The Tomato Jungle

Enter at your own risk!
Enter at your own risk!

“The Tomato Jungle” is what we affectionately dubbed one end of one of our garden beds, as you see above. In the picture, you’ll notice a few tomato cages in the background — those mark the seedlings we transplanted earlier this month. As for everything else…the veritable tomato bushes we’ve got going…well, all those came up completely on their own!

At first we thought they were marigolds, since we planted marigolds in those same spots last year. (Tomato and marigold seedlings look remarkably similar in their very early stages.) But as the days went on, it became quite obvious that we were dealing with tomato plants…lots and lots of tomato plants. And the question now is, “what do we do with them?” As awesome as the “tomato jungle” may appear, a number of the plants are shadowing a couple of our pepper seedlings, which we planted above and in between the tomato seedlings, and that isn’t good. So we’re thinking of moving a few of those problematic clumps into large planters.

The other issue that’s keeping the “jungle” on watch is that we want to make sure that the new tomato seedlings, which consist of new varieties we didn’t plant last year, have a chance to properly grow. The “jungle” tomatoes, having done all their growing outside, are quite a bit stronger than the seedlings, and we don’t necessarily want them to overtake the new plants. We’ve done some thinning to keep the “jungle” tomatoes out of the realms of the seedlings under the tomato cages, but they are growing pretty rapidly. While we’d like to keep as many tomatoes around as possible, it’s possible that we’ll have to get rid of a good handful of them if they interfere too much with the new plants.

There’s another jungle-y problem too in that tomato plants are popping up all over the place!

These tomato seedlings coming up in the bean patch have a mind of their own!
These tomato seedlings coming up in the bean patch have a mind of their own!

Yup, we’ve got tomatoes coming up among the beans, cucumbers, peas, and some of the greens in our other beds. Granted, it’s amazing, awesome, and a little unbelievable, but it’s also led to a bit of worry concerning everything we actually planted. If the random tomato seedlings survive, we think they’ll be okay with the cucumbers, peas, and greens. However, it’s the tomatoes and the beans that are the problems — our companion planting guide says they don’t get along as each prefers different soil and watering conditions. Still…there’s nothing that says we can’t try to cultivate the two together. It’s our garden, after all. 🙂 Tomatoes have readily infiltrated nearly all our sections of bush and pole beans, so…we’ll have to make a decision soon about if they stay or go.

Managing a million tomatoes aside, everything else in the garden is looking really good. Over the weekend and after a stretch of weeding, we decided to try a form of weed abatement in two of the raised beds using grass clippings.

Weed blocking attempt #1 in the greens and okra bed.
Weed blocking attempt #1 in the greens and okra bed.
Weed blocking attempt #2 in the peas and cucumber bed.
Weed blocking attempt #2 in the peas and cucumber bed.

(Can you spot the random tomatoes in the pictures above? Oy vey.)

We’ve had in mind to get some mulch or hay to help keep the weeds down in some of the beds, but then we figured that we also have plenty of grass clippings after lawn mowing, so maybe that’d work just as well? The question right now is that since our grass is seeding, there are tons of grass seeds in the clippings. Would putting the grass clippings in the bed only lead to more grass (and more weeding)? We’ll have an update on the experiment next week!


13 thoughts on “The Tomato Jungle

  1. A Really Small Farm 05/27/2015 / 12:47 am

    Might have to sacrifice some of the volunteer tomato seedlings to be sure you get a crop. Lots of tomatillos are sprouting in my fennel and parsnip rows so I’ll be thinning and transplanting them to a better spot.

    As for the grass mulch as long as the seed tops were green and not brown or beginning to brown you should be ok with grass seeds not being ripe enough to sprout. I noticed you kept the grass clippings a good distance from your plants. That’s a good idea since clippings can get moldy. Hay is a good source of ripe weed and grass seeds so I’d recommend against it. I use hay but only if it is really rotten or has been in my sheep’s pen all winter as bedding. It sort of composts/rots during the winter and that kills more seeds.

    • Garden State-ments 05/28/2015 / 5:37 am

      Thanks for the advice! So far, the grass clippings are working okay, but we’re keeping a close eye out for rogue grass. As for using hay, it was just a thought. Surprisingly, it’s not easy to come by where we are. Well, we could get a bale at the local big box hardware store, but who knows where it came from.

      We already pulled some of the random tomatoes out of the beans, especially in spots where they were overtaking them. Got more work ahead in that regard. You make a good point about your tomatillos vs. fennel and parsnips. As we understand it, those veggies don’t get along well in the same space. Good luck with the transplanting.

      • A Really Small Farm 05/28/2015 / 9:29 am

        True about the hay and its source. Some straw that is weed-free is so because of herbicide use. Seems to defeat the purpose of growing your own food. I get hay hay from a neighbor. It isn’t sprayed but it is not organic either. But I’ll take a little chemical fertilizer in the hay over herbicides. Nice hay though, a mix of alfalfa and grasses.

        Those tomatillos are going to moved in a bout a week to the edge of a corn patch.

  2. fmajewicz 05/27/2015 / 1:55 pm

    Everything looks great, can’t wait to see it in person. We also used grass clipping last year and they did an excellent job. I didn’t notice weeds growing though we added new clippings every time the lawn got mowed.

    • Garden State-ments 05/28/2015 / 5:40 am

      Last year we put down extra grass clippings in non-garden spots round the house, and yeah, it kept away a lot of weeds. So far, so good, and we’ll likely be putting down more clippings this weekend. Though goodness if there isn’t more weeding to do already! It never ends. ☺

  3. Sarah the Gardener 05/27/2015 / 5:56 pm

    Hi. A weed is a plant in the wrong place and sometimes they can even be tomatoes! I find it really hard to remove rogue tomatoes, and they normally do really well, but at the expense of the plants I actually planned and planted. Sometimes you just need to be cruel to be kind. I hope your garden goes on to flourish and bring you an abundant harvest! Cheers Sarah : o)

    • Garden State-ments 05/28/2015 / 5:47 am

      Thanks much! It has been tough making choices about what stays and goes — we just want it all to grow! Interestingly, though the beans and tomatoes don’t get along, we’ve found that critters (mostly squirrels) are less likely to munch on the bean seedlings that have tomatoes seedlings in their ranks. (Nothing scientific there, just an observation.) Frankly, we’ll sacrifice a few good plants to keep the rodents away! Haha. Alas, a gardener’s work is never done. Thanks for the comment, and best to you as well. 😊

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