February 14, 2013
Planted tomatoes for my Houston Vegetable Garden from seed in early January. I am trying two new varieties this year: Sweet Treat and Orange Paruche. Sweet Treat is a Japanese pink variety (although the fruit looks red to me). It is a rampant vining plant that requires a large cage. My Urban Harvest friend Scott Howard highly recommended it. Orange Paruche is one I stumbled on to. It has good reviews but one never knows if it will do well in the Houston climate. We will see. Plants are in gallon containers outside now. Will plant in the ground towards the end of the month.
May 22, 2011
Tomatoes have been excellent in my Houston vegetable garden. They always seem to be best in dry years when the amount of water can be controlled. Merced was easily the best again. I think I still have 2 or 3 seed left for next year, but then that will be it for Merced. The “Merced replacement” has been ok but not especially noteworthy. Celebrity and Marglobe were both better. Moneymaker was disappointing but I planted it in a different and less desirable location so I will give a more fair trial next year. The Orange Paruche cherry has done pretty well. It is very much like Sun Gold, but on a determinate plant. The smaller plant does not produce as much total crop as Sun Gold, but it is more manageable space wise.
Beans are into the second cycle. Festina was rather disappointing; stick with Derby. The Annie Oakley okra starting producing on tiny plants. It must be picked while quite small. Stay with the traditional large varieties. Also eating eggplant, peppers, cucumbers and a few remaining fennel. Corn (Serendipity) did not do very well but I think it might be because I was gone and did not give it enough fertilizer.
May 12, 2010
The traditional spring crops are in harvest and some are winding down in my Houston vegetable garden. I have picked a few tomatoes and have a lot more just about ready. As usual Merced is the earliest and most productive—too bad the seed are no longer available—followed closely by Celebrity and Homestead. Early Girl has lived up to its name but is a rather wild indeterminate with fruit of only average quality. Next year I will drop it and Floramerica and add the recommended Merced replacement mentioned in a previous post.
The green beans are through the first picking. The Contenders may give a small repeat crop and I expect Derby will give a good repeat.
Sugar snaps are finished are on the compost pile. Onions and leeks not quite ready. Beets and carrots remaining need to be harvested.
I planted a few Suyo long cucumbers on the fence and some okra seed. That will be about it for the summer while I am gone.
April 19, 2010
I picked the first mess of green beans from the Houston vegetable garden on April 17, about 2 weeks earlier than last year. I started 24 Contender plants under the grow light in deep 6-pack pots. They really got a jump start on the plants from seeds planted directly. However, beans from the direct sown plants should be available next week.
Tomatoes are doing well but are still a long way from picking. The sugar snaps are through; plants are still healthy (no mildew), but no more blooms. Broccoli production continues from the side shoots. Packman broccoli is particularly good at producing a continuing yield of side shoots. Onions are getting thicker, but have not really made bulbs yet. The late sown lettuce is ready to pick and will probably bolt soon. Lots of blooms from cilantro and arugula to feed the good bugs.
March 4, 2010
With some warm days ahead it is time to plant beans, corn and other seed that require warmer temperatures for germination. I started 36 bean plants in the “6-pack” plant containers. They are now transplanted. The ones I planted earlier outside still have not come up and will probably give a poor stand when they do.
The lettuce, turnips and beets all germinated well and are up and going.
The tomatoes are all in and well mulched. I can cover the cages if Jack Frost threatens again.
February 6, 2010
Last week I transplanted the tomatoes to 4-6 inch pots and planted the broccoli plants in the garden. I planted several of the broccoli plants near the neighbors fence to the west to see if half a day of sun is enough. The tomatoes will get to soak up some outside sun for the next couple of days; but then coldish weather returns and looks like it will stay for a while. I want to plant the tomatoes outside under frost cloth as soon as possible, but I would like temperatures to be in the 60s during the day.
Continuing to harvest lettuce, arugula, greens and fennel. Next week the beets and carrots will finally be ready. The cold weather really slowed their growth this year. The sugar snap peas are growing nicely, but are a long way from producing food.
