Tag Archive for tomatoes

Morning in the garden – August 10, 2014

I’ve missed adding Morning in the garden posts the last couple of weeks. When you work in the gardens there’s less time to write about them. And here it is August 10, 2014 already. It’s been a dry summer and, so far, a dry August. Weekly deep watering helps keep all the plants happy.

Phlox, an Oriental lily, and other blooms happy are filling the void left by waning day lilies and Asiatic lilies.

Sweetheart Double Oriental lily and Phlox paniculata 'David's Lavender'

Sweetheart Double Oriental lily and Phlox paniculata ‘David’s Lavender’

The lilies send a sweet aroma through the garden. I ignore what hungry little creatures have done to her foliage and focus on her blossoms.

Sweetheart Double Oriental Lily 8-10-14

Sweetheart Double Oriental Lily 8-10-14

Nicotiana sylvestris, aka flowering tobacco, has finally begun to bloom.

Nicotiana sylvestris

Nicotiana sylvestris

Early to mid summer brings so many blooms, but in the August garden I focus more on plant groupings to draw attention. One grouping is the Oriental lily and phlox above. Another is the potted Pennisetum ‘Fireworks’ in front of a ground-planted gomphrena, both annuals in my zone 6 Connecticut garden.

Pennisetum 'Fireworks' and gomphrena

Pennisetum ‘Fireworks’ and gomphrena

I also love this grouping of luecanthemm, gomphrena, and ageratum. They look just as nice this morning as they did on July 20 in this photo, below.

Shasta daisy, gomphrena, and ageratum July 20, 2014

Shasta daisy, gomphrena, and ageratum July 20, 2014

The groupings work together to create a garden bed.

Rear perennial bed 8-10-14

Rear perennial bed 8-10-14

In the raised bed portion of a retaining wall, peppers and tomatoes mingle with small hydrangea, coleus, and zinnias.

raised bed below a retaining wall

raised bed below a retaining wall

Tomatoes have been feeding us for about three weeks. The ever-bearing strawberries potted nearby give us intermittent treats, and the figs continue to promise us late summer delights.

And our new trial plants, Centennial hops, have begun to bloom.

Centennial hops

Centennial hops

The hops are small, compared to established hops planted in the ground (ours are in large pots), but they’re blooming and, therefore, a success.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Joene Hendry

Seedy ideas for Connecticut edible gardens

Choosing which variety of tomato or other edible to grow from seed can be overwhelming, particularly for gardeners new to seed starting. If, after following my earlier recommendations, your head is  still spinning here’s some of my favorite edible varieties.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Tomatoes: I grow standard, paste and cherry varieties. My absolute favorite for flavor and color is one I tried for the first time last season, the heirloom Cherokee Purple. The vines were prolific, produced solid, heavy, meaty fruit of a wonderful purplish red color and the sweetest ever flavor. Until Cherokee Purple took the top  spot on my favorite tomato list, Pruden’s Purple, also an heirloom with large fruit and a sweet taste, was number one.  I will continue to grow both of these full-size tomatoes plus the yellow heirloom, Manyel (smaller fruit, later maturity). These varieties are available from many seed suppliers, mine came from Pinetree Garden Seeds.

For paste tomatoes I like Roma (Pinetree Garden Seeds) and Milano Plum (Kitchen Garden Seeds). For cherry tomatoes I choose Sweet Million – it lives up to its name. Last season I grew an additional tomato, Super Bush, from Renee’s Garden bred specifically for container growth. It produced late, two- to three-inch sized fruit, but lacked the intense, sweet flavor I expect from homegrown tomatoes. Try it if you have limited space for a tomato that remains about three feet tall, but don’t expect the flavor of an heirloom.

Note: I grew standard, plum and cherry tomatoes in large pots filled with rich compost-based potting soil. All did remarkably well and produced lots of fruit with monthly fertilizer applications of liquid fish emulsion to the soil and as a foliar spray.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Peppers: Most of my peppers are the hot variety, Early Jalapeno, Hot Hungarian Wax, Italian Pepperoncini (all from Pinetree Garden Seeds). Last year I tried a mild habanero chili pepper from Renee’s Garden called Orange & Red Suave. It did not germinate as well as some of my other hot pepper varieties and the cool, wet spring set it back a bit, but the plant was s a lovely addition to a perennial bed and it eventually produced attractive orange fruit. Habanero peppers are normally very hot. I’d rate these as milder than normal but still packing serious heat, not for the faint of tongue.

For sweet peppers I’ve had good luck with Sweet Banana (Pinetree Garden Seeds) and Romeo Bell (Kitchen Garden Seeds).

Eggplant: I often transplant eggplant seedlings directly into perennial beds. The plants alone add structural interest, as to the fruit.  My favorites for full size fruit include Ichiban and Lavender Touch (both from Pinetree Garden Seeds). Last season I tried the container-sized variety, Little Prince (Renee’s Garden). The container-grown plants produced abundant and adorable single-serving, tasty fruit under less than ideal conditions – lots and lots of rain – so Little Prince gets another shot this year.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALettuce: I’ve grown multiple varieties over the years – Green Ice, Red Deer’s Tongue, Oakleaf, Red Fire, Buttercrunch, Winter Density, Rouge d’Hiver Romaine, Rouge Grenobloise Batavian, Tom Thumb, and I’m sure there’s more. Of all, my absolute favorite is Merveille de Quatre Saisons, a French heirloom available from many suppliers (mine came from Kitchen Garden Seeds and Renee’s Garden). The other lettuce types are all good and perform well, I’m just enamored by the looks and taste of Merveille. Beyond this beautiful looking and tasty bibb lettuce, I am also quite impressed with the adorable small crispy heads of Tom Thumb.

