07 July 2015

Tomato Tuesday 2015/9

Due to drought restrictions I'm still watering the tomatoes only twice a week, though walking back to my house on Sunday afternoon I saw (not for the first time) a grim elderly woman on my block lavishly spraying water all over her cement front yard and her driveway, with the extra running off onto the sidewalk and into the gutter, and I wondered what good my careful conservation really does and whether we're all just doomed, if not through our stupidity then through that of others, which is worse. I had stopped filling my birdbath a while ago, partly because the local wandering cats have discovered it so the birds stopped using it, but Sunday morning as I did my semiweekly watering I saw some of the cats lurking around, which in itself was kind of unusual because, as I have previously mentioned, they bolt at the sight of me, cruelly shredding my little fantasies of cultivating charming and mutually beneficial cat friendships with them, so I filled the birdbath. The cats must have been truly thirsty because despite my continued presence they hopped up to the water and began lapping without stopping. There were two of them, both with a beautiful pattern of spots and stripes on their grey fur, and they look enough alike to make me think they are related. One clearly seemed dominant, and was the first to drink.

They tolerated me and my camera in order to drink my water, but clearly were a bit suspicious of what I was doing.

They just did not like it at all.

After the initial quenching of their thirst, they resumed bolting at my entrance. I did some random weed-pulling and suchlike and then left the house for a while. When I returned in the afternoon, the birdbath was bone-dry. The water couldn't be evaporating that quickly. I guess they returned once I was out of the way.

I'm a little concerned that the reduction in watering is starting to affect the tomatoes. We've had some hot and fairly muggy days, and this weekend I noticed that a number of tomato plants had leaves that used to be dark green and were now yellow. Below you can see a sample from Mr Stripey (actual heirloom name).

My peonies and columbines did not do very well this year, and I also noticed a big dying patch on my rosemary bush. Rosemary is a tough plant, and I thought the rain we did receive this year would be enough for it. Maybe it's too large and would do better if I cut it back radically, so that there is less of it needing water which it's not getting. In another sign of the drought, ants have invaded my house (again) and are all over the yard, particularly the tomato plants – perhaps they're finding water there. They also end up all over me, which I do not care for.

Despite all these signs of drought stress, I noticed that one of my Beurre d'Anjou pear trees is sprouting some tender velvety new leaves, their pale yellow-green bordered with a blush of pale mauve. So there's that, at least. Maybe I'll get some fruit from one of those trees this fall. I planted them a few years ago, and in my experience it usually takes a year or two for a fruit tree to start producing.

Once again, Michael Pollan is on the left and Cherokee Purple on the right. Both continue to grow extravagantly; both are now about 37 inches high, and quite bushy.

I've realized the plants are now at the point at which counting blossoms doesn't tell much; both now have many blossoms, in various stages from tiny buds to large buds to blooms to withering flowers. Those last are the most important, as their next stage is to turn into the fruit, and the season is advanced enough so that it's now all about counting the fruit.

Michael Pollan now has seven fruits, all of them fairly small and some of them quite small. They have an oval and sort of flat shape.

Below are some of the flowers from Cherokee Purple, which now has four fruits.

Here is this week's shot of the two Cherokee Purples that were new last week. The larger one, on the left, was 2 1/2 inches wide last week; this week it is 3 1/4 inches. If I can find my "softer" tape measure I'll get the circumference.

Here's a random shot of the lemon tree, which is old and large, though not as large as it used to be since some big overladen branches have broken off during winter storms, back when we used to have those. The lemons are smaller than they used to be, and over the past few years I've seen more that are disturbingly misshapen.

Below is another view of Flower Girl, the rose I showed last week.

And near Flower Girl is this sturdy Chinese Lantern, which proved its resilience over the past few years by coming back strong after having its main stem broken not once but twice – in both cases, by a cat jumping off the wall and landing on it. So the plant is not as tall as it might be, but it blooms regularly and looks healthy and in general keeps on keeping on.


Lisa Hirsch said...

Our personal conservation is, imo largely symbolic, with agriculture using 80% and industry using 13% of California's water. I mean, if Californians were to cut all residential use by 50%, the overall water-use reduction would be 3.5%.

Patrick J. Vaz said...

Yes, though I can't help feeling that it's still a good idea for us to treat water with more respect. But maybe I can start watering the tomatoes a little more often.

Lisa Hirsch said...

You're right about treating water with more respect. I know lots of people saving water in buckets (when they start running water for a shower, for example) and hauling the water out to their gardens. You might be able to water the tomatoes more, too.

The cats are really beautiful and certainly related. Probably too old to be tamed, unfortunately, if they are feral.

Patrick J. Vaz said...

I do the bucket brigade thing as well, which is probably the only reason half my plants are still alive. I did have a plumber fix some leaks a few months ago, so that reduced some waste as well.

The cats can stay in their "Born Free!" state; I just wish they wouldn't flee in terror when I step into the yard. Companionable indifference would work.

Michael Strickland said...

To hell with your plants, I kept thinking, after that striking interlude with the birdbath water being lapped up by the feral cats who look at you with complete distrust. Keep providing them water, maybe a little food, and the next thing you know, one of those strange Martian creatures might bond with you rather than fleeing. Those are great pics of them staring at you with apprehension.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Offering them food might make them your pals. Or pets, which you might not want.

But speaking of water, I thought of you when I read this Times article yesterday.

Patrick J. Vaz said...

Michael, You've made my plants cry. Are you happy now? (At least tears are water, of a sort.)

Actually, I've been providing the roaming cats with water and occasionally milk for a couple of years now, and they are still reluctant to stay in the yard when I'm there. At this point I just figure it's my St Francis duty to give them access to the occasional drink.

Speaking of wildlife and water, though: several times last year I had a hummingbird come up and stick its beak into the stream of water from the hose while I was watering tomatoes. That was pretty terrific.

Patrick J. Vaz said...

Lisa, Yeah, I'd rather avoid dependency. I just want them not to feel the need to bolt when I show up.

Thank you for that link to the Times article! It is quite fascinating. I've made some adjustments, but I have to pat myself on the back for being fairly thoughtful about water even before this spring. And it is true that a lot of this is about making us feel we're doing something, because as you pointed out in an earlier comment industry & agriculture use most of the water anyway.