Tomatoes with Everything

I have to admit I am not the best gardener nor am I the most knowledgeable (far from it!) but I do love to garden.  Being able to grow your own food is satisfying on many levels and also lots of fun.

While most of my skill in gardening is on an intuitive level, experience has also taught me a few things. I’ve learned what varieties of tomatoes I like, how easy or difficult they are to grow and I try to grow something new every year. Sometimes it is a great success, sometimes a disaster and occasionally a mystery surprise that never occurs again. But every spring and summer I look forward to lots of fresh veggies and a greatly reduced grocery bill.

For twenty years I have grown vegetables and flowers based on my feelings and own intuition but in the last couple of years my garden hasn’t done well. I really didn’t know why, I had lots of theories, but no real explanation. So, this spring I decided to get some help. My friend Lee O’Hara, has quite a rep as an organic gardener and even has a couple of DVDs on organic gardening. Coincidentally, I ran into Lee while we were both doing work for the same company and we got to talking about gardening. Long story short, I bought his DVDs and watched them.

Now Lee has developed quite a regimen for gardening and while I didn’t do everything he advised in his DVDs I tried to do as much as I could (couldn’t quite figure out the drip system, for example) and I have to say the results were amazing. As you can see in the pics below:



Also because my yield in the previous couple of years was low I went a bit crazy. I planted 18 tomato plants – seven of which were seedlings of my own and eleven nursery plants. Since in my experience I have lost 2-4 plants for various reasons, I assumed that 18 plants would leave me with 12 really hardy plants. Still a lot, but I love tomatoes and so does my room mate.  In my wildest dreams I never would have thought that 17 or the 18 would make it. Thanks to Lee I now have tomatoes with everything.

I have brandywines, Aunt Ginny’s purple tomatoes, Boxcar Willy’s, Marglobe, black cherry tomatoes, St Pierre’s, Homestead 24’s and Fresnos. With the exception of the Fresno’s, all of the tomatoes are heirlooms and I plan to harvest plenty of seeds for future plantings.

I also have the biggest cuke plants and squash plant I’ve ever grown, thanks to Lee’s methods and my cosmos are five feet tall!


So if you ever want to grow monster veggies that are delicious and hardy, check out Lee’s DVDs and his gardening methods. Incredible! Meanwhile, if you’d like to drop by my place for a tomato sandwich, please feel free. There is plenty to go around. Also if you have any killer recipes for tomatoes, please leave them in the comments section, I’ll need lots of ideas and soon!

(By the way, Lee has no idea I am writing about him and this post was not solicited by him in any way – I just like to pass on good info when I come across it.)

So here’s to tomatoes with everything and for a long time to come.

Writer Chick

Copyright 2012

Gardening is Not for Sissies

For years I have been trying to get my BFF Zelda to take a dive into the gardening universe. And this year it finally happened – she put up her green house, went on a shopping spree at the local nursery, and bought all the amendment, soil, chemicals, and plants I told her to (and then some).

Since the part of her property where she was planning to put her garden is very slope-ish there was some prep that would have to be done first. So we spent a day and mixed up soil, mulch, worming castings, lime, bone meal, and or stuff, potted all her nursery buys and planned to put the garden in within a few weeks.

Well then there was the tree that unexpectedly fell down on her back lot and required a chain saw to cut. It was a very big tree and her helper ‘forgot’ the day of the sawing and then there were the chain saws that kept dying. Somehow she managed to muddle through and put her focus back on the garden. Her helper was digging out an area for the strawberries when one of the walls collapsed because it was apparently built without rebar and other essential items. So then she had to go to the rock store and buy a lot of expensive rocks to build another.

Then there was the business trip that took her out of town for a week and the giant gopher snake that got trapped in her fencing and required the Fire Department to extract.

Anyway…today was planting day. I planted my garden two months ago and my plants are planning to take over the world judging by their size and are doing fine. So I volunteered to help Zelda plant.

Okay, so we met for breakfast to carbo load, then there was a trip to the dollar store, thrift store, and Home Depot for necessary items. And then we went out back. You have to picture the scene to fully appreciate the challenges we faced. The greenhouse frame was erected and given the weather there was no need to do any netting or walls so that was good. Until we had to do our magic mix of dirt, potting soil, chemicals, and amendment. You see Zelda’s property is pretty sandy and rocky so we knew that amending the soil was going to be needed.

Our first obstacle was getting the wheel barrel up the hill and through the greenhouse frame and then incidentally freeing Zelda who managed to get trapped under the wheel barrel. No, I have no explanation for how that happened but…then we realized we could not get the wheel barrel through the frame and had to back it up (while teetering on a cliff and trying not to slip in the five foot mound of dirt and again getting trapped under the wheel barrel. At one point masks and an electric drill were needed but we did manage to get the wheel barrel in position and then we had to lift the trashcan full of the magic soil mixture into the wheel barrel – did you know that trash cans with wheels on them are hard to get a grip on?
Then we had to put much of the five foot mound of dirt back into the greenhouse because after all what else was she going to do with it and we didn’t want a sunken green house floor. I tried to help but kept slipping and sliding in the shifting pile of quick sand.. Er…ah..dirt and so my job was to sift out rocks, while Zelda pulled in the dirt with a hoe.

