Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Maybe a Pepper, Maybe a Bean


I grow carrots in a pot in my container garden. I threw several packs of multicolored carrots seeds into this pot and called it a day. I thinned out the weird ones and fed them to my worms.

I have decided to become a carrot farmer. Seriously. I have several compelling reasons for my sudden change of career. 1) Carrot foliage is pretty, which I know is a shallow and ridiculous reason, but so what. 2) Carrot foliage is a food source for swallowtail butterfly caterpillars and I like butterflies. 3) I can grow carrots without having to face death  or deal with drunk slugs and bean chomping bunnies.


Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars in the carrot foliage


Ok, I can grow tomatoes, too. But not without risking life and limb, which I find highly irritating. Please do not be excited by the Yellow Brandywine tomato below. It's growing in a container, which could be idiotic or it could be brilliant. The verdict is still out.


This tomato was huge!


It was deep yellow inside and very sweet.


Here's the NanoFarm. Try not to get lost. The next tour starts at 12. My storm damaged Rose of Sharon is blooming in the background. 'Yellow Brandywine' is a potato leafed heirloom tomato best grown in the ground because they get huge. The big yellow ball you see is a bird house not a massive tomato. But don't tell my tomatoes that. I'm hoping it will inspire them to greatness.

I hadn't planned on growing giant tomato plants at all. But then I picked up the seeds in a seed swap so I planted them and they grew so then I had over a dozen tomato seedlings so I kind of fell in love with them a bit so then I knew I had to find a spot for them somewhere.....


This is the bottom of one of my tomato plants. To keep disease at bay and help prevent wind from knocking the pots over, I've trimmed away all the bottom leaves. Does it look like the tomatoes are growing at the top of a suburban mountain?


To maximize the amount of space and sunlight in my garden, I decided to create my NanoFarm in the steepest possible spot. If I could hire a mountain goat to check on the tomatoes for me, I would.


There are several more stairs missing from this photo. Repelling gear will be handy if I ever slip and fall. So will a hospital bed. My tomato plants are in the pots at the top of the stairs. Growing tomatoes in a pot helps prevent soil borne disease because I use fresh potting soil every year. But they dry out quickly so I water them every day. I supplement their water with a big splash of liquid kelp and have added dried alfalfa meal and Mater Magic to their soil. Note to self: Stop feeding the tomatoes and give them whiskey instead. They're too big! Must stunt growth....


This would fit nicely on my tombstone.


An unemployed trellis was put to work holding up heavy branches that fell over in
  a breeze


I need a tougher tomato.


Velcro straps from the hardware store are an excellent way to attach the stakes, poles, shepherd's crook, and whatever else I could find to secure the branches to the tomato cage.


I also use them to tie the wayward tomato branches to whatever strong metal object is closest.


Various swirly metal stakes help keep these huge plants upright.


Because I am a genius of unparalleled talent, I forgot to cage my Principe Bourghese tomatoes before my trip to England in June. They fell over in a storm and are currently growing sideways. But that's ok. We're cool like that here. Principe Bourghese tomatoes are grown to be used as sun dried tomatoes. I wintersowed these seeds and the damn things actually grew. I was shocked.


In my tomato frenzy I imagined thousands of tomatoes drying in the sun on the walls of my stone patio in Italy. Then the caffeine wore off and I dug out the dehydrator left over from a rather chewy foray into beef jerky making.


Watch out world! I am now the proud owner of exactly 10 not-sun dried tomatoes!


'Bush Porto Rico' sweet potatoes grow at the base of the tomatoes. These are the easiest vegetables I've ever grown. I just stick the slips into the pots and keep them watered. That's it. With all the rain we've had this summer, they need to be fertilized much more frequently than if I'd grown them in the ground. You can see them turning dark green again in this picture. Harvesting them is my favorite part because it feels like I'm searching for treasure. Much more rewarding than digging for coins in the couch.


I've started giving all my container plants this fertilizer. It was designed for plants grown hydroponically but my plants love it. It's full of bat guano but doesn't stink. I am so thankful for bats with stink-less poo. What nice creatures.


Potato vines growing down the Steps of Death.


Here is the biggest pepper of the year. It's so big, I'll have plenty to share. This is a 'Sweet Chocolate' pepper grown from seed.


