Posts Tagged tomato ‘Viva Italia’
The vegetable garden is enthusiastically growing; visible increases are evident daily. Even so, I’ve been trying to find a good day for foliar feeding for about a week now. For those who may not know, foliar feeding is the application (via a sprayer) of a dilute solution of fertilizer directly onto the leaves of plants. Leaves directly absorb nutrients from the droplets, thereby giving the plants an almost instantaneous boost — much faster than plants receive via soil applications of fertilizer.
I’m an organic gardener, so I use a dilute solution of a mixture of fish emulsion and sea weed. That gallon bottle in the photo above has lasted me several growing seasons, and will last me several more. The empty gallon water bottle on the left is where I mix my solution. I use that old metal tablespoon in the foreground to measure out three tablespoons of fertilizer into the water bottle, then I fill the bottle with water and shake. Measurements are not exact, nor do they need to be. Fish emulsion is stinky and messy — wear gloves.
I pour the dilute solution into that little yellow hand sprayer in the photo. I used to use larger back-pack sprayers, but they are heavy and cumbersome. And now that I’ve downsized my veggie garden, this little sprayer works just fine for me.
The only trick to foliar feeding is finding an ideal moment for spraying. You absolutely can NOT spray the plants when the sun is shining on them. Water droplets magnify the power of the sunlight, and you will end up with damaged, even burned-looking leaves. Your garden must be in full shade, or you must wait for a cloudy day.
Unfortunately for me, my garden doesn’t go into full shade until quite late in the day. Foliar feeding just before nightfall is less than ideal, because you run the risk of the leaves not drying, which can lead to mildew issues. And the mosquitoes are ferocious that time of day, which makes application quite an ordeal. This morning I got lucky. Clouds ruled the sky until about 10:30, so I hustled outside, picked ripe fruits, tied a few tomatoes, then foliar fed my garden.
Even though my veggies were growing well, I knew it was time for a foliar feeding application because of the bugs. I have removed seven young tomato hornworms from my tomatoes, and today I discovered and removed a mass of bronze eggs laid by a squash bug. Foliar feeding makes leaves less appealing to insects who chew on them, and more disease resistant. The dilute sea weed extract in the mix contains a number of trace elements that work to fortify the leaves against intruders.
Sometimes when I have foliar feeding solution left over, I spray plants outside my fences. When I do that to daylily buds, I’ve noticed the deer pass them by. I guess sea food isn’t their favorite.
The entire garden smells faintly of the ocean after I apply this fishy goodness, but only until the droplets dry on the leaves. Today that happened very quickly; our humidity is uncharacteristically low. On a more typical humid summer day, drying might take an hour or so.
No matter how careful I try to be, I always end up smelling like the solution, so if you try this technique, plan on time for a shower when you’re done.
As I mentioned, the veggies are cranking bigtime, as evidenced by the first tomato harvest of the season today — 2 Sweet Treats cherry tomatoes. Last year, these were just turning red on June 21, so I’m about three weeks ahead on tomato season. Squashes are producing regularly. The Y-Star Patty Pans have really great flavor. We’ll definitely grow those again.
The Fortex pole beans clearly plan on world domination this year. I took this shot of their trellis this morning:
Fortex flowers have been blooming for about a week now, and the vines sport many tiny new beans.
The Jade bush beans got off to a slower start, but they are making up for it in productivity. Here’s what their small row looked like this morning:
The new fruits on the Jade bush beans are about three times longer than the Fortex babies:
More Sweet Treats cherry tomatoes will be ready for harvest in a day or so:
And the two paste (roma) tomato varieties are sporting reddening fruits:
As you might imagine, there’s much more going on in the garden and yard these days. I took a lot of pictures today. Soon I’ll show you some new current bloomers and some coming attractions.
Now I go to bake the season’s first batch of zucchini bread. Soon the house will be filled with spicy cinnamon goodness. And thanks to the return of the clouds that are holding down our temperatures well below seasonal levels, the warmth from the oven won’t be unpleasant.
I love any excuse to play in the dirt with plants, but I find it’s equally satisfying to cook and devour the fruits of my labor. I hope the gardens of my readers are as productive as mine, and that they provide you with delicious meals all season long.
