I am so pleased to introduce you to the Farmer’s Wife today. You will be so happy you met this experienced gardening, tomato growing guru! I will admit I was a tad bit jealous when I found out she spent two months studying permaculture in Hawaii as a teenager, but I sure I am glad she is sharing her gardening knowledge with all of us now. Read on to find out how she sets an example for her little gardeners-in-the-making and learn about her tomato growing plans for the next year.
1.Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hi, I am the Farmer’s Wife! My husband (Farmer) and I and our 4 young kids live on our family farm in central Washington. I run therealfarmhouse.com where I write about gardening, homesteading, farming, homeschooling, and everything else about our crazy lifestyle. My life has revolved around dirt for a very long time so it’s a good thing it’s one of my favorite things in the world. My husband is always covered in dirt, my kids are covered in dirt, my house is covered in dirt, and there is dirt under my fingernails. I just want to share a little part of our dirt filled life with everyone and maybe a few dirt secrets!
2. How long have you been gardening? What zone are you currently growing in? Do you have experience growing in other zones?
I honestly can’t remember when I started gardening. My first memories of eating straight out of the garden were with my dad in the strawberry patch. We have pictures of me hunting for little red gems in my diaper. Shortly after that, I was the “potato planter”. It was my job to set the seed potatoes in the holes my dad dug. As a teenager, I spent two months studying permaculture in Hawaii. That’s where my passion for growing things really bloomed (pun intended). Even after high school, I took a job working in the pea fields so I could eat peas all day long. I married a farmer, I know awesome right! So between the two of us we grow enough food to feed A LOT of people. He farms a few hundred acres and I grow a garden large enough to feed us fresh during the summer, canned during the winter, and sell to the local fruit stand down the road. We are currently growing in Zone 6, but I have experience growing in Hawaii Zone 9 and Utah Zone 5. Zone 9 was incredibly fun to grow in because of all the new and different options to me, but I do enjoy having a winter to spend a few months inside and dream of next years garden.
3. What are you most proud of about your garden?
Every year I am most proud of something different. I love change so my garden is constantly evolving. I grow different fruits and vegetables each year, build new things for my garden, and move things around. I do love my cucumber trellis that Farmer and I built out of entirely salvaged materials. But I also am very proud of the diversity of my garden. I grow at least 5 new varieties of tomatoes each year. We grow purple carrots, poha berries, lemon cucumbers, mini sweet peppers, and a whole bunch of different things that you don’t find in most gardens. I find that the crazier stuff you grow, the more your kids love to eat it. If we can’t find it in the grocery store, then you better bet my kids are munching it in the garden.
4. What are your favorite learning resources?
I am more of a trial and error type person and definitely hands on. I love to try new things and see what works and what doesn’t work. One of the reasons I started writing about gardening is because I knew things and had tried things that I don’t see other people writing about. I wanted to share the secrets that I had learned from figuring things out myself. For example, over the course of a few years, I learned how to choose, grow, and sell high-end tomatoes for prices no one else is getting. I couldn’t find it in a book, but I wanted to do it, so I figured it out and now I am writing it all down so other people can learn too. If I really can’t figure something out, I will run it through Google or Pinterest and read a few articles that pop up. Mostly though, my favorite learning resources are the people around me. I have a few great friends that have been gardening for way longer than I have. Their advice is worth a million books to me.
5. What is your best tip for boosting overall production in a garden?
One thing that changed the way I garden forever was adding a drip system. Technically part of my garden is under a drip system and the other part is under soaker hoses, but it all serves the same purpose. Putting water to the roots and not watering all the weed patches surrounding the plants I actually want to grow, has made my garden much more productive. The weeds don’t take over my garden as quickly as they used to and my veggies are happier and more prolific. If you haven’t tried drip or soaker systems, do it now!
6. What is the number one way you get your kids out in the garden with you enjoying the process?
The number one way to get my kids out in the garden with me is to be out there myself and to include them in the decisions. They don’t want to be out there if I am sitting in the house. They also don’t feel a part of it if I don’t include them. They LOVE to pick what we are growing, water the plants and harvest pretty much anything. My kids are really young, my oldest is turning seven this year, so we have a lot of plant fatalities. But we love the garden so much that every time one gets stepped on or pulled out on accident my kids get even sadder than I do. We talk about the plants, take care of them together, and appreciate what they give to us. When my kids see how I feel about the plants, it’s easy for them to learn to feel the same way. Even my two-year-old talks to the plants like they are a newborn baby, it’s adorable if you ask me.
7. How do you manage your time being a mom, farmer’s wife, gardener and blogger?
Wow, um, I manage it in seasons and I take it one at a time. My life changes drastically with the weather. Spring time is planting time for the entire family. Farmer is gone a lot but he is in a tractor so the kids get to go with him often. Summer is a little slower but full of gardening and outside activities. Fall is crazy time. Harvest is very important in the garden and on the farm. We all spend a lot of time in a tractor or semi truck helping on the farm. Even my six-year-old son started baling hay this year because he wanted to help with all the madness! Winter is a giant breather. Usually, our first day of sit down homeschool is at the end of October when harvest is over. Farmer is home a lot and we take a vacation or two to visit my family. Basically, at the beginning of each season, I make new goals and new schedules and we adjust. Farmer and the kids always come first. If they need something we make it work. Gardening is my favorite hobby so it’s next up on my list. If I am running short on time I let the weeds get away from me and keep up on the water so at least we will still have food to eat. Blogging is actually a pretty new thing for me, so I am still figuring out how to best fit it in. For now, blogging is just shoved into all the cracks. When I have an idea, I write it down. During nap time I write a little. After everyone is in bed I get the important things done. We are constantly changing, adjusting, and making goals to be better and get more accomplished.
8. When you have an issue in your garden and you aren’t sure of the cause, what do you do to troubleshoot?
I call my dad! He usually knows the answer to all of my gardening problems. If he doesn’t know, I have a few local friends I call and ask. I would much rather discuss it face to face with someone who has experienced it in my area then hope that what I am reading online is true. Maybe I have just had one too many bad experiences with advice on the internet backfiring on me.
9. What are you most excited to grow this season?
Farmer and I are building a new house this fall and winter, so I will have a new garden space. I am so excited for a fresh new space; I can’t even express it to you! The thing I am most excited for is that I will have as much space as I need because we are building on a 10-acre lot. This coming season I get to grow as many different varieties of tomatoes as I can find. And believe me, I will grow as many as I can find, seriously! I’m thinking 50 tomato plants of all different colors. They are my favorite thing to grow and my favorite thing to harvest because of how beautiful they are. I won’t stop hunting until I find purple, yellow, orange, pink, black, and green tomatoes of every size and shape I can imagine. You can be sure that I will post a bunch of killer tomato pictures and tutorials next year!
Thanks so much for your excellent advice and knowledge, Farmer’s Wife. We greatly appreciate it!
If you want to grow different varieties of tomatoes like the Farmer’s Wife, I recommend you head over to my gardening resource page and check out the seed companies listed there. My number one recommendation is Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. You’ll see why as soon as you visit their page (and start drooling)!