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Heirloom tomatoes

Now the fretting and stewing begin

After a cool, damp summer last year that resulted in cercospora mold devastating our tomato crop, I’m ever vigilant for any sign of trouble with this year’s tomatoes. Maybe my vigilance is bordering on paranoia.

So far the crop of Abraham Lincolns, Granny Smiths, a Black Cherry and a couple yellow tomatoes is looking fine. The plants are in containers except for the Black Cherry which is upside-down in a Topsy-Turvy.

We decided to stick with heirlooms. I was tempted a buy some hybrids to compare the results. My suspicion is the hybrids would be able to thrive better than the heirlooms because they have been bioengineered and crossbred to resist anything short of a nuclear attack.

I’ve already sprayed the tomatoes once with fungicide as the bottle label advises – two to three weeks before any signs of mold appear. I’ll keep spraying them after every rain to protect the plants.

At our apartment, the containers are in a spot where water stands after a heavy rain. That’s the kind of thing you don’t need when mold is a worry.

But I think I lucked out. A neighbor guy was moving and asked whether I would like to have a pallet. I didn’t have to think twice. The pallet is heavy duty with an inch-thick plywood deck. I also scrounged up another pallet from a construction crew at the apartment. They were looking to get rid of it in the worst way. So with the 1.38 inches of rain Monday our tomatoes are standing proud above Lake Noonan.

My wife sowed some marigold seeds around the tomatoes. They’re still small, just getting out of the two-leaf stage. I hope they grow fast enough so they don’t get overwhelmed by the tomatoes. Planting marigolds was suggested by a fellow working in the garden at the Purdue Extension Office at IPFW during the plant sale. The marigolds are supposed to keep harmful insects away. Maybe they’ll also keep the evil mold spirits at bay.

Journey through gardening season with Rosa Salter Rodriguez (feature writer), Anne Gregory (Web editor and writer), Frank Noonan (copy editor) and Cathie Rowand (photographer)