Martha Stewart is....APPALLED!!!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Martha is APPALLED
I mean -- REALLY APPALLED. America's most trusted and loved guide to stylish living not only managed to survive an insider trading stock scandal -- some say she stormed back on the scene -- better than ever before.

But this is worse.

Sharing the gardening spotlight with yours truly (warning -- Shameless Self-Promotion Plug Dead Ahead)? Well -- that's different! And it just might knock her down a peg or two.

Not that I wish any ill will to the First Lady of Class -- mind you. I mean -- doesn't everyone dream of controlling their own multi-million dollar business empire? I certainly do -- but I can't even control my own five cats -- let alone an occassional "high finance" garage sale.

Author Jerry Turcotte
My friends -- the self-proclaimed "MacGruber of Gardening" has somehow caught the fancy of a contributing writer for the website Yahoo. And -- for some reason -- he's named Sacramento Vegetable Gardening as one of the Top Ten Gardening Blogs in the ENTIRE UNIVERSE.

Actually -- it's just his opinion. But I like that universe part -- so I did a little "creative editing."

Actually, I'm not sure why author Jerry Turcotte picked my blog out of thousands floating around in cyberspace. My personal thought is he's been hitting that plastic jug of Canada's favorite breakfast drink a wee bit too hard. But I won't go there -- cause Jerry's a lawyer -- and Bill Bird made a pledge to be nice to lawyers whenever possible.

Canadian Moose Piss
My thanks to Jerry for his recognition. And -- I didn't mean it Canada -- although that plastic jug is the brother-in-law's favorite breakfast drink. Come to think of it -- it's also his favorite lunch and dinner drink as well.

Actually -- I'm pleased. I'm honored. Never -- in a million years -- did I believe that anyone other than my mom would follow this blog. And that's quite a trick -- since mom passed from this earthly existence long ago.

I promise that things will not change. I will continue to irritate the wonderful wife that is Venus whenever and wherever possible. She is my source of inspiration. She is, simply, my Venus.

I would let this honor go to my head -- but when you have five cats -- somewhere a litterbox needs cleaning.

The Grape Ape

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Official/Unofficial Rain Gauge
That would be me -- aka -- The Grape Ape. Or as the wife that is Venus calls me -- APE (tis one of her nicer nicknames).

It's a waterlogged Sunday morning in North Natomas. Thankfully -- the skies are no longer pouring buckets of rain into an already oversaturated backyard. Although the Sacramento Bee bean counter is reporting just miniscule amounts of rainfall (is someone asleep at the switch downtown?) -- my official/unofficial rain gauge reports differently.

This wheelbarrow was last used during the construction of the Asparagus bed the weekend before last. It's the one "tool" that did not get put into its proper place -- and this is the end result of two solid weeks of non-stop stormy weather.

Memo to Sacramento Bee beancounters: That's a solid six inches by my count. Just thought you should know.

Ultimate Digging Machine at Play
I can't foray into the backyard much without putting on the special "mud shoes." The ground is far too saturated to work for any sort of gardening, but there are some minor tasks that can be taken care of. The Back 40 lawn ALWAYS needs attention thanks to the fertilizing efforts of the ultimate digging machine.

And -- oh - THOSE WEEDS! I see a bit of Monsanto in my future. Shhh! Yes, that's Bill Bird's dirty little secret. He is anything but organic. When a backyard screams for weed control such as mine does -- it gets a healthy shot of Roundup. It's either that, or invest in a goat.

Despite the heavy dose of wintry weather that we've been subjected too for the past several weeks -- I'm excited to report that things are not only doing great -- they're doing "swimmingly well." Sorry, lame joke alert. The Royal Ranier cherry tree is blossoming. Peaches are forming from the blossoms that appeared earlier on the June Pride and O'Henry Peach trees. And -- don't look now -- but we might even get a nectarine or two from our Backyard Orchard Culture experiment of last year.

Keep those fingers crossed kids!

