My dad always told me that your corn needs to be higher than your knee and your tomato plants need to produce a ripe tomato by July 4th. I completed both of those goals this year.
I usually follow other garden rules as well. One rule is to plant your tomatoes after the last day of frost (May 15 in Santa Fe). My dad likes a big harvest and is a risk taker. We found a sale on tomato plants in March for $1.09 per gallon pot. This was a great deal….but it was March and still snowing in Santa Fe. This did not seem to phase my dad and he picked out five tomato plants.
The five feet beside my house and the neighbors wall has the best sun for tomatoes, jalapeno, cucumbers and melons. My dad built me a 3’x9′ raised bed for the tomatoes and one cucumber. We used farm water troughs for the cantaloupe and ambrosia melons. We filled all of them with a mix of my yard’s clay soil, compost and a soil mender. For mulch we used cotton bur compost so that it would retain the most moisture over the hot /dry summer.
Here are the tomatoes planted in the raised bed:
Tomato Moskovich, heirloom, organic and indeterminate
Tomato Cherokee Purple, heirloom, organic and indeterminate
Tomato Lemon Boy, heirloom, organic and indeterminate
Oregon Spring, hybrid and determinate
We dug holes and filled them with water. You only have one chance to water below your tomatoes and that is before you plant them. We repeated the watering three times. The tomatoes were then planted and mulch placed around the plant stalks. It was still freezing at night so we built a row cover over the plants. This was a simple wire frame that we pushed into the ground. I used some of the row cover that Mesa Top Farm uses in Santa Fe so it had a higher UV rating and kept the wind and snow away from the plants.
Two days later it snowed. I left the plants covered until it was sunny so that they would not receive any additional cold. The Moskovic had been bitten by the cold temperatures and most of the branches broke off the plant. I continued to pretend that it was alive and water it for the next few weeks. It looked very sad, but I resisted pulling the plant. Within three weeks, it had new branches and was growing a second stem. Now that plant is the largest that I have! The same thing happened to the Lemon Boy in late April. It returned as well and is larger than before.
If you plan to plant tomatoes outside in freezing temperatures, you want to look for cold tolerant plants. The Oregon Spring was the fastest producing tomato and the one that was ripe on July 4th. I don’t count the grape tomato because it does not have large tomatoes and they were ripe the first week in June.
I bought a few of the plants that the CSA sold in June. They are doing well in the soil and have almost doubled in size.
Amish Paste Roma, heirloom, organic and indeterminate
Brandywine, heirloom, organic and indeterminate
Tomato Fantastic, hybrid and indeterminate
The Amish Paste has a nice tomato! It is still growing and is green, but I was amazed to have fruit less than a month after it was planted. I have more of these planted in my backyard and Milagro Community Garden. Hoping to have a nice crop to make pasta sauce and can it.
Does anyone else have gardening stories or pictures to share? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Amy Hetager, CSA Blogger