Finally it was time to take the magic mixture for the top layer and again while teetering on the edge of the hill we made several attempts at tipping the now full wheel barrel into the floor of the greenhouse. Luckily no one was trapped this time and the Fire Department did not have to be called. We managed to get the top layer in, put on our painting masks because quite frankly it smelled like a cat box on crack and smoothed it out.

While the temperature was mild today, after tossing around 30 pound bags of amendment, worm castings and top soil our arms were dangling from the ends of our shoulders, we were lathered like race horses and choking on garden dust.

Zelda found ties and stakes and finally got the tomato plants in the ground. After fighting with the hose for a little while we got the plants watered and finished up the day five pounds heavier for all the dust and soil on our bodies, in our clothes and shoes and hair. Ah the great outdoors, you gotta love it.

As I was leaving Zelda said enthusiastically, “Okay we got the tomatoes in, now we just have to do the peppers, squash, strawberries, and eggplant. I muttered something about my glove likely being buried beneath the tomatoes and hobbled to my car.

It took about a half hour to wash off the grime and another hour for my hands to unclench (thanks to a half bottle of Advil). However, I’m still blowing ‘amendment’ out of my nose and my hair does look a couple of shades darker than usual.

So hopefully by August or September Zelda will have the rest of her garden in, her wall rebuilt and even some fresh veggies to eat. Though at this point I’m just hoping I’ll be able to feel my feet again by the end of the week. Oh and standing up straight would be nice too.

Copyright 2012

Freddie's Back in Town

Update: Last spring I had a problem with some ever so noisy and annoying crickets screeching outside my bedroom window. So I went in search of a solution. I learned that frogs ate crickets and so began my quest to populate my garden with cricket eating frogs. Not quite as easy as I imagined, pet stores don’t seem to want to sell them and they are mighty expensive too.

So, I opted to created a frog pond and spa in hopes of enticing some frogs to move into the neighborhood. Well, to my delight and surprise about a week after the launch of the spa, I did in fact have three froggies move into the garden. Yay, I was going to be cricket free soon. Well not so much, these were some mighty tiny little frogs and they laid some mighty tiny little eggs in the pond and I had visions of little gremlin froggies everywhere.

The taddies are still there and don’t seem to be becoming frogs, though I’m not sure why maybe they like being the peter pan of tadpoles. Anyway….Freddie my first and main frogasaurus hung out quite a bit and I often saw him around sunset cooling himself in the pool or hanging in the bamboo plant – then one day. Nothing. Gone. Didn’t see him anymore.

It was a little sad because I thought he had moved onto bigger and better ponds. Though I did hear some froggy serenades at night, so I suspected he still came by to hang out. But, the other day, I finally dragged myself out to the garden to confront the jungle it had become. It was not a pretty sight folks, what a mess. Lots of hacking and pulling and weeding and pruning going on. When I finally worked my way to the end of the garden I picked up a trampled eggplant plant and guess who was there? Yep, Freddie! But my oh my how he has grown! He’s an absolute monster now, bigger than a pack of cigarettes and beefy too.

I was so happy when I saw him I oo’d and ahh’d and told him how proud of him I was for having grown so big and beastly and then I put him in the pool for a swim while I finished the garden. He even let me pick him up and pose him for some pictures.

Isn’t he gorgeous? Makes me a little teary eyed too because my little frog has grown up. I suspect he’ll find a wife and move to the Wash where the big pond is – though he is a tree frog and we have lots of trees so maybe he’ll stick around.

So, I guess the moral of the story is, that if you want a frog bad enough, you can grow one, eh?

(Are Those) Cherry Tomatoes – or Are You Just Glad to See Me?

Not really sure what is in the soil in Roomie’s backyard but there must be some plutonium because I’ve never seen cherry tomatoes this big, have you? I kid you not, those are cherry tomatoes and yes they are not much smaller than a Trader Joe’s extra large egg. And, the dang thing is like that perpetual wine bottle in The Bishop’s Wife, never-ending and always full.

Right now, I’m waiting for the other tomatoes to come in – I have seven other varities growing – Early Girl, 4 types of heirloom tomatoes, Sweet Cherries 100, Romas and another mystery cherry tomato plant.

The mystery squash is thriving both front and back – though the zuchinis aren’t cooperating too much. I suspect they are a little jealous of the squashes and flower. Also looks like the black eyed susan flower heads I planted are propagating flowers too. I have one huge one that will open any day now. Still looking for the primroses to come up and does anyone know why my nastursiams won’t bloom? I’ve never had that problem before and I don’t know what’s up with that.

But, the really big news is that the Frog spa & pool has turned into a frog swamp and nursery. Yup, I’ve got hundreds of little teensy tiny tadpoles in that thing. At first I wasn’t sure what the heck was in there wriggling around but now I’m sure of it, thanks to hours of watching them, a fish net and a magnifying glass I can see I will be an auntie soon. I’m feeding them goldfish food, which they seem to love. I worry though because I have no idea if that many can be supported in such a small swamp and in the end, I suspect only a few will survive.

