How to Grow a “Perennial” Tomato Garden

Growing Perennial Tomato GardensBy definition, tomatoes are not perennial plants. The plant itself dies each year, relying on seeds being planted in order for the strain to survive. However, this year we experimented with the idea of a “perennial” tomato garden that would come back every year without our help. The first year was a success, and we enjoyed a HUGE harvest of tomatoes that grew with little to no assistance. This article will talk about how to set up and grow a “perennial” tomato garden that will grow every year without much assistance.

Fall Start

Last fall we had a boatload of tomatoes from plants we purchased. So many that we quite a few go rotten before we could do anything with them. If you grow tomatoes every year, you know that sometimes a tomato goes bad before it’s even picked, sometimes from bugs or nature, sometimes because it’s just hiding and you don’t find it in time. Last summer and into fall we made use of those “bad” tomatoes by tossing them on the ground under the current plants. We’ve done the same this year to ensure we have a crop next year as well.

The second important factor in creating a “perennial” tomato garden was allowing the vines to die in the winter. There was no “fall clean-up” where we tore out vines and swept up debris. Instead, we just left everything there for the cold winter (I should note here we live in the Midwest, and our growing season is early May to late September for tomatoes). In the spring, our tomato garden looked something like this:

Spring, before clean-up

Spring, before clean-up

 

Prepping in Spring

When spring rolled around, we did light cleanup of the area. We carefully pulled vines and gently brushed the debris into a compost pile.  Some leaves and mulch we left, but didn’t do any hard tilling in the area since we wanted the plants to come up on their own without us having to plant anything. We did have to pull some weeds as the tomatoes came up, just to give them room to grow up nice and healthy, but other than that, little work was required.

Also in the spring as the baby tomato sprouts were just starting to appear, we put in our tomato cages around spots there was several sprouts growing. We thought about thinning the plants, but ultimately decided to just leave them all to see what would grow. We didn’t have a huge area by any means, but figured it was enough room for a hefty harvest. We were right.

Summer Tending

By the time mid-summer rolled around, we had several really nice looking tomato plants. There was even one growing under the swing-set, by a tomato we’d forgotten about that was tossed under and a few others sprouting in places we hadn’t planned for.  No biggie, the more tomatoes the better!

We didn’t use an actual fertilizer or chemicals from the store, but we did throw out coffee grounds in early summer to give them a bit of a boost. This turned out to be a bit excessive, as the plants shot up quickly with leafy vines but with few blooms. There were some, just not as many as there could have been (I didn’t think, anyway… it might have also been the weather conditions or the re-seed themselves that didn’t produce a lot of blooms at first). Regardless, the plants were off to a fabulous start and began giving us a few tomatoes by mid-summer:

Mid-Summer Tomatoes

Mid-Summer Tomatoes

After deciding these tomatoes didn’t need any artificial help, we left them alone once again. This is what we began to see:

Volunteer tomatoes near old swingset.

Volunteer tomatoes near old swing-set.

Fall Harvesting

While the picture above shows the tomato vines growing in the plot we planned for them, we noticed something when September hit. The tomatoes devoured the other plants in front of them (a few jalapeno’s plants we started from seed), spilling out of the plot and into the yard. Obviously we didn’t give them near enough room this year, so will be adjusting accordingly for next year. In other words, all other plants will be moved clear away from the tomatoes for fear they’ll get “swallowed up”!  These plants were so aggressive, they actually knocked over most of the cages as well (the windy storm we had in August didn’t help much, either). Still, they are growing like weeds and cranking out at least a tomato or two PER DAY even into September.

Fall Tomato Garden

Fall Tomato Garden

Now that the weather is getting colder, we’ve put a priority on picking tomatoes long before they are ripe, but just after they start to turn yellow or red. We’ve got a dedicated spot in the kitchen near a window where they are left to ripen, then used as needed (so far we’ve had multiple BLT nights, several batches of salsa, and even made lasagna with our own tomato sauce) While I prefer to allow tomatoes to ripen on the vine, some nights are just flat out too chilly for a tomato to properly thrive. Once the first frost warning hits, I’ll most likely harvest all the remaining tomatoes (yellow, red, and even some green). We’ll probably make a batch of fried green tomatoes just as soon as it’s time to start grabbing what’s left before the frost hits.

When the weather turns too cold to harvest any more, we start the process all over again. Vines will be left, rotten tomatoes tossed back to the ground, and the plot will be ready for next fall. VERY easy, as the most important step is simply leaving the vines to do what they do best – reproduced all by themselves!

