Are the monsoons here early?

MONSOONS
Are the monsoons here early? Historically, in my 28 years here in Santa Fe, the monsoons have traditionally started after July 4th weekend thru the second week of July. But last year and this year the weather people are saying it comes in around June 15th. Did things change? If so, I’m a happy camper cause we really need the moisture.

 

ROW COVER ON TOMATO CAGES/LEAFHOPPERS
Plus I can take off the row covers off my tomato cages as the dreaded beet leafhopper should be leaving soon. But I don’t do that with the first rain which we got here yesterday. I wait a few days-like maybe after this weekend if the weather pattern holds up. We got .4″ of rain which is great. 

So if the monsoon pattern doesn’t peter out, and we get a little rain for next week and the monsoon pattern holds, I will be taking the row covers off my tomato plants. I haven’t seen my tomatoes since late May. Row cover is put completely around and over the cages to keep the beet leafhopper from physically getting to the tomato plants and biting the plant-no insecticides work. They transmit a fatal virus-Curly Top Virus (CTV) to tomatoes. One extra step we have to go through to get tomatoes out here in the southwest. The bug either gets suppressed or leaves town when the rains come as it prefers dry, hot windy conditions which we’ve had. Who knows? Maybe they will move to Texas.

 

TOMATO BLOSSOM DROP
Also with the rain, the temperatures should come down and blossom drop will stop too. Tomato blossom drop occurs at 92°F + when it  gets too hot for the plant to set fruit. So if you’ve seen blossoms dropping don’t worry-your tomatoes will continue to make blossoms the whole season. But after it sets fruit, higher temperatures are ok. It’s just during higher heat when they are self-pollinating that they drop their blossoms. They need below 92°F to set the fruit. Another bonus. Ah rain!

 

Black Krim Tomato-an interesting history

Black Krim Tomato_Courtesy of Wiki_By Johnh – https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32303234

One of the best things about growing heirloom tomatoes is sometimes their history. I found the history of some tomatoes is fascinating and when I was at the Farmers Market, I was the first to include the description and history of the tomatoes I sold. People really enjoyed reading about what they were eating and where it was from.

One such tomato is the Black Krim, a favorite for many people. It has a very interesting history as it originated in Ukraine. Black Krim is the Ukrainian word for Crimea. I didn’t know any of this. I knew it was from Russia but not specifically from Ukraine and to be exact, Crimea, which Russia took back in 2014 after invading it before this year’s invasion of Ukraine. I found out this information from Terrior Seeds. To read more on the Black Krim from Terrior Seeds, go here. How relevant to today’s world.

Trouble in the cold frame

I started lettuces from seeds inside under lights with NO heat which I then transplanted in the greenhouse on Feb 3rd. I also planted spinach, arugula and bok choy in the cold frame.

Everything in the greenhouse is doing great. Every nite I flip the winter weight row cover over them to protect them from the freezing nites and flip it off in the day so they get more sunlight. They are all under cages I built to keep mice out-works beautifully.

Unfortunately, in my cold frame, when I uncovered them, I don’t have any cages and mice munched 29 spinach plants (only 1 survived), 8 Bok Choys, and chomped 2 of the Arugula (I guess they didn’t like those much).

I hadn’t gone out in a few days after I planted the spinach/bok choy on Feb 3rd because the days/nites got really cold but that didn’t stop the mice! Only 1 spinach made it-the rest were eaten down to nothing. I still have 8 severely eaten bok choys and all the arugula that I re-dug up and they are back in pony packs inside again under lights to see how many will actually survive. To help with all the shock, I water with seaweed fertilizer and Vit B-1 (for plants). Meanwhile I need to tighten up the lid on the cold frame to hopefully keep them out (this coming week when weather is nicer). I will put out a few sacrificial survivors in about a week to see if the mice still get in and eat them.

Spinach is one of my favorite spring crops but must be eaten before it gets hot or it will bolt. So today I am planting more spinach seeds. Takes about 2 weeks from planting seeds to transplanting the seedlings into pony packs where they grow for another 2 weeks-so 4 weeks from planting seeds to planting outside (with protection). Let’s hope it won’t be a bad year for mice again like two years ago!

