Tomato Season is Almost Over

Tomato season is almost over. It’s still warm, but as the hours of the day gradually get shorter, I can feel fall coming. My first year growing tomatoes (successfully) has gone well. I had 4 plants: two heirlooms and two Italian heirloom romas. I used some fancy plant label sticks to keep track of the unknown heirlooms but watering and rain rinsed away the permanent marker. One of the heirlooms has flowered quite a bit but hasn’t fruited and it’s probably too late. The second heirloom has had 6 tomatoes total, 2 went bad on the vine, 3 were large and yummy, and one tiny little guy is still on the plant. I’m hoping he makes it before cold weather arrives here in Northern California. The two romas were definitely the most productive.

The Unknown Heirloom

Growing tomatoes is a great learning experience, especially as a student of Natural Resources.

What I did right:

  • Watering regularly. In the past growing at a plot several miles from my home, consistently watering was just something that didn’t happen. Being able to walk outside my door to water my tomatoes has been a pleasure.
  • Planted more than one variety. As much as I love weird varieties of tomatoes, I held back and got both unique heirlooms and a variety known for it’s productivity, which happened to be a heirloom too. Part of the joy of growing your own food, something I’m just learning, is growing something you couldn’t buy at the store, but I didn’t want this year to be another fruitless endeavor. It’s my goal to strike a balance between unique varieties and varieties that yield heavily.
  • Companion planting. I planted Magic Mountain Basil nearby which has been very popular with the pollinators. Bees and butterflies alike love the tiny lavender tinted flowers. Nearby I planted some garlic that sprouted in my root drawer, another companion plant for tomatoes, although they didn’t survive long enough to develop bulbs.
  • Free tomato cages. I used fallen limbs off an oak and bamboo to stake my tomatoes. I could’ve been more deligent in staking, but I think the natural stakes worked well. And they were free!

What I will do differently:

  • Amend the soil. This is particularly important in one of my two beds, where the soil started as a cemented clay. The other bed’s soil looks like it’s in better shape. It’s darker, richer and has a healthy surplus of worms.
  • Improve drainage. The sprinklers (of which I have no control over) leave my front bed wet, often too wet. I need to put a bit of thought into this one, but perhaps use larger river stone to build up mini-terraces.
  • The spearmint must die. As much as I love the abundance of mint to dry for tea, it’s a monster and it’s taking over! I’ve taken cuttings to have a source of potted spearmint but i fear I may never get rid of it. I rip it up and it keeps coming back. I never, ever, EVER would’ve planted mint directly into the ground in my limited growing space.
  • Learn more about growing tomatoes organically. Calling me a novice is a generous exaggeration of my gardening experience. I have a lot to learn. I’m a tomato n00b.
  • Uh… pinching of shooters? What’s that?
All in all, it’s been a very rewarding experience. It’s getting time to start planting seeds for the fall/winter garden. I did a bit of cold weather gardening at my plot last year and was surprised to find how effortless it was! I feel very blessed to live in a Mediterranean climate with such wonderful weather for growing food.
Do you grow any of your food?