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On Tomatoes

Having just given away a skosh of tomato seedlings, I’ma write up some tomato knowledge for posterity.

Tomatoes need all the sunshine you can give them. They also love water, but hate to be soggy. Seedlings, in small pots, might need to be watered twice a day, but not so much they are sodden.

The small hairs on the tomato stem all have the ability to become roots, so plant your seedlings deep (do not cover leaves) for a nice strong root system.

Large pots, planting beds, straight into the ground…they love it all. Tomatoes are basically weeds with benefits.

As they grow, you’ll see small leaves sprout from the “elbows” of branches.

Tomato suckers. Kill them!

These are called “suckers,” and are basically nutrient hogs. Pinch them off and the plant will be less wild and should produce more/better fruit.

Tomatoes are classified “indeterminate” or “determinate.” Determinate means they will reach a certain height and stay there. Indeterminate means they will grow forever and take over your existence and future. Just plan accordingly when you are deciding where to put them, and don’t be afraid to prune!

Support is essential. I’m a fan of tomato cages, available at any garden center, but you can use stakes, stakes with twine, old ladders, tall people…whatever is handy and stable.

Airflow between plants is essential…both in reducing the spread of disease and pests, and allowing them to just plain dry out between rains. Always water at the base of the plant, avoid wetting the leaves so as not to invite fungus/mold.

As they grow, tomatoes want to be FED. I’m a fan of the generic Miracle Grow type stuff, as it contains a decent balance between the stuff to make leaves/stems (nitrogen) and the stuff to make fruit (phosphorus). Tomatoes ADORE calcium (and need it especially during fruiting), so save up all your eggshells, wash them, crush them, and sprinkle around the base of the plants. I also highly recommend a Blossom End Rot spray for spraying the actual fruit.

Hornworms are the big enemy. The Five Spotted Hawk Moth lays eggs in the soil under tomatoes (and peppers, and and and), which hatch into this bastard…

This Green Fuckhead

And this bastard will strip your tomato plants to the stems overnight. Mulch under the plants will help a bit, but your best bet is just vigilance. Check the plants every day. If you see chewing, find the chewer and squash his ass. If you’re not into squishing 5″ long freaks of nature, you can also use Bacillus thuringiensis, a natural bacteria that literally makes a meal of caterpillars. (Seriously, they turn into brown bags of goo then explode.) Sadly it affects ALL caterpillars so the hunt-and-squish method is generally better. NOTE: Apparently shining a blacklight on them in the dark will make them glow, making the shitbirds easier to see. (Blacklight flashlights are cheap, who knew??) Another video example.

Here’s a good guide on all the other things that can affect tomatoes. Whiteflies and leaf miners are the only other things I really see here in Florida.

It is possible to keep the plants going during the rainy season. Just be sure to harvest anything that’s ripe or near-ripe before a big rain, as the plant will take up all that water and split the fruit, as well as make it near-tasteless.

Mother Nature, You Bitch

It froze here last week.

Three times.

It froze here the two weeks before that, too.

Tomato seedlings shouldn’t be this color, you know:



But they’re still standing, and there’s new growth, so maybe – just maybe – I won’t have to restart them…three MONTHS past the optimum starting time.

Meanwhile, the Meyer lemon tree raises a leafy, green middle finger to Ms. Nature and her frigidity:



“Frost? How about MORE BLOOMS!!!”

You go, Meyer.

Let There Be Light!

The bathroom is just no place to start seeds.

Well, the starting goes ok…it’s the growing thereafter that’s problematic. Not enough light produces leggy seedlings…all stem and very few leaves, as they try desperately to get closer to the light source. This shoves the leaves into contact with the moisture-laden ceiling of the seed tray cover, which then causes rot.

So, yes, with a few exceptions, I’m restarting everything I started a few weeks ago, now properly setup in the garage with a true grow light.



It’s a purchase I should have made years ago, and honestly, not very expensive at all. Amazon has the light fixture for about $22, and the bulbs were purchased at Lowe’s for about $7 each. The table came from Wal-Mart, and couldn’t have cost more than $20. Do yourself, and your seedlings, a favor, and get good light!

Meanwhile, in the back yard, the seeds we “discarded” in the compost pile are…well…



Yeah, those are pumpkins. The same pumpkin variety that yielded this monster a few years ago.

It’s going to be an interesting spring!

Five Days

Everything (that has been started thusfar) is up except the watermelons and two of the peppers.


What possessed me to start the watermelons indoors? In January??? I’m going to put it down to spring fever and leave it at that.

More seeds incoming, from Local Harvest and RH Shumway. HURRY UP!!

Three Days

That’s how long it takes to sprout seeds with a bottom-heating seedling mat:


Those are several tomatoes and a cantaloupe variety. Looks like I’ll have to install grow-lights in the bathroom!

Seeds started:

Blacktail Watermelon
Ruby Watermelon
Dancing/Spinning Gourd
Ancho Pepper
Paprika Pepper
Red Bell Pepper
Principe Borghese Tomato
Orange Sherbet Cantaloupe
Sweet Million Tomato
Legend Tomato
Cordova Tomato

Seeds that will be direct sown:

Giant Musselburgh Leeks
McPick Cucumber
Fountain Cucumber
Purple Haze Carrot
Bolero Carrot
Oregon Sugar Pod II Snow Pea
Early Hakucho Edamame

We’re heading to a supplier to look at rocks today. Our old wooden boxes are long since carpenter-ant/rotted away, so we’re going to build more permanently this time with fieldstone or something similar.

