Update on Max’s Garden

Early on, the Alpha Japanese Female (AJF) settled on what she felt was a reasonable allocation of duties regarding our summer garden.

She accepted full responsibility for harvesting and distributing the fresh, tasty veggies to friends and neighbors and modestly accepting the lavish thanks and accolades her gifting generated.


“Oh yes…please, please let me spend a couple of hours slaving in the garden so you can give the produce to the neighbors.”

Unbeknownst to me, I had passively volunteered to handle all other aspects of the garden, especially those involving dirt, bugs, heat, weeding, pruning, fertilizing and so forth.

Max’s role in produce maximization at La Maison de la Gigantesque Tomate was ill defined but seemed to include supervising me and entertaining the AJF.

Thus the matter was resolved.

Cages before and after

Cages, before and now. Bark Beast provided for scale.

The two or three people whose lives are so blighted that they actually read this silly dog blog will recall that, back in early Spring, I invested considerable time, money and parts of my anatomy building veggie cages of wood, chicken wire and aluminum screening in order to protect my crops and frustrate the rapacious rats, possums, squirrels and neighborhood children. (OK, that last one was a lie.)

Well, the cages worked. To date, no creature has penetrated the Plant Fortress and without the depredations of the usual evil animals and insects, the vegetables have been gorgeous.

Daily haul

Thanks to the cages we have unblemished veggies!

We’ve grown two types of Japanese eggplants. First is the “Ichiban” variety, which grows a slender, pale purple eggplant about 30 cm long that just begs to be grilled with  miso/garlic sauce. The second is a variety called “Millionaire” which is dark aubergine, with very thin skin and perfect for pickling.

Both our Summer Dance and Suhyo cucumbers have already produced delicious fruit that is crisp and seedless and excellent when served as Japanese sunomono – chilled and sliced cucumbers marinated in rice vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame oil.


These are the pale “Ichiban” variety of eggplants. Our other kind “Millionaire” are not quite producing yet and they are the preferred ones.

Eggplant bush

Eggplant, nearly a meter tall and producing.

The bell peppers have been a bit of a disappointment, especially the Japanese thin skin version. We’ve only bagged a couple so far and prospects for a late Summer crop are dim. Offsetting the unproductive pepper plants are our tomatoes which have simply gone insane this year.

One tomato plant is now about 2 meters tall and bumps against the top of its 8 foot cage. That plant has been yielding about 5 ripe fruit daily, hence the donations to friends and family. Two other plants are less productive but promise to be big bearers in the next few weeks.

The giant tomato

The tomato plant that ate Tokyo.

Earlier this year we had a reasonably good harvest of kabu, a type of sweet, crunchy Japanese turnip and a very poor showing with daikon, the long white radish that was afflicted by a too short cool Spring before the onset of Summer heat.

Thai pepper

Thai peppers. These will excoriate your mucous membranes.

Then there are the hotter-than-the-hinges-on-the-gates-of-Hades Thai peppers, a patch of green onions, and herbs including basil, rosemary and parsley, all of which are producing satisfactorily.

The downside of the cages is that the usual pollinators of the vegetables are unable to enter. That’s no big deal for eggplants. Every eggplant flower conveniently has both male and female organs that self-pollinate to produce the fruit. This is why eggplants never get married.

Cucumber bush

This Suhyo cucumber is trying to escape its cage.

Cucumbers and tomatoes are trickier. Deprived of their usual hot monkey sex, they require hand pollination. In the case of tomatoes one can use an electric toothbrush to vibrate (oh, behave!) the flowers and thereby spread pollen.

With cucumbers, one has to pluck a male flower and then go one by one, rubbing each female flower. I noticed the AJF doing this while making strange vocalizations but I was afraid to ask exactly what she was murmuring. Sounded something like “Blame it on the Bossa Nova, the Dance of Love,” but whatever.


Due to the virus our usual summer road trips were canceled and this has left more time for us to obsess about our vegetables which, if fully allocated all expenses including a living wage for me, would cost about $65 each.

Being a confirmed carnivore, Max doesn’t care about vegetables unless we are talking frozen peas and green beans, or carrot slivers. He’d prefer we venture into cattle ranching or at least install a chicken coop.

Max 1

“You know what would go well with those veggies, DogDad? A nice thick piece of meat. And a side of Milk Bone.”

