Garden Update And Okra Leaf Removal (VIDEOS)

Okra ‘Jing Orange’ on Sunday, August 16, 2020.

Hello everyone! I hope this post finds you all well and you enjoyed your weekend. I have been wanting to do a few videos because I seem to get behind writing posts. I take a lot of photos and then don’t have time to write the post. This morning I took quite a few photos then I needed to finish mowing the yard. After that, I needed to work on the Okra and plant the second row of snap peas where the fava beans were earlier.

Okra ‘Jing Orange’ after pruning a few leaves.

I have planted several varieties of Okra since 2009 but this year I planted ‘Jing Orange’. I like experimenting and there are probably several hundred varieties of Okra. When I lived in Mississippi Okra was popular so I had no problems giving it away to friends and neighbors. Here it isn’t as popular so I freeze a lot of it. I like it steamed and fried but you can use it in a variety of recipes.

When I lived in Mississippi I became acquainted with an older gentleman by the name of Mr. Step. I forgot his first name… Anyway, I went to visit him one day in his HUGE garden and he was in his Okra patch with his pocket knife whacking off the leaves. He said, “You have to chop off the leaves to get “R” to em.” What he meant was they need good air circulation to produce well so you have to remove the big leaves. So, I have been doing that each year and they have done very well. Probably better than I needed.

I made a few videos about the okra, tomatoes, and watermelons but you can’t just upload to WordPress. SOOOOOO, so I created another YouTube channel. GEEZ!!! Of course, it is called The Belmont Rooster. 🙂 I actually need something a little different because it takes a VERY LONG TIME to upload a good-sized video. I just took the videos with my camera but I may need a video camera.

 

 

The first one is longer and it took HOURS to upload. I am pretty new to doing videos but we’ll see where this leads… There is some way you make the size of the videos smaller. Hmmm… That’s not quite what I want to say. You go to some settings and change the size somehow, kind of like when you change the size of photos so they will upload faster. I’ll figure it out somehow. 🙂

Well, I better close for now and think about going to bed…

Until next time, be safe and stay positive. I hope you have a great and blessed week. Get dirty if you can and take a big breath of fresh air.

Watermelon Wisdom (Just Kidding)

The watermelon patch on 7-20-20.

Hello everyone! I hope this post finds you all well. The past few weeks have been very busy and I finally finished picking the sweet corn a few days ago. I only had time to pick a 5-gallon bucket or so almost every night. I started this post on July 15 and just now had time to finish it. Sometimes time flies by and sometimes it just seems to drag. When it comes to watermelons the anticipation will drive you completely insane. I have taken 48 photos of the watermelons since June 7 which kept getting out of date for a post.

SO, today is the day I finish… Hmmm… I think I said that to myself several days in a row starting with last Sunday.

Gardening has its ups and downs and this year has been no exception between standing the sweet corn back up several times and the armyworms on the tomatoes. As always you deal with these problems and move forward. You learn that once you have picked the sweet corn you don’t have to worry about the wind anymore. You learn that the armyworm problem only lasts so long then their time has passed. The kale, well, it to had its pests and I think there were more than just what I knew about. The snap peas turned out to be snow peas which was a disappointment. I did get more and I planted about half of the seeds on August 1. The lady from the garden center assured me that the ones she planted turned out fine so I took her word for it (just like I expected snap peas in the first place). The tomatoes have done great and I had plenty to eat and give away. The sweet corn fooled me despite several issues and I was surprised to add 380 ears to the freezer. More than ever before and without help shucking it. It will last until the next harvest if I can stop eating 2-3 every night for dinner.

THEN, THERE ARE THE WATERMELONS just taking their sweet time enjoying life at a snails pace as if nothing else is going on in the world around them… 

Before I get too deep into this post I think I better be completely honest with you. Although my grandpa was one of the local watermelon kings in this area until his death at 83 in 1981, this is the first year for me. I did plant a few seeds in an area behind the chicken house in 2017 but that doesn’t count. I planted them in an open area and the deer or something ate some of the plants and they just fizzled out. During my childhood, I was around a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables that my grandparents and parents grew. Eating juicy, sweet, ripe watermelon with my grandpa was always a special treat. He got a lot of joy taking his vegetables to the Missouri State Fair and Calhoun Colt Show and won a lot of blue ribbons. Watermelons were one of his specialties and he saved seed from the best of many varieties every year. One year someone gave him seeds from a yellow-fleshed watermelon which he grew the following year. He didn’t like the flavor so he didn’t save any of their seed. The next year he wasn’t too happy to find out they had crossed with some of his prize melons and he still had several with yellow flesh…

Every year I get some pretty good watermelons but sometimes they are just so-so. I have always longed to relive those days as a kid with a mouth-watering, juicy, sweet watermelon. I mean, one that is just so AMAZING and dripping with juice, so sweet and flavorful you will remember it for a lifetime. So, I decided I was going to plant watermelons in 2020…

My grandpa planted several varieties every year. I remember Kleckley’s Sweet, Crimson Sweet, Charleston Gray, Black Diamond, Dixie Queen, some variety of Rattlesnake, and probably others I can’t remember. One of our favorites was always Black Diamond. Finding a Black Diamond these days is like pulling hen’s teeth so I decided that is what I would plant… Black Diamond…

WHEN TO PLANT WATERMELONS?

Watermelon ‘Black Diamond’ on June 7.

Some of the old-timers used to say to plant watermelons on the first day of May in your shirttail. Hmmm… What does “in your shirttail” mean anyway? I guess it means to get out of bed bright and early on May 1 and plant watermelons before you even have your first cup of coffee. You haven’t slept all night because you are thinking about getting up early to plant the watermelons. You get up, put your pants and shirt on, put on your boots, and go outside without tucking in your shirt. You may even go out in your boxer shorts but you have to put on a shirt or you aren’t following the rules.

Some of the “rules” say to plant 5 seeds per hill and thin to three plants after they come up, but you know how I don’t like to thin. I planted five seeds in five hills and if they all came up they were allowed to remain. There are a lot of ideas about planting melons and one site said to make hills five feet in diameter. Hmmm… Many people just plant them in rows “so many” feet apart and don’t bother with hilling. You can even buy plants from garden centers (and online) and transplant them. I opted to buy 25 seeds from a seller on Etsy and I planted them all. Ummm, most of them came up.

