A Tomato I-told-you-so

Diseased Early Choice tomato

Diseased Early Choice tomato

Sometimes I hate being right. When the company I usually order my tomato seeds from sent me a substitute without asking my permission, I had a feeling I was going to be disappointed. I explained my misgivings in this earlier post.

I had ordered Early Goliath. Due to a crop failure, they sent me Early Choice. I suspect that some order-filler at the company figured since both varieties had the word “early” in their names, they were equivalent. Not even close.

Wonder Spouse removing the diseased Early Choice plant before it can infect neighboring plants.

Wonder Spouse removing the diseased Early Choice plant before it can infect neighboring plants. The trash bag is for the diseased plant. Never compost diseased plants.

When I first visited the company’s site after I got my order, Early Choice wasn’t even described in their listings. It’s there now. I voiced my suspicions about this unwanted substitute’s disease resistance in an earlier post. Now, in their description of this variety, they claim it is “highly disease resistant.” However, the imprecision of their language is highly suspect.

If you look at a good tomato seed catalog, the first item listed after the name is usually a list of letters indicating the various diseases to which the variety is resistant. For example, Early Goliath — the variety I wanted and had grown successfully previously — has these letters after its name: VFFNTAS, meaning this variety is resistant to Verticillium Wilt, Fusarium Wilt (Races 1 and 2), Nematodes, Tobacco Mosaic Virus, Alternaria Stem Canker, and Stemphylium Gray Leaf Spot. That’s a heck of a lot more specific than “highly disease resistant.”

My Early Choice seedlings started off looking as healthy as the other varieties I’m growing this year, and they’ve received identical treatment. I don’t know which wilt disease is actively destroying them, but it’s moving fast. And the fruits were nearly tasteless anyway. We decided to remove the plants before their plague could spread to neighboring tomatoes on the trellis.

Empty trellis space. What a waste!

Empty trellis space. What a waste!

I’m happy to report that the rest of the vegetable garden is flourishing despite over 6 weeks with less than a half inch of rain. I am watering all veggies twice a week, but the shallow well designated for that purpose will go dry soon. Our best hope is the developing tropical storm currently south of us. Rains from a nice juicy tropical system could easily reverse my drought in a day. Fingers crossed.

Carolina Wren takeover

Carolina Wren takeover

In happier news, a pair of Carolina Wrens has built a nest in one of the flower pots on my back deck. The flowers survived in this pot over winter in my greenhouse and were just starting to look nice. Apparently, the wrens agreed. A pair raised a brood in this same pot last year. I don’t know if these are the same parents, or perhaps an offspring that recognized its birthplace.

Three eggs so far

Three eggs so far

The female has laid one egg per day so far. Last year, they stopped at four. I’ll let you know what they do this time. The birds don’t seem to mind me coming out on the deck to water the plants. And it’s great fun to watch the parents hustling back and forth with tasty morsels when the hungry nestlings emerge. I do continue to water the plants in this pot, but I fill the bottom saucer and let the roots pull up the liquid from below.

The pot is on a stand tucked against the house under the eaves. Out of the wind and the worst of hard rains, it's not a bad spot to raise a brood of perky brown wrens.

The pot is on a stand tucked against the house under the eaves. Out of the wind and the worst of hard rains, it’s not a bad spot to raise a brood of perky brown wrens.

So this past weekend I lost two tomatoes and gained (so far) three Carolina Wren eggs. I calculate this to be a net win for the yard and garden. Now if I can just persuade the rains to return…

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