A Garden Blog by Kevin Milaeger

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Kevin 2015 

Our Big Garden & Some Unpleasant News

July 11, 2017     
(See see below for archives)

Over the years, some of you may have seen our summer tomato plant production project. We sell the fruit to local restaurants and at Milaeger’s Great Lakes Farmer’s Market every Sunday, in season. At season’s end, we stop sales so we have enough fruit for the Tomatomania taste test in early September. For years, the tomato plants were grown in pots in our “Cravo” greenhouse, in the northwest corner of our Douglas Avenue property (near the post office.) Later, we relocated the project to an “in ground” garden alongside St. Andrew’s church, on Four Mile Road. That worked out great for some years, but it was inconvenient for our crew to get over there to maintain the plants, and of course to pick the fruit. This year we created a new garden in the southwest corner of our property on Douglas Avenue. (It’s hidden from public view---not intentionally---but we may offer a tour of the garden at some time.) It measures about 80’ by 120’, a little more than a fifth of an acre. We put in an irrigation system, and covered the soil with landscape fabric for weed control. Then we planted the tomato plants---over 360 of them. This year we planted later than usual---June 8th. By then the weather had warmed, so the plants grew well. I predict first fruit by July 20. That is, if the weather is normal---just don’t ask me what normal weather is!

In addition to the tomatoes, we are growing a few of each kind of hot and seasoning peppers. The latter is a loosely defined category of peppers that we created. They are varieties that are reputed to have only a small amount of heat, if any, but definitely don’t fall into the “sweet” pepper class. We have noticed quite a bit of taste and heat variability in the seasoning peppers. Some of them are hotter than we were led to believe. You will be able to sample them at Tomatomania, Saturday, September 9th.

Along the edge of the same garden, we are also growing, for the first time, some giant pumpkins. The only pumpkins I’ve grown up to now were “volunteers.” That is, plants that sprouted accidentally. The local squirrels chew up the pumpkins on my porch every October, scattering seed all over the place. Many them sprouted the following June, and produced fruit. Serendipitous gardening! We won’t be putting a lot of effort into the giant pumpkin project, we’re just trying to have a bit of fun.

Things aren’t going so well at the home garden. Some of the tomato plants are showing symptoms that I’ve never experienced. A few weeks ago, the upper parts of the plants showed new growth that was distorted. Twisted and contorted stems, and malformed leaves. There was hardly any wilting or leave curl, and the leaves stayed green with no marks. After checking my tomato resources, I determined that the problem was due to herbicide drift. In other words, some sort of weed control accidentally drifted onto the plants. It wasn’t enough to kill them, but they are disfigured. Since it didn’t look like a disease, I decided to “wait and see” what would happen next. The problem was apparently a temporary condition, as the plants now seem to be resuming normal growth. The damaged growth is still there, and normal new growth is taking over, but the plants will be smaller than normal this year.

Although I do have a few nearly ripe fruits, production has been disrupted, and output for the first part of the season will be below expectations. This is a frustrating experience, because there is apparently nothing I can do to correct the damage. I’m just going to sit tight and see what happens next. I can’t imagine where the herbicide drift came from, so I guess that will remain a mystery. I have had at least one query from a customer with a problem like mine. That is what started my search for an answer. During my research for the customer, some of my own plants displayed the same, or very similar symptoms. I continue to research the disorder, and remain open to the possibility that my diagnosis may be wrong. Maybe some of you have experienced similar problems.

As if the tomato plant disfigurement isn’t enough of a headache, blossom end rot (BER) has again emerged as an issue. This condition is a black, leathery patch on the bottom (or, blossom end) of the tomato fruit. It is sometimes hard to see because it is under the fruit. Shortly after fruit set, I try to inspect all fruit to make sure they don’t have the symptom. I remove any that show signs of BER, knowing that the problem will only worsen. Better to remove the damaged fruit and force the plant into the next set of flowers. I tried to minimize the likelihood of BER by planting late, after the weather was warm, using fertilizer high in calcium, and adding calcium rich bone meal. None of these techniques were effective, or at least not effective enough. But, these sorts of problems are a normal part of gardening; it’s all part of the challenge.

Please email me (kevin@milaegers.com) if you have any questions or comments.



 Archives  (Click on the green text for links)


July 2017 - Our Big Garden & Some Unpleasant News
June 2017 - Mid-June Tomato Report
June 2017 - Tomatoes----The Acid Test
April 2017 - It's Time to Plant Onions
April 2017 - Raspberries: It's time for annual pruning
March 2017 - Warning! Internet Garden Danger!
March 2017 - Tomato Talk---Shorter Varieties are Trending
March 2017 - It's Only the Start of March, but...
February 2017 - Tasty Greens and Winter Tomatoes
February 2017 - Green is Right Around the Corner
October 2016 - Autumn Greens, Eggplant and more
September 2016 - The Tomato Polls are Closed, the Winner is... 
September 2016 - Pity the Hornworm? Maybe not.
August 2016 - It's true!---Sometimes tomato beauty is only skin deep!
July 2016 - Summer Heat Means Fast Ripening
July 2016 - July Tomato Update---a few concerns
June 2016 - The Great Bell Pepper Challenge!
June 2016 - Super Start for 2016 Vegetables!
May 2016 - Tomato Planting Date Inches Closer!
May 2016 - Vintage Veggies Now & Disease Resistant Tomatoes!
April 2016 - A Few New Plants & Garden Updates!
April 2016 - Go Outside---It's Time for Planting!
March 2016 - Yep! ----It's Time to Plant Greens!
March 2016 - The Quest for the Perfect Tomato
March 2016 - Think Green! It's almost time to plant
February 2016 - Pepper Pointers: it's all about patience
February 2016 - I See Greens on the Horizon
January 2016 - Tomato Disease --- What can you do?
January 2016 - Tomatoes on my Mind!

