Friday, May 28, 2010

First tomato, wildlife discoveries

Big news! We have eaten our first homegrown tomatoes! Two tiny Mexico Midget tomatoes ripened in the last week, and the hubs and I had one each. Each tomato was only about half an inch in diameter, but they packed a wallop of perfect tomato flavor. Very intense, and VERY tomato-y. I’ve been combing the tomato plants every day in the hopes of finding another one. I found one more Mexico Midget that was starting to turn red, but the backside had been eaten by some anonymous critter, so I pulled it to let the plant focus on the non-damaged fruits.

The Jelly Bean tomatoes are starting to redden, but don’t feel quite ripe yet. I’m hoping we’ll have 2 or 3 as a treat for the holiday weekend. I will say that these grape tomatoes are quite a bit bigger than I thought. They’re looking more like mini-Romas – the biggest one is a good 2 ½ inches long and over an inch in diameter at the shoulders!

The seeds I started last week are in desperate need of transplanting. Luckily, I realized that the watermelon radishes I planted are a winter radish and will be bolting shortly due to the hot weather. In the spirit of wasting not and wanting not, I will be pulling them all up this weekend and making the leaves into radish pesto. This will clear out a 1 X 1 foot plot on the sunniest corner of the east bed for some basil and nasturtiums. I haven’t quite decided what to do with the zinnias yet. I think I might put them in one of the planter boxes on the front of the house. They’ll add some color and be easy to get to when I want cut flowers. Also, I won’t have to put in a border to protect them from accidental mowing.

Early in the garden’s history, the Charentais melon hill got dug up by squirrels. One of the melon seedlings was uprooted and had to be replanted, but the other was undisturbed. Well, the undisturbed melon has flourished and is now vining up the trellis and flowering up a storm. The other one has remained only about 6 inches tall and is completely shaded by its neighbors – the White Beauty tomato and Black Beauty Zucchini. In my seed-starting frenzy last week, I sowed a few more melon seeds to replace this poor little guy. I think I’m going to try growing them in some big containers on the outside of the bed next to the trellis and see what happens.

The garden is starting to attract the attention of some interesting wildlife. The white cabbage moths (or are they butterflies?) have continued to visit and probably leave some eggs behind, but since the cabbage worms have eaten all my lacinato kale, I have no idea what is attracting the moths. I guess next time I see a lacy leaf, I’ll know. I had planted a struggling dill plant last week and was pleased to see it recovering beautifully from transplant shock. Today, I noticed that all its lovely ferny foliage had been decapitated. I also found a very interesting green and black striped, red horned caterpillar, which I later identified as a swallowtail butterfly caterpillar. Guess what swallowtail caterpillars like to eat? Dill. Parsley. Probably carrot greens. I removed him from the garden and put him in a jar with some sacrificial parsley. Maybe we’ll get to see some chrysalis and pupa action!

I have also removed a mating pair of spotted cucumber beetles, a few tiny, pea-sized slugs, and quite a few green cabbage worms. Hopefully, inspecting daily and hand-picking any unwelcome bugs will be sufficient to deter any real infestations.

The melon and zucchini are both flowering like mad, but so far I’ve only seen male flowers. I’ve read that the male flowers will appear well in advance of the females to assure that pollen will be available when the female flowers appear, but I’ve been watching flowers open and close fruitlessly (literally) for 2 weeks now.
I’d be much more frustrated if I wasn’t picking up all the spent flowers every morning and feeding them to my rabbits. Nothing is more adorable than watching a bunny eat flowers.

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