This year’s Kale

scotch curly kale

Scotch curly kale

Kale (and chard) are loving the cooler weather while the warm season crops are fading. I grew two kinds of kale this year. The first one is Scotch Curly Kale shown above which has done really well. No aphids or cabbage looper damage (from the cabbage moth). A super producer!

cabbage looper damage on Lacinato kale

Cabbage looper damage on Lacinato kale

The other kale which is my favorite, is Lacinato kale. It is also known as Tuscan kale, Italian kale, dinosaur kale, black kale. It has struggled with  attacks from cabbage moths which resulted in very ‘holey’ kale from the cabbage moth looper. I don’t know why they attacked the Lacinato but not the curly kale but I left them in as a trap crop to attract the cabbage looper to them. I could of sprayed Bt, an organic caterpillar insecticide but didn’t get to it. The crops were not close to each other.

Tops of Lacinato recovering from damage

Top leaves of Lacinato recovering from damage

Today I noticed that the new leaves on the Lacinto are perfect-no holes so I think the cabbage moth is gone. So I trimmed off all the holey leaves on the bottom and gave them to my chickens and will harvest the nice leaves soon. The chickens love it.

I will leave all the kales in the garden for now as they love the cooler weather and will cover them with row cover when the first freeze comes next week (WEATHER FREEZE FORECAST TUESDAY OCT 12!).

I have to confess I never have liked kale finding it too tough for me.  But I do really like it in stews and soups where it softens up. To prepare it to use later, I trim off all the leaves from the stalks, rough chop it and steam the kale for 2 minutes. I super cool it quickly under water with ice to stop the cooking.  I then drain and squeeze out all the liquid and put it in 2 cup increments in freezer ziplock baggies and freeze it. It’s the perfect amount to put into stews and soups in the winter.

HORNWORMS!

hornworm damage

I have lots to share so I will be writing a lot in the next few days. I was on vacation for 7 days and am now back and busy harvesting and weeding. The first day back, I saw one of my Black Cherry tomato plants was overwhelmed by tomato hornworms. As you can see in the pic above, they ate all the leaves on the top 1/3 of the plant.  Interesting that they seem to like that variety but I only found 2 more on that tomato bed that has 9 tomato plants-all right next to each other. I can see why the hornworm would like the Black Cherry tomato as it is one of my favorites too! On all the other 29 tomato plants, I only found a couple of hornworms. We handpick the hornworms off wearing gloves because I’m squeamish about them.

hornworms

So I think we got around 100 hornworms in all different sizes on that one plant. Never had so many hornworms on one plant. Found and picked most of them off that day.

tomato-hornworm1

Then went back at night with my UV flashight and found about 50 more. The hornworms glow under  UV light making them easier to find-this helps find smaller ones too that I missed in the day. I got mine on Amazon. So keep a lookout for hornworms-they are around now!

Lots of rain=fungal diseases

With all that blessed rain comes new problems for veggie gardeners-mainly fungal diseases are on the rise.

WOW! This has been a great monsoon season this year. Last year we had 2 tiny monsoon storms and then they disappeared and we went into an extreme drought. This year, we have gotten more rain than I can remember in many years. Every week we get a significant amount of rain and 2 weeks ago we got 2.5 inches of rain in 1.5 hours. It was torrential. Those of us on the southeast side of Santa Fe have gotten most of the rain while those on the west side of town haven’t gotten much.

