Normally I don’t spend a lot of time in the garden. I LIKE gardens, but I’m just not a field worker and since moving to Maine I’ve discovered that gardening is a daily chore that will overwhelm you if you hesitate. My first summer here, Ann went to Norway for nine weeks and I was left in charge. Neither of us had a clue what that would mean. I’d just come from the Pacific Northwest where you must water for things to grow and my garden there was small and easy to see.
Here three vegetable garden beds are in the lower forty and easily out of sight. That summer I looked at the spinach and thought,’I must pick that soon,’ and the next time I looked it had bolted. And the onions, ah, the onions disappeared overnight, I’m sure, never to be seen in a riot of weeds. It was beyond me.
I’m a Zone 1 gardener; everything right by the house and in my sight and mostly I like flowers and herbs. I will admit it is nice to have fresh broccoli from the garden but it’s a bit crazy when you have to eat a head of broccoli a day (each!) to keep up. Most vegetables can be procured at the store or the farmers’ market with a lot less hassle and I’ve never figured out why anyone grows zucchini when most people give the stuff away in the summer. People make up weird things to do with it as if you’ve waited all year for zucchini bread.
That said, other than basil and cilantro, (that I can never get enough of and is expensive to buy), the one veg that I love from the garden and I think must be grown to be best, is the tomato. I LOVE tomatoes and I have no problem eating them every day. Late in the summer I live on Greek salads with lots of tomatoes and feta cheese.
So, when Ann was invited to England for the month of June I agreed to plant the tomatoes. Last year was a good one for tomatoes and we had lots for canning and eating and I made a yummy tomato soup. Alas, the plants got heavy with the fruit and collapsed their staking so even more of the fruit was ruined from contact with the ground. As a result of that, a new method was to be implemented this year.
Ann observed a neighbour’s method which involves making tubes from wire rebar, the kind that is used to reinforce concrete floors, and she bought five, ten-foot lengths that needed to be cut in half and bent into a tube. I borrowed bolt cutters from the new neighbours then I brought the two ends together and bent the cut wires enough so that the ends stayed together. I then used pliers to wrap the wires around the vertical wire. This sounds easy but required some strength and bending to reach the wires at my knee level.
Once the wires were all wrapped I sat on the tubes from one end to the other and back to go from a teardrop shape to a sort of rounded square. This is where my Carhartts come in. The rebar wire is rusty and my Carhartts are black and paint splotched anyway and are double canvas so really tough for working with this material. I really only paint in them when it’s cold so it was good to put them to proper usage.
I then took the tubes out to the designated garden, dug big holes to get them in deep enough and filled in. Then I went back and reached through the wire and dug little holes for the tomato plants, put in some compost then the plant and watered them in.
The plan was to plant three sauce tomatoes, two slicing/eating ones and two cherry tomatoes (the yellow ones are the best for snacking), but when I went to our good friend Ning’s to get the plants she loaded me up and I couldn’t say no. So I think I have maybe four of each, ten in the garden and two others in my herb and hot pepper bed nearest the house. I have planted six hot pepper plants and some basil and parsley and she talked me into some strawberries that bear the first year so next I’ll clean out the garden where my Egyptian onions are and turn that into the herb, strawberry and onion bed. So, I’ll be in my Carhartts tomorrow, too. So much for being ornamental……..