I am a serious tomato fanatic, so each growing season I’m always thinking about “how many” tomato plants I’ll be putting in, not “IF” I’ll be growing them that season. Invariably, I end up buying WAY too many, and I’m left trying to find homes for them all in various (often weird) locations around my property.
This year was supposed to be different – and it DID start that way! I purchased less than 20 small plants, and I knew exactly where they were going to go ahead of time.
But then one of my “hair-brained ideas” hit and I just HAD to go out a buy 33 more!
Long story short, earlier in the spring I ripped up the grass just outside of my fence (running along the sidewalk), and have planted a row of giant sunflowers (which are doing quite well so far). I thought it might ALSO be fun to run a row of “help yourself” tomatoes right along the sidewalk. I’ve been gradually moving towards creating a suburban “demonstration eco-garden” to help educate the neighborhood a bit (and hopefully make people realize that I’m not just a complete lunatic – haha) – and I thought this would be a great way to make an impact. As it is, I already get quite a lot of nice comments from people walking by, so this has helped me to feel more confident about my idea.
Anyway…after giving my “help yourself tomato fence” idea some more thought, I decided not to go ahead with it this year. I knew it would require a LOT of extra work, along with the seemingly obvious (in hindsight, of course – haha) fact that the “Kong” sunflowers are just going to end up crowding/shading the tomatoes.
SO, I’m left with 33 extra tomato plants – specifically “Tomatoberry” plants. Needless to say, I think this is going to be the “year of the tomato” in my garden!
Ok – now let’s start talking about the fun things I’m going to try out! In this post I’ll talk specifically about my wooden box gardens, but you had better believe there will be other posts featuring OTHER tomato growing approaches, and so on and so forth!
Some of you may recognize these wooden boxes as the containers used for my ill-fated “Worm Composting Potato Towers“. I’m not sure if it was the rainy, cool weather last summer, or flaws in my approach (likely both), but it seemed that potatoes and composting worms were not destined to live together in a mutually beneficial habitat (may try it again at some point though).
Tomatoes, while closely related to potatoes, are a different beast, so I thought I might have more success with them being grown in a similar fashion – i.e. basically being grown in a worm bed. Just to be on the safe side though, I opted to do more of a ‘hybrid’ approach – at least initially (while the plants are still small, and the material in the bin is still fairly unprocessed). As such, I created normal soil zones where the plants are being started.
In one box, I decided to try a four corner approach with “Sweet Million” cherry tomatoes.
I started by filling the box with a little yard waste (at the bottom) and aged horse manure/straw. I then excavated cavities in the four corners of the bed. These were then filled with “black earth” soil and some old worm compost before the plants were added.
I was thinking it would be cool to add a “Worm Tower” in the middle, but in thinking about it a bit more I decided that I don’t need to get that fancy! I will simply deposit “food” materials directly in the bed (in the central zone) instead. One such food material will be the alpaca manure I wrote about recently, but I’ll almost certainly be adding food wastes as well.
In the second box, I thought I would try growing a single “Beefsteak” tomato plant, smack dab in the middle. I had visions of turning this plant into a giant tomato tree, but as I’ll explain in a minute, my dreams came crashing down in a hurry!
I set up the tomato “habitat” in exactly the same manner as I did in the four corners bin. I dug a hole, filled it will black earth and worm compost, then put in the tomato plant.
Unlike the Sweet Million plants (which as you can see in the first picture, are doing just fine), the Beefsteak unfortunately went downhill almost immediately after it was planted (see picture below). I’m not really sure what happened there, but I decided to scrap that approach for the time being – and ended up creating (much more recently) another four-corner bed using grape tomatoes.
Based on the healthy appearance of the Sweet Million plants thus far, I am guardedly optimistic that this is going to work out well. At the moment, there aren’t all that many Red Worms in either bed (as compared to some of my other beds), so I think it may be important to up the population fairly soon. I want the tomatoes to have some nice material through-which they can spread their roots – and at the moment, a lot of it is pretty raw stuff (which may explain why the beefsteak didn’t do so well.
In upcoming “Vermi Tomato Gardening” posts I’ll write about my new raised bed (tomato) garden, and my vermi (tomato – haha) container gardens as well! Oh, and of course we’ll have to spend some time talking about tomatoes being grown next to my various vermicomposting trenches, and perhaps a mention of the tomato plant I plan to try in my vermiponics system!
Stay tuned! Much more vermi-tomato content to come.