Gardening - Garden Musing for late summer

Kathy Henderson

Garden Columnist

It has been a great summer for tomatoes. Most everyone I have spoken with about the subject has had phenomenal success, if they applied water correctly and stayed home to look after their plants. One of the major problems with tomatoes and other garden products is our need for vacations. Over the years I have noticed that my vacations always came either when the garden needed the most care or when the plants were finally producing their fruit. Both times are crucial in the success of a vegetable garden. Improper watering, pest control and fertilization can result in a less than glorious success.

Bill Kincaid with his ‘Dolly Parton’ tomatoes. Special photo

This terrible drought did keep my garden from falling into the hands of disease until we started having those useless sprinkles. I know some of you have had some really nice showers, but many of us just had numerous drops of water for a few seconds. This provided just enough water and humidity to make disease rampant on stressed plants.

A problem we all had was the splitting of the tomato skin. The sun was very hot and the air so dry, that the ripening tomato skin became tight and dry. Then when water was applied, the fruit plumped up and since the skin could not expand, it would split. This does not hurt the quality of the tomato as long as it is picked and eaten as soon as possible. It does hurt the storage life of the fruit.

Another lesson learned by my friend, Bill Kincaid, is that bigger is not necessarily better. He came by one day to show me his very large ‘Dolly Parton’ tomatoes. They were as amazing as their name. This is a very meaty tomato (my favorite kind), but as we both discovered, the flavor just was not there. The slices would cover a slice of bread, but I had rather have several slices of a smaller, more flavor-rich tomato variety. He had received the seed from a friend in Tennessee, but said he would probably not grow it again. He could save the seed because this is an open-pollinated heirloom from Tennessee. When a variety is open-pollinated, the seed will produce the same fruit. A hybrid may revert to one of its parents or to a cherry tomato.

A lesson that you might have learned - one that I have known for years - is that a yellow tomato can be very tasty. Just don’t look at it when you are eating. Yellow or gold makes one think that the flavor (red) is missing. Color does not have flavor! ‘Lemon Boy’ and ‘Carolina Gold’ are very productive and tasty. One that I grew this year, ‘Giallo de Summer’ is a yellow beefsteak introduction. It was highly productive and “pleasantly tasty” as the ads describe. I love ‘Snow White’ Cherry tomatoes - an heirloom that gives you loads of flavor.

Maybe you have favorites that I should try next year. Oh, don’t tell me ‘Better Boy’ or ‘Early Girl’. I have grown these for years. They are okay, but nothing great in flavor. Give me a ‘Brandywine’, ‘Black Krim’ or even a ‘Beefmaster’ any day!

Tomatoes are winding down; the collards, kale and broccoli are in the greenhouse sprouting new leaves and I am thinking about the “greens” of winter. Fall is my favorite planting season for the vegetable garden and my ornamental garden. Bring it on!

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