Friday, June 6, 2008

How my garden grows

Ever since I was a little kid I have been involved in growing a garden. There was a time in my 20s when I was too cool and too busy to be gardening, but not long after I bought my house 10 years ago I got back into gardening and have not looked back.

Tomatoes are the main crop, and what many find funny is, I don't even like them that much! I mean, I like them all right on a sandwich, or chopped and added to a stew or pot of spaghetti, and they go quite well with Mexican food. But there are a whole lot of folks who like tomatoes way more than me. So part of it is that I just like growing stuff! And let me tell you, the dark alluvial soil in back yard will grow the SHIT out of some tomatoes.

I have always liked doing nice things for the people around me, so my passion for gardening means that a bunch of people get loaded down with very fresh ripe tomatoes starting in early-to-mid July. Some of those people I know; others I don't, but each and every time I give, I get to see them smile because they just got something for free that can't be bought. I take tomatoes to the folks at the senior citizens' center my grandmother visits, and when I come, she makes sure to exclaim to several people loading up, "He's my grandson, you know!" Other times, especially when the crop is at its heaviest, I give two or three to my pizza delivery customers if they say yes when I ask if they like tomatoes (most do). It's one thing to be glad to get you pizza, and quite another to get something you weren't expected. Their smiles have been known to put an end to otherwise crappy night on the job for me. Sometimes, on subsequent deliveries to the same folks weeks of months later, they remark how much they liked those tomatoes, did I grow them, or "Hey! You're the guy that brings tomatoes!"

Several times over the years I've had people say I should sell tomatoes. I always tell them it just wouldn't be the same.

The third week of April this year I put out 48 plants, evenly divided between the Celebrity and Better Boy varieties. Celebrity is a newer hybrid variety with good tasting medium-sized fruits, and it resists nematodes and most every blight and wilt that afflicts other varities. Better Boy is a tried-and-true older hybrid variety that makes medium to large fruits with very good flavor. Also it is an indeterminate variety, which means it keeps growing and blooming until cold weather kills the plants. Where I live, translates to fresh tomatoes until Halloween!

Elsewhere in the yard, I have 14 hot pepper plants (12 jalapenoes and 2 habaneros) two white seedless grape vines, 5 plum trees, one big blueberry bush and several wee ones (those were just planted last year) some thornless blackberries, and a few raspberries. My children will eat every last one of the berries, and I always let them!

New this year is a stand of gourds, 'birdhouse' gourds to be exact, for which I used posts and reinforcing wire to erect a trellis. I am not sure what I am going to do with the gourds come harvest time, a few birdhouses I guess?? Crafters love them for decorating and a painting medium, so I've read, so perhaps I'll let them dry out and try and sell some on ebay? Ever since I went out last year and picked up a trash bag full of pine cones (the great big longleaf pine cones) put those on ebay and sold them to a very grateful woman in Missouri, I have been curious about what else that costs me nothing has somebody looking for it. After all there was the time a dude in Colorado paid me money for 24 empty beer bottles, but I did have to buy those first.