Thursday, August 25, 2011

Update on Tomatoes amongst Flowers

This year I had some volunteer tomatoes grow in my flower beds, plus I added a few more tomato seedlings to those beds, scattered in with herbs, grasses and flowers.

You can just barely see one of my tomatoes in this cheese photo

My tomato crop is much improved this year, although maturing in dribbles since they seem to be mostly indeterminates (thus no photos so far). In the last 2 years, I have not successfully grown many edible tomatoes... I lost the whole crop 2 years ago to blight, and last year I lost most of it to the devastating brown marmorated stink bugs.

I have seen some evidence of that brown marmorated stink bug damage this year, but not as much. In comparison to last year, I'd say I have 90% more good/edible tomatoes this year. The volunteer tomatoes have had only a few penetration spots, and the new seedlings have had a few more than the volunteers. The worst 'damage' so far was several big Brandywines where I only lost a secton of each. The rest of the damage has been just the occasional spot and easy to cut out. Of course, I will have tomatoes ripening for another month or more, so the tally may change.

I know the brown marmorated stink bugs are around, as I have actually seen a couple in the garden. So in my opinion, the success rate is not due to the bugs moving on. I do not use any chemicals, so it's not that either. The other possible reasons for more success are that (1, best) the new tomato plants are generally well interspersed with all sorts of perennials and herbs, which must deter stink bugs. (2) The volunteers are slightly more exposed, that is, away from most of the flowers and herbs but with less damage... perhaps the seeds built up a tad of immunity from last year's infestation? Can that actually even happen? (Doesn't seem very logical to me.)

I was not quite so fortunate with the volunteer winter squash. I harvested a total of 2 bushels between the acorns and Thelma Sander's S.P. squash, and half a dozen acorns had surface bug damage. Knowing those would not keep in the root cellar, I decided to cut out the bad areas and roast the rest to freeze. Out of 6 very large squash, 5 were completely riddled with rot inside in spite of having a hard shell with only minor areas of apparent pest damage.

A few English cucumbers, before bugs ate the vines. Long one is 15"

I did lose my cucumber and melon vines to spotted squash bugs, which I now think may have been what damaged the winter squash fruits. I thought the winter squash vines died prematurely (in my opinion) but I didn't think initially that it was from pests. This is the first year I've seen the spotted yellow squash bugs; usually I just get squash borers in the summer squash.

I am greatly encouraged with this different way of growing vegetables although it was mostly accidental. Next year it will be more by intention. I don't yet know how that will be, but I have the winter to mull it over and plan!

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