Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Tomato Harvest and Crop Rotation

I harvested the last of my tomatoes today. It is too hot for my slicing tomatoes to set fruit, and my yellow pears have produced plenty for my taste. So I decided to cut down the yellow pears today and harvest the last of the crop.

I ended up cutting the plants at the soil level and dragging them to the grass then I shook them and banged them on the ground a bit to cause all the tomatoes to fall.

Then I just picked them up, easy peasy.

It came out to 5.4 lbs of tomatoes. This season I harvested 9.5lbs total from just these two plants. I'm quite happy with the yield!

All that's let now is the base of the plants and roots. I'm going to cut them a bit shorter then prepare the garden for the next crop.

I'm starting to work out a 3 season crop rotation that fits my hot climate. Most plans assume a short summer and long spring/fall and short winter. That just isn't what I have. I have a long summer and short fall/winter/spring with the winter usually being frost free. I'll talk in depth about my humid zone 9 climate and what grows when here at a later time. For now, I'm making lists and forming ideas and, of course, doing my research.

The only problem to befall my yellow pear tomatoes this season was these nasty beasts.

They are known as Leafhoppers. They fly from tomato to tomato and drink the juice. Most of the time the tomato just appeared a bit discolored or mottled because these guys grow and ripen so quickly. But sometimes they look like this.

So instead of battling the hoard and trying to eke another bug free harvest out of the plants, I decided to be content with the harvest and pull the plants.

I have read that neem oil is an effective control for the pests, but it would be best to catch the pests before they become a swarm. The full life cycle of the leafhopper can be lived out on the tomato plant so be sure to spray the tiny red nymph stage of the bug before they can mature.


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Wear gloves in the garden.

This morning I was out in the garden attempting to harvest another heaping pint of yellow pear tomatoes from the masses of vines. My hands began itching from touching the leaves and stems, so I went inside and washed them before heading back out to try again.

On my way out the door, I noticed my thornless trailing blackberry bush had several stems that needed to be wound round the upturned tomato cage trellis. I tucked one stem up, then moved to the next and tuck it up too. I felt a prick on my wrist where I thought a serrated leaf had scratched my already irritated skin. But then the spot began to hurt badly and itch. It became worse so I ran inside to wash my hands again and apply a sunburn lidocaine gel that is very helpful in relieving small itches.

But then the spot felt more like a sting, or bite, so I walked back to the plant to see if there was a spider hanging around. I found this.

Well, that was the exact area I had just been tucking into the trellis. I looked at my wrist again, and there was now a bumpy rash. A closer look revealed tiny black hairs that I had spread around when I scratched. I ran back inside and used a very sticky lint roller to pull all the hairs off. I then applied a strong steroid ointment to the rash, grabbed a plastic glove (the kind worn by lunch ladies in cafeterias) and headed back to the plant.

I realized just how fortunate I was when saw this fuzzy mass.

Meet the Io moth. The caterpillars of this particular moth are known for their colony feeding habit, the train they use to move from leaf to leaf, and, of course, their painful sting by the tiny black hairs mixed in with the fuzzy yellow.

I used gloves and scissors to remove these guys from the plant since I didn't want them devouring my blackberry vines. I taught the boys about them and made sure they knew not to touch them or the blackberry plant in case more should show up. Then I threw them in the compost bin.

I knew something had been munching my plant from time to time, but I thought it was a couple random gulf fritillary caterpillars. I had seen one before and more recently found this chrysalis. While that may be true, clearly the io moth was the culprit this time.

I worked in the garden with my gloves on for the rest of the day. A lesson learned.