Confessions of a Hose Dragger …

AUGUST 2020

You say tomato, I say tomaoooooOOOHHHHHHNOOOOO…

Just a few of the beasts…

Who knew such tiny seeds, so delicately planted, so lovingly nurtured, so carefully planted, so meticulously pruned, so methodically fertilized, so painstakingly watered… would give rise to such monsters?  Now, most of us think of monsters as bad, including the synonym suggestor on this computer that was just used to look up many of the delightful,  charming, pleasant, lovely, satisfying descriptive words used above… PLEASE SEND HELP!!!…assistance, support, backing…  I seem to be caught in a horrible, dreadful, terrible synonymatic loop of doom, fate, destiny, providence with maybe a bit of despair … anyway, where was I?  Oh, yes, my tomato plant beasts, behemoths, freaks, giants and monstrosities!  I am so proud of them!  They are currently providing many cul-de-sac dwellers with their bountiful, plentiful, abundant and generously profuse fruit.  While most of the neighbors have tomato plants growing in their gardens, they have yet to produce.  While I could be nasty… and I usually am… I have instead decided to share the bounty and bring tomato joy to the many salads, omelets, sandwiches, casseroles and appetizers that may or may not be being produced by said neighbors at any point in time or even as I write this saga, tale, chronicle, epic or narrative…

But Linda, how did you achieve these miraculous, amazing, astonishing, incredible, wonderful tomatoes?  Well, let’s start from the beginning and as so often occurs in life, mistakes were made…

  1. Do not believe everything you read!  Sure, the marking pen you are using to write tomato variety labels claims to be permanent, but I urge you, remain skeptical. While planting my darlings, I took care to carefully write in each variety and place the little plastic marker just so in each container… of course what you don’t know and I did know but you will soon know is that I used the same magical marker the previous year and the permanency part failed miserably…sigh… but evidently on that particular day, I chose to once again be a believer and used the same marker… now, for the second year in a row, I do not know which variety is which for the most part.  Has the non-permanent permanent marker been thrown into the trash never to be trusted again?  Let’s just say it’s on the “to do “list… lesson not learned!
  2. The average seed packet contains useful information if one takes
    Yum! Sungolds!

    the time to read… the favorite tomato variety of this gardener is Sungold.  These delightful cherry sized tomatoes sport a deep orange color when ripe and are so very sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet!   For years, as any thrifty gardener would, seeds were saved and planted the following year… job well done, right?   For the last several years there was a decided decline in the quality of the fruit, quantity of the fruit and the plant took on a very scraggly appearance.  Environmental factors were blamed… too hot… too cool… too many thrips… sigh… however, this spring, my friend, who I didn’t think was that much smarter than me…evidently, I was wrong about this as well, actually read the Sungold seed packet and discovered that it is an heirloom variety.  This means that any saved seeds will not grow true to the variety and instead will take on less desirable characteristics from their evil past… yup, I get it now… so, saved seeds were thrown away and new seeds purchased.  The Sungolds are currently in their tasty glory and a lesson has been learned!

  3. Don’t be lazy! Since I grow tomatoes in containers now, soil becomes extremely important.  Sigh… however, as one does occasionally, I was lazy and reused the same soil in my containers for a couple of years.  I did not get the desired yields and many of the plants were not particularly happy.  Environmental factors were blamed…too hot… too cool… too many thrips… possibly me being too lazy?  This spring, since I had boat loads of time and decided not to be lazy, I dumped all the soil in the containers out on a large tarp and shoveled in bags of mushroom compost and fresh potting soil.  I mixed well, fluffed and redistributed the newly created super soil back into the containers – it was a banner day indeed!   Last month, I began reaping the rewards of my efforts and continue to do so to this very day… will probably still be reaping come September and beyond… I may even get tired of eating tomatoes this year… hahahaha – that will never happen but… lesson learned!
  4. Your tomato plants may be trying to tell you something! While watering my darlings, I noticed that several leaves on two tomato plants were yellowing.   I blamed environmental factors… did you already guess this?!   When the tomatoes on these particular plants started to ripen, they appeared to be splotched with yellowish splotches… it looked like they had cooties!  They were icky!  What the tomato plants had been attempting to tell me with their yellowing leaves is that something was terribly wrong.  If I were a smarter more with-it gardener, I would have yanked them out right away and planted basil or something different in those tainted containers.  Lesson learned?  I hope so…
Tomato plants wilting in the hot August sun.

This year I decidedly did put more effort in growing my tomatoes.  When I brought the seedlings up from the basement grow lights, they were gently introduced to just how bright the world can really be. When the plants began thriving, I pinched off the sucker shoots that appear in the junction of the stem and branch.  I trimmed off the bottom dwelling leaves so bacteria and the like will be less likely to splash on to the plant while watering.  Because I am growing so many plants in a smaller confined area, (28 plants this year… I downsized!), I pruned many of the non-flowering branches off to add air flow.  And even though the soil was charged and fresh, I fertilized them weekly through the end of July.  When the plants became huge, I remained brave, kept my head down and just kept watering.  I am pleased, amazed, astonished, and astounded at the results.  Even though I have been growing tomatoes for decades, eons, millennia, epochs and ages, there is still much to learn… or maybe I should just learn to use the knowledge I already have and simply stop being so darned lazy, idle, slothful and lethargic!