Tablegrape Vines in 2010
But you know what really has my attention? It's the subject of this blog post (which I'm finally getting around too). The eight tablegrape vines that Venus and I planted last season are just now starting to emerge with new growth. Six of the eight vines will probably produce at least some fruit this year. The other two need a little more work.

You see -- I love grapes. I love grape juice. Grape soda was made for Bill Bird. Grape snowcones are a slice of heaven. Yet -- I hate wine. Figure that one out. Wine coolers? Those are good! Especially the old school California Cooler (which you can't find anymore, unfortunately). But wine? No thanks. I'll pass. I've never been able to explain this to myself. If I love grapes, I should have an equal love for wine, right? But it is the way it is.

I am most excited by the production that will be coming from the vine pictured to your left. That is the Crimson Red tablegrape -- one of my favorite varieties. It also happened to be the most productive last year in terms of growth. This was one of the two tablegrape varieties that actually survived the bare root planting season last year. The other six kicked the bucket and had to be replaced.

Crimson Red Seedless Tablegrape
But this one -- for some reason -- caught on. It grew like a weed. Although I did my best to keep it trimmed and focus on the growth of just one main vine (which will serve as the trunk) -- once that vine reached a height of six feet -- I let it grow in all sorts of crazy directions. The end result is a healthy and robust main vine (trunk) with three other vines protruding from the trunk itself.

I am told by others "in the know" that these vines will be my fruit producers this year. Although I've been told to "not expect much," other growers have seen photos of this vine and confirmed that I was the lucky recipient of outstanding vine growth last season. While other vines did reach out and grow beyond our 4.5 foot high trellis -- nothing performed like the Crimson Red.
Crimson Seedless in 2010

The other big producer? It should come as no suprise: Thompson Seedless. The Thompson is perhaps one of the best tablegrapes grown in the Sacramento/San Joaquin Valley. It is also the most productive. But while the Thompson also grew "like a weed" during its first year -- it did not develop the side shoots from the main trunk like the Crimson Red did. It will produce -- albeit not as much.

So what is the next step in growing tablegrapes in the Bird Back 40? Search me. I have no clue. I've never done this before. I'm relying on advice from friends (Farmer Fred Hoffman) plus a series of youtube videos that have been posted by the UC Cooperative Extension Service. Although those are helpful -- they don't necessarily deal with how second-year vines should be treated. The instructional videos -- instead -- focus on vines that have already reached full maturity. So -- the guessing game continues.

I did learn one hard lesson last season. Table and wine grapevines are susceptible to mold. I didn't notice the signs of mold until it had really taken hold on the two vines that did not top the grapvine trellis last season. Once I started treating the vines with the same Ortho Disease Control product that I use on my heirloom tomatoes -- our mold problems vanished. But it was too late for two of the vines. They grew a total of two to two-and-a-half feet.
From L-R: Thompson, Black Monukka, Fantasy, Suffolk Red

That's a far cry from the Thompson vine which eventually reached a height of ten feet. You can see that growth in the photos I took last September. The Thompson vine is that big, bushy vine closest to the camera. The two vines that did not produce well are to the far right.

Although first year growth produces a multitude of vines -- I did receive instruction to cut as many of the vines back and focus growth on one, main vine (the trunk). During my trimming efforts earlier this year -- I cut away excess vines and kept only the trunk -- and some vines that had developed off the main trunk. Again -- I'm told that these will be my fruit producers this year. The photos show that I've used green garden tape to tie these vines to the trellis.

Emerging fruit producer?
These vines are already starting to pop wide open -- despite our inclement weather. Fortunately -- due to the excess rainfall -- they haven't needed any additional irrigation. But that will change as the warmer weather sets in.

Is all the work of constructing the trellis and tending the vines worth the effort? I'll let you know later this summer, when the wife that is Venus and I are hopefully muching on a plate of tablegrapes fresh from our backyard-in-progress.

