My green car is even greener.....

Elisabeth and I have developed a system for the seedlings we start indoors.  She has a cold basement and a shady backyard.  I have a warm basement and a good-sized sunny patch in my backyard.  She starts the cool weather seedlings (like the brassicas) in her basement, and I start the warm weather seedlings (like the nightshades) in my basement.  When the seedlings are ready to go outside, they go first to her backyard, and then to mine.


Today was transfer day for most of the warm weather seedlings, from her backyard to mine.  My car was completely filled (the back, the floors, and all the seats except the driver’s seat) with tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and tomatillos.  It did all fit, but barely.

2013 Nightshades (end of season notes)

Eggplant: Italian, Asian & White, plants less robust – result of weather or fertilizing or location in garden?
Peppers: the best year ever, all varieties (bells, poblanos & chilis) did well – repeat varieties, staging
Tomatoes: many suffered from diseases, good long yield from remaining plants – grow more resistant varieties next year, cover soil with landscape fabric to warm it before planting, experiment with clover groundcover, repeat sucker experiment, plant some in lettuce bed, try a grafted plant, more normal-size varieties & fewer zebras next year?
     SMALL: Sun Gold*, Super Sweet 100*, Green Grape*  
     MEDIUM: Mountain Magic, Stupice^, Ramapo*, Paul Robeson^, Green Zebra^, Red Zebra^
     SAUCE: Granadero, Mariana*
     * varieties we should definitely consider next year
     ^ varieties that failed
Tomatillos: grew well, caging worked great – try one purple plant, start seeds a week or two later than tomatoes next year

Organic Treatment for Blight

Thanks to the Landreth Seed Co. for the following info:

This is a ‘heads-up’. It is not meant to alarm or frighten. The intent is to educate and inform.

During the 2012 gardening season, blight is going to be a problem. Early season, mid season and late season blight are going to be a problem for tomatoes and potatoes and possibly eggplants. The moisture that inundated the United States east coast with Hurricane Irene and tropical storm Lee and the extraordinarily mild winter have combined to create an unusually comfortable environment for the proliferation of blight spores.

Blight is a fungus transmitted by spores which can lay dormant in soil and be carried by the wind as much as 50 miles in a day. Under ideal conditions spores can germinate in ½ hour. The last great outbreak was in 2009, but 2012 may also be a record year.

For those of you who intend to grow tomato, potato or eggplant plants, you MUST take precautions early even if you are organic gardeners. Landreth suggests that you use copper fungicide, a fungicide approved for organic farming. Use the powder form of copper fungicide. Copper fungicide is sold at most garden centers. Dust the soil where you are going to plant your tomatoes, potatoes and eggplants and till the dust into the soil. On the day you plant your seedlings, dust the seedlings, and repeat this dusting every two weeks, for two more dustings.

If you observe signs of blight later in the season, (a spotting of the lower leaves and stems), dust the plants immediately and repeat the dusting in 5-7 days. Copper fungicide is very effective. If you follow the suggested protocols your plants will probably be okay. If you do nothing, or if you wait until late July or August to address this issue, you may lose your entire potato, tomato or eggplant crop.

Unfortunately, we did not know to take the above precautionary measures at the beginning of our gardening season, but it now appears that we may have late blight hitting our potatoes.  A few of the plant stems have rotted and collapsed, so we removed them from the garden and destroyed them.  We then dug to see what, if any, potatoes may have been formed on the diseased plants.  Our gold potato plant yielded only two small (1-2") tubors, while our red potato plant yielded a few small tubors, and eight very small (less than 1") tubors.  Many of the remaining plants are showing signs of blight -- brown spots on their leaves, and major wilting, so we will begin dusting with copper dust fungicide.

Photo of Late Blight on Potato:

For more info on Late Blight:

For info on using copper dust to control early or late blight, or other plant diseases, go to

You may find the Landreth Seed Co. at:



Fall Crop Update

The peak of the harvest is past, and yet we tried second plantings of some crops because we had the space, to see what would happen.  With about a month to go, here's their progress.

Cabbage & Cauliflower:  large leaves, producing well, but no sign of heads yet.

Carrots:  leafy fronds are doing well; no sign of poking out of the ground.

Beets:  alive but struggling.

Spinach:  mostly eaten by Something.

Peas:  half-height, base leaves yellowing, no sign of peas.

Lettuce:  looking good!  Might harvest some next week.

