Monday, May 31, 2010

Garden Blogger's Death Day :: May 2010

Ding, Ding, Ding… bring out your dead!

Welcome back to Garden Blogger's Death Day! We're here to list our losses for May, 2010! This is the day for gardeners who overwater, underwater, maim, prune or otherwise neglect their plants to a state of dismal droopage or untimely death. This is the day for gardeners like me with black thumbs who kill more than they cultivate, for cadmium-green-thumbed gardeners who have a lapse in judgment and commit accidental planticide, and for any poor soul whose plants fall victim to that fickle mother who controls us all - Mother Nature.

Thanks to some poorly-timed planting and my big insect invasion I have a lot to lay to rest this month. I think a moment of silence will be in order at the end of this post because a mass burial in the compost bin will be taking place momentarily. On a brighter note, I have much more alive than dead, which as you know, is a huge measure of gardening success in my book.

The spinach just wasn't meant to be. I'm going to assume it was just too hot for spinach. It's either that or it's that "gardening paradox" issue that keeps coming up in my yard - you know about the paradox, right? The more I'm looking forward to a plant growing, the greater its chances of death. Of course the opposite is true as well. If you don't care about a plant or even like the fruit that it puts out, it'll be big, bushy and prolific just to spite you. I think I had about nine spinach plants growing because I was SO looking forward to fresh spinach, and they're all brown wilted sticks now. It rained all day today and yesterday so I didn't get outside to photograph it, but here it is about three weeks ago before it died.

You know, my spinach disaster has reminded me of a very important lesson I've learned from my garden failures. If you're a new gardener (especially a new Florida gardener), take note of this important lesson that I learned the hard way:

You'll read in numerous gardening books and websites and you can feel safe planting what is offered in season at your local nursery or big box store (like Home Depot or Lowes). The idea is that each planting zone's stores will only stock the seedlings that should be planted in your area at that time of the year, so plant what's being sold and you'll have success. IT'S NOT TRUE! I planted spinach, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage this Spring because they were for sale in these stores. But I have a Florida Vegetable Gardening book that specifically states that spinach should only be planted in Central Florida in October-November; that broccoli should be planted from August-January; that cabbage should be planted from Sept-Jan and cauliflower from October-January. Well aren't I the sucker for planting the seedlings this Spring that we picked up at local nurseries? Indeed I am. So the big lesson - consult your local planting guides to see what's safe to plant and don't rely on the old wisdom of what's for sale is what's safe to plant.

The cauliflower, cabbage and broccoli just plain need to come out and move into their new homes in compost-world. They bolted straight to seed and never grew out, but grew up. I'm not sure why I have hung on to them for so long…I think I just liked seeing something green in their little squares, but clearly they're just attracting pests at this point. I only had a couple of each that went in the garden this spring, so I suppose it's no great loss in the grand scheme of the garden. This is how the broccoli has looked for about two months.

And one of my summer squash plants grew a nice looking squash and then the end turned rotten and fell off. I assume it's blossom end rot, but if it is, I'll admit to being quite surprised it appeared in my SFG. I assumed the soil was good enough that it didn't need too much tinkering with. I believe if it is BER, then the plants cannot be saved? I suppose I do have some reading up to do - as always.

So how about all of you? What fell victim to your gardening wrath this month? Feel free to leave a comment with a link to your blog showing what you killed or maimed this month. We're here for you. Let's not judge, but support each other like a good pair of pantyhose or a well-staked garden trellis.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Farmer's Market Conspiracy?

I love hitting up local Farmer's Markets, but I'll admit that I rarely make it out to them. For most of the year we have soccer on Saturday mornings and that's the big Farmer's Market day around here. The market location and the soccer fields are on opposite sides of town, so I'm out of luck most of the year. I think there are a couple open on Sundays only, but we try to stay home on Sundays so we have at least one car-free day a week.

But the soccer season is over and I happened to be in a shopping center today that does a Farmer's Market on Saturday mornings. But it just didn't feel right to me. It felt more like a flea market than a Farmer's Market. I could get sno-cones and funnel cakes and all sorts of jewelry and flip-flops and I only found two tented produce stands. I expected a lot more than just two, but they were both large booths so maybe they'd be just fine. I wandered over to them and immediately noticed a few things that just felt off.

