Insecurity Breeds Tomatoes

☆ June 12, 2014

When I last mentioned my garden, I had made a sauna out of fire-heated rocks and tarps to save my tomatoes from an early frost, which kept them growing for another week until it snowed in earnest in early October.  At that point, I transplanted my basil, parsley, thyme, and jalepeno plants into pots and lugged them inside (where they flourished all winter!), and cut the tomato plants at the base and hung them from my bathroom ceiling and enjoyed vine-ripened tomatoes into November.  Heady from keeping a few plants alive through the winter, I decided to start my garden from seed for the first time this spring.

Plants make me very nervous. Put me in a confined space with a coyote or a bull and I’m totally comfortable, but put some seeds in my hand and I start to hyperventilate. I’d ordered seeds in the past from Lisa at Amishland but had been too scared to plant them; this year, I unearthed those seeds from the back of a drawer and ordered a few more: heirloom varieties like Cuor di Bue and Coyote tomatoes, Chervena Chushka sweet pepper and Little Nubian hot pepper, and Astrakhanski watermelon. With great trepidation, I sprouted all the pepper and tomato seeds according to Lisa’s instructions, convinced that some – if not most – would not sprout due to some failure on my part. Nearly all of them sprouted. So I planted all the seeds, convinced that some – if not most – would not grow because of my ignorance and ineptitude. They all grew! And so I now have twelve watermelon and cantaloupe plants, fourteen pepper plants, and sixty tomato plants. SIXTY!


It was time to make more raised beds. Last year, I built three beds from 2×8 redwood – they are gorgeous and sturdy and I can walk their edges like a balance beam, but the materials were so expensive. This year, since I quintupled my garden space, I used DIY diva‘s technique with cedar fence planks. Way cheaper, and so easy to build – I knocked out six before noon my first day and another six one evening. The chickies helped. And I’ll have enough tomatoes to share the bounty with them, too.



29 Responses to “Insecurity Breeds Tomatoes”

  1. marg
    June 12th, 2014 @ 7:31 am

    I wanna come live with you, planting gardens with animals wandering around supervising…Nirvana!

  2. Colleen G
    June 12th, 2014 @ 7:38 am

    I see that Chloe helped too! Love the wood and happy gardening!

  3. Lyn
    June 12th, 2014 @ 7:58 am

    Great garden! Any trouble with deer and other critters snacking on the plants?

  4. Susan
    June 12th, 2014 @ 9:10 am

    “We come from the earth, we return to the earth, and in between we garden.”

    There’s no better place than being out in garden. You’ll find much peace watching your plants grow.

  5. Amy
    June 12th, 2014 @ 9:36 am

    I have planted my first garden this year from seed, and I felt the same way you did – No way is this actually going to work. I’m going to screw this up.

    Every time I walk out in my garden, I’m kind of amazed that things are growing. Not everything is perfect, but holy shit! I didn’t kill everything! Between that and growing an actual baby, I feel like Mother Earth herself.

  6. Anna
    June 12th, 2014 @ 10:53 am

    LOL – 60 tomatoes in 4 beds?! (Your map makes it look like maybe that’s what you have in mind.) They may look tiny now, but they’ll turn into space-alien-monsters before August …

    You have tomato sauce in your future. :-) LOTS of tomato sauce. If you don’t want to do huge batches in the heat of late summer, I have discovered that tomatoes (that you plan to cook with) freeze really well. Remove the core, leave the skins on, freeze them whole on a cookie sheet, and transfer them to freezer bags once they’re frozen through. When you’re ready to cook with them, run them under a little warm water while frozen – the skins will slip right off. Let them defrost some, and cook!

  7. shreve
    June 12th, 2014 @ 10:56 am

    A ~~ oh, no, that was the map of the seedling tray so I’d know what was what. I have 15 beds now, most of which are for the tomatoes :) Thanks for the freezing tip!

  8. Julia
    June 12th, 2014 @ 12:33 pm

    How do you fill the raised frames with earth? Backhoe?

