The Weekly Gardener 1

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The Veggie Patch

Yes, This Is a Fully Grown Purple Bell Pepper

Purple Bell Pepper

It is rare for the bell peppers to be so far ahead of everything else in the vegetable garden, so I decided to immortalize the moment. It seems to be a good year for peppers, even if on the second try. Here's my first veggie of the year.

Everything else is blooming, but far from bearing fruit yet. The purple beans are showing off their lovely blossoms, and lots of them, even though the plants haven't advanced more than half way up the supports. Quite frankly, it's getting hard to tell what is what anymore, the veggie border is a compact mass of overenthusiastic foliage. Again.

At least they're blooming.

Vegetables don't mind being grown in containers at all, as long as the containers are large enough, in fact the peppers in the picture are living in a large deep pot.

Given the state of the foliage and the size of the surrounding plants, I think the last thing the vegetable border needs is more fertilizer.

The hot peppers got swallowed whole by the surrounding ground cover and I'm doing my best to clear out enough space around them so I can at least tell where they are. I can't find the marigolds anymore, they'll probably emerge from the foliage later this summer.

Tonight it rained again.

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Green Tomato

Green Tomato

The temperatures heated up, the tomatoes started performing. Tomato plants don't mind hot weather and will keep their composure even when more heat sensitive vegetables wilt pitifully, but they will not set fruit if the temperatures are above 85 to 90 degrees during the day or 75 at night. Considering the climate we live in, that's most of the summer. It also explains why the extra leafy vines suddenly decide to become fruitful mid-September, when their fruit doesn't really have enough time left to ripen.

The reason for this is that at higher temperatures the pollen becomes non-viable, or too dry to stick to the pistil.

How to remedy the situation? Unless you are growing tomatoes in a temperature controlled greenhouse there is not much you can do about it, other than root for accommodating weather.

Here are a few varieties that perform better than average in hot weather, but if temperatures are consistently above ninety degrees they will not set fruit either: SuperSweet100, grape tomatoes, Florida 91, Sunmaster, Heat Wave, Sunbeam, well, you get the idea, if heat or sun is part of the name, they're it.

Temperatures behaved themselves so far, and therefore there are tiny green tomatoes to show. Naturally I mislabeled the varieties, and planted Brandywine, which needs more room, in the tighter spot. It hasn't bloomed yet, but developed spectacular foliage.

If the soil is too rich or has too much nitrogen the plants will grow leafy to the detriment of setting fruit. Tomatoes like soils with a pH between 5.5 and 7 and need about three gallons of water per plant per week to be at their best, but avoid overdoing it during the harvest season to prevent the fruit from becoming watery.

If you have the room, tomatoes will be quite happy to sprawl on the ground, but they yield more trained on vertical supports. Pruning will encourage larger fruit, though not necessarily more of it. Remove all the suckers (the small shoots that develop at the nodes between the stem and a main branch. Keep the number of main branches around four. When the tomato reaches the desired height, pinch the top to stop it from growing, otherwise the indeterminate varieties will grow indefinitely. The determinate varieties hardly require pruning.

Grow marigolds around tomato plants to keep pest insects at bay and basil to improve the flavor of their fruit.