For inexplicable reasons, I am compelled to grow vegetables from soil I maintain personally. Gardening marks the seasons of my life, beinning with the first turn of a spade in February and rolling on through the final blast of the San Diego sun in mid-November.
I’ve come to enjoy my daily two shirtless sunny hours weeding, cultivating, and planting. Gardening forces me to use my stroke-lamed left hand, and leaves me with a feeling of pride and accomplishment.
Over the years my dedication and interest in organic gardening has been fueled by watching my plants thrive sans petrochemical enhancements of any kind and the enjoyment of pure, tasty produce.
Few crops have reinforced my belief in organic gardening more than gigantic heirloom, plump potatoes and fiery peppers.
75 days into the 2010 heirloom season and I’m excited: My Lebanese and French vines have flowered and set; and, my 90-day beefsteaks are now 32-inches tall and still climbing
My yearly Roma “sauce” crop is set and plumping up and should be ready at the end of June.
I get a lot of my inspiration fo growing tomatos from stalls at local farmers markets here in San Diego County. And if what I see there doesn’t inspire me, I make a day-trip up to the Farmers Market at Third and Fairfax in downtown Los Angeles. I freely confess to being a provincial Californian, but to be bluntly honest, the best and most flavorful heirloom tomatoes I’ve ever sampled were from farmers markets in France.
I still smile at the thought of my last trip to France nearly a decade ago. The heirlooms I tasted there were sweet and not overly acidic and weighed nearly two kilograms each. The only comparable fruit I’ve ever seen here in Estados Unidos were display samples at Draeger’s markets on the San Francisco Peninsula.
I probably go a little overboard with tomatoes.
I admit to coveting soil that yields great tomatoes and I’ve spent the last six years amending my garden soil for optimum production and taste. One of the suggestions I’ve implemented over the last three years is to amend by sandy clay soil with a calcium source. Calcium did three things that helped my quest for the “perfect” tomato: it reduced the slightly acidic Ph reading of my soil, it promotes blossom set (thus increasing yields) and I think it makes my tomatoes taste sweeter.
I haven’t yet obtained a brix (sugar) measurement value on tomatoes grown in soil that’s been amended with calcium but my adding about 10 pounds of crushed oyster shells to appx 36 sf of dedicated tomato garden space shifted the Ph readings .2 of a point towards neutral.
I like the technical part of gardening because it gives me a sense that I’m improving and husbanding arable soil.
And so ends love story about the not so common tomato. Now it’s time to skin off my shirt, slather on some SPF 45 sunscreen, and cage tomatoes--now spreading undirected throughout my garden.—Jim “Farmer” Forbes on 04/16/2010.