PRUNING A TOMATO PLANT

Pruning suckers that grow in the axils where side branches meet the stem was the only form of tomato pruning I knew about. I doubt my brother, Bubba, or his wife, Flip Flops, have ever heard of tomato suckers. The two of them don’t know the difference between a plant and a weed. As a result, they didn’t prune anything on their patio tomato. Not even yellowed leaves. Amazingly, it was still blooming despite temperatures in the mid-90’s.

By July, the plant was full of brown leaves and ugly, sick-looking stems. It was hideous looking. Despite my own lack of knowledge, I told Bubba we should attempt to preserve the bush for cooler weather and a second crop. With him watching, I proceeded to remove all the ugliness. I hope he learned something. I sure did. Within weeks, the plant had put on all new growth that became so heavy, the center limbs toppled over.

Patio tomato after pruning. New growth that toppled over.
Patio tomato after pruning. New growth that toppled over.

 

Patio tomato with another branch of new growth.
Patio tomato with another branch of new growth.

 

Patio tomato seedlings coming up in pot
Patio tomato volunteers coming up in the pot

Bonnie Plants and Wikipedia both have good tips for pruning tomatoes including the warning not to prune determinate varieties. I don’t know whether or not the patio tomato was determinate but it survived the pruning I gave it.

HOW TO PICK BUSH BEANS

Before I left for Atlanta, I was eating bush beans out of my garden. I like the taste of bush beans better than pole beans. I instructed my brother, Bubba, to pick beans while I was gone. I assumed this would be a simple task since both he thinks he’s smarter than me. I was wrong. I returned to string beans that would have qualified for The Guinness World Record in giant beans.

A day or so later, when both Bubba and his wife were on the property, I casually asked if they remembered to pick beans. “Yes, we got a small handful.”

“Oh, a handful? Well, you could have picked 4 handfuls. I threw a mixing bowl of beans in the compost bin because they were too big. Big beans are tough beans.”

Bubba’s wife, who is a really great cook, confessed to not knowing much about picking beans. Bubba sat there mute.

For the benefit of those who think string beans come from a can at the grocery store, this is how you pick beans.

  1. Bush bean seeds are generally planted 3 inches apart. This means the plants, at maturity, will be a mass of leaves when viewed from the top. You won’t see very many beans waving their little hands at you above this canopy. If you pick only the beans you can see, you will leave behind a LOT of beans.
Canopy-of-bush-beans-with-white-blooms-peeking-out
Canopy of bush beans with white blooms peeking out

2.   Bush beans grow about 2 feet tall before forming the canopy of leaves. Bush beans also have a tendency to vine. These vines start at the bottom of the plant and grow outwards. Some of the vines lie on the dirt. You need to separate the canopy of leaves from every direction – north, south, east and west and look for beans. There is no central bean stalk despite the fairy tales you heard in kindergarten. For learning purposes, pretend there is a stalk. Look up and down this imaginary central stalk. You will see beans.

3.   Pick any bean that looks like a pencil — 4 to 7 inches in length and the width of a pencil although some varieties of bush beans are flatter than a pencil. I have about 4 varieties on hand right now. I pick up the seed packets at dollar stores, usually for less than a dollar.

4.   Try to pinch the bean from the vine to avoid breaking the vines. You can pinch it with your thumb and forefinger or you can use both hands.

Oh yeah. Southern peas do the same thing – make a canopy of leaves and vine.

MORE VERTICAL GARDENING

Georgie Golfcart, Mrs. Golfcart’s step-daughter, found a wonderful trellis idea on YouTube.

Although Mr. Golfcart built these trellises for the veggie gardens of both Georgie and Mrs. Golfcart, I feel like any woman could easily build these by herself, if necessary.

Mrs. Golfcart trellis w flag-0198
Mrs. Golfcart’s trellis with our place in the background

 

Mrs. Golfcart trellis-0199
Several of Mrs. Golfcart’s trellis

 

Close-up of trellis corner brackets
Close-up of trellis corner brackets

The trellis is constructed of ½ inch emt pipe (check homedepot.com or lowes.com for “emt” or “conduit”) and 2 corner brackets. A ten foot section of emt pipe runs about $2.30 and the corner pieces are $4.50 each. How much emt you need will depend on the height and width you choose to build your trellis while avoiding wasted pipe.

For the netting, you can string it yourself or buy netting. Mrs. Golfcart got netting for $3.50 but I don’t have the specifics.

To give credit where credit is due, Georgie got this idea from YouTube:

Mrs. Golfcart’s harvest the day I was photographing the trellises.

Mrs Golf Cart harvest gary-0197

EAT YOUR YARD JAX

Tuesday I went with some of the ladies from Mandarin Garden Club on a field trip to Eat Your Yard at 8220 Moncrief Road West, Jacksonville, FL. It’s a local, heavily wooded 40-acre farm run by Tim Armstrong to provide cactus and succulents to the wholesale market but he also has edible garden plants, a few farm-raised tilapia, chickens and rabbits. He was also affiliated with a garden project on the grounds of a school for handicapped children. I think it was Berry Good Farms. I wanted to read the brochures we were given but being a perpetual dingbat, I accidentally left them behind and the condition of my memory is beyond hope.

Tim Armstrong of Eat Your Yard
Tim Armstrong of Eat Your Yard

Eat Your Yard embraces organic farming, permaculture and any good ideas Tim encounters along the way.

