By Mindy McIntosh-Shetter
As an avid tomato gardener and one that loves to fiddle in the garden year round, the fall and winter creates unique opportunities.
These opportunities, for some, may seem mundane and just down right boring but they are a necessity to any successful garden.
The first thing I do before the avalanche of seed catalogs come in is to do my homework.
This includes looking over my garden journal and evaluating what was successful and why.
I may not know or understand every reason why a garden did not do well but I can make some educated assumptions. This year’s assumptions were a wet spring and dry summer. This seems to becoming a pattern in southern Indiana.
Next, I evaluate my needs and if my food demands have changed. While my son and daughter are away in college, I still supplement their diet with fresh tomatoes when they come home. So my plan for next year remains the same except with the economy, I may consider planting an additional row for the local food bank and my next community garden project.
After I have evaluated my garden situation, the next step I do is to look at my equipment or accessories. What I mean by this is simply my shovels, and trellising material. Since I use either mulch gardening, straw bale gardening or no-till gardening, I really only need a shovel but I still need a well-maintained shovel. I check the handle and the edge of the shovel and remedy any problems I find.
The trellis material, on the other hand, is something I spend a lot of time on. I have used chain linked fencing, wooden stakes, tomato cages, PVC pipe trellises, and saved sunflower and/or corn stalks. While each one has its pros and cons, my favorite trellising material has to be the sunflower and/or corn stalk.
These materials, when placed in the garden, look so natural and inviting. When I use these materials, it takes me back to a time before our castaway society took hold.
So part of my tomato garden evaluation is looking at my stash of sunflower and/or corn stalks. Some of these stalks I have had for a few years and they need to be replaced. Others can be used one more year but as an avid gardener nothing goes to waste.
The spent stalks will be run through my lawnmower and used as a soil amendment and/or mulch for next year.
As I continue to go through my stash of stalks, I decide that this year I am going to try something different. I am not going to simply push the stalk into the soil like a wooden stake but instead I am going to build a true trellis. My hope for this project is to create a trellis design that uses the stalks as a frame and inside the frame will be additional stalks or grapevine that the tomatoes can be tied to.
While I will not know how well my design is going to work until the next gardening season, it does give my mind something to work on until I can get my hands dirty again. Boredom in the mother of invention while environmental responsibility is the mother of recycling, I truly believe. This simple trellising project addresses both.
So until we blog again, the gray skies of the winter solstice is the prefect time to think of the wonders of Mother Nature and plan for her reawaking.