Tomatoes are the most commonly grown plant in backyard gardens, and with good reason. Nothing beats the flavor of a freshly picked tomato still warm from the sun, and homemade sauces and salsas are amazing. With the recent growth in gardening and interest in non-genetically modified foods, stores are starting to stock more heirloom tomato seed varieties, but they’re only scratching the surface of the dozens of types of seeds that are available. When you grow tomatoes from seed, you can pick varieties that are right for your growing conditions and experiment with many different colors, shapes, sizes and flavors for the same amount of money you’d spend on just a few store plants….
The cat seems pretty happy with the abundance of catnip volunteering all over the garden, too.
Warmer weather means the last of the transplants have come out of their shelter in the cold frame and the seeds planted earlier are finally starting to pop up out of the ground. What a slow start to the season! At least we didn’t get flooded this year.
On the down seed, the bugs have also defrosted. Working at dusk last I got mauled by mosquitoes. Normally I rub down my exposed skin with a couple of handfuls of crushed catnip or other herbs, but I was stuffing in a few last transplants and my hands were muuuuuddyy! It got too dark to hunt down some plantain to crush and apply to the bites (this does work – my grandma used to call it medicine leaf), but Benadryl spray is a modern marvel. Sweet relief! (UPDATE: I’ve learned how to infuse plantain into oil and make a salve out of it. It works even better than the Benedryl!)
The flea beetles are back in force, too, and chowing down on my pepper plants. Flea beetles are nasty little bugs that hop and are about the size of fleas. They start by chewing so many holes in the leaves that it looks like the plant has been hit by buckshot. As they continue feeding, they can completely defoliate a plant. A couple of plants are likely beyond hope. This is two days damage – nasty little buggers.
Others are hardly touched, and will hopefully stay that way. I’m trying a new approach – used coffee grounds and crushed eggshells. I read about using each of them on different gardening forums, so I thought I’d try to the two together.
Update: The coffee grounds were effective on the flea beetles, the eggshells were not. ALL THE PEPPER PLANTS RECOVERED – even the ones that looked beyond hope! Eggshells do work great for keeping slugs at bay, and can be added to the planting holes of tomatoes to avoid blossom end rot. Another option to help prevent blossom rot is to put 2-3 calcium antacid tablets in the hole when planting. To improve fruit set on tomatoes and peppers, water new transplants with a mix of 1 tablespoon Epsom salts dissolved in one gallon of water.