1) The person selling the produce did not give off the vibe that they were employed by the farm where the produce was sold. I can't explain this any further without sounding horrible, but the sellers just didn't look like they'd ever set foot on a farm. Call this a bias on my part, but they appeared to be hired hands from a local labor pool and not affiliated with any farms.
2) There were no signs on either produce stand stating which farm the produce came from. I've noticed this even at nicer farmer's markets from time to time. I realize that not every farm has a name, but it is sort of strange to me that there was no farm name or city anywhere to be found.
3) Many of the items being sold did not appear to be local. I saw cherries, apricots, bananas and potatoes labeled "real Idaho potatoes." I suppose there could be somewhere locally that grows these items, but Florida isn't famous for any of those things as far as I know.

Then I got to wondering…. There is a local city in Florida appropriately called Plant City. It is where all the produce comes in to the state and gets distributed. I belong to a local veggie co-op and the coordinator goes to Plant City every two weeks and buys whatever looks good and is affordable and boxes it up and sends it out to the co-op members. I stopped getting co-op deliveries from her awhile ago since my boys had seen enough squash to last them all summer, but I did find it odd that we sometimes got grapes and bananas in the box - again, two items that are not grown in Florida. I once asked the coordinator if the squash was from the Orlando-area and she said "I don't know - I just get it all at Plant City." But things come into Plant City from all over… so am I really buying local?

So what stops someone who wants to make a buck from going to Plant City and buying up produce and then selling it at local Farmer's markets under the guise that they grew it themselves? Just hire some workers from the local labor pool, buy some card tables and a tent, and you're got yourself a quick business. The buyer has no idea if pesticides were used on the produce or if the produce is even local. We go into it with a set of assumptions about the Farmer's Market faire that might be false.

Then I noticed that some of the fruits and vegetables were so incredibly uniform, much like you see in the grocery store. I know that some locally farm-produced foods can be uniform, but they usually don't look so "grocery store perfect," if you know what I mean. Then I got to thinking…what stops this same person who wants to make a buck from seeing that the local Albertson's is having a sale on Idaho potatoes where you can buy a 5lb bag and get one free. Then buying a bunch of bags of potatoes, opening them up and putting them in trays, raising the per-potato price and selling them at their booth at the farmer's market?

I've read repeatedly that Farmer's Markets are one of the fastest growing alternative food business in America. They're popping up all over the place, which I do think is great. But I started wondering if some unscrupulous sellers might be pulling the wool over the eyes of unaware buyers and selling them produce that's not from a local farm at all, but might be from overseas or half-way across the country, and might be laden with pesticides. I know that one of the main reasons I visit a Farmer's Market is to buy local, pesticide-free produce, but now I wonder if that's what I'm getting at all.

I'm not knocking the Farmer's Markets, but I am suggesting that 'Buyer Beware' might be the best philosophy when you visit one. Michael Pollan mentions how great the markets are since you can talk to the farmer about their farming practices and shake the hand that feeds you, so to speak. Maybe we should ask questions from the person taking the money to make sure we really are getting what we pay for. If they're a legitimate farmer, I'm sure they'd love to talk to you and you'll be able to buy fresh fruits and vegetables with confidence.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Bring on the Broody Buster Box!

I haven't posted much about the girls lately because their life has been trucking on nicely with no hiccups. I enjoy normalcy when it comes to my chickens. I don't want to deal with any drama. I want them to be happy and healthy and provide me with eggs. The end.

But something has been different about Clementine lately. I don't think it would be noticeable to anyone else, but I can tell she's been a bit "off." Her cluck has changed a bit and she's not pushing Maggie and Sookie out of the way when I bring them treats. In fact, she's been hanging back and avoiding most of the treats I leave in the run.

I've also noticed that she's spending an inordinate amount of time in the nest box lately. We have two nest boxes, but apparently one isn't up to snuff because all three of the girls prefer the nest box on the right and won't even acknowledge the identical (evil) nest box on the left. I'll admit that when I first got chickens I was surprised to learn that hens usually share a nest box with other hens and that there is usually one or two coveted nest boxes in each coop.

Then yesterday I noticed that she was in the nest box in the morning. Then she was still in it in the afternoon. Then there she was at bedtime. That is not a good sign. She's always the first one up on the roost half-asleep and cooing when I lock them in their coop at night. I went out there this morning and there she is in the nest again and she's fluffy as all get out - almost twice her normal size when I got close. Like a marshmallow in the microwave, she expanded within seconds and even let out a low hissy-growl.

