Home Grown Tomatoes

First off: apologies to those of you who found yesterday’s post incomprehensible because it came in a single, solid paragraph. Like all things technology, WordPress was not happy leaving things alone, and a few weeks back it implemented its “block” system, assuring me I could go back to “classic” anytime I liked.

I feel I gave the “blocks” a fair trial, and if I stopped to take some tutorials and wanted to be So Much More with my blog, I’m sure they’re a tremendous advance. But if you want to do basic things like, oh, I don’t know, make corrections and edit the words in your blog, it is darn near useless, often requiring that I go to a different block to be able to get the block I want to work with to function.

I haven’t figured out how to cut or even highlight large swaths (multiple blocks) of text; placing pictures, which used to be no problem, is now an ordeal, with no clear way of shrinking them and wrapping text around them . . . in short, what used to be quite easy and intuitive is now hidden behind an entire control panel I don’t need.

So I tried to go back to “classic,” which didn’t look exactly like what I was used to, but much closer than “blocks.” Everything looked fine at my end; I hit “publish”; and when Kara opened it at work it was one giant paragraph, very Proustian.

I think I fixed it, and I am back to the detestable “blocks.” No looking back, I guess, and onward into this Brave But Stupid New World.

My traveling garden, with the first harvest in the center.

Back in the days when my dog was named Reprieve, my friends the Barrys had a yellow Lab named Bingo. Bingo, Reprieve and I went for a lot of walks together over the years — Bingo was one of the good ones.

He did have one habit that didn’t endear him to Mrs. Barry, however. She grew — probably still does — lots of plants, including tomatoes. At the time Bingo was around the Barrys had an enclosed patio off the back of the house, and that’s where the tomatoes lived.

Mrs. Barry would keep a close eye on her tomatoes, and about a day out she would tell herself, “I’ll pick those tomorrow.” Tomorrow would come, and she would go to pick the tomatoes — and Bingo had beaten her to it. Every time.

He had no interest in eating green tomatoes, but the second they were ripe, he helped himself, right off the plant. He never destroyed the plants, just carefully plucked the fruit and ate it. (For the record, I think of tomatoes as veggies, but you know: to-may-to, to-mah-to.)

Not that it would do much good in the long run, because of course then he would eat them all and I would get none, but I could really use Bingo’s detection ability right about now.

Because I have tomatoes-in-progress. Several of them, in fact. Which maybe doesn’t astonish you but is a first for me.

Not the tomato plants; those I’ve had lots of over the years. But the little fruits of labor. I have some on my plants. That’s the difference between this year and all those that have come before.

Usually this works about like my strawberry experiment of this year. I buy a small plant at the start of the season from a farmer at the market who doesn’t have any produce to sell, just plants, and I take it home. Like I did this year with the strawberries. I bought one plant one week and a second the following.

One of them came with bonus sprouts of grass and clover, and these have crowded out the entire strawberry. The other strawberry plant grows taller with more leaves, but nothing resembling a strawberry (definitely a fruit) has shown itself. This is how my tomatoes have worked, or not, in years past.

My tomato plants have never fared well outdoors, but the problem with keeping them indoors is that they then never get pollinated. I did have someone once talk about how her family used paintbrushes to hand pollinate their greenhouse crop, but I never felt bold enough to give that a try. I figured you probably needed to know what to do and I didn’t.

So my tomato plants would grow tall and sometimes flower, but never produce tomatoes, and I figured this was just how life was meant to work. But this year things changed.

Kara brought tomato starts to work and handed them out to her co-workers, and I got two, which maybe was part of the improvement right there. Somehow one of Lynn’s Almont postal patrons learned I was growing tomatoes and sent an overfull bucket of plants home with Lynn for me.

I tried the three plants out on the south-facing deck, but it seemed too hot. I also didn’t want to leave them out overnight, given the preponderance of animals around here, none of them Bingo but perhaps just as ardent a fan of tomatoes. The routine that appears to have led to success involved setting all three plants out on the front sidewalk for the day and then bringing them inside at night.

Now, one of my several friends named Karen, one of the Karens another friend described as having all green fingers, not just a thumb, tells me tomatoes would like bigger pots and 80-degree weather. They’re getting lots of water from me, and since it snowed I’ve been letting them out for morning air on the deck and then bringing them in where the temperature probably is around 80, and even if I’m not doing it exactly right I do have fru-egtables.

On all three plants. I wasn’t feeling great about my Almont acquisition, but just the other day I noticed two teeny tiny ‘matoes up near the top. The two plants Kara gave me are both going great gangbusters, little clusters all over each plant. There might even be a whole week’s supply, which would be good since I’m not making it to the farmers’ market again this week.

So: no strawberries, and my potato experiment, which actually turned out pretty good two summers ago, netted five of the saddest, smallest spuds you’ve ever seen — but I’ve got tomaters. Now I just need Bingo to tell me when it’s the optimum time for picking.

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