Beans: My favorite bush beans are Sequoia and Purple Queen – both grow delicious purple pods that turn green when cooked (Kitchen Garden Seeds) – and Pencil Pod, a yellow Heirloom (Pinetree Garden Seeds).

Peas: I’ve struggled to get a good supply of snow peas from each spring sowing. The voles love the tender plants as much as I love the tender pods and, so far, attempts to grow a bumper snow pea crop in pots have not been highly successful. Still, I would not want to go a year without trying. You simply cannot match the sweetness and tenderness of freshly picked snow peas so, even if my yield is small, I’ll always plant edible podded peas. My current favorites are Snowflake Pea Pods, a self supporting upright bush-type growing about two feet tall, and Golden India Edible Pea Pod, with six foot tall vines of flat pods (both from Kitchen Garden Seeds). In a previous garden with more space and fewer voles I had great success with sugar snap peas. These should be on every new gardener’s planting list. They are prolific producers that bring early success.

This is not a comprehensive list of the edibles I grow. It’s just a good place to start. Here are links to the seed suppliers mentioned above: Pinetree Garden Seeds, Renee’s Garden, Kitchen Garden Seeds.

Garden thoughtfully … and please share the vegetable varieties growing well in your Connecticut garden.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 Joene Hendry

Re-GOOPs: a review of 2011’s gardening-oops

Welcome to January 1, 2012. The first of each month is confessional time. Time to fess up to a gardening blunder, or gardening oops. GOOPs for short. I share one of my gardening mis-steps and hope you’ll do the same.

This is Re-GOOPs month, when I look back at some of the GOOPs from last year.

The GOOPs that drew the most comments is from June 2011. I described how the landscape fabric we installed, as directed by the block manufacturer, while building a retaining wall planting bed became blocked with fine soil silt. It hinders drainage to the point of making the bed virtually unplantable (new word?) during rainy springs/summers. Most of the comments to this post mentioned similar and other landscape fabric issues. I even had a manufacturer suggest we had installed the landscape fabric incorrectly …. we didn’t.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA To use the bed last season I dug out some of the soil so large clay pots would rest on the fabric layer. I filled the pots with new soil and planted them with hot peppers, cherry tomatoes and eggplant.

Trailing nasturtium seeds and coleus seedlings went into the remaining soil surrounding the sunken pots.

I promised, back in June, to report whether my scheme worked.

The hot peppers thrived, the tomatoes did okay, and the eggplant was not happy.

I planted bush and pole beans between a couple of pots at the far end but, with such a wet growing season, the soil remained too moist for the beans to really thrive.

The nasturtiums and coleus, however, had a banner year.

No aphids … not one.

The nasturtiums went wild, they never had a mid-summer slump, and the coleus grew mighty tall and bushy right up to first frost.


Eventually I plan to remove all the soil from this bed. I’m on the lookout for decorative planters that will fit the space and style of the surrounding block. The planters, which I’ll fill seasonally, will sit in the raised bed on top of and within decorative stone. The stone will facilitate drainage and the planters will add seasonal interest and break up the visual impact of the long, narrow bed. I can also add other interesting accents – think cool rocks, shells, candles – at my whim. The new design is still germinating in my idea seed bank but, in the meantime, the sunken clay pots work as a temporary planting solution.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy GOOPs tale of voles eating crocus bulbs and deer nibbling on crocus and Tete-a-tete narcissi garnered a number of sympathetic comments. I think the photos of bright, cheery blooms followed by shots of stubby green leftovers helped in the sympathy department. Isn’t this sad?

My solution for the narcissi is to cover newly emerging shoots with upside-down apple baskets each night and to keep a sharp eye out for marauding deer during daylight. For the crocus issue I’ve taken the advice from Nell Jean at Seedscatterer. I planted tommies (Crocus tommasinianus Ruby Giant and Barr’s Purple).

I won’t know till spring whether voles left the tommies alone. Keeping fingers crossed and praying to the bulb gods.


The last Re-GOOPs for today is Don’t count your tomatoes … a gardening oops. It’s another tale, and another sad photo, of creature damage. This time from those cute, fast-moving, devilish chipmunks.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThey have superb ripe-tomato radar. The only way for me to beat them to the fruit was to pick before the tomatoes were totally ripe and let them finish ripening on a windowsill. So far the chipmunks haven’t figured out how to get into my kitchen. Keeping fingers crossed and praying to the fox gods.

Looking back reminded … though I didn’t really need it … that weather had a huge impact in 2011. Three GOOPs posts  – February, March and November – involved snow and I hurricane/tropical storm Irene prevented a GOOPs post on September 1 (no power for seven days).

I suspect 2012’s GOOPs will also involve weather and creatures and creatures and weather. At least that gives me the chance to blame something besides my own actions.

I hope you’ll join the GOOPs party this year. If you are REALLY gardening then you must have made a GOOPs or two.

Either add your GOOPs tale in a comment below or post your GOOPs on your blog and leave a teaser in a comment below.

Happy New Year. Garden thoughtfully.