Tag Archives: tomatoes

Rabbits in My Garden

My garden has been besieged by rabbits. They are eating my onions, arugula, lettuce (of course), tomato leaves, dahlias, shamrocks, gerbera daisies, even some weeds. The photo above is a little baby bunny nibbling on spurge, a weed that came up between the nation and the garden border wall.

After using commercial products with a fragrance they don’t like, then putting out cayenne pepper on the plants, then doing both again each time it rained (almost every day lately), I finally began making a barrier around some plants with plastic forks stuck into the soil. I also  began spreading little pieces of lettuce in the garden — lettuce that, otherwise, would have gone to the compost bin. If only those little guys weren’t so cute. Sigh.

Cold Weather – Green Bananas

Yikes! It’s expected to reach 33 degrees tonight here in central Florida — actually in the wee hours of tomorrow morning. It will be our coldest weather so far this season.  This is not terribly unusual for the time of year, but it sure is bad timing for my bananas that need a few more weeks of warm temps. So today I decided I had to cut the stalk of bananas off the plant and take them indoors to ripen. After all, bananas don’t even like to be refrigerated.


Thanks so much to our neighbors, Nancy and Les, who came over to help support the weight of all these bananas while I cut the stalk from the plant. Of course, I gave them some bananas. After giving bananas to Nancy and Les, and to other neighbors, I still have 75 bananas that I know will continue to ripen. I have visions of lots of banana bread and banana nut muffins.


One of my Meyer lemon trees had one lemon left on it, and my new volunteer grape tomato plant had only green tomatoes. These, too, had to be brought indoors. February is the month when we usually get our worst weather. I really was hoping any freezing or near-freezing weather would hold off until mid-February to give all this fruit time to ripen, but it was not to be.


This lemon needed to stay on the tree another week or two, but it was too risky, so it is now on my kitchen counter, along with those green tomatoes. The tomatoes, though, will be put into a dark place to ripen. Wish me luck.

Planting Fall Veggies and Greens

Arugula mlm c@

Baby arugula adds a nutty flavor to salads. More mature arugula has a peppery taste.

It’s time to plant your autumn garden with cool-season veggies and greens. I’ve been busy lately with some other projects that delayed my getting started (you’ll hear about them soon enough) so I still have to finish my fall planting. The first thing I did was to add two bags of cow manure to my very small garden plot, and stir it into the existing soil.

Romaine Lettuce - mlm c@

Romaine Lettuce

Some of my favorite greens to plant in the fall are lettuces such as Romaine, Butter Crunch, and Red Sails, and other salad greens like arugula and mesclun mix, as well as collards.

Some of my favorite veggies to plant in the fall are cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and collards. My dad always sowed his flower beds with the seed of turnip greens. Those tender young greens made a beautiful sweep of green color in front of his azaleas, and provided food for several winter months.

I would love to tuck a lettuce plant or a pretty cauliflower here and there among my flowers, but cannot because our community has gray (reclaimed) water in our sprinkler system. I’ll write more about gray water in an upcoming post, but suffice it to say, you do not want to use it on fruits and veggies that will be eaten raw.

Collards for New Year’s Day

Collards - mlm c@

Collard Seedlings

These are some of my collard seedlings, still in the cell packs. I like to start veggies from seed, but as mentioned above, I am a bit late this year. So, I made a trip to the garden center, and bought some already started. We have to have collards and black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day, and these collards should be ready just in time. Collards, like turnip greens, always taste better after they have experienced a light frost. Even though I hate cold weather, I’m hoping for a very light frost, during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts - mlm c@Here’s one of my Brussels sprouts plants. Those outer leaves are not so pretty, but I’m not concerned with them. They will soon drop off.

Below is a closer look at the center of this plant.



Brussels Sprouts - zoomed - mlm c@

This is a closer view of the center of a Brussels sprouts plant. I can’t wait for the stalk with the “tiny cabbages” to burst upward.


We love to eat raw cauliflower dipped in light ranch dressing. It is also delicious steamed or microwaved with just a bit of butter, salt, & pepper. If you mash it, it’s a lot like mashed potatoes, but much healthier. Some folks call it South Beach potatoes.

Cauliflower - mlm c@

The earliest, outermost leaves of cauliflower are not so pretty, either, especially the one at the top of this photo. They, too, will soon drop off.


Cauliflower Center - mlm c@

These two leaves that appear cupped toward each other are the beginnings of the cauliflower head that will soon form. They, and a few more new leaves, will be cupped around the tender, creamy white head, which is the edible flower of this plant.

Think you have no space for a small garden? If you’re stuck with a small yard, as I am, but you would like to grow a few veggies, or maybe just have a salad garden, there is hope.  You can grow veggies and leafy lettuce in pots, or you can tuck a few plants in among your flowers — that is, if you have potable (drinking quality) water in your sprinkler system.

Your Gardening Zone is Important to What Can Be Grown in Your Area

Veggie Collage - mlm c@Depending on where you live, it may be past time to start fall veggies. Here in central Florida, they could have been started from seed as early as a month ago, but much earlier would have been pushing it a bit. After all, our daytime highs are still in the mid-to-high 80s, but that’s about to change. Nighttime temps are already in the 60s, and very soon, we will have daytime temps in the 70s and low 80s, followed by days in the 60s.

Even gardeners in Zone 7 (Birmingham, AL, Charlotte, NC, and points in between) can begin in August. Not here. I had lettuce, bell peppers, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts in the ground in late September, and will have mesclun mix, onions, collards — and my “winter” tomatoes in the ground  by mid-October. Opps! That’s now. Okay. They’ll be in the ground within the week.  Now I have to get busy planting. See you in the garden!



What’s Wrong with My Tomatoes?

Gina McG. texted me this photo and asked, “What’s Wrong with My Tomatoes?”

I texted back:  “This looks like to much water, which is a common problem, especially with all the rain we’ve had. Thank goodness we only get stretch marks when we grow too fast!”

Gina replied that she was growing her tomatoes in containers inside her screened-in lanai.  Below, I have elaborated on the information I gave her.

Gina's Mater

At the time this photo was taken, we had had more than our fair share of rain. Too much water causes rapid growth for many plants. The tomatoes were growing faster than their skins could stretch, which caused the skins to split open.

If the splits are very recent, and are not too large, you can simply cut away the exposed portion of the tomato, and eat the remainder.  If you have been away for a few days, and the problem has gone unnoticed,  pests and/or disease could have infiltrated most or all of the tomato. In that case, simply toss it — preferably into your compost bin. From what I can see in this photo, I believe the top half of this one should be trashed. Maybe all of it, but I wouldn’t know for sure without cutting into it and seeing the inside.

Unfortunately, there is not much we can do about too much rain on our gardens. On the other hand, if you are growing your ‘maters in containers, simply take them into a covered area whenever they have had too much rain.

During extremely hot weather, container-grown plants will need more water than those planted in the ground. A good way to monitor moisture is to put your finger into the soil. If the top inch is dry, add some water. Use a saucer to catch the water that drains out of the bottom of the container. The plant will soak up water from the saucer, BUT be sure to pour off any water that remains in the saucer after about 30 minutes has passed, as most plants don’t like wet feet (aka, roots).