One thing gardeners in North Georgia are familiar with is the lack of a level, sunny spot in the yard. With hills and tall trees, the average yard has only one or two spots with good sun, and that’s where you want to put a swing set or play ball with the kids.
You’d better find that sweet spot fast, because right now, as you’re reading this, it’s time to plant tomatoes. Everyone says don’t plan before tax day, in case of a late frost. But I always risk it. It takes 50 to 90 days for plants to start producing tomatoes, so if you wait too long, it will be almost fall before you start picking them.
There are a few good roadside places around Southern Cherokee County to find homegrown tomatoes. I’ve probably tried most of them. But there’s nothing quite like growing your own. There is simply no comparison between homegrown tomatoes and those beautiful, yet tasteless, tomatoes you find in the grocery store. Even if you don’t have room in your yard, a large patio pot can hold a good sized plant.
My wife has the green thumb in our family. She starts tomato plants from seeds in our basement under grow lights. She has a variety of heirlooms scavenged from various sources. Once we had tomato plants more than 12 feet tall, and tomatoes that nearly covered a plate. I can tell you the secret, if you want … if you promise not to spread this around. The secret is to plant them deep, including several inches of the stem. The roots will actually sprout right out of the stem and make them grow stronger and faster. Also, place several pulverized eggshells in each planting hole to prevent blossom end rot.
We’ve grown several types in the past. Some people like the meaty, fleshy beefsteak variety such as Big Boy. But an obscure variety is the German Queen, which has low acidity. It’s fun to try at least one oddball tomato plant every year, because they come in so many strange and wonderful shapes, sizes and colors.
My kids always loved the cherry and grape tomatoes. They would take a break from playing to pick a few right off the bush and pop them in their mouths.
In the fall, before the frost comes and kills them all, we pick the remaining green tomatoes, which can be several dozen, and have a big fried green tomato party. Invite some relatives over, cut them thick, and use our family’s secret recipe for frying them up (flour, bread crumbs, egg, salt, pepper). Whoops, I gave it away.
As Lewis Grizzard once said, “It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.”
By Matt Neal, contributing writer, firstname.lastname@example.org