This is the worst year yet for damage to my tomato plants, set upon by wilt, cutworms and flea beetles. Most of the lower leaves on my tomato and tomatillo plants look like someone took a 410 shotgun to them.
Although I have yet to capture the little devils at it, I’m told this is the results of a flea beetle infestation. The plants are growing and have weathered the invasion.
I started half of my tomatoes and peppers this year. I have a 4 bulb 4′ grow light as well as a heating pad to place the seedling tray on. I used a Burpee 32 cell self watering seed starting system which included the Super Growing Pellets® made from natural coconut fiber. In general, the root structure was not as good as the nursery grown and the plants were a very pale green with somewhat of a yellow tint. Obviously they were missing some key nutrients and I even provided liquid fertilizer after the first 4 weeks as recommended. My unprofessional opinion is that this is an expensive way to start weak, leggy seedlings. That said they are doing fine after 2 weeks in the ground and access to 10-10-10, they started to green up about 1 week in and are now adding height. I can still tell the difference between mine and theirs but that should disappear in a couple of more weeks.
The self-watering tray and mat worked great. I cleaned all of the plastic parts in a bleach solution and packaged them away for next season. I will microwave the watering pad to make sure it is safe to reuse as well. However, I am done with the fancy coconut fiber disks and will start my seeds in a starting medium and then transplant those into a balanced growth medium next season.
Tomatoes are especially important this season. We bought a piglet last summer which our farmer raised and had butchered. We have been feasting on pork since Christmas but I have been jealously hoarding the bacon, rashering it out very slowly. I am anxiously waiting the arrival of BLT season which usually begins the first week or so of August and goes well into September. If you haven’t had a BLT assembled from fresh garden lettuces and tomatoes with locally grown bacon then you might not understand my concern. I am even considering making my own local egg based mayonnaise for the inaugural sandwich.
We also bought another piglet this year: