The first of February had barely past when I ate the last of my summer tomatoes. This past summer - sunny, hot, and long - made for an excellent growing season. Miserable as I was, my tomato plants were happy campers and good producers.
I favor a hybrid variety called Early Girl; my heirlooms never seem to produce as well, and being impatient for that first tomato of the season, Early Girl satisfies me sooner than later.
Last year, I experimented with growing tomatoes in oversized pots. I mean really big ones. The idea of having to buy all that potting soil and amendments to fill them didn’t appeal to me. Normally, I make my own potting soil by mixing together organic potting soil, peat moss and mushroom compost; but, like I said, these were really big pots.
What to do?
Well, my compost bin was falling apart and I really wanted to move it anyway; so, I decided to fill the pots with all the compost in my bin. I had enough to fill one pot completely and in the second pot I mixed the rest of the compost with organic potting soil. The remaining tomatoes went in the ground (the ground soil has been mixed with shredded leaves and compost over the years).
How’d they do?
My best producer was the tomato planted in the pure compost. I watered it less (as it held the moisture better) than the pot that was mixed. The tomatoes in the ground faired best when it came to water, but that’s because they were in the ground and heavily mulched.
Still, I got more tomatoes consistently from my pure compost potted plant. I was also able to extend the growing time for about a month by pulling the pot into the garage at night once the temperatures started to drop below 50 degrees.
Finally, I pulled all the green tomatoes off, set them in a sunny window, and then composted the plant.
And so, in February, I am eating the last of my garden tomatoes.
Composting makes all the difference. It takes little space, keeps yard debris and kitchen scrapes out of the landfill, and when done properly, produces no odor.
Numerous types of bins can be used, some composting faster than others. You can even compost without a bin; however, that’s not real pretty.
For Smyrna residents, Keep Smyrna Beautiful gives away a free wire compost bin kit – one per household. The precut heavy wire is enough to create a 3’ x 3’ circular bin. Along with the kit are instructions on how to compost correctly.
Virginia Davis, assistant director at KSB, says the kits are available and can be picked up at the Smyrna recycling center. Make sure to bring proof of city residency. If you live outside the city, you can still get a bin kit; you just need to purchase it for a $5 fee. Thus far, they have given out more than 700.
So go ahead and get started now. Leaves, grasses, spent foliage, vegetable scraps, a bit of soil, an occasional handful of blood meal (organic nitrogen), some sun, rain, air, worms and various microbes together will break it down and turn it into humus - the black gold of gardening, and the source of lots of delicious tomatoes. Yum!