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How 'bout them (non-existent) Tomatoes?
By Gloria Diaz
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Fort Wayne Reader
Iíve grown a garden for the last 20 years at least. Probably more. But it could be that the garden is tired. This summerís yield has been incredibly disappointing. I didnít put any manure on, or put new soil in, or anything like that after I tilled it up on a damp, 40-degree day and watched as the patch of weeds turned into nice ground. I like the way a freshly-tilled garden looks: full of promise and optimism.
I started seeds inside. Tomatoes, green peppers, marigolds. I bought that potting soil mix to start them with. Not all of the plants died, but I should have taken that as an omen.
We had a nice, dry, hot summer. I checked the garden, did a big watering every week or so, and kept an eye on things. The plants werenít wilting, and I was glad this summer wasnít a repeat of last yearís. I was looking forward to the day I could eat tomatoes right out of the garden. I looked forward to drying the catnip and offering it to Summit. I even tilled right beside the back porch, and decided Iíd have a ďsinisterĒ themed herb garden. I jokingly decided to call it that since one of our dogs from years back was buried there. I half-buried a toy skeleton hand, and had a toy black stallion keep watch over the black petunias, some purple flowers whose name I canít remember, the English and regular Lavender, and the Peppermint and Spearmint plants. I also tried to grow radishes.
The petunias died, along with both Lavenders. I got one radish. And my main garden? Iíve picked nearly a dozen Early Girls, a couple handfuls of grape tomatoes and thatís about it. The California Wonder green pepper plants have grown maybe two or three inches, and stopped. One plant has a tiny, deformed pepper on it, and the other plant has nothing. I dried the catnip, but it remained in Summitís carrier, seemingly untouched. The sinister herb garden certainly lived up to its name, with three plants dying, and weeds threatening to take the space over again. Or maybe it was the spirit of Ginger, my mothersí favorite dog of the litter born during the Blizzard of 1978, that was upset that her resting spot was disturbed.
I guess Iíll have to hit up the farmerís markets to get any tomatoes. I canít believe that I have to do this. Store-bought tomatoes are vile. I hadnít been to the Shipshewana Flea Market in a couple years, so I went, thinking surely Iíd find some good tomatoes.
I found plenty of stuff to spend money on, from a bird feeder made out of recycled milk jugs that attaches to a window with suction cups, to a couple of books, to Scrabble tiles, to springs and nuts that I plan to make into jewelry. I walked by the vegetable vendors, hoping Iíd find some Early Girls.
Instead I found nothing but some suspiciously perfect-looking Beefsteak tomatoes, which looked waxed, just like the ones in the grocery store. At a quarter apiece, I bought four of them, and had one for dessert after my flea market lunch. If that was a home-grown tomato, home must be a grocery store. The tomato was so disappointing, I didnít even finish it. It tasted nothing like the ones I grew at home, which were so delicious, I could eat four of them at a time. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
I donít know whatís wrong with the garden. I may give it a rest next year. I have another space I want to try gardening in, and Iím going to use containers. In the meantime, Iíll have to go to the farmerís markets to get a decent-tasting, non-waxed tomato.
All may not be lost though. I have one tomato plant with robust vines, and fruit that looks wonderful. The plant is nearly as tall as I am. It seems to be thriving, as if itís on steroids or something. But it appears to be a literal late bloomer. Itís bearing decent-sized fruit, but I donít think Iíve picked a single tomato from it, and I planted it in early May. Iím hoping in another month or so, the fruit will at least start to turn pink, and Iíll get a ripe tomato by the first of November. If the weather holds.