We’ve had an absolutely gorgeous week this spring. Clear, sunny days, temps in the mid 70s. All the dogwoods, redbuds, and other spring flowers and bushes have been putting on a display. And the birds are making nests in every nook and cranny. I have been very busy outside preparing the garden.
I finished assembling the second raised bed kit. Then we prepared the ground for the beds. This is in the location of the former spring garden so the ground has been worked before. After tilling it to loosen the soil, we added peat, manure, and some topsoil. Beneath each mound, I added a layer of cardboard as I’ve heard that this keeps down the weeds. Then I shoveled on the dirt, added the raised bed frames, and leveled everything.
I couldn’t resist buying a few plants although it’s really too early here. We can expect to get a late frost as far as May 10th. And have some years. But I went ahead and added some ground cloth and planted through them.
One raised bed will be dedicated to tomatoes and peppers. The second will have more variety with sugar peas, lettuces, spinach. Later beans, squash and whatever. I only bought a few tomatoes and herbs so far. I won’t fib and say this was easy. It was actually a lot of crawling around but now that it’s done, it looks pretty neat.
Although the tomatoes are a little closer than I would normally plant them, we’ll see if this system works better. It should be easier to maintain. I will buy some more tomatoes later this week. Still too early for peppers. And we set up the solar-powered motion detector lights which we’ve used in the past. This helps to keep some of the critters out of the vegetable patch.
Last year our garden was miserable due to a drought and other issues. But the year before we had produce in abundance. I was trying to remember which were our favorite tomatoes and remembered a posting that I made in August of 2021 where I made comparisons of the variety of tomatoes. If you’re just getting ready to plant, you may wish to check it out at this link.
Anyway, I’ve got a head start on this part of the garden but there’s plenty more to do. I don’t think a farmer’s work is ever done.
It’s that time of year in the garden. I have been picking tomatoes by the five-gallon bucket load. The freezer is full and we have just about run out of room.
We have been growing tomatoes for decades. We try different varieties. Some years we like this one, another year we might like another one. This year I decided to make a semi-scientific analysis of the different varieties that we usually gravitate to.
First of all, I don’t start any plants from seed anymore. Been there, done that. I can usually find a good variety in the local stores and garden centers. Also, we don’t use any sprays and rarely fertilizer (none this year.) But I do rotate the crops in the garden so the same thing is not planted in the same place each year.
This year I planted fifteen tomato plants (not counting the five that I planted in the spring garden). I have planted as many as sixty-four plants in the past but that is ridiculous. The varieties that I planted this year are: Goliath, San Marzano, Roma, Better Boy, Pink Brandywine, Red Beefsteak, and Park Whopper. Not counting the cherry tomatoes (Sweet 100 and Yellow Pear). I did all the planting on May 15th because we had a very late freeze and SNOW earlier. We had plenty of rain earlier but not too much since mid July. Sometimes we’ll water, especially if the plants are little but usually not. I planted the seedlings very far apart, about five feet, so they had plenty of room and we could get down the rows with the tiller. We also put them up in cages with stakes and ties.
I have lost track of how many tomatoes that I’ve picked but in just one day last week, I picked three five-gallon buckets and gave one away. I have to pick about every three or four days. Our freezer is full.
So let’s go down the list.
Goliath. We’ve liked this tomato in the past and it started off well but slowed down. I paid a lot for just one plant so will probably not plant it again next year.
San Marzano. This is supposedly the king of Italian tomatoes. VERY prolific. I can pull the tomatoes off the vine in handfuls, like grapes. But they seem a little dry and have quite a bit of white/green core which is not tasty.
Roma. We’ve grown these before but they really produced this year. Much larger than the San Marzanos which was a surprise. Very meaty but sometimes a little black inside which is probably blossom end rot from uneven watering.
Better Boy. Good but nothing to write home about. Will probably pass next year.
Pink Brandywine. These were a real surprise. The tomatoes are huge, at least six or even seven inches across. A beautiful pink color and low acid. Really tasty and very meaty. One slice is enough for a sandwich.
Red Beefsteak. Very meaty but knobby. Difficult to use for a slicing tomato but pretty good for canning. However, not worth the trouble even though they are so large and produce well.
Celebrity. We’ve grown these before but for not for the past few years. VERY good producers. The tomatoes just keep coming. Great for putting up or eating just plain.
Park Whopper. We were told by a friend that this is his favorite tomato so we thought we’d give it a try. Very consistent shape, good taste, but not very large. And they’re petering out, even in mid-August.
The final verdict? We’ll definitely plant the Pink Brandywines, Romas and Celebrities next year. But….depends upon what other options catch my attention.
Meanwhile, back to the salt mines…er ummm….the garden. And don’t talk to me about beans and corn. Ha!
The summer is speeding past and life has been busy here in Southern Indiana. We’ve had lots of company this summer. I think everyone was ready to get away, out of the house, just go somewhere. Always enjoyable to reconnect with old friends and family. Of course, the grandkids have kept us busy, too. We didn’t get to do nearly as many activities as we had wished but we did have some fun.
