This post is a continuation of the "Spring Tomato Ritual." Growing tomatoes in the south is one of the most productive things you can do. It takes a little effort up front, but the rewards are great especially if you beat some of your relatives to that first tomato and claim bragging rights.
The real benefit is the real tomatoes that show up in July and August just when you know that you can't take another pseudo thick skinned engineered tomato. Some crisp bacon, a nice green lead of lettuce, mayo, salt and pepper, the right bread and you have the makings of a Southern tradition, the tomato sandwich.
Well I plan to be having one of those tomato sandwiches the first week of July, assuming the deer don't eat my plants. The plants have been in the ground eleven days since April 25th. The weather has been very cool and even a little dry. Early this week, I found a couple of deer hoof prints right in the middle of the plants. That was a little close for comfort so I have resorted to the defense that I developed a couple of years ago when the deer decided to eat the green tomatoes off the vine. I drove some small stakes in the ground and then after I finished mowing the yard in my steel toed boots, I took the sweaty socks and carefully adorned the stakes. The last time I found this almost as effective as having Chester mark the Hosta behind the tomatoes. Chester is no longer with us, and the deer are a much bigger problem having gobbled up our Azaleas.
In addition to put in some protection, I also took a very small gardening trowel and dug a very narrow circle around each plant. I sprinkled Osmocote fertilizer into the circle and mixed it up with the soil. Then I took some Miracle Gro water soluble tomato fertilizer and gave each of the plants about three 32 ounces of solution. I mix the solution just as Miracle grow suggests. You can have a look at what I consider at healty tomato plant at this link which has a picture I took this morning.
Our temperatures are expected to me in the eighties in a few days so the plants need to be primed and ready to take advantage of that warm weather. Yesterday, Glenda, my wife, planted flowers around our front steps where we used to have pansies during the winter until we couldn't keep the deer out of them. In fact most years after the tomatoes are done, pansies have been the cover crop for the tomato bed. But the deer ended that in the spring of 2003 when they pulled them out and decided they didn't like taste. The amount of beautiful flowers being offered for sale is unbelievable. I took these pictures of the flowers in the Roanoke Farmers market this Wednesday when we went for a late lunch and a loaf of bread from On the Rise Bakery.
It was also time to mow the yard Wednesday night. I'm feeling a little abandoned now that Robert and Randy have gone to a mowing service, but I will persevere since I enjoy the patterns created by mowing the yard. It reminds be of all those hay fields I cut in my farming years. Mowing a yard never gives you that smell of curing hay, but it is rewarding and more fun than giving the Holly bushes a haircut which I also did Wednesday evening. The tool I used on the Holly bushes is truly an impressive beast. We bought it to trim our Holly trees but after a while of standing on the top of an eight foot ladder with one these I decided there were better ways to die. Our two Rhododendron are blooming. For some reason they are no longer thriving, but I still love their blooms.
Well that raps up the urban farming report for today. May the warm weather be here with a vengeance this weekend. Last night, I talked to my Aunt Sally, who turned 93 yesterday. She tells me her son, Richard, has yet to put out their tomato plants. They live in Yadkin County, North Carolina which is a veritable gardening utopia, with almost perfect soils and temperatures for tomatoes, so we'll be racing them along with others for that first delicious slice of tomato. I actually beat some of those Carolinians one year. Of course Aunt Sally can take some credit for my tomatoes since I use some of the well aged manure from her barn to give my plants a boost.