 

Watermelon ‘Black Diamond’ on 6-20-20.

COMPROMISING WITH BLACK DIAMOND FOR SPACE…

I knew from the start there may be an issue with space because Black Diamond is not a space-saving watermelon. One thing I want you to remember, so you can remind me later in the comments, is that Black Diamond watermelons take around 90 days (3 months) to ripen (after germination). They can grow to 50 pounds or more in optimum conditions and 75-80 pounds is not uncommon… I will talk about this more later on.

My garden, or the garden, is roughly around 3,000-3,500 square feet. I am not sure exactly. Anyway, there is roughly 55′ from one end of the rows to the other and I would say dad made the garden fairly square. That doesn’t count the distance around the rows to motivate the tiller and walk. In the beginning, I planned on four double rows of sweet corn divided in half for ‘Incredible’ and half ‘Peaches and Cream’. The row of tomatoes goes on the other side. I needed space for the row of kale and snap peas (which turned out to be snow peas). Then I had the ‘Jing Orange’ Okra to plant. I found the old ‘Broad Windsor’ Fava Beans which shared the row with the okra. SO, from the sweet corn to the row of fava beans and okra left roughly 16 feet for the watermelon vines to spread. SO, made five hills down the center of that 16′, allowing 10′ feet on each end plus walking space…

Then, a friend had issues with rabbits and deer eating his green beans, so I volunteered to pant a row of green beans. That left about 12′ for the watermelons… At first that seemed OK because the watermelons grew very slowly. Then, as the weather became warmer, they took off. I begin to wonder about my sanity. I figured when the watermelon vines got close to the other rows I could just turn them or MAYBE cut the vines and I could keep them from sprawling over the entire garden. Then I got to wondering about pruning…

What a cutie!

 

A side branch on 7-26-20.

HMMM… PRUNING WATERMELON VINES… 

I always remembered my grandpa telling me not to step on the watermelon vines because it would kill them. But I wondered… Could I prune them like tomatoes? So, I got online and read a little about it and watched several videos on YouTube. Normally, apparently, you start out pruning watermelons from the beginning, leaving a single vine and cut off all the side branches. Once one of the flowers on the vine produces fruit, you cut off the vine so it won’t grow past that point. That puts all the plant’s energy into producing that single watermelon. You can leave two if there is another one by the time you get around to it. Hmmm… OK, so I screwed up in the beginning by not watching the videos in the first place.

Pruning 1-2″ past the watermelon.

SO NOW WHAT?

By the time I started pruning my watermelon vines they had almost reached the rows on both sides. LUCKILY, the main vines had just started flowering when I began pruning and I could get somewhat inside the patch to remove the side branches. Now, you have to realize only 1 out of 7 flowers will be female and produce a melon. This kind of complicates things and I started looking at the flowers to see if there was a difference between male and female flowers.

Watermelon ‘Black Diamond’ flower…

They all looked the same to me, unlike zucchini, where you can tell fairly soon which is which. I was pruning watermelon vines every night as long as I could. It worked very well, actually, and it seemed like I was able to train the main vines not to go into the rows of beans and okra. Once the side branches started flowering I had to hurry to get them cut off so I wouldn’t see a melon. There were already several melons on many of the main vines but it also seemed like there were A LOT with no melons at all. I thought maybe I should remove all the vines with no melons but by that time that would have been ridiculous…

Vines produce side branches which produce side branches which produce side branches… Well, that could be a bit of an exaggeration but who really knows. Once the highway system of branches gets out of control you can’t dive in and start snipping.

As time went by, I could tell the newer side branches were flowering much sooner than the older vines started. That made it harder because if I saw a melon on a side branch I could not remove the whole thing. I just cut it off after the melon… Despie knowing those little melons may not make it to get ripe because of the “F” date sometime in October. This is a learning experience and it allows me to know just how long it takes to make a watermelon…

 

Watermelon vines growing up to he green beans on July 26, 2020.

After a week or so of pruning, I could no longer get inside the patch. The vines were growing so thick and there were even side branches sticking up everywhere in the center of the patch. I started concentrating on the perimeter of the patch and forgot about the middle. When I wanted to cut a vine, I would kind of pull it up to see where it was coming from and cut it off as far up as I could. Sometimes I was able to step inside the patch a little to get even farther.

The next thing I knew I had the issue with the armyworms on the tomatoes. That took time away from the watermelons for a few days until I got them under control. THEN, I started having to pick corn every evening. The watermelon vines started getting out of line BUT, the watermelons were getting bigger…

Baby frog…

As I work in the watermelons I see baby frog and toads. The leaves provide a lot of shade and even though it hadn’t rained for a while the soil under the leaves was still fairly damp. It was strange having worms on the tomatoes, kale having their pests, Asparagus Beetles on the asparagus, Corn Earworms and other bugs on the sweet corn but no critter issues with the watermelon vines…

SO, HOW DO YOU TELL WHEN A BLACK DIAMOND IS READY TO PICK?

WELL, it is kind of like this… They say patience is a virtue but sometimes it is a pain in the neck. Over the years I have heard many ways to tell when a watermelon is ripe. Some people thump on it and listen for a certain sound. I read once you can use a straw placed a certain way on the melon and if it rotates lengthwise (I think) it is ripe. Some say the belly has to be white or yellow. The advice I am getting online now is that the tendril opposite the stem the melon is fastened to has to be completely brown. At that point, the melon is supposedly as ripe as it will ever get.

Dried tendril on a ‘Black Diamond’ Watermelon on July 26… About 56 days after emergence and at least 34 days to maturity…

But, for Black Diamonds, it isn’t quite so easy…

1) TENDRIL TEST: The tendril being COMPLETELY BROWN may only indicate it is beginning to ripen.

 

The belly is supposed to be white or yellow…

2) BELLY COLOR: Yes, the belly has to be yellow or white. If not, it isn’t ready. This melon weighed probably around 25 pounds.

 

The scratch test…

3) THE SCRATCH TEST:  Watermelon rinds get harder as the melons mature. If you can scratch the surface easily, it isn’t ready.

