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


  1. Glad you had such a good year with tomatoes. The rest of my veggie garden did great and my freezer is jam-packed, but the tomatoes were very disappointing. My small hybrids (Juliet and Sun Gold) did fine, but all of my heirlooms did NOTHING. No stinkbug issues...just a funky tomato year. :(

  2. Not such a good year for me. Some stink bug damage and lot of cracked large type tomatoes (Better Boy) .

  3. Joe "tankmann" DiGiovanniOctober 23, 2013 at 8:17 AM

    Bob, my entire garden suffered this year. This has been the worst year for deer coming up from the river. But they did leave me with a lot of free fertilizer though. You know it's going to be an off year when deer even eat my gooseberry shrubs - but hey I get out of having to prune them...

  4. OK year at the Phillips farm. Big Mamas and Burpee Super Sauce produced lots of fruit which resulted in 54 quarts of sauce which will be gobbled up by my spaghetti loving grandson's.

    Heirlooms didn't produce as well as I would have liked and the BMSBs tool their tool in august and September.

  5. Our tomatoes in the demonstration beds of the Enchanted Garden (HCLibrary -Miller) suffered little damage from the BMSB. We harvested lots of Sun Golds, many roma and a few Brandywine. We just harvested lots of green Brandywine, they took a long time turning red this year. What was interesting to me was the plenitude of BMSB on our sunflowers and barely one on the tomatoes. Could they have found a tastier meal?