About elzbthc

I am a Graphic Artist and The Tomato Lady in the Spokane Valley, WA. I love creating beautiful things, horses, quilting, traveling, sightseeing, cooking, entertaining, and reading among other things.

Tomato Identifying as a Pumpkin! From The Tomato Lady’s Garden to Yours

This is one of the last Greek Rose that we picked from our garden for this year. They are lovely and very large and delicious. This one was so big, it seemed to be identifying as a pumpkin! This one is just for fun! Happy Fall!

A Couple of My New Favorite Tomatoes

What a summer it has been. Cold then hot, hot then cold, little moisture, lots os smoke from the fires. It’s a wonder my stuff even grew. I did have record productivity though. Not sure why but I don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

I grew some new tomatoes this year along with the usual suspects.

My 2020 list:
Cherry Tomatoes

Sungold
Fruit Punch
Velano

Dwarf Tomatoes
Chocolate Lightening
Sweet Sue
Golden Gypsy
Purple Heart
Mr. Snow
Rosela Crimson
Rosella Purple

Paste
San Marzano Redorta

Early
Siletz

Heirloom
Gold Medal
Greek Rose
Dester
Dagma’s Perfection

Black Beauty
Thorburn’s Terra Cotta
Copia
Lucid Gem
Taxi

Other
Lemon Boy
Mosccw

All of them did pretty well, I will try to share more later. My faves this year were Gold Medal, Greek Rose, Dester, Dagma’s Perfection and Lemon Boy. From those five varieties, I picked many that weighed well over a pound.

Greek Rose

The Greek Rose reminded me of an oxheart, more meaty and less juicy with a fluted top.

Dester

Dester was a very late to ripen tomato but when they did, yummm! Very sweet and big.

Dagma’s Perfection

Dagma’s Perfection was also a hit. Large and very sweet and very proflific.

Gold Medal

The Gold Medal, which I have grown before was exceptional, sweet and golden with red marbling. I will certainly grow all of these in my garden agaiin.

Lemon Boy

Lemon Boy – we had a customer several years ago who grew nothing but Lemon Boys. I couldn’t figure out why and now that I’ve grown them, I understand why. Prolific and sweet. Tasty on a sandwich.

Hot Temps and Your Garden

If you live in the Inland Northwest and you’ve seen a recent forecast then you know we are in for some really hot temperatures. That means we have to be extra vigilant in our watering practices.

For container gardens, I water once a day, usually in the early morning. For small pots, sometimes I need to water twice a day. That is why I encourage everyone to use the biggest pots you can find, smaller pots mean less soil volume and more drying out. Add some hot wind, it is even worse.

In the garden, we have a drip system setup (soaker hoses) and right now, we are leaving it on 24/7 when possible. No danger of overwatering since it “drips”. That being said, I see my plants like squash, with large thin leaves, wilting. sad looking but it happens every year now. They are well watered but the sun is very intense. I used to think I was doing something wrong. hey perk back up when the sun heads towards the horizon. I don’t remember this happening when I was kid but you get older and your mind goes!

Another thing you should be prepared for is the flowers drying up and falling off. They aren”t being pollinated. Optimum temps for fruit set is 65-80° F. As you get hotter, less fruit can be expected. Some tomatoes are more prone to this, that is one of the reasons it is harder to grow tomatoes in the summer in places like Florida and Arizona.

Another tidbit: temps under 55 degrees when the fruit is forming can cause misshapen fruit or catfacing, especially on heirloom varieties.

There are some heat-tolerant varieties such as HeatmasterSolar FireSummer Set, and Phoenix which can form fruit even as temperatures climb. Click on the link for a good article by Bonnie Plants on growing tomatoes in heat.

I hope everyone is having a great and prolific summer despite our crazy weather! we have been picking squash, cucumbers and cherry tomatoes. Our larger tomatoes are starting to color up and we’ve picked 3 mid-size Yukon Quests already. My husband also made his first BLT!

Yukon Quest

How Does YOUR Garden Grow?

July 3rd, 2020

Where has the time gone? It’s seems that only yesterday I made a video showing folks how to plant tomatoes!

As I wandered through my garden checking the progress of our plants, I started wondering how yours were doing. I’ve heard from a few of you that they are best plants you’ve ever had and others describe what can only be the results of herbicide damage. With all the wind we’ve had, it’s not surprising.