  9. shreve
    June 12th, 2014 @ 1:48 pm

    J ~ yes, backhoe saved the day! I started filling one by hand and halfway in, realized it was masochism.

  10. Tracy
    June 12th, 2014 @ 1:52 pm

    Nice job on the raised beds!!!!

    Showed it to my hubby and said “See, that’s what I want.” He was supposed to make me a raised bed garden for the past few years.

    Take photos at the same position of one or two of the beds about once a week and then post them all in the Fall so we can see the plants grow from little things to monster plants. Kind of like a time lapse.

  11. Jenny C
    June 12th, 2014 @ 1:54 pm

    This looks terrific, Shreve. Your raised beds are beautiful… yes, I said beautiful. I love gardening, and any wood, rich soil or helpful critter that enters the process is beautiful to me. One question: you planted April 11th. How did you cover the beds against so many freezing nights between mid-April and mid-May? I planted my tomatoes and herbs quite late this year due to freezing nights.
    Can’t wait to hear how all the varieties do for you, which are hardiest, which taste best, and which take your breath away with their beauty. Oh yeah… and which ones the chickies prefer. :) Thx so much for this post.

  12. Kelley Rico
    June 12th, 2014 @ 2:28 pm

    You go, girl! We always do seeds, which reveals ever undreamt of depths of craycray, waiting for them to sprout. You will LOVE the cuor de bui or however it’s spelled. It is the best cabbage ever- not too great for kraut but OMG. Heavenly. I just transplanted some of the seed starts last week…and was overjoyed when they “took”. And: canning, yes? for the tomatoes? I did my first massive canning in years last year, lived through it and have been thrilled with the results. Chicks look great!

  13. shreve
    June 12th, 2014 @ 3:04 pm

    T ~ Awesome idea w/ the pictures!

    JC ~ That was when I started the seeds indoors. The frost-free outdoor growing season here is basically Memorial Day to Labor Day :P

  14. Felyne
    June 12th, 2014 @ 3:48 pm

    Next year with your Star Beef Order, a jar of Wyoming’s finest tomato chutney… or whatever tomato thing goes well with beef… I’m not culinary at all.

  15. sybil
    June 12th, 2014 @ 4:20 pm

    Freaking awesome – and much better than my store-bought cedar. And LOVE Cherokee purples.

  16. Maggie
    June 12th, 2014 @ 5:08 pm

    Amazing! I really have no excuse now. My raised beds are full of weeds and we have been slacking big time on planting new stuff. Ok, now I’m going to get off my butt and plant! Thank you!

  17. Liane B
    June 12th, 2014 @ 5:48 pm

    Smiled, then laughed. At Chloe and her stare down with one of the riot girlz. Love this.

  18. mlaiuppa
    June 12th, 2014 @ 8:30 pm

    Oh, man. If I had the produce you’re going to have I’d be canning it for over the winter.

    I had raised beds before I put in my fence and had a ton of tomatoes. I canned them whole and also made sauce and did that. Lasted me until the following summer. Those were the days. I had to dismantle the raised beds when the fence went in and redid the back yard landscaping.

    Now I am planning for large raised beds for my front yard Probably 4×8 or 4×10, depending on how they fit around a planned bird bath fountain that will go in the middle. I’m also planning on planting the paths in between the beds with clover for the bees. I’m making my own stepping stones with mosaics and concrete in molds. All will be on drip irrigation since I really hate to hand water, plus it’s the best way to grow and still conserve.

    Now, how are you planning on watering your extended number of beds? Irrigation or by hand?

    I will have to check out Amishland when it comes time for me to get my seeds. Those tomatoes sound delish.

  19. Steve
    June 12th, 2014 @ 9:07 pm

    Have to disagree with Sybil – we tried some Cherokee Purple and did not enjoy them at all, skin much too tough and too mushy. YMMV.