Last week, my garden sweltered beneath high temperatures in the nineties. This week, the temperatures plunged 25 degrees. This morning, our hill thermometer registered a low of 41 degrees Fahrenheit. In other words, it’s a typical late spring in the Piedmont of North Carolina.
Experience has taught me that the trick to helping veggies survive spring’s wild weather swings is to plant vigorous plants during a settled spell of weather, mulch them heavily immediately, and water as often as necessary to keep the soil evenly moist.
This year, my timing seems to have been pretty good. The spring veggies are still producing, although last week’s nineties caused some of the mesclun mix (Yankee greens, as I think of them) to bolt.
And the Sugar Sprint Snap Peas have been disappointing. It took them much longer to begin to bloom than the Sugar Anns I’ve grown in the past, and the pods started filling very unevenly when the heat hit them last week. The Sugar Anns never faded this fast. That’s not to say the Sugar Sprints aren’t still producing, just not producing up to my expectations. Here’s what they looked like yesterday morning after a piddly rain the day before:
As for that rain I mentioned, as usual, my little corner of the Piedmont is being overlooked. The city 30 miles to our east has had two major, multi-inch rain events in the last two weeks. Our two-week total isn’t even 1.5 inches. Of course, the folks in Raleigh also got hail, some flooding, and a few houses were set on fire by lightning. I’ll take gentle, light rain over dangerous storms every time, of course, but I get grumbly when I hear the TV weather folk talking about the “break in the drought.” Not at my house.
Wonder Spouse and I are still enjoying the bed of spring greens, and we do have enough peas to at least add a few to our salads. Here’s what that bed looked like yesterday morning:
And the beets are finally looking like they might make some actual beets. If the sub-80-degree weather sticks around and we can get some decent rain, I think I still have a good chance at a decent beet crop. Here they are with the bolting mesclun mix in the background:
The 90-degree heat was a huge boost to the summer garden. A number of the tomato plants are already as tall as I am, and fruit production is enthusiastic. The peppers are not far behind, and the beans — especially the pole beans — are reaching for the sky. Here’s what the pole beans looked like yesterday morning:
And check out these tomato fruits:
Check out the way the Indigo Rose tomatoes are already turning purple. I did a bit of research on these and learned that they only make anthocyanins (the purple-colored antioxidant) where the sun touches the skin, and the purple stays only in the top layers of the tomato. So this is one you’ll want to eat skin and all if you’re trying to take advantage of this nutrient. I also learned that the tomato is fully ripe when the bottom of the tomato is deep red. I’ll keep you apprised of their progress.
Last but not least, two of my six squash plants had open flowers yesterday, so I was forced to remove their coverings so that pollinators could access the flowers. The plants look strong, and I’m hoping they’ll be able to resist the squash varmints long enough for us to grow weary of squash-filled dinners.
As you might guess, our yard is still producing many blooming plants. I’ll show you some highlights soon, along with some wildlife updates.
Now it’s time to pull more weeds, mulch, and continuously pray for gentle, abundant rain.
They’ve been piling up for the last two months: seed catalogs – and plant nursery catalogs too. Their arrival usually signals the onset of my garden dream time – the frozen month or so during which I peruse the colorful pictures and descriptions contained in these myriad purveyors of temptation. However, this winter I’ve mostly been piling the catalogs in a corner for later reading while I take advantage of the continuing abnormal seasonal warmth to complete more yard and garden clean-up chores.
This past weekend, Wonder Spouse and I tackled our deer-fence-enclosed north slope. Mountains of evil Microstegium vimineum were raked up and hauled away, along with vast piles of tree limbs and tangles of Japanese Honeysuckle pulled from soft ground and off trees it was trying to strangle. Poison Ivy was gingerly dislodged from the base of a large Tulip Poplar. Leaves were raked and relocated around trees and shrubs – instant mulch. We were tired and sore but proud of our accomplishments after two days of hard work.
The catalogs continued to accumulate in their designated corner unread. I’d tell myself I’d get to them in the evenings, but found myself too tired to keep my eyes open after a long day of debris wrestling. Finally, during yesterday’s rain, I sat with the catalogs long enough to settle on my seed needs for the upcoming vegetable garden season. As is my usual practice, my choices combine old reliable favorites with a few new temptations that I feel obliged to try out in this year’s garden.