Then it hit me. Oh snap. She's gone broody.

You chicken people probably recognized this instantly. You non-chicken people probably don't know what broody means. When a chicken goes broody it means that she received notice from the mother ship that right now is the time to hatch some eggs. So she'll sit on the nest and she'll barely come off for food or water until whatever she's sitting on hatches. After 21 or so days, she'll have chicks and leave the nest to eat and drink and all is good in her world. This is fine if you've got fertile eggs in the nest.

But we are sans rooster and she's sitting on a Titleist and two infertile eggs. Sorry sista - but no matter how long you cook those, nothing is going to happen. And it's 90+ degrees here and if she keeps sitting there without eating and without drinking, she'll get weak and then she's vulnerable to a list of possible chicken diseases. Not good.

So I went to my #1 chicken source - the Backyard Chicken forum - and started reading up on how to "break a broody," meaning, how to get my chicken off that nest so she stops being broody and starts being chickeny again. The most common advice is to make a Broody Buster Box and shove the broody girl inside for a few days until she forgets about her golf ball and life returns to normal.

The idea is that you put the broody hen in a wire cage where air can get to her undercarriage and she doesn't feel the instinct to sit on a nest - she has access to food and water, but nothing else. It sounds mean, but the alternative is her getting weak and dehydrated and possibly dying on the nest. So I called Farmer B and started yammering on about how we have a chicken emergency and need a Brooder Buster Box NOW so he told me he'd ask around at work for a cage we can borrow for about 4 days.

So here we are hoping we can come up with a cage so that we can break this broody before I have to learn how to hook up an IV drip to a chicken. And I'm sure Sookie and Maggie would like me to get cracking on this box because they were standing there with their legs crossed looking anxious since their fat sister won't let them get in the coveted nest box so they can lay their daily eggs. They seriously look ready to bust.

I felt bad for them so pried Clementine off the nest, which was about as easy as ripping apart industrial-strength velcro while wearing mittens, and tossed her in the run for some fresh air. Saffie came up to the fence to inspect this bizarre creature and Clementine went all Tom Turkey on her, which was a behavior I've never seen in her before.

I yelled at Maggie and Sookie to go for the nest but they were too busy eyeballing their strange fluffy broody sister. As soon as Maggie snapped out of it and turned toward the coop, Clementine shot like a rocket back inside and I think we all know where she is right now.

If you're wondering how often a hen goes broody, there isn't a straight answer. It varies dramatically from hen to hen. Some will go broody every few weeks. Others a few times in their life and some think motherhood is for the birds (not chickens) and never go broody. If I manage to break Clementine it'll be interesting to see if she goes broody again or if this was a one-time deal.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Invasion 2010

Well it's about time my garden was invaded by unnamed and unknown beasties hell-bent on crushing my gardening bravado yet again. It started with a teeny-tiny tomato hornworm a few weeks ago, but I knew that meant it was time to whip out my BT and put the beat-down on them. It was my own fault for feeling so confident in my killing abilities.

Because not soon after I noticed that my will-never-be-edible-since-they-bolted-instantly-due-to-heat cauliflower and broccoli plants were holey as could be. I searched the plants and under a few of the leaves I found tiny green wormy bugs. Shudder. I hate that I have a bit of a bug phobia, but worms are the worst thanks to too many TLC specials about humans as parasitic hosts (Farmer B won't let me watch those shows anymore, which is irrelevant since I scream when I even see the previews). I decided to spray the BT again since these appeared caterpillar-like and BT is the caterpillar kill-all in my books.

Again, feeling like a cocky killing machine.

Then dammit if I didn't go out there and notice my Swiss Chard had turned to Swiss Cheese AGAIN! This happened before in the garden and last time the culprit was armyworms (or so my gardening blogger friends told me). This time I didn't see any worms, but I suppose they could have been hiding. I am not sure how to go about killing them, so each day I have more holes and less chard.

And let's not forget the red ants that killed my green peas, but that's in the past.

Then a couple of days ago I'm out in the garden with that older boy of mine and we're harvesting some green beans for dinner when he starts eyeing up my potato plants and asking me when we can eat the potatoes. I told him I think the leaves start to yellow or something when the potatoes are ready. He said "Well I hope we get to eat them before all these bugs do"

WHAT? And there on the leaves of my potato plants were all of these orange leggy insects just making themselves at home. I did what I always do when I encounter a new bug - get a big case of the willies, then run inside and open up my Organic Pest Control book and try to identify the bug. The best part about that experience is that the gross-out factor of turning page after page of wriggly vile bugs is off the charts and I have yet to identify one bug from the book. This is confounded by the fact that bugs mutate constantly - you have to look at the egg, larvae, juvenile and adult photos for each and every writhing multi-legged creature. And this time was no different - nothing in there looked like these bugs.

