So far, my success in growing tomatoes has been disappointing. The summers have gotten too hot too fast and it’s a struggle for the plants to stay alive, let alone produce fruit. But, this year will be the Year of the Tomato at the Castle Garden. Here’s why: I have the good luck to have some very good friends with some very green thumbs who were generous enough to provide me with some very healthy starts that they started in early January. But, those of you who have tried to grow tomatoes in the summer know that starting with heathly seedlings is only half the battle. You have to get those babies started planted as early as you can so they can do their thing before the temperatures get too hot. But, “it’s too cold”, you say? Well, maybe. But, last year I learned of the “tomato in the well” method from the Natural Gardener’s John Dromgoole. This extends the season by creating a little “cave” where your little baby ‘maters can stay warm even when the temperatures drop below the tomatoes’ comfort zone.
While, I generally try to avoid optimism, I can’t help but feel…tentatively hopeful that it’s worked like a dream. Most of the plants are at least a foot tall, with at least a foot of established roots. In the last week, I’ve removed the buckets from around the blossom-laden plants and ammended heavily with Turkey compost from the Natural Gardener (they sell in bulk, y’all). The last step will be to add the tomoto cages. Now, although March 15 is the benchmark “last freeze” date, Central Texas has seen late freezes well into April…ouch! So, I’m waiting to put cages up in case we have any more nights below 40. This will allow me to used a row cover to keep them warm. Finger crossed! This WILL be the Year of the Tomoto!