How kind of the slugs to chew holes for the salvia to poke through! So thoughtful.


Fortunately, my slugs are cheap drunks and I keep their nightly beer bowl filled. Apparently, they were too full to finish this leaf.


I'm so relived beer cans have become easier to open. I was afraid the slugs would win.


This pot originally held two pepper plants. But one turned dark green and stopped growing, which I thought was quite rude. However, an uncomposted sweet potato from the worm compost decided to grow instead.


Sweet potato surprise


When I was dreaming up my vegetable garden visions, I imagined my metal arbor draped in bean vines, purple pole beans hanging from it's fabulous suburban Gothic arch. I imagined it would look like the beans in the Google images picture above. But no... The bunnies, bean worms, gnomes, etc made sure it didn't happen like that.


Here is the single bean vine I have left. Some vicious creature has decimated the 7 other vines I've planted. It's quite possible as I write this that these have fallen prey to pure evil, as well. I'm on my second sowing of bean plants and will be shocked if I harvest a single bean.


 Stay strong, beans! 


Since the bunnies also demolished the Cypress vines I had planted here, I finally just decided to plant the one vine I know bunnies don't like: honeysuckle. While I know some gardeners consider honeysuckle the spawn of Satan, I like it. It will quickly cover my arbor, has pretty white flowers that will compliment whatever colors it's planted near and smells good. This is lonicera 'Mint Crisp'. I created a bunny barricade around the base just in case they changed their minds.


GROW!

57 comments:

  1. You are too funny!!

    So how did the not-sun-dried tomatoes turn out? :)

    In terms of a rampant white vine for your arbor (other than exotic honeysuckle) how about Armandii Clematis? http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/55613

    Or if you're not wedded to white, what about the native Coral Honeysuckle? Rabbits haven't touched the ones we're growing. http://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/giam/plants_and_grasses/native_plants/coral_honey.html

    (Although I guess we're lucky. The only plants our rabbits have destroyed are Malva sylvestris. Otherwise they seem content to stay in the grass and nibble the clover for the most part.)

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    1. They devoured my malva, too, but it bounced back unlike the struggling dwarf heliopsis and some of my asters. I have a 'Major Wheeler' and 'Harlequin' honeysuckle elsewhere in he garden but I thought the white flowers of the Mint Crisp would work well with whatever other colors where in the nearby beds. Actually, I've never seen a honeysuckle I didn't like!

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    2. The sun dried tomatoes turned out ok but I think I'll season them next time. They're really tiny!

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  2. I love your thoughtful slugs - the Salvia must too. The window they created for said Salvia makes me wonder if they're more highly educated (i.e. architectural training) than the average slugs. You must be very proud!

    Otherwise, it would seem that many of the same forces are visiting our garden as are visiting yours. Although your architecturally educated slugs have declined to visit us. However, they have offered their spot(s) to grasshopper hordes instead, to make sure that we don't feel neglected.

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    1. I am quite impressed with the artistic leanings of my slug community. I just love the sun roof they chewed for my red salvia. :o) When I saw the salvia poking through that hole, I just laughed. It was so bizarre. Maybe the slugs and the salvia are in cahoots.

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  3. As always, thoroughly entertaining! Love the variegated foliage on that honeysuckle!

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    1. Thanks! I'm excited about the honeysuckle. Absolutely no thought went into its purchase. After realizing my cypress vines were totally dead, I stomped off to the garden center to look for a replacement. I wanted an annual vine but there weren't any for sale since it was the middle of July. Of the perennial vines, this honeysuckle was the most appealing. I really like it's variegation, too. :o)

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  4. I'm impressed by your tomatoes - and your enterprise in protecting them and keeping them healthy. My tomatoes are pretty much a bust this year. The plum tomato plant is at least producing but 'Believe It or Not' (real name) has produced one (just one!) tomato. It's large (and still unripe) but, really, one tomato? Of course, maybe I just assumed I understood what the tomato's name meant...

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    1. 'Believe It or Not'? That name isn't much of a confidence builder! Tomatoes are heavy feeders. Think of them as starving teenagers. I swear I can hear them slurp and burp after guzzling their kelp and worm juice. :o)

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  5. You are the most creative and unorthodox farmer, and you have had no end of depradations and indignities in your nano farm! It's all fun when it isn't a travesty. Come up to CT and I will dig up my trumpet honeysuckle for you. It's a keeper, and you have a design and place for it.