Welcome to the Jungle!!!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

2011 Heirloom Tomato Plant Starters
Like the song says -- "It gets worse here everyday."

Little did Guns N' Roses know that they would be singing about MY heirloom tomato plant starters!

Look at it and weep kids -- this is the SAD state of Bill & Venus Bird's heirloom seed starting effort later this year. The plants to your right have now shot past the shoplights. I can't set them any higher. Those lights are on the highest setting I have.

Never in my life did I think that I would grow three foot high heirloom tomato plant starters -- but the pictures do not lie. This is the sad state of a Bird bedroom at the moment. And with the rain pounding against a windowsill on a dreary and dark Saturday afternoon -- combined with gardening areas that are completely waterlogged -- I have come to the following conclusion:

There will be no "early spring planting" this year. Heck -- I'm still waiting for a day resembling spring to arrive. I haven't seen it. Nobody in Northern California has. And -- as bad as we have it down in the Natomas basin (that's the riverbottom folks) -- heirloom tomato growers further up the hill have it even worse than we do.

Welcome to the Tomato Jungle
Those gardens are buried under a couple of feet of fresh snowfall. Know what that means? Tomato season is still more than a few weeks off my friends.

It would not have been safe to plant out now anyway. April weather in these parts is rather "fickle." Still -- most of us gardening types would have at least liked a glimpse or two of spring sunshine. But there's been nothing like it around here for far too long.

My only hope? Next week's weather forecast. I must say, it does look rather promising. But that's next week. What am I supposed to do with these monsters in the meantime?

My attempts to encourage stronger and thicker stem growth have most been a failure. Three weeks ago the wonderful wife that is Venus and I staked each starter plant and started feeing them with fish emulsion fertilizer, which is nitrogen-rich.

Canopy of GREEN!
The end result? Oh, the starter plants flourished alright. You can tell that by the photos. But instead of encouraging stem growth, the staking and fertilizing resulted leggy plants that are now ten inches to a foot higher than they were three weeks ago. There's no doubt in my mind now that I will have to transplant these leggy starters into larger cups during the hardening off process -- that much is sure.

But the real danger is -- after transplanting -- is that Venus and I will lose the use of the shuttle trays that have made transportation such a snap. Each tray holds ten starter cups. Moving fifty starter plants from one place to another isn't all that difficult when you're dealing with five trays.

However -- moving fifty individual starter plants from one place to another does present a host of problems. The shuttle trays will not accommodate the larger sized transplant cups -- which means we will have to move each starter plant by hand, two to three at a time.  Although we could probably do this once or twice, it can't be a regular part of the hardening off process.

Leggy Starters: Still Leggy!

So, we'll hope and pray that next week's warm weather will at least stick around for awhile. While the plants will be placed under a covered patio that will guard them from rain and direct sun, it won't guard against another cold, howling rainstorm that lasts for days (or weeks) on end.

So, it is somewhat of a gamble.

But -- should the sunshine and warmer temperatures arrive next week as the forecasts promise -- and stick around -- the payoff will be bushy and vibrant heirloom tomato plant starters during plantout. The thought of a spring rain doesn't bother me much. In fact, the plants seem to like a warm drenching from time to time.

However, should another cold, gusty, gully-buster arrive in mid-April? That spells trouble with a capital T. I'd come home to the rather distressing sight of heirloom tomato plant starters tossed about the Back 40.

That's never a good sign. Keep your fingers crossed. Mine most certainly are.

Putting the A in SAcrAmento VegetAble GArdening!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Waterlogged and Windy Backyard
Dear Southern California: Supplying you with a clean, fresh, plentiful supply of water this year will NOT be a problem. Signed, A Waterlogged Northern Californian.

Plenty of puddles and minor storm damage (as the photo to your right will attest) this morning at the Bird Back 40, where rain continues to fall off and on (mostly on). As I write this, levels on the Sacramento River are near historic highs thanks to record releases from the bathtub that is Shasta Resevoir up north in Redding. Discovery Park at the confluence of the Sacramento and American Rivers is under five or six feet of water, but will within flood thresholds. Bypasses in Colusa and Yolo County are filling up fast.

