Thursday, August 26, 2010

Tomato Perfection

I drive by gardens that never have a weed and I’m in awe of the gardener’s motivation. The edges are defined, no weeds, plants straight and healthy.

You will never drive by our home and see that kind of a garden – I just don’t have it in me. I’m simply not able to pull the self-seeded hollyhocks, which in turn has grass and weeds among them.

Hoeing hurts my back but I probably wouldn’t do the faithful work that produces the perfectly manicured garden anyway.

In spite of the layers of cardboard and newspapers, weeds and grass creep through and around the plants. Easy to pull and keep at bay if I had a regular routine, but alas, I don’t.

I’m a weed procrastinator. There – I’ve admitted it. If I was Samantha the Witch, I’d save all those nose twitches for eradicating weeds. Imagine, relaxing with a glass of iced tea, focus on a weed, twitch the nose and poof – it’s gone forever.

This morning we decided to weed the garden because it was becoming impossible to find the tomatoes. I did the inside and my husband did the perimeter. It was a hot and labor intense task.

Most of my garden is planted in tomatoes. The one plant I put in early has been producing for about a month; the rest are just starting. Things have been good for tomatoes with no blossom end rot, no blight, no tomato pests, and no mildew. (I’ll talk more about these problems and the solutions on my blog.)

My tomatoes have begun to split/crack and this is caused by too much rain followed by a dry spell. Basically, the inside of the tomato plumps up with juice faster than the skin grows.

There is no prevention for cracking tomatoes especially with this year’s weather. Cracked tomatoes are still good to eat. As I see a partially ripe one start to split, I pick, wash with a little dish washing detergent, rinse, and dry. The detergent helps wash away bacteria and insects lurking in the crack. Next, line a cookie sheet with several layers of paper towel, set the tomatoes on their bottom and let them ripen. Use before any white hairy stuff starts to form on the split.

Putting in the refrigerator slows spoilage but it also stops further ripening.

There are several new tomato varieties resistant to cracking. Heirloom tomatoes seldom have that protection and must be watched more closely.

This afternoon my garden looks better than it did and not near as good as it should…but, I’m pleased with our hard labor and I’m sure my tomatoes will thank me in some way – perhaps by not cracking?

"If we persist, I do not doubt that by age 96 or so we will all have gardens we are pleased with, more or less." – Henry Mitchell (1923-1993, one of America's best, and funniest, garden writers)

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