Hope's Corner: Gardening Measured by the Yard
"We had a tomato dynasty. We had salsa cred. We had ketchup so good, we started calling it catsup, which sounded way classier," writes Jackie Hope.
This summer, we are all about crop rotation. It’s time we switched up our garden crops.
About five years ago we created a raised garden in the backyard. I say created, in the sense that we bought a kit from Menards, took it out of the box, and plopped it in the backyard.
But, to our credit, we were able to fit the four corners together, and anchor them with metal rods. It was the same kind of metal rods we used for the legs on our yard flamingos. We had some one-legged flamingoes until we found replacement legs, also at Menards.
Soon we had a lush garden out back. A square yard of garden, smack in back of the garage. We thought about springing for two square yards of garden, but we only had two tomato cages. So a square yard of garden was the extent of our agriculture.
We filled the yard garden with fortified topsoil. We layered in some peat moss. We forgot to clear the grass away from under the bed, so we had a nice fringe of grass around the edges for several years. It looked like hay, in need of baling.
The first year our yard garden grew a bumper crop of tomatoes. Big Boy and Roma were our varieties of choice. What we got were loads of cherry tomatoes and some acid-free yellow fellows.
The next year we bought tomato plants with little tomatoes already on them. No more foolies with those nasty cherry tomatoes. We decided to plant some jalapeno peppers to keep the two tomato plants company. And thus was born the Salsa Garden.
We canned mass quantities of salsa. It was especially delicious because it was from our own little garden. But having to buy the onions and basil took away its authenticity. So the next year we planted two tomatoes, three jalapenos, a basil, and a couple of red onions.
That year the tomatoes, Romas, were as big as eggplants. The jalapenos ripened into red pods. The onions did their underground magic. The basil languished because the tomatoes hogged all the sunlight. Still, the salsa was wonderful. And we branched out into making ketchup. Best ketchup ever.
We had a tomato dynasty. We had salsa cred. We had ketchup so good, we started calling it catsup, which sounded way classier. We found a basil dealer: a friend who had a humongous garden of several square yards. I discovered I had an onion allergy. We substituted with oregano, and I raised some habanero peppers to turn up the heat.
But last year the tomatoes were smaller. The peppers laid down and had no pep. We had over-used our land, without replenishing the nutrients into the soil. We were bad stewards, indeed.
This year we are seeding the garden with lettuce and spinach. The neighborhood rabbits will be delighted. And what isn’t eaten will be composted for next year. Next year, we are adding marinara sauce to the tomato dynasty.
Jackie Hope is the longest running Dickinson Press contributor and columnist. "Hope's Corner" is a weekly humorous column centered on a message of hope for residents in southwest North Dakota.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Dickinson Press, nor Forum ownership.