I’m a big fan of tomatoes, not just any tomatoes, I have to have heirloom tomatoes. The taste and scent has been bred out of the hybrids. The hybrids just don’t smell like tomatoes. Google heirloom tomatoes and you’ll find literally hundreds. Some of the ones I have tried are Black Krim, Brandywine, Black Brandywine, Mortgage Lifter, Beefsteak, and German and Mennonite Pink, but my most favorite is Cherokee Purple.
Cherokee Purple: mature in 80 days, tomatoes are large 10-14 oz. with a very dark red flesh, shows good disease resistance, a problem with the old favorites. It’s a very good producer, and has an excellent flavor. It is said to have originated with the Cherokee Nation. The skin is a dark maroon color with green shoulders. It has a fantastic flavor. Last year it was the only tomato that bore heavily during the crazy summer we had, of alternating drought and too much rain.
I grow my heirlooms from seed every year that I saved from the finest large tomato of each variety. This year I purchased new seeds as my Cherokee Purple seems to have crossed with some of the other varieties. I’m also trying a yellow brandywine and a German Pink.
Tomato cages for these plants can’t be wimpy. If you use those little wimpy tomato cages for heirlooms, they won’t support the massive height and weight of heirlooms. Thirteen years ago I bought a 100 foot roll of concrete wire and made cages about 2.5 to 3 feet in diameter. Some I use for my cucumber vines. They’ve held up all these years and even survived an escaped herd of horses thundering through a stack of them one winter. I don’t see how one didn’t break a leg. The concrete wire is expensive for a roll, but you figure up the cost of replacing these little rinky dink store bought cages every year or so and they’ll pay for themselves in short time. Mine still have many more years of life left in them.
I usually wait until my tomatoes are a foot to foot and half tall before planting in the garden. I dig a hole to a depth that only an inch of the plant is showing. You need a strong root system for tomatoes. I strip all but the top leaves off. In the planting hole, I’ll sprinkle some 3 month time released fertilizer and a little of Epsom salt. One thing I’ve tried the last couple of years is putting some of the water retention crystals in the hole. Cover up the plants leaving just the top few leaves out. After planting I put a layer of newspaper down and about 3 to 4 inches of mulch on top of the papers. Using this method, I hardily watered my plants, even during a severe drought for the last couple of years. The newspaper and mulch are tilled in the next fall to add organic matter to the soil.
My tomato sandwich recipe: I like multi-grain bread spread with honey mustard salad dressing, add one thick slice either of the Cherokee purple or Beefsteak or other large heirloom. Sprinkle with just a little pinch of salt or garlic salt and chow down. Oh and plenty of napkins are needed.
The cicadas are still raising racket that sounds like a whole neighborhood burglary alarms going off and covering the trunks and limbs of all my trees. A fried of mine called the police not knowing what the noise was thinking some one was up to no good at a neighbor’s house. Friday, while I was moving grass, I got tired of being popped in the back of the head and hearing a screech over my ear protection. The weekend I tried to finish mowing until the belt shredded on my 5 foot finishing mower. It’s the same brand as the four foot one that I had for over 12 years and had the original belt on it when I sold it with my old tractor. This mower is a year and a half old and the belt shreds. I can’t complete that job, so I put the tiller on the tractor to plow Mom’s and my garden. She’s wanted to plant her sweet potatoes for several days. First I had to remove the cedar tree I had wrapped around the tines the last time I used it. That took over an hour to do around the hooligans licking me in the face and laying on top of me wrestling with each other.
Next job was burning up the last of Mom’s Bradford pear tree which she lost the morning of our tornadoes. She called me at 5 AM while we were in a series of tornado warning that she had lost it. I told her that’s what they do that in a big wind. I had re-injured my knee, so I sat on my tractor seat watching the fire and listening to the woodpeckers, doves and another bird I didn’t recognize. Occasionally I would re-stack the stack with the loader and get the fire started again. Once during a quiet moment I started to doze off until I got popped between the eyes with a cicada that decided to hang from my glasses. Four more weeks of these annoying critters. If you don’t have them yet, you will as they are slowing hatching northward. Levi has gotten so fat off from eating them, that I’ve had to cut his food back. The last of my iris have bloomed, and my Japanese iris, daylilies and oriental lilies have started. I just love this time of the year, but I could do without the locusts.
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