I’m bringing back the Daily Botanical feature. Since I stopped doing them regularly I have sorely neglected to write about the new and interesting plants that I am growing or run into in my travels. It feels like the right time to bring them back.
The Sinningia you see in bloom here was the topic of a Daily Botanical dating back to September 16, 2010. It is only because I have this record that I now know that it blooms annually literally to the date.
The hot peppers are in their prime, the late season tomatoes are ripening faster than I can use them, the sun is setting earlier in the evening (no more gardening until 10pm) and even the tomatillos are not far now. All of the hallmarks of the September garden have arrived. I am trying my best this year to enjoy it as-is without fretting about summer’s end.
How I prune my tomatoes is a popular question and while I was out doing that work yesterday evening, I figured it was high time that I address it here on the site.
There are countless ways to approach tomato culture, all or at least most of which are probably right and good. I am not one to force my methods down anyone’s throat — you are doing it right if it works for you. I’ve experimented with a lot of different methods over the years, sometimes intentionally and sometimes due to neglect (do not underestimate the learning that comes from doing nothing), and have made adjustments to my approach along the way. I have also adjusted based on different varieties and tomato types. The following is a general picture of how I do things to date.
To begin, I do not prune dwarf or determinate (bushing) varieties unless they are showing signs of disease. The following only applies to indeterminate (vining) varieties. That said, wild currant varieties are an exception to the rule. I try to keep them trained as best I can early in the season, but there is always a point where their growth is so fast and furious that I just let them be and try to keep them staked to the best of my ability. I find that they tend to be more disease resistant than many other types.
The theme for this week is fruit. Fruit as a plant part as opposed to fruits such as strawberries and bananas, although you’ll notice some of those, too. It seems that fruit — some edible and some not — is forming in every corner of the garden. Flower diversity is still high, it’s just that many of the flowers are there in the service of forming fruit and are not there to be pretty in their own right.
The Scorched Earth. This is also the first week that marked significant loss and suffering as a result of the intense heat and drought we are experiencing. There are going to be some significant holes in the garden by the time the summer is out. I don’t think I am going to have extra ‘Hahms Gelbe Topftomate’ seeds as a result. I inexplicably gave all of my seedlings away but one and that one was in a pot that was cooked during this week’s heat emergency. Drat. The plant went from green and lush to yellow within the span of a single day. It is holding on and could recover if things stay as cooled off as they are now. It’s amazing what one bad day can bring. It’s a good lesson and reminder in how much we should respect our farmers who are at the mercy of whatever insanity the season brings. Amazingly, all of my other tomatoes are perfectly fine.
Clockwise from Top Left: 1. This is a view of half of one of the raised beds, situated about midway down the garden on the west side. This bed housed an assortment of crops last year, but this year it holds several determinate (bush) and dwarf tomato varieties that have quickly turned into a jungle of foliage, flowers, and now some fruit are on the way. The stake at the back is empty as that variety was mangled by the squirrels and has never recouped. I haven’t claimed the space for something else because I was so determined that it would bounce back. The poor thing is clinically dead and here I am still rooting it on.
There is a ‘Turkish Orange’ eggplant at the front of the bed (already full of adorable little fruit), and in front of the actual bed is peppermint and thyme. I have since planted a dwarf tomato variety in the open spot next to the thyme. It was floundering in its pot so I decided to give it some space in the ground. I’m completely out of pots now, and potting soil, too for that matter. I don’t suggest transplanting tomatoes once they’re making flowers (as mine was), but it can be done if you are careful not to disturb the roots.