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Of all of the vegetables I grow,  tomatoes are one of my favorites. The flavor of a fresh, heirloom tomato cannot be duplicated from any grocery store.

My top choices are Emerald Evergreen, Cherokee Purple and Black & Brown Boar. I wait all year for tomato season to enjoy BLTs, which are an abomination with the flavorless perfectly round fruit, bred strictly for storage life. I spend hours on my feet, canning gallons of stewed tomatoes and salsa. I love tomatoes!

Denial 

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I noticed that in summer 2017 the production and flavor were lacking a bit. I observed signs of disease, but chose to ignore it. Finally in 2018 I could not deny it any longer. The tomatoes were completely inedible. The picture above not only shows the abundance of cardboard-flavored fruit, but also wilted leaves.

I had dealt with early blight in the past, but this was something different entirely.

Anger

I began doing research, and to my dismay, I discovered that I was dealing with both Nematodes and Fusarium Wilt. I grow a majority of my vegetables from seeds, and those that  I buy from seedlings usually come from one location, a local nursery that I absolutely love. I thought back and remembered the Basil I brought home several years ago that was suspicious, yet I planted it anyway.

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The nematodes explain why I haven’t been able to grow Okra for 2 seasons, as okra is one of the most susceptible. Nematodes also make tomatoes more susceptible to Fusarium Wilt.

Fusarium Wilt affects the vascular system of the plant, starving it from water. The first signs are yellowing and wilting in the leaves, along with marks on the stems.

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Eventually,  the leaves will begin to wilt, followed by large sections of the plant.

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Finally, the entire plant will give way to the disease.

Here are a few pics which give a good view of the vascular damage.

Bargaining

I definitely blamed myself. If I had accepted the situation a year before, I could have been more careful. If I had used better tool hygiene the disease wouldn’t have spread to all of my beds. If I had dealt with the Nematodes sooner, they wouldn’t have reached the level where they could encourage the wilt. If I had just grown everything from seed, I wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place. If I hadn’t planted that stupid Basil!

Depression

The fungi can stay in the soil for years, waiting for a new host. There is no known treatment. Three to Five years without my heirloom tomatoes.

I was seriously sad for weeks! Why bother gardening without my delicious tomatoes. Yes, I know there are peppers, melons, beans, and all of the winter vegetables, but I was inconsolable. How did this happen in my garden, obviously I was not the vegetable expert I envisioned myself to be.

I cleaned out the beds, throwing gallons of brightly colored, tasteless tomatoes into the trash – you definitely don’t want to compost any diseased plants.

Acceptance

Well, I eventually got here. It will be years before I can grow my favorite heirlooms, unless I want to grow them in a few large pots.

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I purchased hybrid seeds from Johnny Seeds , all with VFN codes. Here is a pic from this summer of the Celebrity Tomatoes, which are resistant to wilt and nematodes. They produced well into Fall, and did make some quite edible sauces, unphased by disease.

I am treating the nematodes with elbon rye cover crop.

I will start frequenting the farmers market again this summer.

I can be a test subject for just how resistant these varieties are.

Hybrids have much better production, so it will just have to be quantity over quality for a few years.

 

 

 

 

Houmas House Plantation

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For my daughter’s 21st birthday, I took her to New Orleans. I’ve been a few times, but had never seen any of the plantations just outside of town. We decided to visit the Houmas House Plantation. I chose this one due to its lovely 38 acre gardens. The only negative reviews I could find were the Plantation’s failure to recognize the part that slavery played in its history. I did a bit of research on my own and found that this Plantation housed 750 slaves, one of the largest number in the U.S. This makes it all the more disappointing that it was not touched on. I would have liked to have visited the Whitney Plantation as well, which is focused solely on slavery, but unfortunately time did not allow. We instead walked through and enjoyed the beautiful gardens, while taking time to pay our respects to those who suffered so others could live in opulence.

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As we entered the garden, we were greeted by these Louisiana natives. We couldn’t help but snap a few photos.

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The Greek Revival House sits in the center of the gardens, surrounded by enormous oak trees.

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It is nearly impossible to capture the scale of this tree. “The Thinker” in the background is s a life-sized statue.

Paths direct you through the various rooms, often guiding you through towering archways.

Ponds of varying sizes were scattered through the garden.

As well as an impressive collection of statues.

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My favorite was this lion and cub in the japanese garden. I’ve never seen one as adorable as this one. I was tempted to sneak him into my suitcase!

Late June was a bit warm in New Orleans, but it did not take away from the spectacular garden. I recommend a visit!