ONE OF LIFE’S EMBARASSING MOMENTS…

WELL, I suppose everyone has a few of “those moments” when the waiting for something is over. Not that it should be over, but we get too anxious and we just can’t wait any longer. Watching those watermelons getting bigger and checking their tendrils, their bellies, and doing the scratch thing is exhausting for the mind. I had completely ignored the fact that they were planted around the last part of May…

Hmmm… On July 31…

I debated and debated. Waking up in the middle of the night thinking about that watermelon… The big one that isn’t ready and the other one whose tendrils are dried and has a white belly. So, on July 31, curiosity, anxiety, wanting a ripe melon got the best of me…

Scratch test… PASSED!

I did the scratch test and it passed. OK, so not really. I had trimmed my fingernails the night before and I didn’t scratch it all that hard because I really wanted it to pass the test. Out of camera view, I scratched it harder and it didn’t pass. Hmmm… What good is hiding the truth if you are going to admit to a lie?

 

Belly test… PASSED!

Before I cut the stem I checked the belly. If the belly was still been green I would have left it alone…

I took it to the house and washed it off. Then I looked for my scale. You know, I couldn’t find it anywhere. GEEZ! I messaged a friend and asked if she had a scale I could borrow. She asked what i needed I for and I told her it was a secret. She said I could borrow it so I went to get it and gave her some tomatoes… It weighed 23 pounds…

 

NOT FUNNY!!!

Well, I suppose I completely lost my senses. I completely forgot about the most important rule…

4) DAYS TO MATURITY…

This one is the hardest to remember but probably the most important… Instead of #4, it should be #1 (maybe it is #1, but im my mind it wasn’t). Even if your melon passes everything else but hasn’t gotten to the right number of days, you may very well be disappointed if you cut it open. There is a fifth rule but I forgot what it was. 🙂 Try to remember when your watermelons started coming up and count from there if you planted the seed in the ground. If you are transplanting them, you start from that date instead of when they started coming up. So, for me, My watermelons should start ripening around the first of September…

OH YEAH! #5… HARDNESS OR ROUGHNESS…

One of the biggest on August 4…

This watermelon weighs AT LEAST 40 pounds, or at least I think so. It was so big I had to move it around because the vines were beginning to cut into it. I moved it sideways to give it more room… Here it is on August 4 with September 1 being 90 days to maturity. I didn’t look at its belly but I put my hand under it to check the firmness. As you can see on the left of the photo, the tendril is NOT brown… The skin is getting rougher. Once I pick the first ripe melon successfully, I will have a better idea when the rest will be ripe. Practice makes perfect and PATIENCE is a virtue… HMMM…

There are MANY watermelons in the patch, one even larger than the one in the above photo. It’s hard to tell because Black Diamonds are noted for producing LOTS of big leaves and I can’t see what is in the middle of the patch. Sometimes I get a glimpse of one I hadn’t noticed before through the leaves.

Watermelon patch on August 4, 2020.

The patch looks pretty good in my opinion. It seems well mannered and I really didn’t have that much trouble getting the vines to stay confined to the area I needed them to be in. If I had have let them ramble, they would probably just about filled the garden by now.

I can hardly believe I finished this post… Now maybe I will do one about the sweet corn. Maybe I will just read your posts for a while…

Right now I am fighting a cold or something. Last week was strangely cool and I have been traveling on a lot of dusty back roads and talking with quite a few different people. Last Thursday my sinus started plugging up and I started feeling a cold coming on. I amped up the Vitamin C and Elderberry and also started taking Alka-Seltzer Plus. It hasn’t really helped that much… No headaches, no fever or anything just sinus congestion. I hate using the nasal spray but I have to breathe somehow.

Until next time, be safe and stay positive. Stay well and be thankful of your blessings.

Tomato Update and Worm Warfare!

The garden on 7-15-20.

Hello everyone! I hope this post finds you well. Well, it is mid-July and the normal summer excitement and issues are upon us. Rain is hit and miss and sometimes we get a little but mostly the clouds just blow over. The grass has slowed down and I was debating on mowing or not. I always keep the mower deck at 4″ and then when it is hot and dry sometimes I don’t mow it at all.

But, a few days ago a friend needed me to change the blades on her zero-turn mower so I did. I had her mow a little in the back yard behind the house and it did a great job. I told her I was going to mow on Wednesday because I didn’t have money for gas at the time. Then I decided maybe I wouldn’t mow because it really wasn’t that tall and wasn’t growing becauee of no rain. Tuesday morning, when I was still in bed sleeping, I heard a mower go by my bedroom window… I may have heard a mower earlier but thought it was the neighbors. She had come and mowed the entire yard (around 3 acres) before I even knew it. I am very thankful she did that. Even though she had it set at 4″ because I told her before that’s the height I cut it at, it still seemed very short. I am not complaining, though. Even though I installed new Gator blades on my mower, her 54″ zero turn did a tremendous job.

First, let me introduce the tomatoes then I will get on with the worms and other issues… ‘Rutgers’, ‘Goliath’, ‘Mortgage Lifter’ and ‘Cherokee Purple’. I will introduce them the way they are planted…

The BELMONT ROOSTER TOMATO TEST SCORE:

I rate tomato taste on a score of 1-10, 10 being the best. Of course, tomatoes from the grocery store and what you get on your hamburgers from fast food are 1-5. I worked at Sonic for a while and sometimes I would rate them a negative number. Almost makes me not want a tomato on my hamburger from any fast-food chain or any restaurant for that matter. The tomatoes I picked up from a grower last summer were really good. He sells them in large quantities to someone but he gave me and a good friend of mine what he couldn’t sell for some reason. I would easily rate them 8-9… I don’t consider what the tomato looks like when rating taste…

Tomato ‘Rutgers’

Tomato ‘Rutgers’ on 7-15-20.

‘Rutgers’ was one of the tomato varieties by dad grew when I was a kid along with ‘Super Sioux’. I remember those days of luscious, juicy, mouth-watering tomatoes, and every year it seems I try to relive those days. The first three plants in the row of 16 are the ‘Rutger’s. There were only three plants in the 4-pack… The plants have done very well, but are naturally somewhat smaller than most because they are determinate. I accidentally knocked one of the smaller fruit off

 

Tomato ‘Rutgers’ on 7-15-20.

