Vegetables are Amazing~! Update from a Newbie


Cuke2-300 First and foremost, growing vegetables is really, really interesting, and FUN.  (Who knew?  Oh, yeah, almost all of you.)  Once it warmed up these babies grew like crazy, like this humongous cucumber that appeared out of nowhere and was especially surprising because the label said "squash".

Tomatoes400 And my experiment in growing them in containers on my deck has raised the question of how to support these big boys.  It would be great if the containers came with suggestions about what types of plants to grow in them and what size tomato cages (or other supports) to use. 

Take these tomatoes, for instance.  There are two plants here, both labeled as "patio" size, so I thought they'd stay compact, but noooo.  So the 4-foot-tall cages are practically useless. If the privacy screen hadn't been there to tie the plants to, the whole shebang would be flopping in the wind.

Next,Eggplant300 what's wrong with this eggplant?  Squirrel or insect damage?  

And how about these variegated eggplants – cool, huh?  But are they full-size and ready for harvesting?Eggplant2-300

And for any of these, are you supposed to prune away any of the extra foliage, especially when it's shading the produce? (Bear with me, experienced veg-growers.)  I read up a bit on pruning tomatoes and honestly, it didn't make any sense to me.Pepper400

Finally, here's another edible that seemed to appear overnight.  So despite my ignorance and some logistical challenges, I'm starting to think Michele's Owens is right – that this stuff is damn easy to grow.


  1. Tomatoes are why fences were invented. None of the commercial supports are sturdy enough without the addition of stakes. The only thing that’s ever worked for me, other than a fence, are two-inch by two-inch stakes sunk deep into a hole arduously dug with a post-hole digger.

    The most important idea in tomato pruning is to pinch out the shoots that appear in the intersection between leaf and stem. If you don’t pinch them out, these shoots will form side branches and make your tomatoes impossible to stake. I tend to do this once, when my tomatoes are about 18 inches high. And then just forget it and tie whatever appears to the fence.

    Baby eggplants taste great. Those are ready for harvest whenever you’re ready for them.

  2. Good job on the veggies. I am impressed with those pretty eggplant in lavender and they look ready for eggplant parm to me. What time is dinner? I’ll even cook it for you if need be. As for tomato cages, my husband, the Equipment Manager, made some great ones out of 4″ x 4″ x 4′ tall fencing. The grid pattern is 4″ x 4″ so you can reach in and pull out the tomatoes. This is made into a two foot cylinder and then held in place with a rebar L shaped pin at ground level. Works great but the deer are still munching. You would need a torch to cut rebar…should he make extra?

  3. Doing good! Michelle is mostly right-things want to live, grow mostly without any help from us!

    Hard to say what damaged that eggplant, but its still fine to eat. As for the little ones, you shouldn’t let them get too big or they’ll be full of seeds. 5-7 inches long are good enough guage for me on the lanky eggplant. The black-beauty type, you can let those go bigger, but still many seeds.

    Its important to let the leaves shade the fruits -design by nature! No need to have them out in the hot sun -the cooler, moister air under the canopy is just where they belong. Sun don’t ripen anything except in commercials!

    As for tomato supports: Most tomatos I grow can get 8 feet tall with no problem. Determinate varieties are the best for keeping short because they set fruit generally all at once, putting energy into fruit production. You have the fence for support -that works. I think the manufacturers of grow boxes, reservoir planters and what have you should make a design change to accommodate some kind of stake on the box itself. Are you listening earth box reps?

    Pruning tomatoes is about, I think, increasing sugar load to a set amount of fruit by increasing leaf to fruit ratios. I never bother, sweet enough for me. Here’s what I am doing this year -always subject to new ideas:

  4. Great job! It’s always hard to believe the tiny plants we put in will end up so, so, HUGE!

    The striped eggplant are so pretty–and I agree, ready to eat.

  5. Susan-awesome garden! In the original square foot gardening, they recommend making STEEL PIPE FENCES for tomatoes. (I have never done this-I, too, grow them next to my fence.) I’ve been more or less ignoring my veggies this summer, and am still getting some good ones!

  6. Your veggies look wonderful!!! I have got to get my butt moving and plan a vegetable area …those bell peppers have definitely inspired me.

    My last trip to the grocery store produce area was crap…a dollar per bell pepper and they were small and shriveled I live in Florida where the hell is all the good produce going?

  7. My tomato plant put in a pot a year ago spring is still putting out fruit, though with the heat it has slowed down. I completely neglected it last summer after it was chewed apart twice by huge hookworms. When I noticed it going strong in late winter, I was amazed, but figured it would die off. Nope. Now, some soil was added to the pot (though it could probably take 3-4 more inches), it flings its branches across hot bricks, and is so happy – happier than the new one planted in the ground near a tiny pond with rich soil. I’ve never had success like this with tomatoes. (The circular cucumber was pretty cool too, and tasty.)

  8. Good for you for getting started with veggies. I bet you’ll be addicted from now on. Yes, there are frustrations and some confusion is natural, even with seasoned urban farmers, but don’t you think it’s worth it? Nothing beats going out to your garden/deck and harvesting dinner!

  9. Pruning tomatoes? Who knew? And I like Frank’s mathematical explanation (“Pruning tomatoes is about…increasing leaf to fruit ratios”) but my brain wants to say that by pinching off shoots you would be DECREASING leaf to fruit ratio. Am I thinking backwards (again)?

  10. May not fit in your containers but …. this year I decided I’d had enough of the flimsy trellises & cages that really cannot support a healthy tomato plant. I found on the internet instructions for square cages made from 3/4″ PVC pipe & connectors (L’s, X’s & T’s). Changed the proportions a bit for my preferences … & voila ! Sturdy cages that collapse like tinker toys into a box for winter keeping !

    I used a file to scuff up the sides of some of the pipe & it gives plenty of traction for climbing plants like pole beans, birdhouse gourds & cucumbers.

  11. Cucumbers definitely need to be trellised. And you have to check on them daily, before they become the monsters you are showing in the photo. This is one obsession that is not only fun, but good for you. Carry on!

  12. Ginny, you have a good memory. I still haven’t solved my watering problem, so am schlepping watering cans. The suggested solutions that involve a hose of some kind from the kitchen sink would require the door to the deck to be ajar, and my cats would then venture outside – not allowed! If it gets dry enough I might string a regular hose up to the deck from the ground below, though.

  13. Wow, Susan, you are doing GREAT! I’m no pro, but I have been growing tomatoes and other things for years. I have eggplant flowers, but no fruit yet. I have harvested several yellow squash and one zucchini and two cucumbers. My bell peppers are the size of a nickel. I expanded my kitchen garden, just like you suggested, but I think next year I’ll come plant in pots on your deck!

  14. Forgive if nobody mentioned it already, but the wire fencing with the 2″ x 4″ gaps in it works very well for tomatoes. You can buy 4′ tall rolls of it at hardware stores. With basic math, figure how much is required to make a spacious tomato “cylinder” and cut off a section. Form cylinder and use cut ends of wire to hook it together. Some gardeners cut small gaps in the wire for harvesting purposes. I’ve never pruned a tomato plant and these babies seem to hold their indeterminate sprawl just fine.

  15. How do people cook eggplant? I followed a cookbook recipe and it looked real good but tasted like shit.

  16. Old Kim, try this recipe from Washington Post. It’s a favorite. We always put thin slices of new potato on the bottom – it tastes better and holds together better. And you can use any squash, not just pattypan.

    Summer Vegetable Gratin

  17. terrible summer again for gardens-hope next year is better but nights are getting longer and season is not cooperating at all. Many areas of the northern minnesota are 4 weeks behind

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