Tomato tear out

So a little context to the madness that was today.

August in San Francisco! First week of the month it rains, second week of the month it’s hotter than fucking Hades. Oh and I’m 90% sure it was actually hotter than this- as the home thermometer was higher- this is just what the weather app said.

WHEEEEEE.

Anyways, today I had a task to do. Besides the task of watering everything that disagreed with the heat- my task was to harvest all the viable tomatoes, and then rip out the plants in pots.

Because just look at them!

Just a mess. The constant damp that was not in evidence today had really messed with the health of the vines. Not so much the ones in the beds, but the ones in the pots were draining so poorly they were practically falling over. (And in some cases, literally falling over.)

First things first I had to pick the good ones.

Eh not bad. You’ll note how many of those were sungolds, I’ll get back to that.

So my first victim was the Black Krim, which gave me a handful of really nice tomatoes, before succumbing to the damp. Will grow next year for sure- but in a bed. I had to chip away at the soil in the root ball to try to save as much dirt as I could, as I intend to use these pots as soon as possible. (No wasted space in my garden!) Still, I encountered another problem.

That’s a very full compost bin. I realized at this point I only had room for two dead tomatoes in my green can. So the tomato tear out has become a multi-week affair.

So that’s a defunct Black Krim and a defunct sweet100 down, two to go.

I’ll have to rip out the Fog and the Roma either tomorrow or next week.

BUT!

I’m going to make one last attempt to save the sungold. It’s just such a nice tasting tomato- and even through everything, the aphids and the weather- it stayed producing. maybe if I try to tie it up better? Maybe if I aggressively trim it? I’m going to make at least an attempt. I watered it well in today’s heat, and I’ll try to hit it with a little fertilizer tomorrow. Where there’s life, there’s hope!

But it’s not all doom and gloom in tomato-land.

These tomatoes are doing great. On the left is my lemon boy, and on the right is my “dancing with smurfs”, and because they’re in a well draining bed with afternoon sun, they’re thriving where the pot tomatoes are not.

So it’s not that I’m cursed- it’s just that once again, San Francisco weather is inconsistent and capricious and can hurt you as much as it helps you.

And maybe if I’m a little dizzy today it’s because ripping out tomato plants in 85 degree weather at 11 am is just about the craziest thing I’ve done all year.

Time to drink my weight in water and pass out in front of mom’s air conditioner.

After I eat some tomatoes of course!

Trying tomatoes

So by not trimming the sucker stems on my Black Krim I now have a rather gorgeous fruit growing on a very unstable branch.

The solution is a stake.

Of course, this is one of the two pots I used the old rusty tomato cages in, so now this pot has an old rusty tomato cage and a stake.

It’s kinda like that all around tomato land.

The sun gold actually lost several fruit laden branches which was a tragedy, so to support the remaining sucker stems I have not one but two stakes in this pot.

It’s not ideal.

The San Francisco fog is just starting to set out fruit and it was always a gerry-rigged system. It’s got two stakes and a hoop which have proven inadequate so now it has a diagonal stake trying to help matters.

The sauce pot has no problems.

My incredibly awkward system of four stakes and vinyl tape encircling said stakes is maybe not the prettiest thing in the world but I’ve done something right- as I’ve gotten my first ripe tomato that wasn’t a sun gold.

The sauce pot is a mess, don’t get me wrong- it was three Roma plants in one that I should have separated but I was afraid of damaging them… anyways three tomatoes in one pot is less than ideal but so far it seems to be ok.

This is very ok.

It looks like my impulse to get the two visitacion valleys was a correct one as well, seeing as the fruit that was already on the plant is starting to ripen.

I’ve got to clean up those bottom stems though- I’ve learned my lesson.

I’ve also got to add a few more stakes to the color bed. My lemon boy is growing great- and I don’t want the problems that the pots have at the moment.

The only tomato that seems to have been fully ok with its initial staking system is the sweet 100- which has obediently grown inside it’s rusty old tomato cage.

