Tomato Update

Why does it seem like such a chore to write during the summer? I don’t mean to let an entire week go between updates but that seems harder to avoid during summer break. I think I did the same thing last year, too.

Anyway, I thought I’d do an update on the tomatoes, which still seem to be going strong.

Despite the main stem of the Sweet 100s — the part closest to the planter — turning a sickly yellow, the far-flung branches are still a pretty green and are still producing fruit and blossoms. We had a caterpillar issue last month but we’ve sprayed it and haven’t seen anything since, though it may still be affecting it. I suspected blight but it doesn’t look like those pictures. Either way, our temps are firmly in the 100s now so I think overall it’s still doing really well.

Sadly, we’ve all but given up on the beefsteaks. We’ve had several that have made it to a beautiful deep red with a decent size, but you flip it over and they’ve all got blossom end rot or the tops around the vine end are splitting. Mike has a coworker that also grows tomatoes and he says he’s never been able to grow any of the big varieties here.

So, we’ve considered taking out the beefsteak and giving the Sweet 100s some more room, but at the same time I think the beefsteak is providing some support, so we’re just going to wait and see. Next year we’re going to do a bigger cherry tomato variety (the Sweet 100s are great, but they’re tiny) and try some Roma tomatoes.


EarthTainer Update #6: Nooooo!

Last Friday I was out poking around the tomato plants and saw a bunch of chomped leaves (above), and a lot of little brown dots spread across several more. Now, I’m not a gardening expert but I do have enough experience with critters to know that little pellets usually mean one thing: poop.

I Googled it and came up with… ugh. Tomato Hornworms. I went straight back out and immediately spotted one happily chowing down on a leaf. He didn’t last long. I’ve only found two more since, and they’re not big yet (thankfully, because gross), and we went out last night to hunt down some more. Yuck!

Unfortunately, we also had one of our main stems snap in half over the weekend. We got some wind kicking through all Friday and Friday night, and the stem couldn’t handle it and collapsed. We carefully removed it and everything else looks to be doing pretty well, but I’m disappointed about all the lost tomatoes on that branch.

The Sweet 100s are going crazy. Not only do we have bunches of nearly-full sized tomatoes, but we’re still getting new blossoms. I can’t wait until these guys are ready!

We also finally have some beefsteaks making an appearance. These blossoms seem to stay put forever.

So for next year we already know that we have to put up the cage around these guys, and we need to research pest-repelling plants like marigolds to put around them. I’m kind of miffed that some stupid moths found their way into our little courtyard to lay their stupid eggs, but I think for this year we’re going to give one of the recommended sprays a try (like this one).

Have you had to deal with tomato pests? What worked best for you?


EarthTainer Update #5

I apologize if these EarthTainer updates are getting boring! When we grew our last tomato plants three years ago, they looked nothing like these, so we’re really excited with how well things are going, and I want to document the process so we know what we want to change next year.

As you can see, the plants are gigantic. I know the height is a bit deceiving because they’re already up off the ground a bit due to the container, but they’re about as tall as Mike and I are. You can’t even see the cages anymore!

Speaking of which, you can barely see it, but this weekend we had to anchor both cages to my poor Meyer lemon tree to the left there. The plants had both started leaning to the right a bit and taking the cages with them, so we gave it a bit more stability. We also gently secured some of the larger branches to the cage.

Next year we will definitely be attaching the recommended cage to the container!

It’s a good thing tomatoes turn red when they’re ripe because these little guys are getting harder to spot now that the yellow blossoms are dropping off.

Mike also ran a line from our drip system into the watering pipe. We’ll still be manually filling it up with the hose, but this just insures that it’s not going to get completely dry between fill-ups.

I also just realized that I’ve never shown how we put up our solar shade. We did this last August with solar sheets we bought at Lowe’s. I don’t remember what the package said, but I want to say it blocks up to 60% of the sun’s rays or UV damage (it blocks something!). We did this mainly because, while we love our little courtyard area, it turns into a virtual oven in the summer months.

It’s surrounded by windows (two sets of sliding doors, our front doors — which are all glass — and two windows next to the front doors. There is also a smaller set of windows that go into the laundry room) and when it gets full sun during the day it raises the temperature of the surrounding rooms quite a bit, too (regardless of curtains and shades!).

So we designed the set-up ourselves, and spent a long, hot afternoon putting it up. It made a noticeable difference in temperature, and you can see from the band of sun across the sliding door how much it blocks. It’s slackened a bit in the last eight months so we’re going to tighten it up again soon, but hopefully it’ll keep the plants from frying.

We also decided we’re going to hold off on planting anything else for this season. I really want to grow some zucchini and peppers and jalapenos, but we need to make sure the tomatoes make it through the summer heat okay before we invest in any more container equipment and grow media.