Harvesting tomatoes and broccoli at the same time?

Harvesting tomatoes and broccoli at the same time?

What’s wrong with this picture, besides the fact that it’s not well composed? If we lived in Oregon, nothing. If we lived in Missouri, nothing. But in Southern California, you don’t usually pick both tomatoes and broccoli from the garden at the same time, especially here in early November, especially for weeks on end. Yet here I am, harvesting a bunch of tomatoes still while also harvesting our first heads of broccoli.

Usually, it’s tomatoes (sown in early summer) harvested until about Thanksgiving, and only then are the first broccoli heads ready (sown in late summer). So there’s an overlap of a couple weeks, max.

This year, I found some broccoli seedlings at the nursery in late August (probably sown in July) — about a month earlier than they usually show up — and decided to buy and plant them as an experiment. The results are in: the heads formed well and taste excellent. Apparently, planting broccoli in late August (or sowing in July) is not too early, this year anyway. Also this year, it looks like we’ll be ripening oodles of tomatoes past Thanksgiving with this warm and dry weather having no end in sight.

Fourteen hornworms on one tomato plant

Spent the last couple weeks in Oregon and Washington, and came home to notice a lot of leaves missing from an Early Girl tomato plant. Figured a hornworm had done some munching, but when I went to find it I found a second, and then a third, and then I kept finding more until I’d thrown this many on the ground beside the plant:

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On one plant! Remember how big these guys are too — each one is the size of your finger, or bigger.

They were in heaven until I showed up. Now they are in the stomachs of the neighbors’ chickens.

UPDATE: Over the last couple days, I’ve found six more! That’s twenty hornworms on one tomato plant, and counting. And the plant is still growing like gangbusters in this late summer / early fall heat.

‘San Diego’ tomatoes, and tomatoes in San Diego

‘San Diego’ tomatoes

I shouldn’t be surprised, but the variety of tomato called ‘San Diego’ is thriving here in . . . San Diego. Why did I wait until this year to try it?Compared to the other varieties I’ve grown in this yard — including Ace, Better Boy, Pineapple, San Marzano, Costoluto Genovese, Kellogg’s Breakfast, Early Girl, Juliette, and Brandywine — the San Diego variety is just as productive or more so, has nice color, no sunburn, and very little cracking. I’m also pleased with the taste.

San Diego variety tomato

Oddly, I can’t find any information about the history of the variety. I don’t even know if it was bred in San Diego or if it got its name for another reason. One website, Fedco Seeds, has the most information, and this is about it: “Won our paste test of determinate hybrids . . .” Yet the tag on the tray of seedlings I bought in March says it is indeterminate. The plants so far do not seem determinate — that is, they continue to grow and set new fruit even though I’ve already been picking ripe fruit from them for a couple weeks.


 

Tomatoes in San Diego

Another “why did I wait until this year to finally . . .” relates to the support I’m giving all of my tomatoes. This year I invested in real cages, the kind you have to build yourself. I’d tried every simple and cheap method in the past: I tied them onto the chain link fence, I let them sprawl wild on the ground, I fastened them to a stake, I twisted them up a string attached to the eaves, and of course I tried the little wire tunnels they sell as tomato cages. None of those methods satisfied, either because they couldn’t contain a vigorously growing tomato plant (little cages), because they require too much training (strings on eaves), or because they make harvest a pain (sprawling wild over the ground). So I forked over $98 at the hardware store for a roll of steel mesh (used in reinforcing concrete) and made cages that are five feet tall and two feet in diameter.

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In April, when a visitor saw the baby tomato plants inside the huge cages she joked that I might be overly ambitious. But here we are in early July and many of the plants have already gone a foot over the top of the cages, such as these ‘San Marzano’ plants — they’re as tall as my corn!

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Note the peppers to the left of the tomatoes being supported by “tomato cages”

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