I am not much of a gardener, but I simply couldn’t do without my little container garden that I cram into the only corner of our back porch that gets any sun. I love being able to nip out while I’m cooking and grab a handful of fresh basil, oregano, mint, lemon thyme, rosemary or parsley. This year I added dill, cilantro and Mexican tarragon to the gang. I have no idea what Mexican tarragon is, but it looked irresistible with its tiny golden flowers. I also upgraded to new containers this year – some faux half barrels that I found at Lowes. They are cute, sturdy, and the price was right!
The real tip I want to pass on here is a recommendation for a fabulous grape tomato that is perfect for container gardening – Juliet. I have grown Juliet the past two summers and couldn’t love her more. She produces gobs of tomatoes in grape-like clusters. The fruit is firm and easy to slice, with a minimum amount of um, I believe “jelly” is the polite term (aka tomato snot), and the flavor is excellent. The fruits are thumb sized and resemble wee little San Marzanos (see above). The Park seed catalog classifies Juliet as a “saladette” tomato – somewhere between a grape and a Roma. Never heard that term before!
Because they are so sturdy and don’t have gobs of jelly, they are perfect not only for salads, but also for roasting, sautéing for a quick pasta sauce, topping a pizza, or just dunking them, still warm from the vine, in blue cheese dip and popping in your mouth. Heaven! The sturdy, fleshy fruits last for about 2 weeks in a bowl on the counter – which is good because one Juliet will produce a good pint of tomatoes per week for about 4 months. My porch doesn’t get a ton of sunlight, so just imagine how she would produce in full sun!
Juliet is not a common variety around here, but I have found plants at both Lowes and Walmart, and you can buy seeds from Parks. I use organic garden soil which contains fertilizer that is supposed to last 3 months, so mid Summer I start feeding all my plants with Alaska Fish Emulsion (very smelly, do not get that stuff on your hands!), and the tomato gets the occasional dose of Epsom salts and finely crushed eggshells (use a spice grinder). This year I am going to try Alaska Vegetable and Tomato Dry fertilizer, which has all the fishy goodness of fish emulsion with lots of the calcium tomatoes really need around here.
One more tomato growing tip I’ll pass along is something I discovered last summer. Our hot, humid Southern summers can do a number on garden plants, and my Juliet developed quite a few brown, droopy leaves. Since this plant is on my back porch I wanted to tidy up the look, so I carefully removed every browned leaf cluster on the plant. To my surprise, everywhere I removed a leaf stem the plant regenerated a whole new one! This regeneration kept the plant lush, full and bountifully producing all through summer right up till frost.