‘Rutger’s was developed in 1934 by Rutger University’s New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station and the Campbell Soup Company’s research facility. It was the most popular variety in the world for many years. During its popular era, ‘Rutgers’ made up more than 60% of commercial tomato sales. Hunt’s and Heinz favored ‘Rutgers’ as well.

Sales plummeted in the 1960’s because the thin skin was not suitable for automated picking. Farmers needed tomatoes with thicker skin that would store longer and travel farther with less spoilage.

 

Tomato ‘Rutgers’ on 7-15-20.

‘Rutgers’ is a determinate type of a plant which means they usually have a large initial harvest with a few tomatoes during the rest of the season. Plants grow 4-5′ feet tall.

 

Tomato ‘Rutgers’ on 7-15-20.

Even though they are considered a “beefsteak” type, fruit only averages 7 oz. or so. I have eaten a few of these already and, while they have been pretty good, I was disappointed because they didn’t have that ‘OH MY GOODNESS! HOLY S–T” taste I was hoping for with the first tomato of the season. So, at this moment, I would have to rate the tase as a 7.

<<<<+>>>>

Tomato ‘Goliath’

Tomato ‘Goliath’ on 7-15-20.

The next four plants in the row are ‘Goliath’. I have grown these for several years and I like them for several reasons. The plants are very hardy and sturdy which they have to be for the abundance of large fruit they produce. ‘Goliath’ isn’t a new variety by no means as the original heirloom variety was introduced in the 1800’s. The indeterminate plants can grow 6-8′ tall and, in optimal conditions, can produce around 70 tomatoes per plant averaging 10-16 oz. and as much as 3 pounds.

 

Tomato ‘Goliath’ on 7-15-20.

Also, depending on which ‘Goliath’ you grow and the conditions, you can expect ripe fruit anywhere from 65-85 days.

 

Tomato ‘Goliath’ on 7-15-20.

Sometimes you begin to wonder if those HUGE tomatoes will ever start to ripen. But when they finally do, you will see they were worth the wait. I have had any this year yet, but if I remember correctly they are AWESOME!

 

Tomato ‘Goliath’ on 7-15-20.

The plants are very strong and have very long leaves that provide good leaf cover. I haven’t eaten any of these yet this year because none have ripened. Once I try one I will give it my score.

<<<<+>>>>

Tomato ‘Mortgage Lifter’

Tomato ‘Mortgage Lifter’ on 7-15-20.

Now for the ‘Mortgage Lifter’… I grew this variety when I was in Mississippi in 2009 and it seems like I grew them after that but there are no photos. So, maybe not. I have grown A LOT of different tomatoes mainly because there are so many to try. There are five of these because there was one extra in the 4-pack.

Although ‘Mortgage Lifter’ is said to have been developed by William Estler in 1922, he didn’t register the name until 1932. Some information suggests ‘Mortgage Lifter’ was developed by M.C. “Radiator Charlie” Byles, but he developed ‘Radiator Charlie’ and ‘Radiator Charlie’s Mortgage Lifter’. Not only that, there were several other cultivars with the name ‘Mortgage Lifter’ during the depression era but Estler’s and Byles’ cultivars were the most popular. Of course, the story goes that Radiator Charlie sold plants for $1 each in the 1940’s and was able to pay off his $6,000 mortgage in six years… 

 

Tomato ‘Mortgage Lifter’ on 7-15-20.

‘Mortgage Lifter’ is an heirloom that produces HUGE fruit up to 2 1/2 pounds or more. Fruit is produced on indeterminate plants that grow very tall, up to 9’. Tomatoes begin to ripen in 80-85 days and produce until “F”. 

 

Tomato ‘Mortgage Lifter’ on 7-15-20.

Hmmm… The plants are great as far as leaf cover goes but they aren’t as strong as ‘Goliath’.

 

Tomato ‘Mortgage Lifter’ on 7-15-20.

The biggest problem I am having with ‘Mortgage Lifter’ is the weight of these HUGE clusters of HUGE tomatoes. Even though the branches are well supported, the stems with the tomatoes are not supported and some have bent and even split…

 

Tomato ‘Mortgage Lifter’…

I ate one a few days ago that wasn’t quite at its peak flavor. Then I had another one that was a bid oddly shaped so I had to slice it weird. The flavor? What is the score? I would have to give this one a 9. Being a pink tomato, the flavor isn’t quite so robust so you don’t get that “AHHH, UMMM, OH THAT IS SO GOOD!” It was close, though.

<<<<+>>>>

Tomato ‘Cherokee Purple’

Tomato ‘Cherokee Purple” on 7-15-20.

The last four plants in the row are the ‘Cherokee Purple’. It is considered one of the “black” fruited tomatoes that are supposed to have a distinctive flavor. ‘Black Krim’ was the of this type I tried in 2017 so I thought I would give this one a try. There is quite a story about the ‘Cherokee Purple’ which you can read by clicking HERE. Southern Exposure Seed Exchange was the first to offer this variety in 1993.

‘Cherokee Purple’ is an indeterminate plant that grows to only 4-6′ tall. They produce 10-12 oz. beefsteak fruit that is a deep, dusky rose with a greenish hue toward the stem with a dark red interior.

 

Tomato ‘Cherokee Purple” on 7-15-20.

Hmmm… I had noticed an issue with the fruit on the ‘Cherokee Purple’ but I thought they were just splitting very bad. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the only problem…

 

Tomato ‘Cherokee Purple” on 7-15-20.

The leaves are very long and provide very good leaf cover and the plants have sturdy stems. I have noticed some heirloom tomatoes can produce some weirdly odd-looking fruit

 

Tomato ‘Cherokee Purple” on 7-15-20.

There is a lot of good-sized clusters of tomatoes at the bottom of the plants but that seems to be the way they all are this year.

 

Tomato ‘Cherokee Purple’ getting ready for a taste test on 7-19-20…

This one isn’t that big, but it did ripen on the vine…

 

Tomato ‘Cherokee Purple’ on 7-18-20.

Well, the bottom has a lot of cracks but I wonder what the inside is like?

