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.

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.

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.

 

 

 

July 18-Unveiling the girls!

I’m a little behind in my posting. Here we are unveiling the girls on July 18th which is very exciting for me as I can finally see them without the row cover on them.

I remove the row cover after the beet leafhopper leaves. I think four of the tomato row covers blew off and then the tomato plant got bit by a leafhopper which gave them curly top virus (CTV), a fatal virus. I will pull those plants once I make sure they do have CTV. It is a vector disease which means it’s is passed from insect to a plant and is not contagious between plants. The leafhopper disappears after the monsoons come.

Tomato growing-Beet Leafhoppers and Curly Top Virus (CTV)

I have written about this problem a few times on this site and it might be worth a visit to one of my previous posts if you are interested in learning about CTV:

Identifiying Tomato Curley Top Virus

In addition there is more info on this problem through New Mexico State University (NMSU) here.

The reason I put row cover over my plants is to have a physical protection to keep the Beet Leafhopper off of them. I remove the row covers when the monsoons come in July as they seem to either leave or become suppressed and then I usually don’t have any problems with leafhoppers and CTV. No insecticides seem to work. If it seems that I harp on this problem, I do! I just want you all to be successful with tomato growing here.

First tomatoes!

First tomatoes in 2020-Black Cherry Tomatoes (shown) and Egg Yolk tomatoes (sorry I ate them!)

Well I got my first few cherry tomatoes harvested. I planted all 36 tomato plants really early on May 3rd-snuck them in with such a warm spring. I peeked inside my Egg Yolk cherry tomato plant underneath the row cover (yes it’s still on but hopefully coming off soon) and my Black Cherry tomato plant. I got 2 Egg Yolk tomatoes and 5 Black Cherry tomatoes. Mind you, not a lot but it’s a start! The flavor was divine and now I remember why I wait to eat tomatoes after the season is over. Haven’t had a tomato since last October–well worth the wait!

Lots of blossoms on all the other tomato plants but we will get some blossom drop on some of them with this heat. No matter, they will produce more blossoms that will set fruit again. I’ll see how many have set fruit after I remove the row covers. Speaking of row covers…

Looking more promising regarding the monsoons. Starting this Thursday the temps will drop back in the 80s and thunderstorms are predicted from Thursday on from 20-40%. Hang in there, I am almost ready to remove the row covers-but waiting for the monsoon pattern to really set up to get rid of the leafhopper. Maybe next week. You’ll be the first to know!

Heat wave here!

So I am very frustrated that the weather apps and weather people are saying we are going to be hot, hot, HOT for about the next 10 days here in Santa Fe and NM which means the monsoons are not quite here yet even though the clouds are building and a few drops are falling.

What does this mean for us veggie growers who are waiting for the temps to cool down and the monsoons to come? Two problems:

ONE: leafhopper is still here (won’t leave till the mosoons comes) so keep the tomatoes covered. I know it is torture at this point but you’ve waited this long so stick with it.

TWO: tomato plants get blossom drop when the temps are 92°F and hotter. So if your plant has already set some blossoms into fruit, they will be fine BUT if there are new blossoms during this time period, they will probably drop off. When the temperatures cool below 92°, they will produce blossoms and self-pollinate and set new tomatoes and the cycle starts again.

Hang tight-Patience will reward you!

Tomato Plants-when to take row cover off

Many of you are asking when can you take your row covers off your tomato plants. NOT YET-be patient

Leave row covers on tomatoes for now-I know we are all anxious to take them off. I leave mine on till the monsoons come and they are NOT here yet—occasional rain is not considered the monsoons and will not drive the leafhopper away. The leafhopper likes dry, hot, windy conditions (which we have now) so I’m sure it’s still around. The leafhopper kills tomato plants by biting your plant, giving it Curly Top Virus (CTV) which is fatal to your tomato plants. The row covers are a physical barrier so the bug can’t get to your plant. So for now, (sigh) I will leave them on even though I’m dying to remove them like you. Historically, the monsoons come somewhere around the 2nd week of July but it could come later too. Hopefully we won’t have to wait much longer.

I will post as soon as I take mine off so you all know…

Tomatoes are in-May 3rd-woo hoo!

Today we put 31 tomatoes in the garden. Enjoy the time lapse!

This is the earliest I have ever been able to put them outside. We always put them in Wall-of-Waters (green cylinders) to protect them from the chilly nites or if we have a late freeze.  Now I’m dirt tired-time for a cocktail!