Waiting for Red Tomatoes

The “waiting” season of gardening has begun.  It seemed that back in May and June I spent every spare minute outside in the garden planting, mulching, weeding, and admiring my handiwork, but now that the heat and humidity of July have arrived I think its time for the garden to start supplying me with the fruits (and vegetables!) of my labor.  I am getting especially impatient for my dozens of green tomatoes to ripen so that I can harvest them.  Every day I check my tomato plants and although most of the tiny fruits are still a lovely two-tone green color, a few are actually starting to turn red!

I have four “planned” tomato plants in my garden (two hanging upside-down in buckets and two in containers) and, much to my surprise, I also have 5-6 unplanned “volunteer” tomato plants that magically sprouted around our back patio.  I guess that the mystery tomatoes must have sprouted from my partially cooked compost because they’re showing up between my basil and pepper plants as well as a new bed that Matt and I dug near our grill.

When I found the first plant (and second, and third… before the novelty wore off) I carefully transplanted them into containers filled with half compost and half soil-free mix.  They have been thriving and I think it will soon be time to move them to larger containers.

My hanging tomatoes have been growing rapidly and seem to be unfazed by their upside-down orientation.  They are potted in large 5 gallon buckets with soil-free mix and compost with thyme and parsley growing on top.  (You can read more about how we planted them here.)  The plant on the left is a cherry tomato plant and it is full of clusters of perfect little green tomatoes.  The plant on the right is a plum tomato plant and has a few larger green tomatoes growing on its vines.

My two cherry tomato plants in containers are not doing quite as well as the hanging plants.  This is probably because their containers are fairly small (3 gallons or so) and I left these plants out in direct afternoon sun during a heat wave while we were out of town last weekend.  When we got home the plants were shriveled and wilted but after a thorough watering they have perked up and are looking OK.  Both plants have dozens of green tomatoes and a few have started to turn red!

If even half of the green tomatoes on my plants turn red, it looks like we will be overwhelmed with fresh tomatoes in another few weeks, yum!  I frequently eat tomatoes with basil (caprese salad, TBM pizza, homemade spaghetti sauce, etc.) so it’s a good thing that we also have an overabundance of beautiful dark green basil plants in our garden.  I’ve already made several batches of pesto and I love being able to walk outside and pick fresh leaves whenever I want them.

The unplanned tomatoes aren’t the only surprise plants in our garden this year.  We also have a small pumpkin patch that sprouted from leftover Halloween pumpkins and, much to our surprise, we discovered several giant squash plants growing outside our front door!  Back in February we started cosmos, painted daisies, and zinnias from seed indoors and then we transplanted them (along with a generous helping of not-quite-ready compost that must have contained squash seeds) into two new beds by our front door.  The flowers grew vigorously in June and a few weeks ago we noticed that one of the “flowers” had enormous prickly leaves.  Well, last week we noticed beautiful yellow blossoms on the large-leaved plants and at that point realized that the “flower” plants were in fact squash plants.  How exciting!

I think we’re on track to have a great harvest this year.  So far we’ve picked at least forty green beans and have plenty of fresh basil, thyme, parsley, mint, and marjoram at our disposal.  Now we just have to wait for our tomatoes to turn red!

June Is Bustin’ Out All Over – Garden Update!

My vegetables and herbs are growing like crazy!  We’ve had streaks of unusually hot weather (80-90°) punctuated by periods of relatively cooler weather (60-70°) here in Southeastern PA and it appears that my plants enjoy this every-changing variety of temperatures.  All of them have at least doubled in size in the last few weeks and several are already flowering or growing vegetables.

As of today the following plants are growing in my garden:

  • Jalapeño Pepper (planted in Spring 2011 and moved to a container for winter; several peppers ripening)
  • Garlic (planted last fall; scapes appearing)
  • Spinach (March; harvested)
  • Beans (March; transplanted and currently growing “real” green beans!)
  • Chives (April; in mixed container)
  • Marjoram (April; in mixed container)
  • Mint (April; 2 varieties in container)
  • Cherry Tomatoes (May; 2 staked in containers and flowering)
  • Tomatoes (May; 2 varieties in upside-down hanging containers and flowering)
  • Parsley (May; planted in one hanging tomato container)
  • Thyme (May; planted in the other hanging tomato container)
  • Strawberries (May; currently growing multiple unripe strawberries)
  • Serrano Pepper (May; in container and flowering)
  • Bush Belle Peppers (May; 2 varieties – one is already growing multiple green peppers)
  • Jalapeño Pepper (May)
  • Basil (9 plants) (May)
  • Pumpkins (“spontaneous” pumpkin patch from last Halloween’s pumpkins!)

With the exception of our whitefly infestation, we’ve had a pleasant, easy time with our garden so far.  We mulched all of our plants with either shredded leaves or mostly-composted leaves from our spin bin and we have lots of little fences in place that have successfully kept Bailey away from the plants.  I’m just starting to be able to use my thyme, parsley, and basil for cooking and soon we will have strawberries, jalapeño peppers, and green beans to eat!

Here are a few pictures of my garden:

Last year’s jalapeño plant that I saved over the winter has a handful of peppers growing on it.

What a difference 3 weeks makes! Hanging tomato plants with thyme and parsley from 5/13 and 6/4.

Green beans are finally growing on my “St. Patrick’s Day” bean plants!

This spider guards my garlic plants – I think he probably set up shop here to catch a few whiteflies.

This is my latest discovery in the garden and one of my most exciting so far… a tiny pumpkin patch!! We left a few pumpkins here after Halloween last fall because they were too heavy for the spin bin composter and Voila! We have pumpkin plants! I contemplated moving the rocks back but then realized that the plants were actually rooted in/around the rocks so I just put a little compost over top and we’ll see what happens…

This day lily is potted in the same container with my chives, marjoram, and marigolds. True it its name, we’ve had at least one new bloom every day for several weeks now.

Yup, that’s a strawberry!! Looks like I’ll be eating it soon…

Matt’s mom gave us several garlic cloves last Fall and we had our first “scape sighting” this morning.  Woohoo! We’ll cut them off soon and think of something yummy to make with them.

We grew this zinnia plant from seed! I jumped the gun back in February and started lots of seeds indoors (waaaay too early in the season but hey, I’m learning!) and after a few weeks of struggling outdoors in April nearly all of the zinnia, cosmos, gallardia, and painted daisy plants that we grew are starting to bud. This plant was the first to flower.

Last but not least, our potted Oleander plant is flowering again! We bought it last year in late June when it was in full flower so it’s nice to see that it made it through the winter and is flowering once again. I love the big, white flowers.

How is your garden doing at the start of June?  Please share!  🙂

Related posts:
Vegetable Gardening Season has Arrived! 5.7.12
Gardening Update – One Month Later 4.17.12
Gardening… On St. Patrick’s Day! 3.17.12