Early blight-photo courtesy of bigblogofgardening.com

TOMATOES-EARLY BLIGHT: I already trimmed the tomato plants so no leaves touch the ground, put straw around each plant so no dirt is showing, but I still have started to see Early Blight (EB) on a few of the tomato plants. Early Blight fungal spores live in the ground and when rain splashes the dirt up on the lower leaves, the fungal spores start to colonize on the lower underside of the leaves. They become blotchy with the lower leaves getting big yellow splotchy areas. This is Early Blight. Without doing anything, it will spread upwards and go up through the plant and eventually kill it. But we can control it. I use to use Serenade, a biological fungicide that has other micro-organisms that colonize on those leaves and crowds out the EB spores. But now we can’t get Serenade anymore. I don’t know why but can’t find it anywhere. So I’ve turned to 2 other products. One is called Cease, which has the same ingredients as Serenade but is way more expensive and the other is Copper Fungicide which has copper in it which helps suppress the EB disease but you shouldn’t spray the soil as it can affect the earthworms-keep it on the foliage.

The way to control it is: trim off all lower branches that show signs of EB. Be sure to dip your cutters in a solution of 10% bleach to water. I just put a little in a small container of water and dip the shears and your hand into it BEFORE moving to the next plant. EB is contagious between plants so disinfecting your cutters between plants will make sure you don’t spread it.

powdery mildew_courtesy of morningagclips.com

SQUASH-POWDERY MILDEW: Another fungal disease on squash and pumpkin plants is Powdery Mildew. If your leaves start to die and get a powder on them, you should spray them on top and underside of leaves with a fungicide. Again copper fungicide, Neem, Baking soda/water mix, GreenCure. My favorite IS Green Cure as it works pretty fast. Spray any of the affected plants at 2-3 times with any o the above to get rid of it.

OTHER PROBLEMS

blossom end rot_courtesty of gardeners.com

TOMATO-BLOSSOM END ROT: There are other problems arising from too much rain (is that possible out here in the southwest?!) Tomato blossom rot is from too much water, or uneven watering or not enough calcium in the soil (leached out because of too much rain). It is not a fungal disease but rather a deficiency of calcium in the tomato. It appears on the bottom of the tomato and is a sunken brown lesion. You can cut it out and eat the rest of the tomato if the whole fruit is not impacted.

Keeping the soil evenly moist helps. If we get a big rain, turn off your drip system for a day or two. You can also do a foliar spray on the plants with a kelp (seaweed) solution. But usually it will correct itself thru time. Adding calcium in the form of bone meal, oyster shell powder or gypsum — to the soil when you plant usually helps prevent this problem from developing.

Butternut winter squash

Here is a winter squash I really like-Butternut squash. I’ve mentioned it before but it’s worth repeating.

Butternut squash doesn’t usually attract squash bugs. I’ve grown the very sweet Waltham Butternut, an Italian variety called Rogosa Violina and a huge variety called Tahitian Butternut-all don’t seem to attract squash bugs, at least in my garden and all have the wonderful flavor we associate with butternut squash.

It also doesn’t attract squash vine borers. The stems are solid and the squash vine borer like to lay it’s eggs in hollow stem varieties of both winter and summer squash. 100 days to harvest so if you plant right now, you may get to harvest as it will be ready right at the end of our season.

251 pounds of tomatoes!

Well I figured out that I canned 251 lbs of tomatoes this year. I made 52 jars of different pasta sauces (Puttanesca, Penne alla Vodka, Fantastico spaghetti sauce and Fruiti di Mare sauce. Each one has it’s own unique flavors. Plus I made plain old tomato sauce and Texas BBQ sauce.  I’m well stocked for the year and gave many jars away to friends. Truly a labor of love!

Tomatoes seeds germinating inside the tomato!

Here’s something you don’t see everyday. Two different people have contacted me about a tomato they each had that was sprouting seeds INSIDE the tomato. Both people said the tomatoes were older. When they cut into their tomatoes, they found tomato seeds prematurely sprouting inside. I haven’t seen that before and had to research it out.

It’s called Vivipary which means ‘live birth’.  It is the phenomenon that involves seeds germinating prematurely while they are still inside the fruit, in this case tomatoes. It most often happens when the fruit is old. Normally the gel around the tomato seeds prevents the seed from germinating inside but it’s not limited to just tomatoes.

