Gradi’s Organic Garden: Tomato Slings and Other Things

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Originally, I thought to entitle this article something like “Grandma’s Garden Tips” but that might insinuate that I am a grandmother. Sadly, not yet, but not so sad as not every girl that lives in Utah needs to have been married for 10 years with at least 3 kids under her belt by her mid 20’s. I have not had the pleasure yet, but do look forward to the day I can share time with my grandchildren, teaching them all about life, including gardening.

I was raised with dirt under my nails and taught how to grow in tougher, urban environments by two exceptional women. The garden we are referring to this season is located in the Salt Lake valley, situated at approximately 4,500 feet above sea level and daily updated including pictures documenting our success and failures can be accessed via this link – Gradi’s Organic Garden. Click this link for access to our Spring Garden Primer article to learn how we got started on our organic, from seed garden in the odd and unexpected Utah climate.

Both my mother and especially my grandmother (of tough, Mormon Pioneer stock) taught me to raise foods that can be preserved easily in the pantry or freezer, including pickles, tomatoes and salsa. We planted Beefsteak tomatoes this year (click this link further information on how to grow Beefsteaks from Bonnie Plants). We chose this type of tomato specifically as we plan on canning stewed tomatoes and making basics such as marinas and Barbecue sauce (click this link for an excellent, well-medicated version of BBQ sauce with roasted onions and peppers). These plants produce heavy fruit, later in the season (it takes longer for them to develop – some can get as much as 1-2 pounds a piece.

We have decided, however, based on the late harvest of this particular tomato that next years garden will also include a batch of some type of Early Girl or other plant that produces fruit earlier in the summer. We try not to get discouraged when we have small failures in the garden and rather look at it as a learning tool “for next year”.

Due to the expected size of the fruit, we took some old advice from my grandmother and utilized simple methods to help our babies grow into large, beautiful fruit. Grandma was a Depression Era baby, raised in Idaho on a farm with 6 children, therefore she learned from a young age how to “make it work” with whatever is available.

I noticed this morning that our plants have set a large amount of blossoms and some fruit are starting to form nicely. I took a moment to assess what their future needs would likely be and support appears to be the biggest priority for their healthy future development. I gathered some knee high nylons (thankfully the days of slaving away at a desk are over), some small paper clips as well as my handy, dandy scissors. I cut each of the stockings in half, lengthwise, and then again to create a variety of sizes and widths. We cut 4 nylons of various sizes and took to the garden armed only with the plastic clips.

t6These small, sturdy clips have been an unexpected and invaluable tool we have utilized in our garden this year. Rather than having to purchase nails or additional equipment, we threaded hemp rope along a long, tall fence, found old containers and planted with our own homemade (some have said “Ghetto-Rific”) planter system built out of donated wood and 10 small boards. Nothing pre-bought has been utilized this year, other than little tools like these clips, in various sizes.

We attached the stockings to the hemp line with the clips, gently encasing our VIB (very important blossoms) so they will have sufficient space to enjoy the Utah sun and grow. We also trimmed a few of the extraneous leaves of the tomato plants, granting each blossom it’s own spotlight.

Thankfully, I am now old enough to realize and appreciate the experience of those that came before me – and look forward to teaching the next generation the joys of growing their very own tomatoes (and cannabis someday too, already have permission, once it’s “legal, mom”).

Photo Credit: Gradi Jordan