So I was left wondering - should I kill them? Are they good bugs? Are they evil bugs? How do I kill them? So I found a bottle of Garden Safe Fruit and Vegetable insect killer spray that I've had for a couple of years and never used and went running out to the garden with it. It says "kills instantly" on the label, so I figured I'd use it and hope these weren't good bugs. I sprayed every last one of them and nothing happened. They even looked angrier and stronger an hour or so later. So if they were good bugs, I did them no harm. If they were bad bugs, I'm screwed.

Apparently I am not prepared for the invasion. I'm taking a big, fat mental note of this.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Make this Granola - or else!

As you may have gathered from my Earth Day post, we try our best to make as many things from scratch as possible. We're by no means hard core, but we do make an effort to avoid processed foods and boxes of junk from the grocery store shelves. Since watching The Future of Food and Food Inc., and reading a couple of Michael Pollan's books (namely The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food, which I'm reading now) Farmer B and I have become really squiggy about corn and HFCS. It's really turned us off these boxes and bags of processed corn disguised as food. This has us particularly uncomfortable around boxed cereal. The affordable stuff is just corn in a costume with a heavy dose of HFCS and the good stuff is so pricey it's unrealistic for a family of four.

A year or so ago (maybe longer?) I found this great granola recipe and I've been making it on and off ever since. I wish I remembered where exactly I found the recipe, but it's been so long that I can't remember. I don't pretend that it's my creation, but it has become part of the regular recipe rotation around here.

The first thing you should know is that this recipe makes a lot of granola. Don't be tempted to halve it. You'll regret it and wish you'd made the full recipe. I weighed it once and it comes to about five-and-a-half pounds of granola - depending on how crazy you get with the nuts and dried fruit.

Here's what you need:


10 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup milled flax seeds (I don't use this)
1/2 lb unsweetened dried shredded coconut
1 cup sesame seeds
1 1/2 cups slivered almonds
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
1 cup brown sugar substitute (regular brown sugar can be used)
1 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup honey (local or organic is best)
1/2 cup sorghum or molasses (I use molasses)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 cups dried fruit (combination of raisins, blueberries, cranberries)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
In a large bowl combine oats, wheat germ, flax seed, coconut, sesame seeds and nuts, mixing well.
In a large saucepan, combine the brown sugar substitute or brown sugar, water, oil, honey, sorghum, salt, cinnamon and vanilla.
Heat until thoroughly mixed; do not boil.
Pour the syrup over dry ingredients and stir until coated well.
Spread onto three large cookie sheets. (You want to sort of smush it down and keep one even layer.)
Bake 10 minutes, then move each sheet to a different shelf in the oven. (Keep repeating this process until you've baked the granola about 35-40 minutes. I take mine out when the edges just start to brown).
Cool mixture and add dried fruit. (You MUST let it cool completely on the pans. Don't stir it up until it's cool if you want chunkier pieces).
Store in airtight container in a cool dry place. (It will become crunchier as it cools.)
Will keep up to 6 months. Lasts about a week around here.

The first important thing I learned about this recipe is to buy some of the ingredients at our local natural foods shop instead of the grocery store. You can buy a tiny little 1 oz container of McCormick sesame seeds for $2.99 at our grocery store, or I can go to the bulk bin at the natural foods store and buy an entire cup for about $1.50. The unsweetened dried shredded coconut is also impossible to find at our grocery store but Bob's Red Mill coconut is very affordable at the natural foods shop.

The original recipe said you should stir the granola every few minutes too. I prefer the texture if I don't stir it - I get larger crunchier chunks, which we love. But it's up to you. Oh, and I line the pans with parchment paper so I don't have to worry about any of it sticking to the pans.

I have also made this recipe with 1/4 cup molasses and 1/4 cup real maple syrup, which turned out great. I plan on trying it with all maple syrup and no molasses sometime. You can change out the nuts and fruit to change up the flavor of the granola too. Try dried cherries and blueberries one time - then Craisins and raisins the next time. Substitute walnuts for pecans for a change also.

