a bag. Later they go in the bean stew. For a special treat, we make bruschetta: top slices of French bread with a slice of tomato, a basil leaf, and a little cheese and broil for a few seconds. That’s summer!

Tomato Man

Tomato Man