My Cherry Tomatoes Stopped Ripening on the Vine

The cherry tomatoes I grew this summer looked very promising. During the plants’ second month, I remember counting 45 buds and 120 tomato flowers, which would eventually become ripe tomatoes! Compared to the previous batches I have had in the past summers, this batch yielded the most number of fruits and I could not be more ecstatic! However, it was only the beginning of what I call my “Humbling Harvest”.

Before I planted the cherry tomato seeds last February, I thought that I would not have something new to share on the blog about growing these plants. Why? Because I already posted steps and photos a few years ago, as seen HERE. However, God used this batch to humble me and help me realize the ff.:

  1. I have so much to learn about gardening wisely.
  2. Our gracious God is more than able to turn seemingly impossible and discouraging situations around.
  3. Tomato plants only thrive in certain temperatures and I should be prepared for this.

It started when most of the flowers already turned into full-grown green, unripe tomatoes. I was so excited to see them turn into yellow green, orange, red orange, and red within the next few days. Based on my past experiences with growing tomatoes, the changes in their colors happen in less than a week. I even remember panicking before because the tomatoes ripened so fast that I had to give most of them away.

I expected the same result in this batch. But, when the unripe, green tomatoes stayed exactly the same after more than two weeks on the vine, I started to get worried. What was happening?! The fruits were not ripening on the vine; the remaining flowers were not turning into fruits; and the leaves were curling up and looking dehydrated.

I consistently and generously watered the plants twice a day and I monitored the leaves to make sure there were no pests sticking under them. I even added organic fertilizer to the plants, hoping that it would help them ripen. But, none of these things worked. It only left me with one choice: To kill the plant if the fruits still do not ripen after a week and accept the fact that I will be harvesting more than two hundred unripe green cherry tomatoes.

That week, I expressed my disappointment towards myself and the situation to God. I asked Him why He still allowed me to go through the experience of seeing them grow and bear fruit ONLY to end up witnessing their growth “freeze” in the heat of summer. My heart got more discouraged after I read articles online about the possible reasons why tomatoes do not ripen on the vine.

The only common answer I read that was applicable to my situation was the extremely hot weather. Apparently, tomato plants thrive between 18 to 29 degrees Celsius. Anything less or more than that would not be advisable for their growth. This explains why my plants stopped developing its fruits! While the green tomatoes were growing on the vine, we were experiencing very hot weather in the city! We had an average of 33 to 35 degrees Celsius.

It was during this time that God helped me realize how I should be wise in gardening. Even if I wanted to grow certain vegetables, I should do my own research on the ideal temperature, water levels, composition of fertilizer, soil condition, and the weather in our city. If I do not do so, I will be wasting resources and I would not be able to maximize the plants’ potential. Some time ago, I did experience this when I tried to grow broccoli in the hot Manila weather. Instead of producing the usual broccoli, the plant got so stressed because of the heat that it caused its buds and florets to be unusually huge.

Unfortunately, I still did not learn my lesson in planning first before planting. So, I told God that in a way, this heartbreaking yet humbling harvest of green, unripe cherry tomatoes really taught me a lesson. I also said that if it was NOT His will for me to see, harvest, and taste red ones this time, then it would be okay with me. I was choosing to be grateful, but honestly, I also struggled with watering the plants because I thought “Why bother when they will not ripen on the vine anyway?” My heartbroken self intentionally did not water them for three days.

During those days, the sky surprisingly became gloomy. Would you believe it? After weeks of extreme heat, we were being showered with soft rains. Just a few days before the weekend (when I was supposed to kill the plants), I saw my first light orange cherry tomato. I thought, “Is this for real? I have an orange tomato?!”

Despite me giving up on them, God was graciously watering and taking care of the plants for me. I ended up not killing the plants because of the hope that I suddenly had in my heart. The weather was becoming cooler and more green tomatoes were changing its colors. In less than week, by God’s grace, I was able to harvest a batch of bright red, smooth, and juicy organic cherry tomatoes from our veranda. Some of my friends could not believe how they looked! Their blemish-free skin made them seem like fake or toy tomatoes.

Before I planted the seeds, I felt that I wouldn’t be able to share something new about growing cherry tomatoes. But, I am able to share with you the best batch of cherry tomatoes I’ve grown since I started gardening a decade ago! This is only by the grace of God. I realized that He was helping me learn the value of not giving up on myself and others even when I do not see any progress or good results yet. God does not and will not give up on us. If I had given up on the plants and killed them right away, then I would have missed out on the privilege of sharing the fruits to my family, old and new friends, my colleagues, a VIP business partner at work, and many more.

