Tomatoes, Peppers + Eggplant

Tomato problem solver

Friday, August 8th, 2008

This year I planted six heirloom tomato plants. Five are doing great, but my yellow pear is wilting from the ground up. I planted it in one of my new oak wine barrels. After it set fruit, the leaves started to curl, then fade to brown.

It was hot. The more I watered the plant, the worse it got. The fruit was fine, but now the new growth was wilting. I was stumped.

After several fruitless web searches, I stumbled across a great resource and let out a victorious “Whoo hoo!” The Tomato problem solver, a sweet little web application from the horticultural department at Texas A & M University, is perfect for us gardening newbies. You don’t need to know the name of the disease, you just match your suspicious fruit, leaves or stems to their photos. It’s super simple and super informative.

So what’s wrong with my yellow pear? A pretty bad case of verticillium wilt (which is common to some heirloom varities). My guess is that I didn’t drill enough holes in the bottom of the planter and accidentally drowned the roots. Grrr…

So how are your tomatoes coming along? Have you made a similar mistake?

One tough tomato

Monday, July 28th, 2008

Walking back from a tasty lunch at the Bombay Bistro, I spotted this tough tomato growing out a grate next to the light rail tracks.


Seriously, with this warm weather, it will probably blossom and set fruit by next week. Perfect for commuters on the go.

So, how do you suppose this tough tomato came to be? Could someone’s lunch leftovers really sprout in this unfortunate location?

PS: Thanks to Amy S. for her quick camera work.

How do you contain tomato sprawl?

Monday, June 30th, 2008

They are suddenly everywhere — all at once. The tomatoes are taking over. While that’s a very good thing, I’m rushing to keep up with the mid-summer growth of my tomatoes. I staked some, used wire cages on some, tried some new-fangled circular things on some. But I’m still on the hunt for the best tomato support.

How do you support your tomatoes? Have you had success with conventional supports? Have you tried something new that you like? Wire? PVC? Wood stakes? (I am trying plastic stakes with bungee cords for horizontal support on some). Do you grow them upside-down so they don’t need support? Or do you let ‘em sprawl and go where they want to go?

And just as importantly, what have you tried that didn’t work?

All ideas appreciated!

There goes the cilantro

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

How do I know it’s summer? My cilantro flowers. My spinach wilts. And my lettuces become unbearably bitter. Our cool, rainy spring brought salads a-plenty, but now it’s time to say buh-bye to my spring veggies — And hello to the splendors or summer.

Tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers, my seedlings are now established plants ready for production. My potatoes are a foot tall and my brussel sprouts are leafy and full. Whoohoo!

Now all I need is a little patience. Sometimes, waiting is the hardest part of gardening. Luckily, there are plenty of weeds to keep me busy.

What’s coming up in your garden? When do you expect your first tomato? How long will it take for my brussel sprouts to grow their stalks?

Terrified by tomatoes

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

Federal officials are hunting for the source of a salmonella outbreak reported in Michigan and 16 other states and linked to three types of raw tomatoes. More supermarkets and restaurants are yanking those varieties from shelves and menus.


I don’t know if this guy, FDA’s acting regional director Mark Roh, is personally removing all the infected produce from the shelves, but his scowl and lab coat add an sci-fi tinge to an already ominous situation. Are these tomatoes infected with the Andromeda Strain or leftovers excavated from Henry Kissinger’s fridge?

Today, I listened to Freakenomics blogger Steven J. Dubner as he poo-pooed back yard gardeners and the localvore movement. Big Ag may be more efficient at feeding the population, but at least the tomatoes (and the spinach) from my back yard won’t make me sick. They’ll taste better, too.

Do you trust our industrial food chain? Do you think eating local could help prevent these outbreaks?

Heck, is it even possible to be a localvore with our short growing season?