One 8 x 4 Tomato garden.
Maybe there is enough room on our little urban farm. We start the season intending to give plants away, but we always have too many. By the time we are ready to part with our Toy Box Tomatoes, our friends and fellow teachers have already bought plants from different places. We end up tucking them EVERYWHERE
Soil Blocks and Tomato Seed Twenty eight packets of different tomato seeds. Twenty-six of them are either OP (Open Pollinated) or heirloom. All of them are beloved.
It starts every year , right around the 2nd weekend in March. I used to start in December when the catalogs would come. I am easily seduced.
Every year they do what they were created to do. I’m such a sap, each season I get VERY excited …from the moment their little green leaves arch up, to the time when they are big enough to up-pot, and up-pot again… until they start spending their days out on the deck. That is when the work begins. We have jumped out of bed, Wrapped up in an old robe and sloggers when we hear the rain on the window, remembering that we forgot to bring in the seedlings!
Early in the season Ray and I carry trays of seedlings, including at least two trays of tomatoes, out for natural sunlight. We do not use heat mats or artificial lights. We get our best results without them. Everett, Washington is not tomato country. The sooner they adjust to our chilly maritime climate, the better they produce.
Planting day is a big deal. We used to be SFG’s (Square Foot Garden) but are transitioning to BTE (Back To Eden). The tomatoes go into a 4’x8′ foot SFG that is in transition to BTE. In early April I like to plant a salad grid. Different types of lettuce go in width-wise every twelve inches and radishes go in length wise to make a boundary. Tomatoes are planted in the squares that have been formed by the lettuce and radishes.
This structure (pictured to the left) used to be for pole beans. Ray had already put it in the ground one year when I needed to find more places to plant tomatoes. It is an eight foot 4″x4″ (sunk 2 feet into the ground). On the top it has a cross made of 2×4’s. The cross is attached to the top of the post and comes out like spokes. String or wire is attached to a tent stake, goes up and loops around the end of a 2×4, then comes back down to another tent stake. I can plant eight tomatoes or 16 -ish pole beans. It works great for both… though some modifications need to be made to the string for tomatoes.
A better view of the tomato-bean pole a bit later in the season. This was the first year. Now I spend time tying loops every 18 or so inches in the string when I use the pole for tomatoes. Beans hang onto the string but tomatoes need to be tied on. Without the loops to run the tie tthrough, the weight of ripening tomatoes accordions the vine to the ground.
I am fairly sure that there are tomatoes growing under the cold frame in the lower right of this picture. I get a little excited by 28 packages of tomatoes. It’s like finding a box of color crayons I have not used in a while. I want to try them all… again.
Finding more places to put tomatoes. These potted tomatoes were all my determinant (Mostly Siletz) and cherry tomatoes. They actually did quite well. The Black Cherry on the end was not happy until it started weaving itself through the picket fence. The rest were happy with a tomato cage. We save the big pots from buying fruit trees. Ray remembers buying a few of them. We found out that you can get them for free from the recycle at LOWE’s. The lady at the check stand told us they go fast because the growers of medicinal herb use them for their closet growing operations.
We still needed more space… Ray had some extra fence posts and left-over lattice from another project. We would like the lattice to go all the way to the ground, but this was all we had at the time. The 2×4 at the bottom is where I tied string from the board to the lattice. A girl can only keep track of just so many tent stakes. Tomatoes were also tucked into a ceramic pot (yielded a whole batch of tomato sauce… they really like growing in ceramic!) and in a more decorative SFG in the front yard.
The so called “climate change” warmed up Everett’s chilly summer. Our son Chris kept finding canning jars on sale (he works with nurses, they know lots of good information) to help put them all up.
In a normal Everett Summer, I have to grow tomatoes in the Green House if I want a vine Ripe tomato. We plant them in the green house with basil (another plant that is not a fan of Everett) and had ripe tomatoes to the end of October. (the sad looking header picture shows our tomatoes in October)
Cherry tomatoes only needed to be picked once a week. They were like candy on warm days. They come in every color, yellow, red, blue, orange, even white but they all taste like sweet tomatoes. Imagine that!
The full size tomatoes need to be picked every three or so days. For some reason they go from just a bit too green to over ripe in the blink of an eye. The local wild life keeps an eye on our full size tomatoes but ignore the tangled mess of cherry tomatoes.
Last season, for the first time ever, we could have fried green tomatoes every week in September and not make a dent in the tomato harvest. I can hardly wait to see what this season has in store for us.