How does your garden grow?

Susan Manzke
Susan Manzke plants tomatoes in a stock tank raised garden. Old tomato seeds that germinated despite the author's certainty they wouldn't resulted in an over abundance of tomato plants this year.

 It was winter when I started thinking about growing a garden. My house plants fed my craving for green growing things, but they weren’t enough. I wanted vegetables and flowers that would grow outside. 

To get me through winter, I popped the root end of a celery stalk in water and watched that grow - it was so cute, like a little tree.

Eventually, seed catalogues came our way and they got me dreaming about all sorts of possibilities, but it was too early to start seeds.

In March, I dug through my envelopes of saved seeds to see what might grow. There were bought packets that never got planted, but there were also tomato seeds I had carefully harvested, dried, and saved from heirloom tomatoes we had grown.

The trouble was these seeds were four years old, maybe even older, and probably wouldn’t germinate.

Oh well, it was the act of planting that I needed. So what if they didn’t grow. I could always buy plants later in the spring.

I decided not to bother marking the planted seeds - they weren’t going to grow anyway.
I also just scattered them in little bunches - too many seeds in the sections. I should have put only one or two in the little dividers. I was too impatient to plant and after all they weren’t going to grow anyway.

Guess what? They grew - all of them - not the basil or rosemary from packets. Mostly what germinated were those heirloom tomatoes.

I now have an over-abundance of grab bag tomato plants - grab bag because even I don’t know what they are, except that they are grouped together by type. Too bad because I don’t know which will have small, medium, or large fruit and that makes them difficult to share - sure, take a plant. All I can tell you is that it’s a tomato of some sort.

It took weeks, before the plants got too big and needed transplanting - another problem. Where was I going to plant all those tomatoes?

An over-filled flat of tomatoes provides a grab bag of plants. All plants are tomatoes, but it's unknown what kind.

My plan for the year was to buy a few plants - which I did from a 4-H seller - and then if I needed more of the fruit at the end of the growing season I would buy some from a farmer’s market. Okay, that plan was out the door.

I like to work in my raised beds - two are made out of old E-Z flow fertilizer spreaders. Last year, my tomato plants went into the spreaders, but not this year. Potatoes and onions were already growing in those ‘raised-bed’ planters.

Today, I took my extra-full tomato flat to my other raised bed location, that being two old stock tanks filled with soil. I didn’t work too hard sinking the plants in place. I put clumps of seedlings in holes I dug and put them too close to each other - really they can’t all survive.

After the plants were in the tanks, I put boards across the top. Our chickens like to hop inside and take dirt baths. Now that the tomatoes are in the soil, I’d prefer that chickens left them alone.

Even with that planting, I still have too many plants left.

Some will go to Rebecca and Andy. They can start their first garden in their new home with grab bag plants.

The rest are heading for pots, boxes, anywhere I had planned to put in flower annuals. No petunias or pansies for me this year. The only plants here will have tiny yellow flowers that may or may not produce fruit.

So my tomato adventure continues - it’s a seasonal thing. Even if some of my plants don’t make it - which I don’t think they all will - we should end up with plenty to share. Stay tuned for future garden updates.

Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165;