January 2019 : WEEK 3

Crazy Tomato Lady

It's all about tomatoes this time of year! I'm in my element gathering every day from my different tomato plants - eager for each new cultivar to ripen so that I can enjoy it's shape, colour and of course, taste test. So far my most prolific tomato is Jaune Flamme, and the tastiest would be Purple Cherokee.

Heirloom tomatoes
Selection of fresh Heirloom Tomatoes from my garden.

After last season with lots of different delicious varieties gracing my harvest basket, I decided, being on a small space, that I should really actually only plant my top 10 producing plants this year, but at least 2 or 3 plants of each. It sounded like a good plan at the time, very sensible. But that was of course, before winter, when the eagerness to grow starts to gnaw at the soul, and seed catalogs arrive in the post, and seed swaps with gardening friends start... and let's just say that that all my good intentions flew out of the window and I am again growing over 60 cultivars of tomatoes - almost all of them heirlooms.

That may sound a lot (and it is for the general vegetable gardener), but it still is but a drop in the selection of seeds I had to choose from (over 200!) Am I tomato crazy? Certifiably so! But I love it...

In case you don't know - I rent. In suburbia. A small section, of which I am only allowed to garden "a bit", so containing the farm in my head is sometimes a really big challenge. How I fit 60 tomatoes? Well, some are in a bit of garden I created a year ago (16 cherry tomatoes), another 16 are in 4 raised beds (4 tomatoes per garden... which is a bit overcrowded I admit), a lot are in 26l and 42l flexitubs (20) and 4 in 9l buckets (the dwarf and dwarf cherry ones), and I've got 4 in hanging baskets too. I also sneakily put around 8 more in the flower garden among the roses and herbs.

Interested in the cultivars I grow?

Here's a quick low-down:

 

CHERRIES
  1. Sunrise bumblebee
  2. Black Cherry
  3. White Cherry
  4. Riesentraube
  5. Ildi
  6. Orange bourgoin
  7. Yellow Pear
  8. Red Pear
  9. Helsing Junction Blues
  10. Doctors' Frosted Green
  11. Green Grape
  12. Green Vernissage
  13. Jaffa
  14. Aunt Amy's Apricot Cherry
  15. Black Striped Cherry
BLACKS/PURPLES
  1. Black Prince
  2. Black from Tula
  3. Paul Robeson
  4. Black Roma
  5. Japanese Black Trifele
  6. Black Pear
  7. Indigo Rose
  8. Purple Russian
  9. Purple Cherokee
  10. Black Krim
  11. Black Zebra
DWARF/TINY
  1. Tumbler
  2. Tiny Tim
  3. Currant
MULTI/OTHER
  1. Big Zebra
  2. Violet Jasper
  3. Peaches and Cream
  4. Oaxacan Jewel
  5. Indigo Fireball
REDS/PINKS
  1. San Marzano
  2. Federle
  3. Giant Polish Paste
  4. Alma Paste
  5. Pik's Yugo
  6. Tigerella/Red Zebra
  7. Peron
  8. Watermelon Beefsteak
  9. Thai Pink Egg
  10. Tlacalouca Pink
  11. Isle of Capris
  12. Voyage
  13. Pink Brandywine
  14. German Red Strawberry
  15. Costoluto Fiorentino
  16. Berkeley Tie-Dye Pink
  17. Boxcar Willie
  18. Mexico
ORANGES/YELLOWS
  1. Orange Russian
  2. Lava Flow
  3. Mr Stripey
  4. Casady's Folly
  5. Dr Whyche's Yellow
  6. Orange Beefsteak
  7. Jaune Flamme
  8. Taxi
  9. Aunt Gertie's Gold
  10. Utyonok
GREEN
  1. Green Giant
  2. Kiwi
  3. Green Sausage
  4. Lime Green Salad
  5. Green Zebra
  6. Green Envy

Pesty Problems

It's not all sunshine and roses in the garden though, and I'm finding that my companion planting efforts and my no-spray philosophy is not helping much to keep the pests away this year.

No disease though! Yay! Last year this time I had terrible looking tomatoes and very mildew-ridden zucchini and cucumbers. Perhaps my efforts in creating airflow has helped a lot! And planting on trenches of Bokashi (someone once told me they never had powdery mildew after planting on Bokashi, so I had to try it!). That and feeding the plants plenty (Seasol and Compost Tea every week).

But the bugs...the bugs...the bugs! Mainly it's Passion vine hoppers (on my cucumbers, grapes, and yes, passion fruit) and lots of green stink bugs all over my tomatoes!

How do I deal with them? Mostly I do a bit of pick-off-and-squish. Or a very hard jet of water to spray them off. I've also done a go-round the garden with my aphid-away spray (garlic + onion + cayenne + soapy water). These all seem to bring a relief, but not for long. I guess I should have been a bit more vigilant with dealing to the little baby stinkbugs (they look like large black ladybugs) - they were easy to spot on my calendula plants, which I grew specifically to be able to destroy a whole "nursery" of stinkbugs...

Other things you can try to battle the bugs:

  1. DE (Diatomaceous Earth)
  2. Plant mint and catnip around susceptible plants.
  3. Neem Oil

But as I am fond of saying - if nothing is eating your plants, they are probably not worth eating!

 

The Good Guys

And at least there are still a lot of good bugs around too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to encourage bees and butterflies to the garden? It's very easy - plant a diverse garden with lots of nectar and pollen rich plants. Herbs that you allow to go to flower are powerful magnets for bees, like rosemary, thyme, oregano, marjoram, sage, basil and chives. Borage, phacelia, clover, and honeywort can be specifically planted to attract honeybees and bumblebees to the garden. Bees and bumblebees also love open-faced dahlias and roses, hollyhocks, sunflowers, scabiosa (pincushion) and flowering medicinal herbs such as anise hyssop, marshmallow, echinacea, cardoon, bee balm, and catnip. There's a load of other flowers to attract pollinators to the garden.

It's also important to *not spray* in the garden. And if you really MUST, then use only organic, natural and animal-safe sprays - preferably something you concoct at home. Spray in the evening when the bees have stopped foraging. But only if you really, really have to...

Flowering and Fruiting

This week's eye-catchers:

Homemade from the Garden

This past week I got to make:

  1. Corn Fritters with Tomato Salsa (The fritters were loaded with thyme, chives and parsley from the garden and the tomato salsa had cucumbers and tomatoes from the garden)
  2. Baked Sea Bass with Fennel and Salsa Verde (Fennel, and the salsa verde had lots of chives and parsley)
  3. Classic Heirloom Tomato Sauce (Tomatoes, garlic and herbs from the garden)
  4. Tomato and Zucchini Soup (Tomato and Zucchini from the garden)

 



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