Also, here's an update on some first plantings:

Eggplant:  *continues* to produce, though more slowly.

Beans:  the bush beans produced another handful; the pole beans have disappointed.

Potatoes:  we pulled a single plant to obtain some potatoes for display at Town Day.  The number amidst the roots was extensive, and while mostly small-to-tiny, there was at least one big red one.  From just one plant!

Squash:  the tiny zucchini was accidently harvested; there's still a medium yellow squash; and the pattipan has several small fruits (not to mention flowers) which it thinks it has time to make bigger -- we'll see.

The mildew is back to some extent on the squash, and worse, has jumped to the other side of the garden and covered the collard leaves.

The rest of the greens (kale, chard, arugula and other herbs) still doing well.

Visitors enjoy the progress

I opened the garden for an hour and a half yesterday afternoon. Though there were dramatic rains in both Lexington and Boston, none here! Even so, the garden looked well watered.

A nice group of Asian-American mothers and children came to visit. They remarked on the eggplants (great purple blossoms), the amaranth, and the tomatoes. Earlier a mother with two daughters enjoyed finding the hidden zucchini. Several people took the cards.

I tried to draw the amaranth and the basil, impossible as usual.

Are the Nadias coming back strong ?

Nadia bloom 
Just a week ago, the garden's Nadia eggplants were beginning to look like a lost cause. They were flat to the ground, at best just 1/3 the height of the Mangans. Plus they had no blooms, where the Mangans had bloomed early.

Happily, however, the Nadias are now catching up. Several display gorgeous blooms of their own. And they've shot up, doubling their height. They're not the height of the Mangans, to be sure, but they are now at least half way.

Let's not count the Nadias out yet.

Nadias & Mangans

Determinant and indeterminant

I've heard the words of my headline tossed around the garden this spring, figuring they meant something but not getting the concepts entirely. But I think I have it now, and it's worth sharing. (Or so I think; you decide.)

The times I've heard the terms tossed, the subject was tomatoes. According to this tomato-growing site, determinant varieties, including the well-known Roma variety, grow to a roughly defined height, stop growing when the fruit sets at the end of each branch, ripen about the same time, and then die.

Indeterminants keep growing until frost — flowering, setting fruit, and ripening all at the same time, on different stalks.

Pinch meRecently, my gardening mate Michael Smith, who horticultures for a living, shared a brief film on pinching out young tomato-plant branches that I later realized are what others call "suckers," another term I'd heard but didn't quite grasp. (There's a lot of that for me in the presence of actual gardeners.)

After watching, I went out into my own garden and pinched — or clipped — all the suckers, which are identified as growths emanating from the juncture of the main stem and a side shoot. The reasoning, as I understand it, is that these suckers will make the plants bushier, bringing no advantage, at the expense of energy that would better be applied to the fruit. 

Then I noticed that my eggplant plants also have suckers, and wondered if I should cut them out, too. Luckily, I didn't. I asked around among the gardeners and got no definitive answer, though one guy said he thought it made sense, and another observed that both tomatoes and eggplants are from the nightshade family.

Turns out, according to a consensus of websites I found, though none authoritative enough that I'd link to, that eggplants are determinant, so every branch I cut off would just be limiting yield, instead of concentrating energy in the "right" places.

There still remains the question of whether all eight of my tomato plants are indeterminants. That's something I ought to know, but don't.

2 prima donnas about to compete

We planted two varieties of eggplant this Saturday. One is Nadia, a zaftig, Rubenesque traditionalist from southern Europe. The other: Mangan, a darker, more svelte and modern variety from eastern Asia.

Both are beauties; and each has her fans. Both are also prima donnas. They abhor cold soil. So Nadia grew to seedling state in a greenhouse over at Waltham Fields, a few miles southwest of us, while Mangan got her start at Busa Farm, just over the town line in Lexington.

Prima donnas compete

According to studies we found on the net, these two varieties should enjoy an interesting competition this growing season. Mangan is the speedy one. She should flower in as little as 4 weeks, then produce her first fruit 2 weeks after that. Nadia unfolds at a slower pace. She should lag Mangan by a couple of weeks in coming to full flower and another 3 weeks in bearing fruit.

But her fruit will be bigger, their shape more fetching to the eye. Pound for pound, Nadia should also end up producing more edible flesh per plant, though Mangan should best her in the number of individual fruits produced.

All in all, for those of us attending these two, this should be a lively competition to watch.

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