Farmer B inhales it by the bucketful. Both of my boys can't get enough of it (even that picky younger one of mine in the picture) and it's beyond filling. I love it with Vanilla Almond milk on top since I can't have dairy. We end up storing it in about 3-4 large Tupperware containers and I'm embarrassed to say we occasionally go through this much cereal in just over a week.

So there you have it. Make your own granola and stop relying on the boxed junk from the grocery store. I'm sure you'll love it!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Apologies. . .

Apologies from me, the blog slacker. I keep meaning to write something spectacular and then life gets in the way. Next thing I know it's midnight and yet another blog-free day has gone by. Not that you all are on the edges of your seats wondering what's living (and dying) in my garden, but I feel like a slacker when I'm a sparse blogger. And sparse is being kind lately.

Maybe seeing how much my puppy is growing will make up for it? Maybe??

I promise I'll get back into the groove next week now that my work-at-home life is relaxing again. I've got all sorts of strange things going on in the garden that I want to share, so I'm planning on getting back into the swing of things next week.

Thanks all!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Final Call for Space Shuttle Atlantis

Yesterday was the final flight for the Space Shuttle Atlantis, which launched at 2:20 p.m. on its way to the International Space Station. I went outside with my very curious 4-year-old to take some pictures and hopefully imprint another shuttle launch into his memory before the program ends for good later this year. I hope he's old enough to one day have distant memories of dashing out into his backyard as a child to watch a light and smoke trail ascend into the sky.

It was a beautiful clear day to watch the launch and I was determined to have my camera on the right settings this time around. I brought out the video camera, my SLR camera on a tripod, and the iPhone so my budding photographer could take his own photos of the launch. I also brought out a ladder so he could get the perfect vantage point.

This video with his commentary is priceless. My videography skills are crap because I was concentrating on taking photos, making sure the dogs didn't knock over my camera and making sure he didn't fall off the ladder. Look past my footage and listen to how excited he is.

I got some really nice clear photos of the launch, albeit not much different than previous daytime launch photos I've taken from the same spot looking East from our back yard.

Then I decided to get a pic of the kid taking his own photos of the launch.

And here is one of his photos.

Not bad for a 4-year-old, huh? There I am perched with a digital SLR on a tripod and he snaps a perfect shot with my camera phone.

There are only two launches left - unless the shuttle program gets some sort of last minute reprieve - and I'll do my best to get my boys outside to watch them both. (That older boy of mine got to watch this one from his Elementary school - no fear!)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Bean counter

I've got something to add to my list of Spring SFG successes! I've finally succeeded in growing the elusive green bean! Hoo-ra! I've attempted green beans several times before and they always fizzle out and die before they really get going. I'm not sure what's different this time around. Maybe it's finally the right time of year, but whatever the reason is we made it to our normal "fizzle-out" time and motored right through it. They kept growing and growing and damned if there weren't real live green beans hanging from the vines right about the time the seed packets said it should happen. Astounding.

And not just a couple of beans either. Bunches and bunches of healthy, crunchy delicious green beans hanging all over this thing. It's amazing to me when something actually grows the way it should. I stand there and marvel at the awesomeness of it all.

The boys have had a great time picking the beans and cutting them off the vines with their rounded-tip Kindergarten scissors. They eat them by the handful whenever I prepare them for dinner, so it's been a wonderful experience. I've got three varieties growing - Kentucky Wonder and two British varieties that my aunt in the UK mailed over and that haven't grown well when I've planted them before, but are alive and kicking this time around. Again, no clue what's different this time. The planets aligned just perfectly so that the beans are prolific.

When I was harvesting beans for dinner the other night I saw this strange-looking bug clinging to one of the leaves. I looked around online and discovered that it's probably a stink bug. I wasn't sure if this little guy is the sign of something bad or just a fluke random bug.

