Saturday, June 26, 2010

The first ripe tomato and other garden ramblings.

A few short weeks ago as I was working out in the garden I had a brilliant idea for a blog post.
It would be entitled "A Primer for Growing Vegetables on Clay Soil"
And the text would be:

I don't really wonder why there aren't many (read any) market gardeners in my area because I know the unique challenges of working with clay.
I get on the land late...long after my counterparts with that lovely loamy soil do. And when I finally can get out there, things grow slowly.
And for me it was late this year.
When there was a good window of opportunity to get in the garden, I was right in the middle of transplant sales. Filling orders, writing plant labels, moving plants, on and on.
Then the window closed, as the rains pummelled us in June.
But now I think I have passed the crisis-despair mode, and will say (not too loud) the garden looks good. It has dried up really well, and things are growing happily.

I STILL am in planting mode, but have a lot of territory to cover this year, as the tomatoes are in my big 4 acre field which has never been home to tomatoes before.
They seem to be lovin' their view of the Welland River!
This freed up lots of space in my regular garden, so I'm into my fourth, then next week fifth BIG bean planting (one can never have too many beans).
I feel the same way too about beets, carrots, chards and am still putting in more. Why not? No shortage of seed or space and there still is time.
Also I am into the routine of my weekly planting of salad mix.
And of course the sign it is all coming together guessed it, the first ripe tomatoes.
The tall stalky STUPICE tomato plants that I started indoors in Feb, and got into the hoophouse later than I planned, are gorgeous, deep green and strong. What a wonderful variety of tomato. Wow, it tasted great to have that first bite.

The little Saturday morning market I have here chugs along. I'm happy.
I live in Wellandport and have no illusions about being mobbed. I think many locals eye me with a sense of distrust and are skeptical of what I do. I live in BIG farm territory, and the BIG tractors roll by everyday. I imagine they chuckle at me as I bounce along on my little John Deere, and hand weed, water and squish bugs as I see fit.(Bad bugs only!)
But I appreciate everyone who comes out, and I do have my regulars every week. It is so great to see people and chat. And the greens are so nice at this time of year, I am pleased with what I am selling.
There isn't a whole lot yet, but I feel confident that what there is, is good.
I'm also doing the bread myself right now, as my friend Wolfgang is heavy into catering season.
My pie lady, Tressa Maniaci has a regular following now for her seasonal fruit pies. Really just fabulous.
Most of my sales remain with the restaurants and I have picked up some new ones this year.
My Organic Gardening magazine test garden looks good. So far, there appear to be no flops.
The marigold to the left is one I am testing, and is blooming nicely.
Perhaps most impressive so far is "Atom" basil,(High Mowing Seeds) which I direct seeded in early June. It has pretty much caught up to my basil I started from transplants,and tastes lovely.
I have been having a bit of a roving eye in terms of looking to relocate. That is how frustrated I get with my clay.
But now I am getting out of my early -spring -and I've got clay- rut, let me tell you about the good clay can do.
When I till my soil, I smell that mineral richness in it. Those minerals and nutrients end up in my food that I grow.
And I am sure there are folks that would disagree, but tomatoes taste best grown in clay- yes, that is my contention.
They grow more slowly, take up the mineral richness and perhaps struggle a bit more to get the fruit out.
Because of the clay, and it's ability to hold moisture, I water my tomatoes very little...really just to get them established. I think this is a good idea really for tomatoes growing anywhere. Water less for better flavour. There is a term for this:dry farming. Makes sense to me....think about how watered down tomatoes taste in a rainy year.
A little struggle for all of us makes us stronger....the tomatoes growing in the clay, and me growing everything on clay!

No comments: