Category Archives: gardening

Tomato Personality Types

Well, the garden season is at its height, and, of course, Husband and I are assessing our current varieties and planning next year’s garden.  We just can’t help ourselves. We’re certifiably nuts.

I have been scrutinizing our tomato varieties closely. The header photo is of three Brandyboy tomoto plants (a hybrid) and one San Marzano paste tomato ( an heirloom) planted in front of our house. They are about 6 feet tall, and are wonderful exemplars of their varieties.  The Brandyboys are terrific. I am very unhappy with the other eight San Marzano plants we have, since they are suffering from blight. I spray with fungicide weekly, but it is getting away from me, and I need to find another paste tomato variety next year that is more dependable and more disease resistant and isn’t so much work.  Heirlooms are not very disease resistant. The photo below gives a better idea of their height. The tomatoes are the plants farthest on the right.  The pole beans in the foreground are at least 7 feet tall.

I want a hybrid paste tomato. I want disease resistance. The question is determinate or indeterminate.  I never really quite knew what those terms meant until recently,  and I was delighted to find out that I could use the terms for describing people’s personalities.

Determinate tomatoes produce lots of nice, smaller tomatoes, but stop growing at about 4 feet, and then stop producing any more fruit. They may or may not need staking or supporting cages. They are often really good in shorter season areas. We used to grow them in Winnipeg.  They were short but produced well.

Indeterminate tomatoes absolutely need staking or other supports.  They never stop producing fruit or growing taller and wider until it freezes.  Our Brandyboys and San Marzanos are indeterminate, and the plants are enormous.  They are, even now, producing flowers and fruit.  I have the cages supported with bungee cords and stakes to keep them from tipping over.

I have decided to grow Brandyboys again next year, along with a few San Marzanos and a hybrid indeterminate variety named Gladiator.  It will be an experimental year.

What kind of tomato are you? Determinate, indeterminate?  Hybrid, heirloom? What kind of tomato do you want to be?


Faulty Logic

Today’s post comes from Reneeinnd.

Every Spring, Husband and I look around at our flower beds and say “We don’t need to buy any perennials this year.  Our beds are just fine.” Every year, we manage to find reasons to buy more perennials. This year we outdid ourselves and bought 31. We got 7 Bleeding Hearts, 6 Maidenhair Ferns, 6 Veronica Speedwell,  5 Lupines, 2 Helenium, 1 Missouri Primrose, 1 Rosemary, 1 Baptesia, 1 White Coneflower, and 1 Little Lamb Hydrangea.

The logic that went into the Speedwell purchase was pretty lame. We were at Menards looking for seeds to start our late season spinach, beets, lettuce, carrots, and parsley crops, and Husband found these Speedwells in need of transplant. He said “We just saved a lot of money buying things on sale at Herbergers, and these really need a home”, as though we were talking about kittens or something. Well, of course I said “let’s get them”.  We egg each other on in greenhouses and plant stores like alcoholics in a liquor warehouse. Husband says “These will help keep the weeds down. You know how much you hate weeds”.  I say “We are just increasing the value of our home as well as its curb appeal when we want to sell”.   I think this is all faulty logic, and gives us excuses to feed our plant habits.

How do you talk yourself into things? When do you use faulty logic?



Although I love cooking, I also love any gadget that makes it easier or quicker. So when I saw a strawberry huller online last week, I was intrigued.  Between the jam and the bags of  berries that I freeze every summer, I spend a lot of time over the sink hulling strawberries with a little sharp knife.  I searched around, discovered that the huller was carried at Bed Bath & Beyond and headed over there on my way down to Northfield to get strawberries. I faced the wall of kitchen gadgets and finally found it, a steal at $7.99 if it made the hulling process easier!  Here’s a quick look at how it works:

And it does work, however, not better than my little sharp knife. After all these years I’m pretty fast, transferring the hulled berry to a bowl while picking up the next strawberry with the hand holding the knife.  With the huller, I ended up having to add an extra step of pushing the button to “dump” the stem and sometimes having to pull twisted stem out of the berry.  After the first batch of jam, I went back to the knife.  It does make a very nice uniform hole if you want to fill the strawberries with something but for a big project, it’s not helpful.  Oh well.