Here is what is going on with my garden.

Corn This year we decided to try corn again and it has come up in spades. They are about a foot high already. We planted them short rows for better pollination.

Tomatoes Our plants are looking amazing and about three times as large as when I planted them. Most have tomatoes on them already. Two that have really amazed me are the dwarf “Yukon Quest” and the “Lucid Gem” The Yulon Quest was only about a foot high when it started producing tomatoes. so far they are are about 2″ across. The Lucid Gem has several tomaotes, some almost 2.5″ across with beautiful purple shoulders. The plant isn’t anything to write home about but it is healthy.All three of our cherry tomatoes, “Sungold”, “Celano”. and “Fruit Punch” have clusters of fruit. The Sungold is starting to color up.

Lucid Gem
Yukon Quest

Our peppers are amazing. half of them we planted in the greenhouse and the other half are in large pots. Almost all of them have peppers on them. The one I am impressed with it called “Glow” It has fruit that is about 4″ long already!

Pepper “Glow”

Our melons are growing as is the winter squash which are reaching out to touch it’s neighbors. We even have little babies on the summer squash plants. Can’t wait to eat them!

This year we have enough room to try beans again. Being naturally lazy, I like pole beans, easier to pick and gives a season long harbest. I planted purple and green, the purple being eaiser to see!

Pole Beans

The cucumbers are amazing! They are climbing up the support we provided and I saw tiny little cucumber on one of them.

Cucumbers

Herbicide Damage on Tomato Plants

Herbicides such as 2,4-D have a strong smell and can be easily detected when used. It has growth regulator-type activity and affected plants will show curling and twisting before they die. Non-lethal doses to tomatoes will cause curling and darkening or lightening of the leaves and potentially reduce yields depending on exposure level. If the exposure was bad, the plant will eventually die.

Below are more pictures of damage caused by hervicides.

9-1-1 for Affected Plants

Unfortunately, we may be able to control what we spray in our yards but not so much what is sprayed in the neighbor’s yard or fields. Or by their lawn service. Since a foliar method is used for application, this increases the chances of drift. Lately in our area, it has been quite windy, more so than usual. I’ve had a handful of people contact me about this.

Symptoms include twisted, curling leaves, and yellowing etc. It happens quite suddenly and there is little we can do about it except deeply water the suspected victim throughly and deeply (to dilute the chemicals.) and try and wash it off the foliage as much and as soon as possible.

Plants accidentally exposed should have affected leaves pruned off to prevent the spread ofthe herbicide deep into the plant.

Our neighbor uses a lawn service and we have told them the employees that we have a garden and about 10,000 plants that don’t take well to drift from their sprays and they have been very good about remembering that.

Why is My Squash Turning Yellow?

spaghetti squash 73118 - 1So many people come to me with questions about their gardens. I think one of the cutest things they tell me, is that they keep getting blossom end rot on their summer squash. You know, where, you get all excited because it is your first squash of the season. Every day you check on it with anticipation. Then, the horror of horrors, it starts turning yellow! Aaaahh! You babied it, watered it, fertilized it. Now, this.

More than likely, it wasn’t pollinated. Wind and bees are the primary ways pollination gets done. Mommy flower and Daddy flower get together, and well, you know how it works.

Squash, melons, pumpkins, and cucumbers are members of the same family and they often have problems with pollination due to the male flowers falling off before the female flowers open. 

Here is a great article I read this morning that tells you, in simple terms, how to get around that. Easy peasy and soon you will be giving squash away, right and left!

Here is the link and I’ve included the article to. Thank you to Harvest to Table for the great read.

https://harvesttotable.com/hand-pollination-of-vegetables

hand pollination

Hand pollination is the manual transfer of pollen from the stamen of one plant to the pistil of another–that is from a male flower to a female flower.

Members of the Cucurbit family–squash, melons, pumpkins, and cucumbers–often have pollination problems because the male flowers commonly open days before the female flowers and so often drop before pollinators such as bees can transfer pollen from male to female flowers.

When female flowers are not pollinated, the fruit will never appear. The nascent fruits–bulging embryos–at the stem end of female flowers will shrivel and die if not pollinated.

If fruit is not forming on your Cucurbit family plants, you can help. Rub a small brush or cotton swab on the stamen of a male flower (it will be dusty with pollen) then rub the brush on the stigma of the female flower.

