Wednesday, November 23, 2011

On Magic Dust

First, my apologies for being a bad blogger. This past year, my regular work has kind of exploded, which is good if you're self-employed, but bad if you want to maintain a gardening blog. Today, however, is nice—I woke up, tended to the tomatoes and veggies, made a quiche, and now I'm sitting down to write my first blog entry in a month.

Also—and I keep waiting for the hammer to fall—I am having the easiest, most perfect veggie season I think I've ever had. It's just weird after last year's early season disaster, then the near collapse of the peppers and the ultimate collapse of the strawberries. Some years I feel like I'm fighting for every week, but not this year. This year, everything is growing like mad. No septoria to speak of. A few horn worms that I've been picking off as I see their droppings (because remember, bug poop = bugs, so look for them because they're there somewhere). No curly top virus. Just ... nothing wrong. Pinch me, right? The tomatoes are almost 4 feet tall already, and they've only been in the ground for about three weeks. They're loaded with blooms and the first fruit is setting already (I'm growing Brandyboy, green zebra [pictured], Kellogg's breakfast, and Paul Robeson). The peppers had a little white fly issue early on, but I've been treating with neem and it's well in hand. The mustard greens, herbs, broccoli, and other veggies are lustrous.

So what am I doing to have reaped this near-perfect season so far? Well, that's just the thing.

My big revelation has been preventive maintenance. I've been treating the tomatoes weekly with copper fungicide and KeyPlex since they were planted. I started treating long before any problem showed up. So I'm thinking I owe this season to preventive maintenance, because it's much easier to prevent a problem in the first place than fix a problem once it gets started. Other than that—and that's really all I'm doing different—I'm fertilizing every week with TomatoTone in very small quantities, watering every day, and that's it.

There's probably a lesson in here. I end up working on a lot of medical and nutrition books in my day job, and the same thing that works for plants works for people too. The disease you prevent is the disease you never get in the first place, and prevention is so much easier than treatment. Are my plants telling me to eat better, to drink more water, to get to the gym three times a week every week (not just some weeks), to take fish oil? I know this is nuts, but I kind of feel like they are.

Anyway, this has been my season so far. I'm really looking forward to harvesting later on. Unless tragedy strikes, I'm expecting a bounty crop of heirloom tomatoes and all manner of veg. And now, I'm off to start the holiday—we'll be brining our turkey this afternoon and starting to welcome guests as they show up. Have a good holiday everyone, and I hope your season has been sprinkled with the same magic dust mine has so far.


  1. Some of my peppers seem to be having an issue as well. Looks a bit like leafminers, so maybe it is whitefly (I have spiral whitefly on some of my palms). Will neem oil work?
    I'm growing in Garden Patch Growboxes (like Earthboxes). Despite all the rain last weekend, all the tomatoes, pepeers and chiles seem to be doing very well except that one yellow pepper.

  2. Leafminers are pretty harmless, so I don't usually worry about them. Whitefly, however, can be treated with neem oil (it's working on my peppers right now). To make sure it's whitefly, flip up the leaves and look on the underside. You'll see what looks like a fine web or actual white flies sitting there.

  3. Jon you're going to be really happy with the Brandy Boy's. I'm growing them in EBs along with Cherokee Purple, Ugly Ripe, Mexico, and Eva Purple Ball and they're the best tasting by far. HUGE plants though. I think they'd grow to 8'+ if I could manage it.

    I started early this year and battled blossom drop, caterpillars, and BER and I'm finally enjoying some tomatoes. I think next time it'll be all BB's.


  4. Jon - I've spent the last two days reading all of your blogs. What a blast! I've been growing tomatoes, herbs and recently lettuce here in Naples for the past 7 years. Really is a labor of love and stress relief mostly. Biggest problems have been 1) Dealing with the few days of freezing weather (I water the roots and wrap things up best I can), 2) The Squirrels (or whatever) that start munching on my 'maters and 3) Not having done enough research to correct previous mistakes (reading your blog is a start in the right direction to cure this!) and 4)Sometimes just not having enough time to do what needs to be done. Thanks for your hard work both in the garden and behind the keyboard. Very appreciated! BTW, is there anything near as intoxicating as coming in from the garden with the smell of 'maters or basil on your hands? MMmmmm!!!!1

    Will from Naples

  5. Will from Naples,

    Thanks for stopping by! I hear you on the cold and critters. I don't know about Naples, but if it's a nighttime visitor that's leaving dime-sized holes in your fruit, it's probably not a squirrel but a fruit rat. Gross, I know, but the little buggers love tomatoes. But good luck on the season—the only thing better than coming with the smell of herbs and tomatoes is coming in with a bucket full of herbs and tomatoes :) I can't wait to start harvesting this year...

  6. Jon,

    Been reading your blog this year while preparing for my second tomato season. Got bit by the gardening bug after I got lucky with a couple of plants I bought for fun. This year after researching the whole year and doing some semi composting in my two beds, I have 11 plants outside right now. I have 6 more transplants done hardening this week, and two of those will go in my first earthbox. I also came up with a hybrid form of the Florida weave system.

    The funny part of this obsession. I don't really like tomatoes. But thanks for posting about your experiments. I'm doing the same weekly spray rotation as yourself and its really working well.

    And funny enough I was looking up information to help our desert rose and the article I was reading ended up being by you! Let me know if you'd be interested in hearing about my version of the weave.


  7. Charles from Cutler Bay

    Hi Jon

    I've been reading your blog. I credit you in part for my good year so far. The good weather maybe helping too. Hope to hear from you soon.


  8. Mike,

    That is pretty funny, not liking tomatoes and all that. I grew really beautiful eggplant one year only to be informed that everyone in our house hates eggplant. Oops.

    Glad to hear the plants are doing well. I took some pictures that I'm planning to post soon.

  9. Chas,

    Thanks for dropping by! At least in my small corner of South Florida, I don't think we could have asked for better weather so far. Every day is more perfect than the last one. Good luck with the finish to the season!