Tomato and Herb Report
Our edible gardening is a bit of an afterthought. We have a small bed in the front garden devoted mostly to herbs and a few tomato vines with some annual flowers mixed in. The tomatoes and annual herbs were planted late this year due to the cold spring.
This bed is semi-hidden from the street by our ‘Donald Wyman’ Crabapple and a variety of ornamental perennials. At the far south end there are patches of Common Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) and Oregano (Origanum vulgare), both of which are perennial. Every year I have to take a pick ax to the Oregano to keep it from taking over the entire bed.
We actually don’t use these two herbs very much, but the flowers are like magnets for pollinators and beneficial insects.
This year we have four tomato vines, each of a different variety. ‘Early Girl’ already has lots of green tomatoes about the size of golf balls. This variety’s medium-size tomatoes ripen by the middle of July.
There’s also ‘Green Zebra’ and ‘Genuwine’, two varieties that ripen later in the season. ‘Green Zebra’ is green with yellow stripes when ready to pick, and is an old favorite of ours. ‘Genuwine’ is a cross between two heirlooms that I bought more or less by accident, but maybe we’ll really like it.
There’s also my favorite cherry tomato, ‘Black Cherry’, growing on a tuteur opposite a ‘Multi-Blue’ Clematis. I look forward to seeing the deep blue Clematis flowers contrasting with the dark red cherry tomatoes.
One thing I learned this spring is that if you plant Borage (Borago officinalis) once, you never have to plant it again. (Same goes for Fennel – Foeniculum vulgare.) I pulled up most of the Borage seedlings but I’m allowing three plants to mature. Though the leaves and flowers are edible, to be honest I grow Borage for the blue flowers only. They have just begun to bloom over the last week.
We’ve planted some other annual herbs, namely Sweet Basil (Ocimum basilicum) and Thai Basil (O. basilicum var. thyrsiflora). These are herbs we use frequently.
We’re also growing some Common Rue, but only because it is a host plant for Red Admiral Butterflies.
That reminds me, I can’t forget about the Parsley (Petroselenium crispum), which we grow because Judy cooks with it but also because it attracts Black Swallowtail caterpillars. This is the first year we have seen any caterpillars on the parsley, which is pretty exciting for us.
Herbs really are best when just picked, but otherwise I’m perfectly happy to buy vegetables at the Farmers’ Market. Judy feels differently, however, and so we do grow our own tomatoes. Even so, this bed has a mix of plants that tries to meet the needs of pollinators as well as people.
How are your tomatoes doing so far this year? What are your favorite herbs to grow?
Yesterday we had our first meal based on our tomatoes, a simple Caprese salad with a selection of about 6 different varieties. This is late for our first tomatoes, but the cooler June temperatures really slowed down ripening. But the crop looks like it will be good this year.
I love fresh tomatoes with fresh basil. The ‘Genuwine’ variety is a cross between the American ‘Brandywine’ and the Italian ‘Costoluto Genovese’.
I love growing basil too, as I use it a lot in summer. Parsley just won’t do well for me in the ground or in pots, but chives, oregano, thyme and marjoram do well.
Strange you can’t grow parsley, do you try flat leaf? I can’t grow chives and I haven’t worked out why.
I think it is the slugs that are the problem here. Chives are usually fine if they are well-drained, but they got too much rain this year!
Here I think it is too dry for the chives, but I’ve also had little success actually trying to grow them from seed.
I don’t grow marjoram and I keep meaning to plant chives and forgetting.
I had a pair of Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillars on a parsley plant growing in a pot on a bench right nest to the back door–fascinating to watch. They ate every leaf and then disappeared.
Ours seem to have disappeared as well.
I’ve been a bit slapdash with our veg this year – we have four cherry tomato vines in the greenhouse that are nearly as high as the roof and with a few green trusses so far. We have loads of sweet basil in there, too, and thyme and chives outside. I sowed borage seeds this spring and planted out about 10 plants. They are now monsters, very pretty monsters but much larger than I’d imagined and they’re taking over the patch where I planted them. Oh well, it’s a learning curve 🙂 How brilliant to have swallowtail butterfly caterpillars.