Moreover, I just found out this month from a chef friend that when it comes to buying cherry tomatoes in the market, the ones still attached to the vine are far more expensive than those detached from it. There’s a higher value on it because of the variety’s uniqueness and appearance, especially since it makes a beautiful garnish as it adds sweetness to the dish. What an awesome trivia! It reminds me that, in the same way, we are nothing without God and we are only able to grow and bear fruit in this life when we are connected to the Vine (Jesus).

It says in John 15:4-5 “Remain in Me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

Summer is ending soon, which means that the cherry tomato season for me will end soon too. I only have a few left ripening on the plants, but I do look forward to learning more about growing tomatoes next Summer! Hopefully, I’ll get to successfully grow beefsteak tomatoes by then! Haha.

Happy gardening and learning, everyone!

 

It’s Time to Go and Grow

There is something amusing about growing sweet corn in the city, or at least, attempting to. Haha! It feels weird, challenging, and fulfilling at the same time. Since the summer of 2015, I have tried to grow corn in our container bed three times. The first time produced the best results, the second time became a bit of a struggle because of the stormy weather, and the most recent one was, well… a product of grace.

 

I say this because I was not intentional in giving the seedlings organic fertilizer during its first month. So, when I finally gave the plants fertilizer, they grew fast! They grew so fast that the pollens were produced before the ear of the corn. In a normal cycle, the ear of corn and its hair must appear first, so that when the pollens appear, the hair can be pollinated.

It was very unusual of me because most of the time, I give my best efforts whenever I grow my plants. Just a few days ago, honestly, I was expecting only 10 kernels on each ear of corn, but by God’s grace, He allowed them to grow more. Whew! Although, the ears did not fully develop as you will notice in the photos below. This is obviously a consequence of my earlier actions.

 

Thankfully, in the Philippines, it is still a good time to start new corn seedlings since the next few months would not be as rainy as the previous ones. With this, I’ll be planting five more seeds this December and hopefully, by March 2018, plump ears of corn will be ready for harvest. Just so I can be accountable to you, this time, I will not be lazy or forget to fertilize during its early stages. I just purchased a sack of chicken manure for my plants. So, really, I have no excuses. But, if you remember, please remind me in the coming weeks? Haha!

 

In a way, it was a humbling experience for me to grow corn for the third time. I know that this is just one of my hobbies, but it does teach me to become more responsible and proactive with my actions. Gardening, through the years, has helped me appreciate the importance of patience and hope because it does take time and faith to wait and believe that the plants will grow and bear fruit. However, I am reminded that producing the results that I hope for would not happen if I sit and wait for things to unfold. I still need to be intentional in doing my part and in learning from my shortcomings.

Okay, Nic. You can do this! It’s time to go… and grow!

 

How to Grow Okra in Containers

Out of all the vegetables I’ve planted at home, so far, okra was the easiest and the most fruitful plant that grew in a few months. From two plants in containers, I was able to harvest more than a hundred okra pods! Woohoo!

I’ll be sharing some of the photos and tips throughout the process. Hopefully, you can grow some too!

Most of my family and friends don’t like this slimy vegetable, but I think through time, people will learn to love it and its health benefits. It’s also one of the vegetables that help fight diabetes. Cool, right?

How to Grow Okra in Containers:

1. Plant one seed in a small plastic cup or container. It’s better to choose a soft type of plastic container so you can easily remove the seedling after a few weeks. Make sure that the container also has small holes for better drainage.

2. Because our weather in the Philippines is hot, I usually water my plants twice a day. You’ll know that you’ve watered enough when water starts to leak from the bottom holes of the plastic container.

3. Once the plant is 4-5 inches tall, you can now carefully transfer it to the bigger container where it will grow for months under the heat of the sun. Try not to hurt or pull the roots while you’re transferring the seedling. This might hinder your plant’s growth.

4. Continue watering the plant twice a day and applying organic fertilizer every two weeks. Soon, you’ll see the plant grow as tall as two meters in 2 months.


5. As you watch and water your plant, you’ll notice beautiful yellow flowers growing on the plant. These flowers will turn into the okra pods after a few days. It’s important to note that okra pods get tougher as they grow longer. So, once you see okra pods that are 3-4 inches long, make sure to snip them off of the plant. This is the best size for tender okra pods.


