The Master Gardener

Today, I’m writing my thesis to complete my Master’s degree in Agriculture, specifically focused on Organic Home Container Gardening: Growing Tomatoes in Florida.

I have learned more than I ever wanted to know, and then some. When I brought my 3 little tomato plants home, I figured that one out of three might deliver tasty red fruit.

As the plants grew into lush, leafy green plants, I had high hopes.

I had just harvested 3 lbs (almost 1.5kg) of sweet banana peppers. I was beginning to imagine that my thumb was turning green.

My lovely harvest of Banana Peppers
I ended up pickling 5 quarts of peppers, because… what do you do with that many peppers?

So, now I’m anticipating tomatoes. The little blossoms are setting fruit, and I’m out every day counting the little tomatoes developing. This is so rewarding… I think to myself.

I think I mentioned that it’s hot in my neck of the woods (here). Tomatoes don’t especially like temperatures above 90 degrees (32C), or high humidity.

This is where I enrolled in tomatoes 101.

First: early blight and bacterial blackspot, over-night mind you!

What the heck, you were gorgeous yesterday! (early blight)
Eventually, all those little spots join hands, the leaf turns brown and you can vaguely hear a death knell (or are those my wind chimes?).

Not just one tomato plant, but they obviously like to share. All three plants were looking sad; my crop was circling the drain.

I furthered my quest by doing research… on Google and YouTube, and I discovered an organic remedy. I quarantined the plants as if they were Covid positive, and sprayed them with a concoction of water mixed with baking soda, vegetable oil and dish detergent and sprayed the heck out of them all. I didn’t have high hopes, but voila! I arrested the disease and didn’t kill the plants!

I cut off all of the dead leaves, and they all looked happy and healthy again! Cheap fix, I’m thinking. Even the one plant that I had given up hope for, sprang back to life and grew 2 feet. A miracle!!

Second: Tomato hornworms

I go out the next day to admire my crop and discover to my horror a batch of worms decimating my plants! Not just one plant, all three had these critters… munching away!

Where the heck did you come from?

Moths, that’s where they come from. Laying eggs on the plants under the cover of night, when no one is looking. You would think the worms are birthed at a full 2-3 inches long, and starving for tomato leaves. You never see them until one day you find a dozen 3 inch worms chewing away.

The culprit. AKA manduca sexta moth, or Sphinx Moth. Hateful suckers!

Well… if it’s a light infestation, just pick the worms off the plant and kill them, so they say. I was very busy, morning and night. I must have killed the first round, but in 3 weeks, they should be making another appearance… new hatchlings. Now I have an organic bacterial spray, and I’m ready for the little buggers.

So my Roma tomato plant has 18 tomatoes growing and ripening… even if it only has 10 leaves left. The Patio tomato had 8 tomatoes growing, but…

Third: Sun Scald

Sun cooked tomato.

I lost 3 of the 8 tomatoes on the Patio tomato plant. Seems Florida sun is cooking my tomatoes.

I had to give them some shade, even though they are supposed to get 6-8hrs minimum of direct sun. Not these puppies, they need shade! So I got some sun shade material, and with the aid of tomato stakes and clothes pins, I created a little canopy over their delicate, ripening fruits. [sigh]

Fourth: Tomato blossom end rot

Yesterday this…

Too much water. It rains here every day. Sometimes it rains for several days. Sometimes a gentle shower. Mostly a deluge of several inches of sky water. Mother Nature



Luckily, it was only on one tomato.

Did I mention that I bought a jalapeno pepper plant? I was looking forward to pico de gallo. It stands to reason that I will have 3lbs of jalapenos and no tomatoes.

Carne Asada with Pico de Gallo on soft tacos is to die for.

You would think that I would give up on growing tomatoes, but now I have an arsenal of preventive measures, and will soon have my degree in tomato agriculture.

I’m planning to start over in October, when it cools down… if ever!


3 thoughts on “The Master Gardener

  1. Who knew one could get a Masters Degree in just tomato horticulture? At least you are well qualified to identify all the tomato growing problems you encounter. Your post made me glad I don’t live in Florida!


  2. Sheesh! It’s a lot of effort to keep your tomato plants happy – but when you Finally pluck that solitary ripe red tomato from your last surviving plant, just think how ecstatic you will feel! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

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