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My relaxing hobby -- in pursuit of the $10 tomato
Old 07-16-2008, 08:17 PM   #1
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My relaxing hobby -- in pursuit of the $10 tomato

This spring I felt lucky to arrive at the top of the waiting list for a little plot of land in my nearby community garden. I immediately set to work turning over the soil and adding some compost. Rototiller expenditure $13. From the local farmer's market I purchased organically grown tomato and basil plants. I put them in the ground after the last frost date, as advised by the local gardening experts. Expenditure-- $14.

Soon thereafter, around June 10,we had a little snow storm with temperatures falling down to 30 degrees, accompanied by 40 mile an hour winds. One of my tomato plants gave up completely. The others refused to grow during the next three weeks until I bought them "wall-o-waters" and cages, for a total expenditure of about $30.

Also, I bought some other seeds for various lettuces, planted them, and waited for several weeks. Nothing. In the meantime another tomato plant bit the dust. The others were still refusing to grow. I bought some organic fertilizer for $8 and applied it.

Another gardener said that cats were digging in my garden and that's probably why no lettuces. Also, maybe the birds were enjoying the seeds. So I bought a roll of burlap and some anchors, replanted lettuce and also some other veges and covered the bed. Expenditure: $17. Just finished this project. We'll see if it works.

After two months of work I have two tomato plants that are growing like gangbusters and have lots of yellow flowers, no fruits yet. The basil plants never grew at all and are looking very pathetic. Two zuchinni plants are doing nicely. A short row of green bean plants, no beans yet. Some pretty marigolds and zinnias. So far I haven't eaten anything.
My expenditures so far
$42 -- plot rental, includes water
13 -- rototiller
12-- plants
8- seeds
30- wall-o-water and cages
8-- organic fertilizer
17 -- burlap, anchors
_____
$130 Total

Does this sound like fun, or what?
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Old 07-16-2008, 08:23 PM   #2
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I don't know whether it's considered organic, but Tomato Tone is a miracle fertilizer for tomatoes. It won't necessarily make the plants grow like crazy but you will have tons of tomotatoes. We've converted our neighbors and my mom has converted all her neighbors to it.
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Old 07-16-2008, 08:25 PM   #3
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Some organic fertilizers are a bit too organic and the animals love routing around in it. I had to quit using blood and bone meal--even my dog was licking the ground.
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Old 07-16-2008, 08:41 PM   #4
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Martha, I hear you about the "too organic fertilizer". the one I use smells like horse ****. But I wouldn't think the cats would like that.

Here's a guy who really loves his garden! And no expense is spared.

"But for Alexander, "it's not about what it actually costs to eat this piece of fruit. It's really about lifestyle. And the garden really for us was a kind of family member, for better or for worse."

'$64 Tomato': A Quest for the Perfect Garden : NPR

My garden, myself. Not sure about that.
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Old 07-16-2008, 08:44 PM   #5
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I say it is well worth it if you enjoy it .
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Old 07-16-2008, 09:11 PM   #6
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It's not the cost (within reason), it's the joy of it all.

DW and I have been gardening and landscaping for 30 years together. However, now that we've moved to our dream house on the Eastern Shore, our soil is basically sand. When they built the house they brought in topsoil. As far as I can tell it's made from crushed cinder blocks, or some equally inorganic compounds. Total nutrient level - 0. Our neighbors all have landscapers who built mature landscapes in one fell swoop. They pay them to come in a few times a year and hose it all down with chemicals. We prefer to do it more organically ourselves (50% cheap, 50% pride).

So we won't be growing much for a while. We're working on one landscaping bed at a time, bringing in compost and manure, annoying the neighbors. Got 2 done so far since April. I'm also starting a worm compost farm, both for the fun of recycling instead of throwing away, and to get worm castings and compost tea.

It's going to take a while, but in 15 or 20 years when we leave here, we're going to leave behind an oasis with rich black soil that will grow anything. In the short term, container gardening on the deck for tomatoes, peppers, and herbs looks like it for us. Good luck with yours.
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Old 07-16-2008, 10:32 PM   #7
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I do love fresh home grown tomatoes. About once a decade I get an uncontrollable hankering for them and forget everything from previous vegetable gardening failures and try growing them again . It always ends poorly and I do not try again for another decade. Thanks to Oldbabe and this thread my expected 2012 tomato gardening attempt has been delayed to perhaps 2014.
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Old 07-16-2008, 10:55 PM   #8
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Sorry, not to make fun of you or anything, but I can't relate to the idea of a "community garden" & two tomato plants. (nor to the idea of snow in June!!!)