Read more at Gardening Know How: What Is Vivipary – Reasons For Seeds Germinating Prematurely https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/garden-how-to/propagation/seeds/what-is-vivipary.htm

Epsom Salts and tomatoes

 

Costuluto Genevese tomatoes

I’ve always used powered Epsom Salts in the bottom of my hole when I transplant my tomatoes in late spring. I read it helps with producing more blossoms and hence more tomatoes. It’s also good for peppers and roses. Epsom salt is a natural mineral that was originally found in a well in Epsom, England. It is magnesium sulfate. Magnesium is critical for seed germination and Sulpher is used for lowering the pH level in alkaline soils like we have here in New Mexico. Sulfur, is also a key element in plant growth.

What I didn’t know was that it is more immediately available to tomatoes and peppers when sprayed on your plant’s leaves vs sprinkling it on the ground. Dilute 1 tablespoon of Epsom salts with one gallon of water, and applied as a foliar spray. When applied this way,  Epsom salts can be taken up quickly by plants.

Here is an internet article on Epsom Salts that goes into more detail about it, a trial using it, and how to use it. From now on I will be spraying it on my plants instead of adding to the soil.

I do not add Epsom salts to my other vegetable plants, just my tomatoes and peppers.

Here is the complete article from Garden.org on Epsom Salts.

 

 

2020 tomato review-the ‘darlings’ of the veggie garden

2020 Tomato Review

As the Tomato Lady of Santa Fe, this year was a great tomato year in the garden especially compared to last year’s tomatoes which were dismal. This year I started with 38 plants, lost 2 right away to curly top virus and lost several more to a soil fungal disease but overall the disease level was very low due to it being such a dry year.  I think I had good production because I started them super early this year-May 6, which is the earliest I’ve ever put them in the ground and I gave them the water they needed.

Here are the tomato varieties I grew this year. If you haven’t even heard of some of these, I encourage you to try some new varieties for yourself-keeps it interesting!  Some of you may have had a great year with some of these varieties, so use your own experience when selecting which varieties to grow. All varieties are heirlooms or open pollinated unless otherwise noted.

Moby Dwarf cherry tomato trial project-This is a wonderful larger yellow cherry tomato. Wonderfully intense flavor. I was involved 2 years ago growing this out for Craig Lehouiller, author of Epic Tomatoes. I found some of the plants I grew had a anthocyanin blush (purple blush) on its shoulders so I’m continuing to see if we can get this trait to stabilize for future generations. The plant is only 4 feet tall, very prolific and would be great in large pots as well in the ground as I do. You can get the original seeds now online at Victory Seeds. A must try.  63 days to harvest. YES will grow this next year.

Black Cherry-I only grew one plant but boy was it prolific! This is one of my favorites that I grow every year. No disease. Very dependable. Purplish color. Great intense full bodied flavor like a good wine. 64 days to harvest. YES will grow this next year.

Virginia Sweets-A yellow tomato with red blush inside that is sweet, sweet, sweet. This year they did well although in some years not as good. But I always come back to them because when they do well, they are great! 80 days to harvest. YES will grow this next year.

Lucky Cross-One of my all-time favorites. This year the mice seem to really like them so I didn’t get as many as I would have liked. Great sweet flavor. Yellowish peachy color with marbled red interior. Wish I had more plants since I was sharing with the mice! 74 days to harvest. YES will grow this next year.

Ananas Noire-One of my favorites. Don’t be put off by the colors-green with a red blush but the flavor is sweet like nectar. Takes all season to get them but worth the wait. 85 days to harvest. YES will grow this next year.

Large Barred Boar-NEW THIS YEAR! A wonderful tomato from Wild Boar Farms that is slighter larger than Black and Brown Boar which it came from and is a mid-season ripener. It is a med-large mahogany color with green stripes tomato. Great flavor and only 65 days to harvest. YES will grow this next year.

Black and Brown Boar-I’ve always loved this oval shaped tomato from Wild Boar Farms because it has super flavor and is a good producer. Mahogany with green stripes. 68 days to harvest. YES will grow this next year.