Veggie Garden Update

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As usual, summers in Texas are a bit rough, with temperatures varying from the high 90s to 110. We had our hottest ever July day. It doesn’t rival 2010, but it has been a hot year with very little rain.

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Last year was a bad one for okra, and my poor production has continued this year. I’m not sure if it is root-knot nematode again this year, or the extreme heat. It was the 110 degree day that halted production.

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The peppers have had a stellar year, since I added slow release sulphur to the beds, to fix the PH problem. My new favorite pepper is from Baker Creek Heirlooms, called Habanada. It is a non-spicy Habenero, and the flavor is amazing! I only planted 3 plants, but have gotten well over 100 peppers. I’ve been putting them in everything. I also tried Marconi for the first time, and this one will be on my repeat list as well. It is a large yellow bell pepper with great production, and flavor.

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Melons produced pretty well, and I am still getting a few.

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The tomatillos usually die out in the heat of the summer, and this year they lasted a bit longer. I don’t know how long they can hang on, and if I’ll get any fall production.

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Malibar Spinach is thriving, and such a lovely plant.

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Summer beans are just starting to produce, with black-eyed peas leading the pack.

Cut and Come Again Zinnias have been the star of the garden. They seem to like a good soaking every 3 days. My vases have been full all summer. I’ll definitely be planting these again.

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I’ve let the cowpen daisies take over this year. They spread pretty aggressively, but are easy to pull out so I’ve just let them do their thing. They make the veggie garden pretty, when most things are hanging on for dear life.

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As usual, the thai basil has done the best of the varieties. I don’t really care for the flavor, but it is a favorite of the bees. The honey bees have disappeared lately, maybe due to the abundance of robber flies, but I have seen a few bumbles hanging around.

I just started fall seeds this past weekend under the grow lights, so despite the heat, fall is just around the corner!

Wildflower Wednesday

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Gail at Clay and Limestone hosts Wildflower Wednesday each month.

 

When I moved in over 7 years ago the wildflower meadow consisted of four-nerve daisies, prairie verbena, and mexican hats. I have since added blanket flower, horsemint, winecups, bluebonnets, black-eyed susan, tickseed sunflower and evening primrose.

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I also found this alamo vine in the front yard this week. I tried planting this before in the back and it didn’t take, so glad one just showed up on it’s own.

 

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Kirk Walden’s garden was our second to last stop on the Fling tour. The other planners, and I were busy at Articulture setting up for our BBQ Bash and weren’t able to see this spectacular garden and view with the rest of the Flingers. Luckily, Kirk offered to let Pam and I come visit a week later. We went out first thing in the morning to avoid the heat, and beat the blazing sun.

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The view is clearly the star of this space, and the design emphasizes this from every angle.

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The pool is breathtaking, the higher section giving the impression of a natural hot spring.

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A waterfall then flows gracefully to a larger main pool.

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It is clear that each plant was carefully chosen to withstand the harsh hillside late-afternoon sun, as well as lushly complement the water. Plants include gaura, pink skullcap, russian sage, snake herb, agaves, roses, palms, gopher plants, and grasses – among others.

Thank you Kirk for sharing your garden with us!

Freezing Carrots

Most vegetables are pretty easy to freeze, the most important thing to determine is whether the particular vegetable needs to be blanched and for how long.

Here is site which gives the times for various vegetables.

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The first step is to wash and peel the carrots. Make sure all carrots are in good condition and do not have large cores.

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Slice into 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces.

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Bring water to a boil and blanch carrots for 2 minutes. Place carrots in ice water bath.

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Drain carrots. Even drained, it is difficult to get rid of all of the moisture. Since I use a Foodsaver, I par-freeze the carrots on a cookie sheet before individually packaging and freezing.

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Label and Freeze the packages.

I will use the carrots in marinara, stir fries and soups.

Bloom Day 4/18

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The spring has been very chilly so far, which is stalling many of the usual April bloomers. The roses aren’t complaining though. This is their best showing to date.

Belinda’s dream is stunning, and smells heavenly, but I am really loving Peggy Martin being the perfect shade of flamingo pink! All of the roses are repeat bloomers, which is a requirement in my garden.

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Bluebonnets are still going strong. They start at least a week later in my garden than some parts of town. I think it’s due to the gravely soil, and no additional water.

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Silvery-blue agave with bluebonnets, what a combination!

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The columbines have also loved the mild spring. They have hung on weeks longer than last year. I am loving how this bed is filling in. I had been unhappy with it for some time, but all it needed was the removal of 3 pale pink pavonias that were extremely happy, but poorly placed.

A few other bloomers.