One of my favorite days each season is planting out tomatoes. It’s more than just the promise of future fruit— although, really nothing is better than a fresh tomato in season— and I’d say if anything, it has something to do with the essential vanity of growing the crop here. We don’t have tunnels on our tiny bit of land; until this year, we didn’t have a greenhouse, and even that greenhouse is a patched together, seat-of-the-pants project. Outdoor tomatoes are always a bit of a gamble in this climate. What if the summer doesn’t break eighty degrees? What if it rains through July? What if the rain comes back in September? It’s always kind of uncertain. Visions of glorious red, purple, yellow and green fruits dance in my head though, so each year I forge ahead and some years I get lucky. Most gardeners who’ve been at it long enough are outwardly pessimistic, but inside are true optimists, wrestling with the rocks and the weather and the heavy clay for years in order to get a good crop. There’s always the tantalizing promise of the later season, luring us out of our cautious conservative ways into sweeping commitments to hope.
As you’ve probably inferred, we planted tomatoes. Three beds, fifty-four plants, eighteen varieties. It’s a lot of tomatoes— a mix of heirlooms, two types of cherry tomatoes, a good roma variety for saucing, and a couple types I’ve found good for canning in the past. For me, this is the true kickoff to the summer garden— all the spring plantings are starting to come in, the peas are really flowering heavily now, and I’m beginning the seedings for fall crops, but this feels like the real point, each year, where we hit the first glimpse of summer.
Give that it’s still May in the Northwest, by saying that I’ve probably doomed us to another month of rain and sixty degree highs.
We also planted corn on Sunday, which I’m experimenting with again. After some reflection and back and forth, I decided on a flint corn over a sweet corn. Supposedly it does a bit better in our climate, and I’ve never had that much luck with sweet corn, nor do I particularly love it. So this year in the garden, we’ll be experimenting with growing grain on a very, very miniature scale, of about a hundred row feet. We’re growing Abenaki Calais flint corn, similar to the Roy’s Calais flint corn recommended here. I’m hoping for a reasonable crop, and it’s a good time to do it since I’ve got access to the mill at the farm currently foolish enough to keep me employed.
Other plantings this week included basil, some flowers and additional radish seeding. The spinach and salad beds have continued to provide strong harvests, and I’ve begun pulling a little bit of chard and kale, although both need another week before they really get big enough to pull from consistently. Other folks finished potting up peppers, weeded some of the remaining raised beds, and took care of watering all this week, making sure the garden stayed alive through the return of the sun.
I’m feeling optimistic about our gambles and experiments. It’s good to try new things, and to gamble on others that may or may not work consistently. We learn how to grow here, and refine our previous knowledge, only by trying, and occasionally, by failing. There is always another season, and the accumulated knowledge of years of trying is what holds the most lasting value.