Thursday, August 8, 2013

News Flash: Vegetable Gardener Openly Weeps Over Blighted Tomatoes

Futile Cucumber Attempt
Perhaps you'll recall my unbridled enthusiasm over my vegetable gardening plans for this year. Per the instructions in a container gardening book, I built several self-watering containers out of big 5-gallon buckets I collected from local delis and bakeries. I drilled them and filled them according to instruction. I coddled seedlings until they were ready to introduce to their new self-watering homes. And I was pleased with the results. There were tomatoes and cucumbers and eggplant; radishes, lettuces, carrots; cooking herbs, too.

At first, things were very promising. Sure it was a big pain in the butt when we had a very cold June, one that required me to cover each and every one of my planters with plastic bags every night for a week while we went through an extraordinarily long frost. But I was sure it would be worth it. 

Eventually, I was able to harvest tomatoes. They were late, but then, everyone's were. Summer wasn't acting very summery, and tomatoes need warmth and sunshine. The pepper plants need lots of heat too, but I could see the beginnings of peppers. We got some jalapenos and some nice Hungarian wax, but things began to take a turn for the worse.

Pathetic Pepper (and a lousy photo, too)
For starters, the tomatillos dropped all their flowers and didn't fruit. Then the tomato plants stopped...tomatoing. Blight! Two of the four varieties aren't all blighty, but they've stopped flowering. The eggplant? Still about four inches tall. Radishes? We ate the first go 'round, and they were nice. But then they just shot straight up and didn't make anything resembling a radish. I also harvested a two-inch carrot which was tasty, but the others did nothing.

We could conjecture about the soil used (different pots have different soils, though) or the lighting (I picked the "perfect" spot according to seed packet instructions and books), watering (again, I followed instructions), etc. But the bottom line is: My vegetables aren't vegetables. They are pots of dirt with twiggy things in them.

A tomato...but no leaves
Here's the kicker: Two days ago I went over to the side of my house; you know, the side where my two large raised vegetable beds are, the ones I didn't use this year because they're so out of the way and I can't watch over my plants. I looked at the neglected beds full of weeds and -- lo and behold -- over a dozen tomato plants had reseeded themselves. They are TOMATOING! There are tomatoes. I did not grow them. I did not plant, water, weed, stake, or care for them. I did nothing. Through late frosts, cold nights, lack of sunshine, then a mean heat streak that had us all melting, the tomatoes thrived. Without my care.

And that, my friends, is why I am an herbalist. I get along great with wild plants. They like me. They hang out near me, they thrive, they grow. If I don't touch them until they are done doing what they need to do. Next year, I'm going to forage.
The Tomatoes that Grew Themselves


  1. What a beautiful post! I love gardening. gardeners The saddest thing about it being winter is that the Alnwick Garden’s Poison Garden is closed until spring. The good news is that we have time to put it on our vacation list. Top image: Poison Garden by Jo Jakeman/flickr The Poison Garden is part of the larger complex of gardens in the town of Alnwick, Northumberland, England. The whole of Alnwick Gardens had fallen into disrepair, but were part…