Permaculture - plum trees overhead, pineapple sage, jack beans as understory, sweet potato as root crop
Permaculture – plum trees overhead, pineapple sage, jack beans as understory, sweet potato as root crop
Close-up of jack bean 14 inches long
Close-up of jack bean
14 inches long

Coincidentally for me, he mentioned something called hugelkultur which uses stumps, branches and twigs thrown in a mound and covered with soil to make a raised garden bed requiring little to no water or fertilizer. I almost missed this nugget because my mind had once again wandered off to orbit the Crooked Moon. It wandered back in just in time to catch the name and see the hugelkultur bed. Near the end of the tour, I saw a hugelkultur sign for another bed and I snapped a photo so I would have the spelling for further research. This was the most important thing I took away from Eat Your Yard. One of the old women in our neighborhood, long deceased, once told Momma that we have “seven years of dry and seven years of wet.” I never doubted the woman but also never paid much attention until I found myself unable to grow a vegetable garden the last two years. My garden sits in a low area that becomes a virtual flood plain when we have a lot of rain like we did this past summer. Just a few months before the Eat Your Yard tour, at another garden club function, I learned about adding pine bark chips to our sandy soil. This nugget of wisdom came from our local County Extension Agent, Terry delValle, who briefly mentioned it. That’s the problem with golden nuggets of wisdom. The people sharing them seldom ever raise their voice, tossing the nuggets out almost as an aside and I often need some hysteria to snap my wandering mind back to attention. Worse yet, these nuggets are usually what cause my mental crayons to start scribbling like a rabid left-handed dog and then I miss the next nugget. Thankfully, I caught both the pine bark chips and the hugelkultur nuggets and I will now be saving my 3 to 5 trashcans of limbs that usually hit the curb every week.

After our tour of his small farm, we were treated to freshly made Yard Soup and bread. He had collected the ingredients from food-producing perennials as he toured us around. He mentioned dozens of plants that can be made into teas, including a cranberry hibiscus and another hibiscus whose name I didn’t catch.

A hibiscus for tea
A hibiscus for tea (this was not the cranberry hibiscus which looks like a red Japanese maple)
Close-up of hibiscus pods which are dried for tea
Close-up of hibiscus pods which are dried for tea
Several ginger varieties
Several ginger varieties

For more information on Eat Your Yard, check out their website.

TOURING META’S YARD

Orbiting the Crooked Moon as I do, I’m always having these “adventures” I would just as soon not have. Yesterday was no different. I headed south to visit with one of my blog’s first subscribers, Meta. I ran into more than my share of T-stops that had so much signage I couldn’t see the name of the street or either the name of the T-stop was different than it was supposed to be. Then, of course, because everywhere I was driving was mostly rural, street signs required a magnifying glass. Plus, when you get far enough south, they number all their streets which can REALLY confound you when you are in the northwest teens and you need to be in the southwest teens. It doesn’t help when your visitee gives you the wrong area code for her phone number, either. This was nothing personal I learned. She regularly gives hapless fools like me the wrong area code.

Meta came to visit my gardens in July 2014 and I wanted to see hers but not in the heat of July again so I waited until now. Although it was a scheduled visit, it came at a really bad time as her daughter-in-law was in the hospital. The three of them – Meta, her son and daughter-in-law live in a family compound arrangement like I have done for the last 25 years.

I took a few photos of things I had not previously seen. To see previous photos, check these links: Garden Visitors, Meta’s Gardening Ideas, Meta’s Lion Tail.

A plant grouping in deep shade
A plant grouping in deep shade

 

Metas Easter Island head-6293
Meta had several pieces of yard art, including this Easter Island head, from Kanapaha Botanical Gardens in Gainesville. The hosta is one for hot climates.

 

A pathway with Aztec Grass on either side.
A pathway with Aztec Grass on either side.

 

A very sturdy, fairly inexpensive support if you are handy.Coral Vine, Antigonon Leptopus (sounds like a disease!)
A fairly inexpensive support if you are handy.
Coral Vine, Antigonon Leptopus (sounds like a disease!)

 

I had just missed the blooms on these bromeliads.
I had just missed the blooms on these bromeliads.

 

Same bromeliads in bloom.Photo by Meta.
Same bromeliads in bloom.
Photo by Meta.

 

Clerodendrum paniculatum or Pagoda Plant (tends to be invasive)
Clerodendrum paniculatum or Pagoda Plant (tends to be invasive)

 

Small pink roses but the sun was too bright for a good photo
Small pink roses but the sun was too bright for a good photo

 

This is me in Meta's side yard with all the loot she gave me.
This is me in Meta’s side yard with all the loot she gave me.
Photo by Meta.

My worst adventure happened on the return trip. I was looking for 326 and came upon another one of those T-stops that was NOT labeled 326. At that point, I had no idea where I was. I turned around and headed back and saw a County Sheriff trying to leave a gas station. I rolled my window down and waved my Google Map pages at him. The Sheriff said he hoped I didn’t want directions because he was awful at them. I would have liked to have seen my expression because it most certainly radiated “Oh shit.” Not only was I lost but this dude didn’t have a clue, either. I think he was pulling my leg, though, because he said NE 70th and 326 were the same thing and I should take a left there, go through two lights and turn right. I could have kissed his badge because he saved me a lot of grief.