Tag Archives: tomatoes

Beware the Bag of Obliteration!

I was complaining in an earlier post…. and quite perplexed I might add…about how leaf curl had just about annihilated my spring crop of tomatoes and some other foreign reason my sugar peas pooped out just while getting growing.  I’ve never had snow pea problems.

Snow Pea in distress!
Snow Pea in distress!
Sun Sugar
Sun Sugar

Because I had more than the usual issues with my garden this spring,  I was reminded of a few articles  I read several years ago regarding killer compost!

When needed, I usually bring in additional soil to supplement my own compost.  I  prepped the North Garden beds with my fertilizer mix but I needed to add compost to 3 of the 5 beds.   This meant that I had to bring in soil/compost from a local supplier.  Because I was lazy and in a hurry this season I went to the big box store close by.   I wanted an organic peat free compost.  Hard to find!

 In one bed as I watched my tomatoes take to aggressive wilted leaf curl for the first time, I assumed it was due to the weather and watering issues.  In another bed  my snow peas halted, curled, and began to turn yellow and dry up not long after they were producing their first flowers and a couple handfuls of mature peas. The cucumbers were also struggling to produce fruit and the beets planted in the same bed also grew poorly.  These veggies were all planted in one of the 3 beds that I had added store bought compost to.  There were no signs of bug infestation or other common bacterial diseases . In contemplation I remembered….killer compost?

In the news back in 2009, controversy over herbicide residues found in our compost was a startling eye opener if you happened to stumble upon any  such articles.  If not; this article posted on the”Mother Earth News” blog site may heighten your awareness.   

It’s now 2013 and this startling bit of information has still had a hard time gaining legs as a national concern.  Fortunately  I have had no major issues in my garden since it’s conception and I’ve been doing well with adding my own compost to the beds so the “killer compost” warning had escaped me until the unusual predicament of my spring garden this year..  

If you inadvertently apply aminopyralid-laced manure compost to your garden, you may suffer the crop-killing consequences for three or more years.

 Gardeners and consumers alike seem to have been preoccupied with the whole GMO vs. non-GMO vs. Organic movement that  we home gardeners may have been sleeping on the  job and we may now be helpless in this back door……or should I say truck bed…. invasion of some killer compost!

  It’s not just pesticide laden or genetically modified strains of produce that is knocking on our doors…… we have killer compost that may be silently and unassumingly hitch-hiking into our very own gardens!  Yep!  Watch out for those loads of composted manure you have trucked in from your supplier, or bags of compost that are piled high at the local big box store!   What about community compost bins that offer free compost for the home gardeners?  The word “Organic” on the bag or stated at your local community garden may not even protect your confidence.

Now I’m not positive that “killer compost” is the dilemma in my garden this season but I will keep a look out  for similar plant destruction and failures in my North Garden beds.   I will also be acutely aware of checking out  the suppliers of any more compost before I choose to bring it onto my property.

In case you have had unusual garden issues  and are suspecting other than weather, watering and pest invasions for curious behavior among your garden fare, you can find some great articles  regarding “killer compost” on the following sites.  Please find the time to click on  “Mother Earth News”  and the “Rachael Carson Council”  as these articles best update and describe this very serious issue!  Harvests are being compromised……which also includes the viable seeds we count on!  Our nations commercial organic farmers and many backyard gardeners are experiencing  dreadful ruination of their crops.

You may also like to read what some small farmers and backyard gardeners here in the USA are experiencing!

 And if you wish to go global……check out Dr. Vandana Shiva’s  blog and read about big corporate owning our seed!   Or if you are into the GMO controversies read an exhaustively   emotional read on the calling out of the Anti-GMO Connspiracy Theory by Mark Lynas;  be sure to read the comments too!




To be “Organic” or enjoy a “Good Harvest”?

        I was browsing the Freshly Pressed venues just before getting ready to post a blurb about one of my tomato plants that seems to be struggling with leaf curl ( although not usually a deadly condition ) when I stumbled on a post that completely describes my frustration when it comes to explaining my choices in following the practices of maintaining an “organic” garden as opposed to the “chemical / synthetic” practices of our modern farming techniques !    The truth is that there are insidious as well as manifested problems that come with engaging in any of the known  techniques of gardening  in my experience ( as little as I have).   Although I’m currently an advocate of “organic” gardening, there are some veggies that I have held off planting due to their likeliness of getting unfortunate traumatic diseases and it would be too devastating for me to have wrapped my hopes around a beautiful potential bounty only to have to rip it out or discover upon harvesting that there is little or nothing to harvest!
leaf curl on my tomato
leaf curl on my tomato

      So………do I spend most of my gardening time hovering over each and every plant searching for infestation or some cosmically altered reason why my tomato plant just took a dive and the one right next to it is thriving?  Not anymore!  My usual response to this phenomenon is, what the @%&$*#(@ is wrong now?   Although there are many guesses as to why leaf curl occurs,  no one expert knows exactly why except that, in a word, each plant is it’s own just as we humans are.  Its my deduction anyway.   So in my garden the action I take is either “yank it” or “monitor it” depending on how far into the season the problem plant is and whether it is life threatening to it’s neighbors.

     You see, I already spend a considerable amount of time planning and securing the best probable techniques and placements when planting my garden.  My goals are usually lofty (organic) but I expect that there will be issues along the way.  For example:  I’ve contemplated often about whether its profitable to try and grow only heirloom tomatoes as opposed to tomatoes that are already modified and conditioned to be disease resistant!   Quite frankly, sometimes it’s hard to decide as the taste AND texture of any homegrown tomato far exceeds that of the too-soon-picked,  thick waxy skinned,  tasteless tomato at the grocery store!   And heirloom tomatoes are more vulnerable to diseases and don’t usually provide a huge harvest, per plant anyway.  As of now, I continue to plant both and enjoy both.

     So as to not go on any further explaining the joys or not of trying to grow an “organic” only garden,  I defer to this guest post; “Why I’m Through with Organic Farmingauthored by Mike Bendzela.  Reading this really set the tone for me when it comes to the convoluted and complicated explanations I come up with when describing my practices of “organic” gardening vs. not organic?   Its a long piece as the blog site author describes, but it says it like I mean it!    One example, and I quote;  ” Organic farmers use pesticides and they have to follow the same laws as non-organic farmers.  No amount of special pleading (“But they’re natural!”) negates this fact”.   How ’bout them apples?   Another humorous statement to contemplate and I also quote;  “As one of the partners of Dow Farm daily injects himself with insulin that is produced through recombinant DNA technology,  does this mean he can never consider himself an “organic” farmer?  Good one!

      Please indulge me, for this is truly a well written piece!

     At the end of the day,  I have concluded that “organic” vs. “modified” or”chemical” seems to be even more convoluted, thanks to the intelligent teeter tottering of our agricultural rulers, attorneys and their uncompromising  laws!   As a gardener consuming what I grow,  all I desire is that the foods I ingest have a fairly strong chance of rendering  their vitamin and enzyme content in the most practical and wholesome way in order to keep me and the ones I love strong and healthy.   

A Natives view of living in the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains

San Bernardino Mtns from our front yard!
San Bernardino Mtns from our front yard!

      Here in Southern California it is said that the sun always shines.  Well….. the four seasons effect may not be as obvious here as it is in the eastern states but I will say this as a native Californian, we do have four seasons.  Our seasons may be milder out here in the west coast but each in their ways are still the antithesis of the other.

      Although here in the Inland Empire we enjoy a special set of circumstances or as I like to say…..special benefits!  You may have heard of a place in Southern California where one could ski down a fresh path of snow then hang ten on the surf all in the same day!  Well its true!   I could easily enjoy my 20 minute drive to Mt. Baldy in time to enjoy the morning sun while skiing down the slopes then drive right back down the mountain and south on the local freeway to end up at our popular Newport Beach just one hour (or less) away to reap the rewards of a suntan and end the day with a glass of wine at sunset!  And of course not to forget that there is always some sun a hour the other direction (east) ending up in  Palm Springs another famous and popular destination in our local desert!

