Neighbours talking over the garden gate has long been a tradition. They share gardening tips, complain about the weather and pests yet are ever eager to discuss their gardens. That is what I had in mind when creating this blog. So stop by my garden gate to find out the latest happenings in my garden.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
"All my life through, the new sights of Nature made me rejoice like a child." ~ Madame Marie Curie"

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Ground Cherries & Herbs

With fall's official arrival there is no doubting the inevitable. Yesterday, one of my neighbours picked off all the green tomatoes and pulled her vines. I'll leave mine a while longer. The average day of first frost here is October 9 While it has been cool enough to have the funace on, today is sunny and bright.

I did a clean pick this morning yielding a stuffed basket of tomatoes, cucumbers and beans. The zucchini have a couple of small fruit but will be a day or two before being ready for picking. The vines are not looking as nice as before. I pulled a few of the spent tomato vines but won't start a lot of the winterizing until next week. By then much of the heavy canning and freezing should be finished.

Herb Bed

A few new perennials were added to the herb bed this year. The bed is 40 square feet planted in the square foot gardening method along with companion planting. With the exception exception of lemon balm, the main herb garden has no other mints. The lemon balm may be moved to another location as it just is not behaving itself!

The herbs are tolerating the cooler weather nicely. There is little to do to prepare this bed for the winter other than pulling the stray lemon balm plants. Most of the herbs are perennials but I'll harvest whatever I can from the annuals. I prefer to freeze herbs for a better flavour but will likely end up drying some as well.

Ground Cherries

Ground cherries are a new crop for me this year. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with them yet other than hopefully get enough to make a pie. This is an interesting plant that at first appeared not to like our zone. The past few weeks, the ground cherries have been producing well and the vines look nice and healthy. Growing in the same bed is a sweet potato vine grown for looks along with marigolds. This is one of the newest beds so I'm pleased with the results.

Happy Gardening

Garden Gnome

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

There's A Fungus Amongst Us

We have a nice little tree on the waterfront. Then I noticed shelf fungus so of course was very interested. Shelf fungus is of the class Basidiomycetes. I haven't indentified the fungus but suffice to say the tree is still living so either this is a symbiotic fungus or parasitic.


The shelf fungus is rather impressive. Once identified, I will know whether it is edible or not. For the time being we are keeping an eye on the tree to see how it reacts. We have thought of removing the fungsu but so far there are no apparent ill effects in the tree. The tree itself looks nice and healthy which leads me to think this fungus might be a symbiotic one! So it might be best left alone.

Fungus from the Top

The fungus has a dark centre from whence it is growing. The rest is rather bland looking. The underside where the spores are is fine pored with no visible spores.

I'll keep an eye and document this fungus. There is less to do in the garden as the weather cools but since we had to put the heat on today that will soon change. Once the first frost threatens, less than a month now, I will be busy picking whatever green tomatoes I can. The beans are pretty much finished. We've decided that because of blight problems this year all foliage will be burned not composted. Then the work of preparing the beds for winter will begin.

Happy Gardening

Garden Gnome

Friday, September 15, 2006

Beefmaster Tomatoes

My husband takes no real interst in gardening but he does help out in the garden. Now about this time of year he starts camping out in the garden waiting very patiently along with the toaster and loaf of bread. I tried to tell him he could pull a few weeds while he's out there but no he is after one thing and one thing only, a beefsteak tomato!


The past couple of years have not been the best for beefsteak tomatoes. This year I planted Beefmaster and am being rewarded with nice sized beefsteaks. They are averaging just under a pound in weight. The plants are yielding one to two daily of the same size so I will definitely be saving seeds. This cultivar is a good producer that has done nicely in our zone, Zone 6A.

I try to grow as organic as possible so the tomatoes are not always perfect. The Beefmaster has a bit of splitting at the crown but that may be due to the amount of rain we've had. Late blight hit bed #1 and spread despite the measures I took of removing the affected foliage and burning it. All foliage from this bed will be removed and burned once the tomatoes have finished producing. Late blight has hit bed #6 but to a much lesser degree. Tomatoes coming from that bed are still copious. This is the bed where the Beefmasters are.

My neighbour asked me what the huge tomatoes were as he had never seen them that size. It's funny around here in the land of tomato growers that folk don't know much else besides hot house tomatoes and field tomatoes. Most can identify slicing tomatoes and romas but that is about it. When I talk of beefsteak or yellow tomatoes people just look confused. The reason people don't know about these tomatoes is they are not available in the grocery stores so unless they garden they have never been introduced to these wonderful cultivars. People, there are so many wonder varieties of tomatoes out there and so little time to taste test them all! I can recall when my family first tried yellow tomatoes years ago. My husband wrinkled up his nose and said eww before even tasting it. The kids were more adventurous. Now they are a family favourite and I grow some type of yellow cultivar each year. Last year I grew Mellow Yellows without a problem. They were good producers with no problems. This year I grew Lemon Boys and that is where the late blight started.

