Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Tomatoes in a pot: dénouement

Behold the grand harvest. So goes my experiment with growing tomatoes in a pot. All in all, it didn't turn out too badly. There's one more tomato on the vine still ripening, and the squirrels got away with three or four green ones, so the attempted output of the single plant was really pretty good. By the size of these you'd never guess they were "Better Boy" slicing tomatoes, but their flavor sets everything else right. The tomatoes above were chopped into a salad with basil and garlic last night, and it was nothing less than tomato ambrosia--better, even, than neighbor Paul's Jerseys. Such intense flavor! That richness is probably due to the fact that the vine was in a pot and therefore could never entirely quench its thirst. The pot limited the space into which the roots could expand as they searched for moisture. I didn't water every single day, and during times when we were away for extended periods the plant admittedly got pretty sad looking. But it survived, and the fruit resulting from this "neglect" was small but very intensely flavored.

Will I do this again? I think so, but next time I'll put out a lot more plants in order to multiply my harvest. It was a great advantage to be able to move the pot around to find whatever sunlight I could in my tree-shrouded yard. Unlike plants in the ground, this one remains entirely disease- and pest-free, and the regular course of tomato food I gave it in the spring paid off in a surfeit of blossoms. (Somehow the plant being in a pot made fertilizing easier to remember to do. Maybe I was extra conscientious because of the experimental nature of the whole endeavor.) It was too bad that the unseasonable heat wave we had in June caused early blooms to die before they could turn into fruit. What fruit I did get came from blossoms that formed after that June blast of heat. I first blamed this smaller and later harvest on the fact the vine was in a pot, but now I know it was just because of a quirk of this season. So yes, I look forward to doing it again, on a larger scale. The bottom line is flavor, and this they had, in spades. I'll even remember not to water too often!

In other plant news, friend Frank Zipperer has posted his cereus pictures and you owe it to yourself to click on over there to see them. Here's a teaser:


Kat said...

I have had tomatoes in pots for years and am usually happy with my harvest. This year the possum took most of them. I went away for the weekend and left some just about ready tomatoes and several green ones. I got home and went to water and was shocked to find empty vines. I could have torn that possum limb to limb. Next year they will be taken in at night. I missed my annual crop.

Ralph said...

Guess I'll stop complaining about my one little squirrel, Kat, although it's pretty vexing to watch him climb into the vine and tear the tomatoes out. Do you grow what they call "patio tomatoes" or the larger ones, or a mix?

Nan said...

Every summer I put in about 12 plants into a whiskey barrel. Our harvest this year was smaller than most years (both in tomato size and number.) Still - very yummy!

Ralph said...

Guess I'm late to this party, Nan..although like I said I've heard of "patio tomatoes" (and always assumed they were cherry and grape-sized), I'd never heard of anyone trying to grow full-size tomatoes of any beefsteak variety in a pot. I was disappointed in the size, but certainly not in the flavor!

Peewit said...

We've always had the squirrel problem with our plants and tomatoes. We grew potatoes successfully in a barrel on our patio for the last 2 years but I just forgot to plant this year.

I don't know if you've seen this video but I really must get one of these


Ralph said...

HA! Peewit, I'd heard of that feeder but never seen it in action. Very funny! My sister just got the model that doesn't spin, but whose feed ports are closed by the weight of a squirrel landing on the ring. I think these things are expensive, but they're worth it.

I tried potatoes a couple of times in the ground without much result. Never thought of containerizing them...good idea. I love fresh potatoes.

Mark said...

Hi Ralph - got to you give an A for effort this year - and I figure the fun and exercise you got out of bringing in the crop more than made up for the fact that the crop was a little sparse. Good thing you have the best of both worlds - the satisfaction of growing your own, and the convenience of roadside stands to get 'maters from a farmer!

Good show!

Ralph said...

Mark, you're a master of the backhanded compliment, I see! Reminds me of "Washington, DC: all the charm of the north and the efficiency of the south." Yeah, I'll be looking into a stand or two on the road to DE tomorrow. But those tomatoes won't be half as good as my water-starved pygmies!