Friday, August 2, 2013

Sun Ripened Tomatoes

Tomatoes fresh from the garden on a warm sunny day are a taste experience that defies description.  That is one reason why we garden.  The quality of home grown can wildly surpass anything offered for sale at the market.  For the past two years, late blight has taken our tomatoes soon after the first tomatoes ripened.  Our choice was to give up or try something different.  Not ready to quit, we tried something different.

Starting our own plants from seed gives us total control over both variety and condition of the plants. This year we started our plants earlier than normal planning to move them into one gallon pots well in advance of the June first frost safe date.  That size container allowed the new transplants ample room to grow.  Cold nights found us carrying the pots into the warmth of the basement.  May 30th is the date of the wall picture.

This close up was taken three days later.  Good thick stems with generous leaf growth put these plants well ahead of nursery stock.  Dowels were added for support after a strong wind bent the plants.  We decided to try transplanting without cut worm collars since the thick stems seemed beyond their bite.  We lost no plants to cut worms.  A quick final weeding and these plants were ready for the garden.

Our first ripe tomato was harvested on the last day of July.  We may have had ripe tomatoes earlier if there had been more sunny days and fewer rainy ones.  If the weather cooperates, we may have weeks of sun ripened tomatoes.

At this time of year our valley fills with fog nearly every night.  All plants here start the day with wet leaves inviting fungus growth.  It is also common here for August days to be Alabama hot and humid.  That combination of heat and moisture can allow the plant leaves to remain wet all day.  Fortunately this year, our days have recently been cool and clear.  If this weather holds for some time, we may avoid the blight.

Our blight response plan has us harvesting green tomatoes at the first sign of blight.  If the tomatoes are moved inside while clean, we can continue to eat our tomatoes after the blight has ended the plants.  Tonight's meal will consist of BLTs made with lettuce and tomatoes from our garden.  We will enjoy this for us seasonal treat, as long as the harvest can continue.  We have not given up hope that the September frost will end our tomato harvest instead of that @*!# late blight!

Accurate record keeping is perhaps our weakest skill.  As luck would have it, the card showing the planting date and the varieties planted just turned up.  On April first Better Boy, Italian Goliath, Ferline and Red Siberian varieties were planted.  A more traditional seed starting date would be mid April here.  The early start followed by the transplant to one gallon pots allowed us to plant out large healthy tomato plants.

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