 

Inside of the Tomato ‘Cherokee Purple’…

Well, information says the inside is dark red with green gel in the seed cavities. So, what does it taste like? I put a piece in my mouth and had that pause. My eyes closed and I got that ‘OH WOW!!! THAT IS AWESOME!” So many words to use but none could quite describe it. A very distinctive flavor but I can’t quite find the right word or words to describe it. Some people say black tomatoes have a smoky flavor but I really couldn’t find the smokiness… Kind of like wine tasters who can come up with an elaborate description of how a wine tastes. I can’t find those flavors either… The score? 9.75!

<<<<+>>>>

TOMATO ISSUES…

Everything was fine and wonderful with the tomatoes and they were looking great UNTIL I saw two holes on one of the ‘Rutgers’ on July 9. For the most, the only pests I have ever had on tomatoes were hornworms eating the leaves and occasionally I would have whiteflies. I didn’t have whiteflies until 2017 when I apparently brought them home from the greenhouse on the tomato plants I bought. Anyway, after I saw those first two holes I started looking around for the culprit. I found nothing…

THEN, ON JULY 14…

Spodoptera sp. (Armyworm species) on July 14, 2020.

I had been checking the tomatoes daily, sometimes twice a day, for hornworms and whatever I could find because you never know… Up until July 14, I had seen nothing except for an occasional hole since July 9. THEN I found this HUGE worm on one of the tomatoes at 12:12 PM on July 14…

 

Spodoptera sp. on July 14.

Of course, as you can tell, I took photos to put on iNaturalist… I had never seen these before on my Tomatoes or anywhere else so I had to find out what it was.

 

Then I found this tomato with a big hole in it…

 

Spodoptera sp., two of them, on July 14.

Then I found two huge worms, side by side, that were different colors! WHAT THE HECK!!! (I think I may have used a different word originally).

 

Spodoptera sp. on July 14.

One of them is mostly black while the other is mostly gray!

 

More holes and poop!

 

Whitefliies on a tomato leaf on July 14.

Then there were whiteflies. Whiteflies really don’t cause an issue for me and they usually appear when it gets hot and dry and there isn’t much breeze. I made sure I have a Neem Oil concoction on hand in case they get carried away. A few days later, when we were supposed to have rain, the wind picked up and it sprinkled a little. The next day, the whiteflies were completely gone. Of course, they came back…

Back to the worms…

 

Hmmm… Tomato Cherokee Purple’ on July 14.

Apparently, this was not just a cracking issue…

 

GEEZ! It was like an overnight disaster. Guerilla warfare! Rather worm warfare! The come in and eat then hide…

I uploaded the photos of the worms I took on iNaturaist to get an ID. Suggestions were the Spodoptera genus, Spodoptera ornithogalli (Yellow Striped Armyworm), and Trichordestra legitima (Striped Garden Caterpiller). The moths of these caterpillars look the same, according to the photos, but I have not seen any in person. I messaged a “caterpillar experts” on iNaturalist so he could check out the photos I uploaded. I had the black one listed as Spodoptera ornithogalli and he commented saying,

“One of the armyworms but I’m not great at telling them apart. These can be physically moved away from plants if they are being destructive. =)”….

I listed the grayer one as Trichordestra legitima and he didn’t make a comment but suggested it also as a member of the Spodoptera genus…

WELL, DOUBLE GEEZ! Apparently, there are quite a few species of both genera and they are variable as far as color goes. They cause the same issues, which is quite obvious… Some information about one or the other mentions the moth lays eggs, a lot of them, and covers them with scales… Hmmm…

 

I have not seen much evidence of eggs but I did find this weird thing on the 15th… Apparently, it was a newly hatched worm and left this behind… So, why didn’t I notice this before it hatched when I was checking for worms before? Hmmm… Because it wasn’t there…

 

Darn things!!!

 

Hmmm… Then I noticed these, ummm, eggs (?) around the stem of a tomato. There is nothing online to suggest whodunit… The moths DO NOT lay eggs around tomato stems… Sometimes other critters, like ants, move eggs and aphids to parts or plants they want to feed on but aren’t capable unless they get something else to do the work… Then they feed off of their secretions or juice…

I only found a few of the hornworms on one occasion, when I didn’t have the camera, and haven’t noticed any since. After picking off the larger armyworms on two occasions I have only found small ones on the leaves so no additional damage has been caused. Sometimes I check and find no worms at all. SO, hopefully, I have them in check now. WHEW! 🙂

 

Tomato ‘Mortgage Lifter’ on 7-15-20.

With the ‘Mortgage Lifter’, many of the tomatoes appear to be so heavy the stem starts to pull away from the fruit. This is a good place for the small armyworms, or whatever they are, to start feeding on the tomatoes. When they are very small they can’t chew a hole very well…

 

Tomato ‘Mortgage Lifter’ vine dying on July 17…

I noticed this issue with the ‘Mortgage Lifter’… Half of the plant was dying because…

 

Tomato ‘Mortgage Lifter’ on 7-15-20…

The weight of the vine split where the two branches join. SOOOOO, I learned a lesson and I am correcting the problem. When I tied the string at the post and wrapped it around the vine,  I then tied the other end in the center between the posts. As the fruit grew and the vine became heavier, the top string was pulled down causing the branch to break. The solution is to tighten the string wrapped around the vine and move it closer to the post. OH, and don’t use balers twine around the stems… I have been replacing some of the twine with strips of material where I have noticed the twine cutting into the stems. That has only been a problem with a few plants. Some people keep only one main stem and just tie it to the post which also eliminates this issue. You can use cages BUT you would certainly have to use one that is very sturdy… My neighbor in Mississippi tied his tomatoes to cattle panels…

 

Tomato ‘Mortgage Lifter’ cluster bending the stem…

Besides that one branch splitting, several clusters of ‘Mortgage Lifter’ are so heavy the stems bearing the fruit are also bending. As long as the stems don’t break I think it will be OK.

 

GEEZ!

I attempted to support one of the clusters and the stem broke…

 

Tomato ‘Mortgage Lifter’ nearly touching the ground…

I know it sounds like I am picking on the ‘Mortgage Lifter’ but I am just pointing out some of the issues I am having with the tomatoes (besides the worms). The cluster in the above photo is close to the ground and is so heavy it is almost touching the mulch. If it weren’t for the hay, it would be sitting on the ground soon.