I don't know where the "Eastern Shore" is, but when I grew up in Mississippi in the 60's & 70's we always had a garden of at least 2 acres and, even though my father was securely & gainfully employed, it provided a very large percentage of our daily diet year round. Some years plowed with a mule!

I have many, many, not so pleasant childhood memories of planting, hoeing, weeding, picking, shelling, canning, freezing, etc - seemingly without end. (Maybe why I don't have a garden today? Though I currently have three acres & could if I wanted to. I certainly know how!!)

There was no such idea as that of a "community garden". Everybody had their own. 25 tomato plants was not uncommon for the average family garden.

I guess my folks were the original "back to nature" people - having ditched the white-collar & bailed out of Detroit in the turbulent 60's & moving back to Mississippi to buy a farm. (funny, they never subscribed to Mother Earth News? Guess it wouldn't have made any sense to them.)

( I also still have an additional 3 acres back in Mississip which comprises my tin-foil-hat backup plan should the entire govt, economy, social order collapse & all my investments & pension amount to nothing! - haven't buried any guns & ammo on it yet though )

Did ya know Mississippi has no State Income Tax on pension income? hmmmmm.
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Container Veggie Gardens....
Old 07-17-2008, 12:10 AM   #9
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Container Veggie Gardens....

For those with problem soils and/or growing conditions, you might want to try growing your veggies in containers. That way YOU control the soil, moisture, fertilizer, light conditions, etc., and if severe or inclement weather is forecast, you can move them to a protected area either outside or inside. PLUS......they take up VERY little space......a patio corner, beside the sidewalk, on the porch, just about anywhere.

I started several years ago growing herbs and peppers in containers. Then I tried lettuce. Then radishes. Then tomatoes. Then zucchini squash. This year I'm growing all of the afore mentioned veggies, plus parsnips. Thus far everything that I've attempted to grow in containers, has been very successful!!!

I've used various brands (as well as generic) "soil-less" mixes, and I've also mixed my own. In other words, they contain NO garden soil, NO clay, etc. They are made up mostly of peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite. Some contain 'slow release' fertilizer similar to Ozmocote, or they may contain compost. My personal preference is Miracle-Gro brand, to which I add Ozmocote and moisture retentive crystals. If something needs even faster drainage, I'll throw in some perlite. One of the nice things about the soil less mixes is the fact that they are VERY light weight, which makes it fairly easy to move even the biggest containers. Besides if you use regular garden dirt, and then you water it, and it has a chance to sit out in the hot sun....you'll end up heavy, rock-hard, container-shaped, adobe bricks that NOTHING will grow in. So don't try it! Been there...done that....ain't fun!

You can use fancy store-bought containers, or you can use anything that's available that will hold 'dirt'......just be sure to drill some drainage holes in the bottom. One of my all time favorite containers is plastic mop buckets....our local hardware store has them on sale a couple of times a year about 99 each, so I'll grab $10-12 worth for future use (they're also good for watering, weeding, dead-heading, etc.) A plastic mop bucket will easily hold 2 pepper plants throughout the entire growing season. This year I planted parsnips in a big 17" deep "muck" tub (that's what the farm store calls it), and they're coming along fine as frog's hair.

Last year I had a 'volunteer' grape tomato plant (that I yanked out of one of the flower beds) growing in a 12" diameter by 12" deep plastic flower pot. It produced oodles & oodles of the sweet little treats! The plant was free, and I rescued the flower pot out of a neighbor's garbage can.....he tossed it 'cause it had a small crack on one side that I stuck a piece of duct tape over.

You can grow ANYTHING in containers! Flowers, ornamental grasses, herbs, veggies, shrubs, trees.....anything! I know because I grow ALL of those in containers.....106 containers this years.....every size, shape, material, color.....even an old sink!

Here are a couple of pix of some of this year's container crops:
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Old 07-17-2008, 12:17 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Oldbabe View Post
This spring I felt lucky to arrive at the top of the waiting list for a little plot of land in my nearby community garden. I immediately set to work turning over the soil and adding some compost. Rototiller expenditure $13. From the local farmer's market I purchased organically grown tomato and basil plants. I put them in the ground after the last frost date, as advised by the local gardening experts. Expenditure-- $14.

Soon thereafter, around June 10,we had a little snow storm with temperatures falling down to 30 degrees, accompanied by 40 mile an hour winds. One of my tomato plants gave up completely. The others refused to grow during the next three weeks until I bought them "wall-o-waters" and cages, for a total expenditure of about $30.