This doesn't happen every year mind you -- but this is a special year. We've zoomed past record rainfall amounts for the Sacramento area and March is barely half over with another gully-buster or two yet to come. Although our systems of reservoirs, bypasses and levees were built for exactly this purpose and are standing up to the deluge -- the real danger is if a Pineapple Express moves in and melts a record-high snowpack in the Sierra Nevada.

Smilin' Bob
What happens then? Well kids -- as the smiling lady says in those late night commercials for Extenze: "This Could be Fun!!!"

What does all this rain activity mean? Well -- it doesn't mean we're working on gardening projects in the backyard -- that much I can tell you. One would need the services of a canoe to reach certain parts of the yard at this point. But I'm pleased to announce that we did complete one last project just before the first raindrops began to fall last weekend (it's been raining ever since).

So -- what's new? Glad you asked! ASPARAGUS! Yes -- if we didn't have enough to tend too in the Bird Back 40 -- we've added something new. The wife that is Venus finally got her Asparagus patch -- and just in the nick of time too.

Honestly? I thought our window of acquiring and then planting asparagas roots had passed. That was the initial objective -- after all -- of our trip a few weeks ago to the Most Romantic City in the World (Stockton). Lockhart Seeds was closed on that day -- but even had it been open -- we would have discovered that they sold out of asparagus roots in JANUARY (heavy demand for asparagus this year, kids).

Peaceful Valley Farm Supply-Nevada City
Although I thought I would be forced to abandon the "asparagus quest," fate intervened in the form of Peaceful Valley Farm Supply. Did they have asparagus roots in stock? Why, yes they DID! Not just any asparagus roots mind you -- but the exact varieties that the wife wanted: Jersey Knight and Purple Passion.

That's the good news. The bad news is that Peaceful Valley was once again out of All Red Seed Potatoes and a fertilizing supplement we use in the garden called Omega 2000. Any rumor that you hear that those two items are finally in stock is just that: a rumor. I believe I'll capture Bigfoot on camera before I see All Red Seed potatoes again. But I digress -- we did have asparagus.

As it turns out -- the acquisition of asparagus roots last Saturday would be just half the battle. A whopper of a storm was moving in. The rain was expected to start falling late Sunday afternoon. That gave me precious hours to not only build a raised bed for our asparagus, but irrigate said bed, fill it with planter mix and prepare furrows for planting.

Distant Asparagus Planter Bed
Bill Bird loves a challenge like this one.

So -- last Sunday -- the last dry day that I can remember -- I found myself in the Home Depot lumber yard at a very early hour -- purchasing the supplies that I would need for a 5X3 raised planter bed. This is yet another example of a low-cost, easy to assemble, raised bed that I featured here in the blog a few years ago. I've built quite a few of these now and can snap them together fairly quickly.

There's nothing quite like the feeling of DOOM and GLOOM that falls upon a gardener when feeling the first drops of rain while rushing to complete a gardening project. The asparagus roots could not wait -- they had to go in TODAY. But Mother Nature wasn't cooperating. The first drops started to fall before I could fill the bed with soil.

Jersey Knight & Purple Passion Asparagus Crowns
All sorts of thoughts go through your mind when faced a conundrum like this. Will the wheel on the wheelbarrow get so caked with mud that it won't move during the planter mix transfer process? Have I destroyed yet another pair of gardening shoes (yes)? Is asparagus really worth the hassle? The answer to that question isn't known yet -- because -- to be quite honest -- I've never grown asparagus before. Have you?

Fortunately? The rain that started falling at that point was just a tease. It stopped a few minutes later which allowed us to resume work on moving planter mix from one side of the Back 40 to another (the wife is a real pro with a shovel).

