The lawn mowers were running this week for the first time since autumn, so it’s time to think about preparing the garden bed for vegetables. Some of you may do this in the fall, after your crops are finished, but I prefer to let the dead flowers and tomato plants inhabit the garden over the winter. My theory is that it “adds visual texture to the garden,” but we all know it’s because “I don’t have to.”
Ever since I left my childhood home, I have always had to have at least a few tomato plants in my garden. And now that spring has broken and we are close to leaving the last frost behind, it's time to prepare the garden bed for this year’s abundance. (See the attached pictures.)
My focus for the past few years has been on heirloom tomatoes and peppers. And when I cannot grow them, I make an effort to get them at the farmers market. This year, I plan to plant a few different varieties: Amish Paste, Red Currant, Brandywine Pink, Amish Paste, Pascilla peppers, Bhut Jolokia, purple string beans and my standard jalapenos.
Some of my neighbors have asked me why I choose heirloom tomatoes. Personally, I just think they taste better. Many of you will remember Big Boys, Better Boys and Early Girls. These tomatoes are hybrids that were bred for certain desirable traits. Early Girl is now owned by Monsanto through its acquisition of the seed company that owned the patent. I grew all of these for years because of their taste. I find grocery store tomatoes to be beautiful in their perfection, but for my taste, they have no flavor.
Having found my first heirloom tomatoes at an area farmers market a few years ago has redirected my tomato habits. Brandywine tomatoes are one of the most popular heirlooms and rightly so. Their taste is incredible. I am hooked on the flavor and it’s been fun to learn how to ferment and wash my own seeds. The abundance these plants produce makes me want to share.
My gardening suggestion: start your seeds now indoors, so that they will be ready to plant on or about Mother's Day.