Saturday, June 28, 2008

Garden Update: Sigh.........

Okay, let's start with the good news, shall we? 'Cause if I start with the bad news, I might not be able to see the keyboard and/or monitor through all of the tears..........

So, looks good from a distance, right?


Let's get up close. By the way - the tops of the lasagna beds have remained virtually weed free. What I've pulled from near the plants would barely fill a 1/2 cup measuring cup. LOVING that part!

The cucumbers, zucchini and cantaloupe are just kind of one big mass of vines. I'm sure I planted them a bit too close together, but I figured it might work out okay......we'll see.

zucchini, cucumbers and cantaloupe vines

One thing I will definitely do differently with the vine-like plants is that even if I plant them close to each other again, I will NOT plant them close to other non-vine plants like my bush beans. I had to prune back some of the zucchini plant to keep it from encroaching.

Lots of tiny cucumbers like this one.......


And one larger cucumber.


And 3 zucchini. Make that two.....the one on the right (with the browned out end) appears to be a goner......


The bean plants look fine so far.

bush bean plants

The sage looks great.


The basil is still chugging along. Not the best basil I've ever grown - the leaves still have some yellowing to them (I wonder if the soil is missing a key nutrient? Will have to read more on that.) and the flea beetles are still munching, but it's starting to get bushier and hopefully will really take off soon.


The peppers...still not sure about these. I keep seeing buds, but only a couple of flowers and no fruit set yet.

pepper plants

Here comes the bad part. The really depressing part. I planted 11 tomato plants and at this point, I don't know that I'll get a single tomato from any of them. How can that possibly be?? They were looking so lovely for a while there and then something happened. Whether it's fungal or bacterial, I'm not sure, but every stinkin' plant has this creeping crud.

diseased tomato plants

Not only that, but every blossom so far has dropped. The black crud is covering the blossoms and then they just break right off. Here's one that's just about to drop........

diseased tomato plants

Well, okay, I did manage to find maybe 4-5 teeny tiny tomatoes on one of the 3 cherry tomato plants........but even one of those fruits has some black crud on it..........

cherry tomatoes

The crud is all over the place.......

diseased tomato plants

$%@#%^! I keep reading about how it's SO EASY to grow tomatoes. I feel like I'm being taunted!! I've seen people get so overrun with them that they start giving them away. I've never, ever had good luck with tomatoes. I've tried probably more than 10 different kinds and I've gardened in two different states and even in pots. No luck. Although, come to think of it, I think I got a decent yield the first year I tried tomatoes - before the plants succumbed to whatever disease they had that time.

This time, however, I hope to learn about what's going on rather than just piss and moan about it. I've taken a sample of some leaves to the local extension office and am waiting for a call back to find out what's wrong. I've been looking online at lots of tomato disease pictures, but they all start to look the same after a while and I can't figure it out. So far it looks most like the Alternaria Canker which can be found on leaves, stems and fruit. But if anyone out there reading this has any diagnoses or advice, I'd be happy to listen!

I wouldn't be surprised to find out it's fungal. We've been having a lot of warm, wet, humid weather lately and I've noticed lots of fungal critters growing around other areas of the yard.

I'll be shoving my nose into a lot of books and websites this winter to read more about disease-resistant varieties (depending on what the extension office says) and anything I can learn about growing tomatoes. And at least this time I'll have room to rotate the crops so that I'm not planting in that same bed again next year. I am determined to have a bountiful harvest some day!

I'm considering starting my own from seed......but I'm afraid that that will only make me even more vested in my plants and then even more heart broken if they fail. Note the use of the word 'if" in that last sentence, not "when". I remain optimistic. Or is it just plain stubborn? Eh, either way works.


  1. I'm so sorry! I had trouble--although not to that extent--with tomatoes when I was in PA. Mine always came SUPER late and some succumbed to disease. Some eventually seemed to always pull through though--I am sorry that is not happening for you.

    I live in terror that the most successful tomato plant I have ever had (the one that is taller than my kids) is going to die being moved this Thursday.

  2. Oh no! I think my friend Rachel got this too. I am going to forward her your post...

    Bummer. But the test of the garden looks GREAT.

    Also, I sympathize. We have a groundhog. He at the top of our sunflowers, my pea plants, my brussel sprout plants and the killer? My ONE strawberry just as it was going to be ripe enough to eat. UGH.

