It took most of the day to plant the fourth plot in five varieties of tomatoes.
Using two pallets from Kate’s farm I sorted the metal stakes by size then pitchforked the grass clippings that have been on the plot since last fall.
There were numerous worms and grubs under the matted grass — a sign of soil fertility.
Once the surface was cleared, I spaded the entire plot and applied about 30 pounds of composted chicken manure. I broke up the clods of dirt with a hoe, then used a garden rake to till the soil further. I resist using a mechanical tiller, partly to disturb the soil as little as possible, and partly because the expense is more than we can afford. I took several water breaks to stay hydrated.
Once the ground was broken and tilled, I measured. I grew eight varieties of tomato seedlings: Italian, German Pink, Amish Paste, Brandywine and Supersteak are slicers. Black Cherry, Gold Nugget and Saladette are cherry tomatoes. This plot is for the five slicers with the three cherry tomato plants going somewhere else. I’ll use these tomatoes fresh in the kitchen with canning tomatoes coming from my barter agreement with local farms.
I dunked each seedling in a water bath immediately before planting. I dug a deep hole with a trowel and broke up the soil by hand as finely as I could to cover them. I doused each planting with water so they wouldn’t crisp in the sunlight and 80-degree ambient temperature. I re-applied the mulch and caged them. It took 15 stakes to cage 25 plants. The planting is done.
When the sun comes up I’ll check to make sure every plant survived. If some didn’t there are plenty of extra seedlings in reserve.
Tomatoes are a highlight of our summer garden. Taking a full day to plant them is okay, and the precautions against failure are many. Over the years I’ve become a better tomato grower but everything is conditional — on weather, on soil fertility, and on gardening culture. Fingers crossed, this should be a good year.