Sunday, September 28, 2014

Discovery of a Volunteer Tomato Plant in my Empty Alaska Grow Bucket

For my 2014 growing season, the plan was to experiment with Alaska Grow Buckets as my garden.  I like trying different methods to see if one might work better than the one I am currently using.   But my timing was out of whack because I was scheduled to have hip surgery right about the time I would have been planting my seeds indoors.  So I wouldn't have my own seedlings this year, but I planned to buy some seedlings at the local nursery when the time came to plant outdoors.  I did prepared my Alaska Grow Buckets, mixed my soil-less soil and was about to set up my irrigation system when the doctor called to move my surgery date up -to just three days away!  So the garden was put on an indefinite hold while I started preparing for what I would need to do for the surgery, recovery, and physical therapy afterwards. 

After surgery I could see that I was not going to be physically able to manage a garden this year.  I couldn't empty my buckets back into the compost bins because they were too heavy for me to lift post-op and I didn't want to bother my husband with that chore they just sat there on my patio. 

One of several Alaskan Grow Buckets I had 'planned' to grow in this year.

By the time I had recovered enough from my hip surgery to be off the crutches and finally moving about without my cane, it was just too late to even think about starting a garden.  I looked at my poor plant-less grow buckets sitting there each day as I went past them to tend to my chickens.  Then in early September, just one day before we were to leave on a trip to Colorado, I noticed something growing in one of my buckets.  I assumed it was some kind of weed, since it's monsoon season here and the weeds are having a hay-day.  But when I got closer I saw that it was a tomato plant!?!?  How the heck did that get in there?  It was not there just a few days ago, I know this because I had just moved that particular bucket to this new location to block my dog from sticking her head through the fence right there. 

It was a thick little plant that looked pretty hearty.   Things must really grow like crazy in these Alaska Grow Buckets with the awesome soil-less soil I mixed together.  This would have taken at least 4-6 weeks to grow to this size in my seedling pots.  Wow!

A 7" tall, very healthy looking volunteer tomato plant. Day 2 after discovery (not more than 5 days old).
The only problem with this volunteer tomato plant is that the season is pretty much over.  And how the heck did the seed get into my bucket in the first place?  I did not put any seeds in the buckets and the soil had never been used before.  I don't put seedy plants like tomatoes in my compost (so nothing starts growing in there)

The only thing I can think of is that the birds must have dropped it there and it grew!  Let me explain...Earlier in the spring, I threw out lots of sunflower seeds, wild bird seed, and some chicken scratch on a flat area in front of our property so it would grow and could be cultivated for my chickens to eat, but before I could get them covered and watered, the birds swooped in and carried them away.  Then a few weeks later we discovered corn growing wild near where I spread the seeds, and up the hill from our property.  I also found a sunflower growing in the middle of my raised planter on the back patio, but I did not plant it there or drop any seeds anywhere near that area.  (see the pick below)  So the birds must have dropped a seed while flying over our house. 

So that must be how this tomato seed got into one of my buckets.  What are the odds of that?  Pretty slim I would say. 

Surprise sunflower growing in my flower bed -birds dropped it there.

This excites me about the potential of using Alaska Grow Buckets and the soil-less soil mix because this little tomato plant looks healthier than any one I've ever grown before.  So, back to the discovery of this little tomato I said, the day after discovering this little guy, we were to leave for our 10 day trip to Colorado.  I wasn't sure how much water the monsoon rains would bring while we were gone and the irrigation system was not yet set up for the Alaska Grow Buckets, so I put the bucket into the middle of my mint bush and stuck the tiny irrigation line for the mint into the bottom wholes on the bucket.  This would keep plenty of water available for the tomato plant and the excess would run out the side holes and into the mint -so everyone would be happy. 

Volunteer Tomato in my Alaskan Grow Bucket sitting in the Mint Patch.

Visitor to the mint patch - a Tarantula Wasp. Scary but they are only interested in Tarantulas.

Upon returning 10 days later, this is what it looks like.  WOW, what a lot of growth.

Day 12 after discovery (not more than 15 days old).

Then 1 week after that, look at the growth!  And its not even been that warm here (compared to earlier in the summer).  I think it's time to build a cage for this tomato. 

Day 19 after discovery (not more than 22 days old).

I will bring this little survivor indoors (to my seedling growing room) once it gets too cool to grow outside, and see what it grows into.  It's such a mystery, I don't even know what kind of tomato it is.

Have you ever had the wild birds help you plant a garden? What did you get?