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Archive for the ‘tomatoes’ Category

I didn’t take very many photos of the garden in September. I think for most of the month, I was simply in maintenance mode, especially as school started and I got more involved in other activities. I didn’t even go out to water as often as I did during the height of summer.

The cucumbers really started failing this month, with only the Ferry-Morse vine staying alive– I harvested one more good cucumber from it, and at the end of the month noticed two more growing.

The intrepid Ferry-Morse cucumber vine on September 16, 2021
I spotted two cucumbers growing on the vine; September 27, 2021.

We had a fairly steady small harvest of tomatoes every few days, which kept us supplied for our meals. I started harvesting when the fruit was a few days shy of ripe so that I could get it before the bugs did.

one of our September harvests; notice I also cut a dill flower that went to seed so that I can save it for planting next year!

The nasturtiums really perked up this month– the leaves grew lush and full. There were only a few flowers, and I finally gave them and the leaves a taste. Boy, are they peppery!! I don’t know if they’re something I will eat regularly, but I do just love the way the look and smell. I think the flowers smell a bit like roses!

While the nasturtiums were lush, the tomatoes have started to look a bit more tired. Perhaps I should have added more fertilizer, but it seemed more likely that they are just ending their season. The daylight hours were noticeably shorter and the sunshine is coming from a more oblique angle. That being said, there were plenty of green tomatoes on the Best Boy plants at the end of the month– a promise of fresh tomatoes even into October.

Here is a comparison photo for the month of September:

I will have one more monthly update coming for this year’s garden. I have been keeping a spreadsheet of my harvest data, so I’d like to do a wrap up post with that, as well! Stay tuned.

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As I went through my photo catalog to put together this August 2021 garden recap, I noticed that I can compare photos from each section of my garden throughout the month, so let’s get started with my cucumbers!

Recall that at the end of July, I added fertilizer to my tomato and cucumber pots. I could see a difference within days! I had such high hopes for these pots of cucumbers. I had nine vines (three in each pot) because I wanted enough to enjoy on salads, etc. but also extra to try some pickling. In the photo below, you can see that at the beginning of August, the cucumbers seemed to get healthier once I’d fertilized them. However, at the end of the month, the vines (mostly the Burpee vines) were diseased and dying. We had just returned from vacation on the 21st, and when I went out on the 22nd to inspect my garden, I had to aggressively prune away all the dead and dying leaves and vines. I was hoping that clearing away the bad stuff would give the new growth room to flourish.

comparison of the cucumbers on August 3 (top left), August 8 (top right), and August 22 (before and after pruning, left and right on the bottom)

I’d say the other big disappointment of August was that my lavender started failing. I don’t exactly know what happened; I think it must have gotten some sort of disease or fungus because it’s so humid here. I was trying to make sure not to overwater. At some point in August, I actually moved this container to another location behind my house, because I’d dreamed of having a bed of lavender in that spot. I tried to trim some of the healthy stems and root them, but all my attempts failed.

Let’s move on to something with positive growth! First up: the nasturtiums. For most of the summer, after a couple (and I actually mean literally two or three total) blooms in June, the nasturtium plants looked to be on death’s door. I wondered if perhaps I’d planted them in containers that are too shallow. During the month of August, they did start perking up a bit and growing new and bigger leaves. I had a brief exchange with a gardener I follow on Instagram, and she suggested that it was perhaps too hot for the plants. I noticed that when the weather was slightly cooler during parts of August, the nasturtium looked happier. I think it was a combination of heat and lack of nutrients. I can’t believe that I didn’t think to add fertilizer to these containers when I fertilized the cucumbers and tomatoes in July! I added some at the end of August, so you’ll see how much improved they became in September.

comparison of the two containers of nasturtium on
August 3 (top photos) and August 22 (bottom photos)

My herbs also kept on flourishing during August.

basil and chives : August 3, 2021 (top) and August 22, 2021 (bottom)

In the background you can see the “miracle” tomato plant. The fertilizer worked wonders for all my tomatoes in August. I think that this was the biggest mistake I made this year: assuming that my potting soil had enough nutrients. I really wish that I had fertilized earlier.

