Behind a red brick home on a busy street in West Valley City is Bart Anderson's garden. This garden is a labor of love as well as a demonstration and research site, and it provides the Andersons and many friends and neighbors with fresh produce.
Anderson is one of the most enthusiastic gardeners you'll ever meet. A visit to his garden will probably provide you with some fresh produce and a lot of good advice. Anderson is not shy about sharing gardening expertise.He has given hundreds of gardening talks and has served as a consultant in many gardening areas. For the past six seasons he has been the horticultural crops supervisor at the Utah State Fair. He was the original vice president of the Salt Lake County Master Gardener Association and served as president and past president of that group.
Friends, neighbors and anyone else within earshot is likely to find out about vegetable gardening according to Bart Anderson:
"I learned my gardening style from my dad when we lived in Murray. Dad planted a garden, and I would do all the work and he would give it away to friends and neighbors. Although I wasn't sure this was the best way to divide the labor, it did teach me that I should not be a selfish gardener.
"Since that time I have given away many kinds of vegetables as well as seeds and plants to others getting started in gardening."
When asked how he makes his garden so productive, Anderson says it has taken him more than 40 years to get the soil at his home to finally grow what he wants it to grow.
"For 30 years it would hardly grow anything, and I became a great advocate for adding organic matter, the more the better. My favorite amendment is horse manure and sawdust at least 2 inches thick on my garden every year. I till it in, and I always add extra ammonium sulfate to help break down the sawdust and prevent it from tying up the nitrogen. If I don't, the plants turn yellow and do not grow," he said.
"Whenever I talk to any groups I try to make them understand the importance of building up their soil and making it more productive. It is impossible to have a good garden if you do not continually add something back to the soil."
Anderson grows many crops, but his favorites are tomatoes. His unusual system for growing tomatoes is very useful. He grows all of his tomatoes under a black plastic mulch and has done so for the past 25 years.
The black plastic keeps the bindweed or wild morning glory under control. It also keeps the germinating grasses that come in the irrigation water from causing problems.
The system is a bit difficult to install with flood irrigation but is well worth it for the weed control and other benefits. Tomatoes under plastic will mature earlier than those that are not grown with plastic mulch.
Although clear plastic will enhance the maturity, weeds are a problem. For early tomatoes use Wall O Waters to get them started.
Anderson said, "One of my favorite tomatoes is the German Queen. This is a large red tomato that grows well in our area. I take credit for introducing it to many gardeners in the area. I got the original seed from a neighbor. Since the tomato is open pollinated, I grow the plants and save the seed.
"I have shared this seed with other master gardeners and other individuals who were interested in growing a unique tomato. It is now grown by many people throughout the state. I also like the DX-5212 or Hamson tomato and Jet Star tomatoes.
"Another interest of mine is tomatoes that will stay good in storage. Long-keeping varieties are Longkeeper, Keepsake, Winter Red and Red October. I plan on having these tomatoes to eat for a Christmas Day salad, a Valentine salad, a St. Patrick's Day salad and maybe even an Easter salad.
"Although they may not be as good as fresh tomatoes picked in my garden in August, they are a lot better than what I can buy in the store in the winter. They have the kiss of the summer sunshine on them that gives them some flavor."
Anderson shares his garden and some of the credit with his wife, Shirley. She helps preserve all the fruits of their labors and also has learned to answer questions.
"I have a person who calls me up at least 20 times each spring for the past 20 years for gardening advice. Shirley has heard those answers so many times that she can now give them to people over the phone. She also helps me at the fair and helps provide a wonderful produce display there."