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Archive for the ‘Tomatoes & Peppers’ Category

It’s the end of July and our slicing tomatoes are finally changing color – just a week ago they were barely starting to blush red. There are a ton of clusters on each plant, so many that they’re starting to weigh down the branches, and we’ve had to resort to tying the stakes together to keep them upright.

Still not even turning red.

Still not even turning red.

So to lighten the load (literally), we strategically removed about five big tomatoes and decided to make a Southern favorite – fried green tomatoes.

We’ve never made these before, but I’m so glad we did because they were absolutely delicious. I looked up a few recipes and found the basics are the same. As usual, I made my own variation.

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This weekend we were weeding and doing some general garden cleanup when I found this strange, brown thing in our dirt. It wasn’t a bug or anything I recognized so, as is becoming my routine, I took a picture and searched for an answer later. Turns out it was likely a cocoon of the tomato hornworm.

Tomato hornworm cocoon.

Tomato hornworm cocoon.

I don’t think we’ve had these in the past, but we did have a crappy tomato crop last year and this could be to blame. The caterpillar/worm causes a lot of damage to tomato plants, mostly chewing through leaves and stems.

We have seen large moths like the adult form of the tomato hornworm on our porch before, so maybe this has been present all along and we never knew about it. Oddly enough (or maybe it’s the garden gods giving us a warning), this was in the raised bed where we planned to plant our tomatoes this year.

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Well, we’ve successfully beat the squash vine borer and our yellow squash actually has fruit on it!!!! The jalapenos are indestructible (despite everything else around it floundering) and a few more eggplants are growing.

That’s about the only good thing happening in our garden right now. Tomato plants are barely producing (harvests are few and far between), our cucumbers were thriving until I found a spotted cucumber beetle (too late to save the plants), the green beans have a form of bacterial blight and one row completely died, and the deer are back (and chewed all the leaves off our Brussels sprouts).

Meanwhile, we visited my parents last weekend and they let us take a huge bowl full of grape tomatoes, and like last year, everything is doing well for them. =/

Because it’s been such a problem year, we’re just letting it go and planning ahead for next year. Our plan is to replace the majority of the soil in all the beds to get rid of any pests or diseases lurking in the ground. We’re also going to add a hefty amount of compost and leaves and other nutrients to the soil. Finally, we’re going to rip out the weed barrier we put in the first year and till the ground underneath so the plants can grow deep in the soil.

We might add another section of our square frames to make it even deeper. I thought we were on the right track this year, but apparently not. Matt’s about ready to give up. But I see this as a challenge and we will have a successful garden (that’s my new mantra). It just may take us a few years to get there.

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There’s nothing better than a fresh tomato picked right from the garden. I think the wonderful taste can convert even the staunchest of tomato-haters.

Case in point: Matt never liked tomatoes (he’d eat every kind of tomato product – salsa, ketchup, spaghetti sauce, etc. – but never the actual fruit), but after I made him repeatedly try tomatoes for a couple years, he’s starting to come around. Now he occasionally asks for tomato on sandwiches or salads.

Deer sheared off the tops of our tomato plants.

I’m not sure he’d eat a whole tomato himself so we plant these mostly for me–just give me a salt shaker and I can easily eat a few raw tomatoes.

This year, like the past two growing seasons, we planted two slicing varieties, two Roma and two grape tomato plants. We were happily watching our plants get established until one day I noticed something went wrong.

Three of the plants (both grape tomatoes and the early girl slicing variety) had stumps for stalks. It didn’t take long to figure out the deer chewed off the top part of the plant. Fearing they wouldn’t recover, we transplanted those into pots and replanted a few as replacements.

Now everything seems to be thriving, which is a good thing. I’d be thrilled with tons of tomatoes and can’t wait to see the first signs of the tomatoes turning red!

Grape tomato plant recovered after deer chewed off the tops.

Blossoms!

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It’s been about a month since we put everything in the ground, and so far our garden looks promising. That’s not to say we haven’t had any problems.

First jalapeño of 2012.

We’ve battled everything from deer to slugs and a variety of other creatures and insects that seem set on ruining our garden. Because so much has happened in the past several weeks, I’m going to break this up into a bunch of smaller posts.

I’ll start with peppers because those seem to be our golden crop. In a little more than a week our plants have gone from a handful of blossoms on a few stalks to actual fruits starting to emerge.

We got our first “harvest” on June 19 with one jalapeño. I’m kind of amazed it came so soon, but the weather has been above average temperatures for most of the year. We love spicy food so I’m hoping this is a good sign.

Homemade jalapeño poppers from last year.

Last year, the jalapeños were super productive (we almost always had a steady supply of 6-8 peppers). At one point, I didn’t know what to do with the 20+ jalapeños we had at one time, and then I found a recipe for homemade jalapeño poppers. They were kind of a pain to make but absolutely delicious. I’d love to have enough to make those again this summer!

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