I always start with the tomatoes for two reasons. First, whole catalogs are devoted to them, so there’s more to study. Second, my greatest struggle every year is to limit myself to a sane number of varieties. My willpower is strongest when I begin my selections, so I settle on my tomato choices first.
Last season, I grew seven different varieties of tomatoes, as I described here. This year, I’ve managed to limit myself to six varieties. It was almost five, but a variety in my main seed source’s catalog was too interesting to resist. Here are this year’s selections:
- Early Goliath – We grew this one last year and were so pleased with its early and continuing productivity that we are growing it again.
- Big Beef – This variety continues to please with its enormous, flavorful slicers that begin to ripen about mid-season and continue through hard frost.
- Viva Italia – We find this roma-type paste tomato to be indispensible for sauces, and they’re meaty enough to hold up when thinly sliced onto pizzas.
- Sweet Treats – This cherry tomato is so perfect that we’ve decided we can’t survive a summer without it. Everyone who tastes one of these little treasures exclaims aloud with delight.
My experiments for this year are:
- Super Marzano – We loved the flavor of this roma-type variety’s ancestor, San Marzano, but it didn’t hold up against our southern Piedmont heat and diseases. This newer hybrid comes with much more disease resistance, and it’s supposed to be high in pectin, which means it will thicken pastes and sauces quickly and flavorfully. I’ll let you know.
- Indigo Rose – The picture in the catalog was so surprising that I read its description, which completely hooked me. It looks gorgeous – almost purple – and it supposedly is very high in anthocyanins, which are powerful anti-oxidants. Their good flavor is supposed to have “plummy overtones.” Color me intrigued.
I ordered all my tomato seeds except Indigo Rose from Totally Tomatoes. I’ve been ordering from these tomato/pepper specialists for many years, and I’ve never been disappointed. The rest of my vegetable and herb seeds come from Johnny’s Selected Seeds.
After discussing the pros and cons of potential bean candidates, Wonder Spouse and I decided to stick with the bean varieties we grew last year: Jade bush beans and Fortex pole beans. Both were fantastically productive and delicious. We’re sticking with Red Ace beets; we know they grow well in our garden, and they always taste wonderfully sweet.
In addition to Nelson carrots, we’re going to try Laguna carrots, which are supposedly very heat-resistant. The idea of keeping carrots productive even midway through our summer swelters was too tempting to resist.
I went a little nuts on the lettuces. I always do. Suffice it to say that I focused on heat-resistant varieties, made sure to get some colorful red ones, and also threw in a mesclun mix for pizzazz.
I’m trying Sugar Sprint snap peas. They are theoretically stringless, unlike the Sugar Anns I’ve been growing. And I went with heat-resistant spinach varieties.
On the summer squash front, I’m growing Raven zucchini again; we’ve been pleased with their vigor. And we’re going to try Spineless Perfection. If this variety really lacks spines, I will indeed be delighted – assuming they produce well and taste good too. We’re trying a patty pan type called YStar that intrigued Wonder Spouse.
But we’re not doing winter squash again. We’ve decided we just don’t eat enough of them to justify the garden space needed to grow them. And we’re lucky enough to live in an area blessed with many small farmers and markets that offer tasty, locally grown winter squashes in abundance when we do have a craving.
We’re going to try Bright Lights swiss chard, and in addition to my culinary basil standards (Nufar and Aroma2), I’m going to grow Amethyst Improved, which is supposed to be deeply and reliably purple while tasting fabulous.
I don’t usually order annual flower seeds beyond Queen Sophia marigolds, which I consider essential to the vegetable garden. But this year, as a benefit of my membership in the Garden Writers Association, Renee’s Garden sent me a media kit that offers me free seeds if I’ll write about my results. Free seeds – say no more! I’ve ordered ten flower varieties, many of them heirlooms, which I’ve found are usually better at attracting pollinators than the fancy newer hybrids. I’ll let you know how they do as the season progresses.
As usual, I’ve ordered quite an ambitious number of seeds. As always, if Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate, I’m going to have a sad excuse for a garden. My county is in moderate drought right now. Every rain event promised seems to peter out just before it gets to my house. But my seed orders are in. I am placing my garden in the hands of the weather gods.
P.S. If you know any good rain dances, drop me a line…