Saturday, January 26, 2013

Tomato Shortage

"I want to really expand the garden this year." K said out of the blue earlier this week. This surprised me because the garden is mostly my endeavor. I do all the planning, nurturing, weeding, harvesting and preserving. K does help me with my plans and labor projects such as fencing, building raised beds, and erecting trellises. He also patiently listens to my endless conversations about the garden and picks up bags of compost if he happens to be at the local hardware store. He doesn't have the same enthusiasm with gardening as I do but does support my passion and enjoys the harvests.

For a moment, my mind ran over the idea of expanding the garden. We usually expand a little every year but now have reached an area in the yard that is shaded by trees part of the day in late summer. I considered other areas in the yard, which lead to thoughts of the added expense for extra fencing to keep the dogs out...

I pause for a moment and ask him,” Why do you think we need to expand?"

"We need to grow more tomatoes and I want more eggplant parmesan." K replies.

Ah! I understand now. See, earlier in the week I told him that our canned tomato sauce was running low and we would have to conserve it if we wanted it to last. Both of us are part Italian and consider tomato sauce a staple in this household.

Canned Tomato Sauce

Tomato production was down this past year. The excess heat early in the season stressed the plants and allowed disease to hit earlier than most years. Early blight is in my soil. I do what I can to stave off the disease by rotating my crops, mulching to avoid soil splash, and promoting good air circulation between plants. Even with these precautions, eventually early blight shows itself on the lower leave of my tomato plants. Most years it happens later in the season allowing the plants to grow and produce before the disease has impact.

This year, early blight wiped out my Roma tomato plants before they had time to flourish. Other tomatoes continued to produce but overall yields were reduced as the disease made its way up the plants.

Roma Tomatoes with Early Blight

Not willing to gamble this year, I am researching some early bight resistant hybrid tomatoes to add to the mix.

So far, I have decided that Juliet will be a new addition to the garden spot this year. This tomato peaked my interest because of its versatility, disease resistance, and high yields. Dave at Happy Acres sings Juliet's praises. Fedco describes them as, "...good stewing tomatoes, excellent salad tomatoes, and, despite their juiciness, surprised us by making a tangy sauce with a diverse complex richness and full sweet tomato flavor."

I have not ruled out a garden expansion completely yet. But I am also trying to figure out ways to produce more out of the garden space available. In previous years, growing Roma tomatoes in self-watering containers with fresh potting mix helped keep the plants disease free. I may return to planting some plants in containers again this year.

Roma Tomatoes growing in self-watering containers in 2010

Oh, and I will find room to grow more eggplant for Eggplant Parmesan.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

The busy holidays are over, snow from several storms has blanked the garden, seed catalogs have arrived, and now planning for next year's garden begins. New beginnings bring new goals and possibilities.

Happy New Year to you and the ones you love! I hope 2013 brings you great happiness, success, and fortune.