Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Fall Tomatoes

A few weeks ago, my boss brought in some home grown tomatoes to give away. I didn't take any, because we still had plenty of store-bought in the fridge, but the generous act did remind me that the fall tomato growing season was here.

Tomatoes are easy to grow, but I have held off for 6 years since my last major tomato growing operation. During that spring (2001) I had put in a dozen or so tomato plants of various types, sizes and colors. My company then saw fit to ship me off to Europe on a 3 month assignment, leaving my sweetheart wife to care for the tomato plants, which she didn't really want to do, but she did it anyway, for me.

The tomato plants did very well, and my poor darling wife was picking tomatos dozens by the day. She finally had enough. She emailed me and said "I have posted a picture of your tomato crop on our website, and I am not going to take care of the plants anymore". The photo was taken in the kitchen, where every available inch of space was covered by tomatoes, hundreds of them, everywhere. After taking the photo, the tomatoes were put in freezer bags and stored, awaiting my return. Upon that return, the freezer was full and the tomato plants were long since dead and dried out.

Anyhow, so I said, "Well Dear, lets go out on Sunday to the nursery up the highway and see what they've got. We can pick out some of those small yellow pear type tomatoes, or cherry tomatoes, maybe one or two larger varieties". Well, I had not consulted the tomato growing almanac, because apparently the "peak purchase and then plant in the earth day" was two weeks previous, and what the nursery had left was not a generous selection, but rather two flats of six two-inch pots with scraggly tomato plants already rootbound, more than a foot tall, and who knew if the little plastic name tag stuck in each flat was actually the original. The upside was that these two flats cost me only one dollar each. The nursery lady who rang us up urgently recommended we plant the tomatoes in the ground immediately, without delay.

To me, "without delay" means there would be no careful ground preparation, just dig out one shovel of dirt right out of the lawn to make the hole, toss in the tomato plant, backfill with some potting soil with Rocket Fuel mixed in, then generously water and fertilize with Hasta Grow and hope for the best. We got lucky, those plants had just barely enough life in them to take hold. Eleven out of twelve survived.

Not only did they survive, but they survived while my sweetheart wife generously agreed to water them while I was out of the state for 8 days on some family business. And we sort of got lucky there too, because the night time temps were still well over 70 degrees, and the flowers would not set fruit. Cooler temps prevailed after my return, and we probably have "at least" 30 or 40 tomatoes out there now. A week from now, we will probably have several hundred.

Hopefully, I will not have to travel during that time!!