Judy's First Tomato
Some people are born to garden. Others discover this avocation following decades of spousal contamination. Such is the case with my wife, Judy.
We came to an understanding early in our marriage. She was in charge of the inside of the house. I ruled over the outside. While I allowed her to water during my absence, she was not to plant or cut anything without prior approval. Grumpy's reputation could never be trusted to a neophyte.
However, years exposed to Grumpy's brilliance had a salubrious effect. Judy desired to dip her toes into the magical world of horticulture. On a recent visit to a garden center with me, she spied a tomato plant growing in a lightweight pot with a cage to support it. "I want to buy that," she said.
Growing tomatoes has never been easy at our house. The house faces north and has woods in the back. This means the only spot that gets all-day sun is the lawn out by the street. HOAs tend to frown upon street-side veggies gardens. And as soon as any tomato turned red, it was immediately vandalized by mockingbirds or spirited away by squirrels.
But successful marriages depend on one's willingness to adapt – well, that and always keeping cold beer in the fridge. I gave my permission and we brought home the pot. For Judy, it was almost like bringing home a new baby.
Oh, how she fusses over that plant. She waters it the first thing every morning. She adds a pinch of Epsom salts to the water once a week and then fertilizes with Miracle Gro Water Soluble Tomato Plant Food several days later. She moves the pot twice a day to keep up with the shifting sun. She pulls off any spotted leaves and avoids wetting the foliage. The tomato plant is now growing so fast that I fear by the end of summer, it will dwarf the Mountain on Game of Thrones.
WATCH: The Biggest Mistakes to Avoid When Growing Tomatoes
I explained its vigor by telling her that it is a vining or indeterminate type of tomato that just keeps growing bigger and bigger, producing tomatoes all the way to frost. A bush or determinate tomato, on the other hand, remains compact and ripens its fruit all at once. Giving that the weight of this burgeoning monster will inevitable collapse the porch, we probably should have chosen the latter.
The plant already sported a cluster of three little tomatoes when Judy bought it. Ordinarily, I would have picked off those, so that all the plant's initial energy would go into making roots and stems. But I just didn't have the heart. One day, she spied a red blush on the largest tomato. It was ripening!
A tomato plant with ripening fruit stands in mortal danger from wildlife. Methinks many of those villains can see the color red. Fortunately, the fruit was hidden beneath the foliage, but still far from safe. As it approached peak color, Judy could tempt fate no more. She picked that tomato – her very first one – and brought it inside to the kitchen counter. It ain't beautiful, but I'm sure it will be delicious.
Who knows where Judy's first gardening success will lead? Perhaps she will develop the world's first cold-tolerant mango for Alabama. Just as likely, though, she will take a chainsaw to our big crepe myrtles while I'm away.
Gardening is not for the faint of heart.