And, apparently…I was wrong about Freddy – who probably is really Fredwina.

She comes every day around sunset and hangs out by the swamp, perched on her favorite rock and watches the babies. I discovered that she and her husband or significant other, we’ll call him Ollie have been canoodling in the bamboo plant.

Apparently, when Ollie is done, he’s done and off to the bar.

Anyway, the garden and swamp has become its own universe and is thriving. Meanwhile, I’ll be donning my white lab coat and continuing my study of frog life on planet earth.

The Frog Hotel Caper

As many of you know, I’m a bit of a gardening nut – or maybe just a nutty gardener – but suffice to say that I like my nature pretty darn well. I have managed to find every vacant plot of dirt on Roomie’s property and stick something in there to grow and in fact, things do grow, magically.

Consequently, much of my garden or a large section of my many little gardens, is very near my bedroom window. Well, warm weather and happy, thriving plants attract more than butterflies and bees. They also attract crickets. Loud crickets. Very loud crickets. In fact, horny crickets, if I’m to believe what Roomie says. While the hot crickets are screeching out there in order to find the hot cricket chicks, I’m trying to sleep. Closing the window is not an option, unless I want to suffocate, so I began looking for solutions….

Cups of beer nestled into the garden so the hot cricket dudes will be lured over to the bar section of the garden to have a cold one, whilst they wait on the ladies to appear, and incidentally drown in their beer literally, while waiting, was my first attempt. Nope, that didn’t work – I assume they were christian crickets, perhaps Quakers? Cricket hotels, where they check in but they don’t check out – apparently, they couldn’t find any cricket chicks who were willing. Watering the garden at night – only good for producing mold in the squash leaves. Making loud noises – doesn’t scare crickets but does make the neighbor dogs a little cranky. Drugs for sleeping seemed my only option…

Then someone casually mentioned that frogs eat crickets. “What’s that?” I asked, perking up almost instantly. “Really?” To say I was delighted at this ever so simple solution doesn’t begin to describe my joy. The next day I would go to the pet store, buy a few frogs, explaining to them that I have a never-ending, all you can eat, smorgasborg in my garden and there was no limit to what my little warty friends could have. I thought this pitch was sure to not only cause them never want to leave, but also that they would text all their other froggy friends and I would get a good night’s sleep as well. A real win-win. Now, I can just hear some of you saying that frogs make noise too – well, that’s true, but I like the sound of frogs, maybe it’s the non-screeching – but I digress…

So, the next day, off I go to the pet store – only to discover that no, they don’t actually have frogs in the store and they are a special order item and then the pet store lady showed me a big poster of all the many frogs one can buy and have as a pet. I had a feeling she’d freak out if I told her I was looking for a few mascotts for my garden, so I politely left, hoping I’d find another store who would just have frogs in stock and sell them to me.

While I was at it, I thought it would be good to g**gle what kind of frogs hang out in gardens, lest I purchase the wrong. The info was even more overwhelming – in addition to the fact that there are several religious sects which worship frogs, there are breeders with odd names and scary website and so that approach began to look hopeless and expensive. So, I did another search on how to tempt frogs into your garden. It was so simple I couldn’t believe it.

You make a little resort for them. I did just that. Nothing fancy, mind you, an old bowl, some water and rocks and floating plants and viola – a froggy pool. Since they need shade I got my potted bamboo plant and took it out there and positioned it so it would shade the area for them. And then…well, I crossed my fingers.

So, Friday…I finally managed to drag my butt out my blogging chair and went out to the garden to do some much needed weeding, tying, staking and fertilizing. After a couple of hours, things looked much better and I got the hose to water the thirsty devils that are growing like Triffods gone wild. As I sprayed the water over the cherry tomato section I saw something move. A little brown/yellow/green something, which I thought was a moth or butterfly that had lit on a leaf and flew off when the water got too close. But it moved again and I knew it wasn’t a moth, so I bent in closer to take a look. It was a teeny, tiny, little froggy. My heart skipped a beat. Had word about the froggy hotel spread already? I couldn’t believe my luck.

I chased him back and forth for a minute or so and finally caught the little fellow. He looked deeply into my eyes and I’m pretty sure, we had a moment. Then ever so gently I took him over to the hotel and put him in the pool. He swam a few strokes and then hopped onto a rock, then out of the pool and then he sunned himself for a sec before he hopped over to the big tomato plant and went for a climb.

Hopefully, he’s emailing all of his friends and they’ll have a summer of fun in the froggy hotel and I’ll get a good sleep through the summer. Crickets, beware!! Muwahahahahahahahahaah 😉

Update: Today, my little Freddy frog bounded out of the squash plants, let me chase and catch  him and take him to the pool again. What was really amazing was that he let me take some pictures of him too! He even waited while I ran in the house to get the camera. So, if you want to see pictures of Freddy and the Froggy Hotel & Spa, go to my gardening page. Woo Hoo, we’re having fun now. 😉