  20. Jenny C
    June 13th, 2014 @ 11:49 am

    Thx for answering my question, Shreve. Duh, I should have known that was when you started them indoors. My mind was so focused on the great raised beds – ha. Can’t wait to hear “how your garden grows”!

  21. bp
    June 13th, 2014 @ 11:18 pm

    Sun Dried Tomatoes. Love.

  22. mlaiuppa
    June 14th, 2014 @ 8:25 am

    I ordered some seeds from Amishland. Not too late for here as our growing season is really long.

    The lettuce will have to wait until fall. I ordered two kinds.

    I also ordered a watermelon, a cantaloupe and a musk melon. I haven’t had musk melon since I was a kid, 50 years maybe. I remember they used to be delicious. Not the bland stuff you get now. I’m going to give half the seeds to my Dad as he is the real gardener. He grows from seeds all the time.

    Thanks for the info.

    I hope your garden does great. No need to fear bugs with all those chickens guarding the crop.

  23. Karen
    June 14th, 2014 @ 10:40 am

    I am curious to follow these through growing in regular soil. Usually for pots and raised beds I use a “recipe” to make soil either from Square Foot Gardening called “Mel’s Mix” or from the book ” Lasagna Gardening”. You are lucky to have all the natural soil available to you.

  24. Kathryn
    June 14th, 2014 @ 12:02 pm

    mlaiuppa, around here we don’t fear the bugs, it is the chickens that will get into the garden and eat everything in sight. My neighbor has her garden surrounded with fencing and a screen door to keep the chickens out.
    Looks funny, but it works.

  25. shreve
    June 14th, 2014 @ 2:10 pm

    M ~ awesome! you’re lucky in CA to have such a long growing season

    K ~ I mix my own growing dirt, too – 1/3 red dirt, 1/3 composted manure, 1/3 sand from a friend’s gravel pit. It’s excellent! And then a dose of chicken manure about a month in.

    K ~ yes, I have to use netting around the garden to keep the chickens out, too. They sure are great for bug control, though!

  26. Patricia Long
    June 16th, 2014 @ 11:12 am

    I love the photo of Daisy Dreaming! I Can’t grow a garden in the studio apartment in which I live but I certainly can vicariously enjoy yours. It sounds wonderful and I am glad all your seeds grew. I love the picture of your chicks roaming and Chloe among them where she always seems to be!

  27. Carla
    June 16th, 2014 @ 4:59 pm

    I keep thinking about what you wrote and finally, feeling utterly frustrated, had to post here.

    Just to say, me, too!!

    We bought tons of organic seeds on sale months ago, and we have a huge garden space from the previous owners of our home.

    We are also on a super tight budget and would love to grow our own produce. But I was so overwhelmed.

    What if the seeds didn’t grow, or what if everything grew all at once and I can’t harvest it all? How do I plan and coordinate what grows where and when?

    There are lots of great resources to help with planning and zones, but I just couldn’t put one foot in front of the next and make it happen.

    I’d like to think it’s not too late. It’s extremely hot here in Redding, California, and surely people grow food year round. I just don’t know how to get started.

    The soil has been amended every year for 25 years. Do we need to add anything or can we go without?

    And ground squirrels. They were in the disclosures when we bought our house. So raised beds would be ideal. I don’t mind some plant loss as long as we can harvest at least half of what we grow.

    But ugh!

    So many thoughts. And yet there’s someone’s grandma across the road from us, who stuck some seeds in the soil, watered now and then, and she has food. No stress, no hyper planning, nothing fancy.


    I want a big, beautiful year round garden, a pumpkin patch and squash for the fall, and chickens.

    Surely I can do this. I just need a big boot in the rear to get me started.

  28. Sharon
    June 18th, 2014 @ 11:33 am

    Way to go!

  29. marilyn
    June 25th, 2014 @ 2:40 pm

    This is my first year of using raised beds. We have eleven in our sunny Monterey CA backyard. We lined ours with hardware cloth though as we have tenacious little gophers. Sixty tomatoes??? I thought I had gone overboard with 17. Are you going to can them?

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