Southern Garden Process


July is prime tomato month for my garden. I’ve been harvesting for several weeks and been able to freeze some and make some canned salsa. I won’t likely get a frost until late October and this is an indeterminate variety which could just keep producing in ideal conditions, its likely about done producing. The leaves are showing yellow and brown spots and soon the tomatoes will get brown spots before they turn ripe.

When I first moved here. I tried growing Brandywine tomatoes. They were my favorites for their unbeatable flavor. When I gardened in Michigan and Minnesota, they produced well. But in my Chattanooga garden, they would produce one or two good tomatoes per plant and the rest would get the brown spots before ripening. After about four years of trying Brandywines here, I gave up. People who have high tunnels that allow water control and those on higher elevations have success with Brandywines in this area, but they didn’t thrive in my yard.

The heat and humidity of our summer stresses tomatoes. We’ve had over 5 inches of rain this month which is only slightly above an average July. The moisture along with high temperatures that are usually in the 90’s (above 32 C) create ideal conditions for what granny called the sickness – fungus. So in August we’ll be getting more of other things.IMG_20150724_093836052

This is okra. It is a native of Africa that loves heat and humidity. It even does well in our clay soils. If you can’t grow okra in the South, you just are not a gardener. The only challenge is preparing it in a way that gets rid of the mucous like texture between the seeds and skin. It will be the most productive August vegetable I’ll get. If I don’t pick it every other day the seeds will get as hard as buckshot. And by the end of September, I usually have to bend the stalks down to harvest because they will be over eight feet tall.

And my lack of recent posts had nothing to do with the recent shootings in Chattanooga. They did occur just 2 and five miles from my home, but didn’t affect me any more than if I lived elsewhere. Its just sad that people can show up for work, or a prayer service, or a movie theater and have their life ended by a deranged gunman. Love your family and keep good things growing is all I can say.

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