Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Secret of My Tomato Success

Or, Why I May Never Again Give a Hoot About Spring Tomatoes
That's almost 15 pounds of tomatoes you're looking at, harvested two days before Thanksgiving from two plants. I only harvested them because I wanted to spare my Austin gardening buddies a freeze over the holidays. (While it didn't actually freeze, some gardeners did have some frost damage. I lost my green beans.)

MSS of Zanthan Gardens asked me to write a post about how I managed to get such a huge harvest. I warned her, as I'm warning you now, that my post would be frustrating.

Here's my secret for the Great Tomato Harvest of Fall 2010: nothing.

I did almost nothing, except get out of Mother Nature's way.

On March 9 I planted four varieties I picked up at the Sunshine Garden plant sale: Lemon Boy, San Marzano, Black Krim, and Celebrity. Being nine months pregnant, I barely got the plants in the ground. I wasn't mobile enough to mess with fish heads. I think I added some compost and maybe some leftover vegetable garden fertilizer from Natural Gardener that had been sitting outside for a year.

Exactly two weeks later I gave birth to the World's Cutest Baby™ and promptly forgot I had a garden.

At some point I must have remembered to water the garden (much of those early sleep-deprived weeks is forgotten), because I found these tomato pictures taken in May amidst the 2,000 or so of the World's Cutest Baby™.

Lemon Boys were the first to ripen in May, guaranteeing them the coveted first tomato ritual: to be slathered in olive oil and salt as part of my brekfast tostado con tomate y aceite.

This is one of two Black Krims I harvested, also in May. Despite the poor production, I'll grow it again for the taste.

I know what you're thinking, "Enough about the spring tomatoes. Tell us about the fall tomatoes."

Well, here's the thing: I have nothing to tell. I couldn't even find any pictures of my vegetable garden from May until now. Shameful blogger.

I know that I did not arrange for anyone to water the tomatoes while I was out of town over the Fourth of July. I expected to come home to toasty plants but I didn't. Some abnormal rain continued in August, and the dang plants kept growing.

I ignored the plants and the tomatoes on them once the stink bugs and leaf-footed bugs invaded. And yet the plants kept on growing.

At some point in the fall, I pulled the Black Krim, which wasn't getting enough sun, and the San Marzano, which was getting plenty of sun but was covered in tomatoes sucked dry by stink bugs.

I did trim dead leaves off the Lemon Boy and Celebrity, and then resumed ignoring them. Rain and warm temperatures did the rest, leading to my stupendous November harvest, which exceeded my cumulative five-year spring tomato-growing harvest.

So to recap my tips and lessons learned for successful fall tomato growing in Central Texas:


  1. I really love reading your blog. You are an excellent writer and photographer. Your baby and dog are very cute, too!

  2. If that's the only secret then Mother Nature must like you a lot, Vertie!

    Maybe the maternal vibrations emanating from Chez Vert shook up the surviving tomatoes... and if the World's Cutest Baby™ also sent out emanations that may be why the best producing variety was Celebrity!

    The orientation of your garden must be good for fall tomatoes. Our pecan trees are leafless in spring so we're more likely to get a May-June crop. They cast too much shade for much of a fall crop with one exception. In the sunniest corner a Roma type gave us 10 tomatoes before the freeze last Friday.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  3. It's great when plants just do their thing without needing too much help - in my garden it's always been survival of the fittest.

    Your crop of tomatoes is really impressive!

  4. Oh, I am so jealous! I built growboxes and the whole shebang this year, and you know how many tomatoes I got?


  5. I tried both doing nothing and doing something and neither strategy worked for me.

    Because of Austin's unusually rainy June and July this year, I left the spring tomato plants in. Unfortunately the one time of the year that the tomato patch gets shade is in late fall as the sun moves south but the leaves are still on the trees. So almost no tomatoes on those plants for the fall.

    I also planted new plants grown from seed. They did much better than the old plants but as they were all currant, cherry, or grape tomatoes, my harvest was only about 5 pounds from 13 plants, mostly Gold Rush Currants and Blondkopfchen. The 7 Gold Rush Currants are still alive and still flowering!

  6. words of wisdom- get out of Mother Nature's Way!

  7. Likewise, I went to the Sunshine Garden Plant Sale in the Spring. I got a really late start in planting my tomato plants that I picked up. I bought Cherokee Purple, Aunt Ruby German Green, San Marzano, Pomodoro, Grappoli Corbarino, and Costluto Genovese. From Seed, I planted Early Girl, Roma VMF and Juliet. I bought one plant from discount rack at big box store, Celebrity.

    My harvest started to take off during late September. I project I harvested approximately 20 lbs. I had the most success with Roma, San Marzano and Grappoli Corbarino this fall. This was my first time planting tomatoes. I had co-workers who mentioned the Celebrity tomato plants do well, but I did not see much progress with them. However, I will try them again in the Spring. During 2011, I plan to plant a spring crop and a fall crop.

    Good luck on your effortless harvest, we should all be so lucky. :-)

    Happy Gardening

  8. Just happened upon your blog from the blogger site and this post was just what I needed to read! I am expecting baby #4 in May and wondering what, if anything, I'll get into/from my garden this coming season- but as long as I have some tomatoes, I'll survive!

  9. That sure is a good tomato sauce.
    Thanks for sharing this info to us. You have a great blog here.

  10. I really appreciate your post and you explain each and every point very well.Thanks for sharing this information.And I’ll love to read your next post too.

  11. gosh!
    You have a very big family of tomatoes.
    Like this post. (:

    Love your photos.

  12. I'm appreciate your writing style.Please keep on working hard.^^

  13. I don't garden and came across the blog randomly but - beautiful!

  14. Great! so beautiful... keep it up and we will be waiting for your next post.