This means that my cherry tomato slicer is still my favorite summertime gadget. I usually have tons of cherry tomatoes every year and the little slicer quickly and easily slices the little tomatoes into four bits.  Did I mention it’s fast?  And easy?  At this time of year I use it almost every day.

What’s your favorite summer gadget?

Country Mouse, City Mouse

Today’s post comes from Reneeinnd.

We had four inches of rain the week leading up to July 4. That probably doesn’t sound like much to most Baboons, but out here it is really something.  The rain came perfectly, an inch at a time every other day or so.  The weather on July 4 was also perfect. It was a comfortable 75 degrees with a slight wind, just enough to keep the biting insects off.  My best friend was visiting from the Cities, and we decided to take a hike in Theodore Roosevelt National Park,  just a 40 minute drive.

We have lived here for 30 years, and I have never seen as many wild flowers and berries as I did on our hike. The rain led to perfect conditions for plants to show off their petals.  There were the usual wild roses, clematis, tiny bell flowers, flea bane, and sunflowers.  We missed the flowering prickly pear cactus by a couple of days. They had all set fruit.  It was amazing to see less common  flowers,  especially ones that have a counterpart in our garden in town.

There were tons of wild Monarda.

Here is our city counterpart.

We also found wild lupine.

Our city lupine is currently spent , with nothing but leaves.

Cone flowers are showy natives.

The City ones are somewhat over the top.

We found lots of buffalo berries and this old fellow all alone, without a herd. He seems to be ancient.

We don’t have buffalo berries in town, but we have red currants.

Some of the wild flowers stay where they are, like the country mouse. Others make the leap to be like the city mouse.

What kind of mouse are you?



For the most part I’m not a fan of new words. I like the words we have and I always have to remind myself that we only have the words we have because at some point somebody made them up.

But every now and then a word comes along that I can embrace wholeheartedly. One of those words is “staycation” – a perfect way to say you are vacationing at home.

Today begins my first day of a nice, long staycation. Because  I’ve been with my company for quite some time, I have a generous number of vacation days and also because of my workload, I don’t get to use too many of them for a chunk of the year.  Now that my big program is out the door, I have to get cracking on these vacation days.  This means a week plus off now, the rest of the Mondays in the summer off and then the entire of State Fair off.

This week though is strictly for hanging out and working on some of the stuff that hasn’t been getting done the last few months – cleaning, straightening, cleaning, yardwork, cleaning. Did I mention cleaning?

On Day One I’m going to make strawberry jam and make some basil-infused oil. I know that doesn’t sound like cleaning, but I do have a mammoth list and it has cleaning projects for every day as well as some of the more fun stuff.

What new word can you embrace?

Ode to Gardening

You all knew that you weren’t going to get through the summer without me waxing rhapsodic about my garden at least once. Wait no longer; today is the day.

The flowers are wild in the front… just about any color you can imagine but it’s my straw bales that are bringing me joy right now. Everything is flourishing beyond expectations.  The basil has exploded (pesto, here we come) and all the tomatoes are growing out of their tomato cages, with green tomatoes starting on all five plants.  Even the jalapeño is breaking all records for us.

And thanks to Linda, I have raspberry canes that are starting to pop. Today was the first day I picked enough to carry into the house (the last couple of days, raspberries went straight from cane to mouth).  Looks like there will be plenty of berries in the weeks to come.

As a city girl who never gardened growing up, all this generosity on the part of Mother Nature makes me absurdly happy. Every day I pinch the little flowers off the basil, pull the stray tomato stalks up through the tomato cage, water all the floral baskets, sigh deeply.  And then I think about Nathanial Hawthorne and his thoughts on gardening.

“I used to visit and revisit it a dozen times a day, and stand in deep contemplation over my vegetable progeny with a love that nobody could share or conceive of who had never taken part in the process of creation. It was one of the most bewitching sights in the world to observe a hill of beans thrusting aside the soil, or a rose of early peas just peeping forth sufficiently to trace a line of delicate green.”

~Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mosses from an Old Manse

What should I do with all my basil? Extra points if you can do it with a haiku.


Last Friday I got off work at noon and spent the next 4 hours weeding my brains out. We have a 20 X 10 foot garden bed on the north side of the drive way that contains perennials and vegetables like beets, turnips, chard, carrots, and celeriac. The weeds were horrible.  Not long after I finished weeding, the most lovely, gentle rain began, with no wind or hail.  It was perfect.

When have things worked out just right for you?