Sunday, June 28, 2009

Garden Update 6/28/09 - Evidence

In spite of the excruciating heat that we have been experiencing here --- my plants are doing more than fine. I would say that they are coming along splendidly.

They are all heavy with their various fruits, surrounded by dense green foliage.

Today, I got up early enough to escape the most severe heat of the day. I potted two new "Black Cherry" tomato plants, laid down brick platforms for them, fertilized and watered everything else.

Above is the photographic evidence of the current state of my garden plants.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Kick Blossom-End Rot's Ass!

Blossom-end rot is physiological condition caused by calcium deficiency in the blossom end of the fruit. It occurs most notably in tomatoes, but also occurs in peppers, squash, watermelon and any other fruiting vegetable. It is characterized by the decay of fruits at their blossom end; appearing as a dry brown spot about the size of a dime, that may blacken and sink in as it grows to about the size of a half dollar. This disorder is most severe following extremes of over or under-watering.

There are steps that can be taken to greatly reduce this condition:

  1. Lime soils to a pH of 6.5 to 6.7 before planting. Gardens not limed within the past 2-3 years will need 2 cups of lime per plant. The lime should be worked in to a depth of 12 inches.
  2. Fertilize properly. Applying too much fertilizer at a time can result in blossom-end rot. Following soil test recommendations is the best way to ensure proper fertilization. Terracycle makes a Tomato Plant Food based in worm poop that has a calcium boost. I have found it to be very effective.
  3. Mulch plants. Use straw, pine straw, decomposed sawdust, plastic or newspapers. Mulches conserve moisture and reduces blossom-end rot.
  4. Water when necessary. Tomato plants need 1-1.5 inches of water per week during fruiting. Extreme fluctuations in soil moisture can increase blossom-end rot.
  5. Spray calcium. Plants may be sprayed with a calcium solution at the rate of 4 level Tbs of calcium nitrate or calcium chloride per gallon of water. The spray should be applied 2-3 times per week, beginning when the second fruit clusters bloom. Several foliar sprays containing calcium are available and all work well for tomatoes. Calcium chloride is only suggested for tomatoes.
  6. Quick fixes. Foliar application of a weak Epsom Salt (magnesium) solution can effect calcium uptake. Other suggestions include powdered milk, crushed egg shell tea, bone meal tea, Tums tablets, etc., but prevention is the key. Removing affected fruit is also recommended to reduce stress on the plant. "Gardens Alive" sells a product called Rot-StopT Spray that can be applied to plants weekly to supplement calcium reserves and prevent rotting.
Now let's go and kick some ass!

Friday, June 19, 2009

After The Storm


After the storm


June 15th, Monday nights storms produced hurricane-force winds. I did not know the full extent of the destruction until the following day. The hard drive on my computer crashed. The pride of my garden, an almost 4 and a half foot Black Cherry tomato plant, had been broken in two.

I know that it's only a plant, but it hurt to see it damaged to that extent. I admit to "babying" my plants --- short of talking to them and playing classical music.

I went down to a local garden center and purchased bamboo rods to shore up and stabilize my plant. Part of the reason that it broke, is that it had outgrown its cage by a few feet. I got to work and now the plant looks as though its going to live and still produce tomatoes. I guess I really lucked out this time.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Little Green Tomatoes

All four of my tomato varieties have sprouted a plethera of small green orbs. I am more than pleased --- I'm almost proud. Now comes the wait for them to grow bigger and more colorful. I just hope that the birds and squirrels decide that there are tastier pickings out there.
Wish them luck!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Deadly N. Deroose Alata - Bug-Eating Houseplant

This plant is a hybrid developed by a Nepenthes grower, DeRoose in Beligium.

Most pitcher plants aren't easy to grow in the typical home environment. However, this one makes an excellent houseplant. It tolerates a reasonable amount of growing conditions, and is very forgiving of mistakes. In really bright conditions the pitchers turn completely red!

The adult pitchers can reach up to 6 inches in length. This tropical perennial is a true tropical, and in colder climates must be grown as a houseplant. Now to the "deadlier" aspects of this plants personality...

It attracts prey with its brightly colored pitchers of red, gold and green. The pitchers also bear scattered nectar glands on the lid, peristome or "lip" surrounding the lid. According to Barry A. Rice in Growing Carnivorous Plants, "large glands on the inner edge of the peristome entice insects to the very edge of slippery danger."

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Plants Are Teasing Me!

Right now, my tomato plants are bursting with blooms and new growth --- but still no tomatoes! I realize that patience is a virtue, but I can hardly wait! The thought of my first home grown tomatoes since 2005 provokes tantilizing images of fresh salads topped with savory fruits.
I have four varieties growing currently: Black Cherry, Window Box Roma, Micro Tom and Basket Boy Red.
If you listen very carefully, you can hear the plants laughing at my impatience...

Attack of the Killer Tomato!

Over the past few weeks, this Black Cherry tomato plant has gone from taking up only half of its cage to bursting out of it. At this point the cage can barely contain this beast! I've watched this plant grow on a daily basis. Every day its height and girth increased. Above is a before and after photo spliced together. I could barely get this crazy plant in frame.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Sundew (Drosera spatulata) - Bug-eating Plant

I've been inspired by Gayla at You Grow Girl - The Dirt to blog about one type of carnivorous plant that I have in my collection --- Sundew (Drosera spatulata).

This pretty, alien-looking plant has been sitting in my greenhouse collecting fungus gnats for several months now. I have read that it is considered to be a "weed" by many carnivorous plant lovers. As it tries to "take over" other plants in its efforts to propagate. It's true! I found spatulata appendages sprouting out of a nearby plant a few months ago, and had to pinch them off!

The spatulata's methods for attracting and capturing prey are somewhat more subtle than that of say, the Venus Flytrap. Their leaves are densely covered with stalked and sessile glands. The stalked heads look like tiny red-capped mushrooms up close. Each capped with a droplet of mucus. Insects are lured by the nectar-like mucus glands and the intense honey smell the entire plant gives off. According to Growing Carnivorous Plants by Barry Rice, "when an insect touches a stalked gland, the mucus does not glue the insect to the plant: instead, the entire blob of mucus is transferred from the gland to the insect. As the impaired insect careens from gland to gland, it eventually accumulates so much that it eventually drowns."

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