Monday, August 2, 2010

It's getting to be that time of year when weird things start taking place in the backyard. I haven't mulched it all yet -- though I'm getting there -- and I sometimes wonder why. The mulch doesn't last long. It gets swallowed and digested by the crack you see to your immediate right.

I'm not exactly sure how deep this crack goes -- though I've tried tossing pebbles down that hole and never quite reached the bottom. I can tell you that these cracks -- which are opening up pretty much everywhere -- are fairly deep. What's down there? I don't want to know. I'm hoping it's the Mother Lode -- but hope springs eternal.

But that's not the only crack that is spreading across the Bird Back 40. This here -- to your left -- also counts as a "crack" -- although I'm sure you've noticed that this is a plant and not a crack in the ground. Look closer. Indeed -- you'll see that the plant has indeed sprung from a crack in the soil.

I'm not sure where it's getting water from. There's nothing in the form of drip irrigation nearby. It doesn't get fertilzer. It doesn't get care. Before you start thinking that I'm a terrible tomato-parent -- please understand this much: this plant does much better if I up and ignore it. The only thing I'm allowed to do is harvest said plant. That's it. The moment I start caring for it -- is the moment that something goes wrong.

My friends -- I give you the red cherry variety known as "West Sac Crack." Seeds for this variety were procured from a VERY productive red cherry tomato plant that was growing through a crack in the driveway of a West Sacramento trailer park. Make that a COVERED driveway.

That's right. A co-worker discovered this plant four years ago. It didn't get any water. It hardly received any sunlight. It didn't belong to anyone. It just grew through a crack in the driveway -- and it has come back year after year after year.

My co-worker was good enough to harvest about fifty red cherry tomatoes and bring them to me at work. We had NO clue of where the plant came from. There were no tomato gardens nearby. People at trailer parks come and go -- so we had no idea how this plant got there -- nor how it grew so well. It was just *THERE* when my co-worker moved in.

So -- Venus and I gifted it with the name "West Sac Crack."

I seeded this plant a few years back. I started a few starter plants from that saved seed. I gave said starter plants a prime spot in a raised bed filled with the best planter mix soil that money can buy. The starter plant received regular irrigation and only the finest fertilizers. Guess what? It fell flat on its face.

It was somewhat productive. Yes -- it did have that distinctive taste. But it didn't grow into the bush that I had seen in West Sacramento. It wasn't covered with red cherry tomatoes like the parent plant in West Sacramento. It was -- at best -- a moderate producer. I wasn't impressed with it -- therefore -- I made the decision to not try it again.

Little did I know that West Sac Crack had other plans.

A volunteer sprang from the soil last season. Like many volunteers I let it grow -- just "because." I wanted to see what variety was growing out of my crummy clay soil. And -- not just growing mind you -- but thriving. When I saw those cherry tomatoes turn a bright shade of red? There was only one possible source: West Sac Crack. And it gave me a bounty of cherry tomatoes last season.

Did I replant this year? Oh heck no! I knew that neighborhood birds of the feathered variety had been feeding off the excess as well -- and thought I might see it spring to life again. Sure enough -- across the yard? A cherry tomato plant sprouted and grew well in the most inhospitable of locations. And -- once again -- it is thriving.

This isn't the only cherry "volunteer" to be sprouting up in the Bird Back 40 this season. A large orange cherry is also producing SCADS of tomatoes. I'd like to report that this is a Sungella variety -- except I've never planted a Sungella (large orange cherry). However -- it just might be a cross between a SunGold and a Pineapple Beefsteak that had been planted nearby.

It could also be a cross between a SunGold and Mortgage Lifter -- that has somehow retained its bright orange color. The thing is -- I'm just not sure. I don't think I'll ever know what it is.

I can tell you this much -- however. It sure is good. And that's the nice thing about growing heirloom tomatoes in the backyard. You're never quite sure what you're going to get -- but whatever it is -- it's guaranteed to be good stuff.


dgbreen said...

You have "expansive" soil. It gets big when it rains and it gets small when it is hot. The smaller is gets the more cracks you have. I almost lost a let in the crack in my garden over the weekend.

LauraBee said...

"West Sac Crack" - best new tomato name EVER !

Shantihhh said...

Hey Bill, and it is a "real purty mater!"

Jenn's Cooking Garden! said...

West Sac crack, lol! Im loving it. Those are nice tomatos bill!

Ron McDonald said...

I have some self starters every year too. It's amazing how much better they do than the ones I planted. I just started getting ripe tomatoes myself. check them out on my blog.