Fish + HH = AMF X Kitchen Sink = FAIL!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

And they're Off!
Follow closely now children -- because the title of this article is the mathematical equation we followed earlier this spring when planting the heirloom tomato crop now growing, and growing quickly I might add, in the Bird Back 40. Fresh off last year's season where each tomato plant got a fish head, two aspirins plus bone meal in each planting hole, we redoubled our efforts in 2014.

My friends, I'm here today to tell you this. Despite those lovely looking plants pictured above right, you can "love" your tomato starter plants just a little bit too much. You can go overboard on even the most organic of treatment -- and I know this from experience. Because it's taken time, patience and a bit of replanting to get our starter plants to look THIS good at this point in May.

Adding Fish Parts to Holes for Tomato Plants
Plus -- several people who ignored frost concerns and warnings and planted in March are WAY ahead of us. In the words of the immortal Tom Petty, "you got lucky, babe." Because planting in March can sometimes result in misery in April, especially if the weather turns cold again. This year, it didn't. Oh sure, it cooled down a bit here and there and actually rained a bit. But it wasn't enough to knock off March planting efforts. And for those people who rolled the dice and planted in March, they'll be harvesting a bundle of fresh tomatoes in June and laughing at the rest of us who waited until the first weekend of May.

Edit: We normally plant on or around the birthday of Farmer Fred Hoffman of "Get Growing with Farmer Fred" fame. That's usually the last weekend of April. But it was raining that weekend so we pulled a bundle of weeds instead. Anyone who gardens will tell you there's always a weed or one thousand to pull. It just comes with the territory.

But -- I digress.

Let the Planting Commence!
Fresh off a fantastically productive and surprising tomato year in 2013, we once again called on the Goddess of Love Apple Farms fame to help us with our tomato planting efforts in 2014. This time Sara and the wife that is Venus armed themselves with two buckets of smelly fish parts instead of just one, aspirin for the planting holes, organic bone meal and a few other "additives."

Here is what this year's brew contained:

1 can of water soluble Mycorrhizae and Bacteria
1 bottle (300 count) aspirin
Two boxes of Granulated Humic Acids
Two 5-gallon buckets of fish heads, tails, guts, and various parts
4 bags of Bone Meal

A Garden Party?
Holes for 24 heirloom tomato plants were dug to a depth of two feet each. Into the hole went a big helping of "fish stuff," one-half cup of Humic Acids, one-half cup of bone meal and two aspirin. Tomato plants were removed from starter cups and soaked in a Mycorrhizae bath before planting. We then proceeded to fill the holes with composted soil. The official count that first weekend in May looked like this:

24 heirloom tomato plants
16 Pepper plants
4 eggplants
2 Blueberry plants LOADED with blueberries (Sharp Blue and Misty)

Notice the Dog...
Can you guess the first thing that happened after we went through all that work to plant everything into the raised beds? If you guess that the garden dog named "DIGGER" immediately tried to dig up 24 tomato plants in a quest to munch on some smelly fish parts, you wouldn't be half wrong. If you also guessed that many of the tomato plants suddenly seized up and died, you'd also be right on the money.

Both actually happened. What the dog didn't dig up and kill in the process, died on its own. Why? Because we gave our starter plants a bit too much love. There is such a thing such as too much love. And if you follow the witch's brew I've outlined above, you too can KILL your share of tomato plants.

Janet's Jacinthe Jewel
Thank goodness the wife that is Venus and I decided to plant two cups of each tomato variety. Those replacement plants came in handy. Instead of giving them away to family and friends as we've done in the past, we were doing quite a bit of "replacement planting," while muttering the words: "NEVER AGAIN!"

However, we seem to be past the worst of it. And, I'll be honest, not every plant seized up and died on us, nor did DIGGER dig it up. For those that survived the harrowing plant-out process, I'll be honest, they look GOOD. Not just good, good, mind you. But, REAL GOOD! This includes a number of varieties from Wild Boar Farms, including a new offering this year called Janet's Jacinthe Jewel.

Pepper and Basil Starter Plants
Described as a large bright orange (jacinthe) striped beefsteak, this is a potato-leafed variety that is off to an eye-popping start and seems destined to deliver a boatload of tomatoes, many in the one pound range. And this is a bad thing? I think not!

The onset of hot weather in May has also given our tomato plantings a boost. Our once "leggy" starters now feature thick stems and are flowering heavy. We also decided to devote more room to our tomato plantings, because there can never be a thing such as "too many tomatoes." If you've read this blog for any amount of time, you know this to be true.

Baby, I've Got a Headache...
Although I was not able to take part in the final plant out due to this bum wheel that keeps me confined to a walking boot (complete with a developing, continent-sized, blister), Venus sprinkled liberal amounts of leftover tomato plants to the in-ground test bed and other spots here and there in the Bird Back 40 that offered a bit of planting space. The final count is 39 plants -- about ten to 12 more than we normally plant during the summer season.

I'm pleased to report that everything the green-thumbed wife planted is now popping out of the ground at an accelerated rate -- this includes various garden seeds that she planted here and there. That list includes five varieties of carrots, six varieties of basil, four varieties of slicing cucumbers, three varieties of pickling cucumbers green onions, bush beans, squash, pumpkins and probably five to ten other things that I've forgotten.

There comes a point in the season that when it's time to pay a trip to the Farmer's Market? We head straight for the Bird Back 40...


Jessica said...

I toured a garden today of a Romanian family in Newcastle. Oh my word!! Their tomato set up is beyond crazy. Reminded me of our trip there, Romanians don't plant tomatoes, they install the Great Wall of Tomatoes! Then I came back to my four little guys in their ragtag cages. But in the end we all get juicy yummy tomatoes, right? And I still like the May first deal, gives me time to procrastinate.

Angela Pratt said...

What do you think did them in?! I do know all about a dog's love of organic fertilizer; mine eat it straight out of the bag or box. I have to store it on a high shelf these days. As for planting time, I agree that starting seeds indoors and planting earlier is a better gamble, especially if you have Wall O'Waters at your disposal.

Bill Bird said...

I think we did just a little bit too much,nAngela... Can't point at any one culprit, although Digger Dog didn't help matters much...

Anonymous said...

For our tomatoes in Sacramento, we typically plant seedlings April 1 and then plant successive plants May 1 and June 1st. Except for this year, the April ones typically take some hail damage from a spring storm but have always made it in the long run. This system makes it so we don't get all of the tomatoes at once especially on the more determinate varieties. We always plant a sweet 100 cherry early so we have salad cherry tomatoes all season long and have had them continue to produce into November.