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    1. "It's all fun when it isn't a travesty." I love that!! This is the first year the squirrels haven't been taste testing my tomatoes. I also haven't had any tomato hornworms. Maybe Mother Nature decided the twin plagues of blackspot and bunnies were enough. :o)

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  6. If I can't be a good example, I'll just have to be a horrible warning. Love it! When is being strictly good ever fun! I could write about my sad and pathetic tomatoes, but I could never be half so funny as you manage to be Tammy. My tomatoes are either wilted or scrawny runts that have yet to produce anything I could eat let alone sun dry. I can't believe the flower poking through the slug hole! Plants are certainly opportunists. So far I have been ignoring the slugs in my garden and they have started to take full advantage. This evening I was horrified to see a few of my hostas. Its time to break out some beer.

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    1. Being good is so boring. Normally, I don't have slugs in the summer but this year has been so moist they're popping up everywhere. They are total boozers. My husband once had one climb up his beer bottle while he was hanging out in the hammock. So much motivation! The slug - not the husband. ;o)

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  7. You are so dang funny! I found myself (here at work no less) chuckling several times over your clever prose.

    I will also have that saying on my tombstone. Great minds think (and die) alike, right?

    We, mostly my daughter grew veggies in containers this year. The carrots are doing really well. The tomatoes are gargantuan and the peppers are iffy. Oh well. I haven't seen any little caterpillars on the carrot foliage but I'll keep an eye out.

    Honeysuckle, the spawn of Satan? Hardly. I love it. The fragrance is incredible and one just needs to remember to whack it back occasionally--like say every three months. 'Mint Crisp' is a beauty.

    I think I need to get me some "Braggin' Rights Quality" fertilizer. Yor plants look awesome. And Schlitz beer... oh the memories... Okay moving on.

    Great post Tammy. Thanks for the laughs.



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    1. Thanks! I love honeysuckle, too. I used to eat it when I was a kid. I think this summer has just been too sluggy, moist, and mild for peppers. They like it hot hot hot! I do think a yearly whacking will be in order to keep the honeysuckle well behaved but that's ok. Chopping stuff up is a great way to deal with stress. ;o)

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  8. LOL!! Where the heck do I begin! You are on to something you know with the carrot farming! You have the most amazing fellas visiting in your garden! Absolutely spectacular! And you had me rolling with the tomato bit! My tomatoes have busted loose too! But your look so happy and yummy! Have a wonderful weekend lady! Happy happy gardening!

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    1. Carrot farming is the future. Those carrots are headed for my yearly carrot cake. I just need to figure out how to grow cream cheese frosting shrubs.

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  9. Nice problem to have with the giant, mountain-climbing Tomatoes! Mine are doing OK, but nowhere near that productive. But then they only get afternoon sun from about 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Once again, I'm awed by all your container plantings! I will have to try that fertilizer!!

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    1. That fertilizer is AMAZING!! The red salvia that's poking through the pepper leaf was looking really scrawny and I couldn't figure out why. I'd been giving it lots of kelp and had added compost to the pot last fall but it still looked thin. I guess it must be a heavy feeder because it's plumped up, grown larger foliage, put out tons of flowers, and is just much lusher than before. I'm hooked on that fertilizer. Tomatoes are heavy feeders, too. I love having lots of containers. It's a great way to extend my garden. :o)

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  10. I don't have a sluggy problem up here, it's just lack of enough water...and wasps, and mosquitoes, and flies, and bugs, bugs bugs...lol.

    A very funny post, love me those sun dried tommies.

    Jen

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    1. When I lived in North Dakota near the Canadian borer, the mosquitoes were so big and mean they'd bite you through your clothes. As much as we longed for summer, we were glad when it cooled off enough to kill the bugs. Hopefully, some rain will be headed your way soon. :o)

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  11. You're in full-attack mode...I've got your back. Good luck in your fight.
    This post was not only enlightening but funny as well...thanks for the laughs, but seriously I hope that you win the "War of the Roses". I know how much you love them.
    As for the quote, "If I can't be a good example, I'll just have to be a horrible warning", I immediately thought of Lindsay Lohan.....wellwhatdoyouknow???

