Bitter Tomatoes, Tiny Onions and Weird Zucchini

Author Photo
By Renee-Lucie Benoit

Try as I might, and in spite of reading everything I can get my hands on, I always have failures in my garden. Some days I think to myself that I am not very good at this.

So for all you people who are agonizing over why your garden doesn’t look like Martha’s, or even your next door neighbor’s, please take heart. Failure is a part of gardening and it’s actually more often than not and especially when you’re just starting out. Don’t give up!

Good morning, sunshine! The Earth says hello!

This year I have a small garden. We are spending so much time rehabbing this property that I don’t really have time for a big garden. It’s OK. I do more and more as time goes on.

This year I got well ahead of the heat and I amended the soil a lot. I took soil samples last fall and spread gypsum before winter set in so in the spring I could till the soil a little better. We have hard pan, also known as sandy clay with a bit of loam. There’s almost no organic matter.

Having done all that, I planted peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, carrots, potatoes, and garlic. My first failure was the garlic. I put in about 50 sets and they started to grow, and then one by one they all croaked. Just rotted away. I never did figure out why.

Last year I planted Walla Walla onions. I really love sweet onions. When we lived at The Ranch, the local Hmong people had the most wonderful giant Walla Walla onions so I got inspired to try them. Mine never got to any decent size, so I asked a friend what she thought was wrong and she said maybe they didn’t get enough water.

Only a few are left once I harvest all the tiny ones.

So this year I started out much earlier and made sure I watered before things got too dry. Sure enough the telltale signs started to appear. The tops started to fall over. Not all of them this time, about half of them. So I staked up the floppy ones and let them keep going as long as they would.

Pretty soon some of the onions started to get tops on them and produce seed. Today I noticed all the onions, except for the large ones with seed, are finished. “Pau,” as they say in Hawaii. So I harvested them and got a lot of small onions. Not a total disaster, but definitely not what I expected.

These look good but they taste bitter.

My tomatoes looked good, but when I took off a few ripe ones and used them in a salad they were awfully bitter. Not sweet at all. Very acidic. I have no idea why.

At least I have no blossom end rot. I had that in spades at The Ranch because our soil and water were very alkaline. The plants were not getting enough calcium. See? I now know about lack of calcium for tomato plants.

If I hadn’t split one open I might have thought these were baby watermelon.

Here’s a picture of this year’s zucchini. Last year I planted zucchini and they grew very well. This year something is happening and, again, I have no idea why.

At first I thought they put watermelon seeds in the zucchini package. They were round as softballs. When one got pretty big, I decided to see what was inside. When I opened it, by golly it was a zucchini all right, but a very mature zucchini.

How could this be? Is this how this variety is supposed to be? Again, I have no clue.

Gardening is a science, but also an art. The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know. I’ve talked to Master Gardeners all over who say the same thing. It’s a boots on the ground and a loving of the process and less about the end result.

Of course, it’s great to have a bountiful harvest. Some of us try to feed our families from the garden, so sometimes it’s more than just a fun project. It’s about quality of life and good nutrition.

All I can say in summary is to soldier on and you will get better at it. That’s my plan.

And just so you know that it’s not all doom and gloom, here are some pictures of a few of my successes.

I’m pretty sure you can’t kill mint.

If you remember to thin the carrots they’ll do all right.

Potatoes galore!

Photos property of Renee Benoit.

Published on Jun 19, 2018