comparison of the cherry tomatoes (orange pots) and the Brad’s Atomic Grape tomatoes (light colored pot) on August 3, 8, and 22 (top to bottom)

You can see in the comparison of the small tomato varieties above and the Best Boy (larger) tomatoes below that once the fertilizer kicked in, the plants grew into a jungle! The difference was especially dramatic for the Best Boys, since those plants were looking so pathetically spindly!

comparison of the Best Boy tomatoes on August 3, 8, and 22 (top to bottom)

In fact, the growth was almost too much! By the end of the month, I decided that a big prune was necessary.

August 30, 2021: before (above) and after (below) a BIG pruning job on my tomatoes

The prune was very necessary. After all that pruning, this was my harvest.

Almost everything I chopped away was leafy growth, and I think the streamlined plants produced better and had better airflow to keep them healthy.

The surprise hit of the garden for me this summer was the marigold container! I had always been sort of ambivalent toward marigolds, but I hadn’t grown them for years (probably since Sunday school Mother’s Day gifts when I was in elementary school!). I was so thankful for their gorgeous color and the way they attracted butterflies and other pollinators to the garden.

I will definitely plant marigolds again next year– hopefully several containers! (Yes, I’ve been harvesting seeds. ;-))

Speaking of harvesting seeds, I am giving tomato seed saving a try. I went very simple with this first attempt, rinsing and drying seeds from the two heirloom varieties I had in my garden this year.

Overall, August was a good month in my garden! Below is a comparison collage throughout the month.

Comparison of the garden through the month of August (top to bottom): August 8, 13, 22, 30-before pruning, 30-after pruning.

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Continuing my retrospective garden updates…

At the beginning of July, I discovered that the rightmost (back row) Best Boy was drowning– somehow the drainage of the pot got blocked. I carefully untied the (still spindly) plant from its stake and Husband helped me tip the pot to drain the excess water and pull off the attached saucer. You can see in the photo below that the foliage was yellow and drooping. Thankfully, simply removing the saucer seemed to be enough to fix whatever blockage was happening, and the plant eventually perked up again. (At the end of this year’s growing season, I will remove the rest of the saucers and possibly drill more drainage holes in these pots to prevent future issues like this.)

Best Boy tomatoes on July 4, 2021

July was when I first really started seeing fruits start forming and growing on my tomato and cucumber plants. Mouthwatering potential!! It’s always such a wonder to me, especially when starting a plant from seed: this tiny, tiny thing has grown up and is producing these beautiful fruits.

young fruit in my garden, July 12, 2021
Best Boy tomato, July 21, 2021
heirloom purple cherry tomatoes, July 21, 2021
Brad’s Atomic Grape tomatoes, July 21, 2021
Brad’s Atomic Grape tomato ripening on July 22, 2021

I made some of my first harvests in July! I started keeping a spreadsheet of each variety’s harvest (number and weight) so that I can compile some data at the end of the season.

First, the herbs: We cut small bunches of chives and clipped parsely leaves to put on our suppers. I LOVE having fresh herbs as a finishing touch! Some of my lavender started drying on the plant, so I began cutting those stems off to put into a sachet. The basil grew like crazy, and I cut a whole bouquet for my Husband to make into pesto.

Spicy Globe basil bouquet, destined for pesto. July 13, 2021

I harvested my first couple of cucumbers (these are from the Ferry-Morse vine).

first cucumbers: July 21, 2021

We also started getting small bowlfuls of purple cherry tomatoes:

I LOVED watching the Brad’s Atomic Grape tomatoes ripen and change color. Since it’s an unusual-looking tomato, I had to really learn when to harvest them. They split very easily (sometimes long before they are fully ripe), so I eventually learned to harvest them a little early so that they could finish ripening on the counter, where if they were split, they wouldn’t rot or attract pests.

first Brad’s Atomic Grape tomato, July 25, 2021

I did have some more hornworm challenges: there was (at least) one plaguing my purple cherry tomato plants, and it wreaked quite a bit of havoc before I managed to find it.

hornworm damage woes, July 24, 2021

I mentioned in the June post my 10th tomato (unknown variety) that had fallen over and gotten quite damaged. I was not sure that it was going to make it, but it turned into a wonderful comeback story. I was so glad to to see it putting out new shoots– and even flowering again!!