January 17, 2010
The big freeze is past and hopefully will not repeat. Now it is time to plan for the spring Houston vegetable garden. I planted tomato seed under the grow lamp indoors on January 13. They are coming up now. One new variety this year, Early Girl, and the line up from last year: Marglobe, Floramerica, Merced and Celebrity. All of these are determinate tomatoes, which I believe are best for growing in Houston gardens. I still have 2-3 seed of Merced left–unfortunately this good variety for Houston gardens is no longer available. I saw a seed catalogue that recommended Danson Tomato 435 as a replacement, but I have not tried it. I planted some Sweet Chelsea to give to my brother and I may plant one myself. I am leaving early this year for Montana and Sweet Chelsea just takes over the place.
I also planted some Packman broccoli under the lamp. I normally raise broccoli in the fall but will try in the late winter/spring this year, because I am not going to plant corn since I won’t be here to pick it. I also planted some super sugar snaps under the lamp to supplement the poor stand I got from direct planting. The weather the last half of December was just too cold for good germination.
August 10, 2009
I was back in Houston last week to check on the weeds in the garden. Mulching with newspapers and putting hay on top worked great. The only weeds were some nut grass that could probably grow through a thick steel plate. The tomatoes were wild, especially Sweet Chelsea, but still had a few tomatoes. I took down the determinate plants but left Sweet Chelsea. It probably will not produce much in the fall but we will see. The netting I put over the tomatoes and blackberries was a real mess to get out because everything had grown through it. Malabar spinach and okra are producing but the rest is dormant. I thought about planting some corn but decided to wait and put in a later fall garden in early October.
I tried a few things in my little Montana garden in addition to the herbs I always plant. The climate is difficult because it goes from cold to warm fast and quickly back to cold. Also the days are very long in the summer. I tried some Houston winter vegetabes and some spring/early fall crops such as beans. The beans did well but were slow to get going. Turnips did the best of all. The mustard greens and cilantro bolted quickly. Arugula also bolted but I got a decent amount. Bok Choi was so-so; produced a little but obviously too warm for it by July. The Red Sails lettuce was very successful. I am not sure to what extent the problem is temperature and to what extent the lenght of days. Some plants are sensitive to day length and seed out when the days reach a certain amount of daylight hours.
In any event, the Montana garden came to an end when the deer knocked down my mesh fence. I will need to strengthen it next year. I did not expect them to go at so agressively. It is the only time they have really been here; I have been discouraging their hanging around the house with a 410 with bird shot! The tomatoes were doing well before the deer got in. It is touch and go to get tomatoes to ripen before the weather gets cold. Most people here use plants from the garden center for just about everything, rather than seed to get a head start.
July 14, 2009
When we returned home we found that the tomatoes kept producing in spite of the hot weather. I did not expect the small, late tomatoes to turn out but we got about a dozen more of the large tomatoes. The Sweet Chelsea continued to produce as expected. Hunkering down for the 100 degree weather now. Not much action until fall.
June 9, 2009
This year I ran a test on the best varieties of slicer tomatoes for the Houston vegetable garden. In the past I have had variable success with some recommended varieties, but they were planted in different areas of the garden so direct comparisons were difficult. Conditions such as available sunlight can change considerably over a small area in an urban garden. This year I planted 4 determinate varieties right together: Homestead, Merced, Celebrity and Floramerica. It was the best year I have ever had for tomatoes, probably because of the cool, relatively dry spring. I can’t say I found much to choose from among these varieties. All produced about 15 nice size tomatoes. All ripened all the way through and were delicious. I have trouble in other years with the top part of the tomato being white and pithy.
Merced was the first to turn pink, in early May. All were planted outside from large pots around March 1. Homestead and Celebrity followed about a week later and Floramerica was the latest. I pick when they first turn pink on the bottom and let them ripen inside. Unfortunately, the mockingbirds beat me to several, so I bought some netting at Southwest Fertilizer and solved that problem. For best quality you must let them fully ripen and not get impatient. Never refrigerate tomatoes unless they are becoming over ripe. All of the tomatoes were picked by June 1. As determines, they quit setting fruit in late April. My experience is that later setting tomatoes on indeterminate slicer varieties never turn out very good. Thus, in Houston, as opposed to New Jersey, determinates are the best bet.