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    1. Lindsey Lohan is a train wreck. I think that quote applies to so many celebrities! When I read about all the stupid stuff they do, it's mind boggling. Pretty face, empty brain. I am convinced I will beat the blackspot! Victory shall be mine! :o)

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  12. Your pepper crop looks like ours - maybe more will develop but hey had better get a move on!

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    1. We haven't had our usual really hot summer so the peppers aren't too eager to produce any peppers. Plus, I think the slugs were a step ahead of me. I should have started the beer traps a while back.

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  13. It's great you can grow them in pots. Tried that last year for my tomato and cucumber, but darn if the squirrels didn't keep getting in them.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

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    1. Last year the squirrels would pick a tomato, take a bite, and then throw them on the ground. It was so maddening and wasteful. I'm keeping the platform feeder full of sunflower seeds so hopefully that's distracting them.

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  14. I grow carrots in pots this year too. I never did it before and have not picked any yet, so I have no idea if I will see a carrot. I grow them for the same two reasons that you mentioned. But my Swallowtails have not made any caterpillars yet, that or I am just not so observant. Tomatoes are on pots too which I prune to keep small. Those at least made good tomatoes. Your plant is a giant.

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    1. Those tomatoes were never meant to grow in a pot unless the pot was the size of a small car. Had I planted them in the ground, they'd be even bigger. But they're the tastiest tomatoes I've ever grown so it's been worth it. :o)

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  15. This was hilarious. Congratulations on your enormous tomatoes. The Steps of Death are an ingenious way to get sunlight and deter predators at the same time - but tell me, have the squirrels not taken over where the rabbits left off? They were the reason I stopped growing tomatoes in pots on my elevated deck.

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    1. Thanks! I'm keeping my platform feeder full of sunflower seeds which seems to be distracting the squirrels. Last year they ravaged my tomatoes but aren't interested this year. I think they're worried about falling down the stairs.

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  16. In this country we can report people who hold tomato plants against their will. It's a good job you live in the land of the free.

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    1. Ha! My tomatoes are tied in place! They couldn't escape if they tried. :o)

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  17. Your posts always make me laugh! You show gardening to be the real adventure that it is :) Your yellow tomato looks juicy and delicious - a reward for all your hard work!

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    1. Thanks! Gardening is an adventure! I think there should have been an Indiana Jones and the Garden of Doom movie. Yellow tomatoes have less acid that the red ones. Potato leafed tomatoes produce sweeter, more flavorful tomatoes because the larger leaves allow the plants to create more food to nourish the fruits. Plus, the big leaves shade the fruits a bit so they don't scald in the sun. :o)

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  18. Holy cow things are growing at your place. Carrots in a container. Never tried that one before. Cool. One of the best tomato crops I ever had was when a storm bent over the cages and every tomato went sideways. We couldn't keep up with the harvest.

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    1. The tomatoes are really thriving on the old trellis! I think I'm going to use it again next year. Growing carrots in a container is really easy. It guarantees straight roots because you don't have to worry about rocky soil. Just be sure to thin them out and keep them moist.

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  19. Wow, your tomato farm is very impressive! I haven't ventured into the art of growing tomatoes yet, in fear of getting monster plants in my tiny garden - seems like that fear was not unfounded. I can’t understand why anyone would not want to have a honeysuckle in their garden, must be an American thing, but if you don’t succeed with it you might want to try what I have on my arbour – Dregea sinensis. It takes a few years to get established but then it grows like mad! I prune off 80% every winter and it is the most lovely, sweet scented vine you can think of, flowering from June to October. It has white, sticky sap that itches, can’t think the bunnies would like to eat that!

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    1. Honeysuckle is considered invasive in many places in the US so you have to be careful where you plant it. I have never seen your drega vine for sale here. I wish I could find one. It's a beauty!

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  20. Wow, that was some blog post. Looks like you have been very busy and your veg is looking good. Hope you get lots of tasty harvests.

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  21. Thanks for the chuckles. Also the idea of growing carrots in pots! As I've said about a million times I have all these plants growing to attract swallowtails but not caterpillars. But I don't have carrots. Now I know how to remedy that situation! Our tomatoes are doing so-so this year due to the cool weather. However, the ones we've picked have been really delicious - much smaller than yours, though.