July 22, 2021: comeback tomato (unknown variety)

Ending on an artisitc note: mid-month, I participated in a photography challenge within the Simple Scrapper membership to play with macro photography. At first, I didn’t know what I would photograph, but as I was watering my garden one day, I realized that there was such a variety of pollinators visiting my garden! I decided to get out my camera to try and capture some macro photos of them. I used both my kit lens and my zoom lens (some of the insects were too shy to be photographed up close!). These are my favorite shots from that little session:

comparison of the garden on July 12 (left) and July 31 (right)

Throughout the month, although I was beginning to harvest cucumbers and tomatoes, I started noticing that the plants got spindly and increasingly sad looking. I didn’t really figure out what was going on until the very end of the month. I’d been listening to a gardening podcast, and they were discussing garden maintenance, and I realized that my garden might need to be fertilized! My plants needed nutrients!

comparison of the garden on July 12 (top) and July 31 (bottom)

In my previous years’ gardens, I’d used “regular” not-organic potting soil that had added fertilizer, so I’d not come across this obvious lack of nourishment before. This year, I’ve been using Miracle Gro Organic potting soil and I have to say, I haven’t been impressed. I don’t like the texture of it (it seems too dense) and I didn’t expect to have to add fertilizer. (Admittedly, that is probably from inexperience using organic potting soil.) Thankfully I had some fertilizer on hand from several years ago, and I added some to all of my large pots on July 30 (I choose to err on the side of too little, since I was afraid of burning the roots). I definitely saw an improvement quickly at the beginning of August. I’ll write about that in my next update post!

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June started off with a new tomato plant in my garden plot! This brought the total number to ten, so I was dreaming of all the tomato recipes I’d be able to make later in the summer! A friend gave it to me, and I couldn’t find the variety name anywhere on the tag.

June 1: new tomato plant added to the garden!

Unfortunately, later that week we were out of town overnight. When I got home, the plant had tipped over and had broken in a few places. I should have known better than to leave it in its original pot (much too small, and a wimpy cage). I did some damage control– transplanting it into a bigger pot, trimming off all the broken pieces, and removing many of the green tomatoes (too heavy for the poor thing to support). I staked it and tied it up as best I could.

June 8 – a few days after the rescue attempt. This little plant might make it… but it needs a lot of gentle care!

In June, it became necessary to start pruning and tying up my tomatoes. If you look closely at the photo below, you can see the “t-shirt yarn” (just old t-shirts torn into strips) that I use to tie the tomatoes to their stakes. The containers I bought this year didn’t have a central hole, so the stakes are outside the pot. I’m not sure how much I like that… It makes the plants look sort of strangled right now. I think/hope they will do okay after a few days to reorient themselves. In hindsight, I should have planted them toward the side of the container next to the stake! I’ll have to remember that for next year.

June 4, 2021 – I started pruning and tying up my tomatoes today.

I made a conscious decision this summer to do minimal pruning, after reading and listening to some podcasts that discussed the pros and cons of pruning. With ten tomato plants, I was really hoping for a bountiful harvest, so I wanted my plants to grow as much as possible (without them getting too crowded). I also learned that the trimmed suckers can be rooted in water, so I tried it out!

I was able to share some of these rooted cuttings with friends, and I hope that they grew well in their gardens!

