Monday, August 17, 2009

The Prettiest Tomato of Them All

In my garden, there is no contest as to the most attractive tomato. Sure Sungold looks like little orange jewels, the push-up orange color or persimmon is an attention getter and Black Krim is pretty in a dark sort of way. The queen of the garden, however is Chocolate Stripes.

Chocolate Stripes has mannerisms consistent with royalty. She makes you wait, being the latest to ripen of my varieties. She is strong and has resisted all of the bits of illness that have touched other varieties this year. Her taste is something special, sweet rich and complex. She was not a sure thing, she needed some coddling to get her off and running. She, like Persimmon are definitely fans of warmth. The cool, wet weather we had for the most of the summer made her sulk. I'm saving the seeds from this big girl in the photo as well as regrowing some of my seeds from this year, next year. This late in the year when I'm hauling in 15-20 slicers a day, pretty little girls like this are wonderful for keeping my interest up.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Verdict on the Sack'o Potatoes

Earlier this year, I read about the ability to grow potatoes in relatively smallish containers. There were special ones that could be bought for this in Britain, but I decided to try and make one of my own. I made it out of landscape fabic in about 15 minutes via sewing machine.

This was my first attempt at growing potatoes. I selected a variety that went with this year's garden theme of weird veggies. The purple potato. Planting was nothing fancy. Four little purple potatoes seedlings planted in potting soil and a bit of straw. As summer progressed, and the potato vines grew I added more dirt to the container and slowly unrolled the sides to their full height. The container after that was essentially maintenance free. No water demands to speak of other than the rain. (Though we did have a very wet spring/summer).

My initial plan was to cut slits in the side of the sack and plant annuals in it to make the whole thing more attractive. I never got around to it, but it wasn't needed. The plant for this variety of potato was quite pretty and lush enough to cover the bag almost completely until last week. Last week, half the plant died without ever blooming.

I decided to empty it all out today to see what I got. Potatoes! Not a ton of them but considering what a small space they grew in, I'd say not too bad. They look kind of weird here because I just washed them and they are still half wet. We're going to grill them tomorrow.

My verdict on this experiment? A success! Pretty plant, small space, no cost, no maintenance and a meal of potatoes once foliage dies. Yep, I'll take it. Plus there was not one bit of bug damage to a single spud despite a big family of little ants that moved in.

The live portion of the plant still had a bunch of baby spuds on them so I replanted it to see if I can get a few more out of it. I'll do this again next year. I'm tempted to see what happens with one of the highly productive varieties, but the kids love the purple ones so much, we'll see.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Heat Is On

My plant/garden sitter when I vacation is a brilliant 83 year old gentleman that knows nothing about gardening and isn't particularly interested in learning. He likes to water, his way, period. That means there will be no discussion about keeping leaves dry or being consistent with tomato moisture or avoiding flooding the melon patch. You take it as it is delivered or you don't. I took it, and it worked out just fine.

I'm back from vacation and things are in pretty decent shape. I picked every single remotely blushed tomato before I left and took it with me up north. Fresh salsa every day, now that's a vacation!
When I got back it was time to harvest again and the harvest was a decent size. The only tomato that hasn't ripened so far is Chocolate stripes, but that is a later tomato and it's getting close. The flavor of all of the harvest was good, not too watery and the only cracking I had was in a few sungolds, which is expected. My plant sitter did good!
One small blip with the self-watering apparatus thing I set up for the balcony tomatoes. It was working fine for a week before I left but failed while I was gone. Two of the Dr. Carolyns are pretty fried but they were so healthy to begin with, they're going to make it and are still blooming.

There were a couple of nice surprises when I returned. For one thing, the rain finally slowed down so we didn't immediately have to start the task of mowing a foot of lawn. It can wait until the weekend! Another surprise was in the cuke/melon bed. Lemon cuke exploded in both growth of vines and number of cukes. I harvested one for a picture and can go out any time and pick about four more, there are easily two dozen cukes on this plant right now. I'll definitely grow this again.

The next surprise had the kids excited. The Dragon's Egg cucumber gave us our first cuke. It's cute! This plant is much less healthy than Lemon cuke but it has the kiddo's chomping veggies with enthusiasm so it will be back next year.

In the same area I have my first ever baby watermelon! It is about the size of a half dollar and doesn't have much chance of reaching maturity but I'm going to try. I put black plastic under it today to help with heat.

The remaining surprises were completely unexpected. I was not happy when I saw the state of the purple potatoes in their sack because they were half dead and had not yet bloomed. I did a quick search in the first couple of inches of soil under the dead section and pulled out a very satisfactory purple spud! That means there should be more where that came from! The final surprise was with persimmon the prima donna. She had nine pretty orange tomatoes ready for me to pick and a boat load more to come.

Other than the damage to the balcony tomatoes, the only other loss was most of the leaves from the stupid beans that had finally at long last started to climb the teepee. It looks to be the work of bambis. The plants are still alive and climbing but the vision of a lush hideout for munchkins has gone bye bye. Oh well, you win some you lose some and if that's the only irritation I have to trade for ten days of awesome quiet sunsets, I'll take it!