Some are rotting on the vine in the greenhouse. Many are hollowed out by the resident chicks, and still, the tomatoes are cascading down the vines.
My favorite way to can cherry and grape tomatoes is to jam them all in a jar whole, and pack them with water with a bit of vinegar and salt (proper canning procedures, blah blah). They come out cool as refreshing as when they were picked, softened, with a hint of tang. I can eat a pint of them straight.
I haven’t even gotten everything into my garden yet, and tomatoes are already forming in the greenhouse. I’ve also canned a round of rhubarb. I think it’s not good when the harvest starts before the planting is done. Better…next…year.
In the meantime, my greenhouse companions, the Blondies, are joyously scritching around in the heavy mulch, until it gets too hot and I kick them outside for the day.
One chick decided to have a dust bath. Very funny – a chick the size of a tennis ball taking a dust bath. Really into it. I’ve not seen a little chick dust bathe before.
They’re getting their wing feathers and little stubby tails.
This is from a month ago, May 1, but I was so demoralized by how the day ended that I didn’t finish posting. Until now.
The chickens no longer live in the greenhouse, and it’s time for the green things to go in. I got in there with the broadfork, breaking up the rows. Tomatoes first, against the north wall.
After having all the birds wintering in the “chicken dome”, the soil looks, well, awful. It looks compacted and desiccated. It would have fooled me. But that´s not the case.
The top quarter inch or so is dry, and compacted. When I crack it with the broadfork, that top crust breaks up in scales, and right underneath, the ground is wet as anything, no harder than anywhere outside where chickens haven´t been trampling, and so very full of worms.
Really big worms.
So the hens got very excited. They were following right on my fork, poking their heads down into the holes to fish out worms, and vigorously scratching up the flakes of crust. They were feasting.
Until I decided they were being a little too hard on the worms, who didn´t have a fair chance, and I evicted the chickens.
I hung up a sheet of row cover (if there´s anything else around I use for so many things it wasn´t intended for, I don´t know) the length of the greenhouse to wall off the side I was working on from the side I wasn´t going to get to today. The birds can play on that side.
I let one chicken stay with me – my favorite low chicken.
She can use some extra worms. She was actually perturbed at being alone with the others on the other side of the cloth (they could see each other through it), but she was consoled by the worms.
You see, it was a rainy day. A drizzly morning, forecasted to be a thundering downpour day, so I didn´t have the heart to shut my birds out of the greenhouse to crowd, disgruntled and soggy, under their coops.
As it got wetter, the birds steadily found their way into the vast shelter of the greenhouse.
Inside, I kept working, attended by low chicken, while the rain drummed on the plastic and the birds all trickled in, chirruping and shaking off, pleased to be let back into the greenhouse.
It was really very cool to spend all day with my birds. It´s nice to listen to them chat, complain, brag; I could peek over and see what they´re up to.
They´re always doing something funny: piling up on the hay sacks, trying to have a bath in the roots of the fig tree (naughty!)
Planting the tomatoes out is a big day.
From past experience, I just break up the ground a bit with the broadfork, and plant directly into the ground as is. No turning! After I drew the rows with the broadfork, it was time to plug tomatoes.
Here´s where I found out how well my newspaper pots made out: the answer- excellently.
I tore off the top ring where I had written in Sharpie the kind of tomato, and left that by or around the plant as a marker. Then I tore off the rest of the paper and was left holding a tall root ball.
On the other side of the wall, the chickens had the time of their life shredding all that scrap newspaper that I´d put in a box, and littering it all over the room, the scamps.
Chickens, I´ve observed, spend a lot of time lounging. Most of the afternoon is devoted to sunbathing, dirt bathing, combing their feathers, or napping. On this rain day, they were piled up, murmuring, dropping their heads for a nap or settling right down into sleep pancakes. Others would be active, picking at something – they never all fall asleep at once, but it seems like someone´s always contentedly napping in the afternoon.
At the end of the day, tired, with 70 tomatoes and a few pepper plants planted, I turned in. It was still pouring rain and the chickens were awake, so I just left them in the greenhouse. There´d been no attempts on the wall, or breaches, so I was confident.
I was working on this post, before going out to close them up. There had also been a surge in squawking I was wondering about. …
The wall was breached- one end down, and every single tomato plant was defoliated- not a leaf left! Just a roomful of puny green stems. A couple of hens not gone to bed yet, finishing off the devastation. Next time you can get wet, you ingrates!
Before I went to bed I planted some more tomato seeds, but to say it was a major loss is a major understatement. I had some spare plants, but not an entire spare crop. I was NOT HAPPY. Completely defeated, more like.
As it turned out, despite the significant trauma of being beheaded, the same day as transplanted, almost all the tomatoes survived. Only five were broken off by the hens and therefore terminated.
It was a definite setback, but in the next couple weeks they regrew some awkward leaves, and then left that early bad memory behind. Now you wouldn´t know it had ever happened, although they might be a week or two behind where they might have been.
I hate plastic; I might not have enough plastic pots anyway; they wouldn´t be deep cylinders. So I tried making some pots out of newspaper to pot up my tomatoes into.
I rolled them around a bottle (half-sheet each), crunched in the paper on the bottom, slid the cylinder off the bottle, and then turned over the half inch at the “brim” to the outside. That´s what keeps them rolled. Takes about 20 seconds each. They kind of try to unroll anyway, but they hold together great once a little soil goes in them.
It remains to be seen how well they hold together once they have a plant in them and get watered. But if all goes well, I can write the variety right on the paper with a Sharpie, and I suppose I can put them directly in the ground as is (that´s a lot of newspaer ink, though).
Because my upside-down tomatoes were such a success last year, I made five more pots this year and hung ’em up. It went so fast this time. Like I said, it’s the infrastructure that’s time-consuming, or the figuring out.
I thought I’d give this a try, because I love the idea, although unproven. Last year my tomato planted upside down in a juice jug was a total fail, probably not least because of the transparent jug, and inadequate gasket around the stem of the plant. This time I roughly copied the technique of a guy I met hitchhiking (cute, and he gardens!), and the summer will tell if it’s a success. Both of us saw this in the Lee Valley catalog, and although the special pots they sell are certain to be sophisticated technology, there has to be a way to make them work low-tech.
First things first! Drive the nails or hooks where you’re going to hang them. Because the moment you have one full, you’re gonna need to put it somewhere to get it out of your way.