The daily garden grind is in full swing. The list is pretty typical - on any given day the tasks involve watering, feeding, tying, pruning, spraying, troubleshooting, harvesting, seed saving....and of course, fretting! Each day brings something new; today it was the disappearance of quite a bit off of the top of one of my dwarf tomatoes, courtesy of a huge tomato horn worm.
On balance, I am pretty pleased with how things are going, yet there are some trouble signs. Keeping up with removal of lower infected foliage is going better than last year. The plants seem to be appreciating larger containers (the indeterminate varieties) and more spacing (especially the dwarf tomatoes). Fruit set is uneven; the dwarfs are setting very well, but the indeterminate tomatoes are struggling...and blossom end rot is rearing its head. It is clear that even the driveway area receives less direct sun than is optimal; I believe this is impacting fruit set on the larger fruited varieties.
As far as trouble....I've lost a few varieties to disease, and this could be my most challenging experience with peppers due to my first widespread infection of bacterial spot. A few tomato plants in straw bales are showing a baffling mid day wilt. Tomato spotted wilt may be appearing on a few tomatoes that I really don't want to lose.
On to some specifics, by crop type.
Eggplants - I am growing only 9 plants (fewest in a long time), but they are all thriving. The three named varieties from the Orient Express dehybridization mini project are mostly true to type, and thus far, I have two plants that fit my objective for Skinny Twilight (my first eggplant, one from each plant with many more to come), one for Midnight Lightning (the second is just a bit off), with Twilight Lightning about to set fruit. Work to reselect Mardi Gras (a novel lavender streaked, green eggplant out of a Casper X unknown cross) looks promising as well with the desired target fruit showing up on one of the plants, and the second now in blossom. All plants are healthy. Overall grade for eggplants is an A. below are, left to right, Mardi Gras, Midnight Lightning and Skinny Twilight.
Peppers - These make me pretty sad to look at. Bacterial spot showed up early, and despite applications of copper spray, it is possible that most will be severely affected. One Fire Opal in a Gardeners Supply planter is doing very well. All of the super hot peppers are struggling. I will likely not achieve much progress in the Islander dehybridization project varieties - Carolina Amethyst, Fire Opal, White Gold, and Royal Purple are those I am growing, with less than stunning results. Overall grade for peppers is a C.
Indeterminate tomatoes - It's funny how things turn out. Last year I squeezed large fruited varieties like Cherokee Purple into 5 gallon grow bags, crowded them in and they did fine. This year I've provided 10 gallon pots, more room - and results are all over the place. Unexplained wilt (retaining green foliage) is hitting three plants in straw bales - Egg Yolk, Sun Gold and Little Lucky. A friend thinks it could be an early indication of verticillium or fusarium wilt...we shall see. One plant in a bale - Violet Jasper - went down quickly to what looked to be bacterial wilt. A number of plants in the 10 gallon pots - Mama's Huge Orange, Anna's Kentucky, Abraham Brown and Brandywine - have top growth on a few stems that look suspiciously like tomato spotted wilt. But there is good news as well - Mexico Midget, Amethyst Cream, Swokla Heart, Green Giant, the two Cherokee Chocolate and the two Cherokee Purple and Cherokee Green all look great, as does Uncle Joe, Lucky Cross and Lillian's Yellow, in terms of plant health. Issues with BER - and blossom drop - are hitting some of the healthy plants, however. Green Giant, Brandywine, Anna's Kentucky and Lillian's Yellow are struggling to set fruit, and when they do, BER soon follows. Again - a bit of a mystery, and I suspect tied to weather and amount of direct sun exposure. So - a mixed bag, and overall, a B grade.
Dwarf tomatoes - So far so good - excellent fruit set, very good to excellent health, and more than a few pleasant surprises coming along from some of my recent, newer crosses. Only one went down to disease, a Worry offspring that never did look particularly happy. The various variegated dwarfs all look good, very attractive plants, setting fruit well. The odd yellow leaf goal in the Scotty cross are pretty strange; more about them in the future. Those varieties bred to show anthocyanin expression in the fruit are for the most part doing so. Overall, they grade out as A to A-, with the denser varieties showing the expected issues with early blight and/or septoria leaf spot. Below are harvested fruit, whole and cut, from a Speckly selection, Reddy selection, Sandy selection and another Speckly selection. They were all very tasty!
It is hard to compress all that is happening into a single blog report, but I think you get the idea. This really is the most action packed part of the process - when the tending and culture and care intersect with harvest and seed saving and cooking, there simply aren't enough hours in the day. There will be much more to come!