Yes, Borage can be on the monstrous side even with their pretty blue flowers.
Just looks so lovely and great to see even small parts of the urban world being made over with little herbs and veggies.
I think it is lovely to plant herbs, vegetables, and some flowers in the same garden bed. We do that here as well, at least in one of our beds….I like the rambling effect this has and it is very pleasant to work in. My favorite tomato is Marth Washington…a great early , nice tasting, slicer. I buy seed at Johnny’s Selected Seeds. One of my favorite herbs ( we grow lots and lots of herbs!) is cilantro. Of course, we have a huge patch of lemon balm that , like the oregano, needs beating back once in awhile, but I love this too….I always throw a few leaves into pesto and use much of it for tea. Love that you are always so mindful of the pollinators…hooray!
I have never tried ‘Martha Washington’. I like cilantro (especially in cilantro chutney and fresh salsa) but it bolts so easily I get tired of replanting it.
I am not a connoisseur of tomatoes but I do like to have a plant or two in the garden. I grow one red one, one yellow one and a cherry tomato variety. I planted this spring and we have already had one tomato. It was good. I have little green cherry tomatoes forming. Like you I have comfrey growing just for the flowers. Comfrey flowers all summer once it starts and the bumbles etc love it. Bronze fennel is also an herb I grow for butterflies. We have a couple of different thymes and oregano growing for looks and basil to use. The Chives and basil are the only one that grows in the veg plot with the tomatoes.
I have bronze fennel popping up all over. I always let two or three plants mature.
My tomatoes are doing very well, and you will not be surprised to learn that the oregano is at the machete stage. Fortunately, I have friends who love it and have thus rescued the sage and the parsley, which are being edged out by the oregano. Last night, I used a bit of oregano in a quiche I made. Added a very nice flavor.
Is it just me or is oregano one of the few things that seems to have more flavor dried than fresh.
Jason, I had never thought about this, but you are right. No doubt that is why it my go-to herb in the winter.
We’re keeping an eye on a woman’s plot nearby. She grows and sells tomatoes from her garage with a set of scales and an “on your honor” cash box. Love the old-timey feel of buying from her.
That is great. I would love to have a neighbor selling vegetables. Better even than the farmers’ market.
Our favorite tomatoes are pineapple and black prince. I think the dark ones have a deeper flavor than others. Herbs find their way into most beds. I’m under the impression (possibly false) that they slow down the gophers and deer with their strong scent and taste.
I’ve seen ‘Black Prince’ but haven’t grown it. I think your right about the dark tomatoes having richer flavor.
You have an interesting choice of tomatoes there, and I have not come across any of those varieties. They will look very colourful in a salad when they are ready. I am growing ‘Sweet Aperitif’ which are incredibly sweet (as the name would suggest!)
I love the sweetness of really fresh tomatoes.
Very nice – great looking tomatoes. Even though the catepillar will do damage to parsley, it sure is a great picture. Good luck with the rest of your gardening plans.
Well, I plant the parsley more for the caterpillars than for us – and we have never had less parsley than we needed.
Congrats on the butterfly caterpillars! 🙂
I have a couple volunteer cherry tomato plants, some chives, garlic chives, lavender, etc.
I tried buying some basil at the farmers market, but it has been sulking ever since I planted it. Guess it doesn’t like the heavy clay? I grew some in years past that did much better, but was in somewhat amended soil nearer to the house.
Maybe you should try the basil in pots?
This yard is too shady for vegetables but oregano and thyme do well. I grow the thyme for the bees. They love it.
We had thyme that gradually took over the garden bed….and we don’t use thyme a lot, so we took it out. Reading the above post, I should have kept it for the bees. We grow a tomato bought as a sapling at the markets called ”mortgage lifter” and the tomatoes are enormous, and tasty! (unlike many big tomatoes). Your vegetable garden is inspiring!
I’ve heard of ‘Mortgage Lifther’, the tomatoes are supposed to be huge!
Slow start here as well. Part weather, part laziness. Hopefully tomatoes taste as good in September as they do in July!
They do, without a doubt.
Your herbs and tomato look healthy Jason. You’re ahead of me, my tomatoes are just in bloom now. Happy 4th July holidays!
