Does anyone REALLY know how many varieties of tomatoes there are in the world? I am going to hazard a guess that no one does. I do know that there are hundreds and hundreds of tomatoes, with different colors, shapes, uses, flavors and growing habits. New hybrids are always on the forefront. I even developed my own – “Mister E” which started as a mystery, but is now one of our favorites.
I raise tomato and pepper plants using organic methods and sell them every April and May. This year I have 1300 pepper plants (41 varieties) and about 6500 tomato plants (154 varieties). Not only do I sell, but I like to educate people about growing their own food. during this A-Z Challenge I will showcase some of the tomatoes I grow and hopefully have the time to throw in a few peppers.
Now, you probably want to know what my credentials are, what makes me an “expert”. Read on…
I started my gardening journey as a child – my parents had a HUGE garden, and grew Early Girls, Beefsteaks and Roma tomatoes as well as other vegetables and plants. While I loved seeing things grow, I did not like weeding, although my mother claims I actually enjoyed it!
Eighteen years ago – the dark ages to some of you – I started gardening again in Spokane. I started with the standard varieties, but soon became bored and searched for others. Oh, the seed catalogs wooed me with their glossy pages and colorful pictures and tantalizing descriptions of tomatoes I had never even heard of. I started ordering tomatoes with names like Mortgage Lifter, Green Zebra, Orange Russian, Ananis Noir, and Sungold. I was in heaven and as every good gardener does, I planted the entire seed packet. Usually 25-40 seeds with almost 100% germination! What was I going to do with all my tomato plants?
That first year the excess plants were put in the driveway along with a coffee can as a money box and a sign inviting folks to buy them. People loved them and were as happy as I was to try the different kinds of tomatoes. From there I started doing a local garden show – “The Garden Expo.” In a sense, I have grown with them. I started with one booth and a small greenhouse when it was a small show. Now it is a regional event held at the local community college campus, with 15,000+ customers anticipated this spring, and I have 3 greenhouses growing 6,500 tomato plants, 1,300 peppers, and some herbs. If you make to Spokane on Mother’s Day weekend, stop by on Saturday; my 4 booths are located just beyond the entrance.
Since I started my business, I have researched and grown all kinds of tomatoes – heirloom, patio, early, etc. This year we are planting over 154 varieties! I will be highlighting many of them in my blog in the days to come. I have also developed my own garden soil mix and determined the best fertilizers and additives to get great, tasty tomatoes. I became a Master Gardener for six years to learn more, and also to teach others. Now, my husband calls me the Garden Master, but I am not sure if that is because he thinks that I know a lot about gardening, or because I am always putting him to work in the garden!
Each year we grow something new and learn something as well. Do I know everything? No, but I am always learning and I like to share with others what I know. My next challenge is figuring out how to ship my plants – I have had a number of inquiries from across the United States for plants.
In truth, I never intended to become The Tomato Lady. However my customers came up with the name and I liked it so much that I registered it with the state. When I am not in the garden, I am a graphic artist and I am married to a talented illustrator (We have to do something in the off-season!) We designed the logo and marketing materials.
I hope you will enjoy reading this blog as much as I enjoy sharing it with you. Feel free to also check out my website, TheTomatoLady.com and Facebook page, https://www.Facebook.com/theTomatoLady. God willing, we will continue the journey into tomato gardening together.