How to be a “Tomato Artist”

IMG_1093It’s tomato time here in the Willamette Valley of Oregon.  The only advantage I can see of the hot summers we have been having is that the tomatoes love them.  Growing good, delicious, organic tomatoes is an art form and I have gotten good at it- actually a little too good. Frequently I get tomatoes over a pound and they aren’t even the beefsteak variety.  But, there are only so many tomatoes the two of us can consume. We have a freezer full now and they are still coming on. Finding the extra homes other than the compost pile has gotten to be too much effort.  Next year I will have to go down to three plants.  The varieties I grew this year….

  • Sungold-  (cherry tomato- so sweet!)
  • Amish Paste (Prolific and huge)Garden Basket1
  • Brandywine (the best slicer)
  • Black Krim (great flavor)

Really, I can’t take all the credit for the success.  I’m just conducting a series of variables that I have figured out to be a good “Tomato Artist.”  I need to thank the following contributors to my bodacious tomato harvest:

  • Quality heirloom tomato starts
  • My partner for tilling the raised beds,  hauling manure, and installing a drip system
  • The sheep up the road for their great poo
  • The cows and horses down the road for the same
  • Our composted kitchen scraps
  • The earthworms and microbes for decomposing the above
  • The earthworms again for aerating the soil and leaving their casings
  • The farmer that raised the straw that I much with
  • gloves-1252355_1920The rain
  • The sun
  • My own two hands for their labor in planting & tending

 

To be honest, I am feeling burnt out on gardening right now.  There is something so satisfying about growing your own nutritious and tasty food but it is work.  Usually this time every summer I swear I’ll take next summer off.  Knowing me, come spring the lure of fresh tomatoes with basil and dill will lure me back again.

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The Artful Garden

Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.

— May Sarton

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It’s hard to imagine that in March my garden was seven big wood boxes full of brown soil, a blank canvas so to speak.  Now it’s a tangle of vines and plants that spill over those same boxes. There are five varieties of bushy tomato plants, at least as tall as me.  The bean teepee, full of romano beans, towers over six feet tall.  There is kale, chard, dill, hot peppers, onions, cucumbers, basil, zucchini, strawberries, beets, cardoons, sunflowers, and marigolds.  Two of the beds are now empty, the garlic being harvested earlier in July.  The peas have died back and the lettuce and arugula have gone to seed.

Planting a garden is a statement of hope, sowing seeds that bear the promise of food and Garden Basket2.2flower.

Planting a garden is a creative act, painting with a palette of plants, considering what varieties will complement the other, then executing the plan with hoe and shovel instead of a brush.

Planting a garden is work.  The soil must be amended, supports constructed, seeds and starts planted.  Then the beds must be mulched, watered, weeded and then harvested.  But then the payoff is the abundance of delicious fresh food it provides for the rest of the summer.

Garden Basket3Planting a garden is an alchemy of human interaction with natural processes.

A garden does not need to be big or complicated.  Even a couple of tomato plants on the porch or herbs on the window sill is better than nothing.   It’s gratifying to tend plants and watch them grow. For children, it’s an especially enriching experience.  To be able to feed oneself and share the bounty with others is powerful.  Gardening is an anchor to the Earth. You don’t get that from a grocery store.

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Weekly Photo Challenge- DENSE “A Good Harvest”

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Heirloom tomatoes, basil & cosmos
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Italian green beans & yellow French beans
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Kale, beets, parsley, basil, & lemon cucumbers

Dense