Planting Asparagus Crowns
The method of planting asparagus crowns is quite unique. It's a little like planting seed potatoes in that you're digging furrows from one side of the bed to another. It's also like planting a fruit tree in that you want to form a ball or crown under each asparagus crown to give the roots something to rest on.

It was -- at this point -- where the rain suddenly began to fall in earnest. Venus and I had completed the process of planting about half the bed when we suddenly became aware of raindrops hammering down on the nearby patio cover. Mother Nature wasn't kidding this time. The big tease was over. The rain was here to stay.

It's amazing how quickly two determined (insane is another good term to use here) gardeners can move when getting pelted with a serious amount of rain. Let's just say that are furrows weren't exactly "perfect," nor were the balls carefully placed under each asparagus crown. We were in a "hurry up and plant" moment -- and did finally finish the job -- before paddling back to the safety of the nearest concrete walkway.

We were both soaked -- cold -- muddy and tired following this wonderful experience. And although I'd like to report some gardening success with a photo of growing asparagus crowns -- it will require some time and quite a bit of rain drainage before we can reach that particular spot again anytime soon.

I've since come to learn that planting asparagus crowns is a bit of a gamble. Not every crown is guaranteed to sprout. Indeed -- other gardeners have reported 100% crop failure with past planting attempts. Growing asparagus also requires patience. We won't see any kind of a harvest this year -- and while next spring might yield a few tasty spears -- we've been informed it won't be much.

But in Year 3? If everything works to plan (which it doesn't)? Asparagus will be on the Bird menu of gardening success.

Who could ask for more?

Tempted by the Fruit of Another...

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Tomato Starter Plants-Home Depot North Natomas
What's this? Blogging on the home computer instead of driving up to Peaceful Valley Farm Supply in wonderful Nevada City?

Umm yeah. The wonderful wife that is Venus was making merry last night in a chair dedicated to her father's name, in the Royal Palm Clubhouse Bar at Heritage Park. I can't blame the lady. She has already set sail on a common trip that we all must take following the death of a parent. And although we all take this trip at one point or another in our lives -- we do so very much alone.

So what does Bill Bird do while the wife rests? He blogs of course! There are important gardening matters to bring to your attention. There are prats! There are pitfalls (especially if you follow my advice)! One such pitfall is in that rather tempting photo to the upper right.

Looks nice eh? Tomato starter plants by the dozen! All just begging for you to buy them -- take them home and plant! Those green leaves hold a promise of a luscious fresh tomato harvest later in the year. Wink, wink! Nod, nod! Buy me!

Are you tempted yet? Good! Because that's just the kind of reaction that the Big Box stores were hoping to impale you with. You cannot resist the siren song of home-grown tomatoes. So, buy, buy, buy!!!

Listen to Nancy!
Yet -- I'm here to tell you something else: DON'T. As former First Lady Nancy Reagan once opined: "Just Say No!" Do you remember those words of advice? I certainly do! Did I follow them? HECK NO!

But I do remember them. It's good to know that I didn't completely ravage every last brain cell during the "lost years."

You will discover row after delicious row of tomato starter plants just like this one at my North Natomas Home Depot this weekend. You'll find them at every Home Depot in Northern California -- just about every big box store has them now.

And it's not just tomatoes! Oh heck no! You want pepper plants? They got them! Strawberry starters? Check! Got a hankering to grow asparagas or perhaps artichokes in the backyard? Say Hey! They've got those too!

Celebrity Tomato: A Bill Bird Favorite!
I know how you feel. It's hard to say no. But you're doing yourself a favor if you do nothing more than look and smile at things yet to come in the 2011 gardening season. Just because starter plants are available now, doesn't mean it's time to plant them.

It's too cold outside children. Yes, I know the fruit trees are flowering. I know the nights aren't quite as chilly as they once were. The sunshine we've all felt on our arms and legs the past week feels pretty good, doesn't it? The weather is changing. The long, dreary winter is nearly over. Spring is just around the corner.

