tomatoes from seed to salad

a year in the life

…because images speak louder than words sometimes, and these are some of my favourites from my first attempt to grow stuff on the land.

I was trying to grow more than just tomatoes, and in the image at top left (and below), you might be able to see some basil also rampant beneath the tomato vines. But bunnies ate everything else. One job for the winter months will be to install chicken wire around the base of the deer fence, or at least around the vegetable beds, which I plan to raise slightly as well. I’ll probably move the bee garden too, and spread those plants along the border of the fence.

Despite the disappointment of losing so many seedlings, it’s good to have learnt one thing: tomatoes do very well on the land with very little maintenance. The last time I checked, Matt’s wild cherries were a mini jungle, spreading merrily toward the bee garden. They seem to have only one predator: the tomato hornworm. Quite a beast. If you’d like to play a variant on the spot the worm game I remember from childhood (lowly worm??), then see how many hornworms you can spot in the picture below! (Click on it to enlarge.)

tomato jungle

If you need to know what a hornworm looks like (lucky, lucky you!), here you go:

hornworm doing what hornworms do

Just please don’t tell me they grow into the beautiful hummingbird moth. I will be devastated. (Lalalalalala, not listening!)



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hanging on in a heat wave

It rained heavily two nights ago, but you wouldn’t think so to look at everything today. I use the weeds as a barometer as I walk along the trail towards the vegetable garden. If they look fluffed up and perky, then there’s been enough water. I really expected to see that this morning after the storms on Friday night, but they are drooping slightly, the way they were all last week after several days of 100 degree heat and no rain for weeks. And leaves are falling from the trees already – a crisp dry brown carpet lining the homestead site.

leaves are falling and it’s only July

Today was just meant to be a quick trip up there to check on things, and harvest any ripe tomatoes. But everything looked like it needed water, and I had to mourn the edamame plants that some critter has obviously enjoyed for dinner. Four or so are hanging in there – the healthiest looking one is in my veggie bed, and it’s growing quickly. But damn. I suppose I ought to sink chicken wire around the bottom of the deer fence. Or at least rig up a webcam and see who the culprits are.

The tomatoes look happy though.

tomatoes on the vine

A harvest of one tomato today, but I culled a bit of basil too, and voilà…

mini caprese with the first cherry tomato

A pre-lunch amuse bouche. (Feeling very French today, for some reason).

But here’s a success story: my holy/sacred basil (aka Kha Prao or Tulsi). I companion-planted it with “normal” basil around my tomato plants, and while the ordinary basil is getting all kinds of hassle from bugs and such, the sacred stuff is flourishing quite well. Just checked Jekka McVicar’s The Complete Herb Book, and I should either be offering bunches of it to local Buddhist temples, or cooking up a Thai stir-fry with it. “It was also used throughout the Indian subcontinent as a disinfectant against malaria.” (p. 169) Hm. Our mosquitoes aren’t malarial here, but, now I think about it, I haven’t encountered any mozzies on the land so far this summer. Sacred basil fumes wafting through the trees…?

ocimum sanctum: sacred basil (spot the little grasshopper)

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Midsummer, and the living is hot…

A lot has happened since I last updated this blog – some successes, some losses… and some interesting critters. Oh, and I’ve met my new neighbour! He’s bought the other lot that was for sale when I bought my piece, and wants to use it just for hunting. Turns out that he used to hunt my land too, and so could tell me something of its history. The trees were harvested only about 20 years ago, but I don’t think it was completely clear cut – just the trees with valuable timber. Mine is a relatively young forest, then, and the bit near the road has some wild persimmon trees too. The neighbour begged me not to cut those when I make room for my access road. There’s no danger of that. Cutting those trees, I mean. The access road will happen soon, I hope. Just waiting for a call back…

And so on to the successes and losses. We’re talking plants here. Remember all those sweet little seedlings I was nurturing in the spring?  Some have made it, but most struggled badly, withered and bit the dust. It could be the poor soil, it could be the meagre rainfall recently. It won’t have helped that I had to leave them to fend entirely for themselves for two and a half weeks while I traveled on business. But I’m blaming it on critters. I haven’t seen these critters as yet (though I’ve noticed droppings), but I’m guessing rabbits. The new neighbour reckons it could also be groundhogs. He also said that we have coyote and BOB CATS!!! Really excited at the thought of seeing a bob cat… even if they were the ones who ravaged my cat mint plants. Do bob cats share the culinary tastes of domestic felines? Anyway, to get to the point here, of all the plants I grew from seed (fennel, tomatoes, basil and holy basil, oregano and thyme, chamomile, catmint, borage, echinacea and marigolds) only the tomatoes, basils, marigolds and one of the thyme plants has made it. And maybe a borage, but only by a stalk. The tomatoes are coming along well, though – all varieties as far as I can tell. Matt’s Wild Cherries are doing particularly well, but there will also be radiator charlies and arkansas travelers and an heirloom variety (from saved seed). I fed them all today, and checked them for any signs of trouble. How can they not be happy after that?

before the rabbits came… tomatoes in the background

matt’s cherry tomatoes doing well

It’s hellishly hot here at the moment (100 degrees as I write this post). The heat wave arrived on Thursday, but it had been dry before that for several days. Storms are promised for next week. Let’s hope they materialize, because I’m getting worried about the water level in my rain barrel. (Dreaming of a little cabin with another rain barrel on the side…) The last few visits to the land have been all about watering things. I bought two more plants – an echinacea and a wild indigo – and fitted them in to my bee garden. That was a week ago. It was a bit of a squeeze, but the ground is so incredibly hard, there was no chance of me enlarging the bed. When I went back today, the indigo looked good, but the echinacea is only just hanging in there. Something’s been eating it, I think, and it needed water. But here’s another success story: I planted edamame in the hugelbeet and half the veggie bed last weekend (was it only last weekend?) and most of the seeds have now sprouted! *Really* hoping nothing is going to come along and eat them too.

midsummer planting of edamame emerging from the hugelbeet

Critters, finally. Not the invisible rabbits and groundhogs, or the fabled coyotes and bob cats, but snakes and interesting insects. I saw the snakes on visits in May.

black snake number 1

little snake number 2

My parents helped me identify the first one as probably a black racer. Harmless. The second I discovered sheltering under weed barrier fabric in the vegetable bed when I went to plant my seedlings. I think it’s also a black racer but juvenile. And how about this for an insect! My bee garden is doing everything it should – swarming with different sorts of bees and butterflies (see also below) and this: a hummingbird moth!

hummingbird moth!!

gorgeous butterfly (to be identified)

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