  3. Hi - I'm Bethany's friend, Rachel. I completely empathize with your tomatoe struggles. Tomatoes are supposed to be really easy to grow, and last year I was one of those folks completely overrun by tomatoes. This year, however, I am also doing battle with a disease attacking my plants. I have a fungal disease known as "Septorial Leaf Spot". This "blight" presents a more spotted pattern than what you are seeing, and doesn't attack the fruits themselves, thankfully. But it does destroy the foliage, so the fruits can't grow properly or get burned by the sun. Eventually the plan rots from the very base if it isn't treated early and aggressively.
    For my tomato disease they recommend mostly treatments that happen _before_ planting. But one treatment I am going to try, that it certainly couldn't hurt for you to try too, is something called "compost tea". If you google "how to make compost tea" you'll find instructions - both the complex and easy versions. You spritz it on the foliage a few times a week or soak the soil with it (but in this case, too much moisture being already an issue, I'm not keen to add to it.). Or both.
    Take heart, the rest of your garden looks wonderful!
    Best of luck with your tomato disease...

  4. Laura - I hope your tomato plant survives! It's frustrating, but I will prevail....some day........ ;)

    Bethany and Rachel - You are both so nice to help out. Thanks for the empathy and the tips.

    Oh, I hear groundhogs are HORRIBLE and hard to get rid of. I'm a peaceful animal lover, but some of those little varmints make me want to learn how to shoot a gun! ;-)

    I have heard of tea compost but don't know much about it - I will definitely look into it. Anything that might help, especially if it's organic!

    I have a lot to learn yet!

  5. When my brother was visiting me from UC Davis (he got his phD in botany there) he told me my tomatoes and celery had the most outstanding specimans of Alternaria he had ever seen; he made it sound like I should be proud of my progress. I venture to say that is what you have too. I would recommend stripping all affected leaves, bag and trash them, not compost them. Be very careful to not water the plants from above, just drip system and no watering when it is damp outside to keep it from spreading by spores. Good luck.

  6. your garden looks fantastic Alysha, well except the sad tomato plants. believe me, i've shared some of your frustration. usually my pepper plants never amounted to anything other than 2-3 green ones!

  7. Bobbisox - LOL - yes, Alternaria is probably one area where we'd rather not be outstanding! I did strip off all the infected parts - should have done that a lot sooner, but lesson learned there. I am looking into setting up a drip irrigation system. I've only had to water once so far and did do overhead since that's all I have, but I did do it in the morning so the plants could dry off. Now we wait and see. Thanks for your help!

    Eliza - It's definitely frustrating but hopefully some day it will pay off and I can talk more about successes than failures!

  8. Alysha -
    Checking in to lend you a bit of support!! First, I have to agree, your gardens look great with the exception of the tomatoes.

    I do two things to avoid tomato plant loss.

    #1: I plant indeterminate heirloom varieties. They're not disease resistant, but they tend to "outgrow" a lot of disease. So, they're not the prettiest plants, but they stay alive long enough to produce good yields.

    #2: I found a very good organic fungicide called SERENADE. Works wonders on any number of tomato diseases including early blight, septoria, powdery mildew, and bacterial spot.

    I also read this year that it is worthwhile to plant an aspirin with each tomato plant. Apparently, it increases the disease resistance of the plants. I've not tried it, but it sounds promising!

  9. OK I spoke too soon because my tomato plant has caught something. I spent today frantically ripping off the diseased leaves in an effort to catch it in time. We will see...

    It does seem like tomato plants are awfully susceptible. I have a lot of tomatoes on the vine though and my plant is big and was healthy so I am hoping it can rebound. But I thought of you today....

  10. Lo - Thanks for the suggestions. I will keep that in mind as I research what kinds of tomato plants I want to put in next year.

    Laura - In the past, I've had stuff attack the plants after the fruit set and while the plants did eventually die, I managed to get a decent yield before they did. I hope your plant does okay.

    Last night I had a dream that we had another frost! :-D

  11. Well my plant definitely recovered from the disease and it even recovered from losing a major limb while being transplanted--but it is not surviving the deer HERE IN TOWN. I feel like I can't win! I have maybe 4 tomatoes left on the vine. I caught my dog trying to pee in my plant containers and while he obviously got in big trouble I realized he is marking bc of the deer. So now I want him to pee right in front of them! They ate 2 other newer tomatoes almost entirely, they decimated my eldest's beautiful sunflower :( and they devoured the strawberries. They left the kaffir lime alone though--they don't traffic in "that foreign food" apparently. :)

  12. Laura - Oh no! We have deer and often see them in the back yard, but I guess the fence is enough of a deterrent and/or it's rural enough that they don't need to come to our gardens to feast. Hope you figure out some way to keep them away! How frustrating!

  13. Tonya4:30 PM

    when you first plant your tomatoes, you should trim the bottom few branches off. It keeps some diseases from creeping onto the plant from the soil. dont let the other branches touch the soil/ground even if you have a ground covering such as fabric, plastic or straw. hope this helps <3 , Tonya