Intrepid Urban Farmer: Big event, Garden 2018 — for tomatoes, it’s Burpee Steakhouse vs Big Zac

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By Ginger Dawson
Special to NKyTribune

It’s that time of year when the big event, Garden 2018, is in its nascent stages.   The seed has been ordered and received.  As usual, I ordered an ungodly amount.  

In order to make sense of all of this, I made a master list of my selections.  Tomatoes, of course, are first.  I have different categories that I like to raise to fulfill my different uses:  Beefsteaks, Romas, Medium-size slicers and cherries — ten varieties in all.  I am nuts.

Last year’s champion — Burpee Steakhouse, two pounds, thirteen ounces.

I shook up the selection this year and came up with seven new varieties.  Three are old friends, one of which is Steakhouse, an enormous Burpee hybrid.  Last year I hit a record with this baby.  I had a fabulous triumvirate that came on at the same time on the same plant.  Their weights?  One pound, eleven ounces; two pounds, four ounces; get ready for it…..TWO POUNDS AND THIRTEEN OUNCES!!

Of course I’m raising this variety again.  And the challenge is to get one even bigger!  Who says gardening is not a competitive sport?  I compete against myself every year. The quest is to beat the previous year, whether it be yield, size or quality of fruit. This is what drives me.  An entire ancestral line of farmers who knew that yield is the name of the game is hard-wired into me.  I cannot help it. 

And with that thought in mind, I have found a new variety that claims to consistently deliver FOUR to SIX POUND fruits!  This has got to be seen to be believed. I am there.  

Big Zac is the tomato.  It was developed by a New Jersey gardener and it is touted as having impeccable heirloom Beefsteak ancestors.  I cannot wait to watch this unfold.

The race is on — Steakhouse versus Big Zac!  This will be quite a competition.  Actually, it will be the slowest high “steaks” race (forgive me) of the season.  No matter, it’ll still have all of the drama of the final race of the Triple Crown for me.

The start of this year’s race! Burpee Steakhouse vs. Big Zac

In the world of Peppers, I have four types:  Bell, Sweet Italian, Hot and Specialty (which are just oddball peppers, one of which has the name “Say Cheese”—awful!). I have a total of nine varieties.  There is nothing more pleasant than picking a successful harvest of peppers.  They are ALL beautiful.  I have no preference.  I love them all, except for  one stupid name.  I almost didn’t order the pepper because of it.

The rest of my selections pretty much cover the whole universe of gardening: Squashes, cucumbers (two kinds!), kale, lettuces, chard, peas, pole beans, brussels sprouts, cabbage, beets, carrots, parsnips, radishes, okra, eggplant, onions, basil, ground cherries and seven colors of zinnias.

In addition to organizing the seed for starting, it’s also time to start thinking about those early season crops that you can put out as soon as the weathers allows it–as if you will know when THAT is.  What a crap-shoot.

Peas, radishes, lettuces and any other preferred ones will either do really well or perish.  It’s up to you.  Keep a close eye on that thermometer and try to outguess Mother Nature.  I dare you.  Some years I can, some years I totally miss it.  I think I get too distracted with the factory farm in my office starting seemingly thousands (Ok, that might be an exaggeration) of seedlings.  My little charges in the back yard sometimes suffer the fate of the twentieth child of a single mother.  It can’t be helped.  I know I could use row covers, but that makes too much sense.

The beginning of the third planting of the cat’s salad bar.

Speaking of early season crops — I planted a really early one, at the end of October!

Attempting to stay out of the Devil’s playground this past winter, I put my idle hands to work raising leaf lettuce in my office.  I had been contemplating this.

I got a nice little table-top lighting setup for just this purpose.  I wanted something small so I wouldn’t have to fire up the big grow cart that I use for the factory farm (kidding).

I have raised three little crops of mixed leaf lettuces this winter.  It’s easy, except for the fact that my cats think it is a salad bar just for them.  I have to wrap the whole thing with nylon window screen and secure it with clothespins.   Of course, this means I have to disassemble it to water. 

Now what are the benefits of cat ownership?  I’ve had cats for so long, I can’t even remember.

For now, I’ll just enjoy the lettuce and cat project, plan the seed-starting and get excited about the championship for the largest tomato in the back yard of the Italianate on Russell St. 

This is going to be quite a season.

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Ginger Dawson has resided in Covington, Kentucky since 1988. Raised on a farm in South Central Ohio, she has enjoyed a very eclectic and enriching life. She loves her Italianate Victorian Townhouse and particularly the garden behind it. See her new website at intrepidurbanfarmer.com

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