Tomatoes rule the spring season and with that in mind Jay and I decided to visit with tomato guru Bill Adams in our second feature on Lone Star gardeners.
After all, Bill is the author of several garden-related books, including “The Texas Tomato Lovers Handbook” (2011), and he has been growing, testing and tasting tomatoes well over 40 years, much of it in the official capacity as the A&M Extension Horticulturist for Harris County. Together with friend, collaborator and former Extension colleague Tom LeRoy, Bill has solved thousands of horticulture dilemmas and taught a multitude of aspiring gardeners the commonsense approach to growing vegetables.
A visit to Bill’s vegetable garden is nothing less than exhilarating. He is a walking, talking horticultural encyclopedia and shares unexpected nuggets of knowledge at every turn. Last year he grew over 40 varieties of tomatoes, evaluating each one for flavor, texture and overall quality. He is frank and honest in his assessment, the winners get his seal of approval and the duds get panned.
Bill has staying power, too. Even after retirement he remains active in the Garden Writer’s Association and continues to educate and entertain gardeners at nursery talks, garden events and conferences. He and Tom will be giving their annual Spring Vegetable Class at Arbor Gate Nursery on March 5.
Bill will also be judging tomatoes at three different events this season: May 21, 10:00 AM at Enchanted Forest in Richmond, May 21, 2:00 PM at Enchanted Gardens in Richmond, and June 11, 10:00 AM at Arbor Gate in Tomball. Bring your tastiest tomatoes and go for the gold!
For a rundown of Bill’s winners and losers from his 2015 tomato trials visit: http://arborgate.com/blog/tried-and-true-in-2016/
Name: William D. (Bill) Adams
Location: South Central Texas—near Burton
Years gardening in this garden: Ten
Favorite thing to grow: Tomatoes
Best growing tip: Organic matter, especially compost, must be constantly on your agenda—“The gardener with the most compost wins”.
Best pest control tip: Try to be in the garden every day and know your pests. Use cultural techniques and low-toxicity pesticides to win the battle. In my experience planting twice as much as needed so the pests can have their half doesn’t work—they know the best tasting varieties and they will sample it ALL.
Best weed control tip: Use a combination of newspapers, cardboard, whatever to suppress the weeds and cover it with mulch to keep the paper from blowing away. Wet the paper first to keep it in place while you go for mulch.
Biggest challenge: Finding the best tasting varieties.
Favorite soil amendment: Mushroom compost-about 14 cubic yards per season in our garden. (this translates to approximately 12 inches of compost on the vegetable rows and 6-8 inches around the orchard trees)
Preserving the harvest: We can and freeze tomatoes and hot sauce; make wonderful Bread and Butter pickles….and we have a good record of using them. Froze a bunch of leeks several years ago and they’re about ready for the compost pile—sometimes we lose track.
Favorite advice: Garden for fun but garden like you mean it. I’m a fanatic about organic matter but I’m not an organic gardener. I grow a lot of crops that are never sprayed, I use organic and soluble fertilizers, low-toxicity pesticides-only when needed and I’m in the garden virtually every day. If a crop is worth saving (the critters/diseases haven’t already done too much damage), and the pests can be controlled with a registered pesticide (organic or low-toxicity chemical) I win!
I share these posts on Our SimpleHomestead Blog Hop. Be sure to stop by. The “hop” has tons of great information from gardeners and homesteaders all over the world!