Summary

When setting up your perennial tomato garden for the first time, it’s important to remember that you will need a full season of planted tomatoes, either from the store or from seedlings you start inside.  If you’ve already planted tomatoes this year, great! You are well on your way to creating a tomato garden that will come back each year. If you have no tomato plants by the end of fall, you can still start planning for next year. Pick your spot, plant your tomatoes, and do minor prepping next fall to ensure they come back. Remember, tomatoes naturally re-seed, so as long as you let them, you’ll always have tomato plants. 🙂

National Novel Writing Month is coming

The clock is now ticking down, and I am anxiously awaiting the start of November. It’s almost time to write! I realize that I shouldn’t need a special month to write a novel, but it helps. When a mass amount of authors are standing by to cheer you on (or share in your agony), it makes it a lot easier to crank out 50,000 words. There’s goals, every day, every week, and for the entire month. Others have hit every goal, year after year, so why shouldn’t I? Hell of a motivator, let me tell you.

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Fantasy Fiction Novel Releases Today

After years of story-telling and revisions, Kira’s Tale, the first in the Descend into Darkness series, releases today.

I can’t even begin to tell you how exciting this is, because “Dawn J. Stevens” is actually me, or at least, my pen name. Placing both feet into the fiction world is something I have been working on for nearly a decade. It’s a scary thing, really, to announce becoming a fiction author. I chose a pen name while I worked on my craft, just to separate myself from reality and fiction. It was never meant to be a secret, just… a separation.

So with this information, may I introduce you to my first published fiction novel……

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Meet Dawn J. Stevens

It’s been awhile since we’ve posted to the “Reading Corner” here at Idea Queen, but there’s something special to announce…

This author has spent years in the making. She has spent over a decade working on her craft, and is FINALLY releasing her very first fiction novel on Amazon in October. Dawn J. Stevens is officially on the author circuit as she gets ready to release Kira’s Tale.

Kira's Tale

When Kira finds herself in a strange place with no idea who she is and with new magical abilities, she sets out on a journey to find her place in a world engulfed in Darkness and magic. With two Taliesin friends as her guides, Kira must put back the pieces of her missing life.

You can stalk her in the following ways:

Dawn’s Website
Dawn on Facebook
Dawn on Twitter

Again, keep an eye on this one. National Novel Writing Month is right around the corner, and I’m just sure she’ll be writing novel number two. 😉

Printable Checklist for Kids

One of the kids – I will not say who, so I don’t embarrass them – has a bit of a memory problem when it comes to personal care. Then again, proper personal care includes a lot of steps for someone just learning how to take care of themselves. We decided the best way to help them out is with a dry erase checklist….

 

Remember To.... checklist for the kids

Remember To…. checklist for the kids

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Minecraft Birthday Cake

Chocolate Creeper Cake
My son loves Minecraft. A lot. When given the chance, he will play it all day and night, coming up with all kinds of cool things to share with me. Since he’s home schooled, he even did a few art projects using Minecraft. It is really neat to see him so interested in something creative and that requires a bit of thought.

When I saw this on Pinterest, I knew I had to make it for his birthday. His grandpa had gotten him a T-shirt from Tanga featuring a “creeper”. (For those of you who do not know Minecraft lingo, those are kind of like “bad guys”)

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Planning and Planting a Vegetable Garden

1307758_10344768The first year I lived in a “real house” I was excited to get a garden started. I just couldn’t wait until spring when I could plant all kinds of vegetables, and reap the benefits all summer long. I dreamed of home cooked meals and snacking on raw veggies, canning for the winter and having the most beautiful garden on the block.

While this seems like a good idea and a nice dream, it really wasn’t. Being a new gardener  I let my excitement get the best of me. Luckily, my family made sure I still had a very nice garden that year, and helped me learn how to make a vegetable garden the right way.

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Salsa Garden Ideas

Salsa Garden IdeasIf you love homemade salsa as much as I do, setting up a salsa garden might just be perfect for you this year. A salsa garden is very easy to get started by using plants for a purchased from garden supply stores.

A salsa garden requires little maintenance, aside from pulling weeds and occasional watering during dry spells. Try to keep your plants to a minimum and your garden area only big enough for the plants. It will save you lots of hassle and time if you plan carefully, based on the amount of time you have to dedicate to the garden on a daily or weekly basis.

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