But it's not here yet. Keep that in mind as you walk down gorgeous row after gorgeous row of tomato plant starters. Also keep in mind that planting tomatoes is a little like shooting dice at a craps table. Sometimes you get the big payoff. And sometimes you lose the entire bundle.

Tempting, yes?
Setting plants into the ground now could result into a healthy payoff later this spring with fresh-from-the garden tomatoes in May! I know because I've done it. I've been there. I gambled -- and I won. The weather cooperated that year. It warmed up in late March and stayed warm through April and May. Venus and I harvested a boatload that year.

But that was "that year." They're not always like that. In fact, when we gambled again the next year with planting starter plants in early April -- the weather didn't cooperate. It got cold. It rained. Disease took its toll that year -- which will forever be known in the Bird Household as the "Year Without Tomatoes." That's like the "Year Without a Santa Claus," only worse. Santa does eventually make a comeback.

Early Planting Sometimes Results in This!
Our tomato plants didn't. I'll never forget the disease that ravaged the garden that year. The leaves of our plantings turned a leathery shade of copper. Pulling them out and replacing them with new plants made no difference whatsoever. We may have removed the infected plants, but the disease that struck that year remaind behind, and proceeded to strike and infect the new plants that we set out in June.

Venus and I learned a tough lesson that year. We had to beg on streetcorners for our fresh tomato fix. We had rolled the dice and it came up snake eyes. It would be the last time that we would roll that dice or spin that bottle.

So my friends -- I offer this advice: look but don't touch. Dream -- but don't plant. Don't just listen to Nancy, follow her good words of advice. The 2011 gardening season is just around the corner. Don't rush a good thing. It will be here soon enough.

Q&A With the Gardening Goomba!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Gardening Goober
Greetings Kids!

I rarely answer fan mail because -- well -- uh -- I rarely get fan mail. Normally -- responses are limited too "why did you do that" and "you're doing it wrong," followed by "you're doing it wrong again."

Those last two lines normally come from the wife that is Venus.

But today I have a real treat! Actual mail! Not from a fan mind you. But she did take time to write! Does that count?

At any rate, today's "fan" mail comes from Deby in the Rosemont area of Sacramento. She writes:

"Hi Bill -may I call you Bill?-

I'm a new gardner, coming up on my third year of trying to grow something edible in our Rosemont area home. Last year turned out pretty decent, and I've been reading everything I can to improve my game. Got my Viking Purple potatoes today, can't wait to get those in some dirt.

2010 Heirloom Tomato Garden
I do have a question to ask you, if you don't mind-are you INSANE?? 50 tomato plants?!? I grew ONE tomato plant last year, an Early Girl (which wasn't, but not for lack of trying) and got 50-60 pounds from one bush. My pantry is still crammed full of sauce. Are you secretly feeding your own personal militia? Or trying to single-handedly eliminate world hunger? Or do heirloom tomatoes produce only one precious fruit per plant?

I was thinking about attempting an heirloom variety next year when we expand our beds (my secret agenda is to take over the entire back yard, one raised bed at a a time), but if it leads to the sort of insanity where I have to beg people on the street to take my excess produce, I may just pass. Is this the sort of obsession I have to look forward to?

My measured and tactful response to the questions she poses is this:
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus..
Wait! Wrong script!

The Wife That is Venus
Yes, Deby, you may call me Bill. My wife has many names for me. Most of them are unprintable. Not because I can't spell (although that is a problem on some days). It's that -- well -- someday a child might chance upon this blog. We've got to keep things relatively clean here -- even though we're digging in the dirt for joy and satisfaction.
The second answer to your question of "are you insane," is: Did you just figure that out? I'm certifiable Deby. I've turned a bedroom into an overpriced North Natomas home into a greenhouse. That nutty enough for you? I have five cats -- and also managed to adopt the ONE dog on this planet (ONE mind you) that gets the utmost satisfaction out of digging up everything she can get her muddy paws on in our raised beds.

