Do you know what a happy tomato plant looks like?

I didn’t.  I thought I did though, until early last week when Oren, a SLUG alum who now runs Field Notes Farm, stopped by the garden and did a walk-through with us.  He gave us lots of good advice – pull out the pepper plants that had not flowered so late in the season (RIP, dreams of canning salsa with local habaneros), turn off our automatic irrigation system since Appleton has gotten so much rain lately, and prune the tomatoes.

Before Oren’s visit, I thought our toms looked fine.  They were shooting up faster than we could trellis them, several green fruits had appeared, and if their lower leaves looked a little droopy, well, their upper leaves were green and perky!  But Oren explained that those green fruits really ought to be ripening right now, and the droopy bottom leaves were a symptom of blight, a soil fungus that can kill tomatoes.  He prescribed pruning the plants, which both encourages the fruit to ripen faster and slows the spread of the fungus up the stalk.

Hearing that our tomato plants needed urgent care was a little disheartening, especially when I thought they were doing so well.  But realizing that I do not know how much I don’t know has been a theme of my summer as a SLUGger.  I used to think gardening was mostly just watering and weeding, but the more I learn, the more I realize how ignorant I am.  It feels like I could spend my whole life learning to farm and still know only a scintilla of the information that is out there.  That’s daunting, but also exciting; growing food is the kind of work that can last a lifetime!  I feel extremely lucky to have SLUG as a classroom and to have farmer friends like Oren (and Rick from Produce with Purpose, and Larry Cain, and on and on…) who are willing to be teachers.

After Oren’s visit, we spent the rest of that week and the start of this one doctoring our toms.  We finished pruning the last bed today, and they all look happy, I think.  Even better, several of the cherry varieties are ripening! Hopefully, next week will mark the start of tomatoes as an addition to our farm stand offerings (8:00 – 10:00 AM in the garden ;)).  Tomorrow we are on to planting carrots and zucchini; I can’t wait to see what those crops have to teach me!

Xoxo –


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