The Joy of Homegrown Tomatoes

Nothing tastes quite as good as a garden fresh tomato.

Here in the North these are rare enough to find, but this past summer we had enough heat to grow tomatoes outside without any protection from the elements, though we did fence them off from the laying hens.

I started seedlings indoors around mid-March. And I went against the odds, using a seed variety I had limited success with in the past and another variety with which I was unfamiliar.

However, the seedlings germinated well and as a precaution against “damping off” fungal growth I watered them with chamomile tea.

The tomato plants grew inside as we waited for spring, which was taking it’s time showing up. Thankfully, tomato seedlings are very forgiving. They can be transplanted a few times before they start to flower and set fruit.

Transplanting is stressful to plants and adding stress to a plant while it is flowering isn’t a good idea, so I try to make sure this is done before the plants start to bud.

When transplanting tomato plants, covering their lower branches and stalks with soil will allow them to grow more roots. These extra roots help to bring in more nutrients and water.

Last year we built a new flower garden close to the house, but hadn’t planted anything in it yet, so that’s where I decided to put the tomatoes. There, they would not be forgotten in the busy summer days and they would benefit from added heat retention from the raised bed and rocky slope behind the bed.

They loved the location.

I had planted basil alongside the tomato plants as a companion plant, but after a few weeks they were no longer visible. The tomatoes were starting to bush out and take over the bed; we even had to extend the perimeter fence to accommodate them. They soon engulfed the fence, as well. Some plants were nearly four feet high.

Never had I seen tomatoes grow like this in the North, especially without a greenhouse. They got so thick with branches we couldn’t tell if they had flowered and set any fruit.

I knew looking would do more damage than good, so I left them.

When we got our first heavy frost in mid-September, I pulled the plants and harvested the tomatoes. None of them were ripe, but they all had escaped the frost and were in good condition.

I put them in a box with some apples and waited for them to ripen. And in a few weeks we were enjoying the fruits of our labour.

There is nothing better than the taste of a fresh ripe tomato, unless it has been grown on your own soil.

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