Ultimate Digging Machine at Rest
When the "Bandinator" isn't playing dead on the bed -- she's out somewhere -- digging where she's not supposed too. Last year I was chagined to discover that our little girl not only enjoyed digging up various plants, she developed a taste for them. The only thing that we found was the hole where we planted our new "Incrediball" Hydrangea starter plant.
But I digress -- back to your questions -- Deby.
Do you know what the answer is to the question of: "What are fifty tomato plants?" The answer is: not enough. Yes -- the wife and I will usually start about fifty heirloom plants in a spare bedroom -- but don't think we can possibly plant that many. I mean -- we would if we could -- but even with our bountiful Back 40, we simply don't have that kind of room.

Eight plants per bed
Unless -- however -- I started hanging them from the eaves of my home. Or perhaps converted the attic into a new gardening area. Hmm.... You've given me some good ideas here...
Against the advice of my gardening mentor -- Farmer Fred Hoffman -- I usually cram about eight plants into a standard 4X8 foot bed. Fred reccommends no more than three. I go beyond that. Slightly. Is it any wonder then that I have a tangled mass of all things tomato by the end of the growing season?
And Deby -- this does not take into consideration the numerous "volunteers" that spring up in every corner of the yard now. One of those volunteers -- which may have been a cross between a Sun Gold (small orange cherrry tomato) and an Omar's Lebanese -- resulted in a Large Orange Cherry MUTANT that is quite tasty.
Why grow heirlooms? Why not? There's nothing wrong with hybrids like Early Girl, ACE and Better Boy. Each will give you a bumper crop of round, red, tasty tomatoes. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that in my opinion.

Cherry Tomato Surprise
But the hybrids also won't give you a bowl full of color like the one pictured. All of the cherry tomatoes in this bowl -- I might add -- came from numerous volunteers that sprang up in the yard last year (I don't have the heart to pull out most of them, unless they're growing under a peach tree). How did tomato seed get underneath a peach tree you ask? Good question. I'm still trying to figure that one out myself.
The cherry tomatoes in that bowl -- plus many others that we harvested last season -- served to be useful bribes among co-workers. In fact, I so impressed one young lady, that she now refers to me as her "future ex-husband." It's just nice to know that you have fans.
I am quite happy to hear that you enjoyed what appears to be tremendous success with just one plant last year -- and I'm just a tad bit jealous. Last year was a terrible year for most heirloom growers. The weather never really did cooperate. In a normal year? Venus and I will can vast quantities of Roasted Garlic and Heirloom Tomato Salsa, Picante Heirloom Tomato Sauce and quarts of whole tomatoes by the dozen.

A Full Pantry!
There's nothing quite like the satisfaction of opening up a can of whole heirloom tomatoes and heirloom tomato sauce on a cold winter night to serve in a soup, stew or PIZZA!
Finally Deby -- every heirloom tomato is different. You might think that a tomato is "just a tomato," until you take your first bite of a true, treasured heirloom. None have the same taste as the other. Some are sweet. Some are tart. Some have a rich and smoky taste and aroma. Others taste like candy.
That -- my dear Deby -- is why heirloom tomato growers are nuts for heirlooms. There is no taste in this world like taste-bud surprise that a true, vine-ripened Cherokee Purple brings. The jolt that comes from that first bite of a Kelloggs Breakfast is hard to describe, but should not be missed.

Large Orange Cherry MUTANT
Finally Deby? Growing heirloom tomatoes is different from the "plant and forget" hybrids. Some will vex you to no end. Why some produce bounty crops while others do not is a question that I still can't answer. But growing heirlooms is a true and healthy addiction. Once you've tried it, you're hooked for life. You keep going back for more of the same reward and punishment.
Best of luck to you in the bed-building efforts. If I were you? I'd put gardening beds in every square inch of the yard.
But -- remember -- I'm also insane. And I like it that way.