SOOOO, the issue with the ‘Mortgage Lifter’ is that the vines and stems are not strong enough to support the weight of the fruit.

<<<<+>>>>

FRIEND OF FOE?

Coleomegilla maculata (Spotted Lady Beetle) on 7-16-20.

With all the different bugs and worms lurking about in the garden it makes you wonder who are friends or enemies. There are quite a few Lady Bugs which are also called Lady Bird Beetles. Well, pretty much everyone I know calls them Lady Bugs but I suppose they are technically supposed to be called Lady Bird Beetles… ANYWAY, I saw this strange beetle on a tomato that wasn’t one of them or quite like any other I had seen before. Before I decided to smash it or not, I thought I better get a photo and identify it. Luckily, it turned out to be a friend called Coleomegilla maculata commonly known as the Spotted Lady Beetle. There are over 6,000 species in the Lady Beetle family Coccinellidae found throughout most of the world… 

 

Coelostathma discopunctana (Batman Moth) ?, 7-18-20.

I found this tiny moth while scouting for worms on a tomato leaf on July 18. I didn’t have the camera so I went back to the house to get it… I was very curious about this tiny moth and wondered what damage its caterpillars might do. Unfortunately, even though I kind of have it identified, there isn’t much online about it. In fact, the photos of this species on iNaturalist show moths of many colors that are likely members of other genera and species… There ere several other suggestions, as far as what it could be, with all the same issues. Many photos of varied colored moths that look like the same as the photos of other species. So, whether it is a Coelostathma discopunctana (Batman Moth) for sure I have no clue… I have to say perhaps the species is variable but you know how I dislike using that word… Species in the bug world are like the plant world. Many species have been named that are synonymous with other species…

 

Murgantia histrionica (Harlequin Bug) on 7-18-20.

Then I found this critter on a kale leaf that sort of posed but seemed a little hesitant to be photographed. It was like it was unsure if I would kill it or leave it alone. I told it I wouldn’t kill him unless I knew for sure if he was a friend or foe. With that, he became even more nervous… Sorry, the photos are somewhat blurry. I think the bug was shaking. 🙂

 

Murgantia histrionica (Harlequin Bug) on 7-18-20.

It seemed to think I was getting a bit nosy and refused to show me his mouth. He turned around and decided it was time to leave. After I went to the house and uploaded the photo I found out it was the dreaded Harlequin Bug (Murgantia histrionica). OK, so I have heard of that one and although I have seen them before I didn’t know what they were. Now that I do for sure… I also found out they especially like cabbage, kale, and other brassicas. Hmmm… So, along with the worms, there are these. In the past few days the kale has been ripped to shreds and now not even the new leaves can be eaten…

During the day so many critters are hiding from the heat and various predators like birds and wasps. They come out at night when it is cooler and they can feed in a little more peace… It is no telling what all lurks around in the dark of night in the garden. Hmmm… Maybe I should go out at 2 AM with the flash lght. Maybe then I will see who is eating what and whom…

<<<<+>>>>

NEXT UP…

Hopefully, the next post will be about the watermelons. I have been working on it off and on for a few weeks but I get busy with this and that and the post gets delayed. I did harvest some of the ‘Incredible’ sweet corn, which I didn’t photograph. I picked about 50 ears and a few were really nice and the others just so so. Even though the silk was brown and appared ready, some of the cobs weren’t as plump as they could have been… Maybe I was just anxious… Anyway, I will try and wait a little longer for the next picking even though the silk is brown enough. Maybe the ears will get a little more plump. I know you are supposed to peel back some of the cover leaves (or whatever you call them) to check the kernels and milk, which I did on few earlier. But, then the bugs get inside which eat the corn. So, better I just “feel” before picking without being overly anxious…

OH, one more thing… Maybe two.

The Okra ‘Jing Orange’ has been budding for over a week and the plants have really taken off. They like it hot!

 

While I was finishing up this post I could hear it thundering. I took this photo when I went out to get a current photo of the Okra buds. I decided I would take ore feed and water to the chickens and by the time I got to the house, it was raining. THANK GOODNESS!!!

Until nest time, be safe, stay positive and well, always be thankful, and GET DIRTY and SWEAT!

What Is Lurking On My Kale?

Kale on 7-10-2020.

Hello everyone! I hope this post finds you well. The garden is doing GREAT and I must say the tomatoes are the best I have ever grown. I think I say that every time I write or talk about them. I harvested my first ripe tomato on July 13, which was a Rutgers. It was very good. 🙂 I still like the new way I am pruning and hanging them up and I also think the mulch has made a big difference. BUT, this post is about the kale so I better stop rambling. I started this post on July 7 and have updated the draft 18 times…

Once you start seeing the Small Cabbage White Butterflies flying around your kale, you know you will start seeing their larvae soon. This year I noticed three newcomers to the table… I a sure they have been here in the past but I didn’t see any. Depending on what time of the day it is, you may or may not see them, but you will see where they have been…

I did learn a new word while I was writing this post… Crucifers… In botany, it refers to plants whose flowers have four petals. I would have thought the information would say the worms in this post prefer members of the Brassicaceae Family, instead, they say they prefer crucifers. Hmmm… Well, that may be true because brassicas are apparently crucifers. I just never saw that word used before but I don’t get out much… 🙂

 

Pieris rapae (Cabbage White Butterfly) larvae.

Pieris rapae (Cabbage White Butterfly)

Interestingly enough, most of the butterflies in the garden are Pieris rapae also known as the Cabbage White. It is called other names such as Small Cabbage White, Cabbage Butterfly, or White Butterfly. It is a member of the white and yellows family Pieridae which consists of about 76 genera and 1,100 species mainly from tropical Africa and Asia. This species is found all across Europe, Asia, and North Africa. It was “accidentally” introduced into Quebec, Canada in the 1860’s and has now spread across North America… 

 

Pieris rapae (Cabbage White Butterfly) larvae.

Most of the worms I find are just sitting there doing nothing but I found this one munching away…

 

Trichoplusia ni (Cabbage Looper Moth) larvae.

