Organic gardener shares tips, innovations

Neighborhood tour is Sunday, June 12.

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How to go

What: “Red, White and You,” fourth annual garden tour

Where: Broadview Boulevard and Broadmoor Drive, Patterson Park

When: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, June 12

Cost: $10

More info: 937-299-1924 or

Who doesn’t enjoy a nice, juicy tomato slice on a grilled-cheese sandwich, or rich tomato sauce on pasta? Patterson Park gardener Jim Baron has a bumper crop of beefsteak and San Marzano tomatoes every year from his elaborately built backyard vegetable garden.

His is one of the nine gardens on this year’s Patterson Park Garden Tour, on Sunday, June 12.

Patterson Park is a neighborhood in the southeast corner of Dayton. It sits east of Shroyer Road and south of Patterson Road.

“I have 15 tomato plants; The San Marzano is the tomato of choice for making a sauce. It’s meaty and 50 percent bigger than a Roma and yields twice as much as a Romano,” said Baron.

He knows his tomatoes; he’s been growing them since 1986 with an innovative watering system and fish fertilizer. He was asked what type of fish was in the fertilizer.

“Dead ones,” he quipped.

He actually uses both pellet and liquid paste fertilizer from a company called Alaska Pennington and has built an elaborate raised vegetable bed with landscaping bricks, PVC pipe and wires. He has four rescue dogs: Sam, Laslo, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. That keeps them out of his garden beds. He doesn’t like to waste anything, and he recycles water for his garden.

“I use the condensation from the air conditioner. I pipe it into a sump-pump in my basement. I have a timer for the system, or if we have a dry spell, I can switch it to manual,” said Baron, 58. “Depending upon the size of the house and the air conditioner, you can get anywhere from 15 to 20 gallons of water a day from the condensation. Every plant has its own sprinkler head.”

He starts each tomato plant in March in yogurt cups that fit in a plexi-glass hotbox he made with a hole in the side for a hair dryer nozzle. He’s built a waterproof housing unit for it, and the heat is controlled by a switch in his basement.

“I go to garage sales and ask them if they have any hair dryers,” he said as he took of his ball-cap to reveal a mostly bald head.

Besides his tomatos, he grows 14 pepper plants, bells and Amish, red russet potatoes, garlic, green onions, sage and chives.

Garden Club member Kathy Zaidain says it’s not awkward at all having one man in the group.

“There are a lot of benefits. He’s a carpenter and handyman, and helps us if something needs to be built or fixed. We’re floral gardeners, and he brings the expertise of a vegetable gardener,” said Zaidain, event co-chair. “He knows all the parliamentary rules of the club and is very interesting.”

The $10 entry fee to “Red, White and You: Pockets of Paradise for At-Home Entertaining” will buy access to nine gardens. Guests will receive a map of Patterson Park and tour locations, and be invited to a “tea in the garden” with lemonade, iced tea and cookies at one location on Broadmoor.