We visited my parents over the weekend in Kingwood (north of Houston), and I braved the mosquitos just before we left to visit the vegetable garden out back.
I’m always rather impressed with what my parents accomplish in the space they have, despite having grown up with this kind of gardening. Most of their vegetable gardening takes place on land that technically doesn’t belong to them – the banks of a channelized creek that serves mostly as a drainage ditch, a so-called “bayou”. But they have built up compost-rich soil over 20-plus years, and have amazing vegetables to show for it. Their compost comes not from mere piles, but a veritable walled compound of decaying organic matter that would consume a measurable chunk of my small back yard if I were to build something like it.
Dad had just finished harvesting most of his onions, and had four or five trays of onions, each with 20-30 in it. The tomatoes – cherries, porters, larger stuff, and an intriguing “peach” tomato – were coming in by the small bucket load. On tap were various cucumbers, zuchini, peppers, garlic, okra… not to mention the orange tree towering above it all with perhaps hundreds of oranges on it.
Their tomato cages – something I need to emulate because mine are mostly inadequate – are very tall rings of heavy fence wire with openings big enough to get a hand through for picking. Most of the vegetables are planted in some form of raised wooden bed. Much of the wood is probably scraps or reclaimed from building-site dumpsters. Though in the Houston climate, wood becomes part of the compost pretty quickly. All of the growing area has a sprinkler system in it. This is fed by a well they drilled a few years back to tap water that doesn’t come from the city. In other words, it has no fluoride or chlorine in it, and is a huge boon to beneficial micro-organisms in the soil and compost.
Oh, yeah… I mentioned that peach tomato. About the size of a golfball or a little smaller, a pale yellow in color, fuzzy skin, juicy and a mild, low-acid taste. Not sure if it will grow in Austin, but a worthy tomato. I didn’t get any pictures of them, but I suspect my parents would happily oblige once they read this.
Here’s the peach tomatoes, courtesy of Dad: