Saturday, August 20, 2005

How To Grow A Tomato

I swear, I didn't set out to be a Martha Stewart wannabe. I only wanted to try my hand at a few vegetables and maybe an herb or three. I had received moderate success last year when I grew tomatoes. First time I had ever grown a thing, other than children, and I didn't even water THEM on time! They turned out okay anyway. It all started in West Palm...

I am known as the Botanical Butcher of South Florida. I made short work of a spider plant and a cactus. I even took the life of a gorgeous philodendron that ticked me off, and it was SILK! Plants and I don't do well together. If I wanted all that greenery, I'd go buy some Benjamin Moore and airbrush something.

That all changed when I moved to Asheville. Maybe it was all that fresh air clogging my lungs, or the high altitude (nose bleed jumping off the porch) at which my little trailer sits. Perhaps it was the fact that there is so much color here. Green, brown, gold, yellow, orange, red, pink... it's enough to make one take leave of their senses. So I did.

I searched on the internet and at the library, and bugged the helpers at Home Depot so much they used their walkie talkies to warn each other when they saw me coming. Unfair advantage. I don't walk fast, and sometimes I can't walk very well at all, and it is not a pretty sight to see an overweight and overbearing lady hanging on to a shopping cart, chasing an orange vest around the light fixtures and down through the plumbing aisle. Chickens.

I am given some wonderful advice. Buy really good potting soil, and don't overwater whatever you put in it. Hey, I can do that! I purchase two healthy looking tomato plants. An Early Girl, guaranteed to give you wonderful sweet ripe fruit within sixty days, and a Better Boy. I wanted a Best Boy but they were all out. Better Boy seemed to be ahead of Okay Boy and Doing Fairly Boy, so Better Boy it was. I get them home, only to be informed by my neighbor that I cannot plant yet. It is late April and the ground may still experience a hard freeze. So? Get it a coat, for Polly's sake. I bring my two plants in to my home. I offer up food and shelter, and the occasional use of the CD player. They reward me with drooping leaves and bugs. I told you plants and I don't do well.

Act One, Scene 2. Got more plants. Waited until the proper time, rechecked the soil and planted those little suckers. Watered only when they screamed of thirst, and gave them the occasional sprinkle of coffee grounds and crushed egg shells. I don't know why. I think I heard someone once say they were good for plants, and it beat having them leak to the bottom of the garbage bag!

Within approximately 60-75 days, I had tomatoes! Lots of tomatoes. Beautiful tomatoes all turning red at the same time. I made sauce. I made chili. I made chopped tomatoes. I made crochet balls by freezing tomatoes (man, that hurts if dropped). I gave away tomatoes. I took tomatoes to the local food bank. I threatened total strangers that they HAD to take my tomatoes.

Finally, tomato season was over and I could safely throw away those pesky plants whose fruit of their loins took up all my time and space. I was so out of the tomato growing business.

Until this year. :) This year I added herbs, sweet peppers, cucumbers and zucchini. I was supposed to get small compact zucchini. Great for everyday use (as if everyday usage included zucchini). Again, I followed all the instructions. I swear I didn't ignore a one. I really tried! What I got were monsters. The zucchini above (yep, that IS a zucchini)is not the smallest, nor the biggest, but it was the first ripe one so I had a friend take a picture for posterity.

The other vegetables in the garden, not to be outdone by the zucchini, grew just as big. Some bigger. There's a cucumber I've threatened my neighbors with that would make a baseball bat look puny. I'm going to bring it to the next lawn game we have here in the park. I think I've still got some crochet balls in the freezer. :)


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