I know, and you know, this Master Gardener blog space is not intended as a garden brag book. However, I am ignoring that caveat today with a bit of boasting about my middle-of-the-yard tomato patch. Don’t know if any of you remember, but back in April I took a leap of faith and sacrificed a smallish, rock-lined area of my yard — normally planted with ornamentals — to the tomato gods. Mind you, this little spot is pretty much in the center of our back yard. I put in just four tomato seedlings, two determinate, two indeterminate. Then I hoped and prayed and the sun shone, and the wind didn’t blow too hard.
Update: The tomatoes are thriving, and, despite the goofy cages I’ve placed around them, the plants are lovely. I’ve started harvesting the cherry tomatoes, and a few ‘Beefmasters’. The fruit on the ‘Ace’ and ‘Celebrity’ are starting to blush.
This is beyond exciting for me, as I had pretty much given up on getting decent tomatoes from my back yard. I normally plant tomatoes in our two 10-foot by 4-foot raised beds, which are set away from the house on the southwest side of our property. But the last few years, the tomatoes have not done well. I have over-analyzed why this happened — too hot, too cool, too much water, too little water, planting the wrong varieties for our climate (I am SO over heirlooms!) — and I suspect I’ve hit upon the answer: The soil. This year’s relative and so-far success with tomatoes is probably because I have never before grown tomatoes in this spot.
I thought I had been taking good care of the soil in my raised beds. I never planted tomatoes in the same box in consecutive years. I always added plenty of compost and some organic fertilizer prior to planting. I’ve even grown cover crops (fava beans) over several winters. I’m hoping that by leaving the raised beds fallow for a summer, the soil may recover, at least a little.
I’d love some feedback from my fellow Solano gardeners. How do you keep your soil healthy?