Suckers and other Garden Terrors

Gardening is fun, it really is but my garden has a complete life of it’s own!!!  I’ve been really trying to keep on top of my tomato plants because of last years insanity (check out the pictures here  from my 2011 garden if you haven’t seen them already).  I’ve dedicated two days of every week to check on the tomatoes: Tomato Tuesday and Tomato Thursday (yep, I’m a dork) but I was trying to check on them every time I went into the garden.

If you’ve been keeping up with my garden blogs you’ll recall that last year my four tomato plants got totally out of control in just a few weeks and I never regained control.  As a result my large tomatoes never produced much and what they did produce didn’t ripen well on the vine (not sure if that is connected to the out-of-control leaves but for now I’m comfortable blaming that).  This year my father-in-law got really excited about the garden we were building and bought us two raised garden beds, ten strawberry plants and TWENTY tomato plants!!!  I planted ten as soon as the beds were built and filled, found five a new home and let the other five sit for way too long (I did water them!) before I finally gave up getting them to my mother’s house (I’m in CT she’s in ME) and planted them in my garden.

The sucker, it looks like just another branch but notice it’s coming out between the main stem and a branch… YIKES that grew fast!

The plucked sucker

So, I have FIFTEEN tomato plants to battle with this year!!!

Knowing how hard they were to control last year I’ve been really assiduous this year, checking almost every day that it’s not raining.  Well, we had a few rainy days in a row and this happened:

In addition to suckers the size of my daughter’s arm I discovered that I’ve let at least two of my large tomato plants (we won’t embarass the last five pathetic plants by pointing out that they’ve been too weak to produce even ONE sucker, let alone giant ones) have split tops because of suckers that went out of control.

In general you’re supposed to pluck all suckers and I read recently that you can pluck them when they’re almost a foot long without damage to the plant. These suckers are so big and well established (with flowers on top!) that I decided to leave them.  The reason to pluck suckers is that they “suck” the fruiting life out of the plant.  You’ll end up with a large, leafy, beautiful looking plants with few to no fruits. So, obviously, I need to keep track of my tomato plants a bit better, especially with the impending arrival of my new baby (I’m due tomorrow!).  Though I’m glad it’s a homebirth so I won’t be stuck in a hospital for a few days, I’ll be able to walk outside with my baby as soon as I feel ready–a few minutes after birth if I want to (though I might just take it easy for a few hours… maybe).

This is one of my two headed monsters. The sucker is bigger than the original branch!

This is one of my sad plants… transplanted weeks later than the others it has yet to even attempt a sucker although one or two of them do have some tiny fruit!

Now, my title promised other terrors but really the suckers are the most “terrifying” things in my garden right now that I’ve seen

Let’s talk about cabbage.  Why doesn’t it like me?  Last year I tried Gonzales cabbage (they are mini-cabbages, easy to use the entire thing in one meal) but they never grew!  That entire bed ended up being tilled under because nothing grew there.  Suspicious…  This year I bought a cabbage mix from Pinetree Seeds because it included a variety of different cabbages that would mature at different times and give me the opportunity to try out different types.  I planted them according to the information I had along side my golden beets.

Nothing happened.

Well, nothing good.  I did try and weed out the things that sprouted up in between where I’d planted seeds and I might have forgotten where I planted the beets and weeded some of those… I might have also weeded some of the cabbages because I’ve never seen a cabbage sprout but I dont’ think so.  At this point I have a single beet and potentially two or three cabbages.  I’m so disheartened!!!  Next year I am planning to start many seeds indoors, including cabbages, to hopefully increase my germination rate AND increase my growing season.

So, really, what is going on with these cabbages and beets for that matter?  Evil bugs living under the ground eating my newly germinated seeds?

When I mentioned this trouble to my mother she simply said, “Don’t bother with cabbage, it’s so cheap, just buy it at the store.”  Well, that’s fine but I want to grow cabbage and I’m not read to give up so easily.  I chose the mix because I wanted to try different cabbages.  I don’t want to just buy it, I mean, I could just buy any of the veggies I grow (well, except for the super cool colorful carrots) but it is healthier to grow your own organically!  So, I’m not giving up, I replanted the area where no beets or cabbages grew and I have hopes that something will happen this year.  I planted new beets in a different bed (I’d planned to anyway, staggered plantings so they would be ready to harvest at different times).

Gardening has a steep learning curve for me.  I’ve made HUGE improvements since last year and I know that next year will be even better.  Hopefully I’ll still get some good produce this year, even with our late start and seemingly slow going (I’m just jealous that other people are already picking and I have only a few tiny green tomatoes and 2 inch lettuce heads!).  I just hope I don’t get everything under control and organized right before we decide to move!!!

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