The season always starts with such promise: new varieties of tomatoes selected, new vegetables to try, the entire off-season spent researching and planning. But ultimately, such hopes and knowledge can't prepare for an off year. I have been tending garden since 2007 and this is my first, true, off year. Two weeks ago, I pulled out my Momotaro and one Mariana's Peace tomato plants. Today I pulled out two Russian heirlooms and the Matina tomatoes. The were suffering from a variety of ailments, some of which I can speculate rather than diagnose with certainty. A nutrient deficiency is one theory explains failure to thrive. Insufficient watering explains the leaf curl. Now combine weakened plants with pernicious powdery mildew and an unknown blight and half my crop had to be destroyed before the plants could produce any significant quantity or quality of tomatoes.
|Papi Tomato suspects verticillium wilt. My Matina is down for the count.|
|Leaf curl, premature discoloration, and mildew|
|My San Marzano Redorta is doing okay, but not thriving|
|Russian heirloom with wilting blight - they're in the trash heap now.|
|My poor sad tomato bed|
|And to add insult to injury - blossom end rot!|
It is an odd contradiction that the garden as a whole has never looked better. The weeds are under control. The roses are blooming beautifully and prolifically. My side yard fruit trees are burgeoning with pomegranates and fragrant with the earthy smell of almost ripe figs. My patio is a colorful and hospitable place for birds, butterflies, and feline and human guests. But the tomatoes keep failing and any fruit I have is small, hard, and sometimes downright unpalatable.
This fall into winter will be the time to regroup and refocus on the foundation of a healthy garden: making deep improvements to the soil. I plan to add massive amounts of compost to the soil along with some natural and organic fertilizers. My main beds will be covered through the winter season with the exception of two beds held over for wildflowers. I will grow a minimal cool season vegetable garden to help keep me fresh and in the game. But truth be told, after this disappointing season I need a break to nurse my hurt pride.