Also, I bought some other seeds for various lettuces, planted them, and waited for several weeks. Nothing. In the meantime another tomato plant bit the dust. The others were still refusing to grow. I bought some organic fertilizer for $8 and applied it.

Another gardener said that cats were digging in my garden and that's probably why no lettuces. Also, maybe the birds were enjoying the seeds. So I bought a roll of burlap and some anchors, replanted lettuce and also some other veges and covered the bed. Expenditure: $17. Just finished this project. We'll see if it works.

After two months of work I have two tomato plants that are growing like gangbusters and have lots of yellow flowers, no fruits yet. The basil plants never grew at all and are looking very pathetic. Two zuchinni plants are doing nicely. A short row of green bean plants, no beans yet. Some pretty marigolds and zinnias. So far I haven't eaten anything.
My expenditures so far
$42 -- plot rental, includes water
13 -- rototiller
12-- plants
8- seeds
30- wall-o-water and cages
8-- organic fertilizer
17 -- burlap, anchors
_____
$130 Total

Does this sound like fun, or what?
1st an observation (and sorry for raining on your parade), you don't seem to be cut out for this gardening business.
Not to hijack your thread, but your post reminds me of my DD 1st free cat. She got it from a vet, who saved it from the streets. The vet neutered it, declawed, gave it shots, ...etc. for a few hundred bucks. I think the vet spends her spare time scowering the alleys.
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Old 07-17-2008, 12:49 AM   #11
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I guess living in LA makes it all too easy. I buy my tomato plants for $1.49, use about $2 of fertilizer and plant food each. Stakes and cages are re-used each year. They are heavily watered every day.

Last year my 1 tomato plant, a super-beefsteak, yielded 169 tomatoes weighing 148 lbs. It measured 7' tall, 11' * 6' when I tore it out. This was my first year of measuring everything - previous years were about the same.

I planted 2 this year, 1.5 months apart. The first (a Big Boy) has just started yielding, 8 tomatoes for 3 lb 7 oz.
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Old 07-17-2008, 12:50 AM   #12
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coming along fine as frog's hair.
Goonie, I love this expression! ..except I started to imagine very, very, very thin parsnips.

I have an older book about container gardening: "The Complete Urban Gardener".
It has a superb recipe for container soil that should last for years. I had perennial peonies and also roses growing in it back in the US when I lived in the city and had a deck.

-1 cubic foot topsoil
-1 cubic foot vermiculite
-1 cubic foot peat moss
-1 qt. packaged dried cows' manure
-3 cups greensand marl or granite dust
-2 cups bone meal
-1 cup blood meal
-3/4 cup limestone powder

1 cubic foot = approx. 2 gallons

Sadly, they do not sell bone meal, blood meal OR greensand here. You can sometimes find a very fine blood powder but it is sold in small portions and is incredibly costly.

I put in 9 tomato plants (3 varieties) at a cost of €4.50, plus another 3 euros for some bamboo stakes. Added about a cup of the commercially avail. fertilizer pellets (cost=pennies) and a bushel o' home compost. Most of the plants are growing way beyond their stakes. Seem to be getting good yields from the sauce tomatoes, not so good on the salad tomatoes. Also going great guns is some type of grape tomato that was sold to me with the name "beefsteak"! Delicious and sweet but the beeves must be from Lilliput. The first ones of those are ripening now; the others are still green.
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Old 07-17-2008, 01:14 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by ladelfina View Post
Goonie, I love this expression! ..except I started to imagine very, very, very thin parsnips.
They've been growing for about 5 weeks (I think), and they're about the diameter of a pencil and about 2-3" long. I need to thin a few of them out in the next week or so.....they're starting to get a little crowded. Also the second batch of lettuce and radishes will get planted in the next few days. And if I can come up with another big tub (free or really cheap) I might sow a batch of carrots too.

As for 'top soil'.....I used to be able to get some that wasn't too bad, but anymore all of the bagged commercial 'top soil' sold around here is mostly clay, and not nice loamy stuff. So I just keep re-using the potting mix year after year, and just add some new slow-release fertilizer each year. So far so good.
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Old 07-17-2008, 02:01 AM   #14
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Oldbabe-if your plants are very leafy and flowering but not producing tomatoes, your fertilizer may not have been balanced well enough...perhaps too high in nitrogen. Or, the cats p**ing around the plants could have added too much nitrogen. I prefer to use all compost for my tomatoes, mostly from grass clippings and sometimes a bit of chicken manure (several weeks in advance of planting...or you will have too much nitro). Usually produced lots of nice tomatoes. I don't grow them now...no dirt to grow them in, but will have a great garden when we go home...

