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: