And so begins the tedious task of planting the "soft" crops. This is what I consider any temperamental vegetable that shivers at the mere mention of a cold night and must be constantly pampered in order to live. These are the plants that I must diligently tend from seed to florescent light and later on to the greenhouse, finally hardening off under row covers outside. It is with great joy that I am able to free myself of this burden, or perhaps I should say commitment, that so intimately connects me with these particular plants and finally set them free to fend for themselves in the cold hard earth... hopefully not too cold. Tomatoes, tomatillos, ground cherries/gooseberries, various peppers, eggplants, certain herbs and even a few litchi tomatoes all fit into this category. I love growing my own food but I must say that caring for numerous seedlings is not a task I greatly enjoy.
We made the decision to plant our tomatoes, tomatillos, ground cherries and a whole lot of flowers about two weeks earlier than usual this year as the weather forecast looks really good as far out as the weatherman's eye can see. Normally cool and rainy going into Memorial Day weekend we have had 75-80° days and close to 50° nights. The most important indicator that it is time for planting is all the volunteer tomatoes coming up in the gardens.
We plant these three in pretty much the same manner. A deep hole is dug and filled with a rich compost that was held aside especially for these particular crops.
Tomatoes are buried as deeply as possible using soil that was excavated from the bottom of the hole to form a bowl around the plant. This sandy soil is a little more sterile than the compost and helps prevent against blight or other viral issues brought on by water splatter.
Field fencing is used to make sturdy cages and each plant is then tagged. Each and every cage will be also staked to the ground before the plants get much bigger.
Tomatillos and ground cherries are planted in a similar manner but instead of a cage I sometimes plant them in a row using two sections of fencing to hold them in place. Cross sections of bailing twine will be run across from side to side as the plants grow in height to keep them from falling over on each other.
This will work for tomatoes as well but ours are mostly indeterminate and get much taller and heavier, if we're lucky, so I prefer to use the cages for the majority of them. Cages also seem to allow for better air circulation which is an important preventative against disease.
We ended up with over 53 different tomato varieties and around 80 plants. The goal being to have at least 1500 medium to large fruits for canning, freezing, drying, and a large selection of seeds going forward. Thanks in part to http://grungysgarden.blogspot.com/ for exchanging some unusual seeds with us, we are having fun with tomatoes this year. The hardest part seems to be giving away the extra plants... a good problem to have for a change.
We have come across more of these yet to be identified salamanders in our gardens this year then ever before? This one was hiding in the compost pile.