Hand pollination

Alternatively, you can remove the petals from a male flower and brush the stamen against the stigma of a female flower.

Which flower is male and which is female? Female flowers have a small bulge (a small immature flower) where the stem meets the flower. Male flowers are shorter than female flowers and often appear in clusters.

Storm Protection: The Tomato Lady Way

We planted our tomatoes into the ground a couple of days ago. They are big and beautiful. I have a video that I took of how we plant ours. You can find it on Youtube How to plant tomatoes The Tomato Lady Way! I hope you find it informative and interesting.

Since we planted, wouldn’t you know it, we have had some pretty nasty storms roll through. Nasty for our part of the country! My first thought was that my plants were going to be beat up, especially if we had hail. A couple of years ago we had some h ail damage and it wasn’t pretty. This is a picture of hail damage.

tomato damage hail sun

Luckily it was more aesthetic than harmful. This year we got a bit smarter and we covered every plant with a pot or a bucket. Of course, we take them off during the day (unless it hails or rains hard) so they don’t fry should the sun decide to make an appearance. It is also the way we would try to protect should we get some really cold temps.

storm protection 5192020 - 2

Just so you know, they aren’t levitating, there are small metal tomato cages that we put over them when they are small, then we put our heavy-duty wooden cages over all that.

This works for us!

Container Gardens And The Plants That Love Them

me in garden with tomatoes811

Wishful thinking, one summer in years gone by. Warm weather, monster tomato plants on our homemade tomato cages.

tomaotes-gallons

Our gallon pots that we are selling now

First, let me apologize, I fully expected to be able to continue this thread and then life got crazy! We started selling our plants much earlier than we had planned to. The Garden Expo we were camping up for was canceled due to the virus situation, and that is a third of our sales. I wish this was my “hobby” but it’s around 50% of our income so we had to scramble to figure out how we were going to overcome this serious setback. Instead of 1500 gallons, we had 3000! Thankfully, we are considered an essential business and we knew that the “new normal” would make selling a lot more difficult so we started to sell early. Everyone had been very generous and understanding. I lowered the price of my gallons by $2, they are now $8.00 and have changed the way we are getting plants to the customer. Curbside delivery, home delivery with minimum orders, appointments, social distancing, monitoring how many in a greenhouse at a time (1) husband and wife are considered as one person, if they haven’t caught it from each other at home they won’t be catching it in the greenhouse! Fun times! Apologies aside here is the long-awaited post.

mixed flowers21

Cute little guy with impatiens. For a shade garden, small soil cavity so better for a shade garden where it won’t dry out as fast.

So far we have discussed basic tips on raised bed gardening, in-ground gardening and edible landscaping which simply means including vegetable plants in your decorative gardens. I am a big believer in container gardening, for vegetables, for flowers, and for both mixed together. Edible container gardens don’t need to be boring or plain or merely functional. In container gardens, there is a design principle that most of us learn, thrillers, fillers, and spoilers.

containers and bed12

For a shade garden – wax begonias, impatiens and alyssum in a “flower bed”

Thrillers are your focus plant. It is the dracaena spike, coleus, begonia, ornamental grasses anything that is a big, eye-catching focal point. In an edible container garden, it would be your tomato plant, cucumber vine, lettuce etc. Can you imagine growing carrots, with their ferny, frothy foliage in the middle of a large container surrounded by flowers? Sweet.

krainiy-sever--3-6-22-17

Krainy Sever, a dwarf tomato with petunias and lobelia

Fillers are mid-size, mounding or rounded plants that surround your focal plant. You can use it to complement or contrast the colors of the focal plant. If it is a dappled shade garden, wax begonias, gazania, ageratum, impatiens would be good choices. Petunias, mounding lobelia, alyssum, ivy geraniums, nasturtiums, and million bells, are all good choices for plants in containers in the sun.

pansies in pots58

Pansies and alyssum as a fluffy white skirt in a coffee pot

Spillers are plants that tumble over the sides of the container, softening the edges and providing more color. Bacopa, petunias, alyssum, trailing lobelia, sweet potato vine, ivy, are good choices.

salad bowl pictures - 2

Salad Bowls – various lettuces in colanders with alyssum and lobelia

Light, Temperature, Nutrition
Some plants can work in partial, dappled shade, million bells, lobelia, alyssum, bacopa, petunias, and geraniums. Very versatile. This leads me to my next point: keeping in mind the various light, temperature and nutritional needs of the plants.

