homegrown tomatoes in the garden
Happy New Year! My homegrown tomato garden is celebrating the new decade in a new location. I don’t live in S. Florida anymore — I am in eastern Tennessee. My normal growing pattern is topsy-turvey; no Winter planting, but I do get to grow through the summer.
I’ve gone from 10a for a plant hardiness zone to 7a. Which basically means a chilly winter with plenty of freezes, and a last expected frost date in mid-April. But interestingly so far, with all the frosts we’ve had so far this Fall and Winter, our yard doesn’t seem to collect frost; across the street does, though. Talk about being in a micro-climate!
Different State, Different Soil for the Tomatoes
I’m used to sandy soil, which is fairly easy to dig up. I had a lovely spot planned for the garden for my homegrown tomatoes; I was going to rototill it, put down plenty of compost. First, I decided to plant a few daffodil bulbs nearby. Imagine my surprise when instead of an easy to dig soil, I found compacted clay and rocky soil. Argh! (I barely got 10 bulbs planted before I gave up.)
There goes my plans for rototilling the garden. I’d have to put down so much compost and perlite that I’d be rototilling for weeks, and spend many hundreds of dollars. With those plans out the window, I’m turning to container gardening.
Container Tomato Garden For 2020
Fortunately, I’ve had a lot of experience with container gardening my tomatoes. The approximately 12 x 7 foot garden plot will be festooned with 3-gallon, 5-gallon, 7-gallon and 10-gallon grow bag containers. I have some room to expand a little to the northeast of that plot, maybe a little more across the walkway.
Right now it doesn’t look like much; well, it is the tag end of December. I still have to pull up one bush that is in my way, but I think it’s small enough to not give me too much trouble. But, it faces southeast and is protected by the house on 3 sides, giving it another micro-climate; I may be able to put out at least some of my plants a week or so before the last expected frost date.
Well, this should be interesting, to say the least! My growing situation is much different from where I gardened for some 20 years. I am very much looking forward to see what kind of homegrown tomatoes I can successfully garden here, and share the results with you. 😀
I just had to share this photo. I finally was able to pick my first beefsteak tomato of the season (Big Beef) and it’s gorgeous! The photo doesn’t give you an indication of size, but it’s a double-handful. My guess as to weight is just about 1 lb. You can click the photo for a bigger photo.
Picked This Week
I was able to pick quite a bit this week. Husky Cherry Red produced quite a few very sweet cherry tomatoes. I’m afraid they never make it to the house, as I tend to snack on them in the garden!
Juliet also had two ripe grape-shaped tomatoes. I haven’t tried them as yet, but I am hoping they are more flavorful this year.
Better Bush had several ripe tomatoes this week, and I see more that are ripening. The plant does look rather sad, but I am waiting until I have all the tomatoes harvested before removing it. It’s a determinate anyway, so it’s really given me most of this year’s harvest.
The one that I am most excited about – aside from my lovely Big Beef – are my Black Cherry tomatoes. I picked three of them today and they very much live up to their reputation. They are very sweet — almost like eating a piece of fruit. Which is of course appropriate, since technically tomatoes are fruits (berries, actually)
A Funeral This Week, Too
I pulled out one of my Isis Candy Cherry tomato plants — one of the big bushes. All the sudden it started looking…weird. It wasn’t the water problem, but I really didn’t like the looks of things. And since I have several more of the variety planted, I can afford to lose one.
And Coming Up
I have my seedlings for Rapunzel and Indigo Cherry Drops getting ready to go out to my new shade house. Loxahatchee (which I planted much later) still needs to spend some time under the grow light before I put it out in the shade house (i.e., my former greenhouse).
The shade house is where I will put some of my tomatoes, peppers and orchids. Part of my problem in my summer garden is that the sun is just way too strong — the plants don’t stand a chance come midday. The heat is also a problem. Well, the shade house will help with those problems immensely.
I’ll do some separate posts regarding the shade house and the grow light that I’ve been trying out. The grow light is rather exciting, because 1) I have never had such beautiful seedlings when growing on a windowsill (even a south-facing one). And 2) the grow light was really inexpensive, and I didn’t need any special setup.
So, that’s it for now — catch you later with more updates!