Canadian Vacation

Vacations are time to revitalize, to refresh and renew. That is certainly the case with our family trip to Gabriola Island in British Columbia. We are very lucky to have friends that own a home there, where we are welcome. Our trip to the island is an adventure in itself, the last leg of our journey being a small floatplane from Vancouver to Gabriola. Flying low above the ocean, the sea shimmers as the plane casts a shadow upon it. I stare into the depths mesmerized by the hopes of seeing a dolphin or a fish. Our landing into Silva Bay was a bit rough and two of us (I won’t name names… but it wasn’t me) didn’t enjoy the welcome we received by the high winds we encountered.

Arriving on firmer ground, the entire family seemed more relaxed; this place just doesn’t leave a lot of room for stressing out. The ocean, the pine trees almost down to the surf line, and the quiet of Gabriola forced us all to realize that nature is where it all starts. The next few days would be spent close to each other and all sorts of wildlife, so it was time to enjoy.

During our trip, I had quite a bit of time to enjoy the scenery. There are a lot of plants that I knew, and even more that I had the good fortune of learning about, since they are natives to that area. The island had been in a bit of a drought period, and it made me realize that Southern California although also in a drought is a little bit lucky. We are one of the places that know without a doubt… we have to have irrigation to make plants grow. Established plantings can weather drought, however newly planted beds need that extra bit of water now and again. Natives of course do better than most, so that itself is a good reason to plant them. So, when you are planting your beds, think… low water, natives and beauty and realize that you CAN have it all.



It's that time of the year again! The cool weather tomato plants are out in the Garden Centers and it's time to plant them in Southern California.

These tomato plants are called Cool Weather or Winter tomato plants, but don't think that means that they are hardy in cold temperatures. What it actually means is that the time it takes for the fruit to develop and mature on the plant is shorter than other varieties. This means that you can fit in another whole batch of plant before it gets too cold.

I have harvested tomatoes up until Christmas some years. So take a look at the list below and then take a visit to your local garden center to see what they have available. I would suggest a NURSERY as opposed to a Big Box Store - they won't have the proper selection for you at a Big Box Store.

Champion - 70 days to maturity
Glacier - 55 days to maturity
Jetsetter - 80 days to maturity
Legend - 55 -68 days to maturity
Manitoba - 66 days to maturity
Siberia - 62 days to maturity
Stupice - 60 - 65 days to maturity & a personal favorite of mine
Taxi - 69 -80 days to maturity

Please note that these are approximated days from planting your seedling. So don't hold me to them.
Many of the plants listed above are small sized fruits so they are perfect for planting in containers! I was just at Green Thumb in Newhall, Ca. and they have at least five of these in stock now.

Throw in a few new herbs too, while you are at it! Don't forget the dill (if you can find it) to ward off those pesky hornworms.



Tomato hornworms are the larvae of a large sphinx moth that is about the size of a hummingbird. In spring the moth lays eggs on the underside of tomato leaves, and the hornworm is quite small when it first emerges. However, they are big eaters (of tomato leaves) and grow up quickly. Usually, you won’t even discover this fellow until it is large--about 2 inches long and fat! They are quite distinctive, and some of the ugliest bugs that I have ever seen! If you are finding them at this time of the year, here is how you handle them. Prevention will follow below.

Don't be afraid of the hornworms. They look more frightening than they are. They don't bite or sting, just try to look big and ferocious.

Know the signs. Droppings on and around the plants are an indication that the beasts are near, as are chewed leaves and stalks.

You can easily handpick these beasts to remove them from your tomato plant then just throw them away. I generally wear gloves while doing this. You can also pay your kids to do this, come up with a bounty and offer it to the kids. .05 to .25 per worm depending on your children’s ages and your income bracket.

You must continue to be on the look out for them, they grow rapidly and eat a lot, so they can devastate a plant in a short amount of time.

There is also a different tactic that you can take with hornworm. While handpicking hornworm, look to see if you find little white cocoons attached to its back. If you find these, the cocoon is a pupating braconid wasp, which is a garden-friendly predator.

Capture the hornworm and keep any that have this cocoon in a container, feeding them tomato leaves. In this manner you will be incubating your own pest control! The cocoons will develop into the braconid wasps.

Release the wasps into your garden! These wasps will control the hornworm population.

Preventative Measures - When the hornworm are younger and smaller they can be killed using Bt (bacillus thuringiensis) as an effective management technique. This must be sprayed on the plant when you first plant it or BEFORE you find any big hornworms.

Tips & Warnings:
Other natural predators are birds and the larvae of the green lacewing, if your garden is bird friendly you will have a built in head start.
Plant Dill – the hornworms like it and they are easier to spot when they are smaller on the dill than on your tomato plants.
Be sure to rotate your crops, tomatoes/peppers/eggplants are in the same family & have the same pests, so put these crops where last year you had lettuce or peas. The larvae of the hornworm may stay in the soil and come back in droves the next year.
If you plant in pots, either rotate the crops or simply throw out the soil and start with fresh soil each year.
If you have a bee allergy in the family the wasp solution is NOT the best option for you and your family.

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