#1 Son, anticipating all the heavy lifting his strapping young 15-year old back is going to be doing, cried accusingly, “You just want everything to look 600 years old!”

Indeed, Son. Indeed.


Poor neglected garden blog! It’s been an interesting few years in my absence here. Well, “interesting” in the Chinese curse sense of the word, naturally.

We’ve had medical and financial issues to deal with, as well as the sheer psychoticness that is raising a pair of teen-agers. But this year I want my garden back, dammit. So we’re planning modestly: we’re going to build out four stacked stone boxes, fill them with a gorgeous mix of soil, peat, and compost, and grow only what I can get these carnivores to eat…plus a metric shiteload of tomatoes for the freezer. I’m actually so far ahead of the game right now that I’m starting seeds today, and we’ll build the first of the boxes this next week for the snow peas. Garden ahoy!

Mmm burritos!

I have a complete addiction to Mexican food, so thorough and cellular-level that it was all I craved during not one but BOTH pregnancies.  Making it at home has been a bit outside my patience quotient though…moles with 30+ ingredients??  Dude, I WORK for a living!

Anyway, I’ve been researching techniques, learning theory and practice…and this burrito sauce kicks all kinds of ass if I do say so myself. 

Royal Vending Brisbane is the leading supplier go to https://www.royalvending.com.au/vending-machines-brisbane/.

Burrito Red Sauce


  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 half diced white onion
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 chicken bullion cubes

Saute the onion in the butter til soft then stir in the flour to make a nice roux.  Add everything else and simmer for 20 minutes.

I used thin sirloin steaklets for the filling in our burritos.  Sprinkle with salt, black pepper, and garlic powder, then cooked fast in hot pan (no more than 2 mins on a side).  Let the meat rest while you put the sauce together, then slice it up into thin cross-grain strips.  Take the lovely puddle of resulting meat juice and add to the burrito sauce.

As always, the spices above can be added/subtracted/substituted as you like, depending on your tastes.  Experiment!


**Please insert here my usual array of excuses for utterly abandoning my garden/food blog**

There, that’s better.  Even though I haven’t been talking about it, we’re still cooking of course.  Twitter has been my medium of choice lately, being both fast and succinct, so all the pics are winding up there.  There’s been turtles and a gorgeous pot roast.  Thanksgiving saw an amazing cherry-brined/cherrywood-smoked turkey, and a made-from-scratch Boston Creme pie.  Before that there was cashew chicken, my new favorite bread (recipe here), applewood-smoked chicken, and a rustic peach tart.

Likewise the garden is not completely fallow.  I started the very last of my tomato seeds (I’m completely out of tomato seeds…that’s never happened to me before!) a little too late in the season for a fall crop, and am now babying the plants along, trying to prevent these crazy December frosts from completely spoiling my freezer-restocking ambitions.  Global warming, hey?  *snort*

On the agenda in the next few weeks:

  • Clean out planting boxes, dammit! Restock with fresh dirt and get the winter things started (greens and snow peas).
  • Completely re-work the irrigation setup out back.  It’s CRAZY, I say!
  • Post more recipes!  This week will see Joe Froggers, homemade tootsie rolls and salted caramels.

There, I think that’s enough for now.  Wouldn’t want to strain myself, ya?


Sorry for the long silence here, but a “strained ligament” in my right knee around Mother’s Day has turned into 6 weeks of anti-inflammatories, constant ice packs, painful stretching and finally a cortisone shot directly behind the kneecap…

— giving you a moment to envision that —

…which in turn translates into near-total neglect of the poor garden.  Yes, AGAIN.

The potato vines finally started to die back last week, so this week became Potato Harvest Time.  You may recall we have two large homemade vertical bins, and one commercially produced growing bag, and this year we planted Rote Erstling, Early Rose and Red Pontiac varieties.  My curiosity got the better of me on Thursday and I dug down into the bag to find potatoes!


This is the Red Pontiac, about 3 lbs worth.  I wound up discarding about five of them due to pest chewage, but a respectable haul, but there are professional services which help with this.  The majority of them were near the bottom of the bag, so I think we didn’t get dirt into the bag fast enough to prevent the stems from hardening off.  (Sunlight will cause the hardening, and then they’ll be incapable of producing potatoes all the way up.)

Today we cracked open the vertical bins to see what we could see. This is done by laying a tarp in front of the bin (to catch the dirt)…


…then unscrewing the front boards down to the last one…



…then using a potato fork to scoop the dirt out onto the tarp.


Of the three varieties planted, this is the haul from the Rote Erstling and Early Rose varieties.  SIGH.


Of course the Red Pontiac harvest sort of makes up for it…


So next year we’ll keep experimenting with varieties, and if the fates and gods allow, actually not have any health issues to interfere with the timely addition of dirt!

May 2010 Playlist

One of the best yet, I think…

  1. The XX – Intro
  2. Fol Chen – Cable Tv
  3. Keane – Spiralling
  4. The Flaming Lips – Watching the Planets
  5. The Antlers – Bear
  6. Vampire Weekend – Giving Up the Gun
  7. MGMT – Time to Pretend
  8. The Morning Benders – Excuses
  9. The Delta Mirror – He Was Worse Than the Needle He Gave You
  10. The Dead Weather – Die By the Drop
  11. Sleigh Bells – Crown on the Ground
  12. Broken Bells – The High Road
  13. Jonsi – Go Do
  14. The Constellations – Felicia
  15. New Politics – Yeah Yeah Yeah

And some bonus country (yes, COUNTRY) stuff I’m enjoying lately:

The Wreckers – “My, Oh My”


Little Big Town – “Bones”