Posted by: Amelia | July 1, 2007

Green Thumb Sunday IV

There has been some attrition in the potted garden.  For some reason, the little bell pepper that started a few weeks ago stopped growing and is now shriveling up and looks like it will fall off.  But the tomatoes are doing well.  The beefsteaks continue to swell:

green beefsteak tomatoes

The cherry tomato plants are getting a little too rangy for their own good, as they got knocked over in a recent windstorm.  However, I am extremely grateful for their good health in light of a terrible discovery I made this morning.  As I walked out the back gate, I noticed a small half-sphere on the ground.  It was a black walnut shell.  Having read the Inadvertent Gardener’s tragic tale of poisoned tomatoes, I knew that black walnut trees exude a substance toxic to tomato plants (and pepper plants, although I think the pepper attrition is unrelated).  The toxicity can even collect in rainwater beading up on a walnut tree’s leaves, which spells doom for any tomatoes in the tree’s “dripline.”

Looking at the trees above me, there was only one that was not identifiably a maple or a birch.  I picked up a small branch from that tree and took it back to my room for analysis.

walnut leaves and shell

A quick internet search of black walnut photos confirmed the origin of the leaves and shell.  Yes, indeed, we have a totally freaking enormous black walnut tree towering a scant 30 feet from the deck on which all the potted plants sit.  Fortunately, I think the tomatoes are just outside of its dripline.  But an errant leaf falling into the tomato pots could spell doom.  Who knew gardening could be so fraught with lurking enemies?



  1. Out here in the Northwest, our main problems for tomatoes are shade (from tall trees) and cool nights (well, days, too). The man in our house has the idea of constructing a “mobile garden.” We are going to remove our plants from the ground, pot them up, and put the pots on a wagon, which we will cart around ever couple of hours, from sunny spot to sunny spot. But first we have to find a suitable vehicle.

  2. Oh, man, Smart Tart…you have my condolences. But at least you know, and now you can try to keep them out of that dripline. Yikes!

  3. Wow! I’m so jealous of your tomatoes! Any advice for another patio gardener (my fiance, I kill all living things so I’m banned from the “garden”)? He’s anxiously awaiting fruit from a habenero pepper plant…how long do they take?

  4. I’m not sure about habaneros. Our cayennes took very little time to reach full size after they flowered, but they are taking a very LONG time to turn red. Since habaneros are relatively small, I’ll wager they will grow in a similar fashion: they’ll start out green and quickly reach full size, but take a while to turn their normal orangey red color.

  5. […] there was the case of the shriveling bell peppers from week 4. I found out that a variety of conditions can cause “fruit abortion” in peppers. One of […]

  6. […] year-old post concerns the shocking discovery I made one year ago of a black walnut tree, which releases a chemical called juglone that is toxic […]

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