Getting a head start on the garden tomatoes

Last year I started tomato seeds in the greenhouse only to have the little seedlings bite the dust — well, actually, the bugs bit them, in spite of little plastic cup collars and my best efforts to protect them.

So, no seeds on heat mats in the greenhouse this year.  But, while shopping for a new birdbath fountain pump, I walked by some beautiful tomato plants and they jumped into my cart (funny how that happens).
I’ll keep them in the sunny, toasty warm greenhouse after repotting them into gallon or larger containers.  They can hang out for a while, getting bigger and stronger, until the right time to put them into the garden.  (Why do I feel like I’m cheating?!)

Then I’m hoping they will look like this…

 And then this….

And finally, this….

I can’t wait for tomatoes with REAL flavor again.  Are you dreaming of the spring vegetable garden yet?

Goodbye sweet Maggie roses, hello tasty fall tomatoes…

I know that I planted the two ‘Maggie‘ roses before April of 2009, the second set of plants to be placed in the deep raised bed behind the pool.  I looked carefully at their growth habit, having just removed monstrous Italian jasmine that I’d hoped would not scale those heights quite so quickly.  (I do know that they get that big, I was just in denial that they’d be in such a hurry about it.)
And the Maggies were happy there.  VERY happy there.  They grew, and grew and grew.  They grew up to the ledge on the back of the pool – about 3 feet.  And then they grew another 4 feet.  
They have the most delicious rose scent.  It was heavenly and it was the primary reason I brought them home with me.
They were beautiful.  And then they were ugly.  They grew so much and so fast, that deadheading, pruning and generally keeping up with them became a monstrous chore.  And then the black spot and leaves falling like rain.  They were not only 7+ feet tall, they were about 8 feet wide.  And constantly leaning out over the edge into the path behind them.
I tired.  I really tried.  I pruned and pruned.  My crew came and pruned and pruned and pruned.  It was work.  And then it was expensive.  
And I never liked them towering behind the pool wall and water sheer because the rest of the pool and cabana area is filled with tropical plants.  
So a few weeks ago I made the agonizing decision to let them go.  (That’s a gardener euphemism for rip them out.)  
I didn’t do it (not with tendonitis in both arms, are you kidding me?). They were monsters.  And I couldn’t watch.
But when they were gone, I breathed a sigh of relief.  After all, I don’t grow roses because they are a lot of work to keep up properly.
So, while looking at the bed with the giant hole in it, my husband said, “why don’t you pot some fall tomatoes in that nice, deep soil?”  Just what I was thinking.  (I can’t rotate them enough in our veggie garden and out spring crop s…. was bad.)
So, I planted three tomatoes and lovingly covered them with shade cloth for these 100+ temps to help them get established.  They will grow past the pool wall, but it will be late fall and then they’ll come out.  Next spring new perennials will find a home in this spot.  Wonder who will get the honor?  
But that’s a deliberation for another day.  I’ll have all winter to think about it. 

Veggie delight…

I set out to weed the unruly vegetable garden yesterday and was delighted to find a bountiful (work with me here!) harvest for our lunch!

I thought I’d planted the carrots much too late.

I’d given up all hope of having any this season.

I hadn’t planted any in years, and then they turned out to be stubby, dwarfed mutants.

But lo and behold, today I pulled out three perfect little carrots.

And to go along with them 4 little radishes, a cherry tomato and some strawberries.

Just enough to add to out lunch and put a smile on my face.

Hoeing for hornworms

Holy Cow.

Imagine my horror when I inspected the garden today after returning from our 4 day trip to Indiana and found a tomato horn worm.

No, wait, not one.

But two.

No, wait, not two, but FOUR!

The horror.

So I got my thick gloves and my child’s hoe.

I picked them off one by one and hoed them to death.

(Did you know that their blood is green ooze, kinda like anti-freeze?)


Then I covered their carcasses with mulch in the garden path and gave them a proper burial.

It’s too hot now to follow up with BT, but you can bet I will be out there first thing in the morning to spray and make sure I got all the little buggers.

It took me a long time to find those four, and I am certain there are more that I simply can’t see. They blend in much too well. They are the epitome of camouflage.

Ahh … the tomato wars begin.

So far, the odds are still good.

Diana – 1, Hornworms – 0.

Are you prepared to do battle in the tomato wars of 2010? Who are your worst garden enemies?

Teensy-weensy seedlings…


I planted 9 pots with seeds on Saturday. Yes, Saturday. That’s 4 days ago.

And this morning when I went into the greenhouse, 5, count ’em, 5, of the pots had seedlings in them.


Here’s who’s up:

Lima Beans
Yellow Pear Tomatoes
Dr. Wyche’s Yellow Tomatillos
Spacemaster Cucumbers

I’ve never had seedlings come up this fast. And it’s the first time I used a heat mat from Gardeners Supply Company under them at night and it seems to have made all the difference. I’ll have to go out there and plant some more things! I have a second mat I haven’t put to use yet.

The ever-bearing strawberries are ever bearing! There are blooms all over the plants.
And my little Ice Plant was smiling at me from the back rock path with its sunny little bloom today.

A taste of this and a taste of that which is to come …

This Golden picture of lusciousness is the first harvest of my zucchini and straight-neck squash.
I sauteed several small squashed in a pan with onions and olive oil, seasoned with sea salt, pepper, and a few twists from my dried porcini mushroom mill.
Then sprinkled a little parmesan cheese on the top to finish it. It was delicious.

There are several other things in the vegetable garden that aren’t quite ready yet, but promise goodness yet to come.
The recent rains have the lime tree bursting with blooms and itty-bitty limes.
The canteloupe given to me by Meredith, of Great Stems, is going like gangbusters and nestled down among the dozens of pretty yellow blooms, one happy little canteloupe.

And of all my tomato plants, this one is the furthest along. It’s a Via Italia, a roma tomato that I bought at the Natural Gardener, planted with the canteloupe, squash and celeriac on August 10th. There are a few other tiny tomatoes on the other plants, but they look like little buttons for now, so we’ll wait to profile them!