Dreaming of a fruitful garden

The sun was out in full force today. The 10 day forecast looks something like this:

image Obviously, spring is around the corner, and I could not be happier!

I started reading this book last night:

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And while I am not as much of a homesteader as the author is, (bees and chickens scare me), it did make me excited with spring garden anticipation.

Last year’s garden was considered a success in my book, being my first garden and not using any synthetic pesticides/poisons. I grew over 300 hundred tomatoes, basket-fulls of zucchini and squash, a huge supply of sweet potatoes, and various other small crops (miniature carrots and strawberries, green beans, mysterious ornamental gourds and pumpkins, etc). I was even able to keep my deer away from the plants, which I’m thankful for.

The planning and preparation is the exciting part of the garden. Figuring out:

  • what to plant
  • when to plant it
  • to grow from seed or plant
  • where to plant each vegetable
  • how many varieties
  • hybrid or heirloom

It takes time, but it’s enjoyable. Since tomatoes were my main success last year, I started thinking today about my 2011 crop. Should I go heirloom this year? I think so, but I’m going to try a few varieties, so I’m not putting all my eggs in one basket (so to speak).

A reminder of how crazy my 3 Early Girl plants grew:

Here they are on May 17, just starting to make it up the tomato cage.

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And by August, the insanity had turned into this:

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That was just 3 plants. I did my best to trim and maintain those guys, but they were super growers. The regular application of coffee grounds must have helped, as well as the dryer vent that is directly behind them, coming out of that brick wall.

I’ve never been a true tomato lover, and still don’t eat them regularly the rest of the year. But a ripe, homegrown tomato in season is amazing! I was adding slices of fresh tomato to everything last summer and enjoying each bite, as well as making friends at work with my regular boxes of tomatoes to give away.

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So… I’ve been drooling over the beautiful heirloom tomato pictures and descriptions at a local seed company, and considering tomatoes like the infamous Mortgage Lifter, Anna Russian (which is a solid tomato, no hollow air space inside!), Brandywine, and others. I also want to plant grape or cherry tomatoes this year.

My boss and I are going to buy some heirloom and hybrid seeds to share, and get them started indoors as soon as possible. If there are any tomato farmers out there with advice on varieties particularly well suited to East Tennessee, please let me know! I’ll keep you updated on which varieties I settled on :)

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