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The success or failure of this garden comes down to one tomato


It all depends on this tomato.

large tomato just picked to be ripened on a windowsillWhether this year’s vegetable garden is declared a success or a failure depends entirely on this lone tomato. It’s the first big slicer that I’ve picked this year, brought in to finish ripening on the windowsill, safe from critters and cracking. 

The tomato is Brandyfred, one of several dwarf tomatoes I’m growing from the Dwarf Tomato Project. Its name gives a glimpse into its parentage, which includes one of my favorite tomatoes, Brandywine. I’ve been picking cherry and so-called cocktail tomatoes for a couple weeks, but this big guy is a real tomato. And by “real” I mean, of course, suitable for that highest of callings for a tomato: the centerpiece of a BLT

I’ll be honest, it’s not been a great year in the vegetable garden. The peas were eating repeatedly by rabbits and then by slugs and then by who knows what. I know what it wasn’t, which is me. The kale was similarly decimated. The potatoes are minuscule, although flavorful in the way that only homegrown potatoes can be. But I’d say for the $30 I spent on seed potatoes and shipping, I got approximately one bag of potatoes. So I’m down about $27 on that. 

The peppers don’t seem great and the onions are a lot less prolific than last year. (I’m still sold on the multisowing technique, but maybe I planted more last year.)

The lettuce grew well and another sowing has been done for the cooler weather, the garlic harvest was good, and the cucumbers are pretty good. The herbs are doing great and I have great hope for the winter squash, although so far we’ve had ONE zucchini despite a very healthy plant. Have you ever heard of such a thing? It’s absurd.

The tomatoes looked great until about a two weeks ago and since then there’s been leaf spot and I think late blight. I just keep cutting diseased leaves off and hoping for the best. 

I have no explanation for the state of the garden. The fact is, I was late planting and that’s on me. I’m making notes for next year and I’m hell bent on prioritizing the veg garden during the crucial planting times.

So it’s been a mixed bag (so far, I just planted some things for a late harvest last weekend so we can still salvage this thing). But if a perfect, big tomato were to emerge from that garden, well, then this summer’s garden moves decisively to the success column. 

That’s a lot of pressure on one tomato, but it’s got bacon as a backup.

16 Responses

  1. It is a bummer to here you struggled but you are not alone! I am a Ca. Central Valley gardener. This years garden was terrible! It is my first year gardening here though, it’s a very hot climate . I have never had difficulty in my gardens over the years but this year was a dosey! It has become a science of soil health, proper fertilizing and compost piles. Here’s to our next year’s bumper crops! Cheers!

  2. It makes me feel better that others are also having a not-great vegetable garden this year. My failure is a mix of terrible soil (thanks HUBBY!!), bad weather, and rogue chickens who have hopped a 4 foot fence to peck to death anything that was doing well. Ah 2020 garden, it’s time to break up. But like a true gardener, I haven’t given up hope and did a fall planting to turn this shitshow around.

  3. I live in California which gets no rain from May to November, we irrigate. And we have had 25 days in August over 100 degrees and fires and smoke, which dries out the tomato and bean flowers. So I got 2 cucumbers, 10 zucchini (from 4 plants) no edible corn, and about 2 quarts of tomatoes–finally. It has definitely been a really weird year.

  4. Thank you for your honest evaluation of your season. I start off with good intentions, but, as you described there are so many obstacles. If it was our main food source, it would get all the attention it deserves. Where we live any kind of food garden, almost always has to resemble a prison yard or there will be little to harvest…

  5. I had a problem with my young zucchini dropping off last year. I got looking around and there weren’t any bees to pollinate the flowers! So I started pollinating in the morning with a q-tip , flower to flower and my zucchini stop dropping . Lots of zucchinis! I also I have learned that I can dramatically increase the number of tomatoes by rapidly fluttering my fingers on each yellow flower cluster. This year I left my spring radishes and spring turnip greens go to seed. Flowers on them has greatly increased my pollinators to my garden!

  6. Love hearing that mine is not the only sad producing garden. He’s me to know that it is not just me. Bell Peppers, only 1, on vene now, about 3″. We will see. 1 Yellow squash, about 2″, still on vine. Picking cakes, did well, Julian toms did good. Only about 8 beans to speak of. I do have about 10 Big Boys , still green on the vine. I’ve been fighting slugs all season. Now a bit of the powder mildew, and some other, leaf eaters. Ugh. Rain almost daily through the summer. This is my first year of gardening. So excited, but much spent, alot of fighting bugs and learning, not much in the fridge. Just canned with Mrs. Wages the cucumbers that did come in, and tried them today. Way to sour. Any suggestions welcome.

  7. My tomatoes are doing ok. My zucchini and squash plants have only produced one zucchini and one winter squash ugh. They now have powdery mildew. My watermelon plant is half dead for no reason I can figure out and the pepper plants have grown exactly 2 peppers despite healthy plants. Fortunately my flower garden has been amazing this year.

  8. Erin, I retuned to vegetable gardening this year after my son built me a 3’ x 3’ x 8’ raised garden bed for Mother’s Day. I also got my plants in late and then there was a major frost in late May. My plants are growing so SLOWLY. I fear that it will be October before anything is ready. I am sure I made mistakes along the way. The trouble is that I have to wait for next Spring to try it all again. Your blog and videos have been so helpful and provide lots of inspiration. I’m so glad you are a gardener in Zone 5 like me!

  9. This was not a good garden year here. Weather was particularly annoying. Wet, then dry,then hot on top of all that. Bah humbug.

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