He and Griego, 45, are convinced the western San Fernando Valley is particularly accommodating to tomatoes, evidenced by last year's harvest. On this Saturday, it was already hot under a wide, cloudless sky. If everything went well, the first harvest would come in May or June.
The first tomato, a Patio, was planted in a container on Feb. 26. Nine more varieties were introduced in March, including the Red Currant, which produces tomatoes as small as its name suggests and proved to be Anderson's most prolific in 2007. (Five plants produced thousands of tiny tomatoes.)
Until recently, the only way to eat a decent tomato was to grow it or to buy it from a farmer. Supermarkets have made considerable progress. But too often tomatoes still are sold from refrigerated cases, and that splendid taste remains elusive.
So tomato fans have taken matters into their own hands.
"There has been a blossoming of interest in home gardening and self-provisioning," said Amy Goldman, author of the new book "The Heirloom Tomato" and chairwoman of the board of Seed Savers Exchange, which has 5,979 varieties of tomato. "People long for more natural beauty, more flavor and better nutrition."
Heirloom tomatoes are the prize of growers and gourmets, the pot of gold at the end of the farm-to-table rainbow. They can be beautiful and delicious, a much more obvious break from corporate food than, say, a home-grown zucchini.
By April 12, Anderson was cultivating 38 plants in the ground or in containers. It was an unusually hot spring, with temperatures at his house well into the 90s.
Anderson and Griego have developed a system for planting the seedlings: He digs a hole, she drops in a whole raw egg. The plant goes in, and then soil, leaving just 3 or 4 inches above ground level. Planting deep is part of the strategy. They stomp on the ground to pack the earth. The egg is for extra nutrients.
Aunt Ruby's German Green "looks like it's going to take off," Anderson said. "I'm not big on green tomatoes, but this one's supposed to be fantastic." His zeal extended to Olga's Round Yellow Chicken Egg -- "I grabbed it on the name only" -- and Taxi, which "you can almost watch ripen by the hour."
Anderson is the first to portray himself as an enthusiastic amateur, no more; it's just his third year growing tomatoes. But he happily shares his experiences, including on a blog .
Griego, an account executive for a commemorative pin company, has been a gardener for years. When she and Anderson were dating and she introduced him to the tomato-growing frenzy, his reaction was, "I've landed on Mars." But in 2006, Griego planted 16 tomato plants, and Anderson took over. He began corresponding with Daigre and recording information on 3-by-5 cards (an unusual accounting system for a software developer). Spreadsheets followed, then the blog.
This time of year, Anderson waters three times a week (too much leads to watery tomatoes). Plants in the ground receive an organic fertilizer twice during the season; those in containers get more, because the nutrients wash away with watering. In the first couple of weeks, Anderson pinched the buds to force the plant to concentrate on root growth. "I'm not concerned about how tall the plant is, I'm concerned about how deep the roots go," he explained.
Later in the season, he said, he expected to spend an hour a day picking, watering, tying branches to stakes or cages.
By mid-May, he had picked the first tomatoes of 2008. But on a drainingly hot afternoon, Anderson expressed a little worry. Last year around this time, he said, his plants "looked fantastic; this year they look very good."
It was so hot the metal cages holding the plants burned some of the leaves.
It turned out there was reason to worry. Tomatoes like heat, but at the wrong time, it can scorch buds or otherwise stress the plants. That happened to many growers this year, Daigre said.
Still, Anderson's Husky Cherry had 100 unripe tomatoes in mid-May. The Red Currant was 5 feet tall, with more buds than you could count. But the Snow White cherry that produced 1,771 tomatoes in 2007 had none.
Sometimes, it's a thrill to pick a tomato. Early one morning, Anderson found a big Red Yellow Cap. "Yowza! Hot dog!" he said.
"I can remember one day last year I got tired of harvesting and I just stopped," he said. "I hope we get there this year."
The total harvest for June 2008 -- 1,538 tomatoes -- was ahead of 2007: 1,259 tomatoes. But that bounty didn't last. In July, Anderson picked 1,629 tomatoes, compared with 6,154 last year. In August, 938; last year, 2,806.
Last month, Anderson and Griego joined about 70 other tomato fans at a tasting and discussion organized by Daigre at the Loteria Grill on Hollywood Boulevard. There was some celebrating and plenty of commiserating about a disappointing season -- though, as Anderson said, it's a stretch to call the 4,500 tomatoes he's likely to pick a "bad year."
And there's always next year. Anderson and Griego are thinking about growing more from seeds than seedlings in 2009.
"My life doesn't revolve around tomato growing," Anderson said one afternoon. "But you're making something that's delicious and healthy. I don't want to come across as too New Wavy, but it's not just that they're good for you. They're spectacularly good."
Does his life revolve around tomato growing? Perish the thought. But perish the thought of summer vacation as well; Anderson and Griego "couldn't possibly" get away. But as the season waned, they found just the right way to celebrate their first anniversary at Sunday's Carmel TomatoFest, a party that draws thousands to eat, drink and listen to music -- all in celebration of the tomato.