62 replies

    • Well, I did say I’ll adopt Toby so send him over and we’ll feed him all the veggies he could possibly want! He can have Max’s share, too.Toby won’t have to dress as a Viking but he may get his own costume. Hmmm…I have to think which would best capture his personality!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Little Max–you are the best garden-watcher! All that video needed was a little shake of your tail feathers at the end…. Holy cow, Tom! Your garden looks wonderful–and those veggies trying to escape their cages–hello ‘Little Shop or Horrors!’ Happy eating! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • All that video needed was a little shake of your tail feathers at the end

      That’s kind of you to say, Lois, but as a mature guy I don’t flaunt my tail feathers much and you’ll just have to use your imagination. Really, you have to stop stalking me, Ginger is getting jealous. 👿

      Liked by 1 person

      • Obviously Ginger would rather watch you locked up in one of your cages than shaking your tail feathers. I will have to have a talk with her….Priorities, girl, priorities….

        Liked by 1 person

        • She will have to get in line because it seems everybody would like to see me locked up in one of the cages for a long, long time. Must be my vibrant personality. Maybe I could be like one of the old disco dancers who were locked in cages…remember Laugh-In? Best of both worlds.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Max has his supervising responsibility down pat! Good thing Tom, because you’d probably have locked yourself in one of those cages with a gargantuan vegetable!! 😂

    I remember when you first showed us the caged garden project. Just look at it now! Well done. How nice of the AJF to share the fruits of your labors with the neighbors.

    If there’s ever a contest for innovative gardening, enter it. You won!!

    Murphy was thrilled to see Max again. You and the AJF are the perfect example of how to maximize this quarantine time into accomplishing something worthwhile.

    Watch out Tom, if your head gets too big the AJF will be locking you in the cage with the tomato plant!! Lol.
    🐾Ginger 🐾

    Liked by 1 person

    • You won’t believe how any times the AJF has threatened to lock me in one of the cages but she really likes the free labor that I provide so that she can go door to door and distribute fresh veggies to neighbors. As usual, she gets the praise and I get the shovel. (Insert poor me emoji) It’s a delight not losing half my crop to the beasties as in years past. I’ve always like working with my hands in the dirt and we sure have plenty of time these days. I’ve even lost some weight during the Covid days! Hope all is well with you and Murphy!


  3. I wish I lived close to you, our tomatoes – which is the only thing I can grow – are yet to provide anything more than some green promises. I did plant a neck pumpkin, and that thing tried to take over but I ruthlessly cut it back last week. I do have herbs in pots – mint, several varieties, and was given a dehydrator yesterday so I’ll be playing with mint this weekend.
    Also, that’s some fine supervising, Max!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’d give you a whole bunch of ‘maters. The trick is keeping the inventory moving so we don’t end up with too many sitting at our house. It’s almost like that shrimp scene in Forrest Gump where Bubba’s saying, “There’s a lot of things you can do with…” I avoid the squash and melon families only because they take up so darn much space and I’m limited on garden real estate so I stick to the high yield and Asian veggies. With so much stay at home time these days I wish I had a quarter or half acre that I could devote to veggies although then I wouldn’t have cages and the damn pests would be eating everything again. Can’t win.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. So glad to see someone else has $65 pieces of vegetables. If you calculate it by size, those Thai peppers probably would cost about $87 and change. But man oh man, Max…you’ve done an amazing job with the garden and your snoopervision skills are without a doubt the best I’ve been around.

    For what it’s worth my sister told me to flick my volunteer cherry tomato plant and lo and behold it’s covered in oodles of little tiny balls of green fruit. Hopefully they’ll turn red sometime before my social security check arrives. This whole veggie gardening thing leaves a bit to be desired. Especially when the thermometer registers temps like that. Yikes!!! It’s hotter than the Thai peppers out your way. 🌶🌶🌶 Have a groovy weekend and try to stay cool.🧊

    Liked by 2 people

    • Temperature is critical for tomatoes. Pretty much everything stops when the mercury breaches 95 degrees. The ‘maters even stop turning red at extreme heats. They’ll pick up as it cools a bit which it has to do at some point, right? We’re scheduled to send this latest inferno your way in a few days and then we’ll settle in at the high eighties which is ideal for the crops. People laugh about the electric toothbrush as a pollinating tool but is far and away the most effective hack I’ve found to get high production. Of course Max takes credit for the idea. Or was that the AJF? I don’t recall but it certainly wasn’t my doing…I’m just around to lift, tote and maintain a civil tongue in my head. 😜

