The garden is planted - now is when the learning starts.

 May 31 - and finally everything is planted!

May 31 - and finally everything is planted!

The final total is 105 plants - 83 tomatoes, 6 eggplants, 16 peppers. Though my "least ambitious" garden in many years, it is still factors larger than I expected. The decision to not make the long spring cross country trip freed up the time to both plant and maintain a garden of this size. Sue and I are really happy about this - thoughts of a summer with little fresh produce and no opportunities to preserve a harvest were not pleasant. 

These are just a few of the things I hope to learn from my 2018 garden.

  • The true potential of indeterminate tomatoes in straw bales
  • Comparative tastings of so many of our flavor favorites - some we've not grown in awhile such as Red Brandywine, Nepal, OTV Brandywine, Polish and Ferris Wheel - vying for our attention with Cherokee Purple and Green and Chocolate, Lucky cross, Dester, and Lillian's Yellow, just to name some of the indeterminate varieties.
  • Effectiveness of the Gardener Supply Gardener's Revolution Classic Tomato Planter in a repeat try, focusing on just tomatoes (last year they excelled for a sweet pepper/eggplant combo, two Roma type tomatoes, and a single dwarf...this year, each of the three gets a pair of dwarf varieties)
  • Effectiveness of straw bales for bush beans, potatoes, cucumbers and squash when used in my driveway. My previous experiences with these four crops in bales were mixed due to poor sun exposure and pest issues.
  • Progress in both Dwarf and Microdwarf tomato projects, as I have lots of each growing - far more than I anticipated. 
  • Two new heirlooms given to me during events - one in Durham (currently "Mimi's Heirloom), and one in Detroit - are out there and growing - but what will they be like? Exciting!

I've already been receiving SOS emails and Facebook, Instagram and Twitter posts and questions. There simply are no guarantees with gardens, because the number of variables is enormous. For one family, straw bale gardening did not go well. Another gardener is being plagued by tomato spotted wilt, and another by late blight. There are examples of apparent herbicide damage - either from mulch, or blowing in from neighboring yards. The most common tomato issues - lower foliage fungal attacks of Early blight and/or Septoria, are popping up all over. And, of course, critters - deer attacks, mostly. It's enough to.......which leads me to......

.....gardening is best enjoyed, I think, when fully immersing into the complete journey - delighting in and learning from each step along the way, from seed starting to transplanting, feeding and watering to trouble shooting, to harvest and seed saving. Often the final part is the most iffy - when varieties are lost along the way, when disasters big and small hit, we don't have tomatoes - we have lessons, and ideas for next year.

My problems to date? The deer paid a quick stop to my driveway garden edge a few nights ago, but just nipped the tips of a few hot peppers. I re-aimed by water scarecrow...we shall see.  By the time I got the last of the tomatoes planted, nearly all of which are dwarf project varieties, the plants looked pretty sick of being in their 3.5 inch pots - lots of lower foliage disease.  But - they are now in 5 gallon grow bags and most are recovering nicely.  Lettuce is starting bolt, beets starting to wilt, all of the cole crops got "cabbage loopered" into swiss cheese and are now gone. The tomatoes in the latest set of bales are not catching on as quick as I would like - it got quite hot quite quickly, and it is a race between keeping them sufficiently watered to get their root development going before the tops wither away.  And I found my first copperhead snake of the season when sorting tomato stakes in the side garden (it partially crawled across my hand - yikes!).

But it is all so exciting.  This is garden 37 for me - it feels just as fun, interesting, wonderful as the very first because it is filled with mysteries, gets me outside where the birds provide the best soundtrack, and feels like really good physical work to keep this body going. My seedling babies - far fewer than usual, but still lots - are growing in gardens all around the area. Our customers are simply wonderful people - the various visits this spring were all memorable reunions. Opportunities for podcasts, articles, interviews come in when I least expect it, and provide such fun.

May all of your gardens be successful this year....just ask me anything you wish to about your own adventures when issues arise and I will see what I can do help.  I hope you are enjoying my posting of tomato of the day - it goes to Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Those will just keep going until we are well into harvest, so you will get to see what varieties look like when ripe.

Oh yes - somehow I still aim to finish book 3 - on the Dwarf Tomato Project - by late summer, for publication and availability in the fall.  Fingers crossed!

 The 2018 driveway garden from a different angle

The 2018 driveway garden from a different angle