Adventures in Country Living

2011 Garden: August 26th-28th

The Great Tomato Disaster of 2011: Then there was the wind. We’ve dealt with the effects of the Ridge Wind out here but this has to be on the top of the disappointment list, right next to losing the 50ft white spruce this last winter. We came home the evening of Aug. 24th to find the wreckage from a 30+mph wind that decided to take aim at the tomatoes. The corn had minimal damage but the poorly supported tomato plants, some of which were approaching the 6ft mark, packed with heavy fruit did not fare so well. Row after row were toppled over onto one another, green tomatoes strewn about on the ground and stems bent and broken. What was once 6ft tall lay close to 3ft. So we went about figuring out what to do regarding the problem. Stakes were procured and placed, support structures were erected and the plants re-supported. Unfortunately this process took us a handful of evenings and was mentally/physically taxing. It’s our own fault frankly, we put so many plants so close to one another and didn’t prune or train the plants much, a simple flimsy cage to get them going and we ended up with way more than those cages could handle. Personally I got frustrated several times as I untangled a plant only to have multiple branches break off, borderline mad. Mad at my ignorance, like you could just put them in the ground. Next year careful consideration will be taken when dealing with tomatoes and the wind, pruning will occur regularly and the plants will be dispersed amongst more beds rather than all contained in one or two. Significant support structures will be put in place prior to planting, learn from your mistakes.

After a couple of evenings struggling to get the tomatoes back to their former glory we had close to twenty pounds of green tomatoes and with them the first batch of ripe tomatoes on many of our plants. The bright light at the end of this tunnel? Learning. We know what went wrong and I’ll be hard pressed to see it happen again next year. Despite many broken and damaged branches the plants should come back alright and will provide us with a bounty of tomatoes. As a result of the Great Tomato Disaster we were forced to clean up and deal with many of the dead and dying branches on the plants exposing us to fruit we couldn’t see before as well as exposing that fruit to the healthy rays of sunlight that couldn’t penetrate the thick canopy.

The rest of the garden was fairly untouched by the strong winds, things are rolling along well. Our fears that a late start would result in less edible fruit has faded with the ripening of the corn and the later varieties of tomatoes. Our zucchini and summer squash continue to give up a healthy bounty daily. The cucumbers are giving us a handful of good-sized fruit each day as well as the peas. The big bright spot for the weekend: pole beans. Liz and I were hoping that we might be able to harvest enough beans to freeze a bunch for over winter, with our poor success with the bush beans we put all our stock in the pole beans which up until this last weekend had grown large and full but hadn’t shown us any signs of beans. Where there is a flower… and now we have the first of many beans growing. On the long list of things to do this week: mulch. Mulch everything, the garden paths, the tomato beds and especially the onions and carrots.

-justin

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5 responses

  1. Hi! I wanted to return the blog visit and thank you for taking the time to leave such an encouraging comment on mine. This was an interesting post, because it seems there is more to learning about tomatoes than what the gardening books say. I discovered this year that my cages were too flimsy as well, and like you, had problems because of it. Next year, sturdier support! I agree wholeheartedly that there is always something to learn from even our disappointments. You have a wonderful blog. Good photos and well written, informative posts.

    September 1, 2011 at 9:47 am

  2. Your very welcome, we have much to do around the BRB and in particular the posts you have working on your house are very encouraging. We live in a 131year old farmhouse that we would like to begin doing some work on over the fall/winter. Until then, it’s still gardening season and there is much to be done outside. Thanks again!

    September 1, 2011 at 1:14 pm

  3. That is a heart breaking post! DIf it is not too late, save those green tomatoes. Place hem in a bag or box with a couple of apples or bananas and they will ripen for you.

    As for future support of your tomatoes, I grow mine in a double row with cattle panels between them for support. I live on top of a hill where 20-30 mph winds are the norm. have not lost a tomato plant yet.

    I have to tell you, I really like your blog. You are a good writer and photographer. kee p it up. BTW, I have serious barn envy. I too live in an old farmhouse but without the barn. I will be building one soon. Hope mine is attractive as yours!

    September 1, 2011 at 7:26 pm

  4. One more tip. Tomatoes have the ability to grow roots anywhere on their stem. With a little luck, you can stick some of those broken branches in well drained soil. Water profusely for a couple of weeks and with a little luck, the branch will become a half grown plant that is immediately able to produce fruit. Don’t know how much more growing time you have up there, but if you have 40 or 50 days of non freezing temps you might be able to turn this disaster into a bigger crop.

    September 1, 2011 at 7:32 pm

  5. Thank you for the encouragement. I try to write as well as I can, sometimes things don’t come out how I’d like them to but I’ve been figuring it out. I run another blog regarding fly fishing in our area, something of an addiction for me.

    The tomatoes are doing well, many are coming back strong and we have fruit ripening every day. I’m already thinking about the supports needed for next year and frankly making my garden much bigger! As for the barn envy, I have to admit I have loved the barn from the moment I saw it, I hope we can figure out how to maintain it and make it a long lasting structure, currently it needs a new roof but I have sometime to work on that problem.

    September 2, 2011 at 6:29 pm

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