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In the Garden

In the garden: Tomato blight jinxes the best garden ever

Tomato blight

Tomato blight

Best garden ever! I had been afraid of saying it out loud for fear of jinxing things, and no sooner had I said these words last week when the tomato plants began to show signs of disease. They were doing fabulously well until then. We ate our first ripe Early Blue Ribbon tomato June 30. It was a new variety for us and though small, they are much tastier than other early tomatoes we have tried in the past. I experimented with grafting some heirloom varieties onto more vigorous rootstock and have been very pleased with the results.

They are outgrowing and outproducing their nongrafted counterparts. All of the plants were growing more robustly than usual, and we had to do a lot of pruning just to keep the jungle under control. I had talked with other gardeners in town who had to rip out all of their tomato plants earlier in the season because of blight, but ours were growing just great. Until I uttered those words: Best. Garden. Ever.

Now they are developing lots of brown spots and yellow leaves, and are dying off in places. The plants in the high tunnel have yellow spots. So far no fruits seem to be affected. We have sent pictures of the plants to the UNH Cooperative Extension for identification. If it comes back that they have the dreaded late blight, we too will be ripping out plants that are loaded with tomatoes. I knew it was too good to be true!

On a more positive note, the insects that usually plague us the most – cucumber beetles, squash bugs, vine borers and Japanese beetles – are causing only minor problems this year. The vole and chipmunk populations are down also, and I haven’t seen many ticks, but of course it is the one you don’t see that bites you.

There was enough rainfall and hot humid days to grow squash plants of gargantuan size. We started pepper plants very early so we have been harvesting green ones for a while and hope to have some sweet red Carmen peppers soon. The jalapenos are dripping with fruits that are fairly hot. Eggplants are kicking in, but next year, I’ll try starting a few plants even earlier than usual to get fruits sooner.

Beans and cucumbers are more prolific than ever this year. The garlic bulbs are of good size, and the onions and shallots are still putting on growth. The only real disappointment has been the Romanesco broccoli/cauliflower. I keep waiting for it to form heads, but the plants just keep getting taller with no sign of a head. The other broccoli has done great, and we ate the regular cauliflower weeks ago. We have had an anonymous critter visit the garden twice to eat the chard and beet tops. We were thinking woodchuck, but it seems to be too selective and hasn’t moved in or eaten anything else.

The flowers have been glorious this year, and Tom has been selling them to area florists who like the idea of local organically grown flowers and also are glad not to have to drive to the Boston Flower Market in the wee hours of the morning.

Every spring I plant too many containers, which I usually neglect as summer wears on, but this year there has been enough rain at the right times to keep them growing lushly without me lugging water to them.

Tomato problems aside, it has been a banner year for our garden. I have many jars of pickles to enjoy and lots of beans and grilled veggies in the freezer.

August is Eat Local month in New Hampshire, and what could be more local than your own backyard? If you don’t have a garden, visit your local farmers market to take advantage of the fresh flavorful food available this time of year. Many farmers markets report a slight increase in customers due to the Market Basket boycott. Even though we have Shaw’s in town, many people drive the extra half an hour to shop at a Market Basket store and still save money. Hopefully, once they develop a taste for fresh produce close to home, these newcomers will stick with the local market even after Market Basket returns to normal operations.

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