After listening to much talk this spring about people growing their own veggies in gardens or containers, and deciding to shop more at farmers’ markets to buy and eat locally, I decided to launch an experiment. I bought one beefsteak tomato plant and one sweet pepper plant. Unfortunately, we don’t have good spots to grow sun-loving plants, and we are also plagued by nightly visits from a deer herd, who would love to get their teeth on these sweet leaves.
So I planted my veggies in separate pots and placed them on the deck. For the sake of science, I have decided to document this summer’s growing season with photos in upcoming issues of Boom This!. That way you can join in with my joy when I pick off the first juicy tomato or crisp yellow pepper, or not, which is more likely the case. The plants get some sun on the deck but maybe not enough to encourage them to bear fruit or vegetable.
Please see the photos below. There’s already some news to report.
Photo No. 1: June 1, 2009
As you can see, the plants seem very happy in their new homes. The sun was shining and they look ready to grow any minute. All systems are go for a good crop I think.
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Photo No. 2: June 10, 2009
There have definitely been some changes to the plants. The tomato plant has shot up, probably searching for more rays. I hope this is a sign of something good to come. The pepper plant, on the other hand, appears fairly forlorn. The top of this smaller plant broke off this week and the bigger leaves seem to be melting away. There are some very tiny leaf sprouts which have appeared on the stems so I am hopeful that the pepper will become hardier and survive. Only time (and a Canon camera) will tell.
P.S. I just checked the plants this evening before sending out this issue. The very tall tomato plant’s main stem had fallen over. It’s been raining off and on all day so maybe the dirt got too moist to support the stem. I went and found an old wooden paint stirrer and a tie-tag to use to secure the plant back into a standing position.
So far both plants have fallen over. As the granddaughter of a professional gardener, I know that things do not bode well for my little garden.
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Photo No. 3: June 24, 2009
As you can see, things are not progressing too quickly for my little plants. The tomato plant is tall and gangly, while the pepper plant is short and spindly. The tomato plant does have some yellow blossoms on it though, so that is progress. I am attributing its leggy look to too little sunlight, but who knows? I did pinch back the tomato plant, and am waiting to see it fill out a bit more, sort of like a teenage boy. We have a long way to go here.
Teri’s Contrary Garden: Part 3
Photo No. 4: July 9, 2009
Eureka! We have tomatoes! I popped out onto my deck this morning and there they were: four little green tomatoes. I felt like a first-time Mom. Seeing these little gems (see close-up photo below) made it easier to accept that the pepper plant I planted ‘long side this leafy tomato is going nowhere soon. I took a photo of the struggling pepper plant, which has been heroically playing catch up since its original leaves fell off, but felt the photo was too pitiful to use. A friend of mine told me to get rid of the plant and get another. It may be too late in the season to do that, unfortunately, so I will leave this one alone to see what happens, but I won’t plan any chili dishes for awhile.
Four little tomatoes
Here is a close-up shot of my little tomatoes. At today’s count, there were four baby tomatoes on the plant. There may be a couple more by the next issue of Boom This!
Stay tuned. More to come.
Teri’s Contrary Garden: Part 4
Photo No. 5: July 23, 2009
My bountiful tomato harvest has now grown to five tomatoes. The little green orbs are growing little by little every day. There is a possibility that I could have a couple more before the summer is over, but I am trying not to get too excited about that. Wait and see, as we gardeners always like to say, wait and see. Mother Nature is in charge now.
After reading Barbara Kingsolver’s book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, which is about her family’s decision to eat locally for one year, I don’t think I will be writing a sequel any time soon. My crop of five little tomatoes won’t feed us through the winter, but when they are harvested, it will make for one flavorful gourmet feast!
Photo No. 6: July 23, 2009
As for my flagging pepper plant, it is valiantly growing more leaves but there are no vegetables in sight.
Teri’s Contrary Garden: Part 5
Photo No. 7: August 7, 2009
Well, as you can see not much has happened to my tomatoes in the past two weeks. Talking with a friend, we decided that the unusually cool nights we have been having this summer could be holding back any progress my tomatoes might otherwise be making. We had both heard somewhere that tomatoes need hot nights to mature so they can turn red and ripen. Don’t know if that’s really true, but it’s as good an explanation as any as to why there is no hint of red on these veggies. They are completely green through and through.
And for those of you loyal readers who are following the fate of the pepper plant, suffice it to say that it has grown a few more weak leaves but no peppers.
Teri’s Contrary Garden - Part Six
Part six? That means about 12 weeks have passed since the first entry here about my tomato and pepper plants. Wow. A lot has happened since then, especially this last two weeks, and lessons have been learned. Like Patience is a Virtue and If it ain't broke, don’t fix it.
As you can see from the photo below I now have red (and reddening) tomatoes on my solitary tomato plant which resides on my deck. The green flesh on three of them lightened for several days and then eventually began to turn fiery tomato red, the color of summer. This was very exciting! But in my haste to “help” my little ones, I had a sad accident.
Photo No. 8: August 18, 2009
I decided since some of the tomatoes were growing while forced up next to my deck rails (where I had anchored them a few weeks ago), I thought I should move the ties to give the tomatoes more growing space. It was working for a few minutes, as I was able to tighten my cord to provide more support for the fruit, but then suddenly the main branch holding all five of my precious tomatoes bent in half, taking the tomatoes with it and doing fatal damage to the stem which cracked under their weight. This was not a good day.
So I have left them alone since then. My aunt, whose husband Abe grew the best tomatoes of anyone I have ever met, told me to just leave the tomatoes alone and they would ripen -- although it might take awhile. That’s what I have been doing and so far it’s working. The tomatoes are ripening nicely, but I will wait (impatiently, of course) awhile longer before I harvest any. And if all else fails, several people (who have also provided recipes) have told me to slice any green ones up and toss them in a pan to fry a la Fried Green Tomatoes. I hope they will all ripen, but if green ones are good enough for Fannie Flagg, they are good enough for me.
Photo No. 9: August 18, 2009
On the good news front, this is a close-up photo of the tiny pepper on my ailing pepper plant. I don’t know if you have been enjoying peppers picked from your own garden, but I am a little cncerned as I think this little mini pepper may not grow enough in the remaining growing season. Listening to the crickets at night reminds me that we are nearing the end of summer, and the possibility of frost looms, which can be deadly to pepper plants. If that happens, I can see me dragging the pot into the house and plugging in enough growing lights to light up a runway to give the pepper time to mature.
Teri's Contrary Garden: Finis
The above photo was taken of my crop of five tomatoes produced from a summer of growing. I took this photo on August 25, 2009, just before picking the fruits for the table. The home-grown tomatoes tasted good, but maybe not as good as I was expecting, what with all the attention I lavished on them all summer! But these five tomatoes were hardy enough to survive the widespread tomato blight which wiped out the crops of many people I knew so I will take comfort in that.
Next year, I have already learned that I need a bigger pot for growing the tomatoes and a stronger support system for the branches than tying them to the deck spokes with cotton thread.
I hope your garden graced you with an abundance of tasty fruits and vegetables this year. It’s been a pleasure sharing this small garden with you all summer.
By Teresa K. Flatley