Saturday, October 26, 2013

Frosty-morning beauty

Strawberry leaf

What comes to your mind when you hear the word “frost”?

An ancient wrote:  “By the breath of God frost is given” – Job 37:10 (KJV).

A modern definition: “Frost: Ice crystals formed on grass or other objects by the sublimation (direct transfer) of water vapor from the air at below-freezing temperatures” – National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Weather.

When I looked out our kitchen window this morning  and saw a frosty landscape, my first thought wasn’t “breath of God” or “sublimation of water vapor” but “where’s my camera so I can take some photographs before the sun melts the ice crystals.”

Here are several frosty designs I captured this morning:

Amish Cockscomb blossom

Kamtschaticum sedum

Ruby Red chard

Grass (fescue)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Tomato Patch 2013: The end—and a look back

Hint, hint: Frost on lamb's ear
I finished taking down Tomato Patch 2013 yesterday.  Maybe I could have waited another few days, but the weather was perfect for outdoor work—sunny and in the low 60s—and the light frost on our roof and the leaves of our Lamb’s ear plants Monday morning hinted it was time to pick a last few tomatoes, cut back the vines, and take down the cages.

The frost wasn’t a “killer.”  Our most frost-sensitive plants—tomatoes, peppers, and basil—were growing in our garden and not on our roof and escaped damage.  Forecasts for later in the week, however, call for nighttime temperatures in the mid- to low 30s, so I decided to take down Tomato Patch.

Last pickings
First I picked about 10 Celebrity and Better Boy fruits and about a half colander of smaller varieties—a few Solid Gold but mostly Juliet—with a bit of color and deposited them on newspaper in our garage, where they should finish ripening over the next week or so. Then I cut back, pulled out, and carted the plants to a compost pile at the edge of our woods and stacked the drip irrigation buckets, cages, and iron posts for closer attention later. 

As I dismantled Tomato Patch 2013, I thought back over the growing season and made some mental notes:

1.  Tomato Patch 2013 was the best I’ve had in years—perhaps the best ever.  I don’t know why.  Perfectly timed cool and hot weather through spring and summer?  Lots of gentle rain both in spring and early summer and again late in the season?  Garden gnomes that guarded my 25 plants 24/7?  Other Maryland Master Gardeners have told me horror stories.  A Master Gardener in Harford County told me brown marmorated stink bugs ruined most of her crops.  A Master Gardener here in Howard County said overall his tomato crop was disappointing.  It must have been the gnomes.

2. Though brown marmorated stink bugs were a big problem for the Master Gardener in Harford County, they were a minor irritant here—not the disgusting plague of 2010 and 2011.  Yes, I saw a few stink bugs, but I sprayed with a commercially available bifentrin (a synthetic pyrethroid) when I found them—perhaps three or four weekly sprays in June and July, and then no more.  I had near zero tomato damage—but near 100% damage to the pods on my two Crimson Select sweet pepper plants—though I sprayed them too.

3.  Once again I planted too many tomatoes this year—25 plants. I’ve been trying to cut back a bit each year.  I used to plant 30 to 35 plants.  I was planning on just 22 plants this year—but Burpee advertisements for grafted plants captured my imagination—so I ended up with 25 plants.  (I’ll post blogs later on my experience with the grafted plants and other varieties that I grew for the first time.)  We ended up with buckets and buckets of tomatoes—and with nearly 30 containers of sauce in our freezer.

4.  My goal for next year is to plant just 20 tomato plants—about equal numbers of slicers, paste, and grape.  Oops—20 doesn’t divide by 3 when you’re thinking plants, so will I plant 21—or 18?   I’ve got until spring 2014 to answer that question.

Tomato Patch 2013 was a great one here at Meadow Glenn.

How was Tomato Patch 2013 at your place?

Good Bye, Tomato Patch 2013