The past few weeks we’ve been busy with the garden. Plenty of rain earlier in the season so the produce is coming in. The corn is past. Peaches and cream variety, first planting late April. Second planting a few weeks later after the late freeze. This is a delicious variety, full ears with no bugs or flaws. We ate what we could fresh, then put up the rest. After picking and husking, we ended up with four five-gallon buckets of shucked corn. I do the picking and husking; my husband does the rest of the processing. Plenty of corn in the freezer.
The green beans (variety Jade Bush) have been very prolific. I keep up with the picking and the beans keep coming. Of course, I planted some more which I don’t know why.
We planted several varieties of tomatoes this year just to remind ourselves why we like some better than others. With the freeze that we had in early May, they’re just now coming in. The Goliath, Celebrity, Beefsteak, and German Pink are great eating tomatoes. Lovely on a sandwich or just with supper. For putting up in the freezer, we have San Marzanos and Romas, and the Park Whoppers are very prolific. We use a lot of tomatoes so these will keep us busy for the next several weeks. The cherry tomatoes are Sweet 100 and a cute little yellow pear, both of which are very prolific. The kids just graze on them as they pass by.
I’ve got some herbs in the food dehydrator out in the shop. Best to remove the machine from the house so the whole place doesn’t smell like basil. Will probably do another batch or two this season. I’ll miss fresh herbs when they’re gone.
So, you might ask, why go to all this work just for some vegetables? It certainly doesn’t save any money when you consider all the time, labor and expense that goes into planting, picking and processing. I guess the real reason is that we like fresh. We know what’s in the plants and what isn’t. We use no pesticides. Not everything turns out perfect and beautiful. We’re willing to live with losses. The zucchini and squashes have been beset by squash vine borers the past few years. I may give them a pass next year. And as the joke around here goes, you lock your car doors in Indiana in the summer as you’re likely to find someone has filled it with zucchini.
Lots more stuff going on around here. The flowers are beautiful – several varieties of sunflowers, cosmos, and zinnias not counting the potted plants. I sold a lot of artwork with my Super Summer Sale last month, both online and locally. Still need to make more room in the studio. Still paint nearly every day. Lots of visits to the library and arts center. And spending some evening time on the patio with a cool drink and a book.
So how has your summer been going? I love reading your posts and comments. Keep cool!
Cherry tomatoes from just two bushes, picked mid September.
Normally this time of year, the garden starts slowing down. Not this year. Despite the record-breaking temperatures and drought, our garden is still producing.
Dried cherry tomatoes. A jar of yummy deliciousness.
While most of the regular tomatoes have slowed down, the cherry tomatoes are still coming on strong. We have a debate whether the best ones are Sweet 100s or Sweet One Million. They’re both delicious. I have been drying plenty of them in the dehydrator. I found the best and quickest way to dry them is to cut them in half and then gently squeeze out the seeds. They will dry much faster. We love to put them in bread or just eat them straight for snacks. Yummm.
Fresh green beans from the second crop planted in mid-July.
And the green beans which I replanted in July have been coming in. Amazingly, they’re better than the first batch we planted last spring. Big and juicy and practically bug free. I love green beans!
A multitude of peppers. Jalapenos, Anaheim, and sweet yellow peppers.
The peppers haven’t given up either. We have jalapeno, Anaheim and sweet peppers. A few of the hot peppers go a long way so we’re always glad to share them with the neighbors.
Sweet potatoes cluster, all from one slip. Variety Puerto Rican vining.
My husband loves sweet potatoes. This clump is from just one slip! And he planted fifty slips! And they’re still growing (the vines haven’t died back yet).
Although the squirrels are harvesting most of our walnuts, I always feel a kinship as I “squirrel” away our garden produce. Apologies for the bad pun.
Giant tomato, Park Whopper My husband ate the entire tomato for lunch. Yummmm.
You haven’t heard me bragging about the garden this summer because, well, in a word, it’s been awful. We usually plant a big garden (25 x 40) and a small spring garden which holds spring crops, such as, lettuce, spinach, kale, peas, etc.
Tomatoes ready for canning.
Everything was looking good before we went out west last month on vacation. Although we enjoyed wonderful weather on our trip, apparently the Midwest received buckets of rain the entire time. We returned to a garden full of weeds, at least, that which was not drowned. I could watch them grow on the deer cam.
Multi-stemmed sunflowers just came out this week. They’re already being eyed by the goldfinches.
Red sunflower being strangled with a morning glory. The bees are loving this.
Then with a couple of weeks of extreme heat, there were some crops that we just gave up on. The peas blew past, the kale, lettuce and spinach bolted. The beans, corn, and squash in the big garden looked anemic.
New bean crop. The red line gives you an indication of location.
This past month we have spent hoeing and weeding, feeding and trimming. Some things we’ve just given up on. I planted new beans a couple of weeks ago and they’re up now, doing nicely. The sweet corn has recovered but we’re trying to keep the varmints out of it until we can pick it. The raccoons have already cleaned out the apple trees and devastated my seckle pear.
Swallowtail on some volunteer flowers.
Butterfly and zinnias
A bouquet of zinnias just for me. I love cut flowers in the garden.
The sunflowers are out, the butterflies are loving the zinnias, and we’ll still probably end up with way too many tomatoes.
I'm a professional artist, retired director of a performing arts center, bona fide book addict, and enjoy the quiet life...most of the time. I'd love to hear from you or get your ideas for future posts. Come back soon!