6. Another observation: The plant grows taller and expands more branches every time you snip off okra pods. After more than two months, I needed to stand on a chair just to harvest the pods at the top of the plant.

7. Another tip: the okra pods can get a bit prickly. It will be better if you use gloves whenever you harvest the pods. But, don’t worry, once they’re cooked, they won’t hurt your throat.

So, there you have it! A quick guide to growing okra plants in containers. Let me know if ever you plant some okra seeds! I’d love to hear from your experience and tips too!

Happy gardening!

Make Room for Growth

This morning, I harvested my second batch of pechay leaves, which are also known as Bok choy or Chinese cabbage in other countries. The leaves I got from this batch were much bigger than the first ones I had last August. The ironic thing about it? I didn’t even know that I had one pechay seed growing in the pot until I saw a seedling in it three months ago. Today, by God’s grace, I snipped off a lovely bundle of big pechay leaves here at home.

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I happily showed my family members the stalks of pechay in my hand while they were having brunch earlier today. I then shared the background of the story and emphasized how interesting the experience was. Even though I exerted so much effort in the first batch by regularly watering, adding organic fertilizer, and taking care of the plants, they weren’t able to reach their maximum size. Why? Because there wasn’t any room for growth.

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One major mistake that I made while I was growing the first batch was planting too many seeds in a small area. Because the seedlings were overcrowded, their roots could not expand and fully develop under the soil. This resulted to smaller leaves and thinner stalks.

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For the second batch of pechay leaves, however, since it was only one seedling growing in the pot, it had adequate space for its roots to expand.  Even though I wasn’t able to add fertilizer to it as often as I did to the first batch, it still grew and reached its maximum potential. There weren’t other pechay plants absorbing the nutrients in the soil.

I learned two things today as I took photos of the larger pechay leaves at home.

 

FIRST: Hindrances to growth may also be the good things in life.

It is very easy to put the blame on the weeds and difficult moments in life whenever we experience delays in our growth. However, I am learning that even the good and seemingly harmless things may also hinder us from experiencing the best and becoming the best version that we can be. Of course, this still depends on how we respond. In gardening, I realized that fruit-bearing or leafy greens shouldn’t be overcrowded in a pot if we want them to grow and reach their full potential.

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In the same way, personally, I am reminded to be more wise and intentional in the way I manage my time, resources, and activities. For example, I’ve noticed how casually surfing the internet or social media applications take up a lot of hours in a day. Even though these aren’t bad tools, if I am not careful with how I use them, I may end up “overcrowding my soil” and not leaving enough space for more important things that can help me grow.

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Another example is being idle or enjoying too much rest or sleep. Yes, I do believe that rest is important. But, I also know that if I just sleep all day and not plan ahead on the activities that I can productively do in a day, then it would be a waste of time and resources.

What are the activities (both good and bad) that hinder me from reaching my full potential? In what areas do I need to improve on? (e.g. Physical fitness, communication skills, homemaking skills, preparation for exams or work, etc.)

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SECOND: God makes things grow.

This is my favorite part in this blog entry – the part where we talk about God’s grace. There’s something about the grace of God that strikes our hearts, humbles us, and inspires us to press on. In my case of growing pechay leaves, clearly, it was God who caused the growth of the second batch. Originally, I did not want to grow pechay during the months of September to December because I knew that we would be having rainy days in this tropical country. But, God allowed one pechay seed to be left behind and He helped it grow even without me attending to it daily. AMAZING.

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This experience encouraged me to depend on the Lord and not on my own strength and wisdom. He makes things grow. He can allow us to experience growth and reach our full potential in the different areas of our lives. We just have to trust in Him, do our part, and see Him work wonders in and through us. When I saw the lone pechay sprout in the pot, I had the choice to pluck it out. But somehow, even if it was just one seedling growing in the pot, I saw its potential and started to take care of it. I didn’t know that after three months, it would become a beautiful harvest, by God’s grace.

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Maybe there are areas in our lives right now that seem hopeless or seem to have no progress at all, just like the lone seedling in the pot. Maybe it’s a financial struggle or a heartbreak that we can’t seem to let go. Maybe it’s seeing little development from all of the hard work we’ve been doing or a blurry vision of our dreams and goals in life. Whatever it is, I hope that you will also be encouraged to surrender it to God, do your part, and trust that in His perfect timing, He will allow it and you to improve and grow.

“It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.” – 1 Corinthians 3:7

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