Garden Update: Tomatoes and Basil Galore - The Bitten Word Blog

An Update on Our Backyard Garden (Repost)


We came in from the garden this morning with a handful of tomatoes. That, friends, is something to celebrate.

You see, the cycle of boom and bust continues in our garden. In the month since our last update, we've had substantial growth and a few losses, too.

Let's start with the positive.

The good news is that we have tomato and basil plants galore. The basil is especially doing well -- the plants are huge and no matter how much we pick, there always seems to be more. We have Thai, Genovese, Fine Herb and Purple varieties, and they're all doing well. So now our challenge is to use it. We've been tossing it into all sorts of dishes, making vinaigrettes and pestos (or at least pesto-like sauces). Before long, we'll likely harvest a bunch and freeze it for use this winter.

Purple(ish) basil

We have one sungold tomato plant that is doing amazingly well. It's massive: If it was standing straight up, it would likely be at least seven feet tall. And it's producing -- we've already harvested at least a dozen tomatoes from the plant.


Three other tomato plants are doing well, all with green fruit that is beginning to ripen. But all these plants -- including our sungold star -- have leaves that have been yellowing and branches that have turned brittle. We've been removing these as it has happened. Perhaps the two remaining tomato plants are a sign of things to come - they've all but withered down to nothing and have very few leaves (though they, too, have some very small, green fruit). Hang in there, tomatoes!

We have four red okra plants, which have been interesting to watch. We started two of these plants indoors, and sowed the seeds for the other two directly in the ground more than a month later. Though the plants started indoors have a huge advantage over the direct-sow plants in terms of time, the direct-sow plants are at least a foot taller than those earlier plants. The plants that we started indoors, though, have been the first to produce. We've now harvested two okra and more are forming.

Grow, okra, grow!

Watching okra grow is especially exciting. (Yeah, we just said that sentence.) They're massively quick! Each of the two okra we've already harvested were growing about an inch a day. We're not sure what to expect from this point forward. But we're hoping the plants produce, because we would love to make Pan Roasted Corn and Okra using this red okra variety. It would be stunning.

A struggling bean plant

Last month we shared that we had replanted beans after losing our first crop to disease, pests or some combination of both. We did and they eagerly sprang out of the ground. Aaaaaaand now they're already dead, lasting even less time than the first crop.

The spray that we purchased seemed to have no effect whatsoever on the problems (unless its effect was to kill the beans). So we're officially waving the white flag when it comes to beans. The Bitten Word Boys, it seems, are not destined to be bean farmers.

Let's also have a moment of silence for our beets. The plants started off strong. We had beautiful beet greens in May, but then in June, it seemed that their growth just stopped. They remained healthy looking, but didn't increase in size.

This weekend, Clay pulled a few of them to see how they were doing beneath the soil. The answer: pathetically. The beets were tiny -- not even the size of a marble. We decided to just pull the rest of the plants and use the space for other veggies. We'll spare you a photo of these sad beets.

Jalapeños, turning colors.

Peppers are a bright spot. We have two pepper plants that are thriving. One has three large jalapeños growing on it. They're purple jalapeños, and they're now in the process of turning darker.

Tomatoes on the left, okra in the back, and the rest is basil and peppers.

We haven't talked about this much, but we do have a few things that are growing outside of the garden. Ever since we moved into our current apartment nearly six years ago, we had little window box gardens. There are three boxes, one with thyme and sage, and a second box with thyme, oregano and rosemary. All of these are plants from previous years that have returned and thrived.

IMG_4944 IMG_4946
Window boxes filled with herbs.

Because our basil is out in the garden and no longer in these boxes, we decided to fully turn over one of these boxes to mint. Mint is truly a weed that nearly refuses to die. Earlier this summer, we thought this plant in particular had died after it was left outside and not watered. Its leaves were crunchy and its life seemed over. But then we replanted it, watered it and now it's huge.

IMG_4938Thriving mint.

So what's next?

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Well, we've gone ahead and planted a second crop of basil for this fall. We're assuming that most of our plants won't be around past August, but that there will still be plenty of time for basil to thrive. So we replanted seeds in the indoor greenhouse and already have little seedlings already popping out of the soil.

Once we get most of August behind us, we plan to return to some crops from this spring, like snow peas, that respond better to cooler weather.

Though our garden continues to have its struggles, we're pretty pleased at this point with how it's going. The success of the tomato plants is greater than we had expected, and the experience of growing items like okra has been a thrill in our little backyard.

So how about you? How's your garden faring in this warm summer days?

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Thank you for posting. I love Mission Hills!

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