      In winter it rains plenty most years and it can get very cold.   Our San Bernardino Mountains are gifted with a few great ski resorts just minutes away!    As an avid snow skier, I can tell you that it is awesome living close to several ski resorts.  One, Mt. Baldy, being my favorite (when there is lots of snow) is 20 minutes from our house!   And then there is Mountain High, Big Bear, Bear Mountain, and Snow Valley all within  1 and 1/2 hrs  drive! 

       Down along the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains acres and acres of citrus (mostly orange and lemon) were planted.   I grew up waking to the smell of smudge pots that were fired up to keep the groves from freezing on nights when the temps would drop down into the 30’s.   School boys in need of extra cash would scramble from grove to grove lighting these smudge pots so no one would lose their crop.  Alas, most of these citrus groves have been replaced with shopping developments and housing.  I miss the strong sweet smell of the orange blossoms that were so dominant in early spring!

     Spring comes on more subtly and sometimes its a bit confusing to wake up and look out my window at a fresh clad of snow on our local mountain peaks and at the same time admire the rebirth of  brightly colored new leaves bursting out of hibernation on the beautiful Moravian Ash trees that line the parkways of our street.  I guess someone who lives where it is heeded to wait until after the last frost to plant their garden would be jealous of us here as we can usually plant crops directly into the garden beds;  no need for a hoop house or cold frame.  Often we can plant much of our spring gardens as soon as mid February.   I didn’t even start any veggies by seed for the longest time.  It was much easier to buy seedlings ready to put in the ground from our local nurseries or big box stores.  I have since learned the value and joy of seed saving, planting those seeds and watching them grow……. as organically as possible too!Spring Garden

     Here along the highland corridor there were also dense vineyards.  It was common to visit a local winery and enjoy a wine tasting.  By the time I was in high school most of the vineyards had also been sold to housing or business developers.   The few that were left remained popular party destinations for high school and college students!   This was because the vineyards (somewhat like a corn field) provided a discrete hideaway for underage drinking and excellent coverage from local law enforcement.  There was usually an easy escape route!   In my garden, I have planted a Flame seedless and a Thompson seedless which are popular table grapes for us here.  I don’t plan on these vines harboring any party goers but the lizards enjoy refuge in the shade of the leaves that trail along the wall.

The summers here in the Inland Empire can be miserable.  I’ve been back east plenty of times in the summer and can’t bear the humidity,  however those who think a dry heat is best wouldn’t hang out outside on the our patio much when temps hit upward of 95/106 degrees!   We can count on getting a few of these hot spells each summer and they can last  for several days to a week or so.    The heat can really stress out a garden but tomatoes and other hot weather garden veggies love it as long as their feet are cool and moist.  And at the end of the day nothing beats a summer BBQ with freshly picked veggies from the garden, a rib eye and some of our favorite cold micro beers!

I love autumn!   Many days are crisp and invigorating.  This is my favorite time to be outdoors and particularly in the garden!

Our Lavender Crepe Myrtles in Autumn!
Our Lavender Crepe Myrtles in Autumn!

As I clean up and prep the garden beds from the summers harvest, I usually get to enjoy my Crepe Myrtles as their leaves turn, reminding me that I have much more to enjoy around my yard than whats growing in my garden boxes.  In early autumn I get to plant my favorite veggies!  No greens in the garden do it for me as much as spinach and arugula.   I grow lots of it and in addition I always plant a variety of lettuces,  Swiss chard and kale!  Most of these greens can be grown equally as well in early spring.  There are plans on the table for ridding more of my backyard of grass so I can put in additional raised beds for root veggies like carrots, potatoes ( I’m asking for a real challenge here) and more beets!  Did I say I love beets!   Another rather large raised bed addition in my yard will be for asparagus.   It is a premium veggie in the stores,  it grows great here in zone 9b and hubby and I never get tired of eating it.   Growing your own veggies and greens is not rocket science.  It takes minimum effort and the reward of eating right when you pick means  that your eating the greens when they are the most potent.  The vitamin factor is huge when you eat that days pick!