It’s Been a Tough Summer

whitefly damage to tomato
Whitefly Destruction

In case the recent string of posts about garden pests hasn’t tipped you off, it’s been a tough year for the plants on deck. So tough that it’s too depressing to post the monthly update photo. So tough that the only remaining cherry tomato is the Gold Nugget, heretofore referred to as Champ. On the bright side, it seems that blights and fungi were largely avoided this year.

Anyone who says container gardeners don’t need to worry about bugs live¬† a charmed life.

Let’s see, a random nutrient deficiency finally slaughtered the Isis Candy (maybe copper, maybe iron, maybe potassium, maybe all of the above) and whiteflies took out the pampered Black Cherry (pictured left). Next year I’ll make up a batch of yellow sticky traps and see if that doesn’t do the trick. Aphids have taken over and samples of the brown marmorated stink bug have been collected. And oh, yeah, it’s been hot, hot, hot and dry, dry, dry.

And guess what? The rescued Black Brandywine isn’t looking so good.¬† Its calcium deficiency may be terminal but it’s got one lonely fruit that I’m unwilling to sacrifice just yet.

Whitefly close-up
Whitefly close-up

Each year I resist the urge to buy a pH kit to test each container’s soil as it seems just a little too garden-geeky, but let’s face it, the little blue deck has had a blog devoted to it for over a year. If that ain’t geekdom, what is?

Now, all hopes are pinned on the currently thriving Greensgrow Mr. Stripey. Cross your fingers, please.

Ugly Smiles

These aren’t the kinds of smiles you want to see radiating from any of the plants on deck.

Blossom end rot
Turn this frown upside down and it's still a frown.

POD’s pretty sure this is a nasty case of blossom end rot. Which, essentially, is a calcium deficiency. The good news? It’s not contagious. The bad news, there’s a chance there’s not much to be done at this point.

So, in the hopes of avoiding this next year, what caused this nastiness? Well, external stress like lack of water and excessive heat could be a factor. (It was pretty brutal a couple of weeks ago and with a vacation nibbling into obsessive-compulsive gardening, the plants were only watered once a day, rather than twice a day). Honestly, that’s what we’re really, really hoping for. That can be immediately addressed.

Also worth noting, this is the only tomato planted in Miracle Gro Organic soil (the Isis Candy, Black Cherry, and Gold Nugget were planted in either Organic Mechanic or Coast of Maine — both of which seemed like much richer, less mulchy soil blends). And, because this fella’ was a rather late and unexpected arrival, I just can’t say for certain whether or not it received the crumbled egg shells its compatriots enjoyed. Next year, the soil can be gussied up with a shot of bone meal, too. And yes, maybe it’s time to invest in that Ph kit to make sure the soil’s around 6.0-6.5.

calcium deficiency in tomato leaves
Calcium, it does a body good.

Its slightly curled leaves add further evidence to the diagnosis. While adding milk to the soil and spraying with the powdery mildew mixture (which contains milk) is tempting, it probably won’t do much as calcium isn’t immediately absorbed. Which isn’t to say both “remedies” haven’t already been applied. It’s worth a shot.