It's amazing how the day flew, but I am very satisfied with the progress. The edge of our driveway (so that's what the cement thing is!) is now lined with large (10 gallon minimum) pots, each containing an indeterminate tomato plant. I am repeating many of the varieties that will be featured in my book - either because they are my favorite for flavor, historically significant, or represent tomatoes that were central in my early gardening years, as I made the transition from hybrids to heirlooms.
I am going to do something I've not done before in an effort toward healthier plants. I am going to allow just a single sucker to develop on each plant, thus growing double main stems on each. The key for me isn't so much yield, but high quality, representative fruit on each plant which could end up getting shipped (partially green) to my publisher in Massachusetts for a few photo re-shoots. (my tomatoes were neither plentiful nor particularly photogenic last year).
Tomorrow's plans are to reload on the potting mix and composted manure and get the driveway 5 gallon white grow bag (now bleached and sprayed with detergent and drying) Dwarfs, positioning them in front of the large indeterminate pots to provide a stable support for the short stakes. This year I plan on growing each of the 25 released dwarfs in the driveway, so that I can get a really good comparative evaluation of disease tolerance, yield, and flavor. What fun!
I will post some pics later in the week once a bit more progress is made. Right now I am sore, tired and quite happy to be where I am with respect to putting in the garden.
Happy Mother's Day to all (we are all children, even if some of us are not parents - then again, we may be "parents" to various pets, if not the human kind!). It is a lovely day in Raleigh - quite summery, really. This morning (after a blackberry Dutch Baby - my gift to my wife, a wonderful mother to our two girls....and three cats and two dogs!) started a different kind of Mother's Day, since both our mothers passed away in the last year. It gives us much to reflect on, as we do our quilting and gardening activities today.
I received a nice surprise last night - an invitation to be on Niki Jabbour's weekly garden show, The Weekend Gardener, out of Halifax, Nova Scotia - and that is exactly what I did, at 9 AM this morning. We had a nice chat about (what else?) tomatoes....it went by quickly, as always - I will locate the pod cast tonight and provide a link.
Current tasks....accomplished - front row garden tomato holes dug, straw bale conditioning day 5, big garden greens and beets rows growing well, bean row planted, squash and cuke hills planted. Large pots and grow bags have been bleached and await treatment with a quat detergent. Cages and stakes bleach dipped. Driveway edge bleached and scrubbed with detergent as well.
Upcoming this week: Hit the pots with detergent, load up on planting mix and composted manure and get all large pot indeterminates and driveway grow bag dwarfs planted....finish plan for driveway peppers and eggplant....
that'll keep me out of trouble!
We've had an absolutely delightful past few weeks hosting heirloom hunters at our driveway - we really appreciate all of you who came out to get some seedlings; it is always such fun catching up with our "annual garden friends", and was definitely better without the rush and crowds that the Farmers Market booth created in the past. It is far easier to pull into our driveway than find a weekend spot at the market!
These tasks are well under way:
Straw bales positioned and conditioning underway (today is Day 3)
Initial plantings of greens and beets are doing well; I am keeping them well watered during this hot spell.
Row of beans planted yesterday
Driveway rearranged so that I could bleach the edge surface (that was begrudgingly done yesterday)
Today should see rescrubbing the driveway edge with a solution of a quat. detergent - after that, the pots can be placed after they themselves are bleached and soaked in detergent.
I hope to put in a few hills of summer squash and one of cucumbers (there is now a pot of Diva cukes on the deck - the seeds haven't germinated yet)
My goal is to get the driveway edge large pot indeterminate tomatoes planted by Sunday (which will mean a trip to Home Depot for copious amounts of Miracle Gro potting mix and Moo Nure). I can't plant the bales for another week or so, which will give me time to work on additional pots for driveway Dwarf tomatoes, peppers and eggplant.
My fitbit tells me I am putting between 15-20K steps on my sore, tired wheels....and my double torn ACL knees remind me of this each evening! Still, there is absolutely nothing like spending a sweaty but productive and rewarding day digging in the dirt (if not washing out pots!).
We still have loads of seedlings - just because I've switched gears does not mean we are saying goodbye to so many healthy plants - it is still single digit May, after all!
Top row - working on the bean row, the beet row, beets up close.
Then - lettuce up close, deck salad pots, driveway set up - my "stuff" is on the tables
then - My driveway garden plants, dwarf project plants, big garden from the rear (NOT final location or number of bales)
then - garden from front, a straw bale, lettuce and collards
then - lettuce row, tomato seedlings needing a home still, more deck garden - mustard, chard, lettuce
then - pepper seedlings, pots to bleach/wash, weigela and spider wort in back edge garden
enjoy! busy today planned today...off to buy more bales, position them and start the conditioning process!