It was so exciting to start seeing blossoms on my tomatoes, specifically the smaller-fruit varieties.

purple cherry tomato blossoms on June 8, 2021
Brad’s Atomic Grape tomato blossoms on June 8, 2021

Even more exciting: to see the fruit forming!

baby purple cherry tomato on June 14, 2021
baby Brad’s Atomic Grape tomatoes, June 20, 2021

On the subject of blooms, I had my first marigold bloom…

marigold flower, June 4, 2021

…and I was delighted to observe nasturtium buds forming– and the first bloom. It was raggedy, but still beautiful!

nasturtium bud on June 14, 2021
first (raggedy) nasturium bloom on June 16, 2021

I was excitedly watching the cucumber plants grow. The warm weather helped!

cucumbers (and nasturtium plants) on June 14, 2021

The lavender grew in leaps and bounds this month, and I was delighted to see the pollinators visiting it, including this white butterfly:

a butterfly visiting my lavender on June 23, 2021

I started trimming some tiny bouquets of lavender (I’d read that it was best to cut it when the buds were not quite open) so that I can dry it for sachets. I tied it up with some crochet thread and hung it to dry in my craft room.

June 23 bouquet of lavender

Speaking of herbs, the spicy globe basil has taken off!!

Spicy Globe basil, June 23, 2021

The month was not without some problems in the garden. First, I started noticing blossom-end rot on some of my Brad’s Atomic Grape tomatoes. I cut those fruits off the vine and tried to keep my watering more regular. After this time, I thankfully only saw a couple other fruit in the garden that were affected by this particular malady.

blossom-end rot on my Brad’s Atomic Grape tomatoes. June 23, 2021

The grossest issue for me was when I spotted this devastation to one of my Best Boy plants. They’d already been fairly spindly looking, but this was adding insult to injury! Especially since this plant was the smallest of them all! The cuprit: Tobacco Hornworms.

hornworm damage to one of my Best Boy tomato plants, June 28, 2021

I found five more that day, and many more in subsequent days. I hadn’t really ever had an issue with hornworms in previous years, so I was pretty horrified. The best way to deal with them is to pull them off the plant (yes, with your fingers) and squash them. They are BIG. They are SQUISHY. And they often have surprisingly good grips on the plants! UGH!!

tobacco hornworm–note the red “horn”. June 28, 2021

Despite the few issues that came up, June saw a LOT of growth in my garden, and it was so exciting! Here’s a side-by-side collage of the garden throughout the first half of the month (June 1, 4, 8, and 14). I guess I forgot to take whole-garden photos for the rest of the month!

The garden from the right-hand end: June 1, 4, 8, and 14.

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I dropped the ball on updating throughout the summer about my garden here on the blog. I’ve been doing little updates on my Instagram stories all along, but considering this blog started as a gardening record, I do want to gather all those details (and maybe a few more) here. It’s a daunting task to cover the whole season in one post, so I’ve decided to go month by month to catch up.

Last we left off, I’d just planted out the garden! I’d done the final transplant of my tomatoes into their large pots and direct-sowed cucumber and nasturtium seeds.

About a week later, I spotted nasturtium sprouts!

May 12 – nasturtium sprouts!

However, just over two weeks after I’d sown the seeds, I wasn’t seeing anything in the cucumber pots. Like an impatient little kid, I decided to dibble around in the pots to see if anything was actually sprouting. Out of the 12 seeds I’d put in, only one of them was germinating. I was really disappointed, because I’d deliberately planted extra this year so that I’d have enough to pickle! Therefore, I decided to plant more seeds, this time from the Burpee packet I had leftover from 2015.

May 19- the lone Ferry-Morse cucumber sprout.

I adore lavender, so I decided to buy this little seedling to add to my garden. It’s my dream to have a big patch of it somewhere on my property (or at least several containers’-worth!)

May 19 – new addition to my garden plot: lavender!!

I was delighted to start seeing cucumber sprouts within 5 days of planting the “new” (but really actually old) seeds. By a week later, almost all of them had sprouted!

May 26 – baby nasturtium plants and cucumber sprouts! Hooray!

Throughout May, I was so happy to add some more types of herbs to my garden, thanks to my local Buy-Nothing group. In addition to the spicy globe basil I’d gotten at the end of April, I also was gifted dill, chives, and three marigold plants.


