Then and Now – Tomatillos

If I judge success of the tomatillo plants last year by the output of tomatillos and the amount of salsa verde we made, we had a resounding success. If I judge the tomatillo success by what the plants looked like when I planted them, I am surprised we had any tomatillos with which to make salsa. About this time last year, towards the end of May, I planted five unhealthy and tiny plants. Over time they eventually adapted to their surroundings and we had lots of fun watching the little lanterns form and then the tomatillos inside.

Last weekend I planted this year’s tomatillos in the garden. I had thirteen good size plants but room for only eight. My aunt and uncle got the extra ones. While the plants were generally in good shape and all had blossoms already, they were starting to show signs of heat stress from being in the Phoenix heat for a week or two too long. They were also almost too big to fit into the car to move up to the garden; the tallest few were over three feet tall and had to be bent over (good thing they are vines at heart) for the trip.

Like tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes, tomatillos are a nightshade; and, like their compatriots, they can be planted deep and roots will form along the stem. Because the plants were so big I dug down about eight inches, sprinkled a little fertilizer in the trench, and ran the drip tube to keep them watered. I have read that a single plant can yield between 50 and 200 pounds of tomatillos. While that is a huge spread, either one may overwhelm us. Last year we probably had a between 50 and 75 pounds in total from the five plants.

One of the “fun” things about digging in a previous owner’s garden, installed and maintained by someone who clearly did not understand irrigation or drainage, is you never know what you will find when you dig. Over the years I have severed many irrigation lines that I then had to repair. Luckily I have not severed electrical or gas lines. Digging the trench for the tomatillos this year, the same area as last year, I found both old irrigation lines and, more stressful at first, a drainage line.

Ghost Pepper

In the general area I know we have drain lines for gutters and the driveway, and I was afraid I had just cut and crushed part of that line, that would require a trip to the hardware store to buy replacement parts. I also know there are a few drains that start nowhere and go nowhere, and I was hoping I found one of those lines. After testing the various gutters and needed drains, we determined I had in fact found one of the useless drain lines. Mini-crisis averted.

Last weekend was also the week most of the peppers were planted in the garden. The remaining few will be planted this coming weekend. We planted pimento, serrano, habanero, poblano, and Joe E Parker (a Nu-Mex Anaheim variety). The ghost pepper was also moved up to its summer digs and transferred into a larger container that I can move back down to Phoenix in the fall. The first habanero I have a photo of last year was mid-August. I have already picked a few pimento peppers and the serrano and habanero plants have a nice assortment developing. I expect a bumper pepper crop this summer.

The tea trees, sochi variety, were planted in a shaded area that should provide a good area for them to grow. Right now they are caged up because we do not know if deer and/or javelina will decide that tea trees are their new favorite snack.

A couple of the apple trees seem to have survived a late frost and are producing a lot of apples. The big cherry trees do not seem to have been as lucky. I think it will be a cherryless year for the garden.

The garden is mostly launched. Early plantings of onion, beet, and radish seeds were a disappointment. I will over-seed the onions and beets as I see what decides to grow. Next year I will just wait until the first or second week of May to sow those seeds.

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