I would never put coleus and petunias in the same pot. Coleus, for the most part, like shade (although there are new sun-tolerant varieties coming out today), Petunias do better with more sun. Vegetables also do better with more sun. Lettuce would be a good filler or focus plant for partial sun. Tomatoes need a lot of sunshine to be prolific. anything that produces fruit, such as tomatoes or cucumbers, need a lot of energy to form it.

Think of putting drought-tolerant plants together, shade-loving plants, or sun-loving plants in the same pots. Temperature is another factor although I think of it more in terms of succession planting. Pansies and Schizanthus like cooler temperatures and lots of sun. One of my favorite combinations to plant is a tomato or lettuce plant (which also likes cooler temperatures), petunias, lobelia and alyssum. When the cool weather plants succumb to the heat, or I eat the lettuce, the petunias alyssum and lobelia take over. I can also insert other plants in their place. Two-season beauty!

container lettuce 2

Lettuce, alyssum, and a tomato in a pot, probably a Tumbler

When choosing your vegetables for your pots, choose varieties that are developed for containers. Determinate or dwarf tomato plants, compact pepper plants, carrots that are short in length, cucumbers that don’t vine too much, squash with a more compact shape, bush beans, (if you had a large pot, you could do a pole bean and trellis it), spinach, beets. and even melons. Look for words like “compact”, “determinate”, “short vines”, “small” and “dwarf”.

The picture above shows “Small Wonder” spaghetti squash, “Spacemaster” cucumber plant and fingerling potatoes in pots. Below are carrots that I grew as an experiment in pots. They were amazing!

carrots - 2

Carrots in a square pot

sweet rebas acorn

Sweet Reba acorn squash

“Sweet Reba” (above) is a good candidate for a large container since it is a compact plant.

Here are some good choices for vegetables:

pamsies99

Coffee anyone?

garden front big pots

Tomatoes and flowers in a large pot

Let’s not forget herbs. Most herbs like to live in pots. Purple Basils add a nice punch to a container. Thyme would be a good spiller.

 

In the end, we are gardeners. We try everything, if it works great, if not we try again!

Here are a few pots that I have done over the years.

Container Gardens

I think out of all the things that I know, this is my favorite subject to talk about. It is my heart for everyone who wants a garden, to be able have a garden, no matter how small. Something therapeutic about growing your own food and flowers.

Whether life’s circumstances have forced you to move someplace where you don’t have room for a massive garden like you had back on the farm or you’re getting up in years and can no longer take care of one, you can still have a “pot of posies”. Preferably with a vegetable sharing the real estate.

Containers are great. They can be moved around if you don’t have enough sun (put them on rollers), you don’t have to weed much, if you move, you take them with you, your food is closer to your back door, and the list goes on. Another nice thing about container gardens is you can brighten up your sitting area.

You can grow herbs, vegetables, and flowers in them. Patios, balconies, porches, anywhere you are getting some sun, although there are flowers that do like shade. I grow lettuce in pots and while they can’t take deep shade (think maple tree) they will take dappled shade and some sun in the morning.

“Rules”

There are some definite “rules” that I tell all my customers:

  • The BIGGER the pot the better (more soil volume, less drying out, less watering. less leaching of fertilizer)
  • Always make sure there is DRAINAGE in the bottom (if your plant is wilting despite consistent watering, it is probably growing and you forgot to put in drainage of some sort)
  • NEVER use garden soil in them, ALWAYS use a quality potting mix. (garden soil is not your friend in a pot, it is heavy and creates an environment where beasties can flourish)
  • WATER consistently and frequently, on hot days it will probably be every day (see first “rule”)
  • FERTILIZE frequently, depending on the plant, half or quarter strength once or twice a week. Read the labels. (It is harder to fertilize organically, and Miracle Gro has never been known to grow a third eye. Just saying)
  • Provide ADEQUATE SUN or SHADE. Know your plant and only plant those that like the same conditions in the same pot. Cool or hot temps, sun or shade, dry or wet.(impatiens and pansies are bad companions, as are fuchsias and petunias)

Containers

The sky is the limit when it comes to what kind of container to use. We cruise garage and estate sales for pretty and inexpensive pots. Having a limited budget, I can’t afford to buy those $150 containers that I drool over at the garden centers, so I try to find them gently used at a more reasonable price.