It was so amazing to watch my garden grow (both individual plants and by adding even more containers of plants!) this month. Here’s a little collage showing its progress:

My garden in May 2021– left to right: May 4, May 19, and May 26

Stay tuned for the June update!

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I was very excited to try and start my garden with winter sowing, but that didn’t work out this year. I’m not sure what happened, but nothing sprouted. I’d like to try again; we’ll see… Thankfully, my garden wasn’t centered around those seeds growing. The main crops I want to grow in my garden are tomatoes and cucumbers.

Tomatoes and cucumbers aren’t winter-sowing appropriate, so in mid-March, I started some tomato seeds indoors: A neighbor gave me a couple Brad’s Atomic Tomato seeds, and I still had some of my Best Boy seeds from a packet I bought back in 2013. I didn’t have high expectations for the Best Boy seeds to germinate, but 5 out of the 6 I planted sprouted! That same neighbor also shared some cherry tomato seedlings with me (some are labeled just “cherry,” and some “heirloom cherry”– I’m not sure if there is a difference! She mentioned that they were “maybe purple cherry”– I’m excited to see what they look like! Three out of the four seedlings I received survived… so I ended up with a total of nine (NINE!) tomato plants this year. I’m pretty excited.

March 15, 2021: I moved my tray of seeds/seedlings along the mat in front of our porch door so that they got as much sunlight as possible during the day!
3/31/2021: I thought I’d killed this Brad’s Atomic Grape tomato seedling (the only one that germinated) when I stupidly thought I would “help it along.” I was so desperate eager to have one of these plants in my garden this year that when the seed coat seemed stuck on the seed leaves, I pulled it off– and I think I damaged the seed leaves. But I think there is hope!! There is a tiny, tiny true leaf starting to grow!!

But before we get to the tomatoes……

Toward the end of March I was getting excited to prepare my garden plot. I took advantage of the gorgeous weather one afternoon to clean out the hand-me-down planters I was given by another neighbor (the rectangular ones)… and I couldn’t resist direct-sowing some cool-weather crop seeds at the same time!

3/21/2021: I scrubbed down and drilled additional drainage holes into the long, rectangular containers given to me by a neighbor. I couldn’t resist sowing some cool-weather crop seeds: peas (foreground) and lettuce (background).

I had no idea if any of them would sprout (spoiler alert: nothing did!) The peas and lettuces were leftover from my 2008 garden. We’d tried starting some for last year’s garden experiment, and last year only the arugula (in the mesclun mix) sprouted. This year, nothing did! I did find evidence that a critter was digging in the rectangular containers, so that probably didn’t help anything!

In April, I began hardening-off my seedlings. I think that this year’s sprouts are the best I’ve ever had!

4/5/2021: hardening off on the back porch

This spring, I started listening to the Joe Gardener podcast, and I learned a lot about separating seedlings and transplanting them. I wonder if that is why they did better for me this year than in the past? When the seedlings were establishing their true leaves, I upgraded them to separate plastic takeout containers with drainage holes as an intermediate stage before they went outside.

4/29/2021: The tomatoes are basically ready to be transplanted into their final 15″ planter homes.

In the above photo, you can see the rooted basil sprig that my generous neighbor gave to me (the same one who gave me the Brad’s Atomic Grape seeds and the cherry seedlings!). I am so thankful for her generosity– she has definitely been a significant benefactor to this year’s garden!

On May 2, I decided it was time to get these plants outdoors. This year I’m using Miracle-Gro organic potting mix that I found at Costco. I started with three bags but didn’t have enough to fill all my containers, so I went back for two more to finish out the planting! I have some extra soil now, but I’m hoping to add parsley and lavender (and possibly other herbs) to my garden as the summer goes on.

5/2/2021: seeds for direct-sowing now that the danger of frost is past.

First up, I direct-sowed some seeds: Ferry-Morse Tendergreen cucumber and Burpee Nasturtium. The cucumber seeds are from WAAAAAAAY back in 2011. I used some from this packet last year and they grew well, so I’m hoping they come up this year. However, I think that I’ve started early enough that if they don’t come up, I can still try again. I bought the nasturtium seeds this year, and I scarified them (using a nail file) as the packet suggested. Hope I did it correctly!

