wabi-sabi farmer: too too maters

This year, I finally moved ahead and ordered seeds from the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co. Their stunning catalog has kept my excited about the hobbit house garden ever since I discovered it. For tomatoes, I had just ordered three grape varieties, not wanting to overwhelm myself with prep work in the new lot, among the choices was their Atomic Grape, an amazing striped multi-color variety.

As it turns out, I need to learn more about hardening off seedlings started inside. I lost all of the tomato starts. I hurt a bit, that momentary reminder of how much I am making this up… A decision was made, buy a couple Bonnie plant starters, a proven choice from the prior year, and just toss them into an established area and move on with other efforts.

So, up by the house, in the side garden, I planted two roma plants. This was late April or early May. As I plucked along in the side yard, I noticed bunches of volunteers from last year’s garden. As much as I could, I left them be to grow, to see what they were: a cluster of fuzzy little dill, tons of tall marigold starts, even moss rose. (I didn’t think moss rose would self-seed; I do love our dirt.) Oh, a sweet basil plant, all the way down the slope of the side garden, five feet from last year’s location. Lots of new coreopsis, cilantro still up in its spot at the top of the garden.

Hey, look a tomato plant! Um, hey, look! Dozens of tomato plants. In and near last year’s spot. In and near where I piled the dead vines last fall. In the path through the side yard, in the walkway through the arbor. Even up the slope from last year’s spots. (I *really* do love our dirt!) This is the winning agrument for heirloom versus hybrid in my book. I had to plan a home. Allowing them to grow as is would block most of the passages through the side yard and make supporting and protecting them difficult.

Back to Home Depot, to build my third raised bed for the year. It would be the fastest way to have a place to grow this volunteer army. The cast concrete cornerstones are perfect, cedar lumber is a bit pricey but safer for use around food crops than pressure-treated. With the bed assembled, I dug up the volunteers and transplanted them, initially twenty plants. What does a household of two do with twenty tomato plants? We shall see.

initial transfer
our Kansas City spring was hot early on: a make-shift sunshade protected the seedlings as they get established. I removed them after a couple of weeks.
after watering
for scale: the bed is four foot by eight foot.
full sun (8+ hours) and daily watering yielded fast results. They are behind compared to the roma starters but they are closing the gap.
Digless fencing provides an aesthetic means to support growing vines.

Of course, I don’t what what each plant is regarding the variety. I only know which ones I planted last year. I can deduce from the approximate locations of the volunteers that I have a good representation of last year’s varieties, which include:

  • Beefsteak
  • Black Prince
  • Mr Stripey
  • Golden Jubilee
  • Yellow Pear cherry tomato
one does want a hint of color: thin red rope for tying the vines to the fencing.

Since transplanting to the third bed, I found more volunteer up in the side yard. I added eight more tomato cages in the side garden, planning to nurture those plants out-of-the-way enough to let mature.

Again, what does one do with so many tomato plants, now upwards of thirty? Sauces, salsas, fried green, snacks and salads, and, most important, engaging our generous spirit.

red cages for a couple plants to far from the fencing; netting surrounds the bed, later for the squirrels, now for the neighborhood cats because raised bed = litter box…
buds are setting, some tiny tomatoes have appeared.


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