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve always been led to believe they like hot days (a relative term clearly) and cool nights. At least the temps here are in the 90’s though I’m totally over that with the sun intensity here due to altitude. Good luck with the civility practice. After discovering a hoodlum squirrel attempting grand larceny, I’ve pretty much turned the street into a raging blue zone.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Here’s the gospel per Bonnie plants company:

          When temps consistently hit the 95-degree range, tomatoes tend to stop producing red pigments, which means typically red fruits may instead ripen to orange. When high heat lingers with days above 100°F and nights over 80°F, most tomato ripening stops altogether.

          We have beaucoup squirrels here and Max is enraged whenever one has the temerity to think it can cross his property without permission. Thing is, in a knock down, drag out fight I think the squirrel has an edge over the Malt.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Me living my blighted life, I do enjoy reading your musings!! And I envy you and your garden and am in awe of your ingenious vege cages!! At our old house we would put up a garden, too, but it mostly turned into the Bryans Widlife Buffet. Fencing was not allowed in our little community 🙁. We gave it a go for a few years but finally gave up. I do dearly love real honest to goodness tomatoes, though. A couple years ago one of the local farms here was selling the real deal … dang … they were so wonderful and so delicious I actually created some art out of them. Before I ate them. https://lois-bryan.pixels.com/featured/farm-produce-lois-bryan.html … we went back last year and the year before, but these doozies were never offered again. This year, thank you Covid, the farmer heasn’t even opened his market doors. Sigh. So enjoy your tomatoes and all the rest of your goodies!!!! Hugz to Max!!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • As always I am in awe of your art and talents. Max says that when he joins the indolent rich he will commission from you a portrait of himself, perhaps wearing a crown and carrying a scepter which he will use to beat squirrels mercilessly. I like the notion of a Wildlife Buffet and am familiar with the frustration that ensues. Fresh veggies do taste good, especially when they go from the plant to the mouth with only a quick rinse. One thing this adventure has taught me is respect for those who grow our food. So much risk from bugs, weather, critters, chemicals, etc., often for meager rewards.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Love your cost-per-vegetable calculation. Reminds me of my father calculating the cost of the smoked trout he’d bring me from one of his fishing trips to Canada. Realizing the effort/cost made it taste even better 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s ridiculous from an economic perspective. Being an incredibly cheap person I remind the AJF of that frequently. She says, “So what else will you spend your money on…beer?” To which I unhesitatingly reply, “Yes!!” It gets me nowhere. Oh well, it keeps me off the mean streets at the senior center where those reprobates spend all their time on politics and past glory days.


  7. You’ve done a great job….under supervision, of course!
    I’m going to try the electric toothbrush on the vanilla next time it flowers, having made a total Horlicks of pollinisation this year with the traditional toothpick.
    I obtained some Japanese veg seeds, having had them muled down by friends, and the great successes have been that slim aubergine and the cucumber….the rainy season here wreaks havoc with tomatoes, unfortunately.
    I could do with someone to lift, tote and keep a civil tongue in their head…all three in short supply chez nous.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s my considered opinion that most if not all women would rather have someone willing to lift, tote and keep a civil tongue more than someone with brains, good looks or any other characteristic except a lot of money (all three of which I also lack.) I know squat about growing vanilla but the electric toothbrush trick works on most vegetables so probably worth a shot. There is an emerging vanilla industry on the Big Island of Hawaii so I might check into that. I’ve heard it’s devilishly hard to make a go of it. Perhaps you’d have luck with the small cherry/grape tomatoes which can produce abundant harvests even when planted in containers on the deck areas. Train the dogs to guard against insects.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Well, I think your veggies look fabulous and yummy! 🙂 It’s nice that each of you had your Garden Duties! But, I think Max was THE BEST…being a Supervisor to Human-Beans can be a tough job! 😉 😀 I hope Max got paid in steaks and treats! 😉

    Cooper likes a few veggies, but like Max, he would be more excited if we stopped raising veggies and started raising cows, chickens, pigs, and fish! 😉 😛

