Monday, May 17, 2010

Tomatoes and Frogs





The mayapples, wildflower plants which grow in shady areas, have been emerging for several weeks. They are also called umbrella plants or Indian apples. Last week they were blooming, pictured above. The blossom is is unique and eye catching. I have never paid very close attention to them before. Mayapples are a good wildflower and a good choice for the shady areas of the yard.
The hummingbirds also started to buzz around last week and the wild columbines began to flower. Now, if the weather would start to cooperate; it has been cold, and rainy for weeks now after a really good spring start in April. We are lucky though, other areas have had some serious weather and numerous fatalities.

But even the frogs around here are tired of the weather and looking forward to warmr and sunnier days. Pictured is a male Green frog or Rana clamitans. A male green frog has a large tympanum (the large spot just down from the eye) which is larger than the eye. A female green frog has a smaller than the eye, or equal to the size of the eye tympanum. And than to BW for the information and corrections on this guy.

Tomatoes

According to the National Gardening Association, tomatoes are one of the top, favorite vegetables in North America. Potatoes and onions are also on the top ten list. Last year was a bad year for tomatoes and potatoes because of the late blight, an almost always fatal disease.

Last year the blight was introduced by several box stores, according to reports and spread quickly because of the rainy and cool weather; perfect conditions for a wild fire blight. This year, be sure to get rid of any potatoes which were missed over the fall and winter and begin to emerge. Underground, the late blight fungus can over-winter.

Tomato plants should have been cleaned out of the garden area in the fall and preferably burned if they had symptoms of the late blight. If some were missed, and the weather was cold, freezing and snowy, it is likely the blight spores did not survive. But to be sure collect the dead plants, do not till them under, or compost them; be cautious and burn them or place in a garbage and keep them in the hot sun before they can be disposed.

One good control measure against the late blight, as well as other tomato diseases, is mulch after the soil has warmed. Mulch helps to prevent disease spores in the soil from splashing up on the tomato leaves. Mulch, besides helping to control weeds, also retains moisture in the soil. Tomatoes need about an inch of rain (water) a week. If the tomatoes need to be watered, try soaking the soil rather than overhead watering.

Mulch also helps to prevent cracked tomatoes and blossom end rot. The mulch works to even out the moisture in the soil and both diseases are caused by irregular watering or soil moisture.

Tomato Tricks

Tomato seeds are easy to get started and the seedlings are money savers. It is cheaper to get a package of seeds rather than buying plants. Many times, the seedlings emerge in the compost pile and can be dug out and re-planted successfully. I am always amazed they survived the winter weather.
Naturally, if you had several different species (heirlooms), what the final result is will be a mystery until the end. Hybrid tomatoes are even a more foggy mystery. The seeds will not produce a plant anywhere close to the parent plant.

One day, a friend told me his method of successfully starting tomatoes. I tried it this year and so far so good. I planted excess seeds of a heirloom Brandywine which I have been growing for the ten or twelve years and saving the seeds.. The Brandywines, whose origins I have since lost, might be a late season tomato, usually the end of August, but for my taste are the best and the most abundant.

The seeds were planted in an old plastic flower box on April 15 and placed outside covered in a clear, heavy duty plastic garbage bag. April 15 is early for anything outside around here; it can snow, freeze and be cloudy and cool for days on end. It was like that this year and one night it froze hard; the outside temperature was 26 F. To grow good tomatoes is actually very simple.


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But they are growing just fine, in fact, maybe too good because I'll need to transplant them since I basically threw the seeds on the soil and covered them with dirt/compost. Sunny windows can be used as well as the top of the refrigerator for easy sprouting, but for my money and space, outside in that old flower box seems to be working. We'll be tracking the progress throughout the season. They'll likely be planted in the garden on Memorial Weekend,well, weather permitting.

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