Gardening On The Fly: The Tomato Compost Experiment
Let's get creative in the garden!
I have been a gardener for about 10 years now. Besides just growing flowers and plants last year, I actually grew some tomatoes that my family and I could eat. This year my garden looks like a tornado hit it, and I almost gave up on the idea for growing tomatoes until...
I came up with the Tomato Compost Experiment.
Because I usually write about art (I am an art teacher and a writer), I decided to explain how this experiment came about in this creative tale about a warm Saturday in May.
Just a brief warning - this hub is graphic - it contains some of a gardeners worst nightmares. If you are squeamish about losing plants and pet destruction in your garden, just remember that you have been duly warned.
I get "artsy" in my garden
Dogs in the garden.....
My life is busy, like most of us. I had a particularly busy year last year, and to put it bluntly, my garden has gone to sh$!. Between my sons 2 pit bulls and their litter of puppies, the trampling of the backyard began in earnest last year. As the two 80 pound dogs turned my yard into a veritable desert, I began to lose hope. The only "big" flower I planted last year managed to get ran through and broken at the stem. It was a lovely mammoth sunflower that had actually grown to about 2 feet tall before its untimely demise. Even though I propped it up and tried to save it, it never had a chance. Strike #1.
So, seeing that plants and dogs together at ground level would not co-exist peacefully together in my yard, I decided to plant tomatoes in my bathtub planter. I also planted lettuce alongside some radish plants with the tomato plant (do they go together? - I have no idea) All I know is they were off the ground and safe from the dogs.
So yippee... within a couple of months I actually had some decent tomatoes growing, and for the first time in my life, the vegetables I grew actually got eaten!
By this time I was feeling like a full blown prepper: I could actually eat what I had grown - amazing! (the lettuce by the way never made it to the table, I had not given them enough drainage and they were a sticky gooey mess in the inside, even though they looked fabulous from the outside - talk about looks being deceiving) The radishes, I don't know what happened to them, they just disappeared...
So I digress...after my lovely tomato experience, the backyard fell into further decline. Within the year my other son also got a wee puppy in June that he named "Piggy". I also got a border collie puppy that we named "Indie". Both puppies were right around the same age (and did I mention that we are a big time dog family?) Anyways....
I had forgotten in some insane lapse of memory what puppies do to gardens. What was left of my garden from last year either got eaten, trampled, played with or peed on by the new puppies. My spirits sank even further.
Dismayed, I ignored the yard as much as I could during the winter months. Not that it was that cold, but I just couldn't bare to look at the desert in my backyard.
The "Home" Wreckers (aka known as "Yard" Wreckers)
A Path of Destruction....
Gardening relieves stress - or does it?
Wanting to garden again, but feeling a strong sense of a "what's the use" feeling, I decided to force myself back into the backyard this spring. The way that I did this was by buying 3 petunias at the dollar store and 1 solitary "Celebrity" tomato plant. I didn't want to invest much into what might get demolished by the now 1 year old furry terrorists, so I started cheap.
I knew that if I bought plants that I would have to plant them (this is a reverse type of psychology I play on myself)
They sat there for a couple of days while I decided where to put them.
3 days later on my way home from work, I decide to let myself have a "free floating" day (this is what I call it when I allow myself to do whatever comes to mind) Incredibly, no one was home either when I got home (unbelievable in our house)
I meandered around on the Internet for awhile, looked at some gardening sites from Pinterest and then got inspired by some ideas on one of the sites.
Now, duly motivated by what could be done, I figured it was time to plant the petunias and the tomato plant - and face the backyard again...
Pruning relieves stress - oh yes it does!
OK, so now it's time for some deep deep breaths. I venture outside, trying to ignore the fox-tails and desert scene before me. I try to ignore the fact that socks now litter the desert landscape (drug outside by the puppies) and the fact that my lone beautiful bearded Iris has vanished before it's beautiful debut. Empty containers with soil and no plants litter my yard - vestiges of the rampaging puppies....yard "decorations" lay twisted and relocated....some more chewing marks are found on the bottom of the chairs....Zachs toys have some more chew marks on them - if they even survived at at all. The lawn mower catcher bag has been chewed through on both sides of the bag (ah geez wait till my husband sees that one) Remnants of what I think was a gardening tool litter the ground. Empty containers have been made into chew-able "flinging" toys.
Even my tree that I had had for over 20 years - gone. Dug up - roots exposed, Done, vanquished, wood. The bath tub planter had also been attacked by Piggy and Indie - they had decided to make it their own personal digging station (so suffice it to say that the bath-tub will not harbor any tomato plants this year)
Sigh...it's really hard to get started with so much devastation. So I decide to take out my grief, irritation and frustration in a positive way:
I get warmed up by pruning a plant that I don't want and got the juices going. Good, now I have a accomplished a little...
I turn around and look at the tilting compost bin and decide to attack it too (another casualty of the dogs, they decided to jump at it multiple times until it started to tip over onto the ground) I begin the arduous task of shoveling all the compost into a new set-up and transferred all the soil. To my horror, I found no worms at the bottom of the bin, which tells me even the worms have deserted my yard.
I get down to the bottom of the bin and I have earthy, rich and moist solid with old corn cobs sticking out and roots that haven't broke down yet. Despite the fact that there were no worms, I do have one good thing left in my yard that the dogs had not destroyed - my compost!
Poll on your gardening habits
Are you a gardener?
What to do with this beautiful compost?
Question is now though, how can I even use the compost this year because I can't seem to grown a single solitary new thing in the ground? Do I switch back to container gardening? My thoughts are jumbled as I look at all the empty containers that got ravaged by the dogs (yes, anything that was in a pot was fair game for them) I lost almost all my cannas, geraniums, and bulbs to their digging (I told you this was a gardeners nightmare - you were warned)
Sigh....what to do...what to do.... I have this big beautiful container of compost sitting in front of me. Hmmm.....
The light bulb turns on... since I hadn't really been putting stuff in the compost container lately, why not put the lone tomato plant in it? I could fortify the bin by putting little fencing around the top and since it was relatively high, maybe the dogs would leave it alone? Yes!!
So this is where the tomato in the compost experiment comes in (I told you I would get here)
So today is May 4, 2013. I have planted the "Celebrity" tomato plant in the middle of the compost bin. I have put the tomato cage around it and put white fencing on each side to keep the dogs out (yeah it looks tacky but I'm not taking any chances till this bad boy tomato has some branches on it)
I think my experiment will work and I think I may get a bumper crop of tomatoes this year. Because I have alot of soil in with the compost, I am not worried about the soil being too acidic.
What do I have in my compost? I put eggshells, coffee grounds, leftover vegetables and fruits, along with anything else that can be composted (including tea)
My tomato in the compost bin experiment
What can you put in your compost bin?
So, to be fair to you, just in case you actually came here to learn about composting and tomatoes, I have also compiled a list of a few things that you can put in your compost bin. I have also included some photos of what I am doing and will update on the progress of my Tomato in the Compost Experiment.
- egg shells
- vegetable leftovers
- fruit leftovers
- coffee grounds
- wood ashes (not charcoal ashes from briquets)
- dried grass clippings
- hedge clippings
- Manure from herbivores (cow, horse, pig, sheep, chicken, rabbit)
- dryer lint
- tea leaves
Updates on tomato plant growthClick thumbnail to view full-size
A detailed list of what you can and cannot compost
- What you can and cannot compost
Things you can compost! Materials Carbon or Nitrogen Details Alfalfa meal and hay Carbon Shredding or chopping it up will help it break down quicker Algae, seaweed and lake moss Nitrogen Good source of nutrients and minerals. Apple pomace (cider