Thank you, Nadezda! Enjoy your summer.
My tomatoes are doing pretty well so far – golf sized tomatoes here too. I can hardly wait for that first fresh tomato sandwich. 🙂
Yum! Or that first toasted cheese and tomato sandwich with fresh oregano!
I wasn’t going to grow tomatoes this year, but my son is staying with me and requested some cherry tomatoes. Then a neighbor gifted me with three more plants. I keep oregano in a pot on the deck, to keep it from spreading; it overwinters in the garage. That’s exciting you have a swallowtail caterpillar! A butterfly visited my parsley but found it unworthy.
Oregano in a pot – good idea. I grow mint in a pot.
Borage rates as my number one favourite herb, not necessarily as a herb but as a decorative plant, my love of blue plus the hairy foliage is of course very reminiscent of Meconopsis which possibly attracts me. In the parking area next to the Manchester Botanic Garden there is a self seeding area of borage which is totally natural and unplanned but in full flower and covered in bees is a sight to behold.
The Chicago Botanic Garden has an area planted with a dwarf variety of Borage – wish I could find some to buy.
Talking of borage being edible, I once saw a cake with borage flowers stuck in the white icingt. It was beautiful and the flowers stayed fresh looking for a long time.
Oh my, tomatoes and herbs are my favorites. Herbs carry such history with them–all their uses over time. And there are so many amazing tomatoes available now, I had a hard time choosing this year. I have tomatoes forming, but they’re still tiny. If we don’t get hit with blight, I will have enough varieties to host a tasting!
Blight usually hits here late in the summer.
Good choices for your herbs. Parsley is so nice fresh that I always grown that and basil and chives. I do have some oregano and thyme but I rarely use them in fact. Your toms are looking good!
Thanks. Parsley is underestimated by many people. It is great in tabouleh and other grain-based salads, plus in chimichurri sauce.
I used to have a nice sized vegetable garden, but only two of us and so much did not get eaten. I have one sweet 100 tomato plant now, and the tomatoes are almost ready. I too grow herbs outdoors for the pollinators. I take cuttings to grow in the kitchen now, plus save them over winter. I keep fennel and dill in pots though. The seed gets everywhere, so in a pot it only gets in the pot or paving. Not much luck growing big in the paving though.
Those fennel seeds do get everywhere. The rabbits ate all our dill before they went to seed.
I’m rather envious of your basil, I try to grow it every year but something eats it every year. Your tomatoes are way ahead of mine, normally mine are romping away by now but not this year, our cold spring has scuppered them. I will miss home grown tomatoes….sighs…xxx
Basil likes hot weather, so it can be happy in a proper Chicago summer. Too bad about your tomatoes , I hop e they catch up.
I don’t grow any vegetables, but I do grow herbs. Oregano, thyme, salvia, tarragon and parsley are fighting it out with the common milkweed in a narrow strip just outside the back door. This is an easy location for popping outside to cut what I need when I’m cooking. Rosemary and basil are in containers on the front deck.
One year, I went away on vacation for a week and came back to find my parsley plant completely stripped of leaves and half a dozen fat, happy swallowtail caterpillars draped over the stems!
That’s a really nice selection of herbs! I would gladly give up all my parsley leaves in exchange for a dozen Swallowtail cats!
I’m so behind with my blog reading but, fortunately for me, your comments have expanded my list of tomato varieties! I only have two this year: Fourth of July and Sweet 100, just beginning to blossom. The swallowtail caterpillars have always devoured my parsley so I grow a packet of flat-leaf each year. And, I also have common basil, thyme, chamomile, lemon verbena, bergamot, lavender, chives, oregano, and a bay tree I bring inside each winter.
I’ve grown Sweet 100, cherry tomatoes are so easy to grow and easy to eat!
Hello Jason, we’ve tried herbs on-and-off but never made a strong effort. With the number of patio pots that we now have freed up, it might be time to try a few herbs to have out on the patio for next year. Our soil is too rich and wet for them to grow well directly in the ground.
If you like to cook, having your own herbs in pots is wonderful – I recommend it!