Happy Gardening

Garden Gnome

Monday, September 11, 2006

Large Scale Tomato Harvesting

Tomatoes are big business in our area and are now being harvested daily upto a frost. I thought this would be a rather interesting entry for those who have never seen tomato harvesting on a large scale. The following pictures are from a relative's farm. The pictures were taken on Saturday. It was a cool, damp, on and off rainy day but the harvesting continued.

Tomato Harvester

Although some tomatoes are still hand picked on many farms, the vast majority are harvested using a harvester. A large tractor, in this case a John Deer (a blatant plug for certain family members), pulls the harvester behind it. Here it is either red (International Harvester) or green (John Deer) for tractors and believe me there are some strong preferances. The harvester stradles the tomato row then is pulled along the row. At the same time a tomato wagon is pulled alongside the harvester. Inside the harvester six to eight workers will quickly sort the tomatoes removing any clumps of dirt or green tomatoes as the tomatoes move along a conveyor belt to be deposited into the tomato wagon. Believe it or not in an area where jobs are scarce, migrant workers form the good portion of the agricultural workforce here. Farm children learn early how to help on the farms and everyone in the family lends a hand when it comes to harvesting. Unfortunately many living in surrounding towns do not want to work on the farms even if they are unemployed.

There is a hamper shown in the picture as well. This is the hamper size I process about ten of each year. I do stand corrected as I thought each hamper was almost a bushel. However a family member corrected me when we were figuring out how many cans of tomatoes would be in one wagon load. A hamper is 5/8 of a bushel and holds 30 lbs of tomatoes. One hamper will yield approximately fourteen quarts of whole tomatoes.

Row of Tomatoes

Rows and rows of tomatoes are a wonderful sight! Our relative has several hundred acres some planted with tomatoes. The acreage is divided amongst several farms so there is a lot of travel time involved in harvesting. The tomatoes are sprayed with ethylene before harvesting so they ripen all at the same time.

A tomato field does not necessarily have the smell of fresh tomatoes! It is a mix fresh tomatoes, rotting tomatoes, mud and any other "country" that tend to waft by including the smells of machinery and vehicles. There are other smells as well especially when the sun is shining in full force!

When you first get to the field at the crack of dawn, there is a pleasant quietness but then people start arriving, trucks are started up along with the machinery and the busy chattering of the day starting. Harvesting is not quiet either especially on the harvestor. Other sounds fill the air. Inside the tractor the CB radio is on to keep things in sync. Quite often there is shouting along with arm waving. And so it goes through the day into the last minutes of light for the day.

Tomatoes on Conveyor

Tomatoes move into the harvester then onto a conveyor belt that deposits them into the tomato wago. Tomato wagons are a very common sight this time of year. As the tomatoes move along the conveyor they are quickly and I mean quickly sorted as already mentioned. I think the worst part of harvesting is riding on the harvester because I have motion sickeness. The last time I rode on one was back just after we got married. Funds were tight and I was determined to help out. What makes the experience worse is the harvester itself is moving and the conveyor belt is moving so you get a double whammy! For those who can tolerate the harvester it is a relatively easy job as farm jobs go. The harvester is covered to provide shade for the workers something that is much appreciated in the hot or rainy weather. Right now we are having cold, damp weather so rubber gloves are almost a must as the moving air will make your hands feel like they are freezing. Even the tomatoes in my garden have been very cold to the touch when picking the last few days and the weather has made no attempt to warm up.

Loading into Wagon

The tomatoes are loaded into the tomato wagon by the conveyor belt. The wagons are huge! They are also leaky and smelly. If I'm not mistaken each wagon holds 40 tonnes of tomatoes. The tomatoes are never nice and clean like those in a home garden. If it has rained recently or is raining when harvesting the tomatoes will be muddy. Watching the tomatoes being loading is rather interesting. Each wagon is loaded so it is higher in the middle then lower in the sides forming a hill of tomatoes at the top of the wagon. As a result of this practice it is also common to see tomatoes along the sides of the road en route to where the tomatoes are taken.

Wagon Load

The full tomato wagons are then lined up waiting to be hooked to another wagon, a tractor or a semi-truck for their final destination. The picture shows how the wagons are loaded then lined up for transportation. There is little space between the wagons. It is quite common to have several of these tomato wagons lined up waiting for transport. There are two processing plants within an 80 km distance of many of the tomato growers here. Mode of transporting the tomatoes will depend on where the farm is located in relation to the processing plant. Those with a shorter distance to travel will use tractors while those further from the plants will use semis.

Tomato Trains

The wagons are often trained together to lessen the amount of trips needed so are a fairly common sight here. For those not in rural areas, tractors move slow so caution must always be used on the rural roads during harvest season. The semi-trucks are able to transport at a higher speed but care is still needed when driving.

