Things I have done right, and wrong, in the garden this year

Originally published at: Things I have done right, and wrong, in the garden this year | Boing Boing


Wow, your garden looks great!
I also live in Southern CA, and rather than sand, the soil where I live is like cement.
We do raised beds on the side of the house, but this year I made my own compost in one of those spinning containers. Every trimming, eggshell, used coffee ground, etc… went in there. And it sure made a huge difference from last year. Everything is very happy. I’m particularly excited about the two tomatillo plants that are well over my head now and have a ton of young fruit on them.


I have one of those but it just makes dry crackling dead leafy stuff for me. I think I don’t output enough waste it wants.


Yea, I mean you for sure need lots of kitchen scraps for one thing. The wet coffee grounds helps.
Also, it’s best to start with a good amount of organic soil first in the composter, start putting in scraps and the like, then wet it all down a bit. You need to spin it every day, too.
I don’t use yard clippings, FWIW.
I keep a pretty good size covered bowl on the counter and when it’s full, dump it in the composter.
If you cook a lot at home and eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, you’ll be surprised at how much you can generate in a few days. I fill my bowl up probably twice a week.


Nice picks on the tomato varieties! I’ve never grown the zebras, have you been able to try one yet? I’m curious about the flavor profile. We grow Cherokee purple every year, it’s got a little umami going on, which I really like for pizza sauce. We grow yellow and orange varieties for regular pasta sauce (in addition to the requisite Roma, we always grow Roma).

We are in zone 6a, behind So Cal by a lot, but the corn’s looking good even as the tomatoes and peppers look a bit behind schedule:


i have one of those, too, and they are great. i don’t spin ours every day (maybe more like every other day, or two days), but i do make sure to get some water on it pretty regularly.

my question is: VOLUNTEER tomatoes? what the heck are those? once our tomatoes die in the fall, that’s it. i don’t think i’ve ever seen any come back from previous season’s seeds or anything. that’s amazing! maybe it’s a curse/benefit of living in a high desert environment…


I live semi-coastal, I guess - about 7 miles in a straight line inland. It was jlw that noted the volunteers, but I’ll get them at times, too.
They’ll come back from tomatoes that fell into the dirt.
And it was such a mild winter temp-wise this year that my cherry tomato from last year died almost all the way down, then came back with a force this spring.
Our friends had a volunteer come up last year that was incredible. I’ve never seen a tomato plant that massive before.


I grow the green zebra every year, same with the purple Cherokee and Roma. The green zebra are an excellent heirloom salad tomato. Tangy, and more tart than sweet these are some wonderful raw eating tomatoes sprinkled with salt. a wonderful variation on what people expect from a sweet tomato.

I have two vines of Green Zebra, three Roma, 1 each of the others for 8 total: if that’s any indication. I have been considering cloning 2 more and having a bit more production into the fall/winter but ffs already!

The Cherokee Purple and Roma make up
my favorite pizza and pasta sauces.

I tried the Robeson and black prince this year as both are highly praised for taste and hardiness. So far the black prince look beautiful. The Robeson and Green Zebra were started a few weeks behind and the Robeson is just starting to set fruit.


Tomato seeds are covered in a thin gel coating that needs to be dissolved in the stomach of an animal and shat out, or otherwise fermented, or they are unlikely to sprout.

Birds repeatedly eating them. Rats. Possums. Squirrels. All likely candidates. Also how the seeds spread across your yard :slight_smile:

I took much more care to encourage a local possum and we now have a local family that frequents our yard and shares in strawberries too. They appear to have defeated/eaten most of the local rats such that my volume of volunteers has dropped very, very low. Last year a forest of tomatoes erupted with no help. I trellised them when it started to get obvious I had to — but that was really it.


I am jealous of y’all’s ability to grow full sized tomatoes. We tried and the mocking birds would take one bite out of each. We do cherry tomatoes instead. This year only 2 sweet 100s because we get a whole lot more than 100 out of each bush. We call them sweet 1000. With the cherry tomatoes, the mocking bird nibbling is no big deal, plenty to share. And it’s funny to watch them pluck a tomato, drop it, and then chase it across the grass trying to get it back in their beak. The tomato plants get HUGE. I have to prune fairly constantly or they shadow all of the peppers in the bed. We planted with 3ft of space on all sides.

Right now we are in the summer doldrums. Too hot for the tomatoes or strawberries to really produce a lot. The tomatoes will pick up again in September until usually mid-November. We did start getting strawbs in late March and tomatoes in late April.
We had a lot of blackberries this year and the potted myer lemon is growing over a dozen lemons. They are the size of silver dollars now.

Drip irrigation is our friend. My spouse set it all up for the garden beds and it has been invaluable in the heat. Central Texas always gets hot in summer, but the 100+ came early.

I’m really hoping the crimson sweet watermelons come thru. The vines were doing fine a few weeks ago. Need to check them but it’s hard to find time in the morning and the afternoon here is unpleasant to spend any time in. Even with the luxury or a/c waiting. A rant for another time.


honestly, i don’t think i do anything right in the garden, but i get some results that i could not have known. when we moved to this climate zone (zone 11, y’all), i had no idea of the things that would grow. i can not stop the peppers that i planted over 2 seasons ago. in other words, of all the gardening i have done (i grew up on a farm in texass, of course we had a garden that fed us well), i have never encountered a year-round growing season where we don’t just get volunteers, but holdovers! the habanero in one 6’x3’x3’ raised bed is 2 years old and takes up fully half of that bed, no matter how much i prune it back. the peppers never stop. another bed has been half taken by a nearly two-year old Brazilian “star” pepper that has only just started to produce mass amounts of fruit. of the six raised beds we have two are overtaken by massive pepper TREES! i am as inundated by peppers as @jlw is tomatoes. not that i am complaining.
the long beans, Goa beans and other Southeast Asian crops do well here, but other veggies just won’t do anything for us. we might get some aubergine this season, but try as i might, i cant get any summer squash. sometimes we can get kuri, delicata or the like in the winter months.
i suppose i need to try things that will do well in sub- and tropical climes. we get ginger root and then mangoes, bananas and avocados on our trees, but goddammit, i want some squash!


I fluv the green zebras - alongside Black Russians they’re one of the best-tasting tomatoes I’ve grown. In SE Aus at least, they have the added advantage of being relatively invisible to the sorts of things that would normally eat red tomatoes off the plant. We’ve had ring-tailed and brush-tailed possums eat ripe tomatoes off the vine the day before they were to be picked, and the occasional ones lost to fruit bats, but the green zebras seem to be immune.

Home-grown tomatoes in panzanella is one of the highlights of summer .


Volunteer tomato growing from under my grill


I might have to send you some. The other plants growing around the corn are black beans, zucchini and summer squash. They’ve just started making flower buds, we are going to have way too much.

@DukeTrout: I keep finding volunteer tomatillos in all my flower beds. :woman_shrugging:


Compost escapees?


Maybe someone else’s? We haven’t planted them in about a decade and generally don’t ever buy them. I think we had our fill of green salsa the two years we grew them on purpose.


My runner beans are growing up to the giant’s castle, I am hopeful of a crop. Peas have died, possibly at the paws of squirrel (who I caught chomping). Tomatoes pretty disappointing so far.

Snap, but apparently that is what they do.

Have been frequently visited by a wren, which is a delight, I might settle for that.


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