Tips on tomatoes and slugs

Friend and neighbor Sharon Baur has a delightful greenhouse. It is the perfect size for a small family. Really, how many tomatoes do you need? She and her husband, Marvin, harvested a lovely tomato (of course, she can’t remember the name of it) and made the one and only BLT that they will consume this season. And its gorgeous. If you too have dietary restrictions, toss them aside for one wonderful splurge and let that be a homemade BLT. Inside her tiny greenhouse are a couple of tomato plants and a gorgeous bell pepper “Tequila Red.” Really, who could ask for more?

If you are thinking about building a greenhouse or purchasing a kit, now is the time to do it. You want it ready to roll come the next growing season. Please keep in mind that a greenhouse is another whole dimension of gardening chores, watering being the main one. They are not for everyone. Even a three-day camping trip can spell disaster if there is no one to water. Black spot is the bane of tomatoes and this strikes when the watering is not even. Too much, too little — just keep it steady and that requires DOING it.

Purchase starts at one of our excellent local nurseries. You can’t go wrong. This will give you an advantage of having a healthy, thriving seedling in the first place, instead of something that you attempted to start yourself without enough light or the correct temperature or, or, or. The pitfalls go on and on.

The bins in our greenhouse are filled with the compost that we make. We change it out every year, in the fall. The bins are 3 foot square and only 8 inches deep. We certainly have a load of produce coming out of there so I’m not arguing with the set up. Visitors are often stunned at how shallow the bins are but keep in mind that tomatoes want to spread out their root systems not throw them deep. There are countless tomato plants that are planted in 5 gallon pails that produce tons. So whatever works and whatever is available, use it. And you will never ever eat a commercially produced tomato again.

This is the time of year you will want to “top” your tomato plants. The end is near and the plants won’t be able to ripen the fruit that will continue to develop on the topmost reaches of the plants. Cut them back. Really. Let what you have ripen and enrich your life.

This goes for the pumpkins. I’m having good luck this year with the Small Sugar pumpkin. I capitulated and fertilized the blooms. I really thought that the insects would be doing their job but that has not been the case for the last few years so I went ahead and did it myself. The first flush of blooms are usually all female. They die off and then the males come on. They die off and then both male and female blooms appear and voila! you have pumpkins. Right now I have two perfect ones out there and more show promise. We’ll see what happens. But I went ahead and cut the vines back even though there were countless blooms ( ah, the potential) but there isn’t enough time to make a harvest. Let the plants energy go to what you have, not what you think you might have. Count your blessings.

Let’s address slugs. This has been the perfect August for these mollusks. Now, with the rain, is when they come to your vegetables (and flowers) by the legion. They need this rain. There are those who have commented on the lack of slugs, thinking its because they a robust population of sparrows. No. Sparrows eat seeds. What the slugs have been waiting for is — the rain. And here it is. Be vigilant. Don’t put Sluggo in the bed with the plants. Use it in the path so they are not getting comfortable in the raised bed and laying eggs. Lure them out. If you use Sluggo, it needs to be reapplied after every rain, which is a lot of reapplying at this point. You can wait for a break in the weather or lay out shingles (I like shingles), gather them up in the morning, scrapping the slugs that cling to the underside into a bucket of vinegary water. Bid them adieu.

* * * * * On an entirely different note I need to comment on the quality of Alaskan light. Early morning light to be exact. There is nothing so peaceful as taking a walk around the garden at about 6 a.m. The light has a pearly quality and the plants gleam. Even in the rain. Try it. Much is said about the length of daylight but not so much about the quality. Think about that.

Keep gardening, there is much to be done. And do stop to smell the roses.