My husband helps occasionally by driving a few loads to the plants when needed. This is rather difficult as my husband works all day but helping family is important so we do what we can. I like to ride with him. The plants are very interesting places to see. It is usually at night when we arrive and sometimes it takes awhile to unload. Each semi-truck lines-up behind the last waiting for their turn to be weighed. The tomatoes are then sampled for grading and the wagon is unloaded. The driver gets the weigh slip which includes the grading that determines the price the farmer will get for the tomatoes.

Now for me, it is more of a photo shoot opportunity. I love riding along especially on a night run. It is a chance for me to get some really nice pictures of things a lot of folk never get the opportunity to see and it is another chance to bond with my husband. It is also a learning opportunity. Many folk have little knowledge of where the food they eat comes from. More importantly it is sensory overload as I watch the bussel of plant workers, smell the most amazing smell of tomatoes cooking sometimes mingled with other smells, and hear an constant multitude of sounds.


The tomatoes harvested from this field were a plum tomato hybrid T900. The flesh is thick and meaty with very little seed. The flavour is deep with an nice aromatic smell. The destination for these tomatoes will be most of the tomato products sold in the stores such as ketchup, soups, paste, whole and stewed, and just about every tomato product sold. I'll be using these to make a few sauces, ketchup, salsas, soup and paste.

I hope this entry provides a little more insight as to tomato farming.

Happy Gardening

Garden Gnome

Friday, September 08, 2006


Sunflowers are so bright and cheery that every garden needs at least one. They attract beneficial pollinators and seed eating birds. The problem I've had is getting them to grow to any size but this year I got a surprise. I've tried planting potted sunflowers but they have always failed so I've come to the conclusion that sunflowers do not transplant well. Over the winter I had birdfeeders out with black oil sunflower seeds. This year we have a lot of volunteer black oil sunflowers along with two volunteer huge sunflowers. Next year I'm going to plant sunflowers directly in the ground.

Lady Beetle on Sunflower

When I go to the garden it is always with camera in hand. The sunflower was magnificant with a seed head alone spanning almost 8 inches in diameter. The bright yellow petals had a depth to them that just attacted the eye. This unidentified lady beetle provided a wonderful contrast against immature sunflower seeds. I think the lady beetle may be a C-7 but I'm not sure. At any rate it did not appear to be doing any damage so it is more than likely a beneficial beetle.

Happy Gardening

Garden Gnome

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Garden Happenings

Meconema thalassinum (Drumming Katydid)

I've been told when the Katydids start buzzing the summer is almost over. That may be as I'm now into canning tomatoes and the weather has cooled considerable. A Katydid is cricket like but not a true cricket. They make a buzzing sound very different from the sound crickets make. Quite often you can hear their buzzing but seldom see them so I was very pleased to be able to photograph this drumming katydid. I managed to get several photographs while he sat contentedly making his own music for a couple of hours. He didn't seem to mind me puttering in the garden either!

Unidentified Rose Worm

This little critter and his friends really annoyed me. I only have two rose bushes and they decided that rose leaves were the food of choice. Since there are a lot it takes little time to strip the rose leaves. Like most annoying and destructive critters, my method of removal is manual. In this case I popped the offending caterpillars into a soap solution. I'm still picking off the little critters! I haven't identified them yet.

Late Blight

Bed #1 has late blight. I'm not happy over this situation. It appears to have started in the Lemon Boys then quickly spread. Late blight is a virus that if left unchecked will quickly spread to other tomato plants as well as peppers and potatoes. The easiest solution is to remove infected vegetation and burn it. Do not compost! To avoid the spread of the virus do not work around wet vegetation. Despite my diligent efforts the blight is spreading in bed #1, I don't expect to get any more Lemon Boys as the plants are pretty much destroyed. One Lemon Boy clipping that was transfered to the greenhouse also shows signs of blight so to avoid contaminating the greenhouse it had to be destroyed. I'm going to take a few clippings of the Ultra Sweets in the hopes of them not being contaminated. I want to grow some in the greenhouse then indoors when the weather turns frigid. It will be a new experiment.

Happy Gardening

Garden Gnome

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Garden Update

I've been very busy in the kitchen so if you want to check out some of my projects, check my cooking blog, I thought I should give some type of a garden update though.

Today it is unseasonably cool so I might plant some lettuce later. The tomatoes are fairing despite battling late blight. The one bed is doing a lot better than the other. However, and I'm pretty sure it is that ornary teenage rabbit, has decided to take up residence in bed # 6 that is home to Heinz, beefmaster, romas and ancho peppers. It wouldn't be so bad except for having to pick the rest of the garden wearing my morning coffe! While my husband thinks this is rather So last night I sprinkled a copious amount of cayenne pepper throughout that bed. The zucchini continue to flourish after their bout with squash bore. They have taken over all the pathways, the garden, the house and are now talking about annexing neighbouring properties. The Kentucky Wonders are still producing and the Romanos have just started.

Happy Gardening

Garden Gnome