Sunday, 3 February 2013

Veggie garden update

It's been a while... my veggie garden continues to delight as the tomatoes ripen and the heritage varieties that I planted months after the yellow and red 'commerical' cherry tomatoes now start to bear flowers and fruit.

I enjoy spending time in the garden pulling out weeds, cable tying the tomatoes and checking up on what is happening.

This past week I harvested a mass of basil and dried it in my dehydrator. I've put it into labelled packets to give to my neighbours in our complex. Yesterday I dried a load of mint too; these are bagged and ready for handing out. It's really satisfying to see the look of surprise and pleasure on my neighbours' faces when I give them their sachets. There's still a load of basil growing - as well as mint. I'll have to do another harvest soon.

I didn't have a good start with the first batch of my heritage/heirloom tomatoes. The seedlings came up beautifully from all varieties but they died during a really hot spell when I was away in early December. Only the few that I'd transplanted into the garden survived. I transferred six. One got zapped by something - munch-munch. One was quite a weekling and died some time later after not making much progress. The others are looking fantastic! They're getting flowers and there are little baby green tomatoes developing. The varieties that I have growing are Tigerella (red with yellow stripes, medium size),  Northern Lights (also bicolour, medium size), Dr Carolyn (large cherry) and Geranium Kiss (large cherry).

Immature Tigerella tomatoes. It's going to be a few weeks still until these ripen. The plant has loads of flowers to I'm anticipating a good yield.
Geranium Kiss -  a squat, sturdy plant with a thick and strong stem. 
I immediately put in more seeds and up they came fast. These guys thrived in the warm weather. I transplanted them a few weeks ago and they're doing really well. Two didn't survive a rough onslaught from the complex gardener - he was digging around a bit too close to them. I'm not 100% certain what I've planted but for sure there are a number of Blondkopfchen (yellow cherry).

I've had the pleasure of eating a number of my red and yellow cherry tomatoes - regular seeds bought from my nursery. I prefer the yellow cherry tomatoes, which have a beautiful flavour. The difference between the two plants is amazing. The red cherry plant grows higher and is bigger; the yellow cherry seems to have more fruit. I've got three red cherry plants and two and a bit (small, stunted after early bird attack) yellow cherry plants. I'll definitely put in more next season.

Those are tomato plants in the foreground - yes, that's a yellow cherry you can see. Eggplant plants - with big leaves - just behind.
Other excitement comes in the form of eggplant fruit. My mom bought me a tray of eggplant seedlings from the nursery and they have done incredibly well. They flowered a while ago and now there is fruit - and there are more flowers blooming at the moment too. The first fruit was picked about two days ago - I'll do something with it tomorrow.

One thing I didn't know is how to tell when eggplant are ripe for picking. According to the fabulous internet...

Eggplant are best harvested when young and a bit bigger than my hand. The skin should have a sheen -  a shine to it. If it is dull it should be left on the plant until shiny or glossy. And, it is best to pick them young because the flavour is better and the picking stimulates the plant to produce more fruit.

The Swiss Chard continues to go crazy and the variety in the colours of the stems (I haven't taken a pic yet of the stems) is fabulous. Red, pink, green and yellow - pretty. I don't like the flavour very much raw -  a little bitter - but fine when chopped and added to a salad with other ingredients. I've also had my Swiss Chard lightly steamed; and that was good. The bitterness goes away when cooked. A number of my neighbours are regularly eating the Swiss Chard - and butter lettuce. When it comes to leafy veg a little does go a long way.

I have a 'garden' salad most days. Here are some pickings from a week or so ago. Red and yellow cherry tomatoes, butter lettuce, Swiss Chard, basil, chilli, rosemary, parsley. A delight!
There's still time to plant more tomatoes, even from seed. Looks like Northern Lights may be my best option.

The final garden delight is my tree tomato tree. I brought two back from Durban - from my friend Deon - and they are doing really well, especially the plant that was bigger originally. I think I need to move the other to a sunnier spot. I had a tree tomato plant at my cottage -  a deep red fruit. That tree constantly fruited. Deon's variety is a lighter colour - more variegated as I recall.

'Deon's tree tomato'
Descriptions of the heirloom tomato varieties that I've got are below. I bought the seeds from LivingSeeds. They're in Jo'burg (Alberton area) - seeds ordered online.

A small sweet bright yellow cherry tomato. This one produces huge trusses of medium sized cherry tomatoes. A sweet acid free tomato that is just great for picking and eating out-of-hand. Also great for dips and colour in salads.

Dr Carolyn
Dr Carolyn is what i would call a large cherry tomato. Fruits are 2.5-3 cm across and are produced in profusion. Flavour is superb with a low acid sweetness that lingers

Geranium Kiss
A very unusual bush tomato that produces masses of large cherry type fruit. Not small enough to be called cherry tomatoes but not large enough to rate as a small tomato. The lovely red fruit have a small point or nipple that give it a distinctive look, however it is the foliage that really stands out. It truely does look like a geranium.

Northern Lights
A beautiful name for a beautiful tomato. This is a medium sized beefsteak to mato that handles the cold pretty well, so it will germinate a bit earlier and keep bearing right-up to your first frost. It is a bicolour tomato that has a red blush on the blossom end that extends or radiates upwards.

A beautiful golden striped tomato that is bound to provide a few interested comments around your dinner table. Can be picked while the stripes are a pale green and then eaten from any time as the stripes turn golden. Our kids love these with bacon and eggs in the morning. Indeterminate vines that produce abundant fruits. Has a full rich flavor that will have you turning your nose up the pale pink things the shops call tomatoes. Approx 20 seeds Planting: Plant in Spring after last frost, or alternatively plant in a cold frame from August to get a head start and early fruit. can be planted until Dec for a late summer crop. Does well planted in a tomato frame or trained up some support. Enjoys rich soil with a high organic content.

1 comment:

Lobby said...

Oh, those all look great, can only hope ours looks that good one day soon:)