    HUGS!!! and thanks for making me laugh!!! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Max is a good supervisor in that he has little to say, unlike certain unnamed spouses who have much to say and say it again and again. Oops, did I say that out loud? The Malt’s ideal garden would probably be a bacon bush with morsels at a level he can easily reach. I wouldn’t mind a beer bush and the AJF would dearly love a sushi plant. If we get any of these, I’ll send over some seeds so you can grow your own!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Miso-garlic sauce? Pickled eggplant? That sounds so good. I miss sunomono. I, too have a garden full of 65-euro vegetables — the water bill alone guarantees that. Might as well enjoy them. Let’s see: Chinese, Vietnamese and yes, one Japanese cookbook. Thanks for the inspiration. If I can pickle tomatoes, too, I’ll be totally good to go.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chilled sunomono is totally delightful on these hot summer days. We gave away more tomatoes today. Despite the heat that silly plant keeps producing. I’m getting 🍅 fatigue and these are not especially good for saucing. Great to munch right off the plant with a dash of salt. This is the height of hornworm season so I need to stay alert. Fortunately I just noticed a pod of preying manti hatched on a rose bush so I’ll move some of them into the veggie cases as my secret defense.


      • Ok, I looked it up. It’s praying not preying and the plural is praying mantises, praying mantes or praying mantids. This correction should keep Ms. Devries off my back. Maybe.


  10. Your veggies are Wonderful!! The cages worked! I wish I could be as happy as Max over Grass 😄🐶. In that last photo he looks as if he’s pondering the joys of chicken cooping or cattle ranging 😄💫

    Liked by 1 person

    • The cages work…so far. I’m not going to declare victory until the end of summer. The tomato hornworms are worty opponents and should not be underestimated! The way the year is going I wouldn’t be surprised if we had a Biblical plague of locusts all aiming at my eggplants. Meanwhile I’m going to join Max in a roll on the lawn!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Only 108 degrees?
    You have to help them reproduce?
    When we were in Kowlifurnia, the owner/chef of the local Thai restaurant in San Carlos thought her Thai peppers were very hot until she chloken on my home grown habeneros.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You have a point. Scoville scale for a Thai chili is 15x higher than a jalapeño at 50,000-100,000 units but a good habanero goes up to 350,000 units. The hottest pepper is roughly 3,000,000 Scoville units which is ridiculous. Still, Thai peppers are at my max limit!


  12. Looks delicious! I have two tomato plants. one is a Roma and the other a heirloom. Yours look much, much better! (I don’t even like tomatoes that much.) Sookie and Duncan agree. Chicken coop or cattle ranch would be preferred!

    Liked by 1 person

    • We’ve pretty much decided to do Roma and/or San Marzano ‘maters next year and maybe just one small tomato plant for slicers. Then at least we can make tons of sauce to last the winter. I’m starting to flinch each time I go to the ‘mater cage and have to see how many are ready to pick and no where to use them.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Well done Max.
    You have them working hard at something that does not interest you.
    Great thinking.
    Lovely veg, I wish I had a garden to grow mine.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Hey there,
    As much as I was really impressed by your abundant harvest, all of that got pushed out of the limelight after I spotted the video of Max. I’m pretty sure it’s the first video of seen of him and he is absolutely gorgeous! Will show Lady tomrorow when she’s recovered from her ordeal with thunder earlier tonight. We had a nasty storm and she wasn’t happy!
    Best wishes,

    Liked by 1 person

    • In the past I’ve posted a few videos of Max but only a few, largely because I am thoroughly inept at capturing and editing video on my phone. Usually I end up with 20 seconds of uninterrupted coverage of my thumb. Lady deserves extra attention and treats for being brave during a thunder storm.


  15. Don’t know how I missed this one but OMG, I am so jealous. We started a new garden during quarantine and watered it and gave it sunlight and we saw promising leaves and then zilch. NADA. And look at your bounty! I bet those tomatoes taste better than anything in the store. I’m still taken a little off guard by manually pollinating things, but to each his own.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. The veggie were abundant and delicious but I am starting to get tired of eating tomatoes every day. I know that I will them very much later this year and throughout the winter but for now I am starting to turn pink. Bruschetta, sauce, BLTs, ‘mater sandwiches, sliced with dressing, blah, blah. As of today, late September, the productivity has fallen off and I imagine we’ll see the end of the garden within the next two weeks except maybe the stray eggplant and cucumber. Then we plan to plant a fall garden with Japanese turnips and radishes that like cooler weather.


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