Gardening can be a lot like golf, especially when both are being done by amateurs. Sure, they both start with the letter “G”; not as prime a letter as, say “M”, but a good letter nonetheless. They also both involve a lot of, hopefully, educated guess-work and a little luck. Let’s take golf for a minute. I have a general idea of how far I should be able to hit a particular club. Seldom does the ball go that distance. Usually it is shorter, sometimes longer (assuming it is not longer because it bounced ahead off a rock or the cart path I assume my swing is getting better). There are far too many variables for me to guess why it went how it did. My equivalent in the garden is not distance, but yield – how many tomatoes, or tomatillos or whatever it is, will the garden produce this year, which means I have to estimate, largely based on past experience, how many seeds to start.
To estimate the number of seeds I started this winter I read what the production of a particular plant variety should be. This is not as easy as it sounds. I have yet to find estimates, in pounds, for actual yields for different plants. Usually it says something like “prolific.” I don’t know about you, but that is almost meaningless to me. Or, I find estimates such as, “plant two plants per person for fresh harvest.” What does that mean? Are they eating the plant like I want to with enough to share? What if I want to can some of the harvest? Because my research generally does not find definitive answers I interject my past experience. Now, I have not been growing a garden that long, so I don’t have years of experience to draw from. Two years ago the tomatoes did great and from less than 20 plants there were weeks we harvested 50 – 60 pounds of tomatoes. Last year, a year that started with issues (for the plants, not me – my issues continue year to year), resulted in limited growth and limited production. Even with many more tomato plants we never had the large harvests like the year before. I also had seedlings die or otherwise fade away last year.
Now let’s come to this past February. I knew I want more tomatoes than last year. I also knew I was going to try grafting for the first time so I guessed a few plants would likely die. So, what did I decide? To plant a lot of seeds and hope a sufficient number were healthy when they go into the garden. What has happened so far? All but a few of the seeds are thriving. The same thing is happening with the various peppers and the tomatillos, which I repotted today. I’m not really one for heartlessly throwing thriving plants on the compost pile just because they don’t fit into where I planned to put them. Somewhere there has to be enough room or I can dig-out a new area for additional plants. I’m infinitely flexible that way.
What does all this mean? It means I think we will need many, many more canning jars to preserve lots of garden goodies. I think it also means tomatoes will comprise the bulk of my diet once they start coming in. It further means we better start eating what we canned last summer faster because the vegetable wave is coming. And like a tidal wave, it may start slow, but they will just keep coming and coming until the system is overwhelmed. Lock your doors this summer or I might just stash a few extra in your fridge and your cabinets.
In slightly less esoteric ramblings, the peas I planted at my house are doing well and I have been able to pick a few. The beans and lettuce at my house are growing nicely. Some of the pimento pepper blossoms are becoming pimento peppers (no clear sign of ghost pepper blossoms becoming ghost peppers, yet). A tomato is ripening on a plant my uncle sent down (we may have to talk about what variety it is as it does not look like what we thought it should be). I learned today that tomatillos can be planted like tomatoes – that is, buried deep and roots will sprout along the stem. This is good for me since the garden is in a mountain desert area of Arizona and it tends to be a bit dry in the summer, so planting them deep will help slow evaporation and keep the roots moist. It is also hot enough now that the pavers in my backyard are getting hot enough to burn the soles of my feet so I have to wear shoes when I water the plants. Ahh, life in the desert.