Watching peach buds pop open in my front yard is like a cannon fire signalling the beginning of the garden season here on my mountaintop home in the avocado empire,north of San Diego.
I’m passionate about gardening and love few things more than salads made with home grown produce.
besides normal garden fare such as greens, radishes, onions and peppers, i’m very found of outrageously large heirloom tomatoes.this weekend I made my annual trip to Escondido’s Hawthorne Country Store to pick up my favorite heirloom varieties before every other home gardener empties the very large cart that's filled with heirloom seedlings.
I absolutely love the promising names of some heirloom tomatoes. “Martian Giant” is one of my favorites and is a vine I've had a lot of success with. “Giant” is something of an understatement when it comes to the fruit this variety produces. Last year my two vines produced some of the biggest (just over three pounds) i’ve ever grown. One of the reasons I like heirloom tomatoes is simple: as a result of careful propagation the flavor of most heirloom vegetables is more intense than basic hybrid varieties.
Another heirloom at the the tippy top of my “must plant” year;y list is a variety called “Mortgage Lifter.” Although this tomato was propagated in the eastern US, it does well here in Southern California, consistently producing 1.5 to 2 pound fruits that look great when sliced or added to sandwiches or cut into wedges for salads.
Other heirlooms that do well in Zone 9 gardens are Cherokee Purples, San Loranzanos and giant German Pinks.
Although I grow beefsteak hybrids and fast growing Ace 90 and cherry tomato varieties, it’s heirloom tomatoes that represent the real reward for my gardening hobby.
By this weekend, I’ll have seven more heirlooms in their planters, cages securely covered with mesh to discourage the legion of marauding squirrels I substantially thinned in last year’s massive “critter wars.”
I’m also building several raised garden beds this year.
But I don't limit my gardening efforts to vegetables and fruits. I also grow Virginia and Cuban tobacco as an insect barrier crop. Tobacco?
You bet! since I started growing tobacco ten years ago,I’ve cut down on whitefly infestations and gastropod invasions. Besides, It’s a pretty plant as well as a historical California crop ( it was grown at most of the missions as a cash crop). And growing it brings out my inner rascally Huckleberry Finn.
but ten years post stroke, any hobby that forces me to use my left hand is a good thing. And that’s just one of the reasons i recommend gardening as a form of physical therapy for stroke patients. Beside, it’s always nice to work on you sun tan under the warm California sun.-- Jim Forbes on 03/23/ 2014.