Winter Means It's Time to Say Goodbye

Saturday, December 4, 2010

A Charlie Brown Christmas
This is probably my least favorite time of the year. Despite the holiday madness -- Thanksgiving turkey with far too much stuffing (not to speak of the butter) and the task of setting up Christmas lights and the Christmas tree -- it's also a melancholy time for me.

I'm a gardener. I like to see things grow and nourish. And you just don't get much of that during the months of December, January and February. Oh -- sure -- the break does give you some time to start thinking about next year's garden. But it's a wait that is far too long for me.

Perhaps we need a new law? Perish the thought!

The wonderful wife that is Venus and I always wait far too long to tear out the summer garden. Here it is -- December 4th -- and I'm not too proud to admit that we still have a couple of dead and dying tomato plants that I still haven't stuffed into the Green Waste can yet (hey -- it can only hold so much).

Heirloom Tomato Plant Monsters
It wasn't the greatest year in terms of tomatoes -- for anyone that I know of. It started poorly with sickly starter plants in the spring -- we never did get the Sacramento summer heat needed to produce a bumper crop of heirloom tomatoes and then ended a lot quicker than I imagined with a couple of frozen nights in early November.

Heirloom Tomato Season: Exit Stage Left!

Don't be fooled by the extra large heirloom tomato plant crop to your left. It may look big -- but this was one disappointing year. This one bed produced one tomato blunder after another -- ranging from poor production to a nasty run of Blossom End Rot (BER). Nearly every German Orange Strawberry that came off the vine this year was stricken with BER.

Yet -- the Black tomato to the left -- Evil Seed -- and the Brandywine planted to the right suffered no such BER problem. They were not overwhelmingly productive -- no tomato plant was this year with the exception of the Reliable Reds -- but why just one plant would suffer from BER problems while others planted a foot away did not continues to vex me.

There are no answers here -- just questions.

So -- the goal this one fine, fall day was to move these plants into that Green Waste can pictured to the immediate right of the tomato jungle. This was easier said than done. A gallon of water cannot contain five quarts. It can hold four. And I had far more plant material than space. And this was just one of THREE beds that had reached the "end of the life cycle."

You can see why we're still tearing out portions of the summer garden.

I'm certainly not going to repeat the same mistake I made three years ago -- when I was told by a certain, high-ranking, Sacramento City employee that I could order a "special pickup" from a Green Waste Truck. I thought that was a wonderful idea -- so I spent an entire weekend day piling up my entire summer garden in the street.

Imagine my "chagrin," when I called for a "special pickup" and was informed on the other end of the line that these "pickups" were limited to three to four times per year. "So, when's the next pickup," I asked. "We'll be there in six months," the cheery voice on the other end of the phone replied.

Great...My neighbors were just THRILLED with that pile of garden waste that slowly vanished over the course of six to eight weeks. As soon as that Green Waste truck emptied my Green Waste can -- I packed it full again.

My method of removing tomato plants is fairly simple. I attack the outer edges with a long-handled pair of garden shears (which are also used for cutting back roses). Once the growth around the PVC cages has been cut away -- I employ the "tug and rip" method -- which removes the vines from inside most of the cage (you'd be surprised how far these vines can travel). At that point -- I remove the cage from around the still-visible base of the plant -- toss it aiside -- and dig up the root system with a well-used shovel.

Rip, Tug, Shred!
Removing the eight plants from this bed -- plus the numerous volunteers that sprung up around it (they kept the Vole population well fed) -- took about four hours.

Getting all of those tomato plants out of the backyard and into a Sacramento City Green Waste truck is a process that may last well into 2011.

So -- why go through all this trouble and effort? I thought you would have figured it out by now.

It's because we're gardeners. Which means -- we're quite insane...


Steve said...

Bill - If I missed it my apologies, but why don't you compost?


Garry said...

time to buy a shredder bill.

Sacramento maids said...

I would love to introduce you to my husband. I'm sure he would have a lot of input. He can talk about vegetable gardening all day long.

Anonymous said...

You feel sad because nothing is growing. I find joy in paper whites, I have them on a potting shelf just out my back window, and they are cheerfully popping their heads up. I can already see blooms under the thin layer of green plant still protecting them until they are ready to bloom.

LauraBee said...

Chard, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, turnips, carrots, kale, rutabagas, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts, onions, garlic, radishes, lettuce, endive, mesclun, claytonia, spinach, corn salad, fava beans ... all good things to plant for winter crops. The fava beans can be just a cover crop (adding Nitrogen to the soil) or you can grow them to eat. There are other cover crops, though they should've been planted a while back, probably before the tomatoes even came out. The peas are great because not only can you eat the pods and the peas, you can eat the leaves & flowers too ! And chard is beautiful - some varieties have colorful stems that brighten up the winter garden.

And I'm with the other posters - rent/buy/borrow a shredder next year & compost those tomato plants ! It's worth it.

Laura said...

Yes, I also thought: Bill/Venus - time to start composting!
Also: The tomato starters you gave me, while slow to mature, performed really beatifully in the long run - great fruits and lots of them, no rot,so Thanks!
And Also also: I have peas, fava beans and chart starting to sprout, so don't be glum, there's still life out there! (All I am saying is Give Peas a Chance).