I planted out everything but three tomato seedlings… I got more potting soil yesterday, and this morning, I finished transplanting. Here’s the lineup for this year:

Last summer, my little garden plot was such a happy place for me. I’m hoping that this year’s garden grows just as well!

P.S. I frequently post about my garden progress in my Instagram stories– you can see them in my saved highlight called “Garden 2021”

5/4/2021 : all the tomatoes are transplanted into their big pots, and I’ve direct-sowed the cucumbers and nasturtiums!

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Wow, I was so pleased with the garden in 2020!

The 2020 garden–back to containers, testing a “deer fence”– was essentially a trial. If it wasn’t successful, I was prepared to give up gardening for a while.

BUT.

BUT!!

I’d say it was a success!

May 23, 2020
July 3, 2020
August 4, 2020
August 31, 2020

Some quick thoughts:

  • Because the plants were in containers, the garden remained much tidier, with fewer weeds, and therefore I was more easily able to care for it. This meant that I (or my daughter) watered it almost every day (unless it rained), and the produce was good! (no sour cucumbers!)
  • The string deer fence seemed to work! I don’t know how the carrot greens got eaten at the end of the season, but that seemed to be the only thing that wildlife got this year. If all I need to do is plant carrots to divert animals away from my tomatoes and cucumbers, I will do it!
  • The cucumbers and tomatoes were delicious this year. Next year, I want to expand my garden to have even more tomato plants. I think the two pots of cucumber were sufficient for our family’s consumption, unless I want to try to make pickles!
  • The Tiny Tim tomato plant was prolific and tasted better than I remember in previous years, but it’s not my favorite. The tomatoes also seemed to go bad quickly–even while still ripening on the plant (and it was not blossom-end rot). If I have more seeds in the original packet, I might plant this variety again, but I will not buy these seeds again.

I started writing this post back in September, but I got bogged down with homeschooling, and so I didn’t get a chance to chart my produce production like I’d hoped. I’m glad that I recorded the reflections above!

Stay tuned: I’m deep in the preparations for this year’s garden, and I’m so excited!

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Well, now that it’s the end of the summer, I figured I’d better do a bit of an update on my garden! 😉

I have been posting some casual updates in my Instagram stories, and I’ve saved them as a highlight, too! (find them HERE–tap the little circle under my profile picture labeled “Garden 2020.”)

However, I wanted to share some photos here on my blog, too– a few of these are the same as in my saved Instagram story, but there are a number that are just posted here!

garden on July 20, 2020

The garden grew beautifully! The deer fence seemed to be effective– we’ve seen lots of deer roaming through our backyard, but for the most part, my garden was left alone. Toward the end of the summer, I’ve noticed that my carrots (but only my carrots) have been eaten, but (as I’ll talk about below), this is not a huge loss. If I have to grow carrots to appease the deer and keep them away from everything else, I’m definitely willing to do that.

our first harvest on July 20, 2020

Our first harvest was on July 20, and we had three good-sized, delicious cucumbers!

harvest on July 28, 2020

The cucumbers were plentiful, and we got our first ripe Tiny Tim (cherry-sized) tomato about a week later.

carrots on July 29, 2020

On July 29, we pulled some of our carrots. It was fun to see their beautiful colors and interesting shapes. The purply-red skin was so thin, and the inside was bright orange. However, all of them had a very strong flavor and an extremely woody texture. None of us really liked eating them, but they sure were pretty!

August 14 harvest, including a weird-looking carrot

We got a couple more carrots out of this pot, but we didn’t eat them. In fact, I’ve noticed recently that the carrot greens are getting eaten–but nothing else in the garden has been munched by the wildlife! I’m willing to have sacrificial carrots for the sake of preserving the rest of my plants!

