I actually do not say "Wagons Ho!" when I go out and move my mobile tomatoes around in their wagons. There might be some young folks around who would think I am crazy since they missed Wagon Train when they were growing up.
People that know me well understand I have been growing tomatoes for years in places as diverse as the cool coastal climate along the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia, the hardwood hills of central New Brunswick, a mountainside overlooking Roanoke, Virginia, and currently along the marshes of the Southern Outer Banks on Raymond's Gut just a few miles up the White Oak River.
My first online post about tomatoes, The Spring Tomato Ritual, was written April 25, 2005. I have written many articles since then including this one on the 2011 season which was an outstanding year for tomatoes. This year, 2016, has been a tough year for tomatoes. We had plenty of delicious tomatoes but it was not a bumper crop. The North Carolina coast had too much heat and too much moisture, eight to sixteen inches more rain than normal depending on where you live. We had 38.5 inches of rain from June 1 until October 9, 2016. We had a good sixteen inches more than we needed.
Back in September, I wrote that this year we were planting our tomatoes in pots. The wagon train tomatoes have done very well as you can see from this November 10, 2016 picture. Having the tomatoes in wagons definitely helped during the wind and rain from Hurricane Matthew. It has also helped that we have had amazing fall weather since early October.
The last that I counted, I found that we have over 25 tomatoes growing already. If we can keep them on the vine until mid-December, the ones that do not ripen will ripen inside and provide us with tomatoes into January. I know it is possible since we picked our last big tomato last year around December 27 and our last cherry tomatoes close to the middle of January. The big difference was that I had to protect them with tarps and even heat lamps. Also we had a very low yield. Lots of work with the tarps and few tomatoes convinced me to try growing in pots in wagons.
The tomatoes are not the only vegetables doing well. We are getting ready to enjoy some November green beans from the garden. We have had lots of fall cucumbers, onions and an outstanding crop of lettuce. Broccoli, rutabagas, Romaine lettuce and Swiss chard are growing in the raised bed where we have grown our fall tomatoes in other years. We even have peppers and Dinosaur kale growing. The Swiss Chard usually survives the winter and we will likely enjoy the kale well into January.
I doubt that we will have cherry tomatoes growing outside in mid-January like we did last year as you can see in this picture. However, one of our wagon train tomatoes might still be producing then. I credit the great fall garden to the great month of weather that we have enjoyed since Hurricane Matthew clipped the area.
With a frost free growing season that often stretches to 236 days and some veggies that go well beyond that, there is little downtime for our beds. As I wrote in the post, The Hesitation Between Seasons, there is usually only about a month between our last harvest of rutabagas and when we start planting some of our spring lettuce, onions and broccoli at the end of February.
During January and February, I also end up taking care of my tomato seedlings. My tomato seeds get planted inside the second or third week of January so gardening is pretty well twelve months of the year along Raymond's Gut.
Harvesting a few almost year-round vegetables grown with our homemade compost and lots of love is a hobby that both my wife and I love. After all, you have do something when you are not working or fishing.