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Welcome to My Jungle - June, 2016

Tomatoes are finally in their happy place in terms of sunshine and warmth, and in response are really putting on a growth spurt. Champion II and Genuwine (Brandywine x Costoluto Genovese) are both indeterminate types being grown this year, both trained on a string and maintained to a single stem. To accomplish this, all suckers are regularly removed, which means checking every few days to catch them when they are small and easy to pinch out by hand. Suckers are small shoots that grows out of every joint where a leaf petiole on the tomato plant meets the main stem. These small shoots will grow into a full sized branch if left alone, which results in a bushier, more sprawling tomato plant. Missed suckers grow fast and if too well developed require hand pruners to remove in order to avoid injury to the main stem. Though tomatoes don't absolutely have to be pruned, pruning does open up the canopy to aid in air flow and disease control. Pruning may overall reduce fruit numbers by removing fruit-producing suckers, but removing suckers also helps increase the overall size and uniformity of the remaining fruit. Indeterminate types are usually pruned to 1-2 stems and determinate types usually have all suckers below the first flower cluster removed.

If tomatoes are coming, spinach is going. Summer isn't officially here yet but spinach has already received the heat signal to stop growing vegetatively and start the flowering process (bolted). Even though plants look a bit raggedy, if left in place, plants will produce seed that when dry can be collected and saved for planting in the fall garden this year or later next spring.

Peas are in harvest in the Jungle, both snow and sugar snap peas. The challenge with both of these is to harvest before the pods become too fibrous. Snow pea pods are harvested when fully developed but before any visible sign of developing peas. Sugar snap pea varieties should have tender pods, with immature seeds.

A number of new plants have been added to the Jungle this spring and one is already showing me why I wanted to plant it in the first place. I saw Ohio Horsemint/Downy Wood Mint (Blephilia ciliata) for the first time while visiting the Whitmire Wildflower Garden at Shaw Nature Reserve and naturally added it to my "must have" list. The bumblebees absolutely love this plant, and I have decided this is one mint that I don't mind spreading around. Oh, did I mention it is a native plant?