Thank you sweet 100, at least one of you had to obey me.

Captain’s log: June 23rd 2019

Well it’s been busy and it’s going to get busier.

That my friends, is a baby pumpkin! It looks like October pumpkins might be a thing. Or August pumpkins if I’m lucky.

The vine is… going the wrong way. But who am I to tell a pumpkin vine where it can or cannot go. I’m just going to have to accommodate the darn thing as it meanders around my garden.

I’m trying not to make the same mistake I made with my big pot tomatoes- and I’m diligently trimming off the bottom stems of the new guys.

The reason this is a problem is what’s happening with the Black Krim.

This is a beautiful baby tomato- and it’s on a sucker stem. So I am concerned that the weight of the growing fruit is going to knock off the whole branch and lose me a bunch of fruit and flowers. I might have to put a stake in the ground next to the pot and tie that branch to that for support. So it’s going to need a Neanderthal level Gerry-rig, but it is what it is.

Lastly- my one big Roma is ripening nicely. It’s been cool-ish, but on the warm side of cool-ish, and this baby tomato lived through the heat wave so it looks quite nice.

And more ladybug larvae are makes their little cocoons so I’m about to have more voracious aphid killers- which suits me just fine.

It turned out way more spaghetti squash germinated then I needed- so I hope some of my friends want some seedlings. Only a couple of the scallop squashes came up, but I only wanted a couple of them anyways.

This is some lovely oak leaf lettuce that has been patiently awaiting harvest.

Oak leaf is a good choice for warmer climes as it doesn’t get that bitter in warmer weather. The seed packet I got was a mix of red and green oak leaf- and the one that turned up red has not been growing as well as the green. But that’s sometimes the case- red varieties of any vegetable don’t photosynthesize as well as their green counterparts.

The blue lake beans are quite vigorous- here’s one that has escaped its trellis and is starting up the cucumber trellis. Which reminds me- my next day off I have a real project on my hands tying up the cucumbers- they’ve gotten real messy.

But they have lots of little flowers and baby cucumbers so I’ve got that going for me.

Speaking of trellis failures my purple peas are so vigorous- and so top heavy, that they’ve sort of half fallen over the color bed. They’re still producing- I keep bringing up snap peas for dad to munch on, it’s just very precarious. I expect I’ll get peas into August- the vine is just going to be a bit of a mess.

Still have some leeks growing. Also, as evidenced by the soil, still have some very frustrated gophers. Ha ha you rodent bastards- all my plants are in raised beds and pots! I’m an evolved hominid, I can outthink you furry jerks!

Sorry.

Not all my animal visitors are feral cats and hungry rodents. Some are quite welcome. This is a California Towhee. They’re prolific grub hunters. They were chased out of the garden by the cats- but I haven’t seen my feline friends lately, and the birds have returned.

I don’t believe my tree collard is going to make it. It could very well be that my “ingenious” solution to the cabbage maggot problem was the collard’s downfall. Surprise! Aluminum foil rings around the tops of roots probably don’t allow for good root growth. I’m going to try to cut out the foil and use some root growth fertilizer as a last attempt but I’m not too hopeful. Turns out you can’t collar a collard.

Oh god that pun was terrible I’m so sorry.

Here’s a bit of cock-eyed optimism to make up for that pun.

I bought some sweet corn.

Now my parents grew corn when I was a child- it can be done. I’m anticipating a hot summer and fall…

And there’s some room in the 4×4 bed…

If I sort of curl the stalks around the squash the wind *should* pollenated them…

And multiple indigenous groups in America grew squash and corn together so it’s a good soil pairing…

It’s a lot of shoulds.

But I’m gonna do it!

I told you it was going to get busier!

Gripped by the tomato madness

So I bought a few late season gallon size tomato plants. By few I mean four.

Yeah yeah I know it’s June. Yeah yeah I know it’s cheating to buy tomato plants that already have baby tomatoes on them.

Guess what? I don’t care- I just want to maximize my chances of absolute tons of tomatoes.