I've been gardening since 1981 - Sue and I were married in 1980 and our first garden together (for each of us, really) was located in the community garden patch for Dartmouth College students in a field in West Lebanon, NH. We started a few things from seeds (flowers, mainly, which turned out really well), but the tomatoes came in a six pack from the local garden center...Better Boy was the choice.
When I discovered the Seed Savers Exchange in 1985, my experimentation with non-hybrid varieties began, and it was those early varieties that convinced me to go the primarily heirloom route for all future gardens. I would not have made the switch if the results weren't persuasive. The diversity, colors, flavors, stories - and comparable or superior yield - of the non-hybrid varieties sealed the deal.
For my first book, I wanted to focus on some of those very persuasive early varieties that convinced me to take gardening in the direction that I did. Since I needed to grow them for book photography, it also allowed me to plant enough so that they are available as seedlings this year as well.
The tomatoes on my From The Vine list that provided the foundation for my journey into heirlooms are Giant Syrian, Mexico Midget, Nepal, Anna Russian, Brandywine, Polish, Stump of the World, Cherokee Purple, Lillian's Yellow Heirloom, Coyote, Yellow Brandywine, Tiger Tom, Yellow White, Hugh's, Lillian's Red, Bisignano #2, Yellow Oxheart, and both Halladay's and Mullen's Mortgage Lifter. All of these were acquired and grown between 1986 and 1990; Nepal may be the single tomato that provided all the convincing that was needed to make the switch.
In addition, some historically significant tomatoes - so-called "commercial heirlooms", because they are among the most important of the early tomato improvement efforts carried out by US seed companies - that I located in the USDA collection and helped revive - are also on my list this year. These include Red Brandywine, three Livingston introductions - Magnus, Golden Queen and Favorite - Burpee's Matchless, Salzer's Ferris Wheel and Peak of Perfection, and Buckbee's Abraham Lincoln. You can grow these varieties if you wish to see what breeders were aiming for in the late 1800's to early 1900s; you will also be surprised to see how different they are from the heirlooms that are so popular today.
Hard to believe but another veggie seedling spring is past the peak (but still lively - in fact I am still transplanting, and the peppers and eggplant are JUST starting to look like they are interested in growing...the cool spring has been very enjoyable for us, but not so much for the hot weather lovers). We will have seedlings for weeks yet - and not only is it not too late to get and plant some, but the next few weeks are the perfect time. Which leads me to....
....the work I need to get done soon. It is pot bleaching time, and I am going to add driveway, stake and cage bleaching. And not only bleaching, but cleaning with a detergent that has a quarternary ammonium compound - it seems that since tomato diseases can be viral, bacterial or fungal, bleach alone or the Quat alone won't get them all. It won't be fun, but I am hoping it will make the season more successful by cutting down on diseases. Of course, after pot preparation comes purchasing/lugging lots of the potting mix and composted manure, then finally, planting. To get all tomatoes, peppers and eggplant in the containers will likely take two weeks. I will do a blog soon on varieties I will be growing this year.
Then....I must dig the bean row, and some squash and cuke hills, in the big garden. Finally, I need to plan out my strategy for testing straw bale gardening. I am going to use the rear part of my big garden and cover it with landscape fabric (it is chickweed heaven right now), then place the bales on that surface. My initial thoughts are 3 bales in the driveway and 5 in the garden - testing tomatoes, peppers, and squash - maybe melons too...we shall see.
Pecking away at the various garden tasks...and speaking at Atlantic Orchid and Garden tomorrow morning!
This is the time of year when I feel like a juggler. It's fun, it's exhausting, and feels never-ending - but I am NOT complaining. Any time it is possible to combine fitness/activity, working outdoors, digging in the dirt, bird songs, and the wafting scent of the lilac is just wonderful.
First - I am speaking about tomatoes tomorrow morning at Atlantic Orchid and Garden at 10 AM - it is a free seminar. There is so much to squeeze in, but I will be talking about the colors, flavors and stories associated with some tomatoes, challenges to we who grow them in this area, a bit about the newly available Dwarf tomato varieties...and will take questions, of course. It should be fun! I will have a selection of tomato plants with me for purchase.
Returning to the garden...today was a day of transplanting, sorting the specific varieties I will grow myself (and ship to Storey Publishing on Monday - some of the feature tomatoes in my book, so that they can be grown there, in hopes of providing some alternative photos. I also managed to finish preparing another garden row, and beets and collards are now finally settling in to their new homes. It is much later than I hoped to plant them, but the weather conditions dictated the delay. I also am now the proud owner of 8 straw bales, which will be used in my own test of straw bale gardening.
Upcoming tasks will be preparing another garden row for bush beans, bleaching containers and getting my own tomatoes, peppers and eggplant going, and deciding upon my plans for the straw bales.
Not too much going on!
Finally, the seedlings look great and are plentiful - keep contacting me to set up times to come and get 'em!