While at the local grocery store that offers organic milk that is not ultrapasteurized, I came across these tomatoes. The $14.99 price seemed steep. The fruit on several of the plants had obvious blemishes. It was easy to leave them at the store.
I invest more time than money in my garden. I planted tomatoes over the weekend. They are from seeds of last year’s crop. The heirloom variety I like best here is Arkansas Traveler. The name suggests that they came from the next state to the west where summers are similarly hot and humid. I’ve continued to grow them because they consistently produce a good crop throughout the summer. Other varieties haven’t kept going for as many weeks as these have for me.
I have most of them planted in a bed where I grew winter wheat as a cover crop. I uprooted most of the wheat 3 weeks ago and used it for mulch. I left a bit that I plan to harvest and use for a cover crop next winter. On top of the uprooted wheat I have composted leaves around each plant. It adds more organic matter to the bed and the darker color will build more heat than the faded wheat. In a month I plan to add a layer of grass clippings that will fade to a color like the wheat and reduce the summer heat. Total expenses this year on seeds, cover crop, and mulch is zero.
For my earliest tomatoes I put one plant in a four gallon bucket that is next to a south facing brick wall. The reflected heat will help this one mature sooner than those in the ground. In keeping with my zero budget tomato plan, the container is a free gift from my cat loving neighbor. I drilled drainage holes in the bottom. The potting soil is mostly my leaf compost with a little garden dirt.
With the 9 plants in the ground and one in the bucket, I saved $150.00 off the price of the grocery store tomato plants. And by early September, I will likely have a lot more good tomatoes than the pricey plants will produce.