I realize I should have killed it, but I'm not a bug-killer by nature, with the exception of ants and mosquitoes. I'm not sure why, but I just can't, so I tossed it into a container of bubble soap on the patio. I don't like bugs by any means - my anti-bug-killing philosophy isn't a stance on bugs, but more a squeamish barfy turn-off thing. Great issue for a gardener to have, right? And don't get me started on worms. Shudder. I'm keeping my eye open for any more creepy crawlies, but so far this little green beastie the only one of his kind I've found. I'll just cling to the hope that he was a loaner - a drifter - just passing through. Although now his body is stuffed inside a container of Amazing Bubbles. I must re-think my bug corpse disposal strategy pronto.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Gardening Motherload

As we all know, this past weekend was Mother's Day. I was looking forward to my hand-made card and presents from the boys, which I love more than anything. I know that many moms secretly hope for some romantic trinket from their husbands too - a necklace with the kids initials on it, a birthstone bracelet, something sparkly and beautiful. But Farmer B knows that I'm not into the sparkly stuff, so I wasn't sure what to expect for the big day. Honestly as long as I got my handmade cards and gifts from the boys, I'd be happy.

But Farmer B pulled out the big guns and I got the Gardening Motherload for Mother's Day.

They had me close my eyes and walk out to the garage, where I first saw this:

A big beautiful orange tree. In my first ever blog post, I mentioned our almost dead baby orange tree. Of course it has since died and I've always felt bad about that since it was a present to my husband from my mother. Now we've got a new orange tree to take its place and I'm determined to force this one to go against its natural instincts and live. I'll actually try and feed this orange tree and water it - and all the other stuff you're supposed to do to make trees live and not die.

Then I noticed a big brown box in the corner and realized that it was a real-live composter!! The kind that you can turn periodically with a handle!! Look how happy this woman looks in her white pants and straw hat. That's gonna be me soon! I can dream, right?

Not that my homemade garbage can-composter isn't awesome, but it's next to impossible to turn the compost so it just sits there getting heavier every day. Now I've got two composters, which I think will be perfect! This thing has an assembly book as big as a phone book, so I think it'll take us a full day to put it together next weekend.

And just when I was giddy with my new tree and new composter I noticed three little plants on the floor. I am now the proud owner of a blueberry plant, a raspberry plant and a blackberry plant. EEEEK!

I have plans of building a raised bed along the side of our well where we already have a trellis in place (more so to hide the well) and planting the three new plants and some existing strawberries that aren't doing too well. I realize I'll need to cover the plants with chicken wire to keep out the Great White Beast, but I'm excited about the whole shebang.

Did Farmer B give me a great Mother's Day or what???

Saturday, May 8, 2010

My potatoes are growing tomatoes!

Granted I still have a lot to learn about gardening, but what I saw the other day confused me and made me doubt what knowledge I have picked up along the way. I was watering the garden and admiring the gigantic bushy potato plants that have overtaken the scenery in one of my raised beds when a little something caught my eye. I leaned in and saw a little green tomato that had fallen off one of my tomato plants and landed on my potato plant.

I remember having a fleeting thought about how strange it was that a little green tomato had fallen upward about 12 inches from where it was growing - and over one full garden bed to land on my potato plant. I thought it was bizarre so I reached out to grab it and chuck it on the ground. When I grabbed a hold of it, the thing was stuck and not laying loosely on a leaf like I expected. Obviously some sort of vine had wrapped around it so I looked at the stem of the little tomato to see why it wasn't moving. Turns out it was stuck because the TOMATO WAS GROWING OUT OF MY POTATO PLANT.

And when I looked deeper, there were little tomatoes growing all over on my potato plant. You can't imagine the thoughts that ran through my mind. What had I done? Had I inadvertently created a new species of plant by violating some plant law and planting potatoes and tomatoes too closely? Why wasn't this in the gardening book? Were there tomato seeds in my compost that had morphed with my seed potatoes? Had my lack of gardening skills led me to single-handedly mess with Mother Nature, possibly causing some horrible potmato hybrid to take over the world?

So I came inside and called Farmer B and my mom right away. They both had the same startled reaction and doubted my sanity and my discovery. So I did a quick internet search to see if anyone else had created such an abomination or if there was some sort of number I should call to turn myself in to the proper agricultural authorities. I was relieved and surprised that a lot of people have found tomatoes growing from their potatoes and were equally surprised by them.

Turns out this is normal. The round green cherry-tomato-looking fruit actually are the fruit of the potato plant and not real tomatoes. We eat the tuber, but the fruit is what the plant produces, complete with seed in there for growing future plants (although I read that these plants can be iffy, so best to start with seed potatoes and not actual seeds). The potato and the tomato are both in the nightshade family, which explains why the fruits look similar. However, they're poisonous, so you don't want to chop one up and put it in your salad and you might want to tell your kids to leave them alone.

Phew. I could walk free another day.
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