salad bowl pictures - 12pamsies99

salad bowl pictures - 11salad bowl pictures - S8

Old cooking pots make great containers; soup pots, stock pots, teapots, coffee pots and old blue-spotted canners, I like to use colanders to plant my lettuce bowl (perfect drainage).  Broken pots can be used in the garden. Old black plastic tubs that used to hold trees and large shrubs can be had from landscape businesses, old wheelbarrows, really old washing machines, tubs, horse troughs, wooden barrels, large heavy-duty plastic planting containers, metal gutters, watering cans, metal pitchers, you get the gist of it.

salad bowl pictures - 5salad bowl pictures - 2

Just be sure to put holes in the bottom. Make sure that you choose a large one if it is going to be in the sun all day. I have a bit more freedom to use smaller and cuter pots (such as the turtle, snail and “flower bed” pictured below} for shade plants because that won’t dry out so fast.

mixed flowers21mixed flowers24

containers59

My next post will be about what to grow in these pots. Did you know that I actually grew carrots in pots last year? Stay tuned for that.

 

How Do I Start A Victory Garden?

inground garden.jpg

There are really a lot of ways to start a garden. Search online for things like straw bale gardens, lasagna gardening, square foot gardening, container gardening, edible gardening, no=till gardening etc. I will cover in-ground, raised bed, edible landscaping and container gardening. These are methods I am familiar with,

In-Ground
If you have a plot, small or late in the backyard that gets 8 hours of sun and is accessible to water, you can start there. Clear the ground of weeds and or grass. an easy, but time-consuming way, is to lay newspaper or cardboard on the ground cover and let the weeds smother. It does take some time to accomplish this. As someone who didn’t take the step to remove the grass in the area I wanted to put a garden in (I just rototilled it in), I advise you to not skip this step. Trust me.

Dig up the area, using a shovel, rototiller or tractor. (We wish we had a tractor!) Dig as far down as you can go, 12″ or more if possible. Roots on some veggies need to go down quite a ways. Apply organic fertilizer such as composted cow manure, horse manure or compost (if it smells like manure, it isn’t composted enough, it should look and smell like dirt). You can use bags from the store or ask your local farmer or landscape supply company. Work it in thoroughly. Smooth it out with a rake. Lettuce, carrots, beets should be planted in a row, squash and melons do best in mounds, corn does best in large blocks etc. Read the backs of your seed packets or search online for the particular vegetables ou want to grow.

raised beds 3

arborgarden706 06

Raised Bed Gardening
For me, this is far superior to in-ground gardens. We have extremely rocky soil and it was a nightmare for us. We went to raised bed gardening in our entire plot. We still tilled where we placed our beds so as not to develop a hardpan situation when we brought in our three-way mix.

You can use a lot of things for building the beds. Wood is very pretty but you will have to replace it sooner than later.  You don’t want to use railroad ties or other treated lumber since you don’t want it to leach into the soil. We used standard cinder blocks and capped them with pavers. Worked very well and we won’t have to replace them, plus, we have something to sit on as we weed, and the soil warms up faster in the spring. the pavers keep the weeds from growing up but if you were so inclined you could -plant flowers in the pockets. We laid down a weed block between the rows, followed by bark. Eventually, weeds will sprout but they are a lot easier to pull out! Fill with a three-way mix from a reputable supply company. Depending on the size (make them no wider than 4′ for ease of planting and weeding, you can comfortably reach from either side) and quantity of beds, you will need yards of this stuff.

Every year, we clean up the dead plants and spread mulched leaves from our trees in the fall and let it sit over the winter. In the spring, we put an average of two large wheelbarrows of composted horse manure on them and my honey turns it over with a shovel. That is the only time, human feet step into the beds. We avoid walking in them when possible to keep from compressing the soil. My beds are all 4′ across and vary in length.

This is my motto: “If you take of the soil, it will feed your plants”. I almost NEVER have to add additional fertilizers.

st_garden_lg.jpg

The last thing I want to talk about is Edible Gardening. Vegetables can be pretty. Lettuce comes in many colors and shapes and makes excellent fillers. You can plant them in your flower beds amongst the perennial and shrubs. Just ensure that they are not shaded out by other plants.

hellstripCharlier-56a2fef03df78cf7727b7245.jpg

My next post will discuss container plantings and then we will cover veggies that are perfect for them.