Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Tomato Patch: Beginning of an early end?

Tomato Patch 2011: An early end?
Sometimes the Tomato Patch gets too much of a good thing—rain.

Early in the season I searched the sky for signs of rain clouds as I filed my drip-irrigation buckets.  In the last month we’ve had abundant rain, and then some, from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.    Weather data for nearby BWI Marshall Airport reports seven inches of precipitation above normal to date for September and more than 12 inches above normal for the year.

The effects of all the extra moisture are evident in the Tomato Patch.  Many of the plants are dying from early blight and from a variety of leaf-spot diseases.  Such plant dieback is pretty much an annual event—but one that usually concerns me in October, not September.

Now chilling out in our freezer
Realizing that Tomato Patch 2011 is ending early, I picked about 20 Celebrity tomatoes at breaker stage on Sunday and took them into the garage to fully ripen and picked nearly two colanders of paste-type tomatoes—Super Marzano, Big Mama, and Juliet—and then made 16 cups of sauce, which are now in our freezer.  Tuesday, as a heavy drizzle began what the forecast calls another damp week, I removed the 10 drip-irrigation buckets from the Tomato Patch and hosed them clean inside and out.

What’s left in the Tomato Patch?  Not much—a few Celebrities that I’ll pick and move into the garage when they show a bit of color—and a handful or two, perhaps, of smaller varieties—Sungolds and Juliets.

And I’ve had a strange thought for September—that I should start thinking about shutting down the Tomato Patch.  Some of my tomato-growing friends have told me they’ve already done that.  But somehow shutting down the Tomato Patch and pulling up the spent vines is something I should do in October, not September.

Maybe I’ll think about that drastic step for 10 days.

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