Tiny Tim tomatoes on August 2

The Tiny Tim tomatoes were surprisingly prolific– more than I remember from past times I’ve planted them. They did go bad really quickly–sometimes even on the plant. I’m not sure what was going on, but it definitely looked different from blossom-end rot.

a very quick fresh salsa made from Tiny Tim tomatoes

In fact, one day we had a harvest of Tiny Tims that needed to be used quickly, so I chopped all of them as finely as I could (no small task with cherry tomatoes!) and turned them into a quick salsa. Even though I didn’t have any onion or jalapeño on hand to make my regular recipe, it was still so delicious.

Speaking of delicious and easy things made from my garden produce, we enjoyed creamy cucumbers several times this summer.

August 3, 2020

Right before Tropical Storm Isaias came through our area, I wanted to make sure that the garden was as “secure” as it could be, since the forecasts were making it sound like things would be pretty bad. I added a stick to stake up the Tiny Tim plant, and I also moved the big tomato plants back toward the house. As I did, I noticed that their roots are coming through the opening in the bottom of the pots! In the end, the storm wasn’t nearly as bad as had been predicted, and the garden looked lush and green afterward!

My daughter has been really excited about helping in the garden this year. She even took over daily watering and delighted in helping me to harvest our produce.

It took a long time, but finally in mid-August, the Best Boy tomatoes started to ripen.

August 14, 2020
our first Best Boy harvest, August 22, 2020

I harvested our first Best Boy tomatoes a bit early because we were going to be away. We took them along with us and enjoyed them as they finished ripening on our counter!

When we got back from vacation, the garden was definitely worse for being left alone. Even though I heard that there was quite a bit of rain, it was very brown and wilted. I also think that by this point, the cucumber vines were just about done for the season.

Last week, I harvested my last cucumber for the year.

last cucumber on September 4, 2020

In my next garden post, I plan to sum up my thoughts from this year’s garden and do some tallying of my produce (because I’m nerdy like that!). Until then, I’m going to enjoy the last few Best Boy tomatoes that are ripening on my plants!

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Now we had some seedlings growing, and not much of a plan to do anything with them. But it’s always been a dream of mine to have a successful garden.

If you’ve followed this blog for a long time, you might recall that the garden plot that we have here in our current location (MD) has not been very successful. I think that there are some major problems with the soil, and add in a veritable menagerie of local wildlife (we have deer, rabbits, squirrels, foxes (yes, I know they’re not herbivores, but they’re still around), groundhogs, and who knows what else!) that persists in eating the garden produce just before I harvest it, and the fact that last summer I was dealing with ankle issues, and it has all added up to a disappointing track record for this garden.

So this year, I have a new game plan.

I think.

At least, we’re going to try it.

I have decided that I prefer container gardening, after trying in-ground gardening here and in upstate NY. This year, I’m going back to container gardening, and we’re testing out a few things to protect the garden from deer, especially.

After an extensive discussion with Husband, we have decided to reconfigure the garden plot and change our fencing strategy. The old plot (you can see it here at the beginning of last weekend, with the chickenwire fence removed and weeds mowed down) was 8′ wide by 15′ long.

After mowing around it for years, Husband decided that he would vastly prefer it to go all the way up to the corner of the house (the right side of this photo) to close that gap.

We decided to remove the chickenwire fencing we’d been using and use some black plastic fencing material that we already had on hand to create a low fence that would be easier to maintain (the weed-whacker would get tangled in the chickenwire and so the weeds were unpleasantly bushy at the corners and along the sides of the old garden. Husband cut it lengthwise because we wanted it low enough for us to step over it.

We had thought that we had enough of this black material to completely fence in the “new” 8’x20′ plot, but we didn’t. So we made the garden narrower– the footprint is now 4’x20′.

Since I was only planning to have a small number of containers, this isn’t a problem, and if this configuration turns out to work well, we can adjust in the future. (This is basically becoming a test year– will these measures to prevent wildlife from eating our garden be enough to make it worth having a garden?)

After lying fallow for a year, there were a lot of weeds to clear. I attempted to use our tiller tool, but it was getting so tangled that I just attacked it by hand.

