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