November 2015 - My Late Harvest (The tomato picking continues...No Kidding!)

October 2015 - Its Mid-October---the End is Near!

September 2015 - 2015---Not the Year of the Pepper!

September 2015 - Top Varieties at Tomatomania 2015!

September 2015 - Get the most from September tomatoes!

August 2015 - Tomatomania 2015---Coming Soon!

August 2015 - Oh No!!!......Freaky Tomatoes

July 2015 - A Marvelous Community Garden

July 2015 - Finally----the first ripe tomato

July 2015 - Is it Possible to overdose on peas?

July 2015 - The Garden in July --- I'm still planting!

June 2015 - And Just When Things Were Looking So Good...

June 2015 - Tomatoes, Cukes, and a Whimsical Onion

June 2015 - Trials and Tribulations in the Veggie Garden!

May 2015 - Trouble in Tomatoland!

May 2015 - Tomatoes are Claustrophobic

May 2015 - A Little Chilly, but it's Rhubarb Time!

May 2015 - Joan's Rhubarb Torte Recipe

April 2015 - "Ketchup and Fries" plant video

April 2015 - Early May in the Vegetable Garden

April 2015 - What Vegetables Can I Plant Now?

April 2015 - Making Salad Interesting

March 2015 - Ready... set... GROW!

March 2015 - Unusual Potatoes --- Not Just for Tots Anymore!

February 2015 - Next Month is Spring!

February 2015 - Greens to Grow 2015


September 2014 - Tomatomania Review 2014!

September 2014 - Tomatomania Results by Category or Cummulative

August 2014 - Kale! Kale! The Greens are Here! Click here for Recipe

August 2014 - The August Harvest Begins

July 2014 - Greens to Grow for Fall!!!  Click here for Spreadsheet

July 2014 - My Tomatoes are Blushing

June 2014 - Some Tomato Concerns

May 2014 - Garden Update --- the Cold Weather Experiment

May 2014 - Is it Time to Plant Tomatoes?

May 2014 - Vintage Veggies #4 and Vintage Veggies List 2014

April 2014 - A Chilly Spring... What Can I Plant Now?

March 2014 - Start Growing Your Own Food Right Now

February 2014 - Greens to Grow   Click here for Spreadsheet


October 2013 - Keep Calm and Garden On!

October 2013 - Autumn Vegetables

September 2013 - Tomato Popularity Poll Results Blog

September 2013 - Tomatomania Category and Cumulative Results

September 2013 - Tomatomania 2013 Blog, Video and T-Shirt

August 2013 - Greens to Grow and Spreadsheet

July 2013 - Spaghetti Squash

July 2013 - New Tomato and Zucchini Recipe Blog
July 2013 - Tomato and Zucchini Recipe

June 2013 - Cold Spring - What it Means for Vegetables
May 2013 - Tomatoes in Containers
May 2013 - Vintage Veggies 2013
April 2013 - My Tomato Garden Preview 2013
April 2013 - Don't Forget Rosemary!
April 2013 - It's Planting Time
March 2013 - Onions
March 2013 - Vintage Veggies
March 2013 - Greens to Grow Update
February 2013 - Hot Peppers
February 2013 - Grafted Tomatoes
February 2013 - Greens to Grow

September 2012 - Tomatomania Results
July 2012 - Compass Plant
July 2012 -July 2012 - Heat Wave
June 2012 - Okra
June 2012 - Potato Onion
May 2012 - Gas Plant

May 2012 - My Tomato Garden
May 2012 -
Vintage Veggie Fest
March 2012 - Growing Raspberries in SE Wisconsin
March 2012 - Winter Tomato Project
February 2012 - Success with Sweet Peppers
February 2012 - Vegetable Cukes Miniature
January 2012 - Tomatoes New Varieties

September 2011 -Tomatomania Review 
August 2011 - Tomatomania Preview
August 2011 - Racine Vegetable Garden Tour
July 2011 - Vegetables in my Garden
July 2011 - Vegetables - Squash and Tomatoes
June 2011 - Vegetables - Diseases made Simple
June 2011 - Vegetables - Container Growing
May 2011 - Vegetables - Squash and Tomatoes
April 2011 - Vintage Veggie Fest Event Preview
March 2011 - Vintage Veggie Fest Announcement

September 2010 - Tomatomania Review 
August 2010 - Flowers Late Summer Color
July 2010 Vegetables Cukes and Tomatoes
June 2010 Tomatoes New Varieties

September 2009 - Tomatoes End of Season Review 
September 2009 - Tomatomania Review
July 2009 - Tomatoes General and Fruit Set Problems
June 2009  - Tomatoes Fertilization
June 2009  - Tomatoes Personal Experience
May 2009 - Tomatoes General
May 2009 - Tomatoes Diseases
May 2009 - Tomatoes Selecting and Growing
April 2009 - Tomatoes General

Any questions or comments, please contact us at: gardenquestions@milaegers.com