I feel like I've been run over by a Mack Truck.
Yet, strangely, I feel satisfied. This is how I normally feel after a weekend of intense gardening therapy in the Back 40 backyard of Bill & Venus Bird. And, yes, it is therapy. I enjoy it. No matter how much by back hurts nor how much the shoulders peel from sunburn on sunburn, there is a strange and perverse satisfaction to planting a tomato garden in the backyard.
This is one whopper of a garden. We outdid ourselves again. There are 37 tomato plants that found homes in our backyard this season. That's ten more than last year. That's thirty more than six years ago, when the wife and I both discovered a shared love for all things heirloom tomatoes.
Not only is the garden in -- it's PRODUCING. Yes -- you read it correctly. The 16 plants that Venus and I stuck in the ground four weeks ago, with the exception of just one, are PRODUCING tomatoes at a rapid rate.
This is a first for me. It's a first for Venus as well. I've never seen heirloom plants produce quite this early. In fact, as a rule, most of them generally don't start producing small fruits until June or even July. We enjoy late harvests in August and September, but at our current rate, we'll be harvesting buckets of heirloom tomatoes in June. Who knows -- we might even get something at the end of May.
The picture to your right is a pretty good indication of what I discovered last weekend when I was staking up 16 tomato plants that had been blown flat by a weekend storm of rain and wind. That, my friends, is the Azoychka tomato plant. And those are three to four Azoychka tomatoes -- good sized tomatoes at that.
I'm still not quite ready to install my PVC tomato cages just yet -- and they take time to put up. I needed a quick fix. So -- off to Home Depot I went this past weekend for some bamboo stakes and garden twine. Both items are a gardener's best friend. Upon pulling up the tomato plants that had fallen to the ground, I discovered a treasure trove of production that, quite frankly, surprised me.
Each plant had not only flowered, but many of those flowers had resulted in fruit. Most of the plants had no more than three or four tomatoes, but in some cases there were more. The Druzba -- for example -- has thrown out ten tomatoes. And the Black Cherry plant you see to your left? That's just one of several clusters of cherry tomatoes that have developed so far.
What did I do differently this year to get such early production? I'm not really sure. Could it be that I recharged each raised planter bed with three bags of steer manure compost and other pelleted fertilzers? Possibly. Could it be the Omega 666 and Maxicrop liquid organic fertilizers? I suppose? Is the new hive of bees going to work on the tomato flowers? I suppose anything is possible.
At any rate -- we're off to a great start this year. And we're just getting started. It's barely mid-May. We've got a good five or six months to go! And now, without fail, here's a list of what we're growing in the Bird backyard this season and where the plants came from.
Almost all were started from seed. Some of the plants were grown by Farmer Fred Hoffman. Some were grown by Bill and Venus Bird. Still others were grown by Nels Christenson.
1. Arkansas Traveler (Farmer Fred)
2. Azoychka (Farmer Fred)
3. Beefsteak (Bill & Venus)
4. Black Cherry (Farmer Fred)
5. Black Krim (Farmer Fred)
6. Bloody Butcher (Farmer Fred)
7. Brandywine (2) Farmer Fred & Bill & Venus)
8. Campbell’s 1327 (Farmer Fred)
9. Clint Eastwood’s Rowdy Red (Farmer Fred)
10. Cosmonaut Volkov (Farmer Fred)
11. Costoluto Genovese (Farmer Fred)
12. Dixie’s Golden Giant (Farmer Fred)
13. Dr. Wyche’s Yellow (Farmer Fred)
14. Druzba (Farmer Fred)
15. Giant Belgium (Farmer Fred)
16. Green Zebra (Bill & Venus)
17. Japanese Black Trefele (Nursery purchase)
18. Jelly Bean (Farmer Fred)
19. Jubilee (Bill & Venus)
20. Kelloggs Breakfast (Farmer Fred)
21. Lemon Boy (Farmer Fred)
22. Marianna’s Peace (Farmer Fred & Bill & Venus)
23. Peppermint Quitos Strain (Bill & Venus)
24. Pineapple Beefsteak (Nursery Purchase)
25. Pink Ping Pong (Bill & Venus)
26. Red Reif Heart (Bill & Venus)
27. Santa Sweet (Bill & Venus)
28. Sun Gold Cherry (Volunteer)
29. Winsall (Nels Christenson)
30. Zapotec Pleated (Bill &Venus)
Before I sign off -- I want to add one other note. The photos above represent tomatoes in raised beds that were planted exactly one month ago. Not all of the garden looks this nice. Not all of the plants are THAT tall, THAT lush, or look THAT good.
Here's a good example of one bed, to your left, that we planted this past weekend. What will this bed look like in another month? Good question. As you can tell by the photo to your left, these tomato plants were NOT planted into a raised bed. Nope -- these plants went directly into cruddy, crappy, North Natomas clay soil.
Keep in mind that I amended this soil with LOTS of compost (four bags) and LOTS of steer manure compost (ten bags). But, even with the good stuff, it's still crappy, cruddy, Natomas clay sludge soil. Who knows what these plants will look like in another month? Will they survive? Will they thrive? The answers will be provided in time.
In short -- this is a "test" bed. It's an experiment to utlize every section of our backyard for growing purposes. If this works, like I hope it will work, we will amend other sections of the yard in future years to expand our tiny, but always growing, garden.
Stay tuned. The 2009 fresh-off-the-vine tomato season is now underway.