Once the weeds were cleared in the new garden footprint, Husband began installing our little fence. He dug a trench so that we could bury the bottom 5″ or so. There are also taller supports for our deer fence (more information on that coming up below).

We put down Vigoro Weed Control Fabric over the entire plot, tucking it into the trench Husband had dug for the low fence. We are hoping that it is effective, especially since we won’t be cutting holes into it to plant in-ground. I will be putting mulch in, as well, but I haven’t bought it yet! (That’s a project for this weekend!)

My container set up is pretty modest this year. I had three terra-cotta pots that have survived since my original 2007 garden, as well as some other large pots that I’ve acquired over the years. I filled them with potting soil and started planting. The first priority was getting my tomatoes out into the containers, and I also brought our pot of carrots into the garden enclosure. Any extra soil would be used to plant cucumbers from seed. Using potting soil completely circumvents the issues that we seem to have with the in-ground soil in this garden plot. (P.S. I’ll be adding stakes and trellises for the tomatoes and cucumbers after I add the mulch.)

In the end, (after a lot of reconfiguring the order of my containers, haha!) we have six containers. On the left, there are two pots with two different cucumber varieties, planted from leftover seeds I’d stashed away from old gardens (Ferry-Morse Tendergreen and Burpee Pepino/Salad Slicer). Next come three tomato containers: a smaller square pot of Tiny Tim and two large terra cotta pots with the Best Boy seedlings. To the right of them, I placed the pot with our carrots.

Finally, we installed the deer fence. After talking to some neighbors and doing some research online, I found a University of Maryland Extension blog post that confirmed that the idea of fishline or similar cord strung between supports could actually work to protect the plants from nosy deer. Husband found some bright orange twisted mason line that we’re using to test the idea. Husband lashed some of my tall tomato stakes to the shorter metal stakes that support the black fencing so that we would just reuse what we have on hand already. Then, we strung the cord as tightly as we could between them. If you look closely, you might be able to make it out in the photos below:


I like this solution for keeping away the deer (well, if it works!) because it’s visually non-invasive and also inexpensive. We left a gap at the end closest to the inner corner of the house so that I can climb in and out over the black fencing. We’re hoping that this gap is close enough to the house and the basement window well (and also narrow enough) that the deer won’t use it as a private entrance into the garden!

I’m looking forward to the upcoming warm weather to see how my plants grow in their new home– and I’ll be getting some mulch soon, too!

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It all started because I felt the itch to see something growing. A bit of stress relief for me, and an activity for the kids as pandemic news was starting to skyrocket.

I had recently found a tiny packet of carrot seeds among some papers in my kitchen, and I thought it would be fun to plant them in a pot that we had outside.

And then, about a week later in mid-March, my kids’ school closed.

At that time, we had no idea that school would be closed for the rest of the academic year, and that our school system wouldn’t start any sort of distance learning for a LOT of weeks. But I wanted to do some fun but still “learning” activities in the meantime, so one of the first things we did was dig out some more old seeds and plant them in some seed-starting soil I had on hand.

We planted some lettuce seed that I had leftover from my second garden ever (way back in Illinois, on the balcony), as well as parsley seeds and a few different tomato varieties from packets leftover from various years.

At this point, I had no real plans for these seeds, just some vague ideas that maybe this year, without ankle troubles to hinder me, we might be able to use our garden plot again.

I had warned my kids that the seeds were pretty old (and they hadn’t been stored perfectly and had been through a couple of interstate moves), and so we couldn’t be sure if they would actually sprout. I think that made it even more exciting when they did sprout!

Of the lettuces and the parsley, only the arugula seeds in the mesclun mix sprouted. It took an extra long time for the tomatoes to germinate, and I had given up on them, but in the end, we had two Best Boy tomatoes and a few Tiny Tim tomatoes– what a happy surprise!

I had also given up on the carrot seeds outside (the theme of this whole garden is seeds that are at least 5 years old!), but we were thrilled to see them sprout and watch them start growing.

Now that we actually had some seedlings growing, I needed to actually decide what we were going to do with them! But that’s for my next garden 2020 post!

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