Trichoplusia ni (Cabbage Looper Moth)

I have seen this worm for many years and I always thought it was the larvae of the Cabbage White Butterfly. BUT, I have learned the error of my thinking. Do you see the way it arches its back? That means it is a lopper similar to inchworms (which are in a different family). Thanks to INaturalist, I found out these critters are the larvae of Trichoplusia ni, commonly known as the Cabbage Looper Moth. I have not seen any of the adults in the garden, but I have seen similar looking moths elsewhere. These caterpillars are called loopers because they don’t have the same amount of legs (or prolegs) as most other caterpillars. They only have 2-3 pairs on the hind end instead of the normal 5 pairs. When they crawl, they clasp with their front legs then draw up the hind end then clasp with the hind legs (prolegs). Then they reach out and grab with their front legs again. This gait is called looping because it arches it back into a loop when crawling.

I thought it was funny how they could be lying flat on the underside of a leaf until I started looking at it and taking photos. Then they would arch their back like they were trying to scare me off.

One very interesting thing about the adult is that they are migratory and are found across North America and Eurasia. According to information, over 160 plants can serve as hosts for this species but “crucifers” are preferred

 

Evergestis rimosalis (Cross-Striped Cabbageworm Moth).

Evergestis rimosalis (Cross-Striped Cabbageworm Moth)

This is the first year I have seen this critter but it doesn’t mean they haven’t always been around. Certain times of the day you may see no worms of any kind anywhere. This colorful member of the family Crambidae inhabits most of the eastern portion of the United States and can be found on all types of brassicas. The adult is a brownish moth and I have not seen any of them in the garden… I kind of think they do most of the damage to the kale which leads me to believe they have been here before and I just didn’t notice them. I always wondered how could so few very small cabbage worms do so much damage now I know… 

 

Cuerna costalis (Lateral-Lined Sharpshooter).

Cuerna costalis (Lateral-Lined Sharpshooter)

This strange little critter is a member of the leafhopper family Cicadellidae with 26 species in the genus and is a North American native. I have seen a few of these on the kale although it is not necessarily on their menu. Although kale is not on the list, turnips, another member of the Brassicaceae family, is. I did see more on the okra today but I can’t tell what they are doing. They are odd critters for sure… They normally produce two generations per year and adults overwinter in grass and other dead plant material. 

In numbers, leafhoppers can cause serious damage in a variety of ways. Several species of this genus are believed to be vectors of a few plant diseases. C. costalis is thought to be a vector of Pierce’s Disease Virus of grapes (in Georgia).

 

Conocephalus strictus (Straight-Lanced Meadow Katydid).

Conocephalus strictus (Straight-Lanced Meadow Katydid)

I always thought this critter was some kind of grasshopper, but when I uploaded the image on iNaturalist it said it was a Straight-Lanced Meadow Katydid (Conocephalus strictus). Information says this species normally feeds on grass but here it is on the kale… I couldn’t get a good photo because this guy, or gal, was a bit photo shy and was about ready to jump. I wonder if it made that hole?

I see a lot of BIG katydids here that I haven’t photographed to get a positive ID. I thought a katydid was a katydid but apparently not… There are several species found worldwide that look a lot alike. 

 

Pieris rapae (Cabbage White Butterfly).

When I work in the garden in the early evening the butterflies and worms seem to be hiding. I was working in the watermelons when I spotted this Cabbage White Butterfly flying around the kale. SO, I ran to where it was to get a photo. It landed under a kale leaf then flew around a bit more but went back to the same spot. It did this several times before it finally decided to stay put. I guess this is where it will spend the night…

 

Crioceris duodecimpunctata (Spotted Asparagus Beetle) larvae.

Crioceris duodecimpunctata (Spotted Asparagus Beetle)

I have been noticing these strange varmints on the Asparagus. One day I stopped briefly to look at one and it appeared almost slug-like. I was busy so I went on about my business and it was happy about that. I couldn’t see where it was doing any damage. Then later when I had the camera and magnifying glass I had a closer look. I touched it and then it did something strange… It pooped. I took the best photo I could, but these guys are VERY SMALL. I uploaded the photo on iNaturalist and it suggested Crioceris duodecimpunctata commonly known as the Spotted Asparagus Beetle. I have no idea how to pronounce the scientific name because Dave’s Garden didn’t have a pronunciation for it. Maybe cry-OH-ser-is DOO-dec-im punct-ata. 🙂 I think I will call it Cryogenus dudepooper. I didn’t see any adults on the Asparagus, but Sunday afternoon I was walking in the yard and this small reddish-orange beetle with black spots landed on my hand. It said, “Are you looking for me?” I told him I wasn’t at the moment because I didn’t have the camera. I asked him if he was lost then he flew off. It was a male because the females are a different color.

According to what I read, the larvae of the Spotted Asparagus Beetle only feeds on the berries. Well, they are going to get hungry because there are no berries on the asparagus at the moment… A few plants are just now beginning to flower… Apparently, most are males that were too small to harvest. I have been getting a few nice spears all summer…

 

Jade wanted outside but I was a little reluctant to just let her out of the house when I was going to be in the garden. Jade is my son’s cat and he left her behind (and his tomcat) when he and Chris moved out. Jade has no claws so she stays in the house. So, since she wanted out, I carried her all the way to the garden (second time). She had loads of fun exploring and never ventured out of the garden. She seemed to like chasing the Cabbage White Butterflies so they couldn’t land…

I have some catching up to do. I seem to take photos every day but do nothing with them. I have to post about the watermelons and how and why I prune them. Then, today, which is not today by the time I get this post published, I found the tomatoes are under attack by THREE preditors… I noticed a few plants with whiteflies a couple of days ago which need to be sprayed with the neem oil. I hadn’t noticed any hornworms or any damage from them and I check pretty much every day.  I did notice a few tomatoes with small holes but I couldn’t find the culprit. THEN, this afternoon (Tuesday) I found a worm I had not seen before. Next thing I knew, I found several. Some were quite large and they were boring holes in the tomatoes and climbing inside… GEEZ! I did have my camera so I have photos. Then, a few hours later, I went back and found a few more as well as SEVERAL hornworms. That time I didn’t have the camera… What I want to know is how can there be no hornworms then they just suddenly appear? SO, I will be posting about the tomatoes as well.