Cherokee Lemon-NEW THIS YEAR! This is a new Cherokee variety for me. Its color is a pure yellow with yellow flesh inside and has good sweetness. It was not very prolific though, so I will see if it makes it into next year’s roster but I usually give a new tomato two years to try. 75 days to harvest. MAYBE will grow this next year.

Cherokee Purple-I come back to this tomato every year. A great producer with outstanding flavor.  Purple with green shoulders. 75 days to harvest. YES will grow this next year.

Cherokee Green-A green tomato that turns a yellowish-green that is green throughout with suburb sweet flavor but was not as prolific as last year. 75 days to harvest. MAYBE will grow this next year.

Cherokee Carbon-I adore this hybrid. A cross between a Cherokee Purple and Carbon. Great flavor like Cherokee Purple but bigger and less cracks. Purple with green shoulders/ Great producer too. 75 days to harvest. YES will grow this next year.

Pink Berkley Tie Dye-Usually this is a good producer with great flavor but this year it was a disappointment for me as it did not produce many tomatoes. 65 days to harvest. NO will NOT grow this next year.

Captain Lucky-NEW THIS YEAR! I liked this mostly green with red blush tomato. All around good flavor. 75 days to harvest. YES will grow this next year.

Goliath-One of a few hybrids that I grow every year. Great old fashioned tomato flavor and it rarely gets cracks or blemishes. A good producer. 65 days to harvest. YES will grow this next year.

Pantano Romanesco-This year I was disappointed in this tomato when normally I like it. Good old fashion flavor but not very prolific. 75 days to harvest. NO will NOT grow this next year.

Mushroom Basket-NEW THIS YEAR! I’m kinda so-so about this one. Great big shape with many flutes but ripened unevenly for many of them. Also not a good producer. 75 days to harvest. NO will NOT grow this next year.

Paul Robeson-Another of my all time favorites-this ‘black tomato’ has a rich flavor that wins many tomato contests every year. 75 days to harvest. YES will grow this next year.

BKX-NEW THIS YEAR! An improved version of the Black Krim tomato that did not produce very well. For me the original Black Krim is never a good producer and this one is about the same. If I’m going to grow a tomato it has to be a good producer. 80 days to harvest. NO will NOT grow this next year.

Purple Calabash-NEW THIS YEAR! This is an heirloom from Thomas Jefferson’s garden so I was excite to try it. Sorry to say, I wasn’t impressed. They were small fluted purplish tomatoes with lots of catfacing flaws on bottom. Nice flavor though. 75 days to harvest. NO will NOT grow this next year.

Big Zac-Another good hybrid that can grow some colossal sized red tomatoes with old fashioned tomato flavor. One slice will fill a BLT sandwich. 80 days to harvest. YES will grow this next year.

Goldman’s Italian American-the only paste tomato I grow. It has the best flavor of any paste tomato I’ve ever tried. Makes wonderful pasta sauces. 85 days to harvest. YES will grow this next year.

 

 

 

New pepper this year-Lava Red pepper

Corno di Toro peppers-Lava Red peppers

I use to start my Jimmy Nardello and Shishito sweet peppers inside under lights the first week of March but since they take so long to germinate and grow out to tranplanting size, I started buying them from Agua Fria Nursery in the past few years. When the nursery ran out of these sweet peppers last spring, I was bummed. Not only because they didn’t have those varieties but also because it takes peppers 8-10 weeks to grow from seed to transplanting size which is why one needs to start them super early or buy in a nursery. I thought I had run out of time.

Lava Red peppers

My best friend, Lava, from Germany had saved some sweet red pepper seeds that her son gave her from a farmers market in Germany. She described them as long red, sweet, thick walled peppers but didn’t know the name. I had the seeds for a few years but didn’t try them since I was hooked on the ‘Jimmys’. In my desperation, I decided to try to grow them out late.  I grew four of them from her seeds and to my surprise, they are a type of Corno di Toro (horn of the bull or bull’s horn pepper). We don’t actually know which variety of the Corno di Toro peppers they are and there are several. I named this one Lava Red pepper after her. Corno di Toro peppers are named after their shape and are a type of Italian frying peppers that are sweet green or red but if you let them turn red, they are a little bit sweeter.

