There’s a few odds and ends that I want to share with you today. One is that our tomato crop is coming in - yay! - and I’m processing/eating/giving away as fast as we can. I shared some ‘new-to-me’ varieties a couple of weeks ago - and I promised I would show them again as they ripened. So here you go!
One is Indigo Apple, from Wild Boar Farms. It’s a small slicer, about 4-8 oz, maybe in the saladette category. A nice size, bigger than cherry but smaller than some of the big slicers like Black Krim. That makes it hard to use for canning, because it’s a pain to take the skins off smaller tomatoes. But it makes it excellent for fresh eating. And it’s delicious and very sweet! It starts out on the plant as a green tomato with purple shoulders, and then when it ripens it looks like this.
Beautiful dark shoulders and terra-cotta skin color. The inside is a bright pink, which looks great next to the dark edges of the skin.
I really like this variety and will grow it again.
Another is Blue and Gold Berries, also from Wild Boar Farms. This is a cherry tomato, and it starts out a dark purple color nearly all over. Eventually it ripens to gold. This is one of the most prolific cherry tomatoes I have ever grown, with huge clusters of fruit. However it takes a LONG time for them to ripen, and once they are ripe, there is a very short window before they are overripe. This requires swift action at a very certain time, so while they are productive and beautiful (and tasty!), the amount of fussiness required for harvesting is a deterrent to growing them again.
Another tomato I wrote about was Black Beauty, yet another selection from Wild Boar Farms. This one is nearly all black when unripe, but ripens to a rose-red with black shoulders. It’s really, really lovely. Also very prolific (all three of these are prolific!) and this one is larger than the Indigo Apple, more like 8-12 oz.
Let’s move on to non-tomato news, shall we? I had a visitor at the water fountain the other day.
This is one of those juvenile Cooper’s Hawks we’ve had flying around our yard. Isn’t she gorgeous??? You can tell she’s still young because she has some white spots on her back, which will disappear with age. I took this picture from the bathroom window, and I was breathless at the time. These birds are just so magnificent. We were wondering if they were still around, and I guess they are. I wonder how many times they’ve visited the fountain when I didn’t see them.
Next, I’d like to draw your attention to two interesting websites, both geared towards California gardeners and landscapers, but offer valuable information for those in other states, too. One is Calscape, which is a division of the California Native Plant Society. Calscape is a great resource for deciding which native plants belong where in your garden. For instance, you can search out ‘dry shade’ and get a list of plants for that kind of situation. Recently they have added a new tool with aims to provide gardeners lists of plants to meet the specific food needs of certain pollinators. So, for instance, if you want to help out particular butterflies, you find out what to plant to attract and feed them. Once you go to the site, you click on the ‘butterfly’ button at the top of the page. Then you enter your address and it will give you a list of butterflies and moths that are native to your address! When I did this, it came up with 212 species!!! Incredible. Then you can pick a species you are interested in and Calscape will give you the range for the butterfly, the confirmed food sources for them, and the likely food sources for them. These are plants that the butterfly can lay eggs on - food sources for the larvae (caterpillars). I entered Boisduval’s Blue (a butterfly I love) and found that they need lupines to raise babies. Good thing I plant a lot of those!
This could be a great tool for those of us who love wildlife and want to plant to attract and support them. Pretty much everyone can get behind butterflies, so I imagine this will be helpful for a lot of gardeners in California.
Another site that I am finding helpful is the one belonging to the Pacific Horticulture Society, of which I am a also a member. They have a new series of ‘digital classroom’ videos which are extremely helpful. I particularly enjoyed the one titled “Gardeners as Superheroes” which was really about soil. It’s extremely thorough, 90 minutes of good, entertaining explanation about how the water cycle works and how to improve your soil. It really is about watershed gardening, which I’ve talked about before, but it’s always good to get a reminder of what that means. The other videos are interesting, too, and there will be more in the future. While you’re there, check out their ‘recent stories’ to learn more about the way trees talk to each other, look at their travel opportunities, and upcoming events all over California. There’s some great information here. They also have an extremely beautiful publication that I really enjoy receiving.
One last thing: I usually start seeds for the winter garden now, the first weekend of August. I’m going to hold off a week or two, for two reasons: 1) It’s still extremely warm, and 2) the summer garden got going very late this year because of our cold and rainy May. If I start seeds now, I’ll want to plant them out the first week of October as I always do, and I’d rather give the summer garden a bit more time. It won’t hurt to wait a couple of weeks. However, it is certainly the time to start thinking about your winter garden. Sow all the brassicas in soil blocks or trays and let them hang out in a warm, sheltered, protected place for a couple months until they are ready to plant in the ground. I’ve planned for broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels Sprouts, and kohlrabi. I will also direct sow all the greens - lettuces, kales, chards, spinach etc. Also leeks, carrots, peas, and beets will be direct sown in October. I may also sow a crop of winter potatoes, and of course garlic and shallots will need to be planted sometime in October. If you haven’t started to think about this, do so now. Planning ahead and keeping good records is key to a productive space.