SO, until next time, be safe and well, stay positive, be thankful, and GET DIRTY!

 

The Day After: A Miracle?

Sweet corn Thursday morning, July 2, 2020.

Hello everyone! I hope this post finds you well. I woke up Thursday morning and the sweet corn was standing up perfectly straight as if nothing had happened the night before… Was it a miracle? Did the garden elves stand it back up? Hmmm…

I finished this post late Thursday evening but I decided to save it as a draft until Friday morning after I checked it over again. At 12:30 Friday night (Saturday morning) I was wondering why no one had commented on this post. Then I thought, “DUH!” I forgot to click on publish when it was finished in the morning…

 

Sweet corn Wednesday morning, July 1, 2020.

For those of you who didn’t see it on the Wordless Wednesday post, the above photo is what I woke up to Wednesday morning. Sometime in the morning, maybe around 4-5 AM, I heard it thundering and then the wind picked up. Then it started pouring. The forecast had said 30% chance of rain, less than one-tenth of an inch with higher amounts possible during thunderstorms. When I heard the wind I thought, “the corn will blow over.” I hadn’ slept a wink hardly until it started raining but it put me to sleep. I got up, not telling when, made coffee, fed the cats, and checked the rain gauge. There was 2″. I didn’t look toward the garden because I really didn’t want to see it until I was more awake.

 

Sweet corn from the north side of the garden Wednesday morning, July 1, 2020.

I walked all around the garden and it wasn’t a very pretty sight. The row on this side had been hilled earlier but it looked like it hadn’t been hilled up at all. The row next to it had not been hilled yet.

 

Sweet corn on Wednesday, July 1, 2020.

The two rows closest to the fence had been hilled within the past week. Normally, it would have already been hilled up but some of the corn was still fairly small. Then we got a little rain a couple of times and it really shot up…

I commented to a few people in town about the corn blowing over and they said, of course, “It will stand back up.” OK, that may be true in some cases but not always. In the past, I have been very surprised that it has stood back up on its own but that was when it hadn’t blown over that much. It was more or less leaning a little but not severely blown over. I have grown corn enough over the years to know even if corn does stand back up it will not be perfectly straight like it was before it blew over. It will curve upward just like most other plants do and look weird… Who wants weird corn? I knew I needed to get in the there and straighten it back up before it started its curving, and trust me, it starts doing that sooner than you would expect. You can’t wait to see if it stands back up on its own for a few days… 

Garden soil flat as a pancake!

Apparently, it rained pretty hard because the beautifully tilled soil was now perfectly flat. Not a clod in sight. I had planted half a double row of green beans and planned on planting the other half on July 1. You might ask why I didn’t plant it all? Hmmm… I keep hearing my dad in my head about planting in the sign. I didn’t plant any of the garden in the sign as far as I know because I hadn’t checked an almanac or online. I did look before I planted the green beans and saw the next good day was July 1st. SO, I was planning on planting the other half in the sign to make a comparison… Well, I can’t very well plant the seed in the mud. I still have quite a few green beans in jars so I hadn’t planned on planting any. A friend had issues with rabbits and deer eating his so I told him I could plant a row in my garden… He happily agreed to that. I first planted old seed which started to expand then rotted… That was partly my fault, I think, but I am not going to talk about that. So, he bought new seed and I think every one has came up.

The watermelons, by the way, are ding great. I have pruned out a lot of the side branches but still have a lot to do. I have found a few tiny watermelons but mostly just a lot of flowers. Only one out of seven flowers will be female and bear fruit so you want to avoid trimming out any vines with flowers. Luckily, the side branches I removed had no flowers or very few. The vines get longer every day and it is amazing how fast they are growing. Not quite as fast as the sweet potatoes I grew a few years ago, though.

 

First furrow…

Some of the corn had blown over a couple of weeks earlier when we just had wind and no rain. I was able to get right in and stand it back up with no problem. This time, with 2″ of rain, I couldn’t just jump right in and do it. I also had other obligations in the afternoon so I waited until early evening to get started. By then the soil wasn’t quite as wet.

With so much corn blown over, I just started at the north end and piled dirt up next to the corn. When corn is short you can stand on one side of the row and use a hoe or something to pull the soil toward the corn from the other side. This row had been hilled up several weeks ago but I couldn’t tell it. It is a good thing the soil had been tilled recently so it was still fairly loose even though wet. I couldn’t get as much soil as I wanted on the corn because it was wet, heavy, and kept packing on the gizmo I was using. OK, I was using this strange-looking tool dad had bought from Publishers Clearing house with cultivator prongs on one side and a flat hoe-like deal on the other. It had an extendable handle that says Black and Decker. I had never used it before because I enjoy a sturdy hoe with a strong ash handle. GEEZ! (I miss my hoe I bought in the 1980’s I left behind when I, umm, left my ex-wife after 20 years… It was a Bulldog and I also left behind the Bulldog spade and fork… I wonder what became of them? I have a good idea…) ANYWAY…

 

Once I had the row hilled up on one side, I went back to the end of the row and one stalk at a time I carefully stood it up and reached through the corn to pull dirt from the other side. You have to pack it a little and push your fingers through the mud next to the roots to make sure there is soil around them.

I did make a discovery while standing the second row in the front section… I had been wondering why it hadn’t been doing as well as the rest and found a mole tunnel right under the corn… The corn in the second photo that is almost flat is where the mole tunnels were. Almost the whole length of the row. There are no moles in the garden now because the mole repeller is doing a great job keeping them out.

 

The corn that had been hilled up the last was much easier to stand back up. There was still plenty of soil and all I had to do was stand it back up as needed and firm the soil around the stalk. SO, it is a good idea to always hill your corn as often as necessary to keep a good supply of soil to use when it blows over…

I finished at 9:30 PM and I was very dirty and it was nearly dark…

 

I went out the next morning and the corn looked like it had not blown over at all. I couldn’t tell how it looked in the dark.

Now, I am ready for the next round of wind…

Until next time, be safe and say positive. Stay well and always be thankful. By the way…GET DIRTY!