Sunday, May 20, 2012
The unrivaled prize of the garden is a heavy, sweet, bright red tomato in July. I figure each plant needs about 2 square feet, and I squeeze as many into the garden as possible. I buy our tomato plants from Ford's Seed Store every year. I get as many 3-packs of different varieties as possible and buy them a flat at a time. I get supersweet 100's, cherokee purples, mr. Stripey's, and whatever I can find on the shelves of Ford's. This year I planted the first flat at the end of March because it had been so warm, and the 10 day outlook seemed safe. There were a couple of scary nights in april when there was a frost warning, but our plants were never phased. It's May 20th and the 36 early tomatoes out in the main garden are humongous. They are covered in blossoms and some like in the picture above have some little greenies on them already. I've put in about 70 plants in all now, and its looking like another bumper year for 'maters.
Suckers. I've always heard the little stems that grow out of the leaf axils of tomato plants disdainfully called suckers. My dad taught me to pinch the suckers off and I've always done it. I would go out every week in the past to tie the plants to the stake again and pinch off all of the suckers. This year I've got a little experiment going. I'm going to try to be the friend of the suckers and I'll see if they return the favor. The plants are way fuller this year as they consist of more than just the main stem. They are harder to tie up and I've had to use multiple strings on some plants to try to keep all of the stems close to the stake. I'm not sure what the outcome of this trial will be; I might end up with more but smaller tomatoes, or I could just end up with more of a jungle than I usually have by the middle of July. I'll keep you posted on the sucker progress.
Monday and Tuesday afternoons this week I tied up the tomatoes again. In the past I would go by every plant, pinch off the suckers, and then tie up the 1 stem that I was letting grow. This year I'm using multiple strings per plant to try to keep 'em under control. I go through a row and cut the string first and throw it on the plants. I'm getting better at gauging the lengths of strings that I'll need. With just 1 stem you don't need much string. It's taking me a while to figure out just how long the piece needs to be to go around multiple stems and the stakes. I go back through the row trying not to bend the stems too much when I'm tying them up, I just want to support them. Most of my stakes stick out of the ground 5-6 feet. In the picture of the plants above the stems are already growing above the stakes. The plants in the garden are a couple of feet taller than these and they're getting fun to try to tie up. I'm just tying stems together, I'm tying bunches of stems to other poles, I'm letting them sag over to another pole that I'm tying them to. There are flowers everywhere and little greenies all over the place. Lauren and I each had a little red cherry tomato tuesday. June 5th seems pretty early for the first tomatoes, but the german teacher at my school says she just ate her first tomatoes this weekend too.