I marked out where they were to go before I planted them- the two visitacion valley tomatoes in front of the sunflowers, and the better boy and the second black krim in front of the trionfo violetto.

Look, my sun gold has given me *some* tomatoes. A handful so far, and the whole plant looks like it’s going to fall over from aphids. I’m working on it. The sauce pot was a silly experiment with a three in one 2 gallon tomato pot that seems to be doing well, but it’s clearly caterpillar eaten. The San Francisco fog is doing ok, but it hasn’t set out fruit yet, the sweet 100 is an unknowable mystery, and my black krim is starting to produce nicely.

Also dad really wants beefsteaks. Beefsteaks do not do well here- these are the biggest tomatoes I can get that might actually produce good fruit.

So I am indulging a few whims.

I planted them well, and staked them up, and now we wait. The beds should stop the too much water problem the pots have- beds drain better.

In fact next year… but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Here are the baby visitacion valleys- like the San Francisco fog it was bred for us so it should do well- why I bought two.

The better boy is just your garden variety good producer, a sure bet if you will, and since my extant black krim is doing great-

I figure this black krim should do good too.

This is absolute madness, but there is a method to it. See, last year my terrible but wonderful sun gold lived until January of this year. That’s nuts.

And that one, like my current one was kind of a buggy mess (I suspect something wrong with the variety) and if the buggy mess could produce into January… what about a healthier more robust plant? So yeah- I put in the lemon boy and the smurf tomato- and now four more.

Not to mention that our hottest months tend to be August through October (and weirdly last year November), so… maybe I’m not so crazy after all!

Ha ha just kidding, I’m totally nuts!

But I’ll be a crazy person eating tomatoes, so I’ve got that going for me.

Imprisoning my tomatoes

Tomatoes are difficult plants. They attract many pests, can also develop nasty fungal diseases, if your summers are too cool they may never set fruit, and while to a degree they can self-pollenate without bees you will get a bad yield- but on top of all that they need a lot of support. They can absolutely collapse under their own weight, and that’s before they set heavy fruit.

So you have to send your tomatoes to jail.

Those are two very old and very rusted old tomato cages that I’m fairly sure l date back to my parent’s garden. For whatever reason they were never recycled and are quite past their use-by date… but they fit into the two wider pots so…

It did take a bit of bending to fit them in- and the plants are so small compared to the cages, But eh hopefully the sweet 100 and Black Krim will grow into their support.

The sungold is growing well, and it has a v-shaped bean support as a backbone.

The sungold is the, pardon the pun, gold standard San Francisco cherry tomato for a reason, and despite the awkward fit I’m sure it’ll take to its support well.

The San Francisco fog also got a bean support and it too seems to be fine with some unorthodox trellising. It’s not as vigorous a plant as the sungold but considering the gloom and rain it’s chugging along marvelously. Besides in April/May what you really want from your tomatoes is steady growth so it can put out flowers by June. Any early flowers or fruits is a bonus, but not expected.

The sauce pot was a difficult criminal however.

So the three Romas came with three small stakes barely holding the plants up, which was enough for the small pot they were sold in. Once moved to the sauce pot however there was just no way those small three stakes were sufficient. At first I put three bamboo stakes in, but today I put in a forth, and I’ve strung soft-ties all around the four outer stakes to suspend the leaves over it.

It’s a mess! It’s an absolute mess! But it’s too big for a tomato cage- even if I had a third, which I do not- and the one remaining v-shaped bean support is just not up to the task of the Romas.

So once again, I Gerry-rigged something. I have a sneaking suspicion this is going to be a process and there’s a good chance I’ll have to change it up a few times.

The really good news about the sauce pot, despite everything is that it’s three vigorous plants, and one of them is already flowering.

I mean- there’s barely any bees out yet, too wet by half- but it’s telling that the plant has the health to flower early despite what could have been a traumatic transplant. So despite the fact that the odds are this flower will never turn into a tomato- it’s a good sign.

Viva la sauce pot!