Now at Harry’s Roadhouse here in Santa Fe, I remembered (seems so long ago) they serve some kind of sweet grilled peppers strips in their house salad which I love. So I decided to grill the Lava Red peppers as I now call them and take off the skins like what we do for our hot green chilies here in New Mexico. But before I grilled them, I saved some seeds to freshen up my supply of seeds for future use.

Notice I put one of those dessicant packets (from my vitamin bottles) in with the seeds to make sure they are completely dry. Then I will remove it later.

 

Normally they would be grilled on the BBQ till the skins are black and then cooled in cold water and the skins slide off from the peppers, leaving the sweet pepper meat. This steps takes a little more work but the flavor of the skinless peppers is superb and well worth the effort.

 

Using a small grill in my fireplace to roast the peppers

The night I wanted to grill them was way too cold outside (in the 20’s) to be standing by the BBQ so I decided to grill them in my fireplace in my house while I watched the World Series. I made a fire of cedar wood and put a small portable grill over the hot coals.

 

Then I sat there and grilled my peppers over the cedar wood coals. The smell is fantastic and the flavor of the peppers is sweet and the cedar coals added a subtle smoky nuance to them.

 

After the skins are off, I put them on wax paper in layers an freeze them and take them out as needed.

I use them in scrambled eggs, on my salads, in sandwiches and I’m sure there will be many other ways to use them. I got 5 lbs of grilled peppers!

They are now one of my favorites. I like the thick walls and sweet flavor. Isn’t it funny, I was forced to try something new and it turned out fantastic! So try some Corno di Toro peppers next year, you won’t be disappointed! You can also eat this pepper raw as well!

October Veggie Garden Update

 

Here’s the latest update in my garden as of Sunday October 18th. The season is winding down fast now, and so am I. The pics above are what we harvested today.

Some warm season crops like cucumbers, summer squash, green beans, dry beans, butternut winter squash and corn are finished. Today’s harvest of the warm season crops like tomatoes and peppers were picked, including some green tomatoes which I will ripen indoors. I got a couple of butternut squash and cucumbers too. I turned off the drip systems to all of them today.

The perennial fruit crops-strawberries, grapes, rhubarb and blackberries are also done. But the raspberries, which are a fall crop are still giving up some berries but are slowing way down now too. I will leave the drip systems on the perennials till it freezes.

Other cool season crops in the garden are still shining, loving the cooler weather we have right now. These include cabbage, chard, another winter squash (sweetmeat) and kale are still in the main garden and ready to harvest. I’ve been harvesting the kale, cabbage and chard for a long time.

I am harvesting broccoli heads, warm season lettuces and radishes that I planted as succession crops in August in my garlic bed which has been vacant since July. I figured I would have enough time to harvest them before I plant a new garlic crop back in it. The garlic heads are coming this week and I will plant them by the end of October in that bed once the other veggies are harvested.

But the season doesn’t end yet. I currently have some cool season crops that I started inside under lights like lettuces, spinach, arugula and Pak Choi. They will go into my cold frame and greenhouse this week but not in the main garden. I’ve actually been waiting till both the greenhouse and cold frame are cool enough in the day to put them in so they don’t bolt and this week with the daytime temperatures in the 70’s and the nighttime temperatures in the 40s is now perfect to put them out. They should last till December using row cover when the temperatures drop to freezing at night to extend their lives. It will be nice to get greens and lettuce from the garden in November. My last hurrah!

 

First cucumbers into pickles

I had enough cucumbers from the garden to make the first pickles of the season. Many more to come I hope!

On the left is Boothsby Blonde which will become bread and butter pickles. It is a whitish-yellow cucumber that really is beautiful when you add the turmeric in the recipe. The cucumbers on the right are Parisian which will become Cornichons, a tiny tart pickle famous in France. Here they are both soaking in salt water.

 

Left is finished bread and butter pickles which were done using a waterbath method. On the right are the cornichins which I do as a refrigerator pickle to keep their crispness.