Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Numeric Coincidences in the Garden

An interesting day in the vegetable garden.....

For various reasons, I hadn't really been paying much attention to the garden for the last 5 or 6 days, so I thought I'd better get out there this morning to put out any "fires" that had taken hold.

It was immediately obvious that I needed to pick tomatoes. Last week there were no ripe ones and only a few showing a blush of color. This morning I picked 64. From only 7 vines, 5 of them heirloom varieties. I'm actually rather amazed. All of this is totally organic too. (Confession time, though - I had to chuck 13 of the 64 tomatoes into the compost pile immediately, because I'd let them get too ripe...or the insects had claimed them as their own.)

On the down side, a couple weeks of upper 90's and low 100's, followed by cooler temps with rain had caused a lot of cracking. It was interesting to see how the different heirloom varieties responded....

Almost every single ripe German Queen tomato (and there were close to 20 of them, all quite large) was seriously cracked. Also, we've only harvested a couple of these before now and I was amazed to see how many were ripe at one time. If the plant wasn't flowering again, I'd seriously wonder if it was a determinate variety.

The Black Krim plant had produced quite a few tomatoes, but almost all of the ones that were ripe had been cracked and then immediately seriously infested with insects, followed by fungus - much more so than any of the other varieties. I haven't had a chance to taste any yet, but have 2 that survived with little enough damage that I'll try them tomorrow. I went ahead and picked several that were only half ripe, too, to try ripening them off the vine, inside. If they keep their flavor (whatever that is) maybe I can keep a higher percentage of the fruits safe from cracking and insects this way.

The Merced, another variety I haven't gotten to taste yet, had smaller cracks around the top of many of the fruits. Otherwise they looked very good.

The 2 hybrids were their normal, unexciting selves. The Rutgers acts like the hybrids. And the Green Zebra offered 5 fruits, all somewhat scarred and a few cracked (for the first time). The Green Zebras and one of the hybrids are the smallest fruits, on average. I love the look of the Green Zebras; their taste, on the other hand, is okay but not as good as German Queen's.

Meanwhile, the black blister beetles were having quite a field day. Just for curiosity's sake, I decided to keep track of how many I picked off. Including the 3 or 4 gray blister beetles I found too, I found 64 blister beetles and sent them to a watery, if sudsy clean, death.

I found that rather interesting - I harvested 64 tomatoes and 64 blister beetles. And I really tried hard to find more blister beetles!

Other insect counts on the tomatoes included 3 stink bugs (which went the way of the blister beetles) and 2 hornworms. I saw a wood nymph butterfly feeding on the overripe Black Krim tomatoes too.

Last comment: When I see (or rather, don't see) eaten tomato leaves, I can tell what the insect culprit is by the general location of the damage. If the leaves have been chewed near the base of the plant (and have little black frass packets that look like tiny mouse droppings), I know I'm looking for black blister beetles. If the leaves and stems are missing at the tips of branches, especially near the top of the plant, I'm looking for tomato hornworms. Their frass is dark green and almost 1/4" square.

For now, I've decided to let the hornworms live to turn into hummingbird moths. There aren't enough to be a problem fact, I'm enjoying the fact that the caterillars are basically "pinching out" the tips of the vines for me!

1 comment:

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