Posted by: Amelia | August 5, 2007

Green Thumb Sunday IX: What I’ve Learned

Gardening is not as difficult as people think. If you give your plants the right soil and sunlight and if you are diligent about watering and tending to them, they will flourish. It’s not rocket science.

On the other hand, sometimes it does take trial and error to learn the specific conditions that will make each plant thrive. This summer I have had successes and failures, and I have learned a lot that will help me the next time around. The internet has been a huge source of knowledge. In an earlier post I wrote about pruning and training my cherry tomato plants, which has definitely helped them produce ripe fruit:

grape tomatoes

I learned about pruning through this website, which also taught me that tomato plants come in two varieties: determinate, whose growth is self-regulating, and indeterminate, which means the plant will grow willy nilly in all directions and will get as tall as you let it. Especially for this latter type, pruning and training is the key to getting the plant to direct its sugars to the fruit, rather than to new leaf growth.

Soil presents another pitfall. Remember when I had that beefsteak tomato with the big ugly spot on the bottom? A discussion on Inadvertent Gardener taught me that I was dealing with a phenomenon known as Blossom End Rot (BER). After looking it up, I found out that BER is caused by a lack of calcium in the soil. It also turned out that the ammoniacal nitrogen fertilizer I had used was probably exacerbating the situation, despite the fact that it was advertised specifically as a tomato fertilizer. Sigh. And there’s not much to do after the fact. BER has to be prevented by liming the soil early in the season; adding calcium at this stage won’t really help. Of the four green beefsteaks on the vine right now, two are showing signs of BER and will have to be removed.

Then 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 the conditions is low sunlight, which my plants definitely suffer from. The plant is now producing more flowers and even two small fruit, probably due to the fact that it has gotten so much taller and now gets more light.

bell peppers

The next time I garden, I will keep what I’ve learned this summer in mind:

  1. Add lime or calcium nitrate to soil that beefsteak tomatoes will be grown in
  2. Don’t over-fertilize, especially with ammoniacal nitrate
  3. Prune and train tomatoes diligently
  4. Live somewhere with a lot more sunlight
  5. Watch out for black walnut trees!


  1. Half the fun of gardening is learning and now we have the internet we can learn even more. One of the things I love is seeing all the different plants that grow all over the world that I’ve never heard of. Happy GTS

  2. […] I mentioned a few weeks ago, gardening is a year-to-year learning process.  This season I sometimes learned lessons too late […]

  3. […] tomatoes out of the dripline. Of course, my biggest problem that summer turned out to be Blossom End Rot. Now I know that I need to help my tomatoes have higher calcium uptake. And as for storms, looks […]

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