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Old 07-17-2008, 09:05 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by Goonie View Post
You can use fancy store-bought containers, or you can use anything that's available that will hold 'dirt'......just be sure to drill some drainage holes in the bottom.
A use for plastic milk jugs.

Quote:
You can grow ANYTHING in containers! Flowers, ornamental grasses, herbs, veggies, shrubs, trees.....anything!


A method to grow potatoes I read about (and tried, with success) in TMEN:

Fill a large barrel or trash can to about one foot deep with soil/compost/sawdust/etc. Plant seed potatoes in the soil mixture, about six inches apart. When the plants break ground, and are say four inches tall, bury them again with a foot of soil. Rinse and repeat until barrel is full. At the end of the season, when it's harvest time, just tip the barrel, and viola, taters!
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Old 07-17-2008, 09:33 AM   #16
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I've tried a garden a few times. Here's the dilemma I have. I plant, I water, I weed. I wait all summer. I see beautiful tomatoes and peppers in the store and think, "I'm not buying those because I have a garden." I water and weed and wait. I keep watering and waiting and generally give up on the weeding.

I water and wait through June, July and the first 2 weeks of August, avoiding those "store veggies" because I have a garden. Starting in mid-August I have so many tomatoes that I can't eat them all, give them away or cook them in time. If I don't pick them daily, the animals get them before I do. I have about 2-3 weeks of over-tomato-ness and then with the cool September nights it's soon over.

I finally gave up because of the imbalance of watering/waiting/anticipation compared to the reward. I did enjoy eating my own fresh, ripe tomatoes. At least the first 10-12. After that I felt like I was just trying to justify my summer's efforts.

In my town we pay for water that we use, based on a water meter. Then we also pay a sewer charge, almost double the amount for incoming water. If I'm watering my garden for 3 months, of course I'm paying for water I use. But I'm also paying almost double that for water that's going in the ground and not being treated on the return trip.

I never measured how much water my garden used or how much I spent on the few plants. Per tomato, it may have been economical. I just felt that it wasn't worth the effort and anticipation/disappointment.

I also tried green peppers. Two plants produced 2.5 peppers. That's 2 small peppers and one that was so small that it didn't count as a full one. Maybe the tomatoes took out their angst on the poor pepper plants.

My husband says that when he's retired he'd like to try a garden. I told him that if he can make a garden that provides a variety over more than a 3 week period, I'd love it.
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Old 07-17-2008, 02:09 PM   #17
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Oldbabe-if your plants are very leafy and flowering but not producing tomatoes, your fertilizer may not have been balanced well enough...perhaps too high in nitrogen. Or, the cats p**ing around the plants could have added too much nitrogen. I prefer to use all compost for my tomatoes, mostly from grass clippings and sometimes a bit of chicken manure (several weeks in advance of planting...or you will have too much nitro). Usually produced lots of nice tomatoes. I don't grow them now...no dirt to grow them in, but will have a great garden when we go home...

R
Thanks for this tip, Rambler. I did use compost in my garden when I prepared the soil. The plants only started producing flowers about a week or two ago. We'll see.

Also, I live in a townhome. No front yard, no back yard. No real space for a container garden that would get enough all day sun. Hence, the community garden is a great solution.
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Old 07-17-2008, 03:25 PM   #18
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Ok all of you advanced gardeners.

What the heck do you do about birds. I've almost given up growing any beefsteaks because in invariably when I say, "ah that tomato is just about ready to picked," the next day 1/2 of the tomato is gone. While the birds look well feed. You'd think with 4 cats, two of which are quite good hunters, it wouldn't be such a problem. I've thought about putting a cat on a rope by the garden (i.e. guard duty). They still go after grape and cherry tomatoes but the loss is less noticable.
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Old 07-17-2008, 03:27 PM   #19
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Ok all of you advanced gardeners.

What the heck do you do about birds. I've almost given up growing any beefsteaks because in invariably when I say, "ah that tomato is just about ready to picked," the next day 1/2 of the tomato is gone. While the birds look well feed. You'd think with 4 cats, two of which are quite good hunters, it wouldn't be such a problem. I've thought about putting a cat on a rope by the garden (i.e. guard duty). They still go after grape and cherry tomatoes but the loss is less noticable.
Netting...
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Old 07-17-2008, 05:03 PM   #20
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She knows how to do 'green fried tomato's'.

heh heh heh - birds, rabbits, squirrels - they outsmart our two dogs and a cat. And netting.

Put the big green ones on the window sill in the Sun.

heh heh heh - I can't get Bell peppers to grow that well with our clay soil.

Next season plan to mix in sand or something.
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