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    1. That's pretty weird about the swallowtails. I grow most of caterpillar-support plants near nectar sources for the adults and it seems to be working quite well. I also found caterpillars on an annual called ammi that I had briefly in the garden this spring. Unfortunately, it was getting shaded by several other plants and died, but not before hosting a big fat swallowtail cat so I'm going to grow it again next year. Keep trying. :o) I've found them in: rue (ruta), fennel, parsley, carrots, and ammi.

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  22. Tammy, I liked your pots with growing tomatoes and will try the same the next year. This yellow one looks very delicious!

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    1. It was very sweet and didn't have much acid. :o)

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  23. Great post. Your tomatoes look gorgeous!

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  24. Hilarious! Thoughtful slugs... Mountain goats... Carrot farming career changes and chewy beef jerky not-sun-dried tomatoes facilitators. Who could have thought that container veg growing could inspire such delights? I don't know about giving your toms a whisky... This reader needs one after all this excitement.

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    1. Another reason to become a carrot farmer: carrots aren't sassy, their parents won't email me at midnight on Saturday and expect an answer an answer the next morning, and if they do make me mad, I can grate them up and eat them! (insert evil laugh here!)

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  25. My tomatoes are out of control but still green....I love carrots and just planted some for fall...I am willing to share with butterflies but none are here. I have that same dream of Italy and tomatoes.

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    1. I have several green tomatoes that came off the branches when I pruned the ones that fell over. They're headed for a frying pan to become fried green tomatoes. :o)

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  26. Lots of funny sayings here! LOL!!! I saved the one....if I can't be a good example,etc etc.....hahaha!!! I'm sharing that one on Facebook. Tomatoes are difficult for many people. They are tricky little devils to grow. As for the arbor. I'm currently at year 2 with our arbor and while it won't look like that one with the same exact plant, I did find one that will succeed.....a variety of the Honeysuckle. And it's not getting there and looks sweet....it just took two years for it all to happen. You know, I still work in the garden, but I don't post about it too often......my time is taken up with BIRDS!:) We're addicts, aren't we? But you know what....keep trying as you do. Your sense of humor always makes me laugh. It sure helps with all the frustrations of those plants that refuse to grow. I've decided that I'm going to become a rosemary gardener:)

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    1. Thanks! My rosemary has NEVER bloomed. Nope. Not once! So when you become a rosemary farmer, give me your secrets. :o) The Mint Crisp honeysuckle I planted on the arbor has decided it likes its spot and has put out new growth that's climbing the metal poles. Yay!

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  27. so-o-o-o funny Tammy, thanks for the chuckles. I'm in awe of your giant tomatoes. Take care with the sinister steps - we need you to cheer up the blogosphere.

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    1. 'Cheerful reality' is usually what I aim for. I'm suspicious of blogs where everything looks too perfect, including the gardens and I avoid blogs that are mean or limited in perspective. My tomatoes are so big, they're ridiculous, but I love them. They're on the menu with dinner tonight. :o)

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  28. Hi Tammy, it never turns out like it does in the brochures and in the pictures does it? I'm always amazed by the power of the "slap down" reality can give (of course it's not always bad). Do be careful on the steps of death, perhaps install the "rail of salvation" to prevent accidents. I'm glad your tomatoes are good, we tried three tomato plants last year and they were so dismal it's going to be a very long time (if ever) before I bother trying them again. I'm interested in why some people think honeysuckle is a bad plant, I think it's gorgeous, it's so strongly and sweetly scented it fills the garden. We've got caterpillars making holes in certain plants too, but I've not bothered doing anything about it. I'm trying to resist micro-managing that kind of thing and just letting the plant, the birds and the caterpillars get on with it.

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    1. Honeysuckle is invasive here so some gardeners avoid it. It strangles trees when it's allowed to escape into the woods. I love it but do have wild honeysuckle in the back of my garden that I have to keep a close eye on so it doesn't choke my trees. The Rail of Salvation was put in when the house was built and I was hanging on to it today while tying tomato branches to more supports after a windy morning. :o)

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  29. The only tomatoes I have growing were from my compost bin...lots of volunteers. One plant has about three little 'maters on them. Containers need watered....can't be bothered with a lot of them!

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